Skills for collaborative change
Which skills do you feel most confident and comfortable with?
I feel most comfortable with creatively facilitating spaces for people to initiate change, imagining different ways of tackling issues to help people test & iterate solutions and mobilising resources or skills towards a common cause.
What do these look like in your day to day work?
I creatively facilitate spaces for people to collaborate to initiate change through being asked to scope a new programme, strategy or activity — from a one off activity to an ongoing cohort . I come up with ideas that look outside my own organisation for alternatives when I’m asked to respond to a challenge — i.e. an urgent issue the council needs to deal with or putting in building blocks for longer term change — or invited to comment or review a project someone else is running. That will often translate as not just ideas on solutions to the problem, but more so methods and levers to help bring people together to test & iterate ways to tackle it. I mobilise resources or skills towards a common cause through identifying people in my team who’ve got skills that can tackle the challenge and disrupt it positively in how we respond to it, people in other services who will have the insights & data and connections to people with lived experience of that issue as well as partners with new types of skills we can bring to the issue.
How do they benefit your daily work?
These skills give me energy and a sense of purpose, and they hopefully help people think differently about tackling an issue — particularly if they’ve had to work on it before — and how they work with others — valuing each other’s skills, being clear on what they can bring to the table and being creative in how they test out solutions to the issue. They also diversify who is on the team to open up new perspectives and create new relationships that can last beyond the project.
Have you hidden strengths? Ones you have but don’t make use of in your current role. Why is that?
Using creative or even artistic techniques to help people tackle issues which I’ve used in my spare time, helping run festivals, caravan tours or documentaries, and bringing together unusual suspects through the other communities I’m part of, like performers, designers, makers, market traders to imagine and enact different ways of testing solutions. I used to make use of them more, but I’ve found the more people I manage and the more responsibilities I’ve had to influence change, the more I’ve focused (or been asked to focus) on creating organisational or borough-wide platforms for change but negotiating with senior leaders that might compromise on my own creativity to ensure it works for the majority, and having less time to create and make creative methods for the problems I have to tackle now.
Name one action you could take to address this?
Block out time in my diary to think creatively, focus on organisations & people who can bring these creative skills and invite them into our projects and share examples of how these have been used before and elsewhere to help tackle issues and test out new ways to bring about change.
Which skills do you feel less comfortable performing, or least enjoy?
I feel least comfortable getting people to report on activity in traditional and linear ways or of coordinating programmes where everything is mapped out from start to finish.
Why do you feel this way about these skills?
I get easily bored with this way of working because it doesn’t give space for thinking differently or being able to flex to changes or people’s ideas and because I can already envisage what will happen, I’m not energised to respond to challenges, which often spark my creativity.
In what way do you feel this weaker skill negatively affects your work?
I get asked to do it in my role and it takes up more energy to get motivated at coordinating reporting and I don’t think as to how I can improve it or how to get other people involved because I can’t see how I can motivate them to use their skills, and so I end up not doing the task as well. Think it also creates a perception that that is the type of task a strategy team do (see here how we actually work), which I don’t think is and should be, nor does it interest me.
Which do you feel most keen to develop, and why?
I would like to focus more on articulating the benefit of the way my team works, the methods we use to initiate & deliver change and the impacts of the projects we run, translating those into persuasive examples and articulating a vision for what they can achieve. I need to prioritise investing more time in these activities, whether through capturing & packing up stories to tell, or developing different visual formats — videos & show & tells — to convey these.
I need to also to invest more time in building momentum throughout a project not just at the start, particularly when there are setbacks or failures. I’m relatively resilient when it comes to things not going as planned and can flex to change whether that’s a constraint on the project or something that hasn’t worked, but sometimes this comes across as not staying focused on the objective and instead “lighting another fire”.
What is one action you could take to develop this skill?
Supporting my team to plan in “show & tells” and investing in articulating the benefit of a project before, during and after, as well as learning from others on how you sustain momentum when you’ve moved the project into business as usual.
What skills do you feel most or least comfortable with, which would you most like to develop?