Leaders In Learning – My Take

I spoke at the inaugural CIPD Leaders in Learning Network event in Edinburgh on Thursday. 7 minutes on The Value of a Leaders in Learning Network.
Not sure I was entirely on-topic & certainly sure I didn’t hit all of the points below, but in essence, this is what was covered.
I’m increasingly interested in the social, emotional and connected/relational elements of how we work – and how little these elements show up in our organisational planning and actually how essential these elements are.

Face to Face Professional Networks can, I feel, be stuffy and formal… I wanted to lay down alternative ideas.

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My name is Julie Drybrough – I’m Director of a Organisational Learning & Change consultancy here in Edinburgh
In many ways I’m not here because of what I do – I coach, facilitate, consult, just like thousands of other people. I’m here partly because of How I work – through networks, through Social Media, Collaboration and Partnership. I particularly work in the “learning” field. I work with methodology which values and incorporates the Social, Emotional and Relational elements of working in human systems over Process elements…. basically I don’t do gangtt charts..

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CONTEXT
In some ways, there has never been a more interesting or potentially impactful time to be working in Organisational Learning – with rapidly changing markets and political landscapes; faster access to our organisations by customers or service users & the ever-presence of Social Media, folk internally have never needed the access to structured, guided learning more.

Information is everywhere.

It has never been more important to draw peoples’ attention to the good content that will help them learn and understand how to be the best manager, leader and person that they can be.

The good news is, as Leaders in Learning – this stuff is happening on our shift & the opportunities to offer good stuff well is immense.
The slightly more nerve-wracking news is – this stuff is happening on our shift and we have some responsibilities – mainly to keep up & to learn ourselves

I have a short amount of time, what I want to do is give two examples of where we, as leaders in learning and part of this network, might just be able to make a difference in this context.

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THE L WORD
130,000 books on Amazon last night with Leadership in the title.

Not sure how much your leadership/ management development budget is.. but we throw a vast amount of cash at getting our people developed.
And it’s questionable whether our current methods work….

Here are some heroic leaders – A Super Man. A Wonder Woman and a Slightly Dark Knight

We train leadership as though it is a theory to be learned – as though it is something that happens “out there”, abstract and distant. You can be Situational Leader, an Adaptive Leader, Action-centred…..

In these models, the leader is always active – always responding & nearly always alone – no option to do nothing, observe and gather information, no option to go find out from other people what they do. This is Leadership with your Pants on the outside – no fear, no doubt, no emotion – and these are models we push in to our organisational thinking.

But for me, leadership doesn’t happen in theory – it is a practice – something we need to do everyday. It’s about being aware of yourself, your impact, your flaws and your perfections. It doesn’t happen “out there” someplace, it happens “in here, starting with us – our budding leaders need confidence, understanding of themselves – how do they cope with ambiguity, with structure, with conflict? With praise?
How do we talk to our people about the emotional, social and relational part of being in an organisation with a bunch of other people?

Networks like this one have the opportunity to let us, as the Learning function in the organisations or client systems we work in, talk about this stuff – how do we make Leadership Development real? What do we need to do to think a little differently? Who’s doing stuff that is interesting? Different?
How can we spend our budgets really wisely?

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The More Useful L Word?
It could be Love… but I’m talking about Learning
In 2014, I brought 2 Unconferences to Scotland through an online Network of Practitioners, L&D Connect.

Unconferences are premised that the people who show up have as much knowledge, experience, expertise, opinions as the normal Conference “sage on a Stage” types.

We may not have written books – but we damn sure understand what it is to successfully upskill and transfer knowledge to our people – and we can learn as much from each other as from El Guru on the podium – maybe more, because we’ve sat with each other, talked together and thought together, rather than being talked at.

This is learning in an informal space – it’s allowing conversation, connection, shared ideas, existing ideas to flow between interested and invested people. It’s not bound, but it has structure. This is the power of social, connected learning.

People left with profound insights – some left reassured, some left with wee experiments.. the point was, our thinking was shifted – challenged.. supported – and new possibilities happened – we want change in organisations – this is one way to make it happen…. Imagine if this network could do something similar?

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Networks and Connections = New Ideas
In the past 3 years, much of my thinking, my work, my contacts have developed and been challenged through a Community of Practioners I have found through Social Media – Including Andy here. This is a photo taken at Happy Start-up Camp in September year. My dear colleague Sarah Boyd and her business partner, Oli Pointer are both here –I met them through Social Media.

If I have seen further it has been by standing on the shoulders of giants… or more prosaically reading blogs or articles or going to events that challenge me to be bigger, better, faster more….

We have an opportunity, in this Network, to do some amazing work. The Scottish Leaders in Learning Network could become a hub for experiments, for new practice, for challenging discussion – the Go-To place to keep our professional learning edge sharp.

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Open/ Network/ Learn/ Share
So here’s the thing.
From one relentlessly curious learner to you all.
We are all in the same room, in the same profession, with vastly different experiences and expertise – what can we do if we are open with each other, if we share and learn form each other?
What richness could we create?
What inspiration and innovation could we take back to our organisations?

What’s the Value of Leaders in Learning?
Let’s see what we can do…

I like a Good Leadership Model….

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I’m running the risk of getting myself in knots over this one, but let’s see how we go.

I’m thinking about Models and how we represent them.
Not the photoshopped gorgeous ones as seen in magazines, but the four box matrix/ swoopy circular/ linear process/ uppy-downy-graphy leadership/ management things we use (and by we, I’m particularly thinking of trainers/ facilitators/ lecturers/ teachers of all things management and leadership) to help folk get to grips with what it is to ask groups of other humans to get stuff done in a cohesive and relatively consistent way.

Broadly, I like a good model.
My preference is that it is backed up with some semblance of research or at least represents something that approximates good, simple common sense… and this is kind of where I want to hang out for a minute.

For instance, I quite like Situational Leadership as a concept: have some sense of the levels of ability and “maturity” ( hmmm… interesting word – I think they mean experience and ability …) present in the folk you are attempting to lead, and adjust your approach accordingly.

This works for me on a number of levels:
– it takes others into consideration ( always a winner, I find)
– It puts some responsibility on me, as a part of the situation, to manage and adjust my own behaviour (again, this strikes me as being sensible)
– It gives me some simple options to choose from (handy)

And it has its limitations. Situational Leadership assumes action – always. So, you can Tell or Sell or Coach or Participate or Delegate – but there is no option, as a leader, to observe for a bit and do nothing. (At the risk of mixing models, if you want an option to do nothing, I refer you to the Urgent/ Important matrix: delete, delegate, defer or do?)
The assumption within Situational Leadership also seems to be that you, as leader, will always be in control enough to choose one of four approaches (ask someone else who knows better/ differently is NOT an option here. You, my friend, are firmly leading alone)
It also doesn’t fully cover that in order to tell anyone anything you need a certain amount of good will and authority – that stuff is implicit.
Also – you kind of need confidence and conviction to tell or sell. You need to know your stuff, I’d offer… not sure that is fully evident here.

And that’s ok – it’s a model – it’s a four boxy, simplistic version of the complex situations we find ourselves in. It is neither the be-all, the end-all, nor is it the answer to Leadership Life The Universe and Everything.

My disquiet is that we (once more, by we, I’m particularly thinking of trainers/ facilitators/ lecturers/ teachers of all things management and leadership) often do that thing where we present the model without inviting folk to REALLY think about what they are seeing or being asked to swallow.

We show the model, explain the concepts, run some scenarios that (obviously) support said concepts. We might not mention that this particular model is part of a larger business designed specifically to promote and sell the said model… nor that this model has been around since the late 70’s and whilst it endures, it has not solved the conundrum that is leadership…

We might not mention that because we haven’t looked into why we are using this model, where is came from, if it still hold true…
We might not mention it because we have been running these things for years….
We might not mention it because it has been handed to us by clients or colleagues – run this for me, will you? And it’s a bit Awkward to say: er… this might be a bit of tosh, unless we put some decent debate around it.

Managing people and process and politics and organisational stuff is tricky. It can be rewarding, it can be headbangingly frustrating. (I’m thinking of one of my earlier change roles, where, on a night out, we were pondering if we shouldn’t just get T-shirts saying “Change you B+st+rds” to see if that would evoke a positive change response. We never did it…I still wonder….) What I’d like to see is a more honest acknowledgement of that trickiness when we take folk out to train them. Let’s not stand at the front of the room and act like this stuff is all smooth and easy. Let’s not be overly dramatic about it, either. Let’s just try to be level and honest about the context and situations folk actually find themselves in.
The best trainers/ facilitators/ lecturers/ teachers I know don’t absent themselves from their learners by hiding behind models as if these are shields to protect us from the uncomfortable truth that there is trickiness in the mix.

Models are a representation of the world around us – an approximation, an interpretation of our Leadership Life. They can help us hugely to wrap our heads around the strange and complex circumstances we find ourselves in when faced with a group of folk or a system to work with and the responses available to us, when this arises.

When I’m training (and yes, I call myself a facilitator, not a trainer. It’s an affectation. I own it, honest I do.) I want to be able to talk about what happens if/ when you are a git to your staff. The Situation that emerges if you are behaving as if those around you are lazy and/or stupid (believe me, they know you think that, they feel your contempt) and what happens to your ability to lead then?

I’m asking for fewer models more deeply thought through.
I’m asking that we, as custodians of the information we are putting out organisationally, have some clarity about the rigour, accuracy and relevance of what we are using and saying.
I’m asking for reality checks to bring that 4 box abstract approximation of the world into something more 3D and real for our leaders and Managers to grapple with and use.
I’m asking for intelligent design of programmes so we truly enable and develop our staff.
For now.. that would do.

Open Leadership

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“Looking up, letting go and getting out of the way are, I think, essentials of leadership now. From my experience that is much more difficult to get your head around, and do well, than it sounds. I found it feels wrong, and can be hard to stick to when pressure is on, but does produce amazing results.”  Fuchsiablue Blog Comment, Nov 10th  2014 – Emma Browse – Senior HR Officer – Leeds City Council
I am nodding as I read Emma’s blog comment. Yup.
When we ask for new ways of leading in a world which seems to shift and change both rapidly and all too slowly, what are we actually asking for?
In the last blog I wrote:
You have to stay open and aware. That is Open in every sense. Open to new ideas. Open to deleting & scrapping stuff. Open to mistakes. Open to ditching old models of thinking and behaving. Open to being generous to your staff. Open to Learning.
Wow. That is a whole lot of open.
Now I understand the implications of what I’m writing there, I’m privileged enough to coach and facilitate enough folk to understand up close and personal what is required to stay open. It is risky. You run the risk of showing you don’t know, can’t do; you surrender bits of your power and status – often bits of power and status you fought damn hard to get… and that can make you feel foolish, naïve even. Your identity as Leader, as Expert, as Person in Charge becomes uncertain.
This “Open”, good people, is unnerving stuff.

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Learning Edges…..

 

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What do you mean when you say “learning edge”? He is frowning at me slightly, possibly mildly irritated, possibly very curious but definitely wanting to know.
I have a moment where I feel the tug of “Coaches Should Not” – the received wisdom that suggests I ought not to direct, disclose or offer in my theories. The training that suggested I ask the questions – You grapple with the answers….
An I/You binary model which I think I once bought into.
In this model, I am glacial and impervious – I ask good insightful questions and stay out of the way when the answers come. None of my business. The learning is all yours. I am here to open up and allow and enable….
I evade a little. “Why are you asking?” – well.. it’s ALMOST a coaching question..

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Leadership is Dead – Long Live Leadership: An Experiment

 

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I’m talking at City of Glasgow College One City event on 19th June
As I had been in a number of conversations about leadership (What it is. What it isn’t. The odd paradox that there are SO MANY books and articles on Leadership and yet no matter what is written and taught, there seems to be a Holy Grail element to “Leadership”) I opted to talk to staff and students about leadership.
I started thinking: so is there such a thing as Leadership? Are we kidding ourselves? Do I want to stand up and talk about leadership as if it is a given?

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The Nurse will lead you now….

20131217-064726.jpgSo the last few days have been a lot about hospitals and medical/surgical type information. (See here for previous post) And one of the things I have been reflecting on is this:

My first HR director was an ex nurse. She says her time Nursing was the best possible preparation for life – both Corporate and Personal – I’d forgotten she said that, yet, having chatted to the nursing staff and watched things over the past days, I’d say she was really on to something.
Nurses have excellent leadership credentials: Continue reading

Notes from a Conference…

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What is there left to write about the CIPD’s 13th Annual Conference in Manchester last week?  The CIPD Social Team did a first-rate job of ensuring a plethora of bloggers & Twitter aficionados were present at sessions. This means that instant reactions to Speakers and content were picked up through real-time tweets & blogging; followed by slower, more reflective pieces released as the days passed.

Much of the work has been brilliantly gathered and curated by Doug Shaw (@dougshaw1)here: http://cipd.tumblr.com

It has been covered, and excellently, by the Bloggers, Tweeters and Press who attended. This means that, more than any conference I have been to in recent times, there is a archive of material to be looked over by attendees and non-attendees alike. I rather enjoy the openness of this.

And yet the experience was such that I find I want to write about it.

As ever with me, I spent the day in a slight bubble – watching and thinking carefully about what was around me; being as aware as I can be of what I saw and sensed. So here are some of my thoughts and experiences:

Opening & Closing:

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The Keynote opening speech left me with mixed feelings. I was lifted by the ambition of Creating the Best Workplace on Earth. Yes. That is something I want to hear about. It’s something I want to be involved in. I’m warm to this already.

With Rob Goffee & Gareth Jones speaking, I felt in safe hands. They know their stuff. They’ve done the work, both intellectually and actually. I connected to what I heard. At the point at which we were invited to Be Yourself. More. With Skill. I was Tweeting “yes. Bloody Hell Yes.”

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But I also had a sense of disquiet. One of – well you are kind of telling me Things I Know. Things that Make Sense. Is this not what we already know good leadership to be?

I was tweeting questions – Yes, but HOW do we do this? It sounds easy. Yet is difficult.  I was grappling with what I suspect many of us grapple with when faced with a glorious vision – the sinking knowledge that beyond that which looks glorious are a bunch of other sensory encounters to get through– how it feels, smells, tastes and sounds to be in the mix of making it so.  And these can be equally sweet or sour, I would offer. Therein lies resilience.

And then I remembered being in the audience at the CIPD Conference in Harrogate 15 years ago and being swept away by big ideas (some just like this) and how grateful I was that someone had articulated these for me. And how it inspired me as a new Practitioner. So I found myself grateful for the invitation to Create the Best Workplace on Earth.and I want to keep up that invitation. To myself. To others around me. Even if I have to repeat it a thousand times and to folk like me who are more immune to being invited to Create Better Workplaces because we hear it and work with it on a day to day… We don’t get all breathless and excited about our potential to affect change any more….. That invitation, that noise and that repetition is important.

So here’s my reflections about my own part in Creating the Best Workplaces on Earth:

    • I must not shrug off the Things I Know as being Done Before, insignificant or “just things”.  I serve no one well from that space.
    • I must not dismiss the invitation to Create the Best Workplace on Earth as being a pipe dream, altruistic, foolish or unachieveable.
    • I equally must not assume that the Creation of such a place will not take hard work – Quite simply, it will.
    • I must show up and help make it happen. Every day. With humour and grace.
    • I must bring what I know and what I think. I must be prepared to fight, to influence, to argue my point.
    • Anything less does not affect change. It allows apathy, cynicism and status quo.

So OK, Goffee & Jones. You got me. Now what?

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It wasn’t until the closing speech that the “How do we do this?” itch was scratched for me. Andy Lancaster (@andyLancasterUK) from Hanover Housing had a title less lofty than the Best Workplace on Earth. But by talking about Increasing the Impact of Internal Management Development Programmes, he demonstrated how Hanover Housing might come close to being just that.

Their internal development programmes are built with clear purpose and aims, but co-authored with managers and staff. Collaboration is rife. Accreditation of courses gives vital qualifications to staff both in their current roles and in their future worklife. Partnerships with Consultants, who have been carefully chosen for a value and value-for-money fit, offer external support and fresh eyes to the programmes. It is an approach built with care and consideration all round and Andy talked about with the sort of dedication, good sense and clarity that I’m alluding to above.

It was a quietly inspiring way to close the day, for me. It opened with big ideas and DREAMS. It closed with real delivery and making a tangible difference.

You can find a Storify version of the Goffee & Jones’ speech here:

You can find a Storify version of Andy Lancaster’s session here:

Blogs on the Keynote can be found here:

The Exhibition.

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I went to the Manchester Exhibition 4 years ago. As an External Consultant there on my own, it was a lonely and slightly miserable experience. The people on stands were scanning badges to see what my status was (Not Buying seemed to be the response) and I vaguely remember going to a CIPD upgrade clinic where I started my application for Fellowship before losing the will to live ( I still haven’t upgraded, if anyone from the CIPD wants to help me, or listen to my views of the process, please let me know.) I went to a side discussion about Performance Management in the exhibition hall which left me ready chew my hands off because it was SO dull and pedestrian; yet I was surrounded by people I assumed were fairly fresh to HR taking reams of notes…the passivity of it all left me cold and worried about my Profession.

So I roamed the Exhibition hall this time round with a critical eye. What I saw this  year was some really innovative and inviting stands (Yes. People Management putting folk on the cover was a touch of genius. My Ego thanks you).IMG_5314

I saw massages and reki, cupcakes and lovehearts, bookshops and digital solutions. I saw side sessions that looked less like a repeat of my experience (the talk on Pensions wasn’t my cup of tea, but it was overflowing and the audience looked gripped).

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I saw Perry Timms (@perryTimms) in full flow and met a new-to-HR person later in the day, who confided in me that she had never really understood motivation, but after the guy with the Spiky Hair talked, she did.

I saw a profession alive and buzzing. . I saw people greet each other from way back and folk meet for the first time. I heard organisations looking to embrace technology to assist change. I saw old ways of doing, parked right beside new thinking. I heard people talk about that with curiousity. I felt part of something really rather dynamic with potential.  Later, I read blogs that were critically evaluative

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of what had happened. I read things that were fair, considered, that asked questions about diversity, about status quo, about pushing forward.

My experience was one of  people talking. Of change-in-motion.

I still saw some people who were wandering alone and looking vaguely like they weren’t included. I bumped into an ex colleague of mine who felt a little un-networked into the process. I wonder if, in the future, there can be more chat spaces specifically for those lone travellers ( as I once was) to say hello to each other without feeling awful about it?

 

 

Go Social

A Bevvy of BloggersI was genuinely honoured to be asked to take part as a blogger. I have been a member of the CIPD since 1998 ( dear God, how did I get so old?).  When I was an “in-house” Change Manager a Professional Body proved useful and supportive. These days, my  own local Branch in Edinburgh is strong, with a specialist People and Organisational Development Group running which is tailored to L&D and OD matters. But I have firmly been in the “what does the CIPD do for me?” camp for the last few years, especially since my Consultant status means I have little representation in the magazines or research. I have been adrift and was considering rescinding my Membership.

And so it is that through Social Media connections, through a growing network of people who share their days through Twitter and their thoughts through Linkedin, Google+, Storify, Facebook etc, I feel I am finding a community of Practice. A place I can discuss what is real for me and my clients. I have met people I hope will be in my life for a very very long time. I have been provoked. I have laughed. I have been moved beyond measure, but mostly, I have been lit up by a sense of being part of something happening – a national conversation in a Profession I believe could be better, stronger, more.

I am an advocate for Social Media. I am now an Advocate for the CIPD and how it is harnessing the people in the membership.

IMG_0027I kind of feel proud now that I was part of the incredible CIPD Hackathon that ran this year – ambitious, audacious and potentially ahead of its time. I don’t know any other professional body, or  public or corporate body that has sought to get the voices and opinions of the people affiliated to it in such a comprehensive way – but I’m sure I’ll hear more stories now I’ve asked….

I say ahead of its time, because something so big ( we’re hacking a Profession) and so new ( Hacking? What is this Hacking thing? Is that not a cough?) is easy to dismiss or doubt ( see comments and experiences on Goffee & Jones). I think it is only later that you can see the effects and start to get to the learning – at the time, you push and advertise and ask and experiment and just keep going.

As a Case study, it is fascinating. Many organisations could learn from it – good and bad – and at its heart, it was driven by social media and committed individuals. I’m cheering here. I’ve glimpsed the future. Actually, I took part in it too.

So I feel this could be three blogs. I’m roaming wide and long and I’m going to end here.

I must apologise to the excellent Rob Jones (@robjones_tring) of Crossrail , whose session on Leading Organisations through Change with his CEO Andrew Wolstenholme lifted my spirits and got me thinking.  I have not done you justice here. Please see the summary of the session here:

And to Peter Cheese (@cheese_peter) for not mentioning properly how he is in moving the Profession forward. I have SO enjoyed our conversations. Even when I’m thumping tables about “What does the CIPD do for me?”

And to whomever took the very first photo at the beginning of this blog – I “borrowed” it from Doug’s curated tumblr site and will give thanks properly, if you let me know who you are.

My end points are these:

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Please look at the work curated by Doug Shaw. There was a richness of content and involvement that, even if you are not a card-carrying fan of the CIPD, every organisation should be seeking

Think of your own part in Creating the Best Workplaces on Earth. If, like me, you are outside a bigger organisation, focus on making your own consultancy pretty bloody fabulous and work to really really push your clients to do the same.

Pay attention to Exhibitions and places people hang out together- what we do together often speaks way louder than what we say.

Go social – all the way. Find a way to harness your own capacity to use the rich voices and materials that are out there on line. In your business and for your people. If you are afraid – buddy up with someone. I have never met such a open, decent, maraudingly friendly bunch of folk as I have through the HR/L&D/OD people on Twitter.  They are dying to get you involved and genuinely excited about the potential of this Social Stuff. Try it. Honest.

In addition to those mentioned above here are more Bloggers and Social Media Press members involved:  @HRTinker (Tinker) @HRGem (Gemma Reucroft) @OdOptimist (Megan Peppin) @dds180 (David D’Souza) @Damiana_Hr (Damiana Casile) @KingfisherCoach (Ian Pettigrew) @SukhPabial (Sukh Pabial) @MervynDinnen (Mervyn Dinnen) @GrahamSalisbury (Graham Salisbury) @Workessence (Neil Usher) @NeilMorrison ( Neil Morrision) @Flora Marriott (Flora Marriott)  @RapidBI (Mike Morrison) @martinCouzins (Martin Couzins) Apologies if I’ve forgotten anyone….

Read their blogs & follow them. Please.

As a PS: Buy this book (I put this in as not only can I now claim to have had a hand in a #1bestselling Kindle book, I am genuinely proud to be part of The Book of Blogs project and  to know the inimitable David D’Souza AND the money goes to Charity)

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