As always, it was supposed to be straightforward.
But, as always, it's turned out to be by turns shocking, touching, encouraging, worrying, and more...
And no, it's nothing to do with Covid-19, but my biennial 360 degree feedback, that I introduced 7 years ago as part of the CPD* framework I've created for myself.
Every 2 years (or so) I invite a selection of collaborators, clients, contacts, and other non-carefully selected characters to tell me what they really think about me.
But rather than open the flood gates to emails and messages that will leave me in need of therapy and extended counselling (as often seems to be the case in 360 degree appraisal processes), I only ask 1 question.
This single question approach has always seemed to go down well with people in the past - asking what my 'super power', and 'niche' is; what picture comes to mind when people think of me; and this time: how would people introduce me?
There's always a reason behind my choice of questions, and this one about introductions is based on a university enterprise start-up session I ran a little while back.
In the run up to the starting time, the course leader asked me how I'd liked to be introduced? To which I glibly replied - well, they don't know anything about me, so you can say whatever you'd like. Which they took as a challenge, and promptly cued me in as a 'pole dancing lion tamer'. (I don't know what it says about either their students, or what type of other speakers they usually get in, but no-one batted an eyelid or looked surprised at this).
As an immediate learning point, I then started to use this approach at meetings I'm invited to - at the start when everyone goes around the table to say who they are (which is usually understood by at least 1 person as a demand for them to recount their life story and impress everyone with all the great responsibilities they now have in their role), when it comes to me, I ask someone who's there who knows me (in some capacity) to cue me in. And it's not for laziness, but actually an easy way to test my branding and understand how I'm being perceived and understood by different people in different places.
So this time, the survey question to people was "how would you introduce me? (at either a networking event, parliamentary reception, cocktail party, or bail hearing...)"
And as in previous cycles, some people re-interpreted the question (which I'd always encourage), to include new hashtags about me (which now brings the total number of tags other people have created to describe on social media to 4!); stylistic delivery of how they'd deliver the introduction; and a range of short and sweet (9 words) to rousing speeches (142 words).
In trying to make sense of what messages seemed to come out of this about me, I tried a word cloud approach.
Interestingly this showed not only the sorts of things I do that people like to talk about:
but also the way in which I act and conduct myself when I'm working with people:
But a word cloud doesn't do well at pulling out the recurring sentiments that people are sharing.
All of the responses are recreated in full are below (and just as in previous cycles, anonymised to protect people's embarrassment). And I think that reading through them, the messages that come about about my 'brand' and why people like working with me are:
1) I'm not 'traditional' - people like my being unconventional, and bringing new approaches and ideas. Not all of which may always be comfortable, but they will mean there's a better result at the end of the work.
2) I make things easier for people: be it understanding what might seem an overwhelmingly complex issue, or helping them see there's a different (easier) way of coming at it.
But so what? Well, this all helps reassure me that how I'm putting myself out there to do what I do is still largely working (in that people enjoy it and want to talk about it - either that, or they think people should be warned about me...?). And it also cements something that came out of a similar '1 question' in a previous cycle of this, which is that people find I can help them simplify things to a point where they're comfortable to take it on.
All responses received in full:
"When I was
founding XXXXX, 23 years ago, a Chief Executive #Founder of another social enterprise said to me
"Forget about mission, objectives and plan - what are the values of this
new organisation - they'll last longer" They lasted quite a while. Today,
I'd like to introduce you to someone who is not only a multi-award-winning
business adviser and facilitator but someone who measures his impact daily
against his values. Adrian's values will last forever. He can be zany, funny,
creative and always deeply thoughtful but you'll buy his services, particularly
as a social enterprise or charity, for his total professionalism underpinned by
these values. It makes the buying decision easy, what you see is what you get
and that is why Adrian is always in demand - top advice, training and
facilitation underpinned by values you can see and touch. "Here's a guy
you can go to for looking at problems or issues from a perspective you may not
have thought of or from" #AlternativeAdrian
gifted genius who turns complexity into simplicity. “
"This is Adrian.
He will ask you awkward yet very useful questions".
“This is Adrian, he is our mentor and a great
source of knowledge. He is helping us on a wide range of business strategy and
governance support as we transition from a community group into a charity and
alter our focus. He can be a little bit ‘out there’ at times but because he
really listens and considers his advice before imparting his wisdom to you –
you feel re-assured and that he is trustworthy. I’m really enjoying working
with him and feel like he is a member of our team. He is incredibly patient and
tries to make work more fun. I think you’ll like him.”
“This is Adrian
Ashton, you have come here today to hear a talk which will help you with your
business. Be prepared! It is not what you expect, or the way you expect this
sort of a talk. But I am sure that it will help you!!”
charismatic fountain of knowledge, about organisational structure and strategy.
Mainly academic, public bodies and not for profit.”