#Upstream to find ourselves

This piece from Perry Timms prompted me to share my own world of upstream and what that means to me. Thank you Perry.

Photo by Tobias Stonjeck on Unsplash

#Upstream is a place where we can go before we think about the transformation we are being invited to consider.” This quote from Perry’s piece really strikes a chord with me. In three client sessions yesterday when we went upstream, each client came back to the downstream challenges they walked in with and saw a simple and clear way forward and, in some instances, the challenge had all but disappeared into the ether. read more

Racing with square wheels

I was with a Board team last week who were talking about change. How it takes courage and can be hard because we’re having to lose something of us to adopt something new or move to something different.

This is true but only when we attach to our personal thoughts

When we attach to our personal thoughts it’s like putting square wheels on a racing car. We clunk along. Sometimes stopping all together, unable to move forward. Certainly not able to quickly change direction when needed.  But we believe in these wheels, we created them. Even if “horrible” or “negative” there’s a familiarity about them that brings comfort. We know where we are. We’ve adapted ourselves to drive with these wheels, forgetting how things used to be before we had them.

Then we start to consider maybe this isn’t ideal. Maybe I would benefit from a smoother ride. Normally we start working hard to change the wheels. Intellectually analysing how they were fitted, what they are made of. But some of the bolts seem stuck. Or maybe there’s a square wheel we subconsciously like the look of so we find a justifiable reason not to change it.

Now we’re driving with 2 square and 2 round wheels. Better but not exactly a smooth ride. Then you meet someone who glides on round wheels. You’re fascinated & slightly freaked out by their difference. It reminds you of glimmers in your life when you’ve glided, when smooth wheels suddenly appeared and for that short while you enjoyed it! Thinking it must have been what you were doing at the time that created that feeling, you repeat the activity, repeating the external conditions to create the smooth-ride magic as often as you can.

Maybe you didn’t realise that you brushed off the truth of what was going on because it seemed so simple and we all know simple doesn’t win kudos prizes.

The truth is that round wheels are our natural state. Round wheels are what we are born with. We just acquired the square as we grew up & blindly followed the square-creating rules of the world. Once we really see the truth of how the square are created, moment-to-moment, and what they really mean, then our attachment to them drops away with a natural ease and we slip into the round. The natural place we fall back to. Our innate state of clarity, wisdom and wellbeing. From here we glide round the corners, speed along the straights and rediscover a life of richness and fulfilment. All the while connected to our innate brilliance.

If you’re curious to learn more, this is what we’re going to be exploring through LearnConnctDo this year. The thread that’s going to weave through all the sessions.

We’re starting on 14th March* with an introduction to the psychological understanding that underpins this smooth-wheel place. The Eventbrite will be up very soon on this page – if you don’t want to miss it jump on the mailing list by getting in touch with me here. As last year, all ticket profits will be going to Twenty:Twenty as we continue our partnership with this wonderful charity.  Thank you to PKF for continuing to host us so we can maximise how much we donate.

*3-6pm at PKF Cooper Parry’s East Mids offices (near East Mids Airport).

Hear the emotional man

We in ‘civilised’ society talk of girls and women and their emotional ways

Yet I experience

Again and again

Young boys with strong, clear and overwhelming emotion

What happens as they grow?

Stop crying

Be a man

Grow up

Tears won’t solve it

The control of their uncontrollable helps us feel safe. We teach them control is the way.

We teach them men don’t ‘do’ emotion.

And so the emotion is repressed

The connection denied

The solution thwarted

The relationship unfulfilled

The life that ends

If you’re responsible for raising young men : let them express all they have

If you’re responsible for leading them : do the same

And if you’re that boy who was suppressed : talk to those who can help you most

Male suicide rates are too high for us to keep pretending that being a “man” is the way forward.

Samaritans are reached on 116123

#cipdldshow Blog Carnival – How to make every day a learning day

Welcome to the CIPD Learning & Development Show Blog Carnival Curation!!! Or CIPDLDSHOWBCC for short 😉

Back in March I invited people to share their thoughts about what helps us make every day a learning day – the theme of the L&D Show this year. As I sit here now and look at the bountiful array of pieces that have been written I feel huge appreciation for everyone who’s contributed and delighted by the serendipity of how they have all come together with – I guarantee! – no coordination of content from me.

So as Simon Sinek would say, let’s start with WHY.  Garry Turner created two posts to share and process his thoughts about why learning every day matters, and why it matters more today than it ever has done in the past.  Read them here and here.  How does this sit with you?  Is this WHY important to you too?  If it is, what will you do with that?

If this is the kind of future you want to create then, whether for you as an individual or for your organisation, it’s going to help if you first raise your awareness of your current reality. To do this, Mark Gilroy has shared his fantastic new creation of the Healthy Learning Platter as a way to assess what you’re doing – or not doing – currently, and therefore where you might be losing out on your everyday learning potential.

Once you’ve identified your gaps, dip into the relevant parts of the 8 stages of the platter. Here are the rich perspectives from all the contributors which work beautifully with Mark’s model…..

  1. Curiosity – Simon Heath remembers that school, the place where we’re meant to learn every day, didn’t necessarily achieve its intended goal because it’s a forced environment where you might not be learning what you want, when you want or in the way you want. How often does this happen in the place where you work? What if the starting point was to encourage places of curiosity? Simon writes “Learning every day is about openness. Open to the signals. Having your antennae tuned in. Noticing. Being curious. Staying curious. Getting curiouser and curiouser.” Read the whole piece here.

2. Content – next, where do you direct your curiosity? Perry, Donna and David all bring their different and similar perspectives to this. Classroom learning still has a place, training people still has a place – and there is so much more at our disposal, for free. Read their pieces to see what Content options you might want to experiment with.

3. Collaboration – as an expert in collaboration, Bev Holden is the obvious person to turn to if we want to use a collaborative approach to “supercharge” our learning.  Rachel Burnham shared a great example of collaboration in action when she got herself a learning buddy to find out more about VR.

4. Curation – which breadcrumb trails will you follow? What have you found that you want to keep for future reference or for a pre-planned future personal learning hour? How or where will you store it to make sure you can get to it again? Things like Pocket are fantastic for this https://getpocket.com. Who do you know or could you connect with that will share and curate great content – this is where Twitter is great if you’re following the right people. And Snapchat is a whole new realm that I’ve not ventured into for learning but which Mike Shaw is getting great value from.

5. Commitment – to be successful with anything, including learning, it needs to matter to us. We need to be committed. Kat’s simple and practical coaching flow can be applied to your own thinking, over time improving the pace and effectiveness of your thinking processes – each time testing out whether what you’re learning is what’s important for achieving your big goals.

6. Conduct – now. What are you actually going to DO with this learning? With my Learn > Connect > Do events that’s exactly the point of the “Do”. If we spend our time being all talk and no action then our learning isn’t going to have much impact in the world. Here are a few examples of the kinds of things you can do : Andrew shares his learning of the need to push the boundaries so that you fail, and learn, every day.  We also need to take action to un-learn as David Hayden writes here.  And Janice talks about slowing down to speed up – something which many of us can benefit from http://www.mindovermattercoaching.co.uk/29130-2/. I feel sorry for the first mouse ☹

7. Contemplation – or reflection. The place where the earliest posts in the festival went. An act which seems so simple and yet we rarely make quality time for. Today I’ve been to supervision, a place where I have protected time to reflect and, as Mark says, then generates new thinking and ideas for a return to the stage of Curiosity.

Another reflection approach is to make it a daily habit through keeping a journal – real paper and real pens – something which (currently) technology just can’t replace the value of. Helen writes her thoughts about that here.

Andy wrote about the value of reflection so that we make what we learn have more impact instead of “in one ear out the other”. This led him to also connect to the Curation stage – so that when we’ve reflected we can have our learning in one place.

8. ChallengeKim writes wisely about the conditions needed to learn and that “We need to be aware of the dangers of non-learning, where our everyday experience conforms to our expectations.” Kim shares ways you can keep challenge present in your life to aid your discomfort – a key route to learning.  One example Kim mentions is to seek feedback from others, something Melissa shares her own powerful

personal story read more

#CIPDOD15 Delivering and Embedding Organisational Transformation

This is Transport for London with Alexandra Bode-Tunji who’s Programme Lead Skills & Capabilities.  It’s going to look at some of the obstacles, engaging sponsors, stakeholders and employees, and the transition process.

Didn’t know TFL was the 7th most recognised brand!

Context for change – rising customer expectations, pressure on costs, new technology and changes in regulatory.  This will be a familiar story in many organisations – private and public.  And the change to an improved experience at lower cost had to be done while taking employees on the journey.

Aim to embed customer-focussed behaviours through leadership, ticket hall transformation (people and tech) and a new staffing model.  We all know about this part from the strikes!

The roster changes will lead to 4000 people moving their station!  A huge change.

The work started with development of leaders.  Without that nothing changes.  This was based on the McKinsey 7s Model to diagnose – Structure, Systems, Style, Staff, Skills, Strategy, Shared Values.

And to put it in place Alexandra used the Naomi Stanford (2005) model of Discover – Design – Deliver – Transition – Integrate.

There’s a huge mindset shift needed from safety and asset management to managing people.  Plus there are a lot of families and relationships within teams in TFL so there’s a big challenge for people in, and stepping into, supervisor roles.

To support this, they’re adopting coaching into their leadership approach.

Some of the challenges Alexandra’s had are – 1) Complex Trade Union envmt and no major change in 25 years, 2) No compulsory redundancies allowed, no selection into roles allowed – mapped people in – some don’t want to be in there or might not be capable, with average 25 years length of service and 1.5% turnover, 3) 4 COO’s in 2 years – each needing to be engaged in the change – Alexandra has faith in the new guy!, 4) Critical people issues and learning on the job – low priority  Much more focused on safety and assets, 5) Inconsistent change leadership and local ownership, 6) 100 different stakeholder groups!

They’re taking a strategic approach to sustain and embed the changes – considering blended learning, performance management, recognising and celebrating success, recruitment and selection, change network groups, coaching/team effectiveness.

Alexandra’s biggest learning is to use simple English to describe what you want to do – get away from HR speak!  And my build, if you don’t know if you’re an HR-speaker – ask people!  She’s also learnt the power of having insights and information to show and track how things are progressing.  She’s now got people asking HER how things are going and what they can do to improve.

Video at the end showing about customer service development – that story you so often hear – ‘it’s great to know it’s not just me / us who have these challenges day to day’ – people get great benefits from feeling part of something bigger by coming together, both for the good stuff that goes on, the human connection and to voice challenges.

This post has been live-blogged from #CIPDOD15.  I’ve done my best to represent the content accurately and fairly but some errors may exist.  Most of it is the speakers’ content and I aim to show the bits that are my opinion.

Leader? What about the followers?

I care about people being at their best.

My business is about helping SME leaders be at their best so their teams and their business can be too.

So I spend a lot of time reading posts and articles about what makes a great or terrible leader. What 5 things a manager must do. What the secret ingredient is we’ve been missing all these years.

And there is lots of great stuff out there.

And, although I believe bosses are important and that change will stick best if it comes from the top – in most business structures as they stand today at least – I also believe in adult relationships at work.

But most of what I read puts the full weight of responsibility on the boss to make things work in the employment relationship.

Not only that, HR is on the sidelines with high expectations and often insufficient development support (I include myself in that from previous roles by the way!).

So I can’t help feeling the job of being a boss is becoming increasingly difficult, complex and lonely with everyone continually looking up for everything.

And I wonder then……

Is this how you want it to be?

How could it be different?

What could be done to change where you are?

What could you do to turn your relationships with your team into adult ones?

And if you’re an HR Pro, what development support could you provide to help this? Maybe it’s not a ‘proper’ course. Maybe it’s a coaching conversation. Maybe it’s a helpfully objective, challenging sounding board every now and then.

And, I wonder, what else?

Gemma Reucroft wrote a post recently on a similar theme.

What do you think?


I believe in people being the key to success in a business and that success is unlocked by great bosses. I’m an Executive Coach for SME leaders to help create success for you, for your team, for your business.

Get in touch for a chat if you believe in this stuff too and you want your business to be even better – helen.amery@wildfigsolutions.co.uk
or take a look at my website to find out more http://www.wildfigsolutions.co.uk

CIPD NAP Coaching for business benefit and possibility

The blog squad have gone our separate ways and I’ve joined this session with Bernadette Cass of Heworth Associates and Peter Lumley of Realising Change.  Both are coaches.

Coaching can be amazing to give people space to think but we need this to also make a difference to a business – that’s what we’re going to hear about.

Bernadette speaking first, and being clear that it’s essential that a coaching contract is set up from the start of a coaching relationship to describe the purpose of the coaching – objectives & outcomes, measures of success.  Sounds so simple but her experience is that clients find this challenging.  Bernadette encourages the individuals and teams to find their own way to taking a coaching approach.  And then finds they deliver amazing things.

Her background is IT implementation and noticed that success was so varied across different parts of the organisation.  This led her to wonder how sustainable change happens.  She started to use coaching as part of her change toolkit because if she used it as part of the set-up, the change was sustained. A coaching approach…..

 Coaching Approach

But we also need to be clear on HOW we’re going to be in the coaching relationship – what is required for us to work effectively – what do we expect of each other, confidentiality, openness.

Case study – peers and team found it hard to work with a certain manager, turnover in the team was high.  But she didn’t accept that she was directive and hard to work with.  She saw she was effective and delivery focussed.  True but denying others’ perspectives of her.  She struggled to lead or influence.  This was stopping her career to get on the board.

Started by getting feedback from those around her which gave her clear and direct feedback.  This was followed by a 3-way conversation between her, her manager and Bernadette to be clear on purpose of the coaching.

The first session showed that her behaviour was meeting a need – a need for perfect work.  But it drove her to make her team feel de-valued for the work they were doing.  Her real intent was to do a great job.  By exploring how she wanted it to be instead, and the conversation around that, she shifted from ‘my role is to make these people to do a perfect job’ to ‘my role is to enable others to grow and develop to do a great job’ – she had a mission to leave a great legacy by working through others.

A result that surpassed expectations.

Aligning HR Strategies to Wider Business Goals

Next it’s Martin Ferguson, MD, and Sara McTrusty, HR Manager of MJF Cleaning Services.

Doing it right when no one else is looking – great tag line!  And a great link to leadership – sign of a great leader to be able to leave their team and they still deliver because they know where they’re heading.

MJF has about 130 staff and they’ve also just acquired a company in Yorkshire so now have a satellite office in Leeds, with main operation in Darlington.  They’ve got some big clients and work in a variety of sectors (leisure, sport) and do more than daily cleaning.  The acquisition in Leeds has opened up National Defence market to them too.

The business has gone from strength to strength through people.  After some holiday-thinking-time Martin realised that they needed to do something different.  They’d previously used an outsourced HR service before which hadn’t worked for them.  It felt too impersonal.  And given the competitive nature of the industry they knew they needed to attract and keep the best people.  They wanted people who knew what MJF were trying to achieve as a business and people who wanted to come to work every day.  A tough ask in such a tough industry.

Sara joined the team as HR for the business to take the generic processes, making them right for the business and the industry.  And keeping things simple with as little paperwork as possible.

So they looked at appraisal processes, at more rigour in the probation period, at training managers with this.  And they’ve kept the pay and reward element separate to the appraisals.  But which doesn’t exclude recognition – they do raffles and prizes to recognise great work and make it fun.  They focus on getting the basics right – so often overlooked for the new and shiny!  They also have a staff recognition scheme called STAR (special thanks and recognition) which Martin makes decision on.  They publicise – inc;udng on SoMe 🙂 – the people being recognised, but not the prizes because it’s about what people do not what they get.  Nice.  And they use SoMe to create a sense of community so their solo cleaners don’t feel they’re the only one up at 4am!

A great sense of Sara making decisions to do things that balance doing people-stuff that will meet their’s and the business needs without excessive time or expense.  And a great sense of really understanding the reality on the ground – connected to staff and customers.

People in this industry will just leave for 5p more an hour so MJF have focussed on developing and valuing existing and staff because this is better for customers, but also better for the business in saving re-recruitment costs, and having people who care about MJF.  They even send everyone a birthday card!

But all this focus and personalisation of what they do is being worked in a fairly traditional model with Darlington as the hub, Area Managers taking those messages out to the teams – I wonder whether there’ll be a time when the business needs to be less top-down to remain agile and innovative?