Sunday, 19 October 2014

Time to Think with a Giant Rooster, in Chester and in Bed with Jack

In some ways it felt like there wasn't much time to think last week. On Monday my day started at 06.00 and I had just 60 minutes at my desk before the day's first meeting occurred. I left the office 12 hours later having attended just 3 meetings all day, but these were 3 long meetings, each of which ran straight into the next. Tuesday there were 8 scheduled meetings with a series of ad-hoc meetings occurring in the middle of the day.

Wednesday I had 2 meetings with colleagues before driving over to the Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel in Manchester for a Council of Deans (Health) Executive away day. This hotel is one of my favourites. The building (or at least part of the building) was once Manchester’s premier concert hall, the Free Trade Hall, home of the internationally famous Halle Orchestra. One of the reasons I like the hotel is its eclectic art collection, the latest addition being a giant Rooster created by Lotus Arts de Vivre. In Chinese Feng Shui the Rooster is a decorative animal often placed in a house to ward of everything from snakes to evil people and anything in between that might bring trouble and or bad luck to the house.  

Another reason I liked the hotel is its fast and free wi fi. So I felt confident that I would be able to keep up with the days email demands while being at the away day. What I hadn't bargained for was being asked to turn off all my electronic gadgets and to keep them off until it was time to leave later on that day. As I knew I had to leave Manchester and drive across to Chester for an evening’s meeting the thought of not being able stay in touch with things was extremely annoying.

The facilitator for the day (Gill) was fantastic however. She was an advocate and student of the Thinking Environment, and drew upon the work of Nancy Kline. Nancy’s books are well worth reading. The founding concept of her work is that the quality of everything we do depends upon the quality of the thinking we do first. The quality of our thinking depends on the way we treat each other while we are thinking. Guided by 10 behaviours that generate the best thinking (attention, equality, ease, appreciation, encouragement, feelings, information, diversity, incisive questions and place) Gill enabled the finest day of thinking, strategic planning and action agreement I have ever been part of.

At the end of the day, I trekked across the countryside during the rush hour traffic to Chester. I was staying at the Double Tree Hilton, for the University Executive annual planning conference. The evening session was an opportunity to discuss our strategic aims with the VC and our new Chair of Council, Baroness Beverley Hughes. Both the VC and Chair sat on my table at dinner, so there was also an opportunity to get to know the person behind their University role.

The following day was a full-on day of exploration, discussion, and decision making around the main aims of our strategic plan. However, for me the quality of our thinking didn't feel quite like that of the previous day. The encouragement and attentiveness was there, but unlike the previous day, gaining a voice was a great deal more difficult. Whilst in my experience of such days at the University, this was a good one, only time will tell if the quality of outcome delivers what we hope it will. Friday, was a repeat of Monday in terms of meetings and time, with the only difference being the middle meeting was held off campus so there were a couple of journeys that served to break the day up. Last night, (well this morning really) young Jack (who celebrated his 3rd birthday last week) was staying overnight. He went off to sleep without any trouble, but then appeared at my bedside at 02.00 to tell me he couldn't sleep. It was something to do with a certain Mr Tumble and a tractor apparently

He climbed into my bed, and was soon fast asleep again. However, I was then wide awake. So for the last few hours I have taken the opportunity to reflect and think about my week, (hence this post) and I realised the importance of making time for appreciative deep thinking, which, as I write this with Jack beside me, asleep and completely content with the world, is very different from deep sleeping. Off to Leeds see the some of my other grandchildren later, so I'm going to snuggle down now and see if I can get 40 winks sleep!