because i'm a person

Like a good chef’s stock, this post has been on the go for a while, but until now it just didn’t have the final finishing touch to roll it out as a menu dish. I’ll come back to this.

by Phil Jewitt

If you’ve read my blog before you’ll know that I’ve been on a journey of discovery, learning by doing; blogging; getting involved with things going on in my city; going where the conversations are; and generally exploring the boundaries of flexible working. It helps being a bit of a nosey bu**er and also being proud of my city.  

I’m at a good place in my life and career, I have the benefit of ‘some’ years experience behind me, but am not yet in the ‘can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ the best of both worlds.

My employer trusts me and I don’t take the P. I’m recognised at work for being honest and telling it how it is/needs to be, but in a way that is constructive, and I’ll come back to this too.


Our CE has said at our staff engagement events that no one should be disciplined for making honest mistakes and that measured risks will move us forward as an organisation, in a time when we need to change in order to do things differently.


This risk thing was music to my ears.


So what changed to make this post relevant now? Well 2 comments to stuff I’ve recently been part of. I hope this post enthuses others to learn from my experiences.

Firstly at the end of a recent meeting, someone said “that wasn’t like working with the council at all”. And whilst I took that as a back handed compliment, it irked me to think how low the initial expectation must have been; that it would be difficult to make progress, to discuss things even. Not my council, I thought. I was just being me.

Secondly, I’ve recently worked on a big job to find out what people wanted from a council website, and what people thought of what we were developing following that initial engagement and now; on what we have built and how we will continue the discussion. That process, to me, meant going where the conversation might be and not necessarily creating our own.

In previous posts here and here, and here I’ve explored creating constructive conversations and how constructive feedback makes a difference and I’ve looked at the dilemma of cross over between personal and professional lives and questioned the use of private and work social media accounts. I set this personal blog up to understand it better, and actually it is being used for work as you read. Is that such a big deal?...I suppose it has developed into a measured risk.

So I mentioned there were 2 responses that made this post relevant now. The second is that one of the people who I talked to about what we do at the council, and specifically about the web project, suggested that it was because I was seen as open and transparent through my social media presence and they could see the person, warts and all, representing the organisation rather than the 'officialdom', it had made a refreshing change; but also that someone had taken time to do some homework about who to talk to and then made the effort to find the discussion forums and offer a discussion. And that is the point of this post; people relate to people, not organisations.

It meant a lot to me that someone had related to me because I was a person and not an ‘employee’ or ‘representative’.

Reciprocally, I know that we have an improved website because of feedback that they have given, and we now have relationships on which to continue discussion on other subjects.

Not exactly scientific evaluation but at the end of the day, the fact that I used non corporate social media accounts, including my life leak, probably benefitted the process. It made me human, someone with personality.

So sometimes whilst it’s good to talk, it’s better to go and listen to what people have to say and be a person not an organisation...and if personal social media accounts help with that then great.

Phil Jewitt is senior communications manager, strategy and resource, at Leeds City Council

photo credit

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