The HR Juggler

Posts Tagged ‘Reflection

So, last month last year, I ran a series of guest posts on the theme of 2011 Highlights and Horrors, which formed an Advent Calendar of blogs. A New Year should undoubtedly be more about looking forward, rather than harking back to what has been…and yet there have been many powerful points of learning for me in the experience of facilitating this experiment, that will influence how I move forward in 2012.

These then are my learnings and my own inspirations from your fantastic contribution of blogs:

Experimentation can result in amazing and unforseen consequences. Approaching tasks differently is immensely powerful and is something I want to do a lot more of, not only in blogging, but also in professional and personal spheres. Making suggestions without fear of failure, trying new ideas without concern for what might go wrong and giving the benefit of the doubt to the best possible outcome can undoubtedly transform everyday thinking and decision processes. That the entire advent calendar series evolved from a single tweet in (very!) late November, asking if anyone would be willing to contribute a guest post, is testament to the power of Twitter and also the wonderful creative force that collaboration can bring.

Openess leads to opportunity. With only a handful of exceptions, I did not ask anyone directly to contribute a guest post; it was truly crowd-sourced and available to anyone who wished to participate. Whilst it felt daunting in the very early days of December to have only a day or two of posts in advance, it undoubtedly led to a richer and more diverse end result. Some of the people who contributed were new connections who I came to know as a result of the experiment; others, like my sister-in-law, I have known for many years.

Collaboration. Asking people for help and inviting them to contribute is a powerful action. Allowing and enabling them to be a part of and influence the end result, undoubtedly enhanced the overall achievement. Together, we become more than the sum of our parts and I’d definitely like to do more of this type of collaboration not only on the blog, but also at work and at home, where asking for help can seem more problematic and difficult…perhaps I am simply more set in my ways in those contexts…;)

Consistency of delivery. It was a great feeling as the month progressed that people started to share links to posts before I had tweeted them. It was very important to me that the posts were similar to an advent calendar, in that they were available to consume and enjoy from early morning onwards. And, now that I have found the scheduling button on my blog, I shall be using it more frequently…which can only be a good thing for ongoing quality control :).

The guest posts themselves were varied, diverse and I genuinely enjoyed reading and publishing every single one of them. I am particularly proud that over a quarter of the posts were written by individuals who had never blogged before and felt inspired to share their highs and lows of 2011. To me, that made the experiment extra special and worthwhile.

In terms of the measurables, my blog had its busiest month ever in December, with 3,962 views, more than double my previous monthly record. Below are the ten most read posts of the month, as of 30th December 2011 – impressive again how many new bloggers are in this list.

Title Views
Day 12: Reflections of an HRD More stats 290
Day 13: An Emotional Rollercoaster More stats 192
Day 15: Failure, Courage and Happy Endings More stats 168
Day 21: A Christmas Carol Concert More stats 165
Day 8: Merry Christmas…A Hindu Perspective More stats 140
Day 6: Sinead Carville’s Highlights and Horrors of 2011 More stats 123
Day 10: All Change Please More stats 122
Day 19: It’s Not About The Money, Money, Money… More stats 119
2011 Highlights and Horrors: Guest Post from Kate Griffiths-Lambeth More stats 118
Day 7: Hopes and Fears More stats 104
Day 14: Breakthrough More stats 104

Hosting so many wonderful guest posts has inspired me to keep writing…not necessarily more frequently (daily posting is hard work!) but to grow this blog in terms of high-quality, thought-provoking posts. At the end of 2010, I resolved to blog more and better…I suspect that 2012 may be the year of blogging slightly less and yet better still…continuous improvement is certainly my aim ;).

I have had a huge amount of positive feedback on the Advent blogs, which I have appreciated hugely. Thanks so much for your part in making it a success!

I am truly delighted and quite happily overwhelmed with the response to this Advent Calendar blogging experiment…when I initally suggested it, I had no idea that it would capture so many people’s imaginations and create so many fantastic posts from such a wide variety of people. Many of the guest bloggers are people who have become friends on Twitter and some others I have known far less well before their offer of writing a post. Today’s post though, is from someone very special who is part of my family – my sister-in-law, Liz. I am very proud and genuinely touched that she has taken the time to write a blog post for me…and an excellent one it is too :).


This time of year brings mixed feelings for me.  As an accountant, when December starts and the decorations start going up, I have an impending feeling of dread.  Both 31 December and 31 January are huge deadlines in the accounting calendar, and the start of Advent always brings on a bit of a panic attack when I realise just how much there is to be done.

And of course, there are the other things which we have to find time for at this time of year.   Writing cards, putting up decorations, attending school plays, and of course Christmas shopping, all come within the ‘Mummy’ remit.  So December for me usually means stress and anxiety, at least until Christmas Day itself, when I finally allow myself to relax.

This year is slightly different though.  A number of things which have happened in 2011 have made me reflect on my life and my career, so I am in a rather more thoughtful mood than you would normally find me in at this time of year.  The main trigger for all of this reflection and ‘navel gazing’ is the sudden realisation that I am getting, well if not old, at least middle aged.

The festive season also marks my birthday, and this year it is a significant one.  I have drifted through my 20s and 30s without thinking too much about my age, but now I am uncomfortably aware of getting older.  The other major change this year has been my son starting at secondary school, which marks a new phase in all our lives as he and my daughter both get older and the household dynamics change.

All of this has made me stop and think about the direction my life is taking.  This has resulted in a change in my working hours which is allowing me more time with the children in the evenings, but making better use of the time when they are at school.  It has also resulted in re-examining my duties at work so that I can delegate more and make better use of my time and my skills.  Delegation is something that I am traditionally quite terrible at, but I am forcing myself to do it.  Hopefully the new year will bring more progress on this, but I am very aware that it will only happen if I make it.

So all in all, I think that 2011 has been a good year for me.  As my 30s draw to a close, I am pleased with what I have achieved so far, proud of my children, and looking forward to helping to drive my business forward in the future.

But enough of this self-indulgence, do you know how many tax returns I still have to do?!


I’m delighted that Rob has taken the time to write a blog for this Advent Calendar series of guest posts. I’m a big fan of his own Masters or Bust blog, which continues to go from strength to strength. And my Twitter timeline would certainly be far less entertaining without his perception, insight, humour and wit…you can follow him too @RobJones_Tring.


So 2011 has been quite a year, lots has happened and there’s been LOTS of change. When I initially saw Alison’s invite to contribute guest blogs I thought ‘that’ll generate some interesting contribution’ but didn’t immediately think of contributing. Over the past few days I’ve been reflecting on the year and actually decided ‘what the hell’ so here goes…

The lowlights of 2011 (yes there are plural) have both involved that well known Robbie Burns quote “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men Gang aft agley” as I had a defined plan for both my career and my academic work and both it’s fair to say have not gone anywhere the way I had intended them to.

The lowlights have not been the plans themselves going astray but rather the moments of realisation that it’s not working and a new plan is required. I can remember one of them quite clearly, sat in the back of a black cab in London and feeling quite overwhelmed with the new reality and what it meant for me.

Needless to say a stint ‘in the bunker’ (home, phone off, twitter off, stomping and thinking) and new plans were formulated and are so far *crosses fingers* on course!

The highlights of 2011 have been numerous and myriad but on a personal level it’s been the completion of what you could describe as a rather tricky piece of recruitment for a position that has only had interim occupants until this year. On a professional level there is one stand out moment that really made feel that what sometimes feels like pushing molasses up a sandy hill is worthwhile. I’ll elaborate…

Two years ago I started doing some work in China for the business I used to work for. In the process of completing a leadership development workshop I encountered an individual who for the purposes of this we’ll call Tom (all the Chinese team members have anglicised names too!) Tom had been with the business for about a year, was clearly intelligent and capable and was delivering good results in the role he was in at that time.

What struck me about him, aside from his clear potential, was how frustrated he was with perceived lack of recognition, his lack of quantum career progression and how defensive he was in receiving any kind of feedback or challenge. I had the opportunity to spend some 1 to 1 time with Tom, talked with his line manager, the local Head of HR and his line director. Over the intervening time I was able to work with Tom, either in groups or 1 to 1 and we had some great conversations.

The highlight moment was stood on a fire escape in August of this year (we both indulge in a rather toxic habit). Tom is now in a divisional management role and it was a gap of about 6 months that provided the distance for me to see how Tom had really grown comfortable in himself and his new role. I was absolutely chuffed for him and expressed that. His response was to share some of the challenges he had faced and how much was still to come and then he turned to me and said “the thing that started it was standing here about 2 years and what you said whilst we smoked”. I wanted to hug him!

There is no doubt that what he achieved was mostly down to his own personal effort with the support of his management, but to stand back and think I had a role in helping this great individual take a big step forward in his career was a kodak moment….


Got any comments or questions for Rob? I know he’d love to hear them ;).

The really lovely thing about inviting guest posts during December, is that the offers to write blogs have come from all sorts of different people, some of whom I know well, and others who I hardly know at all. Today’s blog post comes from Jon Bartlett, one of my most recent Twitter connections and someone who I have really enjoyed connecting with over the past few days. Jon is a coach and you can find him on Twitter (@Projectlibero) at his website and on his brand new blog.


It’s been a tough year for most people. Economy failing, debt levels high, threats to job security and a general sense of foreboding across the nation. Wherever we look there is scandal and discontent; if it’s not bankers it is politicians. If it’s not protestors rioting, it is police complicity in media lawlessness. There seems to be no end. And yet…. When Alison offered me a chance to write a guest slot on her blog she extended the kindness and openness I want to have in all my dealings both professional and personal. I mean, she doesn’t know me and yet she was offering me a chance to write for her blog, putting her own credibility on the line in the quest for a broader understanding.

I wrestled with what to write: horror or highlight? I tinkered with a few things that seemed to cover both. Do I write about my panic attack on a mountain whilst climbing alone last winter, or a big bike crash as I cycled the South Downs Way? I could write winningly about how I overcame the obstacles and succeeded, but it didn’t feel right. I looked down at my list of other blog titles (I can always do the titles, it’s the text I struggle with). Would you appreciate a blog on “Strong and challenging marmalade” or “The Adjustment Bureau”? Both of them titles I will be writing on soon, now that this kind invitation has enabled me to break through my own limiting beliefs on blogging and my aptitude for it.

So why did I call this a lesson from Apollo 13? Well if you’ve seen the film you may have an idea where I’m going with this; for those who haven’t, let me set the scene. There are 3 guys drifting in space and their oxygen is dropping, the machine which cleans the carbon dioxide out of the air is broken and because the two parts of the spaceship were built by two different government tenders, the units in either module are not interchangeable. Back in Houston, the mission controller walks in to a room of technicians. He briefly explains the situation and asks them to construct a new filter out of some manuals, some duct tape, random bits of spacesuit and some socks. At no point does he bemoan their situation; he doesn’t seek to blame anyone, to pass the buck. No, he gets straight in to the solution and says let’s build the answer to this problem.

So as we get to the end of 2011, having safely negotiated all the problems our world has had to throw at us, this blog post is making a promise for 2012. I will be in the outcome, not the problem, I will take ownership and action on the issues I can influence and not become de-motivated by things beyond my control. Oh and I will blog again. I invite you all to join me, (whatever your personal solutions are) in getting things done and making a small difference. Perhaps if we’re all doing it, then it will catch on.

A very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year


I’d love it if you would contibute a guest blog for this Advent Calendar of posts…I still have plenty of slots left to fill! You can get in touch with me at this blog or via Twitter @AlisonChisnell

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