Thu 14 January

Every so often, do you have a day when several things happen that you just know are going to have a far fetching impact, and leave you reflecting for some time to come? Luckily for me, yesterday was one of those.
As I live in Weston-super-Mare, I always think carefully about the time it takes to get to London versus the benefit of what I’ll be doing when I get there. So, working backwards form the CIPD Leaders in Learning evening networking event, I arranged to meet with a small group of other new or newish independent HR, L&D, OD consultants, or maybe I should say folk whose business is all about developing people? I also arranged to meet a great friend (and former boss) for lunch.

The day met and greatly exceeded my expectations, but started with disappointment. My friend was ill, so he had to cancel. What to do instead? We’re meeting in Victoria later, so how about Tate Britain? So off I went for a wander round. Normally in an Art Gallery, I just explore, get lost in the cavernous building and end up seeing the same works over and over again as I look for the café. And I love Art. So this time, I did something new (thinking about one of the suggestions on Doug Shaw’s Stop Doing Dumb Things cards.) I joined a guided tour and loved every moment. To my delight, we started with David Hockney’s ‘Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy’ (who was actually called Blanche).

Just when I thought I could not get any more reflective about things that influenced me when I was a teenager (I’ve been listening a lot to Bowie’s early albums this week), I was transported back to our A Level Art London trip. The wonderful and indomitable Mrs Westwood took us. There was only one Tate then and we were introduced for the first time to Modern Art. This painting was one of the ones I remember the most vividly, along with the Rothko room, which is now at the Tate Modern. She also took us to her husband’s exhibition (he is an acclaimed bronze sculptor) and to Zandra Rhodes’ shop. 

It was probably only the 2nd time I’d been to London and certainly the first time I had ever used the Underground. Hearing from our very knowledgeable guide this time, lots of detail about the painting and its meaning was marvellous. How often, to my shame, have I looked in only a cursory way at really wonderful paintings in the recent past? Yet, I have studied Art and know how to look beyond the surface. Great to be reminded of this buried skill.

We also looked properly at Henry Moore sculptures, Francis Bacon mouths, Ben Nicholson’s white relief on white (seriously minimalist) and several more.
This is an experience I will be repeating.

Then I met up with a great bunch of people, some of whom I know via Twitter only and one or two who I have met before in real life. We met because three of us have only just started out in our own business and we are keen to share ideas and support each other. The others are already successful consultants, who are highly respected, but still willing to help. I can barely believe I have been fortunate enough to become connected with this group. In a relaxed environment we talked about what we want to do, and don’t want to do, why we are where we are now – in other words we shared our stories. A couple of the topics I found really useful were:
Blogging. How often? Regularly or as inspiration strikes? Which platform? Optimum time to share? How many times to share without boring the pants off your followers? Guess what? The platforms we discussed are similar re user friendliness and glitches and there is no optimum time. It’s all about the quality of the writing.
What kind of work to specialise in. I wasn’t the only one to have received conflicting advice that being general and versatile is a good thing, or the absolute opposite, that it is better to have a niche and a USP. Guess what? This will evolve over time. The ‘product’ (for want of a better word) is you, the ‘consultant’ (again for want of a better word) your knowledge, skills, behaviour, application to the work etc. It’s all about the relationship.

I now have the dates for LnD co-work in my diary for the next few months. I am also off to the LnD unconference in February, which I had planned anyway. Details here I had been feeling some trepidation about these – that ridiculous imposter syndrome / I am not worthy / everyone else knows much more than me type of rubbish I think we all feel sometimes, and should quash immediately. I have been well and truly put right about that, and feel lucky that via CIPD Leaders in Learning and Twitter, we don’t need to be alone, even working in our own individual businesses. The opportunities to meet up, share ideas, support each other, or just to turn up and work in a shared space alongside each other are there for the asking.
This is an experience I will be repeating.

Then we went to Leaders in Learning where the topic was recent benchmarking from Towards Maturity on what leading organisations are doing to via their approach to learning to improve business performance, individuals and L&D teams themselves. I’ve already got a copy of the report Embracing Change, Link here to presentation, but still enjoyed our group discussions, which ranged from how to get business leaders on board (many already are of course) to how to develop or ‘modernise’ ourselves as L&D ‘practitioners’. I’ve deliberately used two contentious words there… My only regret about the evening was that due to having to get a train home, I had to rush off and so I could not catch up with a few familiar faces. I then experienced Circle line anxiety – was it like this even when it did operate as an actual circle? (I am long past the use of the Underground as a novelty in any way shape or form.) 

I boarded my train at Paddington, heart beating ten to the dozen, with one minute to spare. (Not sure of the provenance of this picture, but it sure felt like the Circle could not be much slower last night!)
This is an experience I hope I will not be repeating. (Cutting it fine for a train, not Leaders in Learning!)

So, in every way that matters, what a fabulous day. I look forward to many more like this.


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