This week, we welcome guest blogger, Sheena Thomson MCIPR FRSA, Founder and Director of Conduit Associates, a boutique global crisis and issues communications consultancy that helps identifies, plans & manages disruptive events. Sheena was a participant in our #testingtimes game and shares her reflections here.

In those early weeks of lockdown, I received an email inviting me to take part in a series of
challenges over a number of weeks called #testingtimes. It involved receiving a number of
postcards through the old-fashioned postal mail. Each card had a #testingtimes challenge
ranging from looking and photographing yourself with one of the postcards, or an object
from a different angle, to completing a series of online tests. All tests were designed to
examine how you see things, your approach to issues and individual influencing style when conducting advisory work.

One of my mantras in life is to always keep learning, and although I was pretty confident in my advisory style, I thought I will most certainly learn something about myself taking part. Additionally, when you work for yourself, it is always great to get an independent external perspective. As I earn a living as an advisor, I enthusiastically signed up to this fun #testingtimes challenge during those testing times in lockdown.

As well as seeing images of other participants when we posted various pictures on social
media, the online tests really made me think about how I react and respond in certain
hypothetical situations. There was plenty time to think during lockdown, so I gave each test the time it deserved. I was intrigued to receive my self-assessment feedback and see what I could learn from myself. Despite my self-confidence and self-belief gained over the years, I knew there would be room for improvement.

The first self-assessment report reviewed the type of adviser I was, using a restaurant
metaphor. My style of adviser is similar to that of a sommelier – where I shine as an expert, but very much involve and engage with clients or colleagues and take a lot of pride in my work. Although I had never really thought about my advisory style before, I was stunned at the accuracy of my assessment. Even when I read through the other advisory styles, just out of curiosity, I realised my assessment was spot-on. On reflection, I think this comes from my time in the Royal Navy. I took a lot of pride in everything I did. When you wear the uniform, you have a lot to live up to, but to do so, I was both trained with the expert skills as well as being trusted to engage with everyone to reach successful outcomes. This has clearly left an indelible impression on my advisory style.

The final assessment was more interesting and revealing. It examined my personal
influencing style and is what has provided me with the all-important learning outcomes.
The assessment looks at six personal influencing styles, using a “RECIPE” approach, as most styles require a blend of influencing styles. In this assessment, the “style ingredients” are reward, exchange, connect, inform, picture, exit. Once again, my assessment was pretty accurate, but it went a step further by providing tips on how to improve my three main identified strengths, as well as highlighting a fourth area where there is potential to improve my style. This for me is what I will take forward – to use the “picture” style of advisory by imagining how the future may look. In my particular area of expertise of crisis and issues management, all too often we live in the moment and the immediate aftermath, but imagining the future is of course a significant part of the recovery.

I really enjoyed the testing times challenge. It was a fun and engaging exercise that was
clearly well designed. It also provided me with something innovative and different to do
during that odd and unchartered period of lockdown enabling me to use all that thinking
time in a positive way. Moreover, it was good to have my influencing style and strengths
identified and areas that I have learned about myself and can take forward.

If you would like to know more about our #testingtimes game, or even participate, get in
touch with us at info@archetypical.org

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