A very short offering this morning reflecting on the frequent risk of falling into time-poor mode. I believe it happens to us all and I know for sure it happens to me on a regular basis. That sinking, spinning, fizzing feeling when the work of the day seems more that the day can give. And my body feels like a sherbet fountain with a marshmallow for a brain. My words are all edgy, snappy and short. When the balance of home schooling, working full time and the messy house, just seems like an impossible mountain. I dug out this poem I wrote for a series of NPQ coaching sessions last year when we were exploring time in relation to neurobiology and teacher workload. It’s nothing fancy but is very grounding when I need that accountability to remember that time is all about possibility. Reminds me also that time is a currency and it has always been up to me to decide how I spend it, ask for support and the opportunity to collaborate. How sharing my time and to-do list is can give someone else a powerful boost and focus for the way they spend their time. Only I can choose how to take the energy time has and spend it wisely for the brief, yet wonderful chunk I’ve got. Sometimes I rock it and other times I find it much harder to get out out of the scarcity-fizz. Knowing there will be the fizz satisfies me that the buzz can only be one thought away.
Have a lovely weekend. Stay safe, stay well and please stay in touch.
Behind the busy-busy, to-do list and pressure
Lies the time I am chasing, like a map hides it’s treasure.
It’s there for the taking, it’s never been far
And it’s not about DOING or raising the bar.
In this brand new day, here’s the ultimate gift
It’s free and within me, just needs a mind-shift
I’ll breathe in and out slowly, remembering to hold
It seems really poignant to be thinking about growth at the moment. Not just because of the time of year and all the new life springing up all around us, but also in this strange and barren place we find ourselves in. Some days I really feel as though the lights have been turned out on our plans and ambitions and yet in the quieter, stiller moments, the darkness is a warm and fertile place of creative thinking, ideas and opportunity.
Being at home has meant getting stuck into some much needed gardening. I am not a natural in that department and often wonder if my green-green-fingered gene will ever be switched on! It started out with the mundane, functional stuff like weeding, hoeing and digging in the compost. Then we moved on to planting seeds in trays and getting pots ready for the bedding plants, if we ever manage to find any!
In the absence of a greenhouse (and much skill!) the seeds are in trays on just about every window sill in the house! The first are starting to germinate and being watched with great anticipation by the whole family. My little boys are particularly excited about the seeds they harvested themselves last autumn after we showed off our wonky, oversized and very non compliant veg at the village horticultural show. If you’re thinking Vicar of Dibley you’d be about right! The whole thing is hilarious and the highlight of the year for my little boys. As we were counting the seedlings that were poking up through the potting compost, Sandy asked me about germination and how the courgette seeds managed to grow so big from being so small. And there it was. Explaining germination to a six year old gave me hope and made me feel a warm glow of optimism. Something I’ve been missing during all this turmoil.
We talked about the seed storing energy all year, as it sat in the jam jar in our mug cupboard. We planted them somewhere dark and watered them for a few days. Nothing else. Now we’re looking at whole new seedings, doing their thing, just starting out on the journey to producing fruit. It was the stored energy that really resonated with me at the moment, rather like the forced hibernation we are experiencing, in our families, in our work and our economy. Under the cloud of fear and confusion, we are conserving energy. Storing it up for the next chapter. Claiming reserves as our own and focussing on only what we need. Just like those dry little seeds, waiting to thrive, it got me digging in and focussing on being resourceful with my energy. With that has come the confidence in possibility. Not for straight away but for when the Covid weather changes.
So tomorrow it’s back to the compost heap with my barrow and spade. Sometimes you’ve got to get through the muck heap to help the roses grow.
I don’t know about you but the last 2 weeks have been hard on lots of levels. The reality of working from home isn’t quite what I had in mind. I haven’t been waking up raring to go and PE with Joe doesn’t seem to be getting any easier as we stagger, bottom achingly, into week 3! Further disappointment lurks in that there’s no sign of the Insta-vibe in our house yet, either. You know the shots of a laptop and a lovely cup of frothy coffee in a minimalist Scandi chic home office! I haven’t managed to take any of those. Frankly our house is chaos on a grand scale. As I type this right now, there’s cake mixture on my keyboard, Lego all over the kitchen table and nerf darts on the grass lying next to the daffodil heads, they have just mercilessly decapitated. I am doing a lot of deep breathing. And for someone who is a life long member of the “everything in its place” club, it’s fair to say my head has been on a gradual simmer for days.
Whoever said “Just use the ZOOM APP” or “We Skype from the sofa” twice a day to check-in, must have been off their proverbial. The reality is, some of the team don’t want to be seen on video, others and I include myself in this, are constantly fending off their own offspring with the “just give me minute” line. My hair is usually wet and scraped back. I tried the smart top, comfy bottoms approach and have been wearing the same comfy bottoms for so many days now; I don’t think I’ll ever fit into my smart ones again. There has definitely been office chair induced spread. Or is it the constant snacking? I do blame my children for that though, what is it with all the snack breaks? I’m sure we send them to school with a banana and a water bottle and yet at home my 7 year old puts away a round of cheese on toast about 10.30 and the same about 3. It’s a constant buffet. Don’t get me started on the washing up pile! Thank goodness my friend Hannah put out an invitation to join a coaching circle on a Sunday night. A whole hour of uninterrupted me time, where I can share my ups and downs, draw on the wins and get clear about my focus for the next few days, or minutes, ahead.
This is not an easy ask and I think working from home should most definitely be renamed, being at home, trying to survive until tea time and fitting in a bit of work if you can. Not quite so catchy though, is it!
All in all, I think we need to cut ourselves some slack. This whole affair is different and it’s not an easy one to win. We are living in times of extraordinary flux. We are surrounded by uncertainty and humans don’t like that. To be more specific, our brains don’t like it and when a brain is under threat it hops into overdrive and starts behaving like a predator, rather than the mighty organ protector, it’s supposed to be. So here are a few SIMPLE suggestions I have taken away with me as I try to do my best one plate spinning, swan swimming, ball juggling, day at a time.
Working from Home with kids of a certain age!
Unless your children are like I was as a child (compliant, introverted and a big fan of homework), forget trying to work and teach them at the same time. I’ve divided up the day and decided 4 or 5 half hour bursts of work for me are far better than a whole day of jumbled up “mumking”. This is my made up word for being mum and working at the same time. Or not as the case may be! It always ends in tears. Usually mine first.
When people tell you “you’ll be fine with home schooling!”
The pressure to teach my own children is immense and I know all the other teacher-parents out there will be feeling the same way. Whilst I haven’t been in the classroom for a few years, I am fairly sure if we did a child swop, I would be able to handle your brood and learning would occur. The fact remains I am not my own children’s teacher, I am their mummy. And that job is quite enough of a responsibility in the current climate, even without my grown up job. So rather than sweating about the online resources and chasing them round the kitchen with a Biff and Chip book, we are going for accidental learning and seeing what possibility might crop up in the day. Today that possibility consisted of cleaning the bathroom with a bit of measuring, 2 loads of washing and painting hardboiled eggs. They learnt, they laughed and I didn’t need to crack open the sauvignon by midday. It was good enough.
Screen time bribery and the violent withdrawal
Finally, if like me you are a bit on the fence when it comes to tablets and iPads, haven’t a clue what Roblox is or understand the appeal of watching children open kinder eggs on YouTube. You are not alone. I think this is part of the generation thing. What I do know is that prizing an iPad from the hands of a fraught 7 year old after his half hour is up can be like lighting the blue touch paper, whatever time of day. So I took a tip from my good friend Joanne and not only give the clear 5-minute warning to shut down. I also go and sit with my little monster and ask him to talk me through exactly what he has built, collected, won and overcome in his 30 minutes of hedonistic bliss. It is a stroke of genius from a lovely friend and means the device can be extracted and “put in safe place” until the next time. He feels a sense of belonging and we can glide into the ironing like Torvill and Dean.
There it is. It’s not rocket science but what usually is? The house is still a tip, I look pretty rough and the juggle starts again tomorrow. On the plus side, the boys are fed and watered, I’ve managed to keep in touch with my wonderful team and there is still time to do an hour of yoga before bed.
Do you ever have those moments where you’ve had a brilliant idea, felt buzzing with energy as a result you jump straight to work putting your plan in action? It feels great, doesn’t it? But wait, what’s going on? Before you know it you hear someone else talking about your very idea on social media, they seem to have stolen your words and taken your thing and made it their own. They are doing it already!!! Now how do you feel? It’s like a slap in the face. You feel cheated, deflated annoyed with them and yourself.Maybe even a bit like you’ve been left behind and are not so current or pioneering after all. Fear not brilliant human, you’re not alone.
This is pretty standard stuff. If you’re taking part in any kind of personal or professional evolution and by this I’m talking about the almost primal response you feel to get out there and share your big idea, get that business off the ground or offer your new idea at work, this kind of thing will definitely happen! I call this new car syndrome! Do you know the thing where you buy a new car and all of a sudden every second car you see on the road or in Morrison’s car park is the same as yours! They’re everywhere it doesn’t seem so special after all! It’s that same thing, all of a sudden the novelty and excitement wears off. We have our consciousness to thank for this momentary derailment! Here’s how to get back on track.
Rather than be silenced and deflated, act now with these 3 simple points and get your idea out in the world anyway, feel the buzz and be the one who gives someone else exactly what they need. Acknowledge there is a need for your service or idea, whatever it is, only you have that unique way to offer it. Here’s a quick RESET to get you back in the BIG ideas saddle.
Be open to a different way of communicating your message to your target audience. Rather than being put off by the competition, quote them, make reference to their work and explain how it resonates with you and your ideas. This is kickass empowering, gets you in the zone of collaboration and shouts to the world you are current, informed and most of all, gracious, interested and different.
Re-visit your passion project and focus on the impact it had on you. WHY it moved you and HOW it made you feel. Being in that feeling is where you find your power. Dig into the detail that really caused the growth for you. Now’s a good time to really focus on the one thing that truly resonates or was at the root of the transformation for you. What was the game changer and how has it impacted on you? Taking your focus to this place will augment your purpose and take you back to your WHY. You might like to write about it, record a vlog or simply make an affirmation to yourself. Going back to your “lightbulb” moment will bring the feelings back and all the positivity that came with it.
Now you’re back in your purpose, rather than feeling threatened or put out by other people in your field, be clear about what you want to learn or where you want to share your skill/service/product. Who would benefit most right now? Put some energy into serving that group and get in touch with someone. One of the best ways to do this is to reach out and show you’re ready to form collaborative partnerships. Getting out of the fear zone and actively choosing to share and grow your expertise will naturally align you with the like minded, grow your confidence and keep the green eyed monster firmly in touch.
After all, only you have your way of bringing your gifts to the world. Might just turn out that the imposter voice is there to help you after all. Take care for now and as always, drop me a line anytime. I’d love to hear about your brilliant big idea.
I’m in. Yes. I’m actually here. Whoa! This is it. I’m in. Inside the head of this human, I think they call them. Caw, it’s lovely in here, warm, soft and very buzzy. What a special place, I feel like I’m inside a splendid palace. I’ve waited to get in here for such a long time, I wonder how long I’ll be able to stay? It’s so comfortable. nobody can get me here, in fact, I’d say I’m untouchable. Wow, what’s that. I can feel a sense of energy, I can feel a kind of current running through this place where I suddenly find myself. I’m going to have to look around. I didn’t ask to come in here, but now I’m in there’s clearly a lot of potential. This could well be home for a long time. Yes, I think i could get to like it here. The more I stay the more energy I seem to be absorbing. In fact it’s everywhere. Bursts of light and sparkle like fireworks buzzing along a wire and exploding into the spaces like beautiful stars and flowers. They just keep firing and the more they do, the more determined I feel. Oh yes, this is the place to be. It’s like an all-you-can-eat buffet for re-chargeable bods like me. Hell yes, I’m sticking around. Come on, follow me round. Let’s see what else is here to crash on.
My goodness, what’s that. It’s squashing me, pressing me hurting me. I will not be squashed. I’m a thought on a mission. Stand aside, get out of my way. Two can play that game madam, I will be sitting right here until you say sorry. hmm. You’re not going to are you. Right, well in that case I will be pushing right back at you. You have been warned!
You know it’s interesting just when she thinks I’ve gone, she’s hidden me, squashed me, she can’t find we anymore in fact she’s drowned me out with something else. I’m still here, still visible, still audible and able to creep back in. Tip toeing back in innocently, like a ballerina on Christmas Eve, delivering the gifts.
Let’s be honest, I’m no Christmas gift. No one would pay good money for me. No one would wrap me up, tie a satin bow and attach a tag. I’m no gift. I’m a thought. Lingering, hiding, waiting for my moment. All I need is a moment. Just a quick hello.
Here we go again. She starts feeding me with her pressure, her resistance and her ways of trying to make me move on. She tries so hard to scare me off. She tries to squeeze me into those tiny hiding places at the back there. Smother me in dark, sticky glue and leave me for dead. She’s feeding me and she doesn’t know it. Ha, ha, she’s just pouring it in to me like liquid sugar. Push me away, it fills me up, squash me and hide me, it only makes me stronger. The poor, silly human-thing, she even tries to distract herself with one of the many habits she got. I’m still here. Still at large and gagging for more attention, more headspace, more power.
I feel sorry for her really, if only she knew, all she has to do is welcome me. Just open her arms with warmth and stillness. Just let me be here and just let me be myself. In fact if she could just be herself and not be so concerned about what the others think or about what she does. Then she wouldn’t need to spend so much time trying to suppress me and push me away. In fact, yes, it’s all becoming clearer now. I just want to pass through this place after all, I don’t really want to be here. I’m only here because of all the energy she gives me. It’s like she gives me a stage and fills the audience will lookers and listeners and a constant stream of opinions. Then I just do my thing, what can I say. I am an actor. I was born for attention. I stay there, performing, encoring and giving her what she wants. All the fibre, all the power.
But actually I’m powerless. If she stopped plugging me in, re-energising me and feeding me up, if she took away my source I’d just move on through. I’d just be something she could say hello to, just observe and let go without any judgment whatsoever. Then I’d just go away and leave her to it. Leave this place and be at peace. You see, I don’t actually, want to be here after all.
In fact where am I? I don’t think this is what I signed up for. No there’s been a mistake. I’m in the wrong place. This palatial place that’s soft and warm, buzzing with electricity, chemicals galore. No, this isn’t for me. This is a fortress not a palace. I had real plans. A future, things I wanted for myself. I’m better than this. I was never destined to hang around and be a menace. I was born to bring answers to problems, to turn ideas into action and to be the creative juices I’ve heard about so much. Yes, that’s it. I am more than this and she is going to let me go. I AM in the wrong place.
If she just stopped pushing and analysing me, trying to make sense of who I am.
If she just said hello. Waved and said hello. I’d just wave back.
You see I’m just a thought. I’m not real. Just a thought.
I can’t tell you how much coaching has impacted and transformed my life. It’s definitely not just about work, coaching has given me a truly strong foundation for all elements and plays a crucial part in the projects I’m involved with supporting and nurturing sustainable people and workplaces. This quick start guide is aimed to help you get coaching off the ground in your school and develop a culture of shared human experience for relaxed and resilient staff.
Perceived Barriers to Coaching
Threatening: it creates a hierarchy and culture of inferiority.
Trouble-shooting: there must be a problem or a weakness to be addressed.
Increased Workload: when to fit it in and which model to use.
Taking down the barriers: Here’s how to get going.
Coaching can be side stepped because of a fear of structure and of process. Timing is also in the negatives column. Coaching conversations can run into 3 or 4 hours of amazingly powerful engagements. And naturally, that would be unrealistic. The truth is there can be mountains moved and eyes opened in 15-30 minutes. So my suggestion here is not to get hung up on time. Far better to have some shorter conversations that do actually happen, than the fear factor putting a stop to the whole thing before you’re even out of the blocks. Here’s an informal approach to developing a coaching culture this week.
Start with Heart
Coaching pairs don’t have to be subject colleagues or in the same team. In fact there’s strength and perspective to be found in mixing it up a little. They do have to be professional and open to sharing in confidence and these are important guidelines to agree at the beginning. A small scale coaching trial is a great way to invite volunteers to take part. There’s no pressure or finger pointing. Setting up a short get together enables the volunteers to meet and find their coach. Shared values* are a great starting point, making for a really grounded discussion and invitation to find commonality.
Cheer not Fear
Invite your volunteers to focus on all that is positive and pleasing in their life right now. Tapping into feelings is so much easier when they are rosy ones! This time shared, exploring them and celebrating them, is a powerful tool to reset and support wellbeing. It’s where we find the energy and adaptability to tackle challenges and respond to change. The words EXPLORE and OBSERVE are vital in capturing the present without creating judgement and unproductive self talk. Notice motivation and empowerment rising as the partners meet briefly, every week. Why not try this for a month to start with.
Moving on Up
It’s not about trouble-shooting or improvement. These are courageous conversations that absolutely fly when they start from a blank canvass, with no agenda. Here’s where a coach opens the coachee up to what really matters to them. In this place you feel things that make your heart sing and this will energise you from the inside out. The place where you access your own innate tools to tackle the mundane as well as the more tricky parts to life. These are the challenges or changes that don’t naturally align for us but can be navigated with the empowered feeling of being reconnected to what matters and drives us. Recall that change is the biggest monster of all when it comes to fear and internalised resistance. Which itself, induces anxiety, productivity paralysis and feelings of being inadequate and lacking confidence.
Coaching can so easily prevent this and make it easy for individuals and their teams to thrive and strive together. Simply by creating a culture of empathy and non-judgemental observation can be the change, very quickly. There is so much that connects us after all and coaching is the perfect way to nurture this value and look after our education professionals from the inside out. As one of my mentors once said, “If only we weren’t afraid of our own experience, that itself would change everything”.
For further information about coaching and creating a sustainable workforce in education, please don’t hesitate to be in touch.
This world of ours seems to be fuelled by fear from all corners at the moment. Public figures resigning by the week because of the unreasonable pressure they are under down to parents like me worrying about the amount of homework I’m doing with my children versus another glorious hour playing in the Lego box. It makes me particularly wide-eyed that there is so much fear-talk in education at the moment. The place where the absolute bedrock of nurturing future generations can be gripped by the anxiety of not delivering targets, paralysed by planning pro-formas and drowned in layers of evidence collecting.
We are not our work and yet we are all juggling, spinning plates and pedalling like mad, down the unknown road ahead. The experience of life does not discriminate but that doesn’t mean we need to be afraid of it. And that alone, is for me, the ticket to a sense of belonging, worthiness and joy worth sharing.
I’m getting better at surfing! My way of saying how being more comfortable with feeling uncomfortable, has changed my life immeasurably and made for a more relaxed and buoyant experience all round. I’m living proof that going with an uncomfortable feeling, rather than fighting, flighting or sucking up the downward spiral of shame, opens doors that were otherwise invisible. What I’ve come to realise is being uncomfortable is vital to developing a wholehearted perspective and a realistic mindset for life ahead in the resilience lane. The only lane on the highway to our future selves.
When we become threatened our body produces hormones and neurotransmitters to prepare the body for fight and flight. They make us feel physically uncomfortable, jittery and anxious. In actual fact, although tricky and antsy to experience, these feelings are real, human and tell us our bodies are working perfectly. The key point being that the effects of these chemicals only last about 90 seconds. Yes, only 90 seconds. That’s less than an Ed Sheeran song, shorter than the adverts on X Factor and less time than it takes to boil a kettle and make a cup of tea. It’s really not very long but we all know it can feel like forever, especially the first time and even more so when you’re watching it in your own unspeakably precious children. When the butterflies in your tummy, dry mouth, tight throat and pounding heart pass as they naturally will, the uncomfortable feelings will go too and calm, quiet clarity will replace them. This is the place where we find our problem solving skills come alive, we can see what it is that we don’t know and creativity leads us to answers ourselves. Natural learning and problem solving, without the need for as much support, panic or fear of failure.
Being Your Own Barometer
Recognising the feelings rumbling is absolutely key. All it takes is 90 seconds and those feelings will go. My 90 seconds are spent picturing waves. They come and they go. Before I know it the feelings have gone. The waters are calm, clear and still.
The more often we practise this ourselves and the more we develop this in our workforce, pupils and children, the greater the capacity for resilience. In a swipe and one-click World, I think this is a vital skill, not something to be saved for burnout and therapy. Something else I’ve learned? Resilience is natural. It’s innate and has been inside us all along. It just needs the opportunity to flourish by being nurtured, not numbed, over-supported or fended off.
Best of all, this natural human ability doesn’t have a price tag. It doesn’t cost a penny. In fact it’s about DOING NOTHING, being present in a moment and trusting in our authentic nature. Makes me wonder just how much money we could save in our systems. Simply by being who we are and not being afraid of our own experience.
For the last 4 years I’ve been exploring the human experience. My own combat with anxiety awoke a deep curiosity. Since then I’ve been learning to live in harmony with all elements of the human experience, rather than trying to run from them. It all started with noticing and exploring a non-judgemental appreciation for my thoughts. What followed fairly quickly seemed at first to be a lifetime’s worth of lightbulb moments in one big bang. As time has gone by what I’ve noticed more and more, is the willingness to observe rather than my default desire to analyse and evaluate has created a quiet sense of safety and contentment for even the trickiest times.
So let’s crack on, jump straight in and stare thought in the face. See it for what it truly is. Explore how we humans get something on our minds and bring it to life, in glorious technicolour.
Getting to grips with thought has changed everything for me. At last I get it. We and only we, create our experience through the thoughts in our mind. We have this power within us. It is innate. We’re all the same, without question. The challenging thoughts still come into my mind, of course they do. I’m human, well most of the time at least! The difference now is what I’ve come to call my bounce back time (or resilience). Let me give you an example.
2 days ago I sat down to write this story. I was unloading the dishwasher and suddenly decided to write it, there and then. I left the dishwasher open, pots and pans all over and went with the flow. I wrote my story. At the top of this very editing page are 3 very important buttons!! Save, publish and delete. So in my second ever crack at doing this, I was so focussed on NOT publishing the unedited version, you can guess what I did. I pressed delete. So busy focussing on a goal, so busy creating my own little pressure cooker of expectation. I hit delete. I was devastated, disappointed and for a few moments started to enter the spin of persecution. I didn’t do it on purpose, of course not. It isn’t the end of the world, for sure. But in those few moments I was stupid, worthless and inadequate. That was at least until took a deep breath and tuned back into what I know is TRUE. Those feelings were coming from thought. I’m good at those feelings because I’ve spent a long time perfecting them. Take a negative thought or two in a finite moment and boom! I make them into my own little version of events. My own script and my own biography. Give me an hour or even 10 minutes and on a bad day that can spiral down, down, down. That’s where we start creating the future through thought. We can imagine conversations, play out interactions and even work through conflict. What’s worse is we literally start to feel the effects of those thoughts, which haven’t even happened yet!
Here comes the science bit!
Err, well actually it doesn’t? Unlike the shampoo adverts! I know, for goodness sake, what are they thinking back at hair-care HQ!!! The truth is, unlike the Loreal lady, there is no science required. To be honest it’s as simple as this:
We are lucid beings with an amazing mind. Thoughts pass through. If we choose to linger on them and shine our conscious energy through them. Bingo. We get a feeling.
And that’s why this matters so much to me. My own anxiety and years in the classroom brought me to a BIG realisation. If only I came across this understanding at school. Then I would have been prepared for the REAL world. The world of fending for myself, appreciating the rough and the smooth but most of all, really living and thriving one day at a time. Not stuck on a perpetual incline, always looking to the next horizon to tick something off. Do you know the “I’ll be OK when I’ve…” mindset? Insert the target of your choice. My favourites are lost weight, worked harder, been a more patient mum, phoned my lovely friends and this week, tidied up!!
I am OK. I always was OK and so are you. The mum in me hopes for nothing more than this understanding for my little boys. The teacher in me knows for sure, that it IS the key to enabling any child to tap effortlessly into their own potential. To be comfortable having a go and getting things wrong. Sound in the knowledge that together with their peers and the teachers in their classroom, they are all in this together and together they will find their own answers, solutions and creations. For this there is no script. No teacher can plan for this connection and possibility. That’s the whole point. As soon as anyone creates a train of thought with a target in mind, they may as well check themselves straight into the cells of thought prison. And that can seem to be a very hard place to break out of if you keep on adding another layer of restrictive thought. It’s the same in the classroom, the office and the boardroom. Whatever your boardroom may be.
I’ll talk a lot more about the paralysing effects of planning, targets and firmly rooted goal posts, another time.
We’ve passed the blue skies of late summer and are well into the misty days of autumn. Spare a thought for those clouds in the sky and blue sky that is, always behind them. Thoughts are like clouds. Different shapes, wispy or dense. Sometimes they linger, sometimes they fly by. What will always be a constant is that like clouds, thoughts will come and go. Whether they cloud our minds moment to moment, is entirely in our hands. We all have the quiet of blue sky inside us as well. It’s been there all along!
Felicity is a mum, teacher and innate wellbeing specialist. leading on wellbeing and resilience in education and the workplace. Putting the U in human for sustainable, satisfied people and saving wasted resource through recruitment, retention and rewards.
Please be in touch anytime for further information or why not book a FREE 30 minute innate wellbeing
As educators, we are acutely aware of the needs of our students. Creating an environment where they feel safe and free to be themselves, being the priority. Why then, do we seem to miss a trick when it comes to our colleagues in the staffroom? Why do we still pursue strategic and operational plans with a toxic tongue. Plans about as far removed from the empirical powers of connection, as possible? Not to mention the workload they create. Let’s not even go there!
I’ve worked in a number of schools as part of support teams. An odd job lady with a variety of roles. Fundamentally, coaching and creating space for the staff, to find their own way through. Previously, I had taught in schools “on a journey” and knew the drill in terms of monitoring and evidence. But being on the fringes brought a new perspective. This was a noisy place in a noisy system with even more noise created by the pupils we keep safe. A bit like 6 different radio stations, playing all at once. To the point that at times, you even forgot your own wavelength. And yet still the language of change is so potentially brutal! Why do we stand for it? And why are we surprised when it damages the people at the heart of the profession?
What’s in a word?
Words are powerful, they are meant to be. But depending on the alignment of the listener, they can impart messages of mass destruction, quite contrary to their intention. Repeated exposure can create an atmosphere of fear, anxiety and shame. Causing staff to retreat more than ever, becoming islands instead of allies and less likely to form the precious connections and collaborations, when they are needed most.
How can you make a difference for the better?
We are all responsible and we all have a choice. Leadership starts when you look in the mirror. Why not try a few brave and simple changes to put the human back into the way you lead your clan. Here are just two. You could make these happen tomorrow.
1) Stop telling each other they need to improve!
Improvement is one of those words that hovers in our workplaces like the smell of stale milk. The problem with improvement is that there isn’t ever a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Even the most successful are still boasting an improvement plan, just to ensure they keep the brilliance and create more going forward. Improvement speaks to weakness and happily propagates fear. Inevitably in a culture of continuous improvement there comes a point where the scarcity becomes what we believe to be true. And the path from belief to disempowerment is very short. The biggest danger lies in that when leaders and their followers believe in the necessity of a constant improvement cycle, inadvertently that’s what our colleagues believe too. We believe we are never enough.
Try getting rid of improvement and use the word ADAPT. The impact will be immediate. Human beings are hard wired to adapt, taking everything they are blessed with to adjust to the emerging environment. Moving sideways to carve a new path. This very subtle adjustment will have a profound effect on your teams. Adaptation empowers natural capacity, it engages people in what they can bring to the arena as opposed to the stifling effects of improvement and targets. Most of all knowing that you are adapting to changing circumstances puts you, as an individual, safely in the driving seat. Both hands on the wheel and PIONEERING the small and manageable roads with your own eyes. Rather than the being chased by the judgement of improvement like a raging bull to a red cape. This level of natural human empowerment breeds belonging, security and accountability. Accountability being just another step on the pathway of adaptation. Making small and frequent evaluations, little tweaks in the safety of a culture that plays to human strengths. And doesn’t shoot them down. Accountability is feeling safe yourself, safe to get on with your work. Safe that your work is valued by others and respected for it’s authenticity. Safe to be in the here and now and not restricted by over-planning or the fear of making change. Most of all, accountability comes from being comfortably vulnerable and rooted in the same compost as your team. It’s pointless trying to develop a growth mindset if we aren’t secure in that place as the adults. Adaptation is key to growth.
2. Performance Management is a wasted invitation to the best party ever
Secondly, make a bold and powerful change to the most important job on your list. Looking after your people. Please don’t call it performance management, change it to Time to Talk or words to that effect. Managing performance is fine if you’re in charge of a puppet show or coding settings on a robot. But to describe the vital time you spend with your fellow human beings in the same way is, frankly, demeaning to our species, destroys possibility and engenders fear and shame in us all. As my lovely mentor Jan Flanagan said to me several years ago, nice makes nice. How right she was. There really is no need to threaten with our language when the potential for innovation is right in the palm of our hands, when we stick together. Conversations about the work we do must start from a place of safety and of trust if there is any hope of new adaptive thinking to develop. If leaders feel threatened, exposed and measured, then their followers will as well. The fear package travels down the line. Leadership is listening to your followers and respecting what you might not yet know about the hidden treasure in your midst.
Leaders are not to blame for the use of hurtful language. They are, like everyone, doing there very best with what they have. But looking after employees can only start by looking after their leaders and please be assured that I mean all the adults in the building. We’re all the same. We all have the same motivation. Capacity for wellbeing and hidden potential is a gift waiting to be unwrapped.
Never shoot the messenger but remember you can re-deliver the message!
Business language may be the culprit. Adopted to increase efficiency and move things forward. The trouble is, the business of humans makes a different type of profit and the choice of language really matters. Humans know when there is something out of line.
These simple ideas WILL increase inclusion, empower more people and reveal skills and talents that were unnoticed before. Better use of your department, better use of your faculty and better use of you. Leaving more fuel in your tank and in that of your people.
The words we use do matter and a different choice can make all the difference. Words that strike at the heart of our blueprint are the ones that bring out our strengths. So grab your red pen. What the heck, grab the Tippex! Wipe out some of the words that have lingered too long. Communicate from the heart and your people will do the same. It’s brave. It’s pioneering and it’s kind. If we’re going to talk brass tacks then for me it’s simple. A very wise dad has always hold me: “Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves”. Your people are the pennies to your pound. Care for them and count them and your investment will flourish.
Felicity is a teacher, leader and innate wellbeing specialist. She provides bespoke coaching and training to leaders and their followers across the business and education sectors. Her research based approach reframes human capital, saving wasted resources of recruitment, retention and rewards. For further information please visit http://www.felicityking.co.uk or email right now at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I was lucky enough to spend my Saturday at a conference this week. Rising early before my eyes were open, to join a host of committed men and women at the 4th WomenEd Un-conference. I can truly say there is an energy I can’t describe at these events. A silent buzz, warm and fuzzy like a peach left out in the sunshine. With no sign of pomp or hierarchy. Perhaps it was because it was a Saturday and we flocked through choice and wonder? Perhaps it was just because this is my tribe.
There was the usual day-out sparkle in the air as we arrived at the majestic school building, like bees to the hive. Queuing up to be registered, get our badge and finally, that wonderful, first cup of coffee. You know the one. It’s not a cappuccino, it’s probably in a paper cup, but you’re out, away from the chores and actually in with a chance of drinking it hot!!
With a Bic-black tick, I had my badge. Registers mean a lot to me. They turned me into a teacher and still don’t disappoint. There’s something very special, very primal about saying that list of names. Those precious minds are here to be with me! And with them they bring abundance, imagination and a list of questions a hundred miles long! Nothing gets in the way of their inquisition. Not when connection has opened the door.
There have been so many times when I’ve forgotten to be present. As if the tick was on the page, but the ink, had disappeared. Sometimes I’ve been distracted, preoccupied, or as I now know, lost in my thoughts. I’ve missed checking myself in. I’ve forgotten at home, at work and indeed with my dearest friends. When I’ve remembered again and really taken time to be present, connection just happens.
So for Saturday at least, on that rainy morning in Derbyshire, you were my register. A wealth of shared stories, research projects and data, everything we work so hard for, everything that really matters and brought us here in the first place. And yet in the quietest of moments, in the silence of the noise there is a knowing in the air, the antidote to our busyness. Invisible wisdom reminds us that nothing really matters. Not when you have your tribe and their hope for what is possible and what has yet to be.