Where social mobility, self-empowerment, employability, wellbeing & mind health come together
Author: Jane James
A mentor and coach who devises and delivers training to enable others to unlock their inner potential to be the best they can. Focussed in the areas of self-empowerment, positive mental health and wellbeing as well as employability. A solid background in Ofqual regulated FAA Levels 1, 2 & 3 Instructor, Qualified i-act Instructor – accredited by Royal College of Psychiatrists, ASIST and ASK trained, bespoke commissions undertaken.
For the last, almost 20 years, I’ve had the honour of working with people from all backgrounds, diverse businesses and charities to nurture people with barriers into work.
In addition to my employment work, I also deliver accredited mental health first aider courses and proactive wellbeing courses.
I’ve been commissioned to design a variety of workshops from self and team empowerment to finding your purpose, managing fears, building resilience, identifying and creating your future path, elevator pitch, your personal branding and many more.
Throughout, I’ve used the thread of inclusivity, respect and humour to give ownership to delegates on their learning journey.
This week, I’ve dropped into various workshops on the Playful Creative Summit. Some speakers have been more inspiring than others. I’ve learned something new everyday.
I composed the image below to provoke employers to consider how vibrant their learning and development platforms are and how better they could be.
There is no reason why the same tool could not be used for our personal lives.
What do you think? Time for us all to become a little more disruptive in how we do things?
One of the speakers used the term ‘become more pirate’ explaining pirates were ordinary people who had to be resourceful to make a life for themselves and take on the might of the world’s navy’s. Of course some tales of pirates are unlawful but all are resourceful. So I might just think of myself as a ‘disruptive pirate’ in my training programmes now!
This is a thought that’s been resonating with me with growing repetition during the journey of the global pandemic here in the UK.
It seems to me humankind has become more and more inward rather than outward looking over the years.
As the restrictions enforced by the pandemic have continued, the more amplified our disregard for our duty to others seems to have grown.
By that I mean consideration of the potential consequences our actions can have on others.
Each week, local small patches of council green areas outside residential houses are scattered with litter comprising fast food wrappers but lately discarded alcohol bottles. I haven’t seen people having picnics on these areas so assume it’s household fly tipping by residents, or people returning from fun in the park with their friends.
Why? Each household in the UK has rubbish collection weekly. There is no need to spoil the environment for others through laziness and/or entitlement. If there is no public rubbish bin locally, or if there is one, it’s full – why can’t people take their rubbish home and put it in for their rubbish collection?
I don’t doubt this is happening in every part of the UK.
Clearly the thought of the right to personal enjoyment of the individuals dropping these items far outweighs any thought of their impact on others. Children play on these small greens. Pet dogs are taken for walks by their owners. Residents look at these green spaces from their windows – vital when housebound or shielding. Where is the thought for the impact on others – the anxiety and isolation caused by thoughtless, ‘my right’ attitudes?
We see this time and again on a larger scale when the sun is shining in the debris left behind in parks and at coastal spots. There is a huge cost in clearly this up.
We know the dangers to the environment of discarded rubbish which has been proven to get into our water tables and food chains. By discarding rubbish thoughtlessly instead of taking it home, those individuals are potentially affecting their health and that of the ones they love. Ironic isn’t it?
Isn’t now the time to start to think of our duty to consider the impact of our behaviours on others?
The BBC News online featured a piece from the PCS (Public & Commercial Services) union today whose research suggest the majority of JobCentre Plus staff fear returning to their offices. Out of 1,299 members the PCS surveyed, their results shared showed 3 in 5 workers want to continue working at home and are fearful of returning to the workplace due to Covid.
PCS claim they should be allowed to continue to work from home as they’ve proved this is effective during Covid restrictions. Mark Serwotka, General Secretary of PCS union warned industrial action could follow.
The fear of returning to the workplace after so long working from home or on furlough during Covid will be many employees’ fears and this is something their employers need to address BEFORE they are asked to return.
There is so much fake news on social media and possibly amongst friends, families and community leaders. Add in the continuous illogical updates from Government, it becomes completely understandable the fear that can be brewing. Trouble is, this fear and be intrusive and longterm.
We all know facing our fears are the only way to conquer them. If we give in to this, anxiety, isolation, debilitation will grow and possibly cripple individuals, business and communities.
As individuals we have to find evidence from experts we trust to enable us to make decisions and resist listening to opinions/views of non-experts.
JobCentre Plus staff do a difficult job supporting the most vulnerable in our communities. If they go on strike, what happens to those in dire circumstances?
If Employers don’t support their employees to overcome their fears and gain confidence to living their lives to the full again – what happens to those employees? Remember not every person has gone through the pandemic living in a nice, safe home, in happy, nurturing relationships. For the majority, it’s been one of the hardest, loneliest periods of their lives.
Business is a core part of our lives and communities. If businesses aren’t flourishing, growing and employing people, taxes aren’t being paid to support the vulnerable, provide healthcare, education etc. Where will the money for these come from?
For many businesses, continued working from home for their employees won’t be tenable. If work can be done from home, might some employers start to ask why can’t it be outsourced overseas to a cheaper workforce?
Giving in to fear is not an option. As actor Will Smith said some time ago –
The global pandemic and yo yo-ing UK restrictions over the past year + has enabled a period of reflection for us all.
“Where are we?” “Are we happy and fulfilled?” “Is something missing?” “Am I on the wrong road?” “Are my relationships healthy or toxic?”
Just some of the questions we may have considered over this time.
Catching glimpses of the highlights of HRH Prince Philip’s funeral over the weekend and seeing some of the unique things he had planned – such as symbols of his love of carriage racing and land/range rovers – got me thinking about how much planning we put into living our best lives.
How many of us run on automatic pilot? Doing everything as habit almost on automatic pilot just means we are existing not living.
Having a Passion Map enables us to really examine all areas of our life and ask ourselves those difficult questions. Especially “am I where I want to be?” or “am I on the path to get where I want to be?”
Slowly, we are seeing the seeds of change – restrictions are gradually lifting. Is now the time to devise our own Passion Map?
Life is too precious to return to automatic living.
Some years back, I was introduced to Adam who had just started working with Jamie at a national recruitment company.
Sharply dressed, seemingly able to talk to anyone at any level confidently and make up really good raps for audiences ‘off the cuff’. A real ‘presence’ in the room, Adam was late teens when I met him not sure of the path he would ultimately take.
Several different jobs over the years followed before Lockdown hit. At Christmas 2020, after almost a year of uncertainty the global pandemic has brought us all to trying degrees, Adam took the massive, in my view, step of getting on a plane and going to Tanzania. Without a job/home to go to there, Adam wanted a complete change.
He reached out to me to discuss his next moves and explore his thoughts – I was honoured.
I was shocked by the reality of Dar es Salaam from the photos Adam sent me which were the polar opposite of my perceptions of what this African City would be like.
Curtesy of Adam, I share a photo of his new home City:
According to Adam the pace of life is much slower compared to London and has given him time to think what he really wants to do.
Taking the time to ask ourselves ‘are we happy?’ and ‘does it feel right’ enable us to take the pulse of where we are and helps answer those questions of whether to keep going down a certain path or change.
Adam’s had the time and space to figure out his next move by relocating to Tanzania – even if to some of us it feels like a step too far.
Of course, it may not be practical to relocate to the other side of the world to find what we want to do. We don’t have to. Giving ourselves some space alone to think about our own happiness and whether what we are doing ‘feels right’ will give us the same ignition for our own next steps.
Do we ever really know everything about someone? Do we take the time to get to know them – or just accept the surface we see as all there is to them?
I’ve long thought we allow our assumptions about someone’s behaviour, actions, words etc to form perceptions about them without questioning what evidence we have to back this up. That doesn’t sound too fair does it?
Prince Philip is a case in point. How many formed an opinion about this individual without ever speaking to him? Taking what was reported by the press as fact? How would we feel if we were judged the same way?
As humans, we tend to judge others on their actions but ourselves on our intentions.
We make assumptions about others actions without considering what their intentions were. Does this sound fair? To me, it doesn’t. I’d hope people would check their perceptions of my intentions on any action I do was factually correct by asking me. Of course, those in the public eye can’t be approached to ask BUT we can check our thoughts and make sure we have evidence to back these thoughts up. If we don’t, shouldn’t we keep a non-judgemental open mind?
What has surprised me is the lack of coverage during Prince Philip’s lifetime of his achievements away from his ‘job’. Across different media since his death, we have learned a little more.
Amongst the nuggets of information revealed about him, was he painted and wrote 14 books. Trying to find a list of these books, I came across the 1984 publication of ‘Men Machines & Sacred Cows’ – hardback copies on Amazon for over £69 – a leap I suspect to what a copy would have cost prior to the prince’s death. This book is a collection of works focussing on science, technology and design.
The following exert is from Huffington Post’s coverage – and, for me, captures an insight to the character of Prince Philip especially his dry humour – in his own words from Men Machines & Sacred Cows…..
“Some optimists tend to assume that once you have learned the lesson that horses bite at one end and kick at the other, there is nothing further to worry about. No such luck, I’m afraid.
“The horse is a great leveller and anyone who is concerned about his dignity would be well advised to keep away from horses.
“Apart from many other embarrassments there is, for instance, no more ridiculous sight than a horse performing its natural functions with someone in full dress uniform mounted on its back.”
According to a piece in the Sunday broadsheets, Prince Philip started a truffle farm on the Sandringham Estate in 2006 and was reportedly the first person to successfully grow French Perigord black truffles from British soil! Apparently, this is a big deal especially to truffle aficionados. It’s impressive to me trying to grow some chillis and squash indoors!
Various charities and individuals have spoken about how Prince Philip kept in touch with them, showing an interest in their progression long after his retirement from public life from Dame Floella Benjamin to Shakespeare’s Globe theatre shows me an integrity and empathy not shown in any press reporting prior to his death.
Talk about hidden depths.
So what thoughts has the death of Prince Philip exposed for me?
Our perceptions about someone/something should be based on factual evidence not gossip, social media etc.
If we can’t find the evidence to determine if our perceptions are correct, we should keep a neutral, open mind.
Above all, it should be remembered everyone has hidden depths
We’ve all had to find different things to do during #Covid19 to keep our minds active and our spirits positive. With the better weather just around the corner – hopefully – I’m trying my hand at growing some unique veg.
I’ve long admired James Wong – also known as Botonay Geek on Twitter – for his approachable attitude to gardening.
From my early memory of James on tv talking herbs to his regular #lockdown posts on Twitter about how anyone can garden even if they have zero space. He has a great system of growing plants in terrariums too. His innovative outlook and encouragement that ‘anyone’ can have a go – tempted me to buy some unique seeds from his brand:
Not only did the unique shape of these squash appeal to me but so did their seedless feature – no waste when cooking….. mind you – no propagating the seeds for next year either! Hang on – if these are seedless, how did I get this packet of seeds? Mmm sounds a deep thought. Maybe one to send to James’s Twitter page!
Hopefully my little Squash Tromboncino seedling above will grow and grow to the point of harvesting and eating some of this Italian squash with an artichoke flavour at some point this year. But if it doesn’t, the learning process will be worthwhile.
The power of hope is essential in all lives.Even if things don’t go 100% as planned/desired, the learning will be invaluable and another path will present itself.
Check out James @Botanygeek on Twitter for some inspiration. James is also generous answering any questions.
LinkedIn is known as the ‘Facebook” of business where we can share interests, projects, make meaningful connections and join some great networking groups to learn and develop. That sounds a great resource.
Usually, if I’m hoping to do business with someone – I’ll check out what their social media profile is like and that of their company. After all, in business time is precious and a costly resource if wasted chasing the wrong potential contacts.
I must admit, I check out people on LinkedIn all the time. Pre-pandemic, before any event I went to – its a great resource to discover common goals and potential mutually beneficial business collaboration opportunities. Makes networking conversations much more interesting!
From the approaches I’ve had to connect in recent weeks, I’m starting to question am I alone in doing this research?
I understand the need for all businesses to secure new clients to grow their business once the pandemic restrictions are lifted but I almost feel LinkedIn is a sales platform not a collaboration platform for business.
I’ve been contacted by individuals from organisations wanting to sell their excellent products to me, clearly without doing any research first to see if I have staff, premises – which I don’t so why would I need cleaning, roofing or similar services?.
There seems to be little thought in sending something like this that would definitely gain my interest – ‘I’ve seen your profile. I believe we have some common goals that could lead to mutually beneficial, collaborative business. Are you interested in a discussion?’
Instead I get approaches like ‘my cleaning company will deliver an excellent service to you at a competitive rate’
In other instances, I’ve had the creative approaches including “how meeting-up when restrictions are lifted to discuss what you are doing?” I’m all for being unique but this made me think what a @@@@@@
So in asking you if there is a better way to do business via LinkedIn, I have my own thoughts that I share with you now:
Do your research for example with Companies House – find out if there could be an opportunity to do business – not just one way sales for you.
Think of the words and tone you use – remember these can completely change the meaning of what you intended
What’s in it for the individual/business you are reaching out to?
That’s a question I’ve been asked many times. My answer is always the same. Both are excellent tools in their respective areas. To decide which one best meets your needs consider what your goal is. If you don’t do this you could end up wasting valuable resources.
The global pandemic has highlighted the mental wellbeing and resilience levels of us all. The spotlight is now on growing positive mental health, wellbeing and resilience to ensure we all flourish going forward.
With the pathway to the planned June 21st lifting of all restrictions in England, astute employers are considering how best to empower their staff with the right tools to look after themselves and ensure a positive workplace.
I’ve delivered both MHFA and i-act courses. Below are the key highlights of each for me.
MHFA – an excellent tool for a deeper dive into mental ill health conditions, legislation, how to start a conversation, investigating the risk of suicide etc. The manual accompanying the MHFA Adult First Aider course is double the thickness of the i-act manual and accordingly robust in the detail it contains. Devised in Australia around 2000 by Betty Kitchener and Professor Anthony Jorm to be a first aid programme for mental ill health, it is now in over 25 countries. Instructors can only deliver in the country they trained in. Three courses for adults include the full first aider 2 day course, 1 day champion course and half day awareness course. MHFAEngland also has bespoke courses for those working with the Armed Forces community and young people. All completing delegates receive a certificate of attendance. Core components of the First Aider course are:
Why the need for Mental Health First Aid – action plan, what is mental health? impact of mental health issue, stigma and discrimination
What is depression – signs/symptoms, first aid for depression and suicidal crisis, self-care
Anxiety, eating disorders and self-harm
Psychosis, recovery and mental health action planning
i-act – wellbeing, resilience and positive mental health tool written specifically for the workplace. The manual contains over 50 tools to support self-care. These can easily be used when supporting someone else to evidence their mood and wellbeing. Evidence based, courses carry CPD points for onward formal learning and delegates receive a certificate accredited by Royal College of Psychiatrists.
Post completion, delegates can access news, tools, templates from i-act’s website. Its unique design means Instructors can deliver the programme internationally regardless of where they are based. I-act delivers specialist mental health and well-being training to executives, senior and line managers as well as a general awareness course for employees/front-line workers.
The first part of i-act covers core areas of generic mental health programmes in an inclusive, easy to understand manner.
These include chapters on:
Mental Health Wellbeing and Resilience
Understanding Low Mood and Depression
Understanding Stress, Anxiety and Anxiety Disorders
Understanding Personality Disorders and Dissociative Disorders
Issues which may affect someone’s Mental Health and Wellbeing
Other signs of distress
Before concentrating on its unique pillars:
I – Improve Wellbeing
A –Advocate & Access Further Help & Support
C – Connect & Communicate with People
T – Take Tools & Advice
E – Evaluate & Monitor Any Interventions
D – Development Tools and Skills
Both products can be delivered virtually or classroom based.
If your goal is to give a deep understanding of mental ill-health issues or want a mental health equivalent of your physical first aiders, MHFA would be a great tool to consider. I feel the robustness of the manual also gives a solid foundation for those interested in the field of mental health possibly considering a career as a therapist/counsellor.
However, if you are looking for easy to use tools any employee can use to build resilience and a mentally healthy workplace with an easy to use colour co-ordinated manual, i-act would be the product I would recommend.
As with anything, know your goal first to make the right choice. This will ensure you spend your limited resources well and attain your desired goal.
Recently, Labour MP Jess Phillips won special dispensation from the Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons to b real time limits and read out a list of over 100 women killed by male violence over the past year.
The list of names was supplied by Karen Ingala Smith from the Counting Dead Women Project.
A few things struck me:
First, how sad it is that there is a need for Counting Dead Women Project.
2. A number of the women on the list read out by Jess would have likely experienced months/years of anxiety, depression, feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness or being abused in their own homes as well as on the streets
3. Why aren’t we more shocked about the violence experienced by our mothers, sisters, daughters?
It is a huge problem with no easy, one size fix solution. For me, in situations of domestic violence, empowerment and self belief is key. No one can move forward when they believe the negativity drip fed to them over time by their abuser(s).
I have delivered empowerment components to all participants of the employment programmes I’ve compiled from the Real Apprentice to Growing Talent. Throughout lockdown, I’ve delivered various workshops voluntarily including empowerment to clients of JobCentre Plus.
In these workshops we discussed:
Definition of empowerment
What stops us moving forward
Dealing with procrastination
Identifying your purpose
Feedback on the workshops included:
“This workshop helped me change and adapt a more positive mindset to navigate the hard times in life” Chui Yen
“I learned that we should not be afraid to take risks, face our fears no matter the circumstances and to not hold back.” Elizabeth P.
“The atmosphere was relaxed and hearing the facilitators experiences put things in perspective. The session was very clear and stuck to the point.” Karen
“I loved the session. In 2 hours a huge amount of thought provoking points.” Magda
” I have learnt new techniques to empower myself” Malie
“I will definitely be adopting the tools shared – affirmations, 5 second brain hack etc” Samantha
“The workshop was a good confidence boost and gave me alternative ways of looking at things. I gained more knowledge than I expected to” Trish
Out of these energising, interactive workshops, a request to form an on-going Womens’ Empowerment Network Group was requested. The inaugural one takes place tomorrow.
For me, building women’s self-confidence and self-worth is key to their empowerment to leave toxic relationships. Big journeys start with one single brave step.
Of course women’s empowerment is just one tool to improve society’s safety.