Framing the meeting

This is something that I’ve ended up talking to a lot of senior coaching clients about in different formats recently. I see people coming to them for meetings and not using the time wisely, and these are people whose diaries are incredibly full - I know because they have to battle to keep their appointments with me! This practice comes from a few patterns that I noticed in conversation with them:

  • leaders making forays into collaborative ways of running meetings but not getting the results they wanted (or secretly wanting people to collaborate, ahem, in a particular direction!)
  • meetings overrunning, to the detriment of the leader’s mental health/effectiveness
  • leaders wanting to grow a culture of collaboration but not knowing how to really grow different behaviours and attitudes
  • leaders developing into a more tuning-fork sense of being a leader, but people around them not really getting it.

 

A lot of my inspiration for these ideas is rooted in the incredible work of Sam Kaner and the Community At Work team. Their book “The Facilitator’s Guide To Participatory Decision Making” changed my life as a someone who holds the space for groups. Some of the idea of creating a process sequence and sharing it comes from my reading of Roger Schwarz, particularly his take on Unilateral vs Mutual Learning (itself an evolution of the work of Argyris and Schön, et al). He also influenced my thinking on the transparency of meta-comments (“I’m aware I’m not saying something to you, so I’m just going to come out and say it…”).

The Practice

Implemented well, Framing The Meeting allows for more productive and timely meetings that achieve their aims, but also more peace of mind for all concerned. Over time, this practice can build capacity and capability for more consciousness during meetings, for people interested in leading leaders.

This is how you do it.

I see two main ways of starting with this practice.

A. Being the framing guardian

There are many aspects to this.

Type: What type of meeting is this?

Is it a chat? Is it a consultation? Are you giving information? Is it a communal consensus-building meeting?

Outcomes and Decisions: What are you hoping is going to happen by the end of the meeting? Will there be a decision made, and if so, how?

Are there particular questions you are hoping to have answers to? Are there agreements that need to be put in place? Is it ‘just’ that you have both heard each others’ thoughts? Will there be an action plan?

If there is a decision to be made, who will be making it and how? Will you be consulting but ultimately making the decision? Will people vote? Do you have the deciding vote? If it’s by consensus, then does that mean everyone’s enthusiastic consent (ie can anyone veto it?) Or will you summarise and then check for any deep concerns, and otherwise go ahead?

Process: What are the big process chunks?

How do you see the meeting going? Is there an input phase? Who’s going to go first? Then who? Will there be discussion? If there is a decision/plan to be made, how much time will you need to keep for that?

(Although this seems complex and unwieldy, in most situations it just takes seconds.)

Reality check: Are we all on the same page?

If it’s been you laying all this out, now it’s time to (genuinely) check: Is that what the other people expected? Do they want to add to/alter the plan in any way?

Time: How much time have we got?

I always check with the other person how much time they have  - sometimes things have shifted, or one or the other of us was late. It’s important to know that in advance. Also, as the process guardian, its your job to neutrally say how much time is left maybe half-way through and as you’re nearing the end of the allotted time. If things are taking longer than planned, you transparently adjust the plan.

B Jointly design the framing

Jointly designing the framing involves the same aspects as above, but encouraging everyone to build the framing together. Many if not most people are unaware of the process of meetings, so you may need to build their process consciousness over time via being a visible process guardian.

But if you put out feeler-questions at the beginning (“What are you hoping is going to happen by the end of this meeting? Is there a decision to be made?”) and people respond well, it can be good to get their input - maybe before yours - then co-designing the process to include everyone’s inputs.

(How are you holding yourself to truly welcome co-creation? Do you have any tension around it? Some meetings need to be sharp and to the point - that’s part of your framing!)

Maybe after a time, people come to expect that when they have a meeting with you, they need to come prepared with these kinds of process thoughts. And perhaps they can then take them into their own meetings.

Again, I’m making this sound cumbersome, but it really can just be a couple of minutes at the beginning of the meeting which make sure you’re all aware of each others’ expectations. And sometimes you both agree you just want an unstructured chat and that’s what happens!

Applications

Even if you don’t have many meetings, you can practice this with conversations.

Timing

Simple things like “We’re half-way through our time. How are we doing, do you think?” or “You said you wanted to ask me some questions and i’m aware we’re ten minutes from the end. Do you want to ask me them now, or would you prefer to continue as we are and leave them for another time?” can introduce aspects of framing without being too cumbersome.

One of the ways I started was by starting a meeting or conversation with “Can I just check how long you’ve got? We’ve got this booked until 11.30. Do you need to run away at that time?” Knowing in advance that there is a limited time allows you to not leave things for when the other person might be distracted.

Signposting

Adding in signposting comments can be a simple way of introducing consciousness, even in a traditional meeting with an agenda as well as conversations. “So we’ve just covered points one and two… are we still okay to move on to point three?”

Checking in

I find that pausing and finding out how the other person is doing can really help bring awareness back up to the framing/process level.

Come clean

An inner practice that I try to implement is noticing when I’m hiding what I’m thinking or feeling and somehow ‘managing’ the other person. I then try and step out of the meeting by saying something like, “I think you’ve gotten a little reticent in the past couple of minutes and I’m avoiding asking if you’re okay. Can i just check: Is everything okay?”

This level of transparency often allows a deepening of the conversation so neither party are wearing heavy masks. Even coming clean about the fact you’re practicing framing meetings better can help you do it better!

How does this sit with you?

This was published in an edited form in Street Smart Awareness - a collection of practices that focus on developing in-the-moment wisdom.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38088800-street-smart-awareness-and-inquiry-in-action

First time, last time - A practical way to get out of a rut

After meditating for a few years, I realised I had fallen in a rut. I was running on a (peaceful) autopilot. I don’t remember how I hit on this practice, but it rejuvenated my meditation and I started using it for other times when I felt like I was in routine or bored and it really helped. It harnesses the benefits of being ‘mindful’ but gives me a route in, rather than connecting to an abstract or mind-y concept.

The Practice

First Time/Last Time is so simple I can’t even believe I’m describing it. It can be applied when you’re going to a situation where you think you know what to expect, or something routine like getting on the bus, having a meeting, making dinner, hanging out with your significant person.

Here’s how I do it.

First time

Imagine this is the first time you’re doing this activity.

What would you notice if this were the first time?

What would you be feeling if this were the first time? (I’m an inveterate starter, so the first time doing something is exciting to me!)

What leeway would you give yourself in terms of expectations if this were your first time?

Last time

Now imagine this is the last time you’ll ever do this.

What care would you give this activity if this were the last time?

What would you feel if this were the last time? (I often feel a kind of fond nostalgia…)

How much effort would you put in if you know you’d never do this again?

First time/last time

Can you allow both of these possibilities at once? What if this were the first and the last time you ever did this? What if it were the only time?

What would you notice if it were the first and last time?

What would feel if this were the first and last time?

What freedom is there in letting this be the first and last time you do this?

Applications

The thing is, there is more than an element of fundamental truth about all three steps. It is the first time you’ve done this activity, today, in this way. It is the last time you’ll do it right now, in this way. And one day, it really will be the last time! Either because you stop doing it, or because you’re not doing anything anymore.

At different times, this practice can freshen my approach, supply me with more energy, reconnect me with my body and allow an escape from sleepiness.

Where in your life are you doing things on autopilot?

This practice was just published in an edited form in Street Smart Awareness, a really accessible book on really grounded practices for developing wisdom in the moment.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38088800-street-smart-awareness-and-inquiry-in-action

 

The leaders we need

As leaders and organisers we want to be doing the wise thing at the right time.

In order to do that, we need to grow our capacity and capability:

  • To think in terms of multiple timelines. We need to be able to be in the moment right now, to think about next week and next month, as well as thinking ten, twenty, fifty, a hundred years ahead.

  • To look this messy, broken, beautiful world in the eye. By the way, this includes your messy, broken, beautiful organisation! There’s something profound and necessary about not turning away from complexity, from non-binary spectrums, from uncertainty, paradox and mess. Sometimes we want things neat and they’re just NOT. In fact, if you can be somewhat at peace with the chaotic truth of the world, you can still do stuff, you can still take wise and timely action, instead of freezing or getting overwhelmed.

  • To spot systemic patterns and flows of history. The ability to go ‘This is (partially) an example of this...’, or ‘This is a bit like this and this…’ or ‘Something like this has happened before…’  means you can discover links that allow deeper change to happen.

  • To embrace your own humanity and the humanity of others. The ability to include more and more people’s perspectives, in deeper and deeper ways, is a hallmark of someone who can find plans and solutions that are sustainable and supported, robust and inclusive.

  • To be aware of your awareness. Thinkers like MIT’s Otto Scharmer have a hunch: the element that determines the effectiveness of a system intervention is the quality of awareness of the intervenor. What you’re aware of and how warm, how open, how gently focused, how wide, how still you are when thinking, listening, speaking, doing, is key key key to how deep your influence can be.

We need to aim towards these capabilities because the challenges we face as individuals, groups, organisations, humans and as a planet require them. Siloed thinking that operates from simple causality is what got us into this mess.

The planet

We are already on the cusp of irreversible environmental disaster and although some of the actions required are clear, how to make them happen, particularly at scale, demands all the subtlety of thinking outlined above if we have any chance of keeping a planet that is capable of sustaining human life.

Social justice for everyone

We live in a world that harbours a huge one-way imbalance of power. People of Colour, queer people, trans and non-binary people, women, disabled people, poor people (and people who live at the intersections of more than one of the above identities) are constantly harmed just for existing in the world.

If we are to create a world that is supportive for ALL people, then leaders and organisers have to do in-depth, often tumultuous, transformational work. We have to learn to nurture the parts of us that have been programmed to feel less-than and melt the parts of us that have been programmed to feel better-than.

We also need to dismantle the oppressive systems around us that are rooted in racism, slavery, genocide and colonialism, and grow new ones that are collective and radically inclusive, so there is true equity in who makes decisions and who holds power and resources. This goes so far beyond laughably simplistic ‘diversity’ thinking.

We also have to face the fact that our ways of living are already forcing millions of people to live in horrific conditions. Reconsidering the way we live as individuals, organisations and countries is vital if we are to look after all of humanity, not just a wealthy, lucky few.

Organisations

The world is only becoming more complex and volatile. Organisations that cling to outdated models of hierarchy and siloed outcomes will only fall behind, if they survive at all. Nimble, self-organising, responsive organisations with inclusion, sustainability and equity at their heart are the ones that will survive and thrive. We need leaders who can plant the seeds and nurture the spaces for these organisations to grow, and that is a complex, challenging path-that-isn’t-yet-a-path.

Groups

Humans, particularly western humans, don’t know how to meet in groups. Henri Lipmanowicz and Keith McCandless identified the Big Five ways that we tend to meet - presentation, open discussion, managed discussion, brainstorm and status update - as holding inequality at their core. We need to find ways to meet which include as many voices as possible, which use participatory ways of making decisions, which deal productively with the natural conflict and deadlock that happen even in healthy groups. Neither bombastic, black-and-white thinkers nor I’ll-find-the-answer-for-you lead-from-the-front leaders are going to do a tenth as well as people who genuinely know we each hold only a piece of the truth.

Conversations

Most of how we interact with other people is through one-on-one conversations. Knowing how to actually listen, how to not shy away from awkward conversations and stay present (even in the midst of conflict and strong emotions) are tough skills to develop and maintain. They need flexible thought, responsibility and boundaries that move beyond rigid certainty. They also require a knowledge of power differences and an awareness of intention and impact as societal inequalities play out even in our close relationships.

Yourself

You’re good at getting stuff done in the world, you’re smart, you know how to influence, you hit your numbers, but when you look up at the world, you see how much is still broken. You care sometimes so much that it’s hard to switch off. You see that you can’t do it all, but don’t see much alternative. You struggle with the seeming intractability of the people around you, of the frustrating rollercoaster of translating your vision into real reality.

These pressures, these tensions don’t have to stall you. They can transform you, if we hold them in the right way. Mainly we evolve when life forces us to. Knowing how to be healthily at the edge of our current capacity is how we grow in functional (as opposed to dysfunctional!) ways. There’s wisdom to be found when we’re in over our heads...

Only by working on all of these things can you become the leader you long to be and, frankly, a leader the world needs.

Becoming a wiser leader

There's a framework I've been working with the past couple of years which looks at how we develop our capacity to take wiser and more timely action.

I recorded a couple of videos to introduce you to the concepts.

2018-02-06 19.27.26.jpg

Brief intro to Action Logics

Here's a six minute down-and-dirty intro to the concepts...

Captions are available on the video. Click here for a full transcript.

If you're more of an audio person, here's the mp3. Click the download link on the right if you'd like to have a copy on your device.

How to evolve into a wiser leader

If the short video made you hungry for more, here's a more in-depth peek into the leadership action logics.

Captions available. (Also, sorry for the coughing fit at the end - lesson learned about having a glass of water near me...) Transcript is here.

Voila the mp3, with download link.

Are you opening or closing?

I seemed to come to a new understanding of an old question today.

Listening to Pema Chödrön, the Buddhist nun, on an audiobook this morning and she was suggesting (I paraphrase) you pay attention to the question: ‘Are you opening or closing?’

Those of you who’ve hung out near me will know over the years I’ve talked a lot about clenching and unclenching.

Today, I notice that I close a lot. Especially in response to overwhelm at others’ sadness.

I close to my best friend having a terrible time.

I close to people in a FB group I’m in who are putting out requests for money and support.

I closed the other day when reading about the Great Barrier Reef bleaching white and basically dying. I often close to the facts of global warming and imminent/growing climate crisis.

I close to reports of the reality in Syria, Yemen, Burma…

I close to Trump, to Brexit, to possible nuclear war.

I close to Z when he is having a less than positive moment.

I close when wandering through the Christmas shopping mayhem thinking about people in the future asking why we didn’t stop buying stuff.

I close when I think that children have mined the ingredients of my Mac, my phone.

I close when I read about my friends having a hard time, struggling in the world the way it’s currently set up.

What I’ve realised today is that when I notice the closing and don’t turn away (either from the trigger or from the act of closing) I can take more action.

I can contact my best friend rather than letting another day go by without properly saying anything to her.

I can donate *some* money to *some* people in the group, rather than turning away in guilt and not supporting anyone.

I can continue to read books that offer clear-eyed ways forward to the climate crisis (like Doughnut Economics that looks at both social justice and the earth).

When I stay open to the closing (and maybe sometimes open more), I can take more action.

So, that’s my focus right now. Asking ‘Am I closing or am I opening?’ and noticing what happens when I, well, notice.

Leadership chat 16

Chat 16 of #100leadershipchats was with someone who's seen the nitty-gritty of leading projects and teams in Corporate Tech Land.

He realised that the only time people talked about leadership at his firm was on leadership "training", so he's set up a relaxed online space specifically for people to be chat about challenges and learning around leading. Without any formal "permission", which is kind of cool.

He talked about how he saw leadership as sharing experience, nudging people towards learning, showing what has worked in the past and what's possible. And sometimes providing political cover higher up the food chain.

It's always interesting to talk to people who've thrived in the corporate world, as massive companies are complex environments...

Leadership chat 15

Chat 15 of #100leadershipchats was a whole 'nother world. 

This is someone who has gone from science, through Theatre of the Oppressed, to somatic embodied work, and is synthesising all three. 

We talked about how great leadership can be about warmth, openness, a sense of self, implicit and explicit transparency, congruence and spaciousness. 


They said they felt it difficult to claim the title of leader, having been programmed to think "leader = old white men who control". That they were finding a way to lead outside the leader/follower binary. 


All of their barriers to leadership can be traced to misogyny and the white patriarchy - all of their self-doubt comes from there. 


Support to being a better leader comes for them from therapy, community and working in a space that has integrity in its very core. 


I tell you what, this conversation went deep, fast, and stayed there! This person even helped me find a possible link between the leadership evolution work and how it's linked to (deconstructing) the patriarchy. YESSSS. 💙

  •  

Leadership chat 14

2017-04-17 18.48.44.jpg

Chat 14 of #100leadershipchats was with a person with decades of leading companies and start-ups, who is also, I found out, a Zen Buddhist of forty years. 

He saw great leadership as having to do with:

- always being on the side of your team

- rather than blame, always being curious as to causes

- delegating enough for people to have autonomy. 

We talked about the importance of getting the right people, and that you shouldn't hire for culture fit but CULTURE ADD. (Loved that.)

In the end, he said, you have to decide if you want the life of a leader as that can take you away from the work you love... 

Fascinating to talk to someone who's had YEARS of hands-on experience.

Leadership chat 13

Leadership chat no.13 of #100leadershipchats was with a young piano major who now works in finance compliance. 


We talked about:

- how being Asian in California brings a persistent sense of not fitting in, of not belonging

- the pressure of always having to "represent" your race

- how complicated it is to navigate cultural and personal attitudes to conflict and confidence

- how queerness makes that even more complex

- how ALL of that affects if and how you might lead. 

We also talked about how he'd experienced more trauma through racism from white gay men than homophobia from the Asian community. 

This is why an intersectional approach is so vital, especially in places it isn't normally cultivated like the corporate space...

Leadership chat 12

Leadership chat no.12 of #100leadershipchats was with a storyteller, coach, writer, improv person and a Taekwondo black belt.

 
We talked about:

- leadership as a sense of the big picture, of power that attracts

- how leaders build you up, connect people and energise

- how you might be a good leader without being a good manager of detail (especially for people with ADD)

- how giving too much credence to every voice, even naysayers, can mean stuff doesn't get done

- how anyone who calls themself a thought leader or a guru needs to be avoided. 

There was so much in our ensuing conversation about the work I'm exploring about leadership evolution that connects with martial arts - being able to let go, to hold a space, to apply lessons from one sphere widely...

I've also opened the gates to an onslaught of tangentially connected articles and suggested authors which I love as I want to be casting my conceptual net wide!

Leadership chat 11

Chat 11 of #100leadershipchats was with a woman who wants to lead on local zero waste initiatives. 


We talked about how she felt that good leaders make everyone feel valued, that they engage people in way that means they actively want to be a part of that vision. 


Also the place of self-confidence and the block that comes from comparing yourself with others, or rather comparing your inside experience with your perception of others' external appearance.

 

Leadership chat 10

Chat no.10 of #100leadershipchats was a mystical journey with someone who spent 25 years in leadership positions in the civil service, 18 years doing subtle healing work, and now weaves connections in her local community by literally walking around and catalysing conversations. 


I almost can't put this chat into words but it involved being a lighthouse of consciousness, allowing dots to connect, preserving a sense of self, seeing the intuitive vortices...

I have to say, as a long-term meditator and a closet mystic, it all made a lot of sense... *whispers* We don't TALK about it, though. 


Leadership. It's a multi-faceted arena.

Leadership chat 9

Chat no.9 of #100leadershipchats was with a corporate leader turned successful coach.

We talked about:

- flipping the traditional triangle so the leader is at the bottom

- how much we deal with shadow stuff through our work relationships, and how that's even more important for leaders to work with through

- that self-leadership emanates out - the importance of psychological safety

- why it's important not to treat adaptive challenges as if they were technical problems

- that it's important to create an environment where answers can be found

- how it's can be hard to identify as a leader when you think of it as having power over someone and you think of yourself as more of an advocate

- that they always had "leadership" job titles but never felt empowered

- the connection between leadership and visibility and avoiding distasteful practices

This person had already studied the field I'm looking at so we were able to use the full hour to cover a lot of ground... So much so we had to force ourselves to cut the conversation short. 

So much to think about especially the impact of internal work... 😍

Leadership chat 8

Leadership chat no.8 of #100leadershipchats was with someone working at the intersection of fitness and mental health.

They really saw the importance of a leader having a passion, an obsession and a clear vision. That a leader needs to be able to swap from a 20 year perspective, to looking at a month, a week, today.

We talked about the importance of mentorship, and the mix of empowering others whilst empowering yourself.

A short and sweet conversation with an enthusiastic leader! 

 Get involved! 

Leadership chat 7

Leadership chat 7 of #100leadershipchats was with someone looking into the role technology can take in mediating personal and collaborative communication. Riiiight?

We talked about:

- how good leadership can be about making sure people feel psychologically safe to make progress

- how much leadership is about leading people in a direction they already want to go

- the drain for a leader of being non-gender conforming and queer in a world that demonises those things.

We spoke about a bunch of other stuff that's difficult to summarise!

Plus they gave me invaluable multi-meta-level feedback on the leadership evolution model.

Beautiful.

Leadership chat 6

Leadership call 6 of #100leadershipchats was with a business adviser who is also a polar expedition leader!


We talked about:


- how intrinsic to her concept of leadership that a leader walk their talk


- the role of vulnerability and being honest about struggles


- how the best expedition leaders genuinely use the brains of the people in their team, and are totally not defensive about analysing mistakes


- the importance of peers


- stepping up into leadership when people need you to


FASCINATING


:)

Leadership chat 5

Chat 5 of #100leadershipchats happened on Friday with a digital marketing person who's turned their business to be more focused on social justice and more specifically anti-racism work with white people.

We talked about:

- how good leaders listen deeply, are aware of power dynamics (ie race, gender, sexuality, ability)

- the importance of things that have become embarrassing buzzwords like authenticity, honesty, integrity

- how it can be easier not to "formally declare" yourself a leader, as that requires real stepping up

- the place of imposter syndrome

- the importance of community

- leaderful movements like Black Lives Matter

- what it's like leading in your No-F***s Fifties.

This was one of these conversations that could have gone on for hours - full of "Have you read this? Have you thought about this? That's so interesting... It makes me think of..."

❤️

If you'd like to be one of the hundred chats, check out: 

Andrewlightheart.com/blog/100chats

Particularly if you're not a "typical" leader... 

Leadership chat 4

Conversation number 4 in #100leadershipchats was with a software developer turned people person, who also is the pastor of a church and the captain of a band!

 

We talked about:

 

- how good leadership can be like gardening but great leadership involves extreme accountability

 

- how good leaders do ongoing intense personal work - often learning an in-depth skill

 

- how vulnerability is easy to pay lip service to but is hard to square with the pressure of a leader to "lead"

 

- how the pressure to come up with the ideas and get it right is a significant block to helping teams work

 

- the importance of community so you're not doing this lonely work alone.

 

Loving these chats and the way they're allowing me to connect with an incredible bunch of people!

 

 

100 leadership chats

Following the lead of Desiree Lynn Adaway and Shenee Howard, I’m having 100 chats about leadership. Please share far and wide! 

I’d like to know:

- What do you think makes a good leader?

- Do you consider yourself as a leader?

- What gets in the way of you being a better leader?

I’d particularly like to talk to you if you don’t think you fit a conventional ‘leader’ mould.

So much leadership stuff is exclusively straight white cis men. Not my stuff. Queer/Trans/Non-Binary/Person of Colour? Let’s talk.

 And, yes, if you're straight/cis/white/a man I still want to talk to you too! 

There are two options:

(a) 30 mins where we chat about the three questions above.

(b) An extra 20/30 minutes where you let me practice talking about the post-heroic/leadership evolution work I’m researching right now. Like a private mini-webinar, I suppose… NOT in ANY WAY a secret sale pitch - just me harping on about my current nerdy obsession.

(Means you don’t have to read the 10 books that lay out all the science - you get it pre-processed as I work on putting it into understandable words…)

If you’d just like the 30 min chat, book here:

calendly.com/andrewlightheart/30ph

If you’d like the chat AND find out about some interesting leadership stuff, book in here:

calendly.com/andrewlightheart/60ph

We’ll do some combination of Skype/Hangout/Zoom/phone or if you’re in Birmingham UK, maybe even, dun dun DUN, face-to-face! 

Book in please! Share please!

If it's broke, did you break it? (a Twitter parable)

On Friday, a simple coaching question filled a hole in my life.

I've loved Twitter for years - like YEARS and years. I love that you can connect with someone and there's no pressure on you to spend a lot of energy maintaining that connection (loose ties, innit?) and there's no pressure on their side to reciprocate.

I've kind of fallen out of love with Twitter in the past year, but, boy, we had it good for a long while.

I had a ragtag community of weirdos who would support each other when things were tough. I made some real friends, a couple of which I would think of as some of my closest friends, even though we might have only met or Skyped once or twice.

Twitter friendship is hard to explain.

We laughed, we cried, we hashtagged. Some people hired me. People (including, like, real editors) proofread things. Experts gave me informed advice. Conferences offered me speaking gigs. Personally, professionally, it was great. 

But more than anything, Twitter was like the best coffeeshop/breakroom you could imagine, filled with cool people WHO GOT YOUR JOKES. It was like living in the writers' room of the first four seasons of the Gilmore Girls.

Like any relationship, things changed.

And then I saw my friend Sas post on Facebook that she had deleted her Twitter account, because it wasn't like it used to be.

So, I went to Twitter and asked the question:

"Is it me or is Twitter broken? Is it time to leave?"

And for the next two days I had the best, warmest interaction I'd had online for maybe two or three years. We tweeted like it was 2012.

Some people shared my concern.

Some people said they still liked Twitter for certain things, but it was a harder place.

Some only used it for links and super-breaking news.

But others said they still loved Twitter, that it was a source of support and love and interest even now.

One of the common threads amongst these crazy idealists was that they did a fair bit of curation - lists, blocking, liberal (small 'l') unfollowing.

And it made me remember that I had a private list (called 'Checky') that I hadn't been to in maybe four years.

A list is a place you can visit where you say "When I'm here, I only want to see tweets from these specific people."

I clicked on that list and of course, all the old people were still there - I'd just been missing their tweets in amongst all the rest of the people I'd followed.

And I remembered: that's how I used to manage Twitter - I used to visit Checky more than my main timeline.

Then I thought some more.

I'd just regained some amazing interaction - like, stunning, heartwarming, the-old-band-is-getting-back-together interaction - and why?

Well, I'd asked an honest question. I'd then responded to the responses. LIKE I USED TO ALL THE TIME.

I'd been treating Twitter like a chore. Or worse: like (don't say it) INSTAGRAM. I'd been posting a photo once a day with a tiny message.

Pecking Twitter on the cheek.

Instead, I showed up. And my people showed up.

I realised: if Twitter was broken, it was because I broke it.

So, if you've got a situation that isn't like the old days... are you doing the things you used to do in the old days?

I mean, sure, things change. In the past two years I've had many more local friends here in Birmingham than I ever had in the Caravan Office years when we lived with my Mum-in-law or even when I was in Singapore. Twitter used to serve a really important emotional role back then.

So, yes, your environment might have changed.

And, yes, sometimes things are broken.

But before you totally throw in the towel ask yourself:

Did I break this? Can I fix it? What did I used to do? Can I just start doing that again?

You never know. Maybe it's not as broke as you thought.