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...
Volunteering. Many of us give our time freely where, and when, we can - whether it be formal or informal. However it seems that people can be a little bit shy in discussing it. Well, on social media at least. Is it #Humblebragging or is it an important part of our society, our make-up and our lives that we really should be talking about more?
Volunteering has always been a part of my working life. When I graduated (first time around) from University, I spent a year in two different full-time volunteer roles working , and living, with adults living with disabilities in and around London. This led me into a career in health and social care, and, I think, gave me a solid set of core values which has held me in great stead ever since.
I still volunteer today. I'm an active Board member for a growing Asthma Music charity, No Strings Attached Scotland, and also for Volunteer Scotland. It was at the Volunteer Scotland Board session last week, which was also the AGM, that I was involved in a discussion about sharing stories of volunteering through social media. We heard from a variety fo European partners that people were less keen to post about their volunteering activity, for fear that it seemed 'self-serving'.
The European partnership found that before starting to volunteer, people felt volunteering was about being altruistic, helping others and making a difference. Indeed it can be all of those things. Afterwards, people reflected that they gained more personal benefits from volunteering, new skills, social connections, meeting new people and simply having fun.
Volunteering for me is about all the things. I want to participate. I'm passionate about inclusion. I value my own well-being. I want to be connected to my community, and communities. I want to be involved. I want to talk about it. I want to hear what other people do in terms of volunteering. I think it's important to encourage more, where we can. Do you volunteer? Or do you work with volunteers? If you want to talk about it, or you think I can help in anyway, please do get in touch.
A Year. Twelve months. Three hundred and sixty-five days. We all say that 'time flies' when you are having fun, but really this past year has whizzed by. It's been a year of change for me, a year of doing things differently, a year of working differently. A year ago I started my own consultancy business, leaving almost thirty years of full-time employment.
It's been quite an adventure. From my very first clients, who entrusted me to work with them to plot out better futures to the many inspiring people and dazzling organisations I have met along the way, who have all helped, I am so grateful.
It's not all been plain sailing. I've spent the year wisely. Figuring out what kinds of opportunities I really want to explore. Some I've been able to. Others have passed my by, this time. They've all been valuable. They've all been important. They've all been worthwhile, for me and for the clients too. I hope.
One of the mean reasons I took the plunge and decided to start my own consultancy was the prospect of being able to work more flexibly, both for my own health and wellbeing, and also to allow me to follow other interests. Over the year I've been busy continuing my academic research, and applying for opportunities to support it. This week, I start my PhD. I am thrilled, and slightly apprehensive all at the same time. I'll be researching part-time for the next five years or so, and continuing my consultancy alongside. My plans have become reality this year, but I know the real trick is to keep things going...
Planning. Reviewing. Developing. Being Strategic. These are all the skills that I bring to my work, whether it's consultancy or research. These are the things that I've helped other organisations to achieve over this first year. These are the things I've used to help myself over this first year. These are the things I will continue to help more organisations with over the coming years. Will it be you? If you think I can help you, please do get in touch.
We all love a bit of feedback, don't we? Maybe it is just me? I know some people run a mile at the thought... I am a feedback junkie. I'm always wanting to know how things have gone, positively or negatively, with a job. Did I help? Did I enable the change that they wanted to see? Did I have any impact at all? How could I improve next time?
As a Consultant, I certainly hope that I have made a difference with my work. It's what keeps me going. Not all changes that individuals or organisations make following my support will be massive. Small changes can make a big difference. They are all important. I think that it's also important for me to know what part I've played.
I've been fortunate that the projects I've taken on so far have allowed me to work on a more in-depth basis with clients, building up a relationship, getting to know what they require and providing some innovative, realistic and unique solutions. So, no surprises at the end.
I've recently finished a piece of work with an organisation working to improve the lives of women in Midlothian who have lost their way. Anam Cara lost it's way recently, and asked me to help. It's been a tough ride for all involved, but I was happy to be in a position to help. I wasn't directly involved. I could be objective. I could be clear. I could help them to see a way forward.
In return, they've helped me. Their feedback has reminded me why I do what I do. You can read the Anam Cara testimonial here. Maybe you are also looking for some help? If so, please do get in touch.
HI, I'm Kevin and Third Quarter is my Consultancy. Follow my adventures here...