Connection, Dialogue, Learning, Reflecting, Staying Curious

J’apprends avec mon coeur et ma tête *

file-16-paris peace

*I learn with my heart and my head.

I’m writing this in the days after the Friday 13th Paris attacks.

I’m thinking about learning and the importance of it at every stage in our lives, and at every level in how we organise ourselves, our work and our society.

I’m thinking about starting with personal learning – and how important it is to keep an open mind, even if it is with a defiant heart. How our ability to see the other side to an argument and not become entrenched in our own narrow world-view has never been more important. How we still have much to learn, no matter how sure we feel.

Over the past days I have read narratives in the media, on Twitter and Facebook – some have resolutely advocated compassion, bravery, tolerance and understanding. Others have resolutely advocated vengeance, retaliation, punishment and retribution. At times over the past days I have sympathised with and rejected both sides as “the way forward”.

Continue reading “J’apprends avec mon coeur et ma tête *”

Leadership, Learning, Staying Curious, Story, Writing



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.

Business, Dialogue, Talking Well

Guest Blog – A Tale of Two Managers

In the second Guest Blog on Dialogue  for fuchsia blue, Gemma Reucroft (@HR_Gem on Twitter) writes on talking well and not so well in organisations. I was lucky enough to meet Gemma in person at the Manchester L&D connect event in March and I’m looking forward to more conversations with her about employee relations and how we generate varied, fair and strong conversations in the workplace.

Her blogs are insightful, candid and wonderfully readable – a must for anyone who wants honest human insight into organisational life.  I’m delighted she offered to guest here. Enjoy:


When Julie tweeted about talking well in organisations, I’ll confess that my first thoughts were actually of examples where the opposite has occurred.  Talking badly if you will, or perhaps not talking at all.  Every HR professional has I’m sure picked up the pieces of poor conversations, or simply the lack of them.

The first manager that came to mind was actually a bully.  The conversations he had with his team were aggressive and inappropriate.  When he talked to his managers, most of his conversations started with the sentence ‘tell me why’.  He would then lead into picking apart whatever was going on in the business at the time, constantly questioning their decisions and dismissing their answers.  There was no dialogue, he simply talked at them.   The people he was talking too would shift in their seat.  They would sweat and stumble over their words.  Grown men would visibly shrink in stature as the conversation progressed.  How do I know this?  Because the manager in question sat in the middle of an open plan office, and that is where he conducted his 121s.  It was my first role in HR, and I didn’t have the confidence or experience do to something about it, but I’ve never forgotten how listening to those conversations made me feel.  Is it surprising to know that this manager got results?   Results by fear, but results.  He is still talked about today in that business.

The other manager that came to mind is one that many HR professionals will recognise.  He was the manager that has performance issues with an individual, but just hadn’t dealt with them.  He knows what he should have done, he just hadn’t done it. Poor performance had gone unremarked, the employee was blissfully unaware that he wasn’t delivering.  Objectives had not been clearly set, and feedback had not been timely, if at all. It got to the point that the manager couldn’t tolerate it any longer, and tried to cram a year’s worth of performance problems into one appraisal meeting. It went wrong and then he arrived at HR looking for a quick solution.  I guess we have all seen a variation on this theme.  A case of not talking at all.  I ended up talking to the employee while trying to facilitate a resolution to the problem.  How did he feel?  Confused.

Writing this blog has reminded me of one of my favourite quotes from Maya Angelou:  ‘people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel’.

What we say is important – words have great power and so do managers.  We all know the theory; proper SMART objectives, giving timely feedback, being honest and authentic as a manager, good quality performance appraisals. There is nothing new in this list, but you do need to make sure that line managers have the tools and techniques.  What you say and how you say it is important, but it is the feeling that those words leave you with that will resonate longer than what is actually said.

fuchsiablue offers training to support and improve dialogue and conversations in organisations. For more info contact

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Learning, Reflecting

Gentle Learning?

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

 A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor. 

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door laughing,

and invite them in. 

Be grateful for whoever comes,

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

~ Rumi ~

It’s odd how things circle and loop sometimes.  I was first introduced to this poem two years ago whilst on Pause for Breath ( and I remember hearing it read very beautifully by someone and loving it. At the time, however, I’m not sure I fully “got” it.

In recent weeks I have been exploring the Nature of my Practice for the MSc at Ashridge. The path I’ve taken is to ask peers, colleagues, clients and a few close friends how they experience working with me. The poem was offered to me by a colleague during this period of inquiry – and this time, it landed beautifully and well…. Because MAN I can be tough on myself.

My story of late is I’ve found myself at times in some weird introspective, introverted, critically reflexive bubble. I’m not saying I’ve had a full-on crowd of sorrows violently sweeping my house, but I’ve not been picnicking with Teddy Bears,either. While this is not wholly comfortable or familiar territory, I’m kind of learning that this is my process. I’m action orientated – so in order to truly learn, I need to go out and do stuff; seek widely, absorb loads, go through a period of playing & poking & battering into the information – leading to sense-making (the exhausting part, I’m learning) and ultimately I’ll have some deeply-fought for understanding and take-aways…

..and yes. I get that there is fighty- battle language in the above. If I were coaching me, I’d have a word!

This process is exhausting at times –I could seriously do with a gentler one…. And I’m figuring that in order to create a new, kinder process, it might be useful to understand the battlefield I currently seem to occupy when I’m learning.

So Rumi’s poem reminds me to laugh and smile and be a little wry in the face of HUGE new learning. Watching the inspiring Brené Brown in Her TED talk Listening to Shame: reminds me that my inner critic is louder and harsher than anything offered to me by those who have been generous enough to share their thoughts, time and words to enable my learning. She asks us to “dare greatly” – and to do this with empathy and vulnerability – not to battle ourselves into submission.

So I’m looking to not hang out in the introspective, existential room for the next few weeks. Looking to lighten up and show myself some kindness and empathy – in the hope that looking after myself thus will allow me to look after others better. I’m looking to do this and I will forget at times… and I’ll need to be kind to myself when I forget. Ah well… this being human is a guest house.

I’ll end on my favourite quote from Caitlin Moran in the excellent How to Be A Woman, because I use it often: “But the problem with battling yourself is that even if you win, you lose”

Yup. I concur.