Every year I do a kind of year-end retrospective taking a step back and looking at what I've worked on in the year. I've been doing it for the past seven years (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019). And I do it for selfish reasons. When you work for yourself you don't have work colleagues to sit with and talk through what you've experienced through the year and so it's the only chance I really get to genuinely look at the patterns of what I do.
Ironically, in a number of my previous posts of this type I've mentioned about how the year had felt a bit disconcerting, and particularly challenging with everything going on. But, hoo-boy, they had nothing on this year. If I'm honest it feels enough to have survived it all relatively intact. There's been times when it felt like a real battle. Times when it all felt a bit overwhelming. Times when it felt beyond strange. I spent way too many hours in the shed. There was two weeks in March in particular when everything fell out of the diary and it felt as though I was staring into an abyss but thankfully I emerged from that and through it all I count myself lucky to still be here and still be busy in doing what I do.
So in no particular order here are the main things that I worked on this year:
- A lot of the leadership workshop work that I'd been doing over the past few years disappeared from the diary in March which meant (as for many I'm sure) a complete reinvention of how I work with clients. I redesigned everything from the ground up so that it would work over Zoom and used an iterative process to adapt and improve it as I did more sessions and engagements over time. Thankfully, a number of the clients that I'd been working with for a while came back, and I began working with them in a very different way and somehow it all worked out well. I'd been working with Astra Zeneca since I did a session with their board in the US back in the Summer of 2019, and we ended up doing a whole series of virtual leadership workshops from April through to the end of the year. Ironically, one of the big programmes that I was about to kick off when the first lockdown came in was with leadership teams in various NHS Trusts. It all (understandably of-course) got cancelled but we still managed to do some of these sessions over the Summer and Autumn. And it was also fun to work on a series of virtual workshops with business leaders based in Guernsey, via the States of Guernsey 'Digital Greenhouse'. There was also series of webinars for a big insurance business, and designed a series of webinars for the Association of Coaching, and did some workshops with the Board of a global FMCG. One of the Asia-based workshops for another health business that was cancelled back in March also ended up being delivered remotely. My last trip before the first lockdown came in was to Manchester to work with a new travel client and despite things being hugely tough for them this year I did some more work for them in November. It's been so interesting learning how to facilitate and deliver compelling and useful workshops remotely. I'll always prefer face-to-face of-course but it's been amazing seeing what's possible and I've learned so much.
- Alongside the workshop work I did a fair amount of conference and in company speaking. Before lockdown I spoke at DMX in Dublin but then did a number of virtual talks through the year for the Global HR Summit, Mindshare's Huddle event, and also talks for leaders at HSBC, Unicredit, Barilla, BNL, Morgan Advanced Materials and even a bunch of lawyers at Trinity Chambers.
- I ended up doing far more consultancy work this year than I've done in previous years, with large projects for companies as diverse as Barclays, Unilever, the Open University, WWF and BNPP Asset Management, on themes as varied as a personalisation maturity roadmap, digital capability, agile structures and workflows, and ecommerce.
- I also got to do more coaching this year than I've typically done previously, with projects for teams at H & M and Paypal.
- This year I researched and authored five reports for the smart folk at Econsultancy on Content Strategy, Product Strategy and Marketing, Effective Remote Working, Organisational Structures and Resourcing, and the application of AI, Machine Learning and Predictive Analytics in marketing. I love researching these reports and learned a lot from doing them. I also continued doing the quarterly reports and webinars for their trends service Digital Shift and did some Advanced Digital Marketing Training for them as well
- We've run live events for Google Firestarters for nine years but faced with the restrictions we pivoted this to series of video chats with the interesting and interested in the industry. The first ones were with Richard Huntington, Lindsay Pattison, and Sue Unerman. I'm delighted to say that these are going to continue through 2021 and we hope to release one every two weeks. I'm really excited about the list of interviewees that I've pulled together.
- Unbelievably this year marked a decade since I began my weekly newsletter, my curated round up of the most fascinating, useful, interesting or just plain funny things from the week. I confess to missing a few weeks this year when I was submerged in work, but I still managed to do 38 episodes and there are now well over 3,000 people are now on the list and the positive comments I get from people on the list have meant a lot. I'm still on Mailchimp which is not cheap, and have debated moving to Substack (like many others have already done it seems), but we'll see.
- I think the hours that I've put in this year just trying to keep the work momentum going have taken a toll on the amount of time that I could dedicate to blogging and I think I've posted less this year than I ever have which is a real shame. I hope to do more next year. Although I've done plenty of writing through the year, I miss the process and discipline of more regular blogging.
In so many ways this has been a real car crash of a year. It has meant an awful lot of uncertainty and also hard work (as it has for many) but as I look back at the end of it I'm enormously grateful. Grateful for smart friends and great clients. Grateful for longterm work partnerships that have been really supportive throughout. Grateful to the people that read and commented on my newsletters and infrequent blog pieces. Grateful to still be working. I have no idea what 2021 will bring, but I still think of myself as fortunate to be where I am and doing what I do.