Space to Think works for women…

I’ve been delighted at how successful the pilot group of “Space to Think” has been.  The anonymous survey has shown that the women taking part have hugely benefited from working together, and that the format is really effective.  You can have a look at the results here:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/results/SM-596C7HG/

Group members’ comments say it all: here’s a sample:

 

“It is just great to have a space where you can focus on what the real issues are and then have independent, non-judgement input from the facilitator and your peers.”

“It is a great place to stand back and consider issues in the round. It is good to listen too and learn and gain perspective through talking with others, uncluttered from work: a fresh perspective. It is also great to meet other CEOs and share the challenges we all face. I think this is important and will contribute to working development and my organisation in the longer term. “

“After every session I have actually implemented much of the suggestions received.”

“I like the themes and love your input and preparation of materials and questions that accompany this. It gives us a real opportunity to explore and consider the theme well and then discuss it. Interesting too to have the issue part – sometimes shared issues and interesting to discuss, sometimes very different but good to know and consider process and practice.”

“I have been going through some very challenging times and these sessions have come along at just the right time. Having people who are ‘walking in your shoes’ somewhere else is invaluable as they really understand what you are going through even though your issues are different..”

“Beanstalk Space to Think facilitated peer support has helped me to develop practical strategies to address staff and board issues within my organisation. (The most cost effective consultancy I’ve come across!)”

“It provides a fabulous opportunity for women in senior leadership roles to learn from and support each other, develop new skills, and benefit from fresh perspectives to everyday challenges in the workplace.”

So if you’d like to join the next group, or chat about your support needs, please drop me a line – annie@beanstalkconsulting.co.uk – I’d love to hear from you, and I’ll be starting up a new group in the late summer/autumn.

 

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13 tips for working brilliantly with people

Space to Think is a new project for women running small to medium sized charities or social enterprises.  Here are 13 tips distilled from the wisdom of the current group.  They were so good, we just had to share them:

  1. Use the probationary period
  2. Recruit for attitude – it’s easier to train people in any skills they may lack
  3. Don’t be limited by your budget: you can bring almost any skill in through volunteers
  4. Every day is an opportunity to find out something amazing about the people in your organisation
  5. Sometimes the answer or solution to your quandary comes from someone unexpected
  6. Find out what resources and investment are needed to bring out the best in each individual on your team
  7. ACAS is there for you and is free and accessible
  8. Clarify your communication and be clear in getting your message across
  9. Recognise the whole person
  10. Tell people what they’re brilliant at
  11. Don’t delay telling people what they need to know
  12. Be compassionate in everything you do
  13. Leave your own emotions aside when dealing with difficult issues.

For more information about Space to Think, contact annie@beanstalkconsulting.co.uk.

 

Space to Think – Women Leaders of Smaller Voluntary Organisations

Nourishing space for women running small to medium voluntary organisations

Starting February 27th – join up now!

How might things be different for you in 9 months’ time if you have regular support in an environment where everyone has particular skills and expertise that they share, and where there’s space and time to think, reflect, gather strength? 

This is probably the most difficult and challenging period in modern times for small to medium charities and social enterprises, especially those working with vulnerable people.  You are working long hours, multi-tasking, keeping your boards and management committees up to speed, and trying to keep your staff team healthy and buoyant.  But who’s looking after you?  And where do you find the space to think, reflect, share with others in a similar position?

I have created this monthly group with you and your needs in mind.  Working in a group of up to 6 women, initially for 6 months, we will focus on:

our challenges our gifts
our issues our shining futures

Each session will have time and space for members to work on individual issues, as well as focusing on a specific theme.  We may bring in guest speakers.  I suggest the themes below, and more may emerge as we work together:

*money – raising it and managing it *meetings – making them work for you *people
*politics *time *taking care

I am mindful that your organisational budgets are severely stretched, and one of the first things to go is usually paying for your own support.  Running the group from my home in South London will keep the costs down, and I can throw in lunch and a taxi service to and from the station.  The cost for this pilot introductory programme of 6 sessions, each of 3 hours, will be £175.

I’m a qualified executive coach and member of the European Mentoring and Coaching Council.  I have been running a successful coaching practice, working with charity CEOs and senior managers since 2010.  I’m also CEO of Share Community and have worked as a senior manager in the voluntary sector since 1996.

We’re starting in February, and places are filling fast, so if you’re interested in finding out more, please e-mail me straight away at annie@beanstalkconsulting.co.uk .

Most sessions will be on Fridays, with the occasional Wednesday or Thursday.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

With very best wishes,

Annie

Keeping the faith

Yesterday I went to one of those events where you get to hear about a rare new pot of money, some of which may trickle down to small voluntary organisations in order that they may make a difference to increasingly desperate people’s lives.  That’s after the big guys have creamed off all their profits….but let’s not go there.  I met up with a colleague who runs a small mental health charity that does extraordinary things and promotes creativity, positivity, and healthy lifestyle to people who are struggling with their mental health.

“I’m losing staff,” said my colleague.  “They can’t cope with the number of people who are dying.  Four of our service users committed suicide over the past few months, and we learnt of another three who died through self-neglect.”

Just hold that thought: we live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, and yet vulnerable people, all of whom have had contact with our mental health systems, are dying because they’re not feeding themselves and nobody’s checking to see if they’re alive or dead.  What does that say about the degree to which we invest in caring – or not caring – for those who are struggling the most in our communities?

The mental health charity, MIND, received 50% more calls to its helpline in 2012/13 than in the previous year.  People are facing more complex problems, and many are being triggered by financial crises and unemployment.  The Office for National Statistics reports that suicide rates rose significantly in 2011, from 11.1 deaths per 100,000 to 11.8.  Meanwhile, the number of mental health inpatient beds has been slashed, according to a BBC News and Community Care magazine report, the findings of which were broadcast on 16th October.  A Freedom of Information question revealed that at least 1,711 beds had been closed since April 2011, including 277 between April and August 2013.  This equates to a 9% reduction in acute care provision.  At the same time, local authority spending cuts are having a massive impact on community services.  In the borough where I work, all mental health day centres have been closed; most community support work is carried out in public spaces such as coffee shops (all the more profit to Starbucks, Costa, et al), and people’s access to support is time-limited.  They can, of course, apply for personal care budgets, but the pot is diminishing, fewer people are eligible, and at my organisation we’ve seen a dramatic decrease in those being funded for placements with us.  That means that more people are lonely and scared and don’t have anywhere to go.  And then there are our colleagues on the front line of advice and support organisations, and those working with elderly people who don’t know whether to stay warm or eat….These are some of the big political issues of our time, and there are many ways in which we might attempt to tackle them.  But in the meantime, community and voluntary organisations are on the front line.  Not only do we have the increasingly challenging task of advocating for, supporting, and enabling our clients, but we also have to try to stay alive in the face of budget cuts and dwindling resources.

So how do we make sure that those of us running services stay healthy, and maintain the spirit and energy to do an increasingly demanding job – keeping our staff and volunteers buoyant; creating new ideas that someone may want to fund; writing bid after bid to bring in the money?  I asked my colleague.  “I go away,” she said.  “I get as far away as I can, preferably somewhere where I don’t speak the language and where my phone won’t work.”  My coaching clients invest in time to think and vent and explore the complex issues with which they’re bombarded in the office.  Here are some other things that may help:

  1. Find a mentor/external supervisor who works some distance from where you work: use the journey to have some quiet thinking and reflection time, both there and back.
  2. Group supervision is a helpful way of sharing resources, approaches, and solutions, and I think is particularly important for organisations working in mental health.  Find someone you trust, and who knows about mental health, to facilitate.
  3. Be transparent: as far as possible keep your team in the loop with what the problem is, what you’re doing about it, and how they can help.
  4. Give people opportunities to create solutions.  That way they’ll feel that they have some power and influence in the situation.
  5. Take care of yourself: enroll in a yoga or qi gong class; learn some mindfulness techniques and incorporate meditation into your life; get plenty of aerobic exercise (I feel better on the days when I cycle to work); get plenty of daylight, and if your work space is dark, invest in a daylight lamp; eat healthy, natural foods; cut down on sugar and alcohol.
  6. People who are resilient maintain a good network of friends and supporters.  Make time for fun and friendship.
  7. You won’t have all the skills and knowledge yourself to keep your organisation on track, so make sure your team – including your board/management committee – have the skills that you don’t.  Bring in volunteers, advisors, whatever you need to make positive change happen.  Charity Days can put you in touch with people willing to work with you for free, or at a reduced rate.  Local businesses can be a great resource.  Check out Pilot Light.
  8. Build alliances and partnerships: strength and creativity in numbers!
  9. “Resilience is accepting your new reality, even if it’s less good than the one you had before. You can fight it, you can do nothing but scream about what you’ve lost, or you can accept that and try to put together something that’s good.”
    Elizabeth Edwards
  10. Continue to visualise yourself and your organisation as successful; focus on what’s working.  Paying too much attention to what’s not, or to the problems, will take up brain energy that you need for getting through the tough times.

And yes, I have to work hard at all this too!  Do contact me if you’d like to join a coaching/support group, or are interested in one to one work, and please do reply with your own tips for staying alive.