Sunday, 19 December 2010

360 degrees Later, Blood, Sweat, but No Big Mac or Tears


Trauma, intrigue, small p politics, and the triumph of expectation over experience might be the best way to sum up my experiences last week! The week was a hectic diverse and challenging one.

The University has been running a Leadership Programme for its senior leadership team. One of the activities that have occurred recently was the completion of something called a 360 degree review. Essentially, this was a task that involved asking our managers, peers and those that know us, to make a judgment on what they considered to be our strengths and weaknesses when it comes to leadership. I had asked 16 colleagues to become involved in providing this information on how they saw my leadership style, behaviour and approach. The result of their assessment was given to me this week. It was an interesting mixture of views, but taken as a whole, can only be described as being highly authentic! On reflection I see my colleagues responses as being somewhat of a mandate to continue the processes of change and transformation that will get us to where we need to be as a School in 2017.

One of the best parts of the week for me was the day spent with a great bunch of young people who had agreed to give us their time to talk about their experiences of being in care, receiving care or as a care giver. These were powerful stories to hear. The stories were confidently presented but the emotionality of the telling of their experiences touched all in the room. It was almost painful to hear how so many of these young people, carer’s and cared for, had been let down by the system set up to provide for their health and well being.

So it was with no little discomfort that I realized the following day that we had provided lunch for the young people without thinking about their wants and needs. The Brie and sundried tomato sandwiches might have alright for us, but I had the sense the young people would have preferred a Big Mac. The Big Mac is a burger sold by McDonalds, (the fast food chain, not MacDonald’s the hotel chain). In fact the Big Mac is one of the best selling burgers of all time - over 47 billion have been sold, with some 550 million sold every year, which is a lot of cows.

Interestingly, I did have a delightful meal this week where the starter was Black Pudding. Now as regular readers will know, I am a vegetarian, so what was I doing eating a dish that is fundamentally a blood based food? Indeed, when I was 15 years old I bought into the urban myth about students who used their own blood to make a substantial and sustainable food that was called black pudding. My black pudding however, was made of soya, coloured with beetroot juice, and was delicious.

Blood has also featured in other ways this week. I had a conversation with our VC during which I found out the University has in its archives, a wealth of material belonging to Bob Dylan. Bob Dylan holds the number two spot in the Rolling Stone 500 best albums ever chart – he was second to the Beatles who had 11 of their albums in the chart – Bob Dylan had 10. Occupying three of the slots in the top 20, it is the album Blood on the Tracks (16th) released in 1975, that will forever be one of my favourite Bod Dylan albums. Unlike his earlier work, which was based upon the politcal and protest, these songs were unusually autobiographical in nature and tell the poetic tale of Dylan and his (unknown) lover.

Of course back in 1975, in common with all my friends I could see all the plots and subplots represented in each of the tracks. But perhaps like, Levi-Strauss, who in 1966, used the analogy of the artist who produces an object created on canvas, which does not exist as such, and yet is open to all kinds of interpretation, I was simply discovering new possibilities or understandings about what the songs might mean.

However, there was no doubt about the unacceptable organisational unpleasantness I witnessed this week. Frustratingly, there was not a lot I could do to help except be there for those concerned, and to say whilst there might be blood and sweat spilt, seize the moment and going forward its unlikely there will be any tears!

Finally, a new record was set yesterday morning for the time spent clearing my drive of snow. Some 10 inches of snow had fallen overnight on Friday/Saturday morning. Where the snow had drifted in the wind, it was much deeper. It took five hours to clear the drive. I started at 7am, and by 9am there were six of us working on clearing the snow. We finished at 12 noon. Plenty of blood and sweat – (and if truth were told), tears were spilt as having cleared the drive, by 12.10 the snow returned and laid down another 1 inch. Only seven days left till Christmas!