What Matters – The Garden Centre Lesson


So after yesterday’s blog,  I start thinking about What Matters in my work. The things I value…The things that serve me well… I haven’t thought much about these in a while… I have an urge to properly pause for a bit and not do anything much other than stay with the question for a while – What Matters?

I give myself the gift of a few hours. I’m easing into the week from the Easter weekend and nothing is pressing too hard. There are other things I could be doing, of course, and I could allow myself to feel guilty for “wasting time” etc – but I’m over that stuff…. This is a lively, active pause, not a vegging-out, mindless one…. Good stuff will come from this…I’m encouraging myself to do as I said I was going to and stop for a while. No sudden moves. What Matters?

I sit on the floor of the office with a cup of tea in hand. The Dog is delighted I’m at her level and wags over to my side, dumping herself unceremoniously beside me….I cuddle her and stare at the spines of books, wondering which one sort of “speaks” to me – where to begin, where to begin? What follows is a period of picking books up, raffling through pages. Noticing what resonates. Noticing where I shudder…. I give myself freedom to just go with whatever. I notice myself fretting about what’s not on my shelves..is my library good enough?… I manage to laugh at myself a little…good enough for who? Who the hell is watching right now? I figure what is there got me this far & I haven’t read half of it cover to cover – there’s enough here, for today.

Through this process, I reach back to points in my learning and my development as a Practitioner where light dawned on previously dark spaces…. I find myself seeking to return to what I have been shown… Revisiting my training: how to reflect and put that reflection into new action. How to take a thing – a moment, a regular occurrence, a block, a belief, a question-  and look at it through different lenses and positions and therefore work with it differently. What Matters?

Turns out that experience matters – I don’t mean Years-Served-Endless-Hamster-Wheel-Clocking-up-Time experience, I mean the lived experience of being in the world. Of being a fully living, sensing, thinking, learning being operating in a fully living, sensing shifting world. It matters to me and for my work… my lived experience impacts me, influences me, changes me.

When I started an MSc in Org Change in 2012, I was horrified – and I mean properly Are. You. Kidding. WTF horrified – that it began with Philosophy. One of the first sessions was on Phenomenology (cue about 3 months of me having the muppets’ M-numm-M-nunnh song in my head, only with the lyrics as “phenonmenon doo-doo-do-doo-doooo” – very very bad – if you want a different experience from this explanation, view here)

Phenomenologists argue that there is no one hard and fast, objective reality, that there is simply experience, followed by the interpretation we put on that experience.  So when we were sent off to visit places near Ashridge and a bunch of us went to the same Garden Centre what we found was: We went to the same place but Oh MAN did we have different experiences. For some of us, it was all about the lovely flora & fauna – spring, colours, growth – for others, flowers signified hayfever. For others it was about security cameras, warning signs and signs saying: do this/ don’t do that – human rules on nature. For others it was about the quality of cake and coffee – the welcome and offering. The Garden Centre Lesson: Bottom line? We were physically in the same space but emotionally, mentally and experientially worlds apart.

When we got back together to talk about what we heard/saw/ noticed/ experience it was like we had been to different places. Who was right? What was important? Whose experience was more valid? Powerful stuff.

So experience matters – my experience is just a valid and useful as yours. What I see and experience counts. Even if it’s inconvenient to you.  (actually, as a Consultant…arguably especially if it’s inconvenient to you) If we want to understand the whole garden centre, we can’t just see the roses. If we want to understand the internal Culture, we can’t just data-gather from one source  – (ie Leadership, or Frontline, or Customers, or coachee etc) I mean we CAN… but if we do, we need to be clear on the limitations of that view/ experience.. and not arrange the whole world/ training budget around a single view… ( And yes, we need to layer context on to experience eventually, or no-one gets anywhere… there needs to be a value judgement in there someplace or we won’t make decisions.. but later.)

My training: Notice the phenomena. Drop the shoulds and oughts and coulds. Have the experience. Notice the data (all of it – what you think, feel, sense – bring your whole self in) Sense-make and hypothesize. Create meaning. Reflect on it (either in the moment or after the effect – or, if you are me, probably both)…Notice your bias, your Bubble & blindspots if you can…and from there, can I play with that meaning in order to move on?  Can I offer myself choices: go deeper into the issue, or widen it out or just shift it elsewhere… momentum, progress, perhaps? I’m seeking difference, insight, learning.

I go back because it’s a thing that has served me well – reflective practice – an iterative process that moves me from Here to There – wherever There might be. I know there are good models for reflective practice – interested in hearing from others what they use or value

For me? this is What Matters. Taking my experience seriously.  Taking others’ experience seriously. Data gathering from different sources. Discussion. Iteration. And time for reflection whilst cuddling the dog & perusing books that fire my synapses.

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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