Why A Workshop?
One of the most overlooked issues that organisations face is the challenge of introspection and insularity. Over my twenty year career, I’ve encountered organisations doing amazing things who really don’t realise how much more progressive they are than their competitors; I’ve also encountered organisations that think they’re far more progressive than they actually are.
It’s always hard to get an accurate picture of yourself, and, unless you’re into industrial espionage, even harder to work out what your competitors are doing (rightly or wrongly).
That’s why bringing in an ‘outsider’ can be such a positive experience. A good one will have a far better contextual perspective on how you measure up to your competitors. Broader insights as to the possibilities for you. And, above all, can ask the questions those on the inside might be too reticent to ask.
But the real power of a workshop, if delivered in the right way, is that it provides a different type of forum for people to come together, share ideas, get to know each other better, think about things from different points of view and (hopefully) get inspired and stimulated by the experience.
For me, a workshop is never an opportunity to show I have all the answers. For me, my job is to provide a risk-free forum where everyone feels they can contribute; the right stimulus to encourage debate; and, of course, to be well-prepared enough to ask the right questions.
As well as the workshops outlined on this site, as I pride myself on my ability to be inventive around problem-solving (this is, after all, what I’ve built my career on), I am also available, in consultation with my clients, to develop tailor-made sessions around any given theme or problem.
Culture: The Power of Cult in Workplace Culture
Every 21st Century business, to maintain its survival edge, needs a compelling narrative.
Those that do this best, that create an almost cult-like sense of belief, of possibilities, of meaning and community, do this by utilising the framework and tools of religious systems: there is a master text, outlining values and behaviours (commandments, if you will) – the promise of redemption, if followed; the threat of excommunication, if not).
There are rituals and holidays that bring the community together (everything from Friday night beers to the annual Christmas party). There are places of worship, of counsel, of study.
And, it is through these activities, and the connections between them, that turn a ‘brand’ into a living culture – that turn a story into an experience; that turn an organisation into a destination; that turn an employee into an evangelist.
It’s easy to create a cult-like culture when the going is good; tougher in tough times. But those that can weather the storm in these volatile times are buoyed by their investment in the brand, steeled by their belief in the culture. They can adapt. They can survive.
This workshop is designed for business leaders who are responsible for defining, communicating and living an organisation’s culture – and designed to inspire ideas as to how bring your story to life.
Creativity: Creating Disruption & Generating New Ideas
Defining creativity is a challenge for a lot of people – creative ‘types’ are seen as ‘other’ and deemed to be found solely in specific creative fields, but creativity has nothing to do with the ability to use certain tools and everything to do with the ability to use one’s imagination.
Anyone, in any field, is capable of creativity, of original thought, particularly if they are able to remove their self-imposed barriers to exploring the unknown and fears of being vulnerable.
To do this, we can learn some lessons from our hard-wired, out and proud creative types, as described by psychologist Frank X. Barron:
“The common traits that people across all creative fields seemed to have in common were an openness to one’s inner life; a preference for complexity and ambiguity; an unusually high tolerance for disorder and disarray; the ability to extract order from chaos; independence; unconventionality; and a willingness to take risks.”
Designed to be as interactive as possible, my aim when running this workshop is to help the audience explore their feelings around their own creativity, think about how the environments they operate within are conducive to encouraging creativity (or not, as the case may be), and to give practical advice on developing a creative culture at work.
Diversity: Myths of Otherness
Post-Brexit, this is a vital time to be talking about issues of diversity, inclusion, prejudice and presumptions about others in the workplace. In the midst of division and tension, it’s imperative we help people have those difficult conversations. It’s imperative we remind ourselves there is more that unites than divides us; that we all feel ‘different’ in one way or another, and, in that, we’re all the same.
One of the biggest failings of many D&I initiatives has been to pull focus purely on minority groups, leaving the male, pale and stale population feeling ignored, marginalised and, in many ways, defensive. And, because a minority of this group tend to be the ones in power, that defensiveness has been detrimental to the wholesale adoption of inclusive working practices.
Exploring conscious and unconscious bias, the mutability of language, the feelings behind movements such as #AllLivesMatter, #WhiteHistoryMonth and #HeterosexualPrideDay, and the casual ‘isms’ contained in micro-gestures and mispronouncing others’ names, the core aim of this workshop is to help others learn how to open up the conversation, excluding no one.
The lesson is not to stifle the conversation or pretend it’ll go away, but to guide it to enable deeper understanding and connections within a working community.
Discourse: The Meeting vs A Meeting of Minds
Time and again, research indicates that most people at work find meetings a waste of time. In an increasingly automatised world, it’s a travesty that our human interactions at work are deemed so futile.
So, why don’t meetings serve as a meeting of minds? Key themes to explore here are the actions of individuals (self promotion, dishonesty for fear of exposure, the use of smoke-screening jargon, a lack of anything to contribute, the challenges of introversion and extroversion); the workplace culture itself (blame culture, lack of preparation and purpose, lack of communication); and the structure of meetings from an operational point of view (timeliness, leadership, focus).
So, how could meetings work better?
Ideas to explore here are around the Kaizen philosophy of ‘checking in’; visualisation tools; creating space for reflection; the need for clarity in terms of the agenda (what is the purpose of the meeting – information giving or discovery, brainstorming or planning); technology amnesties to bring focus; pre-prepared elements for introverts/reflectors/those who don’t think well on their feet; the power of venue; the power of asking the stupid question.
Designed to be as interactive as possible (as every meeting should be), my aim when running this workshop is to encourage the audience to share their experiences and to, collectively, define what makes a great meeting.