Connection

And the word haunting me at moment seems to be Connection.

Since FB came into being at the kitchen table in a flat in Edinburgh seven years ago, I have seen myself as lone wolf, freelancer, outsider, Other… and it sort of worked to start with. Sort of…. and then in time, work-life just got lonely and heavy as I tried to do everything myself.. and I kind of drove myself a little nuts, if I’m being honest.

I had no real community in my work-world. I went to networking events to get business (I rarely did get business). I tried to formulate my USP (darkly chuckling to myself at the memories of the wasted ink on THAT particular fairytale) What WAS my sales proposition? Where was I positioning myself in the market? Which important person should I be talking to? A ton of pressure. Trying to speak a language of markets and commerce of which I had an unconvincing pidgin articulation of… Love it.

What has changed is connection. I started talking to and working with people who were less interested in what I did.. and more interested in who I was…and I tentatively began to show people Me. Real me. I experimented with connecting. Risky… and rewarding as all hell.

Over the last couple of years I have been challenged, cajoled, appreciated, told straight, laughed with, laughed at (kindly), questioned, listened to, provoked, pushed, held and.. well.. kind of seen, really… by a host of brilliant, kind and inspiring colleagues, peers and clients. Over countless glasses of wine, cups of coffee, mugs of tea ( non liquid alternatives are allowed) I have experienced the sheer human joy of good conversation and connection. I inevitably leave the conversation feeling energised, warm,  fuzzy (no. not just because of the wine) and I will have learned something, formulated something – seen something new in myself or a situation. It happens every time.

AND it doesn’t have to happen face to face. People offering out their stuff on twitter and commenting on my random tweets. Discussion boards on Linkedin. Sharing music on Spotify. People commenting on the blog. If it’s about sharing, for me,  it’s connection. Being seen. Being heard.

It boils down (mostly) to this: I’m interested in who you are as a person – I’ll be honest, I’m borderline disinterested in what you do (unless you get all lit up & shiny about it, it which case, speak on, good friend). I want to know your stuff. Want to be able to talk to you about mine. Up for it?

And what I want? What I seek and quest for and hope for? More and better connected conversations in work-spaces. Time to talk. Use of dialogue techniques, coaching conversations, facilitated team discussions, café conversations, action learning opportunities…. All those great things where we invite people to speak up and out – where the invitation is to connect. From where I’m sitting work can surely only be a better, more productive (more profitable?) place if there were opportunities for conversation and slow-time to understand each other a little better. Surely? or am I missing something?

And I know I’m getting a bit John Lennon over here – You may say I’m a dreamer and all that.. I get it… but in an ever shifting, rapidly moving world, surely what we need is the ability to connect authentically, as people?

It’s tiny… It’s huge.

ps: the instragram-ed photo is of 2 sugar lumps found at Balgove farm cafe outside St Andrews, having a cuppa following a very cool coaching conversation. The rest of the sugar wasn’t this shape…It felt like a wee gift.

The Kindness List

Here is the Kindness List, written on a train bound for Gatwick a few weeks ago, around about the time I was grappling with some of the learning noted in the last post.

I wrote it in hot pink pen, filling up blank pages and by the end of it, I was grinning like an idiot (and the person sitting opposite was looking quizzical).  As an exercise, writing a Kindness List comes thoroughly recommended.

A couple of weeks after writing it, it seemed a good thing to share with a colleague who was similarly grappling and fighting with workstuff and lifestuff. It made her smile, too.

There’s nothing here that’s particularly profound, new or amazing. It could be longer or shorter, cleverer or more daft. It could be…. But it isn’t.  It’s just a list, offered out kindly, funnily enough. I hope it makes you smile.

Kindness List

Slow down, girl. Sit with stuff when it comes – there is no need to rush to action or conclusions
Smile. You are happier and more free when you do.
Go easy on the alcohol, kid. Maybe less is more? Something fabulous in one glass, rather than a bottle of crap.
Move your body – you love it when you do and it loves you right back. There is not one single thing wrong with exercise.
Not too serious, hon. Life can be tough enough. A little humour and a wry smile can be a good way to….….just be.
Judges are for courts, beloved – not for your head. Be generous to yourself and others.
Play. Remember to play. Not rough play, but light, daft, silly, messy finger-painting-ooooh-this-is-fun play.
Take a big hot bath with loads of bubbles
Buy good shoes
Get massages
Smile and speak to the people who serve you in shops, bars and restaurants. It Just Feels Good.
Make contact with friends and family – not because you have to, but because you really love seeing folk and being connected.
 That’s mine – What would be on yours?

Monday Mullings

It’s a rainy Monday morning more than half way through the year – I’m wrapped up in a huge jumper, which has been in fairly non-stop use since last October (Yes. It has been washed a few times, thank you.)  I’m grappling with new technology (WebEx) which I know I will get my head round, but I have a strong sense of losing the one-woman-experiential-learner-vs-cheery-American-reassuring-tutorial battle…. Alarmingly, the urge to bang my head softly off my desk is proving quite strong, right now…. Hell, I even actually muttered “grrrrrrrr” at the screen a few minutes ago.

So it’s Monday and I’m cross and I’m fighting… well, myself, mostly.

So here’s the plan. I blog it out – State the fact that I’m bored and restless and feeling a bit dumb and sometimes this Consulting malarkey is lonely.

Hang on. Why do I feel I’m saying the unsayable?

Twitter today (everyday?) is full of people telling me to cheer up, be positive, focus on what good outcomes I want…. and I’m kind of torn.  On the one hand, accentuating the positive sounds like a no-brainer; of course it’s a good thing to do.  No one wants to be within a country mile of Consultant Cross with her Monday Morning Gloominess.  Of course if I dwell on the rain and the fact that I don’t trust Mr Webex’s cheery assurances that the technology will work “effectively”, I’m going to get myself into a funk.

Best avoid that funk, surely and dwell on: “well, at least the reservoirs are filling” or “New learning opportunity – how cool it will be when you’re up and running”.

Or is it?

I mean Really?….Really?

Because on the other hand, surely I need to work with what is real for me?  Surely the only way I can truly know cheer, positive-ness, connection and what a good outcome may be, is by also knowing how I experience gloom, negativity, loneliness and really bollixing things up? If I deny my restlessness, my feeling isolated, my cross-ness; if I “turn that frown upside down” – then what?   Surely I’m closing off some pretty important information?

So if I pay attention to my Inner Grump, this is what it is trying to tell me:  My body today is screaming for sunshine, exercise and social interaction with folk who get me & will (mostly) either sit with my grumpiness, (AKA not onslaught me with “cheer up”) or who will gently laugh at the Grumpy thereby reminding me that I have an actual sense-of-humour I can call on if I’m feeling under-resourced.

My Inner Grump is not advocating I battle with Webex. It’s saying “sort yourself out first and unconvincing tutorials will be a breeze to handle”

I live in Scotland and it’s July – so sunshine is negotiable. But I can get out from my desk and run in the fresh air & allow my restlessness to take me further and go harder than I might do if I were happily pootling along. I can pick up the phone and get connected back to my life. I can make positive choices…. that doesn’t mean I’m going to be Little Miss Sunshine today.

Today, I  might just be grumpy and sit with that – allow it to fuel me in different ways to my joy. I might just fess up to being lonely and allow that to springboard me back towards actual people.

I’m celebrating my cross-ness today. It will serve fuchsia blue & I well.

Showing up

A huge question on my mind already during this Masters process: Where are You?

I’m asking this of myself as I reflect on my first assignment – handed in all neat and on time, with a kind-of-cohesive argument about my views on organisations and change & some nifty referencing. I did as I was asked, reflected on my good bits & messy bits (a little) brought in theory like social constructionism and phenomenology (a little), played with metaphors (a little) talked about my work (a little).

In the assignment, I’ve been a “good” student and a “good” writer – making everything clear and clean and easy….reducing consulting life to a little. A little pinch of dissent, a little work on the relationship, a little contracting, a little event, a little confusion, a little unexpected outcome… the assignment makes my consulting practice look pretty easy – I did this and then such-and-such happened, so then I did this and noticed something of interest…. Tidy.

Yet what I’m presenting is fairly far removed from my actual experience of working with clients and organisations. I don’t experience my work as “a little” anything. I experience profound privilege when a coaching client recounts tales from deep within themselves; my skin goosebumps when I’m facilitating and the sheer magic of folk creating new ideas or battling old baggage unfolds in the room; I feel weary and scared sometimes when working with a client who seem to genuinely believe I have the map to the Holy Grail about my person. This stuff… well it really isn’t little.

Tonight I was listening to a colleague on the course who was giving me a lush and lovely smooth version of a Thing That Just Happened…. And there was something unsatisfying about the tale… all even and calm and neat… and I found myself saying “but where are YOU in this story?” I wanted to know how they felt, how they were, what their woes and their triumphs were. I wanted to hear where in the tale they were utterly, totally present and whether they had to work hard to stay there…..

Good, long and feisty conversation –can you beat it, I wonder?

After talking, I walked across the college grounds and started to see that the question I asked out, was the question I want to ask in…..

Where am I in all of this consulting malarkey, really?

Where do I show up? Where am I impactful? Where am I enough?

And the questions build and continue…..I do so love the questions… and the trick, for me, is to work to ensure I never stop loving the questions…and strive to turn up as fully as possible when trying to answer them.

And I want to know…. Genuinely know… from others out there….

Where are You showing up ?

Doing & Being

I’m battering this down during a tea break at FBHQ.

Fuchsia blue & I are facing a busy June – a smattering of coaching, an Away Day in the Highlands for a Charity ( Partnering the deeply lovely Michele Armstrong from Acorn Principle Plus: www.theacornprinciple.com). There’s a London jaunt – mixing up business (Action Research. Developing Mentors. Exploring the design of an International Manager programme to run in 2013) with the joy of meeting up with friends.. and I SO love going to London – I feel utterly like a country mouse & adore just walking and walking and seeing where my feet take me.

There’s the third workshop in the MSc, with a ton of reading to get through ( which I’m loving) and a load of 360 feedbacks for a Local Authority…..outside of work, there’s about to be a noisy invasion of Jersey friends with new member, Charlotte (too gorgeous). Dad’s turning 71 & my mate Carolyn is taking me out to try to convince me to go to a school reunion (really? really? But why???) ..oh.. and did I mention the triathlon training? Good job June has long days….

I’m mindful this might sound like moaning and/ or bragging here – it’s intended as neither – it just is at it is. A joyful jumble of different types of work and play which will involve me being with great people, travelling loads and talking a-plenty.

And what I’m learning is I need to make some space in all of this to not be too jumpy-about-extrovert. Slow time is important. That all this doing means very little time for being. That my body asks to be nourished, hydrated and rested and when it asks, I am often not listening, and yet it still works to sustain me.

Last week I took the dogs out for a long lunchtime walk. I usually stomp forth with gusto & typically have a head full of to-do-list or reflections. This day, I was sleepy and a bit battered. Long training sessions and generally being busy had kind of worn me weary. So I was walking slowly… looking around with care. Working to be present and notice stuff that I would normally just miss.

And I found this:

My reward for slowing down and paying attention to my body was the discovery of this four leaf clover – rare, a symbol of luck and good fortune. How. Cool. So I thanked the Universe/ cosmos/ Gods of Serendipity/ whatever else your poison is and took the following lesson:

Slow down & you will find gems you’d otherwise have stepped over.

And as I’m about to rattle off to tick through my To Do list, I’m already wondering how long the lesson will hold for.

Does anyone write a “To Be” list, I wonder? (anyone other than Hamlet? :))