#AdventBlogs – A bit of wild writing

Its Friday the 13th, and the morning after a General Election. I’m writing this paragraph a few days earlier and I wonder what kind of government we are awaking to?  One thing that isn’t changed though is the quality of the Advent Blogs series, which continues to amaze me.

At home, today is the EPIC Xmas Lunch. Of course, its just the two of us, my wife and I, and we are going to a nearby country pub for a three course meal. Running your own business is something we both enjoy doing, but taking time out of it to spend with each other, at what is a difficult time for our family, is much needed.

Today’s post is from Craig Kaye, who you can find on Twitter as @ThatCraigKaye.  My interactions with Craig have been, again, almost entirely on social media and I feel I know him well from these.   Craig works as an L&D Advisor at Mitie, and describes himself as an experienced Learning Professional who has led cultural change activities, staff engagement, national programmes, leadership development, reflective practice sessions, coaching pathways, creating evaluative structures and a variety of professional developmental workshops.   That said, its obvious from his writing and social media output that these impressive experiences come a distant second to being a husband to his wife Jenny and a father to their son Oscar, as indeed they should.

Over to Craig:


Having read some of the blogs which Gary has brilliantly curated and authors passionately written I thought to myself how I can complete a blog which pays justice to the series title whilst adding my own spin on things.

I don’t know?

I guess I’ll wild write, a concept introduced to myself by the inspiring Julie Drybrough, I’ll write the first things which come into my head, without edit and share with you.

I’m stumped – simply by the word ‘prepared.’ Don’t get me wrong I get it, it’s just when I reflect on difficult times in my life, I have been very unprepared. The moments of loss, challenge and struggle have all been very reactive on my part. Playing with the cards I’m dealt with rather than shuffling the deck. There have been hands I’ve played I’m proud of such as being the best father I can be to our little Oscar Bear and the best husband I can be to my beautiful wife Jenny. However, there have been times when the hand I played wasn’t my finest such as how I responded to our miscarriage, when I internalised all my thoughts and emotions or earlier in my career when I put work before everything else in the attempt to get ‘that’ promotion. – becoming a father changed all that.

Would I sooner gain ‘that’ promotion or see Oscar getting excited about another family trip to Disneyland Paris? – Oscar 100%. Would I sooner get ‘that’ great feedback from the meeting I chaired or share a Chinese Takeaway with my Wife? Load up the Just Eat App.

Are these choices binary? – No. In fact when I reflect the end of my binary, presenteeism type thinking was when I became a much stronger, person centred learning professional.

What changes have I prepared for? Two professional ones spring to mind.

I prepared to leave the role of a Service Manager of a Charity in supporting Vulnerable Adults and their families to purpose a new national role in Learning and Development. I hadn’t even considered this however my former manager (the brilliant @Jo_Coaches) had a brief chat with me to consider whether I would apply for a new facilitator type role. I was flattered, but it wasn’t the right time. I just wrote a new Volunteer Programme and wanted to see the impact it would have. I didn’t apply.

Yet the thought was there, and I had missed my opportunity. I kept checking the internal online vacancies – no joy. When the chance had gone I started appreciating L&D a lot more, actively taking more opportunities to discuss progression with my team.

I started delivering more training and workshops and started trying to make my service manager role one which contained a lot of learning and development. Fortunately another role later came up in Jos team – I applied. I was successful.

I was in the role for 3 happy years, but then I wanted to see how these skills I obtain would take in a new field. An opportunity came up to work with a multimillion-pound business as a Learning and Development Advisor. I loved working in the charity sector, but I decided that I needed to make this move for me, to progress more and experience new challenges. I presented to a panel my ways of working, ways important to me professionally and personally and what I would bring. This style was direct, yet positive – creative yet progressive and was full of feedback received from many colleagues over many years. I was offered the role I said yes.

Where am I now?

Well I’ve recently been promoted to the role of a Team Leader in a brilliant Behavioural Skills Team, Oscar is still wanting to go back to Disneyland and I’m currently on a train down to London next to a group of tourists who just like getting trains to places they’ve never been before. I’m tilting my screen away as I write this line as they can see.

Sorry I digress.

I come back to the term preparedness. I don’t know if I’ll ever be the most prepared but what I do know is that I reflect from my life experiences whether they be professionally or personally and try and take what I can from them.

I suppose in a strange way …… saying goodbye to my anxious presenteeism is the moment I prepared for.

I hope you enjoyed my wild writing and please follow my new Twitter Handle @ThatCraigKaye 


Craig’s stab at wild writing is an interesting one, and the technique has some distinct advantages. Here it has enabled him to explore a variety of different topics all within the same theme, and it is good to see him reflect on the choices he has made, all of which have prepared him for where he is now, whether planned consciously in advance or not.

Till next time…

Gary.

#AdventBlogs – Ending, Returning and Beginning

Today is obviously an important day for the UK as we head to the polls for the latest General Election. Its a day that will shape the future of this country for possibly many years to come, and feels like a bigger election than some previously. We, however, continue with our Advent Blogs series regardless and have lots of good posts lined up.

At home, I’m currently still away but heading home later and thankfully its the last time my work takes me away from home for around six weeks – and a lot of that time I’m not working either, which for lots of reasons is a good thing – something I’ll explore in a later post perhaps.

Today’s post is from Kez Smith, who you can find on Twitter as @HR_Kez – and who I’ve always enjoyed talking to whenever I’ve met her, though I feel I know her better via our social media interactions.  Kez works at TMSDI, where she has been for 22 years (which suggests it really is a work family), working as the Ops Manager. She also volunteers for the CIPD as events coordinator for the North Yorkshire branch and until recently helped to organise the NAP Conference. Kez also volunteers for and supports her local RSPCA Branch (most branches are independent and have to raise their own funds to keep going). She is, most obviously, a big advocate of kindness and doing the right thing. She loves animals, has a rescue dog called Sheba and an angel dog Savannah (in her Twitter pic), and likes nothing better than a good walk on the beach – something I share, as nothing beats the sound and smell of the sea.

Over to Kez:


I last wrote an advent blog in 2017, reflecting on our miscarriage and our learning to help others going through the awful experience (1 in 4 pregnancies end in mc – so it’s likely we all know someone who has suffered this pain). 

 

This year’s theme struck a chord for me as we’ve had a couple of big endings in our house this year.

 

2019 has seen the end of the fibroids that caused our mc and now the beginning of another new leg of that journey. If ever we’d needed reminding that life is not just one journey with one beginning and one end, this experience has been it – we take each leg one at a time, not knowing what its end will look like, only knowing if we don’t start it then we’re going to need to take a different route in life. Mostly our plan is to stick together whatever, sometimes that’s as much planning as you can do and is where we’re at now.

 

The end of the latest leg took major surgery and until the day my surgeon wasn’t exactly sure what he’d need to do – he planned for several scenarios…we weren’t sure what news I’d wake up to. As well as all the medical planning and appointments beforehand, it was also preceded by lots of preparation for me at work and at home. Planning for the best case of return and the worst case of not gave for some confusing mixed emotions, happy that finally this leg would soon be over, so scared for if it went wrong – if you know anyone facing major surgery they’ll probably be feeling this too. The end results of that included a detailed work cover plan, lists of stuff I thought I could do from home, broad plans of my return, buying of random items just in case they’d help recovery, a dog walking rota for lunchtimes and a Will.

 

I had lots of support and care from my better half Ian, family and friends. But also care from my GP, the skills of an amazing consultant/surgeon, care from the team at York Hospital inc some very special HCAs and Jess who was simply the best nurse, and from my @TMSDI work family. And 8 weeks off work most of which were spent wearing some not so glamorous TED socks to help avoid blood clots (not a good look for summer!), and hobbling around feeling useless and exhausted, and eating far too much get well chocolates.

 

Looking back, that support from lots of amazing kind people makes me wonder what the experience would have been like without it. I know I am lucky when I read on FB support groups about others who aren’t getting the same levels of care and support at home, work or even from their local NHS. 

 

For me, the question this raises is what are we each doing to ensure that the people in our lives, at work or at home, feel supported in whatever they are doing or enduring – whether they are at the start, middle or end of something. Always important but especially so at this time of year when the pressure to be happy and get in to the spirit of the festive season can be too much to bear for some people.

 

The way we do things can make a massive difference to someone, we can all choose to be kind – Nurse Jess demonstrated that on numerous occasions in her actions, and the way she approached things was very different to the other nurses, particularly one who was more interested in ticking boxes. We all have the power to be kind and empathetic in all parts of our life; and some have the power to greatly influence policy and culture in organisations – are those policies/cultures supportive and caring, or rule bound and ‘cold’? 

 

I’m fortunate to have an understanding employer, we have a culture of care and trust. That meant my phased return to work wasn’t thwart with hurdles, I was trusted to come up with a plan that worked for me to get me back to work full time in the easiest way possible. Without that trust I think my return to work would have been at least a month later, and definitely harder. 

 

It’s still not been easy returning after so long away, there are days I’ve felt like I was a new starter on my first day; getting my brain to work again, learning what had changed,  feeling like I was walking through my work days when everyone else was sprinting was often quite overwhelming. I want to remember those feelings and draw on them when planning what we do for new starters in the future or others returning from long term absence.

 

And that links to the other ending for us this year and a new beginning. 

 

Ian completed 24 years service in the Army in the summer, and has started work as a ‘civvy’ for the first time in his life. Lots of courses and planning preceded his ‘retirement’ but I don’t think anything can really prepare someone for how it feels to move from the military family to civvy street. He could work with anyone in the forces, from countries all around the world, and know he could trust them from day one – imagine completely trusting a colleague with your life before you know of them, not just before you’d even met.

 

He’s just completed 12 weeks’ training for his new career and as I write this he’s in his first week with his new team. This followed a short spell elsewhere in an organisation that really missed out when their induction process failed him in spectacular fashion, his resilience got him through that thankfully, but it could have been very different.

 

Supporting him through such a massive career transition has highlighted 2 things for me where I feel some could do better, planning not just for the end but also for the beginning. 

 

1) recruitment: we need to see past ‘soldier’ and recognise the leadership skills, resilience, trust, integrity and heaps of transferable skills/experience that £thousands have already been invested in. Earlier this year someone told me they’d never interview ex forces because they’re ‘just soldiers’ – really??!!

 

2) induction – one size fits all? No! Obviously there is core standard stuff to cover, but we need to look deeper at what a new team member needs, consider what their background/experience is. Personalising certain aspects could be the difference between them succeeding and bringing value to their new organisation or failing (a failure that can have a massive negative impact on mental health). If we’re going to do more than legally comply when it comes to Equality and D&I, we need to do better, remembering it isn’t just about protected characteristics. The things we take for granted in our workplace may be alien to a new starter, they may never have had a job, they may never have worked in civvy street, they’ve never worked in your organisation before, they may never have worked in your industry, they may be new to the type of work they’ve been recruited for, and they don’t ‘know’ the people they’re working with – that doesn’t mean they can’t succeed, but please let’s not set them up to fail. 

 

And so, for us 2020 will be all about new beginnings and travelling new legs of our journey. Another year full of learning I’m sure…

 

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas full of kindness, and a happy and healthy 2020. 


 

This is a post that touches on a wide range of important issues, from endings, transitions and beginnings – which are all obviously part of the same cycle. Its good to hear how Kez has prepared for her own endings and new beginnings, and how she has support around her to help with transitions between them. Its also interesting to hear how Ian has experienced some of these things, how we need to give more support to people experiencing a kind of end and a kind of new beginning and ot help them make the most of these things.

Till next time…

Gary

#AdventBlogs – Endings take care of themselves

Contributions are still coming in for this years series and it’s my intention to publish them all, going past Xmas if needs be until we run out of posts.

Today, and tomorrow, I’m away working in London. I try whenever I’m in London to do a couple of things. One is to go for a 10k run along the Thames. It’s tough dodging around people on the South Bank and that hits my speed, but I enjoy the run and it’s one of my favourite routes. The second is to try to get to an evening event of some kind and meet up with people, because I get lonely on my own, and so tonight I’m heading to a CIPD London networking event in Whitehall, once I’ve finished my run. It’ll be the last time I’m in London for about ten weeks having been here almost every week since September.

Today’s post is from Bina Briggs, who is on Twitter as @PlainTalkingHR. Bina is another of those who I’ve never met but feel, through interactions on social media, that I know her well. She is the owner of Plain Talking HR and has run that business for over ten years, having held other HR and non HR roles through her career. Bina is an incredibly positive and supportive person, someone who I can’t imagine ever saying or thinking anything negative. The support she has given to both my wife and I this year at different junctures of our difficult year, despite not knowing either of us well, is both gratefully appreciated and also unsurprising given her personality.

Over to Bina:

 


 

Where do I start? Usually my Advent Blog is all about the festive season and of course the love and joy it brings with it. This year’s subject had me flummoxed a bit, however, here goes.

On last Saturday, I attended a funeral of a community elder whom I’d known for some years. I had held some conversations with her at regular community events. Yet the eulogy read by her daughter made me realise how little I knew of her, the fantastic, loving, brave, humorous, adventurous, pious and principled woman she had been. It was one of the most touching, serene and dignified funerals I’d been to. I kept thinking afterwards of what was prepared for her end.

I can’t say I’ve ever prepared for any kind of an end in a big way except perhaps when my Mum passed away and even then, it wasn’t what I had expected. It happened too soon. 12 months shrunk to 6. I was the only one with her at the end, holding her hand at 5 am in the morning, I had just taken over from my sister to be with Mum. The Diwali and New Year weekend had become quite surreal, nothing like our usual festive one. It was spiralling away fast and yet it was kind of in a slow motion. Even after 16 years, every detail is etched on my mind. The breathing was erratic and soon after at 5.15, she breathed her last breath. I was calm, looked at her bedside clock to note the time, kissed her on the forehead and then went to wake up my sister. The shock and grief hit me later on that morning which lasted for a very long time. After about 5 years I could hold a conversation about Mum without crying.

Life has been one of many episodes of an end to something which I could describe loosely as a life event, however, at the same time, in the earlier days, I hadn’t recognised the fact that every time when an end was imminent , a new door had already opened for me to step through to something bigger and better. So, Idi Amin decided to throw out Asians from Uganda in 1972 and my family and I arrived in the UK, a new life started. I left my first job in a company called Courtline to join BT, about 2 months before Courtline collapsed. When hubby and I decided to try our luck in France by resigning from BT, BT brought out the first management release programme and so we grabbed that opportunity by both hands. Unfortunately, the housing market collapsed, we couldn’t sell our house and so I found a job just up the road at the airport in HR, made a career out of it, loved it until my time was up there too. Yet again, another door had already opened for me and I became a consultant and shareholder partner in Plain Talking HR.

Life has been interesting to say the least, never in a million years did I think it would be as it is now but then, one thing that has been constant in my life is the people in my life. Loving, giving, being there for me. 

In the last 2 years, I feel that I have woken up, I know my purpose in life and that it’s been a good life after all. 

2019 has been fantastic in so many ways. 2019 started as always, seeing the new year in with hubby and champagne, watching the Big Ben on TV and the fireworks in London, ringing up sister and family to wish them a Very Happy New Year. Then on the 2nd of Jan, flew out to India to see the extended family. This time, everything went smoothly, not a single episode of upset stomach or illness. I was totally chilled when I got back to the UK, I had  my Plain Talking HR (PTHR) team look after things whilst I was away. To be honest, it has continued in the same vain throughout the year. I have been chilled and one of the best years for the business, finalist in 2 national awards, lots of happy holidays with hubby and friends and things just falling in place. 

People, as I had said earlier have been pivotal in my life and the year has been exceptionally generous in giving me lovely clients, collaborators, reuniting me with some very special friends after a few years of separation and actually having deep, meaningful conversations with lots of family and friends. Oh, and I do have a VERY BIG Extended Family and luckily most of them are on social media, 75 and counting…… 😊

There’s a lot to smile about, to be happy and a whole load to be grateful for. I am very lucky.

Am I prepared for the end to this year and this decade? I’d say, in my own way, yes, because I know it’s going to be a good one. I know I’m being looked after so of course, it’s going to be good in every way. Why wouldn’t it be? It always works out; most times better than I can imagine. xx

 


 

Bina has took the opportunity here to reflect on not just the end of her year, but the end of the entire decade. She rightly reflects on the highs she has experienced, and she raises an interesting point about endings coming frequently and that more often than not they work out well. Does this suggest planning isn’t necessary and going with the flow is the secret?

Thanks to Bina for this.

Till next time…

Gary

#AdventBlogs – Planning for endings

What continues to amaze me about the Advent Blogs series is how people interpret the theme. Endings clearly have multiple meanings for the contributors, and today we continue to explore this.

If you’d like to contribute, there is still time. Get in touch however you can.

At home, I’m not working today, part of my commitment to have at least 2, if not more, days off a month, plus the odd couple of hours here and there. Today you’re likely to find me at soft play with my youngest son, which will be a short burst of happiness in an otherwise tough time.

Today’s post is from David Hayden, who you can find on Twitter as @HaydenDavidHRD, and is someone who I’ve met on lots of occasions and have had the pleasure to work with a few times. David works for the CIPD as Digital Learning Portfolio Manager (L&D), but has held numerous L&D roles throughout his career including working freelance for a while. David lives in Doncaster with his family, and is a keen runner, something we talk about often and is a feature of his post below.

Over to David:

 


 

I am part of a running club and 1st December 2019 was our annual Christmas 10k run followed by a Christmas meal and social event.  It is a great opportunity to get to know other members of the club as well as celebrate the achievements of members for the past year. The 10k run was through the trails of Sherwood Forest, the legend of Robin Hood and the Major Oak playing a huge feature in the route.  Sherwood Forest was a place we took the kids a lot from being tots to well into their teens, they loved it, they loved doing some of the organised activities with the rangers there and going to the annual Robin Hood festival.  We cycled most of the trails around the forest, so the run brought back lots of great family memories, each turn and hill offering the opportunity to go back momentarily in time, a bike ride here and a walk there….

My youngest is now 25, and she is a part of the running club, in fact it was her joining that persuaded me to join!  On the coach back to Doncaster after the run and meal, she was talking to one of the founder members of the club who has been having a rough time of it lately with getting back to running after a series of injuries.  He was a ‘racer’, someone who really went for every race he entered and was highly competitive.  He is finding it hard to adjust to, in his words “taking it steady and being at the back”.  

My daughter was offering lots of encouragement, and her words were really a joy to hear, she spoke of how she had gained much from his own encouragement when she first joined the club, and the words of support he had offered her when she had injuries, she said how valuable his contribution would be if he kept sharing that with new people to the club, and how much it would be missed if he decided to leave the club.  The passion she had in her voice was from the heart, and I have to say I had a smile or two of fatherly pride that brought a little tear to the eye and helped me reflect on my own 2019.

2019 has been a bit of a rollercoaster for me – some fab highs and a health issue that left a deeper rumble than thought which itself had an impact on my own running.  I love running, running gives me a huge sense of achievement, it can be hugely frustrating at times, but overall it offers me time to think, time to make my own sense of the world and allows me to be creative in working out issues.  I also value running with others including my wife and with the club.   Not being able to run for a huge chunk of 2019 was starting to have a negative impact on my thinking.  I was finding it difficult to process the good bits that were happening around me.  There was lots of encouragement from others: “you’ll soon get back into it” they would say “you will be back before you know it” and “you will come back stronger as a result”.  I was comforted and frustrated in equal measure – I was desperate to get back into my running shoes.

Just as I started to get back into some sort of running shape, one of my highest highs in 2019 occurred.  I gained a new role.  This wasn’t planned in the sense I didn’t look for a job and apply for it, the role came about as part of a wider reorganisation at work that started around about late spring and was finalised mid-September.  The changes have meant that as we head to the last month of 2019 there is a lot of balancing going on, working out my previous role commitments, ensuring they are honoured, as well as working on the first big exciting project of the new role.  This has been a massive challenge and has been going on for two months already.  The end of December will see this calm down and from January I can fully focus on my new role.  Running has certainly helped with balancing the demands and using the time to work out priorities.

The new role means there is a huge shift in the client base I will interact with and be accountable to, and the impact of the new role has a much wider scope. I am massively energised by the task ahead, but it is hard work at the moment ensuring the balance of both roles and remembering that outside of work I have other commitments and demands on my time.  

What I am leaving behind with the old role are a number of products that I am really proud to have been associated with, and products that reach a brilliant audience, and client base that is engaged with, and receptive to, the approach taken.  There are some members of that group who have become parts of my own personal learning network, and some who have gone on to become good friends.  Looking back, I am proud of the achievements in that role and the work I have done.  The role has provided me with a huge sense of energy and at times the confidence to challenge working practices to make the experience for my client base the best it can be. 

I thought I would be sadder to leave the role, but actually it feels right, it feels like it is time to move on, to stretch me and take me to the next level.  Just as my daughter was offering words of encouragement for the refocus of one of our running club founder members, I too found words of comfort about refocus.  The planning for the end of my running drought was to consider the races I wanted to do in 2020, was to think about my running routine, was to think about wider running goals, so rather than moping about what I couldn’t do, focus on what I wanted to do.  And with work, whilst the balance is hard, it is the planning that the old role will be ‘closed’ with minimal impact and giving thought to what. I want to achieve in the new role.

Planning for me covers a wide range of things, from specific goals to having an open mindset.  The latter has helped me through the lows of 2019 and no doubt will help me through any tough times that may show themselves in the future. 

PS – my fellow runners were right – a trail 10k in a time of 50mins 30 seconds – a whole minute on that course better than 2018’s run!! A huge buzz and I gave a conscious nod back to the frustration of summer this year!

 


 

David explores some interesting issues here. Sadness at leaving one role behind mixed with excitement at starting a new one is something I’m familiar with, but David is right to point out the need to plan this properly, to have an orderly end and transition, something not everyone gets right. His career move has prompted an element of refocus that has extended to his running career, and its great to see him ready to take on new challenges.

Thanks to David for this.

Till next time…

Gary

#AdventBlogs – It’s time…

As we continue through our second week of Advent Blogs I’m struck by the sheer quality but also range of ways to explore our chosen theme. The beauty of the theme is that it provokes a variety of responses from people and they can explore it in whichever way they choose.

At home, I’m preparing for a couple of days away this week which if I’m honest I don’t want to do. I’m never comfortable being away from home but right now, in my personal life, being away from home is the last thing I need. Somehow I’ll find a way to get through it and hope that I find everything in the same state as I leave it.

Today’s post is from Alex Killick, who you can find on Twitter as @killick_alex – another person who I have not yet met in real life but feel that I know very well through interactions on social media.  Alex is a husband, father, dog owner, amateur cyclist, sport, music, architecture, and art enthusiast. He was until recently Director of People at Glasgow Caledonian University and has many years Executive Director experience in a variety of highly unionised and complex environments including the NHS and Scottish Government. In addition, he has served on many Boards as an external advisor or in a non-executive capacity. He is always striving to create the conditions to help get people in the right place.

Over to Alex:


 

2019 has been, to borrow from Charles Dickens, ‘’the best of times, it has been the worst of times. it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, the epoch of incredulity….’’, and while this could refer to the surreal sitcom that is British politics or the ups and downs of Tottenham Hotspur, it feels equally apposite on a personal level as I reflect on the year just gone and the one ahead.

I kicked my year off with my first ever ‘sick note’.   One Monday, after a February weekend of feeling unusually under the weather and my usual (very) early start to the working week I was blue lighted to hospital with a scary case of sepsis.  I was lucky in that it was caught in time and I had fantastic care from my GP, the Scottish Ambulance Service and our local hospital.  After a week of hospital gowns and IV’s I was able to go home to convalesce.

Time, they say, is a great healer. And ‘they’ are right. For the first time in thirty years I was able to take my foot off the gas, to focus on the important rather than the urgent. At work, my team were fantastic, and this enabled me to concentrate on getting well. I was quickly able to substitute anxiety and loss of control for relief and a relative calm that the team had everything in hand. I didn’t realise but I had been given a gift, the gift of time.

Time with my daughter that has given us a stronger bond. We have been able to do things together that just would not have happened otherwise. We wrote and illustrated a short story which is unlikely to make the Booker Prize list but was a joy to create. Time for school drop offs and pick-ups, time for table tennis and time to play guitar together.

Time to spend with my ailing 3-legged Tibetan Terrier, Desmond, who sadly had to be put down a month after my illness, meant I was able to say goodbye. I was also able to say hello and be the primary parent to Wilbur, a very cute but boisterous Tibetan Terrier puppy, who has filled the void in our lives. Time consuming but so rewarding too.

Time to nourish what Arianna Huffington calls the Fourth Instinct, a recognition that life is shaped from the inside out – not by our jobs, our ambitions, and our to-do lists. We all want meaning in our lives.  For me it is time with the people I love. I am looking forward to the simple pleasures of family and friends at Christmas and treating my wife to lunch out on her birthday.

Time to look ahead. While I might care about whether Mauricio or Mourinho should be at the helm at Tottenham Hotspur or what colour of flag should be flying on 12 December, in the end I cannot control either. What I can control is how I respond and where I choose the invest my energy and attention. It may be the age of foolishness and the epoch of incredulity, but I have hope that the next generation will make a better job of running the world than we have. My nine-year-old has already scored each family member’s relative environmental performance and secured pledges for next year!

Time to reflect on what next. So, after nearly eight great years in my current role, and nearly thirty years in senior HR roles I have decided that it is time for me to move to my next chapter. Time to focus on my development – to crack on with my Professional Doctorate which has barely made it off the starting grid. I have also just completed the Institute of Directors Accelerated Certificate in Direction as I prepare the ground for new and different opportunities in 2020. Exciting and scary. It’s time for me to take a step into the unknown, invest in the future, to live in the present and not get stuck the past.

I have been lucky. I have had the opportunity to turn a negative into a positive. I have had time. Time to heal, time to think, time to play, time to care, time to learn, time to nourish the soul, time to live. An ending is often a beginning. Next year may be even better. A new decade with more wisdom than foolishness and more belief than incredulity. Here’s hoping. It’s time.


This is a great reflection on how endings can be turned into positive beginnings and a new start. It teaches us how we can see positive in almost any situation and can embrace the momentum a possible ending brings us.

Thanks to Alex for this.

Till next time…

Gary

#AdventBlogs – The Book Hangover

We are into the second week of the Advent Blogs series, and the first week went in a blur. We had some powerful posts, and this week promises more of the same.

It is a particularly tough time at home at the moment for reasons that I won’t share just yet but definitely fit within this year’s theme.  Xmas is coming at us fast and it is one that is both happy and sad for different reasons. More on that at another point.

Today’s post comes from Anna Edmondson (@annaedmondson1 on Twitter) and was prompted by reading the very first in the Advent Blogs series a week ago. Anna contacted me within a few minutes of reading Sarah Parrott’s post and, less than half an hour later, this blog was in my Inbox. I know Anna through social media, and she told me she didn’t have a specific bio that I could share, but then told me that she’s a parent to an 8 year old girl, Head of HR at an IT services company in York, loves working with tech companies and maturing start ups because she gets to change and impact stuff, and her spare time is spent reading, sewing, crocheting, and nurturing her daughter’s natural feminist tendencies!

Now that seems like a bio to me…

Over to Anna:


When I read Sarah’s (@resilimum) excellent first post in this year’s #AdventBlogs and saw the theme, my first thought was…how on earth do you write about that? 5 minutes later, my head was buzzing with all the different ways of exploring it, so here’s where I ended up.

I read a lot. I read quickly, intensely, immersively, sometimes obsessively. The best kind of books are those which involve you so completely that, when you get to the end, you have to force yourself to swim back to the surface and re-enter reality, and have a sense of loss that it’s over. For me this year, that’s happened with The Testament, The Secret Commonwealth and The Binding…go read them if you haven’t.

But that sense of loss, the book hangover, the disappointment that it’s over, are all expected. A book ends; we know that; we can see how far we have left to go. And so, the ending has been prepared for and it’s part of the deal.

It hits you so much harder when the ending is unexpected. It may be an unsatisfying and inconclusive ending (The Makioka Sisters, I’m looking at you!). Or, worse, it has been written as a series building to a big conclusion in the last…and the last has not been written.

Let me tell you about the Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss. The first two books of this trilogy are two of the most well written, imaginative and compelling books I’ve ever read. I read them one after the other in quick succession and went to order the last. Sadly I found that not only has he not yet published the last one, but fans have been begging for it for years…and there isn’t even a projected date. That was an ending that I wasn’t prepared for, and the echo of book-ending-sadness has lasted way longer than it should. 

So what? Well, without wanting to torture the metaphor, for me this has been helpful in understanding how I process other, meaningful loss. Whether it be people, relationships, jobs, or hopes, if I can see it coming, start to understand it, feel like it is fair or the natural thing to happen, I can prepare for an end. I may still be devastated when it comes, but I am prepared. If it’s out of the blue, or unexplained, or makes no sense, the shock and the lack of closure gives the grief or disappointment so much more power for so much longer.

This may be obvious to everyone else, and it is something I knew, but this year I’ve had to feel it as well as intellectually understand it, and that makes all the difference.

However, if you take only one thing from this blog make it this – read the Kingkiller Chronicles, they are amazing, but start it knowing that book 2 is currently the end of the story, and brace yourself.


 

Anna has used literary analogies here to share how being prepared for an end is one thing, but the type of ending itself has a bearing on how well an individual can cope with it.

I can empathise with this – so many endings one knows about, is even half-ready for, but still when they come they wreak tremendous emotional impact.

Working as I do in the people profession I see this a lot, and unfortunately I’ve seen this more often than I’m comfortable with in my personal life.

Thanks to Anna for sharing this valid and compelling perspective on change, endings and new beginnings.

Till next time…

Gary

#AdventBlogs – The Moment I’d Prepared For

We’ve reached the end of our first week of posts and it’s been a great start. The coming weeks hold equal promise too and, if you’d like to contribute a post, there is still time – just get in touch however you can.

We try each weekend to have a Xmas-themed outing and today we are heading to Chester Zoo to their Lanterns spectacular which has become an annual tradition and one we look forward to greatly. It’s a magical experience.

Today’s post is from Mark Edgar, who you can find on Twitter as @goatrodeopr – as Mark lives in Canada our only interactions have been on social media but it’s clear from those and his writing here that he has a passion for the people profession and for the future of work. Mark runs his own consulting business focused on helping organizations and people thrive in the new world of work and is the co-founder of future foHRward. Most recently he worked for RSA for over 8 years in the role of Senior Vice President, Human Resources with overall responsibility for HR and Communications for the Canadian business. Previously, Mark was based in the UK as Head of Human Resources within Centrica Plc. He has also worked for BSkyB, in an HR role responsible for their operational business units and customer facing teams. Mark lives in Canada with his wife and two daughters.

Over to Mark:

 


‘It is the end, but the moment has been prepared for’. 

I don’t remember saying that to myself when I left the security of full-time employment on June 30, 2019, but it accurately reflects my mindset at the time. When I heard the theme of this year’s Advent Blogs, it was therefore somewhat of a no-brainer to raise my hand and offer a few thoughts.

I’m known as a pretty laid-back guy. For years people thought it was because I didn’t care, but since then many have realised that under that calm British veneer is a big heart with lots of passion for making a difference in the world.

I knew at an early age I needed to help people. I was the kid at school breaking up fights not starting them. I needed people to get on and didn’t understand why they didn’t. I became the somewhat frustrating person who holds a door for you when you are a long way away making you run. The person who helps old ladies cross the road when they don’t want to. It’s a strength but like many strengths it can be overused and become annoying for many.

I decided to put my gift to good use working in HR. I love HR. I love the positive impact we can have on people and organizations. I’m an idealist (if you hadn’t noticed) and do my best to ensure my actions are consistent with a pretty simple principle – treat people as they (not you!) want to be treated.

It’s stood me in good stead. I’ve been blessed to work for some amazing leaders in some great organizations with some fantastic people many of whom I consider close friends. I worked in the UK and most recently in Canada and have enjoyed the opportunity to spend time across multiple sectors.

I became a student of the future of work in 2012 and have been actively studying it ever since. The new world of work can be chaotic, unproductive and complex. To change that, I realise that we need to re-learn being human. Driven by paradigm changes in technology, and unprecedented socio-economic uncertainty, I truly believe that the path to business success lies in taking a human-centered approach.

In February 2019 I knew it was time to take these thoughts and beliefs and do something impactful with them. Something that would help people. It was time to bring an end to the security of my corporate career where I knew I wasn’t making the impact I needed to. I wasn’t always heard and that hurt initially, but it was the moment I had prepared for. I knew I had to leave as there was more important work to be done.

Many people say I was brave. I disagree. Fire fighters are brave. Remember I’m just a laid-back British guy who wants to help people and make a difference in the world. 2019 has provided me with that opportunity and I’ve never been more excited about what is ahead. There is so much great work to be done with a lot of amazing people and I can’t wait for 2020 to get going with it.

Have an amazing, safe and peaceful Holiday.


Thank you Mark. As someone who has trod a similar path and made a similar career decision, I know full well the feelings being experienced here and how there comes a point where this move just seems “right” and when you realise your entire career to date, with all its highs and lows, have prepared you for that moment.

Life is often about noticing such moments and making the most of them. They are endings but also beginnings, and Mark has captured that beautifully here.

Till next time…

Gary

#AdventBlogs – How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard?

We are almost at the end of our first week of Advent Blog posts and its been a great start to the week. One of the advantages of curating the series is the advance knowledge I have of all the posts, and the anticipation of releasing them to everyone reading them – I’ve enjoyed the reactions to this weeks’ posts and am looking forward to what’s coming too.

At home I’m out tonight for a long overdue catch-up with ex colleagues in Warrington, one of a regular series of events that continue to bind us together long after we all stopped working together. I’ve written about that previously, and its an example of how none of us were prepared for the end of that organisation when it came.

Today’s post is by Vanessa Rhodes, Director of Imago HR.  I’ve met Vanessa a couple of times as we held similar posts in similar organisations for a while and moved in the same circles.  Vanessa is a very experienced HR Professional with a career spanning over 30 years. Prior to setting up Imago HR she worked for many years as a senior HR leader, providing a compassionate and pragmatic approach to people management.  You can find her on LinkedIn here.


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It’s almost a year since I said goodbye to my colleagues, as I left work to set off on a new adventure to run my own HR Consultancy, ImagoHR.

It was an itch that I needed to scratch; I’d been dreaming about what it would be like to venture off on my own.  I’d been preparing for a while, with a logo and a website and even some potential clients. But saying goodbye to my colleagues on my last day at work was very tough. There were tears and feelings of regret for what I was leaving behind. We had been through so much as a team and faced up to what seemed like constant change with humour and energy.

Today I find myself looking back to that ending as if it was in fact a new beginning. Finding the strength to leave propelled me into new unchartered territory of terror and triumph, and the opportunity to learn every day.

To prepare for my departure I wrote a leaving speech, which was a very cathartic process, as I was able to give thanks for what had gone before. Here is what I said last Christmas.

My Leaving Speech

‘When I handed in my notice over 3 months ago, I visualised this situation, with me standing in front of you all to say goodbye. I imagined it because I was trying to get my head around leaving you all, my work family. Like any family we’ve been through some great highs and some ‘not so great’ lows, but we have supported each other throughout it all.

It’s very hard to leave you now that the time has come. It’s been a huge privilege to serve as your HR lead, and a great inspiration to work with you all. What a truly committed team you all are.

You’ve probably come to realise, working with me, that I care more about the ‘human’ and less about the ‘resources’ element. It’s not for me the world of KPI’s, I’m more about what makes us tick! I think that’s something that’s stayed with me since I started my first job in Personnel, back in 1988 and my first manager said to me, ‘it’s basically about people Vanessa, if you ‘get’ people you’ll do ok’. My next manager told me to always wear tights to work, ‘we don’t like bare legs in the office, Vanessa’, and those two early lessons have stood me in good stead for my career. I’ve not looked back since!

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time working here over the last few years and the highlight has been working with you. I have benefitted greatly from being with you all. I’ve felt safe around you and you have been honest and faithful colleagues. I’m really going to miss you.

I’ve been racking my brains trying to think of a quote I could use to sum everything up. Recently another colleague’s parting words were ‘so long and thanks for all the fish’ taken from the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. My inspiration for today comes from a different source of wisdom. It’s from Winnie The Pooh, who said ‘how lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.’

And so finally, thanks for everything you’ve all done for me, I wish you all the very best for the future and remember, be kind to each other.’


I can almost hear Vanessa saying those words to her colleagues, and it has made me think how important it is sometimes to plan your own ending in an organisation. I’ve left many, and only on three occasions over my entire career have I prepared for and got the end I wanted. The other times, I wanted it to end differently and wished I’d prepared accordingly, but didn’t.

Its great to see Vanessa did, and I wish her luck with Imago.

Till next time…

Gary.

#AdventBlogs – The Power of Stepping Away

I’m really enjoying curating this series – the posts are something I look forward to reading and linking to the theme and look forward to sharing with you all.

Today my wife and I will be visiting Manchester’s Xmas Markets, something of an annual tradition but this year we are doing it without children for the first time in 6 years, and hope to enjoy the experience a lot more for it – we love our children, obviously, but Xmas Markets are not really a great experience for very young children as they are so busy and they just want to run wild, so exploring the markets in our own time and stopping and moving whenever we feel like it will be…liberating.

Today’s post is by Selena Govier, who you can find on Twitter under the handle @SelenaGovier – we have interacted on social media for some time now, but not yet met in person. She describes herself as a people person at heart, despite multiple roles in her career spanning from a runner on the Teletubbies, through IT Analyst, HR Manager, Business Owner and Cake Artist – and is now on her way back to HR, relocating to the Scottish Highlands from Cornwall, looking for that HR Business Partner role that can take her back to her passion of helping people and businesses succeed.  Outside work she is a huge pet lover, voracious reader and occasional geek and is happily married to her best friend.

Over to Selena:


You know that spark?  Sure you do.  It’s there in the drifting dark of your mind.  That idea of a dream of what if’s and maybe’s.  The thing you could be doing if you didn’t have to focus on the raging inferno of day-to-day firefighting.  Piling on more and more fuel of expectations and necessity over and over.  What if we stepped away and put some focus on that little spark?  What if it was nurtured, letting it grow into a flame, into something that could warm your needs and wants?  Change is scary, chasing a dream is ridiculous, it wouldn’t pay the bills, it might fail…but what if…?

Through my life I’ve collected many hats, some through changes pushed upon me, others from changes I’ve made myself.  Daughter, Sister, Friend, Graduate, Lover, TV and Film Broadcaster, Wife, IT Analyst, HR Manager, Divorcee, Manic Depressive, HR Business Partner, Wife, Cake Artist, Carer, Pet Sitter.  Throughout it all, I’ve been a dreamer.  School reports told of a girl with her head in the clouds or her nose in a book.  There were times when I lost that creativity and times when I used it to its full potential.  You’ll see I’ve had a varied career, to a casual observer it could look like I flit from one thing to the next like a restless butterfly always searching new nectar.  I see it as a wealth of experience and learning through new situations with new people.  Of trying and failing and trying again.  Of looking that dream head on and following the spark. 

When I couldn’t see the danger of never switching off, of always wearing the happy mask, of achieving and climbing and reaching higher ever higher, I popped.  I remember vividly sitting in the car park and not being able to get out of the car, wracked with sobs and confusion.  It took a long time to recognise those dips in my mental health and to learn how to stop slipping into that pit where the black dog sits waiting.  The spark showed me a dream of happiness and love by the sea and I ran towards it, new job, new life.  Years later when the company I worked for moved to Holland and made all the UK staff redundant, I slipped again.  That pit yawning gaping pulling at me, wanting to drag me down, but above me the spark shone brightly. 

I discovered that baking kept my mind even and true, weighing, mixing, enjoying the smells, creating, marvelling, devouring.  I fed the spark some dry kindling and a flame grew.  What if? Could I really do that? Would it work? That little flame grew and grew, and passion turned into a business, a beautiful café with beautiful cakes.  Smiling faces, that little naughty treat shared with friends or family.  Such joy.  But so hard, every day a constant struggle to pay the bills, to keep your head above water.  Realising ultimately that it’s just as important to know when to step away from those flames as it is to feed them.  Utter heartbreak and grief the day we closed the doors.  Flame doused.  Failure.  Slipping.

The spark taunted me with a new direction, but how could I trust it again?  Hadn’t I already reached for the dream and found out it turned to ash? Wasn’t that the end?  Couldn’t I stop dreaming now? I took time to focus on myself, on my marriage, on experiencing joy, on being kind, and found all that through pet sitting.  Guess what? That spark still twinkled and sparkled and showed me the biggest dream of all.  The great move to the land of lochs and glens, a dream that encircled myself, my Husband and his Mam.  Not just me this time, but everyone who matters deeply.  I started studying and working on self esteem and confidence.  We started to look at houses, at places to work, planning how this all could become reality.  Taking all that former experience and recognising how it has shaped me.  Stepping away was necessary to see the new path in the undergrowth.  So, there’s a new adventure ahead.  Scary? Yes.  But that spark is about to burn brighter than ever.  Regeneration is good for the soul. 

“We all change. When you think about it, we’re all different people, all through our lives. And that’s okay, that’s good, you gotta keep moving, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be.” (Dr Who – 11th Doctor – Matt Smith)

Ruti; Dreams 

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Selena’s post touches on a number of things very relevant to this theme – and the origins of the theme too – focusing on how regeneration is a natural and expected part of life, part of the cycle of renewal, but no less scary for it. How many of us would find the courage to take such steps?

Till next time…

Gary

#AdventBlogs – LSB and wising up

The theme for this year is provoking some strong posts and a variety of interpretations of it. Many are viewing it about finality, and many others about change, and some about renewal. All perspectives are welcome!

It’s a busy time for us at home, but less so at work because clients are starting to wind down themselves ahead of the Xmas break. These two things in reverse correlation with each other please me immensely, and it’s a big help to be around at home more than I have been through the autumn months.

Today’s post is from Phil Marsland, who can most often be found on Twitter under the handle of @FulfordPhil but occasionally on a number of other handles to suit different aspects of his life and work. Phil has contributed to this series before, and is now the Director of Blue Tree Consulting and has held many HR roles in his career. Phil has a number of passions beyond HR, including music, family and his beloved Manchester City. Having been there in the dark days Phil is rightfully enjoying their current success. I’ve known Phil for a few years now and always enjoy his company.

I read Phil’s contribution three times before I made the link to the theme. See how you do:


Ok so its a much chucked about phrase, but I would argue that the phrase itself can act as a challenge.

Throughout recent years the phrase “limiting self beliefs” has powered my challenge to myself. It has taken me out of comfortable mind numbing employment into scary self employment, it has taken me on amazing adventurous holidays, and to reconnection with my beloved rock and vinyl and to improved fitness.

I’m going to talk about a couple of these points. Firstly fitness. For nearly all my adult life I had the limiting self belief that I couldnt run anymore. I used to run as a kid, completing a marathon and two half before I was 18. But my shins got sore. Hardly surprising running on hard roads in bad shoes. I had a few attempts to get going again through university and shortly afterwards but it hurt so much that I gave up.

Cue the sedentary job, comfy pillow life at home and chubbing on…..a lot.

In my 40s I decided to join a gym and this was somewhat successful. But I knew that I couldn’t run, so I didnt. The thing was I still yearned to run. I remember how much I loved it – the challenge, the adrenalin, the endorphins and mental health benefits. But I could no longer run, right?

Well in late 2015 I decided to give it a try, stumbling out of my door way and onto the river side walk, stumbling like a stiff legged fool. I’m not sure that a casual observer would have noticed that I was actually running. Maybe taking it for leaning forward and just about picking my feet up instead of falling over?!

But I stuck with it and gradually improved to the point where I remember shouting out “I’m running! I’m actually running!!” I was so happy and did it more and more. Pushing, getting faster…before the agony of a torn calf.

I was devastated. However I found tabata or metafit and managed to keep a base level of fitness. And after around 3 months I got running again. I was going even quicker and then it happened again. Calf agony and sudden pull up followed by tears.

Was this it? Was I destined to never run? Was my previous limiting self belief true?

For the first time in my life I turned to specialist help. And I did get help, that took some swallowing and adjusting to. “Your brain is holding your body in the wrong place putting massive pressure on your calfs, causing your injuries” Great! So in order to run I need to run with my eyes closed?!

Well no. It became a matter of focussing on using my glutes and hamstrings and hips primarily which I had never done in my life. I had to concentrate on every stride in order to avoid rocking back onto my calfs. I even needed to focus on walking differently.

This worked and I made a new personal record time for 5km. And I trained for a 10km in the town where I was born Knutsford in Cheshire. A week before the 10km my calf seized again, but I still managed to complete the run with my new method. Foolish probably and this action sat me out for 6 months.

But I came back again. Less fit. Heavier and half hearted in 2017 with a few short runs.

In 2018 I completed Couch to 5km, warming up and cooling down properly to avoid injury. This worked great until I got shingles in the late Summer.

By the end of the year I had started shorter runs again but suffered a back injury as a result of a very long and delayed trip back from New York where I had taken my daughter for her 21st.

At the turn of 2019 I was fat, with back pain and unhappy, but I started Couch to 5km again. This even meant that when was away on business stumbling around strange northern towns dodging injury on cracked and broken pavements.

However I now had a lot of self knowledge. About my weaknesses and vulnerabilities. About how to warm up, control my running, cool down and stretch.

My first 5km of 2019 was in June. To date this year i have completed 48 runs, 25 of which have been 5km. http://My.app says that from January 2016 I have run 500km. I am injury free.

My 5kms have included Central Park, New York; Venice Beach to Santa Monica Pier; the medieval City of Bruges; my old school cross country in Louth, Lincolnshire and the rest have been in and around my beautiful home City of York.

I have well and truly overcome my limiting self belief about running.

And I am currently working on my limiting self belief about creating, growing and maintaining a business. Working hard every day to overcome obstacles and learning from experiences.

So I would ask you what limiting self beliefs are holding you back and what, if anything, are you prepared to do about them?


After reading this over I realised how Phil was linking to the theme. In his fitness and running quest he has experienced many situations that could have been an end. His determination not to give in, the fact that he was not prepared for the end, made him restart over and over.

He rightly points out that it is often our self limiting beliefs that make an end, and only by being prepared to do something about them will our end turn into a new start.

Thankyou Phil.

Till next time…

Gary