Monday, 29 October 2018

Branded Social

Last Saturday, I facilitated a couple of social media workshops at the Sussex CIPD branch Student Employability Skills Conference at the Jurys Inn Hotel in Brighton.

The focus was on helping the talented, emerging HR practitioners currently studying for their CIPD HR qualifications, as well as the more mature practitioners keen to explore and develop their knowledge and understanding of social media in their practice, on developing their professional and personal 'brand' via social channels.

My own professional life has been transformed and enriched by my interactions with others via Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube etc. and they have become an essential part of my own personal learning network (PLN).

As you would expect, I used these tools themselves in the lead up to, during and after (the 'tail') of the conference. In the two workshops on the day (a morning and an afternoon rerun), we played with them and discussed practicalities, everyone's different experiences, collectively answered and reassured ourselves about some of the perceived negative aspects of 'showing up' in public, and some practical advice about operating safely and within/despite corporate social media policies and guidelines. I was very impressed by the openness and insights of the attendees (the majority of whom have grown up with the availability of these channels as a fact of life), as well as the honest curiosity & enquiry of the more experienced HR practitioners who have not yet fully ventured into the social media spaces.

We are well met and better connected as a result.

If you want to get a flavour of the richness and diversity of the subjects covered at the conference and the open, 'social' conversations that happened in the room and online at the same time - and are still happening - check out the Twitter hashtag #MyFuture18

And please connect with me on any of these social channels (niallgavinuk) to discuss if and when I can help you with how you or your people could benefit from improving your social media use and brand presence, especially in the L&D and HR world.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Not Fatal

Photo by pina messina on Unsplash
I've been on a cocktail of drugs since my heart surgery some 3½ years ago. I've followed a routine of what and when to take them. Recently, when I was picking up my latest prescription at our local pharmacy, the pharmacist invited me into her little cubby-hole for an annual review and, after querying what I took and when, suggested that I alter this routine, to compensate for some potential stomach problems. No suggestion that I was doing anything wrong, just a check-in and some up-to-date advice.

Previously, I took 3 of my drugs with my morning cuppa, as soon as I got up, and 1 as I went to bed. The key changes she suggested were; take all 4 of them at the same time, and take them with food.

No problem, I thought.

But it turns out that in adapting to this new routine, I keep forgetting to take my drugs - in some cases missing a whole day's dose until the following day! It's as if the trigger has been adjusted and I keep missing the shot.

But I'm fine. As long as I take them as soon as I can after remembering, there are no adverse effects. My heart keeps pumping and life goes on.

The challenge has been in adapting to this change in my routine. It didn't happen immediately. I'm still having to remember to take my drugs in one go, with breakfast, and if not then, with food when I do take them. But I'm slowly embracing the change. I've learned a new way and I am adopting new behaviours. Nobody died.

One often hears the adage that everyone likes the idea of change, but nobody wants to change. But it can be done, with a clear rationale, patience and repetitive practice, until it's embedded.

Change. It's inevitable. It's OK. And it won't kill ya!

Wednesday, 12 September 2018


Here's a few of the undeveloped blogs that are currently languishing in the depths of my Evernote 'Blog Ideas' folder. Anything take your fancy? Please comment.

Photo under Creative Commons CCO 1.0

"Who's Lurking Under Your Bridge?" - something about trolls

"Why I'll Never be Eric Morecombe or Sean Connery" - something about confidence and voice

"Up Periscope!" - you could write this one yourself

"Motives and Madness" - Why show up? And what would happen if I didn't?

"Smiling Assassins" - a colleague's experience of being shafted behind their back

"Stranger Danger" - something about lessons from Netflix's 'Stranger Things'

"Ready for Redundancy" - preparedness for an increasingly likely scenario

"Who would want to listen to me?" - Imposter syndrome, social media & blogging

"Can't (Don't) Know it All" - and that's OK

"Intent versus Impact" - something about self awareness, assumptions, empathy

"The Universe & Me" - spirituality or philosophy?

"Unsaid" - something about blogs I may never work up and publish.

Oh, wait...

Saturday, 8 September 2018

Seeing the Bigger Picture

I've just come back from a short holiday visiting friends in the South of France, an hour North of Toulouse. They have a lovely old French farmhouse with an acre of land on the edge of a tiny village in the Occitanie region ( Consequently, the nights are dark and the stars are gloriously bright.

My pal was keen to share his new star-gazing equipment, a computer controlled, 8-inch reflecting telescope, a thing of beauty in itself. One night we lugged it out onto the edge of his patio area and we settled in for an evening's star and planet watching.

Photo by Usukhbayar Gankhuyag on Unsplash
It's been a long time since I've seen such dark skies and my eyes were instantly drawn upwards to view the beautiful Milky Way (the edge-on view of our own spiral galaxy) meandering across the void, interspersed with hundreds and thousands of individual stars and immediately recognisable planets (Mars, Saturn and Jupiter being the brightest and most prominent in the South).

As I gazed up in wonder (I never tire of the majesty of the night sky), my pal was struggling to get his telescope properly aligned, so that once we had selected any one object (Mars, for example), the computer would take over and follow it's progress. Unable to help, I continued to scan the heavens.

Ignoring the background muttering, fiddling with glasses, handsets and cables, and the increasing frustration of my pal, I saw a couple of meteors, some satellites, excellent (although not in detail) viewing of Mars, Saturn and Jupiter, various constellations and of course, the over-arching Milky Way.

My pal didn't.

With the best of intentions (to share closer views through his expensive equipment), he got lost in the tech and in so doing, missed the joy of just looking up and enjoying the big picture. Even when I reassured him that I was having a grand time doing just that, his frustration and some embarrassment, excluded him from the more natural and ancient act of just looking and wondering.

That said, we did manage to get some brief closer views of Mars and Saturn (the Rings!) through the telescope, but without the proper alignment and auto-tracking, they were just that, brief.

Sometimes, tech is not the answer, not the enabler you were hoping for. Sometimes you just have to #LookUp.

Saturday, 21 July 2018

Wedding Speech Tips from Twitter

Yesterday, I went walking in the countryside of West Sussex with a pal. We walked through forest and fields, chatting all the while. At one point I asked him how preparations were going for his forthcoming daughter's wedding. All on track apparently, but he (a dyslexic person) confessed to some nervousness and anxiety about his 'Father of the Bride' speech. "Maybe you've got some tips, from your experience", he said. I had one or two. He liked what he heard. And we went on with our walk.

At home later, I reflected on what we'd discussed and I wondered if I could have offered more, without seeming to be a know-it-all, or 'mansplaining' to another man. So I posted a couple of tweets out to the world...

To my surprise, I received some quick responses adding to my suggestions, all of which were relevant and helpful, particularly in terms of recognising his potential discomfort, whilst building on the need for authenticity and love. I acknowledged those that I had received (thank you Perry Timms, Robert Hicks and Kevin Maye), and then went out for dinner with my wife (Friday night is Date Night!).

I checked in again after getting home, to find even more responses, a couple of which suggested that there was a potential resource list emerging here for prospective a) wedding speakers, but also b) nervous public speakers anywhere.

So, here it is...

Speech-Making Tips for Nervous Speakers - a curation of advice from L&D and HR tweeters, paraphrased where appropriate.

  1. Learn your speech 
  2. Use a prompt sheet (key points) rather than reading whole speech, 
  3. Speak really slowly 
  4. Practice your speech 
  5. Video your practice - All Me (@niallgavinuk)
  6. Know your opening deeply and truly. Once that happens the rest flows - Perry Timms (@PerryTimms)
  7. Write the words PAUSE and DRINK into your prompt sheet (use different colour pens) - and do them - Robert Hicks (@HRinLondon)
  8. Relax; everyone in the room loves you, but no-one will remember the speeches - it's all about the dress! - Kevin Maye (@donnyboy71)
  9. If it all gets too much, just speak from the heart. Pause at the beginning. Look around. Acknowledge the people around you - Nick Ribiero (@MrMiNiki)
  10. Remember that everyone's on your side. No-one minds if you c*ck up a bit of it or lose your way. It's a human thing to do - Tony Jackson (@JacksonT0ny)
  11. I made my wedding speech up on the spot! When I gave the eulogy at Dad's funeral I was v v nervous. I knew that someone else had a copy of the speech and was ready to step in. I didn't need them directly, and knowing they were there, helped Doug Shaw (@dougshaw1)
  12. Really important to practice out loud, as you would on the day - Janet Webb (@JWebbConsulting)
  13. When I did a best man's speech, I cheated and did it all as a rhyme so nobody cared that I was reading it verbatim - Anthony Williams (@bullsboy)
  14. Keep it short; and if you are emotional, they’ll love it, and you, even more - Sarah Storm (@_sarahsto_)

Thanks to everyone for their contributions.

So finally, my invitation to you - what else have we missed, or advice would you like to share? Please comment. Equally, if you find this list useful, or that it could be useful to someone else, please feel free to keep and /or pass it on.

I will pass on - and discuss - all these suggestions with my pal. Hopefully some, if not all will resonate for him. Unfortunately, I won't be there to witness and support him at his daughter's wedding, as we will be abroad at a family wedding ourselves that same week! So this is my gift to him.

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Generally Curious

Yesterday, I downloaded Don Taylor's (@DonaldHTaylor) Global Sentiment Survey 2018 report, the results of his annual survey based around one single question, "What do you think will be hot in L&D next year?". It was really interesting to see the "What will be hot?" trends rising, falling or lingering in the rankings over the last four years, with #AI (Artificial Intelligence) being the fastest riser from previous years.

This didn't come as a great surprise to me and, the more I read through the report, the less surprised I was by the rest of the general findings. And I got to wondering why that might be.

The answer seemed to lie in the fact that I keep my eyes open and my ears attuned to what's going on in Learning and Development, Learning Technologies, HR and business, partly because that's my professional arena, but it's also because I am genuinely interested in, and want to know more about this stuff for myself as much as for any current or future clients.

And I'm nosy! But I'm a nosy Generalist. Not just in work, but in life. My 'strapline' in my social media and professional profiles, and indeed, in the title of this blog, is 'I know a little about a lot and a lot about very little'. It's become my Personal Brand. And it reflects my curiosity, my inquisitiveness, my need to maintain and update a personal knowledge bank to enable me to function as a contributing member of the human race, as much as in my professional arena. I read; I watch and listen to the News; I listen to podcasts when I can, I talk to colleagues, friends, acquaintances in social media and in my face-to-face social and professional networks.

So, I wasn't overly surprised about AI being such a high flyer in Don's report, because I've been paying attention. People I follow - in the L&D, HR and Tech arena, but also in the 'real world', the Press, broadcasters, social media, general population and my friends are also seemingly discussing the opportunities and threats of automation and artificial intelligence. I got an Amazon Echo, precisely because I wanted to understand it's capabilities and relevance for both my own professional and personal knowledge.  (So far, it's made shopping easier and it's good source of music and, in my view, it may be artificial, but it ain't yet intelligent!). Now, if someone were to ask me about AI, at least I have an informed opinion. At least I can enter into a discussion about it from a reasonably well-informed position and we can have a good chat about it. Or I can connect them to other people in my network who have more specialist knowledge and experience than I.

And this goes to the heart of my thinking, and my question to you - Are you a Generalist or a Specialist? Do you Look Up from your own safe, 'specialist' position at work or in life, peer over the top of your life/work silo and sniff the air around you? Do you know what's going on in 'the real world'? And are you able to translate that back and connect it into your own life & work and that of others around you? Because nowadays, we need to be able to do just that.

We need to be nosy, inquisitive, curious, interested (and interesting), because we live in interesting times - dynamic, fast-changing, inter-connected, scary times. We need to have the skills to be able to challenge received information, to not accept things at face value, to probe, to explore. We need to build the resilience, attitude and skills that will enable us to flex, adapt, change direction, and/or alter our very behaviours. Again. And again. 

I see many nowadays with a hardening narrowness of view, no peripheral vision, an inability to connect the apparently unconnected, lacking the skills to recognise the impacts of one thing on another and who, consequently, are unable to see and prepare for what may lie ahead. I see it in both my professional and my personal life. And it worries me.

The world is changing. Life is changing. Work is changing. #LookUp!

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Full Circle

As Xmas approaches and I have reached the end of my first term teaching part-time at our local college, I am reflecting on circularity. 

41 years ago, in the summer of 1976, I graduated from Drama School in Edinburgh and immediately started a post-graduate Teacher Training Diploma at Moray House School of Education. I lasted the first term. I dropped out.

Not yet 21, and within the first two weeks of that first term, I had found myself out in a school on teaching practice - a mere three years older than my oldest pupils. I quickly realised that I'd had very little life experience, hadn't travelled, had never performed professionally in theatre or television and now stood at the threshold of the rest of my life as a Drama Teacher - potentially spending from age 5 to age 65 in some kind of educational or school-related activity - and with no sense of myself as a rounded, experienced and credible performer or teacher.

So I stepped away, the first time in my life that I followed my gut (my heart?) and instead, I found a job with a lighting supplier, working in their retail lighting shop, delivering and installing theatrical lighting, and occasionally operating the follow-spots at the Usher Hall or the Lyceum Theatre. Within a year, I and several other ex-drama school colleagues started a touring community theatre company in rural Dumfrieshire, thereby earning my Equity (Actors' Union) Card and so becoming a professional actor for another 12 years.

The story of that 12 years is perhaps for another time, as, unsurprisingly, acting proved to be too precarious and unreliable a profession to guarantee a regular income. A move into IT Training, own business, followed by Training Management, then HR & Learning Technologies management in both public and private sectors, illness and redundancy, brings us up to date and to my current part time role our local college, assessing and tutoring Digital Marketing Apprentices.

And so, I'm teaching again.

Proper teaching, but this time as the rounded, experienced and credible professional that I knew I wasn't back then. It's been - and continues to be - a journey, where every day is, and has been, a school day. As I say in my social media profiles, I know a little about a lot and a lot about very little. What I don't know, I either learn by making my own mistakes, or I rely on others to teach me - from their experience and from the multitude of different sources we all have available to us via digital channels.

The experience of visiting my Apprentices in their different workplaces, assessing their Diploma work in the context of their employer organisations, has been fascinating and enlightening. By getting them to research and share their findings in the classroom and in our Google+ Education Community, we all learn from each other. Just this week, I brought social learning into the mix, when I co-hosted a Twitter tweetchat about social media for business and marketing, with Mike Osborne (@MikeOzzy), others from my online personal learning network and my classroomful of young digital marketing apprentices.  Learning by doing, by participating, by sharing.
It's a richer and more rewarding kind of teaching than I ever envisaged when I set out into the world of work 41 years ago. What goes around comes around. Circle closed.