Let me start with some background on my mum, Sue. She’s always been a great mum, but she has definitely always put her role of ‘mum’ and ‘wife’ first. Any career aspirations she may have had, were firmly kept on the back burner. When I was still a baby she started a part time job in Presto, which later became Safeway, then Morrison’s. For nearly 30 years, she was a dedicated, but frustrated, and definitely not-very-happy, employee. She made some firm friends there over the years, which was the silver lining, but despite giving her all to each role she undertook, she was never fulfilled.
Fast forward to 2011 and she has now added two dogs to the family; a Lhasa Apso called Lacie, and a Shih Tzu called Alfie. She taught herself grooming techniques to maintain their fluffy coats. Not only did she enjoy it, but she realised she was actually pretty good too! Friends and neighbours started to ask her to groom their dogs.
And so an idea was formed…what if this could be a new career?
However, the negative ‘what-ifs’ started…
I answered all of her ‘what ifs’, and gently encouraged her to pursue her dream. We talked through each concern and each challenge until she could see and understand the solution. I gave her advice and designed some simple tools and techniques to help her manage her business, on a day-to-day basis.
In January 2012 she attended a formal training course and purchased her equipment (a big deal for her as she would never buy herself anything! In fact, even attending the course was a big deal as it was a residential course that necessitated her to navigate trains and taxis on her own, and stay away from home; something she'd never done alone before). Her company was formed, and she started to take on her first waggy-tailed clients. She was an instant hit with both the dogs and their owners. 4 months later, she had built her business up so well, she was ready to hand in her notice at Morrison’s. 1 week later she was now fully self-employed.
Nearly 9 years on, the business is still thriving and for many years, she’s had to literally turn customers away because she simply can’t fit them all in. The best bit though, is her happiness. She genuinely enjoys what she does, and economically, she’s far better off than she would ever have been had she stayed in her ‘normal’ job. She’s working smarter than ever.
I’m an incredibly proud daughter. My mum is still the best mum and wife, but she is now also a pretty fantastic business woman too. She has her own identity.
She says her only regret is that she didn’t do it 20 years earlier, but as I say to her, “the most important thing is, you did it”. She took the first step on what was an incredibly scary journey, but with my guidance, and with support from her new dog grooming colleagues she met on the course, she did it, and continues to make it a success.
So, be more like Sue - an old dog that learned new tricks (her words, not mine!) - and take the first step on your own career adventure.
But what is the Akeno Adventure?
Before I get into that, let me tell you a brief story…
Early in 2019, an idea started to brew…
I was working on a fantastic project with an automotive client, when I received some feedback.
“You’re really good at this!”
I was pleased to receive such a wonderful comment, but it was the conversation that followed that really got me thinking.
My client highlighted that I’d been offering guidance, support and advice far beyond the remit for which I’d been hired. I’d stepped into the roles of coach, guide, mentor, and champion…we struggled to find the right description because I’d been all of these things and more.
Around the same time, I saw a post about a course being delivered at the end of the year. The course was to learn valuable coaching skills and to become an accredited Associate of John Niland’s Self-Worth Academy. I signed up!
6 months later, I had successfully completed the course and could now officially call myself a Coach! I was really pleased with my achievement, but the question was, what next?
2019 finished with the onboarding of a new Global client. The project was in full flight by the new year and before we knew it, the COVID pandemic had started to impact. The ideas that had started to brew a year before had to take a back seat. My focus was to support and guide my client and their project through a challenge that no one could have foreseen; global lockdowns, furlough schemes, businesses closed and impending economic disaster, all underpinned by the fear of a deadly virus.
The uncertainty continued as 2020 progressed. All around me, I was observing work-related changes. Some were through choice and some were enforced, as businesses had to make difficult decisions about their future.
It struck me that life is an adventure. Adventures can be scary, but with the right guide and support, they can also be exciting and fruitful.
And so, Akeno Adventure was born!
I decided my focus was going to be on career confidence and satisfaction, and on career development and transition, with a specific goal of being - quite simply - happy. I have a proven history of guiding, supporting and mentoring clients, often during stressful and high-pressured projects, and now I can add formal coaching to my skillset.
The approach was shaped, the collateral created, and I’ve been ploughing through my ever-growing to-do list ever since; logos, websites, collecting testimonials, and more. I’ve even been working with clients on their personalised adventures. It’s certainly been a busy few months!
And now it’s here!
The Akeno Adventure will continue alongside my ongoing Akeno work (www.Akeno.co.uk), because I’ve realised, after embarking on my own adventure, that my own career satisfaction and happiness comes from working on a spectrum of activities.
I’ve been asked what I am. A Coach, a Mentor, a Guide, a Champion? I’ve been called all of these things, and even ‘Career Angel’! Ultimately, you can call me what you like, it’s the Client's outcomes I’m focused on.
So what are you waiting for…let’s start the adventure….
My career has been full of training courses, consultancy sessions and workshops. However, for a long time, I have been the one stood at the front of the room, conducting the session. Last month, the tables were turned, and for the first time in a VERY long time, I was part of the audience.
So, how did I get on? Was I the model student? Did I do my homework? And MOST importantly, did I pass?!
I promised to tell you all about the course, so here goes….
The course I attended was the 'Self Worth Associate Training Program’, a Coach training program, firmly rooted in unconditional self-worth, rather than in conditional self-esteem. The week long residential was held in the very beautiful São Luís in Portugal.
My reason for signing up for the course was to develop practical coaching and mentoring skills that I could use to support other business professionals in their career journeys. I am fortunate to work in an industry I love, and I have a brilliant network of colleagues and clients. However, business life isn’t always easy. Sometimes you can have a really bad day. You may feel unappreciated, over whelmed, over worked, or even unloved. So, how do you prevent feelings like this? How do you avoid these bad days? How do you ensure you only have productive, happy, content days?
I'll let you into a secret.….you can't....
Self-esteem can take a battering at any time as a result of anything. It may seem like the smallest thing when you say it out loud, but it doesn’t matter, the impact is the same. It can destroy us. The trick is to value yourself enough to pick yourself up and remember that tomorrow is another day. The trick is to have self-worth.
Self-worth underpins everything we do; our relationship with work colleagues, clients, friends and family; even the relationship with our Partner. It can impact our productivity at work; our ability to complete tasks efficiently and effectively, and our ability to deliver to our maximum. So, a lesson I’ll be teaching to my own clients as part of my coaching and mentoring is this: “On your hardest day, during the most challenging times, remember your value, appreciate yourself, and channel your self-worth.”
In the spirit of sharing great practice, here are some key shifts I have learned and will be practicing myself, as well as teaching to my coaching and mentoring clients:
After an intensive week of learning and practicing my new skills, I’m pleased and proud to report I did indeed pass the course, and as such I am now a Certified Self Worth Academy Associate, qualified to practice coaching and mentoring. Here I am with a few of my fellow Associates celebrating our success!
My coaching and mentoring focus will be to empower professional people to blossom and be truly happy with their role in business. My approach will be one of self-worth; focusing on strengths rather than worrying about weaknesses. The key benefits my clients will experience from this approach are:
Passing the course has been a great end to 2019. I’ll be using the Christmas break to review my course notes and develop some new business ideas for 2020, including my coaching and mentoring services. However, after a busy and enjoyable 2019, I’ll also be savouring some much needed downtime. I don’t want to burn out before the new innovations have even started!
Team Akeno wishes our clients, colleagues, friends and supporters a wonderful Christmas and a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year. And don’t forget, on your hardest day, during the most challenging times, remember your value, appreciate yourself and channel your self-worth.
I worked with Kerry in her capacity as a Project Manager and I was always impressed with her ability to face challenges in a practical, efficient and positive way. I observed her ability to coach and support the project team, so it wasn’t a surprise when she told me she was embarking on her own career adventure as a coach and mentor.
I'd been working at the same company for over 30 years when I was given the opportunity to take voluntary redundancy. What would I do next work-wise? I had always wanted to work for myself, but didn’t know where to start.
I instantly knew who I wanted to guide me on this journey: Kerry. She supported my dream by imparting her knowledge and even sharing her business connections. Importantly, she was also my critical friend and she would challenge my ideas and plans to ensure they were right for me and the industry.
I have now created my own company and I am operating independently as a Business Consultant in my area of expertise. I feel empowered, energised and motivated. But most importantly, I am incredibly happy, and Kerry has been a fundamental part of it all.
(Name changed for privacy.)
Office politics. Every workplace has them to some degree, but that doesn’t make it right. I found myself in a situation where I was experiencing office politics, game playing, and even bullying. My self-worth was at rock bottom.
It was starting to affect me physically, and it was definitely affecting me mentally. I called it the "Sunday dreads". It'd get to about 6pm on a Sunday (if I was lucky; sometimes it would start long before then!) and "the dreads" would start to kick in.
I would start to worry about what the new working week would hold, what problems would be thrown my way, and how I would handle those difficult personalities. I knew deep down that I was good at my job, but "the dreads" were too always much to handle.
I turned to Kerry to see if she had any magic solutions for me. Together we assessed the situation I was in and talked through solutions to some of the challenges. The key was to repair my self-worth; to make sure I had a solid foundation to manage the challenges as they appeared.
In the end, I decided to leave the company. I realised my values weren't aligned to theirs, and I realised I could thrive in a better environment. And thrive I am! I have a whole new life, which I love, and I put that down to Kerry and her ability to help me cement my self-worth.
There are no "magic solutions"; it's about developing new skills and techniques, and importantly, practising them. It takes time though, which is why I liked Kerry's approach of a longer-term engagement, rather than a short burst of sessions. It meant I could move at a pace I was comfortable with, and a pace that worked with my lifestyle.
Kerry was always there to guide me - whether on our pre-planned Zoom session, on the phone or via a WhatsApp message. Friends and family are great but they can be too emotional when it comes to career challenges, which is why I turned to Kerry.
Kerry is friendly, positive and very easy to talk to. But equally, she's offering impartial and professional guidance, which is exactly what I needed.
(Name changed for privacy.)
As one of the younger employees in my workplace, I can sometimes feel invisible. I would apply for internal positions to further my career, and would be repeatedly told that I "wasn't quite ready". What wasn't forthcoming though, was any support to help me to "be ready", so I turned to Kerry Thompson.
Rather than launching into how to write CVs and how to perform in interviews, we started by looking at me. We looked at techniques I could practice in order to become more visible; and no, it didn't involve having to wear bright clothes!
The sessions we have together are informal and as frequent as I need. I'm not limited to a fixed number of sessions, and I can even pop her a WhatsApp if I have a quick question or an important update to share.
I have now secured a new secondment within my company, which I'm really enjoying. My Managers have noticed the positive change in me and my confidence, and I no longer feel invisible.
Kerry has been a great support to me in my new role. I'm able to sense-check situations with her, and we work together on solutions to the challenges I'm facing. I couldn't have done any of this without Kerry.
(Name changed for privacy.)
At the point of engaging Kerry Thompson and her coaching/mentoring services, I was working in a high pressured role in a very male dominated industry. I felt as though I was drowning in the uncertainty I had in myself and my abilities to perform at the level I needed to.
Working with Kerry gave me the techniques and the confidence to manage the challenges I was facing. What I valued most was her practical and pragmatic approach to resolving my concerns. Work, and life in general, keeps me really busy, so time is precious, and Kerry appreciates that. Every session we have together brings value to me and my career.
The biggest success from working with Kerry on my career adventure came in the form of a promotion! I literally went from being ready to quit and run away, to being offered the job of my dreams within the same company I was ready to run away from!
My adventure didn’t stop there though, and I still engage Kerry as my coach and mentor. Kerry provides a safe place to sense-check, discuss fears, and talk through practical options, without judgement, which is a vital part of my ongoing career adventure.
(Name changed for privacy.)
I got to a point in my career where I was quite simply stuck in a rut. I didn't know where to start in the development of myself and my career, so I turned to Kerry Thompson and the Akeno Adventure. She gave me practical advice and we agreed an action plan for our adventure.
The calls we have together motivate, drive and inspire me. She holds me accountable, as well as providing guidance and even connections within her own network. I'm really enjoying our time together and quite simply couldn't do it without her.
I'm still on my career adventure, so who knows what the future holds, but whatever comes my way, I know I'll get through it with Kerry's support and guidance. I'm really glad I invested in myself in this way, otherwise I'd still be stuck in that rut!
I first started toying with the idea of making a career change two years ago. I’m sure like many people who’ve had similar thoughts, I’d always allowed my doubts, the security of my existing role and perceived ‘blockers’ to get in the way of doing anything about it. That was until I met Kerry Thompson.
Kerry was the perfect combination of Coach, Teacher and Mentor; recognising when I needed to come to my own conclusions but sometimes helping me with direct answers and examples when I needed them.
Kerry effectively supported me to build the toolkit of knowledge, clarity of thought and resilience I was going to need in order to be successful in my chosen new path.
In between working with Kerry and launching my own business, a global pandemic struck! Whilst it may not have been the best time to launch a new business, I’m happy to say that I’ve recently secured my first client and have several more in the pipeline.
It’s been a tough journey but extremely rewarding and I can’t imagine how much harder it would have been without Kerry’s support. It’s also important to remember that the journey and learning doesn’t stop when you finally start to realise whatever your business goals are.
Kerry has supported me right up to the current day, six months after I launched my business and it’s great knowing I can count on her support when I need it.
I'm pleased to publish a guest post from Steve Bellew, Director of emva Ltd, who talks about his adventure into a new phase of his career. He discusses the importance of support during times of change, and the power of others recognising your strengths; even when you can’t see them yourself!
His blog starts with a key career milestone….
"At the start of this year, I realised that I was entering the 25th year of my professional life. There’s nothing like a quarter century milestone to make you feel that little bit older and weary!
That milestone got me thinking about the 25 years since I left college and I accepted my first pay packet (it was literally a small envelope containing £102 for a week’s work). As I was thinking, I realised that in nearly all cases, whatever I have achieved in that time would not have been possible without the help and guidance of other people. I’ve had some great (and not so great) bosses, team-mates, supporters and influences. But when I think really hard about it, the two most critical interventions in my career have come from coaches and mentors. One of these interventions happened when I was 17 and one took place late last year and into this one.
As a boy, from as young as I can remember, all I wanted to be was a professional cricketer. I played every spare hour of every day; on grass, concrete, in hallways, on driveways – basically, anywhere I could imagine a cricket pitch. I played my first game of adult cricket at ten and by fourteen I was playing in Northamptonshire’s junior teams. But whilst I was definitely a promising young player, my dream of playing professionally seemed miles away.
One day I met a Coach / Manager at Middlesex County Cricket Club who was a former England player, and who went on to have a very successful career as an International Umpire. This man had no idea who I was, but when he saw me play he offered to do anything he could to help me develop. He invested a massive amount of time in me, helping me understand proper technique, preparing me mentally for what life as a cricketer would actually be like, and training me for hours and hours without ever taking a penny. He re-assured my parents that I would make it and went out on a limb to put his reputation on the line by recommending me for trials.
Following one such recommendation, I went for a trial and was immediately signed as a professional after the game. The following week, I picked up that first pay packet of £102. This gentleman gained nothing financially from helping me realise my dream, but he did it because he saw something in me that I didn’t know I had, and he was desperate to get it out of me. He believed in me so that I believed in myself. He was my first true coach.
24 years later I’d reached a pivotal moment in my post cricket career (I had to give up and get a proper job at 22 after a particularly bad leg injury). After many years of working in big corporate organisations such as Tesco, Argos and Volkswagen Group, I had a burning desire to start my own business and enter the world of interim management. It was at this point that I went through the second coaching intervention that has changed my working life.
I met Kerry Thompson in 2017 when we worked together on a project at Volkswagen Group. She was a contractor, a very good one, and we quickly hit it off as friends and like-minded thinkers. I was always inspired by Kerry’s bright outlook on working life, but also intrigued by the balance and reward she took from running her own company.
We kept in touch and when I was thinking about making the move, I asked Kerry for help. Kerry immediately said yes and then proceeded to blow me away with the help and advice she gave me. I believe that the mark of a truly effective coach is knowing what sort of treatment and techniques motivates individuals to fulfil their potential. As we went on our journey together, there were times when Kerry saw I needed a confidence boost and re-enforced all the things she could see I was good at. There were also times that Kerry identified that I was putting unnecessary barriers in place, and that I needed the proverbial kick up the backside (and gave it to me!).
Kerry also recognised that sometimes, following the traditional coaching path of helping someone find the answers to life’s mysteries themselves, isn’t always the right way; more pragmatic intervention and support is needed. There were times when she literally stopped me in my tracks and showed me how to do things; things that I thought were complex but in fact weren’t. Her openness and trust made me feel comfortable and allowed me to get to the right answers in my own way – but she also gave me the answers when I struggled. She is a great example of a coach and a mentor.
We started this coaching / mentoring relationship about 12 months ago and I’m pleased to say that say this week, I launched my own interim management business. I’ve not so much taken a leap of faith, as put together and then executed a plan that I would not have been able to do without Kerry’s help and guidance. I will be eternally grateful to her but being honest, I think she has got as much out of watching me develop as I have done from her coaching and mentoring.
You might be reading this thinking that you’d like to make a similar change in your career. It may be that you want to take the next step in the career path you’ve already chosen. But if you feel that you can’t quite get there on your own, and you need your very own coaching ‘intervention’, then I can’t think of a better person to have by your side helping you, than Kerry. She has been a fantastic support during this adventure, and continues to be, as I move into this exciting phase of my career.”
To find out more about Steve, take a look at his website: emva.co.uk, and if you’d like to join the Akeno Adventure in order to develop your own career, contact me anytime to arrange a free, no-obligation chat.
Remember, every adventure starts with the first step….