Thursday, 22 October 2015

Clore Emerging Leaders - Be Kind, Be Balanced and Be Alive

There were many recurring themes throughout the week, which related to how you approach your own well being.  It isn't very common in life, well in mine anyway, to be given a week to think about yourself and what you want to do.  As someone said over breakfast one day, 'This is such luxury' and I'm sure she was referring to more than the honey and lemon tea.  To be able to take some time out of the daily cycle of life to question what you are doing and how you would like to change it was a luxury and something I want to make sure I do justice to.

Be Kind

A really important take away from the course for me was the notion of being kind to yourself.  We can all too often forget that we are putting ourselves through a lot of hard work, commuting and stress every day and that we are achieving, we just need to cut ourselves some slack.  It was liberating hearing our facilitators telling us to be kind to ourselves and others.

Be Balanced

This fitted in well with the idea of creating balance in your life, between work and home, between characters in groups at work, between pushing yourself and realising how much you have already achieved.  We worked through positive feedback we had received prior to the course and realised that there is a lot of value in appreciating your strengths as well as your weaknesses and looking at your performance as a blend of the two.  Life can seem like a balancing act most of the time but this week has let me see that I can identify that balance, work out how to change it and even use it to my advantage.

Be Alive

I agree that it is important to realise that we cannot control everything, which can be hard for someone as ordered and logical as me.  Gaylene Gould, a writer, presenter, coach and Clore fellow advised us to be resilient, responsive, adaptive and opportunistic.  To take those opportunities with both hands and make things happen.

Gaylene opened her talk with a quote, which resonated with the group long after she had finished:

'Don't ask yourself what the world needs.  Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go and do that.  Because what the world needs is people that have come alive.'
Harold Thurman Whitman

For the people in the room, this really hit home and made us question what we are doing and why we are doing it.  Gaylene explained that trying to achieve what makes you feel alive can be an iterative process, it will ultimately lead you to a position where you can fulfil your ambitions and live out your values.  For me, as with many questions and comments throughout the week, I understood the importance of it but couldn't speak to it straightaway.  My job does make me feel alive but I have yet to pinpoint why and which of my values it meets (a theme that you'll notice in these posts).

Stay balanced

To be kind, balanced and alive may seem like three simple points but I really needed reminded of them and I'm probably not the only one.  Putting them into practice may be a different matter but I am already making sure that I am kind to myself and those I touch.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Clore Emerging Leaders - The Starting Blocks

I reckon the best way to start this cluster of posts would be with the start of the course, my expectations and subsequent relief at being in a room with like-minded people.

I really didn't know what to expect from the Clore experience.  I was thinking of it as being a bit like being part of Santander's '1-2-3 World' only without the customer service issues and misplaced suspicion of my desire for contactless payment.  The 'Clore world' is something I knew a bit about as I have come across a couple of Clore fellows in my work and a colleague had just taken part in the Short Course.  I now know that there is a network of over 1,500 Clore alumni in the arts, which is a pretty nifty network!

All the advice I was given was to prepare for a great week and to expect to cry.  Both of those happened and, in retrospect, I think it was a good idea to go in to it without many expectations or preparations.

On the first day, our wonderful facilitators, Amanda and Fearghus, got us all to write down our hopes for the course and our fears on post-it notes and add them to flip-charts.  The result is below:

You'll note that there are far fewer fears (on the left) than hopes.  We were all really excited to be there and very hopeful for what the week might bring.  We had some time to read all of the post-its and people spent a lot longer reading the fears than the hopes - were we satisfying ourselves that we were 'normal'?  At the end of the week we looked at these again and, while some of our fears had come true, they weren't that bad and all of our hopes had come true, with more besides.

What this exercise showed us was that we were all in the same boat and, although we all came from very different backgrounds, locations, jobs and sectors, we were fundamentally very similar.  The next exercise showed this again.  We were asked to do some connections speed dating where we had a minute to find out what we had in common with each person.  This resulted in this map:

There was more but it was giant.  This very simple exercise showed that we are all linked in some way and more and more connections became clear during the week.  Two of the participants had been in my building in the last month - it really is a very small world and that is a valuable thing to remember when you feel alone or at sea with your career.

A really important point on the first day was learning about 'stretch.'  We were told that we should try to be in 'stretch' during the week and that if we slid into 'panic' it was ok but try not to conduct the whole week from your 'comfort zone'.  I was foolishly concerned that I would be in my 'comfort zone' most of the time and would struggle to push myself into 'stretch' - how wrong could I be?!  I can happily say that I was in 'stretch' most of the time with only one slip into 'panic'.  'Stretch' is a good place to be and where I suspect my problem solving and creativity comes to the fore.  A huge positive of the week for me was the openness with which people embraced stretch and alerting others to the fact.  If we declared that we were in stretch then we could support each other and recognise that what we were doing might be ok for you but was really pushing someone else to deal with an uncomfortable experience.  This is something I wish we were all a bit more open about at work.

The lessons and exercises on the first day really started the week off on a very open footing and demonstrated to us that there are like-minded people out there, you just have to be open enough to communicate with them.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Clore Emerging Leaders - Introduction

Last week I embarked on what is called a ‘life changing’ experience, the Clore Emerging Leaders course.  This was a residential week in the beautiful Eynsham Hall in Oxfordshire where 26 people from the world of culture were cocooned in the comfort of a stately home with regular tea breaks and pastries.  But this was not a week of relaxation.

We had beautiful sunshine all week

I have been toying with how to blog about this week as we covered so much material on quite a variety of topics.  I will never be able to do the learning justice here and I’m not going to bore everyone by recounting each session.  So what I’ve decided to do, over several posts, is to pick out my highlights and the facts and feelings that I am taking away with me to ponder and then how I intend to put all of this into practice in the short, medium and long term.

The grounds were perfect for perfecting the 'walk and talk'

I’m hoping that this will be a form of relection for me and perhaps bring to light some things that might help others who are at a point in their career where they are enjoying their job but are finding it tough to see where their next step might take them and, indeed, how to find that step.