Posted in Thoughts

Stress and Resilience

I recently attended a Stress and Resilience Practioners Course at the Joint Stress and Resilience Centre here at Shrivenham.  It was a really good course and I left it feeling very positive.  One of the exercises that I found especially interesting was when we all had to say what we most enjoyed or loved about our work.

In a room full of people, just 3 areas were mentioned – the environment, the people and the commute (or more specifically, the lack thereof).  Nobody actually mentioned the work that they did.  Now, I’m not saying that that means nobody enjoys the work, but it wasn’t top of the list about what they did enjoy.  So I decided that I should have a think about what I want from each of those categories.

Environment.  Here at Shrivenham we are blessed with a particularly nice set of grounds.  It is very pleasant, especially in the spring.  We have great gym facilities and a 5km trail as well as several picturesque areas where we can break out when we need a bit of down time.  For me, I enjoy working in a building with lovely views out to the woods.  But I’d happily swap that for working from home or working in a variety of locations, including my home.  If I was at home, I’d gladly relinquish the nice coffee shops in favour of the coffee machine in the kitchen and the local place and be ok about swapping the boathouse at the lake for a bench in my own garden.

The people.  If I was self-employed, I could be pretty stringent about who I choose to work with.  Jo (from the lovely Shinybees) said something to me the other day which has stuck with me.  It was ‘definitely pick and choose’ when discussing who to work with.  And that’s a good tip.  Sometimes people can be the worst thing about a place of work.  I’ve definitely had jobs where the people in my office have made me feel less like coming to work.  If I choose an employment option, I think I would still like to be in a position to pick and choose more than I do at the moment.  So, for instance, going into a consultancy kind of role would enable me to decide for myself a little more who I work with.

The commute.  I’ve never had an especially long daily commute, but I do travel a lot at weekends.  At one stage, I lived in Northumberland, my (now) husband lived in Buckinghamshire and my step-kids lived in Fife.  We travelled a lot.  We still travel a fair distance as the step-kids are still up there and we live in Wiltshire.  So I really wouldn’t feel that a long daily commute would add to my quality of life, nor my work-life balance.  I would happily accept a longer commute on a rare occasion (so maybe once or twice a month) and then work very locally, or at home, the rest of the time over a medium daily commute.

I can see my thoughts beginning to take shape about what it is that I want to do and the kind of lifestyle I want to lead.  What I’m still not quite getting clarity on is how exactly to go about getting that, but I feel like I’m in a good place.  I’m networking (and recently bought some lovely little business cards from MOO.  If you would like to get some too, using this link will get you 10% off) and I am building up some really useful and friendly contacts.  I’ll talk more about that in next week’s blog as well as giving you a run down on how my Buzzfeed morning challenge has worked.  I’m going to try to start blogging on a more regular basis and think that Thursday might be my new blog day.  What do you think?


Posted in Thoughts

Being productive

So I am finding it hard to fit my resettlement activities around working and caring for the Boss. I have high hopes of getting up early and being productive but it somehow never pans out that way! Yesterday I saw that Buzzfeed are doing a 2 week morning person challenge so I thought, why not? I could be starting December as someone who gets up and actually does things in a morning instead of just hitting snooze and then reading Facebook. Anyone else fancy the challenge?

Posted in Thoughts


This week I was privileged to attend a Leadership Masterclass on the importance of inclusivity.  One of the reasons I attended was because I get frustrated trying to explain to colleagues about why inclusivity is so important.  I hoped that I would gain a better way to express that.  I’m not sure that I did that (as that’s rather more about me and my tendency to become, er, passionate), but I did get a lot out of it.

Dr Gillian Shapiro kicked off with a discussion on Inclusive Leadership in the Armed Forces, which I think really helped contextualise how this is an issue for the Armed Forces.  Did you know some of our latest engagement surveys show that only about 1/3 of our people feel valued?  For anyone that doesn’t think that’s a problem, you need to wake up.  Not only is it a problem for the organisation, but it is a problem for you (yes, YOU, the military person reading this blog – civvies, you’re let off this one for now ;)) because this is about YOUR leadership.

Caroline Waters then gave a talk called Challenging Attitudes to Leadership where she addressed Trust Leadership.  It was very inspiring and I’m sure I won’t do it any justice here at all.  But I’m going to repeat one thing that she talked about which was 5 things that make a difference  –  SCARF.

S – Status.  Did you know this is the most significant determinant of longevity and health?  We can all make our people feel like they have status, and feel valued, merely by giving positive feedback and searching out learning and development options for our staff.

C – Certainty – Involve people, break complex issues down for them and give them control in outcomes.

A – Autonomy – I loved this point as it relates to the Karasek 1979 job-demands control model (my favourite Psychology work-based model, for all your Occ Psych fellow geeks) which found that the stress of high job demands can be offset by giving autonomy – control – in how personnel can carry them out.  It can be as simple as allowing people when to set their own breaks.

R – Relatedness – It is impossible to build empathy in a competitive culture.  Studies have found that organisations that build a water-cooler conversation type environment are more productive.

F – Fairness – We have to build a perception of a fair exchange.

What I love most about this model is that it is something that we can all – regardless of the level we are at – do.  Even if you feel you can’t change much, you can contribute towards a more positive work environment by taking just a little of this model forward.

Finally, Mark Q McLane, Global Head of Diversity from Barclays, spoke.  Now I definitely cannot précis all of the pertinent points of his talk here.  But he had a wide variety of facts and figures about how inclusivity – which means making the most of and actively seeking diversity – is good for business. It amazes me that people need to be persuaded to take it seriously!

Anyone that’s been reading me for a while will recognise that my future path doesn’t (at least immediately) lead to the corporate world, but that Masterclass prompted several thoughts.

1) If I have a next employer, they have to be 100% congruent with my own thoughts and goals on inclusivity.  (Which can be summed up as, hell yeah!)

2) I have to make sure that if I am employing people, I remember that I am as subject to unconscious bias as the next person.  It’s not enough to think, well I’m liberal and inclusive so that’s alright.  You have to continue working to ensure that your unconscious biases aren’t getting the better of you and your organisation.

3) The Barclays AFTER progamme, as mentioned by Mark McLane, might be worth a look…..

Posted in Thoughts

Emotionally Ready

Part of the transition process that I’m undergoing advises us to get emotionally ready. Some of the people leaving the military aren’t necessarily doing so willingly and I initially looked at the emotional thing as being aimed at them. Whilst this is probably true, I think that actually it is something worth looking at.
I’m leaving the Service very firmly looking forward. I’m not leaving for any negative reasons, but because I am ready for new challenges. Which does mean that there will be a lot that I will miss. Some of that is probably going to be mitigated by being the wife of someone in the military (for example, I’ll still have access to the mess – our Officers club – and most of the social functions that come with it). But I’m not sure I’ve got myself ready for the idea of being dismissed as a military wife. Which will happen because that’s just the way it works with some people. One of the reasons I joined the RAF was because it is something different to do, something that people (ok, not all people) are impressed by or at least interested in. I’ve not really thought a lot about how much of my identity is based around being a RAF Officer. (Who am I without that?)
I will miss the camaraderie that the military brings. You meet people and very quickly establish rapport and a level of banter that is unlikely to be acceptable office behaviour in many other environments. You equally quickly make bonds that can last a lifetime. However, I think that is countered by the fact that my good friends will continue to be my good friends even when I am a civilian. And I will now (presumably, hopefully) get to meet a more diverse range of people. And at least a few of them must be up for a bit of banter, right?
When I first read about being emotionally ready, I really thought that I am and I am looking forward. But now I think that there is value in spending a bit of time reflecting. If you don’t do that, there’s a danger that at some point in the future something becomes an issue because you haven’t dealt with it.
So the task I am setting myself for next week (in addition to the small job of getting my CV to my career consultant) is to reflect and get emotionally ready to move on. I’ll be happy the day I leave and may well have a glass of champagne at midnight to welcome in the new era of my life, but I will also take a moment to reflect on all of the things that I shall be leaving behind.

Posted in Thoughts

A well timed question

Last week, I completed my Career Transition Workshop with Career Transition Partnership.
It was more eye opening than I had expected in several ways. Some of it was just the other people that were also on the course. There was a guy who wanted to go into management consultancy and was applying to McKinsey. I offered to put him I touch with some of my friends who have a small consultancy in London. I thought that perhaps he would like the chance to speak to them or even arrange a work placement. He turned it down, saying he didn’t have the time. Now, I am not particularly great at networking and I certainly have a lot to learn, but surely that’s pretty much anti-networking? I was taken aback, not just that he rejected the opportunity, but the manner in which he did it. Because from that point on, I wouldn’t go out of my way to help him. It got me wondering how many opportunities we unknowingly let slip through our fingers.
Anyway, that guy did also make me realise the value in marketing yourself correctly. He had significantly less experience than me in leadership, management and organisation, yet he was pitching himself – confidently – at a much higher level.
I personally thought he was overselling himself, but is that any worse than me underselling myself?
So I tried to take that forward as I write my CV. It is more difficult than I thought – I’ve never written one in my adult life and I still don’t have a clear idea of what I am going to do. But I am trying to be more like that guy and sell the skills that I have learnt and developed over the last sixteen years.
To help me write the key achievements for each job I have done, I’ve been re-reading my old reports and using the examples from them. It’s been an interesting exercise, looking back at things I had achieved and then pretty much forgotten about. It’s really helped me draw out the achievements that I’m most proud of, the ones that have meant the most and to identify the jobs and roles that I have most enjoyed.
This, allied to a very interesting interview with my career consultant, has led me to another career avenue that I might now want to pursue.
My career consultant (and, by the way, yes I am aware of how incredibly well the MOD is preparing me for my transition to civvy street and I know that not many other people are going to be lucky enough to have this) listened to my stream of consciousness about what I might quite like to do, then pulled them together into a couple of strands.
Firstly, there is setting up a business which can be split into 2 strands. Strand A is craft related (selling things like quilts and cushions, selling kits for those kinds of things, a craft café that delivers workshops and clinics on craft sewing, dress making, knitting and crocheting and kids crafts). Strand B is effectively concierge services which I think would be pitched primarily at working parents to help them free up some capacity so that they can enjoy life a bit more.
Secondly, there is a contracting thread, either doing some form of working from home executive assistant type stuff (which is a bit low end, but would be done for part time hours week in, week out) or management consultancy on a part-time basis, so maybe a few days a month.
Thirdly, is the longer term goal of doing my PhD. I’ve definitely decided that I don’t want to do this whilst The Boss is still so young. Plus, I think I need to have an idea of where we’re going to be living for at least 3 years and that’s not necessarily going to happen with my husband’s next tour.
Jackie (my consultant) asked what were my plans to use my PhD which I don’t think I had actually articulated before. The answer is that I want to do research and lecture at an undergraduate level. She looked at that, looked at my career history and my current job and asked why I wasn’t looking at going into Learning and Development. I looked blankly at her and thought, great question!
I love coaching and mentoring and my most rewarding jobs have been in those roles. So I have now added Learning and Development consultancy to my potential job strands. All because of one well-timed question. Now, that’s good coaching.