It’s been a while

Well what can I say? Life has got in the way a bit recently and I just haven’t had the time or the inclination to write.

If I am honest it was more the inclination. I have spent a lot of time wrestling with my emotions and appreciating those emotions. I will not be going into detail about the specifics of what is going on, as it is not all my news to share (I am physically well). What I am prepared to share is my rumbles and wrestles with my emotional state and how I am managing, or not my resilience.

For quite some time I have been writing about resilience and how I endeavour to maintain my resilience based on what has been written. On that very base level being realistic, value driven and creative works well, but I what I did not know was how well this theory held up when something really important and challenging happens.

So far so hard. Maintaining all elements is tough. When you are going through difficult times, rarely do you get a full picture of what is happening to you in one go. That is something have experienced over the past couple of months. The attacks that lay you low, seem to come from different directions without you seeing them and do not come complete. It just so happened that I have been reading and still am reading Raising Strong by Brene Brown. Brene describes it (as ever) wonderfully when she explains that her research shows that our minds hate incomplete data, so will always make an attempt to complete the story. We also like familiarity, so the fictional part of the story tends to fit a narrative we have adopted about ourselves and our world. Then if you think our minds are hardwired to protect us, then it makes sense that the story will often take a worst case scenario arc. And can I tell you, this storytelling is relentless and really does test your resilience. Realism goes completely out of the window, these fictions beat up your values and remove any kind of creativity.

Do not despair, these stories that we tell ourselves do not have to take over our thinking. Adopting these stories is a default setting, however we can make a conscious decision to ignore them and stick with uncertainty. Uncertainty is not a comfortable place to be, but what it is, is real. It does not crush your hope or give you false hope, it lets you wrestle with and identify those emotions you are feeling. I tell myself stories about what is happening to me everyday, several times a day. When I catch myself doing this I bring myself back to the not knowing, and ask myself what I do know, and sit with what I know and my emotions.

My emotions make me feel sad, they are painful at the moment, and so they should be, I am going through a difficult, painful part of my life. For most of my life, I have held the truth that emotional pain and discomfort are bad. I am now beginning to shift my paradigm. Emotional pain is inevitable as is physical pain, not only is it inevitable it is essential, as long as it is transient. For many of us it is. When I accepted and embraced my discomfort I found it easier to embrace my happiness. I find it easier to laugh and have positive emotions, whilst still feeling sad, in fact I have found myself laughing about the circumstances I find myself in. I know it is easy to say ‘accept the pain’, but it is a damn site harder actually doing it. I still do not enjoy feeling sad, and I hate not having the answers, but the stories I tell myself don’t make it better, in fact they made me feel worse. It felt like a spiral of despair. Uncertainty to me feels more optimistic, it is real, it reminds me that I am alive as are my loved ones, so lets live our lives and not let our thoughts get in the way.

Thank you for reading. Writing this out has certainly helped me, I hope you get something from this too.

Sharing the Coaching Message

It has been a distracting week. I can back from leave on Monday and was still preoccupied with thoughts about the health of a member of my family. They are getting better, but I live and work the other side of the country and I am a natural worrier. I speak to them everyday so I am reassured daily, which is lovely, however it does not stop my emotional brain running riot and jumping to conclusions in between. I have been talking about my worries with friends and close colleagues who have been helping me find perspective, so thank you to all of you. So as I say it has been difficult to keep my focus on other parts of my life (like work). Saying that it has been quite a full on week, in both my roles. I have been doing quite a few one to one coaching and clinical supervision sessions. In times of stress I find these quite therapeutic. When I am stressed and feeling vulnerable I like to move into my comfort zone, and my default setting is compassion and empathy, so entering into a one to one with someone who have stuff to work through is perfect for me. I can sit listen and be a witness to their emotions, offering observations, asking questions to help them get to where they need to be. There are points in our life where we just need to wallow, and just feel sorry for ourselves, with someone we trust alongside us. I know I have certainly done that this week, and I have gladly performed the role of witness/supporter for others. What is important when you are being the witness/supporter is that you suppress the desire to make it better, that is not for you to do. Just by being there and offering your ear and shoulder is all the help they need. Not everything can or needs to be fixed. Well this blog was supposed to be about my day at the HEAT 2019 medical conference, but as what normally happens I have spent half a page sorting my own feelings out.

So back on track! I spent yesterday attending the 8th annual HEAT 2019 Conference. This is a medical education conference for Hull University Hospital NHS Trust. As Coaching Lead for the Trust I was invited to deliver a coaching workshop, which of course I was delighted to accept. The theme for this year’s conference was Health, Well-being and Resilience (right up my street). The key-note speeches were on resilience in the face of adversity, returning to practice, fatigue and the coaching service offered to trainee medical staff. The afternoon were dedicated to workshops including my brief introduction to coaching, mindfulness, and resilience.

As they had, had a very comprehensive introduction to what coaching is, and the documented evidence of it’s usefulness, the workshop was an opportunity for the participants to be coached. Once I had set them up and goal them thinking about a goal they wanted to achieve and provided context to the techniques I would be using, I then coached them using the blind coaching technique, where I ask them all a series of questions that deliver more detail to their goal and starts to populate an action plan with time frames and metrics to measure progress. Each participant is invited to write down their answers to the questions and use their answers as the basis for their action plan going forward. If anything this technique demonstrates that coaching is more than just a conversation and can be quite a challenging relationship, that is focused on achieving results. t

Both the workshops when well, with everyone fully participating and appearing to get something for it. I found it rewarding but mentally tiring. When I am feeling vulnerable like I am this week, I default to my introverted attitude, therefore delivering a workshop for Doctors required a lot of mental energy. All I wanted to do was to sit quietly and listen to others speak. But I stole myself dug deep and put myself in the arena. When it had finished I was spent. I dared greatly and as far as I can tell it paid off.

If you are interested in knowing more about coaching, don’t forget I offer 1:1 coaching skills for leaders and short masterclasses for small groups. If you work for the Trust I run a Manager as Coach course and more dates for next year will be out soon (all this years are fully booked).

If you think you may benefit from being coached get in touch.

Week off to re-charge

I had rather an eventful week last week, popping over the other side of the country to see a member of my family who was poorly. They are fine now, and I am certain it was more for my benefit than theirs. My mind is at rest, and I have now stopped letting my imagination get the better of me.

You may remember in my last blog, that I have started a course on strategic coaching, and I was doing some research in preparation for writing my assignment, on coaching and mentoring in an organisational culture. So everyday this week I have spent a couple of hours continuing the research and making copious notes, on organisational culture, coaching and mentoring policies, and people strategies to name a few of the subjects I have been immersing my self in every morning this week. So for many of you that may sound as dull as ditch water. For me it has been restorative and enlightening. I know! I’m a boring bastard! When I have not been writing I have been re-acquainting myself with one of my favourite writers Brene Brown. Before I went to Chester I ordered Rising Strong, so it was waiting for me on my return. If you are feeling less than resilient at the moment, if you have been knocked down and are struggling to get back up, then this is the book for you. Have you seen her Netflix special yet? If not seek it out, I laughed, cried and felt inspired.

It has been a week where I could work at my own pace, where I could just allow my anxieties and worries wash over me. Where I could just let myself be me.

I spent the other evening trawling through Spotify to compile a playlist, as you know I love music and often bang on about my eldest son’s band (incidentally they are playing in Manchester on 30th April at The Castle Hotel, please pop along and say hello if you are in the area), oh and now my youngest is in a band now, so I will be boring you all about them soon enough, I have heard some early demo’s and they are pretty awesome. Anyway as I was telling you I spent the other evening compiling a playlist of new music. There is a lot of really good music with something to say at the moment. So if you are interested in music and if like me it holds mystical restorative powers for you, I have included a link to this playlist for you.

Ahh April Playlist


I hope you enjoy the playlist, I generally use music to help me be present, it suspends my thought process as I let the sounds wash over me, I can then focus on what is happening to me at that moment, how the music interacts with my senses and allows me to tune into my environment. I have started running again. I wish I hadn’t stopped, as it has been harder than ever to get going with it again. I am using a couch to 5k app, and it is really helping me, but so is using my playlists, they don’s stop the discomfort but they help me reconcile it, and gets me through that initial discomfort. I am beginning to feel they I am making progress, which is good really as I doing the Hull 10k in June (no pressure). Wish me luck!

All in all another good week, roll on the next, and lets see what adventures that brings.

Back to The Books

After a 2 year gap(ish) I have gone back to studying. A correspondence course this time via Brighton School of Business and Management and the Chartered Management Institute. You guessed it, it is another coaching course.

Over Christmas I was looking round for a coaching course that was the next level up, that would benefit me day to day work as coaching lead and compliment my private coaching work. So I asked myself, what makes me feel the most uncomfortable, what do I find the most difficult, what do I avoid if I can. The answer is simple really, it is the strategic side of coaching and mentoring. In essence the embedding of coaching and mentoring within an organisation. How do I make a service that is robust enough, and simple enough to become second nature in an organisation. I want to create a service that makes a difference and continues to evolve. As well as creating a fantastic coaching and mentoring service and culture in my own organisation I want to be able to support other organisations, big and small create their own coaching and mentoring culture. So that was the aim I set myself.

I found this Level 7 Strategic Coaching and Mentoring Diploma via the CMI and went for it. Each module answers the questions that worry me. It is going to push me, but looking at my first assignment and the materials on offer it is going to do more than help me strategically, it will help me see my coaching practice through a new set of eyes. I am already thinking about how I can support Executives and business owners, to help them develop an excellence mindset. In fact I have already started to adapt my coaching offer to reflect this. So if you are an Exec or a business owner that wants to try out something new to flex your performance, send me an email, it would be great to explore it’s benefits.

You may notice though that as deadlines for assignments gets closer there may be fewer blogs. It will also slow down the book progress (which to be fair is quite slow anyway). I may however share as many nuggets of wisdom as I find.

Just a short blog today as I am still at my Mum’s and I need to get ready to travel back to Hull.

Have a lovely Easter weekend

My Journey To Becoming a Coach

Like many people I suffer occasionally from a version impostor syndrome. How dare I call myself a coach, what do I know. How dare I presume that I have the skills and knowledge to put myself into the lofty position of being someone’s coach. This was something we were talking about at my last coaching session. We talked about where these feelings come from and how ridiculous these thoughts were. My coach offered a suggestion of writing my time line of significant events. The events that have contributed to me becoming a coach, coaching lead and clinical nurse educator. The idea is to debunk these feelings of inadequacy that I feel from time to time and give potential clients and stakeholders an insight into my background and how that influences the way I coach. So I thought I would do a little potted history of my adult life, highlighting events that I think have had an influence on me. So here we are.

1989

This was the year I became an adult, the year I failed my A Levels, left home in Chester and started my Nurse Training in Hull. This was the year I started my love affair with my Hull (there is no better City for me). The 2nd October 1989 was the first day of the rest of my life, the day my own journey began, the day I started to write my story.

1990

1990 was the year I discovered Spiders nightclub and the wonders the ‘wiggly worm’. This was the year I ate my first Rogan Josh (that was a revelation) at the Khyber Restaurant. I saved my first life in 1990, performing cardiac massage on a patient. In fact I ended up being involved with a number of medical emergencies in my first year of nursing. I had some exciting ward placements in my first year (medical elderly, acute medical and vascular surgery). I spent my first Christmas away from home in 1990 looking after elderly patients, and drinking Vodka whilst watching Ghost on my own. I met my future Best Man in March 1990 (cheers Ju).

If you don’t mind I will be skipping a year or two as we continue otherwise this could take some time.

1992

I met Lisa in 1992 on 10th April (8 years later Ben was born on this day). I turned 21, whilst on placement on 130 West (a Ward I would eventually manage 9 years later). Whilst on placement I decided that I wanted to become a Children’s Nurse.

1993

I qualified as a General Nurse (RGN) and started work on Ward 12 (Children’s ENT)

1994

I started to train to be a Registered Sick Children’s Nurse

1995

I qualified as a Registered Sick Children’s Nurse, and started work on Ward 130 East (Children’s Surgery). Ward 130 east cared for children with a wide range of surgical conditions including trauma patients and patients undergoing neurosurgery. It was an incredibly ward and we cared for a lot of very sick children. The next 3 years were extremely challenging. There were a number of shifts when I had never felt so tired, stressed and even scared. Looking back they were traumatic times, that were made bearable by teamwork. We bought our first house and started on the mortgage gravy train.

1996

I married Lisa. We had booked a holiday to Greece and then decided to get married and make the holiday a honeymoon. We had a wonderful day with our friends and family. The holiday was alright but we both had a cold for the whole 2 weeks.

1998

I moved wards to the children’s medical ward (130 West) before getting a job in Intensive Care. I worked there for just over a year, before I returned to 130 West and took part in a rotational programme between 130 West and ICU.

2000

Ben was born on 10th April, the day I became a father and my life changed forever. Being a father of my 2 boys is the most important role I have. The joy I feel in my heart when I think of my boys is beyond words. I think of my life in terms of pre and post children. Other stuff happened this year like getting promoted to senior staff nurse, but that is insignificant really.

2001

I lost my father this year, it broke my heart. Foggy took over my life for a long time after that awful day in September. I started work on the newly opened Paediatric High Dependency Unit.

2002

Jack was born on the 29th May. Obviously this and 10th April are the best days of my life. I got promotion again to Charge Nurse of 130 West a job I did for 11 years with Foggy right beside me all the way. I remember my first day as Charge Nurse, I was terrified, I didn’t have a clue what to do, and what a roller coaster ride it was.

2002-2013

Those 11 years were an adventure, where I learned an awful lot about myself, as a Nurse, a Leader and a Man. I would like to say I loved it, but I didn’t really. I wrote a blog sometime ago about compassionate leadership, where I talked about my experience as a leader at the turn of this century. Now I wonder if my time came 10 years to early, then I think my experience will help me be make sure that leaders of the future do not have to experience what me and many others went through as Charge Nurses and Sisters. There is a better way to lead and that is with compassion not just to those around you but to yourself. In 2012 I met my lovely friend Janis, who taught me how to be a Clinical Supervisor, and helped my realise I was worth something and did have a talent. 4 years later that helped me kick start my passion for coaching.

2013

I left 130 West and became the Interim Teacher Practitioner. My boss at the time asked me to work with the Safeguarding Children Named Nurse to train nurses as Safeguarding Supervisors. For the next year I adapted and rolled out Safeguarding Supervision Training and co-wrote the safeguarding supervision guidelines. I loved doing the training as it played to my strengths of compassion and communication. Foggy however was still knocking about and making me feel miserable.

2014-2016

I spent a lot of time struggling with Foggy. By 2016 I had an angle on the little fella. He still there but now I have an appreciation of him and I know to manage him. During this time I was seconded to the University for a day a week as a lecturer for a year. Those days were a ray of sunshine working with some wonderful people and spending time with the future of nursing.This relationship with the University continues to this day, working with 2 lecturers on a meta-analysis research into the care of young people with eating disorders. In 2016 I also started to work with a local 6th form college as a mentor and since then I have mentored 5 students who have gone on to start their nurse training.

2016

In 2016 I started the coaching course and found my tribe, I met another good friend of mine Anthony (the tutor) and my future boss Lucy. Lucy is the lady that saw my passion for coaching and gave me the opportunity to turn it into a job, I will be forever grateful to this wonderful lady. Thank you Lucy.

2017-Now

In the past 2 years I have coached inside and outside the hospital. I have coached managers, nurses,midwives, teenagers, charity workers, housewives, designers, artists, doctors and business owners. I have loved coaching every single one of them. I have learned so much from everyone of them. In 2017 Lucy asked my Matron (Vanessa) if she could borrow me for 2 days a week. Thank you Vanessa for saying yes. So for 2 days a week for a year I was borrowed to start a coaching and mentoring network. I worked with Anthony to train more coaches, arranged coaching supervision and connected people up with coaches. In December 2018 I became Coaching Lead permanently (still only 2 days a week). We have trained over 20 coaches, and over the past year coached over 70 people. I have revamped manager as coach training. In April 2017 I connected back up with Janis and started to help her train clinical supervisors. We are on a mission to train 300 supervisors over 3 years. Outside of the trust I have started writing a book on my approach to coaching called Connected Living. I have written a masterclass for self management based on the concept of the book. Connected Living comes from my experience as a ward manager and how my self-neglect and lack of personal management led to my lack of resilience when I was swimming against the tide.

What is next

To finish writing my book. Start a level 7 coaching diploma. Further develop the coaching and mentoring network, embedding it into the organisation. Expand my coaching practice, and delivering the Connected Living Masterclass to a wider audience.

So that was my timeline. I am not sure if I did it the way my coach expected by I found it quite useful. I feel much more comfortable with where I am in my career.

If after reading this you feel inspired and want to know more about my coaching service, please feel free to email or message me.

Perhaps we should just get on with it?

I know some of my friends will be spitting their coffee over their phones reading this, but stick with me and let me explain what I mean.

I have heard this phrase a lot over the years, often from the mouths of well meaning but exasperated friends and colleagues, it can often be replaced with buck up! Anyone that has suffered from depression of any level of severity has heard those terms and felt that helpless feeling, even self loathing, in response to our inability to just get on with it. But what if was possible to get on with it, that could protect many of us from becoming ill, or that helped us stay off the anti-depressants.

The thing is most of the people that say just get on with it, are being quite sincere, because that is just what they do, with out realising that this is something that does not come naturally to many of us. There are I suppose situations where we all know that we can just get on with it regardless and then other situations where just getting on with it are impossible.

Getting on with it or JFDI (just flippin do it) is reliant on how resilient you are feeling at the moment when that task is required. Now I am debating going for a run this morning, and to be honest I have been struggling to restart running. As we know my resilience has been a little bit low recently, so I wonder if my inability to JFDI is down to this lack of resilience.

That is my point really, to be able to JFDI of get on with it, we need to address our resilience and look after ourselves. I imagine those that do get on with it pay attention to their resilience albeit subconsciously.

So lets examine my inability to no just get on with going for a run, by looking at the three characteristics of resilience described by Coutu (this is just as much for me, as it is for you).

Realism: When I went for a run on Monday evening I had this ridiculous idea that I could run solidly for 15 minutes before walking (I have not really run since December). I lasted a minute, now I did this 7 more times with some spells of walking as per the app I was using, after the 8th run I felt like a wreck. I was terribly unrealistic about my level of fitness. The level of pain and how quickly I got out of breath took be by surprise and quick frankly embarrassed me. I would even go as far to say I was ashamed of myself. Now this is quite ridiculous, I am 48 and overweight and have not run for 3 months, what else should I expect. There we are I have appraised my realism and there is some work I need to do on what I should expect from my running at first. There is clearly a need to manage my level of expectations of what I am going to feel when I run, which is a certain amount of discomfort during the run, which is then replaced with an elation and high when I have finished the run.

Purpose: This I have examined a lot. In the short term I have signed up for a 10k in June. Now going back to my realism, I am convinced I will not be able to run all the way round. What I want to do is run for 15 minutes and walk for 5 minutes on repeat until I have finished. So that is one reason for starting to run again. The other is fitness. I feel unfit, I am nearing 50 and want to be healthy for as long as I can. This stems back to my core value of usefulness. The longer I am healthy for, the longer I can make a useful contribution. It also makes me feel incredible once I have finished. So purpose is not an issue for me. s

Resource: So I have trainers and shorts, somewhere to run and an app. So I have the physical resources to actually go for a run. However whilst I sit here I wonder about my physical and mental resource, in other words the energy and motivation. If I examine the physical resource, I can go back to realism and examine how long I will be running for today. I will only be running for 8 minutes, how much resource do I need to run for 8 minutes in one minute bursts. It will make me breathless and sweaty and my legs will hurt but only for about 20 minutes. If I examine the mental resource I need all I have to do is remember why I am doing it and is that more important than sitting listening to the radio. How useful will listening to the radio make me?

Well I seem to have talked myself into going for a run. I still however have to do it.

Paying attention to your resilience and what my be reducing it, in theory seems quite easy, actually putting it in to practice is a little harder. It requires you to be honest with yourself and maybe address things that may make you feel uncomfortable. Reflecting is not easy and as I say a lot takes practice. I am learning to be more and more reflective, and it is bloody hard work.

If you want to explore this further and are thinking about some one to one coaching get in touch.

Please lets look for what unites us?

I normally avoid current affairs and politics on my blog, but I feel I need to write about what is happening in the UK right now.

Every time I turn on the news, open my phone or computer, I am bombarded with anger, accusations, mistrust and disconnection, and worst of all I am drawn into it and find myself getting angry about people’s choices and starting to hate people for their political views. This cannot be right. This attacks all my values of care, inclusion, and generosity. If I am not living up to these values I do not feel courageous and useful, which are my core values. If work against my core values, I feel lost, sad and anxious.

I am noticing that there are a lot of people that are struggling with their well-being at the moment. They are either more angry and short tempered than normal., or quieter and less buoyant than they are normally. I wonder if they are feeling like me, and are not living up to their core values.

The country feels so sad and so angry at the moment. It feels like the anger comes from, something I always considered a strength of this country. We have always been able to agree to disagree. The people of these islands from my view have always accepted difference (they might not like it, but you would often hear the phrase “each to their own”). That seems to have left us, decency and fair play have left us. It is OK now to attack people because they are different, have a difference of opinion.

Don’t get me wrong I know there has always been bigots, thugs and racists in our society, but there has always been the sensible, kind, inclusive voice that on the whole has shouted louder. That voice recently seems quieter, the reasonable majority has either fallen silent or has become the unreasonable majority.

There is a very real prospect that over the next few weeks, these differences are going to get worse. Either we will leave Europe with or without a deal or we will stay in Europe for a little while longer, no matter what happens one group will feel aggrieved. I am really worried that this will boil over and worst damage could be inflicted on our country.

I know I may be, being a little dramatic, but maybe it is important that we all take a pause, try to understand each other and make a plan that is good for all of us. We all need to rediscover what unites us. If you are a remain supporter, have you spoken to a leave supporter and listened to understand why they believe leaving Europe is the best thing for the country and vice versa. Please lets listen each other and find out…“What matters to us…”

WHAT MATTERS TO YOU?