[2024] Week 26

There was a time ~ really not that long ago in the grand scheme of things ~ when I used to get up, get a train to another town, then jump on a bus to the office and then spend the day surrounded by colleagues all day. FIVE days a week! EVERY week. For YEARS. This was normal.

I’d then spend evenings at meet-ups or after work drinks with people from work (or work adjacent) and DO THINGS at the weekend with friends of the non-work variety. Play or watch football, go to concerts or plays and go to oh so many pubs for oh so many beers.

I remark on this because this week I spent two days in London, went to an after work event, did a full day in the London office, spent a day at an in person team meeting, had dinner/drinks with some of the team and then came back to Bristol and attended an all day Leadership course with 20 plus people before drinks with a mix of Bristol office folks and a few of the course attendees.


It is just as well I only do four days now or I’d be throwing a sickie today just from exhaustion and being people-d out. I’m sitting here writing this but also wondering if I can get out of the few plans I do have for the weekend and go and hide/hibernate until Monday!

Was it worth it? Actually that is a resounding YES! But it definitely used to be easier. Age and the Covid Era takes a toll.

I actually spent Monday at home though mainly working through a potential opportunity we were considering bidding for. I’d been pretty enthusiastic about it in the initial qualifying conversations and had taken an action to dig into it further and to make a first stab at thinking through what a response might look like (or not as the case may be). I found it a really useful and enlightening process – I researched the questions, read previous similar bids with similar clients, dug into some of our case studies and generally did a deep dive into the tender. Then I had a massive crisis of confidence, decided I’d bitten off way more than I could chew and sent up a flare to some of the Growth team while screaming HELP! They rallied round and calmed me down but my doubts remained and I have to say I wasn’t devastated when the decision was taken not to bid in the end (for entirely different reasons to my panic attack). I don’t feel like the time was wasted at all – I really kicked on my understanding of our process around the bids, what materials we have and what good looks like these days from a response point of view. All extremely useful and I’m confident that will make me a more useful contributor next time.

While in London I joined TK, one of our Senior Growth Partners, as his sidekick in presenting the quarterly ‘cluster’ update to our CEO, CFO and MD (‘clusters’ are how we organise around themes for the work we do – shockingly enough the one I align to primarily is pretty Central Government focused but it is a little wider than that). It was a really good meeting, strategic and future looking in nature but grounded in the data with some good discussion. Honestly I don’t quite know what I was expecting but this was much better

The event on Tuesday evening was the Public Digital / Future Governance Forum Town Hall 2030 panel. There was a good turn out and it was lovely to see this kind of attention given to local government digital type conversations. It was an interesting discussion, expertly facilitated by Cate and livened up by Dave drifting from serious professional to stand-up comedian as he got antsy sitting there (for the record he was genuinely brilliant and insightful but increasingly funny AF). All the panellists made smart contributions but I will say it was weirdly apolitical in the circumstances (only Rachel mentioned the election) and bypassed some of the stickier challenges that many in the room were aware of (though Paul M did ask – and press – the question about the challenges of the technology market as a barrier to change in the local government ecosystem.) There will be a blogpost going from Cate and Public Digital so I won’t say more but it was more entertaining and interesting than the subsequent England game!

I did have a nice chat with Tom L though which lessened the pain of the game (and the surprisingly crap wine for such a swish bar!).

Wednesday was HOT (especially in Hiut heavy denim jeans – d’oh) and we had a team day at Toynbee Hall. Getting to spend a day talking, planning, scheming and venting with Stu, Ann, Ben, Lizzie, Mark, Emma, Simon, Natalie, Steven and Simon (missed you Toby) was a real pleasure and privilege. It is such an amazing collective of lovely humans who just happen to be brilliant at this weird work we do but all in slightly different ways, with different perspectives and priorities. The day was reassuring and re-energising despite the heat and was topped off by too many tacos and a very nice (and cold) margarita at Wahaca before I was one of the few people to get an undisrupted train home.

Thursday I had ‘Leadership Essentials’ training in Bristol. I’m not good at attending these kinds of things – my cynicism and snarkiness too often takes hold and I often go into them in a poor frame of mind. I was especially worried it might negatively affect the positive buzz I had from the team day so I was determined to try and maintain my mood and make the most of it.

It was a big group and included Bjorn, our CEO, and a number of other very senior folks mixed with colleagues from every level of the organisation. Apart from a couple of early wobbles when the facilitators/course designers were setting the scene (I am really uncomfortable with a lot of the psychology ‘research’ that underpins much of the thinking around things like ‘leadership’ and ‘growth mindsets’ in the business world ~ whereas when people talk about philosophy I have no qualms) and one moment where I bit a bit after being identified as a fan of Kim Scott’s Radical Candor (which I am very much not ~ I think it is has a couple of interesting ideas but makes an enormous amount of assumptions and bases everything on a cohort of one and has basically become a handbook for bullies and blowhards) I thought it was a really good course. I learned a few things, was reassured about some things I already do, had a refresher on some things I was taught long ago and got to have loads of chats with colleagues I rarely get to see in person or who were totally new to me. Kami and Ed were great facilitators ~ just on the right side of keeping the energy up and the day moving forward without making themselves the centre of everything which so many facilitators do. Could have done with it finishing 30 minutes earlier though!

Once I realised Bjorn was there I did decide that if an opportunity came up I was going to raise something that might have been seen to be a little controversial and otherwise unsaid but on people’s minds in the room – because (a) I knew Bjorn wouldn’t actually mind and (b) I thought it might free people to be more open throughout the day. The opportunity came up during the Stinky Fish session and I subsequently dived on the grenade (I wasn’t alone – at least one other colleague had a similar thought) but I have no idea if it worked or not but it didn’t seem to have any negative outcomes.

I definitely spoke up too much – especially in the morning – and definitely still need to moderate that but yeah it was a useful day.

Then we went for drinks at a bar I had picked particularly so we could sit outside…so it was freezing and rained. Still had too much wine and a great night with more colleagues.

Finished Questlove’s History of Hip Hop book. It is brilliant. A must read for hip hop fans. I’ve started building a playlist of the songs he recommends for each era in the book as well.

Got some new Superstars and stickers.

Did watch The Bikeriders last weekend – it is beautiful to look at, the performances are great but it has no plot. Like hardly anything happens at all. Worth a look though if only for Jodie Comer and the bikes.

Right that’ll do.

Take care folks.

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