This year I’ve been writing reflective notes at the end of each month, loosely based on a set of prompts/questions. I’ve found writing these notes helpful in nudging me to think about, articulate and record things that otherwise I wouldn’t have, and hopefully the practice is also helping me to develop and learn too.

So here I am again.

1. What did you experiment with?

  • Teaching French

The last time I taught French was 20 years ago, teaching undergraduate students at Sheffield University, where I was did my PhD and got my teaching qualification. Now I’ve just started teaching beginner French to my younger daughter and her best friend. It’s fun.

2. What would you have liked to do more of?

  • Coaching

At Elsevier, where I work, one of our principles is that we give each other timely and constructive feedback.

Consequently, we’re working to put coaching at the heart of everyday conversations to support everyone in realizing their potential. We’re running a program, called Elevate, which:

  • provides an intensive coaching development experience that equips all our people leaders to role model coaching-based leadership with their teams,
  • involves all employees in a network-based feedback process to help everyone understand their coaching strengths, and
  • offers both live and on-demand coaching skills training development for all colleagues.

I’ve coached folk on and off for about 9 years, but I haven’t done any coaching over the past year — because I had a lot going on and 2 months off work, followed by six months working reduced hours. However, I’ve decided to get back into it and I’m going to start the Elevate program next month. Moreover, I’ve decided to aim to get formally accredited as a coach through an internationally recognized coaching body — an idea I’ve toyed with for the past few years. And, as the Elevate program has been developed around internationally recognized coaching standards, it will provide me with the foundation to go on and gain accreditation (it counts as the first 20% of the formal training requirement).

Now I just have to find some folk who think that they could get something from being coached by me…

3. Who did you work with/talk to outside your organisation/sector?

I went to a couple of online meet ups/events:

  • I joined a ‘Think In’ on the Future of Tech organised & hosted by Jon Alexander to discuss the challenges and opportunities of big technology disruptions for a participatory society, and how a citizen approach might help us navigate them. I first came across Jon a few years ago (2017?) when I was working at the Food Standards Agency — an organisation that pledges to ‘put the consumer first’. He was challenging us to think bigger and shift from ‘a consumer mindset’ to ‘a citizen mindset’, in order to lead meaningful change in the food system. I was struck by his approach then, and I was intrigued to see the open and participatory way in which in he is writing his new book. The central message of his book is that “all of us are smarter than any of us; that when you invite people to get involved, not only do they invariably do so, they also make what you’re doing far, far better”. He is following that belief in how he is writing his book— from crowd sourcing to discussion groups. I was pleased to have joined him on his journey and in some very small way to have participated in the development of his book.
  • I joined joined the monthly lean coffee of the Agile in the ether community (which mentioned before), and thanks to the community I also had two random coffees with Faye Benfield and with Amy Wagner (both super interesting) and a stimulating and useful chat with Neil Vass (see below)
  • I had also signed up for a third event— an Open Space on the theme of Business Agility run by the Better Value Sooner Safer Happier (BVSSH) Community — but couldn’t join, because Life.

4. What went well?

  • A check-in with our project sponsors for a project I’m working on. It felt like an example of what I call ‘governance as a service’ — and I wrote a short post about it.
  • I’ve been working with a cross-functional team on a project to improve the speed and quality of how we design & develop new products. We’ve approached this task as you would if you were developing a new product — speaking to users, understanding problems & pain points, developing mock ups, getting feedback, testing partial solutions, getting feedback, iterating, trialling with a small number of users. We went through at least a dozen iterations of our model & guidance, and I believe the feedback we got helped us to improve it each and every time — and we now have a ‘version 1’ which I ‘launched’ in our departmental meeting (and have subsequently already updated into a v1.1). Our approach is not to tell teams how to work but to invite teams to test our materials and give us feedback on what they find helpful (or not). Which feels like another reminder that I should get on and read Jonathan Smart’s book that I’ve got on my desk, as this is a principle he talks about.
A picture of principle from the book ‘Sooner, Safer, Happier’: ‘Invite over Inflict: Invite participation with intrinsic motivation and empowerment; The words “resist” or “convince” should not enter the vocabulary.’

5. What did you achieve?

  • I set up a new community of practice.

Ahead of our first meeting in September, I got a core group of us together to use Emily Webber’s ‘community of practice kick-off canvas’ to define who the community is for and why it exists. (It’s a super helpful tool: I’ve also used it to discuss another community of praatice I’m on the verge of setting up and shared it with someone elese who is wanting to set up a community but has not articulated why or clearly defined it’s goals or membership.)

6. What did you learn?

  • It is a fallacy to believe that a team needs to have a common goal.

This line is often trotted out, but it ignores the reality that many many teams operate without team members being dependent on one another and without them sharing a common goal.

7. What else did you learn?

  • Apparently in Dutch you call something a “white raven” to say that it is very rare. I never knew that white ravens existed. They do. And they’re very rare…
A white ravens of Qualicum Beach by Mike Yip
  • I came across the spherical cow metphor for the first time— a humorous metaphor for hugely simplified scientific models of phenomena that in real life are complex
A cartoon illustrating that the world is complex and we often try to oversimplfy it
The world is complex and we often try to oversimplfy it

9. What was fun?

  • Discovering new Prince music

For instance, ‘Play That Funky Music’, performed live by Prince sounding like Sly Stone. And a newly-released live version of a track Prince originally released 38 years ago as a B-side years ago (28 years before the concert):

  • Going to a concert (real live music! real live musicians!) for the first time in a long time to see the Afrocentrics

11. What did you enjoy?

  • Drinking puerh tea for the first time in a long time
  • Playing squash for the first time in a long time (since January 2020)
  • Seeing a hedgehog in our garden for the first time
  • Starting the week with dancing on a Monday morning for the first time since June: filled with good vibes, it gave me movement, strength and life
  • Walking by the river Cam early first thing in the morning
  • Holding a circle around a fire
  • The return of the premier league
  • #MannTogether
  • Spending the day with my parents on my dad’s birthday

12. What are you looking forward to in September?

  • Spending more time with my parents
  • A trip to London to see old friends
  • A weekend staying with friends
  • Hopefully seeing some work colleagues in 3D for the first time since March 2020

August was originally published in Web of Weeknotes on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


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September 4, 2021 at 04:41AM

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