Is there a different way?

In the UK we are experiencing a lot of news traffic about the lack of HGV drivers and the knock on impact of petrol shortages, Christmas goods not making the shelves etc. We can look at the blame game or we can focus on what we can learn to do differently to really move forward.

For so long there has been adulation for ‘celebrity’. With the growth of social media, there has been a new career title ‘influencer’.

The global pandemic has shone the spotlight on the careers we really need, should value and respect all of the time, yet many don’t – HGV drivers, social care workers, delivery drivers, auxiliary specialists in NHS – the list goes on.

There is an old saying which seems apt here “keep doing what you’ve been doing, keep getting the same results”.

I just wonder if now is the time to do things differently. Instead of trapping people in the hamster wheel of benefits and state support, why not invest in specific training to give unemployed people real skills to move into careers where they can support themselves, their families and pay taxes to support those vulnerable people coming after them?

If we take HGV training. It costs over £4K to train as a Heavy Good Vehicle driver – and rightly so. HGVs are weapons of mass destruction in the wrong circumstances so drivers must be robustly trained. This initial cost will be repaid several times other by each individual leaving benefits for good – not to mention their mind health will increase.

Of course, training is one part of the issue. Wages need to reflect the responsibility essential services like this carry which means either lower profits for shareholders or higher costs for consumers.

The same applies to social care. One thing seems to be forgotten in the talk about pay and conditions in this highly under rated sector. That is despite the growth of AI in many sectors, it won’t replace the need for humans to be trained well and WANT to work in social care looking after the most vulnerable of our society. Many seem to forget those of us luckily enough to have a healthy adulthood will likely need social care of some sort in our twilight years.

What kind of care would you want? Someone exhausted holding down multiple jobs to make ends meet or someone who has a passion to work in social care? If it’s the latter, don’t they deserve a wage commensurate with the nurture they give?

There seems to be a shadow over humanity at the moment where the wrong ‘careers’ are feted and respected. Is now the time to look at our priorities?

Do we have the will to examine and question our behaviours and their impact on others?

Thanks to Netflix, I watched this brilliant film over the weekend. I was struck by many things. Yes, it had all the emotions – happy, sad, courage, loyalty, generational parallel lives, hope, adversity, ignorance, acceptance, bullying and likely many more. Overall, it left a feeling of hope, that’s it’s ok to be your authentic self and life can be fun if we drop the judgements we give others – without even speaking with them.

I originally wrote this for my LinkedIn in page. Why? because the film is a place of work comprising actors, camera crew, runners etc as is the school central to the film’s theme. Without the Emotional Intelligence to accept all work colleagues – direct reports, peers, line management, clients, supply chain etc in all sectors, as well as recognise and understand how our emotions, thoughts and behaviours impact others, businesses and their people will never thrive.

As the credits to the film rolled, we see the ‘real’ Jamie Campbell and his mum Margaret from County Durham who the film was based on. A three part documentary in 2011 featuring Jamie and his mum’s fight for him to be allowed to wear a dress to his secondary school prom.

For me, the most poignant feeling I got from the film was how little has changed. Ten years since the documentary on Jamie’s fight to be authentic yet we don’t seem any further forward. In the film, Jamie’s guide to becoming a drag queen is Hugo played by the brilliant Richard E Grant. Snapshots of Hugo’s life as a drag queen during the explosion of AIDS, had parallels with Jamie’s fight and illuminated the lack of acceptance today.

With training in how our behaviours impact ourselves and those around us, change is possible – but only if we want it.

Final thoughts – the film ended with a real shift in change of attitudes by many. I wonder how much more businesses would grow if they looked at the behaviours and impact of all within…..

Roller Coasters come in all shapes….

19 July saw the start of the first Growing Talent hybrid for ten fantastically talented, currently unemployed people keen to work.

Selected by one of the ‘Big 4’ organisations for permanent roles in their growing virtual business support teams, they commenced step one – the orientation and holistic week – virtual of course!

So what did we cover over this week?

Mondaycommunication – a vital area to get right in all areas of our lives – no matter what our social status is nor our seniority in the workplace. But how much time do we put into making sure we get this right? Have you considered the following?

  • Speaking – what is the aim of the conversation? what content will you cover? where and how are you going to hold this conversation? what are the possible outcomes of this conversation? have you considered your tone, clarity, volume and pace?
  • Listening – do you automatically listen without judgement? do you ensure there will be no interruptions nor distractions? Do you listen with empathy or sympathy – do you know the difference?
  • Reflect back – paraphrasing is essential to ensure you have understood what you have heard – get the evidence, don’t just assume.
  • Body Language – did you know non verbal cues make up the biggest part of communication?
  • What method is appropriate for the conversation you are going to have?
  • What types of conflict might you encounter?
  • What’s your conflict style? accommodating, avoidance, collaboration, competitive, compromise
  • You statements – also known as the communication destroyer. Do you know why?

There is more to communication than most think!

Tuesday – invest in yourself. Critical – not selfish. Airline safety talks ‘state put the oxygen mask on you BEFORE helping others’ That makes sense, so why not scheduling in some self care windows throughout the day? This section covered:

  • Stop avoiding fear
  • Mantra and personal values
  • Overcoming negative thoughts
  • Control your brain – stop letting it control you
  • Self care toolkit
  • Dealing with imposter syndrome
  • Nurture your soul

Wednesday – nurturing your body – a car only runs on the right fuel. So does your body. Fuel it mindfully!

  • Food fads – the power of marketing vs facts
  • Superfoods – really
  • Understanding sugar – in all it’s forms
  • Exercise
  • Social media – good, bad and ugly

ThursdayMoney talks! Sharing basic financial tips together. 3 little bottles – waste and recycling, why is it so important. Moving on. Encompassing…..

  • Managing debt
  • How to increase savings
  • Ways to increase income
  • Considering credit cards, debit cards and cash
  • Money mantras
  • How to apply for new roles uniquely

Friday – I-act – Managing and Promoting Positive Mental Health and Wellbeing

How to look after yourself and those around you. This accredited course delivers a solid understanding of what mental health and wellbeing is, over 50 tools for self care and evaluation, robust evidence reporting – amongst a whole lot more.

So what did the fabulous 10 participants feel about the week? Below are some of the feedback – anonymous in line with GDPR:

“The content was exciting and engaging – which surprised me. I was expecting it to be a bit boring because it’s delivered by Zoom”

“The journey book which accompanied the week was clear and helped me understand the course. I can refer to it ongoing.”

“This week was so worthwhile – it’s taught me how to be more professional”

“I’ve been implementing things I learned in my personal life such as delaying my response in conversations until I understand what’s been said. It’s easy to misunderstand people if you jump in too soon.”

“The contents of the week were fantastic, very informative and engaging with loads of tools to assist me going forward”

The accompanying book was significantly relevant”

“I found everything insightful and enlightening. There were a lot of topics. I especially liked mental health and how to engage with someone who might be struggling. I feel I can now demonstrate a lot more empathy. I also really enjoyed finance considering how much I wasn’t taught much about the topic at school.”

“I’m glad to have the accompanying book as I can go back and refresh my knowledge anytime.

“This is probably the best training course I have every attended. T/he contents cover life inside and outside work”

“The book will be extremely useful going forward. On the course it enabled everyone to read at their own pace.”

What were the thoughts on the trainer?

“I loved how Jane had everyone engaged and included in all of the topic areas. She allowed us to digress within reason, which helped explore the topic further but she was also able to control anything that was not relevant to our learning.”

“Jane’s style was inclusive, warm and welcoming. Everything was clear.”

“Jane is very interactive and gives off a very positive vibe. I really felt like my opinion was relevant when she asked questions and she’s always very impartial so we didn’t feel like we were being judged. It was a pleasure doing my training with her”

“Jane’s compassionate and a very good listener”

“”Jane’s style was nice and precise, she knows what she is talking about and is a confident lady who taught us in a respectful professional manner.”

For me, the week was a mutually positive experienced. When we see each other as humans, we can learn so much together. Essential for work and life – don’t you agree?

Taken a wrong turn?

Ever put your trust in someone who’s then let you down?

It’s a situation we can all relate to – especially at work.

A conversation with someone in this position recently reminded me of a couple experiences in my distant past. The trouble with some humans is it can sometimes take repeat experiences to learn the lesson!

Similar to the person I spoke to recently, I was in a recruitment admin role in a complete rut. I knew the role was never going to expand and neither was the micro business it was in. One of the clients headhunted me to a role in their new start-up. Looking back, I didn’t reflect on the offer to check it was real and what I wanted. I believed everything I was told after all the offer was made by a client – they wouldn’t exaggerate the truth…..would they?

Of course! The thing I’d buried at the time was they were human first and foremost.

At that point in time, I was bored, frustrated and going nowhere professionally so I accepted the offer which I quickly realised was a big mistake! I could do nothing other than try to make the best of things until something better revealed itself. After all, who can leave a job without another to go to when they have bills to pay?

Shortly after came my repeat lesson. I was approached by a headhunter I knew about an ‘exciting new opportunity’ to set up a talent hub within a business who had done a lot of research and had interested clients lined up to use the hub’s services.

Too good to be true? Yep it was. The opportunity was real but they had done no research. There were no interested clients lined up.

The difference this time was my attitude. This was a blank canvas. I could grow it how I wanted it to be. Over a number of years I grew that talent hub into a multi award winning programme which made a real difference to many people who had experienced barriers to get into work.

So why share this with you? Well a couple of reasons really:

  1. We are all human and trust those offering us an escape – without considering it might not be the right escape.
  2. Sometimes when you make a mistake you can turn it into the most magical thing ever just by changing the way you look at it.

If you are in a rut professionally, frustrated and feeling like you are on a burning platform, take the time to stop and think what your purpose is. Plan your own escape journey to where you want to be. Otherwise you may end up having repeat experiences which are exhausting and worthless.

Are employers solidifying employees’ fears?

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 –

“Success lies on the other side of fear”

What say you?

Passion Map – Do You Have One?

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.

What do you think?

Want to be a published author?

I know many people harbour a desire to write and publish for many years. Some never write their book(s) – let alone publish.

On the face of it, publishing book seems so difficult to do, when actually there is a lot of supportive websites the give step-by-step guidance.

For me, I just wanted to be able to say I’ve written a book and anyone can buy it – not necessarily make lots of money and/or get a best seller. It was just a personal goal I set myself about three years ago and took a look at every now and then adding extra bits here and there.

Lockdown in March 2020 was a period of reflection and determining some goals to achieve in the coming years.

One of these was to get a book published by the end of lockdown – although, I never expected this would be over a years later!

From my work over the last twenty years, my own personal experiences coupled with the pressure of lockdown on many people from diverse backgrounds, I realised what I had to say could be really helpful to some others who, like me years ago, want to change their lives but don’t know how or where to start.

I finished my book in early 2021 and asked some people who I knew had been through challenging times to read it. Both said it was inspirational and gave real steps and ideas people can utilise.

Thankfully, Kindle Direct Publishing, owned by Amazon, made it really easy from designing a cover to formatting the manuscript into hardbook, paperback or kindle versions. You can easily link the different formats which is so important to be inclusive to all pockets.

Of course, I really wanted a printed version to keep for myself. I selected the print quality, colours, size etc ad will make 79p for every paperback sold! Whilst it’s not as tactile as a paperback, the Kindle version is a great option for many.

It’s said everyone has a book in them. If, like me, you harbour an idea to publish, set yourself a challenge to do so. Believe me, it’s such a great feeling when you see it on the screen for others to buy if they want to.

If our children are growing up hungry – where are businesses getting their future talent from?

Listening to the radio this morning, the above question jumped into my head. I have my solution at the end of this post. What would be your thoughts?

Time for us all to have an uncomfortable conversation maybe?

The radio feature was on free school meals and the excellent spotlight the footballer Marcus Rashford has shone on this.

Children going hungry is shamefully not a new problem for the UK. Following the end of WWII, free school meals were introduced to ensure no child went hungry. Bearing in mind this was a time when food additives, were a lot less intensive than they are now. Basic, nutritional food that ensured healthy growth for all children in the UK was the norm.

Over the following years, we seemed to lose this ‘collective’ thinking that we are all responsible for the health of the next generation.

I well remember the endeavours of chef Jamie Oliver from 2004 to address putting ‘nutrition’ back into school dinners cost effectively. This would ensure concentration in lessons resulting ultimately in social mobility. Education on an empty stomach is totally non-productive and a complete waste of money. Children can’t concentrate with their stomachs rumbling. As adults, we know when we’re hungry we can think of nothing else. Why would we think it’s different for children?

The radio feature this morning spoke about Jamie’s work and the fact two of his chefs are working in Schools in Greenwich to help feed children nutritionally during school holidays.

Marcus has re-foccused the spotlight back on the need to feed vulnerable children during school holidays as parents struggle through coronavirus.

Many parents will feed their children fast foods because they are cheap. Quantity is better than quality thinking. We know fresh food doesn’t have to be expensive. It does take effort to buy and prepare especially when trying to hold down a number of poorly paid jobs to provide a secure home.

A few of ideas spring to my mind:

  1. Tax cheap, fast food so it becomes a ‘treat’ and heavily discount fresh foods so they become the norm.
  2. I know from experience many families won’t apply for help even when they are entitled. Pride gets in the way. Radical thought here – provide free school meals for every child so not one child is ‘singled’ out as being ‘poor’. From 5-18. Schools become community hubs. Open through school holidays. This would create:

a. Employment throughout the UK

b. Community cohesion

c. Brain power amongst all our children to take advantage of education, realise their dreams, become the innovators of tomorrow, feeding our businesses making the UK a vibrant country of integrity for all.

Of course there would be a huge cost for this. But, what is the cost of not doing it?

As a business owner, I’d be in favour of increased taxes if they were going to this worthwhile cause. I wonder if very wealthy people, would be willing to make annual donations to this cause and write this off against their taxes? Some people earn telephone number salaries and are reluctant to pay HMRC. No one likes paying taxes. But if part of their taxes went to a specific cause like this, would their attitude change if they could see the good they are doing?

A minority of the UK are living in a bubble where they have so much money they will never be able to spend it. Maybe social taxation could be the answer.

Maybe it’s time to do something radical and something different.

What would be your thoughts?

Can we all rise from despair?

Overthinking negativity can feel like trying to swim in quicksand.  Panic rises, struggle intensifies the quicker we sink.

 

Taking a step back to analyse where we are, where we want to be and the journey to get there can give us the best foundation for change and getting out of that quicksand feeling.

 

Seeing the feature of new Graduate Malala over the weekend I’m reminded of where she started – shot by the Taliban for speaking up for girls’ education as a teenager – to relocating to the UK, going to school in Birmingham, studying, and graduating from Oxford University along the way becoming the youngest  Nobel laureate after winning the Nobel Prize in December 2014 as well as setting up the Malala Fund and the Education Champion Network with a vision to see every girl in the world get at least 12 hours education a week – what a journey.

 

Whilst Malala is an extreme journey, it shows we can change what’s ahead of us.  Opportunity lies in the most obscure places and can present when we least expect it.

 

Take a step back, analyse what’s really going on.  You can’t change what’s happened before – that’s history.  We can all change the path we’re on…….if we want to.