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Weeknote: 20.01.23


  • Facilitated a Group Executive team strategy day. New team, and fun to observe their interactions as they came together. I enjoyed testing out some new exercises in person as well.

  • Had a great conversation with a friend about culture and change. The challenges we both feel and the conversations we’re having – fascinating to me that we’re very much having similar conversations about identity and challenging what we’ve been taught.

  • Went back to the Coaching Habit. Still love the book. Need to remember to cut the lead in.

  • Overall, chaotic week but fun.

Generally, this week has been more chaotic than I was planning, which is probably why I’m writing this reflection on a Sunday night. I’ve felt a bit out of control of my inboxes and calendar. So much that I just needed to stop and try again with a blank sheet of paper. Despite the chaos, or perhaps because of it, it was a very interesting week with many fantastic conversations.

Ideas I found interesting?

I co-facilitated a Group Executive team away day this week. It was a new team, and I worked with people I hadn’t worked with before. It was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed seeing how they reflected on and interpreted what happened during our work with this team. The richness of their insights, coming from such different perspectives, added to the overall engagement and, I think, the value everyone got from the two days.

It was also fun to play with different facilitation approaches. I’d not tried the chair exercise to help teams think about the cross-functional challenges that a matrix structure presents an organisation. The exercise is very simple. Everyone is given one of three objectives and told they couldn’t speak. Then you watch the chaos unfold as the group works to figure out who needs to do what and find a way to work together (aligning objectives) to get the work done. The result was a mix of frustration, hand gestures and alignment. Fun.

Finally, I appreciated this slide. It's just such a nice summary of the importance of communicating clearly.

What did I learn?

Change and culture. I found it great speaking to an old friend about the challenges they face with culture change. It struck me that others are having similar conversations within their relationships, organisations, and groups about identity and change. My friend seems to be going on a similar journey about how she fits into society and what roles society has given her, as my wife and I have both been on. It certainly is a challenging time.

What does change look like for an organisation? We talked a lot this week about communication and behaviour. It was great to sit in the role of an observer at times and learn how energy ebbs and flows in a room. Watch what pulls people away and how to get best everyone engaged. Despite the growing evidence for its importance, behaviour change is still underappreciated when it comes to change. I enjoyed returning to the Coaching Habit and reminding myself of the six really simple principles of effective coaching and leadership. They are:

  1. Ask just one question at a time, and then WAIT for the answer.

  2. Cut the lead in: ask the question; don’t build in.

  3. Avoid why: this is a useful tool for deconstructing a problem, but it puts people on the defensive and prevents you from getting the most out of them.

  4. Get comfortable with silence: listening and silence are key

  5. Being busy is a form of laziness: lazy thinking and indiscriminate action

  6. Saying no is about saying yes more slowly: ask questions – why are you asking me, whom else have you asked when you say this is urgent, what do you mean, etc. – be curious about the reasons someone is asking you.

I’m still so guilty of many of these – I’m sure my wife would say the lead in one for sure. I keep finding myself needing to explain. I practised not doing this again this week, with mixed results.

What did I enjoy?

The idea of building a team that feels like a “10-year hug”. People that you are happy and excited to see after ten years, despite the challenges that being in a team entails. It’s a great expression of what a great team should feel like.

I enjoyed having the chance to facilitate in person again. It was great working with people I’ve seen on zoom in person again. Yes, even a year after COVID, that doesn’t get old.

What did I find challenging?

Being straight. I had a moment this week to talk to a colleague. He made the point about an individual he had recently worked with. Basically, he was a pleasure to work with because he was open and transparent. Straight to deal with. He said it how it was and then was okay with the discussion. I know I tend to be less straight to try and avoid confrontation. I need to practice being more candid. It goes back to the idea of radical candour.

What did you achieve?

It was a busy week; I managed to facilitate a two-day leadership workshop, test out the sleeper between London and Glasgow, meet old friends and new colleagues, babysit some fantastic small children, and climb a Munro. All told, not too bad.

What are you looking forward to next week?

Having a bit of focused time to breathe and focus more on my writing and the projects I didn’t quite get to last week. I’m also going to take some time to figure out how to get on top of my calendar/life more – some mix of productivity hacks and Oliver Burkeman’s 4,000 weeks.


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