The last 6 months has been a whirlwind of keeping up with different roles, and continuing to coach a fabulous range of great people, from micro business start-ups to owners of much larger businesses looking firmly to the future, increasing profits but also reflecting on their exit strategy, to supporting very senior folks in the corporate sector. All are connected by the threads of wanting to continue to be successful despite uncertain times. Some are focused on delighting a very local set of customers, whilst others are operating on a world-wide scale and subject to the vagaries of a challenging global economic environment.
I’ve also been looking out for a new home, celebrating my 60th birthday, and fitting in some great speaking engagements.
On the 31st January, I was invited to be the keynote speaker at the annual Citizens Advice Chief Officers’ Forum at the lovely Ardencote Manor in Warwickshire. My keynote/masterclass was called, ‘Resilience: taking the long view’ and was based on my simple resilience model developed as a result of my coach-mentoring experience:
“Thank you very much for finishing our event with such a thought-provoking and inspiring session. As Jeremy said, delegates normally leave feeling drained & a bit gloomy in these difficult times, so it was great to leave on a high!”
February and March were full on months as I was combining coaching with my programme facilitator role at Aston Business School, supporting the design and delivery of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 small businesses programme with the 25 wonderful participants of cohort 1. My horse and I also went into training and successfully competed in two top UK Reining competitions and I was absolutely thrilled at the results as I finally achieved my lifetime score/goal. It made me reflect on what it means to win the ‘inner game’ in order to compete – get in touch if you’d like to achieve the same and think that my experience might help you.
The ABS role ended at the end of March which was something of a relief as it was an enjoyable if challenging task. I was very disappointed not to be able to travel up to the graduation dinner due to the horrendous weather in late April (weather-wise, nothing much has changed).
I was also back up to my beloved Warwick Business School working with colleagues to support the new intake on the distance learning MBA programme, focusing on developing participants’ leadership competences, personal and professional values, and a better awareness of their behaviours and of others – a full-on activity but incredibly rewarding. This was quickly followed up in April by a flurry of career coaching sessions for WBS via Skype – and it’s fascinating how quickly one can establish an effective coaching relationship despite the distances. I had coachees calling in from all around the globe, including Florida, Qatar and Dubai.
April was also significant in that I commenced formal professional supervision of my coaching practice with the wonderful Elaine Patterson, an accredited Coach Supervisor with the Coaching Supervision Academy. To quote from her brochure:
“Supervision works by helping you to build your awareness and insight; gives you safe support and challenge; and gives you the chance to refuel, to restore, to re-energise, to review, to learn and to grow helping you to become your best and all of who you are… and which thereby enables your clients to become all of who they are.”
I’m pleased to report that already she’s supporting me on my own spiritual journey as a coach-mentor, something that absolutely adds value to who I am in any coaching relationship with my clients.
May and June have also been fascinating months with many eye-watering eye opening moments including another session at the Cantell Maths and IT Community College in Southampton. It was the usual deal, £150 donation to Macmillan Nurses in return for a couple of hours of my time – a real win-win with me talking to students from disadvantaged backgrounds about being more confident about their futures. It seems to strike a chord, talking a bit about my childhood in care homes, living 19 floors up in a Council block at 17 years old with a largely absent husband, no money and a young baby.
The discussion with the young students really gets going when I put 3 simple questions to them (you might like to ask them of yourself):
- What does your future look like, what are the sorts of things you think you’ll be doing?
- What is the kind of future you’d really like to have?
- What needs to change to get to where you’d really like to be, and what could you do differently right now?
Mid-May saw me delivering another keynote/masterclass to an audience of almost 200, including a film crew from the BBC, at the fabulous RBS Gogarburn conference centre on the outskirts of Edinburgh. This time the topic was Career Planning for the PEARLS of ‘An Inspirational Journey’ and I shared my ‘inside-out’ model of career planning during what was a very lively and professionally run event. I was delighted to meet the Chair of AIJ, Linda Pollard and the Co-Chair, Allan Leighton – joined later by Chris Sullivan, CEO Corporate Banking RBS and Helen Cook, HR Director RBS.
Later that day I received a lovely text from Allan Leighton: “Kiki… thought your session was excellent… humour… practical content… involvement… and a bit of relevant “sisterhood”… well done!!”
Blimey, praise indeed!
The following day saw me whizzing off to London to deliver a Stress Management / Resilience keynote/masterclass to the clients of CiC (specialists in Employee Assistance Programmes) at the National Liberal Headquarters in London. A smaller audience but no less engaged as I shared with them my perspectives of being an executive coach, supporting the development of resilience in my clients. Again, I was able to explore my resilience model shared earlier in the year with the CAB… is there a pattern emerging here!
Being able to develop and hold onto personal resilience is a particularly topical challenge with rising numbers of redundancies especially in the public sector, an out-of-control long hours culture, and a general air of uncertainty. It was useful to reiterate the huge economic costs of the effects of stress including sickness absence, mental ill-health, and a lack of staff engagement leading to a lack of innovation and lost productivity for UK plc, just at a time when we cannot afford to lose our competitiveness.
Kate Nowlan, Chief Executive, CiC – Supporting Organisations, afterwards said, “Thank you so much for a brilliant presentation yesterday. Great feedback apparently – and very thought provoking for lots of people.”
Finally (forgive me, I can’t resist mentioning this) on 9 June I celebrated by holding a ‘Sixty, Sassy and Single” birthday party at one of our best New Forest hotels. Friends, colleagues and clients joined me to enjoy a hog roast and disco (complete with glitter ball!) – it was the best party I’ve ever been to as well as being a lovely ‘rite of passage’.
At the end of June I experienced another first, delivering my ‘inside-out model of career planning’ this time via a Warwick Business School webinar. It felt a little weird as the broadband signal dropped now and again which meant turning off the video camera, but it was a great taster for doing more webinars to come. I only wish our government would wake up to the fact that our dismally poor broadband compared with other nations, puts us at a significant competitive disadvantage.
Eye Opener Reflection: I’ve learned to revel in being interactive with an audience but it’s been a difficult and sometimes very testing journey. Here are some things to ponder on if you are like me, wanting to improve your presentation skills:
- Firstly, developing your self-esteem and confidence is essential,
- Secondly, being clear about the ‘uniqueness of you’, and ‘your take’ on things (‘life, the universe and everything’), and
- Thirdly, being able to establish a rapport with your audience is key.
All this can all be learned with the right kind of support, so call me if you are facing a presentational challenge… you never know I might be able to help you make that all important breakthrough.