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!
Different people see different things. No matter how much we look ourselves, often we just see the same things. We look in the same way. We might try and see something different, however hard we try, we need up looking at the same things in the same way. As we wander round the supermarket we only pick up the same products each week, completely missing the new, the unexplored, the different.
Sometimes fresh eyes are the only solution. Different eyes immediately see things in a different way, helping to unlock a solution. A huge part of my consultancy work is 'seeing things with fresh eyes'. Bringing a different perspective, a new angle or a fresh approach to a piece of work which a client has looked at for too long.
Many clients don't initially realise that a different view is exactly what they need. They think they have a clear idea of what is required. Perhaps they just don't have time to 'do it', so they reach for someone like me, an independent external consultant, to help. Very rarely a client will recognise that they simply are too close to a project, an idea or a plan to see clearly where it needs to go next.
This week I feel fortunate to have been approached by an organisation specifically asking for my 'fresh eyes' on a piece of work. They know what they want to do, just not clearly how to do it, or what might be different as a result. My 'fresh eyes' will hopefully help them to unlock significant funding to take forward their plans. They know they have to see things differently.
Recognising that you are at times too close to see clearly is a big step to take. Surely if you just keep looking it will all eventually come into focus? Keep staring and a solution will appear. Or, be brave and ask for help. Ask for those 'fresh eyes'. Don't be afraid of seeing things differently. Maybe I can help you to see things from a different angle too, get in touch and let's start a different conversation...
I've only just started back as a student (again) but I am already thinking ahead to the end... It feels like a long way away, five years from now. I'm doing a PhD, looking at the history and development of television cooking shows in Britain. I'm doing it part-time while I continue with my consultancy work too. It'll be a juggle, but with some planning I know I can manage.
This week though my mind has been set on the thesis that I will submit all those years ahead. Not so much what I will ay, or how I will say it, more about how I will reference the articles, archives and associated information I gather along the way. First time round at University I never gave it a second thought. Zoom forward 30 years, things are very different.
When I did my Masters a couple of years ago, I kept a note of my references and added them all manually at the end of my work. I liked to check it over and make sure they were all there. It was a system that worked for me, during the three months of my dissertation. This time though I face having five years worth of notes. Do I trust myself to be THAT organised?
During an induction meeting with the Librarian, she asked me which software I'd be using to collate my references? It hadn't been something I'd even considered, not something I even knew existed. When I was first at University we did all our searches on Microfiche and I scribbled things down on scraps of paper. Everything has changed.
So, I signed up for a training session to help me get my head round the software, the 'new' (to me) system and to help plan the background work to my research over the next five years. It's hard learning to do things differently. It's hard thinking about things in new ways. However I am hopeful that in five years time I will look back with relief that I did. If you need some help to think differently, or to plan strategically, maybe I can help...
HI, I'm Kevin and Third Quarter is my Consultancy. Follow my adventures here...