Sunday, 30 October 2011

Respect – A Core Value

I’ve been reflecting on what are my core values as a coach (I have to admit, not as part of my general reflective practice, but enforced by a need to write something for my website – what a terrible admission!)? What is my ethos? What are my values for me as an individual? And particularly for me as a coach that are reflected in how I practice?

Some are immediately easy for me to reel off – equality; being non-judgemental; confidentiality; treating each person as a unique, valuable individual with skills, experiences, relationships, knowledge and qualities that enable them to fulfil their potential.

But on reflection (!) they all seem to come down to one thing – Respect.

This weekend was the Plymouth Respect Festival and what a wonderful, joyous celebration of the diversity that does exist in Plymouth. Plymouth is not currently seen as a particularly cosmopolitan, multi-cultural, diverse city as the communities which are here tend to be small and dispersed. However, the recently set-up Migration Project, being led by The Barbican Theatre, is showing that Plymouth as a static community is quite a recent phenomenon and actually before the twentieth century, Plymouth was truly a place of migrants. The Festival this weekend did bring people out to celebrate and I so enjoyed it.

I have always enjoyed travelling and living and working as part of other cultures, even where this is for a short time. Seeing how other people live – their culture, their families, their values – is such a gift. It opens your eyes to other possibilities, of other ways of understanding and being in the world and enables you to re-assess your own way of life and values; to look at your own family, community and society with rather more detachment and clarity.

I have worked in very different cultures – in Bangladesh and Iraq for instance – but an example of what I mean actually comes from a culture not too dissimilar to ours – Australia.

I travelled to Australia about fourteen years ago travelling round the eastern half of the country and staying with and visiting friends. I have to say I had very prejudicial ideas about Australia before we went  – I thought it was all desert ; full of red-necks drinking lager and no culture – but I was blown away with what a beautiful, friendly country it was and my misconceptions were buried where they belonged!

We celebrated Christmas in Adelaide with close friends. It was chilled (despite the heat), very family-orientated and totally non-commercial. It made me realise how our Christmases has become so tied up with presents, cards, excesses of food and drink and all the material things of Christmas. It challenged my view of how I do things here and made me resolve to do things differently in future to capture some of that joyous, relaxed family time we had experienced and move away from the commercialism.

For the time being, working abroad does not fit my, and my children’s life, so I really value those people from different places and cultures who live in Plymouth coming together here to share some of that experience with me, enabling to learn and challenge my life and values right here.


Monday, 17 October 2011

Role Models – gender specific?

I’ve been pondering on the issue of role models.


Because I’ve been worried about my son and a lack of male role models in his life. He is growing up in the presence of three generations of strong women! Maybe he needs a man in his life to balance this out?

To do “male” things.

What things?

Well…I don’t know…male things!

Now, he’s not totally lacking in male role models - he has his Dad - but he sees him for only one day a month and speaks to him two or three times a week? Is this enough? Does he need to have a male role model on a day-to-day basis?

We’ve tried various activities that I thought might provide him with a male role model – karate, basketball, football etc. – but none with any great joy, success or longevity.

This year he has a male teacher in his primary school class.  I know there are too few male teachers in primary school so he’s lucky there.  He’ll have a whole nine months of a man I respect providing a role model for him each day! Phew!

I’ve tried inveigling male friends into taking him out – to see films I’d sleep through, to go fishing, watch the grand prix…

I’ve even considered the ultimate sacrifice of marrying a man again! But no, fraught with WAY too many problems…

But then I got talking to people about it. And had my views of needing a gender specific role model challenged.

One man said to me that although he lived all his childhood with both parents, it was his mother he saw as his role model and he didn’t have much respect for his father. Another friend told me he’d been brought up in a household of women and as an adult appreciated the insight it gave him into negotiating relationships with the opposite sex now.

I remember as a leadership trainer getting people to think about leaders they respected and admired and to think about why they respected and admired them. Were there things they would like to emulate in their leadership style? Lessons they could learn from the people they admired. And of course, those they did not!

So, who were my role models as a child? My Dad primarily. So that blows the gender stereotype out of the water for one. I admired his intelligence; his integrity; his self-confidence and assurance; his presence; his ability to take a complicated process and explain it at a level his audience could understand; his ability to cope with and accept whatever life threw at him; his calmness in a crisis; his sense of humour.  These things are not gender specific. I can role model those things to both my children – regardless of gender.

And I can still identify a car marque at 50 paces!

What do you think? Who were your role models as a child? Were they gender specific?

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Change your life in an afternoon: what a difference a wardrobe clear-out can make!

Last weekend my best friend of 35 years and my 15-year old daughter agreed to help me tackle a bulging wardrobe. To me, this was a simple clearing out of a few items of clothing as the seasons changed - little did I realise, when I invited them to help, what a fundamental shift in my life it would be!

They were brutal! No gentle, loving, Gok Wan, not even the tactile tactlessness of Trinny and Suzanna! No! 

"When did you last wear this?"
"Well, I haven't worn it this summer, but..."

"Do you like this?"
"Er, well I did think it went with..."

"Do you think this suits you?"
"No, it's awful"

"What were you thinking when you bought this?"

"But I'll have nothing to wear!"

But they were right. Actually I do have clothes I really like and suit me, but I save them for some nominal "best". But when do I ever go out to wear them? Occasionally, but not enough to wear these clothes often. But I love them and they suit me! 

So, my friend radically suggests, why don't I actually wear them all the time? She makes some suggestions as to how the addition of one my scarves, a camisole, a cardigan might help. The next day at work several people complement me on how I look. Slimmer! Younger! 

And I feel great! It sinks in. Why had I not realised this before? It's so simple! Why did I wear all this stuff that would "do" and keep all this stuff I really liked hidden in the wardrobe apart from the odd day or night out? I can't believe I didn't "get" this before. But maybe I needed to be in the right space in my head to understand this - to think that this was right for me.

It must stem from old family habits. A new outfit for Easter, Sunday best! Generations past who had little and made do in the war. Those before who only had two sets of clothes and wore a Sunday best dress until a fortunate new dress replaced it and it was moved to everyday wear. The traditions and thought patterns carried on down the generations.

And I don't want to be a consumerist fashion victim either. Buying an item and wearing it once. Throwing away stuff hardly worn when someone else could use it. Buying cheap clothing, knowing that in order to supply my desires, someone in another country is sweating away in poor conditions for a pitiful wage. I want to have some consumer integrity.

The consequences? Well, my wardrobe has lost at least 2/3 of it's contents! Likewise my drawers, shoe boxes, stash under the bed. Oxfam is better off by several huge bags full. Items have gone on to new eBay homes.

And I feel hugely more confident, happy, attractive, energetic and motivated.

One simple task. One afternoon. That changed my life!