“Keep the gameboard. This recalls childhood games, and is fun!”

Hundreds have played Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders around the world – and we like to check in with people. Recently, Alberto San Pedro, from Archetypical’s Barcelona office, spoke with Debra Capua of Davis & Company in New York to get her perspective.

Alberto:         Hi Debra. Thanks for agreeing to this interview. To start off, please can you tell me where you work? What is your job?

Debra:            I’m a project consultant at Davis & Co, a 35 years old Communication Consulting firm (internal mainly) with a strong reputation.  We have about 30 people and a strong client portfolio (pharmaceutical mainly), with clients all over the world (particularly Germany, Switzerland, etc.) .

Alberto:         What is your day-to-day life these days?

Debra:            I’ve been isolated at home, since 25 February. No client calls these days. I’m concerned but have hope for the future. Due to the absence of requests from clients, our main contribution is creating content and translate into marketing flow, in order to get prospect clients.

Alberto:         When did you attend a Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders event?

Debra:            It was in June 2019, hosted by IABC with a mixed audience of students and professionals. Stephen Welch was the facilitator. We had about 15 people, with lots of great feedback. I loved it!

Alberto:         What do you most remember? Your main learning points? What did you find most useful?

Debra:            Where to start? The discussion in the team. The competition. The conversations happening during the game: everyone had a take on it; a different angle. The facilitation was good: Stephen was particularly good at keeping the conversation up.  Mainly I learned that, to become a strategic advisor, to take a seat at the table, is definitely worth it and there are different routes to consider.

Alberto:         What 3 words would you use to describe the workshop?

Debra:            Fun, interesting, valuable.

Alberto:         As we are developing an on-line version, which should be 2-3 things to focus on, to ensure a great experience to participants?

Debra:            Keep the gameboard. This recalls childhood games, and is fun! Be sure to give an opportunity for people to introduce themselves- find out who the other people are. Have breakout rooms discussions and then everybody shares. Oh, and keep the character personalities.

Alberto:         Great, thanks for that. How, if at all, has your attendance at the Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders event helped you in your job?

Debra:            Due to the fact there were several people from Davis, that has helped to have challenging conversations internally, keeping the conversation up and exploring other ways to being more strategic in our different roles.

Alberto:         If you could travel in time, what advice would you give to your junior self?

Debra:            Having a better understanding of how other people think, and make decisions, maybe I did not consider this while interacting with others before. There are linear thinkers (such as financial, operational people), and that gives them a perspective on how they see the world that has nothing to do with mine (more circular and transversal). This reminds me of the need of behaving in a more flexible and adaptable manner.

Alberto:         Great, thanks again for your views. Bye.

Debra:            Bye.

If you want to get to know Debra (we recommend it!) connect with her on LinkedIn

Through the Corporate Looking Glass

Welcome to this week’s blog … a quiz!

If you are playing our #testingtimes game, you will soon receive (or perhaps you have already) the latest postcard with your latest challenge: a quiz. This challenge will encourage you to think about things from a different perspective — through the looking glass if you will.

If you’re not playing the #testingtimes game, you can still try the quiz.

We’ve set up a special page to tell you all about it. Click here to go through the looking glass.

Good luck!

“The gaming element lifted it to another level.”

Hundreds have played Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders around the world – and we like to check in with people. Recently, Stephen spoke by video with Paul Stamper, Senior Client Officer at Ipsos-MORI. Paul was a participant in a new version of our workshop — one designed specifically for agencies or consulting firms who want to improve their client partnership skills.

Stephen:       Hi Paul. Thanks for agreeing to chat. It is hard to believe it was six months ago we ran a customized Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders workshop for you and your team. So much has happened since then!

Paul:               Yes indeed. We’re all getting used to working in a different way.

Stephen:       As you’ll recall we built a special version of our workshop to help you and your colleagues think differently about how you advise and support clients. What was the highlight for you?

Paul:               The thing I particularly liked was the gamification and the interactions with imaginary clients. This triggered a lot of conversations and was an excellent and engaging way of getting a discussion going. The competitive element added a frisson to the room.

Stephen:       Tell me more?

Paul:               Good content and clear learning objectives always help create a great session. But the gaming element lifted it to another level. It made the session memorable as a training experience and helped cement the learning. Individuals, including me, found themselves being challenged in their own thinking and not always reverting to default behaviour, which might not always be the best approach.  The concept caught my imagination and was a real eye-opener. It has made me rethink how I deliver training.

Stephen:       Thanks, that’s nice to hear. As you know we are working on developing an on-line version of the simulation. What are the key elements you think we should focus on to ensure a similar experience?

Paul:               The small group working was a key part for me, and very powerful discussions. There may be things you can simplify to make it easier for people. And I know it sounds strange, but maybe you don’t need the actual Snakes and Ladders board, just keep track of points in a different way.

Stephen:       Interesting ideas. Casilda and I will consider them. We’re still in the qual research phase for finding out what works well so watch this space! Meanwhile, can you tell me what is the one tool or approach that stands out for you so far?

Paul:               The Trust Equation. It has helped me think about my relationships with clients, and how I develop them to go beyond being a great researcher, to become a great strategic adviser.

Stephen:       Glad it was useful. Thank you. In the meantime, tell us a bit about Paul. What do you do outside work? What do you do when you are not working?

Paul:               I live in West London and – as you can see behind me via my webcam – I’m a big player of Board games. My current favorite is Terraforming Mars, where you have to develop the Red Planet, while balancing different resources. I guess there’s a parallel with Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders where you have to balance your position on the Board and your reputation with different stakeholders!

Stephen:       I’ll have to check it out. Meanwhile thanks again for your time and hope to meet in person sometime soon.

Paul:               That would be good. Bye.

Your RECIPE for Influence

Making an impact requires the right approach at the right time. Some leaders are naturals, but that’s not the only path. At Archetypical we are convinced that this is a skill you can learn and develop, so we have created a fun approach: RECIPE.

Each letter represents one of the six influencing styles you can use to build successful relationships with your boss, your colleagues, your clients.

Those of you who are playing our #testingtimes postcard game will have received your challenge with the link to on-line self-assessment tool to help you explore your own influencing style. Because we live by the idea of “first know thyself”… and then add spice to make your style dazzle.

To find out more and to complete the self-assessment survey follow this link:

A RECIPE FOR INFLUENCE

Meanwhile, stay tuned to our blog because next week we will be posting an interview with one of our favourite clients in the market research field. 

New views from New Jersey

Hundreds have played Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders around the world – and we like to check in with people. Last week, Stephen spoke by video with Rhonda Sciarra, current IABC New Jersey president and an associate director of global external communications at a pharmaceutical company in New Jersey. 

Rhonda at our last event in New Jersey
Rhonda Sciarra

 

Stephen:      Hi Rhonda, thanks for agreeing to chat. Before we start, please tell me about your leadership and involvement in IABC.

Rhonda:       Thanks. In my nearly 20 years of experience as a communicator, I have found IABC to be a valuable community locally and globally. I appreciate how IABC aligns business communications with organizational goals – and then measuring outcomes. I have worked both in internal and external communications and find IABC to be relevant and contemporary – it is also an organization when you give a little, the returns are immense. 

Stephen:      Your IABC New Jersey Board helped organize, and you attended, a Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders workshop in New Jersey last summer. What was it like?

Rhonda:       When we look for professional development ideas, any experience that is engaging from the start and promotes learning while doing is ideal. Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders did just this. The exercise and workshop promoted some great discussions. By immersing ourselves in the simulated world of Carmen Spinoza and her colleagues, we were able to have detailed discussions and hear from different perspectives. Because we came from different disciplines, not everyone had the same view.

Stephen:      What three words would you use to describe the event?

Rhonda:       Dynamic, fun, thought-provoking.

Stephen:      Tell me about the last. How has the event changed your perspective?

Rhonda:       The event reinforced how we should think about leadership in a different way. As communications professionals, we have the chance to think about the big picture and take care to reflect the business strategy in our conversations with teams we work with. That wider perspective and focus on outcomes, versus just outputs, allows us to act more as strategic advisers.

Stephen:      We’re in the process of developing an on-line version of the workshop. What do you think is the main thing to keep in mind as we do?

Rhonda:       Try to find a way to have some levity and get people active beyond just sitting at a screen. As I mentioned, ‘fun’ is one of the key words for the workshop that I experienced in person, so be sure to keep that when moving the simulation to this new virtual world we are in. 

Stephen:      That’s a great point. Thank you. In the meantime, tell us about Rhonda outside work? What do you do when you are not working?

Rhonda:       Well, I live outside New York City and am really appreciating my Peloton, while trying and get out running when I can – mask on and physically distancing. My puggle is entertaining, and I am keeping in contact with family and friends back in St. Louis and Kansas City. 

Stephen:      Great, thanks for your time – hope to see you in person sometime soon.

Rhonda:       Me too! Take care. 

If you want to get to know Rhonda (we recommend it!) follow her on Twitter @Rhonda_Lea or connect with her on LinkedIn

What type of adviser are you?

Welcome to this week’s blog post … with a twist.

Those of you who are playing our #testingtimes postcard game will know that we have developed an on-line self-assessment tool to help you explore your own advisory style.

As strategic advisers, we work with our clients (internal or external) in different ways. Here at Archetypical, we have developed a taxonomy to help you explore your own style and think about how you work in different situations.

To find out more … and to complete the self-assessment survey … click here.

Meanwhile, stay tuned to our blog because next week we will be interviewing one of our favorite alumna.

 

 

 

 

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The story of a career workout in #testingtimes

Charlie Mounter, freelance editor, joined the #testingtimes challenge and here are her reflections on taking on our career bingo.

Just as it pays to step away from the screen, taking time to really think about what we are doing can save us from making mistakes. Listening to the economist Tim Harford’s podcast Cautionary Tales reminds me of many basic principles that bear on aspects of life under a pandemic: question authority and your own assumptions; beware of ‘hot states’ when hungry, anxious, tired or under pressure; design your systems to anticipate human error; arrange information to be used in the order it is needed. Nobody can see into the future, so we need to remember that forecasts are tools for discussion, rather than edicts we must accept. 

Everything has changed, yet we can’t leave our homes to explore it. As a freelance editor I cope well with lockdown, but the boundaries between work and leisure have become more blurred than usual. Though the internet is essential to both, when I’m online I find myself reading a lot of news, where there are no end of updates and few conclusions to be reached. Time can be squandered that way, so my husband and I decided to turn off our wi-fi for two hours every afternoon. This means we can pay full attention to challenging books we were putting off reading. Being focused takes our mind off things and brings us some structure and resolution. 

Looking again at my CV, I realised that some of my skills have new implications. For instance, although I regularly manage projects there are now degrees in project management with methodologies I know nothing about. To address this, I signed up to a free course in the Fundamentals of Project Management that I can follow in small increments at my own pace. I hope I will learn to be more systematic and gain insights into other ways of working. 

Constraints can give us the impetus to be more imaginative, as can starting somewhere new or adding randomness. Back in the domestic sphere, for a while now I have been sprouting mung beans, which need daily rinsing and draining and to grow in the dark. The large jar with muslin and an elastic band that I had been using for this was a bit unwieldy and needed to be kept in a dark cupboard, which meant I sometimes forgot about it and the sprouts spoiled. When I went to put away my travel coffee cup, I realised that its lid, drinking hole and closing tab make it an improvement on my old sprouter, and its opacity means it can be kept on the counter. The cup has been salvaged from redundancy but it can fulfil its former function when the lockdown lifts. 

The new challenges and applications I’m taking on are practical. They help me reintegrate different modes of thinking and better equip me for life after limbo. Many options have been shut off, which has nudged me to make new choices. Sometimes we don’t try till someone or something makes us.

You can connect with Charlie on LinkedIn. She will continue to guest blog for us in the next few weeks.

If you would like to share your experience taking part in the #testingtimes challenge, get in touch!

Looking at things from a different angle

“It is a very inconvenient habit of kittens (Alice had once made the remark) that whatever you say to them, they always purr.”
Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

Welcome to the second challenge of our #testingtimes campaign. If you’re reading this, you might have successfully completed challenge one; if not, it’s not too late to sign up, just send us your physical address and we’ll pop a card in the post.

Today we’ll focus on taking a looking at things from a different angle. We think it’s a useful skill to have if you want to grow your career. Because to be a senior adviser you need to be better than a lawyer that only sees legal problems or a human resources expert that only sees people issues. What you want is to be is an enterprise-wide thinker, who solves business issues bringing in a wide range of perspectives. Alice, in the quote above, is sharing the frustration we sometimes hear from leaders, so don’t be a kitten to always purrs; sometimes you need to roar — or even bark or chirp from time to time.

A first step is to step back and learn to see things from other angles. Exercise your creative muscles. Artists do it, philosophers do it and now you can too. Creativity can be focused and learned, just like any other skill.

So here’s your second career workout:

  1. The warm up 

Full disclosure, we borrowed this idea from London’s premier contemporary art gallery, the Tate Modern. They use it in their creativity for artists class. We asked you to pick and object, and then photograph it from an entire different angle.

Check out our Twitter feed for our own examples, in the meantime here’s what we did:

229CB045-DA41-4ADA-BC6E-7F31D27E3F6A

In this example a sculpture became a candle holder and it made me think of Frida Khalo and my travels through Mexico. And then, looking closer a cactus turns into barbed wire.

2. Exercise your core

The key learning comes through reflecting on the process:

  • How did the search for a new angle made you feel? Energised? Stressed?
  • Was it hard? Was it easy?
  • Did it invite you to create something new?
  • Could you find a new use for the object after seeing from a new angle?

Through this objects take a new life; ideas expand and even sparks of joy flow in the process.

3. Stretching

Now let’s put it into action at work. Is there a piece of work on the ‘back boiler’ that you could re-purpose to address a current need? For example, we had an old competitor analysis that we never properly finished, and we’ll now use it to help us figure out how to take Archetypical from a face-to-face business into a virtual facilitation one! (Watch this space for more.)

Creativity is a journey and we thank you for joining us in this #testing times

If you really like the idea of flexing your creativity muscles, here a few things we really like:

As always we would love to hear from you in this #testingtimes.

Your career workout for #testingtimes

Great! If you are reading this, it means you’ve completed the first postcard challenge.

We are all going through extremely testing times. Work is fluid, merging into home life. Some of us find ourselves looking for new ways to fill up the time we’ve recovered from no longer commuting, others face the challenge of even less time to spare, either because they play a role in their organization’s COVID response (more work!) or having to balance work with looking after children at home; or in some cases, both.

There is flurry of articles on how to deal with working from home and about looking after your mental and physical health while keeping the trains of work and home life running. Some of the ones we’ve enjoyed are at the end of this blog.

However, we have declared this space to be COVID-free space. Our mission is to bring you a little bit of joy and inspiration, while continuing to grow your career as a strategic adviser. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably signed up to our postcard #testingtimes campaign and so your challenge is to try to put one of these suggestions into action in the next two weeks. If you’ve not signed up: email us your physical address for the next few weeks. It’s not too late to join the game.

Here’s three ideas that might help you flex your strategic muscles.

  • 1. Play outside your sandbox – To jump from being a technical expert (in comms, legal, human resources, or other functions) you have to leap into a wider body of knowledge, to understand how other professions see business. This is the time to open up your mind to new fields with the strategic intent of improving how you perform in your own.
  • 2. Learn to look at things differently- The world was already volatile before COVID, now we need to be even more flexible. But to a hammer all problems look like nails. So how do you step away from the hammer? Try approaching a familiar situation from a new perspective. 
  • 3. Nurture your boundaries – Healthy boundaries – permeable, flexible ones, are the key to a healthy life and a healthy career. Limits are good. Know what yours are, only then can you decide which limits to push. 

But how?, you might ask. Keeping our promise to be fun, without further ado, we present the #testingtimes bingo: a quick reference guide to keep growing your career without leaving home.

Tip If you have more time than usual If you have less time than usual
Play outside your sandbox
  1. Sign up for a free online course in something unrelated to your field (Accounting and Design Thinking come to mind).
  2. Follow the news, stock price and commentary of a sector you are not involved with. Fashion? Aviation? The Arts? (Stephen  is a member of the Royal Academy in London: you can sign up to regular emails here.)
  3. A couple of years ago, Casilda did a creativity course at the Tate Modern. Here’s a new idea.
  1. Call up someone (a friend, a new colleague) who works on a different area and just take 10 minutes to ask what their regular day is like. 
  2. Follow a company outside your sector on social media or on the digital newspaper of your choice. 
  3. Talk to your children about what you do, pay attention to their questions. They are very revealing of what’s important.
Look at things differently
  1. Try doing “opposition research” on your organisation. If you were an NGO, what issues would you raise?
  2. Now do “opposition research” on yourself, how would you turn your weaknesses into strengths?
  3. Read an interview with Karl Rove and David Axelrod on opposition research. 
  1. Get a friend or your partner to give you feedback on a piece of work they’ve never seen before. Don’t explain, just listen. 
  2. Listen to an episode of Cautionary Tales by Tim Harford
  3. When/if you are out for your daily exercise: think about the first car you see and create an imaginary biography for it.
Nurture your boundaries
  1. Understand what healthy boundaries look like. We like Brene Brown’s advice
  2. Try setting a schedule put your phone on “flight mode” no interruptions for an hour or two a day. 
  1. Block a 30-minute pause time in your calendar a day. Just for you.
  2. Try saying no to at least one non-essential request. Read our tips on how to say no. 
  3. Unsubscribe from redundant mailing lists.
  4. Turn your phone off for an hour. Go on, I dare you.
Three of the many, many resources for working from home and mental health

The next instalment of our #testingtimes campaign will come in two weeks. 

Reader, I fired him

Guest post by Marua Kobayashi

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a senior leader in possession of a responsible position, must be in want of a strategic adviser.

Oh wait, sorry. I’m getting my 19th century English writers mixed up. But it does help me tell you a story of when I was let down by one of my supposed “strategic advisers”. As a result: he had to go.

Before I joined Globocorp I was a senior operations manager in a large company in Peru, my home country. I won’t say which company it was but I will give you a clue: Peru is known for two main industries and I hate fishing.

Anyway, to my story… and its lessons for the readers of this blog.

About a year before I left, we were in the throes of rolling out a new on-line management system for my division. I was the ultimate decision-maker. There was a project leader and an in-house team who were working with some developers to design and roll out the software. Everything was going well – we had  planning sessions and had been progressing to plan for a year. (Who knew it took so many people to make a decision and resolve the ‘small questions’? One of the reasons I left to join Globocorp, but that’s another story).

We were getting towards the end of the process – beta versions were bouncing around – when I had a great idea. Or as my friend, Carmen Spinoza, calls them “one of your ‘find the impossible solution and change the rules’ ideas”. I wish I knew her then; she would have advised me properly…. 

Instead I had a dolt of an adviser called Benjamín Wilkin, as project leader. His job title said “business partner” but, after what happened, I know his next business card said “desempleado”.

Looking back, I realised my great idea was going to make a transformational difference to the way we worked. But it did require a lot of effort, and (if I’m really honest) was probably better left for a future release. But I mentioned it in an off-hand way in a meeting with Ben – wouldn’t it be nice if…? – and the damage was done.

Turned out Ben gave my idea to the team as a direct instruction and next thing I know, we’re in a revision process, with people working until midnight, negotiations with key stakeholders about revised deadlines, extra developer fees and a lot of bad feelings all round.

I did that. 

I created that chaos. 

I created family arguments when people in my team had to work late.

I created extra cost. I made this mess.

Or did I?

Ultimately, I suppose I did. But I had no intention to. I just had an idea. I was brainstorming. But the law of unintended consequences always comes to bite you. In two ways.

First, I, as a leader, didn’t make it clear that I was brainstorming. So my ideas were taken as scripture and acted upon. I’m right a lot of the time but not always. I know now to be more clear about how I communicate.

Second, my so-called adviser didn’t advise. I was expecting sage counsel and guidance from Ben.

After all, he was the project owner and manager. A sensible adviser would have talked me through the likely consequences of my actions or at least helped me think about them. Wise counsel I was expecting or even a “that’s a very courageous decision, Marua”. Instead: nothing.

So, in effect, Ben caused the chaos. By shirking his duties.

Was he too afraid to say ‘no’? Did he secretly like creating lots of work and blaming me? Did he think about it and make a calculation and think that gaining a few reputation points with me was worth him losing loads with his team and the agency?

I doubt it. I suspect he didn’t think at all. By just implementing my brainstorming idea, he proved himself a waiter: stand and deliver. I’ve got enough waiters, thanks. (What do I mean by “waiter”? Check out the types of advisers post.) I thought Ben was a strategic adviser and senior project manager. Instead, by shirking his duties and not speaking truth to power, he failed his core responsibility.

So, reader, I fired him.

If you are a strategic adviser then do your job. Advise, counsel, guide, challenge, support, debate.

Your whole raison d’être is to add value via different perspectives and thinking. Yes, it can be hard sometimes to say no to a leader (this blog has talked elsewhere on that topic), but those days are the days you earn your money.

Yes-men and women are ten a peso. The real money is when you have someone – like Carmen is to me now – who can help me be a better leader.