Can character education create happy people?

Can character education create happy people?

Let me ask you a question: How many happy people do you know? 

I am not talking about skipping through the daisies happy, or the ‘happy shiny people’ kind of happy. I am talking about the really solid kind of happy. The happy that comes from feeling comfortable in your own skin, being in relationships that are kind and respectful, studying what you are passionate about, doing work you love and feeling valued while you do it. How many of those people do you know? 

As I see it, this is the principal purpose of character education. Underpinned by a belief that confident, collaborative and curious people will have happier and more successful lives. It is a belief that sees people who can truly communicate, access their creativity and commit to things as better set up for success, than those that can’t.

Yet what I find fascinating about the need for character education is that, what is actually described here, is in fact the human condition. It is how we are born. Anyone that has spent time with toddlers will testify to their innate confidence; have you ever seen a toddler learning to walk, give up after their first fall? No, me neither. We are born confident, curious and collaborative. We are also born with the ability to communicate and commit to what we are interested in. I recently watched 5-year-old Katie building a dam in a stream… nothing would get in her way. She was oblivious to her mum calling her in for tea and nor did she care that she was knee deep in cold and muddy water for hours because she was in ‘her element’. She was in ‘the zone’. Until that dam could withstand a minor tsunami she wasn’t shifting and, in that moment, she was an engineer and a craftsman. However, give Katie a hairdressing set and the task to create the perfect chignon, I suspect her curiosity and commitment to craftsmanship would have waned pretty quickly.

The fact is, these skills and ways of thinking make a material difference to how people’s lives turn out. The question is how do we help people access them? For me, having worked as a senior executive coach for twenty-five years, there are three things that make a standout difference. 

First, we need to recognise that, instead of these attributes being found outside of us that they are already within every one of us. And, our job as educators, as facilitators of human potential, is to help people to reconnect and build from what already exists. What this means is that instead of starting with a position of ‘lacking’ e.g. “I am just not a confident person”, we start from a place of abundance e.g. “I was born confident; all I need to do is choose the thinking and behaviour that accesses it.” 

Just a few months ago I was working with Jonathon, a senior leader who told me in no uncertain terms that his problem was that he had always been shy. He therefore absolutely couldn’t do the kind of public addresses required of him. It was, in his mind, a fact. The next morning, however, he stood up in front of over 5,000 people, spoke for 30 minutes with a single mind-map as a guide and, at the end, got a standing ovation. What happened? First, he had understood that ‘shy’, like so many things, was actually just set of feelings and behaviours generated from the thoughts he was choosing to focus on. And, if he wanted, he could change the focus of his thinking at any moment and produce a different result. Secondly, he acquired a new skill that makes talking about anything, without notes, easy. Simply put he realised that he was creating the behaviour of ‘shy’ and decided not to do it anymore, then he learnt a skill that enabled him to perform better. 

This brings me to the second key thing which makes all the difference. The learning needs to be relevant. Jonathon was able to learn how to change his thinking around being shy because it mattered to him. He was interested in being able to present well so could perform in his job. The same learning wouldn’t be interesting to me. ‘Shy’ or ‘poor presenter’ are not labels I have applied to myself. On the other hand, show me how not to get stressed by my workload and I will listen to every word you say. We learn when we have a need or a want – just like we look up how to bake a chocolate soufflé when we want to make one (or are curious about how it’s made).  Curiousity is not a blanket thing. We are only curious about the things that interest us.

And finally, if we want to support people to live their best lives, we need to show them how to live from a place of ‘core strength’. Core strength is a set of personal identifiers that make up our unique blueprint. So, when we talk about giving students ‘character’ in order that they can go on and live their best lives, we have to help them find their character, their values, their beliefs, their vision and discover what puts them in their element. Like curiousity, character is not a one size fits all thing. It is something we need to discover within us and then bolster by learning a set of skills that matter to us. When people understand how to live from their core strength they show up as their best selves, they are grounded and able to realign easily when things get out of balance. When we don’t know these things about ourselves, realigning becomes a game of chance… and that is not the best recipe for a great life.

So, here’s the good news. Teenagers love it when they discover this. The moment they realise that all these great attributes are already inside them AND they can access them at any point, they sit up and listen. In my experience character is not something that can be ‘taught’, it is something that must be discovered, supported and above all facilitated. When we take the time to do this, we create more happy people and, in doing that, we begin to change the world.

If your school is on a mission to create happy, confident students, download our brochure to find out how we can support you.

Organisational gratitude. The new thing.

Organisational gratitude. The new thing.

Here’s a question for you. How much gratitude do you, your team and the people within the organisation show? We’ve all seen gratitude journals – a prompt for us to take a few moments every day to be thankful for what we have in our lives. Some of us have even got one and written in it a few times, some, even made it a daily practice. But, from what I can see gratitude hasn’t yet found its place in our organisations.

The other day I was with a very senior team, not as their coach but to talk about their emerging talent and you could have cut the atmosphere with a knife. Nothing to do with me, I have to add, but everything to do with the team dynamic. And, before I had really engaged my brain, I had called it – as if some alien had picked me up and transported me back to my days as an exec team coach. Luckily – rather than showing me the door the CEO suggested I take 20 mins to help them sort it out. (Nothing like an impossible challenge to make a sales meeting go well!) But, seeing as I had already opened my mouth, I had a go. I asked each of them to name three things they were grateful for in relation to the business right now. What do you think happened? A number of them got angry. Two told me to stop wasting their time and one mentioned that any decent coach would get them to name the issues they were facing as opposed to getting pink and fluffy (yes, he actually said that). But I held my nerve and waited. Eventually, one seemingly timid lady spoke up.  She said, “I am grateful for the bright committed people I work with each day, I love that I am developing my career in perfect direction for me and I will be eternally grateful for the health care cover that looked after my daughter this last year.” One by one they followed. You could have heard a pin drop in the room as phones and computers were put aside and every single one of them truly listened to each other probably, for the first time ever.

As they came to the end the whole dynamic in the room had changed. They were still and thoughtful. They carried on the meeting but now they were on the same side, their debate had a less aggressive air. One of the men said he had gained a different perspective. Another said how well they had done as a business to get to where they were and how lucky they were to be in their roles. I am not saying they transformed into a truly effective team, obviously that would take a lot more work, but I came away thinking that having a daily dose of organisational gratitude could be an amazing thing.

The 5 top talent development needs of 2019…

The 5 top talent development needs of 2019…

A recent Deloitte survey* identified that the No.1 reason people leave their jobs is the ‘inability to learn and grow’. 

The simple truth is if millennial and Gen Z employees don’t feel their organisations are investing in their education, training and development, they’re not going to stay. 

So, we have spoken to the brightest emerging talent from across pretty much every sector, to get their view on their top 5 talent development needs of 2019…

1. “Utilise the many varied opportunities to develop us.”

Reverse mentoring, shadowing, joining associations, keynote speaking opportunities, taking on research projects or being asked to publish articles are all free ways to develop your emerging talent – and they love them! Help them spot these opportunities, give them time to take part and offer support and feedback.

2. “Take our development seriously.”

Millennials and Gen Z place huge value on the growth of their personal brand and ongoing professional development is hugely important to them. However, the odd training day with a junior trainer every 6 months simply won’t cut it. They want access to experts and a clearly structured training and development pathway that will keep them engaged and get them to the top.

3.    “Let us play to our strengths.”

Whilst many businesses say they do this, the consensus amongst emerging talent is that this isn’t happening. Be proactive in understanding your high potentials’ strengths, passions and what puts them in their element and support them in finding work in this space. This might mean giving them more creative freedom within their role, or supporting them in moving to a slightly different position within the organisation – Far better that your talent moves within your business than outside of it.

4.    “Embrace a more relaxed hierarchy.”

With many of your most capable individuals sitting lower down the organisational chain, loosening the hierarchy allows change to be driven by those with the most powerful and relevant ideas, rather than those with the most prestigious titles. This might mean finding opportunities for your HiPos to lead strategy meetings, giving them regular contact with senior leaders or creating feedback forums so they can shape solutions and the direction of the company.

5.    “Give us a voice – make it safe and consistent.”

Our organisations are brimming with bright, capable people who want to make a difference.  In order to ensure they are able to share their voice, we need to set up two things.  Firstly, it needs to be safe to have a bad idea – to be able to brainstorm and explore. Secondly it needs to be safe to challenge the status quo. While many companies claim to be this way, this is far from what emerging talent are currently experiencing.

To read the full findings, download our white paper: ‘Future Leaders: The Research and the Reality’

At Ivy House we offer the kind of life-changing development, usually reserved for a handful of the most senior executives, to your brightest emerging talent. Our programmes build the knowledge and skills to allow your high potentials to thrive; becoming extraordinary leaders and living extraordinary lives.

To find out more about how we can support your emerging talent and future leaders, get in touch today.

*’2019 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends’ report

Future Leaders: The Research and the Reality

Future Leaders: The Research and the Reality

We’re in the midst of a leadership crisis, attrition rates have reached a record high and for the first time ever we have four generations together in one workplace.

What’s more as we approach the fourth Industrial revolution, preparing our brightest emerging talent for the demands of a very different world has never been more challenging. But whilst we may be facing a rather uncertain future one thing is for sure – we need a different approach.

That’s why, for the first time ever, we’re bringing together all of the research, insight and best solutions to talent and leadership development, in one place.

Whether you’re a business looking to attract, retain and develop your top talent and future leaders, or a school looking to equip your students with the skills they need to thrive in a very different workplace – look no further.

Download this white paper to:

  • Understand how best to prepare young people for jobs of the future
  • Get to grips with how to futureproof your workforce
  • Discover how to successfully engage and retain your brightest talent
  • Build a sustainable strategy to fill your future leadership pipeline

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Future Leaders: The Research and the Reality

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What’s The Right Career for You?

What’s The Right Career for You?

Pretty crucial question, right? Also, for many of us, REALLY hard to answer. Here’s the thing though – it becomes a lot easier to answer if we accept a few crucial truths…

Firstly, finding our dream job is not something we can do by ticking a couple of boxes on a quiz and hey presto the answer comes out. It is a question that we actually have to engage in over a period of time. Some would argue, our whole lives, because often, our dream job in our 20s is very different to when we are 45.

Secondly, be patient. Discovering what you love doing may take some time. It is definitely going to take some trial and error, as well as the odd false start. See it as on on-going journey of discovery. A journey on which you are constantly gathering data, trying things and refining them to find that sweet spot in which work no longer feels like work. When you relax and accept it is a journey you are freeing yourself up to try things, lots of things, ask for lots of advice and often, dream bigger.

Finally I have a few questions I think you need to take on your journey with you – again getting the right answers to these questions may take time, so keep them front of mind and keep reviewing and refining.

  1. What are your strengths? What are you naturally good at? I’m not talking about subjects at school, I’m talking about real world talents like problem solving, organisation, inspiring others, creativity, deal making…
  2. What are you passionate about? Like really passionate about? What are the things you care about, the things you want to know more about and the things you want to get better at?
  3. What puts you in your element? This is the point at which your strengths and passions meet. When do you lose time by getting so absorbed in what you are doing?

We know this stuff isn’t easy.  In fact, choosing the right career for you is one of the biggest decisions you’ll ever make. But taking the time to really thinking about it, to find where your strengths meet your passions, will ensure you set off on a path to extraordinary.

To get a little more help with finding your element, download our ‘Finding Your Element’ guide below. 

The leadership crisis

The leadership crisis

After months of campaigning by prospective Conservative candidates, we now have a Prime Minister who was predicted from day one.

We also have a brand-new cabinet around Boris Johnson. His choice of leaders ready to take the country forward at this crucial time were no surprise either.  They are his known supporters and have all promised to do things the way Johnson wants.

What appears to be missing are disruptive new thinkers with fresh ideas for the future. The electorate is ready for change. Yet it’s the same players who are charged with mapping out the road ahead.

We expect future leaders to follow in the footsteps of those went before them. In the current world, this tactic is failing us.

In politics, as in business, there is a very real threat that we are facing a leadership crisis. We are not feeding our talent pipeline and preparing them for the future. We are not equipping potential leaders from an early age with the skills and tools they require.

We inhabit a world of fast change but keep being given leaders suited to yesterday’s world. It doesn’t need to be this way. We need to turn traditional leadership development on its head by starting to prepare our future leaders far sooner. Instead of pushing ‘leadership behaviours’ onto an individual, help them first discover who they are and what matters to them. We need to recognise that the future requires different skills – human skills based on relationships, communication, trust, authenticity, collaboration and creativity. More than anything there needs to be humanity in the system.

As I look at our new ruling government I see little of the above. Politics may be slow to change but the organisations who oil the wheels of this country need to act now.

By connecting forward thinking leaders with emerging talent, we can inject organisations with a new energy. By giving individuals the opportunity to develop in a way that that inspires them and makes them feel valued, we can change the future. Maybe one day politics will follow.

Developing future leaders is essential but not without risks

Developing future leaders is essential but not without risks

Alex leads talent and development, with responsibility for group-wide talent acquisition, learning & development, talent and succession, inclusion and engagement. 
Electrocomponents has placed several colleagues on the Ivy House Programme.

Our future leaders need development now, in order to prepare them for future opportunities.

Across all industries, HR and Talent Directors are tackling the issue in their own, different ways.

As a speaker on the panel of the Ivy House Future Leader Challenges event, I was interested to hear the different (and similar) approaches that each company was taking. For example, Janet Tidmarsh from Sainsbury’s talked about moving away from formal programmes, towards individualized development for their future leaders.

While it’s a focus for all industries, we know there is no one size fits all approach to developing future leaders.

The work landscape is changing at an ever faster pace and we need to equip people to be more agile and adaptable.

At Electrocomponents, I am responsible for the Future Shapers programme – a 12 month experience that accelerates the development and career progression for a select group of employees, and provides an opportunity to build a cohort and community of peers across the company.

If we get this right, we expect great things.

Our biggest challenge is around the need to be future focused – building our future leaders so they are ready for bigger, broader roles, while also performing at their best today. 

For millennial’s and generation Z’s, they want to experience different roles, companies and industries. They are not looking for a job for life.

We as employers need to embrace their need for purpose.

We need to get comfortable with the fact that employees may leave. As they develop and broaden their mindset and skills, they may look for something different and want to move to a new role or a new company. 

As long as they leave for the right reasons and not simply for more money.

Sometimes there is a fear that you may lose people through development, but if you don’t invest in your people, you will lose them anyway.

Ivy House is an important part of our Future Shapers programme.   One of our attendees told me it has been a transformational experience – he said it was thought provoking; took him out of his comfort zone and made him think about himself as a leader and a human.

The Ivy House programme may not be right for everyone, but if you capture people at the right stage of their career, it is a valuable experience.

The future requires new and different paths to development and I feel we’re on the right road to develop the best leaders.

Ivy House was born

Ivy House was born

In July 2013 I was sitting on the 33rd floor of a very glossy building, waiting for my coaching client to arrive. I was staring out of the sheet glass window marvelling at the mix of buildings and lives I could see going on below me and did what I always did before a coaching session. I tried to still my mind so that I could be fully there for my client. For some reason, on this day it was difficult. I became aware of a growing anxiety inside me.

Like many of my clients, he was seen to be ‘at the top of his game’. He was at the most senior level in a global organisation, earning millions of pounds a year with at least two beautiful homes that I knew of. To the outside world is life looked pretty perfect. But through our coaching, it had become very apparent that that was not the case. His marriage was falling apart, he had recently been told by the school that his daughter was self-harming, he lived in constant fear of losing his job and he had started to have chest pains on a very regular basis.

Our session began as they usually did, with him listening, with a growing sense of doom, all the things that were going wrong in his company and life, until about twenty minutes into the session he stopped talking and just stared at me.

“What’s wrong?” he asked. “Are you ok?”

“Me? Yes, why?” I replied.

“You’re crying.”

He was right. Tears were literally streaming down my face.

As I sat there, with the one tissue I had becoming a sodden scrap, I realised something had to change.

I was crying out of frustration. My client did not need to be this unhappy but he had never been taught to figure out who he really was, who he wanted to be and how to get there. He had never been shown the way to find an inner confidence that stayed with you whatever you faced. He had never understood the secrets to creating a truly successful life and, things had had to get pretty bad, before he had even started to look. Why the hell did no one teach us this stuff sooner? What the hell were we waiting for?

And that was the day Ivy House was born.

Do you play
the two-faced game?

Do you play
the two-faced game?

I was out to dinner the other night with my lovely husband. I hadn’t seen him for ages and, rather frustratingly for him, my attention was caught by a group at a nearby table. Picture the scene: two couples in their mid-twenties and an older lady, an aunt or mother perhaps, out for a celebration. The older lady – I imagine she’d been a war correspondent – was telling some amazing tales of her travels. But what really caught my attention was the woman sitting next to her. Going through the motions of polite listening, she made it absolutely clear to everyone else how much contempt she had for the older lady. The transparency was astounding, and the negative energy emitted was overpowering.

The game of doing the right thing on the surface, whilst at the same time making your real feelings perfectly clear, is as common as it is destructive. People do it all the time, and it really couldn’t be further away from smart, kind, respectful and authentic behaviour.

Be alert to it over the next few days. Do you, or people close to you, play this game?

PS. Depending on your disposition, you may or may not be glad to know that I didn’t follow her into the ladies and tell her what I thought of her game. My husband wouldn’t let me!

Do you tell little lies?

Do you tell little lies?

Susan regularly lied to avoid conflict or disagreement. ‘Not really lies at all. Small lies to avoid disappointing people’. She would say it wasn’t her decision when she was given feedback on an unpopular decision; she would say she had read the documents when she hadn’t; and she would say she was busy when she didn’t want to go to an afterwork drinks party.

When we asked for feedback on her as a leader, people said they didn’t really trust her. No, she hadn’t told huge lies, and she hadn’t defrauded anyone, but every day she had whittled people’s trust away. She had neither the courage nor the skill to speak her truth, and if she wanted to be a leader that people would choose to follow, she’d have to find both.