Monthly Archives: May 2017

Manchester: how the “business as usual” workplace brings us hope from despair

Like many people this week, I found it very difficult to sleep on Tuesday night, having woken to such dreadful news from Manchester earlier in the day. I tossed and turned – and eventually gave up at 5am. So I went downstairs and turned on the radio …

I was very fortunate to tune in first to BBC 5 Live’s daily business show Wake up to Money. A special edition included a panel of Manchester business men and women talking about how the local business community can best help everyone recover following the terrible events. In fact, just listening to them talk helped. I would recommend anyone to listen again – 45 minutes later I had a much greater appreciation of the power of earthy and relentless business pragmatism in accelerating our return from despair to hope.

Those who have suffered most – and those nearest to them – of course need a whole different magnitude of time and space in which to grieve. For the rest of us, the need this week has been to work our through our collective shock, sorrow, and anger on their behalf. The Manchester business community, as represented in the BBC panel, to me represented the best possible response – a perfect alchemy of genuine empathy with the strongest sense of resilience imaginable.

Hearing them talk, it struck me that for many of us the workplace this week has been an essential forum for the recovery of our collective self-confidence. The panellists saw instinctively that every factory, shop or office in Manchester that opened as normal, every meeting or conference that went ahead as planned and every “business-as-usual” discussion that took place all accelerated a return from the depths of despair. And the workplace should never be a place to deny or suppress our emotions – heartfelt discussions with clients about the tragedy and several messages of sympathy for the city of Manchester from overseas work colleagues this week all played an important part for me in the recovery from horror.

For many of us, the “business-as-usual” workplace has been a really important place to be this week….

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Merriborn Media is a business dedicated to developing clever content, engaged online communities and effective collaborative working and learning for clients. Both Merriborn Media and its founder Trevor Merriden were ranked in the Top 3 of social learning evangelists for 2016 in a recent major study.

A football lesson for work: write down your principles & the results will follow

Three years ago, I found myself in a new role I hadn’t dreamed possible. Eleven boys of mixed ability, complete strangers to one another, were thrown together and a new Under 9s football team was born – yes, we are “The Mighty Orient”.

They needed coaches, so another Dad and I rolled up our sleeves and got to work.

Three years later ….

The headline story is that we have played around 90 games and won about 75 of them. In each season we have been promoted – and we’ve also won 2 cups along the way.

The real story, though, is MUCH more interesting. We’re very proud of our record – of course we are – but the best thing we ever did, by far, was to write down the principles by which the boys, the coaches and parents needed to abide by in order to play for “The Mighty Orient” – it’s about a page long, but below is probably the most important para….

For the boys, to win a game of football is an important source of this enjoyment – but not the only source. As coaches we will focus on our purpose ahead of the “end-product” in order to help the boys enjoy their football to the utmost.

Therefore winning to us means:-

a) developing the best in each and every player, for the benefit of the team;

b) instilling an atmosphere of mutual support within the team, and respect towards the opposition & officials;

c) win, lose or draw – a commitment to learn collectively in order to play better football together in the following game. 

The emphasis is on developing the boys ahead of winning games. But this does not preclude having a “winning mentality”; we want all the boys to have that – they enjoy winning, and so they should!

As coaches, I would give us about a 7 out of 10 so far in sticking to the above – there have been many mistakes, like thousands of amateur football coaches up and down the land, that we have made along the way. But perhaps the most interesting thing is that the parents – and sometimes the boys themselves – have at times reminded us of our own principles, when we have been in danger of losing sight of them ourselves. Our proudest achievement is that they have become as aware of the importance of principles and values as we have – and it is they who have sustained us when we have felt weak and weary.

This is a an example of a genuinely successful collaboration and sense of collective ownership here – and football coaching has taught me more about the importance of having strong values in teamwork in the workplace than any other experience.

All the research shows us that if you write down your beliefs and values, you are more likely to keep to them. And if you focus on your conduct everyday, then better results are sure to follow.

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Merriborn Media is a business dedicated to developing clever content, engaged online communities and effective collaborative working and learning for clients. Both Merriborn Media and its founder Trevor Merriden were ranked in the Top 3 of social learning evangelists for 2016 in a recent major study.

After the Big Show is over: How to make sure your brand new ideas get delivered

On Wednesday this week, I had the good fortune to attend the excellent Learning & Development Show run by the CIPD. Every year, this show is flooded with like-minded HR and L&D professionals. We are a pretty positive lot – and every year we return to our workplaces full of hope and new ideas.

Once the Big Show is over though, the equally Big Question has to be:

“What happens next?”

As somebody who writes about collaborative working and learning a LOT, for example, I’m constantly inspired by the positive impact on innovation, engagement and productivity that better collaboration brings within any organisation. But I’m also acutely aware that not everyone feels as passionately as I do.

To make real change happen in a business, therefore, we must find a way to take the cynics with us. So I’m indebted for this blog to a tweet from Paul Duxbury, a learning and development professional at the show who wrote what for me was the tweet of the conference:-

#cipdldshow whatever you encounter at the Show ask yourself “what would the most cynical member of the Board say about this?” #grounded

This is absolutely spot on – a wonderful question for everyone to test themselves against. The best innovations and the biggest differences we can achieve come through staying grounded.

“Grounded” doesn’t mean becoming cynical, sceptical or inert yourself – quite the opposite. Instead it simply means putting yourself in the shoes of the person who is most likely to oppose your initiative.

Try first to collaborate with them and to at least understand their cynicism, even if you don’t agree with it. This is the key step to modify and develop all those ideas and good intentions you bring back with you from any seminar or conference.

Even if you feel you can only go part of the way to meeting your sternest critic’s concerns, it is essential that you try. And, in the process, it also means you will be going most of the way to meeting the concerns of most of the vast majority of those whose support you need to make change happen.

So I’d love to know – when you get back from this or indeed ANY seminar, show or conference, what tactics would YOU recommend to others to make sure your new initiatives and ideas get delivered?

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Merriborn Media is a business dedicated to developing clever content, engaged online communities and effective collaborative working and learning for clients. Both Merriborn Media and its founder Trevor Merriden were ranked in the Top 3 of social learning evangelists for 2016 in a recent major study.