Reflecting on thinking and doing

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Think DifferentRecently I’ve let myself down by not blogging as much as i feel i need to. The benefit i get from writing a post is actually a process of reflective practice which helps me manage the variety of thoughts going on in my head and i really do need to continue my personal commitment to write regularly as i simply don’t feel effective without having that process help clarify my thoughts.

Some of the things that have been preoccupying my head space (other than the detail of the day to day work which is extremely interesting and busy and the financial challenges which face all services) is around thinking different and doing different.

Do Different

It has been a personal target of mine since before Christmas, triggered from a coaching session I had that i need to make more efforts to understand the relevance of things like digital in relation to the councils services than i had previously been doing and also moving away from simply encouraging people to think differently about digital to actually doing different things with or without digital.

The last couple of weeks have really helped galvanise and challenge some of the thoughts in my head and really challenged my thinking and my approach to thinking (if that makes sense)

The week before last I was inspired by a video which was shared by Dr Andrea Siodmok at our Corporate Leadership team event – The video was Piano Stairs

Also last week I was part of a 3 day systems thinking orientation session with our Highways colleagues and gained a huge insight into the world of highways (more than i expected) but It was an interesting and fun three days.

These two things plus a range of smaller, somewhat random things have made me identify some important lessons…some are super obvious and probably everyone will say…”what you didn’t know that – duh!!

Lesson Number 1:  Don’t over evangelise.

What I mean by this is don’t push stuff down peoples throats – I would probably say I used to do this and some people may say I still do – But I’ve tried hard to change that without losing the things people have said they value (energy, fun, enthusiasm) But unmanaged you can end up putting people off and disconnecting them from the potential benefits of even the most simple of steps and actions.

This is also one of the reasons I wanted to focus on relevance as opposed to simply saying “digital is awesome, we should do digital, heh, lets put some digital in and everything will be cool”…”oh and have you seen this awesome thing, it is soooo cool, you should try this, i find it really easy, you will too” I hope I don’t sound like this but appreciate and acknowledge that I may have done in the past.

Lesson Number 2: Give people space to digest change

When people see a change, it can be difficult to digest the scale of what is required, especially if the scale of change is radical. Give them space and support them, don’t force your thinking on to them as they will need to discover the new paradigm for themselves. It is more powerful and lasting this way.

Lesson Number 3 : Relevance is about conversations

You can’t see or identify relevance in isolation from what is happening. You have to talk with people, understand what is happening, where things are going, the opportunities, the challenges and then make sense of this before throwing random ideas in a conversation to seem clever.

Lesson Number 4: Influence is about conversations

Most of the influence I’ve had on the organisation has been through having conversations with the right people and the right time. When those conversations happen with more and more senior people the influence expands and grows. We should try harder to have the right conversations with the right people and we can “hope” it is the right time.

Lesson Number 5: Listening is about being silent

This is something that I’ve learned more and more as part of my leadership course and coaching sessions. The power of being silent and allow people the time and space to reflect in the moment is very powerful. It is sometimes hard to resist simply not jumping in with an idea, an answer or a solution. Allowing someone the space to find the solution/answer them self is a far richer experience.

 

 

A bit of determination and hard work can pay off

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Earlier today I read a post by @loulouk titled “You’ve come a long way baby” – the post was well written and touched on something which is close to my heart which is feeling valued and qualified to do your job.  Essentially not feeling out of your depth every single day of your working life.

Well I thought I’d share my story of how I got to where I am now – this will be brief as I can make it – I’m not really into War and Peace style writing – As I’m also a person without formal qualifications, but with – I’d like to think  – a shed load of experience now, especially after 14 years in Local Government (Devon County Council) and 7 years as a Father and 10 years as a partner and Husband and more recently a School Governor and a Part Time Research & Policy Analyst for a Local Social Enterprise IT Support Organisation (Cosmic).

I started working for Devon County Council in 1996 as an office junior, pretty much filing and photocopying along general administrative duties and helping wherever I could.

As time went on, my administrative duties grew and I soon became the training administrator for the corporate training team, where some of my early inspirations came – I spent more time learning about myself and reflecting on a range of training materials then actually doing administration (if I’m honest I was a terrible training co-ordinator) But I learnt a huge amount about myself and this was a great opportunity to develop – so a positive came out of it :).

I soon felt frustrated and wanted to experience more, so I spoke to my line manager of the time (who was very supportive of me) about what opportunities I could explore as the Council was, and still is, a very large organisation and I wanted to experience as much of it as possible.  I managed to get approval for some shadowing opportunities  – one with the Youth Council Co-ordinator, which was great and very interesting and the other was with the Councils Sustainable Development Co-ordinator. It was this job, looking at community needs, community planning and community action that inspired me to try to create a job opportunity.

As luck would have I was offered a part-time job working as a sustainable development project officer. My project was to facilitate and create the councils Local Agenda 21 Plan which was a requirement around 1998-2000.

This post expanded and I became full-time and I was involved in mapping community action across the county and meeting community groups and business who were contributing to “A Better Devon, a Better World” – The councils local agenda 21 action plan.

It would appear that luck or chance plays a large part in my story (as well as hard work, of course) The next step for me happened when I met the Head of Economic Development at a Christmas meal and spoke to him about the type of work I was doing and what types of things I was interested in. I mentioned that I was particularly interested in how communities can use technology to better improve their access to information and how technology can help the organisation improve how it worked.

I bumped into him about 2 months later and he asked me to pop to his office as he would like to discuss an opportunity with me. The opportunity was to manage a project which was to see the councils two tourist information centres replaced with a call centre and a number of touch screen kiosks as well as a new two county IT infrastructure across Devon and Cornwall. I was very surprised that he thought I was capable of doing this, but I learnt that I would be providing more a support role early on as he appreciated my lack of knowledge, but admired my persistence and determination to get things done. I learnt very fast and I learnt so much working on this project, not just from doing the work, but meeting the variety of people involved in the project across the two counties.

It was towards the logical end of this project and the inevitable funding of my post that the eGovernment agenda seemed to gain momentum in the council. I was asked to lead on some work mapping services with a colleague across the directorate and also lead on some website review and rationalisation work. At the end of this process and as luck would have it again – the council advertised for a Corporate Web Manager, I applied and was fortunately successful.

I did that job for 4-5 years primarily through the eGovernment programme and I also learnt a great deal about the council during this time, finding out about all the services we provided, all of the transactions we provide and through which channel.

Towards the end of this job, my role expanded to include Web Innovations, New Media and Portal and I wrote the councils first web strategy, and started getting involved in Social Media after attending a Socitm event with Ewan McIntosh. It was Ewan’s  presentation that inspired me to continue my learning in this domain and to keep pushing the boundaries. This work connected me with my current team the Enterprise Architects. And guess what as if by magic a Job for an Enterprise Architect was advertised and I applied to that post 2 years ago and was successful.

Today, I look back and think “What the F**k happened there…I realise that I am lucky to have had the opportunities I’ve had but I also (and I’ve had to learn this) accept that I worked very hard for all of those opportunities and jobs.

I look back and feel very proud of how I got to where I am today and whilst I sometimes still feel intimidated by colleagues and peers who are more qualified than I am. I learning more each day, that it is who I am that counts.

Nearly everything I know I learnt from doing, failing, reading books, researching, and interacting with inspirational people, the rest, well I’ll just take credit there and say that I’ve always been a bit different :)

Being a geek often inspires people

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Recently I’ve been working with the Workforce Development team here at the council and have posted here and here about the focus of that work.

However what has been interesting is that when I speak to people about how I use social tools and how they are “core” to my daily work pattern, I am perceived as a bit of a “geek” and rightly so…I mean not many people across the council blog, or tweet or use Linked-In Groups, Google Apps etc as well as some of the mobile based tools you can get either for iPhone or Android phones to help you stay in touch or consume and digest information and content.

The difference today was that the colleagues I was working with were really engaged in hearing about how and why I use particular tools. After that the comment they made was not the common response I get which is usually something like:

that is very geeky.

or

where do you find the time to mess about with all these social things.

Instead the response I received was:

Wow, I should really start using some of these tools myself more, I didn’t really see those tools be used like that. You are really a model of good practice that others should learn from.

Sometimes even being a bit geeky is a good thing and one day you will start to become less geeky and then eventually mainstream…I think we are starting to edge towards promoting and encouraging a new behaviour and culture here which I believe will help the organisation cope with the change.