Inspirational

A YEAR WELL TRAVELLED

As 2018 came to a close I took some time to reflect back as I always do on what type of year it has been for me, my loved ones and of course – Change-Gear.  As always, the time feels like it’s flown. It seems like just a few months ago I was writing a blog pledging my new year’s resolution of using less plastic and here we are already; 12 months later and the time has come to set my goals and intentions again.

Like many other businesses, it was quite a tough one for Change-Gear.  The beginning of the year threw some difficult challenges our way but we continued to push forward and eventually, our hard work started to pay off. We found ourselves engaging with some exciting new clients and working on very different projects across a spectrum of sectors, many of whom we will be partnering within 2019.  Despite promising myself that I would improve my work-life balance in 2018 I can honestly admit that did not happen.  If anything, I found myself working many evenings and most weekends to keep things going.  By the time it got to my summer break in August I was exhausted.  10 days didn’t seem long enough and I found myself feeling like the holiday hadn’t happened.  I knew something had to give and when the opportunity came along to visit my friend who was living in Brazil I jumped at the chance.  This coincided with a number of projects abroad in the second half of the year.  I couldn’t believe the amount of travelling I was doing – work trips to Amsterdam, Brussels, New York. It felt like I was on and off planes continually.  But at the back of my mind, I knew that I wanted to spend more time with my family.  We decided to book a ski holiday for Christmas to finish the year.

So back from my ten days in Portugal my first adventure took me to NYC at the back of a work trip.  I decided if I was going all that way I wanted to spend some time there enjoying one of my favourite cities.  I tagged on an extra 3 days and managed to cover so much ground with only myself to think about.  From the heart-wrenching 9/11 Memorial to the High Line, Jazz at Blue Notes, Chelsea Market, back to Grand Central for cocktails and people watching, art galleries and shopping in Greenwich Village – I loved every second of it and felt really at ease being a solo traveller after years of family or group travel.  Coming home I felt energised and super excited about my impending trip to Brazil yet my son was back from his own adventure in Australia and had been back at university in Falmouth – I knew it was going to be tight to visit him before Christmas so I managed a short weekend break down to Falmouth to get my fix.  As always Cornwall never disappoints.  A week later I was packing again and on my way to South America. This trip far excelled my already high expectations – Rio was an incredibly vibrant city full of colour and live music and dance.  The first few days, amongst other things, had me at the top of Christ the Redeemer, attending the races, sipping beer watching the sunset over Ipanema Beach and visiting a secret jazz club high in a pacified favela.  The diverse culture and acceptance of all ages felt liberating – I loved seeing grandparents samba-ing with teenagers in city squares.  I wondered whether you’d ever see this in any part of the UK. After back to back adventures in Rio we headed off to Igaucu Falls and were lucky enough to stay in the National Park and see the Falls from both the Brazilian and the Argentinian sides.  We then headed to Paraty for some time on the Costa Verde enjoying the beautiful beaches and coastlines.  We finished the trip back in Rio and spent my last few days lapping up galleries, markets, botanical gardens and not forgetting the top of Sugar Loaf for the best views of the city.  As much as I was desperate to go home and see my family I knew I couldn’t wait to go back having only seen a fraction of what this beautiful country had to offer.  Hardly unpacked I was off for an impromptu weekend in Prague with some girlfriends – another beautiful city with so much to see and explore.  We covered almost everything in our short weekend and were lucky enough for it to snow on our first night so the town squares looked magical and the view from the top of Frank Gehry’s Dancing House Hotel was a real highlight.

And so finally I was home and unpacked and really looking forward to some time with my family on the Slopes – yet I knew I needed to see my mum and my sister before Christmas – how and when was the challenge.  I booked a ferry in between work commitments and found myself in the Isle of Wight where they lived, breathing in the fresh island air in Bembridge for another whistlestop trip.

And now I find myself sitting at the crowded airport in Turin after a wonderful week of skiing with my family in the beautiful resort of Cervinia in the Italian Alps – I’ve skied, I’ve eaten far too much and most importantly I haven’t thought about work (well not much).

I actually can’t believe how much travelling I have done in the past 6 months – the challenge has been fitting it in around my work – and so the weekend and evening work continued. Was it worth it?  Absolutely.  And yes, it’s left me hungry for my adventures.  Now my children are almost both grown up and independent I feel this will very much be a focus for me.

So, what are my hopes for 2019?  Of course, it’s for Karen and me to have a successful year with our talented Change-Gear team as we enter our 6thyear.  We will be setting our new business goals next week in our annual away days and are looking forward to some exciting times ahead.  For me personally, I will continue to strive to get a better work-life balance.  Having now been fortunate enough to have had a taste of new cultures and adventures – more travel will also be high on my list.  I’ll continue to work on looking out for our planet and apart from the other usual suspects of continuing to stay fit and eat well that will be about it for me.

Whatever your intentions are for 2019 we hope that it’s a great (well-balanced) year for you all with plenty of new adventures and places to explore

Happy new year from all at Change-Gear.

TIPS FOR GETTING ONTO A BOARD

I had the pleasure of meeting with Author, Selina Siak Chin Yoke earlier in 2018 who was happy to share details of her remarkable background with me. A most inspiring lady, Selina has written two books – ‘The Woman Who Breathed two Worlds’ – loosely inspired by her great-grandmother’s life and ‘When The Future Comes Too Soon”. (I’ve yet to read the second book but it’s on my reading list!). As well as discussing her successful and diverse career we found ourselves chatting about women in leadership, something we both felt passionately about.  Being a writer I couldn’t resist asking Selina if she would mind writing a guest blog for us which has just appeared in my inbox. Very timely with our up-coming seminar this Wednesday on bridging the gender pay gap.

When Carrie invited me to write a few sentences many months ago on the challenges of joining a company board, the media was awash with scandals involving pay, women and naked prejudice. Not only had the BBC been paying Martina Navratilova ten times less than John McEnroe for – as far as I’m concerned – the same work, but a report by the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy revealed eye-opening excuses as to why many FTSE companies had no women. The excuse that sticks out most for me is: “My other board colleagues wouldn’t want to appoint a woman on our board”. That’s precisely the point, though, isn’t it?

With so much focus on the topic, I thought that I should dust off my CV and try to get appointed as a non-executive director to another Board before writing this guest blog. This has taken longer than anticipated. Like many women, my career has gone down an unusual path and my main occupation today is as a novelist. I’m a traditionally published author and my agent had asked me to rewrite parts of my third novel. In the middle of that, it was almost impossible to think about revamping a CV.

Once I did, though, things moved pretty quickly. Within weeks I was approached by a headhunting firm and my name was put onto a list of candidates for a board position (still in process). I’ve since also been asked to join another board whose chairman is an acquaintance. All this to say that there’s plenty of hope! If you’re wondering how to get onto a board, below are a number of suggestions.

First, use your networks. If this sounds obvious or trite, it’s not meant to be. Telling as many people as possible expands your realm of possibilities. Speaking to other businesspeople has helped me clarify what I may want and what I’ll avoid when it comes to board roles. For me, being a non-executive director is not a career – it’s an add-on. I’m working on another book already, but at the same time I have twenty years of solid experience in finance – first as an investment banker and then as a quantitative trader – which some board is hopefully going to appreciate. A slight digression here that may be reassuring: the fact that I left finance eight years ago isn’t necessarily a barrier. A non-executive director needs to be independent. Being a little removed from the industry currently can actually prove helpful. So don’t discount your abilities just because your experience dates back in time.

Secondly, make sure you have a profile on LinkedIn, that the profile is up-to-date and puts your experience forward in the best possible light. This was how the headhunter mentioned above contacted me. A disclaimer: I was appointed to the board of a corporate finance boutique many years ago and have remained on it. Being already on one board is immensely helpful for getting on to the next board. Yet, I didn’t even think to put my board experience on LinkedIn until recently!

Thirdly, have your CV critiqued. Show it to a friendly audience first if you wish. Also, let a headhunter look at it. I had to rewrite my CV completely!

There are many websites which claim to connect companies with possible non-executive director candidates. You have to pay to join some of these without really knowing how effective they are. A website I can vouch for is nurole. I hadn’t heard of it, but as soon as I started talking to friends and acquaintances, three of them independently recommended nurole. It’s free to register, and your registration is first vetted before you’re sent an invitation email. You check off your interests and receive regular notifications about new roles. nurole works.

Finally, it’s worth giving thought to what you’d like to get out of being a non-executive director. There are hundreds of opportunities and you’ll have to decide which to pursue. Do you want to be compensated? If not, how many pro bono positions are you prepared to take on?

The world is our oyster now, but getting onto the right board(s) will take time. Good luck!

 A big thank you to Selina for sharing her advice and recent experiences with us.  I’m sure you will have all found this interesting and useful. If you’d like to hear more about Selina and her work please visit her website at http://www.siakchinyoke.com– and do read her books – a great Christmas gift too!

And don’t forget it’s not too late to sign up for our free breakfast seminar in collaboration with Moorcrofts Law this Wednesday 28thNovember. https://www.facebook.com/events/580144002414838/?ti=ia

 

A CHANGE IS CERTAINLY AS GOOD AS A REST

Way back in June my husband surprised me with a gift of a flight to Rio for our 20thwedding anniversary; a generous, but slightly unusual present as it was a trip just for me. My oldest friend had moved to Brazil 3 years ago and I’d been itching to visit her, coupled with the fact that I desperately needed a break from work.  Despite banging the drum to others on self-care, taking time out and not working too hard, I was guilty of not practicing what I preached. I was my own worst enemy; working late nights and weekends was the norm rather than the exception and I was feeling worn down. Brazil (as exciting as it sounded) could have been Brighton – as long as there was a bed and no work, I’d got to the point that I wasn’t too fussed.

Of course, well known for my love of a travel book, I bought the Lonely Planet guide to Brazil which sat by my bedside as I had no time to read it – plus I was lucky enough to have the best tour guide in the world at my disposal when I arrived, so I honestly hadn’t given much thought to what I was about to experience (was desperately trying to ignore those warning me of the current political situation and danger in the favelas too).  I arrived in Rio late evening greeted by my friend, her husband, a garland and tropical plant pot with much excitement about my two weeks of downtime and was presented with a suggested itinerary I greedily lapped up.

Despite being on my knees with tiredness the adventure began on Day 1 – we had 72 hours in Rio before setting off for our first mini trip.  I experienced beach life in the amazing Ipanema and Copocabana beaches, a trip to the jockey club and a flutter on the horses, authentic Brazilian food and shopping at the beautiful town of Santa Teresa, visiting local street markets, sizzling samba in bars and city squares with the locals, jazz in the favelas – not to mention the obligatory visit to one of the ‘Wonders of the World’ – Rio’s most iconic Christ the Redeemer; an early start gave us an advantage over the hordes of tourists flocking to see the Big Man – and views from the top were certainly worth the trek.  A local told me that his arms are open wide ready to applaud the day when a Brazilian completes a full day of work (I can honestly say I get this now – with so much to do in this beautiful, diverse city I’m sure I’d feel the same if I lived here).

I seriously had a smile on my face for my first three days which didn’t disappear as we headed off to the airport to our next port of call, the incredible Foz do Iguacu.  We were lucky enough to stay at a hotel based in the National Park itself which meant we had the added advantage of being able to explore the park and the falls without the crowds.  I can honestly say I have never seen anything quite so spectacular – for those of you who haven’t been I’d certainly recommend trying to see the falls from both the Brazilian and the Argentinian sides – each offering its own unique panorama and feel.  And whatever you do, always go for the ‘wet’ rather than ‘dry’ boat trip option you are offered – but do wear waterproofs – my plastic poncho was absolutely pathetic compared to the full-on wetsuit and galoshes our boat man was wearing. No surprise he was the only one not looking like a drowned rat when we emerged from the fall force of the falls.  If Iguacu is not on your bucket list please don’t miss it.

After 3 full days of national parks in both Brazil and Argentina we headed back to Rio for a couple more days of galleries, beaches, sunsets, lunches and weather watching as storms were predicted and putting a question mark over our next adventure to the beautiful historic town on Paraty on the Costa Verde.  Being a terrible traveller, my friend was anxious about taking me on the 5-hour coach journey and arriving to 3 days of torrential rains but I was keen to go.  I wanted to see this place that she was raving about and knew it would be another diverse view of this country I was already beginning to get so fond of.  So 8 days into my trip I took my anti travel sickness pills and off we set for the bus station with clothes packed for all eventualities of weather.  I can’t even begin to share how glad I was we took the chance – for to have missed the wonders of Paraty would have been a terrible shame.  The ‘sturgeon’ worked a treat – not only did I not feel sick, I was also able to enjoy the stunning views along the coast line and couldn’t have felt happier as the sun began to shine and thankfully stayed with us our whole 3 days in this beautiful little part of Brazil.  Paraty was a little piece of heaven that will forever stay in my heart.  From cobbled streets to beautiful coves, rain forests, yoga classes in Portuguese and samba bands on the beach and in the square, Paraty packed a punch.  A special highlight was a private boat trip around the gorgeous islands where we visited deserted coves, hand-fed a rare species of monkey, swam amongst the turtles – and I even managed to conquer my fear of SUP boarding.

After sadly saying goodbye to a new favourite place in our world we headed back to Rio for my last few days in the city.  Keen not to miss anything we managed to visit the Instituto Moreira Salles with its incredible architecture offering views of Christ the Redeemer and a current enviable collection of African and Italian photographic exhibitions, then stroll through the beautiful botanic gardens with the biggest collection of cacti I’ve ever seen and visit a few more of Rio’s residential districts to lunch with the locals.  Of course I couldn’t come home without a visit to Sugarloaf Mountain – so on my penultimate day, with air temperatures on the street hitting 40 degrees we trekked up the mountain to pick up the cable car to get to the summit. It was certainly worth it for the breath-taking panoramic views it offered across the city – once again causing me to load the family WhatsApp with more enviable photos of my trip.

With one day left and a sense of not wanting to let my new found love leave me, my friend and I headed off to the Copacabana Palace Hotel where we had been invited for lunch by the Manager at our hotel in Iguacu National Park.  Over a lazy lunch I reflected on all of my adventures with my dear friend and had one final caiprinha before heading back to the apartment to pack my last few things in my suitcase.

So now as I sit at the airport waiting for my flight back home I can honestly say I have truly had the most magical of holidays in this incredible country and come home with a renewed energy and spirit ready for work and a desperate need to see my family (and my dog).  I have fallen in love with a country that wasn’t necessarily on my bucket list but now can’t wait to return to. In the words of my dear Mother – a change has certainly been as good as a rest.

I hope this little travelogue has whet your appetite for a visit to Brazil.  To find out more go www.visitbrazil.com

SPOT THE DIFFERENCE – ARE YOU A NOVELTY LOVER OR DO YOU CRAVE FAMILIARITY?

It’s that time of year when you’ve returned from your Summer break that you’ve been waiting on for what seems like forever.  You’re home but wishing you were still chilling by the beach or visiting magical cities and places without a care in the world.  Crash, bang – you’re back into the throes of work, wishing you perhaps hadn’t over indulged to the extent you did (in my case eaten too many pastel de natas) and wondering how long it is until your next holiday and committing to be fit and trim before you don your beachwear again.

Sound familiar?  Well “familiar” is exactly what I want to talk about today.  Whilst lying on my sun-lounger on afore-mentioned beach I found myself pondering what it was that had me returning to the same part of the world for my Summer break over and over again.  I always considered myself to be someone who likes to travel and see new things and that holiday time for me was about exploring places I’d never seen, attempting new activities I hadn’t tried before and finding new and exciting places to eat, drink and sometimes dance.

I’m not saying that I’ve only ever been to the same holiday destination and nowhere else – I’ve been fortunate to have many great experiences in beautiful places both near and far, but I can’t help feeling more and more comfortable when I return to my special spot in Portugal that holds my heart and brings me back time and time.  I find myself arriving and almost immediately I relax.  The very thought that I don’t have to think about how to find the beach/decent restaurants/local shops feels fantastic.  As soon as I get to the resort I feel like I’ve come home and it feels good.  I don’t need to be a tourist here – I can truly wind down.  Seeing the same faces in restaurants and bars feels comforting. I’ve long since stopped wondering why the same people work in these places for many years – I just now accept they do and am grateful to see them.

And is it just my holiday bookings that this love of familiarity applies to.  I search deeper into my habits and behaviours and find that perhaps I do love familiarity.  I’ve been in my current home for almost 13 years, lived in the same area for over 20 and have been running businesses and working with many of our team for almost the same length of time.  I’ve sadly shopped in the same supermarket for about 25 years (and even had a local branch down on my “new address” criteria list when house hunting – as well as needing to be living near water of some description).  I listen to the same genres of music I’ve listened to since I was a teenager, always shop in the same department store, go to the same gym classes, pick the same colour when buying a new purse, buy the same underwear brand and the list goes on!

But what does this say about me?  Am I so dull or lacking creativity that I take the easy option? Does it say I’m risk averse or that newness scares me?  I don’t think so.  In fact in many areas of my life I’m probably the complete opposite.  What I love about my work is the fact I get to meet so many new and varied clients and don’t have to go to the same place and do the same job every day.  Some days I am coaching, some facilitating large scale events, or delivering a workshop or working in my office on a project or doing some business development – no day is the same and I love that.  The thought of going to the same office every day is awful.  I can also get restless if I am doing the same thing for too long and can lose patience with tasks that require repetition. Oh and I never wear the same shoes more than once in a week unless I’m on holiday or they are my trainers!  If push came to shove though I’d probably fall in the ‘familiarity” camp – even though I hate admitting that.

You may have read my last blog before my holiday about my packing habits where I deduced I was an abundance lover rather than a simplicity one. Once again Gretchen Rubin in “Better than Before” shares her thoughts on the distinctions we have such as:

  • Are you a lark or an owl? (Are you better in the morning or evening?)
  • Are you a sprinter or a marathoner? (Are you slow and steady or do you leave things to the last minute?)
  • Are you an under-buyer or an over-buyer? (Do you love or hate to shop?)
  • Are you a finisher or an opener? (do you get the job complete or do you just like to start new things?)
  • Do you take big steps or small steps? (Are you happy making big changes or prefer to stick with small ones?)

So knowing which category you are in can help you understand your habits and behaviours more – which in turn can help us to be more effective and indeed inform the choices that we make both in and out of work.

For me knowing that I am more of a lark than an owl means I try to do my most difficult work in the mornings (including any exercise otherwise I’d never do it!);  Being a sprinter I need to make sure I build in enough contingency in case last minute doesn’t work out as planned; Being an opener I need to work hard on making sure I get things finished and my “big step” mentality means I need to build in milestones to check and monitor my progress along the way.  (Being an abundance lover goes hand in hand with an over-buyer – so enough said there!).

And when choosing my next holiday destination I’ll either be returning to Portugal combining it with a city I’ve not been to before or a new location with an over-stuffed suitcase full of my familiar possessions.

Who said I was indecisive?

 

 

CONTENTMENT IS…… (PLEASE COMPLETE THE SENTENCE)

I consider myself incredibly lucky to do the job I do and one of the main perks of working for myself (along with my gorgeous friend and business partner Carrie) is that, as long as there is an internet connection the business can be run from anywhere in the world – with the only exception being if I’m delivering a workshop and need to be physically present in the room.

As I write this blog, for me “contentment is..” sitting in the garden of my holiday home, situated in the beautiful countryside of the Auvergne; in silence, with only the sound of the breeze in the trees, the chirping of the birds and the occasional rumble of a tractor when the local  farmer passes by. I haven’t yet officially started my holiday, I have just moved location (European Regional Office!) and I’m still working, tying up loose ends before I close my laptop and have two weeks of hard earned rest and recuperation. And yes, I am indeed putting away the technology for two weeks and here’s the reason why – I want to be fully present with my family and friends and make a bunch of memories that will keep me smiling into the future. Too many times I am told by my family that the strongest relationship I have is with my computer! Well, dear family, I have listened to your pleas and I am taking affirmative action.

Since arriving here, what has really resonated with me is how many memories we have made in this beautiful place. Over a glass of wine or two last night, hubby and I reminisced about all the things we have experienced since buying this property 12 years ago: some comical, some emotional, some downright stressful experiences but all incredibly memorable. Having an unknown gas leak in the cellar and nearly blowing us all to smithereens along with our neighbours, is perhaps an experience I could have done without, but it makes for a great story. Sitting and looking at the paddock where hubby has just mown a race track around the perimeter, stirs a memory of when the girls were small, (the demon that is the smart phone had yet to arrive) they would run races, timed by us while we sat back, cheered them on and chilled out with a glass of wine.

Such lovely, vivid memories! I can easily recall those moments and many others, because I was fully here, present and engaged. No internet, no phone signal, no television – in short no distractions or temptations!! Sadly, the progress of time has caught up with this little corner of France and we now have broadband, a strong mobile signal and satellite TV. While there is a convenience in having connectivity with the wider world, I do mourn the loss of those simpler days when we were totally cut off from our normal UK life and would arrive back home rested, re-focused and re-energised.

So, I am making a promise to myself and my family to only use my phone to take photos and text/call oldest daughter who is staying at home due to work commitments. The laptop is being consigned to a drawer and I am going to digitally detox and focus on, in the words of Stephen Covey, my “big rocks” – my family, my friends, my warm and welcoming neighbours who have taken us to their hearts and with them, make bucket loads of memories to add to the bank I already have.

Wherever you journey this Summer, I hope you will have the opportunity to focus on your “big rocks,” make memories, collect stories and not feel tempted to check in on your emails, social media, newsfeed etc. They will still be there when you get back from holiday! And, I hope you will find it easy to complete the sentence – “Contentment is……..”   Right now, I am finishing with – “Contentment is, an apéritif with my neighbours discussing Brexit.” Ooh-la-la!!

Santé et bonnes vacances.

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