SIMPLICITY OR ABUNDANCE – WHAT ARE YOU?

A few days ago I opened up some post from one of my besties to find a postcard of Harry & Meghan and on the back a note saying “This is SO you! In fact it is you!” Intrigued, I opened up a folded cut out article from the Sunday Times Style magazine written by Claudia Winkleman entitled “Can we talk about … THE BEACH”   “Oh no” I thought – another reference to my previous Claudia-esque dark hair and big fringe.  But I was wrong – this was about Claudia’s tendency to over-pack.  And mine!

I was at first encouraged – perhaps Claudia was worse than me – surely she had so many clothes (and ridiculously high heels) that her suitcases would be far more stuffed than mine – do celebs even have to worry about the 23KG (and that’s generous) allowance – and how much capacity does a Louis Vuitton actually have?

But as I read on the messages started to resonate far more than I wanted them to.  Particularly worrying given our up and coming trip to Porto was:

“You reassure yourself you won’t panic and suddenly throw in two black-tie dresses, a random leather jacket (absolutely not needed in Portugal in July) and some jewellery you’ve had since your gap year and always take with you and never, ever wear (I’m thinking oversized pink crystal bracelet or overly long turquoise necklace)”

Reading this was becoming very uncomfortable – in the part of my wardrobe sectioned off as “Portugal packing” were 2 cocktail dresses and a very “turquoise” necklace – had Claudia actually been in my house?   The article gets worse:

“high heels on holiday are suddenly important – but not the ones you have that won’t cope with the cobblestones in xxx (in my case Ferragudo) – you go onto topshop.com and search for wedges”

This was becoming a painful read – my friend was 100% right.  This was me.  I long to be a “lighter” packer – I have secret envy for those I see flaunting their tiny carry on cases – but alas I am not – My gym kit and toiletries alone wouldn’t fit in one of those tiny cases.  I can’t look when scales reveal the weight of my giant bag (and that’s just for a long weekend) and breathe a sigh of relief when it weighs in at 22.75KG.  (And secretly wish I’d packed another kaftan).

And so I am reminded of the wonderful “Gretchen Rubin’s” work again on making and breaking habits.  In her book “Better than Before” Gretchen gets us to think about our differences – she poses a number of questions to highlight aspects of our nature that are relevant to our habit formation.  One of which is “Am I a simplicity lover or an Abundance lover?” When I read the question I so wanted the answer to be “simplicity”.  But simplicity lovers are attracted by the idea of “less” (AKA miniature luggage containers).  Why is it then that simplicity is SO attractive to me – longing for my house to be de-cluttered of all the crap I’ve accumulated over the past two decades?  Yet I can’t let go of my 12-inch records and books I’ve had since school, not to mention cards and letters family and friends have sent me many moons ago.  My kitchen cupboards are stacked with gadgets I might need one day (I’ve not flambed one thing in my life but the blow torch remains).

So what do these differences or distinctions tell us about ourselves?  Well as Gretchen suggests they can form the basis of our habits (good and bad) and understanding what these differences are can help us make sense of them.  If we want to change a habit, then first we must know ourselves.  When we shape our habits to suit ourselves, we can find success, even if we failed before.  Gretchen says that habits are the invisible architecture of our everyday lives – and I think she is right – the trick is knowing whether it’s a positive habit or a negative one – I’d like to think that over-packing is pretty neutral – I get to travel with the confidence I am wardrobe-ready for every occasion even if I bring half of it back unworn!

And so lovely people, I wish you all happy packing wherever you are off to – rest assured if I meet you on my travels and you invite me to spend a day on your gin palace of a boat, or at a favourite Michelin starred restaurant or hanging out at a beach festival – I will have the perfect outfit for it – or will I?  The reality is I would probably feel I’d left the perfect outfit at home!

Yours truly,

The Abundance Lover!

 

WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP – THE IMPORTANCE OF KNOWING YOURSELF

Our Leadership Development Programmes often generate much discussion around the difference between how men and women lead; do women need to take on more qualities traditionally associated with male leadership and how to break through the “glass ceiling” or not fall off the “glass cliff” are just a few of the topics.  We decided to turn to some of the brilliantly talented women leaders we know and ask them to give their perspective on the challenges facing ‘Women in Leadership.” In the first of a series of blogs, Debbie Simpson, talks about her approach to leadership that took her from a young police cadet to the Chief Constable of Dorset Police.

When I was asked to pen some thoughts about my time as a woman who has held a senior leadership position my immediate thought was how to share something of my experience which allows people to take something from it, whilst remaining personal to my journey; so, I’ve decided to write about one aspect of leadership I refer to as “knowing yourself”.

My career started in Bedfordshire back in 1983 as a police cadet. It ended when I retired this April as Chief Constable of Dorset Police, nearly 35 years later, having been responsible for leading and caring about a workforce of 2,200 people who delivered services to the communities it served. When I retired there were only five other female Chief Constables.

When I started out in my career I had no great ambition to lead a force. In fact, for the first 5 years I did my best to fit in and just be “one of the team”. You will notice I said one of the team, not “boys”, as even though it was, and to a degree still is, male dominated (now about 30% of officers are women) I really did not feel any pressure in having to fit in by losing ‘me’. Did I feel pressurised in changing in any other way? Perhaps, not really by individuals, but by the organisation. When I joined, women officers were not allowed to wear trousers unless on night duty, our protective equipment was not the same as our male colleagues and as Cressida Dick (Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police) says, you could not be a dog handler unless you had a wife!

This organisational culture made women fight to have the same opportunities and equipment as our male colleagues. Not wanting to be seen as different, in reality meant ‘not wanting to be treated less favourably’ and so there was a tendency to suppress some of our female qualities: I did not want to be the sympathetic female officer left to look after children, so I did not do anything that could have led to me being stereotyped. Yet, I now know one of my stronger leadership skills is my emotional intelligence, the ability to read people and find a way to connect. So, counter-intuitively I worked against one of my strengths in a bid to perhaps conform to the majority. We live and learn because over the last 10-15 years as a senior and latterly Chief Officer I have specifically looked for the “difference” people bring to a team not the “sameness”. I believe this has built some strong teams around me. So, to women who feel they compromise themselves to get on I would say two possibly contradicting things: flexibility, negotiating and creativity are skills that women have in abundance and I have found if you can use them to fight the bigger battles you face, it can pay dividends in the longer term but equally you need to know yourself and be authentic.

One of my greatest achievements was to support my organisation to move from competency-based promotion/selection processes to a values-based one. My HR colleagues were nervous as it seemed harder to assess but I persisted. For many years I have been involved in senior selection for policing in the UK, overseeing the process nationally and I have found women are better at knowing themselves, although sometimes they have a tendency to be rather guarded in describing their strengths and abilities.  What I mean by knowing yourself is –  I know what really offends some of my core values and I know that if I was to take on a role that offended those values I would be unable to cope, or I would be miserable unless I had the ability to change what was offending me – and sometimes you can’t. At those times it’s worth letting a role or position go rather than taking it and having to work against yourself. I did this on at least two occasions, one of which was my dream job! There is a real skill, I think, in knowing an opportunity when you see it (and how many women rule themselves out if it – because “I’m not 110% ready” – rubbish – have a go!) and knowing which opportunities you need to let go.

Knowing what you can live with is a key issue when considering senior roles as there is often a need to compromise, within the board room, with stakeholders or partners. I found my female colleagues were usually more vocally honest about their challenges and development areas than my male counterparts. Values based competency assessments done well attract the right people to the role and women tend to perform more comfortably than if just asked about their technical competency areas, which they tend to play down. Somehow there is a more honest relationship between applicant and role and you as an employer when you understand where values align, support, or challenge what needs to be achieved. You can spot where the differences may prove problematic. Technical competence to lead is just not enough, in my view, there needs to be more.

An example of this in action is as a Chief Constable working alongside an elected PCC (Police Crime Commissioner). The PCC may have been elected on a particular mandate which means they want a police force to do something specific; I saw colleagues really struggling especially if that direction differed from their own view of where the force needed to be. If you are confident in yourself, know your bottom line, (not offending core values) being open, clearly explaining your rationale, will mean a relationship can be maintained and each party can respect differing positions and points of view, even if they do not agree. Saying ‘no’ without listening, over explaining and not working to find a solution is, I think, lazy leadership. I’m not ashamed to say uncomfortable or difficult conversations never became easy for me, it does not matter how senior you are they still provide a challenge. However, my experience is that women tackle the difficult issues more readily than male colleagues at all levels and I often wondered whether that came from a position of being in a minority and being aware of what needs to be said and done even when people do not necessarily want to hear it. Women also seemed prepared to find a solution or compromise and did not see it as losing.

In essence the variety of experiences we have because of difference, in my case being female, provided solid foundations for building transformational skills for the future and as a leader, the key is identifying what they are, and amplifying the positive. Never forgetting your role as a leader in supporting others to develop and reach their potential!

Debbie Simpson QPM

As Chief Constable she was also the South West regional Chief Constable lead for serious and organised crime. Nationally she was the lead for police forensics, leading a transformational approach to deliver new technologies across all forces and law enforcement agencies. She led the UKDVI (disaster victim identification) team and coordinated deployments alongside forces and when necessary the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. She was co-director for the police national assessment centres from 2014 and in 2017 and 2018 she was Director of policing’s Strategic Command Course, the flagship course for development and learning of future leaders of policing. In 2014 Debbie was awarded the Queen’s Police Medal for services to policing.

 Debbie is a Mum of two teenage daughters and wife of a serving police officer whose fantastic and unwavering support (taking 5 years off work to look after their daughters and then being the one always there for her and the girls) enabled her to be the best she could, even if she can’t cook and doesn’t understand why her family find The Big Bang Theory funny.

Many thanks to Debbie for her contribution to the discussion surrounding ‘Women in Leadership.” Look out for future blogs where we will be sharing the thoughts and experiences of other successful and inspiring women leaders.

 

DEMYSTIFYING GDPR

Like many businesses, the hot topic in the Change Gear office is how do we ensure compliance with the new data protection regulations.  Making sense of what we need to do has not been easy, however we have been fortunate to benefit from the wise counsel of Katie Renwick – a valued member of the Change Gear team. In this blog Katie shares her advice for small businesses as they take action and get ready for the looming deadline of May 25th.

As a small business, understanding exactly how a new piece of legislation will impact on us and our clients, can be quite challenging.  Being able to understand the legislation itself, as well as sifting through what can sometimes feel like ‘Doomsday Declarations’ from industry commentators to get to the heart of what it really means, can take time and energy you may not have planned to spend.   There have been some big hitters recently in new legislation for larger businesses; Gender Pay Gap reporting and the Apprenticeship Levy, for example, while for smaller businesses there has not been much significant change since the Living Wage was introduced.

The General Data Protection Regulations 2018, GDPR, comes into force from 25th May.  In a nutshell, the regulations increase the levels of accountability for businesses to demonstrate they handle data in a professional, transparent and, most importantly, an agreed way.  It is a necessary update to the 1998 legislation, as the world we now live in thrives on data which is available across a range of digital platforms as well as the traditional files and papers.  The increased occurrence of identity theft on an individual and mass level as well as an increase in social media targeted marketing, often without knowledge or consent, has prompted the EU to introduce this legislation.  It is an attempt to tighten the rules and improve the options for the individual to choose what can, and cannot, be done with their data.

So how do we gain the understanding about GDPR and, in reality, what will it change for me and my business?  The great news is that the Information Commissioner’s Office, ICO, has provided a number of easy to access infoguides explaining what the legislation is on their website, www.ico.org.uk.  Their approach is to engage with businesses and the public to create confidence and dispel the myths and fear of the unknown that inevitably accompanies such a change.  They emphasise that the principles are based largely upon the legislation that we have been working within, the Data Protection Act from 1998. In recognition of the different impact this legislation may have on different size businesses they plan to issue a specific guide for SME businesses which will be more relevant for those of us who do not have an internal legal, HR or Finance department to provide the right level of guidance..

While the information on the ICO website helps explain what the legislation is, there is a gap in terms of understanding what needs to be doneUtilising an expert to help identify the risks and opportunities that this legislation presents is key.  Within a relatively short period of time you should be able to identify where change is needed as well as the practical steps, processes and policies needed to put the change into place.

In terms of what it will change for your business there are a number of key considerations:

  • What data do I have?
  • How do I store, access and share that data?
  • Do I share the data outside of my business with third parties and where are they based?
  • How will I obtain consent going forward and how will I meet the individual rights obligations?
  • How will I handle data breaches and reporting should it happen?
  • What training do I need to provide to the team and how will I test understanding?

A core aim of the legislation is to limit unscrupulous activity, such as the alleged, illegal data harvesting and sharing from Facebook to Cambridge Analytica and beyond, it is not designed to limit our ability to market our business services or support our clients. It is an opportunity to review how we do things, cleanse our systems and consider how we communicate, particularly when using email, going forward. With that in mind, we may be in touch more often asking you to confirm you’re happy to keep hearing from us.

To support our clients we have created a practical GDPR pack, available as templates to tailor inhouse or with expert, consultancy support to assess how the change will impact you and your business.

Contact us at hello@change-gear.com or call us on 07714 793669 for an informal chat as to how we can best help your business.

I DON’T KNOW HOW SHE DOES IT!

Back in the day – let’s call it BC (before children) I thought I was always busy; no time for anything – getting to a gym class was a feat, doing the weekly shop hard work, making time to catch up with friends always a challenge. Never left the office before 6.30/7.00pm. What was I thinking??? I was clearly luxuriating in oodles of time – all I can say is I must have been a dab hand at wasting it!

Yet I know that not to be true.  I was genuinely busy … and then deciding (without giving any thought to how I might accommodate the biggest time stealer ever) that the time was right to start a family.  After a rocky start the miracle occurred – my gorgeous boy arrived and I had been given the best gift ever.  Did I think about how I was going to juggle being a mum and my new found self-employed status? – of course I didn’t.  I just “knew” everything was going to be fine.  My first jolt back to reality came when I was strolling through the maternity ward in a state of bliss to find a new mother frantically tapping away on a laptop, taking a work call and trying to feed her new born at the same time.  To say I was horrified was an understatement – how could she?  Did she not know how lucky she was?  She must have seen the horror on my face as she made a point of seeking me out in the “day room” later to point out this was child number 4 and if they wanted a meal on their plates then her working all the hours she could was not optional.  I was rightly “put in my place” and decided never to judge another mother again.  (okay so maybe just a few times I’ve fallen by the wayside there).

So somehow after six months off, I went back to work and found a new definition to the word “busy” – not to mention sleep deprived.  I managed to get through the fog and keep the plates spinning and a few years later, my beautiful daughter arrived all guns a-blazing.  This time I was going to suss this new born lark!  I would have a routine to beat all routines (Gina Ford eat your heart out).  That lasted about 4 days before chaos ensued and I was lucky to ever blow dry my hair again.  This time I was back at work within 4 months and before I knew it major milestones were passing by – nurseries, primary schools, secondary schools and now university. I have no idea where the time has gone and I am also acutely aware of how each stage of our children’s life brings with it a different challenge.  You think nothing can rival the sleep deprivation of the early years until you hit the worry of the teenage ones and even when they’ve left home they still manage to consume your thoughts.

So I find myself today on a train on the way to see my son down in Cornwall who has managed to slice open his finger on a knife whilst cutting an avocado – I have subsequently discovered this is a modern day problem!  After refusing to let me come to the hospital for his first operation last weekend – a second operation tomorrow to repair the damaged nerves led to an admission that “it would be good to have mum here after all”.  And so I have juggled my diary and am on my way. Something that I’m sure every working mum I know would do without a second thought.

Reflecting back on my years as a working mum I do sometimes wonder how I managed to pull it off (not that it’s ever a completed project!).  I remember reading the best-selling novel by Allison Pearson “I don’t know how she does it” – the story of the frantically busy career woman and mother trying to do it all.  The part where she needs to bring in mince pies for the Christmas fair and finds herself buying some from the local supermarket, bashing them with a rolling pin and sprinkling them with icing sugar to make them look homemade resonated so much.  It goes without saying that I wanted to not only be good at my job but also keep up with the Alpha Mums at the school gate – if there were mince pies to be made – I was sure as hell not going to send my little ones in with M&S Finest (well maybe once in a while).

As a working mum we becomes masters at short cutting the system – stapling hems on fancy dress costumes continues to haunt me. We are always trying to make the most of every spare minute in the day – laptops in hairdressers, squeezing in conference calls between school pick-ups, juggling diaries to make sure we are always at every parents evening, school concert and doctor’s appointments – many a night I’ve fallen asleep at my laptop either finishing a client proposal or a shopping delivery order (never sure which one had the highest priority).  The list is endless.

I know I’m not alone; I’m surrounded by wonderful female friends who have all managed to successfully juggle the highs and lows of motherhood with their careers – perhaps they haven’t always managed to achieve the dizzy heights they may have wanted to but I know they are all enriched by choosing to continue to work at the same time as doing their most important job – raising their children.

Some people might say I work too hard – but I was raised by people with strong work ethics – my grandmother worked until she was 85, my Father was 73 when he retired and my mother did a part time degree when I went to school – every day she’d drop me at school in Hammersmith and take the tube all the way to Elephant and Castle to go to Teacher Training college; she then enjoyed a successful career as a teacher until the age of 67. Working hard is in my bones.

I hope that when my children are grown up they will have positive thoughts about me choosing to be a working mum and I’ve been a good role model for them.  I remember way back when my son was 7 and he asked me why I had to work.  I gave him the full on explanation of how mummy helped to pay for all the lovely things we did as a family and how lucky we were to go on nice holidays etc etc.  He promptly replied “Well Tom’s mum doesn’t work and they have a swimming pool” – oh well – Can’t win them all.

So looking back, would I have done things differently?  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t sometimes a little envious of ladies who lunch and gym and don’t have to worry about pipelines, meeting a client deadline or how they were going to get to London when the train drivers were on strike – but it’s short lived.  And to all you ladies out there who have chosen not to work, or can’t because your personal situation doesn’t allow you to … I salute you.  Motherhood is not a job to be taken lightly.  I also massively salute you ladies who don’t have children and work your socks off too – let’s hear it for the sisterhood.

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE FENCE

This year I have been fortunate to take some time out from the business and focus on my own personal and professional development. Like many other coaches, facilitators and trainers I know, I am very good at putting everyone else’s growth first and leaving my own as a “nice to do” rather than making it a priority. The big question for me this year has been if I’m not working on my own development, how can I authentically ask those who I train and coach to work on their own progress? After all, one of my favourite sayings is “no-one is the finished article,” and with this in mind I decided it was time to bite the bullet and sign up for something that would challenge my thinking and skill level.

Putting on hold celebrations for our 20th Wedding Anniversary, my extremely supportive husband waved me off in late January as I made my way to Edinburgh to deepen my knowledge and understanding of transformational coaching. Now you may be expecting me to give you an insight in to what I learned about coaching and I did indeed learn a massive amount and must send a big thank you to Gillian and the team at Full Circle Global for the warm, supportive and sometimes heart thumpingly challenging experience. However, what I came away with was not just the confidence to be the coach I want to be but to have a deeper sense of what our participants and delegates go through when they are on a course we are delivering.

After spending five days in a training room as a participant, I really believe that one of the best ways you can increase your skill level as a trainer or a coach is to be on the receiving end and then to reflect upon what it has meant for you as a learner. I think a regular dose of being on “the other side of the fence” is something all of us who work in people development should plan into our busy diaries. So, what have I learned and how will I use it in how I work?

Participants get nervous – No matter how senior or experienced they are! Everyone on my course had previous experience of coaching others but there was a palpable anxiety as we moved into the coaching practice sessions. Creating a safe space to try out our new knowledge was going to be the key to our success and we were left alone to try out new techniques; no facilitator looming over us ready to step in with their feedback. We all felt absolutely free to step out of our comfort zones and make mistakes. The time for being observed would come later in the programme and it felt good to be fully responsible for our own learning.

Key learning point – Give participants space and trust that they will make the best use of the time available; allow participants to fully immerse themselves within the experience so they don’t notice the presence of the facilitator; sometimes we can get in the way!

Pace – As an Activist learner I am often guilty of wanting to pack lots into a session but taking on various roles within the training I realised how tiring a training course is for the learner. Shifting state between being a participant, coach and coachee meant that a much slower pace was required and plenty of breaks were needed to mentally and physically move between roles and be the best that we could be for our colleagues and for Gillian leading the event.

Key learning pointThere is a time and a place for high octane learning but let participants take a breath as they move them from one experience to another and never underestimate the amount of energy it takes to be in full learning mode.

Quality over quantity – Now I have to admit that when I looked at the published timetable for each day, I felt slightly short changed. Each day was due to start at 9:30am and close at 4:30pm and one of my first thoughts was “heh, I am paying for this myself – no corporate company footing the bill, I want value for money!” Well how wrong could I be? I was exhausted by the end of every day and I really couldn’t have taken in any more if we had gone past 4:30pm. I was incredibly grateful for the opportunity to leave knowing that I had given my all but still had an opportunity for some downtime to explore the delights of Edinburgh city centre.

Key learning point – Long training days aren’t always effective; trainers can do more with less. Allowing participants to apply learning faster, rather than lengthy theoretical explanations keeps learners engaged and on their own agenda. Keeping the training ‘learner’ rather than ‘trainer’ centric, recognising that learners need to let their new knowledge “settle and sit” by having the time to take part in other activities, whether that is a spot of shopping or catching up on emails.

Learning continuity – One of the greatest gifts I have been given since attending the course is a new group of like-minded people, dare I say it they have become my “friends.”  I don’t use that term lightly but having the opportunity to get together over lunch, get a WhatsApp group going and an informal Action Learning Group via Zoom has cemented my belief that learning is above all a social activity. Thank you to Karen, Amandine, Eleanor and Paula – your insight and support has been invaluable and especially for giving me the feedback that I could be heard sighing during a video Masterclass. A bad habit that I am massively more aware of now!

Key learning point – Create social spaces within a learning event that encourages  participants to share their learning from the session over coffee and lunch but coming back to one of my original points, don’t hijack the conversations – let the participants work it out for themselves; if they are sufficiently motivated they will!

As you probably can tell, I have hugely enjoyed my own learning journey. I went expecting to know more about coaching and yes, I came away with that but also with a new found understanding of myself as a person and myself as a trainer – now that is excellent value for money!

 

If you would like to know more about our extensive personal development and coaching packages, please get in touch with us at hello@change-gear.com or call on 07714 793669 we would love to hear from you, no matter which side of the fence you sit on!!

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