Tag Archives: vulnerability

Creative Leadership – Connections

I’m having a blast here at the 2013 Illinois SHRM conference. Kudos to the gang of volunteers that energise and galvanise these events, I feel privileged to be here.

Musical Connections

Thanks to the organisational skills of Dwane Lay and Jonathan Brewer, and the generosity of John Hudson, guitar provider par excellence, things got off to a lively start with a pre conference camp fire singalong on Sunday evening. This was a great way to catch up with old friends and meet some new ones too, and Dave Ryan was on the ball and captured a flavour of our musical time together for posterity.

The theme and purpose for the conference this year is all about HR helping HR – and we are being encouraged to discuss and suggest and encourage different ways of working better together. I chose to approach this challenge by preparing a session about connections, communication and creativity.


We looked at how we currently learn and work and how this seems to drive up convergent thinking and drive out creativity and divergence. I shared a little of what I’d learned from the recent RSA talk by Ken Robinson to help illustrate this. We also looked at how we react to experiences that make us feel shameful and the impact that often has on creativity too. Here’s a little something I learned from Brene Brown and Heather Bussing on this important, and yet little talked about aspect of vulnerability – an essential ingredient of creativity.

Vulnerability - Brene Brown

Vulnerability - Heather Bussing


We spent time talking about the benefits of investing in building a diverse network. Being able to connect, share and learn with and from people is increasingly easy, particularly with the technology available to us (we looked mainly at Twitter, blogging and Instagram as tools to help with this). And we explored how much more interesting things get when you reach beyond people you might typically associate with and strive to learn from others less like you too. Diversity is another essential ingredient of creativity.


We looked at Starbucks and Qantas and their ill timed #SpreadTheCheer and #QantasLuxury campaigns as examples of what happens when social goes wrong. Both of these examples could have been prevented , and we discussed how organisations that choose to work in a more conversational, open and transparent cross departmental way often minimise the chances of making these kinds of dumb mistakes. And if HR has a role to encourage smarter working in the business, and we agreed it does, then why not take the lead and be the oil in the machine. Conversations – essential ingredients of creativity.

I’ll come back to this subject after I’ve flown back from the US, and I’ll also take a look at some of the new thinking that Paul Hebert shared with us, some of which fits neatly in this connections space too. For now though, I’m off to enjoy Dwane Lay’s talk and the rest of the conference. Have a great day.


These Things I Believe

These Things I Believe

Fear sucks

Artistry is underrated

Productive beats busy

Vulnerability is courage

Connection gives us meaning

Conversations are the bond

Flow beats work-life balance

I love the fact that in your busy day, you still find the time to pop by here and check in. Really, I appreciate it. I love to write and because I love it – I work hard, so it takes it out of me. For the next couple of weeks I’m gonna slack off a while. I’m not saying complete radio silence, but for sure I’m gonna turn it down a bit.

In the meantime I’ll leave you with the opening slide for my upcoming talk in Chicago, which is about connections. This image is both inspired by, and for my family. It’s an adaptation of my Twitter bio and it’s a brief adaptation of a fantastic piece by my friend Joe Gerstandt. I am simultaneously very excited and nervous about giving this talk. In my head I have the courage to go all out and deliver a session that will involve people, invite them to think differently, and leave a mark for a long time. And the thing is….man, fear sucks – and I will overcome.

Keep it honest.

Love – Doug

It’s A Long Way To The Top

Having spent a lot of time recently thinking, reflecting and writing about vulnerability, I want to share a personal perspective with you today. As many of you know, I like to murder a good tune on the guitar now and again. A good deal of my guitar work is carried out in the safety of my own home, and though some of it ends up on Youtube, I’ve gradually become used to the ‘it’s just me and the camera’ approach to the recording process.


A few months back I applied to audition for a busking licence on the London Underground. It did not go well, and I wrote about the train crash of an experience and while I’d like to say I learned loads of great lessons and moved on, this would not be quite true. My failure at the audition stuck with me. Oddly, I learned that I hadn’t passed the audition right after this impromptu performance in Louisiana which went down well, so who knows, maybe I simply overanalysed the London Underground opportunity? Whatever the reason, I was pretty down on myself about it, and for a while I wondered if that was the end of my attempts to conquer my performance gremlins.


Our family is fortunate to be a part of a fantastic summer camp weekend experience organised for the last several years by some great friends. This year, Keira asked if I would perform with her as part of the traditional talent show. I agreed and we practiced a song in secret, ready for the big day. Between you and me, our practices went well and I began to look forward to our opportunity to perform.

The day came, and so did my nerves and I’m sorry to say that there were a couple of times when I suggested to Keira that if she wanted to perform with her friend and let our slot slide, that would be OK by me. Thankfully Keira didn’t see it the same way and so we found ourselves on stage cranking out a version of ‘It’s A Long Way to the Top’, and in that few minutes, you can see we gave it everything we had. The reaction was great and afterwards lots of people congratulated us. I think perhaps these things are made easier when tackled together but I wanted to push on from this experience and see if I could get over my case of buskers block.


I was in luck – an opportunity to play at Matthews Yard in Croydon arose, so I offered my services and to my surprise, was added to the line up. I was given a half hour slot, 2pm on Saturday July 13th. I’d never performed like this before so I took a little time to plan. I drew up a long list of over 20 songs then pared it down by running through each song, checking to see how well I could play it and how each song fitted with its neighbours. I ended up with this set list:

  • Croydon Prison Blues – Johnny Cash
  • Speed of the Sound of Loneliness – John Prine
  • Billy Hunt – Paul Weller
  • Yesterday’s Burrito – Chris Plush, Doug Shaw, Meg Peppin
  • Stand By Your Man – Patsy Cline
  • Human Resource – Neil Usher, Doug Shaw
  • Down in the Tube Station – Paul Weller
  • I Met a Man – Flipchart Fairytales, Doug Shaw, Various Artists
  • It’s A Long Way to the Top – AC/DC

I found the thread of a story emerging at times and decided to work on talking to the audience between each song. Carole helped me and supported me through this process and when I left home on Saturday, despite my nerves, I had built a sense of belief, I can do this thing.

The gig came and went, and so, to a greater extent, did my nerves. Yes I was feeling pretty uptight at the beginning, but I was fortunate to have a few friends in the audience and I think the decision to engage in a bit of banter helped me to calm down, and helped people to enjoy themselves too. This was the first time I’ve ever sat down and performed in front of a bunch of people, most of whom I didn’t know. I did a good job, and the feedback through the set and afterwards indicates that others thought the same too. Later that day, Carole and I talked about how things had gone, and she said something like, ‘Maybe you simply need to give confidence first in order for people to hand it back to you?’

I’ll leave you to take whatever learning you want from my experiences. Suffice to say, I’m glad I didn’t choose to close the busking book on a bum note.