The other day I did some leadership training through CharityComms and it was great. It was called Hack Yourself: modern leadership for communicators, a one day session to “help you understand your true leadership potential, and how to bring it to life in the modern world”.
Now, I have a good idea about how I want to lead and what I want to achieve. Maybe you do too, or maybe you don’t. Actually, in truth sometimes I’m not sure I do know what I want or what I’m doing. But what the day helped with was to take time to consider what and how I want to achieve success and how to bring others along that journey with you. Amazing.
It helped me focus and better communicate my vision, purpose and values — all of which (if you’re clear on them) will help you to basically be better at what you do. And who doesn’t want that?
I thought I’d share my values that I narrowed down during the session, with a little explanation as to why I feel they’re important for me to be better at what I do. Which in turn, should help others — and my charity — be better. Win-win, I should hope. I’m by no way there in getting these all right, but even just putting them down in writing should help to focus. And as digital values I think they’re pretty useful. So here we go…
Value 1: Balance
If I worked in a circus, I’d be a juggler. And a bloody good one. Running a very talented digital team, contributing to wider communication strategy, mentoring a few people, speaking at events, raising two children, managing a household, thinking about moving house, supporting my amazing wife and working to spend more time together… So much going on.
So to be successful in anything, there needs to be a balance between work and “life”. I’m fortunate to work somewhere with a great respect and understanding of the importance of flexible working and I am a huge proponent of organisations allowing staff to fit work around life. I think it helps you get more out of people because they’re happier, basically, and in this day and age — especially in a digital team — you can work from anywhere, really. And a happy team is a better team.
Obviously trust is important — and respect. And flexibility based on what’s happening at the time is a must. But being able to leave work by 16:30 each day to pick up my kids, or having Wednesday afternoons off, makes a massive difference to how I cope with other demands on my time outside of work. And I hope that in turn makes me a better employee (and hopefully, leader). Do I check emails and do other work stuff out of hours? Of course. But I manage my time effectively to hopefully allow the best of both worlds.
A sound work life balance is essential to future success and I hope this is something I can instill in my current and future teams.
Value 2: Curiosity
If you’re not curious about “What if…?” then what’s the point? How can you be better at what you do? This value is all about continuous learning and striving to improve; testing something and learning from it to improve what you do next time (or what you’re not going to do next time).
In digital, this is ideally the cornerstone of what we do, and is something I think we’re all well versed in now. Asking “Well, what would happen if we did this?” or “Why did that work so well for us?” or “What do the users want here?” should be coming out of our mouths. Every. Single. Day.
Value 3: Creativity
Communicating our messages is getting harder and harder. To get cut through amongst everything else going on is tough; Brexit, Trump being an asshat, other charity’s campaigns, your friend’s new baby — all these (and more) compete for people’s attention day in day out and so how do we make sure our important messages stand out?
We make better use of our data. We understand our audiences. We brainstorm the shit out of ideas and we do all this to creatively educate, entertain, motivate, drive, surprise and delight people.
We look at what’s popular and think about how we can fit our messages into that approach. Or we look at what others do and steal their ideas but add our own unique twist (or we are inspired by others, perhaps that’s a better way of putting it…).
Without being creative, we will not grow, and teams should strive to be curious (see value 2…) about how to tell our stories in new, interesting and impactful ways.
Value 4: Fun
Work should be fun. Coming to work every day and not enjoying it, or dreading coming to work at all, can be soul destroying and really very bad for your mental health, so is something that needs to be taken care of.
Are there things we have to do at work that we find boring or don’t want to do or actually dislike having to complete? Sure. It’s not all unicorns and rainbows. But bringing fun and humour — whilst getting the job done — makes even the most frustrating tasks a little more enjoyable.
This can be hard. But if you’re curious, asking questions, finding out new things, generally winning and have a passion for your job, then fun should come. As I said, a happy team is a better team — and happiness in the workplace cannot be underrated. Eat Sleep Work Repeat talk about this better than I ever could. Listen.
Value 5: Adventure
Adventures are exciting. And they can be a little scary. But they’re voyages of discovery, and so the last of my 5 values encompasses all that come before it.
Sometimes on an adventure, you have to take a risk. But it you are informed and understand what you’re doing, the risk is minimised and will ultimately absolutely pay off for you. Work (and life) should be an adventure and if you don’t risk anything, your reward will not be as great at the end.
If you play it safe all the time you’ll have some success but you’ll arguably never have that ultimate sense of achievement or push yourself to do better. And you’ll never try that new thing that you think might work and so you’ll never know and you’ll regret that for the rest of your life (well, maybe not but you get the point).
This links to innovation too, and being innovative is often an adventure. You’re traipsing into the unknown and that can be frightening. But it all comes down to being prepared — knowing where you’re going, being suitably armed with all the necessary tools and allowing yourself the opportunity and time to do it well… Let’s go.
Balance. Curiosity. Creativity. Fun. Adventure.
I’m quite happy with these 5 values, and feel they encapsulate how I want to lead and how I think digital works well within an organisation. They might not be for everyone, and they might not all align with what my team believe. I need to take them on a bit of a journey, share these and better understand their motivations. But if they — and others — understand what motivates me and what I believe in, then our journey becomes easier and we can go on to achieve great things.
Will my values stay the same? I hope not. I’ll change and the game will change; I’ll grow and there’ll be different needs from wherever I work. But keeping a focus on what I value can only be a good thing.
CharityComms are running another Hack Yourself session later in the year. At the time of writing there are places left still, so if this interests you do check it out.