Street Wisdom Leeds

Street Wisdom Leeds

street wisdom umbrella and a lion

How else would you spend your Saturday morning? Today 7 brave souls met in the middle of an autumnal Leeds city centre to embark on a quest of discovery…and fortitude in the face of some ‘interesting’ weather.

Street Wisdom gives us a chance to take some time to to find a new perspective, to get some answers, to give us some new insight into any question we might choose to wander with. It uses the street as our unseen university, providing inspiration and answers in the most unlikely places.

What happened

We met on the steps of Leeds Town Hall, starting our quest alongside the Saturday weddings beginning a (hopefully) longer journey with transportation that included a vintage car, a stretch limo and a VW camper van.
The weather did it’s bit by providing the added stimulus of chilly rain and a fine breeze, or was it fine rain and a chilly breeze? Anyway it was enough to sharpen senses and keep us wide awake.

What did we learn

This is some of the wisdom I heard, there was lots more too…

  • There is real value in slowing down, when we do we pay more
    attention, we notice, we can spot things that are important to us.

  • The answers are often already inside us, we just need to give
    ourselves a chance to look.

  • Leeds has a connection with owls, they are everywhere if you look hard enough. We had a whole load of theories about why this might be, the deep significance and symbolism that it represented. The answer might be much more mundane than all our theories and is probably just that John Savile fancied an owl or two on his coat of arms. Thanks to twitter mate @mikechitty for the local knowledge.

  • So we learnt that sometimes things are just what they appear to be

  • Things that are shiny are attractive (thanks Oliver)

  • We shouldn’t forget the dreams we had for ourselves and we need to give ourselves space and time to reconnect with them.

  • Our connection with where we live and work has a bigger effect on how good we feel than we often give credit.

  • We should value what others see in us, like we value the things we
    see in them.

  • We shouldn’t wait until things are perfect…JFDI.

  • there is a skill to getting lost

how to get lost

The quest ended with coffee in the Leeds Art Gallery Cafe, worth popping in to if you want some space, time and inspiration.

Valuable and thought provoking time well spent were the overall feelings, there will be more Street Wisdom happening somewhere near you sometime. And if there isn’t just ask some of the gang to see if they can put an event on in your back yard.



I’m going to a conference – you should come too, you’ll enjoy it

I love a good conference, who doesn’t, good conferences are great fun aren’t they. I’m going to be at CIPD15 on the 4th and 5th November and this year and I’ll be helping out with a bit of blogging and making some noise on social media. I’ve got to be honest it’s not just the stuff on the main conference stage that I enjoy it’s actually all the things that happen around the agenda, between the main events, at the fringe and round the edges. I love the chance to browse and wander, to dip in and out, to catch up with old mates, have interesting chats with new folk, to chew the fat over brews and beers and to explore and argue about the latest shiny that everyone peddling anything has added to their offer (NeuroScience anyone).

It’s the bits between where I think I get to learn most, through the chats, debates, exploration (and by exploration I mean arguing) about the stuff the big brain thinkers have shared. These connections and conversations make me really think, they challenge me, they interest me and they often accompany a drink, what’s not to like! This is when learning really happens, when we process and question and inquire and connect, that’s stuff that makes a great conference.

There is absolutely loads of opportunity for all that to happen in the conference and the exhibition, and it’s going to be tough to figure out what to dip in and out of, that’s a great problem to have isn’t it. If you search hard enough there is also quite a lot going on in the gaps and around the fringe, I’d highly recommend finding some of the ‘off the beaten track’ events and gatherings, they are often great fun and I’m hoping to get stuck in to some of them too.

If you are interested in exploring the fringes you could try a bit of Art for Works Sake or Art of Conversation with the brill Doug and Meg. Or you could try a bit of Street Wisdom with the lovely Phil and Julie.


That Julie D is gonna be busy. She’s also organising an
L&D Connect Tweetup on 4th.

Dr Wilson Wong is organising the first LGBT networking event in the #CIPD15 fringe.



And if all else fails you could try and find me for a brew or a beer and a chinwag about work, football, best place for a pint…anything you fancy, it’s all on my agenda!

Conferences are great aren’t they.

If you want to find out a bit more about why you should be at the conference have a look at these blogs from some other members of the blogsquad Clare Thomas, Tim Scott, Gemma ReucroftHelen Tracy and Gary Cookson.

Tardis Strategy Session

tardisLast week included a half day working with the great North West People in Research Forum Executive team. About 3 years ago I helped them think about their strategy and it was time to think again about what the future might hold for them.

Half a day isn’t a long time, so it was really fortunate that I brought a handy Tardis with me, you can get so much more done in half a day when you have access to a time travel machine.

The fickle Tardis took us on an exploration to 2020 of NWPiR’s hugely successful future, letting us discover the brilliant impact they had made and to find out just how they had made it happen, which certainly saved time.

It is sometimes hard to imagine the future we really want, especially when we know there is are obstacles and difficulties around every corner. Sometimes you need to go to the future and explore it, remember how great it is going to be and remind yourself that you can do it. Having a time machine helps.

The team have already got to work on making their future a reality, the storify of the day is here

And a time bending time-lapse of the journey in action is here too

My Minimal Virtual Place

IMG_20150106_094745The way to get started is to quit talking and start doing

Walt Disney

I’ve been spending far too much time worrying about what my website should say, what it says about me, how it should look, what cool widgets it should have, what font it should use etc. etc. etc. and that hasn’t left a great deal of time to actually doing anything with the blinking thing. The more I tinker the less I do and the less useful it becomes, at the same time I have been increasingly gripped by an almost paralysing fear, of something. Of failure, of it not working, of just not being good enough!

So what’s that all about? Is it a touch of the Imposter Syndrome? I’m sure it might be, but best not to dwell too much. The book in the picture above and a great conversation about Purpose with Ian Pettigrew a few weeks ago promoted me to stop mucking around, to reassess, to take a look with fresh eyes and to crack on and do. Which I did.

I decided that rather than get lost in the options and complexity I would get back to the absolute basics, strip all the guff away and start afresh. Rather than trying to produce the most tech, the whizziest, the perfect site, with the joyful endless hours of tinkering and procrastinating that would entail, I decided to put a minimal site up, focused on doing a few things and build useful stuff onto it as and when I can.

The site needs to do just a few things

  • People need to be able to find the site, know it’s me and get in touch – Contacts page “check”
  • It would be nice if people can find out a bit about what I do and what working with me is like – I’m going to share some of the actual work I am doing rather than figure out the perfect marketing words for Appreciative Inquiry or Open Space – working on it “check”
  • I would like to reflect more and develop my thinking and understanding of things I am interested in and I think the site can be a place to do that, hell some of what I share might even be interesting and useful to you.

So welcome to my MVP website. It is enough!


Trust – Believe Everyone Is An Angel


“Sorry, say that again, what are you suggesting? That we believe everyone is a what…?”

“I knew you weren’t going to like it”

“So you want me to “Trust People”, have you seen our staff??

“Yes…but it is a bit more complex than that…”

“Yes, that’s all well and good, but you can’t do that hippie stuff around here, they’ll just take advantage, trust has to be earned you know”

OK, that never happened, I just made it up, but I bet loads of you have had a conversation like it, or can imagine it happening all to easily. I have worked in plenty of paces that were set-up on the premise that every employee would defraud the organisation given half a chance. The evidence was easy to find, it was in the multitude of policies (literally hundreds of them), the restrictions (no you can’t use facebook/twitter/youtube at work), the sanctions (off sick more than 3 times – you’re on a disciplinary). All of it shouting, screaming loud and clear WE DON’T TRUST YOU!! It doesn’t matter how great a manager you are, when the organisation’s cultural tide is that strong it’s hard to swim against.

So what would our worlds be like if we started by “Believing everyone was an angel”, if we really genuinely trusted people I mean really, really trusted them to get on and do?

We might have to let people just get on with their jobs, to trust them to make the decisions that they need to so they can get their work done, to support them when they have an idea, to learn from trying things out whatever the outcome, to believe that their intent is always positive. We might have to make less decisions ourselves and try things we don’t think will work.

As someone said (possibly Hemmingway)

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”

I’m not naive enough to think this is easy, we have organisations that have been set up for years with systems built on mistrust, on command and control, with huge bureaucracies supporting them and huge inertia to change. Shifting them isn’t going to be easy, but just because it isn’t easy isn’t a reason to ignore it.

This isn’t about abdicating all responsibility either. Believing everyone is an Angel doesn’t mean we forget about responsibility and accountability (and other Performance Management words that organisations like to bandy about) but it gives us a very different starting point, it starts from a place of belief, belief that we will succeed, that you can do it, it smacks of potential, gives hope and builds expectation. And yes it means that every now and again we may be disappointed or let down when one of our angels falls to earth, but you know what, I’d rather that I had those occasional blips in a world of possibility and potential than to believe everyone dances with the devil.

So instead of writing a new policy or doing some other trad management stuff just because it makes us feel like we have our hand on the tiller, we should do more of this:

  • Make sure we have great people who know just how great we think they are
  • Make sure we all know our purpose, why we are here
  • Ask how we can help you do your job
  • Listen
  • Make ourselves useful
  • Trust
  • Get out of the way

I know which world I want to be part of, I want to be part of the place that believes in me, has faith in me, that trusts me and I want to Believe that Everyone is an Angel – and you know what when I do believe it, you always seem to live up to it!

Image attribution –


Research and Innovation


Today I had a fun day working with the North West’s Centre for Professional Workforce Development and R&D North West. The challenge for the day was to get 150 professionals talking about how they can create a culture of Research and Innovation in their organisations.

One of the things that struck a chord with me was the tension that exists between the desire to control and measure, that seems to come with the territory in large bureaucratic and politically sensitive systems, and the need for those systems to be agile, nimble and innovative. The two often feel completely at odds, particularly if you are somewhere near the front line staff and in the middle of the tug of war, feeling like you might be damned if you do or damned if you don’t. “Innovate but don’t fail, modernise but don’t take risks, change but make sure you check with me first that it is the right change.”

Targets and standardisation are always held up as vital to safe and effective systems, but seem to leave little room for common sense and self determination. Surely innovation means we will be striving for difference and expecting things not to work now and again (not working doesn’t mean failure by the way) and research will be the means by which we learn and share our attempts with others.

At some stages today it all seemed so simple,
* actively create a culture of trust, openness and curiosity to support innovation and research,
* get the right balance of assurance and governance that doesn’t smother and stifle innovation.
* fail quickly
* impactful research and innovation doesn’t have to be complicated, – Plan, Do, Study, Act – that works

And to paraphrase one delegate, if we get the purpose right, that we are here to improve the lot for the patient, then a culture of research and innovation is a no brainer.

It helped that we had some great speakers who are actually doing it!

We had a conversation on twitter too and you can read the whole storify here

Installing Love

Circuit Board

In this geeky computer driven world we sometimes need a bit of help with our own software.

  • Tech Support: Yes, …how can I help you?
  • Customer: Well, after much consideration, I’ve decided to install Love. Can you guide me through the process?
  • Tech Support: Yes. I can help you. Are you ready to proceed?
  • Customer: Well, I’m not very technical, but I think I’m ready. What do I do first?
  • Tech Support: The first step is to open your Heart’. Have you located your Heart?
  • Customer: Yes, but there are several other programs running now. Is it okay to install Love while they are running?
  • Tech Support: What programs are running?
  • Customer: Let’s see, I seem to have Past Hurt, Low Self-Esteem, Grudge and Resentment running right now.
  • Tech Support: No problem, Love will gradually erase Past Hurt from your current operating system. It may remain in your permanent memory but it will no longer disrupt other programs. Love will eventually override Low Self-Esteem with a module of its own called High Self- Esteem. However, you have to completely turn off Grudge and Resentment. Those programs prevent Love from being properly installed. Can you turn those off?
  • Customer: I don’t know how to turn them off. Can you tell me how?
  • Tech Support: With pleasure. Go to your start menu and run Forgiveness. Do this as many times as necessary until Grudge and Resentment have been completely erased.
  • Customer: Okay, done! Love has started installing itself. Is that normal?
  • Tech Support: Yes, but remember that you have only the base program. You need to begin connecting to other Hearts in order to get the upgrades.
  • Customer: Oops! I have an error message already. It says, “Error – Program has not run on internal components ” What should I do?
  • Tech Support: Don’t worry. It means that the Love program is set up to run on Internal Hearts, but has not yet been run on your Heart. In non-technical terms, it simply means you have to Love yourself before you can Love others.
  • Customer: So, what should I do?
  • Tech Support: Download the Acceptance file; then from the You Are Enough folder click on the following files: Forgive-Self; Realise Your Worth; Acknowledge your Limitations; and Accept your Vulnerability.
  • Customer: Okay, done.
  • Tech Support: Now, copy them to your Heart directory. The system will overwrite any conflicting files and begin patching faulty programming. Also, you need to delete Verbal Self-Criticism from all directories and empty your Recycle Bin to make sure it is completely gone and never comes back.
  • Customer: Got it. Hey! my Heart is filling up with new files. Smile is playing on my monitor and Peace and Contentment are copying themselves all over my Heart. Is this normal?
  • Tech Support: Sometimes. For others it takes a while, but eventually everything gets it at the proper time. So Love is installed and running.
    One more thing before we hang up. Love is Freeware. Be sure to give it and its various modules to everyone that you meet. They will in turn share it with others and return some cool modules back to you.

I came across this at Nick Heap’s site and it appealed to my inner geek with a heart. A quick search shows it’s been around for ages and been published on loads of sites, but the original author seems to have been forgotten. Respect to them whoever they are!

Practice Practice Practice

Half Marathon

Sukh Pabial posted another great blog challenging how we do Leadership Development. As usual he’s spot on, especially when it comes to measuring impact. We are so desperate to measure our leadership development we forget what we are trying to do and deliver all sorts of stuff that can be measured instead.

Remember, when you try and measure stuff strange things happen and targets often inadvertently become our purpose! (we did it, we trained everyone…so what!!!)

And even if we can measure an improvement it can be down to all sorts of stuff – not just the intervention! Regression to the mean anyone?

I think we are desperate to measure stuff because its not a comfy place to be when you realise that not everything of importance can be measured and the purpose of training and development is definitely one of those things that isn’t easy to measure.

So what are we to do? Well we know that improvement comes from practice, practice, practice…and I bet we have a good idea of the sort of things that we want our leaders to be good at. If we were helping them run a half marathon we would be getting them to practice running (it’s not a lot more complex than that, honest). So we need to have a bit of faith in this hunch, figure out what we want those leaders to be great at and then get them to practice… practice trust, practice listening, practice dealing with emotions, practice giving feedback, practice helping, practice creativity, practice humility…practice practice practice.

When asked the benefit of spending big bucks on training Demming said “You’ll never know…You’ll never be able to measure it. Why did you do it? Because you believed it would pay off.”

We know what we want, we have a hunch how to do it, we have to get brave and go for it…we need to stop waiting for the measures and believe in ourselves and then get them to practice!

Values – Feeding Your Soul


A fantastic opportunity opened up for me a couple of weeks ago when I was offered the chance to deliver a keynote at the AEISEC international conference Youth to Business workshop in Egypt. (thanks to Miranda and Tash from WorldBlu for putting me forward). Now long story short…a few things conspired against me and unfortunately, fairly late in the day, I had to back out, apologies to all, I hope you had a fantastic time and from watching some of the live streams and twitter chat I’m sure you all did.

Having missed the chance to be at IC2013 I still wanted to capture the thread of the conversation I had hoped to have with the delegates about values, trust and leadership so I’ve used it as a bit of impetus for my blogging mojo…so here goes.



A key to being agile, adaptable and successful is understanding, and keeping right in front of us at all times, our Purpose, the reason why we do what we do, the reason why our organisation exists, that great and wonderful thing that we are setting out to achieve. Purpose is central to understanding who we are, what we are trying to make a difference to and how we want to go about it. It helps us find meaning in what we do, both as organisations and as individuals, enables us us to have our sights set on a bigger goal and to react to the environment that changes around us adapting our systems to meet those new demands. When we forget our purpose we lose our way!

We work with people to connect you to your purpose!

3 of 4
%d bloggers like this: