Tag Archives: Leadership

The Loneliness of The Long Distance Learning Leader

I’m heading to the LPI Fellow’s Symposium today, and before departing I looked up the definition for the word ‘symposium’. I was given two options:

  1. A conference or meeting to discuss a particular subject.
  2. A drinking party or convivial discussion, especially as held in ancient Greece after a banquet.

I expect the intention leans towards option 1. We’ll see. I’ve kindly been invited to facilitate some conversation at the event, on the theme of loneliness. Putting to one side your thoughts about why such a subject is attracted to me, I thought it would be useful to share my current thinking. I’m doing this primarily as part of working out loud in general, and also, for anyone else heading to the event who might want a preview, or an excuse to turn and head back home 😉 I hope this is useful for you, here goes…

The Loneliness of The Long Distance Learning Leader

With apologues to Alan Sillitoe

The film, The Loneliness of The Long Distance Runner, opens with Colin Smith (played by Tom Courtenay) running, alone, along a bleak country road somewhere in rural England. In a brief voiceover, Colin tells us that running is the way his family has always coped with the world’s troubles, but that in the end, the runner is always alone and cut off from spectators, left to deal with life on his own.

We’ve all experienced loneliness at times in our work…or is it just me? Cue: awkward silence. Whether as a full time learning professional, an interim or freelancer, the task of nurturing, facilitating and encouraging learning can put us seemingly at odds with the organisations and the structure we are asked to work with. Collaboration, creativity, curiosity and communication are cited as desirable, often essential ingredients to support meaningful enjoyable work, yet organisations somehow mitigate against these things taking root and flourishing. I have scribbled, and rescribbled this short passage many times over the years:

Most work is coercive, it is done to you. The best work is coactive and cocreative, it is done with, for and by you. It is totally human to want, need and expect that our views be taken into consideration and yet we defy these wants, needs and expectations at almost every step in our working lives. Never do anything about me, without me.

This session today is an invitation to discuss and explore some of what is needed to make our work great, so that we can in turn, be of most use to those we are here to support.

Suggested topics of conversation:

Loneliness – recognising it, working with it, overcoming it
Trust – giving, earning, breaking, rebuilding. If we go down this route, I am mindful that though important, trust is not enough. So what else do we need in order to cocreate a ‘Proceed Until Apprehended’ mindset?
Responsibility – owning, taking and sharing
Creativity – we need it, yet behaviourally we’re often way off – how do we get better?
Networks – communities of practice, and more
Technology – by itself is not the answer – and a poor tech experience can severely limit opportunity

You may well have better suggestions than these – so we will start with time to reflect on how you’d like to be while we are together, and what you’d like to get from our time together. Then you are invited to talk, listen, share stories and ideas, and cocreate ways to make work…less lonely, and more effective and enjoyable.

With the permission of the group, I will follow this post up with another, setting out what we share and learn. Have an excellent day.

People Artists

In April 2015 I received a lovely note from my friend David Zinger, asking if I would like to make a contribution to a forthcoming book, titled People Artists. With a title like that – how could I refuse? David asked me a handful of questions which I answered as follows:

How would you define a People Artist at Work in your own words?

I believe we are all born artists, so we all have the potential for people artistry. Here are a few things I practice which can help define a people artist and ensure your artistic flame can flourish.

Being open to possibilities
Accepting your own vulnerability
Showing your work

We Are All Artists

What makes you or the person you are thinking of a People Artist?

Developing a habit of awareness and presence helps make someone a people artist. A willingness to suspend judgement when new ideas are forming helps too, as does being kind. Never underestimate the artistic power of simple things.

Can you offer one or two specific examples of where and how People Artistry was demonstrated?

Follow this link. It takes you to a series of images cocreated by learning and development professionals invited to think about the future for their profession. For me – this collection represents a facet of people artistry.

What do you see as the results of the demonstration of People Artistry?

When I see people artistry at work I see smiles, I see people getting to know one another better, I see people supporting and encouraging one another and making work better, together. I see people…simply being people.

Is there anything you would like to add about the topic?

People artistry is partly about encouraging creativity, and creativity isn’t something you just switch on. It ebbs and flows according to the environment and attitude around you. I like to invite people to consider this question. What levers and dials do you need to be aware of and be able to adjust, to help bring out creativity and people artistry in yourself and those around you?

I sent my response to David and got on with my life. Yesterday morning there was a knock at the door and a large parcel was delivered. I had no idea what I was signing for…

People Artists

Inside the package is a signed copy of the new book, and a wonderful signed, framed print of the painting used for the book cover. People Artists is a beautiful collection of thoughts, feelings and ideas about how to make work better, twinned with a series of images painted by Peter W Hart.

People Artists will be available for sale very soon and I’ll update this post with more information, and share details of how to buy it on Facebook, Twitter et al. For now, thank you David and Peter for putting an excellent book together and for such a lovely way to appreciate the contributors.

 

Leading From Anywhere

I’m currently developing some work with Richard Martin, which is giving us cause to examine what leadership is, and how it differs from management. Richard has articulated something helpful which I’d like to share with you.

Leadership can come from anywhere and anyone, whereas management is usually an assigned role. Or put another way:

Leadership: Articulating a vision, setting strategy, inspiring others. Qualitative and outcome-oriented. Whole system.

Management: Focus on delivery, and the organisational and resourcing elements that enable it. Quantitative and output-oriented. Measurement and process.

When I was sketching out the current version of Principles of Work, I got stuck thinking about a suitable image to represent ‘Lead by Example’. Carole suggested I Google ‘leadership’ for some inspiration, so I did, and here’s some of what I found.

Leadership Google Search 1

What an underwhelming response. I kept scrolling and things didn’t get any better.

Leadership Google Search 2

Image after image of anonymous bubble shaped cartoon men pointing, conducting, megaphoning, and striding forth with their legions of dutiful followers. This is not the leadership I’m looking for, and it certainly doesn’t fit with the idea that leadership can come from anywhere and anyone.

I diversified my thinking, starting to include other words into my searches, and I discovered some images of aerobatic display teams at work. I was struck by the many formations these teams adopt, and how frequently, there is no single leader out in front.

Lead by Example copy

I chose this formation to demonstrate leading by example. It speaks to me of trust, and of the possibility that leadership can come into play from any position on the team. As we look at the formation here, it may be that the leader is sitting in the plane at the back – the only position where this whole formation can be viewed from. And as the group switches places, the role of leader can shift too.

How do you define leadership – and what images does it conjure up for you? Let me know your thoughts and I’ll see if I can draw something for you.