Friday, June 29, 2012

How I (nearly) made a client faint - and why they gave me a fruit basket afterwards

As some readers of my blog will know, a lot of what I do is supporting people and communities to realise their visions by creating new co-operative, social, or private enterprises. And I do this through various means – training courses, consultancy, beer mentoring, etc...

Recently, I’ve been working with a number of south Asian women who want to use their skills to improve the well being of families in deprived communities, but also want to work in ways that ensure people’s dignity is paramount in that process as well. They were ‘awarded’ 4 days of my life through the co-operative enterprise hub to help them to pursue and realise this, and through that time I’ve helped them develop their business model, financial plan, marketing and also to incorporate themselves as a worker co-operative. And it’s this last part that caused their ‘excitement’ – they were so sure that they would have made a mistake on their submission to companies house (they structured their worker co-op in a guarantee company form, in case you’re wondering), that when their company certificate arrived in the post, they were overcome with excitement... they told me that one of their number almost fainted! (although I’m not sure I can take all the credit for that, as it turns out that the person also had a cold at the time...)
Anyways – they were so impressed with how I’ve supported and encouraged them over these few days, that at my last session with them this morning, they produced a fruit basket as a traditional means of expressing their thanks for all I’ve done with them over the last couple of months. And I’m very touched – normally, at the end of supporting an individual or group, there’s the awkward handshake and assurances about keeping in touch, but this felt really nice – so  thank you Access Alpha Ltd of Burnley, and may the universe reciprocate your generosity many times over.

(NB – i’m also partial to cake, beer and donughts in case any other clients I’m supporting are thinking of finding ways to thank me...)

Friday, June 8, 2012

a square peg in a round hole...

common purpose logo
Earlier this week I took the opportunity to spend a morning hanging out with fellow graduates of Common Purpose programmes in the North West (Common Purpose is an international charity that encourages people to develop leadership skills so that they can have more impact and generally make the work a more groovy and lovelier place for everyone).

 Having blagged my way onto two Common Purpose programmes over the years (renew NW and Local Links), I’m of the view that I don’t readily confirm to their (or most other peoples’) view of what a ‘leader’ is – everyone who usually participates in their programmes are employees and have responsibilities for other staff – I work as a freelancer and am usually the person being controlled by lots of other people...

But that’s OK because whilst immersing myself into the Common Purpose world hasn’t helped me to develop and enhance my leadership skills (on reflection I’ve felt that what they’ve encouraged people to embrace I already have quite a lot of already), it has and does give me some great opportunities to not only meet fantastic people, but also critically reflect on my own working practices and philosophies from perspectives and contexts I would have otherwise missed. As a freelancer, most of my ‘natural’ networking opportunities are with fellow sole traders and consultant-types - Common Purpose is very good at bringing a disparate group of people together to openly talk about the various challenges we face and how we can manage and resolve our fears in how we might best address them.

Adrian Ashton - square peg in a round hole
Common Purpose advocates and encourages you to take responsibility for ideas that would normally be seen to be outside of your role. I’ve always done that – but being part of the Common Purpose tribe has meant that I’ve been able to better reflect on how when I’ve done so I’ve been developing my own leadership, influencing and supporting skills and intelligences – its led me to realise that I’m very often a square peg in a round hole, but that this is usually a good thing to be.