Hack traditional learning, embrace digital

Hacked

Well hello there, I’m back! Truth is, I’d never really gone away but I had taken a side-step from my blog whilst I reflected on things, re-evaluated and sharpened my saw.

To mark digital learning day I originally wrote this post for our website on behalf of our learning and development team. We are taking steps to hack our education here at Bromford – something 13 year old Logan Laplante talks about brilliantly in this TEDx talk from 2013 (please spare yourself 11 minutes to watch this and be inspired by Logan’s story of why he quit traditional education to be home schooled by his mom.)

The way we deliver our learning to colleagues has gone through some changes, something not everyone reading this will be aware of. Traditionally classroom delivery was favoured but as our organisation has grown the difficulty of achieving this when you have around 1200 employees was becoming more and more apparent.

As digital and social learning grew around us we wanted to piggyback on this opportunity and have a slice of this for ourselves. And Be.Bromford was that very opportunity.

Be.Bromford is our own learning platform that’s built by, and for, our colleagues and their learning journey begins with us way before they’ve even popped on their name badge for the first time!

We give successfully recruited candidates access to our Onboarding site (which sits within Be.Bromford) up to four weeks before their start date and this allows them to see and hear, first hand, what it’s really like to work at Bromford. They will hear from colleagues and senior leaders through video and written article pages, and understand our expectations of them and what it takes to really embrace our special culture.

The Onboarding process does a really good job of speeding up the induction period but what it also does is give these new colleagues an early insight into Be.Bromford and get a feel for how it works and what the navigation feels like. When day one comes around for the colleague they’ll get full access to the rest of the site. From here-in they’ll have access to the rest of the site.

Colleagues will use Be.Bromford to submit their one to one’s and annual reviews and use the site to explore a wealth of articles on various learning topics. We have animated and traditional learning videos, games, resources, screencasts, leadership tools and a social learning community for colleagues to share and support each other with their learning queries and experiences. We’ve also introduced a fantastic new tool called getabstract which helps colleagues find, extract and digest business books’ content in less than 10 minutes.

All of this is helping us to shape and build our next big learning project: something we’re working on we’ve called Job Ready Pathways. These pathways of learning are packaged up for colleagues by job role. It allows new starters to go through all the content they need to get them job ready and prepared to deliver their role and focusses on clarity and consistency for all.

24/7

Be.Bromford is slowly changing colleagues’ behaviours and the way we deliver our learning. We recognise traditional classroom training still has a very key place but what digital learning is doing for Bromford is complimenting the experience. Colleagues can access their pre-learning through Be.Bromford 24/7, share thoughts and ideas, research content and even help write and deliver it for others.

Digital learning for Bromford isn’t about taking anything away from what we currently do it’s about creating more learning opportunities for colleagues. It’s our enabler. It’s our Google.

You can watch our Be.Bromford video by clicking or tapping here.

It’s great to learn, socially

Funny Monkeys - courtesy of Afranko.com

Funny Monkeys – courtesy of Afranko.com

I mentioned in my previous post how my new role has seen me move into a new team and help with the build of our brand new learning platform. Being part of the colleague development team we need to have our fingers firmly on the pulse and actively seek new ways to engage our colleagues and pull together the next great piece of content.

In this new team I have the pleasure of working alongside a wonderful colleague by the name of Jo Mason (please do me a favour and say hello to her next time your online). Jo is something of a learning and development guru here at Bromford (she’ll be pretty embarrassed when she finds out I wrote that). That said Jo is so humble and honest in her ways that she’d quickly tell you that she is always learning and striving to hear more of what others have to say.

So, a few weekends back we put that to the test. Jo and I hitched a little plan and decided to reach out to our twitter audience in the hope that the people we know could help shape some of our learning content for us.

We’d hoped that posting a few tweets would be enough to get a few responses and help shape how we pull this together, what happened next was phenomenal.

More than 30 people got involved with over 70 responses in just 1 day! We had people sharing personal thoughts, ideas, suggestions, web links and pictures. We’d really struck a chord. What’s great is that people gave up their personal time to help us out. Some replied early morning, some during lunchtime and others into the evening – oh and did I mention this was on a Sunday too?!

The point is that people are willing to share and learn from one another at whatever time suits them, at whatever pace and in a style that they feel most comfortable in using – whether that’s through type, file sharing or imagery. This is social learning working at its best – for you!

Thanks again to everyone who got involved in #stresslesstips – click on the link below to see what we produced with all of your wonderful creations.

Andy and Jo

http://www.haikudeck.com/-stress-less-top-tips-how-to-presentation-YBYSgrHBKF

If you’ve any #stresslesstips of your own, or have an idea for a piece of learning we could work on in the future, please let me know in the spaces below.

Business lessons from a toddler!

Last Thursday I had the absolute pleasure of being part of Bromford’s final Future Fifty event with guest speaker, CEO and founder of Ella’s Kitchen; Paul Lindley.

The day was the finale in a series of events that we hosted and it marked the anniversary of Bromford’s first ever Board Meeting in November 1963. In reflection of this we brought together old friends, colleagues and board members to hear from Paul, our CEO Mick Kent, see the launch of our YouCan Foundation and listen to some inspirational stories from a couple of Bromford’s customers.

Paul seized his opportunity to reflect on the significant milestones of the past 50 years and talked us through what he felt had changed, and hadn’t, during this time. You can watch the live-stream of the event again through our YouTube channel. But one of the highlights for me came in the second part of Paul’s presentation where he talked about the future of entrepreneurship and leadership. This was it for me, this is the thing that hooked my smile and I think caught everyone’s imagination around the room.

Is it the childlike behaviour or the Superman baby-grow that does it?

Is it the childlike behaviour or the Superman baby-grow that does it?

So here are Paul’s 6 business lessons from a toddler (with a few descriptions from me):

Never give up
How many times have you said to your children, or heard others say to theirs, to stop doing something – yet the little ones continue in their quest to do as they originally intended. Nothing will get in their way! For me, the determination of these little humans is unparalleled.

Be creative
Just this weekend I took delivery of a few Christmas presents that I’d purchased from an online book store. When my daughter copped her eyes on the said box her immediate reaction was; “Daddy a robot”. No, she hadn’t gone mad. She’d seen the cardboard surround as much more than just a box, she wanted me to turn it into a robot suit that she could wear. Don’t you just love that creative spirit?!

“Be childlike not childish in your work; have fun and be creative” ~ @Paul_Lindley

Get noticed
Kids are the life and soul of pretty much every family gathering. They stand out in every supermarket, are the main reason we make so much of Christmas and you’re likely to hear them before you’ve even seen them! Kids quite simply like to get noticed – no different from all aspiring colleagues and businesses I guess.

Be honest
Sometimes we don’t like to hear the truth, but if we’re not prepared to listen how can we possibly learn and move forward? Similarly we need to be honest with others, if they ask for feedback, are looking for advice or want your opinion – tell them what you really think. Toddlers have to be some of the most honest people you’ll ever know – they’ll tell you how it really is.

Show your feelings
Much like the honesty point above, it’s not often we will say to others how we really feel – but we should. We should open up more to other people, let them know if we’re feeling low and when we’re not ‘in the room’. A child is much the same, they will tell you when they’re hungry, when they are hurt and when they’re feeling poorly and could do with a hug – now, how good is a hug!

Use different strategies
Why do we continue to do the same things in the same ways time and time again? We tend to know what our objectives are and yet, despite our commitment to get the best result possible, continue to go about it in the same way we always have. Now, how often do we see children climb over things, go under things and around things that we say they shouldn’t? Is it really so wrong or should we just allow them to take on a new challenge just as we would want for ourselves and our customers?

“Some advice to new business: always, always be a toddler” ~ @Paul_Lindley

Being a parent to a 3 year old I totally get these points from Paul. So let’s cut through the waffle and the jargon and align our approach to business through the eyes of a toddler.

I’ve come up with a few extra of my own which I’ve turned into a Haiku Deck. What do you think? Are there any that you can think of that you’d like to add? Go on be honest, be creative, show your feelings and get yourself noticed!

Just to remind you that the recording of the live-stream from the event is available on our YouTube channel where you can see all of Paul’s presentation. You can also see the launch of our YouCan Foundation, hear from two of our customers whose lives have been touched by the work that we’ve done, and see an ‘interview in hashtags’ with our flamboyant leader; Mick Kent. You can also follow the tweets from the day in the two Storify’s we’ve put together here and here.

 

If you’re interested in reading more from Paul Lindley, his new book “Little Wins: The Huge Power of Thinking Like a Toddler” is available to order now from Amazon.

The Bromford DNA, Let It Be

This is my latest post that first appeared as a guest article over at All Things IC courtesy of Rachel Miller (thanks again Rachel). I hope you enjoy it.

*The Fab Four - can you name them?

*The Fab Four – can you name them?

I wonder how many of us could name The Beatles? My guess is that most would name the Fab 4 without breaking a sweat, right? Now, how many of us could reel off our company’s mission statement, vision and values without hesitation? Not so easy is it.

Anybody that follows me on twitter, reads my blog or knows me personally would have almost certainly heard me bang on about the company that I work with and how much I love it! Like The Beatles we’re celebrating our 50th anniversary here at Bromford and it’s been during this milestone that we’ve opted for a cleaner and more leaner approach of inspiring people to be their best.

We’ve ditched the tradition of a mission statement, a blurred vision and an exhaustive list of values. Instead we look for colleagues to work with us who share our newly launched DNA; Be Good, Be Brave, Be Different and Be Commercial, our very own awesome foursome!

Our very own 'Fab Four'

Our very own ‘Fab Four’

Just this week, 6 months since their launch, a number of leaders from across Bromford (including me) were presented with a challenge; to go and investigate our DNA and then feedback to a wider audience what we found. We were asked to visit other teams, see how colleagues are embracing ‘the Be’s’, look at how they are bringing them to life and to, well, Be Nosey!

The day arrived and we had our usual army of tweeters and yammerers (is that the right word, do we even have one yet? If not let’s invent one!), who were on hand to pledge their support and give real-time updates to those who couldn’t be in the room. We were treated to a great variety of presentations ranging from videos to Haiku Decks, a specially built website to a live recording of a podcast! The session was absolutely brilliant; not only did it showcase the wealth of talent we have across Bromford, it also gave us insight into our teams that may have only surfaced previously during lunch breaks and through team meetings.

So for me, someone who relishes a challenge and wanting to #BeBrave and #BeDifferent, I prepared my findings in a unique and inexpensive way. I presented back through our first ever Bromford comic book.

Our first Bromford comic has arrived.

Our first Bromford comic has arrived.

The comic’s content is taken from video screenshots of our HR team’s away day. What really stood out for me is the fun and engaging way in which colleagues were able to represent and demonstrate the respective Be’s from their team’s viewpoint. Inspirational lyrics, poems, amateur dramatics, avatars and future gazing – this team had it all, and don’t forget they were talking about something that had just replaced all that corporate jargon we used to have!

Now, how many of you reading this can honestly say that your mission statement, vision or values truly enable your colleagues to bring them alive in this way? Will they still be circulating like the Beatles are now; 50 years since they formed? We certainly hope that our new approach will stand the test of time and who knows, we could still be talking about our DNA come our 1st century!

If you’re interested in hearing more about our DNA and the #BeNosey challenge, visit our website and keep checking back for updates as they are released.

*Credit for The Beatles image goes to artist Meredith Kresge. Prints are available to buy here.

Stories in Music

The last few posts I’ve written have concentrated a lot on my leadership experiences but this time I wanted to take a different direction, so I’ve taken inspiration from the creative mind and wonderful stories of a fantastic colleague of mine; Steve Nestor (if you don’t follow Steve on social media I strongly recommend that you do).

If you follow me on Twitter you may have noticed that in the last month or two I’ve started to creep more of my personal interests into my tweets, it’s a decision that I made on the basis that I used to have two twitter accounts – one for personal and one for professional – but then I thought;

“Hey, there’s only one me!”

Followers of mine, who don’t know me well enough already, are soon starting to realise that I love my music. I buy lots of it, I download it, stream it, listen to it at concerts, festivals and clubs, I follow many DJ’s, bands, record labels and online publications, and thanks to my love of music I have many, many happy and fond memories associated with it.

So, because of this passion I wanted to create something different and here it is; my first Haiku Deck. This has been made on the principal of the ‘less is more’ approach and I’ve kept the text to a minimum (just 80 words, I think I counted). I’ve taken my love of music and curated a short story for you. It’s somewhat fictional but does echo sentiments of where I’ve been personally and where I see things in my life at Bromford right now.

I hope you enjoy.

http://www.haikudeck.com/p/t1DKvvnRT6

(sorry but I can’t embed my Haiku Deck at the moment so this link will have to do, if anybody has any ideas how to get around this please let me know)

United Leadership (part 1)

“Innnn West Midlands Wolves, born and raised, in a playground is where I spent most of my days…”

OK, it doesn’t have the same impact as the opening theme tune to the Fresh Prince of Bel Air but having seen Will Smith bring the song alive again on Graham Norton recently people like me, who grew up watching the exploits of Will and Carlton, couldn’t hide the goose bumps and feel good factor whilst watching it.

The same has to be said for football fans watching Manchester United dominate the English game, and for a short period Europe too, over the past 20 years or so. And it’s in no small thanks to the living legend that is Sir Alex Ferguson that the Red Devils rode this successful train for so many years.

On the 6th June 2013 I rode a short train journey of my own, from Wolverhampton up to Manchester, to attend a brilliant session organised by HouseMark and facilitated by the Manchester United Foundation on what it takes to build a high performance team through teamwork and leadership.

John Shiels delivered the session, CEO of the Foundation, who has worked with Manchester United for the past 7 years – so it’s fair to say this guy has some first hand experience of this club and what it takes to taste this success and, just as importantly, to maintain it.

You don’t need me to tell you just how big Manchester United are. With an annual turnover of over £330million they are more than just a football club, they are a brand – a very large brand – but one with a very expensive shop window. So to survive they need owners who do not throw money at it – their finances needs to be properly invested. They do things on purpose – not by accident. Some of the new kids on the block throw money at the shop window, but that doesn’t guarantee them longevity. It’s not just about today or tomorrow, it’s about building the foundations for a successful future.

This wasn’t a one-on-one session by the way, I went along with my colleague Josie and we represented Bromford in a room of 20 or so other Housing professionals. So, why would we be interested in what a football club has to say? Well, there are some significant leadership examples for us all here, applicable across many businesses, not just football or housing. There’s a lot to fit in, lots of stories to tell, so I’ll share some of the highlights of the day with you in two parts. This is part one.

Think BIG

To succeed in business your vision has to be big – mediocre is not good enough. When he joined the club as manager 26 years ago, Sir Alex wanted to beat the 18 league titles that Liverpool Football Club had won – it seemed an impossible task at the time but having recently stepped down from the helm he leaves the role with the club having won 20 league titles – when he joined Manchester United they’d only won 7!

Sir Alex Ferguson Stand

Have a shared vision

To continue in these successes, like any other business, there has to be succession planning at United. So, who have they brought in as Sir Alex’s successor – a manager with a track record for winning trophies, right? Wrong. They’ve appointed their new manager (David Moyes) because he had remained consistent throughout his last post at Everton (12 years as manager), had kept them in the top flight of football during his time and built a very good team and structure within a club who had very little investment in the transfer market (Manchester United spent £48m in 2012/13) and City (£76m in 2011/12). So, United have reflected their faith in him with a 6 year contract – a long time in football terms – because it’s all about creating stability and having a shared vision to build success.

Never stop learning

When you look at today’s top footballers, most of whom are multi-millionaires, how do you keep them focused when money is not a driver? It’s about knowing the individual’s needs and working with them to achieve their goals. John told us a story about Ryan Giggs – for those of you who don’t know him he’s the most decorated player in English football of all time (and still playing at the top level at the ripe old-age of 39). The club were looking for a volunteer to help out on a training session with some young kids one afternoon, and when the first team were asked that morning who could be available Ryan was the first to raise his hand, although he did explain that he couldn’t make it for the 1pm start as he had a prior engagement. When he did arrive shortly after 1.30pm the coach asked why he was late. Ryan explained that he was taking swimming lessons! Despite being a tuned athlete, fit as a fiddle, and still performing at the highest level Ryan wanted to do more, but it didn’t stop there. Ryan is learning to swim as he’s training to become a triathlete, amazing! If you want to be the best you’ve got to keep pushing yourself.

Create a positive environment

We often hear stories of how United bounce back in games where defeat seems to be staring them straight in the face. During the 2012/13 season there were 14 times where United came from behind to win the game, but they can’t always be victorious. John told us how, after seeing United lose one particular game, he got to see them warming down shortly after. Some players were seen laughing and joking – which he couldn’t understand. Why was this? Because they need to be focused on the next game; they had quickly put the loss behind them and were now preparing themselves physically and mentally for the next challenge. John said:

“Manchester United are better at losing than winning!”

Performance is key; get the performance right and the right result will follow.

Sir Alex rant

Communicate effectively

Some of you reading this may already be familiar with the model that effective communication is:

7% words

38% tone

55% body language

The power of body language is emphasised in this great story: United were having a bad day and weren’t playing particularly well in one of their home games. So, at half-time the manager came out first – before all the players – something he doesn’t normally do. He went over to the loudest section of fans (the Stretford end) and worked up the crowd by throwing his hands into the air and applauding them – he’s now got their attention. With the entire crowd watching him he now walks to the linesmen and follows them onto the pitch. He makes his way towards the referee to have a word with him, pointing his finger and looking typically animated. Nobody knows what is said but through his body language has communicated to 76,000 fans that there could be a problem and that “we need to do something here”. The second-half began shortly after; the fans got behind the team in rip-roaring fashion and united went on to win the game. Enough said – or in this case – hardly anything at all!

Learn from mistakes

Experience is about learning from the mistakes that have gone before, Manchester United are no different.

Great people like to be challenged, and that’s exactly what happened in the close season of 2011/12. Manchester United had just won their final game 1-0 meaning that Manchester City had to win their game to clinch the title; 27 seconds after United’s game finished City scored to win 2-1 and claimed the title. The following day was United’s player of the year awards and the body language around the room said it all. Sir Alex stood up to addresses the room saying something along the lines of:

“That was yesterday, we’re Manchester United and we will learn from that – I’ll go away and sharpen my saw and we’ll come back and win.”

Sir Bobby and Bryan Robson addressed the room too and said some similar things to that of the manager – all of a sudden the mood in the room was transformed. The United culture instilled. The following season United went on to romp the title beating their City rivals by an 11 point margin. Inspired by the top and believed in from the bottom.

I hope you enjoyed part 1. Keep checking back, or enter your email address at the top of the page, to hear more stories in part 2 and what Sir Alex meant by ‘sharpening his saw’.

*Part 2 is now available by clicking here

Are you working with or are you working for?

On Monday night Manchester United claimed their 20th League title, this despite the fact that there are still 4 games left to play this season. I’m not a United fan myself but I can’t help but applaud this amazing achievement, something made possible through incredible leadership and unparalleled teamwork. But I think that you and your organisation could have something that edges Manchester United and their multi-million pound stars…

Every Manchester United player will tell you that they play for a fantastic club – and I do not doubt that for one second – but because of the relationship I have with my employer I use a slightly different language; I say I work with them.

AJ twitter

Now this may seem a little odd to some of you and admittedly it might read a little weird, but when you think about it do you:

Work for your organisation to achieve their goals?

or do you:

Work with your organisation to achieve shared goals?

For me, it’s the latter.

I share the same values, I embrace the culture and I love the people who work here. I have an emotional attachment, a sense of pride, a willingness to learn and a commitment to do good. I work with Bromford to achieve my goals. I don’t say ‘my goals’ selfishly I say that because we share the same.

I work with my colleagues to achieve great things. I work with the people that I do because we have a desire to achieve the same objectives. We work together, in tandem, in unity, as one.

It’s not just about me helping Bromford be successful, it’s every bit as much about Bromford helping me to be successful. They support me, invest in me, they believe in me. Any company that does that will get the gesture replicated, ten-fold. If that culture doesn’t exist, you’re simply not working with one another.

Bromford is a people place – it’s about the relationships your form and making every single interaction count.

glue

Last week we had our annual conference; the Bromford Bash, a coming together of more than 1100 colleagues sharing and celebrating our 50 year anniversary. We had videos, music, tears and laughter, some fancy dress, an Apprentice winner, a Harlem Shake and our colleague awards. It was an incredible day. People from all over our organisation gathered under one-roof; customers, colleagues, board members, executives – we even opened up a live twitter feed using the hashtag #bash2013 which gathered energy from people outside of the room as well as those who were sat (or dancing) inside it!

And it was the words of our very own CEO who summed up this magical day, and what this great place to work is all about, and I quote:

“It’s the social glue that sticks this organisation together”

I am most definitely with Mick on that!