What happens when you have a carnival of chats?

So yesterday was the day I had my day of chats. I’m setting out to figure out how I make this freelance, independent consultant gig thing work, and I’m mindful that traditional business networking just isn’t my thing. I’m not a salesperson and I don’t enjoy only seeking out to fulfil an agenda. I believe in open practice, transparency of thinking and thoughtful dialogue. I don’t think that can happen unless there’s a human connection taking place. If, as a result, business happens, opportunities arise, or something unexpectedly positive takes a turn, I’m glad to have been a part of that. I don’t think you can make serendipidity happen, but if you create the right environment for good things to happen, then you’re more likely to see that good things have happened.

I didn’t know what to expect from these chats. I was clear from the outset that this was me just taking some time to connect with people, and that those 15 mins were completely open to whatever discussion could take place. In pretty much every case, we went over the 15 mins, and that’s ok, cos I accounted for the human factor in this experiment. People like to talk, and once you’re having a chat, it’s hard to just stop because you’re allowed time has passed, so I accounted for that to happen.

I started the day talking with Michelle Parry-Slater. We talked about the importance of self care and how although some people are attuned to it as a concept, it’s still alien to many. We wondered if it was a factor of age and life experience that taught us that it becomes more important. Does a 20 something who is by normal standards healthy, care about self care? Do they need to? We also spoke about how important is to trust your team members to do what they need, but as a manager, sometimes you have to tell people to just stop, to down tools and to go home.

I’ve been connected with Darryl Howes for a while, but we never really actually connected. It was fascinating to hear about his work he does coaching and mentoring university leavers to develop their networking skills and how to present themselves well for businesses. He was kind enough to offer his support to me in the hope that he could help me achieve my aims. That was mighty kind.

Izabela Dobrowolska is someone who saw my post on LinkedIn and wanted to find out more about my experiment. It was fun chatting to her about my work experience and what I’ve learned works well when it comes to talking to business leaders about personal development and leadership development programmes. I forget that others are finding their way through these things, and there are plenty of very wise practitioners out there who are seasoned in how to help business leaders understand the language of L&D.

It was great to learn more about Jayne Harrison and her insights into the life of an independent consultant were brilliant. Particularly important for me was the temptation that you have to fight with yourself over the potential to do lots of work at the expense of living at the pace you escaped corporate life for. Her humour was fab too and brought some fab joy to the day.

An unexpected highlight of the day was to catch up with Broc Edwards. Broc is an old school HR blogger from Texas, USA, and it was great to reconnect with him. He’s the kind of guy who has proper war stories to share about what it’s like to deliver L&D interventions, dealing with politics in all manners, and has the experience of an independent consultant to draw on from too. He’s well clued up on a lot of organisational effectiveness type stuff, and it was great to just be in his presence again, albeit via a dodgy Skype connection. Sorry, Broc. Oh and it was an unexpected highlight because Broc’s been quiet on the social media front for a while, so it was lovely to see that he’d signed up to take part in this day with me.

If you ever want to talk to someone who manifests their own Twitter bio where they describe the self as a ‘Tigger type’, then Mark Gilroy is certainly your man. I have a lot of time for Mark, he kind of just oozes positivity without doing a lot. It might be his beard, but mostly it’s his humility and good humour. He also gave me the kindest internet gift over ever received right here…


I got to learn a bit more about how our civil service provides learning and development opportunities to its staff by talking with Helen van Ameyde. She and I agreed that with all the talk of technology for learning and providing short bite size learning, there is still a lot of value in bringing people together face to face. We discussed how allowing for those human connections to be cultivated is what drives team cohesion and feeling like you’re part of a bigger thing. We also discussed how the purpose of an icebreaker is to just give people a chance to create those human connections with others who they might normally just have a business relationship with.

I ended the day talking with Melissa Venner and she asked me some great questions about practical L&D stuff. We talked about how to measure learning and performance, and those who know me know that I don’t believe we can ever truly measure the impact of learning solutions because there are just too many variables that we can’t account for when it comes to business performance. However, I did talk about Julian Stodd’s concept of scaffolded learning and how if a company chooses to go down that path, you’re probably in a stronger position to be able to measure the efficacy of the learning solution because it’s an intrinsic part of business process, not just an adjunct of the business. I also advocated quite heavily for Looop as an e-learning solution. I don’t get anything for doing that, I truly believe that they’re onto something which will challenge and change what e-learning looks and feels like.

And that was my days of chats, a real and excellent carnival. It’s something which I’ll be reflecting on further because there was so much goodwill from people that I’m just enjoying that for a moment. It’s certainly one of those activities where you know you’ve had to invest in your time to do it. I’ll probably try it again later in the year depending on how this independent consultant gig thing goes. For now, I’m really grateful for everyone who could take part in today. It’s been an ace experiment, and an ace experience too.

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