Reading for Leading #26: The people who give us perspective

The people who give us perspective

Reading for Leading is a weekly leadership tip shared every Monday morning as a pithy suggestion, question or reflection. You can find the whole series here.

On a recent day off I enjoyed exploring the Freer Gallery in DC, where there’s a wonderful collection of Buddha statues. One particular exhibit made was a helpful reminder of the value of friends with perspective. 

In Buddhism, a boddhisattva is a compassionate person who works to ease the suffering of all beings and foregoes entering Nirvana until all others have become enlightened too. Quite a task, right?  

Where do you find your perspective?
Image credit: author’s own

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Reading for Leading #23: Building and strengthening connections through random coffee chats

Building and strengthening connections through random coffee chats

Reading for Leading is a weekly leadership tip shared every Monday morning as a pithy suggestion, question or reflection. You can find the whole series here.

How well do you know your colleagues in your organisation? Are you aware of what they’re working on right now, and also future projects they may be starting to think about? How do you learn about new tools, techniques or other interesting ideas in your field – and identify people to collaborate with?

Often at conferences, we get extended opportunities to chat about these topics over a drink or meal together between the programmed activities. And it’s from these human, face-to-face connections that trust is built and somewhat serendipitous sharing of knowledge occurs.

But what do you do for the rest of the year in terms of developing your network and broader awareness about your field? Maybe a cup of coffee could help…

Coffee and communication – why miss out on either when you can schedule them both together!
Image credit: author’s own

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Reading for Leading #20: Writing your own instructions manual

Writing your own instructions manual

Reading for Leading is a weekly leadership tip shared every Monday morning as a pithy suggestion, question or reflection. You can find the whole series here.

“He’s really pushing my buttons” is a strange phrase that implies both that someone else is dictating our behaviour and that we have a clear set of visible controls that determine that behaviour. 

“Surprise! You’re in charge – but there are no labels and no instructions…” Image credit:

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Why trust is a must when working together – some reflections

Next week I’m taking part in a panel discussion about the role of trust in communities at the Community Roundtable’s annual CRConnect event. Ahead of that I wanted to share a few reflections about trust.

Trust and vulnerability come hand in hand

Trust is ultimately about a willingness to make our vulnerability visible to another – and to believe that they won’t take that show of vulnerability and abuse it to hurt us. Vulnerability can take many forms from revealing a secret fear to a friend, to sharing key insights with a collaborator or admitting to a supervisor that we need more support.

Building trust – one meaningful interaction at a time.
Image credit:

The moment at which we take the plunge and share our vulnerability is always transitional – the next steps for the relationship hang in the balance until we receive a response from the person we’re sharing with. If our revelation is met with reassurance, care, and appropriate respect then we’re likely to share again and the relationship will continue to develop. Break the boundaries of the tentative formation of a safe space and the relationship may be damaged temporarily or permanently, depending on the scale of the breach.

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5 books that have influenced how I think about leadership and team culture

In a series of 3 posts, I’m sharing some books that I’ve found useful on the topics of community management, online interactions, and leadership and team culture. In this post, I recommend 5 books that discuss being an effective leader and creating a collaborative, open culture of learning within your organisation.

1. “The first 90 days” by Michael Watkins

This is really a book about change management – how to make a positive impact in the first 90 days in a new management level role. Given that most employees change their role in some way every couple of years – whether that’s acquiring new direct reports, additional projects or moving elsewhere – effectively managing change is key to a successful career.

Managing change: first step – a nice cup of coffee!

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Reading for Leading #3: If you feel helpless, help someone

If you feel helpless, help someone

Helping hands
Image credit: author’s own


Next time you feel blocked – struggling with finding the right phrase for a crucial email, frustrated by a technical issue or feeling unsupported by someone you considered an ally, instead of giving in to the feelings of disappointment, anger or resistance, what happens if you put the issue down and look for a way to offer a hand to someone else?

It could be changing the toner cartridge in the photocopier, replenishing the printer with paper, proof-reading a colleague’s latest report or reviewing a collaborator’s newest results. It doesn’t have to be a big gesture – start with something that feels manageable right now.

How does being helpful in a hopeless moment make you feel?

Collaborative technologies – facilitating how we do work together

The original version of this post first appeared on the Trellis blog.

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the Science of Team Science (SciTS) conference in Clearwater Beach, Florida where I took part in a couple of sessions, and moderated a third. Here I’m going to share some reflections from the first session which focused on collaborative technologies for academic collaborations.

Illustration from Think Quarterly by Matt Taylor

The uses of collaborative tools

The first activity that we used to open the session involved gathering the names of current online tools and grouping them into 5 broad categories. The categories, suggested by workshop co-organiser Ryan Watkins, covered different reasons for using online tools. I’ve listed each below, with my interpretation added alongside:

  • Project management and communications – tools that allow users to organize and communicate with one another about their group-based work.
  • Sense-making – tools that enable discussion and idea sharing that leads to participants forming or refining their knowledge and beliefs about topics.
  • Knowledge sharing – tools that enable the dissemination of information.
  • Acquisition of knowledge – tools that enable active searching for information or passively receiving updates about new information.
  • Data analysis – tools that enable the sharing and computation of raw data.

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