I Trust You, Make the Call

These Six Words Saved Charlie and Helped Him Change His WorkLife

Learn Through Reading & Doing
Learn Through Reading & Doing

Charlie’s Story: A Case Study:

Charlie had been an investment banker, but he lost his job, and then he became homeless. He had been living a life outside of his means and had incurred significant debt, partly due to his extravagant lifestyle and partly due to his addiction to gambling. He had hidden all of this both at work and at home from his wife, but when his debtors caught up with him, his home, car and everything he owned was repossessed. Because he worked in banking, his employers were notified because of the credit checks they randomly carried out on all employees, and as a result, he lost his job. His wife had wanted to stand by him, but the shame he felt led him to a downward spiral of constant drinking, which in turn caused him to push her away. Before long, Charlie was sleeping rough.

Over time, with the help of Big Issue, Charlie was slowly beginning to rebuild his life.

Then when Covid-19 struck, Charlie was forced to leave his pitch. He was accommodated in a local hotel, which had opened its doors to both frontline workers and rough sleepers. He had access to health support, daily welfare and food deliveries. Gary, who was in charge of the food deliveries and managed all of the volunteers, asked Charlie if he could help out. Gary demonstrated to Charlie what he needed to do, which was to pack each of the lunch bags, ready for the volunteers delivering to pick up. He, in effect, gave Charlie responsibility and then trusted him to do it.

Gary also asked Charlie to add anyone he knew who would benefit from a nutritious lunch to their list of deliveries. Charlie mentioned a few of the men who slept at the hotel, who he met every afternoon at a churchyard garden, and asked if he could bring them their lunch at the end of his shift. Gary said yes, but it was the six words he said next that saved Charlie and helped him change his WorkLife, “I trust you, make the call.” Having been shown such kindness and then been given the gift of trust made Charlie feel like a human being again. It had been a long time since he felt that. It had been a long time since someone had shown trust in him.

Then Gary invited Charlie to become one of the founding members of an initiative of a group of people coming together to help rebuild their community following the impact of the pandemic on people’s lives and the community businesses. Charlie felt honoured that Gary had asked him to be involved. He felt Gary saw something in him, and while he didn’t know what it was, it gave him a sense of self-belief — after all, if Gary believed in him, well, then there must be something about him to believe in himself.

At first, Charlie was very much behind the scenes, doing whatever was needed to support the various initiatives put forward by other people. He was always on hand to lend a hand. He always brought his friends who he had gotten to know when sleeping rough with him, getting them involved, showing them the ropes and then instilling trust in them to get on with it, in the same way, Gary had done with him.

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Throughout all of this, Charlie had gotten back to his love of books and learning through reading. Gary, who also loved reading, had made books a feature of the hotel. An eclectic collection could be found in each bedroom as well as all the communal areas, thanks to the guests and the hotel team, who both borrowed and lent books when they came to visit and to work.

Book Wisdom

It was on opening The Third Door by Alex Banyan that Charlie’s thinking was awoken by these:

Words of Wisdom

“If your dream of learning under the wings of world-class mentors, achieving your biggest goals, or just transforming yourself into the person you always imagined you could be. The Third Door gives you the tools you need — so you can get what you want.”

You see, Charlie had a BIG DREAM, but he didn’t know how to make it happen.

His BIG DREAM was to train homeless people to become baristas and help get them off the streets. And now, he had discovered a treasure chest of wisdom to help him understand the steps he needed to take to make that happen.

The words that Qi Li, one of Banayan’s interviewees on his quest to tap into the wisdom of his dream university of professors, spoke to Charlie, “Thank you for doing what you’re doing. What’s motivating you to go on your mission is, in some ways similar to what motivates me. Every minute of every day, it’s about empowering people to know more, do more and be more. I think what you’re doing in many ways, is a great example of that.”

These words caused Charlie to have three realisations in a matter of moments:

  1. He had been doing the same thing Banayan had been doing. He, too, had been empowering people to know more, do more and be more.
  2. That was the ‘something’ that Gary had seen in him and was the reason Gary had helped him.
  3. He needed Gary’s help again.

And so Charlie shared his dream with Gary.

Gary immediately saw the potential. Because, in truth, it was already happening. It was something that Gary had realised a long time ago, but he knew Charlie had to have that realisation for himself. Charlie needed to see the potential, both in himself and his idea, as Gary had done.

And now that he had, Gary was ready to help him. He connected Charlie to Florian, a restauranteur and advocate for people who were part of the culinary industry, and Pascal, a management consultant who was actively involved in driving greater social responsibility within the workplace and community (both members of The WorkLife Book Club). Together the four of them developed a plan and strategy to bring Charlie’s dream to life.

Because of Charlie’s strong desire and natural ability to empower people to know more, do more and be more, the foundation was already in place. With the help of Gary, Florian, and Pascal, Charlie built this into a social enterprise project, and soon a fleet of mobile coffee shops were popping up all over Shoreditch and surrounding areas, all staffed by baristas who had learnt their craft at Charlie’s Barista School.

Epilogue

The social enterprise went much further than serving up the best coffees. Learning to create that perfect cup of coffee instilled a sense of pride in every single employee. And the parting words from Charlie as each team took their mobile coffee truck on the road, “I trust you, make the call,” gave them the self-belief that they could do this.

All of this helped improve their mental health, which had been impacted by the situations in their WorkLives that had caused them to be sleeping rough. The social enterprise also helped them to find their own accommodation. And being out and about in their mobile coffee trucks, at both regular pitches and also as pop-ups in new locations, helped them discover, rediscover and connect with people in their neighbourhood, giving them a sense of community.

I first shared Charlie’s story a long, long time ago. You see, Charlie is an integral part of Shoreditch life. He’s also one of the founding members of a Community WorkLife Book Club. In New Years Tales, I tell the stories of chance encounters which led to the formation of the Community WorkLife Book Club.

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Charlie’s story is one of the many behind the scenes stories that make Shoreditch the special place it is. His back story was inspired by https://review.firstround.com/the-30-best-pieces-of-advice-for-entrepreneurs-in-2021 and his continuing story was inspired by stories from real-life social enterprises in London who are helping rough sleepers improve their mental wellbeing through meaningful work, find homes, and to play an integral role within their community by being connected.

This story is part of a series of stories that share insights into the characters in my book WorkLife Book Club Volume One Shoreditch. Stories that share insights that aren’t shared in the book to the main characters, the support characters and the behind the scenes characters. While the characters in the stories are not based on real people, they are representative of the people who are an integral part of Shoreditch life, the neighbourhood I live in, which is full of people with different WorkLife experiences. Shoreditch is a special place, and I believe what makes it so, is the incredible diversity of life paths that cross here, spanning the whole globe and many walks of life.

You may also like my Learning Through Reading Series: A collection of stories inspired by real WorkLife struggles and successes presented as case studies for group discussion. The case and the recommended book are the required reading for each book club meeting and help to frame the subsequent discussion.

6 Tips to Help You Craft Great Opening Lines That Hook Your Audience the Moment You Begin Your Story

Many Stories Grow From a Single Sentence #Lesson1 … Success Tells The Story 

Learn Through Writing, Ideas & Speaking
Learn Through Writing, Ideas & Speaking

INTRODUCTION 

The opening line to your story can be simple, eloquent, informative, contradictory, startling, thrilling, curious, suspenseful … But it should propose a contract to your audience: If you keep listening, I’ll tell you a certain kind of story.

In this lesson, you will take time to think about an intriguing way to begin your Success Story.

You will learn to craft the beginning, the middle and the end of your story.

Through Aisling’s story (the protagonist in the story/case study in this lesson), you will learn how to use the 6 Tips to Help You Develop Great Opening Lines That Hook Your Audience the Moment You Begin Your Story. You will also use the #6TIPS as a tool to both structure and test your story.

The #6TIPS:

#TIP1. State your theme at the outset: Consider the central theme of your story idea and brainstorm ways to distil it down to a single sentence; 

#TIP2. Begin with a strange/unusual/interesting detail: A great opening line hooks your audience and captures their attention the moment you begin your story;

#TIP3. Establish your character’s voice – that’s your voice: The best stories are truthful, simple and consistent. Those are the three frame words of delivering great storytelling – truthful, simple and consistent. Over time that’s how brands are built – you are your own brand.

#TIP4. Introduce your narrative style: While each story has its own voice, the attitude, the soul, that’s all you. Let your signature style shine through;

#TIP5. Convey the stakes: Demonstrate the impact of a loss or potential loss of something the protagonist believes is crucial in achieving their story’s goal – Remember, everyone’s story is different. Everyone also has different stories – some will have higher or lower stakes. The important thing is that the stakes need to be high enough to give the audience a sense of the impact of the loss or potential loss to the protagonist;

#TIP 6. Set the scene: Setting the scene gives your audience an insight into what is about to unfold. It also helps you craft the beginning, middle and end of your story.

You will learn to write great stories. And you will learn to increase the quality of your ideas. You will learn to share your unique stories by speaking them aloud.

That’s important because, as Patrick Winston shared in his:

Words of Wisdom

“Your success in life will be determined largely by your ability to speak, your ability to write, and the quality of your ideas.”

LECTURE

“Perhaps the story you finish is never the one you begin.”  Salman Rushdie. 

You may have an opening line going into your story, or you may discover it as you discover your story. Mostly you won’t know your entire story (or I don’t). You will write it to find out what happens.

But you need to have something going in. All stories begin with an idea. You need to have a general sense of where your story is going to go. You need to know the theme of your story. And to know that, you need to ask the question: 

What is my story about?


END OF LECTURE

Let’s look at this in the context of Aisling’s Story: A Case Study:

A TALE OF THREE FUNDAMENTAL WORKLIFE STORIES #LESSON1: THE SUCCESS STORY:

Aisling works independently as a WorkLife learning practitioner and writer. She had taken a year out to write her latest book. Turning up at her laptop every day, creating learning resources and writing stories is her happy place. Oftentimes she’ll write from dawn to dusk, stopping only briefly to eat before continuing late into the night. 

But as much as she loves the solitude of creating and writing, she’s very aware that so much time alone is not good for her well-being and that she needs more social interaction. She’s also very aware that the other side of working independently as a creator is needing to promote herself and her work, and to do that, she needs to get out and about and mingle more. After all, she has a new book to tell people about.

That’s OK because Aisling loves to meet people. She loves to hear their stories, and she loves to tell her own story. But having been out of circulation for so long, she felt her storytelling techniques needed a little fine-tuning, and so that’s what she set out to do.

THE ART OF INSIGHTFUL QUESTIONS AND EFFECTIVE FEEDBACK

Aisling is a reflective soul and loves pondering on simple yet insightful questions that bring about effective feedback. 

So, she began by asking herself:

What type of stories do I like to listen to?

I love short stories that draw me in from the very first sentence because they give an insight into the person and what makes them interesting, leaving me curious to want to learn more about their story.

Aisling knew these were the type of stories that she wanted to tell.

But she needed to know more. She felt she needed the bigger picture. So once again, she posed a question to herself:

What type of stories do I want to tell?

She thought about the stories she enjoyed listening to and why:

Success Stories – people talking with a sense of pride about something they consider to be an achievement in their WorkLife.

Failure Stories – people talking about a time when a failure or perceived failure came close to destroying them and how they moved beyond that to pick themselves back up. 

Passion Stories – people talking about their passion, the thing that inspires them and keeps them actively engaged and motivated in their WorkLife.

Aisling believed that SuccessFailure and Passion stories were the three fundamental stories in all WorkLife communication and situations. – from everyday conversations (including career and feedback conversations) to interviews and presentations to talks and negotiations to leadership and management to networking and building relationships.

She had the answer to her question: 

What type of stories do I want to tell? – her big picture answer – Success, Failure and Passion stories.

She now wanted to get more into the detail about what she wanted to tell in each of her stories. So, once again, she asked herself:

What type of story do I want to tell?

Thinking about the stories she loved to listen to and why she thought the most engaging stories are the personal stories people tell; they’re meaningful simply because it’s clear they have meaning to the storyteller. That makes them unique, which in turn makes them interesting. 

These were the type of stories that Aisling wanted to tell.

Aisling now had the answers to knowing the type of stories she wanted to tell – both the big picture and the detailed answers that would help her to craft her stories.

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In this lesson, #Lesson1, you will learn the Art of Crafting your Success Story. 

In #Lesson2, you will learn the Art of Crafting your Failure Story. 

In #Lesson3, you will learn the Art of Crafting your Passion Story.

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SUCCESS TELLS THE STORY 

Aisling set about crafting her Success Story by pondering the question:

What am I most proud of in my WorkLife?

Aisling considered the question in a way that demonstrates her thinking – her ideas and the quality of those ideas, in a way that shows her uniqueness and tells her truth.

An Aside: Thoughts are a mental process that keep on going in your mind unbated. Ideas are the formation of a plan or process that occur in your mind in relation to a possible course of action to achieve an objective. 

She took out her notebook and wrote down everything that came into her mind.

She went with the free flow of being in the moment, getting her thoughts out of her head and onto paper.

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CRAFT YOUR SUCCESS STORY WRITING ASSIGNMENT

To write your Success Story, Ponder the question:

What am I most proud of in my WorkLife?

Consider the question in a way that demonstrates your thinking. – your ideas and the quality of those ideas, in a way that shows your uniqueness and tells your truth.

Take out a notebook, or on your device, write down everything that comes into your mind.

Go with the free flow of being in the moment, getting your thoughts out of your head and onto paper. 

What You’ve Accomplished: By getting your thoughts out of your head and onto paper, you’ve begun to structure your ideas to figure out your story. 

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Aisling then went about her day, letting her mind wander and wonder on the question:

What am I most proud of in my WorkLife?

She carried her notebook with her to gather her thoughts and ideas and to notice connections.

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LET YOUR MIND WANDER AND WONDER THINKING AND OBSERVATION ASSIGNMENT

As you go about your day, let your mind wander and wonder on the question:

What am I most proud of in my WorkLife?

This can be both consciously and subconsciously.

For example, by tapping into the Three B’s of Creativity, you can consciously pose the question, and then you can allow your subconscious mind to wander and wonder. 

THE THREE B’S OF CREATIVITY

BUS: (Which represents any form of travel and movement, including, for example, walking). Consciously pose the question to yourself, then allow your mind to switch off by focusing on your surroundings, allowing your subconscious mind to wander and wonder.

BATH:  Consciously pose the question to yourself before switching your mind off and doing nothing other than soaking in the wonderfully relaxing environment of your bathroom.

BED: Consciously pose the question to yourself before drifting off to sleep, allowing your subconscious mind to wander and wonder.

Remember to have your notebook or device with you. The process of writing is really important because even in the process of writing something simple – words, sentences, thoughts, ideas, your mind starts to notice connections, and connections are what stories are made out of.

What You’ve Accomplished: By adding more ideas to the mix, you’ll see your story take a clearer shape.

Continue to tap into both of these assignments to help build your Success Story.

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When Aisling was at a place where she was ready to craft her story, to test her opening line and to help structure and test her story, she used the 6 Tips to Help You Craft Great Opening Lines That Hook Your Audience the Moment You Begin Your Story.

Aisling went through her story line by line, section by section, using the Six Tips as a tool to both structure and test her story. This helped her to craft her opening line. It also helped her notice if a section was too busy and needed to be broken up or simplified. Or if it was too dull and needed to be eliminated. It also helped to keep her story short because, after all, that was Aisling’s aim. And it helped to control the pacing of the story.

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AISLING’S SUCCESS STORY

The Opening Line – The Beginning

You welcomed us into your heart and your life, and there will always be a place in our hearts and our lives for you. 

(#TIP2. Begin with a strange/unusual/interesting detail: A great opening line hooks your audience and captures their attention the moment you begin your story – Aisling believed she had accomplished this).

Those words represent what I consider to be my greatest success in my life. 

(#TIP1. State your theme at the outset: Consider the central theme of your story idea and brainstorm ways to distil it down to a single sentence – Aisling believed she had accomplished this).

The Continuing Story – The Middle 

When my marriage ended, I was concerned about how this would impact my relationship with my stepsons – Patrick, Seán and Liam – who had been an important part of my life for ten years. This was because the boys had busy lives of their own, and I wasn’t sure where I would fit in, or indeed if I would fit in. 

(#TIP5. Convey the stakes: Demonstrate the impact of a loss or potential loss of something the protagonist believes is crucial in achieving their story’s goal – Aisling believed she had accomplished this). 

Remember, everyone’s story is different. Everyone also has different stories – some will have higher or lower stakes. The important thing is that the stakes need to be high enough to give the audience a sense of the impact of the loss or potential loss to the protagonist;

I broached this with the eldest, Patrick, who said to me: “You welcomed us into your heart and your life, and there will always be a place in our hearts and our lives for you.” 

(#TIP 6. Set the scene: Setting the scene gives your audience an insight into what is about to unfold. It also helps you to craft the beginning, middle and end of your story – Aisling believed she had accomplished this.

She believed that this reminded the audience of what her story was about. It brought them back to the beginning of her story, and it helped her craft her continuing story – the middle and the end.)

True to his word, he and his brothers continue to include me in their important life events, as I do them. Patrick now had four boys of his own: Conor, Finn, Tadhg and Cian. The time I spend with them is the most rewarding and brings me so much happiness. 

(#TIP4. Introduce your narrative style: While each story has its own voice, the attitude, the soul, that’s all you, let your signature style shine through – Aisling believed she had accomplished this.)

The Closing Line – The End

Being welcomed into the hearts and lives of the people who mean so much to me truly represents the greatest success in my life. 

(#TIP3. Establish your character’s voice – that’s your voice: The best stories are truthful, simple and consistent. Those are the three frame words of delivering great storytelling – truthful, simple and consistent. Over time that’s how brands are built – you are your own brand. – Aisling believed she had accomplished this.)

Aisling then began to speak the words out loud. Slowly at first, and then on fast forward. This helped her to identify words and parts of her story that could potentially trip her up. It helped her to recognise what needed more or less emphasis. It helped her to consider how pacing and pausing could help her tell her story in a more interesting way to draw her audience in. 

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Use The 6 Tips to Help You Craft Great Opening Lines That Hook Your Audience the Moment You Begin Your Story To Both Test Your Opening Line and To Structure and Test Your Story Assignment

When you are at a place where you are ready to craft your story, to test your opening line and to help structure and test your story, use The Six Tips to Help You Craft Great Opening Lines That Hook Your Audience the Moment You Begin Your Story.

Go through your story line by line, section by section, using the #6Tips as a tool to both structure and test your story. This will help you to craft your opening line. It will also help you notice if a section is too busy and needs to be broken up or simplified. Or if it is too dull and needs to be eliminated. It will also help you to keep your story short. And it will help you to control the pacing of the story.

The #6TIPS

#TIP1. State your theme at the outset: Consider the central theme of your story idea and brainstorm ways to distil it down to a single sentence; 

#TIP2. Begin with a strange/unusual/interesting detail: A great opening line hooks your audience and captures their attention the moment you begin your story;

#TIP3. Establish your character’s voice – that’s your voice: The best stories are truthful, simple and consistent. Those are the three frame words of delivering great storytelling – truthful, simple and consistent. Over time that’s how brands are built – you are your brand;

#TIP4. Introduce your narrative style: While each story has its own voice, the attitude, the soul, that’s all you. Let your signature style shine through;

#TIP5. Convey the stakes: Demonstrate the impact of a loss or potential loss of something the protagonist believes is crucial in achieving their story’s goal – Remember, everyone’s story is different. Everyone also has different stories – some will have higher or lower stakes. The important thing is that the stakes need to be high enough to give the audience a sense of the impact of the loss or potential loss to the protagonist; 

#TIP 6. Set the scene: Setting the scene gives your audience an insight into what is about to unfold. It also helps you to craft the beginning, middle and end of your story.

SPEAKING ASSIGNMENT

When you have crafted your story, speak the words out loud. Slowly at first, and then on fast forward. As with Aisling, this will help identify words and parts of your story that could potentially trip you up. It will help you to recognise what needs more or less emphasis. It will help you to consider how pacing and pausing could help tell your story in a more interesting way to draw your audience in. 

What You’ve Accomplished: You’ve just structured your entire story, crafted a great opening line and ran your lines.

AFTERWORD

Keep a notebook devoted solely to this course. While the assignments are designed to help you craft your story in line with the topic of each lesson, you will likely want to continue to build on each individual story and to also build a collection of stories. Having a collection of stories that are unique to you that you can tap into to tell the right story at the right time in all WorkLife situations is what The Art of WorkLife Storytelling is all about. 

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YOUR CONTINUOUS LEARNING ASSIGNMENTS 

THE ART OF JOURNALING AND THE ART OF THINKING: OBSERVATION AND WRITTEN ASSIGNMENTS 

Develop your storytelling ability by making storytelling part of your daily life. After all, storytelling is the best communication tool in all WorkLife situations. Whenever you want to connect to people, tell a story.

Do this by simply connecting with people through conversations. Listen to their stories. Ask insightful questions – remember the old adage: “To be interesting, be interested.” Dale Carnegie.

By being observant, your mind will start noticing connections, and connections are what stories are made out of. Write down your observations. Journaling on your thoughts enables you to increase the quality of your ideas.

This, in turn, will enable you to build a range of stories that you can then tap into to tell the right story at the right time. Your authentic stories because they’re coming from your thoughts and ideas, your feelings and emotions, your beliefs and values, and your learning through your WorkLife experiences. All of which makes you, your voice and your stories unique because they come from your authentic truth – who you are, what you’re about. What’s important to you, what you stand for and what you stand against. 

What You’ll Accomplish: Stories will come to you easily and effortlessly. You’ll become an active participant in your own WorkLife story.

COLLECTING LINES ASSIGNMENT

Start collecting lines – something that someone once said to you that has always remained with you. A line overheard. A line in a performance – film, tv, theatre. A line from something you read in a book or article, or blog. A line you heard on the radio or in a podcast. Wonderful lines that draw you in are everywhere. Start paying attention to both remember old lines that have impacted you in your WorkLife, and to notice new lines that you can add to your repertoire of great opening lines. 

What You’ll Accomplish: You’ll build that wonderful repertoire of great opening lines.

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This story is from my Substack Publication: The Art of WorkLife Storytelling created to help you Learn To Craft Your Unique Stories. 

Every Tuesday, I publish a new story. On the last Tuesday of each month, I make the story available to all readers. The stories I publish on the other weeks are available to subscribers only. Subscribers have access to the full archive. The subscription is £5 p.m. 

This allows me to honour my commitment to create WorkLife learning resources that are accessible to everyone, that also reflect the value at a fair price to all – individuals who are responsible for their own learning, companies who want to invest in the learning of their people, and me as the creator. 

If you think this story would be helpful to someone you know, please feel free to share it.

If you found this story helpful and would like to receive all the weekly stories, you can sign up within any of my weekly ‘subscriber only’ lessons. The Art of WorkLife Storytelling publication goes out every Tuesday. 

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Resources

The Coffee Break Screenwriter by Pilar Alessandra.

The 6 Tips to Help You Craft Great Opening Lines That Hook Your Audience the Moment You Begin Your Story was adapted from: https://www.masterclass.com/articles/tips-for-writing-the-opening-line-of-your-novel#6-tips-for-writing-a-great-opening-line.

Aisling’s learning was inspired by www.masterclass.com, and Neil Gaiman Teaches the Art of Storytelling Class. 

Words of Wisdom was inspired by: https://www.inc.com/justin-bariso/emotional-intelligence-mit-patrick-winston-how-to-communicate-effectively-how-to-write.html.

“Where flowers bloom so does hope.” – Lady Bird Johnson

Lulu Believed Flowers Had Saved Her Life

Learn Through Reading & Doing
Learn Through Reading & Doing

Lulu’s Story: A Case Study

While recovering from a serious illness, Lulu had stayed with her good friend Adam. Adam worked as a cleaner at a local hospital and each day he’d arrive home with flowers that patients had left behind on leaving hospital. With what little energy she had, Lulu began to arrange these flowers in a beautiful way, and soon her bedroom became a sanctuary. In doing this, Lulu began to regain her strength, causing her to believe that the few days of life left in each bunch of flowers was giving her back her life, and helping to restore her health.

On recovering more fully, Lulu wanted to share what she believed was the wonderful healing power of flowers with others. And so, she volunteered at the local retirement home, turning up with arms full of beautiful flower arrangements, which she’d place around the home.

Lulu had an idea to develop this further, by way of creating arrangements to bring to the homes of the people who attended the community centre attached to the retirement home as day visitors. Many had expressed how lonely they sometimes felt, and their carers shared with Lulu that this impacted their well-being. Lulu believed that she could create a sanctuary in their rooms as she had done in her own bedroom, and that this would help their well-being.

But to do this she needed a lot more flowers than Adam could bring home from the hospital, and to do this she also needed money to buy the flowers. So she applied to her bank for help. But her loan request was turned down. They said without experience working in the industry, without training, she wasn’t a good risk. They weren’t prepared to factor her volunteering work into their decision.

Lulu was feeling stuck — she didn’t know what to do next.

Book Wisdom

While Lulu had been convalescing at Adam’s home, she had begun reading the book Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin, which was on the bookshelf in her room. The premise of the book comes from what Rubin learnt about making and breaking habits — to sleep more, quit sugar, procrastinate less, and generally build a happier life. All of this spoke to Lulu, and as she was pondering what to do next, she opened up the chapter ‘Temporary Becomes Permanent: Clean Slate’.

The following words spoke to her and she considered them to be:

Words of Wisdom

“The slate may be wiped clean by a change in personal relationships. Or a slate may be wiped clean by a change in surroundings. Or some major aspect of life may change.”

“Another aspect of the strategy of the Clean Slate? There’s a magic to the beginning of anything. One person might begin an important habit in a place that’s very beautiful, such as a grand hotel or the beach at sunset. Another person might transform a home or office building.”

The clean slate movement is easy to overlook, however, and too often we don’t recognise that some fresh start is triggering a habit change. Because we’re creatures of habit, the first marks on that slate often prove indelible. We should start the way we want to continue.”

While these words resonated with Lulu, she didn’t really know what they meant for her in her WorkLife, she just felt they had meaning. So, she asked herself that very question:

“What do I need to do to understand what this means for me in my WorkLife?” The self-feedback she received, was that she needed to continue to do what she had started — transforming rooms through her flower arranging, turning them into sanctuaries, because the answer lay somewhere within that.

Then one day as she was putting the finishing touches to a flower arrangement in Joan’s, one of the resident’s, room, her daughter Martha came in and thanked Lulu for everything she had done for her mum. She went on to say how her mum, who was living with dementia, seems less agitated since Lulu had been filling her room with flowers. As they continued talking Lulu shared her story and how she believed flowers had saved her life, and that she felt they had deep inner-healing properties.

Martha asked what she did outside of her volunteering work, enquiring if she had her own flower shop. Lulu told her about the idea of what she wanted to do, and the challenges she was facing. Martha asked why she wanted do this, and Lulu responded saying: “I truly believe flowers helped me to heal and to become stronger both emotionally and physically. I believe the same is true for the people whose rooms I’ve filled with flowers. I believe I can take this further into the community, and I believe the beauty of this will also have a positive impact on people’s lives. I believe my purpose is to help people’s wellbeing by bringing flowers into their life.”

Martha, who worked at a marketing agency, said she believed Lulu could crowdfund the money she needed to get her venture off the ground. She said she could help her to create a video to tell her story, just as she had told it now. She went on to say it’s not about what you want to do, it’s about why you want to do it.

Epilogue

True to Martha’s thinking, this approach worked. Lulu raised the money she needed to fund her project. And this was just the beginning. Lulu soon began to be recognised for her work. For the beauty of her creations and her striking talent, and also for how she was making a difference in people’s lives. The positive impact to people’s wellbeing, and also the positive social impact her flower-arrangement designs were having within the community and among residents, as they stopped to talk and take in the beauty she had created. Soon she was getting paying gigs and being sought out to create her beautiful arrangements inside and outside for local businesses.

I first shared Lulu’s story a long, long time ago. You see, Lulu is part of the fabric of Shoreditch life – or should that be part of the soil? She’s also one of the founding members of a Community WorkLife Book Club. In New Years TalesI tell the stories of chance encounters which led to the formation of the Community WorkLife Book Club.

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Lulu’s flowers were featured in my book: WorkLife Book Club Volume One Shoreditch.

This story is part of a series of stories that share insights into the characters in my book WorkLife Book Club Volume One Shoreditch. Stories that share insights that aren’t shared in the book to the main characters, the support characters and the behind the scenes characters. While the characters in the stories are not based on real people, they are representative of the people who are an integral part of Shoreditch life, the neighbourhood I live in, which is full of people with different WorkLife experiences. Shoreditch is a special place, and I believe what makes it so, is the incredible diversity of life paths that cross here, spanning the whole globe and many walks of life. 

You may also like my Learning Through Reading Series: A collection of stories inspired by real WorkLife struggles and successes presented as case studies for group discussion. The case and the recommended book are the required reading for each book club meeting and help to frame the subsequent discussion.

The Longest Way Round is the Shortest Way Home

Everything Worthwhile Takes a Long Time

Learn Through Reading & Doing
Learn Through Reading & Doing

Tom’s Story: A Case Study:

Tom loves quotes. They have helped shape his thinking. They have helped him to understand and navigate through his WorkLife struggles and success. And the timeless ones have become ways to articulate his values.

One such quote is a line from James Joyce’s Ulysses, which Tom considers to be:

Words of Wisdom

“The longest way round is the shortest way home.” The meaning that line holds for Tom is that: “Everything worthwhile takes a long time.” That quote has been his mantra throughout his WorkLife.

A mantra that had helped him through the decade from his early 20s into his early 30s, when following his long-held passion for theatre, on completing his degree in Drama and Theatre Arts, he began his WorkLife by following the traditional straight and narrow path to auditioning for this play and that film, this commercial and that VoiceOver. A path along which he faced rejection after rejection after rejection.

His mantra had gotten him through those tough times. He would tell himself that every dream he ever had about who he could be would be possible if he wanted it badly enough. And if he wanted it badly enough, he needed to work as if his whole WorkLife depended on it because it did. And then it would be. And it was to be. And so, even though every single one of those rejections hurt like hell, he somehow knew he needed to go through them to get to where he wanted and needed to be in his WorkLife. He also knew he needed to be open to discoveries along the way.

Book Wisdom

A book that helped Tom through this difficult time in his WorkLife was The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. In her introduction to the book, Rand said; “being rejected by twelve publishers, some of whom declared that it was “too intellectual,” “too controversial” and would not sell because no audience existed for it — that was the difficult part of its history; difficult for me to bear. I mention it here for the sake of any other writer of my kind who might have to face the same battle — as a reminder of the fact that it can be done.”

These words, this wisdom gave Tom the impetus to continue to follow his dream.

He formed his own theatre company and was involved as an actor, a writer and a director. With his team, he created a community hub that brought people from all walks of life together. Through their productions, they gave people a voice, a unique voice that allowed them to express their identity and connect to their audience from a truthful place, and also share unique aspects of their culture. Together with his team, Tom found an audience for their work.

Through his work, Tom discovered he had a natural ability to help people connect to self-growth at different stages of their WorkLife. It came from a place of managing his own learning. Throughout those years of exploration as an artist, he focused his entire day on perfecting his craft, he took classes, he practised monologues, he wrote stories and scripts, he read books, he saw live performances, and he watched films.

It was in watching films by The Warner Brothers that Tom believed he made the discovery of the motivation behind their work. He thought perhaps it was their undeclared Mission Statement, or even perhaps unknowingly the drive behind their work which comprised of the core elements, To Entertain, Educate, Elevate, Enlighten and Evaluate. For their audiences, that meant:

Entertain — keep it fun and engaging;

Educate — provide learning something throughout the film;

Elevate — leave feeling inspired you can do something;

Enlighten — be able to be light and have fun, and then when you want to make a point, you give yourself permission to go within;

Evaluate — learning about yourself through the experience, giving yourself permission to explore what’s important about the learning that you can apply to your WorkLife.

Tom loved this way of learning for himself and also as a way of sharing learning with others by making recommendations that aligned with their interests — whether that be their current role or aspirational role. This was because he believed it was important not to give advice to people. He believed you can show people the way. He believed that through this people have to find their own way. Because what he truly believed was that people have everything within them to find their own way.

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Alongside all of this and in between his theatre work, to help pay the bills, Tom worked in pubs, pulling pints and serving bar food. At the time he joined the team at the pub, he has since come to manage, ‘small plates’ started becoming a trend in seeking to revive traditional British pub culture. Pubs were going back in time to when a bar snack was an accompaniment to a drink that you could eat with one hand, leaving the other hand free for a drink.

Tom became fascinated with how Chef Jones, when creating each dish, paid attention to acknowledging the past while welcoming the future. Wanting to become more involved and to help in some way, Tom asked himself:

What can I bring to the food table when I don’t have super special culinary skills?

He thought, I’m a creative person, and I’m also a curious person — I like to ask a lot of questions because I like to be engaged in learning from others. I also believe if you want to be interesting, you need to be interested.

Then he asked himself two more questions:

What skill do I have that can be adapted to help me help the team and the business?

How can I take my knowledge and apply it in a different way?

This took him back to The Fountainhead and these words from Rand: “I write — and read — for the sake of the story. My basic test for any story is: Would I want to meet these characters and observe these events in real life? Is this story an experience worth living through for its own sake?. Is the pleasure of contemplating these characters an end in itself?.”

This led Tom to become involved behind the scenes. He began writing the menus and drawing from his background; he wrote a script to tell the story of the pub and the stories of the people who made it what it is. He also wrote the backstory behind the food and drinks. He approached it by writing a script that described the action, the characters, the setting. He built it around hardcore ideas that could be shared with other people so they could explain the pub’s vision. He told stories about the produce they used and how they strived to source from local suppliers as much as they could. He talked about local markets and small businesses and the integral role they each played in supporting the community they served. He then told their stories, and this helped people envision where their food comes from and to talk about it with a sense of pride. (From WorkLife Book Club Volume One Shoreditch by Carmel O’ Reilly — Me).

Tom was back at a place remembering the line from Ulysses: “The longest way round is the shortest way home.” The line that he had connected to the insightful quote in forming his mantra: “Everything worthwhile takes a long time.”

The wisdom he had taken from The Fountainhead gave Tom the courage to move away from the straight and narrow path of auditions to explore new pathways in pursuit of his artistic goals. It gave him an inner strength to believe in himself and served as a reminder not to compromise but to stay truthful to what he wanted to explore.

Tom believes the arc of a life is really circuitous. He went on to become manager of the pub. He believes his love of theatre brought him to where he is now. The place he’s meant to be. He thinks of it as a theatre of craftspeople practising their different crafts daily. Cooking, often costuming for the themed events they run, lightning, sound. So many performers, so many front-of-house people, so many behind-the-scenes people, all of whom are needed to keep all the operations running. (From WorkLife Book Club Volume One Shoreditch by Carmel O’ Reilly — Me).

Epilogue

Tom continues to manage his own learning, development and growth by doing the things he loves to do that make learning easy to integrate into his WorkLife. For Tom, that means listening to podcasts and reading articles and books.

To keep himself focused on his team member’s professional and personal learning, development and growth needs and wants, he asks himself:

What resource recommendation can I send someone this month?

He then aims to send them one podcast, article or book recommendation every month related to things they are interested in — whether that be their current role or aspirational role. It’s proven to be a great tool for opening up dialogues on various topics that they may have not gotten to otherwise. It also helps Tom and the rest of the team get to know each other in different ways and at a much deeper level.

As with Tom, it’s easy for the team to integrate this learning into their WorkLife — on their journey to and from work reading or listening to a podcast. Tom supports offsite learning courses and facilitates onsite learning through doing — hands-on learning for both front-of-house and back-of-house staff, helping them perfect their customer service and culinary skills. He also facilitates their learning through listening and reading — podcasts, articles and books by incorporating a half an hour of learning time into their workday, where they can walk or sit awhile listening or reading. The company covers the cost of books read, and once a month, they come together over a drink and a small plate to discuss and share their learning. The team call it Excerpts of Learning. It’s not a book club per se, but it quite often leads to a good book and or podcast recommendation.

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Tom’s story has been adapted from my book: WorkLife Book Club Volume One Shoreditch by Carmel O’ Reilly

Tom’s back story was inspired by Debbie Millman and Vince Vaughan, who were guests on The Tim Ferriss Show podcast. And David Hieatt from The DO Lectures.

Tom’s continuing WorkLife learning was inspired by a collection of articles from Inc., Wired, Fast Company and First Round Review.

This story is part of a series of stories that share insights into the characters in my book WorkLife Book Club Volume One Shoreditch. Stories that share insights that aren’t shared in the book to the main characters, the support characters and the behind the scenes characters. While the characters in the stories are not based on real people, they are representative of the people who are an integral part of Shoreditch life, the neighbourhood I live in, which is full of people with different WorkLife experiences. Shoreditch is a special place, and I believe what makes it so is the incredible diversity of life paths that cross here, spanning the whole globe and many walks of life.

You may also like my Learning Through Reading Series: A collection of stories inspired by real WorkLife struggles and successes presented as case studies for group discussion. The case and the recommended book are the required reading for each book club meeting and help to frame the subsequent discussion.

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School of WorkLife helps you self-direct your WorkLife learning through resources that have been created to help you to take ownership of your learning in your own space and in your own time. 

What is Self Directed Learning? 

Self-Directed Learning is when an individual is motivated to take the initiative and responsibility on decisions related to their own learning. It is a series of independent actions and judgements free from external control and constraint. 

Resources to Help You Self-Direct Your Learning 

You may find the books below from The School of WorkLife Book Series helpful in meeting your learning needs as a self directed learner. Tap the book title to see a preview of what’s inside each book.

Your WorkLife Your Way 

How To Build Your WorkLife Around What Engages and Inspires You 

How To Use Your Purpose To Help Others 

You can view the complete collection of books here: The School of WorkLife Book Series.

Carmel O’ Reilly is a learning practitioner and writer. She creates resources to help people self-direct their WorkLife learning
Carmel O’ Reilly is a learning practitioner and writer. She creates resources to help people self-direct their WorkLife learning

Carmel O’ Reilly is a learning practitioner and writer. She creates resources to help people self-direct their WorkLife learning.  These include a Collection of Books which originated from her first book, Your WorkLife Your Way and a  Learn Through Reading Series of Case Studies.  which originated from her latest book WorkLife Book Club. 

That’s the power of writing (and reading, which is an integral part of the craft for writers). It helps you find, develop and tell the right story at the right time in all WorkLife situations – in day-to-day communication: WorkLife and feedback conversations, presentations, talks, and negotiations, at interviews, and when socialising and networking in building and maintaining good relationships. The practice of writing helps you to tell the stories that express who you are in an interesting and engaging way.

Three Simple Lessons in Learning to Love Your WorkLife

From a Place of Understanding the Importance of Maintaining Good Morale

Learn Through Reading & Doing
Learn Through Reading & Doing

Reggie’s Story: A Case Study:

Reggie’s is a contemporary story, but it starts a long time ago, all the way back to 1936, when aged ten, to help and support his family, he began his WorkLife in the fish-and-chip industry, when he got a weekend job cutting up newspapers to wrap the takeaways in.

Fast forward several decades and Reggie is still on hand, lending a hand and regaling customers with stories from the Second World War when he was in his early teens: how he played his part in keeping morale among Londoners high by serving up their favourite British food staple. Reggie was known to quote Churchill when he called fish and chips our “good companions”. According to Reggie, Churchill, in recognising the importance of the meal to the national morale and fighting spirit of a nation at war, was the reason he made it the one food that was never rationed. (From WorkLife Book Club Volume One Shoreditch by Carmel O’ Reilly — Me)

Maintaining good morale, his own and other people’s, is one of Reggie’s core characteristics that has driven his WorkLife, and one that he can attribute to wartime and learning taken from Ralph, an American serviceman stationed in Britain, who Reggie got to know when Ralph stopped by for a regular fish and chip supper.

Ralph always carried a miniature sized paperback in his breast pocket and would sit and read awhile over his meal. As they became aquatinted, Ralph shared with Reggie the story behind the pocketbooks. How the recognition that soldiers surrounded by the horrors of war needed books to make their lives bearable brought over 70 book companies together to create a paperback designed for America’s service members: the Armed Services Edition. Sized to fit inside the hip or breast pocket of a military uniform, these miniature books were carried into battle, hospitals, and enemy lands where books had been banned and burned. 

Words of Wisdom 

On asking if he had a favourite book, Ralph’s immediate response was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. He said that the book was sent to the front line to improve morale and how on reading it, he felt alive again. He said at a time when he felt lost hope for his future, the book instilled a belief that he had a fighting chance to survive. 

Seeing how his story had piqued Reggie’s curiosity, the next time he stopped by, Ralph lent him the book. 

Reggie took three simple lessons from the book that have guided him ever since to love his WorkLife through all its ups and downs.

Book Wisdom

Lesson One: He learnt to embrace every day as it came. He did this by being present in each moment, finding happiness in his WorkLife doing the routine things, while also being open to making the most of spur of the moment happenings as they occurred, including being open to chance encounters, as he had been with Ralph and where they could take him.

Lesson Two: He found purpose in his work; he was, after all, helping to maintain the morale of a nation at war. He did this once again by simply being present in the moment with the people he served, having conversations and listening to their stories. He was, in effect, creating a great customer experience for everyone who visited the fish and chip shop and, in so doing, building lifelong relationships. 

Lesson Three: Was one of commitment, when in his early twenties, he bought the business as a going concern from his boss Charlie on his retirement. Reggie’s commitment was to treat everyone well.

For the people who worked with him, that meant a commitment, among other things to pay them a fair wage for a fair day’s work, to provide good working conditions, and opportunities for continuous learning.


For his customers, that meant a commitment to serve them the best quality food and to create a memorable experience through great hospitality. 

For his suppliers, that meant a commitment to support the British fishing and farming industry in sourcing his produce from sustainable suppliers.

Epilogue 

Reggie’s chance encounter with Ralph when he first popped into the fish and chip shop was the beginning of a lifelong friendship, one that began from a place of understanding the importance of morale in navigating through the ups and downs of everyday WorkLife. His encounter with Ralph was also the beginning of a lifelong love of learning through reading for Reggie, one that he has shared with many people over the years when he launched a WorkLife Book Club to support people who enjoy learning through reading – the people who work with him and his customers, who together have enjoyed discussing many a book over a plate of fish and chips, accompanied by a mug of tea. 

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Reggie’s story has been adapted from my book: WorkLife Book Club Volume One Shoreditch

Reggie’s back story was informed by the following articles:

https://www.penguin.co.uk/articles/2020/june/books-that-shaped-the-1940s.html

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/world-war-book-brooklyn_b_6257550

This story is part of a series of stories that share insights into the characters in my book WorkLife Book Club Volume One Shoreditch. Stories that share insights that aren’t shared in the book to the main characters, the support characters and the behind the scenes characters. While the characters in the stories are not based on real people, they are representative of the people who are an integral part of Shoreditch life, the neighbourhood I live in, which is full of people with different WorkLife experiences. Shoreditch is a special place, and I believe what makes it so, is the incredible diversity of life paths that cross here, spanning the whole globe and many walks of life. 

You may also like my Learning Through Reading Series: A collection of stories inspired by real WorkLife struggles and successes presented as case studies for group discussion. The case and the recommended book are the required reading for each book club meeting and help to frame the subsequent discussion.

How Self-Observation Can Help Your Self-Acceptance and Self-Realisation

And How This Leads to Self-Awareness That Can Give You a Greater Appreciation for Your WorkLife

Learn Through Stories
Learn Through Stories

A Case Study: David’s Story:

David learnt the hard way that one of the most challenging management skills for him was to take care of himself first. That’s because he’s a very giving person. He cares about people, and not putting the needs of the people who worked with him before his own felt wrong, and it felt selfish. But he came to learn that this belief not only stopped him from being his best self it also stopped him from helping the people he cared about being their best selves – a management skill he had wanted to embrace.

David is a designer and maker of furniture. Starting out, he worked both alone and in collaboration with fellow craftspeople making unique pieces for clients – individuals and organisations.

His understanding of the material he works with and his passion for bringing out the natural beauty of wood brought about a great demand for his work. Undertaking more and more commissions led him to open his own studio and bring on a team to work on exciting projects together, all of which start from a place of having wood at the heart, honouring a traditional craft with an emphasis on the beauty, grace and longevity of natural materials. 

But as the company expanded and grew in strength of numbers, within himself, David felt a sense he was weakening. As someone who, up until now, had always taken things in his stride, this caused him great anxiety, resulting in him becoming more and more withdrawn from the business – the people and everything going on around him.

Over a beer with his friend, Eoin, he opened up about how he was feeling insecure and uncertain in his WorkLife. 

Words of Wisdom


Raising his glass, Eoin said, “Welcome to the business of running a business, my friend.”Going on to say, “what you’re feeling is normal. People who start, manage and grow a business feel mixed emotions all the time, from insecurity and uncertainty to excitement. Fear, doubt, politics all creep in too, which don’t help, but they also don’t mean that you or the company are in a bad place. It just means things can and will be overwhelming at times.”

While Eoin’s words helped David realise what he was feeling was normal, he was still left unknowing what he should do. He felt his behaviour was negatively impacting the people he cared about. He felt having withdrawn into himself; he had put his needs over the people who worked with him. That felt wrong, and it felt selfish, and he believed it made him a bad manager.

In sharing this, David was surprised when Eoin encouraged him not to fixate or act on his emotions for now but instead to ride it out. To see how he felt in a few weeks when he should be coming out the other side and feeling better. 

Although this felt counterintuitive to David, he trusted Eoin both as a good friend and a good businessman. 

Eoin went on to suggest that David be observant of his emotions during this time. He said some emotions would go after a day or more, and rather than acting on every emotion, it’s better to deal with the emotions that remain constant throughout this time.

Eoin was right. Three weeks later, David was in a very different place. He was in a much more positive place. He once again felt he could take things in his stride. Because his self-observation had enabled him to see that he had been overly focused on managing people. 

He came to recognise and appreciate that he had both laid good groundwork for his team to grow and that he had built a good team that was extremely capable of doing what was needed to continue to grow and build the company. In essence, his company was reflecting his personal values because his good groundwork had enabled people to be their best selves and to help others be the same, all of which came from a place of caring.


Epilogue

Through the observation process, David had an increased self-awareness of his strengths and weaknesses, which led to the self-acceptance of his talents, capabilities and his worth, which in turn led to the self-realisation of his potential, giving him a renewed appreciation for his WorkLife.

In the knowledge, he had built a good team to manage both the day to day needs of the business and the strategic planning needs for the future. With his team, David now focuses on handcrafting furniture for their clients. The carving of each piece tells the story of the wood, the craftsperson and the skills and techniques of their profession. In creating the pieces, they are beginning a story of an heirloom that will be treasured and passed on through generations.

Self-Observation Assignment

There will most likely be times when you experience emotional rollercoasters in your WorkLife. When you do, follow these three steps:

Step One: Observe, don’t act.

Identify your emotions and acknowledge that it’s normal to have different emotions. But wait to act on them when you know what’s real.

Step Two: Give it two/three weeks.

Sleeping on it can help for sure, but some emotions last longer than a day. Continue to acknowledge your emotions and let go of those that don’t persist.

Step Three: Take action

After two/three weeks, take the necessary action on any emotions that remain or anything else that your time spent observing has brought up for you.

I.e. David’s time spent observing helped him to reach a place of self-acceptance and self-realisation through increased self-awareness of his strengths and weaknesses. So, he go back to doing what he loved and what he was best at, which gave him a greater appreciation for his WorkLife. 

If you found this post helpful, you may also like to take a look at The School Of WorkLife books, which are designed to help you fine-tune your learning, development and growth in the areas that are most important to you.

Carmel

How Observational Comedy Helps You to Be Creative In Your Thinking

And Puts You and Other People at Ease in Anxious Situations 

Learn Through Stories
Learn Through Stories

A Case Study: Astrid’s Story:

Astrid was part of a panel sharing her views about the role of comedy in public speaking.

She’s best known for her observational style, humour and storytelling abilities based on the commonplace aspects of everyday life. 

She answered the following three questions: 

Question 1: “What is observational comedy, and how does it put people at ease in public speaking?”

Astrid: “Have you ever noticed the ripple effect of a smile?”

The audience smiled in response.

Question 2: “But what do you say if the room is cold towards you?”

Astrid: “Have you ever noticed how some rooms exude a certain energy, warmth. If you have, then you have experienced the language of a welcoming atmosphere. A language softly spoken and universally understood.”

Question 3: “How does it help if you have a heckler?”

Astrid: “Have you ever noticed how the most intriguing individual in the room seems content to listen more than speaking?”

Observational Comedy Assignment


Observational humour is based on the premise of “Have you ever noticed? It’s funny because it’s easy to understand and relatable.

It helps you to be creative in your thinking because it demands that you pay attention to everyday happenings and to think about how you can apply them to in the moment situations to lighten the mood, putting you and other people at ease. 

To get started, think about opposites. For example:

 Astrid was able to answer the question about unease because she had observed what people were doing when they were at ease – she had noticed they were smiling and the ripple effect that had.

She also knows the importance of getting people to smile – the small steps that lead to bigger laughs – in time.

She had been able to answer the question about a cold room by observing the opposite – a warm room, and she had noticed what contributed to that.

She also knows the importance of warming up her audience – on her way to getting to those bigger laughs.

And she had been able to answer the question about a heckler by observing the opposite – an intriguing individual, and she had noticed what contributed to that.

“Have you ever noticed how the most intriguing individual in the room seems content to listen more than speaking?” Is a line that Astrid has used when she has had a heckler, a line that got a laugh from the room and served to quieten the heckler.

Astrid’s background in standup comedy allowed her to understand the aspects that could cause people to feel anxious when speaking in public. In preparing to answer potential questions, she thought about opposites and then observed by noticing things.

Five Steps To Come Up With Your “Have You Ever Noticed” Line.


Step 1: Think about a situation you need to prepare for. 


Step 2: Think about the challenges that could present themselves.

Step 3: Think about the opposite to those challenges.

Step 4: Observe what’s happening.

Step 5: Come up with your “have you ever noticed” line that describes this.

If you found this post helpful, you may also like to take a look at The School Of WorkLife books, which are designed to help you fine-tune your learning, development and growth in the areas that are most important to you.

Carmel

How to Build Your WorkLife Around What Engages and Inspires You

And How to Let This Guide You In Managing Setbacks Along the Way

Learnt Through Stories
Learn Through Stories

A Case Study: Liam’s Story:

Liam had quite a creative upbringing. He learnt to stitch and sew before he could read and write. He loved nothing better than working alongside his dad, Bill, and granddad, William, at the family tailoring business that had been established by his grandad out of a room of the family home. The business had grown from strength to strength when his dad and grandad had opened a Tailoring Shop together – a first for the family and the local community. Both men were known for working magic with their needles – their ability to fix a whole host of clothing problems, and their talent for creating hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind suits, brought men flocking from near and far – for their alterations and their bespoke suits.

It was always a given that Billy was going to follow at their fingertips. And so, going to Fashion School was an easy choice for him in taking the first steps to building his WorkLife around what engaged and inspired him. But having been accepted onto the Bespoke Tailoring course at The London College of Fashion, he had to turn it down when his dad suffered a heart attack. His granddad came out of retirement to help out to try to keep the business afloat, while Bill focused on his recovery. But Liam knew it was too much for him on his own, and as much as his dad and grandad protested to him not taking up his place at college, he knew it was the right thing to do.

And so, when he should have been leaving for the bright lights of London, Liam stayed in his home town in Ireland, where he soon discovered the lights weren’t burning so brightly. He came to learn that the tailoring industry was in decline. It had suffered at the hands of the rise in fast fashion. His dad had actually been struggling to keep the lights on, causing him considerable stress, which his doctor said had been a contributing factor to his heart attack. He hadn’t told Liam because he knew he would have wanted to help out by staying at home and doing what he could, rather than going off to college. 

And, of course, his dad was right. That’s exactly what Liam set out to do – to try and save the family business from imminent closure if it couldn’t get back on its feet. 

So, how did Liam go about tackling fast fashion? He adopted a slow fashion strategy. After all, that was what he knew. The family business had been weaving fine Irish cloth since 1961, and staying true to their heritage had been crucial in their success. He set about finding a way of weaving their future by going in search of the tailors of tomorrow. Maybe he couldn’t go to fashion school, yet, anyway, but perhaps there was a way of bringing fashion school to him. He approached colleges of fashion in Europe and America with a proposal to collaborate on a project to bring old and new fashion together on a weaving journey from the past, through the present and onto the future – a future that’s sustainable for both the present day and the next generation of tailors and designers.

Liam believed this was a win/win for everyone. Why? 

Because the colleges would get meaningful work placements for their students. The students would get meaningful hands-on experience, learning from a master tailor – Liam’s granddad. The family business would get meaningful learning from the students. 

Liam also believed that together they could create a meaningful narrative using the subject of fashion – past, present and future, together with the importance of the industry in driving economic and social transformation in shaping the lives and livelihoods of the people involved and their communities.

And he was right. 

Four fashion schools agreed to his proposal, and at the beginning of the autumn term, a student from each college arrived to work with Liam and his grandad and to learn from each other – Sarah from London, Emilia from Paris, Tommaso from Milan, and Seth from New York. 

They worked to a brief to develop their own practice within a sustainable narrative, combining best-practice technical skills with novel approaches to heritage, craft, handwork, the re-purposing of materials and design for longevity to build new visions for bespoke tailoring. 


Their semester together culminated in a fashion show which attracted an audience from near and far. It was a huge success for everyone involved. People loved the concept and the men’s clothing range they had individually and collectively designed. Orders started flowing in. Thankfully Bill had recovered well enough to manage the team of tailors that were joining the business. Together William and Liam were preparing to welcome four new students for the next term.

Epilogue

Liam had saved the family business from closure. Not only had he gotten it back on its feet, standing strong in the present while respecting its past, he also had it stepping forward into a sustainable future, driven by a desire for economic and social transformation in shaping the lives and livelihoods of the people involved and their communities.

Liam had built his WorkLife around what engaged and inspired him while engaging and inspiring the people within his industry and the communities they served.

He shares these:

Words Of Wisdom

Believing in what you do – the thing that engages and inspires you in living a fulfilled WorkLife will give you the courage to ‘Buckle the trend’ – to move in the opposite direction to the broad market. A powerful reverse signal indicates a turn against the prevailing market direction. 

Adopt an Opposite Approach Strategy To Guide You Through a Setback In Your WorkLife Assignment

When you experience a setback in your WorkLife and then hit a roadblock in trying to navigate your way through it, draw on what engages and inspires you in answering the following four questions: 

1. When other people are following one path, what is the opposite path I can follow? i.e. Liam took the Slow Fashion pathway as opposed to the Fast Fashion pathway. 

2. What have I got that will allow me to navigate that pathway? i.e. everything Liam knew was based on the heritage of weaving fine Irish cloth.

3. Who can help me along my journey? i.e. for Liam, that was the Fashion Schools and their students.

4. Why would they want to work with me – What’s in it for them? i.e. Liam identified why it was a Win/Win for all parties.

If you found this post helpful, you may also like to take a look at The School Of WorkLife books, which are designed to help you fine-tune your learning, development and growth in the areas that are most important to you.

Carmel

A Turning Point Story: How Sometimes What You Think You Want, and Need Are Incorrect

And How When You Have All the Information You Can Get to What Is Correct 

Learn Through Stories
Learn Through Stories

A Case Study: Nellie’s Story

“Can you just send the minutes – they’re pretty straightforward to write, and we all know nobody reads them anyway.” 

Now those words may not seem to be words that would cause a turning point, but yet they did. To help you understand why, let me share Nellie’s story and what brought her to this point, the point that was about to cause her to turn. 

Nellie is a WorkLife Coach. She works with individuals, helping them manage, develop and transition their WorkLives to achieve what is important to them at each stage of their journey. 

She does this on a freelance consultancy basis, companies bring her in as when they need her, and through word of mouth, people come to her independently of their company because they want to take responsibility for self-managing their continuing WorkLife chapters.

Nellie loves her work as a WorkLife Coach, and while she enjoys the autonomy of being a freelance consultant, going it alone can at times be lonely. Thinking about this caused her to believe that what she wanted and needed to do was to somehow find a way of being able to tap into being part of an organisation without having to be an employee. Something that would allow her to retain the flexibility and freedom in her WorkLife that was so important to her while also allowing her the support and sense of wellbeing that comes from connectivity and camaraderie. The thing that was missing for her, that brought about loneliness.

Nellie was catching up with Troy, who was her first client when she had embarked on her WorkLife as a freelance consultant. He had brought her on board at his company to provide one-to-one coaching to his team to help them manage their learning and development needs. They had long since become friends.

Over coffee, Nellie shared how she wanted and needed to be more connected in her WorkLife. This led to Troy telling her about the committee he was chair of that may help her wants and needs. 

The committee was one of many located across the UK and Europe that helped a foundation that had been established to improve practices in people and organisational development, to serve the needs of their members. Each committee was made up of people who worked in learning and development. They shared their knowledge, experience and skills in developing programmes that served the needs of the foundation and its members. They did this on a voluntary basis.

Troy said they were recruiting new members and that Nellie and the committee would be a good fit for each other, in line with both their wants and needs. If she was interested (and she was), she needed to submit her CV to be considered as a volunteer member. She did this, and she was accepted onto the committee.

But from the very first meeting, she was questioning if she and the committee were, in fact, a good fit for each other. Nellie is very easygoing and friendly and has always connected easily with people – up until now, that is. Three of the members were welcoming. The remaining six weren’t. They were too busy arguing – loudly! Nellie had no idea about what, but whatever it was caused one of them to storm out, saying he’d had enough and was resigning with immediate effect. 

As soon as he’d walked out the door, another one of them – John, said, “good riddance, he was only a waste of space anyway.” Then turning to Nellie, he said, “so, you’re our latest victim,” laughed and said, “I mean volunteer. Well, your first volunteering role is to take over as secretary from that nitwit. It’s straightforward. If he was able to muddle through it, so should you.” 

Nellie didn’t say yes to this, but she didn’t say no either. That was because she didn’t know what to say. But her non-response was taken as an affirmative. Troy assured her it was straightforward and that he’d ask Michael – the man who had resigned to talk her through the role requirements. He did, and it was true. It was straightforward, but as with any new role, it still required getting up to speed with things. She found herself muddling through, and she was quick to learn when she got things wrong because somebody would be quick in letting her know. She was also quick to learn when she got things right because nobody would be quick in letting her know. 

There were elements of being involved with the committee that Nellie enjoyed: her being secretary and Troy being chair, they got to work closely together, and he took time to bring her up to speed with the various processes and procedures; She enjoyed getting to know and collaborating with the three members – Sheila, Ian and Maureen, who had been welcoming to her at the first meeting – together they planned learning events for their members; She also enjoyed meeting members at these events, and learning more about them and their learning needs.

There were also elements of being involved with the committee that Nellie didn’t enjoy: how quickly the members (who to Nellie did very little) were to critique the work of those that did; She didn’t enjoy how argumentative the meetings were – for reasons, Nellie could never fathom – other than, it’s a meeting let’s argue; Nor did she enjoy the little breakout groups being formed that weren’t inclusive to everyone.

Nellie began to feel concerned about her wellbeing. She found herself becoming really anxious ahead of meetings. She was also anxious after the events because no matter how well they went, one or more of the committee would find something to nitpick. And she was anxious when she had to send a committee email because, again, someone would find something to nitpick about it.

And that’s exactly what happened when following on from a meeting, having written up the minutes, when because Troy hadn’t been in attendance, she had sent them to the vice-chair, Sal, to be approved before she circulated them – she was simply following the process in doing this. But when she let the committee know that she would send the minutes on, once Sal had approved them (as requested by Sal, as he was away for a few days), she received the response from John; I shared at the beginning of this story:

“Can you just send the minutes – they’re pretty straightforward to write, and we all know nobody reads them anyway.” 


As I mentioned earlier, those words may not seem to be words that would cause a turning point. But having learnt about the back story that led up to this moment, perhaps you can understand why, for Nellie, they did. 

On reflection, Nellie thinks they were the tipping point that caused her turning point. She’d had enough. She simply couldn’t take any more. And so, in replying to John’s email, she told all of the committee that she was resigning with immediate effect. She let them know she would meet with whoever took over her role to talk them through the requirements. 

She also let them know the reasons behind her resignation – the argumentative meetings, the constant nitpicking, the formation of little groups that weren’t inclusive. She shared how this had caused her to feel anxious and that she was concerned about her wellbeing. She said it was too late for her, but she hoped individually, and as a group, they would learn from what she had shared about her experience and that they would treat each other and all new members to come, with more understanding, coming from a place of taking time to get to know people for who they are as human beings, and not as human resources.

Epilogue

It took time for Nellie to recover from her experience. She retreated to her place of being alone. It didn’t feel so lonely anymore. Unlike her place on the committee, being alone felt like her safe place. 

She took time to reflect on her experience. Her WorkLife, at times, being lonely had caused her to believe that what she wanted and needed to do was to somehow find a way of being able to tap into being part of an organisation without having to be an employee. 

Nellie questioned if what she thought she wanted was correct or if it was, in fact, incorrect. She had joined the committee because she wanted to fulfil her need for connectivity and camaraderie – to fill the void of loneliness. She still wanted that, but not at the cost to her wellbeing, that the anxiety of being part of the committee had brought about. 

So, what could she do to fulfil her needs?

The answer to that question came in a catch-up over coffee with Troy, Sheila, Ian and Maureen, who, concerned about Nellie, suggested meeting up. Following Nellie’s resignation, they too had left the committee – like Nellie; they too had enough. Her resignation email had caused them to reflect on their experience and to question what they wanted and what they didn’t want. 

What they didn’t want – to be part of a committee that behaved in the ways that Nellie had described.

What they did want – to continue the collaborative work they had already begun – planning learning events. Together they had an extensive network of people they believed would find these events helpful. They wanted Nellie to join them in doing this. They valued and needed her input – her knowledge, experience and skills, along with her personable attributes and qualities – easygoing, friendly, someone who connects well with people. 

Nellie said yes, this is what she wanted and needed too. 

Words Of Wisdom

She hadn’t been wrong about what she had wanted and needed; she just hadn’t had all the information. She now knew that X – the committee wasn’t the right thing, but Y – the small group collaboration was. 

Two steps To Knowing When What You Think You Want and Need is Incorrect and When It’s Correct Assignment.

Step 1: Think about a belief you have had in the past about something you want and need. Consider if that’s something you still want and need. Question if the way you went about fulfilling this want and need was incorrect or correct.

i.e. Through reflection, Nellie realised that what she still wanted and needed – connectivity and camaraderie to fill the void of loneliness, but not at the cost to her wellbeing, that the anxiety of being part of the committee had brought about. She came to learn that the committee was the incorrect way, and the small group collaboration was the correct way.

As with Nellie, you may find what you want and need remains the same – so you weren’t wrong; you simply didn’t have all the information.

Step 2: Be open to finding the information you need, to find what is right, i.e. with Nellie; it came to her over coffee through the suggestion to form a small group collaboration to build on the good work they had already done together. 

A turning point that brings about real change, requires self-leadership, that’s about a lot more than simply fulfilling a want and need.

If you found this post helpful, you may also like to take a look at The School Of WorkLife books, which are designed to help you fine-tune your learning, development and growth in the areas that are most important to you.

Carmel

How to Self: Coach, Direct and Lead To Achieve Your Dreams and Goals

Drawing on Insightful Self-Questions and Effective Self-Feedback

Learn Through Stories
Learn Through Stories

Bridget is a poet, a writer and an author. She works with a publishing company when putting her books out into the world. The rest of the time, she works alone, writing her poems and stories. She is continuously striving to establish herself in her work as a literary artist. Her body of works conveys emotion, as well as aspects of art and culture. Her goal is for her work to be financially sustainable.

Bridget has adopted a strategy to self-coach, self-direct, and self-lead herself in pursuing her goal, which is in effect her dream – To be an established and recognised literary artist who is respected for her work, through which she makes a living.

She defines her strategy as: 

Self-Coaching: The process of guiding your growth and development, particularly through periods of transition, in both the professional and personal realms. 

Self-Directing: A series of independent actions and judgements free from external control and constraint. Individualism from an independent mind, without intervening factors or intermediaries. 

Self-Leadership: Having a developed sense of who you are, what you can do, where you are going coupled with the ability to influence your communication, emotions and behaviours on the way to getting there. 

……………………………………………………………………………………………………

Bridget had written poetry and short stories for as long as she could remember. But until recently, it had always been something that she had done in her spare time outside of her work as a teacher. At university, she had majored in music and minored in history and had gone on to teach both these subjects at a secondary school in Ireland. Her poems and stories had always connected to her love of the arts and history, and over the years, she had built quite a body of work. She had created a blog to share her work, and she had also been featured in various publications to which she had submitted her work. She had done this, almost as a way of validating that her work was good enough to be published.

This had given her the confidence that she could develop both her poetry and short stories into books that she could put out into the world. To understand how the world of publishing works, she had set out to self-publish her first book of poems and her first book of short stories. Because of the body of work she had developed over the years, her first books were, in effect, already written. 

Her strategy to self-coach, self-direct and self-lead had come out of her goal, which was, in effect, to publish her work.

To establish a strategy of Self-Coaching, Bridget used the GROW coaching model framework, asking and answering the following questions at each step of the acronym:

G: Goal.

What do I want?

“I want to publish my poetry and short stories.”

R: Reality

Where am I now?

“I have already written the poems and stories I want to publish.”

O: Options

What could I do?

“I could develop my work into a book of poetry and a book of short stories.”

W: Will

What will I do?

“I will self-publish my work as a book of poetry and a book of short stories.”

To establish a strategy of Self-Directing, Bridget researched what was required to self-publish. She found that Amazon’s self-publishing platform has excellent resources to help her learn what was needed at every step of the way. Bridget simply self-directed herself through each of these steps.

Bridget took an approach of learning by doing. She needed to lead herself through the process, the in the moment actions and steps that she had identified through her approach to self-coach and self-direct, and also to understand the bigger picture actions and steps needed once her books were published, to understand what she then needed to do, that would help her to be successful at this initial stage.

To establish a strategy of Self-Leadership, Bridget began to ask herself what she believed were insightful questions to give herself effective feedback to lead her through the in the moment actions she needed to take and also help her to gain an understanding of future actions needed to achieve her goal. These are the questions and the feedback she gave herself:

Is this the best way to do this? Is there a different/simpler way? 

“For now, I believe this is the best way because it’s helping me to understand the process required to self-publish and to get my books out into the world. It appears to be simple. In time I may discover a different/simpler way, but for now, I believe this is my best way.”

What do I need from myself in order to help me reach my full potential? 

“I need to learn through this process. This is the first step. I believe this initial step will inform me of future steps. Learning through each step, in time, will help me reach my full potential.”

Bridget’s strategy to self-coach, self-direct and self-lead helped her achieve her goal: To publish her poetry and short stories.

She had loved the process and the experience, and she wanted more of this. She also wanted to find a way to sell more of her books – she had sold a nominal number of books – mostly to family and friends, she wanted to find a way to sell more.

And so she was back to her strategy to self-coach, self-direct and self-lead to first discover what was needed to achieve this and then to follow through on the actions/steps she identified through the insightful self-questions and effective self-feedback practice she had developed. 

To self-coach, Bridget once again worked with the GROW coaching model framework.

G: Goal

What do I want?

“I want to publish more books, and I want to sell more of the books I’ve already published.”

R: Reality

Where am I now?

“I have already published my first book of poems and my first book of short stories.”

O: Options

What could I do?

“I could try working with a publisher on my next book/s.”

W: Will

What will I do?

“I’ll approach publishing companies to ask if they would be willing to work with me and represent my work.”

Bridget followed through on the strategy of self-directing that she had already established. She researched publishing companies. She found a number of platforms that had excellent resources to help her to learn what was needed at every step of the way to approach these companies. Bridget simply self-directed herself through each of these steps.

Bridget, once again, took an approach of learning by doing. Once again, she needed to lead herself through the process, the in the moment actions and steps that she had identified through her approach to self-coach and self-direct, and also to understand the bigger picture actions and steps needed once she had established a relationship with a publishing company, and her next book/s was published, to understand what she then needed to do, that would help her to be successful at this next stage.

To self-lead, Bridget once again began to ask herself what she believed were insightful questions to give herself effective feedback to lead her through the in the moment actions she needed to take, and also to help her to gain an understanding of future actions needed to achieve her goal. The questions she asked herself were, once again:

Is this the best way to do this? Is there a different/simpler way? 

“For now, I believe this is the best way because it’s helping me to understand the process required to work with a publishing company and to get my book/s out into the world. It appears to be straightforward. In time I may discover a different/simpler way, but for now, I believe this is my best way.”

What do I need from myself in order to help me reach my full potential? 

“I need to learn through this process. This is the next step. I believe this ensuing step will inform me of future steps. Learning through each step, in time, will help me reach my full potential.”

Bridget’s strategy to self-coach, self-direct and self-lead helped her achieve her goal: To publish more books. She established a relationship with a publishing company, who worked with her to publish her next book of short stories. Together, they were working on getting her next book of poetry out into the world. This, in turn, helped her to sell more of the books she had already published, simply because her new book mentioned her first books, which led to sales.

Once again, she had loved the process and the experience, and once again, she wanted more of this. She also wanted to find a way to sell even more of her books – she had now sold a moderate number of books – her audience was extending beyond her family and friends, she wanted to find a way to sell even more.

And so, once again, she was back to her strategy to self-coach, self-direct and self-lead to first discover what was needed to achieve this and then to follow through on the actions/steps she identified.

To self-coach, Bridget once again worked with the GROW coaching model framework.

This brings me back to where I began to tell you Bridget’s story. To how she has adopted a strategy to self-coach, self-direct and self-lead herself in pursuing her goal, which is in effect her dream – To be an established and recognised literary artist who is respected for her work, through which she makes a living. At this point in her story, she had gone from being a full-time teacher to freelancing, working as and when she needed to, to support herself financially. She now wanted to make a living through her writing.

G: Goal

What do I want?

“I want to be an established and recognised literary artist who is respected for my work, through which I make a living.”

R: Reality

Where am I now?

“I have already self-published my first book of poetry and short stories. I have established a relationship with a publishing company who have worked with me to publish my second book of short stories and who are working with me to publish my second book of poetry.”

O: Options

What could I do?

“I could try to find ways of getting more exposure as a literary artist.”

W: Will

What will I do?

“I’ll approach platforms that could give me the exposure I need – as a speaker or a panel member to talk about my work.”

Bridget followed through on the strategy of self-directing that she had already established. She researched the platforms that could enable what she wanted and needed. She found resources that helped her to first identify these platforms and then to learn the steps she needed to take to approach them. Bridget simply self-directed herself through each of these steps.

Bridget, once again, took an approach of learning by doing. Once again, she needed to lead herself through the process, the in the moment actions and steps that she had identified through her approach to self-coach and self-direct, and also to understand the bigger picture actions and steps needed once she had established a relationship with the people who managed these platforms, to understand what she then needed to do, that would help her to be successful at this next stage.

To self-lead, Bridget once again began to ask herself what she believed were insightful questions to give herself effective feedback to lead her through the in the moment actions she needed to take, and also to help her to gain an understanding of future actions needed to achieve her goal. The questions she asked herself were, once again:

Is this the best way to do this? Is there a different/simpler way? 

“For now, I believe this is the best way because it’s helping me to understand the process required to work with platforms to help raise awareness to me and my work. It appears I need to take a straightforward approach to building relationships. In time I may discover a different/simpler way, but for now, I believe this is my best way.”

What do I need from myself in order to help me reach my full potential? 

“I need to learn through this process. This is the next step. I believe this continuing step will inform me of future steps. Learning through each step, in time, will help me reach my full potential.”

Epilogue.

Bridget has begun to establish herself as a guest speaker and panel member, which in turn is allowing her to become an established and recognised literary artist who is respected for her work, through which she makes a living. This takes her away from her writing, but that’s OK, because as Bridget shares through these:

Words Of Wisdom

Twenty times a year, I’ll be on the stage, giving talks or being part of a panel. That makes me the money I need that allows me to spend the rest of my time writing poetry and stories and publishing my work. It also raises awareness to me and my work, which in turn helps to sell my books.

How to Self: Coach, Direct and Lead To Achieve Your Dreams and Goals Assignment 

Drawing on Insightful Self-Questions and Effective Self-Feedback

To establish a strategy of Self-Coaching, use the GROW coaching model framework, asking and answering the following questions at each step of the acronym:

G: Goal.

What do I want?

R: Reality

Where am I now?

O: Options

What could I do?

W: Will

What will I do?

To establish a strategy of Self-Directing research what is required to achieve your goal. As with Bridget, you will most likely find platforms that have excellent resources to help you to learn what is needed at every step of the way. Simply self-direct yourself through each of these steps.

Take an approach of learning by doing. You will also need to lead yourself through the process, the in the moment actions and steps that you have identified through your approach to self-coach and self-direct, and also to understand the bigger picture actions and steps needed once you have achieved your first goal, to understand what you then need to do, that would help you to be successful at this initial stage.

To establish a strategy of Self-Leadership, begin to ask yourself insightful questions to give yourself effective feedback to lead you through the in the moment actions you need to take, and also help you to gain an understanding of future actions needed to achieve your goal. You may choose your own questions, but to get started, you can work with the questions Bridget asked herself:

Is this the best way to do this? Is there a different/simpler way? 

What do I need from myself in order to help me reach my full potential? 

That’s it. Those are the steps to follow your initial goal/dream and every future goal/dream.

If you found this post helpful, you may also like to take a look at The School Of WorkLife books, which are designed to help you fine-tune your learning, development and growth in the areas that are most important to you.

Carmel