How do you usually spend your lunchtimes?
Do you sit down for a rest, perhaps catch up with a bit of daytime TV?
Or perhaps you pop out for a sandwich?
Maybe you’re able to get out for a quick walk to get some fresh air?
All perfectly good ways to spend a lunchtime, and I’m often found doing just this.
However, every now and then, I spend 30 minutes of my lunchtime, volunteering as a mentor to young people, supporting them on their career transformation dreams, on behalf of The Youth Group.
The Youth Group, led by the formidably brilliant Jack Parsons, has a mentor programme that connects business people, with young people who wish to develop their career confidences, skills and dreams, and I am honoured to be part of it.
The young man I mentored most recently, already has a brilliant foundation of career experience, but he is hoping to transform and expand into a new area. He asked me questions about my own business, and we explored insights and ideas on how he could embark on his own career adventure.
Another person I mentored is at the early stage in her career. She has a job, but it’s not her career of choice, and she was struggling to find opportunities in her chosen field. I advised her on how to build her network, and the power of asking exploratory questions, rather than just chasing jobs. She left our session with a plan of action and a new sense of motivation. We’ve stayed in touch, and she’s enjoying her new confidences. She’s building a network of great contacts, and I’m sure it won’t be long until she finds an opportunity that is perfect for her.
As well as being useful for the mentee, a voluntary mentoring programme like this is also a great way for the mentor to give back to a worthy cause, and I feel energised and proud to have been able to offer my support.
To find out more, contact The Youth Group direct, or let me know, and I'd be happy to connect you to my contact.
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'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….
Self-development (including professional development), is key. It not only imparts fresh knowledge onto the individual, but it also makes them feel energised about their role.
However, self-employed people, and small business owners, are often not great at self-development for a whole host of reasons. Here are some reasons I’ve captured from friends, colleagues and peers, who are either self-employed, or small business owners:
Confession time.... I am one of those entrepreneurs who has been terrible at self-development in the past. I have been guilty of not focusing on myself, and not taking time or making the investment in me. In fact, a colleague once said to me; “You’re a professional pleaser”. Pardon the pun, but I was really pleased! He then explained it wasn’t a compliment! He went on to say I should think about myself more.
So I have! So much so, that I am writing this blog from a self-development course in Portugal! Look at these amazing pictures of the local area; it’s not only beautiful, but very inspiring too:
Bringing it back to topic (and away from my lovely pictures!), I thought it’d be useful to share some of the benefits of self-development, and some of the reasons why I chose to (finally!) invest in myself...
And on that note, I’d best dash back to my course as I’m busy putting the ‘ME’ into self-developMEnt....
I’ll report back in a later blog about what I’ve learned....
Keeping a positive attitude does not “happen by accident,” says Author and Doctor, Travis Bradberry. “Maintaining positivity is a daily challenge that requires focus and attention. You must be intentional about staying positive if you're going to overcome the brain's tendency to focus on threats.”
I pride myself in being a positive person, so when a friend and colleague sent me the above quotation and said “I saw this and thought of you”, it genuinely made me smile. It was particularly heart warming, because the colleague, who I now consider a friend, and I met, when we both worked on a distinctly challenging project together. My role on the project was a Business Analyst, and she was a Stakeholder.
Let me paint you a picture of the challenges….
So as you can probably gather, it was a project full of challenges, which could’ve quite easily escalated into a tangle of negativity. I was conscious of doing everything to keep the stakeholders engaged and the project on track, and the way I did this was to stay positive. As Dr Travis Bradberry said, it required focus and attention. I had to be intentional about staying positive. I took each challenge as it came along and worked out the best way to address it.
My advice to anyone who is dealing with challenges, in their personal or business lives, is to channel positivity. Don’t let negativity win. Maintaining positivity does take focus and attention though; it’s not easy. "You have to be intentional about staying positive if you’re going to overcome the brain’s tendency to focus on threats.” Take each challenge as it comes. Take yourself away from the situation, and assess the options. Physically move away from your desk, go for a walk, make a cup of tea or coffee, and smile….yes really…! Never under estimate the power of a smile….!
“Self-esteem is a bit like walking down the street as if you owned it. Self-worth is walking down the street and not caring who owns it.”John Niland
This fantastic quotation, by the equally fantastic John Niland (Author, Speaker and Business Coach), sums up perfectly the difference between self-esteem and self-worth. In this post, I want to explore more about self-worth, and share some helpful hints and tips...
The subject of self-worth really resonates with me, particularly as I’m someone who has suffered at the hands of low self-esteem. If you were to meet me in person, you would likely not believe that I suffer from low self-esteem. I am genuinely confident, happy, positive and upbeat.
I’ve spoken many times about my business being called “Akeno” because it means “bright and shining” in Japanese, which is a reflection of me and my business, and that is certainly accurate. What you see when you meet me isn’t an act; I am all of those things, however, I can also be crippled by low self-esteem. For example, I do a great job of avoiding the camera, specifically because I hate myself in pictures so much! I therefore make sure I always offer to be designated photographer whenever friends, family or colleagues suggest a group photo!
So, how do you overcome low self-esteem in order to succeed? Self-worth.
Self-worth is a deep and genuine belief in your inherent value as a person; both in your personal life and your business life. If we have an unconditional sense of our own value, we don’t spend our time trying to prove ourselves; we more easily focus on the task in hand.
Self-esteem on the other hand, is the reputation that we have with ourselves, even when no-one is watching. John Niland talks about the need for self-esteem starting early in life. It’s aiming for the highest marks, weight loss, awards, romance, appearance, cars, houses, the best career, affirmations from people around us… As soon as we slip on any of these slightly, we’re hit by a feeling of low self-esteem.
So, how do we improve our self-worth? How do we walk down the street with confidence, but not care who owns it?
I read an article by the Author Stephanie Jade Wong about correcting misunderstandings and misperceptions about self-worth. She listed all the factors that go into self-worth, and outlined what should not determine your inherent value and self-worth. It’s a fantastic summary and a useful set of hints and tips on how to improve our own self-worth…
Take some time to read through the summary above, and assess your own self-worth. Listen carefully, though, self-worth can often talk to you in a quiet whisper, whereas self-esteem shouts loudly. You often have to dig deep and listen carefully to find your inherent value. But when you do, the voice will become stronger and stronger, trust me.
Stuart Webb is a Strategic Management Adviser and Coach, and founder of ‘The Complete Approach’. He has kindly provided a guest blog on a subject he works on with his own clients; avoiding burnout at times of change….
Change causes burnout, and that can destroy your business - here's how to avoid it
“We can't be afraid of change. You may feel very secure in the pond that you are in, but if you never venture out of it, you will never know that there is such a thing as an ocean, a sea. Holding onto something that is good for you now, maybe the very reason why you don't have something better.”C. JoyBell C
Business has to change and people need to go through it as humans, not cogs in the wheel of an organisation. Often in retrospect, people realise the change was good and an opportunity for growth, but as that change is happening, it never feels good.
Too often as managers, we fail to recognise the effects of changes we know need to happen to make our business successful are having on the people most affected by the changes. Change can produce burnout in an organisation. Why?
Change often takes away the ability for people to choose how to work. Having the ability to make at least some decisions about how you spend your time also serves as a hedge against burnout, says Joyce Maroney, director of the Workforce Institute at Kronos. As long as wages are not substandard, employees who can make decisions about job roles and feel they have choices will be more engaged. “And generally speaking, the data says engaged employees do a better job for your customers, they’re more loyal to your company, and they’re going to stay longer. All good things flow from that,” she says.
Giving employees the freedom to find meaning in their work and make an impact pays off, says Michael C. Mankins, co-author of Time, Talent, Energy: Overcome Organizational Drag and Unleash Your Team’s Productive Power, and a partner in management consulting company Bain & Company’s San Francisco office and a leader in the firm’s Organization practice. “Some people reach burnout at 40 hours a week, some people reach burnout at 90 hours a week. It’s very dependent on the individual, and it’s very dependent on how much autonomy and impact that individual feels they have in their job. If you have no autonomy and you’re having no impact, you’ll probably burn out at 40 hours a week,” he says.
What can managers do to prevent burnout during a change:
People need to be given enough information about the changes which are planned and by ensuring people think about their self-worth during the change, it is possible to reduce the risk of burnout during a change.
To find out more about Stuart’s work, check out TheCompleteApproach.co.uk, where you can read what advice The Complete Approach offers start-up and growing businesses.