My Relationship with my Trusted Bike – #21daysofwriting – Day 2

Thank you to the lovely Mike Collins for this topic area – many of my bike miles have been racked up joyfully with you.

In 2000 my then-boyfriend convinced me to buy a mountain bike. 

We lived in Jersey & I’d been pottering about on an old, borrowed red thing which regularly locked brakes or discarded its chain. I had, for the first time in my life, an actual salary. The island is beautiful and has many places to explore. Project Mountain Bike began.

He researched it. Thoroughly. Regaling me with tales of suspension and light-weight frames, of multiple gearings and the difference between block brakes and discs. I paid a modicum amount of attention – asking questions as I cooked.. eventually rolling my eyes after being shown the 105thpicture of Some Bloody Bike… I couldn’t get overly excited.

I only really got what the fuss was about when I went to the shop. My hypothetical Bike – so far only dreamed up or seen online – became a 3D tactile, tangible actuality. Some technical stuff sort-of mattered (I’d pretty much had the “two wheels, a frame & some brakes. How hard does it need to be?” Mentality. I still can’t get geeked out by much of the Spec stuff)

To my boyfriend’s annoyance, pretty much all research went out the window as number of things went awry in the face of reality.

Firstly, the man in the shop saw I was.. let’s say “physically more substantial” …than many of the “ladies” who sought mountain bikes. I’m quite tall. I’m broad. I’ve got fairly long legs & a long back – so I’d need a bigger frame than most non-men bikes would offer me. This had not been part of the research.

Also –  as previously stated – I didn’t give a toss about the brakes or the suspension ( I learned to re-think that particular lesson about 3 years later, rattling down a mountain at speed in New Zealand, after a helicopter ride to the snow-capped top….Ooh: Full Sus bikes are a THING), so I was pretty firm on the budget I was prepared to spend. 

And I wanted something that could be sustained – substantial, scratch-able, beautiful, but fit for purpose. I couldn’t bear some stupidly priced racehorse of a thing, super-fast but so desirable I’d spend my life unable to leave it locked outside the pub for fear of it being bike-napped.

But I suddenly “got” that I was going to buy a bike. My enthusiasm spiked. I must have cycled 10 or 12 around the block, testing gears and weight, bouncing about… this is what my research looks like, I realise now.

So it was that a shiny black Scott Tampico, Made for Men, got bought and has been in my life ever since.

That bike and I have done countless miles.

It’s been up hill, down mountain, through cities. Along the way I’ve been thrown off it, fallen off it, crashed it and learned how to maintain it. It is hopelessly unfashionable now – heavy, block-braked, the fork locking mechanism is dreadful… but I love it.

I loved it even more when, in 2012, I committed to do a sprint triathlon and foolishly went out to buy a road bike. Skinny tyred, skitterish thing – light and pretty, quick as the wind, but bloody lethal on Edinburgh pot-holes. Each practice ride was a dangerous game.. the high-pressure tyres punctured often… it was too expensive to easily leave outside the supermarket without 4 heavy locks….. I’d come back to my hulking tank of a Mountain bike, which took road ruts like a steam iron through crinkles and I’d be grateful.

In 2013 I had to learn how to maintain it. My boyfriend had become my ex-husband and I realised he’d held the bike knowledge. I hadn’t ever really set it up my bike or looked after it. He had. All the maintenance paraphernalia – the Muc Off, the non-claggy oil stuff, the wheel removal– most of that hadn’t really sunk in. Absence brings opportunity. I took myself off to a bike maintenance class or two… even got a blog out of it.. and my Mountain Bike became something I valued even more – because I understood it in an entirely different way.

And so my relationship with my trusted bike is one of a long and enduring friendship. Roads travelled, miles clocked up and being willing to understand the mechanics of it for that friendship to continue. One day…maybe soon.. I will need or want to buy a new Bike… but I’m not selling the other one for anyone.

Reflection

The Truth About Collaboration

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So the truth is there is a way to work collaboratively, co creatively and constructively with others.
Even with people who have vastly different approaches/ preferences.
And the truth is this way can’t be defined in a top-10-tip list.
And collaboration needs worked at hard for the results to show.
And it’s the less-easy path, because self-interest, self-protection and self-centredness is pretty easy to access.
Including and involving others, trusting, sharing? Ah, now… that’s a lot more complicated.

When I want to work collaboratively, it is this:
I need enough clarity, purpose & articulation to make sense.
Know why I’m doing what I’m doing…and ensure folk know that.
State my case.
Why I think what I think & stand within that….
But not stubbornly. Not blindly or narrowly.
I have to be able to give, to yield, to be as wrong as I am right.
To be interested in others.
I have to not be a petulant child.

This is Relational Practice as I understand it.
It is stuff the oils & fuels change in organisations.
The stuff in between the process and procedure and formal mechanisms and rules.
It’s thinking with clients.
It’s working with ambiguity & knowing that not-knowing is transitory, but necessary.
It’s loving the questions.
It’s not fearing new solutions.
It’s not single handedly designing a 24 week organisational solution to be delivered like an Amazon Parcel.
It’s building in consultation, iteration & experimentation.

It’s sharing findings for bigger, more expansive outcomes, rather than tightly holding small fiefdoms.
It’s uncovering answers together… because somehow going slower makes us faster.
It’s pulling existing knowledge into being & building on together that so it’s better and stronger.
It’s getting over yourself to the space beyond you.

It’s encouraging technology for progress and positive outcomes
It’s about quiet time in the crazy.

It’s putting heart and soul in & knowing that cannot be quantified, but seeking the data to explain how it worked & articulate it as best we can & repeat if we can anyway

It’s about power.
The power we think we have.
The power we exert.
The power we deny we have.
The power we are clueless about.
It’s about how kindly or thoughtlessly we use that power.

It’s not dismissing anyone.
It’s not elevating anyone either.
Everyone is important, therefore no-one is
Everyone is different, therefore we are all the same.
It’s about respectful opposition
And about humour in tough circumstances.

It’s about sitting in tough & tender conversations.
If we prefer the tough, it’s facing into the tender.
If we prefer tender, it’s putting yourself in the tough stuff.
It’s about stretch.

And about dignity.
Not denying your femininity / masculinity. Knowing you have both.
I have the capacity to be assertive & strong & directive & agentic.
I have the capacity to yield, to be soft & open & commune.
I can be certain.
I can be afraid
And these are right, proper at times.

And at the heart, it is about love.
Love of self.
Love of others.
Love of the possible & the unknown.
Love of the impossible & the known.
Living with what these give & what they take.

It’s about a hundred stories of hopes crushed & fights fought and getting up and cracking on anyway.
It’s human spirit in all it’s heartbreaking, excruciating beauty.
It’s human nature that tests things of beauty to breaking point.
It’s the terrible things we do to each other to make ourselves feel better & the terrible things we do to ourselves at others’ behest.
We are so clever… we are so dumb…..

And when I look at all of this…. the richness and the depth and the complexity of it all….
I think it is unsurprising that we turn from work that is relational, social, emotional – We go for simple narratives and binary decisions.
and it leads us to a post-truth world, where rational data co-exists with “alternative facts” and “he-said/ She-said” is the basic narrative – a stuck one. An adversarial one.
Here, there is such certainty, it undermines certainty itself.

So how about we sack-off certainty and seek to collaborate, co-create and work through relationships with a little maturity and grace?
Hard work as it is.
Try it. Today. See what happens.

I am what I am and am not

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I seem to have been in a number of conversations of late about qualifications and accreditation, about being good enough and owning what you are and what you know, about over-claiming expertise or being over-attributed expertise to the extent it gets awkward. About confidence or feeling like an imposter. About arrogance and certainty. About humility and uncertainty.

So I’ve been thinking about what I am & what I’m not. In no particular order, I might be these:

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Looking At The World With An Eyebrow Up

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I got feedback about my face again.

I’ve had it before and I’m mostly fine with it… know it…. try really hard to work with it – the feedback is about the weird frowny thing I do when I’m puzzled or misunderstanding or unsure. I frown. I’m thinking deeply, which shows up as frowning and that expression gets read in lots of different ways.

The frowning thing has followed me throughout my professional life. I’ve been told I’m dissenting, disagreeable, intense, intimidating…. It seems my face tells people stories I’m only one part of. What I have learned, however, is the frowny thing distances me from being alongside people, it signals: stay away. It’s rarely meant. Although I absolutely can be dissenting, disagreeable and intense (I struggle to own intimidating) my preferred place of being is collaborative.

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Advice you’d give to someone starting in L&D?‬

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I’m not used to being a “list” blogger…but this is following on from a #LDInsight chat a couple of Fridays ago (follow @LnDConnect on Twitter and #LDInsight on Twitter on Fridays, GMT 8am)
I was on “broadcast mode” that morning, Tweeting a bunch of stuff I would say to new (and existing) Learning and Development types.
I’ve been thinking about it and this is a slightly extended version.

‪1) Stay open to new ideas. Keep challenging your own thinking. Constantly. Others will need that from you‬… If you don’t want to continuously learn, you are in the wrong job.  Keep your thinking fresh & embrace your ability to be critically evaluative of what you hear.

2) Get a good dose of “in the room” experience under your belt. You learn more about yourself/others when working in a confined space with a bunch of semi-strangers than any textbook/course can‬ ever teach you.

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Long-Haul Leadership and Testing Theories

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I’m going to Qatar.
A place that I couldn’t spell up until a week ago. ( Q followed by U, surely?)

I’m going to work with Maersk Oil over the next 9 months, on a very part-time basis, designing and delivering work that will strengthen a concept of “Visible Leadership”.
The intention is to undertake deeper leadership work – work on connection, on dialogue, on openness and creativity… work I have been hungry to do for so long and have been doing in patchy little pieces. This is, to some extent, what I have been seeking…. my theory is that this deeper work is good, necessary, that it leads to “Proper Change” – I wonder if I’m right?
This is the test. The part where I practice what I’ve been preaching. The part where reality bites and I discover the edges of my thinking again…..
What happens if and when lots of people open up and start connecting… in a structured, purposeful way?
What happens indeed?

Today I leave for 5 days. In May I go for 4 weeks, then nothing in the hot summer months. Then back again in September, October, November….

And with all of this comes a range of mixed emotions and reactions.

I’m scared. I’ve never been to the Middle East. No amount of research will help my lived experience.. I’m afraid I will offend, be offended, be ignorant. I’m a card-carrying amazonian feminist going to a place where women are not equal. I’m a alcohol afficienado going to a place where such things are forbidden. Where the law allows lashing and stoning people. Where the people are deemed to be polite and warm….It’s confusing.

Thus far, the experience has been incredible – A man called Barrie has been in charge of sorting my flights, accommodation, visas, pick-ups…. I have been in the most excellent hands & I’m comforted by the process: this is how it can be when you want to bring someone in to your organisation.

I feel awkward – a wee Lassie fae Fife, lacking sophistication or the experience to do this well, initially – but who has the life-skills to navigate whatever is to come.
My response has been pedestrian – read up lots, chat to folk lots, buy trousers & decide that I’m going to try to Rock some 1930’s/ 40’s tailoring to start with…. My first pair of girl-brogues have been brought into the fold.
Beyond that I have a sense of deep joy – of stretching myself and of being pushed out of what is comfortable.
I’m looking forward to Souks, to the museums and art – to learning more about another country & culture. I’ve decided to take those photography lessons, at last…

I spoke with FB’s very own Office Goddess, Katie on Thursday and she said: It’s OK to be excited, you know….
and I sort of am, but also not really…excited doesn’t really cover it.

I have a sense that I’m going somewhere fascinating, to do work I want to do. I have a sense of folk cheering me on where I feel my limits and nervousness.

And within all of this I have a sense of a new chapter beginning…and probably a bunch of new blogs.

Time to get testing….

What’s the Value of Values?

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Rolling out the Values.
4 of them.
Easily understandable & hopefully memorable.
Hopefully memorable because we also need you to remember the Vision.
Oh… and behave by the 12 Competencies, each of which have 5 behaviours under them.

1 Vision
4 Values
12 Competencies X 5 Behaviours
That’s only 77 things….

How hard can it be to live this way at work?
Within 77 little points?

We in HR & L&D will be holding these Values & Behaviours, by the way. We’ll work closely with colleagues in Comms, in Marketing to get ’em out there…. but that’s part of what we do. 77 parts, I guess….we remember them all, of course.

Ah… well… now yes, we also need you to be technically good- (if you have a specialism, there are some other teeny tiny things we also need you to be) but bottom line is, we want you to be technically really good.
And then of course, we kind of need to develop your management/ leadership/ potential skills and competencies… over and above the 77, of course.

But everyone really must live the Values.
Of course they look very similar to others’ Values…. yes, of course every organisation wants to respect their staff and yes, we know there are pockets where this really really doesn’t happen….but these are aspirations – to get us all to live this way in this organisation. Oh. Did I say aspirations? No No…. these are our Values. Who we are and how we operate. Not aspirational at all. Actual. Honestly……..

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It strikes me that in L&D, HR & OD, we are tangling ourselves up in definitions.
That what is valued in one part of an organisation may not be valued elsewhere. That sometimes, what is valued over here is slightly toxic and sometimes it is absolute gold.
So how do we, as professionals, work with this complexity? how do we work with what is real in our organisations, without feeling we have to nail it down, sanitise it, name it, chase it, aspire to it?
How can we allow people to flourish on their own terms?
What can we offer/open up/ invent/ push for to allow the good folk, who put their time and brain power into this organisation, to be really genuinely good… or maybe even great?
I don’t have an answer…
I suspect that debunking the Myth of Values to those we work with might help though?
If you Google the word Values & look at the Images… there are massively similar words out there – no organisation openly says: we need pedantic, headstrong, stubborn, hardy, marginally heartless folk, who can also deal with the public working here….but I’m guessing you can think of a couple of occupations or orgs where that would be absolutely what is truly valued?
What would happen if we spent less time chasing the living of generic Values and more time working with what is real and needed in differing parts of our organisations?
When we Roll out the Values, are we rolling ourselves into knots?
I wonder…..

Reflect and Be Damned

We cannotImage: Christmas card from Sarah Boyd

We are nothing if not rhythmic creatures. As the year draws to an end, a flurry of reflection, intention and future-focussed writing, articles, conversations come into being.
It would be easy to get cynical.
To roll eyes and point at the commonality and predictability of such things – “yes, yes, year end, Reflection, Next Year, Blah….”

Except, for me, this stuff is precious and important. Taking time to look at what has been, or what is; then to bring what has worked well into plans for going forward. How can this not be good work?

Sure, there will be a fair share of braying, self-selling, shiny-storied, perfection-dusted narratives. There may also be reflections from those who feel genuinely, authentically, deeply grateful, blessed or challenged, who are sharing because they want to – (rather than to Prove How Ace My Life Is)… these reflections are, to be honest, much more my kind of reading and conversation… and I appreciate the latter more for the presence of the former… (Yes, I’m more likely to feel an urge to gently Bang my head off the table in the Face of “its all Ace”, but I sort of enjoy the chutzpah of it)

I guess I’m saying that it is good to take a moment, if and when we can, to kind of look around and take stock. There are the lessons hard-won, and the lessons yet-to-learn. Achievements under belts and potential yet to be tapped.

I don’t give a monkies if reflection happens on a random date when the Gregorian Calendar deems another random date starts, or on a Solstice that in the Northern Hemisphere heralds the move toward summer and the Southern toward Mid winter. It could be April before you Get Your Reflection on or it might be your permanent state….

The point is take time and make time to look around you- what is behind, in front, under your feet and above your head. Even more so if it feels edgy to do.

Because it is here, in the moments of reflecting, in the pause before the movement, before the jump to action, before the list of Stuff I Will Do, that possibilities and new pathways can be found.

This bit feels jagged… But I blogged last year that I don’t make resolutions….
Nevertheless, I’ve spent time reflecting of late and stuff is emerging, of course. I intend to continue working on how I show up in life and work, in my family and with friends and connections….and continue writing, as it gives me deep joy.
I intend to be the best coach, facilitator, thinker and learner I can be and to work to bring these things into my client interactions.
And part of enabling this is happen is to reflect on myself, my practice, my contribution – without disappearing up my own backside in the process.

To any and all who have read, shared, commented on and supported the fuchsia blue blog in 2014, I thank you and wish you joy, love, determination and happiness in the coming year.

Memo to Person We Work With (from L&D)

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To: Person that we work with
From: L&D

Following this morning’s Memo to L&D
Well. Yes of COURSE we want you to take responsibility for your learning – within the parameters set by the Behaviours, Values and Objectives the Organisation has set, of course. And you mention the Time word – don’t get us started on Time – no one has any time for learning in this organisation, seemingly – we can’t get folk into those management training sessions unless we compel. This being the case, just allowing folk to learn by themselves, for themselves, all willy-nilly ( no giggling at the back) is really inconvenient and risky.
You may deem yourself to be a responsible learner, but let us assure, we do not believe this is typically the case… and we have systems set up to ensure we are right… we’re so glad you know about the LMS, it really is the best system to manage learning, we find.

We are suspicious of your personalized performance support. Where does this leave us as a department? We can’t be on hand for each individual you know… and learning must be recorded and measured, as I’m sure you appreciate.

You have to complete your elearning module before you take the end-of-module-test so we know you have learned stuff, of course. The other way round suggests you bring prior knowledge and experience but it might be the wrong sort. You need to know VERY SPECIFIC THINGS. Take offering feedback for instance, if you don’t go through the elearning module precisely as designed, you may never fully appreciate what it is to give or receive good feedback in real life. And whilst we appreciate your notion, sitting the test before you have sat through the training makes a mockery of the large sums of money we spent developing the content and really skews our stats. We’re sure you understand.

Oh we love free thinkers and creative types. We feel very similar ourselves here in L&D – but in the main, people prefer to be told what to learn and think, we find. You don’t get free thinkers in Finance, you know (knowing snigger) And the Directors are happy if they know specifically and exactly what is going on. These are the boundaries already set. That is the frame you are asked to work in. If this constrains too much, let’s have a meeting – or perhaps a team session – to see if we can open up the thinking a little. You already mentioned post-it notes, we could use some of those.

“Develop a range of support from arrange of channels”
What channels are you sourcing? Are they accredited? Who are you listening to and are they a “good sort”? We like to know these things – our expertise in all things is important to us… just so you can learn well, you understand..

Give me context. What value is there in completing content if I don’t get the relevance? I need to know what it means to me, in my reality. Your learning objectives are unlikely to be consistent with my performance objectives. They are more likely to be aligned with your metrics and that means little to me in my work.

We know. It’s a kicker this one and we wish it were different, at times. The context is: learn what you need to learn to get on in the business and to improve organisational life, obvs.
We can’t make meaning for everyone – it is a simple truth – to some extent we work on a “if we build it, they need to come “ basis.

We need to improve management and leadership skill – the context for this is to improve the current and future state of the organisation. Oh we didn’t quite perform as we wished to, organisationally, last year – so a context of sorting that out is also running… we get pulled in all directions, we really do.

It’s simple though…After you have done your performance objectives, you can write down your Development plan and we can approve it, as long as going to that Tech Conference in Tahiti isn’t on there again – the Jollies we see getting passed off as “development”

We are trying to argue against this “access learning at the point I need it” narrative…..hmm…might have to see what we can do, but Chris and Shaz in the IT team are not going to be happy, we suspect… It’s a lot of work to give access outwith the organisation, you know.

Why bother learning? You need us to tell you that?
We suggest you go onto Social Media and seek out some of the bloggers and the learning community our there – look at the passion for sharing, for information, for developing the types of technology and experiences that will allow folk to access everything you have asked for here.
Learning is like water – you need it to survive and thrive.
Not just the cognitive, mandatory stuff, but emotional, social stuff – how to lead, how to communicate, how to be positive, or relax…
How about I don’t tell you? How about we role model how good and necessary it is to learn and develop? How about we enable you to come up with your own meaning around the content we provide? Isn’t this part of what you are asking?

Learning, if relevant, is of value. It is personal. Of course it is.
Perhaps, rather than telling you, we can role model it or show you?

We appreciate the note – you have offered us food for thought. We will take this away and see what we can action – Perhaps this is part of our learning

Help

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How can I help you? He asks
Oh God…. My mind is blank.
I don’t know.
The honest, truest answer I have is, I don’t know.
I don’t know how you can help me.
It is a mystery.
If I knew it, I’d ask for it… I really would…

Help me out here, will you?

What is on offer?
It becomes more useful if I understand the territory we are on.
“How can I help you” is a World… a Universe of Possible Helpings.
It slightly freaks me out
I’m not good at articulating the help I might need… this ain’t my natural language.
Can you be more specific about what you see yourself offering?
It would settle me down a bit.

Mostly, if I sit for a bit, it is this:
You can help by listening.
By being honest with me about how I seem.
You can offer me time and energy to build something new or different.
You can help by offering me a different perspective.
You can help by being straight with me – be kind, but be true
If the truth isn’t pretty – kindly, truly tell me thus..
…in the long run, that is real help.
Remind me I can – because if we are at the point you recognise I need help,
perhaps I think I can’t.
Ask me whether I should – because I might believe I should or ought to
& that might be a pile of nonsense & that might be good data for me.
Don’t look at me like I am broken and you need to fix me; rather believe I can fix myself

Actually – if you’d like to source me some damn good glue, that really would be helpful.

And laughter.. that’s always a good way forward

Yes… perhaps this is how you can help me.
It’s helpful to know.