Bringing Balance to Boards

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At the February Business Women’s Networking lunch hosted by Lady Val Corbett, we are lucky to have specialists give advice on how women can grown their business and expand their reach in the world. Today was about how we might get onto a Board .. if that is a goal in our sights.

Our workshop speaker was Jeff Green, founder of Balanced Boards. His motivation behind launching this consultancy was his belief in the importance of inclusion, equality and equitable opportunities for all, regardless of gender, race, or age.

Jeff has many senior contacts in the city and particularly among senior executives at Board level. He confided that some of his male colleagues who are on the receiving end of his passionate crusade to rebalance the country’s Boardrooms .. and have been known to resist conversation about what a few call “diversity nonsense”. To get them re-engaged Jeff has reframed the diversity agenda as social inclusion and mobility. Now that he says, they are much more willing to get behind. When they are reminded, these executives do actually want their own daughters and grand daughters to have equal opportunity, now and in the future. To have balance on a board it’s not just women’s voices that are needed, it’s everyone from all those other under represented groups of race, social class and under privilege. Then the Board is more likely to have the richer and diverse debate about an organisation’s more sustainable future.

Jeff is now actively engaged with US-based companies who have, or want to have, a global reach. It is easy to open up these leaders to the possibility of taking on a woman when he points out that they are aiming internationally and yet all their board members speak the same language and in no way reflect the markets the company aspires to. As they look east to Europe and Africa, Jeff is proposing non-American women for the vacancies that are opening up. Sounds like a pretty neat move. 

  • Getting onto the Board: If you want to makes change you have to be on the inside of the system and get as high up as you can get … even if you are actually a diversity hire. Grab the place and start working for others to join you. (Watch the movie on Amazon Prime called Late Night where this is the core story with spectacular results for change to the mono-culture of a Emma Thompson’s script-writing team who are all male, and white. See what happens when the female Asian woman joins the group!)
  • What is a non-exec director? A non-executive director typically does not engage in the day-to-day management of the organization but is involved in policymaking and planning exercises. In addition, non-executive directors’ responsibilities include the monitoring of the executive directors and acting in the interest of the company stakeholders.
  • Time and money:  can be 1-2 days a week with typical payment of £48,000 to £980,000 per year
  • Starting out: some advise getting on a charity board as a good start. Yes it does give you some Board experience but Jeff says this may not be the best way, unless the charity is a passion project for you. Being a school governor also gives you good experience. 
  • Good cv is needed: tailor your cv to really highlight your special skills and experience from which a company can benefit. Forget where you went to school, focus on what you can bring that will be of benefit and help grow the company.
  • Soft skills are now much in demand so conveying your ability to be charismatic and articulate is helpful. Remember men are just as capable of these soft skills and the empathy, compassion and relationship building ability that women are deemed to have more of. It is often the culture that holds back these values so potentially the arrival of a woman (or more women) may create a bigger shift.

Jeff Green, founder of Balanced Boards, was guest workshop leader at Lady Val Corbett’s Women Business Networking lunch Feb 2020

  • Your special contribution: How can you help the company innovate? what can you do to support the increased focus on mental health.
  • Networking:  women often do not know where to network and they can end up networking with each other and not finding the right contacts for board positions. Jeff says to network in your particular domain, in your special industry or skill area. Contacts to higher levels can be gleaned if you focus there. He called this the lowest hanging fruit.
  • Creating Change: Once on a Board you might find the need to shake things up … it is best to hold back on this until you have a sponsor to support you, preferably the Chair
  • When to start: why wait til you are older? Young women in their 20s should start planning their progress to Board level, now.

Contact Jeff Green on Balanced Boards for more help getting onto a Board

After our session today with Jeff Green more women are on the case to the change this given the tips and roadmap that he highlighted for the Women’s Network

Secrets to Powerful Public Speaking

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Powerful Public Speaking .. some really helpful tips

As a a former senior producer with the BBC Esther Stanhope has met them all  … the most senior politicians and the Hollywood greats. She has helped prepare them for interview and calmed their last minute nerves. She was confident, competent .. brilliant at her job. Then someone asked to speak on a stage about her role and she realised she was utterly terrified of public speaking. So, after leaving the BBC and starting her own business she developed mastery of a field she felt initially she had absolutely no confidence in.

Esther with our host Lady Val Corbett

And what a shining example she is of a Zero-to-Hero transition in a field of expertise. She was an absolute knockout of the speaker at our bimonthly women’s Business networking lunch run by Lady Val Corbett’s Network at the end of February.

Esther Stanhope has become a great asset to both junior and senior people in many organisations. She is particularly helpful if you feel highly competent in your job but not confident about being in the spotlight. Does that resonate with you? How many of us are confident in one area of life but not all? Esther wants us to be visibly brilliant as well as technically brilliant. Ever heard of Imposter Syndrome? She says “Get over it”, you are fabulous and if you believe you are, others will too.

Esther is a great speaker and presenter, and really funny too. But the goal is not to copy her and try to be like her ….. it is to have the skills to be our own authentic self and use her tips to put our unique personality into a situation or onto a stage with faith that we can come across well. If we can make that breakthrough in confidence then we can inspire others and become the best version of ourselves. Are

Good speaking changes your life

Speaking up and speaking out is a skill we can all learn .. and Esther says we absolutely should learn how to create impact on a stage, in a boardroom, during a pitch .. anywhere where we would like to have influence. She said “When you learn to speak in front of an audience, it changes your career, it changes your life. It attracts people to you immediately. It is unbelievably powerful. It transforms your businesses. It transforms you and your confidence levels, it just takes you to another level.” Yes there are times when you will be worried and scared but that means you are really living ….. you are stretching yourself!

Esther now speaks at conferences all the time and gets paid handsomely. She has proved to herself that she can do it. So she encourages .. nay she challenged us to do the same …. “Go out and get yourself speaking gigs … keep at it.

“First of all” Esther said, “ Everyone has got good bits and bad bits. It’s about finding your good assets….  finding the your own superhero powers and really really working with them and are.”

That little voice of doubt on the shoulder, 

Have you got one of these sitting on your shoulder criticising you? Esther gave hers a name …. she named her cruel inner voice Cyril. She recognises when he mutters at her and tells him to be quiet.  What can you call your critic? 

TIP: tell yourself “I’ve got this .. I am nailing this” .. stop the negative internal chatter and reinforce yourself with good positive statements.

What is your confidence rating?

Esther gave us a scale of 0 to ten, with ten being the best. Where are we with our speaking skills she asked the audience of 80 women? At a recent gathering of Mumsnet women hoping to return to work, she said the average audience score was just 2.1 … our audience had an average of 6.2. Ok we are better but we need to aim for 9.8.

Have you experienced one of these problems?

  • Being interrupted at meetings
  • Feel like an idiot
  • Had difficulty speaking up in a boardroom and getting heard, perhaps as the only woman
  • Not expert enough
  • Legs go shaky
  • Mind goes blank
  • Somebody walked out of the audience, put me off my stride
  • Missed something out of your intended script
  • You think the audience does not like you
  • You are boring people with too much data
  • All your slides are too full of words

Esther has tips for everything and gave us some good basics to boost our confidence and skill levels. She has written a book called: “Goodbye Glossophobia – Banish your fear of public speaking”. It’s a great read and somehow reassuring when she emphasises how nervous and horrible she used to feel. A million miles away from the delightful and relaxed woman who entertained us for 40 minutes.

She reminded us that we can make up so much nonsense in our heads …. OK so we left something out of the speech .. does the audience know, or care? they have got blank faces .. may be they are concentrating on what we are saying?  

TIP: one of her first tips was “Do not imagine audience naked!”  ..  It’s not a pretty sight and does not help at all.

Start with the basics

The actual physical side effects of anxiety and nerves have a really quick fix.  The first thing that you need to do if you start feeling nervous in any situation, whether it’s public speaking, or a job interview or maybe you’ve been invited to do a webinar, is a breathing exercise. 

TIP: Smell the roses, blow out the candle. 

This is a really good quick fix, an instant stress buster. Simply breathing through the nose and then slowly out through the mouth. Three times, for around about 45 seconds. You can rid your body of cortisol, the stress hormone; you can rid your body of panic in under a minute. Do that before you go on stage. Smell the roses, blow out the candle. There is loads of science to say this works and it immediately gets your heart rate down.

 

Don’t be the woman behind the scenes .. with the clever pen!

Esther loves to work with women and sometimes notices when working with major international firms and senior leaders, quite often, the women are writing the speeches… but not giving them.  They’re the ones with the vision, doing all the work ….. they’re the ones with the roadmap to the new regime. And yet it’s the senior guys that are doing this public speaking, chairing the meetings, being seen at the town hall sessions. Many women want to stay in background … their fear holds them back. We can’t let that continue. The only way we’re going to change that is by doing it ourselves. get out there and SPEAK UP. Be brave. Learn how stand in your power.

Esther’s challenge to you: Get yourself a speaking gig. Do more. Encourage other women to speak more.

The Simple Art of Telling a Story

So you say to yourself … “I’m not a writer .. I can’t tell a story!” Yes you can! As a human being you have a story. Stories are where it is at right now. They are SO important. You can draw on anything and the idea is to paint a picture for your audience so that you can connect with them.

  1. Start the sentence .. I remember one time when
  2. Give an image or feeling .. Connect with audience. Paint a picture for them, engage their senses
  3. Mark Zuckerberg’s assistant blow dries his armpits on his T shirt before he makes an appearance. That gets a laugh.
  4. Picture the story in your head then you don’t need a script. It is in your memory easy to access when you choose some real life event or anecdote.
  5. Come up with a nostalgic memory that takes people back to their own childhood or youth

BIG TIP: Power pose

This is a a very quick way to look good, sound good, and feel good. The power pose. The Amy Cuddy TED Talk explains the science behind taking a powerful pose. Her 2012 Ted Talk has had over 56 million views.. and counting. Watch it. Are

Instructions: 

  1. Find a private space like a toilet before going yo your speech location
  2. Stand with your legs hip width apart. You want to feel the gravity under on your feet, 
  3. Keep like the for 2 minutes
  4. You will feel more confident because you fill your body up with testosterone which makes you feel more courageous.
  5. Neuroscientists also suggest you put your hands in the air, and expose your armpits too. Imagine Wonderwoman. 

Strike a P.O.S.E.

Esther came up with this acronym when supporting her nervous guests before live TV and radio interviews. Four tips for a quick fix.

Posture, Oomph, Speech .. and Smile!

P is for Posture

  • There is so much science behind having the right physicality.  Your brain thinks you are powerful with the right posture
  • Do not totter around on wobbly heels. Good posture means you look more confident, it is better for your voice, even sitting at table 
  • Spread out and take up space. Look at how then men sit
  • Presence is as important as content

What to do with hands?

Option 1 – Keep your hands in front .. men could look like a bouncer.

Option 2 – Keep your hands behind your back, like Prince Philip

Option 3 – For TV you need are them to be in the square of the screen above the hips so do that and just hold on to your third finger to steady your hands .. like Tess Daly

O is for Oomph 

  • You need energy, enthusiasm
  • Think about where you get your energy from
  • Have enthusiasm .. “give it some welly!”
  • NLP advocates will show you a power move that galvanises all your energy

S is for Speech

  • Vocal warm up
  • Use a Tongue Twister to get your chops working … like Unique New York
  • Try an Evil Laugh (best to be on your own with these!)

E is for smile

  • Smile and people will think you are confident and relaxed 
  • Smiling moves nerves upward in face
  • Have power and warmth and you will look confident 

TIP: for connecting with the audience

Maybe you have been given a difficult subject or one that your audience has been told to listen to and which they fear or find difficult .. be open and honest, acknowledge how difficult it is for them, help them relax .. acknowledge and let them share their feeling honestly. This authenticity should break down any barriers you feel.

Sign up to Esther’s great mailing list for more tips: 

 

.. and get out there and speak .. see you on the stage!

Esther Stanhope, the Impact Guru with author Gina Lazenby

Where do we get love from?

Conscious Cafe Skipton met late February at Avalon Wellbeing Centre to talk about LOVE ..

In that quieter space after Christmas, when all the glittery decorations had been put away, I walked round the shops and noticed how everywhere seemed to have been taken over by heart bunting and the colour red. It’s obviously for Valentine’s day the next month. The marketing industry has firmly anchored in the notion that, although love is all around, it is all about romantic love and coupledom. Unless you have a sweetheart to buy a card for, you might just feel a tad left out, even isolated. And yet love is so much bigger than that narrow perspective. So I proposed a conversation about this for our late February Conscious Cafe conversation in Skipton.

A small group of us set out to explore the deeper meanings of love and examine all the areas in our lives where we experience love.  Judging by the number of people who mentioned to me afterwards their desire to attend our evening, but in the end chickened out, and not because of the terrible weather, it seems that talking about love may be a bit uncomfortable for some. So I’m grateful for the courage of our small group who met at Avalon Wellbeing centre.

Where does love come from in your life?

Here is a summary of the insights from the evening. Our full list of questions is at the bottom if you are interested in taking them on for yourself.

  1. Blood connection: Setting aside for now, the love of a romantic life partner, where else does love come from. We started out by acknowledging the love of family, children, parents, siblings …… the tribe we grow up with and for the most part, spend the rest of our lives tethered to in some way. These are strong bonds of love.
  2. Friends can become our family of choice. The sitcom Friends clearly demonstrated the potential for deep loving relationships among friends, and the endurance and nourishment of companions who are able to create close connection is what must have made the TV show so popular for ten years.  It is still on our TV screens, every day, 16 years after it ended!  If, however, you’ve been in a loving relationship for most of your adult life, and not spent much of your time being single, you might not have had the chance to create this kind of community of friends. It is different for us all.
  3. Saying “I love you”: Does this become easier as one gets older?  Is it easier with age, or is it something about the spirit of the age that supports and evening encourages more openness and makes it easiest for us to say, I love you. I know that I can now tell one of my close friends that I love them and yet I would not have done that years ago.
  4. Words have power:  Perhaps the most important person to say I love you to, is yourself, especially if you live alone and you don’t have that close knit circle of friends where loving conversation and expression is comfortable and familiar. We did an exercise using muscle test to demonstrate the power words can have on the body to either weaken or strengthen physical resistance. Saying kind and loving words to yourself (even as unspoken thoughts) makes you physically stronger than saying something negative.  It’s definitely worth trying.
  5. Love yourself first:  We all want love. That is the bottom line. And what is at the heart of the human experience is the need to be seen, to be heard, to be listened to… valued. To be loved.  But it’s hard to ask others to give you what you are unwilling to, or feel incapable of, giving to yourself. Being able to love yourself is the single most important factor in the success of any relationship. And that love is not self-indulgent or arrogant, it’s simply about self acceptance and feeling worthy.
  6. The power of a hug: There’s plenty of scientific research into the benefit of physical touch. Hugging someone for 10-20 seconds, actually has the power to reduce pain and clear headaches. Not everyone is comfortable with this closeness, so do check first. It’s a great currency to have, to be able to contribute to others’ well-being and your own by smiling, reaching out and giving a hug.
  7. Touch is part of the language of love: It’s not just in the words I love you. Love can be conveyed with intention. Love comes across through the simple touch of reaching out and holding or squeezing someone’s hand.  It shows you care.  Just as eye contact and really looking at someone, giving them a moment, letting them know you see them. That is powerful. It’s an expression of love.  
  8. Touching in the modern era:   Everybody’s personal boundaries are different. So in the #metoo era, when some men are not sure how much physical contact is now appropriate, (or even post coronavirus where we might fear we are exposing ourselves to germs) there are other ways of connecting and showing warmth. If a fist bump is a bit too American frat boy, or an arm grab is too Trump-like there’s always the symbolic greeting. Put your hand on your heart to convey a desire for connection or place your hands together Indian prayer style, perhaps with a bow. That way you are saying a lot and also throwing up a physical barrier to any surprise hug.
  9. Cultures vary:  We’ve all got our different codes for expressing friendship, companionship connection and love.  In Pakistani, for example, men feel much freer in their masculinity and are able to hold hands together without conveying without that being read as a different sexual preference.
  10. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: those who have experienced this may have a different way of feeling.  Having been exposed to such an intense and wide spectrum of feelings, it may be that some experience a need to cut themselves off from feelings to minimise the impact on themselves, until they feel healed. But those who have suffered this also have the capacity to be much more aware of what they are feeling.
  11. Language of love: beyond words and touching, there are many different ways to show love. Gifts are important for some, taking action, being there and present, and even doing supportive jobs are ways to show love. A very powerful one is the preparation of food. It’s universal and often the secret weapon of mothers and grandmothers. What could be more loving than everyone round the table for a big Sunday lunch?! I always provide home-made cake at Conscious Cafe events. Yes I could make it easier for myself and buy one, but by making one, I am showing my appreciation for people who make the effort to come and be willing to be in community for an evening. (For this event I made gluten-free pancakes in honour of Shrove Tuesday!)
  12. Finding words to describe love: this we found difficult.  There are so many ways to love, so many different forms that we feel the need to expand the language more.So many meanings for just one word!
  13. All embracing nature:  a deeper meaning for love is our connection to spirit or God, or whatever word you use for Source. We are receivers of consciousness, conduits between heaven and earth. The spiritual aspect of love is our higher nature beyond all relationships. And it is something we can access by ourselves .. taking ourselves to a higher state, being in meditation, feeling wonder. Even looking at the stars can expand our sense of self and make us feel connected to everything .. having a sense of oneness that transcends all.
  14. Unconditional love: There’s no greater gift in the world than to have the love of friends or family, where you know you are unconditionally loved and supported. Animals can also give us that without any judgments, being in the way. Unconditional love is the greatest nourishment we can receive and it is good to take a moment and appreciate that in our lives.

How to access or get more love

  1. Being in nature not only changes us physically, emotionally and mentally but it can take us to another state of feeling connection with all

    For the most part, meditation and developing an increased awareness is helpful in connecting to our loving nature. Breath work, being still and quiet, focussing on your heart, are also good ways for taking you to a state of grace.

  2. Being in nature enables you to feel connected to everything.
  3. Perhaps through your beliefs or religion you feel powerful connection by being in a sacred space like a church or any place of spiritual power.
  4. Smiling at others, feeling compassion or joy can all help strengthen and amplify your connection to God or source or light.
  5. Receiving the response of a smile and giving one changes your own body chemistry.
  6. Giving to others, acts of love, sharing prepared food.
  7. Feeling love for yourself and giving yourself positive self talk.

Conscious Cafe Skipton Questions:

Question 1 – Where does the love come from in your life? In what ways are you present to the love that you have? What does love like in your world? 

Question 2 – What do you do to nourish the love you have? How do you show or express love? Psychologist Robert Sternberg says “Without expression even the greatest of loves can die”.

Question 3 – Is Love a choice? How do you decide who and what to give your love to? 

Question 4 – And if you think love is missing in some way, how could you find it again?

The power of common purpose

Gina Lazenby at the Common Purpose event in Skipton with Helen-Ann Hartley, Bishop of Ripon (centre), and convener Marion Tweed-Rycroft, North Yorks County Council

Good news is actually  … good news

Stronger Communities SkiptonThe fact that I find positive stories so uplifting must mean that I have been tuning into too much TV news reports recently where there is hardly ever any good news (and even the bad stuff seems to get worse). You just might fall into the trap of thinking that there is nothing good happening in the world.  Yesterday my heart was uplifted when I happened to attend “by chance” an event designed for the voluntary sector and faith groups in Skipton and Craven district. Not my normal milieu as I belong to neither community, but something about the event name .. Common Purpose .. called me in. Even though I was not on the invite list I was warmly welcomed and that about sums up everything about the day … the human capacity to reach out to a stranger with a smile and a word of welcome, and then afterwards ask who they are.

The full-capacity meeting was convened by Craven District’s Stronger Communities Delivery Manager, Marion Tweed-Twycroft.  The attendees were representatives across all faiths and local charitable networks. It’s quite astounding that so much is going on ..behind the scenes and with so many unsung heroes and heroines. The idea of the day was to bring everyone together and make more of what is already available by encouraging more partnership activity.

Collaboration is key

You might assume each church does its own thing with its own membership. Not at all. There is a strong spirit of collaboration and cooperation among the local churches to the point where the group name has apparently become the ‘Church of Skipton’. Congregation sizes might be getting smaller but the activities of the churches are growing with a strong outreach.

In 2015 a survey was done nationally by the Cinnamon Network to determine what was being provided at community level by faith groups. In Craven district that year, 150,000 hours of volunteer time were recorded with a financial value of £1.37 million added to the community. And two thirds of the faith-based projects were collaborating with other groups to make their initiatives even more effective. 

Times of Austerity call for greater creativity

There is an expression about necessity being the mother of invention. In these times of cutbacks that slash community budgets that hit welfare support, whatever resources have been to hand are now being leveraged to the hilt. The approach has been one of determining all the assets that everyone has in terms of buildings, resources, skills and connections. If a church building is used by only a handful of people for Sunday worship, it can filled with other groups through the rest of the week. The need to think outside the box and make more of what there is has grown many successful initiatives.  

Putting the kettle on 

Mark Waddington, CEO of Wellsprings Together, an initiative from the Diocese of Leeds, nailed the spirit of community effort when he said “The first step is to put the kettle on”. One of their most important projects is ‘Places of Welcome’ where he stressed the importance of creating spaces where people can come together, feel safe and connect. With the burden of spiralling mental health issues falling increasing across the community, he said it is crucial to have places where it is OK not to be OK.  

The Wellbeing Cafe is a project that appears to be run by Baptist church member Peter Smith in a United Reform Church where there is an open house to all for three hours every Thursday afternoon. This regular community space where you can get a tea, toasted sandwich and an art class is having a big impact on many people’s lives. The social interaction and support by friendly volunteers is giving people back their confidence and boosting self-esteem. There is no talk of religion, it is simply a space where the faith-based community provide a caring and judgement-free place for connection. A Muslim leader also spoke of the powerful impact on community cohesion by providing a place to cook food and share it together once a month with the different nationalities and faiths living in one neighbourhood.

The Medicine of Listening

There is increasing science behind the study of loneliness which says it not only makes you sick; it can kill you. Emotional isolation is ranked as high a risk factor for mortality as smoking. Putting that kettle on, providing an opportunity to sit round a table and have a chat or a meal, can literally be a life-saver for many. Being listened to and feeling heard is a much under-valued medicine and if it is provided as an earlier intervention it can stave off more serious mental health problems later on. Having access to a friend listening ear, someone who makes you feel valued by giving time, attention, and in that moment of being heard .. love. This is what the web of collaboration from a huge network of faith-based organisation is providing. 

The Bishop of Ripon, Helen-Ann Hartley, summarised the power of the morning’s gathering by drawing attention to the importance of making people feel welcomed and valued. She quoted a Maori chief in New Zealand, where she previously served as Bishop and worked closely with the indigenous communities, as saying “the most important thing in the world is people, people, people.  She said everything that had been shared in the Common Purpose session had highlighted the many community projects that are providing help by wrapping around people with love and compassion.  So much more was being achieved by everyone working together. 

Making more of what we already have, being kind and compassionate .. what does that cost? Money may be tight but it not always the simple answer. Kind people are the answer, and especially those who reach out to each other to create a much-needed net of loving support which is the glue holding our social fabric together. 

Gina Lazenby hosts monthly events for the Conscious Cafe Skipton community where folks get together to talk about things that matter… find out more on MeetUp.

 

Taking on a Case of Mistaken Identity

Our first event of the new year for Conscious Cafe Skipton was all about one of life’s big questions: “Who am I really?” beyond all the work and roles and ego?

To help navigate through that enquiry we welcomed Yorkshire-based spiritual advocate Philip Wade, a former Civil Engineer who walked away from his role director of a large Consultancy business at the height of his career, after experiencing an awakening. That awakening experience took him to a deeper exploration of life and he now works as a guide for people all over the word. Nearly 40 of us gathered at Avalon Wellbeing Centre prepared, or at least open if not fully prepared, for a deep conversation. Here are notes and insights from the evening…

The Big Question: We started with the big question which people often ask themselves “Who am I?” But what kind of answer do you get, if any?  Do you think in terms of your roles .… your accomplishments .. who you are in your family?

Follow this with another question: “Who am I without my memory?” Perhaps this has taken you into a feeling of being in the NOW .. feeling present. Words may come like Love, Truth, Nothing, No Thing … maybe even Fear.

Our Identity is strong: We spend all our lives building our identity, creating our story with our roles, and around our gender. But your true nature is not this identity that you have created. 

There is actually an eternal unchanging self.

What Changes: Everyone has experience emotions, feelings, sensations, thoughts. These are all constantly changing… each thought comes like a wave. It passes through .. leaving behind the feelings. But it does not stay.  You catch the thought wave, you can even get lost in the thought. It can take you in many directions, but none of these will be your Truth. What is seen and felt passes and is actually temporary. The waves can be violent or gentle, but they keep coming. 

The Unchanging: What is it that notices the arrival of the wave? What is it that is beyond all that?

That is the silent witness – within awareness.  What is it the notices all the things that move and change?  It’s the observer or Silent Witness.

You might feel you are that emotion, that thought …. that feeling sensation, but it will pass. Then afterwards comes the realisation that “I can’t be that because I am the Unchanging rather than what keeps changing.”

Mistaken Identity: What do you identify with and attach yourself to? Most people think they are their bodies or mind… the Body/Mind … and that’s all there is. This is the mistaken belief. And it’s at the root cause of all suffering. That’s why we’re talking about a mistaken identity. We need to see the truth behind all the beliefs.

To realise the Infinite Silence, you literally have to be out of your mind …. not in the sense of being mad but simply realising the true YOU is Universal Awareness or Infinite Silence.

Success: a question was asked about how the concept of awareness relates to what you think of as success and achievement?  The world gives a definition of what success is. It is an external and changing concept.   Accessing the Silence within you actually gives you power. You can use that power for what you choose.

Key Distinction: Your body is what you have but you are not your body. Your body becomes the vehicle of the awareness of consciousness. Your body is simply a gift from awareness.

Inspiration:  this comes from within, from this inner space and our action follows that inspiration. An outward expression of an inner awareness. There is a distinction here between action and activity. Lots of activity that you can engage is actually busyness. But this is very different to inspired action, actions you choose as opposed to activities and busyness you can get lost in. Trusting your inner voice helps you choose. The inner voice guides, it takes you through a doorway, a gateway to awareness. We realise we are already this. 

Beliefs: The body/mind ego can give you a hard time. It can be full of beliefs that it does not like to let go of. In opening to a higher truth, seeking awareness or hoping to achieve awareness, you find that a great realisation comes which is that “I have never not been this awareness”.

The Wake up call: this is when life stops and changes for whatever reason, and it could be an illness that stops you, brings you to a halt. An awareness to awareness comes. A waking up to the inner voice, inner truth.

But the timing has to be right. You can hear new knowledge but at the time you can dismiss or run away. Then later it sinks in .. and maybe you move along step by step. That can be a gradual shift or a gradual opening up.

 Then there can be feeling that everything that ever happened to you in your life has brought you to that point, to this moment…. what can be called the new, virgin territory of awareness, awakening.

Meditation: this helps. Yes it can mean sitting still and being quiet and if your mind is not used to doing this it can feel like an inner battle. That is simply because a mind is used to being full of whatever thoughts it likes to think. Training and practice helps the mind quiet down which is helpful. But it is not the only route to stillness. 

Being in the woods in nature, being in stillness, being in the quiet. That’s just like meditation. It’s another way of doing it. Being still. Making a commitment to the quiet keeps you going. That helps to train you to be still. What we call mind will naturally be still. 

To access the awareness: You just need to accept totally the invitation that comes from awareness. You access the awareness that remembers itself.  This is not something that you can do, it’s only something that you can realise, something that is here now for you.

The idea that meditation is hard is just a belief. So you can create it that way and make it hard so that it fit your beliefs. Or you can let go.  The heart says to let go. The body mind ego hangs on by its fingernails.

Question:  It feels like Awareness comes and goes. Awareness is constant always.  Your mind asks questions but awareness knows you are already that which you seek. The purpose of all spiritual practice is so that you don’t have to. You don’t have to practice who you already are. Self Realisation rests on nothing. What is it that sees the changes and the comings and goings in life? That is awareness.

If you attention is in the present, then you are in, or realise you are in, awareness, which is a form of meditation… the Living Meditation.  Then you begin to realise “I am not that thought. I am not that challenging emotion. I’m experiencing it, but I am not it.”  Living in our ego identity of the small “i” you can think the answer is in someone or in something …. but the bigger “I”  the awareness knows. This is living in the knowing and as the knowing! 

Intuition: Sometimes a crack will appear. Intuition is that crack that opening, something comes up into the field of awareness, gives us a knowing, as it communicates with us. And a call will come from awareness itself. Then you start listening from within. That is when you start to turn from transmitting to receiving. It’s like a beam of light reaching you, coming through that crack.

The Iceberg:  You can think that you are separate from others .. from the source but we are connected. Think of a big iceberg sitting on the ocean. It sees the ocean but it thinks it is not the same. Eventually the iceberg melts and becomes a sliver of ice in the ocean. And then it realises that after all, it is the ocean. We live life, like we are all separate and yet we are all the same. We are all Universal Awareness or Infinite Silence.

Philip was asked if he believed in eternal life.  He said that he does not hold a belief about that as it is a knowing, and it is a knowing that comes from awareness.  it is in fact part of the Realisation or Self Realisation that one is eternal awareness. The human body/mind ego is actually filled with fear and particularly holds a fear about death.  Opening to awareness becomes a portal and leads to the dissolution of the fear of death. One Realises one is and always has been eternal Awareness or Infinite Silence.

Philip used a fibre optic fountain light to demonstrate what happens when you turn your attention inwards. You can take your awareness down the column of light to the light source. You can understand how we are all connected to the same source.  You reach the light source within, this represents the being part of human being, the part that is not personal. The part that is infinite for all intents and purposes and the power behind which give rise to the light is Eternal Awareness itSelf or Infinite Silence – this is like the battery in the fibre optic an Infinite one. 

The Realisation of this experientially is that Self Realisation ends the case of mistaken identity! This is the gift from Life to Life as Life and you are Life.           Life = Awareness. This is both the meaning and purpose of Life. This is its greatest gift to itSelf to realise this experientially.

 

Conscious Cafe Skipton events take place monthly at Avalon Wellbeing, on the Broughton Hall estate near Skipton.

Next events:

Tuesday 25th February: Where Does Love Come From in Your Life?

Monday 16th March: The Genius Groove with guest speaker Dr Manjir Samanta-Laughton

 

 

 

What is a life well-lived?

 

For others to see that you have lived well, yes there may be outward achievements and accomplishments that make you shine, but more often than not people’s memories will be about YOU as a person .. who you were as a friend, a neighbour, a parent .. your ability to listen, to enjoy life and to spread joy. 

As much as we are impressed and appreciative of tireless effort, particularly for community and making a difference in the world, it would be sad simply to be remembered as a hard worker and a go-getter.  So the discussion we had at our Conscious Cafe Skipton evening in December about looking at whether our lives are being well-lived, called us into a self reflective enquiry. Questions about who we are, how we have become the person we are and how/what we feel about that, were more revealing than what we had actually done in our lives.

Not everyone is a naturally optimistic thinker, especially when to comes to opinions of themselves. It can be easy to hide behind a positive demeanour and still have a web of self doubt inside. The questions we discussed during our evening brought up many different issues for people: while some were at peace and reconciled with life now and who they were, others held threads of guilt, shame or regret that they are living a life of their choice but one which is at odds with their family’s or other’s expectations. It seems to take great personal strength, and pain, to create a life for oneself that is not necessarily one that others would like us to have. 

The inspiration for this evening’s topic came from Community member Richard Hayes who recently attended the funeral of an uncle, aged 103. That in itself is something to celebrate but Richard also noted that his uncle’s life had been judged to be one that was “well-lived”. When his wife died, after 76 years of marriage, his uncle had set out to reinvent himself in his twilight years, skydiving at age 100 and even holding a world age record for a tandem sky dive at age 101. Being inspiring is a massive contribution to others. When we hear of anybody grabbing life with both hands, each day, it can set off a thought in us .. wow .. maybe I could do that. It’s amazing how other’s courage, energy and joy can give us permission to embrace the same .. in our own way.

For this discussion evening, the community went through a series with self-reflective questions with partners. Conscious Cafe December 2019 Questions. You might find it stimulating. From the sharing these insights were forthcoming. I hope you find this interesting and helpful in your own self enquiry about living your life well.

20 key Insights from our enquiry

  1. Take time to reflect:  this valuable gift to ourselves really supports us in moving forward. Lifting your nose off the grind stone for a moment … or simply pausing and asking yourself a question can be quite alien to some folks. This pushing the PAUSE button might be a normal part of your routine but it is worthwhile building it in. This reflection time can feed us in some many ways. It may draw your attention more keenly to what is not working or it might affirm that “Yes .. I am on the right track.”
  2. The Full Stop: a good technique is to take a few minutes each day to feel a sense of completeness. What did I do today? What had been left undone .. to be continued another time? The most important thing is to feel complete with whatever happened and to celebrate everything that occurred. Do not berate yourself for that which has been left undone.  Simply acknowledge it. It is OK to let it go, breath it out and frame the day as being good, it is what it is. Put a full stop at the end of the day so that you let go of potential regrets before they have time to build up.
  3. Praise Yourself: OK so you did three things on your list and there are still 14. The list was too long or the time allocated too short to complete them. Be grateful for what you did do and if you say “Well done” out loud to yourself your brain hears the praise, almost the same as if somebody else said it to you. Everybody needs praise. It keeps us engaged in the game and helps us thrive.
  4. The Ladder of Success: Was your life one of climbing, of trying to do better and ascending some kind of organisation or system?  Maybe you did make it to the top? Hopefully you will have some sense of satisfaction for having done that .. some Cafe folks reflected on this and felt that they had climbed the ladder successfully, only to find that it was propped up against the wrong wall. That’s an interesting perspective to have on one’s life .. looking back and wondering  where your original motivations and choices came from. Yourself.. your parents .. your peer group?
  5. Nothing is ever wasted: the longer you live, and the longer view you have on your life looking back over many decades instead of just one, the more you realise that there was always some benefit from what happened. Yes that ladder may have been on the wrong wall but perhaps from that height you were able to step-change somewhere else. Most people who reflect on their ‘mistakes’ and seemingly ‘poor’ choices acknowledge that they did the best they could .. at the time …. and at the end of the day, they are who they are now because of those choices. If you unpick your history it would not necessarily reconfigure and allow you to be who you are right now.   
  6. Perfectionism is a killer: If you set yourself up for not moving forward unless everything is perfect you have set yourself up for a life of procrastination and stress.  I know all about trying to make things perfect and have now taken on a new mantra .. “It’s good enough”. It will do. It will get you started …. don’t let ideas of making things perfect get in the way of taking on a new challenge. 
  7. Setting the bar high enough: is it better to set the bar quite high, then perhaps feel some disappointment if you have not managed to get where you wanted .. or to set the bar low and get there (relatively easily), but feel “maybe I could have pushed myself more?”  I think we would concur that aiming as high as possible is the healthiest approach .. we just need the right encouragement and support to “Go for it!”. Grab life with both hands and see where it takes you and be happy with where you get.. then set the bar again!
  8. Motivation is key: why are you doing what you are doing, or did?  Some reasons can include “I’ll show them!” … moving forward in life out of pain, spite or fear is never a winning formula, at least for your mental health. It might be a good driver for achievement but at some point, there is usually a realisation and course correction. It’s always better to want something for yourself, or at least an inspiring vision for the world that has you entwined with it.
  9. Are you a black sheep?: quite a few Cafe attendees raised their hands for being a Black Sheep in their family. It’s an interesting identity to have …. been an outlier or outsider… a rule breaker. Quite a few of us who would identify with being curious about life, seeking answers, reaching out to others for deeper conversation, we are also perhaps those who look at what is considered ‘normal’ in society and feel “that’s not me.” Like those questers in the Close Encounters movie, answering the siren call of the alien ship … it can take us away from the “normal path” of family expectation just by wanting to follow our hearts and do what is right for us. This decision to be authentic takes huge courage. Then we find other black sheep along the way and we think … “I’m not alone!”
  10. Forget the Sandwich technique: most of us know about this. Give someone the good news and praise first, slip in the negative critique filler next and follow it up with another slice of praise.  Modern neuroscience tells us this is rubbish. Once your brain has taken in the initial criticism that is all it can think about and it is no longer listening receptively to anything spoken after that. It’s true isn’t it … we can have a tendency to hear something off and can let it take priority over the many things that are good. If you find yourself churning over negativity and having difficulty accepting the positive, do a deliberate mental shift and switch to thinking positively and productively. It will give a massive boost to your mental health. In the absence of anyone else doing it, patting yourself on the back, does you a world of good.
  11. Appreciative Inquiry (AI) has power: there is a well researched communication style that shows we respond better to the positive. For every negative inout, we actually need five times the positive input. The norm in society is probably to get five negative things off your chest (gosh that feels better!) then throw in a positive comment at the end for good measure. If you really understand the power of AI, then you will indeed start shifting into positive dialogue.
  12. Make space for yourself:  it has already been said that taking time is important but also note that you need physical space. Note that as you grow as a person and your life changes, sometime this does mean that you need more physical space. Not just for “stuff” but simply to be. Growing and evolving can mean that you develop a sense of needing to move to another home or location where you can feel more expanded.
  13. Making a fresh start: you can give yourself a big reboot by deciding to make a fresh start .. for many in the Cafe community that has meant moving house and/or moving location. Quite a few Cafe folks are relatively new in Skipton having relocated here for a fresh start in later life. Britain’s Happiest Town (2017) is drawing us in seemingly. It’s a brave thing to do and it affirms a strong survival instinct and desire to move onward and upward.
  14. Back to basics: its never too late at any age of life stage, to start again .. roll up your sleeve and go back to basics. See life through fresh eyes … add in the joy that was missing before .. whatever it takes, every day we are creating our lives as we choose. 
  15. Each day is a new start: as much as you can reboot your life and approach a new year with a new goal and fresh energy, you can actually do that any day that you wake up. I once heard an elderly person say .. “Any day above ground is a good day!”
  16. The need to stretch ourselves: if you pause and look at where you are in life .. if for some reason you feel you are languishing or parked up in one of life’s lay-bys .. it’s OK to set a new goal and stretch yourself a bit more. The next goal does not have to be huge but you can always decide to raise the bar for yourself… again. 
  17. Gratitude is a fuel: one way you can nourish yourself is to switch to being grateful. Gratitude is a very under-rated source of energy, you can switch how you feel in a heartbeat if you shift your focus from problems to .. “what have I got that I can be grateful for?”
  18. Permission: this is something can simply give yourself … permission to do something, to feel a certain way, to change your focus .. again, it’s another powerful tool to redirect your mindset in a more positive way.
  19. Let go of self-criticism:  instead, be in the enquiry for how you can see something differently. Ask yourself new (and good quality) questions, make new choices, look for different perspectives. Hold the assumptions that you are OK .. you are simply, like everybody else, a work-in-progress moving through life as best you can.  Why treat yourself less kindly that you would another person? It does not make sense. 
  20. What people think about you: this is their own business. You can never determine why people have the opinion’s they have, even what hurt or expectation they may be operating from. For sure you might be in a position to ask, if this feels right .. BUT .. you cannot stop people having an opinion. Not worrying about it is will give you a sense of freedom. This in no way means that you do not care for others. Stay true to you, operate from the best of intentions … it’s all you can do. It’s the best you can do.

And finally …

Golden January: this first month of the year is a perfect time to space for yourself. Technically it is the first month in a new year but in reality, no new energy comes in for the next cycle until the end of the month, around Chinese New year time (the Chinese are on the ball there) or February 4th which is a fixed for the feng shui new year starting.That is when we feel new energy coming in to help lift us through the next year. So January is actually the tail end of the last year and I usually take the whole month to complete the previous year and reflect on the future. New year’s Ice itself is too short a time to do this .. take a whole month to prioritise for yourself.

The Power of Joy:  being happy, joyful and bright is such an incredible contribution to the world. Whilst we might be tempted to believe that our actions are the currency the world needs, it’s our ability to be happy, cheerful, positive and engaged that touches the hearts of others. And it’s this heart to heart connection that is the most valuable gift we can give the world. That is what living well is all about.. being joyful and inspiring to others.

There’s a movie starring Shirley MacLaine called The Last Word. It did not get  particularly good reviews or ratings but the premise was amusing. Control freak Shirley wanted to oversee the writing of her own obituary so she got the local paper obituary writer to do this. Unfortunately, nobody had a good word to say about Shirley (it’s a Hollywood story!) so Shirley set out to do the good that would get her a decent write-up… and there’s your story of redemption. It’s food for thought and I found it amusing.

 

 

Why having a Digital Strategy is now the lifeblood of any business 

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Susan Kabani, cofounder of Ugenie, leading the Lady Val post-lunch workshop

Susan Kabani, the co-founder of Ugenie, conducted an afternoon workshop for the Lady Val November Women’s Network lunch in central London to show us the power of digital tools to help our businesses grow. She is a non-tech founder of a tech business and that in itself was welcomed by our audience of women leaders and entrepreneurs, some of whom might admit to being a little fearful of getting to grips with the advancing digital world.  Her start-up business Ugenie provides private membership platforms for business communities and Susan is in line for a Best New Business of the Year award having made it to the final round of the Women’s Business Club New Business Award for 2019.

Susan started by pointing out that digital strategy is so much more than posting on facebook and Instagram, two things that many (older!) people dread using for business. She gave us a few definitions of what of it means and warned us that the way we are used to running our businesses today, can no longer be the way we run them in the future. Digital technology has connected us in such a way that there is no going back.  Any organisation’s business strategy today has to encompass digital. There is no longer a choice. So how do we really leverage digital tech to get more business?

To emphasise the power and impact that digital tech has been having in the world, Susan told us that 88% of the Fortune 500 companies that existed in 1955 are gone. These companies who looked invincible have either gone bankrupt, merged with another business or they are no longer in the Fortune 500 listing.  Most of the casualties came from not adapting their digital strategies in sufficient time and were replaced by others who had a better grasp of the changes being brought by the digital era. 

Susan Kabani workshop The audience was asked to think about brand name companies that we had grown up with which were now no longer here. Although no longer here, these once powerful businesses did not adapt to digital well enough .. Kodak and Polaroid are the stand-out examples of failures. Susan said that Blockbuster video, another big brand that had disappeared, had been approached by Netflix for joint ventures but they rejected them. Founded back in 1997 when Blockbuster was riding high on video cassette tape rentals with lifelong club membership, Netflix now has revenues (2018) just shy of $16 billion. If only we could see the future eh?!

If you don’t build digital into the plans today of your business, you stand a chance of going the way of Blockbuster …. losing out big time or disappearing altogether! Susan kindly shared her powerpoint as a great aide-memoire of the workshop. You can review that here. Highlights are summarised below: 

  1. What’s important to know: Susan emphasised that getting a grasp of digital does not necessarily mean that you need to know the how of getting digital done, you just need to know it must get done. She pointed out that she is a non-tech founder of a tech company!  Bring in the right expertise. You need to have fluency about what can be done but not necessarily then implementing the tech you take on board.
  1. Entry level to business is now lower: Digital has changed the economics of running a business too. Back in the day you needed to rent or own the real estate to run your business (all those Blockbuster Video stores on all those neighbourhood corners!) … now you can have a virtual location and even run a business from your sofa! The worldwide phenomenon Airbnb started in one room with one airbed!  When Netflix started out they did not need to invest in property. They invested in new tech instead.
  1. Haphazard approach is not workable: MIT and Deloitte recently did a survey of companies… the first were just adding bits of tech here and there and determined that in order to be competitive, there was a need to embrace technology in a holistic way for the whole business.
  2. The power of Gen-Z (cohort after the Millennials, defined as those born from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s): Young people today want to work with a company that has a clear digital strategy. If they do not have one, they are not interested.  In the ten years this generation is going to be 40% of the buying power of consumers. We have to know how to reach this group and understand today how they are consuming in readiness for them having more and more influential buying power.
  1. Privacy is paramount: The next generation in particular are more sensitive about the privacy of their data. In this regard, Facebook is now a less trusted brand  .. and this might not bode well for this super-large company in the future unless they can turn that around.
  1. Speed is everything: things are changing and upgrading so fast .. we have entered the era of exponential growth, so it is important to have digital data to give you feedback quickly. The goal posts are moving all the time now. You need to have your finger on the pulse to react quickly. A Digital Strategy has to be able to evolve constantly.
  1. Communication confusion: There can be too many channels to choose form – is the message I am looking for in WhatsApp, or text, or Messenger .. or on email?? The advice is to choose one or two channels and stick with them. Keep it as simple as you can.   
  1. Everything is included: Digital Strategy is not just able sales leads. It is as important for team communication as it is about customer feedback.
  1. Tips about time: dob’t forget to include your own time in any project calculation. Even if your own business cannot afford to pay you at this stage, you must have an allowance for your strategy otherwise you can never afford to replace yourself.  Build a salary into your financial model. Make sure you value your time. And so you know what an hour of your time is worth? Are you able to calculate the return on investment of any activities you do?
  1. What processes are we uses that saves us time? The workshop came up with a few digital hacks and apps that we are currently benefiting from:
    1. Trello helps us project manage and keep up with team activities, who has done what.
    2. Zoom brings us together across the world for meetings and conversations
    3. Movie is another communication program like Zoom but with the added benefit of a trained message stream
    4. Notability allows you to use an iPad and bring together handwritten notes converted to text with inserted photographs from a meeting which is very useful
    5. Copper brings together everything Google to manage leads and emails, putting relevant contacts into a leads generator. If you are looking for investment then being able to show you have ready-pipeline makes you more investable.
    6. So much about digital tech gives greater efficiency and not just sales leads
  1. Building a Digital Strategy has to start from the top: you have to be informed to drive change with the right tech because you can meet resistance from people who feel they already have a solution. You need to know if what you are introducing is better. Build the data and track what is working. Take the time to acknowledge what is working when it is a success.  If it is not working .. be prompt in changing it. Bring in good tech for measuring.
  1. Buy right the first time: do your research so that you do not install something that ends up being the wrong fit. It is more cost-effective to get it right from the start. And if you need to change it usually possible to migrate your data .. with the right expertise.
  1. Women on the Web support: is a digital community with helpful, bite size how-to videos. If there is something you need to learn how to do, this is the place. You can even ask for specific subject to be covered and one of their community of 45+ women teachers will prepare something to add to the resource library. (For example Susan has prepared a video on how to load your photos from your computer up to Instagram, instead of your phone). Find out more and join.
  1. Choosing advertising: Boosted Facebook adverts can add up and are they successful? Are you tracking them?   Where are the competition advertising? Why aren’t they using Facebook ? where are they placing their activity now? 
  1. Before your Strategy comes your Vision: what are your specific objectives? Clarity helps with decision making. Is your networking producing leads? Have an objective for each event you go to. Is is able leads / contacts / intelligence? Do you know your key numbers? How many to reach to sign up as customers/sales?  Smart tech for finance: there is so much out there for assisting in organising finances, invoices and budgets. Use it. Find a person skilled in setting it up. 
  1. Gen-Z want more support … track how you are helping them, with things like health and wellness. They are much more mobile. If they are dissatisfied they move on. They are also interested in the social values of your business. They have a whole new way of looking at the world that we older people need to understand as it will likely affect their business.
  1. Good data management is at the heart of good decision-making: invest in getting the right systems or procedures to give you the data you need so you know where to put your effort, resources and money. You don’t need all the channels .. choose the best for you. Email still remains a very strong marketing tool as is local marking in your computer. With so much choice out there … keeping it local can keep it simple. Figure out where your audience is and choose the best channel for your key market … LinkedIN ..or networking / face to face meetings.
  1. Simple simple: people get lazier .. they want things done for them or to put in minimum effort. Don’t ask too much of people. Spoon-feed. Be really clear with your call to action in your website. Don’t leave them in a quandary for what action to take .. at the right time. Don’t make them register their info twice. Be the same with your brand across all channels.
  1. eCommerce remains huge:  Amazon is the biggest retailer in the Western Hemisphere. They have so much helpful data. You can track where your customer are dropping off in the sales process, where in the sales / buying journey is the weak spot you? Very useful info.
  1. The Mayor of London’s Promotional Agency: has an initiative called the London and Partners Business Growth Programme. Businesses that have at least 3 people can apply for benefits. It’s all about bringing more employment to London. It’s worth investigating for possible support. More about this initiative here.

  • About Susan Kabani: she was an IT lawyer who went straight into her family business to protect their trademarks & copyrights, specialising in sports law. When she started there fresh out of law school, she found they had no electronic record of past customers, all 2.000 of them!  In order for her to retarget the most valuable asset of the business she had to go back over all the paper invoices. Just putting these on a spreadsheet was the beginning of taking the company digital. 
  • About Ugenie: Launching her current business with her other non tech founder, they saw a need to offer communities a private way to connect with each other. They saw that some groups were struggling to be in communication using Facebook or several WhatsApp groups. They have developed a private app that these communities can use more effectively by being digitally connected and not having to share all their data.

Prue Leith Queen of Cooking recalls her colourful life

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Bake-off star and cookery legend Prue Leith entered the room to a welcome of thunderous applause from the sold-out capacity gathering at Lady Val Corbett’s women’s networking lunch at the end of November.

Prue Leith and Lady Val were both involved with The Hoxton Apprentice, a restaurant that trained the long-term unemployed. Lady Val started her Women’s Network there in 2005 holding her lunches for 7 years. This event celebrated the Network’s 14 years of successful gatherings.

It was good to hear that Prue and Val have a history, with both coming from South Africa to the UK in their youth and staying in touch over the years. In fact, this lunch event was also a birthday celebration for Lady Val’s network which started 14 years ago in Hoxton Square in a training restaurant for the long term unemployed that both women were connected to. The two women and their ventures have gone from strength to strength.

With a female speaker for a large group of women, we are looking for gossip, insider secrets and tips for how we can emulate her success. Prue did not disappoint. She turned out to be a kick-ass business woman with a winning smile, a colourful presence and in her own words a “terrible show off”!

“Business is boring” ….. but is it?

It’s interesting how as a young woman Prue got the idea that business was boring so she chose a career that she thought was more creative, fun and involved people… cooking. She was good at it growing a team of cooks, then over the next year she found herself out of the kitchen … “Guess where I was …the team were in the kitchen doing the cooking, and I was on the phone, selling the stuff and making up the menus and doing the bills and organising the restaurants …. I was in an office doing business!”  To her surprise she found that she absolutely loved it getting as much of a buzz and “smug self satisfaction” from getting the right numbers on her profit and loss as she did from preparing a big wedding feast. 

Creative with Marketing

It not only helps to be a good cook but you have to seize the opportunities to move up the ladder and grow your business whenever you can. Prue spoke of a time when she was cooking for a wealthy woman in her Holland Park home. Through the server hatch she overheard the dinner parties guests give lavish praise for the food and ask for the name of genius cook. The hostess then claimed that she had cooked all the food herself and the “little girl in the kitchen” was simply there for clearing the dishes. That little girl resisted the temptation to shout through the hatch and instead came up with a great idea. A small sweet revenge. She took her business cards and wrote on each one that this was the person who had cooked their lovely meal then slipped them into the coat pockets of all the guests. Bingo!  Shortly after, she received a call from the secretary of the Chairman of Reed publishing inviting her to cook for the directors’ lunches. He was impressed with both her cooking and marketing skills.  Be brave and seize the moment.

Evolving with age

When Prue got to her mid century she wanted to heed a different call for creativity and write novels. Owning three very successful businesses took all her time and creativity so she decided to sell them all … her cookery school, Michelin star restaurant and catering company which now had 500 employees. That’s certainly a brave shift. She opened up space for her creative writing phase but after some time decided she actually missed the buzz of business. 

You’re never too old to start again

Recalling how Lady Val celebrates a woman’s love of handbags and shoes (a regular toast at her networking events) Prue pointed out that these items are either hidden under a table on the floor or on our feet and then tucked away in cupboards. She decided to be a bit more canny and showy and choose to channel her creativity into the design of a range of colourful Prue spectacles and gorgeous necklaces .. items that already formed part of her personal brand image and are always on display! Having previously enjoyed wearing colourful and inexpensive plastic jewellery, Prue’s range is a bit more eco friendly and not based on plastic but on beautiful gemstones which also make for a more sustainable business with better margins.

So having semi-retired from her businesses in her 50s .. here she is about to enter her 9th decade and back in the business fray, collaborating with jewellery and spectacle designers. It’s never too late to take on something completely new challenge.

Older women and Invisibility

Reflecting on her own journey through the years, she has noticed that women in their 50s can feel, and also look, invisible. She encouraged women to accept the fact that older men will let their gaze land on more nubile and younger women (that’s just what they do!) and we can still have a good time. Don’t give up on yourself she said … embrace colour. 

Finding love

Prue referred to her long and happy marriage with her first husband. He was 20 years older than her and sadly he died when she was in her sixties. She has been very public in her comments about her surprise and joy at finding love again in her later years. She is going to be 80 next year and is delighting in her wonderful marriage to a man who is seven years her junior which she called “the right ratio” to much applause from the audience.  

Women can often find themselves single in later life for a variety of reasons but she pointed out that even though we might not all enjoy the love and connection of a life partner, love is still hugely important in our lives and takes many forms. Appreciating the love we have from friends and even our pets is nourishing and important. Having love and being long sustains us.

 

Recipe for success

Prue says that because she seems to do a lot, and has accomplished so much, she is often asked about her secrets for success. This is a hard one for any of us to answer but she says she can only draw on her innate optimism. She says she is upbeat in her approach to life. “I do think I’ve been lucky ……. you know, if something goes wrong, I will more likely say, it was really worth a try. I’ll do it again…. Or that didn’t work so I’ll try something else. I think much more about what I’ll do next, rather than worrying about what I’ve done wrong….And I’ve done lots of things wrong.”  It can be so easy to focus on the mis-steps and the failures and let them hold us back but Prue maintains a focus on the future which sounds really healthy. Keep your eyes forward and don’t get hung up on the past.

Embrace the colour

Her other secret is her love of colour which she says has a great deal to do with how she feels … “maybe this is because I’m busy flogging colourful specs and colourful necklaces! … but I do think that if you wear a red jacket or a yellow coat on a miserable morning you immediately feel a little happier. So I’m really for us all having colourful lives, and that means having a go with everything.

A new career phase with Bake-Off

When Mary Berry stepped out of the Bake-Off team when Channel 4 bought the franchise, Prue, already an old hand at TV work, wondered who they would find to replace the iconic female elder stateswoman of baking … she thought “surely they’ll never ask for yet another old lady…  Channel Four always want to do something different .. a young cool black woman perhaps …But they obviously didn’t want to mess with the formula”. So she was approached and is now a key part of the successful continuation of the series.

Everyone wanted their photo taken with the Bake Off star

The big faux-pas

As the first Bake-Off series involving Prue came to a close, she recounted how she was prompted to congratulate the winner after 10.30pm. Of course we all know it is a pre-recorded programme and the winner is a very well-kept secret (and has been for 7 years) until the recording is aired many weeks after the actual event.  On this occasion Prue was in Bhutan with very spotty phone reception so when that prompting message appeared on her phone, she looked at her watch .. 10.30pm …so she sent out that famously ill-timed message of congrats to the winner. It was certainly 10.30pm in Bhutan but much earlier in the UK and the show had not yet been aired. Her assistant spotted the spoiler message and deleted it so it was only up for 89 seconds .. but that was all it took to spread like wild fire. The spoiler-alert story made headline news. Instead of having her contract terminated as she fully expected, Prue was relieved to find a compassionate response at Channel 4, particularly as ratings soared when many new folks tuned in to watch the show.  The potential debacle had another upside when the Prime Minister of Bhutan called her for a chat … congratulating her and thanking her for putting Bhutan on the map .. in the most unusual way!

That is definitely a sign of a woman who is a pure magnet for good luck!!

Lady Val’s next lunch event for women in London is February 20th

The Possibility of Creating Real Change in the Brain – a Conscious Cafe conversation

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Little did I know that an invitation to learn about re-wiring your brain and giving your flagging willpower a boost would resonate with so many people. Almost 60 of us attended our Conscious Cafe Skipton gathering in November to listen to local Psychotherapist John Taylor talk us through how our brains actually work. That’s the largest gathering we have ever had and shows the increasing desire people have, not only to connect and share in community, which is the core idea of Conscious Cafe, but also to learn more about what makes us tick (or stops us from ticking the way we want to!)

When I asked folks to share what had called them to this particular conversation, these were the issues named that people commonly live with and would like to resolve:

    • social anxiety
    • addiction (let’s just add sugar in at this point!)
    • not following through on good ideas that we have
    • daily anxiousness
    • PTSD
    • unhelpful habits
    • procrastination 

Our event was held on the first day of International Stress Awareness Week – a perfect opportunity to examine what it is that causes us stress .. and what to do about it. In addition to the anxiety list, people also expressed a desire simply to express themselves to others; gain further clarity on what they could do to support their own wellbeing; learn some more self-help tools  and satisfy their curiosity on the understanding their brain.

Here are ten insights from our Conscious Cafe evening exploration:

  • Inner conflict – Why do we say YES then regret it?

John shared something we have all experience. We say YES to something, like agreeing to speak at a public event, then immediately afterwards we are filled with dread because we are now overwhelmed with fear .. and yet, we know, deep-down, that we do actually want to do that thing!

That was a conundrum that troubled John Taylor and his curiosity and desire to overcome said fear, led him to train in hypnotherapy and psychotherapy. He was particularly drawn to BWRT, BrainWorking Recursive Therapy, a new form of psychotherapy that uses the latest findings in neuroscience and is proving very helpful for changing behaviours and habits. successfully resolving many cases of PTSD, panic and anxiety as well as anxiety and phobias. We can be amazed at what makes us fearful but what is even more amazing is that we can actually overcome this.

  1. Needs vs Beliefs – A core dynamic in the Brain

What underpins so many of the issues that we have as humans is the trio called, Needs, Belief and Conflict. And the conflict usually arises when a need comes up against a belief.  Our needs start with a sensation. The absence of something or the desire to get rid of something is experienced as a feeling. When we don’t have what we need (eg drinking water when thirsty) the body will get stressed. Equally, we can feel stressed if we have an unwanted experience (like anxiety) so we are triggered to get rid of the unwanted feeling, and relieve it. But sometimes, something stops us from taking care of our needs.

  1. Human needs are diverse and form a hierarchy
  • Survival is our most basic needs: water, food and shelter
  • Security is also top, with feeling safe
  • A sense of autonomy and control: having freedom over our life
  • Emotional intimacy: feeling connected to family and having loved ones who know and understand us 
  • Belonging: Feeling connected to and part of a wider community
  • Privacy: having time and personal space to reflect
  • Sense of status: within social groups. Being seen as an authentic person beyond any role we might have. We need attention, a sense of identity.
  • Sense of competence and achievement: feel validated and recognised
  • Meaning and purpose:  feel as though we can make a difference and our contribution is worthwhile.
  1. Unfulfilled Needs – the beginning of many problems

Problems start when our needs are not fulfilled. There can be many reasons for this. Environmental factors play a part and these can mean we are not able to access the resources we need or perhaps we have a lack of knowledge for what might be available. One key aspect is that we don’t always recognise what our needs are, particularly our emotional ones may not be so obvious. We have never been taught to think of ourselves as having a range of needs and how to truly recognise when they show up. Finally our own brain software, made up of our beliefs, can get in the way of us getting that we want. 

  1. Where do our Beliefs come from?

These come from an accumulation of our learned behaviour.  Listen in to the voice in your head – that is clue to what you believe. “I don’t believe I am worth it”. That thought is going to create a major conflict with one of your needs. Losing touch with our needs can go back to childhood when we heard family instructions like “You should be seen and not heard” or “Eat everything on your plate”.  Maybe you simply do things where there is no rational and obvious reason but they are traditions passed down through your ancestry when you learn how to do things… the way your family always does things. Superstitions can be passed down through generations and simply become part of our core beliefs, beliefs that others may not share.  Other than our parents, beliefs can be instilled in us from school education, our peer group and the powerful influence of advertising. 

  1. Beliefs are strong and some can work against us

Belief has nothing to do with fact. Because whatever you believe is based on your own imagination. We can believe something will happen tomorrow, because that’s the way it’s always been before. It is  not just a belief in an outcome of something, it’s our self belief as well that has power over us. Our self belief of who we are, what we’re capable of (or incapable of) and what we can/can’t do, what would happen if we did try to do something or not try to do something. Our beliefs can be rigid and they fundamentally shape who we are. If we feel we have to suppress part of ourselves through some kind of external pressure, and that then means we are not able to meet our needs, our body can react to this suppression with anger, anxiety, chronic illness. 

  1. Who or what steers the brain?

The thinking, rational conscious brain that pays attention, helps us makes decisions and is responsible for willpower … this gives us a feeling of control. But in fact, it is not in control. There is another part of the brain, the subconscious. This is the part that never sleeps. When a threat happens the subconscious brain will cause us to very quickly take action .. to protect us. That happens before our conscious part is even aware. And working to support us, it always tries to act on our beliefs, as well as our needs. Sometimes there is conflict between what you really want to do and what you feel your should do.  This is the nub of it! When a belief and a need are at opposite ends of a spectrum, you can’t act on both.  So this is where you end up doing nothing .. good old procrastination! It can also lead to perfectionism. This does not make us perfect, it simply stops us from doing something in case we are embarrassed. It saves face! 

  1. It all gets wired into our brain 

“Cells that fire together wire together” is a key function in the brain and a foundation of the research and work of BWRT. Like a Pavlov dog, that has become wired to salivate for food .. we can continue to respond in a certain way after a strong initial reaction becomes wired into the brain. We form these neural pathways inside our brains which are links between the nerve cells inside our brains that fire off at the same time. And in just a third of a second, our brain starts to take action before we are consciously aware of what is going on. Research has shown that before a decision is made to take action, there is already neural activity inside the brain. All this can be good for us unless it causes a negative emotional response. 

  1. Reprogramming the brain wiring that drives subconscious creates real change

Failure of willpower is where we are working with the conscious brain, unaware of the role that the unconscious has over us. It’s hard to make a decision NOT to do something when your system is activated to move forward programmed by your subconscious, which is simply acting in your interest, driven by your beliefs. Sometimes you are fighting against your survival instincts. 

So telling your brain to do something else instead is going to meet with resistance. Of course, you can make change because the more you do anything differently, the more successful you’ll be and the easier it will be. The best approach in BWRT is to stop the trigger in the first place rather than working on trying to resist.

  1. 10.Tools for change

Getting rid of anxiety is not done by trying to think of something else, it involves activating the anxiety because that in itself has energy as it is a neural pathway.  Once activated it is immediately frozen to stop progressing. At this moment you can’t do two things at once .. you can’t stop anxiety and have it grow at the same time. By freezing it, your brain is called into a “wait state” and it is waiting for the next bit of information. This is when you  break your automatic response pattern, it’s called a pattern interrupt. Strangely, your brain is highly likely to accept whatever new instruction we give it next. You decide the new action you want to replace the old habit reaction. With repetition (this is the recursive element in BWRT) this new action actually sticks. 

This therapy overcomes the need for forcing change through willpower, it does not require long discussions about what is going on ..  you simply want to know what new behaviour you would like instead. These techniques come from the newest brain science and neuro plasticity which means that all things can change with every second of every single day. Previously we thought that the brain at age 30 was pretty much shaped for life. Now we know that’s not true. This is a new area of research and overturns a lot of what we previously understood about the fixed nature of the brain. 

John Taylor handed out a sheet of tools and tips with a Human Needs exercise. He is also very generously offered all attendees a personal and individual follow-up conversation during the next couple of months. He can be contacted on email and phone ‭01756 761604. Check out his website.

The bottom line is … our brain has an unlimited capacity to rewire and reorganise itself so all those old annoying destructive habits that we have got used to and suffer … they can all be changed.  It sounds like a good idea to get specialist help with some of this but real breakthroughs are possible.  It is helpful to study further and understand more about the enormous hidden powers that our brains have. The idea that our head is full of grey matter does not accurately reflect the powerful engine that controls every decision we make.  Seemingly, anything is possible. 

Conscious Cafe Skipton has more events coming up this year:

Tues Nov 19 – Sound Healing Lunch break – with Stuart & Debbie Harvey

Tues Dec 3 – What is a Life Well-Lived? – with Gina Lazenby

Tues Dec 17 – Conscious Cafe Christmas Party

Sun Jan 5 – New Year special event 

Mon Jan 20 – What is your Genius Groove? with Dr Manjir Samanta-Laughton

How the word ‘Compassionate’ challenges our thinking on Leadership

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Compassionate Leadership

The Conscious Cafe Skipton community gathered in October with Emma Slade

Compassion and Leadership:  Bringing these two words and concepts together seems to trigger raised eyebrows. Do many of us fall into the trap of thinking like our speaker Emma Slade confided, that compassion is not a natural companion for leadership?  Perhaps we have seen so many examples of isolated, assertive, alpha male leadership that we just think that it is the norm? A complex discussion was opened up …..

A Journey through Compassion

In October we welcomed international yogi, teacher and author Emma Slade to take us on a journey through compassion, from her Buddhist perspective, and to explore nits potential for supporting leadership roles today. Emma joined our monthly Conscious Cafe Skipton at Avalon Wellbeing the evening before delivering a weekend retreat programme.  Since being ordained as a Buddhist nun, the first western woman to achieve this, she is also known as Ani Pema Deki. She has an incredible story to tell and this is most fruitfully discovered by reading her book ‘Set Free: A Life-Changing Journey From Banking to Buddhism in Bhutan’. She is also CEO of the charity “Opening Your Heart to Bhutan” which she founded to focus on helping children in need in the Himalayan kingdom.

Firstly – what is Compassion?  “Compassion is a mental state endowed with a sense of concern for others and the wish to see that suffering relieved.” This is the Buddhist interpretation. There are three motivations for Compassion:

  • Cognitive – ‘I understand with you.’
  • Affective – ‘I feel for you.’
  • Motivational – ‘I want to help you.’

These motivations, or wishes, will potentially lead to a shift from simply ‘Me’ to ‘Me and You’ which becomes an understanding of ‘US and notions of WE.’  This shift to a more inclusive, collective thinking is perhaps the biggest challenge to our traditional thinking about what a leader is. 

What do we think the role of a leader is?  Emma asked us to consider this question in our Cafe discussion groups and to start with these possible categorisations:

  1. To lead by example?
  2. To give us wisest guidance – to tell us what to do?
  3. To bring out the best in each individual?
  4. To inspire others around a shared vision?

Have we ever considered leadership in the ‘We’ inclusive form?  

Emma said that the Buddhist texts contain only a few references to leadership and mostly in the context of letters to leaders like the King. They mainly focus on the pressure leaders have with a great deal of power and telling people what to do with their “wisest guidance”. 

The seeds of a Compassionate leader can be seen here in the concept of Level 5 Leadership:  Celebrated business author Jim Collins gives us a good insight into a different kind of leadership that is successful. He looked at why some companies go from good to great and the role of leaders in making that happen. Those instrumental in taking their companies to ‘greatness’ were known in Jim Collins’ book “Good to Great” as ‘Level 5 Leaders’ . He said these individuals were able to mix two apparently conflicting qualities; great ambition and personal humility. Their ambition was less personal for the SELF and more for the enterprise.  While Level 5 leaders can come in many personality packages, they are often self-effacing, quiet, reserved, and even shy. Every good-to-great transition in Collins’ research began with a Level 5 leader who motivated the enterprise more with inspired standards than inspiring personality.  Perhaps in this business language we begin to find the seeds of the Compassionate Leader.

How to develop these two qualities?  From the Buddhist point of view, whenever we talk about the conscious development of anything, we talk about the Root (or the ground), then the Path and followed by the Result.  These three levels of development provide a good structure for thought about anything, including our leadership conversation. 

  • More than being nice. The study of Compassion has been very much part of Emma Slade’s journey and personal development. She says people can be quite fuzzy about it not realising that it is something that can be developed.  It is much more than just being “nice”. From a Buddhist point of view it has a very rigorous training. It starts from having a Bodhisattva intention, that is the idea of shifting ultimately from ‘me’ orientated to being connected and ‘we’ orientated. It is an essential shift in thinking. Even when thinking thoughts of peacefulness and calmness, if you are just thinking them for yourself it is not really being compassionate.  That is not going to take you from good to great.  
  • “Who am I doing this for?” You always start any practice thinking about this question. The notion of shifting from me-to-we is always going to be in the Root of it. Once you have shifted your thinking from me-to-we then then how big is We? It’s limitless so it is termed immeasurable. Therefore, in order to respond to that immeasurable number of beings, the mind needs to have an immeasurable quality. That is sensible and appropriate.  The first quality to develop is Loving Kindness which means care and love for other beings.  Once you care and love other beings then of course compassion will follow so it is easier. If you love someone you do not wish them to suffer.
  • Love is the Root, the immeasurable basis. From that compassion will naturally arise, you will not need to have to force it. 
  • The need to be impartial. To start with the idea of immeasurable beings, we do have to develop a mind of impartiality and usually all of our human emotions are highly partial. We do tend to treat people differently when we feel that some people are more deserving of our love than others. 
  • An impartial attitude of loving kindness must be developed, and to do that it is important to recollect the kindness that has been given to us by so many other sentient beings… and particularly in the Buddhist text the usual example is that of the Mother (or main care-giver). The detailed and practical example given of the Mother cites care that is given with some degree of hardship. That loving care required the Mother to have determination, patience and huge dedication of energy and time. All parents will understand this archetypal energy. Hardship is invariably experienced when dedicated care is given, even when this means things like lack of sleep.
  • Expansion of limits. To understand compassion more deeply, we are invited to consider how the Mother was able to expand her own limits to give, and continue giving, when it is difficult. Feeding a child before one feeds oneself is a very practical demonstration of compassion.  In Buddhist terms, we are encouraged to see and treat all beings as if they have been our Mother.   The Buddhist teaching is literal but we can imagine how to apply the metaphor.
  • Understand the Causes. Looking at the Root, the Path and Result, in Compassion practice, one wishes others to be free from suffering AND its causes because it is as important to examine what causes suffering as it is to want to relieve the suffering itself. When we more deeply understand the sufferer and the cause of the suffering, our response can be more appropriate. 
  • Use the Power of Mother Love. The meditation practices for this are highly practical and visual examples of situations where your concern for your own mother would naturally arise. Based on the understanding that the love your mother has shown you, looking at that in very practical ways, understanding that she might be tired and needing support when she can no longer walk or she herself is in pain .. so the texts describe how you can step in to save the suffering of your mother. 
  • The practice of compassion is seen to be perfected when one has done these two things: 
  • Fully purified yourself from self-clinging  
  • From the depths of one’s mind (our most inner mind) one desires all beings to be free from suffering.

The Buddha of Compassion: The visual expression of this perfected compassion is seen in the mind of Chenrezig, the most revered of all Bodhisattva, embodying the Buddha of Compassion. The image of him is depicted as having a thousand arms which is an attempt to show the mind of compassion as being unlimited and immeasurable. The multiple arms help to relieve the many who suffer and the causes of suffering. The palms of the hands have an eye which shows an ability to see, and not turning away, being able to respond. The face is very calm showing that the mind is very stable. Even though this entity is in the midst of profound suffering, the mind is still calm. This image is used frequently in meditation to help provide a tangible focus for developing greater compassion. 

The gathering divided into small groups for discussion then shared feedback 

Feedback on groups discussing Compassionate Leadership:  “Enormous”, “tricky” and “daunting subject”. Most groups found the subject to be huge, getting bigger the more it was discussed.  In a nutshell, it seems to be complicated and triggers many deeper and wide-ranging conversations. 

Different types of Leadership:  Looking around, leadership is not just happening at work in our organisations.  The church, for example, is full of leadership levels and ultimately, the Pope, has recently set an example of true compassion by shifting the Catholic Church from denial that paedophiles were among the ranks, to advocating an acceptance of the truth and a desire for the family of the church to move forward. Family life is led by parents who guide their children with their values.  Good leadership in family life is crucial for the next generation.

Leading by Example:  We are familiar with the old adage that you should “do as you would be done by”. And yet, treating others as we would wish to be treated carries an assumption that what is right for us, is also right for others. A Compassionate leadership approach would also involve empathy and a listening for what is really needed in each situation .. not necessarily what we ‘think” is needed. Our responses will be most appropriate if we take the time to truly understand others and their particular needs.

Compassionate Leaders are Rare:  Compassionate does not seem to be a normal or usual description of a leader. Some people gave examples of their surprise when they came across individuals for whom they had worked whose actions displayed compassion.  

What is a Compassionate Leader?  Compassion is not seen as a management competency, rather, it is a human skill that good leadership benefits from.

A number of traits and values were identified as being part of a profile for Compassionate leaders we have known:

  • Honesty is key
  • Authentic
  • Humility
  • Have integrity
  • They work for the highest good
  • Treat people with equal respect
  • Is able to have courage to acknowledge their own mistakes
  • They take responsibility, not blaming others
  • A person who has the courage to express their core values while at work

Techniques for Embedding Compassion:  Knowing your people. This seems to be a key aspect of being a Compassionate leader. How to do this? Making it your business to know your people is a start … being interested in them and valuing the knowledge you have about them. Informal listening as well as formal conversations helps. Making sure people feel heard by deep listening is important. Taking time to start formal meetings with a “Check-in’ allows people the time and space to share what is going on for them. If everyone has the chance to share it helps to build a sense of loving kindness into the culture.

Compassionate Leadership is also about Tough Love:  It is not about being kind and nice to everyone. Tough decisions have to be made so it is not about softness. There are times when individuals have to be let go from a business, perhaps where they are causing disruption and making others suffer. It was acknowledged that such individuals would be helped but at the bottom line, sometimes it can be more compassionate to removed a person from a job and let them go. Tough love is about caring for somebody enough to help them see the truth.

Compassionate Economics:  When we look at our modern economy based on people being seen as consumers, and goods being produced as cheaply as possible, somewhere in the supply chain, it is likely that there is suffering. Cheap labour can have a high price that the end consumer does not necessarily pay. If we are to create a more compassionate world then it is important to look at what is hidden in our current notion of supply and demand economics. Creating change in this deeply embedded system requires individual acts of courage to ensure everyone is treated with respect. Anyone who steps forward to create change here, would be seen as a Compassionate Leader.

What happens when the Culture is not Compassionate?  Again, few organisations seems to be worthy of the description of being compassionate. In the average office, compassion is not necessarily part of the culture even when the organisation is non-profit. Very often it is not safe for a person to be their authentic self. In these circumstances, it can be even more difficult for an individual to go against the grain and be a Compassionate leader. It takes courage to make a stand and be authentic. Cultures don’t change without a struggle. Today, more and more millennials and young people are looking to work for organisations that do show compassion and allow authentic expression.

What does it take to be Compassionate?  Fully understanding the Buddhist perspective on being compassionate, we can see that it is important to really look and see the reality of the suffering that is happening around us and in the world.  Where do you decide to put your compassion on a daily basis so that you do not feel in overwhelm? Who do you support .. how do you handle moral dilemmas? It is easy to be kind and make someone a cup of tea but when circumstances get really difficult that is when we are really testing and trying helps us. We have to look and see what is happening in our own minds. The Root, the starting point, must be stable to provide a firm foundation for our subsequent response and action. We cannot be wavering in our response to suffering. You can indeed transform your capacity to be compassionate with mind training such as is advocated by the Buddhist teachings.

In summary .. it seems that we are seeing the beginning of change in our leaders and leadership styles. Having a deeper understanding of what compassion actually is, through this Buddhist thinking, and how it can be developed in uses enormously helpful. Starting with daily acts of Loving Kindness, we can bring Compassionate Leadership to our roles.

Conscious Cafe Host Gina Lazenby with Emma Slade (Ani Pema Deki) and Lisa Milnor who organised the weekend retreat

Emma signs copies of her book Set Free