Reflecting back on The Big Yak

Reflecting back on The Big Yak

There’s a special feeling that comes from sitting in a room full of people that really love their work. People that will happily give up a Saturday for an all-day ‘Unconference’ in the middle of summer.

Find me another event where the organisers have to send an email to attendees the day before requesting that they ‘please do not arrive too early!’.

Yep, you’ve guessed it, that’s The Big Yak.

This year, I joined discussions on purpose, measurement & ROI, coaching senior leaders and values & behaviours. As always, it’s the format of this event that makes it so worthwhile. Small groups, informal discussion and participants who want to help each other, connect, learn and share.

Here are three of my top takeaways that I’ve been reflecting on this week:

On measurement & ROI…..

  • Measurement must start with objectives; one of the main reasons we end up scratching our heads and counting open rates is our failure to establish objectives at the start.
  • Setting objectives means pushing the business on what success looks like. And that can involve challenging conversations.
  • There’s no silver bullet. Again, as so often with The Big Yak, it’s a relief to know you’re not alone with your challenge. In a circle some 30-strong, it was clear that we’re all still grappling with how to measure effectively and demonstrate our value. We’re doing what we can!

On coaching senior leaders…..

  • It starts with trust and trust starts with relationships.
  • Building trust enables us to challenge & coach.
  • Trust allows leaders to be vulnerable – accepting that they need help to be a better communicator.

On purpose….

  • Do you have a defined organisational purpose? Is it really a purpose, or is it a mission, a vision or your values? I love it when your thinking is challenged: I walked into this session ready to learn about how we can connect people to purpose. It ended up a lively (and much more valuable) discussion about the different types of purpose – organisational and individual, and purpose vs mission vs vision.
  • That said, I also valued a sensible reflection at the end of this session – let’s not get too caught up on the academics of it. Do our leaders really care too much if it’s a mission or a vision or a purpose. The point is that you embed something that everyone can rally around.

And a final point…..

Four years ago, at the last Big Yak I attended, I wrote about five key reflections from the day:

  • The importance of digital literacy for IC
  • How the role & skillset of IC is expanding
  • Working with senior leaders
  • Organisational culture & how that frames IC strategy
  • Shared experiences – the common ‘battle scars’ IC professionals share

As you can see, what’s interesting is that there were definitely some common themes for me four years later, perhaps with the exception of digital literacy, which really is a given now for anyone in IC.

My final takeaway is therefore a quote I heard on the day: ‘to be kind to ourselves’. The challenges we face are common to us all, they aren’t going away, and that’s ok! It’s these challenges which create the need for IC in the first place and where we can add the most value. By accepting this we can be more confident in what we do, continue to push forward and enjoy it!



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