Why make life harder when all you need to do is ask for help?!


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Andy Lopata is a leading networking strategist. He has written four books on networking and often been quoted in the media, including The Sunday Times, The Financial Times and Inc. In fact, the FT called Andy ‘one of Europe’s leading business networking strategists’ and both Forbes.com and The Independent called him ‘a true master of networking’.

Workshop leader Andy Lopata with Lady Val at her Professional Women’s Lunch

Andy opened his afternoon workshop at Lady Val’s Professional Women’s lunch with a plea for us to “please stop lying!.”  He explained that we are doing this every single day when we respond to the questions: 

“How are you?” … “How’s work?”  with … “I’m fine”. 

He says this is a bad habit when often we are not fine and actually could do with some help! The problem is, so few of us are open to letting people in to help us.

Andy has developed a passion to help people open up

A member of the PSA (Professional Speakers’ Association), Andy recalled being at a PSA event in Reading, at a time while his business was struggling. The speaker asked a simple question. What is the status of your business?  Is it Growing, Scaling, Stable, or in Decline? Andy realised that even in the company of his own tribe, his closest community, he was not able to be honest. Nobody was able to acknowledge whether their business was in trouble and in need of help. And the room was full of people who could help.

Andy is seeing this as a big trend. People are beginning to realise that they need to start being open and vulnerable instead of feeling the need to look good and strong to those around them. Nobody wants to look weak or feel a failure and yet our inability to be honest and ask for help can really hold us back. Of course it is natural to want to look good and strong to our peers. 

Screenshot 2019-10-02 at 12.12.12Instead, finding a way to open up to the all the resources that are around us, inside the contacts the we already have, will help us move forward.  Stop worrying about how you look, be honest with yourself and ask for help. Then you can tap into the resources that are in the room at whatever network or community event you are attending.  We are always surrounded by answers. Just let them in by asking for help.

Andy tested the workshop audience. He came up with two common challenges that affect people in business and asked if we are facing these right now (hold up a red card); or if we have faced the challenge in the past but overcome it (hold up a green card); and if we have faced it in the past, overcome it but the challenge has come back (hold up both cards). 

1 Time Management .. look round and see who is holding up a green card and could help you? If they have a red card then you know you have much to share with a common problem. 

2  Courage of your convictions…. confidence to speak out about your beliefs? 

It is our networks that are vital to us for support

When we look around and see who has the same challenge as us, and notice who has overcome that challenge, it creates a bridge for sharing and having honest and open conversations that could be transformative to our life and business.

Andy’s experience and insights have been channeled into a book coming out next year called “Just Ask”.  He interviewed a wide range of people all over world, in business, music industry,  politics … and gathered helpful insights  and true stories where people overcame their blocks to reach out for transformative help.  He said it was interesting discussing with UK politicians James Cleverly and Jo Swinson if we could allow our politicians to be wrong?

Let others in so they can make a difference in our lives

What beliefs do we have from our upbringing or life experience that stop us from reaching out for help or support? Andy has a strong background in networking and he wants to encourage us to let in colleagues and friends from our trusted networks to become resourceful allies to help us overcome problems. Don’t think that you have to face everything alone. Somebody, somewhere has experienced the same as you have and has overcome it .. in fact you might actually find that most people have had the same experience.

Do men find it more difficult than women to ask for help?

So much of this is tied to cultural difference. That is probably the case in very patriarchal societies or macho, male-dominated work places.  Yes women are more used to asking, and also to supporting each other. Men can seem to prefer to find solutions by themselves. At the core, this is a human need and will be expressed differently according to the influence of culture and what is held to be appropriate. In Hillary Clinton’s last book she revealed that she had a close inner circle of trusted female friends and colleagues to whom she would open up.  That is something we all need. Andy’s research reveals that women have circles of trust that includes both men and women. The safer the space that we can create, the more we feel we can trust and reach out. Women have had support communities for years and now men are finding this is now available to them with an increase in the number of men’s groups.


The Vulnerability Wheel ..

This is a tool that helps you to make an assessment for different areas of your life and work. That leads to an action plan (overleaf) in terms of you as an individual, your organisation and you as a leader. (Link to download this Wheel here Andy Lopata Rules of Asking. ).



Mastermind groups are vital

Finding a group of colleagues to work with, with whatever connection seems appropriate (for example same industry or location, same chapter or club members, graduates of a programme) is so helpful. This group can evolve over time into a really safe space to share our deepest fears and get valuable input for moving forward. It is almost impossible to lie in such an intimate group and candour is always rewarded. If you are not already in such a group it is worth finding one or even creating one.

Can we be honest at work?

Not every corporate culture is predisposed to openness and honesty, unfortunately. And even where this culture of open sharing does exist, the business can go through cycles where fear takes over. If employees sense that their leaders are holding back about the future of the company, it can really create an atmosphere of fear and distrust. If this goes on too long, it can be highly toxic and drive people out. Transparency, with agreed boundaries, is vital for a healthy office culture. We all need to feel safety at work to express ourselves and trust the company’s vision and direction (perhaps that is a new dimension to add to what can sometimes seem an old bugbear ‘Health & Safety’!).

What about honesty in Leaders?

Leaders have to be authentic. In times of difficulty and massive change, such as many companies and organisations are facing now with the uncertainty of Brexit looming, no single individual can hold a mandate to make change by themselves. They have to unburden, unload and share or they will simply burn out. Leaders have to give confidence and they do this by being truthful and authentic, not by trying to be positive.  

Leadership and vulnerability

There is a fine line in authentic leadership of presenting capability and confidence, and honesty about the real situation. Each person has to find their own natural path to being friendly and connected to their team, while still commanding respect. You need both modalities not just one. It really is OK not to have all the answers. The important thing is be on the quest for solutions and involve others in this. 

Easier to support others!

Just like advice is easier to give than to receive … many of us can find it easier to offer help than accept it. Get over that! As Andy says “Just ask!” Check out this handout from Andy Andy Lopata Rules of Asking

Andy Lopata is an author, speak and professional networking strategist

Connect with him on LinkedIn

Lady Val’s Next Lunch event in London is on Thursday 28th November

The Power of Megatrends


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Guest speaker Helen Webb, Lady Val Corbett, workshop facilitator Andy Lopata

Today’s speaker at Lady Val Corbett’s Network Lunch in London was Helen Webb and she gave us a great deal of food for thought with her explanation about the far reaching power of the Megatrend .. that’s something a bit more stealthy and world-changing than a simple trend or fashion fad.

Power of Storytelling

Lady Val manages to book some really excellent speakers for her lunches and it’s always fascinating as a speaker myself to see how they approach a presentation. Helen started hers with a story which is both a successful and engaging technique for winning over an audience and also gave her the opportunity to draw our attention to the power of Storytelling as a key trend in communication today. How much do you use this in your own business? Could you use it more? Helen recounted how Lady Val had approached her by email asking her to be a speaker but how her initial response was to think the email was a scam and she resisted opening the attachment. She invited Lady Val to call her .. if she was a real person .. which indeed she is as Helen found out the next day when Val made the call!

Another key trend Helen says is loss of trust!  Gone are the days when we simply trusted people with, and in, power. Lies and half-truths have been relentlessly exposed so now we are much more cautious. That’s why building up your contacts and connections inside a trusted community like Val’s network is really useful. And yes .. it is wise NOT to open attachments unless you are CERTAIN you know the sender .. and even then, maybe not!!  🙂  

Using your Superpower

We all have our superpowers and it is immensely helpful when you are fully aware of what that they are for you. Clearly, Helen’s superpowers include Strategy, Problem-Solving and Vision in her own consultancy and as a non-exec director.  She was the UK MD of lastminute.com, a hugely disrupting influence in the travel industry that everyone must be aware of. It was a real game-changing business. Among the interesting things she has done, she has written a photography book with the beautiful title, Shoot The Baby, and as part of her passion for history and old buildings, has renovated a Tudor house and now sits on the board of the Landmark Trust. If you want to explore travelling to REALLY interesting places that are usually well off the popular map .. then check out their website.

Preparing a 20th century business into the 21st century

It seems that again we have an example of something that is not “too big to fail”. The veteran British travel company, originator of that oh-so-familiar package holiday, and dating back to the 1840s,  went bankrupt a few days before. Reflecting on that we can see that it was very much a success in the last century but the leaders in that organisation failed to see, or adapt to, the fast-changing conditions of this new millennium. Here is a new word for you .. disintermediation .. which basically means taking out the middleman and of course if this is happening to you, like Thomas Cook, then you are going to have to find a new role in the marketplace. Today, thanks to the leaps of ecommerce and digital technology, we can book virtually anything direct or via a platform that is not a physical shop with an agent.

Defining a Megatrend

Helen called this a “pattern of activity which has a major impact on people, business, the broader economy and our society over the long term”. When it is a MEGA trend, its effect is far-reaching, and relentless and stealthy in its growth over time. Think of the ageing time bomb we have known about for several decades as our society has got much older while we are all able to live longer. Fads can gain popularity quickly and while a trend lasts longer, the megatrends grow and develop over many years and are extremely hard, or impossible, to reverse.

Video is a big Megatrend

We have all witnessed the growth of Youtube .. but did you quite realise that it is the second most visited website in the world now with over 5 billion videos watched every single day?!  Do you have a presence on Youtube? Are you publishing something as written copy that could alternatively, or in addition, be broadcast as a video?  It’s the millennials who are driving this visual culture and I find it is helpful in a room full of older folks planning something, to get a ‘younger perspective’ .. and they will often say .. “why don’t you do that as a video?”!  We don’t always see the possibilities and can have a video blindspot.  Helen recommends checking out Fiverr, a platform for creative work that is done by suppliers, based all over the world … another example of industry-changing globalisation and tech enabling us to access talent anywhere!

The Sharing economy will continue to grow

I just about got my head round this when I put my London home on to the newly discovered  Airbnb website back in 2014. I was not sure what it was at the time but it felt like an interesting idea to join. Since then there has been an explosion of opportunities for us to leverage our unused resources .. be they bedrooms, cars, private planes .. anything that can be added to an online ecommerce resource platform.  All this provides opportunities for the Gig economy where people can work with relative freedom and create their own jobs. One of the best known is Uber where you use your own car as a taxi and are linked to potential riders via the massively expanding cloud technology. 

The shock waves have a long reach with a Megatrend

Uber is also part of the quest to bring driverless cars to the market. We have been reading about this for a while but now the possibility of it become a norm is literally round the corner. Helen says, according to Forbes, the estimate is that 10 million self-driving cars will be on the road by 2020 (that’s next year!) with one in 4 cars being self-driving by 2030. We all tend to think about how that will affect us but Helen’s says that when a megatrend like that hits, it has a very long reach affecting, for example:

  • car manufacturers
  • car insurance
  • car repair and accident & emergency departments with potentially less repairs
  • employment of truck drivers and HGVs
  • tyre manufacturers
  • taxi companies
  • parcel delivery
  • public transport
  • car parks and parking revenue
  • disabled and senior mobility
  • alcohol sales
  • the military
  • ..  it’s an endless list of potential challenges and opportunities and goes to prove that the knock-on effect of change may catch us unawares if we are not vigilant.

Climate Change is one of the biggest game-changers

The latest IPCC report published this week asserts that global warming is happening faster than was previously forecast. Helen drew our attention to the fact that as much as 1% of global GDP could be spent on climate change consequences by mid century 2050. So many smaller trends sit under this big one and we are all familiar with the shift to a greener economy, the need to be more sustainable, and the rise in more conscious and ethical consumerism. How will that affect your business? Perhaps you, like the recent LinkedIn adverts on the London underground, will highlight the social purpose behind your business or work. The simple drive for growth and profit is losing its appeal, especially with the younger generation. Purpose in business has power.

When Kodak lost their moment

Helen said that this was a company which had very visionary thinking. They could see the future was digital for photography way back in the 1970s.. and yet …. they lacked the courage to act. They buried their new idea and then as the technological decades moved forward, they got overtaken by faster and more agile companies, sadly going out of business in 2012.

In the Q&A Helen was asked “Where do I start?”

Her advice: “Bring fresh thinking into your organisation to help you spot new opportunities. If you don’t want to go as far as a consultant, then talk to the youngest person in your organisation and listen to their ideas of how you might prepare for the future.

Keeping up to date

Gina at Lady Val's Lunch with speaker

Gina Lazenby discussing the speaker Helen Webb’s recommended book choices 🙂

I think one clear message that came from listening to Helen is that we need to do our research and keep informed. Buy the books on trends, keep reading and asking questions about where the future is moving (the Financial Times Weekend is a great read for this) and determine what role is there for you and your business. You need to stay ahead of the game to maintain your agility and resilience. 

Thinking back to Kodak, even with their insights to the future, you have to have the courage to act. And indeed it can take immense courage to make adjustments with perhaps short term inconveniences and losses, in order to better ride a wave that is gathering huge momentum. Taking advice from those who are adept at reading the signs is often a wise move.  Helen Webb has a strategy consulting business and can be reached via her website or Linkedin profile.


Let My People Go Surfing
Helen’s recommendations on books to read

It’s always good to note what a trend watcher is an advocate for. Two books she mentioned:

“Let my people go surfing” – Key insights from the book


One minute book review of this book on Youtube

Screenshot 2019-10-02 at 12.48.03Lord Robin Corbett of Castle Vale: A Life Well Lived

The Robin Corbett Award

A wonderful story of living by purpose, contribution, making an impact and leaving a legacy.

For more info on future events hosted by Lady Val Corbett

A New Spirituality is Creating a Culture of Kindness


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our biggest group ever at Conscious Cafe Skipton – at the Avalon Centre for Wellbeing

We had a throughly enjoyable evening in Skipton with philosopher Tim Freke in July, when he gave a lively presentation about the concept of spirituality based on his own experience and almost five decades of research. He said that we don’t need to work hard and aspire to a connection with Oneness. That is something that can actually happen quickly and joyfully and it is only a belief system that says it takes a long time with lots of hard work to attain a lofty spiritual plane. His own spontaneous spiritual connection as a child opened him to that idea of soul connection through joy.

He talked about a new form of spirituality being needed to take humanity forward. Something that is empowering and one where we can have a new language that helps us to understand our soul connection to each other. There is no need to enrol people to something like a religion. We all have our own individual journeys and each one is valid. It is all about the love we feel and can share, creating space for each other to be, without judgement, and to come together in acceptance and community.

Tim’s 45 minute introduction to his ideas about a new spirituality that is needed and which is emerging, was broadcast and recorded on Facebook LIVE on the Conscious Cafe Skipton page. Unfortunately, although the recording is good and worth watching, the camera transmitted the broadcast sideways. That is not good for the neck .. watching sideways!  It is worth watching (click here) and I have taken the time to transcribe what Tim talked about. It gave me an opportunity to refresh and go deeper with Tim’s ideas and I got a lot of value and insights from that. I encourage you to watch the broadcast and/or read the transcript below.  After the intro, Tim then led the group in a meditation process in pairs. This was not recorded but there are notes about it at the end of the blog.

The Big Question

Tim Freke opened up our evening, and our minds with the big question. What is it that we wake up to every day? What is this experience of LIFE?

The answer is …..We don’t know. But what we do do, like everyone else through history, is buy into the ideas of the age …. whatever teachings are prevalent at the time guiding us about the experience of being alive. How do we find out if there is much more to existence than simply the birth-to-death journey that we are all on in  this large universe? Our vision of what this experience is now, is completely different to100 years ago. Back then we thought our world was part of THE universe but now we have come to realise that our universe is simply part of a galaxy with 100 billion others. Life is enormous.

Be Open in the Not Knowing

During this evening Tim asked us to be open in the not-knowing and he would provide us with some of his best guesses. He has spent all his life pursuing this big question. Whilst we don’t know, we pretend that we do. Then, for some people ….something happens ….. and the mystery gets us, just for a moment, and we wake up to the “Wow!”   And that’s when we realise that we are alive. This is the awakening, the understanding of the experience that is life. 

Finding the Deep Awake

This waking up moment happened to Tim at aged 12 when he sat on a hilltop puzzling over the question of what life is. He saw this awakening through the innocent eyes of a child wondering why none of the grown-ups ever talked about what life actually is. Something happened to him in that moment and he woke up. Suddenly he was in a different state of consciousness which he calls the Deep Awake. And when that shift takes place for anyone, there is a profound sense of oneness with the thing that we call Love.

He said he could feel the whole universe pulsating. He wondered if anybody else noticed that as well. He later realised that the answer to the really big question about life is actually an experience, it’s a “Wow!”  Then he wondered how could he get back to that, how could he go deeper then how could he take others with him? 

Experiencing the moment of “Wow!” is Natural

For 48 years that has been Tim Freke’s quest. He has studied a lot of spiritual traditions going into each and finding out, peeling away the layers of culture trying to find a place where one day the experience is one of “Wow!” .. the moment where you feel that everything is one and everything is Love. So how can we understand this awakening now, today, so that it is not just about words and archaic practices?  So that it is about actual shifts that we can experience for ourselves? It is something that can happen to anybody at any time. The profound experience of “Wow!” is something completely natural. It does not have to happen in a church or temple. 12 year old Tim was not reading a holy Scripture at the time, he was simply sitting on a hill. His realisation was that this awakening is simply a natural part of being human.

A New Form of Spirituality called for

Tim says what we need today in the 21st century, is a new form of spirituality which can genuinely speak to science. One which is no longer antagonistic but which is a heart based, inspirational spirituality. One that can be intellectually robust and rational, and can actually engage with the incredible scientific knowledge that we have achieved. That is what Tim wants to put together. What story do we tell that will bring it all together?

Evolution is Making our Lives Significant Now

Tim says it’s important to understand why our lives are so significant. If we can understand the grandeur of what it is to be a human being, we can actually bring something significant to life. And more people can experience what he experienced on the hilltop, that feeling of kindness and connection. The latest information from the frontiers of science say that what we are in, or at the end of, is 13.8 billion years of evolution. We are certainly in an evolving consciousness. At the beginning all there was was hydrogen. And ultimately billions of years later here we are, us as human beings. He quoted Brian Swimme saying “take hydrogen and wait long enough …. that’s what we humans are now”

Consciousness is Evolving Faster

Four billion years ago life started on earth and there has been continual emergence since then. We are in a huge creative process. Once there was not even water, when that arrived life started then carbon came into existence, then sentience and then consciousness. That emergence process has not stopped. It is happening now but faster than ever before because it is exponential in its expansion. 

We Experience the Material and the Non-material all the Time

Hydrogen is the basis of matter and through an extraordinary process has led to us as humans and the experience we are currently having, which is psyche. Right now we are experiencing the material nature of the universe as matter and also experiencing it at another level .. it is something else which holds our thoughts, images, ideas. It is a different completely different type of experience to sensation and it is not local to us like our physicality. These experiences are through the psyche, a Greek name, with the Latin version being called Soul. Soul is a non-material elements of reality that we are experiencing all the time.

The Soul is not simply a Byproduct of Matter

Tim explained that the process of evolution has taken the basic matter of hydrogen through biology to the level of Soul which is not made of matter but a whole different dimension of reality. All the action today is taking place in the Soul. The Soul is evolving really fast. Everything that has been through Soul, has been through the imagination. This narrative is different to what the spiritual traditions teach and is controversial to scientists. What Tim is asking science to consider is the possibility that this realm of Soul is not just a byproduct of a piece of matter. Science has such a reductionist approach. When scientists consider our feelings of love they say it’s simply chemicals in the brain.  The whole point of the emergent universe is that it cannot be reduced, which is the problem with science. As a human we may be made of chemicals but we are not just chemicals. In this creative process there is always more, and the more cannot be reduced. 

The  Non-material Realm of Spirituality Needs to be Explored

Spirituality has always been to do with this non-material realm which you can explore through meditation and other spiritual practices like shamanic journeys, creativity and dreams. This is a whole reality which is not to be reduced. Imagination is the most emergent level of reality so you can’t refer to it as that as just imagination. All this is where evolution has come to. So Tim Freke is asking science not to reduce it. This reality of imagination that spirituality has been exploring needs to be treated as its own reality just like the biological sphere, or the physical sphere. What Tim is saying to spirituality is …. you need to let go of the idea of the ‘fall’, because the traditional spiritual idea says that the spiritual imagination realm has existed forever and we have simply fallen from it. We have fallen into the body and life is simply a big mistake.

A New Narrative is Called For

For many, the narrative has been .. “God had a dream, he got lost in the dream and your body is simply a tomb ..”  according to Plato. Fundamentally, all the spiritual traditions are negative with narratives about falling from Grace. What this new story does is say “No, it is not negative. We have not fallen from this”. Rather … we are emerging into this. We are in an incredibly creative cosmic process that got us from hydrogen to having a conversation about hydrogen! 

Meaning Comes From the Soul Level

The evolutionary process has got us from basic matter to this non-material realm. As we look at Tim standing before us, we are conscious that in the world of sensation and biology, we are looking at Tim, but essentially, he says he is just a monkey wearing funny clothes making funny noises. In the realm of soul or psyche, what we are feeling is meaning. There is no meaning in the funny noises. The meaning is in the non-material realm of Soul because meaning is an emergent reality that arrives with Soul. That is where it comes from that is where it arrives to. 

Evolution Has Now Made us Individuals

Tim suggests what got us from the beginning of the universe to this moment now, is not over. It continues and it has led to this incredible evolution of imagination. It has happened  through a process of individuation. So if you go back to the hydrogen beginning, when one hydrogen atom is the same as another….. by the time you get to the evolution of the biological world, things are getting very individual. The human being recognises it is different to a tree. Then we recognise that we are all different from each other. 

The Journey of Individuation Brought us to Ourselves

As the universe has individuated, it has become more and more conscious through that process, as it has objectively become more individual, it has subjectively become more individual. And we have just been through, and are still in, the most enormous period of individualism. It is astonishing what has happened in the last hundred years, it is unprecedented. We have thrown off centuries, millennia of conditioning. Even having the human divided into two different sexes is an utter revolution, when compared to our beginnings. Look at old media footage and see how everyone 80-100 years ago, was more or less the same …  you could tell the difference between people by looking at their hat and work out what class they belonged to. We have now individuated incredibly. We have become ourselves and there has been huge value in that but it has also left us quite isolated and in some ways, split off from each other.

Becoming Conscious of Unity 

The phase of evolution we are now entering is the emergence of what Tim calls “uni-individuals”. There is no word currently for what we are becoming. An individual who is conscious of unity. And this process is now happening very, very fast. 

Life Is Better Than we Think

Among all this wonder we are not seeing the good evolving in the world. We have an extraordinary propensity for thinking that things are much worse than they are. Most people think the world is going down the pan. Actually, things have been getting steadily better on just about every count, decade after decade. Often older people talk about the world as being terrible. Today, there is a generation of English men who have never been to war, which means they are part of only a few in the history of this country. Western Europe is in peace, the first time in the whole of history. 

Positive News is Getting Lost but .. Monumental Change has been Happening

Things are actually better than we think. Because we are programmed to look for danger, that is what we see. We particularly do this as a parent, to protect our children from danger. Now we have 24 hour news and the thing that gets people’s attention most, are problems. We are getting overloaded with negativity. And it is skewing our vision of what the world is really like. Yes there are some things to be concerned about but we also need to step back and go “Wow! … Look at how good this is no!. Look at what our ancestors have achieved for us. Look at what we are able to enjoy now because of what they did, going into their imagination, imagining beautiful things and then making them happen. And now we have a world better than humans have ever enjoyed”. Mortality is lower, poverty is lower, we have made unbelievable improvements there, and most children get an education. Look at what the process of evolution has been doing, by human beings engaging with it and bringing their attention and love to it. We have achieved monumental changes.

A New Human is Becoming

What is behind all that is the rising of a new human being. The uni-vidual from individual with a sense of oneness. A lot of people now genuinely care about other human beings on the other side of the planet, people who they will never meet, who are suffering. Why are they doing this because it’s never happened before in history? In other periods of history, it was common to hate your immediate neighbour, let alone those on the other side of the world. You would simply steal and take the things you needed from your neighbours.  Most human groups survived by being pirates because it was the quickest way to get stuff. Before the Iraq war, millions of people came out onto the streets to protest. This rising action of compassion for strangers is part of a new phenomenon and we need to notice of events like this. 

The environment is something that large numbers of people focus on now.  For most of history, the natural world was something we needed to engage with and was fundamentally dangerous. Look at some countries today and see how nature and animals are treated. We have moved so far in that, we don’t even notice. Now we care. We have cross species compassion. This is worth noticing. Underneath it, much smaller but highly significant, more and more human beings are having awakenings and spiritual experiences like 12 year old Tim. They are realising that there is one of us. We are coming to understand “I am the universe as me, meeting the universe as you”.

We are Increasingly Recognising our Oneness – a Deep Connection 

What else could we be but the universe itself?! More and more people understand this concept now, it is no longer abstract. They know what that is. What comes with that recognition of oneness? It is Love. That’s what we feel when we experience oneness. We feel the separateness from each other when we see another individual and we also recognise the connection. We are becoming more and more connected as souls so we can feel a connection We feel it as kindness and empathy, beyond just the person into the universal. 

When we wake up to this profoundness, so that we feel at one with everyone and everything, when that happens there is this big unconditional, universal love. When we come into that oneness and we are the universe, it is possible to do what the 2000-year-old Christian tradition has advocated and that is … love our enemies. 

Deepening our Understanding Moves us to the Next Level

The cutting edge of the universe is the individuation that created you and me. We are the most individuated aspects of the universe.  What marks out our individuation, is not just our bodies, but this other level of individual individuality which is Soul, the imagination, the place of conversation, ideas, understanding. Our job now is to take it to the next level. Having individuated, now we need to see that we can be soul conscious. Understand ‘I am more than me’.  If we can do that, we can make a shift in the way we are the way we understand what’s happened to us. That will fundamentally shift the way that human culture is. 

A New Understanding to Unite Science and Spirituality 

Tim spends his life talking about ideas. He says a new understanding of the nature of reality is coming and when it comes, it will be as big a shift for the evolution of human culture as the arrival of science was 400 years ago. Just look at what that did to change human culture. It changed everything. It went beyond the dreams of everyone. If we can come up with an understanding that unites science and spirituality, that this is not a random universe in which your life has no meaning, that you’re here for a short time and then gone but rather we are in a profoundly meaningful unfolding of potentiality in which new things have been emerging in ever deeper ways all the time and the leading edge of that right now is you. And the leading edge of the leading edge is your soul recognising that it is actually at one with everything. 

Connection and Compassion is Part of our Soul Awakening

Spiritual awakening is not about going up mountains. Spiritual awakening is not something that happened over 2,000 years ago. Spiritual awakening is something that happens to the soul when it is mature enough to realise that although it is individual, it is an expression of the universe and with that recognition, this connection with everything, is enormous compassion. This is how we are moving to a culture of kindness. To be able to hold all the less emergent levels (which we have to as the rules of physics over our bodies do not go away) …we each have to live with all the less emergent levels within ourselves.

The Future is What we Emerge and Create

We have to live with all aspects of ourselves. Somehow we keep evolving. What we are in right now is an “OMG!” situation.  It’s something enormous. We need to see it and then engage with it. The way we can engage with it best is to use that creativity of soul to transform ourselves and the culture we are in. Is all this evolution inevitable? No. The future is coming but it’s always creative. Inevitability takes away creativity. We get to create the future. There’s huge momentum and there’s a lot of things playing against it as well. How do we respond? That will create the story.

That is why everything matters.

How can we transform the experience we are already having? The sense that we are one as well as two, separate and together as one, is to connect profoundly with each other. The key thing when we look at each other is what we see, how we pay attention. Maybe we don’t notice much or we do really pay attention. That’s a choice. Look at a unique face of another human, full of all their experiences, personality ….. that’s the body. We don’t just connect with a face.  What we are really connecting with we can’t actually see. The soul of the other. Full of memories, hopes, fears, stories. We can’t see those but that is what we are connecting with. 

Right now something you can’t see is connecting with something you can’t see, through you and the other person. It happens all the time, Soul with Soul. Connecting through the looking at each other. It becomes different if we pay attention. If I really pay attention and sink into my universal nature my uni-viduality, I am the universe looking at the universe. There’s just one of us looking at itself. The one is connecting with the one by being two.

A Meditation Exercise – Sitting in pairs acts to amplify your practice, together

Any form of spiritual practice is supported by meditation. Many people struggle with this .. trying to do it the right way and quieting their mind. There are so different ways of connecting with spirit and meditation, in its many forms, is just one of them.  Yes, most people worry that they get mind-drift. It is common so you just keep choosing where you put your awareness. Awareness is simply focussed attention. Keep coming back to that choice.

Instead of solitary practice, meditating with another person is a very powerful way of connecting with spirit using a deep connection with that other person, almost like an amplifier. Tim talked about creating a magical space, an environment that is set up specifically so you can feel safe meditating together for a soul intimacy and deeper connection into the oneness with another person.

Sitting across from another person, in the stillness, with no expression, without judgement .. no data is being exchanged. This moment provides an opportunity for a high level of self acceptance.

At first, the lack of reaction feels blank but there is so much more going on within. Once you settle in, the experience is rich.  The story starts to drop and we see the deepness inside the self. The narrative just fades away.  You begin to realise that you are who you are. It’s as simple as that. The beauty of being with someone else in this process is that you realise the beauty you see within someone else, you have the hope that they see the same in you.

Always thinking ..

Tim says we spend far too much time in cognitive thinking. He says that spirituality today tends to give the mind a bit of a bad wrap. So much teaching is about not thinking and that thinking is negative .. but … thinking is actually imagination .. it is when you are speaking to yourself, generating ideas. Instead of feeling bad about the activity of the mind, honour the mind and help it to find its peaceful place.

Accept that you have an ego, a self, emotions and attachments and that you are simply“a work in progress”.  Accept your individuality and re-affirm with yourself that you do not need to be perfect. It’s OK to be YOU. When you acknowledge that the Thinking Mind has its place, then it is easier to step into the silence. 

Self Love is key

It is amazing that is such an issue for so many. Most people find it easier to love others than they do themselves. And yet Tim spoke of a time when the concept of loving others, as the Commandments now advise, was a strange idea. 2,000 years ago, Christ told people to not only love God, but to also love their neighbours as they would themselves. That was a totally new concept. Now, taking on love for ourselves is an important focus, perhaps also a strange concept for some!

The growth of kindness is powerful

Human cultures have moved on significantly over the last few hundred years and there has been a big shift in the last century.  Our neighbours were to be feared and fought. Then we came to a better understanding and tolerance for them. Today, such is the growth of human compassion that people will go to extraordinary efforts to support and protect people on the other side of the world who they have never met. We are increasingly moved to take actions of their behalf when we see a deep need or injustice. 

This is new for humanity and whilst we are inside this movement it is hard to understand the vast shift that is taking place.  We are learning to give each other love and attention and this loving attention is the most emergent force on the planet right now. The expansion in compassion is so big that we hardly notice it! There has never been a time in history like it. A culture of kindness is a powerful force emerging globally.

Individuals pulling together

We are continually evolving and we each have to go through a process of individuality before we can experience the oneness that is there for us. Individuating gives us a strong sense of who we are. We need to do this as we grow up and create our own space. We test out all the beliefs we have grown up with and find out what we feel is true for us. Through the doubting, questing and learning we become our own person.  Then we feel a deep need to come together with others in soul connection. This longing to be with others is an evolutionary pull. We are coming to understand that we are stronger together and that yearning is helping to create a society of what Tim calls ‘Unividuals’. 

How many need to wake up?

It does not need everybody to “get it” to create the change we want to see. We don’t have to wait for that. Most big changes actually come from small groups of people.  If you think of the power and complexity of one single human being, remember that they were born of one woman and they started out as one single cell.  There is profound power and potential in the small.

Love needs Wisdom

Now we need wisdom to implement the love that is growing. Yes humanity has is developing a greater capacity for loving connection and the desire to embrace, but we also need to be wise. Love sometimes has to say “NO”.  Love may be soft and gentle but it is also big, strong and bold. Go in to the love and learn to use your wisdom. As stupid as you may feel now, Tim says you are always wiser than you were!


It as was a pleasure to welcome Tim Freke to our Conscious Cafe Skipton July community evening – seen here with host Gina Lazenby

The beginning of the event was recorded on a Facebook Live transmission. Sadly the camera threw a wobbler and recorded it sideways .. !!  Click here.

You can watch, if your next is flexible, but you can also listen in .. just pretend it is an audio podcast!  It’s on our facebook page. This blog post is essential the transcript! ENJOY.

How to create a good Personal Brand for yourself


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Jenny Garrett gave a workshop on Personal Branding at the Lady Val’s Network Lunch in June.  (next event is 26th September)

Have you ever been asked a question .. one that turns out to be really memorable and life-altering?

That is what happened to Jenny Garrett when a friend turned to her and asked “Where next Jenny?  At the time she was working for a leading business school and feeling comfortable and accomplished in her work. Then her friend pointed out that she could do so much more with her life and career. How would you react to such an insight?

Well, Jenny considered her various options, but her fear of public speaking ruled out so many of them. She had let that fear hold back her ambitions. And she would not be alone feeling that one!  Jenny’s friend persisted and pointed out that she was a really good listener so why not consider coaching. Jenny edged out of her comfort zone and that became an opening for her to move forward in a coaching career. It also caused her to transform and expand her sense of self. That led to her starting her own business. She specialised in leadership then developed her own leadership programmes authoring a success guide for women called “Rocking your Role”. Speaking on stage naturally followed and this was now no problem for her because of her growth and confidence she had developed in her work.

At this major turning point in her life she recognised the particular challenges women can face in being the primary income earner in a relationship, or family. However well women do out in the world, they can still be expected to maintain a supportive primary carer role. This can often lead to women experiencing a lack of recognition for their contributions, both at work and at home. Jenny realised she needed to communicate better all the ways she was making an impact.

Personal Branding makes the difference in business referrals

Jenny began to understood that her personal brand was really important in expressing who she was and had become. She could see that how people talk about you when you are not in the room is really key to your success. You really want your name to mentioned when opportunities come up, and for the right reasons.  People will recommend you if they understand your brand and what you are about… whether you are a business owner or an employee inside an organisation. 

Technology fuels female ambition

In today’s world technology is key .. like it or not, every business is going to become a technology business. A big question for all of us .. “How do I get digital? How do I engage?”

Five years ago Jenny did some research for the Nivea Brand looking at technology and how it impacts people. What they found was Technology is fuelling female ambition. 87% of women use social media to get their ideas out into the world. Three out of four people believe that technology’s social media will speed their career success and business advancement.   Instead of moving step by step like before, now we have the means to take the escalator to the top floors advancing so much more quickly using these new technologies.  The internet is creating a generation of female digital role models.


We need to think differently about the way we do business. Face to face meetings and physical connection remains important but digital connection needs to be brought into the mix. And good branding is crucial here to help you stand out.

Confidence is key for expanding your profile

Jenny also did some research on confidence and found that women are more confident than they have ever been before. But confidence remains an issue when we feel we have to get ourselves out into the world.  Expressing our personal brand is essential but it does require confidence.

The Nivea research findings did show a gap between men and women in terms of confidence but still, men experience confidence issues too. Is the narrowing of the gap to do with honesty or that women are indeed getting more confident and closing that gap?

An age curve was noted. Under 24s were the least confident but women get more confident as we get older until later age … After age 55 that can reduce perhaps when we have had a knock in life… loss of a partner or ill health.

Personal Branding can give a much-needed confidence boost

Confidence at work is affected by colleagues and peers  .. a lot of people show up as bullies trying to make you feel bad. The biggest way to increase confidence is to step out of your comfort zone and do something different. Putting yourself out there into the world and working on your personal brand go hand in hand at building your confidence.

Keys to Branding

  • Your personal brand is about YOU but it is very interlinked with your Professional Brand.
  • Impact: You can’t just rely on people to simply buy your products. You need your brand to make you memorable as that is the key to being recommended by other people to their contacts.
  • Portability: Brands are completely portable .. if you leave an organisation, your brand goes with you. Developing your personal brand inside an organisation is not being disloyal. Your good profile or activity will benefit your organisation with an afterglow. It is a win-win.
  • Word of mouth marketing is personal branding is, letting people know what you are good at and encouraging them to tell other people. Make sure what they pass on is what you want them to say about you, and that is represents you well. You are responsible for that. Any business that comes to you by personal recommendation that is your Personal Brand in action.
  • Authenticity is key.  You can’t make it up. Competence always comes first. You need to be good at what you do.
  • Self awareness: Highlight your strengths then you build your brand around that. You can talk to others about what you need from this place of strength and self understanding.
  • Being seen: Good branding brings visibility

Create Your Brand using your “GPS” – these are the 3 areas to work on

1 Your Gifts = G

What comes naturally to you. What do you do really well?

What good feedback do you get?

What do you bring?

What do people mostly say is good about you?

How you choose to engage

What difference do your strengths make ? 

What is the tangible impact you make?

2 What are you Passions = P

What is important to you?

What do you really care about?

3 What do you want to be in Service of? = S

With whom do you want to work?

The difference I want to make?

What do you want to be doing?

What legacy do I want to leave?

This is your GPS guiding you. The Sweet spot is in middle of this GPS is the heart of your brand. 

  • Bring all this together for a brand statement.
  • Instead of introducing yourself to new people as a role, say what you are passionate about. The more you practise this it becomes more succinct.
  • Ask people for feedback for what you are saying about yourself. Check that you are a actually projecting the things that you are saying about yourself. 
  • You must ensure that others really understand you.  Then you will get the right clients
  • Be memorable.


EXERCISE on finding our GIFTS (some can find this difficult):

Working in pairs. Share something good that happened in the last few weeks.

Your listener takes notes .. what you said, how you shared it, what did you demonstrate in that sharing? What came across?

Next:  Your partner compliments you, giving feedback on what they heard of what you said. It’s important to simply accept these compliments, not to flick them back. 

This is your Brand .. what they observed about you and experienced in the conversation.

Yes it is good to receive a pat on the back but we take on it board more when we are given specifics. This detailed feedback is so helpful. We can be tempted to dismiss all the good feedback and remember the one bad negative piece. Don’t fall into the trap of amplifying any negative feedback. That being said, it is important for each of us to find ways to give others positive feedback. It is particularly helpful for those of us work alone a lot on our own in business.


How does it feel to receive compliments? Good. We feel seen, recognised.

Mark Twain said: “I can live a good few months on a good compliment”.

TIPS: It’s important to brag!  

share your amazing achievements. Everyone needs to know.

What are your Bragables? have you saved people money?

Recognise your own power? Where are you powerful? 

Where do you make a difference with your power?

Share your CV on Linkedin .. do something different…. some people have used a song at piano to sing their CV.

Use explainer scripted videos.

Words on paper no longer stand out.  Don’t be bland or the same as everyone else. Be different,

And finally ….

It’s NOT about how many people you know

It’s about how many people know YOU  … and let them know who you really are with your personal branding.


Lady Val’s lunches are always fascinating and fun. So many interesting women to meet and connect with, and she brings in great keynote speakers and workshop leaders. The next event is 26th September – more details here

Lady Val Luncheon.  London

Notes from Gina Lazenby

June 27th, 2019

Meeting a rare news man with a heart full of compassion




Broadcaster Jon Snow with event host Lady Val Corbett

A rare news man with a heart full of compassion

Jon Snow, one of the most recognisable faces in British television news broadcasting with 30 years hosting Channel 4’s main evening news programme, was the guest speaker at Lady Val’s women’s networking lunch on June 27th.

If I was expecting a hard-nosed, cynical news hack or jaded newsman, I could not have been more surprised. Not only was he a playful and amusing speaker, but he came over as a deeply sensitive, loyal, humble and caring man. 

What was it that caused him to open his speech with a very moving personal sharing of an incident in childhood about his mother? Was it the audience of all women that encouraged him to dig deep and reveal so much of himself? I don’t know but the anecdote about being told by his father that his mother suffered from alopecia seems to have had a profound effect on him as he acknowledged it as being a big event in his childhood. He has remained interested in the condition through his life, and disclosed how he reacted to the news about his mother. While his older brother aged ten merely laughed he burst into tears, which is not surprising when you are only six years old.

His early singing talent, guided by his musical mother, pointed towards a more artistic career but his father arranged for him to study law.  This career never got started after he was ejected from University for taking part in the anti-apartheid pro-Mandela student demonstrations in the 1960s. Moving on from being a ‘rebellious student’ he found himself steered to Lord Longford who was seeking someone to take over a Day Centre for homeless and vulnerable teenagers in Soho.  At just age 23 he became the director. He had already served with the VSO organisation in Uganda so he must have developed some life skills to handle the many challenges thrown at him. He mentioned that experience of living in Uganda as a minority, one of only three white men in a black community, has had a lifelong impact on his sensitivity as a journalist. 

He gave the Day centre charity 6 months but it appears his loyalty and compassion held him there for 6 years .. he said it was so demanding, he did not think he could leave. And it appears he never did as he actually continued to be associated with this New Horizon day centre becoming the chair and remains a patron to this day, almost 50 years after stumbling into the organisation. It came over that Snow is not one to walk away from need. 

His route to becoming a broadcaster, which did not involve any ambition or planning, happened through the development of commercial radio when it was deemed that the BBC Radio needed to have competition. 

It was the early 70s and LBC was starting out. They were looking for someone to filter calls coming in for the night-time radio phone-ins.  Even though he had been educated as a teenager in North Yorkshire, he still retained his southern plummy accent so he was soon asked to read the news. In those early pioneer days of local radio he was then despatched out onto the streets to find the news. And so his illustrious media career began.

He worked with various news organisations and enjoyed the adventurous nature of the job with global travel. Rather like Forest Gump, he seems to have been a witness to several major moments in twentieth century history which he shared with us. He was in Rome, twice, while new Popes were elected in 1978. John Paul I was the Pope who reigned for just 34 days. Snow may not have managed to interview him in that short window of time but he did speak with his successor John Paul II, and conducted the Polish Pope’s first interview in English.

Snow shared, through his personal recollections, how he brought great sincerity and compassion to his news reporting. Standing outside the prison gates on the day that Nelson Mandela was released, he reported live for ITV. He said it was “An unbelievable experience .. huge crowds. Nobody knew what Mandela looked like”.   They were all working from a picture that was 27 years old. At last when Snow saw him, he simply stopped speaking and burst into tears, declaring it “such a moving moment.”

These are not the kind of stories you expect from a TV news journalist, such was the gentleness and insight we experienced from Jon Snow as he shared his life stories over lunch. When questioned about the leadership of today, and of course that question was asked in the light of the current Brexit Tory party leadership challenge, he reflected on past leaders he has had the privilege to meet. 

He interviewed Margaret Thatcher twenty times travelling everywhere with her overseas as diplomatic correspondent. He often waited long hours for his interview slot which sometimes came at 2am. Always polite and welcoming, Mrs Thatcher also managed to intimidate him at the same time. He might not have shared her politics but he admired her as a leader. “Thatcher had a tremendous tenacity, she knew who she was and the job that had to be done. She was intolerant of challengers … she provided certainty. With her you knew who was in charge and that she would do what she thought was the best thing, even if it was wrong. You would not have had feelings of being adrift like we have today.” 

Contrast this to his interviews with Prime Minister Theresa May, and he was somewhat surprised to find he was never invited to take a seat to speak with her while she remained seated …. his own sense of respectful behaviour prevented him from just taking a seat but the PM’s aide would eventually make a gesture for him to sit. There would follow an “unspeakably unrewarding” interview that was hardly worth broadcasting. What an interesting peak into history and two different leadership styles and individual women. 

He recounted another behind the scenes political vignette when he was standing behind Mrs Thatcher at the door of Number Ten, on the day she became Prime Minister. He was looking over her shoulder, a view, he later discovered, that was captured in a news photograph by the FT. He noticed she had a small yellow post-it note in her hand with the key words ‘hatred’ and ‘hope’. He recognised them as coming from the St Francis of Assisi prayer “Where there is despair, let there be hope…”. She obviously wanted to be sure that she got the key words the right way round. He included this anecdote in a book he wrote. Years later, when he was investigating the Thatcher archive in Cambridge, the curator thanked him for the favour he had done by including that piece in his book. He explained that they had retrieved 58 handbags from Mrs Thatcher (she kept absolutely everything) and in one of the bags was this little yellow post-it note!  The actual one from that day!  “Hatred …Love ..” the curation team wondered what the words meant. Snow was in that rare position of being able to fill in a moment of history where a leader showed she was not infallible and needed to be reminded of important notes.

Snow remains at the helm of Channel 4 News and talked about the responsibility of media in providing accurate reporting. He agreed that there had been a lack of research during the Brexit vote campaign with false claims that were not investigated deeply enough. There is clearly a duty to keep the population informed and to sift untruth from truth. Channel 4 News is an hour long show and they have the space to try to explore stories more deeply. Previously they have been watched on television with a viewing audience of about one million. Now, they are one of the most watched news entities in Europe … with viewers joining them online. In 2018 they had 1.6 billion minutes viewed on Facebook with a high proportion in California … about 16%. He stressed that there is a hunger for in-depth analysis of current events. Even he craves that and has started to read the Financial Times every day because it explores news stories in much greater detail than has been available before.

Snow appeared relaxed during his talk and Q&A then had to leave quite promptly to return the news desk where stories of great impact were being made ready for that evening’s broadcast. All potentially stressful but Snow maintained his calm. I was left with the impression of a sensitive and humble man with a keen intelligence that he has quietly used to further great goodness in the world. 


How a chance conversation led Dame Stella to be the first female spy chief in the UK

Meeting the real life “M” …. Dame Stella Rimington sharing her life story

Last week I attended a special women’s lunch hosted by Lady Val Corbett. It was a celebrated of her 13 years of hosting a professional women’s network. Val always finds extraordinary women who have made it to the top of their field and invites them along to share their insights and life story. In most cases, it is not just how clever or courageous they were in being successful or high achieving, it is about how they managed to break, or circumvent, the system. That system, the world of work created during, and before, the twentieth century was created by men for men. This event’s speaker was a superlative example of a woman who achieved the pinnacle of leadership in a highly male field .. spying!

Dame Stella Rimmington, ex head of the MI5 and the first head to hold such a secretive job and be named publicly.  Stella has gone on to be a successful author of spy novels (drawing on her own first had experience of course) following the publication of her auto biography. Life stories of high profile and successful women are irresistible and the room was pin drop silent as Stella shared how she become head of the UK’s spies  … or “M” as we came to know her when Judi Dench famously played the role in Daniel Craig’s Bond movies… even copying her hair style and jackets she noted!

I’ll share three insights that might interest you.

  1. Career Advice – make it up as you go along, just keep at it

Although there was never any career planning for Stella at least she decided she wanted one … and that presented its own difficulties in an era, the 1950s, when women were NOT supposed to have careers. After university she became an archivist and little did she know that the research she did there would later serve her in the Intelligence service. Once she was married it was difficult to countenance any kind of career but she ended up in Delhi as a Diplomat’s wife, simply expected to uphold several British social traditions of whist drives and jumble sales. Modern women looking back now from our vantage points in the twenty first century will feel appalled at the waste of intelligence and the frustration that must have been felt by women back then who were hungry for more than being just a wife.

Stella did not languish for long because, like a scene from a movie, someone whispered in her ear at a garden party about the spy service and she found herself recruited as a typist working for MI5 in 1967.  It did not seem to matter that she could not type .. in those days it was much more about WHO you were, rather than WHAT you could do! That was the beginning of her illustrious career where she would reach the very pinnacle. 

She was asked how she managed that career with marriage and motherhood. Well sadly, the marriage did not survive so she ended up a single mother and her advice for others navigating life and career was to “keep your feet on the path .. and struggle on”. Just keep at it!

  1. As a woman, just being you will probably mean you are called Uppity and Difficult

When Stella returned to the UK and and got another job with MI5 she really did enter a male dominated sphere where the men were out in the world as the spies and the women were relegated to a different grade of work providing the back-in-the-office research support. As the era of equality started in the early 1970s, women were doing their best to move upward and onward and Stella was one of the first to break through. Any woman who did stand out from all their colleagues, by simply not being a man, would often be seen as uppity.

Fast forward 40-50 years and not that much has changed. MP Kenneth Clark famously referred to Prime Minster Theresa May’s tenacious quality by calling her a “bloody difficult woman”. And the London Evening Standard newspaper this week highlights an interview in Tatler Magazine with actress Kate Beckinsale. Often referred to as a “Diva” she denied any special, attention-seeking behaviour and said, the stars who demanded special treatment or kept others waiting hours were invariably men. 

  1. It takes more energy to change the system than simply move up in a career

As one of the early female spy recruits, Stella told us that the training they were put through would often hilariously or dangerously backfire on women because everything was designed by men for men. Not only had the women be good to advance upwards but they had to push at the structure that expected them to be men and had difficulty adjusting to their gender.

One training task Stella shared was to go into a pub, sound out a target member of the public for information then have a colleague come in and out them as a spy, and then they would need to handle this revelation. Stella was sent to a back street, smokey dive of a pub full of men in raincoats drinking on their own where any conversation with a lone woman would be seen as seductive chatting up and the subsequent reveal simply ended up rescuing her from goodness knows what!  It became clear that the system would need to adapt to handle gender differences!

Most successful women who have climbed the ladder have stories where they are the only woman in the room or at the meeting where they have been expected to pour the coffee, or had to endure executive hospitality clearly designed for men, including an expectation of joining in visits to strip joints or tagging along at a boar hunt …. but times indeed have changed and these situations are decreasing. Certainly the #MeToo era has made so many distasteful experiences openly unacceptable. 

If you want to find out more about life as a female spy then Stella Rimmington’s ten spy novels utilise her career rich with fascinating stories that she would not be able to reveal in an autobiography. I got my copy of her first book “At Risk” signed by Stella. Her autobiography also reveals the path she took to her ground-breaking role as one of the top female leaders in the UK.

I led a workshop after the main speaker session about the value of Women’s Gatherings. You can read more about that here.

Lady Val will host another lunch with an interesting female speaker on Thursday February 28th, 2019 in London. These events always sell out and are an excellent networking opportunity for women.

Land of hope and glory? Yes, and I hope so!

Today has been Waistcoat Wednesday in honour of England’s World Cup quarter-final success, and football fevered national loyalty even had the BBC presenters this morning wearing Manager Gareth Southgate’s trademark clothes of blue waistcoat and striped tie. Even I, as a non-fan of football, have got carried away with the enthusiasm and the potential for a big win that would give us all a much needed boost to our national confidence. I’ve even found myself skimming the sports supplements in my weekend newspapers when I usually toss them straight into the recycling bin!  I read about how Gareth’s supportive wife is his secret weapon.

Have you noticed there is something different about this team? Who would ever have expected to hear the words football and emotional intelligence in the same sentence?! 

So calm and cool and confident is manager Southgate that there was media gossip of him been roped in to take over Brexit talks. Now there’s a thought! Southgate is definitely bringing something different to the game. He has been a poster boy for empathy and is allowing players to make individual comments directly to the press. A younger team with fewer ego heroes, they have been told them that it is up to them to make their own history. Southgate values family life and and the support it has given him so has allowed the team to bring their families with them. This has fostered a relaxed community spirit among the whole group. Surely that is a better foundation for any high pressure, stressful sports challenge.  Everybody’s been referring to the spirit of the team, the relaxed attitude, the importance of joy and the strong bonds within the team. Gareth says they feel privileged. Words to describe their opposing team of Croatia by their Manager are more about their strength and determination. Let’s see what helps win tonight’s match, will it be this younger relaxed team or the determined Croations? Good luck lads .. oh and may of them have a connection with Yorkshire. Just saying’.

See you on the other side of the Match?

The Paradox of Women’s lingering Inequality and the Power they hold in their hands for a New Future


watch Linda’s talk recorded on Facebook Live 

The Leaders Club co-hosted a special event on transformational leadership with the University of Kent Business School in Canterbury in May. The second speaker was Linda Crompton from Dallas, Texas, an alumni of the Business School’s first MBA program.  Linda was the first woman to head a bank in North America and also to lead a bank that  pioneered responsible investment principles.   Now she is a leader in gender equality as the CEO and President of Leadership Women, the largest of its kind in the USA.

The Decisions you make have Consequences that Ripple Out

Key achievements for Linda were her initiatives in banking.  She started working for Van City Credit Union in Canada, the largest credit union in the world, an extremely progressive organisation. Van City’s particular focus was to help employees to connect their decision making to the community who would be impacted. This was highly novel at the time. They key was to fully realise the impact of your decision. 

Once you Connect the Dots .. Your Eyes are Opened and there is no Going Back

The bank encouraged her to return to the UK and study her MBA in Kent. This is where she came across the notion that business and finance and sustainability were all connected. It is arrogant to think that humans are the organising force when in reality, nature is the organising force. The MBA at Kent helped her to realise that it is an illusion to separate your banking decisions from the downstream impact. You cannot pretend those downstream impacts will not happen. This became a watershed moment in her career … she connected the dots to see the bigger picture and was instrumental in directing the rest of her career. She never took up a mainstream job after that … once you know what you know and see how things are put together  .. you cannot not know again!   

Asking Different Questions leads to Better Outcomes

When she returned to Van City she started to ask different questions, like why were the approval rates for women much lower than they were for men? The answer .. the women don’t just meet the criteria. Then you find out on looking that the criteria are all based on male criteria, which include higher levels of pay for longer periods of time, which of course do not include the interruptions of maternity leave. She could also see what it was costing the organisation when they let go of trained women who left to start a family. There was no provision for that. She set up a new program, copied from Europe, called Return to Work, to provide flexible support for women.  The rate of loss was cut down from 70% down to 20%. It was life-changing for so many women.

In 1996, within two years of taking her MBA at Kent she was inspired to create the first electronic bank, and the first one with a social mandate in Canada.  There were many obstacles and much resistance but she could see the ways the future would happen.  She was on the first Board of Directors for Ethical Investing, where mutual funds were ethically screened.  She could see this was the future. They started training people about money itself. When they surveyed their customers they found that people had no idea what happened to their money once it was in the bank …. these were the early days of impact investing. Founding the bank became a vehicle to put into practice the new ideas she learned in her Kent MBA.

Strong Ethics Emerging in Banking and Investing 

Linda was headhunted to run the Investor Responsibility Research Centre in Washington, DC. This had been a leader and influential in the anti-apartheid movement, and they continued to do ground-breaking research in climate change and human trafficking.  

Linda’s next move was to the oldest and most successful leadership organisation for women in the USA.  Latest World Economic Forum report says it will take another 118 years to achieve full gender parity around the world. She is preparing more women to take on leadership roles.

Massive Push for Change now happening in the USA

The hidden blessing of President Trump is that his election has been a catalyst for so many women running for public office. Perhaps Hillary Clinton may have been less of a catalyst in getting women forward!  She Should Run, a partner organisation in Washington DC reports a 150% increase in the number of women putting themselves forward for political office. This is a real moment for women in the USA. There is a renewed push for change.

In Canada, so very different to the USA, President Justin Trudeau appointed a 50/50 gender balanced cabinet and brushed off media questions about this with .. this is the way it should be in 2016. 

Women Still Lagging Behind

With regard to wage parity, the Financial Times recently reported that in the UK there is a median wage gap of 19.4%, two thirds of of the highest paid staff are men.. the trends are the same in the USA where for every dollar earned by a man, a caucasian woman earns 78 cents, an African American woman makes  64 cents and a Latina earns just 54 cents. 

The Workforce in Leading Edge Fields is Unbalanced 

The USA Bureau of Labour Statistics latest report shows that women now make up 51.4% of management and professional roles yet only 5% of CEOs are female and hold 16.9% of Board seats across the country. In Silicon Valley 86% of the engineers and 74% of the computer professionals who work there are men. Facebook, Google and Apple workforces are 70% male with no female board members. Wall Street is similarly unbalanced. Women of colour are statistically  invisible. 

A Crisis Point: Has Progress Stalled? 

The World Economic Forum says the world is going backwards, the parity gap in wealth, politics, education and the workplace has widened for the first time since records began in 2006. At this rate of progress the gender gap will not close for another 217 years.  Aside from human rights, continuing to omit women from the top ranks is the single most important factor in determining a country’s competitiveness in the market.  Women must be integrated, as an important force into their talent pool. In the UK, it is suggested that gender parity could add £250 billion to GDP. And closing the gender gap of economic participation by 25% by 2025 would increase  global GDP by $5.3 trillion. Social change is glacially slow.

A fourth wave is coming … progress will happen over the next decade.

Countries that have previously excluded women, like Saudi Arabia are starting to make major changes.  Generation X and Millennials are visibly energised around this issue. New generations will drive faster change.

The biggest transfer of wealth in history is happening over the next decade

Change will also be driven by women acquiring significant financial muscle. 45% of USA millionaires are women, 48% of estates worth more than $5 million are controlled by women and in 2013 60% of high net worth women made their own fortunes, rather than inherited. Projections show that by 2030 as much as two thirds of all wealth in the USA will be controlled by women. How will this shift in gender wealth influence philanthropy? Significant changes could take place …women’s funds are already working to address inequality with more women seeking to drive change by working at the legislative level and public policy as well as impact investing.  

Massive growth in Impact investing 

The field of impact investing has the power to bring about a lot of change including making faster progress on gender and race equality. Investment instruments that employ ESG (environment, social and governance factors) have grown 135% in assets under management since 2012, and it has now surpassed $9 trillion in the USA. It continues to grow exponentially, with rapid growth attracting more attention. 

Meeting Social Needs Ahead of Profits

She was on the Board of the World Business Academy based in Southern California, which had as its mission to help business to assume responsibility for the whole … recognising that business  is the most important force on earth. Nothing else works like business does and the drive for profit. Willis Harman,  founder of Institute of Noetic Sciences, was convinced that business needed to return to its roots and provide a public service or to meet a public need.  Business charters used to be granted on the basis that you would improve society or individual’s lives. Subsequently profit became the organising principle and that is where things really changed. Profit is good but profit maximisation can do real harm.

New Alliances are Emerging

Hybrid organisations where you not only make profit but achieve social impact goals are on the rise and are exciting.  It is in the interest of business to take on societal change because if nothing else, they need to protect their markets.

The way that all these factors are converging .. the rise and power of women, the changing nature of investment, the interest of younger generations in addressing global issues like refugees, extreme polarisation of wealth, the proliferation of drugs … all of which contribute to societal instability, which make the business environment more difficult. 

Different values will inform a new kind of leadership 

All of these things call for new era leadership meaning more human value systems than the current GDP which are meaningless. In a system that looks more profitable as more people get ill is crazy.  There are real limitations to this measurement.

New Era Leadership: Women have an Opportunity to Drive Change 

Just simply moving more women into leadership roles to continue to perpetuate all the problematic systems we have now, will not be the answer. Unless women move in there with a better sense of what change needs to be made, it is a huge missed opportunity. 

We can’t blame the men .. it is the system we have created. There are many men who are supportive and involved in redressing the gender balance.

The financial system is flawed and nobody has been held accountable for the crash of 2008. Many people are unhappy about this.

 There is an opportunity when women move into these positions of power to bring about some change. Women have an obligation to help other women when they have the power and the means. 

Linda’s Pearl of Wisdom: remind yourself of any blindspot you have. It is not what you don’t know, it is what you absolutely know with certainty that trips you up. What are the blindspots in your worldview.

Ask a different question

Rather than asking “How much money can I make when I have an MBA?” a better question “What kind of world do I want and what role can I play in making that world happen?”

watch the recording of Linda on Facebook Live




People Want Companies to do Good – that requires Transformational Leadership


Speaking at the Leaders Club event at Kent Business School, Linda Minnis, seen here (right) with Gina Lazenby, talked about how business is shifting with more organisations taking on responsibility for social change and using their global reach for good. Drawing on the long legacy of the chocolate barons’ foundations, todays’ younger generations are pushing their employers to take on and do more to close the global wealth gap.

Linda’s talk was captured on Facebook Live. Click here to watch

The Leaders Club co-hosted a special event on transformational leadership with the University of Kent Business School in Canterbury in May. The first of two speakers was Linda Minnis, Chief Executive of the Charities Trust, and a founder member of The Leaders Club.

The event was recorded on Facebook Live and is available to view at this link.

The World Needs Responsible Business

Linda started by highlighting the need for responsible business and said that this was not something that could simply be bolted on to an organisation, almost like an extra department but it had to be at the very heart of the operation for it to have any real meaning and impact. She gave examples of the inspiration and vision that many companies were bringing to their giving programs by leveraging their resources and creating alliances that were having real impact in the world. Big business has a big capacity to make big change in the world.

Global Goals Provide a Ready Template for Visionary Businesses

Linda talked about the Sustainable Development Goals otherwise known as the Global Goals, which are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.  These 17 goals were launched by the United Nations in January 2016.  Adopted by 170 countries, they contain 169 individual goals inside the 17 categories and represent one of the most ambitious programs in human history to create massive change. For companies and organisations seeking to make a difference in the world, there are plenty of opportunities for them to align their resources and vision. 

People Want Companies to do Good

Linda said there is a definite business case for doing this. A Nielsen study in 60 countries showed that 55% of online customers would pay more for goods and services supplied by organisations who demonstrated a commitment to positive social change and environmental impact.

71% of the world’s population live on less than $10 per day and the only way to make a significant increase in people’s prosperity, globally, would be for civil society, government and corporations to make alliances and use their combined powers to create change. One such initiative, the Global Vaccine Alliance has managed to prevent 9 million deaths though immunisation. Acting with other agencies, the private sector has enormous power that can be harnessed with the right vision.

Good Business has a Long History in the UK

The question is how to engage fully and provide the necessary leadership for projects of real transformation? Linda pointed out that in the UK we have a long history of business leaders doing good things. Joseph Rowntree established a foundation over 100 years to provide housing for employees, and this continues today to seek to understand the root cause of social problems.  The Cadbury Foundation also supported their employees and communities with housing. Today, Comic Relief is an example of successfully influencing the face of fundraising by making things fun to do while the organisation focusses on how to spend the money. 

UK private giving is an incredible £20 billion per annum, £12 billion of which still comes from individual giving and Trusts like the Wellcome Foundation, with money continuing to come in from foundation investments set up decades ago.  

How do we engage the business community of today?

Linda was involved in research five years ago that showed 4 key predictions about companies and giving. We can see now much of this starting to happen:

1 Commercialisation – Giving and Doing Good will be Woven into Business Planning

Companies will seek long term profits from their corporate giving. Community programs will be set up to deliver commercial value as well as meeting social needs. Their activities will be aligned with something meaningful. Corporate giving will continue but perhaps within the framework of for-profit ventures. The future is more Win-Win-Win-Win. HSBC is an example of a company investing tens of millions into social investment because they see it pays a greater return.

The social investment market is quite new but it is now worth about £2 billion across 4000 investments. Doing good is not just right it is profitable too.

2 Innovation Unleashed Make it Easy, Fast and Painless for People to Give

New technology, innovative channels and interactive media, will cause an explosion in ground-breaking new practices. Digital technology will allow for real time tracking of impact and will allow giving to fit around busy lives. online volunteering by employees supporting digital causes will become more prominent. Look at JustGiving who raise half a billion a year. Make it easy for people to swipe their card at an event and give quickly.

3 Collaborative Coalitions Rise Above Competition for the Greater Good

Large scale multi stakeholder coalitions will harness collective skills and drive transformational change. Corporate giving  will build loyal and effective working relationships between customers, suppliers, not-for-profit and government agencies. Collaborations including those with competitors will amplify impact and a philosophy of social action will emerge. Bigger businesses are going to be bigger stakeholders in fixing the world. The setting aside of competitive differences will benefit all organisations in terms of enhanced reputation. An example is a £25 million alliance of Tesco and the British Heart Foundation and Diabetes UK to tackle major health issues.

4 Cause Related Movements Campaigns become Exciting and Energised into Movements

Billions of customers will be mobilised to give up their time, second hand items and their fresh ideas for social campaigning.  Companies will facilitate large scale donations through movement fund-raising, and will create a truly engaging consumer experience around causes.  

Take on Causes that Excite the Employees

The Charities Trust, started from Littlewoods, is now 30 years old and administers £100 million of giving for 1000 clients, an amount that has trebled in the last eight years, a big achievement for the charitable sector.  Many of her clients lead the way in employee engagement to support communities that are dear to the staff, and not just the organisation itself.  Previously it was all about what the company was going to do … now, it is about the employees deciding and the company supporting that. It helps employee retainment and turns staff into good leaders. 

The Charities Trust works with the Costa Foundation which has supported 72 schools in nine countries, and not all in places where they trade. The Trust has also worked with Big Issue Invest who raised £50 million in the last five years to support the homeless agenda, attracting institutional investors and philanthropists.  Clients like Nandos might just sell chicken but they also really care about people dying where they source their chicken, particularly of malaria.

A New Philanthropy is Emerging

The next generation of philanthropists will emerge from these young companies and their younger demographic. 

For more details of other events hosted by the Leaders Club visit the site here.

See the next post for …… the second speaker was Linda Crompton, an alumni of the Business School’s first MBA program.  Linda was the first woman to head a bank in North America and also to lead a bank that  pioneered responsible investment principles.   Now she is a leader in gender equality as the CEO and President of Leadership Women, the largest of its kind in the USA………

Wise Leadership Dinner in San Francisco




Wise Leadership will come from a joint venture of the sexes to transform leadership in the 2020s

A special event in San Francisco brought together consultants and entrepreneurs from three continents during the international Wisdom 2.0 Summit in February. The dialogue was about “Wise Leadership in the 21st Century and the contribution of women and men in an era shifting towards the feminine.”  Thirty five leaders attended the event which was hosted by a delegation of four women from Europe, all founding members from ‘The Network for Transformational Leaders’. Their work connects them with leaders around the globe and each had come from countries where their Prime Ministers are women: Iceland, Germany and the UK.  That link led to the enquiry on how leadership styles might be shifting in a changing world.

Round table discussions were set up over dinner with one question about leadership on each table. There was an animated dialogue throughout the evening culminating in each  table sharing insights gleaned.  The questions provoked discussion on what made leaders wise,  how values are shifting in leadership and the kind of leadership that will be required to lead humanity into the future and navigate the massive waves of change that are affecting every aspect of society over the next decade.

When the group looked at what kind of future we wanted and what the world needs as it transitions over the next decade, the discussion pulled together a list of characteristics and qualities which were mostly deemed to represent the feminine aspect of human nature.  Even if women are not the leaders, these qualities are what men and women will need to exhibit.

  • The ability to be open, receptive and listen, particularly paying attention to all voices so that everyone feels heard was high on all lists.
  • The need to show genuine fairness and bring people together, being adept at growing relationships and building community.
  • There is a sense that the future holds even greater complexity so a shared and diverse approach to problem solving will be our only chance of finding our way into potential solutions.
  • That complexity is going to require an ability to think holistically and to really create an integrated approach so that we avoid many of the unintended consequences we see happening today as a bi-product of the advances made in technology.
  • Emotional intelligence will be what sustains successful leaders and will therefore have a much higher priority than the task achievements accumulated on a cv. Character over curriculum.
  • Gone will be the action hero archetype to be replaced by an individual whose strength is measured by their ability to be vulnerable, admit their mistakes and be open to learning new approaches.
  • Ability to slow down: Being able to adjust speeds and valuing the need for pacing and slowing down. Fast-pacing is a highly prized modality but it not only risks mistakes, it can lead to burn-out. Being more measured and understanding the power of pausing will be the sign of a sustainable leader.
  • Keeping back the ego .. the new mantra is less about “me” and more about “we”.
  • More heart-centred: Learning to think and operate from the heart as well as the head.

During the discussion somebody quipped that it was going to be difficult to find individuals who have all of these qualities and who would be prepared to take on leadership in critical times. Co-host Gina Lazenby responded  “The idea that people are waiting for rare and capable individuals to step into high-ranking positions is in itself an old paradigm idea. 

Yes we will always need great leaders who lead teams, groups and movements but the nature of leadership itself is changing. What is emerging now is the need for everyone to step into their own leadership capacities and find these qualities within so they can bring them to the fore. More and more of us will have our leadership moment.”

Runa Magnus, the co-host from Iceland said that “The cross cultural discussions from this evening show a universal desire for a leadership with very different values to what has been normal practice but they are still all human values. In the future will need to draw on different capacities that may have been dormant and in this respect, perhaps women will be leading the way”.

Both Runa and co-host Gina Lazenby from the UK gave insights into the leadership styles of the high profile European female leaders. Gina spoke of the challenges facing the British prime minister Theresa May who swept into the vacuum left after the Brexit vote debacle with a massive mandate for massive change. Although she had many good ideas for decreasing the inequality in the country, somewhere along the line she listened to the wrong advice and called a snap general election which unexpectedly removed her majority.  Now she finds herself in the difficult position of being a negotiator and less of a visionary.  It is difficult too judge how well she is doing in the job since nobody wants to take on this poisoned chalice of Brexit.

On the other hand, the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, is a rare leader who is revered by her peers across the world and held in high esteem in her own country. She has also shown a pragmatic ability to change, setting aside her own personal beliefs, in the case of marriage equality, and allowing legislation through as she felt it served the greater good.  Despite her conservative stance and approach, she has also kept the Left and Right happy. Few leaders in history manage that. Runa spoke of the newly elected Prime Minster of Iceland, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, a mother of three who, even though she is a champion of left green politics managed to create a coalition with the far right party. Says Runa, “These kind of convening skills of bringing differing groups together are going to be a necessary leadership skill as we move away from either/or polarised politics of the left and right. There are more voices that need to be heard and brought together and these women leaders are showing great listening skills in finding common ground.”

There is no argument that a new type of leader is needed if humanity is to evolve, move forward and reach our true potential.  Few employees would want to spend more time at work and even fewer want to work longer hours.  Despite our advances in technology, medicine, education and communication; unhappiness, internal discontent and psychological exhaustion is the norm.

Our work, our research, our workshops have uncovered the need for a revolutionary kind of leadership.  We welcome you to join us in an adventure of courage.  A call to transform our old paradigm.  Women and men have done it in the past.  What can we do as “one” and “together?”

The event was co-hosted by Gina Lazenby, Runa Magnus, Shay Allie and Monique Blokyl, and supported by Benjamin Maurice and Brooks Cole, also from the Network for Transformational Leaders.

Wise Leadership Dinner

Each table gave feedback on their discussions