Monday 28 January 2013

The Power of Story

Reflecting on last week's launch of Unpacking Your Chair (cohort 2) Gerry Docherty commented on the power of simply giving people the space and time to tell their story.

That was indeed powerful: listening to the participants, one at a time, reflecting on their journey so far, their learning from that, and their thoughts on what was important for the future, was a fascinating experience.  Some common themes emerged, but also a rich mix of quite individual, unique experiences and perspectives.

That was enabled both by participants' readiness to share quite openly, and also by the careful (and deliberately minimal) structure and guidance which we provided in setting that session up.

As a result, each person's story about what it means to be a professor is enhanced; they are also beginning to form a story of themselves as a cohort, and we hope they will develop both of those stories fruitfully through the programme.  Certainly last year's cohort emerged with rich and powerful stories of the future to which, individually and collectively, they aspired; and these are grounded in positive and sophisticated stories of who they are and the road they have travelled so far.

This, of course, is the kind of process which I am exploring in my slowly-evolving book. It is (I say somewhat hesitantly) finally taking shape - in that I am well on the way to finishing the first draft.  But don't hold your breath...

Friday 25 January 2013

New Website

I have just realised that I have never announced the launch of the new Andrew Scott wwwsite on this blog.

So now I have.

I will be interested in any feedback on style, navigability and, of course, content.  I will be even more interested if it inspires you to want to talk to me about some exciting new project!

Unpacking Your Chair: Take Two!

It's been fairly busy this week, with an Influencing Skills Workshop, a Time Management seminar, coaching for clients from three different organisations, and the first day of the Unpacking Your Chair programme.

Unpacking Your Chair is the programme for relatively new professors at Newcastle University, which we launched a couple of years ago, and which has just won the award for excellence in Leadership Development in the Times Higher Awards ceremony.

So while we are confident that it is a good programme, there was a slight feeling that we had a lot to live up to, as we kicked off the second programme; not least because the success of the first was in large part due to the quality of participants who attended and what they brought to the programme.

We need not have worried. This year, the participants seem equally engaged and committed: we had a fascinating first day, with people sharing - with remarkable openness - their stories of their journeys  so far, and what is important to them going forwards.  We also had an stimulating conversation with a seasoned professor, Andy Gillespie, reflecting on a typology of professors drawn from his experience.

An hour of the afternoon was dedicated to considering what they would value from the rest of the programme: one of the features of the programme being that we co-create it each time with the participants, rather than assume in advance that we know what they need to learn.

They came up with some excellent themes to explore, and some good ideas of people they'd like to discuss them with.  All we have to do now is to invite people and hope that some of their diaries allow them to join us, and design sessions that will stimulate the kind of debate that last year's participants found so valuable.

It's always good to work with Liz Kemp and Gerry Docherty, who co-design and co-run the programme; in fact the only cloud on the horizon is that Gerry, the Academic Lead for the programme, whose ideas, style and commitment played a large part in both getting it off the ground and its subsequent success, has just accepted a new role in Brisbane.  He will be a hard act to follow, and we will all miss him.

Liz, (L) Gerry (seated R), and me with three of the cohort one participants (Adam, Kathryn and Mike) in a publicity shot for the THE Award.

Friday 11 January 2013

A fascinating day...

Yesterday we had the third day of the Cardiff Futures programme: how the University really works.

It proved to be a fascinating day, including conversations with the Deputy Vice Chancellor and the Chief Operating Officer, the Chair of Council, and the Treasurer, as well as an outside perspective from the VC of neighbouring Aberystwyth University.  Participants also took on the roles of members of Senate, Council, the Executive Board and so on to consider a hypothetical issue from multiple perspectives, and looked at a real paper that had been considered by the University Executive Board - reaching similar conclusions (in some cases!) to the ones the Board had actually reached.

In response to participants' requests, we also  squeezed lunch and shortened one of the exercises in order to create time for them to work on their projects, which they are developing throughout the programme.

The day closed with the Action Learning Sets that are an integral part of the whole process: and it was encouraging to hear the insights and progress many had made on the issues each has personally chosen to address.

It was a packed day, and the time flew by: energy levels were high, and I certainly learned a lot: I will be interested in participants' feedback, as always.

Tuesday 8 January 2013

Happy New Year

I always enjoy the Christmas and New Year break, and return to work full of good intentions.  However, like many, I have to work quite hard to ensure those intentions are translated into reality.  All of us will have our own strategies for that: for me what works best is often recruiting an external conscience to hold me to my resolutions, so I am lucky to have an excellent coach and coaching supervisor in Ann Bowen-Jones.

This year looks to be an exciting one: in addition to current work under my own brand with a number of universities and commercial clients, there are several collaborative projects in the pipeline which, if they materialise, will be very interesting indeed.

And I really must get that book finished...