Making a positive difference when you don’t even know it….

Earlier this week I was contacted by someone who had been selected to take part in Growing Talent in 2019.  Growing Talent is an employment empowerment programme I run, which has been on hold since March 2020 due to Covid (www.growing-talent.co.uk).  

At the time they had many personal pressures to deal with which had reduced their self-confidence to an all-time low whilst greatly increasing their anxiety – exhausting as we all know.

They worked hard to complete the Orientation Week – confidence building workshops – prior to going on the employer’s site working well with their peers on team and individual challenges.  Gradually shoots of growing self-confidence started to appear.  More importantly, a smile returned to their face.

Unfortunately, they couldn’t maintain the routine of work back in 2019 and left before completing the programme.  This made their contact this week even more thought provoking.

They have been a carer for over a year working extensive shifts caring for the vulnerable is tough enough for anyone let alone doing this role in the middle of a global pandemic.  The people this person supports all have varying stages of dementia – challenging for individuals, family, friends and carers.

Finding the strength to make decisions and changes in their personal life took massive courage.  With everything going on, they still put others first and decided to move into the care home to support their peers and residents as much as possible.  Unfortunately, they got Covid themselves and had to self-isolate.  Now the residential care home is currently Covid free – a big relief for all.

As I’m reading all of this information they sent, my pride and admiration swelled.  Their growth from 2019 to now is inspirational.  The reason they wanted to get in touch now was to not only share their journey but thank me for my teachings.

Anyway, my point is, that, no way could I have gotten through the turmoil of Covid in a Dementia Care home and self-loathing induced by personal pressures if it hadn’t been for your teachings and even that week of lessons really in prep for growing talent. Thank you for the lessons, thank you for the courage and the self-belief you instilled in me, before I could really believe in myself’.

As a trainer/facilitator passionate about encouraging people and businesses to be the best they can, I often wonder about those who aren’t ready to move forward.  I know see, even instilling a short time of self-belief and proactive personal nurturing makes a difference to them long term.

What’s the point in sharing this with you?  To share we may not always know the outcome of something we do – that doesn’t mean it isn’t powerful and positive.

Never stop trying to do what you know is right.  You are having a bigger, positive impact than you may realise.

Introducing the latest I-act accredited Managers!

From various sectors including education and corporate facilities management, all featured in the photo above manage teams. Now more than ever it’s been essential to ensure both they and their teams are as resilient as possible. This in turn will make their workplaces also resilient, profitable and enhance their brand reputations.

Kicking off earlier this month with the Royal College of Psychiatrists accredited I-act course all learnt tools for self and team care. Prevention is always better and more cost effective than cure!

One of the managers asked for a member of their HR team to do the other leading course from I-act – Understanding and Managing Positive Mental Health and Wellbeing designed for non-managers to evaluate which course would be the most beneficial to their business.

Vickie below embraced the unique opportunity to undertake this non-managers course on a 1-2-1 basis seen below with me.

The global pandemic has taken a lot out of all of us and will leave scars for many. Equally, it’s an opportunity to reflect where we are on the resilient scale and ensure we are as healthy as possible for what lies ahead as restrictions lift and a return to full-time workplaces return for many used to working from home or being furloughed for almost a year.

Are you keeping a check on your resilience?

Resilience Rules

Once the pandemic is over, how do you build back a resilient business and team?

The number one priority has surely got to be rolling out virtual workshops now to focus on building your team’s resilience.

Many have been working remotely at least part of the working week. Some have thrived, others not so. Some are now running on empty and dreading a return to the physical workplace. Ask yourself, ‘will your team thrive when they return?’ because if you have any doubt they will, you risk negatively impacting your reputation and profits.

Insightful employers are building resilience within their teams to ensure a seamless return to their workplaces now with innovative workshops and accredited courses that I deliver.

Two accredited courses focussing on building resilience in teams and thereby business that I’ve run over the past two months virtually has delivered the following thoughts from delegates across different levels and sectors…

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Of course when spending money in the current climate, employers want to make sure they not only have the right course but also the right instructor. I share the feedback delegates have given me over the past two months in delivering these two bespoke resilience building programmes:

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If you are are interested in making sure your teams are resilient in all areas, let’s have a conversation….

Pandemic = tech opportunities

‘It’s not what happens to us that affects us but how we look at those things”

Naturally, for many of us the global pandemic has brought pain and misery to many – both physically and mentally.

For the tech industry, the pandemic has brought opportunities for innovation and good business.

Ben Wood, Chief of Research at CCS Insight – https://www.ccsinsight.com explained some of the new solutions appearing at the CES Tech Expo – for the first time being held virtually 11-14 January 2021

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-55582236

Ben explained some of the ideas presented at the expo are a direct result of the pandemic. These include specially coated tech protected from picking up the virus, a desk light which cleans keyboards etc every hour, face masks with integrated purifiers.

Robotics have been around for over 50 years. We’re used to seeing these in car manufacturing plants. Recently we’ve seen food delivery companies use robots to deliver food in smaller areas. Robots are used in corporate setting to direct visitors, used for contactless service and payment. Future plans include use in the care sector for administering drugs but also to stave of the killer of loneliness.

Innovation and opportunity often springs up from adversity. Let’s not be scared of that adversity but grab it for the opportunities it presents.

Remember – ‘It’s not what happens to us that affects us but how we look at those things”

An unpalatable truth?

We all love a bargain. We know when we buy something cheaply from the ‘back of a van’ its origins are unknown. We know from Trading Standards that some products sold in this way can be counterfeit containing ingredients that can harm us – think perfumes etc. Toys brought in this fashion can be dangerous with small parts that can choke.

We know the risks of buying from these sources.

However, there have been regular exposes over the years of abuses including in the recent past sweatshops making designer clothing. The end product was at the designer’s price so the consumer would not be expected to know the person who made the dress could be working in unsafe conditions on minimum wages, which they were.

It’s long been unspoken concern that products made in some countries use forced labour – to me the same as slaves. Do we question where our iPhones or other tech is made, what those on the production lines are paid, what conditions they live and work in?

Today, the BBC spoke to their Asia Business Manager Marika Oi who explained the Daily Telegraph broadsheet had written a piece of concern about China using ‘forced labour’ i.e. detained muslims in their cotton production exported worldwide including to the UK. Dominic Raab, is making a statement in the House of Commons today urging companies to check their supply chain to ensure we do not receive these goods in the west.

We cannot do anything about historic slavery, but should we now be questioning where the goods we buy are made and who by? It doesn’t feel acceptable anymore to feel we paid a huge sum of money for this product, therefore it could not have been by anyone other than someone living and working in good conditions earning a good rate of pay.

Profits are seen as an indicator of a successful business. Should a positive socially acceptable reputation be a better one?

Profiteering or good business?

That’s a question I asked myself this morning listening to a news item about the provision of meals to children who would normally have free school meals to have food sent to their homes during this pandemic.

Is ignorance a good enough defence? I am sure I’m not alone in not questioning how this provision worked. Listening to Zane Powers Assistant Head Teacher at a school in Grimsby, I was frankly shocked at the profiteering during a pandemic at the cost of children’s wellbeing.

Zane has been all over social media throughout the pandemic. He and his team brought and delivered food and tech to their vulnerable pupils at their home. This enabled them to check how they were doings if their parents were ok and support them with homework etc socially distanced at the gate. Of course, this came out of the school funds so getting the package from Central Government sounded like a good solution. Schools could decide if they wanted packed lunches or vouchers for their children.

Sounds a good choice? Mmm not as Zane went on to explain. Vouchers means parents have to go out and get the food which defeats the ‘stay at home’ advice. It also prevents teachers checking their pupils and families are really ok. The packed lunches were provided in bulk items being delivered to the school who then had to make the packs up and deliver them. However Zane said the contents for each child was pretty poor with little choice: either a cheese or ham bun, small packet of raisins, one piece of fruit and possibly a cookie. The cost of this was double that of a hot school meal! Zane said for the quality and content, he could do better. Zane’s lucky – his local Sainsbury gave him £150 to help so they added variety to the packs before delivering them.

Of course private companies have to cover their costs and make a profit but is there a fine line between making an honest profit and delivering an inadequate product for a massive profit? especially in these times.

Children are the future. If they aren’t nourished they won’t realise their full potential and contribute positively to society. Is that acceptable?

How would you feel if you had to eat the same packed lunch every day?

Doesn’t this look better? How much more would it cost? How much better would it taste?

Activities – good for the soul and also for team building

For some of us motivating ourselves to get active or try a new activity is like swimming in quicksand. It’s just as difficult for employers to consider team building activities with the restrictions of lockdown.

However, we all know how empowering it is for our mental health and therefore our physical health not to mention workplace wellbeing to stay active and keep trying new things.

Everyone has got more creative with virtual bake offs, quizzes and various classes in art, music, languages, exercise, bricklaying, tiling etc. There has been something for everyone to get involved with. Whilst it still seems a long way off, restrictions will lift as the vaccines for Coronavirus/Covid-19 are rolled out. With an eye on this point, what can individuals and businesses look at to introduce new and fresh activities to empower minds and make us all more productive?

Activity organisations offering diverse activities for individuals and employers are already advertising for 2021 and beyond. Some of these include:

Learning to Sail. There are many organisations operating throughout the UK and in warmer climates if budget permits! There are day lessons for complete beginners, refresher courses, residential, skipper courses – endless opportunities.

Like something a little less, well wet? why not take a look at ballroom dance classes? The laughs will ring out as you learn together. Individual, or group lessons, courses or one offs, residential or on-line, any level.

Whilst our seas aren’t as clear blue as that in the photo below, the UK has a lot of diving schools nationwide offering various courses upto PADI qualification enabling diving in warming waters once confident. I personally don’t like anything over my face so this wouldn’t;t be one I would try. But I know many who have and absolutely love it.

Break bread! Artisan bread has long been popular. Many have taken up making their own during lockdown experimenting with different flavour combination. This has been evidence by the initial scarcity of yeast and bread flour in the shops! What a fun way for a group activity. I can just seem MDs and frontline staff having a bakeoff challenge on a team building day or as part of a residential exercise. Breaking down barriers.

Maybe knitting a bike is a little ambitious for newbies – but something to aim for? Coupling a knitting class with the traditional home of wool as part of a residential stay in the Shetlands is revitalising and mind clearing. Time to get the needles out? Want to get some basics first? Check out online classes.

No one is born knowing how to play a musical instrument. Granted there are a few prodigies – Beethoven for one. Music brings so many joy. It’s a distraction from everyday worries and anyone can learn. Practice and repetition is key. There’s a huge range of instruments and classes – online, individual, private, group, set courses, residential programmes. Why not try learning the fiddle in Dublin? The opportunities are endless.

Laugh and the world laughs with you. Cry and you cry alone’. We also know that frowning causes more wrinkles! But, what about a comedy writing course? So many options including residential and online. Check out Logan Murray’s menu of options – just one of many online

https://loganmurray.com/writing-courses/

Arts & Crafts courses are a great option incorporating several different mediums to discover new activities to continue. As with all of the above, there are a variety of ways to take part – online, residential, group, individual.

‘Where am I?’ A fun one for group activities with the family or work could be a navigation challenge in the countryside as part of a residential break or day long activity.

The opportunities are endless. We can compose a ‘pic ‘n’ mix’ of options to make a unique, interesting family holiday, single person break or employer team building event. The only constraint is ourselves.

Whilst we are still in ‘lockdown’ why not research, investigate and plan some options? Feeding our minds with positivity will get us thought this time which is out of our control. Nothing lasts forever. Logic tells us lockdown will end soon. What better way to celebrate that with a new adventure alone, with family/friends or your work colleagues?

A lesson from Sicily?

I firmly believe there have been many positives to the global pandemic as well as the many well known negatives.

The world has learned a lot from each other sharing knowledge, information, research as well as stats and their process of handling infection rates. This collaboration has produced two vaccines cleared for rollout as well as India’s home produced vaccine about to be rolled out in India.

Whilst there is still a long way to go until the pandemic is managed via immunisation, I wonder if Governments will learn from the collaboration to date and continue with this going forward. Think of the positive changes that could be made.

Watching the Focus item on French 24 tv this morning, I wondered if the changes Italy is going through is something we can learn from in the UK on ‘levelling up’ areas of deprivation and past industries such as our mining towns, coastal resorts, previous manufacturing areas and so on.

Sicily experienced decades of young people leaving to work in the more prosperous North leaving. behind a growing older population and economic degeneration.

Focus explained the pandemic saw many younger people who had migrated to the North for work, returned to their parental homes in the South at the start of the pandemic. Working from co-working hubs socially distanced with fast fibre internet connection, they can work as well as if they were in their office in the North.

What they’ve noticed is the economic regeneration locally. Municipalities are rolling out fibre optic networks in their best locations to entice this positive change to become permanent. One featured a ceramic museum which now has the dual purpose of being a co-working space with fast internet and great views across to the Aeolin Islands. The quality of life for these young people has increased, there is no ‘brain drain’, older generations have their families around them and local businesses are experiencing regeneration.

The North of Italy will continue as a buoyant business hub with offices thriving after the pandemic is over. But they are aware the benefits presented by the pandemic will be permanent – a true ‘levelling-up’ of the country.

The UK has spent a lot of money because of the pandemic. Surely it’s vital to spend a little more to invest in fast internet across the UK to not only enable people to work anywhere, if their job supports remote working, but also ensure every child has access to technology to enable them to develop their careers of the future.

We have seen pockets of the UK experience decades of deprivation as businesses/industries have closed with nothing replacing them. The below picture is typical of a lot of towns left behind when businesses/industries closed or moved. We see many high streets have lost their vibes as big chains moved in and now those big chains are failing. Many high streets over the decades has lost their independent stores to large chains, pubs and betting shops.

Isn’t this an ideal time to turn the tide?

What could these communities look like with the right investment?

“If you stumble, make it part of the dance..’

Isn’t that a great quote?

Whether we admit it or not, we all stumble at some point and it won’t be a ‘one off’. As humans, we naturally take a wrong turn now and then, make assumptions and judgements which take us down the wrong path.

Even the most positive of us can sometimes feel like we’re in quicksand. No matter what we do, it feels like we’re making little progress making it easy to go on a downward spiral. However, the quicker we shake ourselves up the quicker we can get back on track.

As we come to the end of the year, I’m reminded of the amazing journey some of the people I’ve worked with have been on and continue on their chosen paths confident and empowered.

We hear often at this time of year about ‘100 Greatest Women’ and similar accolades rightly deserved. I’m reminded of some amazing people I’ve met on Growing Talent who have overcome varying barriers to reclaim their lives and move forward.

These people are a constant inspiration to me and I’m hugely proud to know them all.

Rehana – despite a tough few years, Rehana chose to return to education to qualify as a Counsellor to ensure people experiencing mental ill heath are treated with dignity and respect to experience a quicker, smoother recovery. Apart from the hours of study, pressure of exams and assessments Rehana has kept going. Always artistic, Rehana taught herself crocheting via some online videos as a distraction from studying but also to pay respect to NHS. All her crocheted animals had proper PPE masks! Not only did these make everyone smile, Rehana recognised the demand could aid payment of her course fees. So now she’s super busy and super resourceful!

Shennell – her tenacity is outstanding and inspirational to all around her. Overcoming many barriers from her teenage years, Shennell successfully secured a place on Growing Talent working with two national companies before deciding to return to Uni and secure her degrees – which she did. Despite many personal and family pressures she’s overcome it all with her focus, determination and true grit even finding time to support her church and raise money for charity through Tough Mudder challenges! She’s now about to start a career with the Civil Service who are lucky to have her kindness and empathy.

Sharlene – her untapped talent saw her embrace an alien role via Growing Talent in admin away from her creative background. Sharlene always had ideas for improvements to systems which she shared. Helping and encouraging everyone she met sharing ideas and information with all. Her boundless enthusiasm to keep pushing forward no matter what challenges were thrown at her shows Sharlene’s passion to learn and help others. Now she’s come full circle and will be one of Department of Work and Pensions new Work Coaches supporting unemployed people on their journey back to work. Difference is, Sharlene knows exactly what they are going through and how much untapped talent they have to offer.

Jane – from the early days of Growing Talent Jane’s exponential growth has been amazing to watch. During the selection process she was on, applicants had to stand and talk for 60 seconds. Unbelievably for those that know Jane – she was lost for words! but stumbled through and got offered an opportunity with a hospitality employer she’s still with today. Initially the role on offer was as a Hospitality Assistant, however, she was employed as a Supervisor on a brand new account. She’s continued to soar in confidence since then. In addition to her job, Jane’s decided to give some time to a youth charity in North London.

The inspiration I gain from people like Rehana, Shennell, Sharlene and Jane keeps pushing me to do my job. ‘Pay it forward’ is something I learned long ago and these awesome people are doing this every day.

Here’s to an awesome 2021.

Pandemic. Devastation. Logic?

Like many, I find watching the news more and more bleak and illogical.

Again, like many, I’ve had to cancel holidays booked throughout the year, miss out on family celebrations and stopped taking normal everyday life for granted. I now have to think ‘do I need to go out?’ instead of going out as often as I like.

Living in the UK, I’ve watched the Government make and retract restrictions. Of course in a global pandemic decisions have to be made with the information at hand but some does seem illogical.

Throughout the summer months, as I and many others were cancelling holidays because of the pandemic, others were going on protest marches – no social distancing and few masks. Meanwhile, small restaurants, cafes and pubs have been devested, some shut for good.

More restrictions then the bright idea to send students back to University – charge them full fees and almost immediately put them in lockdown! Shock, horror the virus spread!

Mask wearing on trains was hit and miss as more and more people experienced varying levels of apathy.

Finally December roles around and a glimmer of hope I can still make the Christmas getaway to Lanzarote booked a year ago. Watching the bulletins from Grant Shipps MP, Minister for Transport, we were pleased in October he put The Canary Islands on the air safe corridor. At the time Lanzarote had around 70 cases per 100,000.

Greek Islands were separated out so it was a shock and illogical, I thought, when he Took the Canary Islands off the air safe corridor because Tenerife’s numbers had climbed – even though Lanzarote’s had fallen to 47! Could still go but would have to self-isolate on return.

Lanzarote have a logical system in place for travellers – essential as their largest revenue stream is tourism. A negative test certificate has to be produced for a test taken not more than 72 and not less than 60 hours before travel. Their tracker app has to be downloaded and kept for 10 days after leaving the island. A mask has to be worn outside at all times. All very doable and their numbers of covid infection are low.

Finally December came round, we had the test and flew out to Lanzarote on a near empty plane – the most comfortable flight ever knowing every one had a negative test result and all were wearing masks including the cabin crew.

The villa crew all wore masks, I felt very comfortable. Revisiting the places I’ve come to know over the years – the devastation was awful to see. Restaurants closed and up for sale. Pubs shut in the hope of riding it out and others just hanging on.

The beach above at the same time last year was packed.

Now the prospect of returning home where I know the odds are very much higher of contracting the virus. Virologists have always said the pandemic virus would mutate – that’s what viruses do and we see that every flu season.

We have had almost a year of living with this pandemic. Lives have been severely restricted. Loved ones lost. The NHS put under pressure. Tiers brought in and then changed. Illogical restrictions are introduced without explaining the evidence for them and apathy grows.

What’s the answer? I’ve no idea other than to keep going. One day all of this will be behind us. In the meantime, finding joy and gratitude in the small things we can control is the start of the journey to some kind of new living for me.

Governments will continue making, what we think are illogical decisions. Some of us will adhere, others won’t. This saga looks set to continue for some time yet! We won’t know until it’s all over and analysis has been undertaken to discover what was the right and wrong actions taken.

I don’t doubt Coronavirus will be seen and treated as another strain of the flu in time. At the moment it seems easier to spread fear to control citizens.

As always there will be a blame game. Does it matter who is at fault? Isn’t it more important to deal with what’s in front of us right now?

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