Kellow Learning is a value-led organisation, I am a value-led person, and most of my career choices have come about because I want to be helpful. What matters most deeply to me is whether or not I am making a difference to people’s lives. Here are some of the things that I consider most important when I am working with people, communities and organisations.
I believe that identifying the right questions to ask is more difficult than finding the answers. It’s good to be curious. Curiosity didn’t kill the cat. As the recent Saville affair has shown, lack of curiosity at the top of the BBC led to bad decision-making and weak leadership. That’s why I think it is important to consider the ‘unknown unknowns’, and to always ask ‘What if?”, “How would it be?”, and “Is there anything else happening here that we need to consider?”
Learning and having fun
“We are learning and we are having fun.”
This is what a young Vietnamese woman said to me on a leadership and climate change programme. Capturing what we had learned in the middle of a creative exercise, she came up to me with a big smile and declared, ‘We are learning and we are having fun’. This meant a great deal to me, not only because she felt she had learned something, but also because she had discovered for herself the importance of having fun. Even better, she wanted to share her discovery with me!
“If you want to go fast go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Partnership is about collaboration and learning together. Whether I am facilitating, training or coaching, I like to work collaboratively. I strongly believe in the power of social and organisational learning, where people from different sectors, communities, organisations, and departments within organisations come together to create lasting change. In my experience, the value of cross-cultural, cross sector partnerships is that they create opportunities to discover and co-create solutions together. The most successful programmes that I have run are the ones where learners from different parts of an organisation or community experience a shift from feeling either disconnected or in competition, to the realisation that, together, they make a highly competent team. My specialism is creating powerful learning alliances that keep on learning together, once the programme is over.
“Change occurs when one becomes what one is, not when he tries to become what he is not”, The Paradoxical Theory of Change, Arnold Beisser, 1970
Authenticity is key to creating trust with individuals and groups, and once there is trust, people are far more willing to step out of their comfort zone and to take risks. I try to be authentic, whether I am coaching or facilitating. I try to be as open as possible with participants from the start. I behave the way I want other people to behave towards me. I do my best to walk the talk.
Being oneself isn’t always easy, and depending on the context it may not be appropriate to tell all. I believe that we have multiple identities, and part of being a leader is the ability to adapt one’s behaviour in different situations and contexts. That’s why knowing who we are, and being authentic, is key to creating change.
“Human development is about much more than the rise and fall of national incomes. It is about creating an environment where people can develop their full potential, and lead productive, creative lives in accord with their needs and interests.” UNDP Website 2006
Sustainable and sustainability are over used words that mean different things to different people. Sustainable Learning for me is about sharing knowledge and experience as widely as possible, and giving people tools and techniques that they can take away and use after the formal learning is over. I believe in holding learning lightly: this means not clinging to concepts and models, but learning to give them away. Sustainable learning also means encouraging people to be more curious; to seek solutions to their challenges and dilemmas within themselves, and to help others to do the same.
Honesty is the best policy. If I can’t give you what you are looking for, I will say so, and I will recommend someone who can.