I was a young child, maybe 6 or 7 years old. We were on holiday in Wales. Two guys were arguing by the roadside - about a near miss between them. One of the guys flagged us down. My dad stopped. He wound down his window and one of the guys said to my dad "can you help me please as I'm sure he is going to hit me". My dad instinctively went to help, my mum held him back. She said, "you can't get involved, we have 4 young children in the back of the car". My dad hesitated, torn between doing what he instinctively wanted to do and my mum holding his arm, begging him to drive on. He drove on. I'm not sure he ever forgave himself for that. I don't know what happened to the guys and neither do I know whether my parents called the police when we got to our destination. I never raised it as I instinctively knew that it would make my dad feel bad. To this day, I do not know who was wrong and who was right. I just learned that sometimes in life, tough decisions have to be made and they don't always make you feel good about yourself. That's it.
This is the view that I get up to every morning - along with ducks, chickens, dogs, rabbits and, of course, kids. This is why I no longer earn a 6 figure salary and jump with joy when I find Aldi selling a Jo Malone like product for £2.79. Value can be experienced in many ways, the size of a salary is just one of them. And yes I know that bills still have to be paid and food put on the table but there are different ways of achieving this. When I earned 6 figures, I employed an army of people to help me - I needed approx £4k per month just to keep the show on the road at home. I didn't have a relationship with the people who kept the 'show on the road', I wrote them long 'to-do' lists everyday. I didn't really know my children as I saw so little of them. And I couldn't work out why I felt so empty when I 'had so much'. But of course, it was like filling up on sugar - I was consuming empty calories. My work no longer inspired me, there was no real purpose to it other than to generate money and that was soulless and soul destroying. The point to this post is that we have to have a purpose, something that makes our hearts sing. Sometimes that means a 6 figure salary and sometimes it doesn't. That is not the measure of success having a purpose is.
I was in Nottingham shopping with my 7 year old daughter. As we walked towards the entrance of the shopping centre we saw a man shouting and wielding a needle. He was shouting "if anyone comes near me I will stab them with this needle, it is infected with Hep C". People were scared, they steered clear of him. But I saw him, I saw someone who was beyond desperate. No-one would have gone near him with or without that needle. He was shouting for help. I asked the security guards whether they had contacted the police, they had not. So, I called the police. I said to the operator "come quickly, he may hurt someone or himself, he is desperate". I couldn't go over to help him, I had my daughter with me. I had to make a safe decision. But neither was I going to leave him there at risk to others and himself. The police arrived within minutes, calmed him down and then arrested him. I was asked to be a witness. Despite there being hundreds of people walking past that day, I was the only one that called the police. I was the only one who asked what would happen to him. I was the only one who provided a statement - because I wanted him to receive help with his drug addiction and this was the only way. When did we stop 'seeing' people?
A true story that changed me for the better. I was 13 years old. I was forced to make new friends as my old ones had deserted me (oh the fickleness of youth!!).
I tried to hang out with a new group, but one boy in particular was having none of it. When I asked him why, he said "because you are not very nice to people." Harsh but fair at the time. The group that I had just been ostracised from, was the 'cool' group, who generally treated others outside of that group with disdain.
That boy set me a challenge. He said "when you are nice to people, you can hang out with us." And so I set about being nice to people. Eventually I got to hang out with that group. The boy became one of my closest friends. He was one of the few people at school who truly understood mortality and had an adult perspective on life - his mother was dying of cancer.
He saved me from being someone I wouldn't have liked and was not meant to be. I learnt that being able to face and accept honest feedback can sometimes be difficult but necessary. I also learnt that life takes courage and means you need to be able to take the knocks, but that doesn't need to take away the kindness that lies within.
My first leadership lesson, inspired by that boy.
A true story that moved me on.
I was 18 years old. I used to hang out with my mates at a place called 'Brisbane Court' on a Friday night. We had nowhere else to go as the Youth Club was closed.
One night the police came and told us to move on. The residents had complained, we were too noisy. "But where to?" we asked. The police replied "just move on."
So the next Monday night we told the story to our youth leaders. We asked them to open the Youth Club for more nights. They said there was no funding available. But one youth leader thought for a moment and then said "but there are no rules to stop you running the club as volunteers."
And so we did. We created a committee, we opened our own business account, we went on a team building weekend, we successfully ran our youth club every Friday night for over a year.
No one else ever did this again. I received a National Youth Award for it.
Looking back I now realise that this was my first taste of being a leader and I loved it. I loved it because I love people - I love being with them, laughing with them, crying with them, seeing them develop and being there for them when I'm needed.
And I learnt that being a good leader was really all about two things: loving being with and caring for people.
It might appear bizarre, morbid or arrogant to write your own Eulogy. Even so, I've had a go at mine, to give me something to work back from while I'm still in a position to actually do something about it.
Life is a tricky programme to plan, you don't have a 'go-dead' date or pre-agreed milestones.
It's a lesson in 'organic planning', setting a direction, mapping a course, being brave enough to allow the programme to evolve and agile enough to respond to the unknowns. You need to test your outcomes quickly, identify and ditch the failed ones and implement the successful ones like your life depended on it - as it may well.
In the final analysis, when the programme ends and it's review time, there are 6 key things I would love someone to be able to say:
1. She loved and was loved unconditionally
2. She responded to adversity with courage, resilience and care
3. She identified and admitted her weaknesses and failings without doubt or fear of judgement
4. She took responsibility for her actions and the impact they had on others
5. Whenever she got knocked down by life, she got back up and tried again
6. She extended the hand of kindness and genuinely cared
And there is my strategic plan for the rest of my life.
Inspired by my dad
I am one of the many 1,000's of women who stepped of the career ladder to focus on their families. But now I've returned, the children are getting older, my brain aches for stimulation and I am bursting with ideas - although sadly not energy whilst I move slowly through the menopause. Even so, my brain works perfectly well whether resting or working. In all honesty my career break has enabled me to learn more than when I actually worked. I want to inspire and help move the world of organisational transformation on - to deliver truly effective change. But make no mistake, I'm still a mum and homemaker - these roles will always be my top priority. I have no desire to return to a 60 hour working week, build an empire or be that important. I just want to use my brain, to do what I do well, without compromising the very heart of me - my family. I don't think that this requirement is gender specific nor only for parents. I think that this is just a basic need that we all have to make the very best of our lives. We are in the midst of the Fourth Revolution - we are looking at how to create life on Mars, surely we can create a more meaningful way to work? I believe that we make our own reality, anyone interested in joining mine?
I'm a 46 year old, menopausal woman who has recently returned to work after being a stay at home mum for the last few years. I'm not done with my career yet, in fact I'm just starting and I've learnt a few things along the way:
1. Motherhood does not have to be the end of your career. Taking time out, becoming a mother allowed me to discover parts of me that I did not even know existed. It developed my logistical and multi-tasking skills to a whole new level and allowed me to return to my career more focused, more creative and with a much clearer purpose. You know what, I think that everyone should take time out, it's critical to make space, to think new thoughts and discover new parts of you
2. The menopause is crap but it makes you focus on your health, create time to rest and set some much needed boundaries
3. Grief can break you but then you get back up, truly understand your mortality and start to focus on what matters
4. Being a good parent is so hard it's untrue, no work challenge comes close so everything becomes achievable
5. Age is liberating, you learn not give too many fxck's (brilliant phrase Mark Manson), finally acquire some wisdom and ditch the ego.
Seize the day, it's never too late to be who you are meant to be.
Inspired by @Nancy J. Spotton
A true story that stopped me.
I used to be an entrepreneur. My business was successful for a number of years. But it sucked every minute from me and left no time for my family.
It was based on 'rocky' foundations. I told myself that I started it because of my passion. But the reality was it was all about my ego. I hadn't got the promotion I wanted at work so I left and decided to set up my own company instead. That ego drove me to employee people rather than stick with a more effective associate model, pay for expensive offices so we 'looked' the business and waste precious resources by travelling first class.
The financial crash came, our reserves were depleted. I had to sit down and make people redundant. I had to close the office down and move it back home. I had to swallow my pride, deflate the ego and get real.
I took a career break afterwards - to recoup, review and refresh. I am now back. I can't help myself, I'm still an entrepreneur, it's in my blood. But this time it will be different, no ego, no pride, no first class travel - just pure intellectual stimulation, a genuine passion to make the world a better place and a desire to execute my trade well in a way that fits around my family.
Inspired by @Johnny Reinsch
A true story that stopped me.
It was year end, performance review time. I had been allocated a new counsellor, he didn't know me nor did he really want to. He came out of the year end review process and presented me with an average rating, no bonus and no shot at promotion. This was the first time in my whole career that I had not received a top performance rating. To say I was gutted was an understatement.
Another counsellor took over my career to stop this happening again and to keep me from leaving. The next year I got the top rating, the bonus and a shot at promotion.
But I was bitter with a dented ego. I didn't get that promotion - not because I wasn't good enough but because I was arrogant and rude. I felt that I was owed the promotion for the cock-up the previous year. I took my 'bat and ball' home and handed in my notice.
All of my bad decisions in life have been driven by 3 things: a sense of entitlement - I have earned this, an over-inflated ego - I am more than good enough for this and a lack of humility - I should have this.
The reality was that I was hurt - my hard work had been ignored and I felt under-valued. Best to be honest with yourself and others about how you really feel or you might end up being arrogant and rude to.
Inspired by @Claude Silver
A true story that moved me on. At the tender age of 22 years old I found myself in a crap job, bored senseless and earning a pittance. I saw an advert for a job in Nottingham. It sounded exciting - business consultants required, minimum 5 years experience, performance management skills essential, salary tbc. I had no experience and I met none of the requirements listed. But I wanted that job so I applied anyway. My letter started like this “Dear Sir, I am genuinely excited by the opportunity you are advertising. I do not meet any of the requirements you have specified but I can offer the following.......” The CE was so impressed by my courage he decided to interview me. After the interview he said “you are high risk, inexperienced and not what we were looking for but I love your personality and spirit. You are me 30 years ago”. I got that job, it was the first day of the rest of my life. Within 2 years I was running the largest department within the business. Thank goodness for leaders like this, who are brave enough to take a chance and confident enough to trust their gut instinct.
A true story that moved me on. I was 18 years old. I sailed through my GCSEs so expected the same with my A ‘Levels. Silly me, I virtually failed them. There was no sympathy to be had at home – I’d spent the last 2 years partying, snogging, smoking and drinking. My dad said “well you get out of it what you put in and you have got out of it what you put in”. Harsh but true. So, what to do. I was rearing to go, another year to re-sit my A Levels was highly unattractive and not going to University was unthinkable. My dreams of attending Liverpool University and becoming a World Class Barrister were no longer within my grasp. Instead, I got the UCAS hand book and my parents telephone and shut myself in our lounge for 2 solid days. I started at 'A' and worked my way through every University in the UK asking for a place on a course – any course, anywhere. I arrived at T when I hit the jackpot. A place on a new degree course at Teesside University – International Business and Information Technology (IBIT). I took it in a flash. I made it to University, I transferred in my final year to Leeds Met and graduated with a 2:1 BA Hons in Business Information Management. Sometimes you just have to play the odds and hope you get lucky once in a while.
A true story that moved me on.
It was my big shot in the city. Working for a boutique consultancy and developing new services. Being part of the leadership team. Selling directly to clients. I had made it.
But it wasn't to last. The company lost a large client. They tried to replace them but to no avail. Initially we all took a 20% pay cut to weather the storm. Then we all moved to associate roles where you only got paid if you were working on fee earning work.
I was one of those few. But it was too soon for me to be self employed. I wasn't ready to go it alone. I was still learning my trade and needed a structure and mentors around me.
I took action and contacted head hunting agencies. Within 2 weeks I had an interview and 24 hours later a job offer.
When I told my boss he was charming despite being in a position where his dreams lay in taters. He said to me " That organisation will help you see how good your really are and give you the confidence you need to grow". He was right, my next job was the pivotal phase in my career - they developed and empowered me. Ultimately, they enabled me to become the entrepreneur I was always meant to be.
Sometimes you need to 'roll with the punches' and see where it takes you.
Inspired by @Joe Zizza
A true story that challenged me.
I was 13 years old. I had been away for 3 weeks visiting my sister in Gibraltar.
Immediately upon getting home from the airport, I ran to the school gates to greet my friends. I had missed them and I was full of exciting stories to share with them. The 'ring leader' of our gang came out of the gates - beautiful, tall and so very popular, we all wanted to be her.
I shouted her name and ran over, she ignored me. The rest of the gang walked out, they ignored me too. I ran after them all the way home - asking, pleading, begging to know what I had done, to be ostracized in this way. I was simply met with blank, stony faces. I went home sobbing.
I was 'sent to Coventry' for months. I never found out why. I established new relationships with new friends. It was hard work and lonely. The new friends were wary of me at first - after all I had been in the 'gang' who basically took the piss out of them.
My heart was broken that day, but it mended. I learnt what true friends looked like and I learnt that the only place of real safety is inside yourself.
Those skills have stood me in good stead my whole life. Look for the authenticity in people and if you can trust in yourself then others will too.
Inspired by Johnny Reinsch again!! Thanks Johnny
I was 10 years old. They were selecting players for the school netball team. I wanted to be on that team. At the trials I got told that there was only one place left and there were two of us that wanted it. We were told to share the position, playing one half of each match until the teacher decided who was good enough. The first match came, I waited patiently on the sidelines. Half time came and went, I was not brought on. I spent the whole of the match stood on the sides lines, stifling my sobs of disappointment and hurt. Afterwards when I told the teacher, tears of disappointment rolling down my cheeks, she said "well you should have said something". So after that I did. I spoke through my actions. I played netball every day and played every match like my life depended on it. I got the place on the netball team and then the hockey team and then the swimming team. But that experience never left me, the realisation of how easily we can be forgotten and how casually our disappointment and hurt dismissed. I learnt to respond with action, competence and resilience. That stood me in good stead for many years but it cost me my 'gentleness' and took away my trust and that was sad. Inspired by Kath Knight and Brené Brown