Tuesday, 31 December 2013

2013 A year of transitions


High-five on the farm

January Taking myself to the market
This is a blog about how I made the transition from employed to self employed. According to Dan Pink to sell is human.I took myself to market and I sold! I try to sell myself quietly, and I also notice how other people sell themselves to me. One day, after a meeting with another trainer, I asked myself: “What on earth made you think you would be comfortable working with him?” Crossing him off my list of potential collaborators was disappointing, but inevitable. We were poles apart in terms of values and approach.

February Becoming a coach
February was intense. In order to obtain a coaching qualification, I had to write essays, prepare a presentation, and practice my coaching skills ahead of my final assessment. I spent hours coaching, and being coached. What got me through the exam was the support and encouragement that I received from the tutors, and from my group. What I gained was a renewed curiosity and enthusiasm for learning. Best of all, I saw how I could use Gestalt theory to enhance my approach to experiential leadership training and development.

March It’s not what you know
I saw how teaching models and frameworks out of context just doesn’t work. You need to start where your learners are, and work alongside them. Later I read an article on executive education that included this quote from Roger Martin, Dean Rotman School, Toronto: “Knowledge is of minimum use unless it enables the recipient to take action”. He’s so right.

April Collaboration can be hard
Having convinced myself that the trend in leadership is collaboration, I tried to collaborate with people I know. Wanting to work with someone, and making it happen, however, are two very different things. What do I always say when I am teaching project management to other people? “You need to agree what you are trying to do, how and why, and you need clear roles and responsibilities”. The were various reasons why some of my efforts at collaboration failed to get off the ground. They included not being clear about the target audience, underestimating the need for marketing, not having the right business partner, different working styles and times zones. I should listen to myself more…and try again.

May Dialogue not one way conversations
I treated myself to a leadership programme. It was great not to feel responsible for other people’s learning. What worked best for me were conversations with leaders, when there was real dialogue. What I didn’t like was meetings that were more akin to interviews, where we asked all the questions, without thinking to disclose any information about ourselves. For me, unless everyone in the conversation is willing to disclose and be challenged, there can be no real learning. I was most touched listening to the probation officers, and the ex-offenders, talking about themselves, not in the same room. One of the speakers reminded me of the street-wise police that I met in the job that occupies one line of my CV (See September).

June Stressful but successful
Delivering projects for new clients taught me what consultants really do. Consultants are contracted to deliver agreed outcomes. To do that, they need to be able to manage and support their clients in different ways. At the end of a stressful but successful project, I learned (again) that I have a tendency to imagine problems that do not exist. It all ended happily.

July Black Swans can be positive
A friend of mine recommended me for a job that landed on my desk like a positive ‘Black Swan’: 1) It came out of the blue 2) It had a positive impact on my business and 3) afterwards I created a narrative for myself to explain how it was in fact predictable. If this is randomness, please can I have more of it. And I look forward to returning the favour, because I do believe what goes around, comes around.

August Feeling grounded, the importance of.
I learned that when people are struggling with a task, and are losing confidence in their ability to find a way forward, the most useful thing I can do as a coach / facilitator is to ground them firmly in what they already know. All I have to say is: “What do you know?” I believe people have the answers to their challenges and dilemmas within them, and can be helped to discover them.

September Bridging a gap in my CV
I had dinner with a group of people I last met more than 30 years ago when we all worked at the Ministry of Defence (MoD). I was there for nearly ten years, and yet the MoD occupies one line in my CV. I was nervous. My concern was that we’d spend the whole evening talking about accumulated husbands, wives, children, property and pensions. I was wrong. We talked about office misdemeanours, and that person whose name none of us could remember. And, yes, the revelations were delightful.

October Experiencing a different world
My niece Vicky invited me to spend a day with her in the Scottish Borders, on a farm where she has spent time as a veterinary student. At the end of a single-track road, in a valley, by a stream, we picnic-ed with the farmer and his shepherds. They were tagging sheep, before sending them to market. The fleece on the sheep was creamy and rug like. I felt privileged to be invited into Vicky’s world of sheep, cattle, horses, dogs, and farmers, going about their business.

November KellowLearning.com goes live
After months of planning and writing, my website went live, and I was glad. The writing of it sometimes felt like a chore, but because of this, I now know what I do, and why.

December Getting a community complex
I got involved in a bid to have a neighbourhood planning forum recognised by the local council. Despite living in the area for almost five years, I didn’t expect to find so much complexity on my doorstep. Of course, doing what I do, I should have known better. My motives for getting involved were not entirely selfless. I wanted to get to know my neighbours. On that score, I think 2014 is going to be another year of transitions.

PS For more information about leadership and learning, please check out my new website www.kellowlearning.com