A week of highs and lows

Well that was an interesting week, with a lot of contrasting emotions. It started as many of my weeks do nowadays in a classroom preparing for a day delivering coaching training.

On Monday morning I was delivering our introduction to coaching study day, where I introduce the communication techniques used when having a coaching conversation. We call it introduction to coaching,but I think ‘how to have meaningful performance and development conversations’ is more descriptive if not a bit long winded. This is my comfortable space, sharing my insights into having purposeful conversations. However I had not done this day for a few months, and managed to get myself a little lost in the content, sending myself into a mild panic when I thought I had got to the end of the taught element an hour early. I had not, I had forgotten where a certain slide appeared in the sequence, so I was exactly where I was supposed to be. Over than that little blip it was a very satisfying day with very positive feedback. A great start to the week.

On Tuesday I was spending the morning working with my favourite lady Janis, supporting her on her communication course. I was going to be working with half of her cohort, playing out difficult conversations. It was clear from the off that my half of the group were struggling with role play and what they needed to do. So I spent the first hour re framing the instructions and creating a purpose that was meaningful. In many ways subtly playing out a difficult conversation in front of them with the difficult conversation being the one I was having with them explaining the importance of playing out conversations in a role play setting, with actual content. We got there in the end, I had a great deal of fun and there was definitely learning in the room. Again I was buzzing. The afternoon was supposed to be spent designing content, for next week, but i kept on getting distracted with various minor issues that I felt required attention. However I could feel my stress levels rising as the deadline for the content was looming. I managed to get a lot done however and complete some other tasks, so all in all a satisfying day.

Wednesday was another a content delivery rich day. I delivered 2 workshops on coaching at our Trust’s Health Care Professionals’ Conference at the University. I did a potted 1 hour version of how to have meaningful conversations, along with a demonstration of coaching in action by blind coaching the participants. Again it was well received, and I got to listen to Derek Redmond (Olympic Athlete) deliver his inspirational key not speech. In the back of my mind I had a few niggling thoughts, I needed to get the content finished for the next week, and I needed to get my blood results from the bloods I had taken 2 weeks ago now. It was late before I finished on Wednesday so I did not get chance to ring for my results.

Thursday was my first day in the office all week. A chance to get the content finished. However I had a series of meetings during the day. These were important meetings that needed to take place, but I could feel my irritation and frustration building up. I am certain this was evident to those around me. I was not as calm as I am normally. Firstly I was coming down from 3 days of delivery, which however enjoyable is physically and emotionally draining for someone who has a preference for introversion. Secondly I knew I needed to get this content written and I was rapidly running out of time. Thirdly I knew I had to ring the doctors to get my blood results. Which I managed to do eventually, the receptionist told me there was a minor abnormality and I needed to see the doctor. So that was it I took myself to another place where I had type 2 diabetes with a lifetime on medication and declining health (we all like to catastrophise). I went home eventually under a cloud of despair.

On Friday morning I went to the GP, and got my results. I am pre-diabetic (so it is reversible), that means I need to pay attention to my lifestyle. On Friday morning this was the straw that broke the camels back. Exactly what I needed. I had a very real emotional response on the bus relaying the news to Lisa. Crying on a bus is not ideal in fact I did have to hold it in a little. But I needed to have this emotional response. Yesterday morning on the 154 bus to Hull Royal Infirmary it all got just a bit too much. My colleague messaged me and said it is OK to have Hippo time. Too right I was having my hippo time on the bus. For the whole of the journey I wallowed. By the time I got off the bus I had just enough capacity to get my work done ready for next week. When I got in from work I needed to wallow some more, I needed to feel sorry for myself and accept that life is unfair.

This morning I got up, I wrote about what I was experiencing in my journal to help make sense and articulate my emotion. I was overwhelmed and will be again. But writing about it helped me understand what is going on, so I can plan for what I need to do to stay healthy and successful.

Is compassion weakness? We can create accountability and attend to each others emotions.

I have written and spoken many times about how I struggled as a manager within a culture that valued a command and control approach to leadership. A culture that sees empathy and compassion as weak. This is a stereotypical masculine paradigm, the one that says the expression of any emotion in a work setting is weak. Emotion has only one place and that is within a female paradigm in the domestic setting, when caring for children.

What is really depressing is that I was a nurse! And not just a nurse caring for adults but a children’s nurse! How can it be that a profession whose primary function is to care for the most vulnerable, did not value these very qualities in their managers. This view of kindness and compassion being weak was widespread throughout the hospital, I would even say throughout society.Now this was a decade ago, things have moved on, haven’t they?

There has been some progress with plenty of research showing that a compassionate leadership approach, creates a productive, efficient, and importantly a happy work environment. There is even research that shows that compassionate leadership has a direct impact on the care delivered to patients. Compassionate leadership creates safer healthcare! That is the bottom line.

The issue is the 4th word in the paragraph above. SOME! The thing is, listening to and paying attention to the emotions of the individuals in your team is not easy. It does not come naturally. We have been conditioned that management and leadership are masculine roles. When I asked future leaders to describe and even draw leaders, they will invariably default to masculine descriptors. Our culture defines masculinity as strong, aggressive and protective. Winning and dominating are paramount, nurturing and compassion, and empathy are feminine are weak and have little place outside of the domestic setting. They are fine for the nurses on the ward but not for the charge nurse/sister, and anyone above them. They have to operate in a masculine world and must therefore learn to not show weakness. If you want to succeed as a leader you have to be the best and beat those around you.

This is our default setting, this is the route that comes easily for many of us, even though, the results of this approach are at best patchy and at worst create a toxic environment. This command and control approach to leadership in any setting creates fear and stifles innovation. As mentioned previously all the research shows that a positive, optimistic approach improves productivity and engagement.

So how do we change our default setting. Like any change, you have to start with the desire, the motivation to change. You have to be clear what you want from your team in the future. This vision of the future must be compelling enough to bring you back to it when you falter and slip into your old ways.

That is the starting point, the next thing to do is to collect the tools that help you create a compassionate culture. There are plenty of books and courses that offer instruction and tool kits. The vast majority of them are very useful. 3 books that I would recommend to start with are Dare to Lead by Brene Brown, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, and SUMO by Paul McGee. Also look out for leadership courses. Many large organisations either run their own or outsource to training companies. The other option is to employ a coach who will support you through this transition period.

Once you have the tools, you have to master the approach, the only way to do that is practice, practice, practice. The only way you can adjust you default settings is to create new habits. the only way to create new habits is to practice. The more you practice the sooner you will create a new habit. This is why having a coach can be helpful. It is not easy to keep up the practice when you are busy, and you need to get things done. Having a coach gives you the time to reconnect with the reason why you a moving away from your old ways. Stick at it, you will reap the rewards.

Health, happiness and age

Well it has been an awfully long time since I have written a blog. My last blog was looking back on my Nursing career and looking forward to my new role in Organisational Development and Coaching.

Since that blog I have experienced some minor health issues. I say minor as that is what they appear to be turning out to be. However in the moment these issues were quite unpleasant and me being a dramatic soul felt far from minor. It all started with abdominal and loin pain. The pain woke me up in the early hours of the morning. I have never experienced pain like it. It felt like my insides were being squeezed and blown up at the same time. As I mentioned I am quite dramatic, and have a very limited experience of pain. So I am not ashamed to say I panicked a little, which no doubt made it a lot worse than it was. I spent spent two and a half hours sat on the toilet, sat on the floor hugging the toilet trying to be sick, pacing the living room lying face down on the sofa crying into a cushion. Lisa was fast asleep and gently snoring upstairs. I thought about waking her when it started but thought better of it. I can be difficult when I am in pain, and Lisa doesn’t react well to me when I am being hysterical, so I thought it best that I let it be until I need her to take me to hospital or ring an ambulance. Leaving her asleep allowed me to be in a bad mood with her about not being sensitive enough to notice how much pain I was in, in her sleep. These unrealistic expectations never play well when the accused are present.

Anyway the torture lasted for nearly 3 hours, I was just about to wake Lisa to take me to hospital, when the pain went away. It was a very strange night. The next day was when I started feel unwell, I felt out of sorts, my abdomen and back ached, I was having hot flushes and felt incredibly tired. This lasted intermittently with occasional severe pain for a month. My GP was getting a little fed up with me (I could tell by his exasperated look on his face). I was in his surgery weekly. I had 2 courses of antibiotics with no effect, and a CT scan which showed nothing. There was no infection in my wee. Then he tested my blood. When I went back to get the results, his opening question was…. “Matthew how much do you drink?” I replied “about 6 bottles a week.” Well he nearly fell of his chair. “Of what!!!!?” he asked. “Oh god no, I said not big bottles, small bottles of beer.”

It turns out the bloods indicate that my liver might be fatty and that I drink probably more than I should. Then he pointed out I was carrying a bit of weight, so he wanted to test for diabetes! I was crestfallen. I have become a fat middle aged man, with diabetes, and a fat liver. It was a sudden realisation that stuff doesn’t just happen to other people, and if you don’t pay attention to health, there will be consequences. Yes I know, I have talked about this before, but like most of us I suffer from the habit of separating myself from the reality of life and the marching of time. It has been a wake up call. I don’t know if I have diabetes (I am still waiting for the result), but that is irrelevant really. What is important, is that I start to look after all of me. Going for a little run and paying attention to my well-being are important, but as I get older I need to pay attention to other aspects of my lifestyle, (mainly what I eat and drink). This health scare has made it real.

All this happened in an incredibly busy month. I started my new role, whilst at the same time completing my commitment to Nurse Induction. I don’s think I did either of these things justice. It was a big ask in the first place, but being ill just made it all the more demanding. I just had too much going on. This has caused me some distress, I had finally secured my dream job, and I was struggling to cope. I was exhausted and in both physical and emotional pain. Don’t worry though I got through it. It was difficult and painful, but not a permanent situation. I kept focusing on the light at the end of the tunnel. I would get better, there will be a time when I can concentrate on one role without being pulled in other directions. Remembering why I do what I do really helped me.

I am feeling better now, and I have started a plan to pay attention to my physical health. This plan is firmly routed in my purpose and core value. If I need to be useful, I have to become healthier.

Last week was Lisa’s special birthday, (50th but don’t tell anyone). We have spent the week celebrating. On Monday we went to see a band out our now favourite venue, The Polar Bear (a regular of Vialetters). We then spent a couple of days in York, staying in the very fancy Grand, York, and taking in the sights of York and enjoying their food a drink. We ended the week having a meal with some old friends. Speaking for myself, this was exactly what I needed to recharge my batteries after a challenging month.

Time to look back

On the 27th December 1992 I started work as a Registered Nurse on the Children’s Unit at Hull Royal Infirmary. I was 21 years old and full of enthusiasm for my future career. Nearly 27 years on I can say it has been an adventure, and one that I would not change.

As I am about to start a new adventure as a Senior Organisational Development Practitioner and Coaching Lead (for the same hospital, I am not that adventurous), I thought I would reflect on my 27 years working on the Children’s Unit.

So it all started on Ward 12 (Hull Royal Infirmary) in December 1992. Well actually my first day was on Ward 130 East as Ward 12 had closed over Christmas week.

Ward 12 was the Children’s ENT and Ophthalmology ward, so cared for mainly elective (planned) patients, with a few emergencies. By the time I started the ward was progressively getting quieter and quieter as the nature of surgery changed and lengths of stays shortened. Ward 12 eventually closed and was merged with Ward 130 East which was the Surgical Ward on the floor above.

This coincided with me starting my Registered Sick Children’s Nurse qualification in March 1994, at the short lived Humberside College of Health. Humberside College of Health was situated in the old orthopaedic unit at Dela Pole Hospital, which at that time was still a working Psychiatric Hospital. We were often joined in our lectures by interested inpatients. To be fair they appeared more engaged in the subjects, than some of us. The majority of the students on the course were from either Hull or Grimsby, or Scunthorpe, but we did have two students from the forces, one from the navy and one from the RAF which created a new dynamic. When I think about my fellow RSCN students from Hull, there are only 2 of us that still work at Hull Royal.

After qualification I went back to work on Ward 130 East. Between 1995 and 1997 I worked on this ward, and I would say this was the time when I learned the most about nursing children. It was an incredibly busy and challenging time. We cared for some very sick children and it took it’s toll both physically and mentally on a lot of us.

As a result of this challenging time I decided I needed to learn more about caring for very sick children, and I went to work in ICU. I learned a lot working on ICU and still have a place in my heart for the place and the team despite only working there for a year. The difficulty I had was that I spent most a lot of my time caring for adults, and my heart was still with caring for children. So I went back to the Children’s unit. I did however go back for a few months on rotation.

On my return to the Children’s Unit I was placed on 130 West (medical ward) . After a year I was promoted to what was then an F Grade (Band 6 today), and I became a Father for the first time.

In 2001 I joined a brand new team on PHDU (high dependency unit). I worked there for a year, a year I loved from a work perspective, however it was probably personally one of my most challenging years.

In 2002 I became the Charge Nurse on Ward 130 West. Even though I struggled with my mental health during the 11 years I worked there, I generally have very fond memories of this time. I worked with some incredible nurses during this time, and I feel honoured to have worked with them and manage them. We had some really challenging times and some truly incredible times including winning a regional award for innovation. Every single one of us made a difference to children’s lives, and we should all be immensely proud of what we did during this time.

In 2013 I moved on to being the Teacher Practitioner for the Children’s Unit, the job I am about to leave for a job that over the past 3 years has become by dream job. During my time as Teacher Practitioner, I learned to manage my demons, and was exposed to coaching. Coaching has changed my life, and has reignited my passion for care and compassion. I found a job that gives me the exact same buzz as I got caring for people as a junior staff nurse.

I will be forever grateful for my time on the Children’s Unit, and will always have a place in my heart for all the incredible Children’s Nurses, Play Specialists, CSWs, Auxilliaries, Housekeepers, Ward Clerks, Domestics, Caterers, Consultants, and Trainees I have worked with over those 27 years.

August! An emotional month.

Vialetters live at Humber Street Sesh 2019

I always knew it would be an emotional one, especially with the background that is going on in my family (something I alluded to in previous blogs, but do not yet want to go into details).

The month started with a bang, when Ben (the Bass player on the right in the picture above) and with the Vialetters played Humber Street Sesh (our local festival and smashed it. It was truly a proud moment, and must admit I did shed a tear when I looked around and saw how many people were watching and cheering them on.

As well as that Jack (my youngest) whose band where not quite ready for this years Sesh volunteered during the festival, helping to set it up and manned one of the stages. I know it is a bit sentimental, but I feel so blessed to have such amazingly talented and generous sons.

What a wonderful weekend that was.

Then halfway through the month Ben got his ‘A’Level results and secured his place at BIMM Manchester (British and Irish Modern Music Institute) to study Music Journalism, which was his first choice. That was a strange day, I was immensely proud of what he had achieved, but was tinged with sadness, with the realisation that he was really going to be leaving home.

To top this Vialetters have managed to secure 2 pretty amazing support gigs. The first is on the 14th September playing at Bonus Arena Hull (the biggest venue they have ever played in) supporting a local band Bud Sugar, and the other is supporting one of the most exciting new bands in the country, Cassia in October. I tell you my head is beginning to spin.

This week (all too fast) Ben left home to move into his shared house in Manchester. He has gone early to settle into the area and find a job. The prospect of him leaving was heartbreaking. Since he has left, I think I have spoken to him more frequently than I did when he lived here (mostly my doing). I am sad for me and Lisa as our life has to change and that is difficult to adjust to, as we all love to cling on to what is familiar and comfortable. On the other hand I am excited for Ben and so proud of the young man he has become. So I will cry as I mark the passing of my old life and smile at the opportunities my new life brings. After all we have to do this all again with Jack next year. I am starting to cry just thinking about it.

Yesterday myself and Lisa traveled to Manchester to take the rest of Ben’s stuff, and take him shopping. We went out for lunch with Ben and Liv (his girlfriend, who is staying with him for a few days, I think to organise him) and they took us to a vegan diner. That was a first for me, I am still not quite sure what to make of it. It was nice enough but it is still resting heavy and I fear it might take a few days to digest. His house is really nice and is just on the edge of Manchester City centre. You can see the skyscape of Manchester changing from his bedroom window.

You can just make out the Hilton in the distance

Before we came back we did a food (inc Beer and Wine) shop with him and Liv. I found that really stressful and emotional. I am still trying to understand what I was feeling during that shop. It might be coming to term with endings and leaving him behind, I am not sure. What I do know is, that I am proud of the man I helped forge, and I am certain he will be all he wants to be. I think the hard part is playing less part in that and not always be able to witness his life first hand.

In my own world there is potentially some exciting news coming up, I am reluctant to share publicly yet, but once I have more details I will share.

What a life-changing month this has been.

My writing has taken a back seat recently, and my book is collecting dust. I will get back to it soon, once I get my mojo back and clearly define my new direction and purpose.

Onwards and upwards. Follow your interest and realise your dream.

That was a long week!

I think it was the heat, but boy that was a long week! A lot of great stuff happened but I am knackered today,I am certain we had 2 Thursdays this week.

Monday started with some inspirational meetings,talking to some truly brilliant people. There are so many talented and committed people working in the NHS. The first meeting was to discuss the support I could offer to the development of unregistered staff. My next meeting was with the wonderful Louise who is going to support me with the back office functions of our coaching network. That meeting was so positive and was like having a weight lifted off my shoulders. To be honest I was shocked this all happened this week! I was certain this all happened about 2 weeks ago. Such a long week!

I spent Tuesday morning delivering a Insights Discovery workshop. I love delivering. I particularly enjoy challenging peoples perceptions, and helping them connect with themselves. I even managed to sign up a couple of coachees for our coaching network.

I spent the first part of the evening with a private coaching client. It was a great hour, shifting perceptions and introducing the idea of being truly present.

Straight after the coaching session we raced across the city to watch our eldest son’s band (Vialetters), play there first headline gig. They were majestic and truly did live up to their headline status. It was the perfect warm-up for their slot at Humber Street Sesh festival next weekend. for those of you going, they are playing the Strummerville Stage at 4:15. If you are going pop along to see them, you will not be disappointed.

Wednesday and Thursday were just hot a sweaty days, and were a struggle, so much so that I am certain we either repeated a day or time just slowed down. The highlight was going to the pub after work on Wednesday.

Friday at last was cooler. I spent the morning with the wonderful Janis and Sandra making plans and setting dates for Clinical Supervision training next year. We didn’t get chance to make work through our planned book on Clinical Supervision, we will get chance soon. In the afternoon I met and contracted with a new internal coachee,which is always a pleasure.

This morning I went for a refreshing run, helped Ben with his student s accommodation application, now writing this blog watching the Challenge Cup semi-final. A restful day.

It has been a long tiring week, but on reflection a really productive and enjoyable week. Yesterday I was feeling a little frazzled and was I think concentrating what was causing me frustration. This exercise today has helped me concentrate on what is positive, and productive in this week. There is an awful lot to be thankful for this week.

We all have a choice

I read a tweet this morning by Paul McGee (@TheSumoGuy) that invited us to make a choice today. We could choose to be grumpy about whatever was irritating us or getting in the way of our life, or choose to be grateful for what we have and what is around us.

I was out walking the dog when I read this tweet and it made me think of my surroundings and look around at the beauty of where I live. I took this picture.

Now to you, you might be thinking, that is nothing special, but to me it sums up a walk through my village on a Sunday morning in the summer, and how lucky I am to live here. 2 minutes earlier I had been irritated by someone saying something annoying on Facebook and by my dogs insistence on sniffing every blade of grass. This tweet reminded me to not forget the reasons to be grateful.

I and I am sure most of you find it easy to focus on the negative, to expect the worst, look for what is going wrong, expect that people cannot be bothered to do a good job. This is our default setting, this was how we were taught to think. These neural pathways have been trodden on for years. So seeing life through an alternative lense is not easy, new pathways need to be formed. Also it would not be helpful at all to have a wholly positive outlook in life, for one you will seriously piss off your friends and family and two it is just dangerous, you have to keep your threat sensors on. The world is tough so you must be aware of dangers around you.

What is important is to have a choice, of an appropriate response and give equal air time to the negative and the positive.

There is a lot in my life right now that makes me feel sad and grumpy, and so it should because it is horrible, so I have been practicing everyday to give it air time, to appreciate the emotion, but not to stay there for too long. I have been trying to look for what there is right now to be grateful for, and boy there is an awful lot to be grateful for, in fact a lot more than there is to make me grumpy or sad.

The stuff that makes me really sad is important and big but is out of my control, so all I can do is articulate what I am feeling and give it the attention it deserves, amazingly that gives me the space, and energy to appreciate all the wonderfulness I have in my life. So in a way I am grateful for the bad stuff, as it has made me really examine what matters to me, I wish it hadn’t happened but it has and therefore I need to accept what it is, and move on. So I have chosen to be grateful, but only when I have chance to be grumpy. Being grumpy takes me to the place where I can see what I am grateful for.

Thank you @thesumoguy for your inspiration.