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?




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.


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 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!



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.



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,  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 or call us on 07714 793669 for an informal chat as to how we can best help your business.

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