Linking, learning, laughing & the like

August 3, 2016

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“The true business of people should be to go back to school,” wrote the great architect Buckminster Fuller, “and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.”

The irony is, that people need go about the business of learning, because things are changing:

1. In the future, people will have shorter and more careers, and they will do more part time work and volunteer work.
2. More people will work independently in small businesses where they contract out their services to larger organizations.
3. More workers, especially women, will work from their homes.

With the move toward more self-employment and more work from the home and away from the organization, comes more choice and more responsibility, for both worker and employer. Individuals will have more freedom to shape work to fit the way they want to live instead of fitting life into a work schedule.

But they also will have the freedom to do poor quality work, by cheating or by laziness. The organization will have more flexibility but can abuse that flexibility by exploiting the outsider, tightening its conditions, and reducing the rewards. How important it will be that employees and employers can engage in trust confidence, finding ways and means to  talk.

I expect I will also have to work longer; the social philosopher Charles Handy explained we are likely to have three phases of work life:
1. Our main career, where we make our money (I am grateful to have been a CEO)
2. Our passion career, were we enjoy our work (I love teaching and coaching)
3. Our retirement supplement work (our pensions simply won’t be big enough to support our long lives).

I am hoping the Community Hub will help me explores the way in which the world of work is changing and what the thoughtful individual’s choices and responsibilities should be. I a looking forward to having ‘Good Conversations’.


‘Keep it hup, two three four…’

July 9, 2016

community

So said Colonel Hathi (of Jungle Book fame) ….on the march with his community or herd …….It has been a joy to observe over the last few months, the community program has begun to become established, in particular there are now four ‘Peer Support Groups’ running whereby women, particularly those who are having to keep a family and a job, career or business running, come together in facilitated group to lead and support each other.

What I have witnessed is groups of individuals, often temporarily lacking in confidence or skills sharing what they know and feel, in a calm and gentle manner and in the process developing personal resilience for the future. The striking personal realisation has been how a sense of interdependence in the group leads to greater sense of independence and confidence outside of it.

That is of particular interest to me, being engaged in action research on how the simple and practical Human Given’s (HG) approach (See http://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/counsellor-articles/what-are-the-human-givens) to leading a calm life, getting clear thinking and developing new skills.

The peer support group meets a number of human needs identified by the HG approach; for belonging to community, for status and to be able to give and receive attention. And more! As the group develops it also begins to provide a secure and safe base, which for some of us that may have felt lonely or vulnerable, can make a big difference to how confidently we can approach life’s challenges, with more resilience.

The groups also provide an opportunity for the participants to demonstrate and hone some of their key resources. I particularly enjoy watching them use their imaginations in telling, re-framing and re-telling their stories. It never ceases to amaze me that calmness and emotional health improves as we each learn to tell ourselves an empowering narrative (whatever you do don’t listen to anyone who tells you everything is doom and gloom, or you are rubbish – they will put you under a gloomy, disempowering spell!)

And this story continues to unfold in an empowering way too. Like the neural brain connections that form and create our new learning, the individual peer groups will come together to create a larger hub. This will deepen and widen the network of collaboration, which on the same day will also host commerce focused events, as well as provide other opportunities for us all to come together, because People and Business Matters – which reminds me, I recall establishing something similar in the businesses I used to run; Communities of Practice we called them. It sounds like a good theme for the hub day.

http://www.meetup.com/North-East-Herts-Community-Business-Colloboration/events/231886009/

 


Family and Community – The Root of it all

May 15, 2016

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My simple belief, as an ‘Anarchist in Truth’ as I term it, is that each of us deserves to have personal democracy, that being the right to make good choices for ourselves, in essence to be free. With that comes responsibility which, as I was taught it, is to ‘take care of yourself and your family, create a surplus and support the vulnerable; be ready to sacrifice and go to war if you must’.

I won’t wax lyrical about who taught me that or that he (my Dad) fought long and hard as a Socialist against the 1980’s seemingly Thatcherite approach of the ‘individual before all things’ – I actually believe that Maggie naively trusted the human response to having ‘more than enough’ to be the cascading down through family and others of profit into a fairer society – which sadly did not work.

Why? Maybe because ‘Big Government’ had and has set itself up as a big shop, with lots of free, but basic brand goods, that may have stuffed the ‘striving for my family’ out of some of us and certainly seems to have stuffed society.

In my simple view, without a cohesive family unit (to be politically correct) of two adults and a child(ren) the idea of ‘profit’ cascading into society stumbles. Maybe those that are ‘stuffed’ don’t know about their obligation or maybe they don’t care. Families can end up fatherless, mothers can end up run ragged and some fathers can end traumatised.

However, I personally prefer the focus on family over both ‘individualism’ (Tory Righto’s) and Big Government (Labour Lefties). And therefore I care. Given that we can’t be all things to all people, we can only make sensible steps, and we in the Just Clarity Group Social Enterprise focus on what we can do in manageable chunks, for those that are struggling. In the main that is single mums whom we counsel, coach, peer support and help build their careers or businesses. In many ways we act as the stabilising, father-like force.

Sometimes we help the challenged Fathers (through PTSD Resolution) recover their responsible behaviour and sometimes we help the children (say through Transitions-RTC) to overcome addictions, and because we are a community of volunteers we might be said to have created a small ‘social family’ of “Sisters and Brothers!”.

I like that idea because each of us deserves the support of our community to help us achieve our potential, to be able to work with our passion and to lead calm, balanced family lives (in Catholic Social teaching that is called ‘Human Dignity’).

It is from that calm place that individuals can make better decisions (personal democracy) and maybe volunteer to take on responsibility for meeting more of their local community’s needs, ‘Combing Individuals’ and taking social services back from ‘Big Government’ – subsidiarity that is called! I think an association like Links4Growth has the potential to be an organising force for that subsidiarity energy.

It could even then move on and focus on bringing families together and sustaining them through the many challenges and changes that families (and their societies go through). This would be good for Just Clarity Group, who stand ready to build on to supporting families too through its ‘People and Business Matters’ program. An organising force needs People and Businesses to organise for! How would it be to able to contribute and  profit from many small families, collaborating together and that are part of a bigger tribe? It’s been done before!

As for profit? For this I will be held accountable for the performance of Just Clarity Group by our Chairman. I will talk about income, costs, profits and cash, but he will be equally interested in the Social Capital we have generated; happier, confident working mums, spending time with their contented children. We can give back by measuring our social profit rather than just the £.

 

 

 


The encouraging ‘nod’ from a supportive community

May 13, 2016
Valley of the Gods

Valley of the Gods, Utah

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Becoming better, then good, then even better and finally a master of ourselves. Would it not be good to have appreciation whilst we are in the process of becoming a master?

When we master something we find that we can do it ‘with ease’. Of course! But do you know what I have learned? Sometimes it takes hard work, patience and a long time, during which seemingly it feels like I am making no progress at all! My Dad called that the ‘plateau’. Some might think that means there is no more progress to be made, but that is not true. It’s a time to strive.

I once dreamt that I was driving a rickety old train along a track towards an exciting vibrant city that I could see way off in the distance, in front of me, over a bridge that crossed a shimmering large body of water. I was excited, but filled with anticipation which was almost nervousness like (have you noticed how hard it is to distinguish the sensations of excitement from anxiety?) Behind, a fast modern train was bearing down on me at speed! Fortunately, just before the crash came, my train veered to the left letting ‘Speedy’ plough on by.

I found myself trunddleing on a circular track, around and around an orchard of fruit. The pace was slow enough for me to able to get off the train, stretch my legs and reach up to gather all kinds of delightful fruit. There was also a compost bin in which I could put all of the no longer needed items, littering the train from my previous (what now felt like a long and arduous) journey. It took me a short while to recognise I was gathering and replenishing my resources for the next stage. ‘The plateau’ I heard my Dads voice laughing and saw his nodding head ‘you are on the plateau!’

That encouraging nod was enough for me to feel that I was on the right track and although I never dreamt it, I was left assured that I would reach my goal.

Far too often that internal nodding voice is a critical one. Some left of remnant of a bye gone era that play tonelessly and annoyingly yet incessantly insistently. A judge some say it is called. A judge which some of us allow to intervene in the normal unfolding of our everyday life. Yet, if you are to before a proper judge, you will be treated fairly and have representation, an advocate to make your case. I bet many of us forget that part.

The reality is, we can and should expect from those around us supportive community encouragement. They can be our advocates, for example, with a smile for when we atempt something, make a stab or approximate how to approach the task. An encouraging nod when we fall just a little short, just before adjusting ready for our next attempt (The Royal Artillery use such a process to target their guns) and a clap on the back when we do try again.

We should also expect the community to be patiently encouraging whilst we are on the plateau harvesting, honing and testing our gifts, strengths and talents. Mastery? It’s all in the preparation. Who makes your case?

 


Giving for the sake of giving

April 24, 2016

 

Triple_Bottom_Line_graphicWhen I first came into business, during the early 1980’s, my main objective was simply to make profits. As time and I have progressed businesses have become more concerned with their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), meaning that they take more (possibly equal account) of the impact they have on their stakeholders and on the ecology.

Their stakeholders include, naturally the business owners, their staff, customers and indeed anybody who is impacted on by their corporate activities – in fact all people. The ecology is of course the planet.

The accountant in me gets excited when I hear this new approach describe as the ‘Triple Bottom Line’ focusing on the three P’s of:

  • Profit (generating not just financial capital but social capital too)
  • People (being how we work with and encourage our community)
  • Planet (how this generation gets its needs met without compromising the meeting of the needs of the future)

In response, what now seems to be unfolding in the business world (that is distinct from the state activities of ‘Big Government’ and philanthropic work of ‘Charities’) are a split two forms of Enterprise:

  1. Commercial Enterprise, the traditional organisations created out of self-focused desire for private gain and
  2. Social Enterprise, created out of a collective desire to create social value in a purposeful way.

To be clear, the ‘selfish-gene’ commercial profit maximising approach is as an innately human trait as the willingness to co-operate and be in community, and whilst the two perspectives need not be in conflict, there is and will likely continue to be a tension between them.

Just Clarity Photo.pngCommercial Enterprises want maximum profits, but need the goodwill of people to create it. Social Enterprises want to create social value, but need profits to pay for it. It is simply a question of the degree to which each enterprises focuses its mission on.

Both resonate with me and my associates (Just Clarity Group) and our mantra and program that we run, that ‘People & Business Matters’, a Social Enterprise program.

Our collective ambition is not to compete with Commercial Enterprise by being cheaper because we are volunteers and have a low cost base. Nor do we wish to take resources, like good staff or grants from commercial enterprises. What we aim to do is focus on solving a social need and then making available good, value for money resources to our local Commercial Enterprises for further social value creation.

We do this by coaching, mentoring, training and developing those in our local community who might feel marginalised or challenged in finding work, building a career or starting a business. Our goal is to provide local employers with good quality employees. In the process of doing that we re-invest surplus profits back into our programs. In our efforts we able to give, simply for the sake of giving.

We feel that that is a ‘Win-Win-Win’.Just Clarity Group Logo small


Good conversations, friendly community and mighty resilience

April 24, 2016

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After many years leading businesses, managing finances, teaching and coaching people it has slowly dawned on me that relationships are important.

When times have been hard (have you noticed that business and life can sometimes be like that?), it has been the people of good heart, honest intention and generous spirit who have sustained me. I am fortunate to have found (or attracted) a good cohort of confidents into a community of practice, be it life or work. We talk, collaborate and move forward together, in fact we build collective resilience, which for me is about our ability to withstand life’s challenges.

This approach is coherent with my philosophy to life, which is beautifully and simply captured in the organizing principles of the Human Givens (www.positiveways.co.uk/about/9/about-human-givens) that all of us have needs that when met lead to a fulfilled and contented life. These needs include; having connection to others, being able to give and receive attention and to feel that we can contribute to our society.

My experience is that when these simple building blocks are nurtured and developed, each of us can enhance our individual resilience, which in turn, through the principle of ‘pass it on’ enables community resilience. The stronger each of us are the stronger we all are. Regardless of the colour of our Government or whether we are ‘In or out’ of Europe, the local community can and should flex its local influence and be good to and for each other.

But for our local community to be strong, we all need a means (we know we have a need!) to communicate. Life is easier when we talk, which is why Positive Ways encourages and creates opportunities for individuals to have to hold ‘Good Conversations’ through local peer support groups. These groups provide a means for individuals to develop and share their skills and resources.

However, that often requires the individual team to be able to trust each other. Whilst Positive Ways finds that it can facilitate the team to come together quickly, it also acknowledges that some people like to have built relationships more steadily. A great way to do that is to meet up and have a coffee (and a ‘good conversation’) together. The Links4growth (http://link4growth.biz/l4g) captures all the sensible values of being in community whilst providing a gentle means for individuals to meet up.

Why not hold a good conversation, if not today, soon?IMG_0569

 


Personal Democracy

May 26, 2014

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For me, Personal Democracy is about how individuals can shape their lives and contribute to/be an active and useful part of the system(s) to which they belong – those systems might be friends, family, work, political or universal.

Personal Democracy is about what we are willing to add into a system and what it is we need to take out from it.

It is about the choices each of us decide on as we make sense out of the interaction between our internal and our external worlds, and the compromise we make from being an individual yet at the same time part of a collective.

The systems we become a part of are normally built on what makes them different from other systems. Democracy is about how personally we (or a society collectively) can successfully reconcile those differences. Therefore democracy does not mean you will ‘get your way’, but it does imply you can adjust to the system and successfully tolerate the frustrations from interacting with it.

In some ways the authorities of old are losing their credibility and power. That does not mean they are or were wrong, just that things will be different. What is important is that we understand our own internal source of authority, finding out where to invest the trust we place and how to appraise the authorities we give it to.

These authorities are often paternal and set goals of ‘we will get engagement from (long list such as; voters, staff, parents, etc.)’ Personal Democracy suggests it is individuals that should be active and engaging.

It is also about the new ways of communicating and interfacing and yet again at the same time the old ways of understanding.

It is about personal development.


“Walk Softly and Carry a Big Stick”

January 4, 2014

St IgnatiusI was asked for my philosophy on life and it always pays to reflect on it and hold it up to scrutiny. How else can transformation take place?

I have studied many of the different spiritual traditions (and most psychological theories) that we can all enjoy. I have learnt much and have so much more to learn. I do understand that none are perfect, but also that as humans, comprising of mind, body and spirit (the X-factor), we are formed of certain preferences, patterns and way of understanding the world (archetypes). Some call them habits.

Our ancestry, parents and learning re-enforce those preferences. They are universal patterns and yet at the same time have been honed, by our upbringing to become personal patterns – I guess that is what makes us unique.

Being from the West I grew up (there is no right or wrong judgement in this) with a Christian influence. In Catholicism, this includes age old ancient rites and rituals, pre dating Jesus, which still form part of our ways and reflect the universal archetypes.

For me, if we want to learn, to adapt, develop and transform those patterns that don’t seem to work, it pays to know where our secure base or starting point is or was. It seems much grief comes from trying to deny it rather than work with it.

This was my start:

My father studied at the St Xavier Seminary in Cape Town, which follows the spirituality of St Ignatius, the wounded warrior healer. Before he completed his studies he left to be an active member of the South African Communist Party in the early 1950’s, fighting oppression.

He taught me to see God in our everyday world, showing me that if God is active in all things so should we be, in service to that world, making decisions with discernment through the guidance of our own inner world. This is taking responsibility.

God, he taught me as well as being all about and universal, is personal and always close, here and now – and within. Intelligence, he explained is about living with paradox. Some things are simply a mystery and it is healthy not to have to control or know everything, but still be able to act.

He showed me that my decisions and actions should be guided in constant communion with my God. This has become known to me as IGGSY (my Inner Guidance System). At school, the ‘Sisters of Our Lady’ taught that this was my Guardian Angel.

These Nuns live by the Spirit of St Ignatius too.

Neither my father nor the Nuns ever taught me once that God was male – just that it is ever present (like a father), active in this world (as in the body of Jesus the Son) and an all pervading energy (called Holy Spirit).

For me the male naming simply was a metaphor and I personally experienced (indeed still do) IGGSY as delightfully feminine and mothering, because that is what I lacked as young boy!

Besides I was taught the God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were begat through Mary, so the power base was clear to me! In times of distress I did and still call to her for guidance and support. I knew that male and female made the world grew, who could sensibly doubt it? I never knew that made me a ‘liberal catholic’.

If so, then for me the liberalism seems to be encapsulated in mission of the Mothering Nuns, who were pretty much my mother(s) from my 6th to 16th birthday, to:

1. Provide a home for the integral development of the whole person.
2. Help vulnerable women and children until they are able to help themselves.
3. Help the individual become reliable in and responsible for the development of their country.
4. Constantly declare and celebrate the beauty of this Universe (“God is good!”)

My father counselled me on my values “women and children first, create more than you consume and never flinch from duty”. He led by example.

In between distresses, at the start of each day, he showed me how to pray that for the grace to ‘act as if I could make a difference’, to pay close attention to IGGSY, do my duty and then at close of play to reflect and take stock, allowing myself to rest knowing ‘it has all beautifully unfolded exactly as intended’.

That intention he taught me was to find the divine in all things; nature, people, and culture whilst seeking freedom and taking responsible action in the pursuit of social justice. He reminded me that Jesus explained the new covenant was to ‘Love yourself, love one another and love God”.

We can do this because the universe is filled with bounty and wonder, and there is plenty for every being to enjoy and explore. “Be grateful for that” he taught and “never stop learning and experiencing. Engage your own and others imagination, mental intellect, physical prowess, emotions and courage to inspire leaders, to serve in community, protect the vulnerable and build a humane, fair and just society. Never give up” – he instructed me.

I witnessed him in the 1970’s as a senior shop steward imaginatively, intellectually and physically, often alone, fight management on behalf of workers, then in the evening call upon the sick with the St Vincent de Paul Society. He knew his role, what his purpose was and he was unwavering in meeting his obligations. “Walk softly and carry a big stick” was his mantra. I saw the Nuns stick consistently to their mission, giving all they had, filled with humility.

He showed me the beauty of the Mass (if you must have a religion, note the imagination loves the bells and smells!) of how in community, when we ask forgiveness, become humble, give praise, blessings and thanks, and allow the gifts of grace to energise us, we can overcome our challenges. I saw the Nuns remain simple and honesty in their Spiritual practice. I have experienced nothing that conflicts with my earthy, sky clad enjoyment of pagan celebration.

That and they helped me form a theory of the Universe and of the person; the mind, body and spirit. They then taught me to how find purpose in my life, set my intention and bring my attention to meeting, as best I can, the obligations and appointments that show up on the way. I call it personal democracy. I am grateful to them for giving me it. It is a big stick.


Go on, be of service and at eighty years old, stick two fingers up and say “Two more decades to go”.

November 24, 2013

Eisba and Babies

It is an interesting time as we, and me in particular, moves towards my dotage (I am a very proud granddad you know) and I follow a path, long planned for the last 15 years, that brought me to 50 and will move me into the next 25 years.

It was the great social and business philosophy (Irish I believe), Charles Handy who described to me his concept of the Age of Unreason.

He was advocator of and taught me well that retirement is unreasonable. We humans are simply not built for retirement. As my psychological and philosophical studies revealed to me afterwards, we are problem solving animals. If we are not engaged in taking care of ourselves and others, we are in the process of becoming helpless and superfluous.

Ruthless, maybe, but it will save my children a fortune in care home costs (although I do promise to still spend my meagre wealth before I go), because as Handy said we should plan a three stage career:

1. The first where we make our money (and build the retirement pots we have been told will keep us in the lap of luxury.
2. The second where we follow our passion (here I am today!)
3. The third where we engage ourselves and earn survival money (just enough is a feast for a true elder).

My first career was in business. It was hard and challenging. I do not doubt it is the game of the young and energetic, with the wise vacating before they become drug addicted, stress-relieving seeking, highly incompetent risk takers.

My second career has become portfolio like as Handy went on to describe, a career in which we use our broad experience and knowledge and have several strings to our bow; for me that is in healing, teaching and coaching. I still do a little business consultancy too.

My third career (in my real dotage) is of course Deck Chair Attendant Bournemouth, but I won’t work from April until October, nor Bank holidays, but I will do double shifts in December and January.

This second career thing is useful. It meant this week when I was instructed to do something, unclear, divisive and unpalatable. I replied:

“When I was a young energetic man, doing mini-triathlons I had Nike’s ‘Just Do It’ blazoned across my chest. Now it says ‘Why’? I guess it is grumpy granddad thing.”

I now have an invite to an adult conversation with my antagonist (or maybe he has with his?) nonetheless, the freedom is enjoyed.

And the why?

“To serve, strive and never to yield.”

Because:

‘My particular interest is with businesses (and people) who are ambitious and want to lead out apprentices and develop their management teams (and themselves) to achieve future and ongoing growth’.

Go on, be of service and at eighty years old, stick two fingers up and say “Two more decades to go”.


Teach the Little Ones Well

November 5, 2013

Me and my Ted

It is interesting that those in charge of our children’s education are planning to re- introduce the old exam based style of obtaining GCSE. I guess things go in cycles and we should be willing to revisit the old ways willingly.

I think that given business and the economy have a lot to say on what they need in order to further the English Gross National Product. That sadly is what our children primarily seem to represent; their ability to consume and produce. The simple fact is without both those abilities our economy fails to grow and it seems our social structure then collapses.

It has been muted that the Government wishes to measure the nations success on the basis of happiness. That it intrigues me, like many others, with the question ‘what is happiness?’ I am not sure.

What I am clear on is that us adults, which presumably includes the Educational Services, should be seeking to produce healthy youngsters, who are prepared to leave the nest by being;

Self directed, goal seeking and able to form and sustain relationships. They should be curious about others and the works they live, be persevering and preserving, whilst being capable of being reasonably resilient, most of the time. This means that despite life’s challenges, they are resourceful, flexible and persistent.

Of course that’s what we all need in order to be contented, to produce and consume sensibly.