Equality, fairness, respect and dignity have always been at the heart of my work. Earlier this year I was fortunate to be asked to support a learning disability organisation to develop a punchy position statement in response to a Government policy, something very close to me. One of my first roles when I left University (first time around) was as a live-in volunteer, living alongside and working with adults with learning disabilities. I learnt so much, which I took with me to every future job. This recent opportunity seemed like a perfect chance to see how much had changed, for me and for the learning disability community, in the intervening years...
I wish I could say attitudes and opportunities had changed significantly. It was a shock just how many deep-rooted prejudices remained. Feelings of control and power that some legal, health and social care professionals felt they had every right to hold over people, simply because they 'had' a learning disability. It was horrific to hear their views. 'They' felt that they had every right to make decisions for 'them', with no consideration of 'them' as people. The horror drove me onwards, and made me look backwards...
The residents of the community home I worked and lived in were all individuals. They all had their own interests and priorities for life. They all wanted different things. They all had different relationships. They all had lives. They all made me laugh in different ways. I was so lucky to live with them for a time. They shaped me, and gave me valuable experiences which I would never shake off. I wouldn't want to.
That experience has been the driver for my career. My experience made this recent job more real, more vital and more disheartening all at the same time. My experience made my contribution stronger, more alive and more impactful. Things may not have changed enough over the years, but that first job changed me, and in return I changed things with this recent job. Experience counts. If you think my experience can help you, get in touch...
I submitted my PhD Thesis last week; a five-year long project. And what a five years it has been. So many changes to our lives and work - changes that continue to have unrecognised impacts today. I still have a few final hoops to jump through before my PhD is 'done' but I have been reflecting on the experience ever since I hesitantly clicked 'submit'...
The skills I have been able to employ to get my PhD over the line are inherently the same as those I use in my consultancy. What I have loved about the PhD process has been exactly what I love about my work in consultancy. My PhD has been my very own project, not commissioned by someone else, and not delivered in partnership with a 'team' - I have been the strategist, the planner, the developer, and the reviewer. Just all in a different setting, a different audience and a different set of examination...
The three main aspects of my PhD, perhaps of any PhD, and the three main attributes I employ in all my work. Research - reading and listening; what is the background?. Thinking - making a unique contribution; where can I add value? Communicating - writing and talking; how can I best get my message across?
In order to get my thesis - all 100,000 words of it - completed I have taken the past few months 'off' in terms of my consultancy... However, now it's time to jump back in, make a difference and apply my re-invigorated skills. If you are looking for some help, get in touch and let's see if we can work together.
This week I did something I used to do so regularly that I never even considered it. Something which just hasn't been on the agenda, at least mine, in recent months. Something so simple, yet at the same time so seemingly far from being straightforward. At least recently. This week I met a friend for a coffee.
We used to work together many years ago. So much has changed for both of us over the years. The past eighteen months have been no exception. While it seemed during lockdown that literally nothing was changing, each day felt like the day before and the 'new normal' we were experiencing in isolation was 'it', it was surprisingly refreshing to re-engage, reflect a little and realise that despite it all, change has continued. It is now re-adjusting again that seems the hard part.
My friend has established her own mindset coaching business as a side hustle during the long months of furlough, and is considering where to take it in the world now that the day-job is looming large back in her life. Our day-jobs are changing too. Are we 'back' in the office or still 'stuck' working at home. The language we use suggests we are so desperate to rewind and embrace how things were 'then'. But what if we were to instead embrace how things are 'now' instead and how things could be in that mythical future we dream of? Maybe just maybe, we do have it in us.
I am wondering where my work, my writing, my research are all heading. I have been working flexibly, juggling what used to be called a 'portfolio' career for several years now. Some people I speak to now automatically assume that my goal will be working towards a more traditional nine-to-five 'day-job' once I get my PhD done and dusted (ha! say fellow researchers). What if we continue to shift our mindsets and refuse to accept that pattern or tradition.
Life has changed. Life was always changing - perhaps we just didn't notice... If life, or the return to work-life, is not changing in the way you or your organisation might have hoped, perhaps some coaching, some re-connecting or just a chat over coffee could unlock things - maybe I can help. Get in touch.
Well, it has been the longest time during lockdown, and don't we all know (and feel) it. As we emerge, changed and challenged but hopefully charged to reclaim what we treasure the most, our minds inevitably turn to 'what next?' I have been pondering plans just as much as the organisations who have been contacting me for support recently. Is it 'back to before', 'time for something new' or perhaps more realistically, 'what are we really doing here'?
One particular organisation I am working with are looking for a strategy. A plan. A map of where they will be heading next. They have been adapting, growing and changing so much during lockdown that they feel they need to press pause, reflect a little, and for the first time ever, develop a plan for the future.
The experience of working with them has made my mind flood with reflections on planning, processes, ideas and outcomes. They have done incredibly well so far without a plan. Unbelievably so. They have survived (so far) during lockdown, growing their team significantly as a result of securing additional funding. All without a plan. On reflection, perhaps because they didn't have one? Hands up who has stuck their 'plan' anyway during lockdown? Now, they are grappling with the notion of planning, structuring ideas, prioritising next steps, figuring out who they really are as an organisation, and ultimately where they hope to be in that magical 'five years time'...
I know they will get there. I know I am able to help them. I know they will flourish. Part of me, however, wonders if they could just discover that special ingredient which has meant 'success' for them this far, they would be able to unlock the plan that they have already developed. The plan that's not written down. No flip-charts. No post-its. No process. Just success.
My trick while working with them is to help them realise this, and build it into their new 'plan' while I am at it. It's not easy. It's not standard. It's not the usual way... Neither are they though. If you think you need some help to do something differently, then maybe I can help. Get in touch.
Okay, not EVERYTHING, but certainly a lot. It does feel like change is all around us, and as we blunder towards wanting, longing for and grasping onto some kind of return to normality, maybe things will continue to change again and again. And maybe that's okay too?
I started out this year wondering what the year would bring my business. I was all about planning, plotting and preparing for a busy year. I tried to predict what the year would bring. I tried to push my business in the directions I wanted, and needed, to make. I tried to prioritise what I would and would not do this year, work-wise. Like most people, I completely failed to plot into my plans for the pandemic. I mean, why would I?
The truth is, we didn't. We couldn't. Even if we were 'warned', we wouldn't. Instead we adapted. My business has adapted. Perhaps temporarily, perhaps longer term. It really feels as if the changes are still a-coming - so it would be foolish to try and 'plan' again, wouldn't it?
I've always been quite 'agile', ready to modify, readjust and at times completely alter the shape of what I do. These recent few months have been no different. I've taken my skills into new places. I've been learning new ways, or perhaps re-learning old ways again. I've taken on a couple of really short-term contracts in a 'new' sector. It has been fun, at times strange and difficult, but it has kept me afloat - in many ways, not simply in my bank balance.
Have I changed? Has my business changed? Will more change happen? It still feels like a period of adaptation, more in flux than saying retrospectively that everything has 'changed', but I am comfortable with that. If you need some help to adapt too, perhaps I can help - get in touch and let us embrace change together.
The New Year is traditionally a time for reflection, resolution and planning ahead. We are all determined to learn from our previous year, to do things differently this time, to achieve what we always wanted to and to somehow test ourselves by giving up the things we love the most.
Having a clear vision for the year ahead is not always easy. Not only are we trying to get back into the swing of everything again after pretty much grinding to a halt over the Festive season, we are also having to deal with the backlog that has been waiting for us.
So, planning and clarity become less of a priority, we can always catch-up on that 'when we have time', can't we...? And so, we head into yet another year of non-stop, head-first, full-throttle activity without so much as a chance to breath, this and be sure what we are doing is what we need to be doing.
As an independent consultant, it really is no different for me. Where do I want my business to 'go' this year? What do I want to 'achieve'? What is going to make me proud this time next year when I am busy reflecting? It can really help to speak to someone else about it all, to avoid talking round and round in your own head and ultimately never having, or creating, the time to do it. Last year was busy, varied and productive for me. Do I keep that up, or take time to adjust? What about you - what is it that you want to do ether for yourself, your organisation or your 'community'?
Perhaps we can discuss your ideas together? Is there something on your mind that you would love to get off the ground this year? Can we make that 2020 vision a reality, together? Get in touch, let's have a chat and see what we can do this year...
When I struck out on my own, taking the freelance plunge, I had a very short list of 'things' I wanted to achieve. Things that I simply wouldn't have had time to do, never mind think about, while putting all my energy into my full-time role. Different things. Part of me needed a change, part of me needed a challenge and part of me just wanted to see if I could...
One of those 'things' was to write a book. It had been something which I had always thought I would do, eventually. When I had time. However I never made time. When I went freelance, I made sure I carved out some regular time to write. Days, every week. Perhaps not the best plan for a new business, but certainly the best course of action for my book.
I've spent the past two years researching, writing, interviewing and learning new skills. I've learnt all about publishing, contracts and negotiations. I've learnt about turning something that I am passionate about into something 'real' that hopefully others will enjoy too. I've learnt to write the book...
And now, on publication day, I have a whole new set of book-related skills to learn. Today is really just the beginning. Up until now I've been squirrelling away on my own, crafting words and connecting tales. Today it is out there. Today the promotion begins. Today people may, just maybe, be reading those words that anti now were just for me.
I'm also learning to be proud of myself. I've done it. I have written the book I so far only imagined I could write. I'm already wondering what might come next... Maybe I could help you to realise something you want to achieve, get in touch and let's see what we can make real...
PLUG: My Book is available to buy (see, I am learning) direct from the Publisher, on Amazon, from Waterstones, WHSmith, Foyles and, as they say, all good bookshops. I'm sure even the bad ones will be able to order you a copy...
From time to time, connections and people still surprise us. This week, a friend who lives abroad let me know that she liked a photo (of my cat yawning) I had posted online YEARS ago, so much so that she had shown it a friend of hers. That friend liked the image so much she drew a picture of it. Now, a copy of that picture hangs on my wall, and makes me smile every day. So much.
I've never met the person who drew it. I don't even know anything about her. Probably she doesn't know anything about me. It doesn't matter. We have a connection. I made her day. She has made mine. A simple thing like my picture inspired her to do something. I wonder how many people we inspire, and are inspired by, every single day, without even knowing?
Our connections are important in all aspects of our lives. It's great when people think about us, when they recommend us, or when they are simply motivated to do something because of us. Another connection this week told me she had started to do something which scared her a little - writing - because she had been motivated by mine. My only involvement was to tell her what I was up to.
Sometimes we know the connections that are important in our lives. Sometimes we are completely unaware that they exist. Sometimes they pop up out of the blue. They are all relevant and meaningful. Sometimes they change something, somehow, some way. Even a little. A smile. Powerful. Remarkable. Effective.
I've made many connections through my work, and hope that I will continue to do so. Perhaps you know someone who might be good for me to connect with, someone you think I could work with. Someone who could be inspired to do something different. Pass them my details, let's see what might happen...
It can be hard to measure 'success'... Just what is it we are striving for when we say we want to be successful? Money? Happiness? Knowing that we've done something 'good'? It can mean different things to different people, and of course different things at different times to us all.
Throw into the mix being a freelance consultant. Is my success measured by how many jobs I manage to secure? My bank balance at the year end? Making a 'real' difference to the clients who trust me with their work? Each and every job I do, I like to think has a successful ending, but that doesn't always mean that the 'project' has been ultimately successful. So is it me, or the people I work for, that should be celebrating 'success'?
Recently two jobs I have had the pleasure of working on have both let me know that they have been 'successful' following my input, which is simply fantastic. One managed to secure a substantial grant which will make transformational strides for them, and the people they support in the future. Is this success? Or is their success yet to come? Both, perhaps.
Another let me know that they had successfully secured a large contract to provide services to their local authority, and told me that they couldn't have down it without me. Of course I was delighted - for me, them, and for the people who will benefit. Triple success! If they had called to tell me it had ended differently for them, would my input have been less of a success? For them, maybe, but for me...?
Success can be a tricky thing. It is also tricky to shout loudly and celebrate when something is successful. It can be a bumpy ride. What does 'success' mean to you? If you think I can help you to work towards success, please do get in touch!
Different projects that I've been working on in different areas of my 'life' - from my consultancy work to one of my other lives as a writer - recently have shared a common theme. Working, sharing and learning between 'older' and 'younger' people.
The rise of so-called 'intergenerational' work in many fields and sectors mirrors a national interest, perhaps generated from documentaries such as 'Old Peoples Home for 4 Year Olds' which was broadcast recently. Everyone seems to be linking generations, and realising the huge benefits that they can bring each other, if considered carefully and planned well.
It shouldn't be a surprise. We've always looked to our older relations for wisdom, honesty and advice. To understand technology, for a fresh perspective on something and less-restrictive ways of doing familiar tasks, we seek out younger people.
We have so much to learn from each other. Researchers have also found that these interactions bring with them a reduction in loneliness, a reduction in negative stereotyping and and increased feeling of wellbeing for everyone. It seems like a no-brainer. Have we simply forgotten about these approaches? Are they just the latest re-packaged trend? Does it matter, so long as they are beneficial?
Yet, we often fall back to doing things as we always have. We gather together the usual suspects. We surround ourselves with colleagues who won't challenge things too much. But do we have to? What if we were to shake things up a little? Try something new? Bring together people from different generations, or just take a fresh look at how we operate? If you're stuck for ideas, maybe I can help!
HI, I'm Kevin and Third Quarter is my Consultancy. Follow my adventures here...