The other evening, we did a family quiz – the second one in a week and already a pattern is forming.
My husband and two of our girls, Meg and Sian, answer all the questions while the rest of us begin to feel increasingly more stupid.
And then I realised. This is just like our current education system… set up to reward a particular kind of intelligence; one where you remember lots of random facts and can regurgitate them at a moment’s notice.
But what about the rest of us? I’ve no idea what the capital of Tanzania is or how many sonnets Shakespeare wrote, but I’ve set up two really successful business and coached some extraordinary leaders. Our daughter Emmi can write and perform a song that will touch the deepest part of your soul, Mimi can drum like a young Ringo Star and Lara is unbelievably entrepreneurial. No wonder so many kids are left feeling like they don’t quite measure up. I am so bored of this. We are better than this. We need to sort it.
In the meantime, I have set up the Creative Challenge in our house and for once am looking forward to Sat evenings!
Tim is one of the brilliant Ivy House coaches. Here, he reflects on the need for human connection and human leadership.
Yesterday, I connected via videoconference with a group of leaders I studied with six years ago. We hadn’t connected for a while. What was different is that we weren’t talking about thought leadership topics, or developing our approach to an emergent VUCA economy. Instead, we put time aside to just catch up. Nothing else, just to be together. At times there were gaps of silence. We laughed, we cried, but underlying this was a strong bond of what it meant to be human together.
As I work with leadership teams I often experience the focus on driving agility, pace and outcomes. So often, I also see this taking a separate pathway from our empathy. If resilience becomes about putting our emotions to one side whilst we battle through tough times, then we are building up to a very hollow world of disengagement and risk losing truly connected human purpose. We have a time now to stop and reflect. We have been given a time to listen to our inner wisdom and to step outside of our automated thinking. We have been given a time that calls for connection in a deeper and more sustainable way.
The space we held yesterday was about truly listening to each other. It was about connecting with fear and love across different countries. I choose to live with optimism about the world, and what can be achieved. Looking out at the world from my window this morning, I see an uncertain world that is looking for leaders to step forward and create that truly compelling future. And the truth is; we are those leaders.
Utilising the apprenticeship levy: Manager as apprentice
How many extraordinary leaders do you know? Not many? Interesting, right? So why are we still taking our brightest, bravest emerging talent down the same path we took our current leaders? The truth is we’re in the midst of a leadership crisis.
Only 13% of senior execs have confidence in the rising leaders in their firms, whilst a shocking 82% of managers are perceived to be lacking leadership skills by their employees. But this crisis isn’t just manifesting in the CEOs sitting at the top of our organisations. Throughout all hierarchies of business, we’re seeing a skills deficit, with a whopping 77% of CEOs seeing the unavailability of key skills as the biggest threat to their business.
The truth is if we want a better world, better businesses, better lives – we need better leaders. Leaders who are agile, adaptable and change ready. The kind of leaders people actually want to follow and pioneers who are equipped to lead us into a better future.
But here’s the great news: The apprenticeship levy can help with exactly that.
In fact, since the introduction of levy, there’s been a major shift in how businesses have viewed professional apprenticeships, with a growing number of organisations turning to the levy to upskill at senior levels and develop management and leadership skills across their organisations. A recent IBR report evidenced that 68% of the UK mid-market surveyed now believe apprenticeships can develop leadership skills and 53% believe apprenticeships are attractive to experienced managers and senior executives.
The switch from apprenticeship levy funding just being used for school leavers, to becoming a critical part of the development path for managers and future leaders is important. As the IBM report stated:
“Poor management creates a myriad of issues; higher levels of team attrition and increased employee turnover are just two persistent examples. As they say, people don’t leave their job, they leave their manager. Leadership development, through apprenticeships, is one, incredibly cost-effective way to solve these problems.”
With the impact of poor leadership on productivity being a key driver for the Government’s introduction of the levy, it’s time that more organisations utilised their levy to develop their future leaders. Leaders who can inspire, drive change and navigate businesses to success now and in the future. Leaders drawn from a wider pool, with different experiences and perspectives. Leaders with drive, ambition and an openness to learning.
Aren’t those exactly the kind of leaders your organisation needs?
At Ivy House, we believe that if we want a better world, we need better leaders. And, to make that a reality, Ivy House wants to turn traditional leadership development on its head.
Our mission is to put leadership and life skills at the heard of how we develop each new generation.
We do this through our programmes for future leaders, emerging talent and sixth formers which deliver life-changing development, the kind usually reserved for a tiny percentage of the most senior executives.
This begins with self-mastery. The principle of taking total responsibility for the quality of your life, by committing to:
– building your understanding of yourself and developing an ever-deeper
– being a lifelong learner, always growing, developing and creating positive
change as a result
– taking ownership for who you are, the impact you have and the life you create
Based on this foundation of self-mastery, our programmes focus on teaching seven transformational leadership and life skills. Skills, that when mastered, make a game-changing difference to the kind of leader you become and the life you create. Having spent over 20 years working with senior leaders across every sector, we know that exceptional leaders learn first to lead their own lives and then learn to lead others. It is for this reason that the first six life skills are an essential foundation for the seventh skill, namely Human Leadership.
The Ivy House 7
Skill 1. Core Strength
Our core strength is what makes up who we are – like a personal blueprint. At its heart is our vision for our life (the one that we want to live, not the one others want us to live). It includes our values, beliefs, and our driving forces; the skills and talents that put us in our element, and eventually perhaps our purpose in life.
is it so important?
we know who we are and we find ‘our life’ we make things easy for ourselves. If
we have a clear vision for the life we are creating, we know which direction to
head in. When we understand our personal values, making decisions becomes easy.
When we are doing the ‘right’ job or studying the ‘right’ subjects, we learn
quicker, we put in extra effort and success comes easier. Living in this way….
knowing yourself to this level, means living from a position of strength. It
means having clarity about what makes you tick and what matters to you and,
from this place you can become the person you were born to be and live the life
you were born to live.
Skill 2. 100% Ownership
ownership is about taking compete responsibility for your life and how it turns
out. It means knowing we have a choice in how we respond to each and every
event and that those choices, one after the other will create our life.
is it so important?
Choosing how we think and behave, in response to every event, is the ultimate power of being human. It is the event plus our response that creates the outcome. We can’t change the situation, but we can always change our response and in doing this we get to influence the outcome in every situation we are involved in.
Skill 3. Conscious Mind
Conscious mind is the skill of being in a state of deep awareness. Aware that you are not your thoughts. Aware that thoughts come in and out of your head constantly, but it is our choice what to do with them – hold on to them and make them into something, or let them go. Accessing our conscious mind gives us the power of choice. The ultimate human power to choose our response to anything that comes our way.
Why is it so important?
How you think determines how you feel and how you feel directly affects the quality of your life. Spend your day focusing on negative thinking then you will have a bad day. Alternatively, deciding not to get caught up in that negative thinking and choosing to follow more positive thoughts will mean you will have a better day.
Skill 4. Courageous Learner
Courageous learners are motivated by learning. They take joy and satisfaction in learning about themselves, others, and the situation. This comes without the need to be right, to win or defend their point of view. Courageous learners are acutely self-aware and have the ability to tell the truth to themselves and others. They proactively seek to change and develop themselves throughout their lives.
Why is it so important?
When we are motivated by being right,
we are motivated by protecting our ego. For some reason we believe that when we
are wrong our self-worth is affected. We believe that if we don’t win, we are a
failure and if we don’t become top of the class we are not as valuable as
someone who did. Put this all together and you get a world of pain and
self-judgement; you end up creating relationships that become battlegrounds and
leaders who are more concerned with protecting their ego than doing the right
Skill 5. Intentional Relationships
Intentional Relationships is about getting good at building and keeping relationships. Relationships of all kinds – intimate relationships, friendships, work-based relationships, as well as building an extended network. It is the skill of creating and maintaining relationships from a place of trust, respect and understanding.
Why is it so important?
Countless pieces of research tell us
that we will live longer, happier and more successful lives if we create great
relationships. The same research also tells us that people’s ability to build
great relationships in marriages, politics, business and education is not
getting better but worse. So, if we want a better world for ourselves and
others the only way to do it is through better, more trusting, loving,
thoughtful, joyful, evolving relationships.
Skill 6. Proactive Wellbeing
Wellbeing is, simply, the feeling of being well: mentally, physically and spiritually. It is a deep certainty, and recognition that we are okay. It’s an inner peacefulness. When we are proactive about our wellbeing, we create the right circumstances for our mind, body, and soul to recharge.
is it so important?
would your dream life be like without the feeling of wellbeing? Think about it, you have the house, the job,
the relationship of your dreams but if you woke up every morning feeling life
was pointless or without the energy to enjoy it, then what use would it be? You
may already know. You may have experienced the crippling effects of poor mental
or physical health and realised that, without it, experiencing well-being
becomes virtually impossible.
is important because when we have the skill of proactive well-being, life stops
being scary and starts being an adventure. It empowers us to bring our full
creative, connecting, curious selves to the world and in turn inspires greater
levels of success. Without well-being our achievement in life will be
meaningless. It is the essential ingredient.
Skill 7. Human Leadership
Human leadership is the practice of leading oneself and others in a way that empowers everyone to reach their full potential. No matter who, what, or where you choose to lead, it is about creating environments of meaning, growth, belonging and ownership; enabling people, organisations and societies to thrive.
Why is it so important?
It is so important because there is a
better way. Individuals and organisations can’t go on as they are. The mental,
physical and spiritual well-being of the nation is at an all-time low. It’s having
an adverse impact on people’s individual’s experience of life and
organisational success. And, the madness of it all is, when we create a world
where people work in their element, develop collaborative, purpose-driven teams
where people find meaning and growth, it will mean everyone – including the
balance sheets will be happier.
If you can see a need to develop any of these seven key skills, we’d love to chat to you.
I remember standing in front of the majestic Tower Bridge at dusk, as the three-thousandth runner of the event I’d project managed for the last year crossed the line. I took a deep breath, looked up to the sky, and smiled. I never had to do this shit again!
That was the moment I left my fifteen-year career in the event industry behind and stepped into my new life as a coach. I’ve never felt more exhilarated or free!
Those fifteen years took their toll, and despite leading a host of high-profile events, earning a decent living, and looking like a success on the outside, on the inside I had experienced chronic anxiety combined with periods of depression. I’d felt the need to put a mask on just about every day, pretending to my team members that I was excited about organising the next event with Prince Charles, or Sir Richard Branson. While these occasions sound glamorous (and are for those attending!), only event professionals know the months of painstaking attention to detail, blood, sweat and tears it takes to pull them off! For some people this is the dream job and perfectly suited to their personality, strengths and passions. But not for me.
It may surprise you to know that I look back on this period of my life without any regrets. I was simply doing what I thought I was meant to do: hold down a secure job and tough it out every day, and didn’t know another way. I’d heard of people that loved their jobs, but thought this was for the lucky few, and certainly not something I could consciously create for myself. However, that’s exactly what I did. Interestingly, the lessons I learnt through these challenging times actually served me in this process. I’d learnt my values – integrity, growth, family, meaning and excellence – often through the suffering that came with compromising them! Through my own study and research I had also learnt about my strengths and my passions, which were rarely utilised in my day-to-day work, and my element (where my strengths and passions combine).
Once I had clarity on my values and my element I knew it was time for a major life shift. I understood on a fundamental level that, unless I aligned my career around them, the suffering I was experiencing would only continue. Therefore, despite a mortgage, and two young children to support, with my wife’s amazing support, I completed my coaching qualifications, took the leap and set myself up as a coach. I have never looked back.
Where my days used to be filled with resistance, struggle and stress they’re now defined by contentment, fulfilment and flow. I had more positive feedback in the first year of being a coach than I’d had in the past decade, and was finally able to throw away the mask. I’ve also had chance meetings and synchronicities that have helped me on my way; not least being introduced to Elke at the formation stage of Ivy House, with whom I’m now privileged to be a coach.
I now have the opportunity to pass on the insights and tools that it took me fifteen years of struggle to realise, and to people much earlier in their journeys. While what makes a remarkable career is different for each of us, the tools to navigating there are the same. You need to understand your values (who you are), have clarity on your strengths (the things you’re naturally good at) and passions (the things you love to do), before living and working where these combine (your element). The result is an extraordinary life.
Last weekend I walked past Tower Bridge once again. The same smile came back to my face, this time from knowing that when you bring your life into alignment with who you really are everything has a way of working out just fine.
Stuck in a career rut? Find the right path for you in just two days.
Build a world where your strengths and passions align
Like most children, I grew up dreaming of one day becoming a professional footballer. I just simply love football. Everything about it… being part of a team, winning together, supporting one another, the name on the back of your shirt, changing room banter, the roar of the crowd on match days and the deathly sound of the ball hitting the back of the net. I never wanted to do anything else.
On finishing secondary school with poor exam results (not for a lack of trying) I was offered a place at AFC Wimbledon’s academy. I felt this was the next step in making my dream a reality. I spent three great years learning my trade and transitioning from semi-professional to professional; this was one of the proudest moments of life. I was being paid to do something I absolutely loved… I felt like I was dreaming.
But after 6 years and at the age of 22, I made the toughest decision of my life and walked away from the game that I love and stopped playing football.
I then came to a crossroads in my life. I felt if I could somehow put that same passion and drive for football into a new career I would hopefully be in a place where I am happy and learning on a daily basis.
Here, Jay talks about what happened next, and how he built a world where his strengths and passions aligned together.
Jay didn’t leave his career – and life – to chance. Find out about how our programmes we can help people find their purpose.
When you go on an African safari you cross your fingers and hope to see ‘The Big Five’: buffalo, leopard, elephant, lion and rhino.
These days you’d be very lucky to spot a rhino as they’re increasingly rare. However, that is not the case at Ivy House, where all our Alumni consider themselves rhinos. So, what do we mean by this?
Believe me – when we call someone a rhino it is definitely a compliment! The Ownership Ladder demonstrates why:
The cows at the bottom of this ladder follow the herd and
stand around waiting to be milked, chewing the cud together, blaming others and
making excuses for how life has turned out. Cows think that life happens to
The rhinos at the top acknowledge reality, own the situation, find solutions and make things happen. They believe that life happens because of them.
There are three traits of the Ivy House rhino to look out for:
1. 100% ownership
Ivy House rhinos take complete responsibility for their life and how it turns out – ownership for their vision, ownership for their plan, ownership for their behaviour. They know they have choices about how they respond to every event and that those choices create the quality of their life.
As all rhinos know, event + behaviour = result.
2. Courageous learner
Ivy House rhinos are courageous learners. This means they fail forward and fail fast, quickly applying what they learn to the next situation. They have the courage to look at the raw facts, seeking out external feedback and acting on it to improve. Their inner voice is set to self-coach mode, not self-judge and they know one of the most courageous things anyone can do is be vulnerable.
3. Making things happen
Ivy House rhinos don’t wait for things happen; they make things happen. They develop the skills they need to pitch themselves and seek out opportunities, be that a mentor, an internship, a secondment, a trial, a chance. They charge after their goals.
Who would you prefer in your organisation? A herd of cows or a crash of rhinos? (and yes, I did have to google the collective noun!)
This story shows that having the confidence to step up could change your future.
Farnborough Hill shared with us this anecdote about Bella, one of their students, who is currently taking The Ivy House Award.
Bella works in a clothes shop at the weekends and a customer approached the till for a refund. Having only been there for a month, she was about to default to the ‘hang on, I’ll get someone more experienced’ spiel, but stopped herself and thought ‘no, I have been shown how to do this, I just need to try; it doesn’t matter if I get it wrong because I’ll learn from it.’ So she explained to the customer that it might take her a few minutes, but she was happy to give it a go. They then got chatting about Bella and her aspirations (to study medicine) and it transpired that the customer is a Department Head at a big hospital. Bella took her contact details and has been in touch with her; they hope to arrange work experience for the summer, which will be a huge help to Bella’s university applications.
Bella totally credited this experience to what she has learned so far by taking the award.
The moral of the story?
You can’t predict what situation could turn out to be an opportunity.
But, we can be leaders of our own lives.
The Ivy House Award develops ownership, initiative, resilience, confidence and self-leadership for sixth formers – which impacts the confidence they have in themselves and the choices they make.
If you’re going to network, for goodness sake do it well
Networking has a bad name. We all ‘know’ we should do it but, most of us would happily choose Netflix and a glass of wine instead. The issue, as Meg Jay points out in her book The Defining Decade, is that 74% of jobs come through, what she calls, weak ties – people you sort of know but don’t really, friends of friends, your boss’s wife.
The fact is networking is a brilliant way of progressing anything you are working on. Anything. So, my advice? If you are going to do it, do it well. I know that sounds stupid but, having worked with thousands of people, it is incredible the number who do it because they think they should BUT don’t put the effort into doing it well. If that is you, and the time has come to do more than just show up and shuffle around avoiding eye contact, try these three things.
Be a giver. Most people hate networking because they hate asking for things. The answer is to be a giver. How can you help the person you are connecting with? An introduction, a book or a hotel recommendation, some advice or just to listen to them as they talk through a problem. The minute you make it about them, and not about you, the whole energy of the interaction changes. Givers listen, they ask genuine questions and they share things about themselves. Who they really are, their passions and their dreams. When we connect in this way it is far easier to ask for something at a later date if they haven’t already offered it.
Be ‘re’markable. And by this I mean be worthy of ‘re’ mark. The aim of networking is to be memorable. So memorable in fact, that someone remembers you a few weeks later, when they are talking to someone that could help you. So, work on your pitch. If you could only share three things about you – three things that someone could remember – what would they be? Again, don’t be confined to work things. One of the best pitches I ever heard was by a wonderful woman called Hannah Stenton who, amongst other things, told me she had a gold-medal-winning flock of sheep. I have never forgotten that or her. So, take the time to find your remarkable, and then be really clear on how you want to direct their thinking. Tell them what you are focused on right now and inevitably they will think about how they could help you.
Be consistent. Firstly, the obvious bit: if you promise something then do it by the time you said you would. Secondly, networking isn’t always about face-to-face events. Technology has made it so much easier; investing just 10 mins a day could change your life. Use LinkedIn and use it properly – send personal messages to people you meet and with shared interests. Use email, text, WhatsApp to stay in touch with people you met at work, on courses, on a weekend away. It doesn’t have to be often, but it does have to be personal. Read an article and share it with people you know that would like it. Share pictures, stories, updates, anything that for a few seconds puts you in their head. And, every so often you will get a message back that says ‘funnily enough I was talking about you the other day, I think you should meet X – they are looking for someone just like you…’ and all of a sudden that 10 mins a becomes a brilliant new opportunity.
Being able tobuild genuine relationships and connections is just one of the skills that can help you live an extraordinary life and become an extraordinary leader.
Traditionally, technical skills have been the backbone of the HR process.
Developers need to know how to code. Accountants must be certified. Electricians need to know their earth from their live wire. Without those skills you’re on a path to failure. These have become the ‘essential skills’ that employers look for and the tick boxes that get students through the education system.
However, overwhelmingly, emerging talent consider soft skills to be contributing most significantly to the skills deficit within organisations.
We conducted research with 500 high potentials across a range of sectors to find out what skills have had the biggest impact on them and their organisation.
This research shows a stark contrast between those methods of training / development that emerging talent believe to be most impactful and those that are currently being prioritised by organisations. Therefore, in order to truly deliver a talent development strategy that is fit for purpose, the approach has to change.
The proliferation of Industry 4.0 technologies will only exacerbate this further. The innately human or soft skills of leadership, creativity, empathy, problem solving and communication will undoubtedly become more important than ever, as we require people to make the complex human decisions that robots can’t. Therefore developing soft skills will be a key part of future-proofing the capabilities of workforces – but to really master these, osmosis is simply not enough. To really effectively develop these skills we need a significant shake-up of the talent development strategies most organisations are currently delivering.
The time has come to recognise the importance of soft skills. By virtue of their name, soft skills have become a rather poor relation of hard skills. In reality, these are ‘transformational life skills’ – but it’s not just about the label we give them. The skills we need for our businesses to work are the same as we need for our lives to work. And when we make development about the whole person, they engage 100%. And, that is what we need.
Get in touch to start a conversation about support your future leaders, emerging talent or sixth formers.