Learning – the one skill to rule them all.

Posted: September 5, 2015 in Uncategorized

Teams get thrown together.  People drift in and out of roles, jobs, gigs (these days) and people are DELIBERATELY assembled.  That’s what’s happened to me recently.  Joining in with a team of deliberately put together people.  Not because they have a profile fit: because they’re great at what they do – individually.

Individual achievement, success, brilliance.  Whatever  and however you want to describe it – endeavours.  Class.  Quality.  Genius even.

Team cohesion: clarity: belief – that’s what the leader’s role is (amongst other things) and that’s what I’m having a go at doing.

I’ve been asked to join the creative people at Media Zoo.  A digital agency based on Chelsea Harbour, London.  Already a high quality film and communications specialist outfit with a (circa) 2 years footprint in the digital/online learning space.  Helena, Jason, Matt, Tom, Andrew, Pete and Rob are already a great team of highly motivated and creative digital professionals.  I’ve really landed somewhere special here.

I’ve taken on the role as Director – People & Learning and I am thrilled by the opportunity this brings to make a big impact to the world of learning and digital and to working with a fantastic MD in Rachel Pendered.

I am doing so alongside my portfolio of other ventures:

  • my own boutique consulting / speaking brand (PTHR) which includes being executive consultant to the inspirational HR Director of the Year Karen Beaven and her team at River Island;
  • the amazing learning community / virtual organisation I founded – the iPractice;
  • continuing as CIPD Social Media Adviser and working with Peter Cheese;
  • being Vice-Chair of the CIPD Northamptonshire Branch;
  • a Visiting Fellow at Sheffield Hallam Business School; and
  • a Fellow of the RSA.  

I’m also part of the wider #TeamBlu community at WorldBlu (which includes being a participant in their excellent online Freedom-Centred Leadership programme) ; a part of the #ConnectingHR, #Culturevist and #WorkplaceUnited communities, writing and blogging for HRZone, the HR Director magazine, guest featuring wherever I’m invited; speaking and chairing conferences and I’m writing a book on the future of togetherness at work.

So it feels like another milestone, chapter and story-forming experience is about to unfold and this blog is as much a public mission statement as it is a sense-checker for me personally (which is often why I write here – not requested by someone – urged by my own rationalising process).

The Team at Media Zoo Learning – #TeamMZL as we’re now tagging ourselves – got together in our first team gathering on 4 September 2015.  I called it a huddle.  Not to be trendy but because I wanted us to huddle up over the purpose for the team.  Why we existed and what we could say to people after the usual “so what do you do for a living?”

After much light but insightful discussion of kicking around ideas and writing words on large pieces of folded flipchart paper we came up with what I think is a terrific encapsulation of what everybody described to me in 1:1 chats we had the day before.

Because everyone deserves better learning

Now whether this prescribes to the rules of a purpose or not it moved me.  Seriously got me. I wondered whether I’d just done my usual enthusiastic response to something but the more I thought of it and shared it with friends and associates I like it more.  I loved it in fact.

Why?  It says exactly want I believe in – that learning IS the one true thing that drives us as human beings.  From our birth to final breath.  We are born and we learn or you could say we are born to learn.

Learning is what drives me everyday.  

It’s what launches me into a new book to read.  It’s what fires me into my Twitter feed.  Why I bounce into every keynote speech I give.  Why every workshop or scoping conversation is full of energy – we’re learning.  About what it is we’re trying to improve or solve; build or deliver.  Learning about the process itself.  Our reactions to things.  Our relationships with things and each other.  Learning is everywhere.  We don’t often realise it and don’t give it credit but meeting people for the first time isn’t about whether you can make a sale, or influence them or tell them how great you are – it’s about learning about them.  Their world.  Their woes and their wonderment.

So did I find learning – or did it find me – as a professional vocation?  I think both.  I love it when I found out more about it.  So I guess it found me first or stirred a natural thing inside me.

I’m speaking soon at a conference about Transparency in HR for a connected age.  Grand title but what that says to me is, the professional arena I operate in isn’t just about delivering learning it’s about learning to adapt to a changing world.  Where people are learning about themselves and the power they have and the opportunities they can create to live a better life.

Better.  That word again.  Not good, not great, not amazing.  Better.  An improvement on the version of something we were or did the day before.

That’s why we learn.  There has to be better.  Which is sometimes distorted by those with power games or crazed ideals.  Yet better has to be our yardstick else we slip into something truly woeful and damaging – decline.

So yes, I’ve got a lot of things occupying my professional time and in my life.  I like it that way it’s how I’ve learned to thrive.  Push myself on.  Not give in those whose counsel may be well intended but isn’t from my perspective.  I want to be better. I want to stand for better.  I want better for others.

It is about a need of mine.  And thank you to Tom Nixon for a most insightful conversation over a hot drink in Brighton the other week.  MY needs.  We all have needs – they are our ultimate paramount driver in life.  The need for warmth, shelter, sustenance, comfort, love, even material gains.  Our needs drive us and we sometimes – if not a lot of the time – shroud our needs in what we give to others.  Yet if we didn’t NEED to give to others then we wouldn’t do it.  We’re not that selfless that all others come first.  And if they do, it’s because our need is for them to come first.  Which is why soon I’ll be delighted to help HR Director Becky Wright with free help in HR/Change/Learning at Children’s Hospice Charity Forget Me Not.

So what I need, what the team at Media Zoo Learning need, what our clients need, what our learners need and ultimately what we all need is what we came up with as our purpose.

Because everyone deserves better learning.



The one skill to rule them all.


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