It feels like a strange time to be writing this month note, with so much going on in the world at large, but here we are.
While it might not be written large through the reflections below much of my thinking this month has been around connection and community. That’s not so unusual for me. Trying to find and nurture connection and community from chaos (in my direct environment and of course the aforementioned The Times we are all living in) does feel different to the norm.
Uncomfortable realisations and big challenging reflections have packed this month on all fronts. Let’s get into some of the detail of that…
Content strategy and design
It’s felt like a messy and somewhat chaotic month as we near the end of an internal delivery phase while facing into how we build a team, and how we finesse a roadmap of the work to be done for the short and long term.
It’s been a month where being the first person into role in the organisation has at times felt lonely and hard. The scale of the journey ahead, and the challenges which come with change, threatened to overwhelm me. The conversations from this have been interesting, challenging, and disruptive (in all the best and worst ways but with good intentions behind it all).
There’s a few things I’ve done which have really helped face into those feelings and challenges (which I think are worth noting here for future reference and reflection):
- I was open about when I was feeling these things and how it was affecting me. I tried to be more mindful of the behaviours these feelings triggered in me – whether positive or negative – and be pragmatic in finding ways to solve the problems or face into the challenges
- I connected with other content designers elsewhere – a fortnightly catch-up with Danielle Allen from TPXImpact is always a highlight and reminds me that while I might be the only person in role in my organisation the challenges I’ve got exist elsewhere too. A spoiler for next month but it’s been good to join the Lead With Tempo content leaders Slack community as part of this connection with a tribe too.
- I’ve tried to be kinder to myself and see how my messy parts could be super powers when I reframe my view
- I’ve paused to reflect on the work I’ve done in my relatively short time in role and how this has moved me forward in my discipline (some particularly pleasing mapping work both on detail and ecosystem levels) and moved us forward as an organisation and project.
I’ve made a partial and closely managed step back into the running of the label this month. I’m holding myself to only checking and responding to email and messages (aside from the genuinely urgent) only once a week and we’re trying to hold ourselves to time in the few meetings we’re able to fit in.
I’ve still got a lot of questions in my mind about what the future of the label looks like but in a tumultuous industry as well as my personal relationship to both music and the business of music. I feel a few things are being reinforced regularly for me which impact on both those points:
- heritage will be favoured over new in almost every way
- white and male is still the winning combo for commercial or critical success
- I have a brilliantly supportive co-founder and roster community, but it is still lonely being a woman in the music business and I feel hella exposed whenever I show up in that role.
Reflecting on the first two of these points I’ve come back to:
- At Reckless Yes we’re unwilling to choose the path of least resistance if that comes at the expense of marginalised and oppressed artists, or if we are using up finite resources reproducing artefacts which already exist.
This is not a new realisation but revisiting our ‘why’ really helps to renew energy and take the next steps. It also steers me away from dangerous comparison to others, and keeping that focus on what we do and why we do it with our roster of artists centred in both.
On the third point, and a personal level I can’t ignore how uninterested I am by most of what is around – musically and critically. There seems to be a lot of noise and bravado, with the desire for change (real change, not performative change) constrained to niche communities. There are a lot of ‘bad actors’ in music, and even more enablers of them and some of my experiences make me very wary, as well as cynical, going forward. These feelings worry me, and exacerbate the isolation of being a provincial, middle-aged woman in music. Much here still to unpick for myself, and for the label longer term.
Coming out of this month I’m feeling ready to find a new coaching relationship to step up from fairly solitary reflective practice and hold myself accountable to some of the work I want to do in content strategy and design. I’ve had great, and really not great coaching relationships in the past so I’m taking all that experience with me as I look for the right way to develop from here.
On my mind to start exploring more in a coaching or self-reflective way are:
- how to move from a ‘move fast, break things’ delivery mindset, to a ‘think slow, learn things’ one, and understanding the value to the business and myself in both approaches
- ways to be a leader, without being a manager
- understanding more about my motivations, my introvert nature, and the way my brain works to bring my best self consistently and own a space for myself
- continuing work on self-worth and challenging self-limiting beliefs
Along with this I’d love to find a mentor within my professional discipline too, but that one is a longer term aim. I’ve also started to consider again the ways in which I work on very personal attributes and behaviours, and the trauma and triggers behind them, to really be better, healed, and more resilient all round in the future.
Reading and writing
What I’ve read this month
- Human Powered: Supercharge your digital product teams with emotional intelligence – Trenton Moss (BOOK)
- What I Wish People Knew About Dementia – Wendy Mitchell (BOOK)
- Finishing off a discovery to do justice to your work – Myddleton
- The loneliness of establishing a Content Design practice – Morgan Marie Quinn
- Design thinking is a rebrand for white supremacy – Darin Buzon
- A content model is not a design system – Mike Wills on A List Apart
- Jonathon Colman on UX content strategy, recruiting designers and building teams – Working In Content
- Are you a super connector? – Dr. Richard Claydon
- The toxic myth of ‘culture as shared values’ – Geoff Marlow
- Think Slower: How behavioural science can improve decision making in the workplace – Shanil Ebrahim and Timothy Murphy
What I’ve written this month
Not much – nothing I can share!
Despite only just starting to step back into the label it continues to be a huge challenge to make space for my own creative work alongside supporting the work of others. This mainly impacts on my fiction writing, and being able to find the time and headspace to return to the work in progress (a long, long overdue second novel in my series) when there is always something urgent to be done for our music releases.
Music writing is a non-starter for me now: I’m not sure my voice is needed amid the cacophony, not really sure who benefits (if anyone) from considered music writing these days, and with these questions in my mind it’s not something I can give any time or energy to. Popoptica remains mothballed.
- we had a much delayed break in The Chapel at Walcott Hall in Shropshire. One of those breaks which was postponed in the pandemic I’ve wanted to stay here for a long, long time! It did not disappoint and I am already planning a return.
- we did some Motivational Maps work which added insight to what I thought I already knew about my personal values (and how doing things aligned with these motivates me), how my motivation is doing right now and some thoughts on what is within my control to change to improve my motivation, and (particularly interesting and practical) how our motivations differ / align across the team
Coming up next month…
- continuing content mapping exercises to bridge from internal discovery work to a broader discovery piece
- more work on team building
- leaning harder into slower strategic thinking
- a fuller return to Reckless Yes as we prepare for our first releases of 2022
- finding the balance and remembering to build in rest. I’ve felt closer to overwhelm more of the time in February – a definite feeling of running to catch up and things which have great importance not getting the time or energy I want to give them. I want to move back away from those feelings and align what I do with my intentions as well as my values. More thought is needed on how much balance can be restored through small changes compared to longer term or more significant shifts.