People, Culture and Inclusion

Circling Around Leadership.


Circling Around Leadership.

sand circle

That shifting sand of the leadership landscape right now is a thing, yes, you feel it too? Ideas about the world of work and leadership that have been bubbling up for a few years….digital transformation, agile approaches, compassionate leadership, psychological safety, hybrid working, job crafting….have been thrown front and centre at pace. IMHO quite rightly, however there is no doubt that it means we as a leadership community need to keep pace and embrace evolving expectations about leadership, or risk falling behind with all the challenges that represents. We started to look at this in a blog last year, and continued exploring in our quick read Leadership Beyond Crisis in the Spring.

How can we keep up with ideas and best practice in such a dynamic time? Here are some ideas:

  • Read, watch and listen. There is an overload of books, blogs, podcasts and thought pieces out there, so if you want our advice about where to start:
  • Don’t be afraid of Social Media. Yes, there is a lot of nonsense and nastiness on there, but if you follow good people you will see good stuff. Our current favourite is Helen Bevan who shares some brilliant ideas. And Simon Sinek has been prolific with his videos over the pandemic, little shots of wisdom.
  • Give it a go. Talk about it in your teams, with your peers, networks and your own manager. Share neat ideas, and crucially try stuff out. This is new to everyone, and it won’t all work but within the safety of your teams have a play with new methodologies, ways of working, pieces of tech, types of conversation, ways of being together as a group of humans.
  • Join our Leadership Circles. Come on, you knew there was going to be a plug for our own stuff in here somewhere. Read on to find out more…

About Leadership Circles

We felt that what colleagues needed was not yet another virtual webinar or taught workshop but a space to unpack what this means for us as a community and for each of us individually. And, crucially, what are we going to do about it.

The circles will not be a taught session, we in People, Culture and Inclusion will not position ourselves as the wise old owls in the room (contemporary thinking on leadership changes too frequently for that!), but instead facilitate a conversation around a provocation we set each month. This will be offered based on reading we may have done, a video we caught, an idea we have come across, a subject that may be at the heart of university business or social conscience at that time.

The Leadership Circles will be 75 minutes long and run every month with a consistent format:

  • Before the session: Essential pre-reading of a blog on the provocation in question
  • During the session:
    • Some introductory remarks and reflections from your facilitator
    • a short whole group debate
    • longer small circle discussions considering: “how is this relevant to me and the leaders I see around me”, “what are the implications for my leadership practice
    • a plenary conversation
    • time and space for quiet personal reflection
    • sharing of next steps, actions, or personal commitments.

In this way we will enable space for everyone to input their thoughts and perspectives, create opportunities for insights and connections, identify and commit to tangible next steps. We also hope it will enable a sense of community to evolve, and increase interest in leadership as a fascinating and critical profession, not an accidental task. These essential conversations will help us together to embrace contemporary ways of leading and managing, ensure we are the best we can be in leading our teams and courses and take the University forward.

Recognising the different levels of experience and confidence in our leadership colleagues, we are running the circles for two different cohorts: those who are new and developing leaders, and those who are experienced and senior leaders. We will not be determining who can come to which but will leave that to each individual to decide – all sessions are open to everyone with an interest, the only difference we anticipate being in the types of discussions that happen and the individual calls to action committed to.

Initial topics we are considering include psychological safety and trust in a team (“what happens when I’m not there?”); exploring the impact of biases in our leadership; coaching through transition; job crafting. However, we would also like to know what you think we should cover – what are the leadership issues on your mind, what conversations are you having with your peers? Drop us a line and let us know.

How to book

For the 2021/22 academic year, circles will be run each month November to June at the following times:

All Circles are bookable via StaffSpace. We look forward to seeing you and joining in the conversation.

Juliet Flynn and Amanda Maclean, People, Culture and Inclusion Team

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