It Should Be Different….

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Oh Should.

How you haunt my change practice & my coaching conversations.

You hold a tempting promise of possibilities, marred by a vague whiff of judgement:

I should

We should

It should be…

 

Yup. Quite possibly. But it isn’t. Not right now.

So can we work with that? With what is real and present?

Can we look at the world as you currently experience it?

Can we look at this mythical “culture” that “should” change and spend time here, now, picking through what is, before lurching off to what should be?

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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…

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.

Laugh it Up

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Laughter Yoga.
You are having a laugh, right?
I am inwardly groaning; silently seeking a wall to gently bang my head off.
I’m cynical about the widely smiling woman who takes the mic to talk to us about the Power of Laughter… an outright rejection of whatever she is going to say before she even says it – yeah yeah yeah.
Laughter.
Fun.
Happiness.
Important.
I got it.
Blah.
It’s a dark and blustery October Sunday in Edinburgh – the wind is blowing a whoolie and it looks grim and grey out there.
I think it’s safe to say I’m not precisely feeling peace n love n joy.
I’m defended and resentful.
What does this have to do with the everyday ups and downs of my life?
This overly simplistic “laughter is the best medicine” stuff….
Come on. Really?

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Optimum Tension

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“The state of mind which enables a man to do work of this kind is akin to that of the religious worshipper or lover. The daily effort comes from no deliberate intention or program, but straight from the heart.”  – Einstein

 

Liam the Bike mechanic is talking us through the intricacies of tuning cycle gears.
He points to the tiny inhibitor screws on the gear derailleur (thing that changes gears on the back wheel of a bike….yes..I had to look up my notes) and explains that loosening or tightening these screws affects the movement of the mechanism across the gear cogs. (forgive my lack of detail, I got the gist)
He demonstrates by tightening one small screw and moving the pedals, clicking gears up and down….he points to the hesitation and resistance in the gear shift – to me, it looks taut and the chain jumps snappily from cog to cog .
Then he loosens the screw massively and the gear shift flops idly, chain rolling without precision onto cog after cog and back down.
The trick, he tells us, is to find good tension.

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Learning more about L&D Connect – 20th Feb, Edinburgh

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Bringing the L&D Connect Unconference North is an experiment.

Last January, I went to an L&D Connect Event in London. It was organised by a group of Practitioners, Freelancers and Consultants who wanted to create somewhere for Learning and Development or Organisational Development Professionals to have the time and space to discuss the issues that matter most to them and their organisations. Sukh Pabial (@sukhpabial) describes the aims and intentions perfectly here.

I was invited by David Goddin (@ChangeContinuum)  part of the organising team and whose judgement I trust wholeheartedly. So I was curious.

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Working The Gap

Reading Sukh Pabial’s Blog  (@sukhPabial) post today, I thought it might be a good invitation to have a go at answering his “what am I for?” question.

I’m not getting existential in particular… It’s just I have been in a number of very good conversations of late about what this OD malarkey might be. I guess I’m also turning my mind to the upcoming  first Scottish L&D Connect event & sorting out my blog post for the next version of Humane Resourced where I’ll be writing more about my experience of working in an OD context (Hello to David D’Souza @dds180) .

I keep coming back to a drawing I sketched in Loudon’s bakery in Edinburgh, whilst talking with the deeply fabulous Julie Ashworth of Broadreach Consulting as we were processing out what we had just done.. Continue reading

Focus Shift

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When mid-year swung into view a couple of weeks ago, I found myself doing one of those Scooby-doo double takes… Huh? How? What?

Perhaps this has been the cause (or the symptom?) of some recent conversations I’ve found myself in about focus. I’m not a precision junkie by any stretch of the imagination. I’m a lover of life, a connector of ideas, someone who relishes experiences over hypothesis. This means, fairly often, I am playing with and working on all sorts of things – seemingly disparate – and I have to remind myself, as I would my clients, about balancing my focus and my energy.

At a recent Leadership Retreat run by Wendy Palmer, I reconnected with the embodied part of my practice. This is the bit where, when I’m coaching or facilitating, I ask you to pay attention to yourself more fully… to lose some of the rapid thought, ambition, judgment, fear, busy-ness, that stuff….  It’s the bit where I invite you to breathe a little deeper, stand a little taller and cut through a lot of the crap you sense around you. It’s the bit where I invite you to focus on what is real, what is important for you and then work on how to make that bigger, more figural, more present in your life.

I’m not sure what the technical or academic term is for this. To me? It’s focus shift. It’s the part where we work together move your focus either up and out – way way beyond the issue at hand to look at the broader picture…. Or it’s the part where we move from the broad morass and life-stuff-hubbub to focus in on the quiet spaces and begin to unpick what matters most.

This is my job – to work with you in a way that is meaningful; to cut to the very crux of what action you want or need to take…. Then to cheer you on as you move to action. This is my job and I love it.

So it was I found myself wondering where my own focus has been so far this year – noticing the lack-of–contact I’ve had with certain friends and family and how others have absorbed me. The folk I feel I have let down, the folk I know I haven’t. The work I’ve done that has delighted, the work done that has distracted. The miles clocked up. The money spent. The conversations.The learning. The dissertation that I both love and loathe in a bizarrely complicated fashion. In the midst of all of this gloriously full-on life of mine, I found myself pretty knackered and a bit… hmmm…. Where did my year go?

Now I’m all for physician heal thyself. The last time I checked I wasn’t perfect and dropping back in on myself more fully of late, it seems that still stands. So I have been lucky enough and hopefully discerning enough to get into some conversations with people who have helped me focus more (shout outs in particular to Amanda Ridings, Jon Bartlett @projectlibero, David Goddin @David_Goddin, Liz Tyson, Rhona Graham @rhonaoGraham, & Joanna Pirie) – to pick what is important and true for me, at this mid point in the year.

Focus shift? It’s the way forward.

Feel free to contact me if you’d like to experience it….

Oh… and the peacock? He was strutting around Samye Ling whilst we were on the retreat. Is this boy a master of distraction or focus I wonder?

Guest Blog: Talking Well….

Here is the first ever Guest Blog for fuchsia blue. Amanda Ridings has been mentor, teacher and friend to me since we met at a dinner in Edinburgh and I subsequently attended Pause for Breath in the glorious Scottish Borders 4 years ago. (details of this years P4B are on the link below. If you are thinking about any sort of personal development or gaining some thinking time this year, it is worth enquiring into)

Amanda is author of the award winning book Pause for Breath: bringing the practices of mindfulness and dialogue to leadership conversations (She saysPractice 10 and Practice 33 are particularly relevant to this post.)

Talking well….

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.…begins with listening well, at least in my experience!

By listening well, I mean becoming aware of how I listen, and how I don’t listen, and seeking to really listen, in a way that is profound and respects another person’s perspective and potential.

When I was taking my early steps in my own deeper development, I read a passage, in a somewhat unexpected book, that evoked in me a visceral sense of how I wanted to be received, and understood:

‘He listened in the way that we dream of others listening, his face seeming to reflect on everything said. He did not start forward to seize on my slightest pause, to assert an understanding of something before the thought was finished, or to argue with a swift, irresistible impulse – the things which often make dialogue impossible.’ Anne Rice, Interview with a Vampire.

Looking back, I wonder whether it was this passage that inspired me to begin exploring dialogue. In a world where it can seem hard to find people who have the time to listen at all, what would it be like if more of us made a commitment to try and listen well?

For me, listening well involves listening externally to what someone is saying, and also listening internally to the response being evoked in me – what am I thinking, what am I experiencing, what am I sensing? Skilfulness lies in bringing ‘just right’ attention to both others and self, alighting on each with what one of my clients calls a ‘butterfly touch’, and moving between them in the right kind of balance.

For example, I might be listening to a request for support from an associate, and wanting to meet that request yet feeling uncomfortable for some reason. Internally I have both a ‘yes’ and a ‘no’. To listen well, it helps me if I ‘note’ these internal responses, and return my attention to listening to my associate. If I am not able to find this balance, I may get caught up in an internal story of being ‘caught’ between ‘yes’ and ‘no’, becoming anxious about what I will say when they eventually stop speaking. My premise, drawing on Leadership Embodiment principles, is that the other person will sense my involvement in my own concerns, and ‘know’ that they are no longer being heard. Any connection will be diluted in that moment.

If I can find a skilful balance, I’ll enter the conversation only when they have finished speaking. At this point I have choices. I might:

  • Ask for more information and/or seek more understanding – why are they requesting support? How did they come to think of me? What options have they considered? This might help me weigh the balance between my ‘yes’ and my ‘no’.
  • Offer my current experience – I would like to support you, and yet I feel uncomfortable because…This allows the other person to understand the impact of their request on me, which they can then factor into their perspective.

There are other options, of course. Many will be variations on a theme of bringing more information into the field of the conversation in a way that allows for further exploration.

As well as attending to the whereabouts of our attention, listening well also involves calibrating the intensity of it: too much can feel smothering, or like pressure, and too little can seem like disinterest or lack of care. There is a ‘goldilocks zone’ for attention, where we accept what is said, and hold it lightly, and with respect, even though we may disagree or feel unsettled. In doing this, another person will ‘know’ that we hear and acknowledge them, just as they sense if we get caught up in our own concerns.

The intensity and whereabouts of our attention are just two factors that influence the quality of our listening. In our humanness, there are many ways we distract ourselves from listening well, or misinterpret what we hear, or overlay our own map of the world inappropriately on someone else’s perspective. To listen really well, we need to develop awareness of our particular human foibles and how they colour what we hear. However, to begin to listen well may take only intent and a little mindfulness.

The potential rewards of making a commitment to begin to listen well are great. Listening well means that you hear not only what someone says, but also the way they say it, and what they might be leaving unsaid, possibly to protect themselves, or you. Listening well to another offers the opportunity to make an appropriate and skilful response. To make the most of this, it helps to pause, and to listen well to ourselves: what are we thinking and feeling, truly? This moment of presence to our own experience creates the opening to speak with authenticity, even if we are concerned about how we might be received. If we embrace this opening, we will indeed ‘talk well’.

Amanda Ridings, Originate,

If you would like to explore the ideas in this post, please consider joining the Pause for Breath leadership retreat (13 to 17 May, Scottish Borders).

For free, see my blog!

Day Four – Dialogue? It’s a Whole-Body Thing

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Last week I ran a “Bring your Body to Work” session in a leadership programme. The invitation to participants was to pay attention to how interactions at work generate physical responses (altered breath, tension, knotted gut, racing heart) and how learning to work with that can help us respond well or differently in-the-moment.

It’s my challenge to the whole “sticks and stone may break my bones, but names will never hurt me” adage. Actually? Words can hurt and wound. Or lift and inspire. There is a physical impact, often, in the talking we do. Pretending otherwise kind of seems counterproductive, especially if you are striving to be a leader. So dialogue absolutely has an embodied element to it….

Body Works
I have been privileged to work with the deeply wise and generous Amanda Ridings, author of Pause for Breath, for over 3 years now. She is mentor, friend and teacher. Amanda brings together her experience in business, her t’ai chi and mindfulness practices and the embodied/ somatic work of Wendy Palmer; linking these elegantly with dialogue and leadership. Her work is fiercely powerful.

You know you’ve worked with Amanda when you find someone pushing gently against you (physically or conversationally) and your body becomes rock-like and unyielding, stubborn and unwilling to budge (in my case) and you suddenly realise you’re not quite as flexible and open as you’d have yourself believe….

The work throws up great questions: How does my body respond under pressure? Or under praise? What effect does this have on my capacity to talk well or respond well to others around me? What’s my body up to when I feel fight-y and scared? What working conditions help me to be expansive and generous? How can I understand these and work with them more often?

Bring Your Body To Work
Amanda’s work really forced me to understand that I work with head, heart and instinct. I am not a “brain on a stick” as she would say. How people speak and respond to me and how I speak and respond to others has an impact. It matters. If I want good outcomes for me, for my business, for my family, some awareness of my-whole-self-in-conversation is not just useful… it’s absolutely bloody essential.

I was a little shy about explicitly using body work in leadership and management programmes for a while. I thought clients would see my work as being slightly “out there” if I wasn’t using the appropriate models and giving due attention to the brain….But how can you run a Presentation course without due consideration for breathing and posture? Is it OK to train managers how to performance manage without dealing with the physical reality of nerves? How can we ask someone to lead a team, without equipping them with an understanding of what it might physically do to them when they step into the limelight? I’m not sure it’s wise or productive to work in this way.

So I talk about body work now. It is a firm part of my practice. These days? I bring my body to work…

And in this is an invitation – fuchsiablue is running two 2-day workshops on 5th & 6th Feb and 20th & 21st March this year designed to encourage attendees to think well and talk well together.

You’ll find more details about Exploring Dialogue here:

If you are interested, please sign up – if you’re not, please pass this on to someone who might be – and no matter what, I hope you enjoy the blogs over the next few days.