Leading with self: Positive Thinking and Motivation

What it was:

A session of positive thinking and planning, from a group exercise and a one-to-one co-coaching session, aimed at drawing up an action plan for achieving some of my professional aims. This was part of the Deputy Director Leadership Programme held in London on 28 January 2020.

What I learned:

In the exercise, imagined ourselves looking back to now from a vantage point of success, two years in the future.

We identified:

Wish – what I hope for in the future
Outcome – the benefits I will see if I achieve this
Obstacles – the obstacles in me I need to overcome to succeed
Plan – what I will do to overcome these obstacles.

For me, these were:

Wish:
* Leading a team ideally at SCS
* Working in the technology, innovation or digital field
* Doing something with impact, profile and influence.

Outcome:
* Feel happier, making a stronger contribution, using my skills, having a positive impact
* Achieving my social motivation of impact and influence

Obstacles:
* Lack of the right role
* Lack of the right networks and contacts
* Lack of career examples / behaviours

Plan:
* See below.

What I will aim to differently as a result

  • Generate examples tactically from the SCS behaviours, then do things that model those behaviours. The material is all publicly available!
  • Gain experience on how to join together a multidisciplinary team, and providing the enabling framework for teams to deliver
  • Be able to give examples where you mobilised people to work collaboratively
  • Learn to feel achievement from enabling others to do stuff (not doing it myself)
  • Understand the wider issues around AI e.g. cognitive biases; How do we engage people e.g. visualisation
  • Understand the benefits of the different factories, platforms etc.
  • Engage with the AI community; get on the GDS data science group; Go to events that help me move towards that skill set
  • Finally – Refresh my development plan to incorporate this.

Leading with Self: Emotional Intelligence

What it was

A one-day session on what it means to “lead self” in the context of a changing civil service, through being present and leading with emotional intelligence. Part of the Deputy Director Leadership Programme. Held in London on 28 January 2020.

What I learned

Emotional intelligence

The Emotional intelligence Framework – drawn from (Goldman, D. “Working with emotional intelligence”) – gives ways in which people can be emotionally intelligent and suggests areas to develop.

A similar model is the diagram here: https://hbr.org/2017/02/emotional-intelligence-has-12-elements-which-do-you-need-to-work-on

This model considers Self Vs Others and Awareness Vs Action

  • Awareness / self
    • Self awareness: Emotional self awareness
  • Awareness/ others
    • Social awareness: empathy, organisational awareness
  • Action /self
    • Self management: achievement orientation, adaptability, emotional self control, positive outlook
  • Action / others
    • Relationship management: conflict management, coach and mentor, influence, inspirational leadership, teamwork

Social Motivations

People typically have a combination of three social motivations:

  • Power motive: Primary test: Have an influence or make an impact on others
  • Achievement motive: Primary test: Meeting or exceeding a standard of excellence and or improving ones performance
  • Affiliation motive: Primary test: Maintaining or avoiding disruption of close friendly relations with people

People are often uncomfortable talking about power as a motivation!

Where things can go wrong:

  • Communication problems, including inability to listen or failure to speak up
  • Poor decision making processes, individual and group
  • Experienced experts can make poor choices and commit fundamental decisions making errors, especially under pressure

As a leader you need to be able to see when the team’s emotional engagement is blinding them to reality, for example failing to challenge assumptions, and leading to poor decisions.

Overall reflections on the day:

  • I find this subject hard to “do in the abstract” – I need to revisit this often and see how it can be applied at work.
  • I need to be braver and unafraid to challenge assumptions – especially from senior leadership.

What I will aim to do differently as a result

  • Get closer to the different teams and people – make more visits.
  • Understand what senior leaders want and worry about, talk to them.
  • Think about people’s motivations and how I can help them.
  • I will figure out a way of getting actions from these learning write ups into my task-tracking system
  • I will make time in my diary for leadership and reflection, and for follwing up on the actions from this course
  • Reflect on my social motives (impact and influence) and not to see it as bad, and reflect on the motives of others
  • I will aim to research how to develop greater focus, attention and self control (e.g. Pomodoro technique?)
  • Challenge assumptions and groupthink, have courage

Personal Transparency: Working Hours – Sep 19 to Jan 20

About the data:

  • This is the first new data-publish in my personal transparency experiment.
  • This data covers my time in work or work-related activities from 23 Sep 19 to 10 Jan 20.
  • This work is logged against four categories:
    • Working in Office (self-explanatory)
    • Working from home or remote location (e.g. train, cafe, home)
    • Self-directed learning (coding, other learning and time spent writing this blog)
    • Formal learning (Civil Service learning or other organised courses)
  • Data published: Date, timestamp, Start/Begin, End/Leave, Category
  • Format: .csv
  • I have corrected the data, mainly to cover for those entries where I logged after the fact (so the ‘timestamp’ on the log is not the actual time that was logged). Plus also a few errors and omissions.

How I gathered the data:

  • I used a simple Google Form, via a shortcut on my phone’s home screen. The form allows immediate logging of the ‘start’ or ‘end’ of an activity, and the category of activity.
  • The form also allows me to note down an alternative time if I am logging after the event rather than at the time the acivity occured. I needed to do this a lot as I very often forgot to log at the time. In general when I logged after the fact I approximated to the nearest 5 mins.
  • Note that I have not logged any ‘travelling time’ (either routine commuting to work, or longer journeys to meetings at other offices). The only exceptions to this are where I have worked on the train, which I have logged as ‘Working from home or remote location’

Learning, insight and follow-up from this exercise:

  • With a simple form in place, it is not a significant effort for me to record this data.
  • It’s vital to log the work as it happens – logging the times after the fact and then correcting the data later is confusing and time-consuming!
  • I will perform some analysis on this data when I have got better at recording it – and have more of it.

Transparency – an experiment

Those of you that know me may have heard me talk about transparency, and how I feel this is important for good public service. I think that civil servants being more transparent about their work could have various potential benefits:

  • Greater accountability
  • Better learning / sharing of best practice
  • Promotes understanding of what civil servants ‘actually do’

Ultimately, the public pay my salary so there’s a reasonable argument they should be able to see what they get for the money.

The experiment

I’ve decided to conduct a personal experiment in transparency and accountability – effectively a form of personal radical transparency. The principal is that I will endeavour to publish as much information about my work as practicable.

The purposes of this experiment are:

  • To examine the value of greater transparency from civil servants – for example, does this give greater insight into what I do, or actively obfuscate that? Which things are useful and which aren’t?
  • To examine the practical considerations around being transparent – what tools / guidance / best practice / rules might help civil servants be more transparent?
  • To identify any other consequencs of transparency – for example, does it affect the way I work and/or the decisions I make, knowing that some of this will be published?

The (initial) ground rules of the experiment are:

  • I can’t give details of anything protectively marked / embargoed.
  • I can’t give details about my work that give away other people’s information (only my own information).
  • I can’t give way details that would otherwise compromise security – for example my personal security.
  • I do not have much time to dedicate to this so it will be on a ‘best endeavours’ basis.
  • Some of this likely won’t work, won’t be practical or won’t be sustainable – hence it is an experiment.

I’ll be adding more information (in this blog’s new “Transparency” category) over the coming weeks and months so stay tuned. Wish me luck!

Solving Kurosu

What it was

This Christmas I encountered ‘Kurosu’ – a japanese grid-based logic puzzle in the same vein as Sudoku (albeit a lot simpler than Sudoku).

As a Christmas puzzle – and to top-up my coding skills development over the holiday – I set myself the challenge of writing some code to solve all such puzzles. It took a few hours over several days but I managed it in the end (probably wouldn’t be blogging about it if I hadn’t…)

My code uses simple logical induction to eliminate the puzzle grid’s non-solutions, row-by-row and column-by-column.

You can find it at: https://github.com/rr-coding/kurosu-solver

If you don’t want to run it youself you’ll have to take my word for it that it works!

What I learned

Part of the challenge was that I wasn’t allowed to look at anyone else’s solution to this until after mine was working.

I confess admiration for this (very different) solution, which takes a more combinatorial / number-crunching approach – generating the set of all possible valid solutions then simply testing which one is at a hand. Plus – his taut PERL scripting makes my Python look laughably clunky and byzantine!

But I’m trying not to feel completely inadequate – my approach roughly emulates the process a human would use to solve the grid and needs relatively few (4 or so) iterations to settle on a solution.

What I will aim to do differently as a result

  • Keep brushing up on my coding – still so much to learn
  • Reflect on different approaches to coding and problem solving – think about efficiency not just efficacy of code

Note: I went back and edited this post into my usual learning format after publishing it.