As a man here’s how I’m currently hearing things

There’s a lot of change happening at pace in social commentary and where we’re going with life. As I see and hear stuff, here’s stuff as I see them.

  • Men suffer from not being able to express their full emotional range and this impacts on their wellbeing and can negatively impact their mental health. I pay a lot of attention to this in myself. How do I express my emotions in ways that are healthy? How do my kids hear and see me deal with my emotions? How do friends know what emotional needs I have? What does my partner know about taking care of me emotionally? How does my manager pay attention to the emotional impact of work on me? I’m not paying attention to these messages because I’m scared of falling foul. I’m paying attention to these messages because I recognise we have developed a language and narrative of what it means to be a man which is unhealthy and harmful.
  • Some people are trans. I’m still learning so much about this space. It’s full of complexity and nuance. Gender dysphoria is a very real challenge and there needs to be much better research into how trans people are supported at whatever stage of transition they’re at.
  • Staying with the trans piece, there’s a lot of hate in this space too. Hatred at trans people and hatred at cis people. The narratives and the arguments being thrown around are damaging to having any kind of quality thinking. It’s hard to square if a lesbian natal woman chooses to only want to be with another lesbian natal woman that that means they’re transphobic for not wanting to be with a trans-woman. It’s hard to square that a trans-woman who has been a victim of domestic violence can not have access to a woman’s refuge if there’s no other safe space for them. There are hard discussions to be had. I want trans people to be able to be who they are. I believe this can be achieved without their rights and needs being diminished and I believe it can be done without diminishing other groups.
  • Women suffer a shitstorm of abuse every fucking day for no other reason than men think they are entitled to them. I just don’t understand that sense of entitlement. It is very possible to talk and have fun with women without that needing to be abusive or violent.
  • There’s a nonsensical set of narratives about not being able to compliment women without claims of harassing them. My dudes, if you don’t recognise when you’re harassing a woman then you are the problem. It is perfectly ok and acceptable to compliment a woman. That is not the same as making unwanted advancements or being sexually aggressive. If you’re doing either of those you’re being offensive and abusive. There’s a world of difference in saying something like “you’re wearing a nice dress today” to “that dress you’re wearing looks sexy”.
  • There’s a narrative about women making men feel uncomfortable with their success. I understand this. The norms on men are that we’re meant to be the bread winners. We’re meant to provide. We are the alpha. Except of course for all those men who willingly abandon their alleged responsibilities leaving it to the women to have to do these things for their families. I am more than comfortable with my partner earning more than me and being more successful than me. It doesn’t diminish my worth as a man and I don’t feel threatened by her. I’m good at what I do, earn a good wage for the work I do and pay for as full a range of things as I can. I’m not competing with my wife, because marriage isn’t a competition. I’m not competing with my women friends because that’s not what friendships are based on. I’m not competing with my male friends. I actually have very open conversations about money and earnings with them so there’s no chance of being competitive because we’re having open and healthy conversations about money.
  • Men’s physical health has always been fraught with keeping a certain muscly type body. I’ve known for a long time that’s not me. I need to be physically healthy and that’s what I pay attention to. I don’t know what medical ailments may come my way and what I don’t to compound my health is a lack of physical activity and health.

On male entitlement

Drunk men trashing an Ikea store as their way of celebrating their nation’s football team winning a match. In any other circumstance we’d call this vandalism. Not for these men, though. It’s just harmless fun. They’re singing songs and fluffing pillows. They’re just happy. Let these men have their fun and enjoy this moment, it doesn’t happen often!

A Twitter conversation where one man tells another man he’s been sexually assaulted in a club. The second man congratulates him for being assaulted and for being fondled by a woman! The first man is stunned at such a response.

A man recounts his experience of hanging out with two women friends on a celebratory night out. Multiple events converge. A march celebrating LGBT community. England winning their match. Drunk men forcibly and threateningly talk to women demanding their attention. The drunk men don’t see it as wrong. They just want to have sex you see. Not because they’re necessarily horny or aroused, but because we’ve built this culture where if you win at something you’re meant to be sexually rewarded. And the friends of the drunk men don’t try and stop their friends. They laugh and encourage them to keep trying to forcibly have the attention of women.

A group of drunk men smash an Uber taxis windscreen. They’ve just won an important football match you see. So the only other outlet if they can’t have sex is to be violent. It’s an urge. A visceral one. So fuck your need to make a living, their male entitlement to celebrate any fucking way they want to means there won’t be any consequences.

Every one of those incidents is a step away from being further violent and damaging property, getting into fights, or raping women.

And no, this isn’t all men. It’s a problem in the UK of alcoholic men. That when they get so drunk, they lose all sense of control and defer to base human behaviour. Their cognitive and rational abilities inhibited, they can’t be responsible for their actions when in that state, can they?

And yes some women do this, it just happens to be men who do this behaviour more, because that’s how they’re groomed to behave. You go out in groups, get drunk in groups, support the group in whatever they do, and never challenge the group if they choose a morally ambiguous path.

But who cares about those things when all you’re doing is getting drunk with friends and having a good time?

On social media is where we see reinforcement of this behaviour happen far too regularly. Many men and women will go out of their way to say things like – Ikea should have shut their store knowing the match was being played on that day. That the women shouldn’t have been going drinking where there are large groups of men present (the need for women safe spaces anyone?). That ambulances shouldn’t attempt to drive through large crowds of drunk people.

Because fuck blaming the perpetrators and shining the spotlight on their behaviour. We have to blame the victims and make sure they feel responsible for what happened to them. That’s all manners of fucked up. You cannot blame someone for being attacked because of the victim.

Each and every time we dismiss male drunken behaviour and their agency as men, we entitle men everywhere to continue with these kinds of dangerous and aggressive behaviour.

It is entirely possible to celebrate and have immense fun without needing to cause damage, be sexually aggressive towards women (or to men), be violent, or any other kind of damaging and harmful behaviour. If you want to get so drunk you become a lout, that’s fine, just don’t be surprised if you act in one of the ways mentioned and get into trouble for them.

It is entirely possible to help boys and men understand how to manage their emotions in healthy ways which don’t need them to have to turn to unhealthy and violent behaviours.

For the sake of clarity, I am very glad England are through to the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup. It’s an amazing achievement and Gareth Southgate has shown a level of leadership in this sport at a national level we’ve rarely experienced before.

Explaining minimum viable product


In the world of tech and product, there’s a term bandied about called minimum viable product, and often shortened to MVP. On a recent internal programme, one of our product directors gave a presentation on what MVP means.

I think the above image captures it really well about what MVP actually means, and why it gets confused with other development methods.

An MVP is not a fully a realised product that you can present to your client / customers. That’s a Fully Realised Product (capitals my own – not an actual name).

The concept of MVP means you provide iterations of a product, and each iteration is usable. That means the first version is about the bare bones of the usable product i.e. the skateboard above. It’s not about the foundations i.e. the wheel base.

It’s a different way of working, and often MVP is developed in line with an agile approach to project management / product development. Working according to agile principles means development of a quick usable product – which may be flawed in many ways, but allows the user to do something. The difference with traditional development practice is that you don’t tend to have an iterative product, you tend to have a final product which undergoes review.

Working in a MVP way means fundamentally starting from a different place than traditional approaches. An off the shelf product isn’t a MVP – it’s a Readily Made Product (capitals my own – not an actual name) which is customisable. That’s not the same thing. MVP means clearly understanding user / customer / client needs, and within a short space of time providing a prototype or first iteration of a usable product – that usable product is likely not to be something already available. If it was already available, you wouldn’t need to go down the MVP approach. On user feedback, you seek to build and do more for the next iteration – with the next iteration looking and feeling fundamentally different to the previous version e.g. from a skateboard to a bicycle.

Showing your work along the way, working out loud, explaining your design processes, are not MVP – they are Work In Progress (capitals my own – not an actual name). They are good and open practices, and should be clearly understood as separate practices to MVP and agile development.

What the MVP approach allows for is for the client/customer/user to also let you know if you need to do any more or if you’ve done enough for their need. E.g. the bicycle is not only adequate, it exceeds the need and is scalable to all their staff. You can end ‘product development’ at that point and focus on making the product available to all staff and making it a quality product.

Evaluation, is built into the process of MVP because every iteration means you either progress with development, or you halt as necessary because your evaluation from feedback informs you that you’ve done enough.

Here’s a scenario of MVP development in L&D.

You have a brief to develop coaching skills for a management population. The normal approach would be something like:

Identify skills gap > identify business needs > develop workshop > review workshop plan with client > deliver workshop > evaluation > end.

That’s fine, and I’m not suggesting in any way this isn’t useful and/or the right way to do things. It’s clearly not, though, an MVP approach, nor working using agile development.

An MVP approach for this might look like:

Identify skills gap > identify business needs > develop first product e.g. one page explainer about coaching as a management tool > gain feedback > second product e.g. video demonstrating coaching in practice > gain feedback > third product e.g. action learning set > gain feedback > fourth product e.g. 2 day workshop > gain feedback > end.

I’m not advocating L&D adopt MVP or agile methodology, I think it’s important to have clarity on what the range of terminologies out there mean. It’s then up to us as practitioners to figure out which approach we want to adopt and for what purpose.

Dyslexia and L&D

As I grow more aware of the human condition, and how this plays out in L&D, one of the things I become more aware of is the stance from which we operate.

As an L&Der, I think we presume to know what the right solution must be – after all, that’s why we are consulted in the first place about any and all things to do with L&D. However, I often find there’s an uneven rub and the answer doesn’t lie with us necessarily.

I am personally very careful to assume anything about the people or groups I work with. I’ve done this plentiful times in the past, and found the conversation that follows isn’t as helpful as it could have been, due to my assumptions and how I follow through on those assumptions.

Last week on Twitter, I put out this tweet:

I had a great set of responses, as follows.

David Goddin responded with two tweets:


We had a really good exchange in the following thread that happened.

Janet Webb offered her thoughts:

Alison Monkhouse had this response:

Which also prompted Abi Capella to ask these questions, too:

Denise Elliot shared this experience she had:

and some further thoughts from Denise, too:

Michael Osborne has experience with accessibility for online learning and had this to offer:

His thread is really helpful.

Twitter use Gold Business Consul had this response:

Samara Collins replied with this:

Donald Clark thought about practical solutions such as:

This personal sharing from Hasannah Rudd was really insightful:

Have you heard of Numicon? I hadn’t before Wes Atkinson shared his insight:

Martyn Bullard also shared his personal story and some helpful advice:

I liked this response from Keerti Jetly (not least because she bigged up my podcasts):

Janto McMullin makes a great point about the system and how we influence that:

Robert Hicks shares some really helpful practical ways to support:

This is a really simple approach from Emily Edge which I appreciate:

And this from Joyce Matthews looks at things from an instructional design perspective:

What’s really helpful for me from these responses is that we can look at problems from a number of perspectives. No one of these is more right than the others, it largely comes down to our choices for how we want to provide a solution.

As ever, I learn.

360 feedback and coaching

Over the years, I’ve been through and administered many 360 feedback surveys. The key thing about the feedback has always been about the quality of the coaching discussion that takes place with it and how you help someone think about the feedback in terms of their development.

Here’s my top tips for making sure the feedback and coaching from the report is done well.

1. It’s important for the feedback to be delivered via someone independent. That can be internal or external. It really shouldn’t be delivered by the line manager of the individual.

2. All 360 tools I’ve come across have a rating system. It’s important to understand what the ratings mean when debriefing. If that’s unclear to the individual it’s hard to interpret what the data tells you.

3. At the outset it’s important to know what the individual wants to say about the 360 process, their history to date, and hearing about any leadership development they’ve been through. This provides valuable context about them as individuals and how they’re likely to receive the feedback.

4. As the feedback facilitator, be sure you’ve read the report before you go into the meeting. You need to have a sense of what the report informs, where there are potential difficult areas to discuss as well as any strengths to draw on. The verbatim comments are helpful but only in the context of the questions asked. You can’t draw conclusions from the report alone without having met the person.

5. Although the questions are often clear in what they’re asking, they still get interpreted very differently by the individual. It’s important to hear what the person is saying and use that language and insight to help you understand what they’re thinking and what they’re making sense of.

6. Your role as facilitator of the 360 report is to help them make sense of the data. It’s not to diagnose a problem, provide expert advice or leadership, or to be their counsellor. It’s to helpfully ask questions and provide insights about the data they may not see themselves.

7. As you start to move through the report, there will be natural trends and patterns of thought emerging for the person. As long as they’re not concerning or unhealthy, let the person flow with their thinking. It’s their thinking process, not yours.

8. If there’s particularly difficult messages or insights from the data, or how the person is receiving the feedback, take your time. There’s rarely a rush or need to have the feedback over and done with at that moment. People need time to process hard messages and re-visit what they’ve heard and talk to someone helpfully about their thinking.

9. I know you’re meant to spend time at the end action planning. I think that depends on how the conversation has gone. If the person is clear about what to do next, then asking them to commit to that makes sense. But if they’re still cogitating, it’s unhelpful to ask them to commit to an action. And yes an action maybe as simple as “let’s meet in a week”, but I don’t think that’s the kind of action we’re encouraging.

An exploration of what L&D is for

“See Sukh, I don’t think we do ourselves justice by talking about ourselves as learning professionals. I think we do more than that. That’s why I think we need to talk about being performance consultants.”

“I get you. And I’m not sure we are performance consultants – not as performance is ordinarily defined in business. I can’t advise of financial performance, operational performance, for example. That’s not where I’m at nor do I think is where L&D are at either.”

This was last night’s conversation with David James. We really got into it. A proper debate about how we describe what we do. How we describe what we do is important. It defines us.

And I think there are multiple levels we operate at in our L&D roles.

We are experts in learning design and delivery. Give us content and we’ll pull together a well designed course, deliver it quite well and get positive feedback about the learning experience. That’s what we’re meant to deliver, and in most cases we do. Having had a good learning experience does not equate job improvement or performance improvement/enhancement.

We are experts in learning design using digital technologies. We can pull together content into engaging e-learning, curate digital resources and content in accessible ways, and role model how to share knowledge and insights at the point of need. That’s what we should be doing too. Delivering digital learning can be closer to improving performance, but there are often other barriers to overcome – accessibility of the platform, usability of the platform, relevance of the content.

We are also great at understanding business needs and translating that into learning needs. We can understand the strategy of a business and provide multitude of learning options that will enable the success of that strategy.

I agree with David. We are more than learning professionals.

I’m not convinced we are performance consultants. That’s just not part of the equation we get involved in – or should be involved in.

We influence performance, for sure.

Performance is meant to be managed by the people doing the job. Our role is to help them perform better, but not by being a performance consultant. We don’t do time and motion studies (or the modern equivalents), we don’t measure outputs, we don’t document work processes and identify improvements. If we were being true to the title of performance consulting, we’d be doing those things too.

Which leaves the equation incomplete and I am currently stumped. I’m unsure how to better frame what we do. Learning, yes. Performance, I remain unconvinced. Something else is happening and at play which we enable as L&D.

Changing the conversation

Last week, I had a musing.

This musing lead to a really good set of responses which I want to share here.

Nick Shackleton-Jones got involved and responded saying:

As you follow that thread, we had a good exploration of what we thought.

Ainsley McLeod had the following to offer:

I enjoyed Ains’ thinking and where it took him.

Mark Hendy thought about it and said:

He carried on reflecting and we had a good exploration of his thinking.

Twitter user, Inner Spiration, added these thoughts to the question:

Our conversation covered the difference between ‘younger years’ and the ‘us of today’.

Lorna Leeson got involved too and this was her initial bit of thinking:

She raised some good points that are worth thinking about.

Later, David Goddin added his thoughts, too:

Interesting about the comfort + needs + interest. Read it to see where we took that part of the conversation.

For Paul Batterham, he was pretty clear when he could change the conversation:

His further thinking was helpful, too.

After some time, Mike Shaw had some helpful thinking about seniority:

We had a good bit of shared reflection on what this meant for him.

I had a response from Leanne Griffin about the question, and this is what she had to say:

And Meg Peppin had this thought to share, too:

I enjoyed this bit of thinking from Doug Shaw:

His thoughts on just doing what needs to be done made sense to me.

And finally, Gemma Critchley shared her thoughts on getting involved when she cares about the outcome:

It was a great set of responses, and a lot there to think about further.

What does it get you thinking about?