It’s All About Timing…

I’ve had a good week. Unusually, it’s been a very ‘me’ centred week, where I’ve focused on, or participated in, a number of activities and actions which have been specifically intended to develop me in some way. I’m separating this from the the ongoing process of self development arising as a natural consequence of the day to day activity. There has been more deliberate practice than in a usual week and at the end of the week, whist sometimes revisiting familiar territory, this focus has opened up new possibilities and threads of exploration. I’m now looking forward to trying new ideas out and itching to experiment and put things into practice…

There have been three things in particular that made it a good week. On their own, each of them were positive occurrences, however, placed together, they became more than just the sum total of their parts.

360 degrees

At the University of Salford, members of the university management team have just undertaken a 360 feedback process. This week I received my feedback from that process. It was a fascinating insight into how others perceive me set against my own perceptions of my work and the means by which I try to undertake my role. The detail gave some really useful points for my consideration – thoughts towards improvement and also (pleasingly) numerous suggestions for areas in which I can place more personal faith and capitalise upon my practice to take these perceived strengths further. It’s great to have all the analysis in one document. This precious document is now mine, for dissemination and further action as I wish or see fit. As a first step I’ve given it to my PA to read in full. I’ve written down my thoughts on what I’d like to work on – I’m going to need Emma’s help in making it carry positive echoes in a structural and organisational sphere that goes beyond just my own actions.

Strategic Leadership Programme

As part of my ongoing professional development at Salford I’ve enrolled on the Leadership Foundation’s Strategic Leadership Programme. This week saw me spend two days on the first of two short residentials between now and September. The days were packed, fast paced and lively. Approximately 20 of us are on the programme – it was great to meet likeminded individuals, all of whom brought projects from their home institutions to form the personalised content of the course as it progresses. Action Learning Sets have been initiated and were interspersed with wider group discussions and exercises over the two days. There was a huge amount of stimulus, constructive challenge and collegiate support through the sesions. No doubt as I reflect further on the learning I’ll be revisiting it in these posts.

Group Genius

Finally, I’ve been nodded towards Group Genius by Keith Sawyer. The book draws on a number of familiar (to me) frameworks to explore the notion of genius as residing in a group dynamic, or collective process. Inspiration and understanding is taken from improvisation theatre and jazz ensembles alongside a group orientated take on Csikszentmihalyi’s notion of flow. (I wrote about this a couple of posts back) It’s a great read. I thoroughly recommended it to anyone interested in fostering creative team dynamics. Whilst some of the content is very familiar on a personal level, the book comes at just the right time for me to channel it into several threads of work at Salford. Timely just ain’t the word…

It all ties together…

So, aside from a chance to reflect upon my professional practice in the context of Higher Education, this week has seen a meeting of things which all came together at the right time. One has sparked actions and been given language by the other, which has been consolidated and expanded upon by the third (its not quite as linear as that, but you get the picture…)

Above all, the connections and spaces between the topics above are just as interesting as the topics themselves. I can see the relationships between the various things above have begun to frame a possible articulation of thoughts, directions and ideas which have been swimming around in my mind for a while. This is something that is very valuable to me in my position, as the learning of the last week has begun to point towards a language I might use in communication of ideas. It’s simply serendipitous and wonderful timing that these unrelated influences have arrived with me in the same week. It feels like a birthday has arrived early.

I think I’m also consciously looking out for connections and inviting myself to seek out relationships between the apparently unconnected. It’s when I start putting this with that because of an intuitive sense that the two unrelated fragments might work together that unpredicted sparks begin to appear – some useful, others not so. However, this week, the resulting spark from connecting the previously unrelated has been the beginnings of a useful lexicon – a real step forward. Watch this space….

See you next week.


Author: samgrogan

I am many sided; Pro Vice-Chancellor Student Experience at Salford University, Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, driven Tough Mudder runner, and a lover of the outdoors. I live in the heart of the beautiful Peak District with my wife and our pets. On weekends, you'll find me out in the countryside with the dog, running or walking up a hill, or typically cooking for friends (I'm getting better, so they say) My role at Salford is one I cherish. I'm one of the fortunate few who wake up excited about the day ahead. It's really not work when it's this much fun. As part of the Vice-Chancellor's Executive Team I work alongside a gifted and dedicated team of creative educationalists passionate about being better tomorrow than we are today. As PVC SE at Salford I hold executive responsibility for both the assurance of quality and standards of our institutional academic portfolio, and its strategic direction and character. Intertwined with this facet of my role, I am responsible for strategic leadership and enhancement of the wider student experience and the development of a distinctive Salford learning environment. My overall purpose, driven by these two key parts of my role, is to develop a bold, playful learning landscape at Salford which delivers holistic sustainable success, preparing our students for life. I'm fascinated by how people learn, and how we might collectively make that experience result in a profound expansion of personal and professional horizons and an extension of possibilities for all parties involved. My greatest reward comes from seeing thresholds crossed, barriers broken, new habits formed and changes made. To this end, I'm also endlessly absorbed in considering how we might develop better, more useful ways of integrating the digital landscape and other technologies, emerging and present, into the act of learning. I think we're just beginning - a brave new world awaits... My background is in performance - Before undertaking my PhD and before spending the first half of my university career as a lecturer, programme leader and head of department, in my early career I acted, danced and made theatre across the world. This ten year experience continues to be fundamental in shaping the way I think about teaching and learning. At its best I see it as a facilitated journey of discovery, play, risk and adventure anchored in 'reflective doing'. Not 'knowing' in this context is often a signal that a useful path is being trodden - Thinking on its own is just rehearsal...

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