Over the last couple of months I’ve continued coaching and mentoring some wonderful people here in the UK, but also found myself using Skype more often to support clients as far away as San Francisco, Spain, Qatar, Brussels and Saudi. With some preparation and ‘homework’ for the client set by me, it’s amazing the difference a focused session can make to career and business aspirations.
By mid November the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses programme delivered in partnership with Aston Business School, was well underway. As programme facilitator I attended the official launch on the 22nd along with the Aston team and our 1st cohort of 25 business owners. Fazeley Studios in Digbeth Birmingham a truly stunning venue in a converted Unitarian Chapel now operating as workspaces for the digital and creative industries.
On the 25nd November I spent an afternoon in Cantell Maths & Computing College in Southampton having been invited by the Head to come and spend time with two groups of students. I shared a light lunch with two members of staff who briefed me about the sorts of challenges facing the students.
From there I spent some time with a group of Y10 girls just talking a bit about my background and why I thought education, self-belief and having aspiration is really important. I asked them to just focus for a few minutes on the lives they thought they’d have as opposed to the lives they’d really want for themselves, and what the ‘bridge’ from one to the other might be.
It was a challenging and enlightening experience, for them as well as for me and to their credit, not one of them said “… but you’ve been lucky Miss”. I had shared my them my childhood in various care homes, getting married and pregnant at 16, living at the top of a Council tower block with a young baby, no money and a husband who played away. I told them about being a cleaning lady until I was 28 and then having to start my education all over again, and that it was never too late to learn and to strive.
After that I was shown into the main assembly hall and asked to address 168 students in Y8. How do you keep a large group of excited youngsters engaged for nearly an hour, and without a microphone?! Luckily members of staff were ‘riding herd’ and ushered them all into their seats and attempted to keep the peace.
My brief had been to bring certain issues “… to their attention early on before it is too late”. After a brief introduction about my background I got them to focus on what they thought made for a successful life and career. I also asked them to talk to others nearby about their aspirations, what they’d really like to do in life. It was all very interactive and noisy, however the responses were both intelligent and enthusiastic.
By chance I’d come across a TED talk on YouTube a couple of days earlier setting out the 8 principles that lead to Success (based on 500 interviews). I have to say that this engaged group of 12-13 year olds figured out just about all of them in the time I was with them, and some more including ‘being courteous Miss’:
TED Top Tips – 8 things that lead to success:
- Passion for what you do
- Hard work and commitment
- Get good at what you do
- Focusing on one thing
- Push yourself, through self-doubt and shyness
- Serve others something of value
- Ideas and be innovative
- Persist through failure and CRAP!
I left my young audience to rousing cheers and thumping feet. My Cantell experience was one of my most challenging speaking engagements to date, but one of the most enjoyable… both poignant and at times hilarious.
I raised £150 for Macmillan Nurses in the bargain, and the feedback was very positive:
- a really fascinating life story
- good to meet Kiki one-to-one and hear about her life
- inspiring because Kiki has turned her life round and we could do the same
- the group was very open and honest in answering questions asked by Kiki, and we challenged each other!
- a great opportunity: never done something like this at Cantell before
- Kiki was brave and confident in talking to us all and inviting us to contribute
… and, by the time I got back to my office a message was waiting in my in-box from one young man: “Thank you for the inspirational talk today at Cantell secondary school it has really helped motivate me to becoming an environmental engineer.”
Here’s the TED talk, judge for yourself.
December has been very much about delivering on the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses programme as well as coaching, and attending meetings to develop new opportunities via strategic partnerships etc. 2012 looks like an interesting year already!
And finally, it was great to be back riding my horse in the New Forest now that the traditional pannage season is at an end. He has a mortal fear of pigs so we use this time to have a well-earned rest after the Reining competition season ends. Christmas Eve saw the forest nearly at its winter best – deserted (everyone still shopping) – and golden as the sun emerged from a bank of shadows, followed by a dramatic cerise gloaming.
It’s been a wonderful end to a roller-coaster of a year, and I hope your coming year is all you would want it to be… and more. And remember, in the face of slowing economic growth now’s the time to continue to invest in your own growth, one way or another!