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Sync: e-bulletin February 2011



some fruit exploding on a blue background

I must admit to having a head fit to burst. Maybe it’s trying to cram four week’s worth of work into short sharp February.

Not many people know where the impetus for Sync came from even though we’ve often talked about syncopation and the need to rethink ourselves and where we place emphasis exploring this in face to face workshops and coaching.

Sync wasn’t born out of a funding opportunity alone, although CLP’s belief has made the journey more than possible and bigger than we’d imagined. Sync was born out of frustration around our professional lives and a strong belief that getting to where we wanted to be could be so much better if we thought about it differently.

The first time I spoke about thinking differently, was at a breakfast meeting at Tate Modern where the conversation was not about rights and barriers but about tomatoes.


Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad. (anon)

a picture of a bowl of fruit salad with tomoatoes clearly in it

I still go back to this tomato analogy time and time again.

Why is it such a problem having a tomato in a fruit salad? If we buy into the strange idea, that we are tomatoes, or seen as such in this fruity paradigm, in order for us to lead and have people follow us, we need to think differently.

The emphasis on this Sync journey has been about challenging our belief systems and placing different emphasis on what is important, from how we feel about the combination of ingredients in the bowl to how we dress and arrange ourselves alongside the other fruit.

We’ve seen remarkable disabled and Deaf leadership growing apace in the sector in the last few years. You might say that the climate has been right, with more opportunities afforded for example, by the Olympic and Paralympic Games and by Decibel PAS with a meteoric rise of our leadership in the mix.

With all these wins, there is a new resilience, a deeper awareness of self, that means people are moving out of their comfort zone and into the fruit salad bowl. What is also interesting is that more and more people are doing this on their terms, defying any sort of resistance to be who they really are. They become role models for the bowls they’re mixing in, but they don’t necessarily choose to be role models. Why should they?

There are a thousand ways to be a tomato - sundried, sunblushed or straight up. It’s a combination of ingredients, our particular lives, our creativity and our persistence, that are really making an impact. More and more of us have taken on some of the attributes of the culture of leaders whilst at the same time remaining authentically sharp and tangy as only a really good tomato can be!


a copy of arts professional

At a recent MMM conference, Culture Change, I considered putting on a bee suit. I had been asked to be pollinator and to talk about my take on reconfiguring business models.

I found this quite alarming, hence the impulse to ham it up. At first, when asked to talk, I doubted whether what I had to say was of any relevance when the pressure is so acute around missions, models and money. I didn’t pull on the suit, but I did pull myself together and put in my pollen’s worth about people power. Leadership isn’t leadership without people and for those charged in leading people through these difficult times, the emphasis has to be on this. Sync has learnt that leadership only works when you take time to bring people along with you on their terms so they feel seen and understood.

Right at the heart of Sync is the importance of being your own person, playing from that position and finding interesting ways of bringing people into your way of doing things without compromising yourself. This month’s case study comes from Faye Stewart – Relationship Manager for Arts Council in the South West.

Her professional life has often been about shaping and working with other people’s discomfort in order to create the right environment for her to thrive.

As a ‘sweetener’ she has often taken it upon herself to make others feel comfortable around her. In doing this, she becomes sharper at what she does. Whilst you might argue that this is not the way to go, it really works for Faye and as she explains, makes her career journey easier to fast track.

Go straight to Faye's Case Study

Sharpening your thinking

Look at this photo on the left or close your eyes and picture yourself sucking half a lemon. Notice what is happening in your mouth. Ah yes…our minds have just created juice (more evocative word than saliva). We stopped for a ‘what might be’ moment and made something happen (Ms Motivator)

a series of images from motion disabled

We are currently in our last round of Sync Leadership coaching leading up to our event on 8th March at the Wellcome Trust, where we’ll share our Sync Thinking live and capture this for the website.

Most people in coaching are really feeling the strain of the economic climate and cuts and are finding it hard to focus.

In the light of what feels like quite a common dilemma for people, the wonderful Ms Motivator came through a few weeks ago with an idea of 'mental lemons' in one of her weekly ezines.

It was a interesting take on how we exercise choice in making space for what she calls 'generative thinking'.

This exercise provides a symbolic device to anchor our attention, used in all sorts of contexts and can be used to make space and take stock.

It is essential to take time for rich thinking that generates our next ideas and movements. So once we’ve squeezed our lemon, what next?

Perhaps start by consciously mapping out your working day or week, thinking about your energy highs and lows to include:

• those activities that take less energy e.g. social networking, clearing emails, doing admin. Be conscious that you are using down time to do these administrative things and programme them in.

• those times when you remember where you’ve shone or stolen the show.

Take time - a proper lunch break, a walk, whatever - to analyse the feelings around these things and to look at the magic ingredients that made them a success. If you don’t do this, you won’t be able to fuel yourself to make more of the same. When you’ve done this use this energy to focus on:

• those activities that are about developing ideas: it could be building a new project, idea or grant or job application.

We all know that we’ve got work to deliver in the moment and there are a thousand administrative piranhas nibbling at our toes, but make sure they are put in their place.

Otherwise, you’ll end up kicking yourself for not having given yourself enough time to think through your next moves.

Bright sparks

This spark, firing up within me, lights up my mind and I find the challenges and possible solutions just suddenly emerge in those moments of inspiration. (Sue Austin)

a hand making a spark from sticks

Susan Austin is on our Sync Intensives programme.

She makes time to sit in generative thinking, allowing the inspiration to flow, even when energy alludes her. It’s important when hatching our next steps that we work with other people to move the ‘spark’ into a flaming torch.

You can read more in her article this month and the impact that Sync thinking has had on how she plays the leadership game to her advantage.

Next month we'll be reporting back from our Sync Thinking event.

Sarah Pickthall

Sync Coaching

Go straight to Sue's Article

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