What Matters

Image thanks to @GapingVoid

I took some time off.

Over the weekend, the long Easter weekend and the weekend before, I actually stopped working and thinking about work. Since October, fuchsia blue has been working with Greater Manchester Combined Authority on a piece of culture and OD strategy work. It’s a complex, if rewarding, piece with a lot at stake, a lot to consider and a lot of people and pace in the mix. It matters. It’s taken a lot of thinking through, of working out, of asking and gathering, of showing and telling. Add to that the ever-expanding joy that is the Shindig, and what it needs and deserves from me…. and coaching, facilitating, faculty work…I have felt in demand. Stretched. Not unhappy, but working at capacity….
Some will read that and see humble bragging about busy-ness, others will read other things into it. It’s not intended to be anything more than it is what it is, for me. I make choices and work with them. My 2012 self would marvel at what my 2018 self gets up to – I’m grateful for that. I genuinely love the work I get to do – even when it tests and stretches me… I love the folk I get to work with – and their infinite patience with my frowny face at times. For once, I’ve given myself a little credit for stuff I know, which has kind of felt good…. and still I have felt a loss.

It’s been so subtle, I hardly noticed it – mostly because I’ve hardly stopped. Not properly stopping…. The type of stopping that allows pottering, free-thinking, writing, discovery, possibility. It’s part of What Matters.
I arrive at my desk with a pre-formed to do list, a series of calls to make or things to attend to. I crack through what I can and I prioritise what next or what-not. I’m not bad at it, to be honest… but In this mode, I lose connection – l lose space and being in-touch.. with myself, with others… I sort of fold in for a while and rely on what I know and can access.. it is oddly satisfying – I can click through work at a fair pace. Stuff can get done – but after a while, the “Stuff” loses something important, something that matters – it becomes more transactional, task-based… oddly unsatisfying. And I feel a loss of connection to my creativity and words.

Over the weekend I put work down – the only thing that came close was playing with Storyboard technologies for the sheer hell of drawing stuff – not because I’m designing anything or trying to create something for a client – but because I’m curious.
It felt good.

I feel more restored.
It matters.

In a month that promises an Edinburgh Shindig, an Unconference, attending the ODN Europe Conference, my first ever trip to Shetland with the glorious Scottish Ballet, ongoing work with GMCA as we begin to look at getting folk involved in stuff in a different way, in a month where I begin a new conversation with a new supervisor – my intention is to enjoy the work as it comes. To put down the to do list and do some being. To focus on What Matters.

Wonder how that will work out?

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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Trust the Process (aka Reflections from an Unconference)

 

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Thanks to Simon Heath . Loving your work as always. x

I’m an advocate of the Unconference format. This is my third go at instigating one within the @LnDConnect community and I reckon I’m just about understanding a little of the magic that happens now.

Events like this cannot happen successfully without people creating, thinking & participating… and if you want folk to create, to reflect, to participate it is important to actively seek and carve out space and time to enable this… then get out of the way and let it breathe.

Events like this don’t happen without a facilitation team who are in service to others and to each other; a team who push experiment; who are relentlessly and genuinely curious about what is happening in their chosen field; who seek to learn themselves. In this instance the Team were (in alphabetical order) Ady Howes, Fiona McBride, Kev Wyke, Martin Couzins, Mike Collins & Sarah Storm... and me.

Here are some of my reflections ( others’ are captured at the bottom of the blog)

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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.

Say

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I have Bloggers Block.  (which somehow sounds less significant than writer’s block, weirdly)

This would not be news (and arguably still isn’t for most folk) but for the delicious irony that 14 days ago I handed in 40-plus pages of a dissertation entitled: How do I sound? Finding my voice; showing up in organisations and life.

When my voice starts to falter. I pay attention these days. I pay very careful attention.

My story is I lost my voice for a while – I left organisational life to become a freelance consultant and lifestuff happened at the same time (as it has an annoying habit of doing) and I found myself unsure about who I was, what I offered, what I stood for… I was mean to myself about how I sounded. Really mean. As in derailingly so.

And slowly I realised I couldn’t speak well – couldn’t articulate what I actually thought to clients, in my family, even at dinner with a group of almost-strangers one evening I found myself agreeing with stuff that I fundamentally questioned. I was “faking good” left, right and centre, pretending I was alright, denying I was afraid that I wasn’t a “proper” consultant when everyone else seemed to know what they were doing, turning up at friends’ birthdays wearing a big smile and neatly avoiding any conversation that would scratch my veneer. (I could give out tips on how to appear present without actually showing up at all, if I thought those tips were in any way useful or purposeful) … and my soul was shrivelling up, I retreated deep within myself, locking off my ability to speak my own words. I got very small.

Honestly? It is shit when you can’t speak. Apologies for the vernacular, but I’m saying what I mean here. Voicelessness is deeply, annoyingly, frustratingly terrifyingly, soul-destroyingly rubbish.  I don’t know how else to describe it. When I was a kid, I remember that saying “shut up” was deemed to be really rude. Now I’m older, I get why:

Shut up.

Close off.

Lock away.

Don’t speak.

Don’t be in the world.

 

It’s insidious.

So I’ve been working to get my voice back. To speak up and speak out – on paper, via the blog, on Twitter, a little Linkedin Group discussion stuff, a little Facebook Ta Daaaah-ness. I’m working to be frank and clear in my family. I’m trying to be more open and honest with clients – saying what I see and feel with authenticity and care. I’m experimenting – what happens if I say?

I don’t mean I’m experimenting with saying every tiny thing that comes into my head. I’m not into over-sharing or being casually cruel through sharp-end “honesty” – but if you catch me relaxed and full flow and these days I err toward the “this is how I see it” over the “hmmm… well.. I can see what you mean”… and voicing yourself comes with a different set of challenges and responsibilities from those posed when you are mute.

Less said, soonest mended and all that… but I’m learning

So I am denying my bloggers block. I’m refusing to cave into my fears that I’m not writing cleverly enough, or not making some decent, massive, organisational/L&D/ HR point and therefore somehow I ought not to be blogging under a professional guise.

Because part of what I do now, is get folk to say. To speak or write or draw or snap images on phone cameras… What IS it that you are not saying – the thing that grips you deeply and holds you silent?

Bloggers block?

Who, me?

A Love Letter to HR

This is my submission for the crowd-sourced Humane, Resourced book of blogs. It is a project initiated by David D’Souza (@dds180 on Twitter) whereby a wide variety of HR & non HR professionals have offered in blogs, stories and writing.   I’m truly honoured to be part of the project and amongst such vibrant, diverse people.  The book will be available on Kindle & Amazon soon. I think it is mostly free or 99p – all surplus goes to charity….

 

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Ahhh HR.

How you and I have battled over the years.

My first experience of you was in America – I was 20 (not old enough to drink legally in Illinois, one of the large, armed, humourless, policeman who raided the party informed me.)

Prior to that, I only knew your twin, Personnel.

You existed in an office so air-conditioned that, despite the temperature of 104 F outside, the immaculate Sherri had to wear a sweater. She was blonde. Efficient. Officious. I had been “Processed by HR “ merely three days before.
Inducted. Sent to get a Uniform. Allocated a locker, a lanyon and a thick employee manual that my roommate and I later turned into huge paperchains to decorate our sleeping cell.

After two days of sitting in a room with 50 + other new “Hosts” where we were bombarded with messages so insincere (These are not our customers, they are our Guests”) that my skin literally turned itchy at one point; I was sent, blinking and confused, to run rollercoasters at one of the biggest theme parks in the States.

I had never felt less human in my life.

So my act of underage drinking (did I mention I was 20?) was, perhaps, an act of expression of my humanity and individualism, HR. A rebellion against your processes and procedures and your willful attempt to de-person me. Oh how I showed you. How I laughed as I drank my illegal Bud Light, at a clandestine gathering where someone had brought an ACTUAL keg. I was sticking it to the system, HR. You took away my identity, but you could not take away my right to party!

So when I was brought back into your frigid office and processed for the second time in three days, HR, this time with a warning about conduct and an appointment with the Park Counselor to assess my drinking problem (“I’m Scottish” didn’t appear to cut it) We were already on shaky territory.

I avoided you for most of the rest of that summer, HR. You sacked my mate Austin, for re-selling his free Park access ticket on the cheap in the parking lot one Wednesday. You downgraded Scott from running a sexy roller coaster, to working in food services because he rang 911 for no apparent reason one breaktime and you deemed him to have “poor judgment” – Actually, I’ll give you that one.

You and I met again when I, hungry and grumpy after 5 straight hours standing in blistering heat and saying “enjoy the riiiiiiiiide” every 3 ½ minutes, refused to “High Five” Bugs Bunny and allegedly uttered an expletive in his direction as I passed him in the park. The fact that the boy in the 7ft inanely grinning rabbit costume had attempted to pin down and sexually assault my friend, Cathy the night before was none of your concern, HR. The rules stated Bugs was to be high-fived. And once more, my conduct was to be questioned.
Now? I was done with you.

So imagine my surprise, HR when, two years later, all graduated and bambi-legged-ready to start a “proper” job, it was you who I felt I could turn to. When did my feelings toward you change, HR? When was the moment you became attractive to me again?

You looked so good with your promises of working with people, collaborating with the business, supporting and developing staff. You forgave me my crazy student ways and the fact I had studied an MA instead of Law and offered me a Professional Career. I studied you and began to understand that What Happened In America wasn’t about de-humanising at all, but about managing and efficiently processing a rapidly changing, flexible, low-skilled workforce.

You and I had a do-over. We began to understand each other and our relationship blossomed.

We started living together – you became such big part of my life. You taught me the need for thoroughness, patience and diligence in my practice. The need to be firm and professional when I walked into the all male Ops “Lions Den” to deliver stats or meet about a disciplinary. You gave me some authority, structure, a place in the system, and an inside track on most of the gossip and the IT secrets. In addition, HR, I had the safety of a set of neat procedures to follow and policies that people should adhere to. It was all so dreamy.

But I am a flighty one, HR. My MBTI profile tells me so. I am a blue-sky thinker. Creative. Maverick. For a while you could hold me safe in your arms and I loved your structured, orderly ways, but soon, all too soon I began to feel stifled. There was a nagging doubt at the back of my mind that all this neatness and process was a myth. I felt you were lying to me HR. When the man who racially abused my friend was kept in post because there was “no-one alternative to replace him”. I knew we were in trouble.

I confess, I went to Counselling. I had to get these feelings out, this notion I was living with a fraud. My Director listened to my woes and nodded sagely. She had long since suspected this was coming. She suggested I take a break from you, HR. She suggested I go on a “project” to support “Culture Change” – just to get some distance, you understand.

How was I to know what would happen? I loved you. I truly did. I wanted to be faithful. But when I got into that room and people started talking and thinking together and it was tricky and messy and beautifully rich? Oh HR.. I was lost to you.

And then came that sticky period where we co-existed in the same house. I was mean about you, HR, sniffy and unforgiving. You, in turn, seemed to suggest I was better placed with Internal Comms. It was a difficult time. I know I only saw your bad parts, not your good. I was so taken with this new life, this new perspective, I was a blind fool.

I moved out, eventually. Been living on my own for 8 years now and the distance has been good for both of us, I think. I have come to re-appreciate (some of) your ways and you now seem to respect the life I have chosen for myself.

HR? I’m happy now. In this long-term committed relationship with OD. It’s a tricky business, defining what exactly it is between us, but we are growing and learning together and I love the fluidity and edginess of our relationship.

But I want you to know. From the bottom of my heart.
You never forget your first love HR.
X

Human Contact

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I’m reviewing 18 months of journalling, reading and writing as part of processing my research and learning for my final MSc dissertation paper.

I found this and want to share it. There is an invitation here to connect today.

At some point? Sit with a cup of good coffee, or tea, or sip some water and Talk. To someone. Fully. Look ’em in the eye. Smile a bit. Ask questions. Be with them. Let them be with you.  Just for a wee while. See where it takes you … and enjoy.

” I notice a stark contrast between my experience of rapid, broadcasting, short, sharp Social Media interactions and the real-time, deeper connections that real-life working relationships and conversations require. I notice get something from both – the quick pace, virtual snapshots give me small hits of connection and a snippet of community… and then there is the joy of properly seeing, hearing and connecting to someone fully – mentally, emotionally, physically.

I notice a deeper satisfaction in my person-to-person contact – there is something far more soulfully nourishing, for me, in good, connected slow-time conversation.

I’m not going to hear a dirty laugh or be swept up in the colour of someones eyes through Twitter.

Sometimes? It’s just got to be human contact for me. ” – November 2012