Hey baby!

Well life has changed immeasurably over the past ten days.

Baby Ella was born last Monday funnily enough on the 29 February making her a ‘leapling’ after a range of plans and ultimately an emergency Caesarean section birth.

I’ve been at home this and last week on paternity leave and am glad of this time to bond with her not to mention help Kirsty with her as she needs to be taking it easy post-op.

I have two children from when I was married and within. A week of our new arrival they were celebrating their 18th and 15th birthdays respectively- wow, what a way of reminding you about the passage of time.

When coaching we often look at priorities, goals, action plans, aims etc and this experience of bringing a new life into our  world does make you think about your priorities. In a sense this helps you to ‘get over yourself’ a little and focus on what is important and how you can provide the best conditions for your new priorities to thrive!

I’ve been here  before twice but fatherhood feels like a new challenge and so for me providing stability for our new family is the priority, it was important before but the cat wasn’t as reliant on me and Kirsty!

Top tips from a new dad to anyone (not just new parents):

  • Enjoy and treasure your sleep, you really miss it when it’s in short supply 
  • Don’t be quite so strict on yourself to always have things going on, places to go and people to see. What’s life like when you stop for a minute or two?
  • Think about how you want others to see you. Learn to like yourself and realise that intended or not there are others that watch the behaviours you model and are impacted by them
  • Always be prepared! You never know where the next bodily function is going to strike and in what form (this one really is more for new parents!)

  
   

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What is luck?

cloverOk so what is luck?

This is a question that I find intriguing or at least people’s relationship with luck more to the point.

In my coaching practice I acknowledge when my client describes something as lucky or unlucky and then I try to help them to see what they did to create the conditions for this apparently lucky thing to happen. For example, getting a new job or being accepted for a course – it stands to reason that there was some preparation involved before going for a job or applying for a course which may have included updating a CV, carrying out research to help with the interview, looking at their own priorities and deciding to make a change and putting themselves out there. Whichever way, a lot happens at times to help create the conditions for a ‘lucky’ occurrence to happen.

What would feel different for you if you were to believe, just for a few moments, that there is no such thing as luck? No doubt you may think of really freaky incidents or unexplainable occurrences that you can’t explain, coincidences – this is something I do find fascinating and if you enter the term ‘Synchronicity’ into Google and look up Jung’s work on this you might find it interesting. Sometimes we curse our luck when we have had yet another relationship break-up “i’m so unlucky with the opposite sex” being something you may say rather than looking at what was perhaps behind the break-up.

I’m putting all of this a little simplistically perhaps but why not experiment with the idea that luck doesn’t exist and reframe some of the times that you have felt lucky or unlucky and consider whether you had any part to play in the events occurring – if you had absolutely no part in it you may feel that it was down to luck, or you can sometimes take ownership of the fact that you seem to have been unlucky or lucky when it’s not you that has been directly affected – but it always happens to you (cue the chorus to the Travis song, ‘Why does it always rain on me?.’

The main point i’m making is that to some extent I believe that we make our own luck and are more empowered when we recognise how we have done this. We can then repeat the steps again in the future and try to reach different outcomes to the undesirable ones by avoiding making the same errors again, rather than putting it all down to bad luck.

Some famous sportsman once said ‘The more I practice, the luckier I get!’

How are you today, doctor?

I am on a train back from London to Nottingham following a round table event led by NHS England focusing on how to address the problems of mental health and emotional wellbeing of GPs.

I have worked with and for GPs since my RAF days then onto the NHS since 1996 (yep since I was 2!) so almost 20 years now and I can honestly say that the overwhelming majority of them are hard-working, caring, passionate about serving their local populations but almost to a person – stressed!

The demands on the everyday GP are vast and varied and many are not obvious to the average patient. GPs in partnerships run their own small businesses, the surgery, contracted by the NHS to do so and with funding plunging over years, patient demand and expectation rising and a lack of new recruits and acceleration of early retirements the profession is in something of a crisis. It’s a ‘perfect storm’ situation and it does feel more than a little ironic that the very people who are causing quite a bit of the pain are the ones looking to design a service to cope with the effects of it!

 

The event today covered a lot of areas and talked about what would be in the new service for GPs such as potentially talking therapies, psychiatric services, addiction counselling etc and the role of the Local Medical Committee (LMC) in any implementation of a service was seen as key, indeed I am involved in a GP support service that works across Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. There is also discussion outside of the GP care about the wider support team in practices including practice managers and nurses and how they can be supported. I was recently involved in co-designing and delivering a stress management workshop with a local Clinical Commissioning Group for their practice managers and would like to do more of this.

I really enjoy working with GPs, both in a supportive, representative and advisory role in the LMC and also as a coach on a one-to-one basis and I care about their future and that of healthcare for the masses. The NHS is an institution that we should all be grateful for and proud of not dismissing the fact that there are at times cultural issues around incident reporting and massive wastage and inefficiencies. Getting the care that we get as patients in this country without massive bills being sent to us after each contact is a gift to us, we should be grateful but also challenge it when it performs poorly.

I urge you to bear in mind when you next see your GP that they are (normally) doing their best for you and that they are humans too and become patients too at times, of course they are providing a service to us and we have expectations of them. Also, for GPs reading this please hang in there and for goodness sake get help if you are feeling down or stressed – from your local LMC in the first place if you’re note sure where else to go – I know that GPs often find it hard to ask for help but you really should, you deserve that help when you need it.

Anyway, the next steps after today is that a new national service is rolled out, probably in the autumn of 2016 greatly increasing the access to mental health and associated services for GPs. 
So, how are you today, doctor?

Monkey Manager!

Yesterday I co-facilitated and delivered a stress management workshop to a group of GP surgery practice managers in Nottingham and one of the sessions was about delegation.

It was fun to walk into the venue with a bag full of monkeys, they symbolised problems as in ‘the monkey on your back!’ and were used in an exercise on how to delegate effectively using questions and challenges to empower staff.

I thought that it was interesting to think about how what to some people is the boss being Teflon/slopey-shoulders can also be an opportunity to increase the scope for learning new skills.

The exercises were useful to think about empowering staff by reassuring them that you as the manager support them to solve the problem (thus giving the monkey back to them). Learning to take more responsibility and show more of what you can do can be really beneficial for a staff member if handled correctly and so much of it is in the way the conversations are handled.

Bottom line is ‘Dont’t hog all the bananas, let some others feed the monkeys!’

Happy at Work?

 
The guys over at Action for Happiness (check them out, very cool) posted about how staff are happier at work when they feel valued, trusted and appreciated – sounds obvious but how common is this feeling?

Part of the coaching that I practice is about bringing positivity into everyday life and I include work in that, indeed some clients end up changing jobs during a coaching engagement. We spend so much of our time at work that it is crucial that we enjoy it, taking into account that some of it will be less stimulating but overall liking what you do. The key to this in my eyes is good management and therefore staff that feel valued.

When thinking about your job I encourage you to go through the following questions and see how many times you answer ‘yes’:

  • Do you feel respected by your boss?
  • Do you feel valued and appreciated by your boss?
  • Do you generally feel valued, trusted and appreciated by work colleagues?
  • Do you generally feel valued, trusted and appreciated by customers/clients?
  • Does your boss ask for your thoughts/advice at times?
  • Is your role at work clear and consistent?
  • Have you ever been thanked for your work?
  • Do you feel free to offer suggestions to your boss?
  • Do you trust your boss?

The important think here is about how YOU feel about these questions rather than about how your boss would answer by showing how many courses they’ve sent you on or perks they may have given you.

If the number of times you answered no outnumbers  the times you said yes you may want to think about how this could change or whether it’s you that needs to change. Life’s too short to stay in a job that leaves you feeling short-changed, you deserve better!

Advice from 41 year old me to 21 year old me

It’s funny but a similar article urged me to write this as a reflective piece which many people will identify with.

I thought about who I am at 41 compared with the me at 21, it’s weird as in some ways I feel like a completely different person and yet I know it was me even back then – I have the pictures to prove it!!

So as a brief list of little nuggets of advice to myself (and possibly to other 21 year olds – and remember that advice is just advice, it’s based on opinion and experience and is highly subjective!!):

  1. Don’t worry so much about the future, it’ll sort itself out
  2. Don’t worry so much about how you look, you’re 21 you look fresh and lean!
  3. Try not to stress so much about what people think of you, that inner confidence takes time to build and even at 41 you need to draw on its reserves at times but it’ll come (and you never quite know what people think anyway, you just convince yourself that you do know!)
  4. Enjoy being young and the leeway that it can give you
  5. Try new things that you’re interested in, if you don’t like them you can drop them but if you do it can be an interest you retain for life
  6. Imagine a world where you can communicate with millions of people at the touch of a keypad/mouse, when you’re 41 it’ll be possible!
  7. Money may be tight when you’re 21, not always but often. It’ll get better if you keep doing the right things and take opportunities as they come
  8. If you have kids one day savour every moment – keep photos, paintins, notes etc they will always be your proudest achievement
  9. Don’t spend all your money, try to save some
  10. Be careful with receiving advice and taking it as gospel, you’re ok with me – I have no other agenda but to help you
  11. Have fun and smile as much as you can. That’s my advice on almost everything these days around choice of job or decisions between competing diary clashes – do what makes you happy as much as you can
  12. I think that there is much more I could say but the beauty of your life is that it’s yours, you tread your own path and nobody else does and you’ll find out for yourself what good things it has – be happy.

My final bit of advice is to take the advice of 41 year old me with a pinch of salt, it’s well meaning but it is with the benefit of hindsight which is always easier than following your heart, your instincts and gut feeling 🙂

Feel free to comment with advice to your 21 year old self!

Super Vision!

This morning I went to a coaching supervision session which entailed three hours of discussing coaching sessions that we’d had as coaches and about specific points that had come up for us during our coaching. Beforehand I was unsure of how it would go as I hadn’t met any of the fellow coaches before and all sorts of thoughts come into your head as well as expectations and hopes for the time that we would spend together.

There were three of us in the group all discussing our own experiences and learning and what really came across for me was the need to focus on being present with the client at all times and about whose agenda we’re working to as coaches. It is easy to think about what you may want to use or get out of a session and yet the agenda should always, unequivocally be owned by the client.

It was fascinating being in the room and listening to other people with their own background, experiences and approach to life and work and was most useful when challenges came into the room and forced us to question why we do some of what we do, in very few settings is that kind of challenge welcomed or accepted and I take it as a gift of sorts.

I’m even more convinced coming away from the supervision session that it is the quality of the relationship between coach and client that has the biggest effect on the usefulness of the coaching to the client and as with the psychotherapy training that I have recently been on there is much to be said about ‘the space between us’ i.e. what is going on in the room, how we’re feeling and what is going on for us both.

We discussed the differences between coaching and mentoring, my favourite saying on this front is that “Mentors have excellent answers for your questions, coaches have excellent questions for you to answer.”

The difference between trying to do everything yourself and letting others in to help you are for me like the difference between Standard Definition and High Definition, or stereo and mono or to stretch the entertainment analogies further one speaker versus surround sound! I already knew that discussing things with other people can be transformative in its nature when facilitated well and I believe that sharing with others in a safe space is something that can be really beneficial in many areas of life, this truly does give you SUPER VISION!!

Advice for Fridays

Well we’re here again and I thought it’d be interesting to think about what Fridays mean to us.

Many folk are excited as it’s almost the weekend and the week at work/school is coming to an end.

But why do we delay our pleasure til the weekend and what is it telling us about our job if we only find our fun for two days a week? I don’t live in a pink and fluffy world where rainbow-coloured unicorns parade round and leap over clouds and I too do sometimes feel relieved that it’s nearly the weekend and don’t feel super-enthusiastic every Monday morning but when you can’t wait for Friday and it’s only Monday what does this mean?

In the UK we spend approximately 44 weeks at work each year taking leave and bank holidays into account meaning that we spend around 85% of our days at work so it’s a long time if we don’t enjoy it – yep I’ve heard rumours of people enjoying work!

So really the point I’m making is that if you don’t like your job life is immeasurably affected so answer the following questions when you next think about the relief that Friday gives you:

  • When’s the last time you woke up and looked forward to going to work?
  • What about that day did you look forward to and how can you make those days happen more regularly?
  • Do you have the skills/ideas to work for yourself and would that lifestyle suit you?
  • Write down what you value about work and what you don’t like…it may help with your next move
  • If you don’t look forward to he weekend do the same exercise about Saturday and Sunday, it may be that your lifestyle needs a revamp

Somebody once said something like “one day when you look back on your life you will NEVER say that you wish you’d spent more time at the office!”

Self Improvement…

I’ve been thinking a lot over the last week or so in particular about how I can help people to feel better in their lives and this has led to me forming a new group (with the Meetup sites platform as the host of the group) which I have called the “Nottingham Self-Improvement Group.”

Since 2010 when joining Samaritans as a listening volunteer I have wanted to help people and what really stuck with me was how hard it is for so many people to talk about their feelings with others around them because of emotional ties and the implications of opening up. The chance to talk to people that they didn’t have a connection with really helped them to keep going which felt like a really special place to be.

If I was to summarise some of the learning that I took from Samaritans I would say the following as observations:

  • People can live into old age with emotional pain from childhood
  • A stranger listening to somebody in distress or despair can be invaluable help
  • Being there for someone can help them to think differently about themselves and therefore their situation
  • Nobody is immune from trauma, mental health problems, upset, fear, anxiety, lack of confidence etc.
  • Life is no easier for you when you’re young even if you don’t have mortgages to pay, children to raise etc.
  • So often people are their own biggest critics
  • People can be self-limiting and often live in their own bubble, it can take others to pop it!
  • Each individual person is unique and special and capable of doing more than they realise
  • You never stop worrying about your children, even when they have children of their own!

I have since been studying a MSc in Integrative Psychotherapy and Counselling in Nottingham but have left it after year 1 as my partner is having our first baby together and for the sake of us going forward I have put the studies off for a while – it was going to be majorly demanding!

The meetup group will run once a month in and around Nottingham and will incorporate learning that I have taken from the Psychotherapy and from running the training department with Samaritans but also with a coaching approach having studied for an Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) coaching qualification this year which I started at the back end of 2014.

The spin off for me personally, as with so many people in helping/caring professions is helping me to find new insights and some nourishment for my soul (if that’s the name to give it) and because I really believe in the strength of relationships, social interaction and support which really is what the meetup group is about. It can be found at Nottingham Self-Improvement Meetup and i’ll report back on its progress as we move together; a week after launching it I have had 25 expressions of interest to be involved, exciting!

SelfImp

Stranger Danger!!!

Don’t be alarmed, I’m not shopping someone for talking to me without invitation in the supermarket – no this is about ‘Imposter Syndrome’ when we sometimes feel like the imposter or stranger.

This is familiar to me and in management I have experienced at times that fear of ‘being found out’, as if somebody is going to come up to me one day and say “Well done, you had a good run and had us all fooled for a while but now it’s time to give up!” like the Leonardo Di Caprio character in ‘Catch me if you can.’ The fear of failing has been a constant driver rather than the excitement and anticipation of achievement which I try to focus more on now. In one-to-one coaching which I also incorporate into my management style I always encourage people to think big and believe in themselves and question the validity of that unhelpful inner voice hence the name of my coaching and training practice – Be Brave!

It’s odd that our own internal monologue can be convincing us of our unworthiness to do well for ourselves and there is doubtless a lot of pent up frustration along with unhelpful messages or modelling of behaviours around us from an earlier and more impressionable age that feeds into this and yet others can rate us highly while we hide the self-doubt from them.

Perhaps many of us are just scared of our own success and so fail to internalise it or acknowledge it. A saying that makes me laugh regards achievement and success is “The further up the tree you climb, the more people can see your ass!”

I guess that being British, I don’t really want everyone to see my ass (arse).