Being simply brilliant

Being simply brilliant

“You’re only as good as your last deal”.

I still remember the team leader announcing this, 29 years ago when I was a front line sales advisor in a contact centre, as she attempted to somehow motivate us all to perform consistently well.

It’s always seemed a bit unfair and not at all reflective of someone’s true capability or achievements, yet it was widely accepted as a way of gauging high performance.

Fast forward to this age of social media and as consumers we are now able to see a history of performance and achievements of suppliers through referral sites such as Check a Trade, Trustpilot and Tripadvisor, an all together much more balanced overview of many experiences and examples of excellence to build true consumer confidence and understanding.  

Back in the world of learning however this hasn’t been available and we have long since relied on key account management, referrals, marketing campaigns, HR events and award dinner round tables to build our credibility and expand our organisations reach.

That is, however, until now!  

We were very excited to hear about an innovative new organisation called Simply Brilliance who have been set up with the sole intention of being the ‘go to’ place for customers to source the very best suppliers in the market to support their people development needs.

This was not just another portal for suppliers to tout their wares, in fact as a supplier you can’t automatically join this unique ‘club’ as it’s invitation only.

How do you get an invite?

Well there needs to be a selection of customers who have consistently nominated you as ‘simply brilliant’.  

You can imagine then how excited I was when Ivy House London was invited to be part of this new platform, an opportunity for us to be put forward to future potential clients when looking for the very best providers in their chosen fields, saving them from trawling through endless google searches or walking the stalls of the latest HR forum (not this year mind you!) trying to separate the sales spin from the credible experts.

So here we are! Proud to be part of the Simply Brilliance family, truly being recognised for not just ‘our last project’ but for multiple client projects, and committed to continuing to be brilliant in order to stay there! Here’s what Simply Brilliance said about us:

We love Ivy House because …

They have years of expertise developing leaders at the highest level of business. They are passionate about supporting the next generation, have reframed their expertise to offer that same quality development to those earlier in their career. For those we know who have experienced it, it has been life changing. In the L&D industry it is hard to find something unique but this is, and it is simply brilliant.

Simply Brilliant

Now that is all together much more motivational don’t you think?

My thinking

My thinking

I’ve talked about how we choose our behaviours, but this doesn’t happen automatically.

Session 8 of The Ivy House Award shows us how we can be more conscious of the thoughts we focus on, so that we ultimately feel different and we can make different choices about our behaviours. This all happens through our thinking. As much as we often either won’t admit it or don’t realise it, we also have a degree of control over our thinking. We have countless thoughts come into our minds every day, every second, which, ultimately, we can’t control. What we can control are the thoughts we choose to focus on.

Knowing the impact of our thoughts is the key to understanding why it’s so important that we choose to focus on the positive thoughts. Sixth form has the potential to be a very overwhelming time for students. There are loads of exams and some pretty big life choices to be made. These events can result in lots of negative thinking, so having the skills to understand and address these thoughts will make life a lot easier.

We all have to do exams, and the chances are most of us find them a bit stressful. I’m sure we all know one or two people who are alarmingly calm around exams, floating around as if they don’t have a care in the world. Some of us envy them, some of us despise them. Now, I’m not saying that is necessarily the best way to be, because it’s always good to have some drive behind you. But it’s important to behave in the most effective, productive way for you, especially when it comes to exams. The Ivy House Award sets things out very clearly: we have thousands of thoughts every day, but the ones we choose to focus on impact how we feel, and how we feel will dictate the behaviours we choose. So, what’s the answer? Focus on the thoughts that are benefiting you, not bringing you down.

For a long time, I struggled with stress around exam time. I’d work painfully hard and run myself into the ground pretty fast. My results were at the expense of my mental, emotional and sometimes physical health. The thoughts I chose to focus on were like this:

‘I’m never going to be able to remember all of this’

‘Have I even figured out the best way I learn?’

‘What if the exam takes a completely different approach?’

‘Why does everyone else do better than me but not work as hard?’

‘If I want to get the grades, I need to work all hours under the sun and more’

Sound healthy? No, not really. This thinking made me feel, as you can imagine, pretty rough. The feelings I felt were:

  • Worry/ perpetual anxiety
  • Panic
  • Fear
  • Stress and a whole host of other (negative) feelings

The thoughts I chose to focus on, and the feelings I felt as a result, meant that I chose behaviours that were not serving me as well as they could have. I would be exhausted all the time but still somehow force myself to work until 1am most evenings. I didn’t allow myself any rest time because I considered this a ‘waste’. I did well in my A Levels, but I genuinely think I would have done even better had I been kinder to myself, by choosing to focus on healthier thoughts.

My attitude to exams has changed completely since The Ivy House Award, and I have seen a great improvement not only in my work standard, but in my mental, emotional and physical health in general but in particular around exam time. I work hard but within reason. I start early because that’s when I know I’m most productive, and I never work in the evenings.

This change has stemmed from a change in my thinking. I still have those negative thoughts I used to, I focus on them much less. Instead, I choose to focus on thoughts like:

‘I’m working as hard as I am able, and that is more than enough’

‘I am doing my best and that’s all that matters’

‘Whatever the result, I’ll be proud of myself’

‘The world will not end if I don’t get top marks’

‘My health and sanity are far more important than any exam’

Focusing on these thoughts mean I feel much more content around exams. I’d be lying if I said I never got stressed, but I feel more balanced now. I couldn’t have continued the way I did in the past because it wasn’t sustainable.

The Ivy House Award helps us deal with our thousands of thoughts, walking us through how to focus on the positive ones, and how it will serve us better. It’s hard to realise that we are not our thoughts. We are the observer, which means we can choose whether or not to dwell on certain thoughts. With each day that we get better at focusing on positive thoughts, we’ll feel better. What happens when we feel good? We behave more positively. The sooner sixth formers have this awareness, the sooner they will be able to see a positive change in their lives.

Find out a bit more about Anouska here.

The workplace revolution

The workplace revolution

I will confess to being one of those who has been lucky enough to really enjoy some aspects of lockdown, however I really worry that we are at risk of sleep walking into a massive skills shortage, putting organisations at risk of failure.

I also get it; this has been far from idyllic for everyone. For some, working at home has meant juggling childcare and home schooling with work commitments, not to mention additional worries over job security and finance. Others though have seen an improvement in wellbeing – ditching the daily battle on public transport, having more time to see loved ones or maybe even taking up a new hobby.

I believe that long term we will settle on a middle ground – a more ‘blended’ workplace – reducing (but not eliminating) office space, lowering numbers on public transport and hopefully stress levels. But hang on, this isn’t new: technology has been taking us down this path for a while; anyone who lives in commuter belt sees station car parks 30% quieter on a Friday as people work from home. COVID has massively accelerated this change though and that means we now need to carefully think through the wider impact on our organisations and our people.

Even before the pandemic we have been drifting towards a skills shortage; the type of skills that help our people thrive – those human skills. These are the skills that help with problem solving, that enable our team members to flourish, that transform innovation into solutions, that help leaders inspire their teams and our people to feel supported.

So, as we prepare for what the workplace of the future will look like, let’s not just think about the ‘tangibles’ – the tech platforms, the new hot-desking and how meetings might work. Let’s really focus on what leadership will need to look like in the new normal, what skills will be needed to thrive (not just survive), and also on how our people will acquire those skills.

Over the last month I have spent time discussing this with senior leaders in both the corporate and education world and 4 common themes have emerged…

  1. When lockdown initially happened, people turned to those leaders sitting at the top of the tree for clarity on ‘what’s next?’ But the truth is over the last few months, leadership is no longer exclusive to those with a ‘chief’ or ‘senior’ title. In fact, it’s become an every man job. It’s relied on every person throughout our organisations to step up and lead themselves and others; to have the courage and skills to make decisions, rather than stand behind processes and to become leaders who are capable of making steps to drive our businesses forward every single day.
  2. In a world where we no longer sit next to each other, observe behaviours and overhear conversations our people also need to be far more autonomous and self-led, taking more ownership for asking questions, sharing their thoughts and sometimes just having a go. 
  3. Although there are lots of examples of brilliance, humour and innovation, many of us don’t find these new ways easy – we are having to adjust the way we do daily tasks (at work and at home) as well as cope with massive cultural change.  And the truth is even the most motivated and engaged staff are finding it challenging. Finding ways to improve staff motivation, engagement and wellbeing and maintain culture are absolutely critical.
  4. And importantly, it is probably the least experienced in our teams that will be the most impacted – how do new hires learn from more experienced staff? How will we on-board a new graduate intake? I know that I learnt so much as young wide-eyed new hire in finance, not from the courses I attended and text books I read, but from listening and watching, observing those senior people that seemed to know all the answers.

Therefore this ‘shift’ in leadership and change to our culture needs focus.  Both need to be a key part of our future strategies. We also need to recognise that the critical human skills that are needed aren’t just going to appear – they don’t come on Amazon Prime.  They can’t just be picked up by osmosis, or learnt by forcing people just to have a go. We need to invest in people’s development.  We need to give them the skills to lead themselves, be authentic leaders of others and take care of their wellbeing.

Finally, let’s also recognise that corporates, although ecosystems in themselves, also sit within a much bigger ecosystem of our society. If the workplace of the future requires a greater emphasis on human skills, then let’s put a greater emphasis on these within education – we also have a real opportunity to redesign education places of the future. We know that Gen Z will have longer working lives than any generation before them, and be doing jobs that none of us have even heard of today, so surely we must arm them with the types of human skills that gives them every chance of thriving?

At Ivy House, we put game-changing leadership and life skills at the heart of how we develop every generation. Are you ready to be part of the revolution?

Our virtual reality

Our virtual reality

‘How do we make the virtual experience even better than the face-to-face?’

This was our starting point when turning our face-to-face leadership development programme into a virtual offering – we are deliberately disruptive and have a value of remarkable quality after all!

We consistently got feedback that what makes us special is the connection we create, the trust we build, the tribe we set up. It is challenging to do this virtually, especially with the groups sizes we want to work with (larger numbers mean extra stretch when completing certain skill building activities such as pitching or feedback and a wider network to learn from) – but not impossible.

The Ivy House design focuses on 3 key principles:

Interactivity

We definitely do not deliver webinars or presentations. The virtual programmes are interactive, proactive, engaging and memorable. We ensure the delegates have to ‘lean in’ at least every 5 minutes – whether that is to type into the chat box, use an icon, answer a polling question, take part in a group word cloud, grab a pen and paper, shut their eyes, break out into a pairs discussion or group activity, turn on webcam and mic to ask a question,  be coached live or download an interactive worksheet to complete. We use multiple facilitators to ensure there is a mixture of voices during any one workshop. There is a focus on ‘do’ not ‘listen’.

Build relationships

We have a high coach to delegate ratio to ensure the experience feels personal despite the larger group size. Coaches join home group activities and provide radical support and radical challenge. We ensure every single delegate has ‘air time’ – joins the lead facilitator on the virtual stage with their webcam and mic on, introducing themselves and asking questions, interacting with the facilitator. The multi-channel learning approach means more people can get involved, delegates use the chat box to ask questions which supporting facilitators answer during the sessions and also use it to reiterate any key points made by the lead facilitator. We focus on creating a community pre and post the workshops using a closed LinkedIn group and the Ivy House HUB. We also use 1:1 coaching and Virtual Coaching Groups in between masterclasses and live workshops to connect with the delegates 1:1 and in smaller groups.

Fun and playful

Online learning can sometimes seem serious and loses its fun. We don’t let that happen. We set the tone at the start that this is a safe space to play, experiment and have fun – we know more learning happens with more recall in these conditions. Energisers and peak ends are different virtually compared to face-to-face and we have had to be really creative here, but have come up with a list that the groups love and link to the content – including chair yoga, virtual heads and tails, using the break to find an item that depicts your passion… even come back wearing a hat when discussing courageous learners!

We are very proud of our face-to-face NPS score which is 95%. Our first virtual NPS was exactly the same – 95% and we even have had a feedback comment: ‘It’s been run so flawlessly I don’t feel I am missing out in any way by it not being face-to-face! I also never thought I’d be on a leadership programme in my slippers!’

If someone could just invent the virtual hug we would be happy to never go back in the classroom again!

Now that you’ve had a peek into how are virtual programmes have been created, why not check out the content?

Behind the teacher persona

Behind the teacher persona

It was hard to see behind the persona of ‘teacher’ when I was at school.

OK, so they probably didn’t appreciate being sniggered at when they bent over a student’s desk (poor Mr Horse Bum) or having a chorus of parody coughs every time they cleared their throat to get our attention (sorry Miss Phlegm).

I’ve carried a belief since leaving school that all teachers must have a calling, an innate need to make a difference and influence young lives. Why else would they put up with a bunch of unruly and at my school, sometimes downright insubordinate kids? Sorry Mr Shouty science teacher, who warned me not to cool down a thermometer by dangling it out the window.

But at the time, I didn’t think about why my teachers were teachers. Awkward confession time: It’s because I didn’t really think of them as ‘people’.

I didn’t think about the studying or qualifications that they had done to become a teacher. I didn’t think about the hours of work they put in outside of the 50 minutes they stood at the front of my class. I didn’t think about them having a life outside of school; a family, interests, hopes and dreams. Favourite food. Musical taste. Dogs or cats.

You could put this down to me being a self-absorbed teenager… But, unsurprisingly, I look at it another way. My teachers didn’t show me their human side.

There were exceptions, and those exceptions were teachers that I learned the most from. They gave their opinions, engaged in debates and brought their humour and personality to the classroom. I’ll never forget my French teacher mentioning to me as we were filing into the ‘hut’ – one of the temporary units still going strong today – that she was feeling out of sorts because her bra didn’t match her pants. We shared a genuine laugh, I enjoyed her lessons, and I did well in French. Coincidence?

I’m not suggesting that a declaration of mismatching underwear is the secret to academic attainment. (Image of Mr Horse Bum uncomfortably flashes across my mind.)

At Ivy House we talk about ‘human leadership’ a lot in the corporate world. Leading with empathy, compassion and genuine care for the people you work with is far more effective than giving orders and expecting people to believe in you.

It’s no different in the classroom. But how to be a human leader, and learning leadership and life skills in general, isn’t part of teacher training. Some people are naturally engaging, their personality shines through. In most cases, leadership isn’t a skill that is just learned over time from experience. How to build resilience, how to speak with authority and influence others, how to understand your values and how they affect your life both at home and at work – this is learning that everyone should have access to, because it can make such a huge difference.

To my teachers who showed up as themselves, who brought us on an educational ride and talked to us like we were people they wanted to spend time with – thank you.

To my teachers who put up with me when they were just trying to impart knowledge in the way they knew how – I’m sorry I didn’t see you as more than just Mr Nickname.

Life Leader is a programme that allows teachers to reflect on what’s important to them, what kind of life they want to live and gives them the tools to make it happen.

My Brand

My Brand

How others experience us will influence not only how we are perceived, but whether we’re granted a favour, recommended for a promotion, invited to a party or given a place at our first-choice university.

Session 7 of The Ivy House Award encourages us to discover what our current brand is, teaching us how we can alter and improve that brand if we choose to.

It’s easy to view this as being overly concerned with what others think of us, and many of us take pride in not getting too affected by what others think about them. However, the reality is that other people are the source of opportunities. Developing your brand doesn’t mean being obsessed with others’ opinions. It simply means that we’re able to recognise that who we are and that the impact we have on other people counts. The first step to developing a brand that we’re proud of is being truthful about where we are right now. This means being completely honest with ourselves, so we are able to paint the clearest picture, and therefore get the best outcome in the future. When we no longer fear what people are honestly thinking about us, we can get started working towards our ideal brand and can make real progress. Session 7 guides us each step of the way.

My brand is something that I have been consistently working on since doing The Ivy House Award. I homed in on what my brand was (at the time) by noticing how I behaved in various situations, as well as asking for feedback from people in different areas of my life. This gave me an all-encompassing picture of how people experienced me. Then, I figured out how I would ideally want people to describe and experience me, whether as a friend, co-worker, student, sister or daughter. When I had these to compare, it was easy to see where my focus needed to lie. The work I’ve done on my brand as a whole has made me realise two things:

  1. The work is on-going.
  2. People don’t notice change easily, especially when they’ve experienced you be a certain way for a long period of time – so tell them you’re making a change!

These two learnings have affected how I go about upholding my brand in everyday life. The first has resulted in an acute awareness about when I do and don’t behave in a way that reflects the person I want to be. I am human, and this means I slip up every now and again. I established during this session that I like to be calm and collected in discussions. Sometimes, though, I snap, raise my voice or am a bit sarcastic, which is definitely not part of who I want to be. Often, this is because I’m tired or stressed. But I don’t want to be snappy or rude ever, and that means putting in extra effort to uphold my brand when I am feeling a little run-down. It’s not a one-time-job and the work certainly can’t be done in a matter of hours, days or even months. It takes continuous work, but it’s rewarding and gets a lot easier over time.

The second learning was one which I came to me over time. I was making a lot of effort to be more compassionate towards my mum and sister, but I realised it wasn’t being noticed at all. I was aware that this was because they’d experienced me being unempathetic for so long that they didn’t notice that I’d changed. Instead of getting annoyed that I hadn’t changed, I had a conversation with them explaining the effort I was putting in, how and why, and asked them to be a little more aware of how I behave. After this conversation, my effort was acknowledged. Had I not mentioned it, I could have been waiting for ages!

Say you’re a bit of a troublemaker in school and have been since you can remember. Around A Levels, you decide it’s time to get your act together, so you stop messing about and get your head down. The next time something is muttered or joked in class while the teacher has their back turned, they assume it’s you. You insist it wasn’t and that you really were working but, due to your track record, their assumption remains, and you end up in detention. It carries on this way because the teachers haven’t noticed that you’ve got your act together. You could simply go up to the teacher, explain how you intend on behaving yourself, and ask that they allow you to make the change and support you through it. Then, the next time the teacher has rude words written on the board in permanent marker, she won’t automatically blame you.

Our brand affects how we’re perceived in each area of our lives, with family, friends, teachers and everyone else we encounter. The Ivy House Award coaches us, step by step, through how to refine our brand. Very few people think deeply about the people they are and the mark they leave behind. The Award provides us with the invaluable opportunity to consider and reconsider the impact we have on others, and whether we’re happy with that impact. The Award helps us establish a rock solid, honest brand that we are proud of, so we can be our true selves, and focus on creating an extraordinary life.

Find out a bit more about Anouska here.

My communication

My communication

Session 6, My Communication, follows perfectly on from the previous session, My Behaviour, as altering our behaviours almost always requires effective communication.

Could you improve the effectiveness of your communication? Would you like to feel different when you’re handling challenging conversations, or any conversation for that matter? Session 6 helps us refine our communication skills, allowing us to be more productive, confident and understanding in any given conversation.

I’ve taken a number of really significant learnings from this session:

  • Communication is something we can develop, just like we work on any other skill
  • Not everyone communicates in the same way
  • It’s important to adapt your communication style depending on the other peoples’ styles in order to communicate most effectively
  • Difficult conversations are going to arise throughout my life, so there’s no better time than the present to begin working on the skill

I have always been a pretty straight talker. I don’t tend to sugar coat things; I just say it how it is. This trait of mine has sometimes resulted in me being perceived as not very compassionate and lacking in emotion. These are labels that were placed on me by my family at a relatively young age which has resulted in an easy ‘out’ for me if I know I’m coming across this way. I received this feedback a long time ago. Showing compassion and empathy has been something that I’ve worked on for years, but it wasn’t until The Ivy House Award that I began to make some real progress.

I do have emotions (believe it or not) but conveying them in a genuine and authentic way has been somewhat of a long-standing challenge for me. My dad has a relatively similar communication style, and it’s for this reason that he’s never had any issues with me being straight talking and unempathetic. It was only an issue when talking with those who had totally different ways of communicating that my style was not received well, for example, my mum and my sister. Following the Ivy House Award, I began experimenting with different ways of communicating and approaching conversations with an open mind. I sought to notice and understand the different approaches various people took, and tailor my approach to fit in with theirs more easily. What I found is that conversations are far more pleasant and productive when I tailor my communication to the person that I’m communicating with. When laid out so simply, it’s seems easy! The Award set me on the right track and explained how and why it’s so much better to be adaptive than uncompromising.

Looking back on my journey of improving my communication skills, it seems like such a simple change, but it has had a significant effect on my relationships. Not only this, but I feel so much more confident in my ability to handle any conversation, as I know that, whomever I speak to, I am able to be adaptive in my approach so that the best outcome is achieved together.

Not only is adolescence a significant challenge in itself, sixth-form gives us unrelenting hoops to jump through, all of which will require interaction with others. Communication skills are only beginning to matter in sixth form, and they become very important very quickly. From familial turmoil through to future managers and bosses, we’ll face it all at some point. The Ivy House Award supports students through their journey of understanding the logic behind developing conversational and communication skills, why they are so important and why developing their skills will make their lives so much easier.

Find out a bit more about Anouska here.

My behaviour

My behaviour

Session five of The Ivy House Award focuses on the equation Event + Behaviour = Result.

Believe it or not, we have the ability to choose our behaviour and how we respond to each event that occurs throughout our lives. This enables us a degree of control over the ultimate outcome. This outcome seems out of our control, something inevitable, unpredictable and unknown, but this isn’t the case. Our behaviour, in response to an event, influences the outcome.  

The general free will versus determinism debate is beyond the scope of this blog, but what I believe to be true since doing The Ivy House Award, is that we have the amazing ability to choose our behaviour in response to any given event. Often this ability goes unnoticed or is obscured by our long-held habits and excuses. The Ivy House Award encourages us to be accountable for our actions, by recognising that our behaviour is fully within our control.

It’s common for us to consider many of our behaviours innate, automatic or instinctive. When we behave seemingly instinctively, we see ourselves as having only one option of how to act. We THINK we only have one option, but this thinking is preventing us from seeing alternatives. As Jack Pransky says, “Our only limitation is what we see with our thinking in the moment”. Once we are able to see that we are in control, our options become countless.  

Say you’ve been brought up in a family where it’s very common to raise voices and have heated arguments. Where people speak and tell far more than they listen and understand others. You frequently partake in this behaviour, but as you get older there are more and more times where you use this behaviour outside of your family, and you notice it doesn’t quite have the same reception. In a work environment, you’re viewed as pushy, dictatorial and closed-minded. In a romantic relationship, you’re argumentative and confrontational. You find it tough because you don’t feel you have a choice about behaving differently. After all, the behaviours are so ingrained in you that they are impossible to shift; they are instinctive and automatic. Do you have a choice? It doesn’t seem like it. But although it might not seem like it, you absolutely choose this behaviour each time you do it. So, what would happen if you began making different choices?

During sixth-form we experience many challenges which all have the ability to detrimentally affect our lives if we choose unhelpful behaviours. At this critical time, session five of The Ivy House Award can show us how to take control of our behaviours, and to seize the opportunity for better outcomes, whatever life may throw at us.

Recognising that the behaviour we choose directly affects the outcome of events is a huge leap, as we move from blaming others to taking full responsibility. This can be overwhelming. The first step is the hardest but will reap the greatest rewards in the future. That is, recognising that we choose our behaviour. Once we recognise this, we have the degree of awareness to be able to notice what behaviours we choose without thinking. Then, with time and perseverance, we can begin to work on choosing more helpful behaviours. Time can move very quickly, especially when we are put in a difficult situation, as these are where our decisions can feel automatic and instinctive. But no matter what you’ve told yourself in the past, you always have the time to stop for a moment, evaluate the situation and your options, and then make the best choice for you. Literally stop in your tracks and take a deep breath. In time, this will become easier, but for now it’s important to do your very best to be kind to yourself while you’re growing and developing your awareness of your unhelpful behaviours, so that helpful behaviours come more easily.

The Award encourages us to seek valuable feedback from those around us, so we are able to have the whole picture when looking at our behaviours and the impacts they have. The Ivy House Award will guide sixth-form students on the journey to recognising their control over their behaviour, and help them to make better, more helpful decisions for them in their pursuit of an extraordinary life.

Find out a bit more about Anouska here.

100% ownership and my inner rhino

100% ownership and my inner rhino

Who takes responsibility for your life? You? Your parents? Your grades?

Is there something out of your control that’s holding you back from reaching your full potential? Session four of the Ivy House Award encourages us to take full ownership of our own lives, because we are the ones in the driving seat. It’s up to us and only us to make our lives what we want them to be.

Taking ownership for our lives is particularly important during sixth-form. It’s a time when the future seems to be rushing towards us at quite a pace. We begin to look beyond our A Levels, to potential jobs or university degrees. Unfortunately, no one else is going to create our perfect life and hand it to us on a plate, we have to get there ourselves. What this means is we must stop procrastinating, patiently waiting for the perfect work experience, or business opportunity to fall into our lap, and go out there and get it for ourselves, otherwise we could be waiting forever.

Soon after I’d done the Ivy House Award, I was applying for what’s called ‘pupillage’; the barrister equivalent of a training contract for solicitors. I stumbled across an advertisement for a drinks evening that one of the top London Chambers (firms) was holding to socialise with those who were applying for pupillage. I emailed to book a place and was told it was full. Great. I asked to be told if a place became available, just in case. On the morning of the drinks evening, I was at university in Cardiff in the middle of a lecture, when I got an email that a place had become available. I was swamped with work, completely snowed under and I had a friends’ twenty-first birthday party that evening. Plus, I’d have to rush to get all the way home to pick up a suit before going back into London for the event. You see my dilemma. After a brief battle, I decided to go. I hurriedly packed my things and hopped on a train home. Now, rather than getting me a job, which this endeavour unfortunately didn’t do, the result was a little more unexpected. Whilst at the drinks evening, I bumped into a friend who I’d met doing work experience a few months earlier. He told me about this new course that was being set up for training barristers. It was being set up by an incredibly prestigious institution, one which I had no idea was establishing a new course, and one which I certainly wouldn’t have heard about had I not gone to that event. As a result of that conversation, I applied for the course, went through a rather rigorous interview process, and was successfully accepted into the small cohort.

The battle with ownership occurred the minute I received the email about the free place. I wanted to go to my friends’ birthday but also, I’d be exhausted and wouldn’t be as productive with my work if I had to go all the way to London and back in 24 hours. I considered what I could gain out of going. It could give me the information I needed to increase my chances of getting pupillage. I would meet people who did the job I wanted to do, which was going to be inevitably thought-provoking and an enjoyable experience. And then there was the unexpected. In a room full of the best of the best barristers, who knew what I could gain out of it? There was only one right answer.

What if I hadn’t gone? I wouldn’t have gained the wealth of knowledge about the realities of the profession, I wouldn’t have met and networked with barristers at the height of their careers, and I wouldn’t be getting post graduate diploma next year. Ultimately, I might not have achieved anything from going to the drinks evening, but I didn’t know that when I made my decision. I couldn’t have decided not to go based on the fact that I might not gain something. There was far greater chance I would gain something.

The point is that if I hadn’t taken ownership for my future in that moment, things would be very different. I committed to taking 100% ownership for my life when I did the Ivy House Award, and had I not done that, I wouldn’t have gone to the drinks evening. One thing is certain, my life will move significantly more in the ‘right’ direction for as long as I continue to take ownership for my future and make decisions that reflect this.

The Ivy House Award gives us the push we need to take ownership for our lives. We know we should take ownership, but knowing is very different to doing.

Find out a bit more about Anouska here.

Being a courageous learner

Being a courageous learner

The title of the third session of The Ivy House Award isn’t quite as it seems. Being a courageous learner is so much more than having the courage to learn. We must be able to figure out whether, in any given scenario, we are being motivated by learning or by being right.

But on a deeper level, to be a courageous learner is to do and recognise 5 key things:

  1. Look at the raw facts
  2. Self-coach rather than self-judge
  3. Hold opinions lightly
  4. Fail forward
  5. Know we can only change ourselves

These 5 things from the third session of the Ivy House Award have changed my life, and I promise it will do the same for you if you allow them to. They have revolutionised the way I conduct ANY conversation, whether it be a heated discussion or small talk, and have bettered my thinking and mind-set.

Sixth form students are at crucial time in their lives. In the near future they will be making big decisions about their personal and professional lives, starting work or university and possibly moving away from home. These milestones won’t necessarily be easy and may trigger some challenging situations and conversations. With the learnings from session three of the Ivy House Award, tackling these challenges can be done head-on, with confidence and composure.

In the past, in most conversations I was motivated by being right. I liked to be right because it gave me a good feeling, a feeling of intellectual superiority. But after doing session three of The Award, I gained a level of perspective that allowed me to analyse what impact this was having not only on myself but on those with whom I was having the conversations. I realised that by being motivated by being right, I was ego-driven and closed to understanding others’ perspectives. I would hear what they said only to respond, rather than really listening to understand their views and widen my sphere of knowledge. I could be defensive and snappy, and I felt that, to a degree, my worth was dependent on whether someone thought I was right or wrong. Most of the time, these conversations were rather unpleasant and ended just like that: unpleasantly. Does any of this sound like you? The Ivy House Award came at just the right time, because it was time to make a change.

Following session three of The Award, I was immediately aware of the fact that too often I was focused on being right over learning. I stepped back and thought about the kind of person I want to be, how I want to come across, and what changes I could make. The learnings that had the greatest impact on me and my life were to hold my opinions lightly and realise that I cannot change others.

Holding opinions lightly is a big one. I used to be pretty closed minded: no one was going to change my mind because I’d already decided what I thought. How naïve of me! My opinion is exactly that; just my opinion. By opening up and realising that there’s no shame in changing my mind, I began to relax into conversations in which people disagreed with me. I now ask questions, I am curious and always manage to learn something new. When studying, we are often taught to argue our case or opinions tooth and nail, but this isn’t necessary in real life. We can sit back and allow others to impart their knowledge to us. We might even be asked our opinion, in which case we can share our knowledge, but the motivation should be to learn. I’ve found that conducting conversations like this often results in significantly ‘better’ outcomes, because all parties have multiple perspectives and sources of information. Conversations are much gentler and more informative, as opposed to feeling like a battle.

The realisation that we cannot change others has had the biggest impact on my mental health. It’s far too easy to blame bad moods on someone else or make excuses that our presentation, for example, wasn’t great because someone in the group didn’t pull their weight. By realising that no matter how hard we try, we can never change other people, we focus our energy on being the best version of ourselves. By focusing on our own behaviours, we are much more likely to experience feelings of inner peace. If we think we can control others, at any point someone else’s actions could ruin the rest of our day, leaving us in a stressful state of suspense. Once we realise that we only have power over our own actions, these feelings of stress evaporate.

Unfortunately, many people value being considered ‘right’ above all else; above the nature of the conversation, listening and learning, how the other person feels and often even above the ultimate outcome. This results in defensiveness and high-tension conversations. On the other hand, those motivated by learning often come across more relaxed, genuinely interested and open-minded. How would you rather be?

As a result of the Ivy House Award, I now very rarely have arguments (rarely, not never – I’m still human!), they are more like discussions. I stay calm and curious if someone holds an opinion contrary to mine, I learn from my mistakes, I focus on my own behaviour and I find myself learning and understanding so much more than I have in the past. As a result of these learnings and changes, I now have full confidence in my ability to navigate any conversation or situation I find myself in.

Session three of The Award encourages us to notice where we spend most of our time, so we can consciously move our focus if we so choose. In order to see changes in our lives, we need to begin by making changes within ourselves and to our behaviours. As John Ruskin said, “what we think or what we know or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do”. So, with the help of the Ivy House Award, you can start making changes, and you’ll see a difference.

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