Are you missing out on connecting with people that are different from you?

Do you find yourself attracted to people similar to yourself. How many of the people you regularly connect with have a completely different view of the world to you.

Now you might have a diverse group of friends, connections and acquaintances, but I will hazard a guess that the majority of us prefer to connect with people that have similar if not the same views as ourselves. It is after all human nature. It is the primitive part of our brain (limbic system) that drives this desire to be in groups that are similar to us. I a more primitive world we needed to protect ourselves from rival tribes who may be competing for the same food sources, and territory. The issue is we do not live those primitive times anymore, and our limbic system has not evolved sufficiently to differentiate actual and perceived threat. However our frontal lobe has evolved sufficiently to make these distinctions and if used enough will become good at it.

The world we live in, is a much smaller place and the majority of us come into contact and work with people from all over the world. Healthcare is far more advanced than ever, therefore people with long-term conditions, or disabilities have much better outcomes and along with improved access are more able to contribute to the communities they work in and be part of the workforce. On top of this many societies are more liberal than ever, therefore people are empowered to express their beliefs, sexuality, and gender orientation.

Therefore our workplaces are much more diverse than they have ever been. This provides us with a unique opportunity for us all to grow and learn, not only as individuals but as a society. There is also a wonderful opportunity for organisations to be much more creative, utilising the vast array of lived experiences presented on any given day.

Now the only problem is that pesky limbic system getting in the way and trying to prevent us from embracing difference and accepting an opposing view. Biologically we cannot prevent this automatic response to difference as a potential threat. However the limbic system always refers to our memory bank before coming up with a response. Therefore it is possible to modify the response to a more inclusive inquisitive response. If your memory bank stores a memory that people you work with are not a threat to your well-being, even if they have different coloured skin, a different accent, different sexuality or even different profession. Then the most useful thing to do is to gather more information about them before making a judgement.

Even if you make a judgement about them after gathering more information and you decide you do not want a closer friendship with them, should not exclude connection, by seeing the value of their different view of the world.

Instead of seeing new people that are different to you as a threat, see a potential opportunity to learn from each other. If you want to grow as an individual, organisation and society it is vital to seek out views of the world that are different to you own. If you stick to what you know you will never grow, when all of those around you continue to.

How are you at giving and receiving feedback?

Whenever you read an article or a chapter on leadership or communication, there is always a section on how important feedback is. In reality though it is something that is rarely appears done well.

Now I have been thinking about my own experiences of giving and receiving feedback, both first hand and second hand. In most cases it was a car crash. When I think about what was happening to me when I was giving feedback and receiving it, Jack Canfield’s success formula (Event + Response = Outcome) came to mind. It was always my response to either giving or receiving feedback that resulted in me either having a good or a poor outcome to the feedback.

When I am giving feedback I will often worry about how it will be received even though I know I want to help. I will be thinking about the feedback in terms of positive and negative and how that will make the person feel, rather than thinking about the intention of the feedback.

When I am receiving feedback, I will latch on to all that I perceive as negative, and not hear what the intention of the feedback is. I will rely on recalled memories and use the feedback as confirmation of my inability to do something. I will miss the opportunity that the feedback has offered me.

Sound familiar? Want to get more out of giving and receiving feedback? Here are 2 helpful checklists one for giving and one for receiving feedback.

Giving feedback

  • Is the purpose of the feedback to improve performance?
  • Is the content of the feedback supportive?
  • Does the feedback promote interdependence? (does it encourage the recipient to work with others to improve the outcome)
  • Is the feedback factual?
  • Does the feedback create accountability?
  • Does the feedback assume the recipient have the capacity to achieve?
  • Is the feedback being delivered in a timely manner?
  • Is the feedback yours to give?

Receiving feedback

  • Can I be generous towards the spirit in which this feedback is being offered?
  • How can this feedback enhance my performance?
  • Can I recognise and put a name to the emotions I am feeling right now?
  • Can I recognise the stories I am telling myself to justify my emotions?

We all have a responsibility to improve how we deliver and receive feedback if we want to learn the most from our experiences.

Where has the time gone

30 years ago this morning, I worked my first ever shift as a Student Nurse.

I started my Nurse training in the October, and I then spent the next 3 months in the class room with brief visits to the wards.

After a short break for Christmas I started my first placement on Ward 21 at Kingston General Hospital on 1st January 1990. I know, I can’t believe that 1990 was 30 years ago either. I was 18 and a little bit hung over (quite a lot actually), in fact I was a little bit late. I had foolishly decided to go to a New Years Eve party and thought I would be able to party on down and still manage to get up on time and feel well. The truth was I was half an hour late and felt quite poorly.

Ward 21 at Kingston General Hospital was a Medical Elderly Ward, so therefore was very busy. It wasn’t long before I was too busy to feel sorry for myself. The winter of 89/90 was a particularly bad flu season, and there was a lot of very poorly patients on the ward. My feet barely touched the floor. Now I was quite a sheltered 18 year old and had never done a hard days work in my life. My shift finished at 3:15pm and I walked a mile back to Hull Royal Infirmary, where my Nurses’ Residence was. That was a long walk I can tell you. I got into my room at about 4pm, my hangover had come back with a vengeance, so I decided to rest my head for a little while. The next thing I know I am waking up in the dark and my clock says 7:00. I say to myself no not again! I jump out of bed and start rushing round getting ready, I come out of my room with my uniform on heading to the bathroom and someone on the corridor asks what i am doing and am I not coming for a drink. It was 7pm! So yes I went for a drink, and I remembered I was on a late shift the next day anyway.

A lot has happened since then, as you would expect really in 30 years, unless my life had been extremely dull.

I am still in Hull, I still work for the NHS. I never made a conscious decision to stay in Hull, in just happened. By the time I qualified I had met Lisa, so it just felt right to stay, then we moved in together, I did my Sick Children’s Nurse training, then we got married and had the boys. I love living in Hull. I love Hull, I consider it my home, and I cannot contemplate living anywhere else. Then again I never imagined I would stop working as a Nurse (some of my colleagues my suggest I never started), but this year that is exactly what I did, so I suppose never say never, as you just don’t know what is coming next.

They say time flies when you are enjoying yourself, and I can definitely say I have had a lot of enjoyment over the past 30 years. Some sadness of course and some very difficult times, but on balance it got me exactly where I need to be right now.

Here’s to another 30!

Music that has made me smile/sometimes cry this year

As many of you will already know, music plays an important part in my life. You will also know that both my sons are musicians. Ben is in Vialetters (If you have never heard them, firstly why not? Secondly don’t worry they are on the playlist above) and Jack is in a band called SpeakEasy, they have not released anything yet but will be soon. SpeakEasy play their first gig on 26th January at The New Adelphi in Hull, feel free to pop along and support them.

Anyway music is my go to place when I am feeling emotional, and I will often make playlists to soundtrack my life. The playlist above is of songs, many of them new to 2019 that provoke emotion in me. Many of them will make me smile, some will make me sad. All of them take me away from myself for a few minutes.

This year has been an up and down year, and the songs on this playlist have been there for me throughout the year. They are all special in their own way, but none more than the songs my son plays on. They are by far my favourite songs of the year as they make me feel so proud. Next year (2020) I will have 2 bands that will make me feel this way. That makes me feel so blessed, that my sons make something that feels my heart with joy.

The best thing about music and the internet age is that I can share with you some wonderful tunes. If you don’t have spotify, look up the songs on you-tube you will be able to access them for free.

I hope are able to listen and get as much enjoyment out of this playlist as me.

Happy New Year to you all!

What are my plans for next year?

Over the past few blogs I have talked about how to create the right environment for change, and how to improve your chances of success. So I thought I would share with you what I am planning for the year ahead.

To be honest most of these plans I have started already, but I am planning on completing them or moving them on at a pace (some of them are more long term).

So here is my list for this year:

  • Continue to lose weight and reverse this pre-diabetic state
  • Complete the Strategic Coaching and Mentoring Diploma
  • Finish the Connected Living Book and start process of getting published
  • Write an internal coaching and mentoring course
  • Introduce myself to the world as a Coach, Facilitator and Motivational Speaker.

Continue to lose weight and reverse this pre-diabetic state

Well I started this journey in November and have lost about half a stone. My plan is to adjust my lifestyle and make a permanent change to how I live, rather than go on a strict diet to lose weight. As mentioned on many occasions having an away from goal such as losing weight is often doomed with failure. Having a towards to goal is much more likely to achieve success. Therefore my goal is to have a lifestyle that improves my chances of having a healthy old age and being able to enjoy being an active Grandparent for my future Grandchildren. This is a long term goal with a downward trend in weight to measure it along with 6 monthly blood tests to establish if I am reversing this pre-diabetic state. I want to hit my ideal weight of 12 stone by March 2021.

Complete the Strategic Coaching and Mentoring Course.

Again this is something that started in 2019 that will come to a conclusion in May 2020. I am just in the process of completing unit 4 of 7. There are 7 assignments all around 3500 words long, these assignments come every 6 weeks for 42 weeks, so the pace is sort of relentless. The pay off for this is that it will better place me to establish a robust coaching and mentoring culture within the organisation I work. It is giving me the insight and skills to develop a policy for coaching and mentoring and how to connect this with the strategic direction of the organisation. It will also support me with my private coaching practice, with regarding expanding my offer to more executive coaching and how executives can influence the culture of their organisation with a coaching and mentoring approach.

Finish the Connected Living book

This has been an ongoing project of my for a while now. I am over half way through the overview. So over the first half of the year I will be completing the overview, before editing and expanding the chapters for it to be ready as a finished product to share by the end of year. The next aspect then will be working out how to get it published. At the moment though I concentrating on being near finishing it before I put a lot of effort into thinking about publishing it. All I plan to do is finish writing it this year, and then getting it published in 2021. This is a labour of love, which outlines my philosophy when coaching and mentoring people, it is also a very useful guide to how to manage your life. So for all of you that have been supporting me with this, thank you and it is still a thing.

Write an internal coaching and mentoring course

This is something I will be starting from fresh in 2020. I have had some ideas and have been researching how to get it accredited (as this will inform structure and content). This will be a course for employees of the organisation I work for to support the development of the coaching and mentoring culture and ensure the ongoing growth of our coaching and mentoring network. It is going to be a tall order to get this completed and accredited in a year, however by the end of the year I plan to have a functioning and active course that is ready to be accredited. A lot of work but achievable, having a fully accredited course by the end of the year I feel is too much. But starting a pilot is very possible.

Introducing myself to the world as Coach/Facilitator/Public Speaker

This is a mindset shift for me. I am already a coach and a facilitator internally for the organisation I work for, I have also spoken at a conference internally. I am a coach externally but at a low key level. This year I want to raise my profile and reduce the hindering words I tell myself, that limit my ability to sell my skills to a wider public. I know I am a skilled communicator and have a lot of experience coaching a wide range of people. I am a highly skilled facilitator, creating a rich learning environment for the participants. The feedback I get on a consistent basis tells me this. I have also noticed my skills evolving and having had car crash sessions (both coaching and facilitating) I know what good and bad feel like. I can communicate my subject matter effectively so I know I can command an audience for a short time at a conference. Leadership, coaching, mentoring, human factors (risk management) and personal effectiveness are the areas I can speak on and facilitate with confidence. So over the next year you will be hearing a lot more from me, pushing my skills and offering my services via social media and on a one to one basis.

If you want to get in quick and hire me before I become to popular feel free to message me.

So that is my year. What are you going to be up to?

What has 2019 done for me?

2019 has been quite an eventful year. It would not be an exaggeration to say it has been an emotional roller-coaster.

My family throughout this have been my rock, in particular those 2 fine young men above, who have shown me how incredible and vital life is.

Earlier in the year (around April time) my mum became ill. Mum had never really had any serious illness before so this really shook us as a family. It made me realise how precious our time is together on this earth. To cut a long story short she is physically a lot better now, but has had to adjust her life and how she views it. Something that all of us, but more so my Mum is grappling with. I ring my her most days now, instead of once every now and then. It made me realise how important her love is to me (sorry if I made you cry Mum). Most of my spring and summer was spent travelling backwards and forwards to Mum’s. As a result spring and summer just flew by.

The summer saw Ben’s band playing two really important and big gigs. They played Hulls local festival in August and then played Bonus Arena supporting another local band (Bud Sugar). As you can suspect I cried on both occasions (tears of pride).

In September Ben left home, and moved to Manchester to start his journalism degree. That first week was so hard. What made it harder was that I realised that in another year we would be waving goodbye Jack who will be going off to University. The thought of this just feels so scary, our lives will then have changed forever. I am so proud of both my boys so Ben leaving home and Jack preparing to leave is a source of great celebration too. We have done a good job and they are an exceptional pair.

October was a double edged sword. I started my dream job as Coaching Lead and Senior Organisational Development Practitioner. This is the job that just fits my personality, I was so excited to start and then I got ill, not sure what it was, but it eventually showed that I have pre-diabetes and need to start looking after myself. So new job, and quite literally new lifestyle.

The end of October saw some happiness, as we celebrated a milestone birthday for Lisa by spending a couple of days in York, a much needed distraction and break.

That is the thing about this year and has been a year of change, especially the second half. Now don’t laugh at me, but when I was on a course the other week I had my cards read. That said I was at the beginning of a great change and all I had to do was embrace that change and start moving. Now I don’t normally pay attention to that kind of stuff but to be honest I am going with these, because that is what it feels like. This half of the year has been difficult, my mum’s illness, my illness, new job, Ben leaving home, and Jack leaving soon. My life is changing whether I like it or not my choice is to make a success of that change. Yes this year has been tough but essential, even inevitable, what I do next is vital. I could sit back and let stuff happen, or do as I have been doing and start writing my own story.

So come on 2020, what adventures shall we go on this year. I have got some ideas, lets have some fun and be remarkable.

What ever you are doing next, make it heartfelt, make sure you learn something new, make sure it is worthwhile, and if it doesn’t wok, take note make adjustments and start again. Most of all do it!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas and remember be kind

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all. I hope you all have a restorative, and fulfilling break.

Even though Christmas is about giving and sharing time with friends and family, we can often be obsessed with our own happiness and the happiness of our immediate circle. We can end up being uncivil with those that come in to contact with us. The roads are busier than normal, the shops are busier, everyone is trying to make their version of Christmas perfect, leading to us not realising the impact our behaviour is having on others. We all could benefit from an occasional pause, just to check ourselves ans slow down the last packet of sprouts or that perfect gift, getting to your destination a few minutes faster, or being on time for an event are not more important than someones well-being (both physical and mental). Is Christmas and the pursuit of one day of happiness worth that much that we are willing to sacrifice, ours and others mental health, as well as potentially ours and their physical health.

Lets remember to put all the festivities into perspective, and think of others.

Over recent years it appears kindness and civility seem to have been sidelined and divisiveness, and incivility are more and more common. Generally being rude to people around us seems normal. Suspicion and hostility to difference appear to be back on the rise, and this hostility is on all sides at times.

This atmosphere seems to be fueled by populist governments all over the world, sadly including our own, with the reasonable politicians in all political parties being sidelined, creating more and more division. It feels that we are unable to hold opposing opinions with people and still like or love them. This is so sad.

So lets make a difference this Christmas and beyond. Lets start listening to other opinions expressed. Instead of listening to judge their opinion, why not listen to understand it? We don’t have to agree, but we should understand why people hold a view different to you. If we all had the same view, the world we would never progress, we learn through challenge. If our view of the world is never challenged we would never grow. All the technology we use the societies we live in all came about through discourse. People with opposing viewpoints argued and pushed boundaries and came up with amazing ideas that shaped our world. Please lets not stifle discourse by attacking those different to us, lets listen to what they can offer.

Lets all play our part in making the world the best place it can possibly be, by showing kindness to all around us, listen to their stories and increase our understanding. That will only benefit us, rather than being suspicious and unhelpful.

Whether you are celebrating Christmas or not I hope happiness fills your lives and you can share special times with those that are important to you.

What difference do you want to make in 2020?

I cannot believe another decade has gone! They do say as you get older time goes by faster. This morning I was looking at pictures of my boys, they are now wonderful young men, where did the time go?

That brings me to what difference I want to make in 2020. My kids are getting older, therefore I am getting older. As you will remember last month I discovered that I am pre-diabetic. This being down to a poor diet and lifestyle. Therefore in 2020 I need to lose a significant amount of weight to reverse this condition.

Now I could wait until New Year and set myself a goal of losing weight. If I did this I would fail. I would for 2 reasons. Firstly if I am waiting for an occasion to start my goal, I am saying this goal is not as important as leading my current life. It suggests that this change will be denying me of something I love (eating crisps and drinking beer mainly). If I start with the premise that this change in lifestyle will be a chore it will ultimately end in failure. It removes choice from the equation.

Secondly setting a goal of losing weight is an away from goal. Away from goals are often doomed to failure. Let me give you an example. When I was a smoker I was always making attempts to give up smoking. So my goal was always to give up smoking, to leave smoking behind. See the problem is when you set an away from goal , once you have moved away it is very difficult to keep the momentum up to continue not to smoke. Smoking forms a habit that you have re-frame and develop new more compelling habits so if all you do is give up as I did, the desire to continue not smoking weakened until the desire to have a cigarette was stronger. I eventually gave up smoking by setting myself a towards to goal. I wanted to improve my health to increase my chances of being healthy enough in old age to play an active part in my future grandchildren’s lives. This kept me motivated to be a non smoker. I was not giving anything up I was choosing to be healthy.

So if there is something in your life that you would like to make different, what is stopping you from starting to make a difference now? If there are barriers how could you possibly remove those barriers? How important is it to you that you make this change? When can you start? Is it today, this week or next week? What are your reasons for making the change? Are they away from or towards reasons? I you create a future with this change in it, you are much more likely to achieve this change.

I have decided like last time that I would choose to have a healthier life, this includes eating less, eating healthier and exercising. The side effect of this is that I will lose weight. But losing weight is not the driving force, increasing my chances of having a healthier older age is the driving force, the driving force for changing my lifestyle. I am not denying myself anything, I am enabling a positive future for myself. That simple reframe makes all the difference.

So if you have something in your life that requires attention, don’t resolve to give it attention at some future time, attend to it now. Be very clear what you want, is what you want worth the investment, so will it create something better than you have now.

Making a difference for next year starts this year. It sounds easy, but it is never as straightforward as it seems. If it doesn’t work out first time, look at what didn’t work, make an adjustment and start again. The key is to remain motivated and keep checking in with what you want to achieve.

I was in a shop the other week when I was hungry. Big mistake! The desire to buy some pop and something full of fat was really strong. I nearly broke, the reason I didn’t was that I paused and gave myself a choice. I can have the chocolate bar and can of fizzy pop if I wanted or I could hold onto my hunger until I got home and have my main meal and keep on track for my future. This does take practice as it is a habit, and don’t get me wrong I do still enjoy a beer and a few salty snacks, but less of them and less often. The desire to have a healthy old age is more important and more compelling than giving in. The important message is not to deny yourself anything, but to choose and alternative that keeps you on track with your goals.

To summarise if it is worth changing, then it is worth changing now, so why wait, and be clear on your reasons and desire to make a change.

If your change is big and you want support, drop me a line and we can discuss I how can help.

What matters to you?

Here is another blog I wrote for work. I have written about self-care before but I thought I would share this more widely. Times are difficult at the moment, it is really important to pay attention to ourselves on a daily basis, to make sure we don’t get lost in all that is going on.

Winter is with us, last weekend saw the start of meteorological winter. It is dark more than it is light, the wind is biting cold, everyone is coughing and sneezing, everyone seems to be in a rush to sort Christmas, and work is hard. Working in the NHS is always hard, but it always feels harder this time of year. 

So if you consider my previous blog about how our performance is variable even though we are all trying our best. Then it is not too much of a leap to assume that during this time of year quite a number of us will not be performing at our best.

It is dark when we go to work, it is dark when we go home, we are full of cold, we are worried about Christmas and we have the pressure of an increased workload. So it is important to pay attention to ourselves and each other, to ensure we able to perform effectively to continue to deliver the excellent care we do. 

The first thing we must do is pay attention to what makes us happy on a daily basis, and are we doing those things. This does not mean adding extra stuff into your day. But recognising what you already do that makes you happy, for instance I walk my dog everyday twice a day, that time with my dog makes me happy, I talk to my mum on the phone everyday. Remember there are things that you do at work that make you happy, that might be talking to relatives, providing cares to a patient, or completing a piece of work that really makes a difference. Take a few minutes each day at the end of the day before you go to sleep and do a little inventory of all the moments in your day that made you happy, no matter how small, or how silly they may seem, after all you are the only one who needs to know what made you happy today. Notice how that makes you feel. Normally we go to bed and ruminate over what was not good (which you will also do, it is after all our default position), just spend a few moments consciously taking stock of joy. If you do this everyday it will give you more balance, and allows the light sit along side the dark, giving them equal billing in your mind.

In the morning when you wake up, and maybe feel less than enthusiastic about coming to work, spend few moments whilst getting ready just connecting yourself back up with why you do what you do. What caused you to dedicate your life to caring for people? When I ask this question, I ask it of all of you that work in the NHS, because no matter how far removed you feel from patients, everything you do makes a difference to our patients.

What matters to you?

What core value do you use everyday, that gets you to work?

What values do you have, that when you live up to them fill you with joy? 

What values do you hold than when you witness them not being lived up to, by yourself or others make you sad?

Work is a large part of our lives, it is vital that we do a job that is in line with what we value (what matters). So knowing what matters to you and how that motivates you to do the job that you helps you dig deep when work is hard and everything feels like it is against you. 

Let people know what matters to you, and ask your colleagues what matters to them. Sharing your values strengthens them, and strengthens the connection within the team. As mentioned in my previous blog it is important that we are able to support each other and hold each other to account, and this is much easier when there are strong connections within a team.

When we start looking after ourselves we become much better at caring for others

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