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.

Is Spring in The Air?

What a fantastic morning it is this morning in East Yorkshire. After such a stormy few days, wondered to myself when I was taking the the dog out, is Spring in the air?

The daffodils are blooming, there are buds on the trees, there is birdsong in the air and the sun is shining.

There is something so restorative about springtime, it signifies new life, all the trees and flowers come back to life, hibernating animals wake up, the birds start building nests and laying eggs. We all get out in the garden and start tidying, and planting, we throw open our doors and windows and start our spring clean.

Maybe we need to harness this positivity, and start making a difference in other parts of our life? Is it time to spring clean our professional life’s, or is time to start a new project?

For me spring brings new possibilities with starting my strategic coaching diploma, being halfway through my coaching supervision course, delivering clinical supervision training to nurses across the trust, and delivering my new manager as a coach programme to managers in the trust. Incidentally I have developed a a non-NHS manager as coach three day programme, that can be delivered to small groups of managers and leaders in small to medium businesses and voluntary groups. I also rolling out my connected coaching product outside of the NHS. This includes one to one coaching, workshops, short presentations, and a book. Bloody hell I am going to be busy this spring. The work outside the NHS is a little more challenging as I have spent my whole working life in the NHS. Therefore marketing is something I have never had to think about before. I am however enjoying the journey and discovering skills I didn’t know I had. So watch this space this spring both inside and outside the NHS. if you are thinking of a project and think you might benefit from a coaching critical companion approach, get in touch. If you would like me to deliver manager as a coach training, then get in touch, or if you just want a chat to exchange a few ideas then again just get in touch.

Let’s make this spring special, with all that is going on around us, we certainly need it.

The next stage of my coaching career

Today I took the next tentative steps into the part of my coaching journey. As I mentioned before in December I became the coaching lead for the NHS trust I work for. This involves developing a coaching and mentoring network throughout the organisation. This has taken me out of my comfort zone on a number of occasions, which has been wonderful if not a little scary. I feel that I have grown over the past year and months and coaching and clinical supervision have become a integral part of my professional and personal life.

As you realise I have a passion for coaching and I feel at home sat with someone having a coaching conversation or raising the awareness of a group of people about the ask/tell continuum. What I feel out of my depth with is the strategic element of integrating coaching and mentoring into the fabric of the organisation. It just seems to big for someone like me to handle. So I asked myself a couple of weeks ago, what could happen if I became the sort of person that could tackle such a big job. What would I need to do? What tools would I need? What attitude would I need?

Well I started answering those questions and today I started on that journey to being that type of person. I looked into a course that would help me raise my strategic awareness and provide me with some tools and courage to tackle such weighty high brow issues. And I found one, I secured the funding and applied. Today I was accepted onto the course. I can start at the beginning of next month.

I am doing it! Someone like me is doing it!

If you know me you know that ‘people like me don’t do things like that’ is my stock self limiting statement.

So I am doing it, I made myself vulnerable, I am scared I will fail and fall flat on my face but I started it. I am going to brave the arena so wish me luck.

A leap of faith

I don’t normally write a blog during the week, as I am usually too done in to think of anything useful to write. Tonight however I feel inspired to write a bit about my day today and to talk about an event that happened nearly a month ago, something that I found myself talking about today, with my coaching guide and friend Anthony.

Lets start with today, as that builds into the story about my adventure a few weeks ago. Today was module 2 of the internal coaching course we run and Anthony delivers for us. It is an accredited course and provides us with qualified coaches to support our workforce (these qualified coaches are also our workforce). This is the third course we have run and the second one I have supported as the coaching lead. I always find the build up to these days quite stressful and I am always anxious the night before and in the morning just before the day begins. I want coaching to take off in our Trust and become an integral part of our culture, therefore I want everyone to get the most out of the training that we offer.

I don’t fully settle until the participants are all there and Anthony is in full flow. Then I know Anthony will work his magic and we will all be inspired to get out there and coach. I make a habit of being as involved with the days as I can, so I will chip in with discussions and work with the participants during coaching practice. This often results in me being coached and today I was coached 3 times (how lucky am I) by 3 wonderful coaches. I always pick subjects that are real and all 3 sessions were related to my journey as a coach, writer, educator and speaker. As the module was on performance coaching I explored with them the blocks to my performance and how I can work round them or remove them. The major block I have is the feeling of not being good enough. Something that most of us recognise, and this inadequacy is incremental, so when you achieve the milestone that was beyond your reach, you tell yourself that is the limit and there is no way you can achieve the next goal. This for me is writing my book, being paid to speak at events, and joining up clinical supervision in our trust with coaching to create a seamless supportive network for all staff at all grades. All of this seemed just beyond my grasp. But after they had skillfully questioned me and raised my self-awareness, I started to piece together some action plans and recognise what I had already done to start this journey. It also became obvious to me what I do when I am passionate about achieving something, I trust my ability and take a leap of faith. My journey with coaching so far has involved a leap of faith, or as Brene would put it ’embracing my vulnerability’.

That brings me nicely onto the story of my adventure around a month ago. I may have mentioned this before, but it fits nicely with taking that first plunge into uncertainty. I had been invited to speak to my local Rotary Club during their weekly meeting, about what I do. I eagerly agreed and set to putting together a killer presentation on connected living. I must say the presentation looked fantastic. Now when it came to the day of the talk I had second thoughts about the presentation, it just didn’t feel right, I was worried that it would go on too long, so on the way to the venue I thought about the conversation I had, had with the member of the club who had invited me. She had mentioned that they had done some work on visioning but had not really progressed anything into meaningful action. So I decided to ditch the presentation (probably). When I got to the venue, my mind was made up, the room was not suitable for a Powerpoint.

I sat through the meal making small talk with the President and the other members on my table, whist trying not to look too terrified, then I had to sit through the meeting trying to hold back the feeling of nausea I was experiencing. Eventually I was up. Can I say at this point, what a wonderful bunch of people they were. They were so friendly and welcoming. At that point however I did not see them like that, they all for a moment seemed very sceptical. Perhaps they could smell my fear and were just waiting for the car crash of a talk to begin. I started with a brief introduction and that I was going to coach them, now they looked really sceptical. Then I asked them the first question and they were off. I think I asked them about 5 questions in total and they did the rest. Within 30 minutes they had a plan, and they had even managed to explore some potential pitfalls they might experience and how they would manage them. It was quite remarkable to watch. Coaching in action. Just before I asked that first question, I did not know which way that talk was going to go. I decided to trust myself and make that leap of faith. If I hit the rocks, I would have felt embarrassed and very silly, but I would get over it. I jumped anyway and ended up in deep water. Sometimes you have just got to put faith in yourself and take the plunge if you ever want to change how you do things. Being coached today reminded me that I have done this before and it paid off, so why not keep doing it, especially for the big things. So watch this space.

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HARD Goals

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Today I was delivering Clinical Supervision training with the wonderful Janis Hostad. So yes it was a good day full of fun and challenge (I love co-delivering with Janis).

Anyway that is not the reason for this blog, although one day I might do a blog on working with Janis, as it is so much fun. Back to the reason for the blog.

So we were discussing goal setting and the use of SMART goals, whilst using the TGROW model. Janis suggested that there is a place for another M when encouraging teams to set their goal, with M being their motivation to deliver the goal. So what drives the team to keep them striving to achieve the goal once the initial excitement dies down.

That got me thinking about another acronym that I had read about and I think even blogged about somewhere that got the client to set HARD goals. Now when I was describing it I got the A and the R wrong mixing them up with those used in a SMART goal.  When I got home this evening I looked up HARD goals and found the correct use of A and R.

When we set goals it is easy just to go through the motions and play lip service to SMART, because it’s comfortable and never really gets you to examine your commitment to the goal. As a coach I generaly avoid SMART, other than pinning the client down to a time frame. Re-examining HARD has made me think, that is more what I do in a clunky, kind of roundabout way. It makes you examine what you want to achieve, why you want to achieve it and what is required from you to get there. Below I outline what a HARD goal is. See what you think, give it a go and consider if it makes a difference to your commitment to achieving your goal.

Heartfelt: write down at least 3 reasons why you want to achieve your goal.

Animated: When you describe your goal does it come to life? Do you find it easy to go into great detail about what you goal is, what it looks like, feels like, sound like, even smell like? Does your heart beat faster?

Required: what is required for you to achieve the goal? What needs to be achieved for you to say you have reached your goal?

Difficult: What new skills will you need to acquire to be able to achieve your goal?

Even when I write it out, it excites me, and start thinking about the goals I have, and I started thinking about what I need to do, I then get excited thinking about what it will be like achieving, and before that how exciting my journey is on my way to my goals.

Make you goals HARD goals, they are so much better than those boring stale SMART goals.

A Special Week

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As many of you will be aware the Hospital where I work has a coaching network that I have been coordinating since it’s start in March. Up until Thursday this was a temporary arrangement. However the hospital have made that co-ordinating role permanent and on Thursday I was interviewed for and offered the role, so providing my references are satisfactory, I will be running the network on a permanent basis. Wayhay! This is basically my dream job. It is part-time so I am still a nurse educator for 3 days. So I get paid to support people, to help them do their jobs well, and help them fulfill their dreams. What is not to love.

Thursday was such an important day for me, and I didn’t realise quite how important it was until I had got home. I have not stopped grinning since I was told that I was successful.

This coaching journey started for me about 6 years ago when I was sent on a Clinical Supervision Course, run by my now good friend and mentor Janis Hostad. I remember sitting in the classroom with my arms folded, really not wanting to be there. I was a ward manager at the time and had better things to do with my time than sit in a classroom for 3 days listening to this. My negativity lasted about an hour. Once Janis and her co-facilitator Lorna started my interest was piqued and by lunchtime I was completely hooked. I liked these people, I thought, they speak my language. The message throughout the 3 days was work with staff by showing empathy and compassion, and to ask rather than tell.

I then went back to my then day job and found it hard to keep that spark of inspiration going whilst stuck in the daily grind of managing a ward, where the predominant culture at the time was command and control.

Eventually I found my way to the Nurse Educator role, and took up an opportunity offered to my by my new boss (for 2 days a week) to undertake a coaching course taught by Anthony Owen another  friend and mentor. It was as if someone had turned a light on in my head. Starting this reignited my passion for what I now call coaching. For the whole of the first day I grinned all day. It was as if I had been reunited with my long-lost tribe. I was at home with coaching.

This time the role I was in and the changing culture of the organisation allowed me to keep this passion for coaching going and actually turn it into something useful. I was actively coaching and making an impact on how people approached their work. My passion was so evident that Lucy asked me to support her and her team to set up a coaching network and support the running of the coaching course I had done. Luckily my boss (Nursing) is very supportive of me and after working with me for nearly 20 years, understands me (thank you Vanessa).

In March this year we launched the coaching network and welcomed my first (our second) cohort of coaches onto the coaching course, with the inspirational Anthony delivering the course. I don’t think I had been as stressed as I was on the first day of that course. Everyone turned up and everyone enjoyed it, so eventually I relaxed and trusted myself and the capacity of all of those involved.

Then out of the blue Janis contacted me and asked me to support the clinical supervision training as Lorna was retiring and the hospital wanted to offer clinical supervision to all of our nurses. A working group had been put together to plan this but Janis needed support to deliver the training and train more trainers. Reconnecting with Janis was wonderful, it felt so comfortable. She has this ability to make me feel safe, and challenged all at the same time. When we get together I can feel the energy in the room. I love working with her. We are now delivering clinical supervision training to nurses and supporting new trainers to help deliver this training. In fact we are delivering training next with the wonderful Becky and Wendy joining us, I cannot wait.

So that brings me to this week. So on Monday I said hello to our next coaching cohort, and what a wonderful, caring, supportive group of people they are. It was great to be working with Anthony again especially just before my interview. He gave me the confidence to sell myself, to dare greatly, to provide an insight to the panel what they would be getting if they invested in my as the coaching lead on a permanent basis.

This is why Thursday was so important to me, it has confirmed for me that what I do is important. It confirmed that if you follow your passion, you can achieve it. I remember saying to Anthony and Janis separately a few months ago that I felt I was on the verge of something. They both looked at me a bit strangely and said (on different occasions). ‘You have already set off.’

Never dismiss your dreams, and aspirations. A decade ago I felt trapped in a job I felt disengaged from. 10 years on I am doing a job I love, all by changing the way I think and working to my strengths. It is possible to change your direction, the first thing you need to do is get a new map of your world.

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Mind The Gap

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Below is a blog I wrote this morning for my coaching network blog at work. I have adjusted it slightly to make it more generic and accessible for people who work outside the NHS. I liked so I thought a slightly wider audience might like it too.

This week I have been preparing for an interview, for the Coaching Lead role. During this preparation I starting thinking about my values and those of the hospital. This got me thinking about how often I really examine the hospital’s values. When I do an appraisal I look at the values and talk to the member of staff about how their work reflects the hospital’s values, but I rarely examine what they mean to me and whether or not I really live up to these values on a daily basis. That then got me thinking about times where I have seen a gap between these values and the behaviours I see around the hospital, from all grades of staff, including myself. If you take account and think about it yourself, do you show Care, Honesty and Accountability everyday at work, or do you get caught up in the busyness, complexity, and stress of work. That drive to get things done within a timeframe to a certain standard, can often get in the way of these values, and we ignore them to enable us to get the job done. So we don’t always show care towards each other, we can let our mood show, we do not always own up to mistakes for fear that people want show us care and won’t blame us, we can blame others for shortcomings. It is sort of vicious cycle, that if left unchecked we can rapidly get sucked into. Our intentions are honourable, we want to get the job done and do our best, but our methods are not as effective as they should be.

Before you fall into a pit of despair, all is not lost. We are all still good, kind, caring people. Where ever we work we want to make a difference. We just need to pay attention to our values and challenge ourselves to live up to them. We have to ‘Mind The Gap’.

Recently I have discovered the work of Brene Brown, she is an American Researcher, with a background in social care. She specialises in personal, social and organisational leadership, through compassion and empathy. So for anyone who knows me, she is right up my street. Through her research Brene developed a checklist that you can use to check yourself against when you are working with others, whether they be staff that you manage, your colleagues or your patients. She calls it BRAVING

Boundaries; Have you set you own boundaries and made them clear to all those around you? This is what you accept and what you will not accept. Do you respect other’s boundaries

Reliability; Do you do what you say you are going to do? Do you turn up when you say you will?

Accountability; When things go wrong do you own up to your part in it? Do you look for ways to correct it? Do you take credit for when your actions work?

Vault; Do you keep confidences? Do you not engage in gossip, that highlights others failures or shortcomings

Integrity; Do you choose courage over comfort? Do you choose to do what is right over what is fun? Do you practice your values rather than just profess them?

Non-Judgement; Can you ask for what you need, and listen to what others need?  Can you sit down and talk with them about what you think and feel without judgement?

Generosity; Do you extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words and actions of others?

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I invite you to copy this checklist and periodically, check yourself against it.

It is normal to not live up to our values when we are under pressure, it is however our responsibility that we attempt to keep ourselves in check and ensure we do not widen the gap between our common values and our behaviours.

If you are a manager, it is more important than ever to ‘Mind The Gap’. In addition to BRAVING I urge you all to seek out a coach to help you narrow the gap.