Working with me [part 1]: my user manual.

I’ve been meaning to get this written up and published for a while, so day 2 of #NaBloPoMo feels like the perfect opportunity!

Like many others, I was inspired by Cassie Robinson’s blog post last August on user manuals and the user manuals published by Matt, Dan, Audree, Zoe, Neil and Richard. Richard has done a brilliant job collecting all of the various user guides that are out there — so do take a look at his.

A little bit about me

I think of myself as a pretty open person, so most of what follows shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Back when I worked in the Home Office, I absolutely put on a mask and brought a different version of ‘myself’ to the workplace. When I joined the ODI, I could bring my whole self to work for the first time, and that’s something I continue to do at the MOJ.

I’ve been at the MOJ for nearly a year(!) and my role has been evolving quite a bit recently. Firstly, from Head of External Relationships to Head of Open Culture, and I’m currently acting Deputy Director for the Data Driven Department and Culture Change team. I work in a small, ‘start-up style’ team and a part of my role is to develop leadership skills and encourage the use of new ways of working across the Department. My role is very much the sweet spot where Data and Culture Change meet, and I’ll share more on that in future blog posts.

I absolutely see my user manual as a living document, and something I’ll iterate as my own leadership journey develops. So here’s my first version.

Conditions I like to work in

  • As an extrovert, I am energised when I am surrounded by people and I prefer to come into the office.
  • I like natural light, fresh air, plants and sources of inspiration!
  • My favourite way to work is with a team, workshopping ideas and making sure we are getting to the root of the problem we are trying to solve.
  • I need to be creative and like to get out paper and post-it notes rather than just work from a computer all day. I need to be able to sketch things out, even if it’s just the outline/structure of a strategy, to see how it all fits together.
  • I really like stand up meetings and standing desks.
  • I really don’t like hot desking — sorry!

The times/hours I like to work

  • I’m at my desk by 08:30, and I like to leave the office by 18:00.
  • I can take my work home and have found it hard to switch off. Plus I always seem to have a burst of super productivity between 20:00 -22:00. However, I vowed to get better habits for my work/life balance after a bad bout of work-stress related insomnia in 2017.

The best ways to communicate with me

  • Face to face. I really like going outside for a walk and talk.
  • Slack, Google hangouts, Skype.
  • Tag me into Google documents.
  • I’ll always have an open by default diary so people can see my availability.
  • I rarely call people. I should do that more.
  • I prefer short emails. Copy me into anything, I always like to know about what’s going on, and will simply file it away if there’s no action for me. The alternative is usually having an email forwarded when someone realised you needed to be involved and then you have to give a rushed response.

The ways I like to receive feedback

  • I would refer people to be direct with me — even if it might be difficult — and want feedback to be delivered face to face, so that there are no misunderstandings.
  • I love to be told what I’ve done well and what I can do better, so that I can always improve.
  • I like written feedback and I am always happy to receive post-it notes on my desk, especially with positive messages!

Things I need

  • Trust and openness
  • To understand the purpose of my work, for it to be mission driven and bring benefit to people and society
  • Working on a variety of projects and activities
  • Creativity in my everyday work
  • Opportunities to learn from other organisations, sectors, cities and countries.

Things I struggle with

  • Having a meeting dominated by a few loud voices. I’m a natural empath and always scan the room to see when people want to speak, or ask what they think, to bring them into the conversation.
  • Lots of context switching in a short space of time.
  • Working in silos and people who are territorial about work.
  • When I can’t be myself, I feel very uncomfortable and go into myself.
  • Back-to-back meetings. I like to have a balance of meetings and time at my desk to actually do all the things I’ve committed to. I also struggle with meetings over lunch because of my hypotension.
  • I have a natural need to help people, so I can struggle with saying no, even when it’s a task that someone else should be working on. I’m working on this!

Things I love

  • Ideation and co-design. I’m at my happiest when I’m leading a diverse group of people to solve a problem.
  • Connecting others. I’m often called a super connector :)
  • Giving people credit and amplifying their voices and ideas
  • Working with my polar opposites (introverts, logical thinkers, etc) to see how they approach a problem
  • Seeing someone’s thought process and attention to detail
  • Helping others by being a sounding board or a fresh pair of eyes to review their work
  • Setting goals
  • Journaling
  • Learning about my colleagues: their background, skills, what motivates and energises them and how to get the best out of them. I’m always the person piping up to say ‘X would be great at this project because of her background in sector Y’
  • I love coaching and developing people. I regularly mentor young adults and volunteer at careers events at my old school.
  • Making people laugh

Other things to know about me

  • I am an ENFJ. I know the Myers Briggs has its flaws, but I feel it’s pretty representative of who I am.
  • I’m long-term oriented and want to make a difference. I care deeply about public services, justice, community, inclusion, open culture.
  • I do not like entitlement, poor/selfish leadership and situations that are unfair.
  • I am a critical thinker that always wants to improve things. I may challenge something but I will always try to give practical solutions to make it better.
  • I am hyper-empathetic and fiercely loyal. I love to help people and pride myself on being a confidant that never breaks a trust. I pick up on people’s moods very easily, plus I’m probably the person who left you a brownie on your desk as you seemed sad.
  • After a really nasty experience where I collapsed down a flight of stairs, I found out I have hypotension and my (already very low) blood pressure can crash pretty easily. It’s one of the reasons I can get anxious if meetings go in back-to-back/over lunchtime.
  • I’m very open and tend not to have a poker face — you’ll be able to tell quite easily what I think of something!

So, was this what you expected?

Part 2 of my ‘working with me’ series will focus on my values.

Design, leadership, open culture, data, ethics, justice. These are my personal thoughts on work.