Skill Share – A Professional Network for Connections and Learning
At the inaugral meeting of Skill Share, I began to wonder if I had come to the wrong event.
I was invited by a guest on my podcast – The Next 100 Days, Karol Thornton (pronounced Karl). He took the decision a couple of years back to go freelance. Karol’s website now showcases many of the services he provides. These services include training people in restorative practice, financial literacy, working with offenders, and presentational skills.
Karol founded Skill Share. He posted this invitation to me attend the first meeting of Skill Share at The Shine in Harehills, Leeds on 27th February.
I’m Not a Social Entrepreneur
Google’s definition of ‘Social Entrepreneur’ is a person who establishes an enterprise with the aim of solving social problems or effecting social change. Finely Fettled is a marketing services and consultancy business. I help clients make profit by attracting affluent individuals to their businesses.
Skill Share attracted a number of ‘real’ social entrepreneurs – including…
- Lou Mycroft – is a Thinking Environment coach and consultant. She shared this methodology in the first Skill Share meeting. Her background is in public health and community development.
- Claire Wright – runs a Community Interest Company “Thinking Big” that delivers projects promoting inclusion, opportunity and well-being.
- Babs & Dean Matheson – who run Calm & Centred a Community Interest Company providing holistic therapies for well-being.
- Jill Mann – works with Together for Peace an organisation bringing diverse people together to create solutions for local and global issues.
- Andrew Gibson – helps clients to develop sustainable revenue streams. He focuses on the third sector, charities and community companies.
- Rich Daley – helps startups with their technology needs and is keen to share ‘The Agile Manifesto’ the code many software developers live by with other businesses.
- Armstrong Cameron – Derrick and Dawn (Armstrong & Cameron) work on projects in the arts, cultural and third sectors, covering equality and social justice.
- Katherine Axel – is a project manager working across arts and education using a boutique recording studio.
I was the odd one out. The diverse participant.
The thing is it didn’t matter.
Why Skill Share Made Me a Social Entrepreneur
For the day, at least.
It would have been easy to be drowned out. Or worse. I could have tried inflicting my views on the unbelieving.
You have probably been in a similar situation. You are in a meeting and ‘everyone’ gets their say. Yet, it doesn’t work out that way. People interrupt. People leap in with prescribed solutions. Even before you develop your point. Lou Mycroft called it ‘power play’. The sort of thing that you do in a meeting to confer your status. Dressed up as help.
The Skill Share group agreed to follow the Thinking Environments approach.
Yes, for me this was close to being “Kumbaya”.
The funny thing was. It was effective. It made me a better listener. I heard more of what people were saying. Your natural urge to speak was taken away. The rule was you keep eye contact with the speaker. Your face should remain neutral. I did find myself nodding with things people were saying. The end result was that I heard more.
The Listening Lesson
As an entrepreneur of whatever kind. For-profit, like me. Social, like most of the others around the table. Listening to your customers is crucial. What are they saying to you?
On my way home, I received a call from a young man who wanted to sell more boilers. We had a chat about direct mail. He had used direct mail previously with success. Nonetheless, he was asking me about a different approach. The key thing, was I let him talk. And he let me talk. We heard each other. We didn’t talk over one another – easy over the phone sometimes.
In the Skill Share session, we had two listening exercises. The first was an introduction. You get to talk in turn about ‘Why You Have Come Here?”.
Everyone else made eye contact with you. They listened without interruption. You had your say.
The second exercise was “Listening Pairs”.
Each person gets 3 minutes to answer a question. Just long enough, but not too long. The first things you say are usually less important than what comes out in the last minute. At the end of your session the listener is encouraged to say thank you. To compliment you.
Listening pairs was a very personal experience. I learned so much. It was Karol. He spoke with passion and energy about Skill Share. He’d founded it after all. He explained what he did want and what he didn’t want.
Now imagine your next prospect telling you EXACTLY what they wanted and what they didn’t want.
If you take out social from the definition above, this is what you are left with…
“a person who establishes an enterprise with the aim of solving problems or effecting change”.
Contact me on 01535 654930 or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.