When I was twenty – three decades ago now, somehow – I sat behind a microphone every day of the week. I was a radio presenter with the BBC, taking my first steps in a broadcasting career that went on to last fifteen years.
I loved it: interviewing politicians and pop stars, covering huge news stories, and getting to do plenty of behind-the-scenes work, too. I started out on large reel-to-reel tape machines, doing razor-blade editing (yes, really: the original cut-and-paste!) and stayed long enough to experience the revolutionary transition to digital recording and mixing.
The point came when I was ready for new things. I left to try my hand at teaching, and I spent ten years in education – followed by another move, into publishing, which led me to my current role as a writer at Mind Tools.
And now, in a lovely bit of circling back to the beginning, I've taken my seat behind a microphone once again.
But a lot has changed in the past thirty years.
Since joining Mind Tools in 2019, I've always worked on our Expert Interviews: half-hour conversations between presenter Rachel Salaman and hundreds of world-leading thinkers, writers and academics. So I've become very familiar with our vast library of interviews.
And, midway through last year, I had an idea: to produce a podcast showcasing these audio gems in a new, topical way.
It seemed like a great way to explore current workplace issues, by delving into the archives and discovering what our experts have to offer. The presenters could share their experiences and insights, too. And our audience would get to have their say.
I was delighted to be asked to co-present with Rachel (a seasoned presenter in her own right!). And, after a fair bit of discussion and testing, the Mind Tools Expert Voices Podcast was born.
Rachel already had her own recording space at home. But, since I was no longer equipped with a BBC studio, I had to set up my own. So I bought myself a good podcasting microphone, worked out how to connect it to my editing software, and enjoyed playing around with all the settings.
We'd agreed on the topic for Episode 1 – how to get a pay raise or a promotion, even when times are tight – so next I set about scouring the Expert Interviews, hunting for relevant ideas and advice – from the perspective of an employee. Meanwhile Rachel collected her clips, with managers and leaders in mind.
When recording day came, I propped up some pillows around me and my equipment (using a YouTube tip about stopping sound waves from bouncing around the room). Then I linked up with Rachel via Zoom, and we launched into Episode 1.
To begin with, I felt more than a little rusty. It was quite a while since I'd "presented" into a microphone. And doing it at a distance from Rachel (she was in London; I was in Brighton on England's south coast) made it all feel somewhat uncomfortable at first.
But we soon relaxed into our chat, and were absorbed in comparing our chosen excerpts, sharing our own stories, and grappling with this thorny but very timely topic. We were able to get fascinating thoughts from luminaries like Emma Seppala, Robert Kaplan and Dorie Clark. And I think Rachel and I both had our personal ideas challenged – by testing the experts' theories in the context of today's world of work.
Publishing our podcast was a true team effort – involving lots more learning. We got feedback from Managing Editor Charlie Swift; technical advice from Head of Learning Experience (and experienced podcaster) Ross Garner; and a wealth of practical support from our colleague Matthew Hughes, who assumed the role of Producer and organized transcripts, liaised with Marketing, and handled the all-important uploading process – to every podcast platform we could think of!
Once Episode 1 was out there, we started gathering feedback from listeners to include in Episode 2. We also received ideas about what to focus on next – leading to us choosing the much-talked-about concept of "Psychological Safety."
Using our own interview with the expert who coined the phrase, Amy Edmondson, plus clips from an eclectic mix of well-known names, we put together our second podcast, once again navigating both conflicting and complementary ideas. It's a fascinating and challenging topic, and we ended up with plenty of questions as well as answers.
Before we finished, we looped back to the previous episode to share listeners' comments. That was a real "blast from the past" for me, reminding me powerfully of all the BBC shows I'd done over the years with opinionated – and often highly insightful – audiences. It was great to know that it wasn't just Rachel and me grappling with these topical issues. Our listeners were also thinking deeply about what the experts had to offer.
We're about to release Episode 3: "What Makes a Great Team Now?" And what an appropriate question for Rachel and me! Over the last few months we've experienced many of the challenges and opportunities facing teams everywhere, as we've put together a new, virtual team for our podcast; set up systems; got to grips with the tech; and developed ways of working that play to everyone's strengths.
When you listen to the podcast, I hope you recognize some of the issues you're facing with your people – and get some new ideas for reaching your full potential as a team.
And if you do, why not tell us?
What's more, if new challenges spring up, in any area of your working life, please tell us about those as well.
Because we're always on the lookout for new themes for Expert Voices. We're bound to have interviewees in our archives with relevant research, fresh ideas, or practical advice to share. And Rachel and I will likely have our own experiences of your issues, too!
We want our podcast to become a useful part of people's career journeys. For my part, since first sitting down at a microphone all those years ago, I've experienced plenty of workplace challenges that would make great topics. But I'm sure you've got your own ideas.
After 30 years, I'm back behind the microphone. And, together with Rachel, I'm ready to broadcast expert insights on issues that matter to us all these days – including what you have to say!
The Mind Tools Expert Voices Podcast is free, and available in both audio and transcript formats.
"It's not that you have to love everybody else in the organization. But you do need to understand a few simple things. What are they trying to get done? What obstacles do they see? What skills do they bring?" – Amy Edmondson
There are infinite ways to be authentic. And organizations need to make us all feel safe to be ourselves. But we should also take an honest look at the impact of our authenticity
My pay dropped significantly, and I had to learn to navigate the world of self-employment. It was scary – but exciting, too, because I was reshaping my career, and using a much wider range of experiences and skills
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