What we've been thinking about and working on lately...

what we've been talking about

So none of us really enjoy being the new person – it can be pretty daunting.  However, we don’t often look at it from the other direction. 


Having a new person start in your team can also be daunting - will they fit in?  How long will it take to get them up to speed? Will they be as good or better than their predecessor?


Recently I’ve been working with several new and different people on various projects.  I guess I’ve been lucky – they are all great!  What has been most amazing is the energy and enthusiasm they have brought to the projects. New ideas, fresh energy, some much needed inspiration.


It’s easy to get stuck doing the same things in the same way.  Fresh blood can shake things up a bit, shed some new light and make it exciting for all of us all over again.


That’s me – feeling inspired just by having some new friends/colleagues to play with!!

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We’ve been enjoying a spell of early sunshine in the UK which has put a noticeable spring in the nations step. The impact of the environment we’re in at any one time is often hugely overlooked.

We probably get to notice the stark reality of this more than others. The output of a team day to create the future vision in a meeting room in head office is invariably less creative and ambitious than one created in an environment offsite away from all the habits, patterns and anchors of the day to day operation.  A different space generates a level of interest and enthusiasm which kicks in before we even start, people behave differently, engage differently, they even dress differently and as a result you get something different.

Let me just bust a myth for you, different doesn’t mean expensive. People don’t expect to be taken to Claridges for the day, just something which shakes things up a bit will do the job equally well. Below are a few top tips for off-site locations which won’t break the bank:

National Council for Volunteer Organisations – beautiful rooms overlooking the canal at Kings Cross and all the profits go back to supporting voluntary organisations

RADA – all wooden floorboards and Kids from Fame, but your team will be thrilled to tell people they’ve ‘been to RADA’

Airbnb – known for overnight accommodation but there’s a filter which will show you which properties can be used for events. Hire a house for the day, no paying outrageous prices for drinks and get a supermarket delivery in and cook lunch together.

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This week I have been sourcing venues for a series of Leadership programmes coming up over the next 12 months. 

It’s easy to underestimate the importance of the venue for a training programme.  Much easier to inspire if you’re in an inspirational place.  Much easier to be creative if you’re surrounded by creativity.

So whilst we are obviously aware of the basics:

  • Location
  • Size
  • Technical Requirements
  • Catering

We also look for something a bit special:

  • Spaces to inspire – either architecturally, through their history or their purpose
  • Unusual spaces – creates anticipation in your delegates not just for the course but for the location.  Glam Portacabin or a Yurt anyone?
  • Spaces which help – there are a number of conference/training facilities run by Social Enterprises.  Proceeds from the venues are used to help people and places and often many of the beneficiaries are involved in the running of the space.

We have found some terrific options this week, some we’ve used before, others which are new to us.  I’m really excited about getting the programme up and running and introducing our clients to some seriously good venues – and some awesome coaching of course!

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The Pearson Teaching Awards were announced last week, celebrating the impact that teachers have on the young people they work with. These are considered the teaching ‘Oscars’ and you might have caught the teachers being treated to the full red carpet experience on BBC Two on Sunday, 27 October at 17:30 in Britain's Classroom Heroes.

Programmes such as Educating Yorkshire and Harrow: A Very British School have recently given us an insight into the vast array of approaches which teachers employ to enable children and teenagers to learn and be inspired whatever their background, environment, social group and aspirations. At the end of, what could be up to 7 years, with a class they then leave and I wonder if they ever get to find out their impact? The little things they did or said which sparked some thinking which ultimately shaped their future.

For me, it was Graham Bryant at Caldicot School who taught me Maths. When Fourier Transforms made my brain explode he gave up his breaks and lunch to help me unravel it. Interestingly it wasn’t what he did, it was how he did it – I never felt stupid or patronised, it was just something to figure out. He also let me play in the boys badminton team (there wasn’t a girls team!), to earn a place I just needed to be in the top 4 players whatever my gender. I was! I played...it taught me to concentrate on being as good as I can be and not worry about the rules too much.

The point is, we just don’t know how we impact people. The smallest comment of encouragement, the lightest reassurance and actions which demonstrate unerring belief – I encourage you to think about who you can be Teacher of the Year to.

And who from your school days would you, on reflection, award a teaching Oscar to and why............comments please!

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Julie Williams

John Lazarus my English teacher because he was so passionate about the subject and took us all over the country to see amazing theatre productions which really brought the books we were reading to life. Although I didn't know it at the time he was a great example of being an authentic leader in that he didn't conform to any stereotype. He was extremely eccentric and as a result his lessons were lively, fun and unpredictable - so kept everyone interested and on their toes. His approach might not have worked for everyone, but it did for me.

Helen Blackman

I really appreciated my design teachers at Ilfracombe College. Looking back, I can see how they nurtured my talent for design. They saw I was passionate about it and gave me their time when I had questions or wanted to put more hours in during the breaks or after school. They also had to put up with my giggling and cheeky, chatty behaviour! Thank you Mr Rinvolucri, Mr Overall and Mr Backhouse for your kindness, generosity, encouragement and inspiring me to pursue a career in design.

So given a choice, would you rather win, or compete with great character? Of course the ideal situation is both i.e. win with great character. This was a question that came to mind as I listened to the IAAF president deliver the opening speech for the 2012 Olympics (it was replayed last week and I found myself watching it again and wishing it was all still to come!)    

My conclusion is that winning doesn’t inspire people, but competing with great character does. It also inspires greater performance and raises the bar for everyone.

Two recent examples seem to bear this out: 

  • Jonny Peacock (the 100m Para Olympic Gold medallist) who inspired many through his performances, ran his personal best in the London 2013 games last weekend – and finished 3rd. What is notable here is that through his performances he had inspired the two others who beat him to train and compete harder.
  • Ryan Lochte – a terrifically talented American swimmer (11 times Olympic medallist, named World swimmer of the year in 2010 & 2011, and with over 1 million twitter followers) was beaten into 4th place at the World Swimming Championship this week. Again, the 3 that beat him had been inspired by his approach, training regime (which he shares openly) and attitude. One is even his training partner.    

So, winning is a great outcome but competing with character is the real game changer. So next time you win, also take a look around and see who you inspired................

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