300 stories about leadership, and still collecting

Published by Tony Quinlan on

One of the main planks to our client approach is that, as part of each project, we work with willing people in the client organisation to give them the skills to continue the work long after we’ve left. There are two reasons for doing this that matter – an attitude of not creating a dependency on us (or any external consultant) and also forcing Narrate to keep innovating.

It does, however, mean that we don’t always know what’s happened after we’ve left – particularly once the original project team have disbanded or moved on to other projects. This year we got a great surprise when we got a call from Informatology, an organisation that shares good practice in training, HR and similar areas. Informatology run a number of events, culminating each year with their conference. On one event – a Company Raid – they had been to see a government department to look at how it was dealing with Leadership.

The department had come to us to talk about leadership a few years ago, looking to “get its story together”. It’s not an uncommon request, and the first thing we need to do is to dig into that and find out what each client means by that phrase. Leadership had been tagged as an area for improvement and, in response, there had been workshops presenting the Professional Services for Government model of what leadership should be.

Professional Services for Government leadership model

And then they’d carried out a survey on leadership to set a baseline, to benchmark and to test where work was needed.

And the message that had come back was that what was needed was increased visibility – not of people, but of decisions, particularly the tough decisions. And that, for all the nicely-balanced model, people still didn’t know what they were expected to do.

Much of it was encouraging – particularly the recognition that there should be a diversity of what good leadership practice was.

So working with a multi-department group, we ran some anecdote circles based around the model. And, as part of it, we offered participants the chance to be trained in a lunch hour on how to run the circles themselves. Over two short periods, we ran six workshops and gathered over 300 stories about leadership – good, bad, team-focused, tough decisions, positive moments. All recorded and available for training, intranet, communications and other uses.

And we noticed that the managers we’d trained up were now straining at the leash to use the techniques themselves. To start projects off (gathering people’s past experience early and create a shared group understanding. Instead of three months in, someone piping up, “You know, this happened on the last project I worked on…”). To finish projects neatly. And other uses.

Until earlier this year, we had no idea whether they’d gone ahead internally – or how far. Three years on, they’re clearly still at it – and still talking about it.

That’s a story I like to hear…