Loss : how it’s essential

Loss is essential. Only through loss can something new flow in.

A thought. Dropped in a moment. New insight coming in.

A definite idea of a plan. Loosened and let go of, even the slightest gap. Innovation of something better appears….Keep reading over on Medium, and give it a few claps if you like it! Thanks

If you’re interested in talking more about the work I do, just get in touch here and we can set up a call. read more

Life is LITERALLY what you make it

It really seems like that person is irritating / lazy / slow at their work / makes lots of mistakes.

Or that this other person is amazing / so capable / always on it / full of great ideas.

It really seems like this situation is upsetting, or that one is fun.

That this one will make me cry, or that one will make me laugh out loud.

It seems like these are definites.

But when you see that our minds are entirely like projectors, that definite-ness shifts.

Nothing, ever, in our whole lives, has “made” us think or feel any of those things.

All those people and experiences are 100% neutral until we experience them through our thinking.  We are a projector, not a camera, and always have been.

Life is LITERALLY what we make it because we can and have always experienced life through our thoughts.

The thing that makes these experiences seem so convincingly true and makes them seem like they’re coming from outside of us is that we mostly agree about what’s upsetting or fun and what counts as irritating or amazing.  We get taught these rules from the moment we enter the world so our thinking around people and situations is mostly very similar.

I witnessed it the other day in the supermarket. Someone talking to a baby.. “oh that’s better, there’s that smile” because clearly the baby not smiling wasn’t good or acceptable. Or at least that’s the message the baby – and we all – received. The thought that the baby attached its identity to.

But then you meet someone who doesn’t see things the same way as you.

A common reaction to these people is to find a way to not be with them.  The greater the differences the more we’ll psychologically or intellectually fight or run away from them.  Our ego likes to be right and certain and these people who remove such certainty and who challenge our right-ness are a danger – or at least our ego thinks so.

I ran some happiness workshops recently and while most people were in agreement about the stress and pressures of diaries and conflicting priorities, about the difficult people and demanding bosses, the high expectations and reducing budgets…there was one person who was different.

“You all seem to be thinking about this stuff far too much” he said.

“This is just work.  You come in, do your best with the time you’ve got, you close things off well for the day, you go home and you do other things”.

Most of the group held onto their own views and saw his as strange, or dismissed this difference with “well you must have an easy job” or “you mustn’t have the pressures that I have in my job” or, I’ve no doubt some were thinking, “your work isn’t as important as mine”.

As far as I know this guy hadn’t had any special lessons in how to get the most from life but he really seemed to have a good appreciation for the nature of Thought, and that when you really see that, your thoughts naturally drop away more easily and bother you less.  When you see that the feelings thoughts generate don’t need solutions life gets easier, more obvious and more fun.

Notice for yourself. Next time you find yourself confronted by a different view, see what it’s like to notice that thought and not follow it or hold onto it as if it were the truth.

Mapping the Employee Experience : #EX at #LearnConnectDo

I’m delighted to host this post from Lara Plaxton who’s co-facilitating the next Learn > Connect > Do on 14th June with Garry Turner.

Employee Experience is a new concept in the world of work so if you want to be ahead of the game and learn more: read on and book on!

Over to Lara…

In preparation for this month’s Learn > Connect > Do session, it came to light that whilst there’s lots of information out there on Employee Experience, it’s often quite theoretical and not practical. In our session, we will run an interactive workshop where we’ll consider the employee experience, map out journeys, create personas and run a design-thinking exercise to find solutions to some of the pain points in your workplaces. So ahead of this, we thought we’d share some thoughts on how to understand employee experience better through mapping journeys.

Firstly, before we approach employee experience its important to point out that this should not be viewed in isolation. Systems thinking is an approach to ‘seeing’ things in a holistic way to understand how everything is connected and interdependent on each other within a system. If we view an organisation as a system, then we start to become interested in the various components that make up that system – the stakeholders, processes, technology etc. It makes us think differently. A useful model in this respect is the Service Profit Chain Model:


https://hbr.org/2008/07/putting-the-service-profit-chain-to-work

This annotated version of the chain highlights both employee and customer satisfaction as the focus areas of both Employee and Customer Experience because these are the points where an emotional response is experienced and so these are critical components in the chain.  Their connection and interdependency with each other means they mustn’t be designed in isolation or without consideration of how they impact each other.

If you fundamentally believe in this chain as a route to success then you’re off to a strong start when it comes to Employee Experience.

Employee Experience is often confused with employee engagement or as an extension of the employee lifecycle but Employee Experience has User Experience at its core and, with the influence of Customer Experience which established itself first, we can define Employee Experience as the emotional connection between employees and the organisation from the first touchpoint with an organisation – before even thinking of applying for a role – through to the post-employment relationship. Employee Engagement on the other hand is a symptom of what your Employee Experience is like.

So, how do you go about understanding the Employee Experience in your organisation? There are various methods ranging from mapping journeys to developing personas through to analysing the emotional connection at every interaction. This includes human, digital, environmental, cultural and structural interactions where ‘moments of truth’ may occur or ‘pain points’ are highlighted that allow for deeper understanding of how someone feels at that point given their critical nature.

Here is an example of a Customer Experience journey which represents a useful way of documenting the various touchpoints, how the user thinks and feels at that point through to ideas for improvement.


https://www.visual-paradigm.com/guide/customer-experience/what-is-customer-journey-mapping/

This example is useful because it doesn’t just map out the touchpoints, it also includes how people think and feel which can be understood  through feedback surveys but also through behavioural analytics.  This insight then then forms the basis for idea generation – best done through collaboration from various departments and stakeholders to create potential solutions.

It can be helpful to map out the full employee journey at a high-level and it is also important to break this down into specific activities / transactions such as recruitment, onboarding, training etc so you can analyse the emotional responses of users as they go through these experiences. That specific activity must then be viewed within the context of the whole experience – and then within the wider system so you can consider how it might impact the Customer Experience. Constantly diving down into the detail and coming back up to the macro view to test the interdependencies and connections.

Developing personas (creating a fictional character of a ‘type’ of user) is a valuable tool in appreciating the various perspectives of an experience and to differentiate or personalise the experience for different users.

With the theory and context from this post as a backdrop, we’re looking forward to getting into the practical realities of the Employee Experiences of the Learn > Connect > Do delegates’ workplaces, using these mapping exercises and running a mini-hack to create innovative solutions.  we can’t wait!

If you’ve not already, book here!  And we look forward to seeing you there!!.

 

Self Care for People Professionals @ Learn > Connect > Do

Today’s post is brought to you by Janice Keyes.  Janice is a wonderful, dedicated HR professional and coach who’s bringing her self care expertise (learned through her own challenges with bringing balance to life!) to Learn > Connect > Do next Thursday (15th March).  All profits from these events go to Twenty:Twenty and when you join us you

LEARN new things,

CONNECT with like minded people,

and then go DO something different to make work better!

We’re excited that PKF Cooper Parry are hosting the event at their amazing East Mids offices (check out the image at the end!) and we’d love to see you there.  Click here if you already know you want to book.  And read on if you’d like to know more…..

P.S. Please make sure you check out the great boat metaphor for self care at the end!

Now, over to Janice…..

I have a little self-care graphic that I keep visible by my desk. It’s a simple hand-drawn graphic that serves as a reminder on those busy days of the things that keep me healthy. It prompts a bit of structure around my self-care and reminds me to keep it high on my agenda. And as you’d expect, the more I engage with activities that nourish my soul, the more rewards I reap. Not only in that short-term joyous time of connection with whatever it is I’m doing but for the long-term too as I continually reinforce those behaviours. Reminding my brain and body what it feels like to be nourished with those feel-good vibes on a regular basis.

And why am I telling you this?

Because hands up! I haven’t always been great at self-care. I know that self-care can be difficult. And so if, by any chance, I can enable your journey to greater self-care to be a little less time-consuming than my own then I’m happy to share my ideas.

So what makes self-care so difficult in the first place?

We live in a forever changing world, where we’re moving at a pace we, perhaps as humans, have never moved at before, constantly driving forward to keep up, take new stuff in and change. Our minds are constantly stimulated. Our mental health continually pushed to its limit whilst we strive to live our lives to their fullest. And with that we are continually challenged to keep everything in check (work and life) AND to deal with whatever has cropped up.

So its no wonder when we live in the world we do that life or work can sometimes ‘get in the way’ and can knock your self-care routine off-balance.

But here’s the thing…

There is ALWAYS going to be something that will get in the way. The experience of life is not one that is always in balance as much as we’d like it to be.

And these days we perhaps find that it’s unusual to get a ‘steady’ moment in work or in life… That is, unless we create one ourselves!

And so to create one we will….

On Thursday 16th March, I’ll be facilitating a session on self-care at the quarterly LearnConnectDo gathering. Learn > Connect > Do was founded by Helen Amery who is passionate about making work better. So if you care about making work better too by being better connected to your own self-care and if you have ‘people’ as the core focus of your work : HR, L&D, OD, coaching, leadership and management, then we’d love to have you along.

I appreciate that it can sometimes be difficult to figure out which meeting, activity or event is the most important for you to attend in any day. It seems we’re forever prioritising. But let’s not forget that “Learning self-care is like building your own lifeboat, plank by plank. Once you’ve got your boat, you’ll still be rocked by the waves of life, but you’ll have a feeling of safety, and a stability that means you can pick other people up on your way.” (Nadia Narain & Katia Narain Philllips)

So if you are ready to build the next plank in your own lifeboat to get to that feeling of safety and stability, book on here

We look forward to seeing you!

PKF Cooper Parry Offices, East Mids – this is where we’ll be on the 15th!

 

 

Humans vs Bots – how a human team can gain competitive edge over the bots

We’ve all seen the headlines.  The bots are coming for our jobs.

In recent research*, the skills managers reported they need in the next 5 years significantly underestimate the importance of people.  But people skills are exactly what we need to differentiate ourselves from AI.  The top 3 skills the managers reported needing were:

1.       Digital and technological expertise (42%)

2.       Creative thinking and experimentation (33%)

3.       Data analysis and interpretation (31%)

…..

And the people skills came in at 6th place.

The thing that sets us apart as humans is that we have vast capacities to be creative and experiment – but this stops when we’re in an environment where we don’t feel safe or valued.

It’s easier to feel safe when we’re surrounded by people like us but this isn’t where the strongest teams operate and it isn’t where the best ideas come from.

So flip that, surround yourself with a diverse team – some reflective people, some who drive the agenda, some who have creative flair, some who pay attention to the practical details.  This is when interpersonal problems arise because opposing styles trigger fear in us.  We don’t understand them.

The paradox is that these differences are exactly what you need for creativity, agility and innovation.

So as a leader, how do you maximise the full potential of your team?  How can you be stronger as a team than you are apart?

Leaders we talk to know that this is what they want to achieve but don’t know how to go about it.  They want the business to grow and evolve but fear losing their original vision and entrepreneurial edge.

A critical way to embrace this paradox and benefit from it is to fully understand each member of your team – what their strengths are, what energises them, what frustrates them – developing their ability to talk about this in an open and conscious way, growing mutual appreciation for what each person brings.

This process enables the team to establish conscious team “norms” – norms are habits or codes of behaviour that become the accepted way to do things.  All teams have norms but they’re usually unconscious and aren’t always helpful for creating the safety for brilliance.

Sometimes an agreed norm can be as simple as allowing everybody the chance at the start of a meeting to say how they’re feeling and what’s going on, or it might be agreeing to co-create agendas in advance.  Whatever your agreed norms, the part which often gets lost is the continued practice of them.  The norms slip from the helpful and conscious back to the unhelpful and nonconscious, especially when the pressure’s on, and the team’s success slips with it.  Regular team reviews are essential.

Our top tips for establishing helpful and conscious team norms:

1.       Everybody inputs into what’s working and what’s not

2.       Agree norms that address what’s not working

3.       Each member takes responsibility for maintaining them

4.       Regularly check how they’re working

5.       Celebrate the successes that come from them

6.       Adjust them if you’ve experimented and they’re not working

Do this in your team and you’ll maintain your competitive edge over the best bots in town!

 

————————————————

Zoe and Helen work with top teams enabling them to harness their collective power. Get in touch to find out how we can help you maximise the differences in your team.

@aligningteams

helen@aligningteams.co.uk

Read more about what we do here.

 

*(Accenture Survey reported in HBR Mar/Apr 17)

#cipdnap17 : It’s all about community

The CIPD Northern Area Partnership Event is back on 9th and 10th June with a focus this year on Enhancing the Employee Experience.  The thing I love most about NAP is the sense of community it creates, and so the purpose of this post is, yes, to tell you about what I’m up to at NAP this year, and it’s also to tell you about all the many, many ways you can connect with the fantastic HR and L&D community both online and in real life to extend your learning.

So first, what I’m doing at NAP this year……I’m running a reflection session during the lunchtime fringe on both days – this is to provide time for delegates to pause, process and reflect together on what’s been heard.

Conferences are a great way to learn because you get so much content in such a short space of time.  And conferences are a dreadful way to learn, because you get so much content in such a short space of time!

And so the point of these sessions is to prevent you leaving with a head full of stuff and no idea what to do with any of it.  Which can often result in nothing being done at all.

The sessions will be informal and interactive with delegates listening, asking and sharing in small groups for as long as is useful to them.  Pressure well and truly off!

If you’re joining on either or both days I really look forward to seeing you there!

Now to the wider community which, if you’re not tapping into, please please do!  There are so many great, and many free, chances to connect with others in the HR and L&D space to take time to reflect more often.  If we don’t stop to get perspective and think then we’ll keep doing the same stuff and expecting different results.

So, places you can go for more….. (and please tell me what I’ve missed and I’ll get it added on).

On Twitter

#LDNights – Tuesdays at 8pm (from @LnDConnect)

#HRHour – Thursdays at 8pm (from @HR_Hour)

#LDInsight – Fridays at 8am (from @LnDConnect)

Regular-ish Meet-ups

Connecting HR (@ConnectingHR on Twitter) – usually drinks and chats in nice bars with fellow professionals – now established in Manchester, York, Leeds, Bradford and the North East

LnD CoWork (#LnDcowork) – for anyone around the L&D space that feels they’d benefit from working in a different environment, with different people – either just to work knowing people are on hand if you want advice, or to get input and ideas, or generally catch up – now established in Manchester and London, Leeds recently launched and Birmingham is on it’s way!  Website here.

Regular Learning Events

Learn > Connect > Do – my event! For people pros who care about making work better to share and learn in a fun & informal way with profits going to charity.  It runs quarterly near Leicester.  Next one is 8th June about coaching cultures. Follow me @wildfigsolns or #LearnConnectDo or go to the website here.

Facilitation Shindig – “A gathering space for change practitioners who facilitate team and group conversations to share ideas, experiences and learning.”  Next one is 6th July with the theme of “Outside”. @Shindiggery1 #facilitationShindig and website here.

CIPD Annual Conference – check out the fab free fringe sessions Doug Shaw and Meg Peppin run (similar to what I’m doing for NAP)

Less Regular Learning Events

LnD Connect Unconferences – where the delegates decide the agenda – no speakers on stage, no sales pitches, just professionals learning together to explore shared challenges.  These mostly run in Manchester and London but sometimes in the Midlands and the York/Leeds area. Follow @LnDConnect for latest news.

Street Wisdom – using the streets as a source of inspiration – check out @Street_Wisdom or sign up on their website for when the next ones are running.

Art of Innovation – run by Doug Shaw with more info here

Meg Peppin is also cooking up something else!  She says to follow her to be the first to hear more…..!

Calendar of L&D Events

Check out this great resource from Fiona McBride: an L&D Calendar of events for conferences and things.

 

And there are lots of general chats and questions asked on Twitter from the broad and varied community on there.

So much to choose from – why not experiment and give something a try!

 

 

 

Shifting ideas of leadership

Last week at the CIPD L&D Show I – not surprisingly – was drawn to a number of sessions that were talking about coaching cultures and developing leaders as coaches.  After day 1 Simon Heath posted his reflections from what he’d heard – and then drawn – and which I shared with this thought…..

 
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Learn > Connect > Do : Wellbeing and the Thinking Environment

A week ago on 9th March was the latest Learn > Connect > Do : an event held quarterly in Leicester which is for people professionals who care about making work better through doing great people stuff.  These are also people who care about giving back while they learn and I’m delighted that we raised a fantastic £130 for Twenty:Twenty through ticket sales.  This will enable a young person to get support with transport costs to get to their local centre to learn, or to go for a day out to celebrate their learning successes!  And even more than that, with the professional backgrounds we have there are so many other ways delegates can get involved and support these young people into jobs they might never have considered an option before.

Each time we meet we have a topic to discuss and learn about, and a facilitation approach for people to experience so that, if they think it could be useful to them or their organisation, they can go away and explore more for themselves.  This time we talked about Wellbeing – what are we doing about it at work? – facilitated using Nancy Kline’s Thinking Environment approach.  The event was sensational!  One delegate said she didn’t know what to expect of it “but that it over-delivered by far!”.  Makes it all worthwhile 🙂

Having chatted, got to know each other and captured the questions all the delegates brought, I started things off with an intro to the Thinking Environment and how we’d use it as a group.  It’s a very different way of behaving together and so it needs careful set up to agree with the group how it’s going to work and why.  I highlighted how the Thinking Environment really connects to what we know, and are continuing to learn, about how our brains respond to threats, and also it has a strong connection to the theory of Human Givens which is about the conditions needed to help people thrive.

Andrew Harris then shared 8 (plus a bonus 9th!) top tips about how not to be effective with wellbeing.  You can read more about these in a great blog Garry Turner wrote after the event.  It gave a great, concise injection of information and advice to feed the later conversation.

Janice Keyes then took the reigns to help the group choose the top question they wanted to focus on – the choice was broad with aspects like influencing top leaders, showing ROI, engaging managers and employees, developing managers to have conversations about wellbeing, communicating what’s happening and what’s working, developing a strategy…..From all those options the group chose this question: “If wellbeing means something different to each individual, how can an organisation develop a strategy with the flexibility to meet those needs?”   Great question!

We then got into the Thinking Environment group activity.  The evolution of everyone’s thinking was fantastic – there was great diversity and appreciation of each other for new ideas that were introduced.  And laughs, especially when Rhodri highlighted the (unfortunately too often) sad truth that we only need the term “work-life balance” to demonstrate the fact that when we come into work at 9am we die, and only come back alive when we finish for the day.  Like David D’Souza’s Reverse Superman Effect.

Something that struck me was that the same goals we have of empowering people to take responsibility in work, to have clarity of the end game and everyone’s roles in that, and to help people more often choose what they do and when they do it are the same for the topic of wellbeing.  Therefore if you have a great, empowering, coaching-centred and human organisational culture, wellbeing is naturally part of that and doesn’t even need a separate strategy.  Wellbeing is the vehicle, not the destination” as Mark Gilroy so beautifully said.  The addition an organisation might bring is around education about physical and mental health, nutrition, sleep and exercise….  For continued pondering…..

The discussion was so rich and diverse I didn’t feel I could do it justice on my own (these photos show a snapshot of the brilliant thinking that was going on) and so I asked the delegates to send me their thoughts on it.  Here’s what they’ve had to say…..

 

Jo Lee wrote a whole post about it.

 

“I read Nancy Kline’s book “Time to Think” a while ago and I’ve heard it talked about a lot but I hadn’t experienced the thinking environment in action.  The thinking environment that Helen created last week gave me the space to think, to go with whatever came to mind, to let my thoughts evolve, without feeling I had to compete.  I felt very calm.  My takeaway was how powerful something so simple could be – just being able to speak and listen without interruption.  Who’d have thought of that?

My individual takeaway about wellbeing was less about the organisations and strategies that the question we talked about posed.  More about personal responsibility.  How we all have a responsibility to recognise and say how we are feeling – like a wellbeing contract with ourselves.  How what we mean by wellbeing can change, for us as individuals, as a society and how we live our lives.  I am also mindful how important people managers are in the whole wellbeing agenda but how they may not feel equipped or mandated by an organisation to promote wellbeing or respond in an individual way to the people they work with.”

Karen Foyster

 

“The Thinking environment process is powerful, moving, insightful and challenging.  Powerful and moving in terms of the depth of listening and understanding that one draws from the process.  Insightful as one hears and learns on a completely different plane/level.  Challenging as, I at least, am used to competing to be heard (in relative terms), so the serenity and calmness of the process is genuinely mind-blowing.   This is a process that I have already promoted to some colleagues internally and I will practice it in my own time also.

The Fit for Work presentation from Andrew was excellent, very insightful and engaging.  I learned a lot about the aims and process of this organisation, but I also took away the consistency of challenge, like so many other people interventions, that exist around introducing effective wellbeing into organisations i.e. leadership buy in, effective line management training etc

All in all genuinely my best CPD experience of my career to date.”

Garry Turner

 

“The session was a perfect fusion of process (thinking environment) and content (wellbeing) with each being integral and complementary to the other. To have the opportunity to talk and listen in such an uninterrupted, focused and purposeful way was illuminating and made for one of those ‘moment in time’ sessions we all hope for as facilitators. What was most striking for me was the synergy between the process and the content – our own wellbeing (many of us reported feeling calmer and clearer) was being enhanced as were discussing the topic. I am already thinking of how I can use this approach for teams in crisis and for leaders who are under significant pressure”

Kirsten Holder

 

“So many gems. I appreciated hearing from others about how to promote wellbeing as a strategic consideration for any organisation. Helen’s facilitation of Nancy Kline’s Thinking Environment was positioned expertly, and a timely refresher of a highly valuable facilitation tool, one which enriched the quality of the conversations throughout the session. All this, topped off by the knowledge that a portion of the cost is being donated to a worthwhile local charity. It’s easy to cover a lot of content in a short amount of time…but to also have time built in for reflection, networking and practical takeaways, that’s something special. Time well spent.”

Mark Gilroy

 

So thank you to all the delegates for their energy and wonderful thinking on the day.  Thank you to Janice and Andrew for facilitating the session with me.  Thank you to Mark for taking fab photos.  And thank you to Bianca for supporting me with the very important and hidden administration to make the event happen.

If you’re interested in joining a future event, the next one’s 8th of June 3-6pm at The Observatory in Leicester.  If you’d like to go on the mailing list, email me.  Or keep an eye on the website, or on Twitter (#LearnConnectDo) or on my LinkedIn.

It would be great to welcome you to this growing community!

 

The Chinese Buffet Effect

As I write this I feel like David D’Souza who’s an expert at these analogies with life (as an example, you can read about Chicken and Business Plans here). I hope mine hits the mark. It’s not rocket science, or brand new information (HT Phoebe), but it’s something I re-noticed while working with a leadership team this week – and I don’t think I’d ever previously made the broader connections of this effect in other activities.  Plus I love Chinese food!!

So here’s what started it. The leadership team I was working with were creating their collective underpinning beliefs for effective meetings, and then the tangible actions they’d display to live those beliefs.

What they noticed was that, in the two distinct sections of the morning, they worked more effectively and efficiently in the part where they had more structure to their discussions, where they had time limits applied to how long they spoke or discussed for, and when they began by getting all their ideas out on the table first to then distil, prioritise and refine.

And lo, the Chinese Buffet Effect was born.

Imagine you’re at a Chinese buffet restaurant. You’ve looked at the dishes available and taken what you want to eat. Then towards the end of your meal the chef brings out a new dish. By this point you’re already full or nearly full and you find yourself with two options – decline this new dish – even if it is the one you love the most! You’ve had enough already. Or push on through and indulge in the final dish so you leave feeling so full that you don’t know what to do with yourself.

What would be ideal is if the chef had brought out all the meal options from the start so that you could have chosen the right amounts of each one based on your favourites and appetite.

The same applies to so many aspects of work:

Meetings to generate ideas – get them all out on the table (thank you chefs!), choose which you want to go with (your favourites) and keep to the time available to make decisions (your appetite).

Personal time effectiveness – write out all the things you could possibly do with the next hour, prioritise the things that will make the biggest difference (your favourites) and decide how long you can spend on each (your appetite).

Creating a marketing, training, or any other similar plan – generate all the possible ways you could communicate, train, etc and then prioritise the activities that will make the biggest difference (your favourites) within the restraints of time and budget available (your appetite).

Create an agenda (for a meeting, group learning, regular 1:1, coaching, mentoring) – get out all the things that people could talk about (favourites) and then prioritise what’s most important for these people in this meeting and within the time limits available (appetite).

As well as being an effective way of working individually, when others are involved you also get the chance to hear from multiple perspectives which leads to greater engagement and commitment to the plan.

Plus rather than keeping on eating, and eating, and eating – adding more and more topics or ideas in – which saps your energy as your belly (or brain) swells, you start with everything you need on your plate and eat your way through what’s there, getting to a point of decision or closure – or leaving the restaurant.

And there’s a balance with this – you can’t stand in the restaurant until your favourite food comes out – you could be waiting a long time if they’re not serving it that day. So also know when to cut your losses. Know when to say – we’ve spent enough time getting the options / topics / tasks out on the table, there’s a “good enough” selection – we now just need to start distilling, prioritising and refining – or eating!

When else could you apply this Chinese Buffet Effect in your own or your team’s life?

When will you give it a go?

Bon appetit!

Building for Collaboration

Today I’m delighted to welcome Shirley Marshall to the Wild Fig blog.  Shirley’s an HR Partner at RCI and came to the last Learn > Connect > Do event in December.  I was delighted when I heard that Shirley took her learning back to work and wrote an internal blog post to get others thinking and talking about the topic of workplace and collaboration, and she’s kindly given permission for it to be re-produced on here.

This is what the “Do” of these events is all about!  Having met Shirley and experienced her commitment to making work better, I’m confident that this will be the start of some changes for her and her colleagues.  For now, it’s over to Shirley with her reflections and questions that may just get you and your colleagues thinking and talking too.

I recently attended a think tank session at the Beefeater Pub in Leicester and given the topic was “do we still need offices” it was pretty relevant not to have the session in the office environment! As I walked in, the atmosphere felt friendly and warm, not like the traditional “seminar” type environments which we are often greeted by when attending such events. It immediately got the creative thoughts flowing in my mind!

To kick things off, a guest speaker (Dan Pilling) took to the stage to demonstrate the facilitation technique which was Pecha Kucha; a presentation style designed to facilitate dynamic conversations and consists of 20 images over 20 slides, with each slide having a 20 second window therefore making the presentation just 6 minutes 40 seconds. Dan is in Facility Management starting his career in the functional world of, how do we make the most of this space? However, as the world has moved on, so has his role in terms of managing stakeholder expectations and needs to ensure the office is not only functional but meets the needs of the business in terms of organisation goals, culture, engagement and brand.

Pecha Kucha was engaging and I focused on the content of Dan’s presentation rather than what was going on within the slide. It gave me inspiration for future toolkit sessions or open days that offer short, engaging “bite-size” insights rather than long presentations.

Dan’s presentation was thought provoking, and sparked many questions in my mind, but on review, they culminated into one overall trail of thought: what stops collaboration across different office environments, be that across floors in the same building, or across different locations?

Is it culture? The facilities? The IT? The behaviours/habits of the people? The communication channels? A lack of empowerment? Is it a combination of all of these factors and if so, how do these things integrate? We often look at these topics in silo but perhaps we need to bring it all together to make sure the objectives are aligned and conducive to teamwork and collaboration. In order to do that, we require alignment cross function and physical location, ensuring that everyone has access to the same resources and opportunities regardless of physical location or the team they sit within.

After the presentation, we split off into groups to brainstorm some ideas and resolutions to the current challenges we were facing….. We discussed the “us” and “them” mentality, with one member of the group – Garry – explaining that within his organisation they had Finance & IT on the 5th floor and Sales on the 8th floor and although part of the same organisation they were two distinct functions, with no sense of commonality, even to the point that the Senior Leaders within each floor had not had regular meetings until 2 months ago. This got me thinking about our recent office moves, and those that may be upcoming. I have heard people talking about how a particular team have moved “to the other side”. Perhaps it is a natural inclination to box ourselves and others as it enables us to simplify our complicated lives, & gives us a sense of belonging. But how can we move away from that when it prevents a culture of collaboration?

I started thinking about how many pockets of collaboration are occurring across our region, different teams do this in different ways…. But how do we communicate these tools that are currently being used in isolation? Team collaboration is fantastic but if we are all working to the same common goal and purpose – to send people on the vacation of their dreams – then let’s bring all of this together! I felt like we have all the right tools and stepping stones, but there is an obstacle – perhaps an unrealised one that prevents inclusion/sharing of these tools and insights.

A possible obstacle to this is the natural desire to pigeon hole ourselves into areas of expertise – but who should be involved and who makes the final decision? How often do we take a step back when it is something we are an “expert” in, and ask for other’s opinions or feedback/input? People that are collaborating across the business at the moment, could really benefit from including other people in their discussions but how do we foster an environment that makes it ok to reach out and include others. In fact, how do we ensure that people across the business know who is the most appropriate person or team to involve?

Is it also true to say there is an out of sight, out of mind mentality? How many people in the Midlands office understand what the Spain or London offices do? Predominantly it is only those working directly with those teams that would have an awareness of that.

Further to this, we often hear people talking about how busy they are – is this real or is it for perception? What if people have loads of time to share ideas and participate in collaborative thinking sessions, or just catching up with other functions and organisations – does that give the impression they don’t have enough to do?

Giving ourselves time to think and improve and collaborate should be part of our day to day and accepted within the culture, not perceived as time wasting. Some managers might be better at encouraging their teams to take the time on such things than others. How do we make this ok?

Before you leave this blog, take some time to ponder these questions….

Who could you better collaborate with?

What stops you from collaborating?

Do you give yourself time to think and reflect?

If not, what stops you doing that?

What would be the benefit of making time to think?

 

And finally….

What commitment will you make to do things differently in 2017?

 

[Image credit : http://blogs.informatica.com/2014/05/01/pim-is-a-silo-breaker/#fbid=SBF1IUS70NT]