Maximising your impact through creativity, visioning and design

The Director of Human Resources at Birkbeck, Charlotte Croffie, challenges us to be creative and listen in the latest Astrea networking event. This blog was contributed by Kayleigh Woods Harley, from Birkbeck’s Strategic Programmes Directorate.

Glancing around the hot and sunny room at Gordon Square, I realised I had never seen such a well-attended Astrea networking event in my time since becoming a facilitator. There were around 45 people staring back at me as I gave a brief introduction to Charlotte Croffie. I took my seat amid the anticipation.

There could be no higher authority from which to draw than Buddha, and that is exactly where Charlotte began: “All that we are is the result of what we have thought.” With humour and insight, she reinforced this message, moving on to the theme of creativity in one fell swoop. We considered how Michelangelo created his masterpiece David. She outlined the steps from selecting a block of marble, to chipping away in small increments until all that was left was David, appearing as if conjured straight out of the sculptor’s imagination from the inert stone.

We were asked to step outside of ourselves and draw or write down what we thought people saw when they looked at us. There can be no more difficult question than this; the ability to get out of our own head and peer at ourselves is something that everyone wishes they could do. I looked down at my blank green post-it, touched the pen to my lips, thought. After a moment, I wrote:

  • Young
  • Colourful, happy, positive, cheerful
  • Proficient and efficient

Those who had chosen to draw instead of write their answers were asked to show their hands. Only a handful of people had. It demonstrated how few of us are willing to step out of our comfort zone. We needed to start challenging ourselves to step out of our default position more.

Next, we were asked to write down what we wanted to achieve. I wrote:

  • Friendships and networks
  • To feel like my work is worthwhile – for others and myself

Being part of Astrea is one way for me to meet these personal goals, and so far it has not failed me in reaching them.

In the largest segment of the afternoon, we worked in small groups to take on one of three roles, A, B, and C: A – articulate what you want to achieve; B – listen; C – observe. Those who became ‘A’ took on the challenge of speaking non-stop for two minutes about what they’d written. The listener was forced to listen without speaking, while the observer noted the interaction, the body language and tried to interpret what was happening.

If you’ve ever done this exercise before, you’ll know how revealing it can be. For some, it revealed how little we truly listen to others because we assume we already know what they are going to say. Being unable to respond to the speaker was deeply uncomfortable, but also liberating to hear what is really being said. The natural temptation to ask the speaker questions was very difficult to override. It showed how deeply ingrained are the learned behaviours that we adopt from a young age into adulthood.

Charlotte taught us that active listening is a key skill for coaching. You must learn to override those natural instincts to interrupt, to comment, to reassure, and allow the other person the space to expand on their thoughts. We were encouraged to practice this often with a trusted friend or colleague. Learning to coach and being coached are both ways in which we can learn to unlock our potential through creativity. Creativity requires that space and time we don’t often find at work because we are constantly busy and feel under pressure.

Charlotte shared her roadmap for changing your default position and doing things a little differently in the future:

  1. Map your default position when approaching a task
  2. Plot your journey – challenge yourself
  3. Take stock – how will this be perceived; what are the strengths and potential drawbacks?
  4. Move to the next stage – is it propelling or hindering you? … next steps
  5. Future-proof – tweak, shift, reinvent
  6. Do it all over again.

It all begins with that first step of mapping your default position. It all begins with a realisation, a thought, just like the Buddha said. With a little perseverance and possibly the help of a friend, it can transform us.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *