NOTE: This blog post was drafted over a year ago but wasn’t published. I’m currently reviewing my working preferences to help my colleagues and I understand each other better and thought I’d take the opportunity to share one of the tools we’ll be looking at and show how mine has changed since I started my current job (I don’t think my scores on Belbin’s team roles will have changed much over the last year). 

On the first day of my current job, I completed a Belbin team roles survey. It was a really useful tool and something which taught both myself and my manager about the way I worked. I blogged about my results – I came out as an implementer, gatherer and completer finisher. This seemed to fit well with my preferences in a team situation, and pleased my manager as he’s not by nature a completer finisher and we’re only a small team so it’s useful to have someone happy to take on that role.

Fast forward about 3.5 years, and I find myself doing the Belbin team roles survey again, this time as part of an internal ILM (Institute of Leadership and Management) course. So have my results changed?

My Belbin team role preferences - Aug 2010 and Mar 2014

My Belbin team role preferences – Aug 2010 and Mar 2014

On the whole, my results are fairly consistent. I still have relatively high scores for implementing, gathering, and for completer finisher. My main preference (IM – implementer) is summarised as:

Implementers are the people who get things done. They turn the team’s ideas and concepts into practical actions and plans. They are typically conservative, disciplined people who work systematically and efficiently and are very well organized. These are the people who you can count on to get the job done.

This is often the role I take on given the opportunity to utilise my natural preferences – it’s consistent with some of the other tools I’ve been doing too. In my current organisation, I’m the person who plans projects and reviews progress – I keep things running to time (when I can!) and am aware of what we have coming up and try to ensure we have things in place to accommodate that. In many projects I’m involved in, even when I’m not the project manager, I’m often the person who prompts others (possibly to their annoyance I appreciate!) when things are in risk of running behind schedule or reminds them we have things coming up and need to plan for them and prepare things in advance.

It was no big surprise to me that implementer came out as the top score again. Many of my other scores are quite similar too. However there’s one quite interesting change in my scores – two roles seems to have swapped importance. My team worker role (TW) has decreased, and my shaper role (SH) has increased. Here’s what Belbin has to say about these roles:

Team Workers are the people who provide support and make sure that people within the team are working together effectively. These people fill the role of negotiators within the team and they are flexible, diplomatic, and perceptive. These tend to be popular people who are very capable in their own right, but who prioritize team cohesion and helping people getting along.

Shapers are people who challenge the team to improve. They are dynamic and usually extroverted people who enjoy stimulating others, questioning norms, and finding the best approaches for solving problems. The Shaper is the one who shakes things up to make sure that all possibilities are considered and that the team does not become complacent.

What does this mean in practice?

According to the course facilitator, it is quite common for this change to happen over time. At the beginning of our careers, we’re keen to work well with everyone we meet, but over time we shift to just wanting to get things done. The desire to focus on tasks is definitely true in my case, and I think the fact that I work fairly independently on most projects (as part of a team, but often with a specific area of responsibility) has impacted this reduction in my team player score. I was a little surprised to find that Shaper now scores fairly highly for me, but aside from the extroverted part (I’m an introvert) I can see that I do often take on that role, certainly questioning norms and challenging for improvement.

I found it really interesting to revisit Belbin, and am so glad I blogged my initial results so that I could easily compare them during the workshop. If you’re interested in learning more about the type of role you tend to play on a team, and the roles which should ideally be fulfilled for a successful team, I’d recommend checking out Belbin – the Mind Tools guide is a useful overview.

Have you looked at your Belbin team role preferences? What did you find? Do you think any of these have changed over time?

I’ve stuck with my 2014 resolution of living for the moment, and have changed a number of things this year due to focusing on the present rather than the future. I’m still a reflector though, so the end of year blog post is one thing I have decided to continue. This is my seventh year of doing these annual reviews now – you can see previous ones for 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.

I haven’t blogged much in 2014. I’ve been spending more of my free time focusing on other areas of my life and have learnt a lot about myself this year. I turned 30 in May, which to some is a scary thing but to me was something I’d been looking forward to for a while – I feel like I’ve been mentally living in my 30s for a long time anyway! I’m feeling quite positive about my 30s – I’ve been on a bit of an exploratory journey already, and hope to continue to do so.

Juggling different demands on my time

Juggling different demands on my time

I’ve been eating better and exercising more regularly, and as a result have lost quite a bit of weight this year. I didn’t set myself a specific goal, but just knew I wasn’t happy and wanted to be healthier and fitter. It’s worked really well and I’ve discovered exercise DVDs which I love (I highly recommend Jillian Michaels, most of them are only 20-30mins long so easy to fit into your day, and the progression you see when you stick with it is incredible). I’m taking a bit of a break from exercise over the festive season, but am very much looking forward to getting back into it – it offers great physical and mental benefits for me. I’ve also been doing more cooking and baking this year, and learning more about gluten free ingredients and how they differ from ‘regular’ ingredients (I have coeliac disease so I have to follow a gluten free diet for life). I’ve continued to do crafts, with quite a few knitting projects, a cross stitch project, and some crochet too. I’ve also learnt more about beauty and cosmetics this year, and now actually know what bronzer, blusher, and highlighter do (and why), and am learning how to blend eyeshadow colours. I love playing with make up, trying new skincare products and learning what suits me (and what doesn’t!).

Professionally, it’s been an interesting year too. Work has been fairly busy (particularly the last few months of the year) and at times I have struggled to retain a healthy balance. I’ve had a lot of different projects to juggle, each with their own unique challenges. Each one teaches me something new, but I haven’t had as much of an opportunity to reflect on it before the next challenge (hence not as much blogging).

Some personal highlights of the year have included:

  • Developing a full-day practical workshop on planning and facilitating focus groups

I mentioned that in 2013 I’d delivered more workshops, and was pleased with how I had developed skills in designing these. Earlier this year I developed a half day workshop for University of Cambridge libraries on planning and facilitating focus groups. I themed the workshop around chocolate so there were a number of practical activities which used this as a theme, and of course chocolates as an added incentive! I received really positive feedback from the workshop and some commented that they’d like to see this expanded and offered as a full day workshop. I was already planning to do this, so it was good to get confirmation that the half day session worked and could be used to further develop a full day workshop. I did this, and offered it for Evidence Base in September. We were fully booked and again received positive feedback. I have since run the full day workshop for University of Nottingham, a taster session for North West Libraries Interlending Partnership in Manchester, have a full day workshop scheduled for January (which is again fully booked) and have one full day workshop booked for Anglia Ruskin University. I’ve really enjoyed each session, and am looking forward to delivering more in 2015.

  • Developing my mentoring skills and supporting CILIP Chartership candidates

I completed my mentor training at the end of 2013 and starter properly mentoring this year. I have two active mentees, and one who’s currently on maternity leave. I’ve really enjoyed the mentoring process and am learning a lot about both myself and my mentoring/coaching skills. I’m learning how to listen more carefully, and how to adapt the guidance I provide based on the needs of each of my mentees. It’s early days so far but going well. I’m very much looking forward to being able to hopefully help them complete the process and become chartered soon.

  • Working with CILIP to scope a leadership development programme

The last few months I’ve been working with CILIP on scoping a leadership development programme. Since doing ALA Emerging Leaders myself in 2012, I’ve been keen to see something similar in the UK. There are of course leadership development programmes available, but mostly they are sector specific (i.e. within an organisation, or targeted at a certain sector e.g. Universities). The things I loved about the ALA programme which I felt differentiated it from others was the information on leadership within ALA and a greater understanding of ALA as an organisation, and learning about different working environments within the library and information sector. When I heard CILIP were thinking of developing a leadership development programme I was so pleased, and even more pleased to be invited to help scope the programme. I’ve been doing some research into other similar programmes, and speaking to lots of different people about their ideas via focus groups, interviews, and individual discussions, and just before Christmas I worked with CILIP to form the initial draft programme. It’s been a really positive experience so far, and I’m looking forward to finalising details in 2015.

  • Being accepted onto the Clore Leadership Residential Short Course

Leadership development has been quite a strong theme of the year, and is likely to continue for 2015 as I’ll also be developing my own leadership skills via a Clore residential course. The Clore courses are something I’ve had a keen interest in for a while, but the timing has never been right. This year I decided to explore the opportunity and fortunately my employer was happy to support my application. Even more fortunately, the application was successful so I’ll be spending two weeks in February on an intensive residential course. I recently received the programme and some information about others on the course which has got me very excited. It sounds fascinating (though slightly overwhelming!); I’m sure it will be an incredible experience.

What’s next?

In 2015 I hope I can learn techniques to help retain balance across all areas of my life and also protect some down time too as I’ve really come to appreciate the value of that. I’m really pleased with my progress on living more for the moment, but I still have a way to go. I’m not setting any specific resolutions for 2015 but hope to continue to do things I enjoy, see people I enjoy spending time with, and trying new things to learn more about what makes me happy.

I hope you all enjoyed 2014 and have a happy and healthy 2015.

By the way, the cocktail I linked to last year we had as 2014 began, and it was delicious! I fully intend to make it again tonight and would highly recommend it if you light sweet (well, very sweet!), fruity drinks. Cheers!

CILIP Revalidation Hints & Tips

CILIP Revalidation Hints & Tips series

This post is part of a series of blog posts I’m writing about CILIP Revalidation. Last year I worked with CILIP as a Future Skills Project Worker on a part-time secondment basis helping develop CILIP’s Professional Registration (Certification, Chartership, Fellowship and Revalidation). I went on to use the new process to successfully revalidate my CILIP Chartership earlier this year, and am sharing my experience through a series of blog posts. For other posts in the series, see the Revalidation Hints & Tips series.

The final stage in the Revalidation process is to put together your CPD log and supporting statement, and submit it. This is all done via the CILIP VLE. If you’ve been recording your CPD throughout the year in the CPD log in CILIP Portfolio (see my post on Recording your CPD), and have your supporting statement written (see my post on Writing your supporting statement) this stage won’t take long at all. Read the rest of this entry »

CILIP Revalidation Hints & Tips

CILIP Revalidation Hints & Tips series

This post is part of a series of blog posts I’m writing about CILIP Revalidation. Last year I worked with CILIP as a Future Skills Project Worker on a part-time secondment basis helping develop CILIP’s Professional Registration (Certification, Chartership, Fellowship and Revalidation). I went on to use the new process to successfully revalidate my CILIP Chartership earlier this year, and am sharing my experience through a series of blog posts. For other posts in the series, see the Revalidation Hints & Tips series.

There are two parts to CILIP Revalidation; your log of CPD activities, and your supporting statement. The supporting statement is your opportunity to explain and reflect on your CPD activities. You only have 250 words, so you have to be fairly concise. Read the rest of this entry »

CILIP Revalidation Hints & Tips

CILIP Revalidation Hints & Tips series

This post is part of a series of blog posts I’m writing about CILIP Revalidation. Last year I worked with CILIP as a Future Skills Project Worker on a part-time secondment basis helping develop CILIP’s Professional Registration (Certification, Chartership, Fellowship and Revalidation). I went on to use the new process to successfully revalidate my CILIP Chartership earlier this year, and am sharing my experience through a series of blog posts. For other posts in the series, see the Revalidation Hints & Tips series.

The first part of Revalidation is completing 20 hours of professional development, or CPD (Continuing Professional Development) as it’s commonly referred to. The guidelines suggest that this would be on a roughly annual basis, though it may take slightly longer (or a lot less!). Read the rest of this entry »

CILIP Revalidation Hints & Tips

CILIP Revalidation Hints & Tips

Earlier this year I successfully revalidated my CILIP Chartership. Having been involved in developing the new scheme for CILIP Professional Registration (which incorporates Certification, Chartership, Fellowship, and Revalidation) during my part-time secondment at CILIP last year, I was keen to put what I had learnt into practice and test whether Revalidation was as straight forward as we’d hoped. I spent quite a bit of time examining Revalidation in other professional organisations, and it was evident that the previous version of CILIP Revalidation was much more involved than comparators. The message from member feedback (which also reflected my own personal view) was clear – Revalidation needed to be simplified so that it could be completed on a more regular basis to demonstrate an ongoing commitment to professional development (after all, the C in CPD is for continuing professional development). With that in mind, we set out to make the process less intensive and more relevant to all levels of Professional Registration – Certification, Chartership, and Fellowship (previously the focus had been more as a step up from Chartership).

As I’ve now been through the Revalidation process and have discussed it with a number of people planning to do the same, I thought it might be worthwhile me documenting the processes I used (and intend to continue to use) in case they are useful for others. I’ll therefore be publishing a series of blog posts over the next few days, including:

I’ll be writing about my own experience which relates to revalidating CILIP Chartership, but much of the processes apply to those revalidating CILIP Certification or CILIP Fellowship. If you have any questions, please let me know in the blog comments. I hope you find this series useful.

I was recently invited to test a product on behalf of MyTrendyPhone.co.uk. One thing I thought I would find useful was an iPad case with a keyboard. I was sent a Universal Tablet Bluetooth Keyboard and Leather Case:

Universal Bluetooth Keyboard Case

Universal Bluetooth Keyboard Case

Please note: I’ve include my own photos throughout but they’re taken in not much daylight on my phone camera, so you may be better off checking out the product photography on the product page.

The reason I wanted one of these was for travelling. As a researcher and workshop facilitator, I spend quite a bit of time travelling and need to be able to work from wherever I am. My trusty iPad goes pretty much everywhere with me (it’s my main requirement when looking for bags – that’s another thing I could really do with!). I use it to check email, keep up-to-date with news and social media, make notes, write blog posts (in fact I started writing this blog post on it whilst on a bus), write and deliver presentations… I’d be here forever if I listed everything, there’s not much I do that I can’t do on my iPad. I actually don’t mind typing on the touchscreen – I even choose to transcribe interviews on the iPad rather than desktop – but I’ve kept wondering if it would be better to try an external keyboard. One big advantage is that the keyboard takes up quite a bit of the screen so it can make it more difficult at times to both type and format. I’ve been testing this case by taking it to events with me, and below is my review of the product.

Layout

There’s a few options for external keyboards. My wireless keyboard for my main computer actually works as a keyboard for the iPad, though it’s not so convenient to carry around a full sized additional keyboard. There are some which fit into an iPad case, and there are some which are fixed into a case. The one I tried was attached to the case by a magnet, so you could use it in the case or you could remove it. I liked the flexibility here – it means you can adapt it to your situation and the space available, and of course you could just take the keyboard with you if you didn’t want to take the full case (e.g. if you have a smaller case).

Keyboard can be used in case or moved out of case

Keyboard can be used in case or moved out of case

Fit

The case I tried apparently fits any tablet from 9″to 10.1″. This means it doesn’t necessarily fit snugly as it’s not tailored to your specific tablet, but if you have more than one or are likely to buy a different model in future that’s an advantage. The tablet is attached using plastic corners – they’re on elastic bands so you can expand to fit your tablet. It’s relatively secure once it’s in, but it’s not the easiest of fastenings to use.

Close up of corner

Close up of corner

Screen angle

Another thing which had always intrigued me was whether it’s more natural to have the screen at a higher angle when typing. My default is for me to type on the screen with it at a slight incline using the smart case, like this:

My usual typing position

My usual typing position

This of course is totally different to the way you would usually look at the screen of a desktop or laptop computer. You can stand the iPad upright, though I don’t tend to do this when I have a lot of typing to do as the iPad isn’t very stable in this position. With a keyboard and case you can usually have the iPad at a higher angle, more like a laptop. The case I was sent has just one viewing angle, which was fine when using on a desk, but too low when using on the train – there’s not enough room on the pull down table to have it at this angle. I also found it was a little flimsy to be honest, the stand seemed like just a piece of cardboard in the case so not very strong. I think I’d prefer to try a sturdier one with more viewing angle options.

Viewing angle with the Universal Bluetooth Keyboard Case

Viewing angle with the Universal Bluetooth Keyboard Case

The case I tested was for landscape use only, you can also get cases which you can use in portrait though I don’t think I’d use that often so it wasn’t a big issue for me – nice option to have though I guess.

Pairing

So how does your iPad know there’s a keyboard that you want to use with it? Usually they connect via Bluetooth, and it found the pairing process very simple. I turned on Bluetooth on my iPad and on the keyboard, and then typed in the passcode to pair them together. You only need to do this once – after that they pair automatically (or they did with this one anyway). I had no problems at all with pairing or getting the keyboard to communicate with the iPad. As Bluetooth is the way the keyboard communicates with the iPad, you need to leave Bluetooth on both devices in order for them to work. Here lies my big problem and the reason I’m currently travelling without the case. Bluetooth uses battery power, quite a lot of battery power in fact. So much battery power that in one train journey to Cambridge I arrived with less than 30% of battery left (admittedly the journey takes around 4hrs, but my iPad has always lasted a full day of use in the past) and never had any problems with battery life. This made for a very dull return journey as I couldn’t use my iPad at all – it had 3% battery by the time my workshop had finished (I used it to present from).

Case quality

I thought it was worth mentioning that I was a little disappointed with the quality of the case – I didn’t pay to test this but am judging it on what the cost should be. The packaging had quite a few errors on it (small spelling and grammatical errors, but this is always a bit of a red flag in terms of quality for me) and the case itself was a little flimsy – it didn’t hold itself in position very well. It’s also quite bulky, which in a sense is understandable considering it includes a keyboard (maybe I’m expecting the moon on a stick?!), but I know you can get much more compact ones. It doesn’t fit in my usual bag so I would have to carry a larger bag if I wanted to carry the iPad in the case.

As I was finishing editing this blog post to be published (I drafted it a few weeks ago) I put my iPad in the case to take some additional photos, and one of the corners snapped so the iPad is now wonky and not secure. I’ve been storing the case in its original packaging (with foam protector for the inside) and have only taken the iPad in and out of the case about five times so really don’t expect this to happen in such a short space of time.

Snapped corner

Snapped corner

Final verdict

I have to say I’m afraid I wouldn’t recommend this case (even before the corner snapped). I don’t know if I would recommend any case unless you have a reliable power supply or an external battery (I love my Innergie PocketCell but I don’t tend to carry an iPad connector with me and it gets pretty warm when I have used it to charge my iPad). I’m intrigued by the more slimline cases though as the bulkiness was another key issue for me, so I think if I was buying I’d probably save up to get a more robust case from a reputable brand. Belkin sell a variety of cases such as the Fastfit Keyboard Case or the Ultimate Keyboard Case so I think I’d recommend looking at some of the higher quality ones if you’re interested in a keyboard case for your tablet, and I’d recommend investing in a decent external battery if you want to be able to use the iPad when not connected to a power source.

Do you have a case with a keyboard for your tablet? What would you recommend?

Last year I wrote a column for the CILIP Update magazine on the topic of Getting Things Done. The column came about as a follow on from an article I wrote on the topic in 2012. The article was very well received and so I was invited to develop a series of columns on various different aspects. These were published every other month during 2013, and are now outside the embargo period so I am able to share them via the blog. Each one has a theme, and many also include additional hints and tips, updates, and some Q&As.

The main takeaway points for the series are:

  • Ensure all confirmed appointments are in your calendar and check your calendar regularly
  • Consider blocking out time in your calendar for working on particular tasks/projects
  • Find a to-do list that suits the way you work, whether it’s physical or virtual
  • Learn when and how to say no to help you prioritise your time effectively
  • Set up a tickler file to store items for future and have them ready for when you need them
  • Include start dates on tasks and projects so they don’t bother you until it’s time to work on them
  • Keep your email inbox for incoming items only
  • Review your tasks and projects regularly to ensure they are up-to-date and you can focus on current priorities

You can view the columns in full using the following links:

  1. Dealing with calendars and diaries
  2. To-do or not to-do, that is the question
  3. The art of saying no
  4. Helping your future self
  5. Getting to inbox zero and keeping it that way
  6. Knowing when to stop

I had some really positive feedback on the column and it was great to gain an understanding of which parts were most useful and what people wanted more advice on. Trying different tools and techniques to improve productivity is something that’s always interested me so it’s been good to have the opportunity to share some of the things I’ve learnt along that process.

Alongside the column, I’ve also been developing my materials for the Managing yourself: how to be productive with your time workshop, and also delivered a webinar earlier this year on the topic. If you’re interested in a workshop or webinar on this topic, please let me know.

As it’s the first working day of 2014, I’m taking the opportunity to review how I did against my 2013 resolutions. They were:

  1. To write (and hopefully publish) a paper for a peer-reviewed journal
    Unfortunately this still hasn’t happened – it’s been on my resolutions for a while now, but the opportunity still hasn’t yet materialised. However I do have some plans for this so maybe 2014 will be the year.
  2. To embed current awareness into working routine (e.g. keeping up-to-date with RSS feeds)
    Yes, I’m much better at this now. I’ve cut down the number of RSS feeds I subscribe to so that’s it’s not so overwhelming, and check on a far more regular basis.
  3. To develop skills in training/coaching and put them into practice through workshops
    I successfully completed my ILM Award in Coaching, and have utilised these skills in a number of different situations, both one-to-one and in workshops. I’m much more confident in designing and developing workshops now and really enjoy delivering them.
  4. To continue to support other professionals via Twitter (by keeping an eye on the #chartership tweets, and joining in Twitter chats)
    I’ve been keeping an eye on the #chartership tweets, particularly during my CILIP secondment, and am planning to register as a mentor to continue supporting people in this way.
  5. To retain balance in life and ensure I continue to spend time away from the computer doing other things I enjoy and seeing family and friends
    Sort of. I’ve been much better at this, but there were still periods where I let work take over my free time – either in doing work during multiple consecutive evenings or weekends, or just through planning, worrying, and thinking about work to an extent where I struggle to switch off. I think this will always be a work in progress but I’m much more aware of it and have developed a few mechanisms to help.

So what about 2014? Well, I’m taking a different approach this year by not setting myself lots of goals. My one resolution across all areas of my life is to try to live for the present more than the future. I spend so much of my time planning for future and setting myself goals that I haven’t been enjoying things much as I’m constantly looking to the next thing and not appreciating the current situation. I’m not going to go completely cold turkey, as planning is of course important for some things, but I’m going to try to take a more balanced approach and think more about doing things I enjoy right now rather than doing things because one day a few months (or even years!) ago I thought it would be a worthwhile thing to do in future. So here’s to today! :)