Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Blogging, Tweeting and LinkingIn

Anyone who has visited our website will hopefully know that we’re trying to embrace the social media revolution at Rob Jackson Consulting Ltd.  To date we have this blog, a Twitter account, a LinkedIn page and YouTube channel.  However, I am acutely aware that despite all the benefits and pleasures they bring, all these new social media toys can be an enormous time sucker, distracting people away from doing real work and making a real difference.


So, why are we using them?

I want to focus on three aspects of our social media presence – the blog, LinkedIn and Twitter.  I’m going to save YouTube for another day, simply because it is the area we have put least effort into so far (as you’ll see from the less than perfect introductory video I have uploaded to the channel!).

Blog

One of my goals having started the business is to write more.  Writing is something I have been encouraged and inspired to do for many years by peers in the volunteering movement.  Volunteerism leader Susan Ellis in particular has been encouraging me to write for many years.  Why?  As she wrote thirteen years ago:

“My reputation for nagging people to WRITE about what they do is probably unparalleled. But too many of us are so busy ‘doing’ that we won't make time for reflection, new learning, and sharing with others. True professionals keep themselves informed. And career ladders are built by gaining recognition through published articles.”

Its not that I haven’t written, I have – particularly for www.e-volunteerism.com where I am part of the editorial board – but I haven’t given it the time or focus I would like.   With Rob Jackson Consulting Ltd that’s changing, not least because I am working on two writing projects to bring excellent existing volunteer management books into UK versions for the domestic market.

This blog is a key part of my writing plans.  My goal is to produce at least two posts a month.  I’m also planning to guest blog for Martin Cowling’s The Cowling Report, Andy Fryar’s OzVPM site, DJ Cronin (whose blog is currently up for an award) and Susan Ellis’ Energize Hot Topics.

So far the blog posts I’ve written have focused on getting the business up an running.  But I am going to start moving on to talk about issues affecting volunteering and the voluntary and community sector, mostly here in the UK but also overseas as well. 

This is something I’m incredibly passionate about.  In the past my voice has sometimes been constrained by working for organisations where for me to speak my mind might not have been the most helpful course of action.  Although not quite this badly!


Nobody was censoring me but it just wouldn’t have been wise for me to speak out as it would have potentially damaged my employer and, in some cases, the wider volunteerism field. 

Not so anymore.  I don’t think there are enough people writing and speaking out about volunteering issues in the UK.  I want to add my voice to that small chorus in the hope that I can make a contribution to helping the volunteer movement grow, develop and rise to the challenges and opportunities it faces.

So look out for posts in the future on topics like microvolunteering, online volunteering brokerage, developing volunteer opportunities, customer service for volunteer programmes, volunteering infrastructure, job substitution, government policy on volunteering and wider topics for the voluntary & community sector like mergers and the Big Society.

Twitter

As you’ve probably gathered by now, I am big fan of Scott Adams’ Dilbert.  So to start this section on Twitter I thought you might enjoy this:

Is that your experience of Twitter?  I know I’ve had some like that and I fear I may have been ‘idiot boy’ myself on occasion.  It’s all to easy with Twitter to end up posting about the ephemera of life or, as a reader of tweets, to get overwhelmed with information, often from a variety of sources as popular material is endlessly retweeted.

I have two Twitter accounts.  One is a personal one which I mainly use to keep up with friends and to keep informed on the latest news about the various different kinds of motorsport that I love and follow.  The work account I use for the following key reasons:



  • To keep people who are interested in what I do informed of what I am doing (for example I will promote this blog post via Twitter)
  • To share information I come across that I think has particular relevance to people working in the fields I engage with
  • As a key source of information and news for me on what’s going on in the environment the business operates in
  • To make new contacts and expand my networks


For those of you sceptical about the value of Twitter, here’s one example of how it has helped me. 

Two weeks ago I asked a question to my network on LinkedIn as I was trying to source recommendations for providers of professional indemnity insurance for consultants.  As my Twitter and LinkedIn accounts are connected a firm called PolicyBee saw my question and got in touch.  To cut a long story short I went with them for my insurance, securing better cover for a lower price.

LinkedIn

You will have noticed that I haven’t mentioned Facebook in this post.  That’s because I’m steering clear of Facebook for the business, for now at least.  Partly because I want to keep Facebook for me personally but largely because I think I’m better off getting involved in a social network aimed more at a professional audience, namely LinkedIn.

For me, the advantages of LinkedIn are that I can maintain a profile for the business in the same site as I have a version of my well established email network group for volunteer managers, UKVPMs, and my own personal profile which serves as an online CV.  Add to that the link between Twitter and LinkedIn that I mentioned earlier makes me believe this is a more powerful business social networking tool than any of the others.

Let me share a practical example.  I’ve recently been working on key result areas, objectives and milestones for the business.  Part of that work involved exploring ways I could effectively and easily measure how happy clients are with what I do.  So, one quick question posted on LinkedIn and just a few minutes later I have two examples of online surveys that people in my network use with their clients.

Conclusion

As I said at the start of this post, I am all too aware that social media can become a time-sucker getting in the way of productivity.  That’s why it is important to have a clear sense of why you want to use social media and what you want to achieve from it.  This is something to be particularly careful of in the volunteering arena as we are increasingly encouraged to embrace without question the potential of social media to revolutionise volunteering, in the face of little evidence that trendy concepts like microvolunteering make any meaningful difference to society (a topic to which I will return in future but for now read the ever excellent Jayne Cravens’ recent thoughts on the concept).

So, as I build the marketing strategy for Rob Jackson Consulting Ltd over coming weeks, I will be developing and refining key objectives for our use of these new media and monitoring whether it really helps with our work or gets in the way. 

I’ll let you know how I get on.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Are we a cult now?



Organisational values.  Rarely have I come across a topic in my career that has provoked so much scepticism.  From those who are totally anti-corporate values to those who just think its is all hot air and no action, rarely have I come across anyone who thrills to the idea of discussing values, except branding agencies of course!

One manager I had in the past summed it up well when they talked about people having values, not companies.  People, they argued, are all individuals and have differing values.  Companies cannot force their values onto people, so there is always going to be some tension between people living their personal values and abiding by corporate values.  Talk of corporate values is therefore pointless.

On a more positive note, I have seen examples of some organisations taking different approaches.  One charity I know restructured a while ago.  Rather than the traditional approach of deciding which skills and competencies they wanted and redeploying and recruiting staff accordingly, they decided to focus on values.  So the recruitment process was designed from the outset to explore individual employees’ congruence with the charity’s values.  Those with the strongest fit stayed.  Those with the weakest fit were first in line for redundancy.  They firmly believe this has given them a more committed staff base to build on for the future.

Despite these opposing views, one of the nice things about working for yourself is that your corporate values are your personal values.  There should be no clashes between the way the firm goes about its business and the way the owner behaves.  Hopefully!

So, I want to use this latest blog to explain the values of Rob Jackson Consulting Ltd, or as we put it on our website, what we (and therefore I) believe in as to the way we go about our business of engaging and inspiring people to bring about change.

These are the six areas we have focused on:

Honesty

This is a non-negotiable for me.  It is an absolutely fundamental value.  That’s why it is first in the list.

  • I will always be honest in my dealing with clients and potential clients. 
  • I will not sell you a service if I don’t think you need it. 
  • I will not commit to doing a piece of work if I don’t think I can do (either because of availability or fit with my skills). 
  • I will be honest and upfront about how I can help and what it will cost you.

I will also be honest in what I say and write about the volunteering movement. 

In my view there aren’t enough people speaking up and speaking out about volunteering issues.  I want to help fill that void with honest views, opinions and advice.  That’s what I hope this blog will increasingly be used for.

This is a critical time for the volunteering movement in the UK and I hope in some small way that I can honestly and helpfully speak and write about the issues we face.

Passion

At Rob Jackson Consulting Ltd we are passionate about the potential of people, about their potential to effect change and make the world a better place.

In fact passion is a word that I keep hearing when people talk about how I go about my work.  And I am happy about that because, for me, being in the volunteering movement isn’t just a job, it is a vocation. 

I am passionate about volunteering, about what I do, about how I do it and about the difference it makes.

I want to bring that passion, that enthusiasm to my work with clients.  I want others to share that passion and enthusiasm.  I want volunteers to feel even more passionate and enthusiastic about their work and the difference it makes.  I want paid staff to feel even more passionate about what they do and the challenges & opportunities they face.

It is this passion about the potential of people that is at the core of our vision to engage and inspire people to bring about change.

Fun

According to one survey I read, the average person spends 99,117hrs at work during their life.  That’s 11 years.  I don’t know about you but I don’t want those 11 years to be devoid of any enjoyment.

That’s why I want Rob Jackson Consulting Ltd to bring a sense of fun to our work.  Yes, what we do is serious and we do it seriously.  But lets also get serious about having fun. 

In early years education children learn through play, through having fun.  Who says this has to stop when you’re a child?  In my experience people learn more if they are having fun learning.  I know I do.

So I want to enjoy my work and have fun doing it.  And I want that to be your experience of working with me too.

Integrity 

There is a great book on leadership called ‘The Leadership Challenge’, by James Kouzes and Barry Posner.  In it they argue that a critical ingredient to effective leadership is integrity – living out your values. 

That’s why I wanted to blog about them here, so I can be open about them and let people judge for themselves if I live them in my work.

Kouzes and Posner sum integrity up in a chapter on leaders modelling the way as DWYSYWD. 

Do What You Say You Will Do. 

That’s my goal – please tell me if I get it right (or wrong!).

Value

In the past I’ve had the pleasure of being involved in shaping the content for conferences.  One of the things that delegates had always fed back about previous events was the price – it was, in their view too, high.  From the view of the organisation I was working with, the price was the minimum they could offer as it allowed them to break even, just.

So we took a different approach.  We increased the price just enough to cover inflationary rises to our costs but refocused the content so that is gave really good value to the delegates.  After the next event we got very few comments about the price, but lots about how valuable the conference had been.

Value refers to the perception of benefits received for what someone must give up, in this case the price.  Where the organisation in question had gone wrong in the past was in focusing solely on the price (keeping it as low as possible without making a loss because they thought this is what got people to book places) rather than on the value of what people were paying for.
That is an important point I am taking into the new business.   I have to charge a fee for what I do.  This is my livelihood now.  This is how I pay my mortgage and feed my kids.  That’s why there is a price for my services.

But if you hire me I hope you don’t feel like you get an service that simply costs money (price).  Instead, I hope you feel like you get a service of real value, a service that is built on many years of experience and that is dedicated to bringing you benefits that will help you achieve your goals.

Effectiveness

Someone wisely said that efficiency is doing this well but effectiveness is doing the right things well. 

There isn’t much to add really, it speaks for itself and that’s how I want to help my clients – focus on doing the right things well.


Friday, 1 April 2011

A new beginning


So, 1st April is here at last.  It's a day of mixed emotions for me.

First up sadness.  Today is my first day of life after 
Volunteering England. Almost six years to the day since I joined Volunteering England I now find myself redundant from a job I loved, a job that gave me so much, a job that gave me a unique opportunity to help shape the volunteering environment in this country and abroad.

All told, yesterday Volunteering England had to shed twenty nine posts, just over half its staff.  Why?  


Essentially a loss of £1.1million of strategic grant from the Cabinet Office combined with the loss of hundreds of thousands of pounds of project funding (and associated management charges) as the government cuts start to bite. With such cuts on the cards it seemed pointless to continue into the new structure with the same number of senior managers as before, so my post was removed.

But I am not bitter or angry.  That was the right decision and I was fully involved in making it.  Not often do you effectively get to make yourself redundant.

It was the right decision because for the cost of all those senior managers Volunteering England could employ more great staff to deliver their work.

It was the right decision because Volunteering England has always put the volunteering movement before itself.  Sometimes that helps Volunteering England, sometimes it doesn't.  But it always helps volunteering and I remain convinced this is a critical factor in why Volunteering England is trusted and has the credibility that it does.

It was the right decision because the organisation needs to focus more clearly in the next couple of years, sometimes cutting back on areas of work it might previously have embraced, because that focus will ultimately lead back to growth for Volunteering England once the stormy waters of the current environment have been navigated.

It was the right decision because when senior managers of any voluntary organisation start to put their own careers and reputation before that of the cause which they serve then something has gone very wrong.  I’m proud that wasn’t the case at Volunteering England and I hope it isn’t seen in any other sector support bodies as the cuts really start to bite.

It was the right decision because of the new doors it has opened for me.

Which is why the other emotion I feel today is excitement.  Yes I might not be with friends and colleagues at Volunteering England anymore and yes I won't have the security of that pay-cheque on the 15th of every month but I am embarking on an exciting new chapter in my career.

Today I launch 
Rob Jackson Consulting Ltd.

Let me start by saying that I am not doing this simply because there is very little other paid work around at the moment.  My career plan has always been to move from senior management to consulting.  In fact ten years ago I was interviewed for the then National Centre for Volunteering’s magazine and I said that, in ten years time, I wanted to be a consultant and trainer.

Well, here I am.  Right on schedule.

My new career as a consultant and trainer is about engaging and inspiring people to bring about change.

Change, as they say, is life’s only constant.  It is all around us, enveloping every area of our lives and moving ever faster.  Coping with change is something I’ve learnt to get more comfortable with and I want to help others do that too.  But more importantly I want to help organisations and individuals get better at effecting change themselves, something that gets harder in a fast moving environment.

To do that people need to be inspired, to see that change is possible and that change is necessary.  And they need to be engaged in the change, to own it, to take responsibility for it and to effect it as well as they possibly can.

To engage and inspire people to bring about change Rob Jackson Consulting Ltd will provide expert support that is passionate about the potential of people.

The main focus of this work engaging and inspiring people to bring about change will be in volunteerism.  That’s the field in which I’ve built my career and made my name these last seventeen years.  I want to help organisations get better at inspiring people to volunteer, at engaging them in their causes to deliver real and meaningful change – for society, for volunteer involving organisations & their beneficiaries and for the volunteers themselves.  

I want to challenge, support, inspire and motivate people to think differently about volunteering in order to meet the challenges of the 21st century.  As Einstein said, “The problems we face now cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them”. 

How do we create new or re-engineer existing volunteering opportunities to meet the needs of potential volunteers who live increasingly complex and time pressured lives?  How do we do that without losing a focus on the benefit to our good causes?  How do we keep people volunteering with us when life makes it hard for them to commit?

If you struggle with the answers to questions like that then I want to try and help.

But I also want to help organisations and individuals in other areas.  Areas like change management, customer service, leadership, fundraising, policy and strategy, to name just a few.  All of these are areas I’ve had experience of working in during the wonderfully diverse career I’ve had so far.

So, I enter a new chapter of my life with one eye glancing back at the great years I’ve had at Volunteering England and another firmly fixed on what I hope will be exciting, rewarding and profitable years ahead.

If you want to find out more about how Rob Jackson Consulting Ltd can help you, please visit the website or get in touch.