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Sync: e-bulletin January 2011


Happy New…

A man may smile and bid you hail
 yet wish you to the devil;
 But when a good dog wags his tail,
 you know he's on the level.
 (Author Unknown)

a photo of Random the puppy

Happy New Year – and we hope your new years resolutions haven’t faded yet in the cold hardship of January.

My only resolution this year was to get a new dog (our old one passed away in April). Early January, we got a puppy we have called Random, so most of the month I am spending at home calling out ‘sit’, ‘stay’, ‘busy dog’ (for house training purposes!) and cleaning up his mistakes. He’s gorgeous, but exhausting… and great for helping me think about leadership development!

I can’t believe how much of what I am doing with him reinforces what I have been learning and looking at through Sync and other CLP leadership development programmes, and also from my own work-life experiences.

Ready to find out about leadership the dog training way? Well…. SIT!

Putting in the ground work

Amount of time it takes for a dog to "do its business" is directly proportional to outside temperature + suitability of owner's outerwear. (Betsy Cañas Garmon)

a signpost banning dogs from pooing.

House-training a dog is relentless. You have to have three things in your head at the same time:

  • You have to think about the day so far – what’s happened up until now?
  • And you have to think ahead – what’s likely to happen next? This is based on what you know of the situation, and what other people have said might happen
  • You have to constantly monitor the situation, reading the dog’s behaviour to see what you should do in response

You can’t let up and give yourself an hour off, or think ‘that’s enough for today, I’ll stop for now and pick up tomorrow’ – that would undo all your good work so far.

To make a success of house-training a dog in the quickest time possible, you have to be consistent, dedicated, focused and give it 100% of your attention. For me, it’s the same as taking on a new piece of work, a new client, a new role or a new responsibility – I have to get up to speed and learn how others respond to what, in what way and when.

Mistakes will still happen and when they do and your dog pees inside, everyone in the dog training world is clear – you are the one who slipped up, not the dog. This is good for me to remember too – it's very easy to blame others for mistakes when things go wrong rather than to think through the alternative things which I could have done which might have made a difference.

Again, I look back on my work life and marvel at the times I've asked people to do things for me without sparing the time to give the context and the information they need in order to truly understand what it is I want them to do!

In someways it also reminds me of coaching; that continuous cycle of reflection on the good, the bad and the ugly, and the rational way coaching encourages you to look at mistakes without beating yourself up. I suppose it's about looking for patterns and the underlying reasons why we do the things we do in order to examine them to see if they are really serving what we want in life or not.

Building up one step at a time

My most satisfying aspect of animal training is a very simple moment. After a show when I leave the stage door... and there is a crowd gathered, sometimes I hear someone say the following and it makes it all worthwhile. "How did they make that dog do that?" I smile because I am the only "they", and I do it with love. (William Berloni, dog trainer, about transforming a severely abused dog from the pound into Sandy in the Broadway production of Annie)

Sandy and Annie, from the film version of Annie

Random has been here for less than a week. He can already sit on command and even stay for a few seconds whilst you walk backwards across the room – he is a quick learner! It would be great if he roll over, fetch toys back, shake paws – but he can't just yet. The reminder for me here is about little steps along the journey.

None of us can get to the big showier tricks if we don't know the basics. Work on the basics and when they are right add on more – slowly, slowly, slowly. Can you think of any times in your work life where you have charged ahead, racing on and not looking behind you to see if anyone else had even understood the basics of what you wanted them to do? If I don’t constantly remind myself, I still do it now – often trying to run before I can walk.

This doesn’t mean that working quickly or taking risks is wrong – far from it – but it is about remembering you don’t work alone. Even if you are a freelancer, there is still a network of other people – co-workers, stakeholder, clients, participants, even family – who might need to be kept in the frame. Two way communication, checking that people are up to speed, building up from the basics, having ambitious aims but a realistic way of reaching them… are all important!

Susan Austin, who is on Sync Intensives, is our case study this month. She takes us through her leadership journey to date and how her confidence, knowledge and skills built quickly from a local to a national perspective, each activity building on the next, with support from Sync:

Being part of this process has built my confidence and given me the self-belief and skills to start to develop a not-for-profit organisation, Freewheeling. I have also applied to be a panel member on an Arts Council Impact Fund Panel and have put in my first bid for Research and Development funding for a project called ‘Testing the Water’. It has also enabled me to start to build networks within the Disability Arts Community and see examples of a varied range of leadership roles taken up by the other participants of Sync Intensives. There have been some very inspiring articles from fellow Sync members exploring the understanding they have arrived at with regards to their leadership style. These have helped me to analyse and develop a deeper understanding of my own leadership style and the ways in which I am able to lead in the context of physical and cognitive challenges.

You can read Susan's case study by following the link below, and remember all the articles are up on the website for anyone to read at any time. Go grab some inspiration!

Susan is currently working on an article for Sync for next month - so keep watching this space...

To read Susan Austin's case study...

Passing over the power

My goal in life is to be as good a person as my dog already thinks I am. (Author Unknown)

one hand passing a baton to another

With a puppy, someone needs to be 100% responsible at any specific time, but you have to pass that power around - or you'd be exhausted - and that's no good to anyone.

So who do you have around you that you 'pass the power' over to? For many leaders, it's a key element of their leadership style to continually empower others, giving autonomy and responsibility to all within their team. Other people find it harder to share power, to genuinely pass over responsibility without feeling the need to micro-manage what the other person is doing.

Sometimes this is about delegation, sometimes it's about creating teams to work with us, and sometimes this might be about surrounding yourself with the right kind of support.

In this months article, Anouk Perinpanayagam talks about the impact of coaching on herself and her work, and her realisation, through coaching, in the power of the pack.

Through coaching I realised that I didn’t have to do this on my own but that it was essential to find willing collaborators and support who could see past the ongoing difficulties and be my advocate. Coaching can undoubtedly allow people to play with the possibility of doing leadership differently.

Without a pack around her, particularly her partner Peter and amazing NHS support, she says it would have been near on impossible for her to pinpoint the real and significant contribution that she can make as someone, yes who is disabled, but also someone who has considerable experience to share.

Who is in your pack? To whom do you pass the power?

If you are interested in reading more about passing over power, it might be worth popping back into the Sync website and re-reading the article on The Synergy of Geese - about how we can lead by changing over who is at the front, like geese when they fly in a V formation - it's one of the articles that has received the most hits within Sync.

Anouk talks about many of the different facets of coaching - the need to look deeply inwards honestly, the need to own, identify and find ways to work with our own access requirements and the need, as a coach, to have 'an ever expanding portfolio of BDQ's - (bloody difficult questions)'.

It's a great article - useful for any of those thinking about entering coaching (or becoming a coach) and also to remind those of us who have been or are being coached of our need to really give ourselves fully to the process.

To go straight to the coaching article...

Enjoy yourself

There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face. (Ben Williams)

a photo of a dogs nose very near the camera

Ok - last dog related thing here. Do you know that there is a growing trend towards treating depression by dog ownership? Apparently, dogs can have a calming and spirit-lifting effect on their owners and the responsibility of owning a dog can help shift people into more positive behaviours - walking, following a routine and so on. We're certainly not advising people to go and get dogs, but there is a reminder here to make sure there are things in your life that you love and that are good for you!

It's like it says in that song 'Enjoy Yourself (It's Later than You Think)'. We need to make time to enjoy ourselves now - both to keep us functioning to the best we can and because we never know what will happen next. Attend to your own happiness in the here and now - don't always delay your own fun.

Many of us have animals for access. In these situations, our animals are not just for enjoyment but they enable us to have access to the rest of our lives. Whilst randomly searching the internet for dog related quotes, I found this howler about access animals from The Oxford Union Society, London. Rule 46 states that:

Any member introducing a dog into the Society's premises shall be liable to a fine of one pound. Any animal leading a blind person shall be deemed to be a cat.

Shhhh! don't tell the guide dogs!

Link to an article discussing depression and dog therapy

Sync Thinking...

Sync Thinking … capturing the impact of disabled leaders and the Sync leadership development programme

a photo of the Sync notebook

One of the main functions of Sync is to energise, inform and ultimately change generic leadership development - making it more open, accessible, relevant and applicable to all. Hence Sync Thinking…

Sync are hosting a small event on the 8th March, at the Wellcome Centre in London to look at the impact of disabled leaders and the programme itself. Rather than offering an opportunity to hear from a series of inspiring disabled leaders about their journeys, Sync have instead curated some snapshots – disabled leaders and those they work with, inspire, and work in partnerships with. In this way, they aim to look at the impact of the work of the last few years; what has been noticed, what has altered and where is change still needed? Speakers include:

  • Caroline Cardus (visual artist who recently gained a residency at the Baltic through Shape’s Adam Reynolds Memorial Bursary),

  • Rachel Gadsden (the first artist in Residence for Parlimentary Outreach, who recently gained a Without Walls Commission for a new outdoor performance),

  • Simon McKeown (DADAFest’s artist of the year 2010 whose digital art piece Motion Disabled was shown in 17 countries simultaneously on Dec 3rd 2010),

  • Jenny Sealey MBE, Artistic Director of Graeae and her protégée Rachel Bagshaw who is now directing at the Young Vic,

  • Mark Barbar, learning disabled dancer and employee of Anjali Dance

  • Stephanie Fuller, Head of Development, Arts Council England, South East,

  • Deepa Shastri, who has undertaken a Leading in London Placement at LOCOG/Shape and also works for STAGETEXT,

  • and Jon Adams, Artist in Residence at the University of Portsmouth and currently involved in a number of projects linked to the Cultural Olympiad in the South East, including encouraging large numbers of people to create forests of flags from books.

The day will be extensively documented for web dissemination on our site - although anyone interested in seeing if there are spaces available can email with Sync thinking as the subject line.

And finally, remember, if you fancy a Sync notebook, we still have some available. You have to ask for two though - one for you and one to pass on to someone else you think might benefit. You can get them through emailing

That's it for now

Have a great February!

Jo Verrent

Sync Project Manager

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