Sharing joy and knowledge from an ordinary life

Investing Time in Development Part 1- Ideas Meetings

December of 2015 not only meant a new job for me but also a new city, a new house and staff to line manage for the first time.

The line management aspect of my role has meant that I’ve encountered a great deal of expected and unexpected challenges, joys and experiences. I’m still learning all that I might be able to offer as a leader of my team but one thing I felt from the start that I might be pretty good at was our development.

In my previous job, the more than fabulous curriculum coordinator for the sixth form, Liz Lang, helped to launch a CPD offer for business support staff, before continuing it with a variety of events, initiatives and workshops. The main challenges we always faced were that the same people always contributed. Where were the rest? It became increasingly apparent that even staff who were interested in participating had been prevented from participating by their managers. What were the reasons? There was too much work to be done. They were far too busy. The time couldn’t be spared and ultimately, it was felt and stated that development wasn’t what their staff should be spending their time on- they needed to focus on doing their job well.

As anyone who knows me will be well aware, I’m of the ethos that if a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. To do a job well, I’ll certainly need to dedicate my time to it. To continue doing it well, I’ll also need to learn new skills, knowledge and engage with alternative perspectives. The thing is, that also takes time and with the best will in the world, if I don’t dedicate time to it then it just doesn’t happen. An investment in myself must be made. But this investment has many more benefits besides just helping me to do my job well: it helps me to be happier at work and this feeling should never be underestimated or viewed as a ‘desirable’ rather than an ‘essential’.

I have long since been a proponent for staff engaging with their development and taking ownership but their managers can be integral to this. I don’t believe that staff can feel empowered to invest time in their own development unless their leader invests in their own development AND actively encourages staff to set aside time for their development too.

My new job meant I had a business support team in front of me and I certainly wasn’t going to waste the opportunity. When it came to development, I wanted to demonstrate the importance of investing in yourself by sharing my own learning experiences and by making sure that time was set aside for us to learn together.

One of the ways we’ve achieved this is through our ideas meetings.

In these Friday afternoon meetings, I share a video or blog that will encourage reflection and that would hopefully lead to the emergence of new ideas and solutions. We spend some time in the week (whatever time we committed to putting aside) to engage with the resource and make some notes for discussion. What drives our notes is always, ‘What is interesting?’ but also- ‘How might this interesting thing translate to us, our work, our team? What might we do differently now?’ During our meeting, we share reflections before moving to the possibilities. We don’t always firm up future actions but, quite often, we do. For the purposes of writing this blog and sharing what we’ve been doing, I asked both Chris and Helen to make a few short statements to summarise their main thoughts about each of the resources we explored.

Simon Sinek: Start with Why

What was interesting?

Chris: ‘The Limbic brain reference was very interesting, made sense of why gut reactions happen and are often right! Using ‘Why’ is a powerful way of making sense of what we are asking staff to do for training and other purposes and also in the wider areas of your life.’

Helen: ‘The WHY concept. Why gut reactions happen and why it’s often the right decision Using WHY in everything we do (NLP).’

How has your learning been applied already?

Chris: ‘Staff Development is now using the ‘Why’ concept in all communications to staff, which is having a very noticeable positive effect.’

Helen:Incorporated the WHY concept in messages to staff. Using the ‘WHY’ to encourage staff to take ownership of their own training/learning. Return rate of evaluations drastically improved since we told staff ‘WHY’.

We can’t totally measure the impact of adding the ‘why’ YET but there are some really positive indicators so far:

  • Our new staff who have accepted an invitation to the next induction has gone up by more than 50% since we added the why
  • Our evaluations used to trickle in when we sent out reminders until we added a why and we’ve made a leap of more than 100 evaluations across the college- increasing our % of development activities evaluated by 10%
  • We sent out reminders about essentials training without a why and received 25 in return. We added a why and in the week that followed, we received 73.

How might you apply your learning in the future?

Chris: ‘It has made such an impression on the way I think, that I am conscious whenever ‘Why’ crops up. It makes me question how I approach my role and how I communicate with people – ‘Why’ am I making the request?’

Helen: ‘Continue to incorporate the WHY in Staff Development. Question WHY I do things, how I do them and when I do them.’


#ldcuk16- Unconference

Click here to access this blog

What was interesting?

Chris: ‘A completely different way of viewing a conference. A way of making the day fun and meeting new people. I thought the laws were interesting: being given permission to not to have to stay and listen to conversations that were of no value to you or boring. Would be interesting to do a Development Day around this theme.’

Helen: ‘The whole concept of no agenda/structure; just basic rules to work by for the duration. Icebreaker of creating your own name badges. Make your own breakfast!’

How might you apply your learning in the future?

Chris: ‘Could be a Development Day activity or for teams to use for the Local Day. Cross College teams sharing information/best practice.’

Helen: ‘Possible Development day activity Team/department activity. Circulate to other teams/departments throughout the college.’


David Weston- Unleashing Greatness in Teachers

Click here to view this video

What was interesting?

Chris: ‘David Weston made the subject interesting and inspiring. Gave clear guidelines of how to develop trust from learners. This was interesting even from a non-academic perspective.’

Helen: ‘All of it!! Insightful commentary, made the talk interesting to listen to. Spoke in such a way a non-academic could understand the concept.’

How has your learning been applied already?

Chris: ‘Problem solving for myself and others. Collaborating and working together as a team. Understanding (Google a bit more!)’

Helen: ‘Looked for new ideas to use within the team (add-ons for Docs/Sheets/Forms etc like Autocrat, Choice eliminator etc). Frequent collaboration within the team and colleagues in another department (asking Online College for assistance when needed). Problem solving – working to find solutions (not giving up when trying to find the correct formulae in Google sheets). Understanding/Diagnosing (Google).’

How might you apply your learning in the future?

Chris: ‘Look at future CPD for both staff and myself to encourage knowledge and perception to make a skilful working life more joyful.’

Helen: ‘Future CPD opportunities for self and staff to increase knowledge and skills in job role which in turn increases the spirit and joy in practice.’


Daniel Pink- The Puzzle of Motivation

Click here to view this video

What was interesting?

Chris: ‘The candle problem was interesting as was the fact that rewards narrow your thinking and hinder creative thinking. Engagement is better for creative thinking (self-direction). FedEx day – deliver something overnight was an interesting concept. Interesting that staff are trusted to use their 20% time constructively.’

Helen: ‘Mis-match between ‘what science knows and what business does’. The candle problem (blinkered view), which can inhibit your problem solving processes / way of thinking. Incentives / rewards – narrow the focus and restricts possibilities. Management was invented. Engagement – self-directed (take away rewards but give recognition. If/then rewards destroy creativity.’

What did you agree / disagree with?

Chris: ‘Management -vs- Engagement? Better to do things because you believe in them than to be directed. Agree that carrot/stick method is outdated and that 20% time would be more productive.’

Helen: ‘Agreed: 20% time – self directed = increased creativity and productivity. Carrot/stick method outdated – Motivators/incentives should be tailored to staff/department rather than the organisation as a whole.’

How has your learning been applied already?

Chris: ‘20% time – for reviewing the videos and collating findings. For making use of the concepts discussed.’

Helen: ‘20% time thinking up new concepts in order to assist the smooth running of the department and provide robust information for other teams.’

How might you apply your learning in the future?

Chris: ‘By using self-direction and the 20% time to review working practice and how we approach training and the implementation of new ideas for staff.’

Helen: ‘Continue 20% time.’


Rinsing the cottage cheese: making CPD meaningful

Click here to read this blog

What did you agree / disagree with?

Chris: ‘Disagreed – with rinsing the cottage cheese, it is too indiscriminate – takes out the best bits as well as the worst. Staff who just do not want to be involved seem to be missed out – should the ‘Why’ be part of addressing this?’

Helen: ‘Agreed; One size fits all does not work. Disagreed: Layered approach does not capture everyone.’

What are the next steps for our ideas meetings?stairs-man-person-walking.jpg

A review of the format and frequency and perhaps a change of name too.

Last term, Chris and Helen had already begun to share find of the own and this will be sure to continue as it contributes to my learning too; taking ME away from things I would ordinarily encounter, and you know what they say about your comfort zone, learning’s best when you’re out of it.

I’d like to incorporate some live hangouts with writers of blogs, creators of videos and thought leaders so that we can question them and interact with their ideas more directly.


How about you?

If you’re a member of staff who isn’t supported by your manager to engage in your own development then get proactive:

  1. Share this blog with your manager as well as some of the research into the importance of CPD: click here for some links. State how valuable your CPDis to you, the team and your work.
  2. Bring along interesting things you’ve found to your team meetings and instigate some discussion yourself.
  3. Send interesting materials to your manager and colleagues; sharing your ideas and you’ll begin with connecting with like-minded individuals.
  4. Arrange your own lunchtime sharing groups with colleagues.
  5. If all else fails then raise the issue with your staff development department and/or a senior leader for some support.

If you’re a manager (business support or otherwise) and you’d like to try ideas meetings for your team:

  • Integrate the activity as part of a meeting you already hold.
  • If meetings are difficult then why not create an online community and share resources there?
  • Allocate the responsibility for finding a resource to a different staff member each time.

A rather wise person (Ian Grace, Motor Vehicle Lecturer) once recommended this really great book to me and here’s a little quote from it:

typorama (1)

My writing commitment: I’m learning to honour my thoughts. I’m learning that my words can be shared before I’ve connected all the dots or learned everything there is to know. My writing can be a snapshot of a single moment in continually-evolving time.

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A Grand Day Out

I’m a fan of Wallace and Gromit. A big fan. I love cheese and I have a grin a little like Wallace’s when I’m really