Get your social enterprise off to a rock solid start by defining your vision and values

We often think of business values as fluffy words that sit on a wall to assure clients you’re a nice organisation. I discovered that values are, in fact, the solid foundations to building a business when I was invited to work with a group of emerging Geraldton entrepreneurs.

For the last three years I have supported Pollinators’ innovative incubation program Catalyst by running business skills workshops, such as Leading for Good: getting things done in all areas of life.  This year I helped participants articulate their business ‘why’.  The workshop covered:

  • The vision for the future that drives them
  • Why that vision is important for them personally and for their beneficiaries
  • How to write clear, tangible and meaningful business values to guide decision-making
  • Specific activities their enterprise will do to contribute towards that future i.e. how they will make money

The entrepreneurs from Geraldton, Kalbarri and other towns in WA’s midwest found clarifying their vision and values made their business mission (what they actually do) easier to define.

Interestingly, subtle differences in values led to different business models. For example, the owner of a music studio who values financial security might run business mentoring for musicians. If creativity ranks higher in her values, she might focus more on beginners have-a-go sessions.

When you’re about to start a business, get your vision, mission and values down on paper so you know if you have a business idea you’re willing to jump into.  Building a business takes time and energy; you might as well begin with a solid base.

To book a vision and values workshop email rachael@rachaelwest.com.au.

How to make a difference: The School of Life arrives in Perth

I am delighted to have been invited to run How to Make a Difference when The School of Life pops up in Perth for the first time next month. Based on the book How to Change the World by John-Paul Flintoff the workshop was designed by the school’s London faculty and will be made relevant to a local audience, covering the many ways we can make a difference; the cultural and social resistance that may come in our way; and skills for practical action.

The School of Life was founded in 1998 by modern philosopher Alain de Bouton and has since opened in Amsterdam, Paris and Melbourne.

“Our classes are devoted to developing emotional intelligence through the help of culture….to give useful insights around the big themes in life. You’ll be challenged to think deeply about the issues that matter most, and provided with a space to share your thoughts, ideas and experiences with other curious, open-minded individuals. Sessions are designed by experts and taught by members of our faculty.”

More about The School of Life here.

It’s your meeting: you set the rules

In the average yoga class, people arrive on time, know why they’re there and are willing to follow instructions. Pretty basic.  So why aren’t business meetings like this?

It’s more likely participants arrive late, are unsure why they’re attending and become easily distracted.

Here are three tips for setting ground rules that lead to an efficient meeting that runs on time.

Set boundaries that help you do your best work
Some yoga teachers are happy for students to arrive late to class. I personally find that late arrivals disrupt my teaching, and I ask my students to respect that. Setting that ground rule means that everyone can enjoy a great class, including me.

Think about ground rules that others in the meeting would want
When I ran How to run great meetings at Engineers Australia almost everyone said they felt uncomfortable asking someone to stop talking during a meeting, especially if they were senior in age, rank or technical skill.

Rather than how you feel about it personally, think about the impact on other people.  A ground rule that gives you permission to politely end a colleague’s soliloquy could mean that you finish your meeting on time, get through everything on your agenda, and make others in the meeting happy that their time is not being wasted.

Let people know your rules in advance – and agree to them
Think about the ground rules you’d like in place to make your next meeting a success.  Perhaps you want participants to turn their mobile phones off, stay until the end, and come up with one action to do before the next meeting.

Before the meeting begins, ask your colleagues if they’ll agree to your ground rules.  You can’t assume that everyone values the same meeting behaviours so ask if they’ll agree to your suggestions. Their permission will help you to feel confident about keeping them in line.

It’s your meeting, so you need to feel confident that you can do your job and get the group to the intended outcome.

How to run great meetings is available as a one-hour workshop to help your team, organisation or group understand the qualities of a good meeting, the skills to make them happen effectively, and the confidence to put those skills into practice. Email me Rachael@strategiccreativityatwork.com.au for more information.

Engineering lecturers learn to collaborate for teaching excellence

Staff at Challenger Institute of Technology in Beaconsfield WA recognised that funding changes for Australian education would require them to be better able to meet student expectations for high quality education.   I was invited to work with their engineering lecturers to help them deliver more creative, industry-relevant classes, and to enhance the way they communicate with their students.

Engineering teaching excellence Challenger TAFE

Education is more than teaching technical skills

I devised a half-day workshop to achieve these goals, based on my own experience as an engineer and educator.

The workshop called Education in engineering: making it relevant included:

  • An overview of creative teaching methods
  • Templates for designing industry-relevant lessons
  • Methods for offering constructive feedback to students
  • Practical experience of facilitative techniques, such as World Café and learning through play

We discussed positive impacts lecturers could have within a student’s career in the engineering industry, and how they could continue develop themselves as educators in a constantly changing environment.

The lecturers recognised that their teaching provides not just technical skills, but the capacity to work safely and confidently in the professional world.

Surprise learning about collaboration and their colleagues

While the workshop contained examples of creative teaching techniques, the real focus was on each lecturer coming up with their own ideas and sharing them. When asked about the most valuable learnings in lesson planning and student feedback they said:

“Hearing the opinions of colleagues about various aspects of delivery”

and

“Learning new tools for delivery and assessment”

And how this would change their work in the future:

“I will communicate with other team members (staff) regarding how my content relates to all units.”
“I will recognised that I understand what I’m talking about, but students may not.”

Engineering lecturers impress, with their dedicated approach to developing themselves as educators

My closeout report included recommendations of ways to continuously developing the teaching skills of those in the engineering team who were enthusiastic to learn, based on the interests and capacities I had seen in the group.

Checking in with the Challenger TAFE client three months later, they said said that there had been a turnaround in the team following the workshops. All the recommendations for collaborative learning had been implemented.

There has been a turnaround in the engineering team since your workshop. They have recognised that structured professional development is not the only way to learn and have implemented informal ways to share information about developing as educators. They have developed new communications channels and set up a mentor-buddy system. I think your session helped them see that they have the skills to do this themselves.

(Michelle Dodd, Manager Learning and Development, Challenger Institute of Technology)

Continuous innovation in education delivery

When educators understand the purpose of their work and feel empowered to build their own skills, they can continue to develop and meet the challenges of a changing environment sector.

While this course was devised specifically for engineers, the tools and techniques are applicable to range of educators and sectors. Contact me rachael@strategiccreativityatwork.com.au to discuss the options for your team.