About Me

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The business bit: I have had 25 years experience in the IT sector encompassing equipment finance to computer recycling. The coaching bit: is about delivering business mentoring and personal performance coaching. My clients range from senior executives to the unemployed and I delight in working with them all to build excellence and promote growth. My specialisms are working with business leaders and entrepreneurs who want to grow their businesses and enjoy themselves in the process, and helping individuals to realise their full potential. I also work with young people to build confidence and life skills so they can grasp life's opportunities and make the right life choices.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Being 'nice' AGAIN...

It's official (again).  Being nice and agreeable doesn't pay.  We've been told that 'agreeable' people on average earn less promotions and pay-rises than  disagreeable people.  A year ago I blogged about Martin Kihn's "I got Rich and Happy by Not Giving a S*** About You'.  Seems nothing's changed....

No, no, no!  We are not taking that sitting down. It isn't 'niceness', it's how good you are at putting your case or fighting for your promotion/pay rise/right to reply etc.  So it's really about being STRONG.  Heed that!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Faithfulness in a recession

Omar Gilith at the University of Kansas says that men seek more mates in a threatening environment just in case they need to keep their options open in a biological drive for survival.  
Helen Fisher said that women's excellent 'web thinking' developed in response to our female ancestors having to contend with a myriad of threats while rearing children in a dangerous environment.

So which would you rather have to cope with in a recession, your philandering man telling you he is playing away for survival or your multi-tasking lady telling you that she is protecting her offspring?  (Oh, and by the way apparently women are better able to tolerate ambiguity....)

Get some balance in your life! 

Monday, 17 October 2011

What now the youth of today?

Dame Joan Bakewell says Sunday School will do it, learned professors say improving the standard of children's handwriting lessons at school would help, and other erudite professionals say the blame lies with too much digital technology time.....make our children better people, that is.

It seems we overindulge our kids, we don't spend enough quality time with them, don't instil a proper sense of discipline in them and we don't teach them respect.  Woe is the lot of the modern parent!  On the one hand we need to be like the ChineseTiger Mother Any Chua, on the other we should be like Laura Skenazy with her free range parenting.  Make your choice, and attend to George Bernard Shaw's dictum -

Parentage is a very important profession, but no test of fitness for it is ever imposed in the interest of the children.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Dignified work

Today is Labor Day in the US (note US spelling) which celebrates the contribution of workers socially and economically and "the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organisations" - (US Department of Labor).

And how about across the waters in the UK?  How are we celebrating our workers? 

After 3 years of trying to recruit for her textile factory Deborah Meadon highlighted the image problem around manual work -"It is about people not being interested in manual work.  At 16 or 17 people are still thinking about what is cool..." Certainly the vocational training option in schools has attracted a second tier image over the Aladdin's cave of academic subjects leading to university, even though the latter no longer guarantees employment.  In 2009 the Crafts Council audit revealed a severe skills shortage in the UK.

The value we give to vocational learning, 'blue collar' work, skilled craftmanship and manual labour, dictates how we perceive the virtue of ability and skills and informs our relationship with the material world. We've become so used to the convenience and immediate accessibility of everything we need or want, we've forgotton how to 'do' for ourselves.we've become passive and dependent. 

Maybe if we put more value on the vocational and manual tasks necessary to our lives, we might not find it so difficult to recruit for essential jobs, young people would have the ability to make real choices about their careers developing their own true potential rather than pursuing a course dicated by the 'shoulds' of others, and we might have a better appreciation and respect of the material assets we so constantly strive to accumulate.

Holby city star Jeremy Edwards hit the headlines when helping a friend in his landscape gardening business - "I really don't see the shame in manaual labour".  What a shame he had to say that.

For more about helping young people find the right paths, click here.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Opportunism or Altruism?

If you found yourself present at a disaster, say a plane crash or the recent riots, what would you instinctively do? Pull out your mobile to film it?  Help yourself to some casual looting because everyone else was?  Or would you call the emergency services, rush to stop the looting, help those in need?

At the core opportunism is about self interest and making situations work for you, often by taking advantage of others. "One man's opportunism is another man's statesmanship" said Milton Friedman. Ken Livingstone was accused of political opportunism by blaming the riots on a growing social divide created by the Government's spending cuts.

It's very sad to think that we are living in a world where opportunism rules human behaviour. Let's rather look at the examples of intrinsically altruistic behaviour exhibited by such actions as the organised post-riot clean-ups, the Tunisians welcoming the fleeing Libyans into their homes in April, the German roofer Marcel Gleffe who jumped in his boat to help rescue the young people on Utoya.

One interesting thought advocated by researchers is that opportunism diminishes when individuals are part of an organisation with a shared purpose.

Monday, 1 August 2011

SO...We are as smart as we are going to get?

It appears that we, we being us humans, may not get any cleverer.  Recent research suggests that now we have pretty much optimum brain connections and any more increase in brain power from building new connections would require a massive energy consumption.  This energy requirement therefore limits the performance and design of our brains.  This makes for good discussions on intelligence!

Thursday, 16 June 2011


What is this?

Radio 4 PM programme yesterday referred to research about how when men open doors or give up their seat for women they are indulging in benevolent sexism which is a form of domination by the implication that women are somehow less able or vulnerable.

What do you think?

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Uncertainty in the Workplace

We are working in uncertain and changing times. Where once we had longer careers, security of tenure and a culture of entitlement, in the current economic downturn we are seeing  more redundancies, lower salaries and benefits and higher living costs.  On the one hand employees can feel isolated, insecure and draw into themselves and on the other, employers are battling with employee retention while streamlining in order to remain productive and profitable.

Uncertainty has the power to trigger fear, defensiveness, lack of self-worth, stress and anxiety, relationship issues, and to adversely affect efficiency and productivity.  Managing and recognising the journey of uncertainty, its emotional content and how to 'sit' with it can help us to identify measures to reduce its negative impact for employers and employees, turning it from a potentially destructive force into an opportunity. 

Isla will be speaking on this theme at the next Mindful Employer Network meeting on July 14th at Thring Townsend in Swindon. Also at the event  Jonathan Naess and Anna Kavanagh from Stand to Reason will be looking at the role of line managers on mental health in the workplace.

And if you want to explore how to deal with uncertainty in the workplace do get in touch with us.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Getting it straight on the Regional Growth Fund

The High Growth Solutions for Business Scheme provides valuable practical coaching support for growing businesses but what about getting the funding right?

The Regional Growth Fund is plugging some of the hole previously filled by the regeneration expenditure offered through the now defunct Regional Development Agencies.  This £1.4bn fund operating across England from 2011 to 2014 is targeted at supporting projects and programmes that lever private sector investment, create economic growth and pursue a policy of sustainable employment.   One of the main aims is make the transition from public sector to private sector led support easier. 

The scheme is expected to create over 27,000 jobs with a further 100,000 jobs developing from associated supply chains and local economies. 

The first round of bids is now completed and successful bidders for the £450m in this round include a proposal from General Motors to produce the next generation Vivaro van, the construction of a manufacturing plant in Teeside to develop packaging resins and a Manchester hospital development from former eye hospital to centre of excellence.  Bids for the second round are invited from businesses with plans for growth and job creation.

In April Nick Clegg said “Today is a step towards rebalancing our economy away from an unhealthy overreliance on a small number of industries and a few areas. We need to spread opportunity across the whole country, drawing on our many talents.”

However John Denham, the Shadow business secretary gave a different perspective with some interesting figures “Cutting funding for regional growth by two-thirds, the Tory-led government is choking off the funding needed for regions to grow and create the jobs our economy needs. The government is allocating £1.4bn over three years to projects, two-thirds less than the £1.4bn a year Labour were investing through the regional development agencies alone".

Just so we have our facts straight, if the RGF of £450m delivers 127,000 additional jobs that suggests a cost per job ‘created’ by the government of just over £3,500.  Again according to John Denham, the 464 projects submitted for  bidding in the first roun£450m funding were worth £2.78bn.

A lot of businesses looking for a lot of money. 

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

How to handle Glass Cliffs

At present only 12% of FTSE 100 company directors are women.  Lord Davies of Abersoch is pushing for action to get more women into top jobs at the same time as the EU is proposing to introduce quotas to ensure up to 30% female representation on company  Boards.  Do we need this?

There are two presuppositions here, firstly that women want to get to the top and secondly that they are able to.  No-one doubts that there are many highly motivated clever females in the workplace with the skills, experience, knowledge, ability and desire to excel.  What might have been overlooked is that a significant cultural shift needs to take place in order for those women to move up the career ladder and into the boardroom.  At present the work culture in large organisations is one of long working hours, heavy work loads, rigid routines and high expectations of an employee’s ability to drop everything and be available for schmoozing clients out of hours, attending ‘drop of the hat’ business meetings and generally being on call at all times.  This is not always compatible with the demands on many women outside the workplace.

Many of these excellent women find it easier and more attractive to fulfil their ambitions by finding a more flexible entrepreneurial working environment, perhaps in a dynamic smaller company or by starting their own business where they can structure their working life around family, children and other commitments. They also favour sectors where they can work collaboratively and within teams, as evidenced by Anna Fels in her research on how ambitious women are [1].  She found that women also tend to direct their ambition in to supportive roles and ones where they can work with other women and that they perform well with a variety of goals. 

We know about the glass ceiling culture in boardrooms and amongst senior management and we also have glass cliffs [2]- jobs women are promoted to which have less support and greater likelihood of possible failure.    Research suggests that women are more likely to be promoted to higher positions when their organisation is facing crises [3] and that this is when they have the opportunity to break through the glass ceiling.  This has a silver lining as the researchers go on to say that as more women enter higher level management roles “ female leaders won’t be selected primarily for risky turnarounds – and will get more chances to run organisations that have good odds of continued success.”

There are three steps to effecting the necessary cultural shift to get women into leadership positions that do not involve legislating:
•    Step one is changing the way women work and the way their working environment is structured.
•    Step two is allowing women to openly embrace being ambitious and to not be in a conflicting relationship with their ambition to succeed and excel.
•    Step three is to recognise women’s ability, promoting through merit, not through legislation.

As Anna Bird, acting CEO of the Fawcett Society said recently “Outdated stereotypes about men’s and women’s role have an insidious effect on cultural attitudes about who should do which jobs”.  Time for some new thinking....

[1] Anna Fels - Do Women Lack Ambition? Harvard Business Review
[2] Ryan, M. K., & Haslam, S. A. (2005). The glass cliff: Evidence that women that women are over-represented in precarious leadership positions. British Journal of Management, 16, 81-90 . (abstract)]
[3] Susanne Bruckmuller and Nyla R Branscombe Harvard Business Review.  Hbr.org/2011/01/how-women-end-up-on-the-glass-cliff/ar/1

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Vision and Dreams

‘Inspirational’ – a much touted word these days.  We hear about people who have done remarkable things in the face of adversity, from unbelievable physical achievements to astonishing feats of endurance.  Perhaps we personally don’t particularly want to climb a mountain or trek through the Sahara.  However we do want to achieve ‘stuff’.

What these amazingly inspirational people have in common behind all these physical achievements, is a particular mental attitude and self-belief, a mind-set where they are able to believe in not just the possibility, but the actuality of they themselves doing and achieving certain things.

Most of us go through life with a reasonable self-knowledge and some idea of what we believe we are capable of.  But we tend to avoid what we think we won’t ‘do well’ at because of our perception of our life situation and abilities.  So how do we move towards the approach adopted by those inspirational speakers?

As kids we do a lot of big stuff without thinking – learning to walk, to speak a language, to try new experiences, climb trees, explore places, take risks, be curious and ingenious.  And so our world grows, but as we get older we become less adventurous, more circumspect, we build defences and boundaries.  Basically we become more realistic.  This is good, and sensible.  But it should not stop us from venturing into new areas and it should not take away that drive to move forward that is innate in us all as children.

A sense of realism is necessary to achieve what we really want.  But we also need to have vision and passion, dreams and aspirations, to know we can turn our dreams into reality.
“To accomplish great things we must not only act, but also dream, not only plan but believe”.  Anatole France

If we accept this dreaming into our lives we are then expecting the positive and if we expect the positive, energy flows and things happen, our self-belief grows and we become achievers.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Britain needs your help to grow again

A YouGov online poll of business leaders found that 70% of them attribute a lack of entrepreneurial experience amongst educators as a major reason for youngsters not making their business ideas a reality. (YouGovStone Ltd)

As the economy starts to pull itself out of recession, the Government is placing great emphasis on our young people’s energy and ideas to help to grow the economy, create new jobs and take us towards a prosperous future. Yet without training, how can they stand a chance. The government and your country need your help.

Building confidence to start their own successful business
More than 50% of young people say they would like to start up their own business but less than 1% actually do. Statistics show that good enterprise education would double that percentage.

Just starting a business will not be enough. A large percentage of new businesses fail. So we also need to teach our young people how to turn their business ideas into vibrant, profitable, successful businesses.

Enterprise Students are taught how to build successful businesses:
They learn how to:
·  Work out what they really want to do
·  Present themselves well
·  Lead effectively
·  Manage challenge
·  Handle finances
·  Turn their idea into a viable business

Enterprise Training stops young people from falling into long term employment.
The CMI believes teaching students business skills is the way forward. As part of its Manifesto for a Better Britain, the CMI states:
We support efforts to prevent a generation of young people from falling into long term unemployment.....Equipping school and university leavers with skills that employers need will be vital for future economic growth." (1)

The DCSF paper “Guidance for Commissioning and Funding Education Business Partnership Services in 2010- 11" (2) states that Work Related Learning (WRL) opportunities
can include multiple, shorter duration work experience placements and work tasters with different employers, projects linked to a relevant part of the school curriculum based on real issues faced by employers, workplace visits, talks by employers explaining the world of work, business mentoring programmes, competitions and enterprise education activities.” The choice is yours.

The fact is, enterprise education is so important. With it students who cannot see employment opportunities are setting up successful businesses and those who want to work for someone else, are winning employment far more easily.

The YES 12 Steps to Success programme delivers exactly what the Government, CMI and WRL are calling for. What is more, it will give your young people the best opportunity to be in the exactly the right place for the future! Without it, they just do not have the training to deliver the growth our country needs.

(1) Petra Wilson, Director of Policy and Research, CMI
(2) www.teachnet.gov.uk/publications Search ref:DCSF - 01144-2009