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.
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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

Day Two – Dialogue? It’s a business thing….

I’m working with the wise and subtle David Goddin (@changecontinuum on twitter) on the Exploring Dialogue offering. David and I have been “in dialogue” about dialogue since September and through our conversations, I have learned much and thought much.

David’s good at asking me sticky questions which make me look upward and go “hmmm…” And one of these questions was “What will other people get out of exploring dialogue?”

I work with organisations, with teams and Boards. What I see? from outside? A paradoxical and very real need to take slow-time to improve effectiveness in a fast-moving world. The pressure for a quick-fix leads to scepticism for any solution that doesn’t “guarantee” rapid results. It also leads to businesses “fixing bits” rather than taking time to attend to the bigger picture – which more often than not takes longer. We force ourselves to work in fragments. It is, in my experience, deeply unsatisfying.

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Fragments and wholes
Peter Senge, in Presence (written about the conversations between Senge & his peers and colleagues) retells a tale of attempts made to “improve the cost and timing performance in developing a new car”. Engineering groups split into subsections – working in detail on their area of specialism. With budgets under scrutiny and tight timescales in place, quick fixes to immediate problems were the norm.

Senge explains how the Noise, Vibration and Harshness team (NVH) solved a vibration problem by adding structural reinforcements. Good. Done.

Only now there was a weight problem on the chassis; so the Chassis Specialist were forced to take action and make changes which then impacted back on the NVH team because it created more harshness…. You get the idea.

Senge summarises it thus: “People felt stuck. They didn’t have time to collaborate, yet not collaborating meant they constantly failed to meet their timing goals. But it was also clear that much of the time pressure came from the rework they created for one another…”

Only by slowing down, mapping out the process, understanding their own part in the overall outcomes, could the teams begin to see the patterns they had created together “Each team did what made sense to it, but no-one saw the larger system their individual reactions created – a system that constantly produced poor technical solutions, stress and late cars.”

From seeing those patterns, teams began to be more able to use Dialogue techniques to talk together (here I’m using David Bohm’s definition of “a stream of meaning flowing among and through us and between us”) Eventually, the car was finished almost a year before schedule and $63 million of allocated overspend costs were returned….

To be creative, innovate and effective, you need time to process and think differently. Fast-talking/fast-acting isn’t enough to generate real long-term solutions. Lasting change needs something different. It needs to be backed up with deep foundations; with slower, more careful conversations.

Slow Down to Speed Up

What we’re aiming to do with Exploring Dialogue is to improve the quality of dialogue in individuals and teams; getting people talking with more effective impact and reflecting well so they “show up” differently in conversations; leading to different outcomes and thinking… impacting positively on change in the team.

Through the workshops, we create an environment for experimenting with conversation and dialogue where ideas are generated –new thoughts or solutions emerge – simply by thinking with and talking to other people.

We offer unapologetically slow-time to truly reflect on and understand yourself and others in everyday interactions and discussions… we offer it, because you’re unlikely to get it in organisations or our busy working lives.

The focus is less on what you do; more on how you are being in relation and response to others. fuchsiablue is not about the quick fix – it’s about the learning that will stand you in good stead for many many conversations to come – and I’d argue fairly strongly, you won’t get that from a powerpoint presentation and a rapid intro to “tough conversations”

Closing thoughts for today…

I’m a practitioner first and foremost. I understand very well the pressures my HR, L&D, OD and Board clients face in their businesses and budgets. I’ll be the first to ‘fess up to my altruism, but I’m practical and grounded too and I know this dialogue, whole person, whole being stuff is more than important… it’s one way to sustain and nourish creativity, thinking and talking for years to come.

We’re living in a complex, adaptive, shifting fast paced world and fuchsiablue’s “business thing” is to invite you and your teams to go slow.

This is, of course potentially contrary, unconventional and a little nuts. Or it might be just good old common sense…

David? Did I answer the question yet?

And in this is an invitation. You’ll find more details about Exploring Dialogue here

If you are interested in attending, please sign up or, if you’re not, please pass this on to someone who might be or comment and let me know your thoughts – and no matter what, I hope you enjoy the blogs over the next few days. Tomorrow is about dialogue & the brain.

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Day One – Why Dialogue ?

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Back in September, I posted a blog on Visibility. It was the first time I’d really spoken out to the wide world about the work I  wanted to do – work with Dialogue groups and support consultants and leaders to “talk well” together. At the time, I was aiming to run sessions in December….turns out it takes a little longer than that to gather courage and content – 2 months longer to be precise – and now Exploring Dialogue has dates and a London home in February and March.

And this week, to support the programme and generate interest, I’m running a short blog series to map my thinking and understanding of Dialogue. I’ll look at dialogue through a few lenses – business, brains, body and beauty – in the hope it generates some discussion and new thinking about how we talk and work together in organisations.

Why dialogue?

I was drawn to dialogue work partly because so many coaching clients or teams I worked with described patterns of stuck conversations, difficulties in changing a relationship or skewed dynamics in a team. My coaching training meant I believed the answer was in learning to ask more and better questions, to inquire well in the world – and this helps, of course….. but often the issue was clients could not get themselves heard well.. and asking questions didn’t scratch that particular itch. They couldn’t advocate or speak out their own perspective confidently or clearly – either that or they advocated too forcefully – which led to frustration, misunderstanding and some very tense interactions.

And this resonated deeply with a story I have about myself – one that says I lost my voice for a time. Somewhere in the midst of working in organisations and consulting and lifestuff generally, I found myself rendered quiet. I had become uncertain as to how to offer what I thought and knew effectively. I found myself either saying little or, if I did find the courage and opportunity to speak, I’d say everything really really quickly … and would then experience the conversational equivalent of tumbleweed… silence…awkward…

This would, in turn, of course render me unable to speak well.

Through working with and practicing techniques, models and thinking around dialogue – advocating well, inquiring well, listening well, understanding my responses and assumptions in conversation, reflecting carefully – I began to reconfigure how I spoke and interacted with the world around me and I began working with clients to do the same. And I want to share what I have learned – what I’m still learning

An Invitation

So this is an invitation – fuchsiablue is running two 2-day workshops designed to encourage attendees to think well and talk well together. It plaits together thinking from Nancy Klein and David Kantor and embodied work from Amanda Ridings and has pinches of Gestalt thinking and understanding Group Process…. and it is more than the theory, it’s experiential – designed to allow you to explore and practice talking well. We’re determined the Exploring Dialogue days will be enjoyable, challenging and offer some deep, long-term lessons in talking well… and cake will figure somewhere, doubtless.

You’ll find more details about Exploring Dialogue here The flyer looks like a flyer – a conversation will be more satisfying, I’d offer…so I’d prefer to talk to you, if you are interested in attending.

If you are curious to know more please get in touch.

Please also pass this on to someone who might be or comment and let me know your thoughts – and no matter what, I hope you enjoy the blogs over the next few days.

Lest We Forget

Today in the UK it is Remembrance Day – a day to reflect on and remember the men and women who serve their country in the Armed Forces.

This morning, just before 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month, someone in our village was playing bagpipes. On a clear, cold, crisp November morning, the sound carried beautifully and mournfully outwards and then quieted….. silenced for 2 minutes inviting people to take time to Stop. Think. Remember.

I sat for the time, with the window wide open in FBHQ at the top of the house and in those moments I sent out quiet thoughts and thanks to my family, friends, colleagues, peers. I thought of people I have loved & lost and those lost to others. I thought of people who are very present. The people who shaped me. The people who messed with my shape. The people I’ve lost connection with.…. I thought of the awfulness and inevitability of loss and how that irrevocably shifts us, whether or not we choose.

Then the bagpipes struck up again and I was shaken from my reverie and went about my day.

Yet I find myself sitting tonight with a sense of privilege that I’m here and I am lucky enough to stand firmly in the world… and I sense that I can always strive to be more and better to honour those who crossed my mind when I took time to remember.

And I leave it to Mary Oliver to best sum up the question that drives me as I remember and reflect:

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

On Visibility

I have an idea. Something I believe in and I want to take out into the world.

In previous blog post Connection, I started to articulate it:

And what I want? What I seek and quest for and hope for? More and better connected conversations in work-spaces. Time to talk. Use of dialogue techniques, coaching conversations, facilitated team discussions, café conversations, action learning opportunities…. All those great things where we invite people to speak up and out – where the invitation is to connect.

So I have this want… and an idea on how to fulfill that… The idea is not original, per-say –grounded in work pioneered by mentor/ friend Amanda Ridings through her Pause for Breath journey….configuring work by Nancy Kline and David Kantor.. it will include Gestalt methodologies, because I think they are useful and accessible. In my head, it’s a beautiful patchwork of models and experimental spaces inbetween for people to play with they way they talk and interact both in and out of work…

And I love this idea…. And I want to bring it into the world…..It’s called Exploring Dialogue – it’s kind of space to explore and experiment with how we interact with each other – slow time to build connections and really understand what happens to us physically, cognitively and emotionally in conversations.

For the past 2 weeks I’ve been mapping this idea. If I’m being honest, it has been languidly mooching around my brain for… I don’t know… months maybe… In my head, it’s been kind of hanging out in silk-pyjamas, eating Turkish delight , looking fabulous but with no real purpose or ambition… beautiful and fantastical.

Now I want it to get dressed, go out and earn it’s place in the world…but an idea can’t speak.. I have to do that for it… and this feels edgy.

Because for me to speak up and out, means visibility. To bring this idea into 3D  world opens the possibility that my beautiful idea is flawed… or perhaps I’m foolish…perhaps this notion is folly… Oh God. What if I’m unintelligible? and Then… what if someone steals my beautiful idea? Or trashes it?  Perhaps I’d be better keeping quiet?

James Ramsay’s recent blog on: Sharing…Have you met my baby? Resonated strongly with the concern about putting your stuff “out there”.

I remember my massive trepidation when I first blogged.. knowing I wanted to write… not knowing how that would be.. trying to control… relinquishing control in the end and just posting something that meant something to me… the terror I felt and the gratefulness to the warm twitter presence of Niall Gavin( @niallgavinuk) for cheering me into the blogosphere.

I’m reading Brene Brown’s new book : Daring Greatly.  This morning I read The start of Chapter 4 and put the book down with a quiet “Yes.”

“..as adults we realize that to live with courage, purpose and connection – to be the person whom we long to be – we must again be vulnerable. We must take off the armour, put down the weapons, show up and let ourselves be seen”

I want to show up and be seen as someone who supports better, more skilled conversations. I want to create a safe –yet-experimental spaces to work in slow time on dialogue and connection. I want fuchsiablue to be associated with something authentic, meaningful, purposeful, useful (no hanging about in pyjamas, looking lovely –we have work to do). I want that and it scares me a lot – to say it and to want it.. because it could go horribly wrong.

In the last 2 weeks I have spoken quietly to a number of people about my idea… showing up slowly.  My infinite thanks to David Goddin (@ChangeContinuum)  for 4 words, posed on 12th September at the end of a tweet : How can I help? In the time & space in-between, he has shown himself to be simply awesome.

So I have this idea…and it feels right to bring it into the world not with vast fanfares and taster sessions advertised on Linkedin… not to mail drop hundreds of people or rely on a pretty flyer where I can’t seem to articulate myself on 1 page. It feels right to show up here, on the blog, where I’ve been working to show up since April.

My aim is to run “something” on 6th December in London for a half day. And “something similar” in Edinburgh on 7th December… It’s fairly formed in my head, but I’m feeling my way into this visible space.

If you’d like to know more about Exploring Dialogue as an idea, please comment here or email me: info@fuchsiablue.com.

ps: My deepest thanks also to Martin Harvey for time, good challenge, encouragement and wisdom.. and all for the price of an Americano…