Groups, Support Networks and Impact

Support networks are important for a number of reasons. Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous have known this for years. Unions have known this for years too. Well pretty much any group that’s ever come together has known that if you want something to happen, there needs to be an organised group of some kind.

And within that group you have people who naturally step forward as leaders of the group. They say things, or do things which provoke others into action. They motivate and cajole. They inspire and discipline.

Of course, groups can be very destructive too. The power of conformity means you can get swept up in agreeing to do something you actually don’t agree with. The power of opinion of one or more may mean that a course of action is decided which is harmful to others. The power of belonging can mean you actively seek to change your self in order to be accepted by that group.

All important things to remain mindful of when we embark in group based activities.

Which is why I enjoy having this blogging space and occupying Twitter. I am part of several groups, and have found friendships amongst many fine folk. I’ve embarked in making things happen with others that have felt right, supported others in making things happen, and been joyed at the success of others around me.

Here, though, I get to test things. I get to be outside of any group, or any community. This isn’t a collective of people, this is my space. I write what I feel, what I know, and what I think. I write to express, to find clarity, and for the sheer joy of finding the right words for my whims.

Yesterday I was humbled and grateful. Anyone I ever get to meet is someone knew for me to connect with. If that connection leads somewhere interesting then it is in the hands of the fates. If not, that too is meant to be. Things happen as they are meant to, destined to and intended to.

To be told that someone is happy to meet you, is both bizarre and a joy. I don’t write, or tweet, to create a good impression. I’m just a guy, who thinks outside of his head rather than in it. Indeed I occupy a space where I am often confused myself about what I’m writing or contributing to, yet it creates an impact on others which I often dismiss. And you can’t know that impact until it’s been told to you. 

So I end this week with strong sense that the groups I am in, the support I have around me, the connections I have in my life, the relationships I hold dear to me, are all as they are meant to be and at the same time all that I have created.

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What do you want from me?

A short one from me. I’d like to know a few things from you good folk:

– why do you come to this blog?

– are there topics I could be writing about but you don’t see enough of?

– I write regularly – between one and three posts a week – does this work for you?

– what have I missed a trick with on this blog?

Be honest. Don’t worry about my feelings. Make me work.

Cheers

Sukh

These bloggers…

One of the key ways I learn and develop is to read. I like reading, and always have done. From comic books to fiction writing to newspapers to journals to blogs. It’s all good stuff in my opinion and helps keep me aware of what’s going on in the world – both in terms of actual world events and in terms of the various worlds I inhabit. If I didn’t read, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t enjoy life as much either. There’s just something about reading which is engaging and educating all at the same time.

It’s also why I enjoy Twitter so much. I get exposed to a lot of content which I can consume in my own way at my pace. Where I see there are bloggers out there who are getting into a groove with their blogging, I enjoy watching how that unfolds for them. I don’t often take part in the etiquette known as ‘follow friday’, and I’m going to do a short series over December focused at doing just that.

I think Meg Pippin writes a really interesting blog about organisational development. Her latest piece on “Talk to me” is a nice example of her thoughts on the topic. She writes about her observations of what’s happening in the workplace, and how interactions happen. Her Twitter presence is enjoyable too. She gets involved in conversations and shares her good humour openly.

Have you met Phil Willcox? This guy is a class guy. He has some solid experience in the learning and development arena and enjoys wanting to create a better future for other professionals too. It’s cos of his work with DPG Plc and the EI Academy that I’ve taken a stronger stance on what’s happening in the field of emotional intelligence and body language. “Cracking the hardest nut” is a great piece from Phil which shows him voicing his opinions quite clearly.

Flora Marriott is a long time Twitter user and recent blogger. She’s been a core part of the #connectinghr community and is a pleasure to know. She is honestly one of the smartest people I know, and always has such interesting insights into a lot of life’s happenings. She’s about to embark on a personal journey which is awesome and I (and many others) will be following her trails closely. Go have a read of this “Isles of Wonder“.

Calling all bloggers

The word carnival is an interesting one. For instance, I never knew it was held at a particular time of year, and as ever, Wikipedia shines the light on the world of ignorance on this soul. The definition I’m most interested in though is this one from good ole dictionary.com:

car·ni·val   [kahr-nuh-vuhl] noun
1. a traveling amusement show, having sideshows, rides, etc.

In the UK, we don’t really have carnivals – or none that I’m aware of. We have funfairs and circuses and village and/or street parties, but nothing like a carnival. Either way, I’m not getting hung up on the etymology or cultural significance of what a carnival is. I’m more interested in how the blogging world has decided to take the concept of a carnival and adapt it for its own purpose.

A blog carnival is essentially where a blogger hosts a series of posts written by other bloggers and it centres on a theme. Here’s a good example of a recent carnival – The Carnival of HR Fall Colors edition. You can see how the host blogger has taken the time to help give a glimpse into each of the posts she’s linking to, and adds her own flavour to each in keeping with the theme of fall colors (Yes, I know it’s spelled ‘colours’, but it’s an American blog).

As I see it, blog carnivals are another way to curate posts and share them to a different audience. In #connectinghr circles we have two people that come to mind who do this curation really well – Michael Carty on XpertHR, and Martin Couzins on Learn Patch.

Over in them thar parts of the US of A, blog carnivals are quite the online event. And with good reason too, they’re a really good way of helping to support and promote fellow bloggers. The HR community over there have a long line up of people waiting to host carnivals and that’s a credit to the people who care for their blogs.

On these shores here, I’d like to see us UK HR (broad sense) bloggers take up the mantle and show what we’re made of too. We’re a good bunch of writers, and an ever increasing number too. More and more professionals are seeing the benefits of writing a regular blog. From coaching to employment law to recruitment to employee relations to learning and development to organisational development, it’s all covered. Many of us are aware of the regular ‘popular’ bloggers, and my fear is the new starters or the ones trying to make their voice heard, aren’t getting through.

So on Tuesday 30th October, I’m looking to host a UK HR Blog Carnival. The theme is ‘When potential comes to fruition’. If you want to take part, please write something on your own blog, and send me the link by Friday 26th October. The title of your post doesn’t need to be the theme, but your post should use the theme to prompt what you write about. I’m happy for bloggers in others parts of the world to take part too, so send on your link before the date.

My hope is that this becomes a regular blogging activity for UK HR bloggers. For now, let’s see how this first one goes, and we’ll take it from there. So get involved, get writing, and get me the link by Friday 26th October.

Cheers!

Blogging, blogging, blogging

I’m now well into my third year of blogging. I started in December 2009, and have tried to keep fairly regular since then. I originally started on Blogger, and decided about a year later to come over to WordPress. It’s a move well worth doing if you’re a regular blogger. The features are much better, more functionality is available, and you’re able to play around with your blog with much more ease.

In that time, I’ve recently passed 20,000 views, and this week I wrote my 250th post. I’m quite open about what blogging does for me, and what it’s helped me to achieve. I’m happy to share this information, as I believe it helps others to get some insight into what blogging looks like.

So what do I write about? Well, I try to keep things fairly focused on the learning and development world. Lately I’ve been venturing quite heavily into Positive Psychology. I tend to also talk about a host of topics on rare occasions – I will also write about Sikhi, my family, social media, and sometimes technology. I am certainly a regular blogger, I’ll try and write something 2-3 times a week. This brings its ups and downs with it. It means some posts get picked up really well, others get missed so get fewer views, and I’m often competing against myself in keeping the writing up.

I have a very modest readership. On a good day, I’ll get about 100 views on the blog including a post I publish that day. A regular day gets about 20-40 views depending on what people are searching for. I have a regular set of people who visit and try to keep up with my posts – I love them.

My most popular posts ever:

Some things around this. The 1984, A Sikh Story post gets viewed pretty much everyday and amazingly is a landing point by people just typing in “Sikh” into Google. I say amazingly because if you try it, my post is not early in the results pages. Go me! I am amazed the home page gets so many views because I very rarely ever push people to just my homepage. However, the URL is publicised in most of my profiles so it’s not that hard to see it’s an easy click to reach there. And the other stuff gets regularly searched for, so keeps pushing those numbers up.

I’ve had about 560 comments on the blog (not including pingbacks). That’s not true though, at least half are my responses to others, so it’s more likely about 280ish. So over all blogs that’s just over 1 comment per post which is nice.

When I link to other sites, this sends some traffic in that direction depending on what the link is to. Generally people will click up to 4-5 times in a day. I tend to link to other posts as they’ve provided me with some kind of input to what I’m writing about. This is supposed to also have the added benefit of helping the SEO of a site. I ain’t got a scooby if that’s the case or not. I’m happy to keep doing this as it also serves as a way of letting someone know their writing is appreciated. I certainly enjoy it when I’m being linked to from someone’s post.

Search terms are a bizarre beast. How someone finds my blog by searching ‘stand alone role’, ‘assume innocence’ or ‘mbti preferences’ is interesting because why would you search for those specific words? Even more bizarre is when someone searches specifically for ‘an ignoramus and his her lucre are readily disjoined’. But for whatever reason, people are seemingly searching for things I write about. Jolly good.

And finally this table shows the ebb and flow nature of blogging by months:

I am very glad that so far this year I’ve gained more hits than all of last year.

Hope this has been useful. This has been one of the biggest activities of narcissism I’ve ever done on the blog.

On Friday 17th August I’m running an event called Positive Psychology in Application. It’s going to cover a range of topics to do with Positive Psychology. Book now to attend and learn more.

It’s been two years

Well. Two years down the line and here I am, still blogging away. It’s been an interesting ride, and thought I’d share some of my thoughts about blogging in general, stats of this blog and observations I’ve seen on this blog.

When I first started blogging I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to happen with it. Did I want speaking opportunities? Did I want to be a professional blogger? Did I want to make money from the blog? Did I want a large readership? Did I want to be a thought leader? As time has gone on, I don’t think I’m any clearer on a lot of those questions, but the stats of the blog do help steer some of where I think I add value.

To date I’ve had 9,526 visits to the blog. I wouldn’t say that’s too bad. I tend to post something 2-3 times a week which obviously helps the numbers move along. Also, I tend to vary my patterns for pushing the posts depending on when I write them. If I have the time in the morning to write one, I’ll tend to only push it that day. If I write one in the evening, I’ll allow myself to spill over to the following day, but never go into a third day. My only exception to this rule is if I publish a Q&A post, which is designed to be a longer engagement over a week.

Guest posts. I’m not averse to inviting others to guest post on my blog, I’ve just never either been asked, or not thought of ways to make it happen. Some recent examples I have very much enjoyed of getting the best from guest posting have been on Doug Shaw’s Heroes series and the currently running Advent Blogs on Alison Chisnell’s blog.

Sponsored posts. I’ve only done one of these and that was this year for Springest UK. It was done after much deliberation and actually was fine overall. It attracted about 70 views and they gave me £150 for doing so which was donated to charity. I don’t think it attracted the kind of figures they were hoping for, but I was open with them about this all along.

Topics. So I tend to write posts on learning and development, positive psychology and organisational development in the main. I also write about Sikhi, random topics like the English language and the odd philosophical type post. I did consider posting my tennis thoughts on this blog, but thought better of it and I keep those thoughts separate over here. I also tend not to write controversial posts. Most are informative, some are rants, and some are my actual opinion, but very few actually rock the boat.

My readers. 2011 has looked like this:

Views per month
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Total
146 810 1052 1499 1343 939 563 764 1203 1006 209 9534
Average views per day per month
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Total
12 26 35 48 45 30 18 25 39 34 34 33

The first thing to note is that I was over at Blogger for a while, before I decided to move to WordPress which happened in February of this year. So the figures above are since Feb 2011, and not inclusive of what’s happened since Dec 2009 over at Blogger. Regardless, since I’ve moved over here, the activity has certainly been more varied and certainly interesting.

July, August and September took a hit in the numbers. Bloody holidays.

Observations. I’ve noticed certain patterns with my audience. I seem to have a core group who will regularly check in to what I have to say. This doesn’t include my 11 subscribers. I mean people who regularly take the time to read what I have to say, and decide to pass it on in some way. And when I say core, I mean about 10-15 people. Considering on Twitter I have an alleged 885 followers, this might seem surprising. But when I scan down that list, it’s a jolly big mix of people who all follow me for various reasons. I’d like to think they’re all solidly interested in L&D, but of course they’re not. That’s fine actually, and certainly makes for interesting peaks and troughs in my stats.

Other observations have been around the consistency of readers. I seem to get readers of the blog who will read and follow avidly for a few weeks and then I never see them again. Others drop in and out and I see them enough to know they have some interest in what I say. In either case, I totally appreciate that reading patterns change on a very regular basis, and I’m not criticising the patterns, just making observations (he says not wanting to offend anyone).

Comments. Apparently I have 395 comments across all posts. Well, that’s bloody excellent! A fair portion of that is me responding in the comments, and any blogger will want interaction on their blog, and commenting is clearly the way to know it is happening. I’m glad people stop to take the time to write, it makes my efforts worth while.But I haven’t found the way to respond to comments best. Should you respond to each one, or can you wait and do a collective response? I have tried both, and regularly flit between the two. I still have no idea which is better.

Perks. I have, through the blog, been invited to write regularly for Training Journal from a practitioner’s perspective. This is highly motivating and very encouraging for me personally. I get to write about where I think L&D needs to head and develop and it goes out to their readership. I have no idea about numbers when a post of mine goes up, but that I’m still being asked to contribute suggests that it helps their numbers. (No news is good news and all that). I was also given a free full annual subscription to Survey Monkey. This did happen in 2010, but was certainly very kind of them to do so.

Blogging fatigue. Sometimes I just get tired of blogging or can’t be bothered. Writing a post takes anywhere between 30 mins and an hour depending on the topic. In a case like this one, several hours. I know a lot of folk who will write their weekly set of posts at the weekend ready to roll out in the coming week. And they schedule tweets using Twitter clients like Tweetdeck. That’s pretty awesome but an awful lot of organisation, which just isn’t my style.

Blog themes. I just can’t seem to find one that works for me. The banana theme I’ve had for a few months is fine and all, but I’m a bit meh to it really. I had the books before, and they were fine but didn’t really do it for me. I’m still on the hunt for a theme that works for me.

Blog widgets. Which ones are useful? Which ones aren’t? Which are just about self-promotion and which are actually useful to others? Bloody narcissistic tendencies.

If you’ve got this far in the blog, I thank you for taking the time to read this. Importantly, just thank you. I still have no better steer for why I blog, or what my ultimate motivation is for it, but for the time being, and the future present, I’m blogging, and that’s good enough for me.

Life is too damn interesting

A short post from me today. If you look at my Twitter timeline, you might notice a lot of what I talk about has little to do with L&D. Probably 60% is to do with every day occurences, 10% are probably RT’s of some kind, 10% is shameless blog promotion and the rest is a mix of sports or news tweets. Equally, my blog content is hardly 100% focused on L&D. I’ve talked about family, personal thoughts, my religion, my culture, recruitment, HR, and L&D. As someone who’s allegedly proclaiming to champion L&D, how do I qualify that?

Well, it’s simple really. Any L&Der worth their salt will verify that what we do is facilitate life skills. I’m no more an expert on this topic than you are. There’s no golden rules. There’s no holy grail. We use whatever tools are at our disposal to communicate a message. If it works, all is right with the world. If it doesn’t, then we are in a very fortunate position that very little serious consequence will arise from it.

Even in training events, I don’t care about the deck I’m using. Well, of course I care about it, the message has to be right, but I don’t care if I use it or not. I’m the one who’s facilitating the message not the deck. Nor do I care if I’m continuinally singing about L&D. Life is just too damned interesting.

And at the end of the day that’s all I’m trying to do. I’m trying to facilitate a sesison to help you be in a better situation so that you can focus on what interests you in life. That’s why I enjoy L&D. Because I get to have conversations with you that enter so many interesting directions, it’s what drives me and motivates me.