Procrastination 😉

Ah yes, procrastination. The the art of putting stuff off until it really desperately needs doing…

There is a theory that: “Desperation concentrates the mind!”

However despite this being pretty much a family motto, it’s probably not the healthiest way! Having made a fair few revision plans, I know that time passes quickly. When you’re a kid a little extra time, a little more T.V., a little bit of messing about, seems like nothing… until the deadline is upon you and the panic is on!

Hitting 45 as you know, has focussed my mind on getting things done that I want to do – even my quilting project which so far has been delayed by ‘the creation planning process’ for around six months 😂. Now joined a group to get it started!

Life goes quick. Use it well.

Have a fun rest of weekend!

Love Ruth x

Visual Thinkers

Visual thinkers think in pictures instead of in words. This means we think fast!

It also means we sometimes take in more detail than we realise at first. We jump to the end of a train of thought and forget to explain the steps in the middle. Plus occasionally get overloaded with information and can’t communicate what’s going on, at least temporarily.

The landscape of factual, sensory and intuitive information we use in decisions is not always obvious as a result to those around us. The reflection process can be all encompassing as there is so much data to process and this can mean there’s a delay when answering a question or explaining the reason for a decision. In fact, sometimes it is very hard to voice in words the process going on in our heads. Think TV without the sound!

Photo by Amanda Dalbjörn on Unsplash

Cheri Florance of eBrain Engineering Labs has spent a substantial part of her life studying visual thinkers, as a result of her son being non-verbal as a child. She now helps adult and child visual thinkers to understand their brain and adapt to expected social behaviour. A visual thinker’s behaviour can seem odd to verbal thinkers, as they can experience anxiety in situations where there is effectively just too much information. Verbal thinkers may not see the thought patterns seen by the visual thinker so may just see someone withdraw. In many ways, to the outside world this behaviour may seem similar to autism.  Visual thinkers though are well adapted socially, most of the time.

I found this list of things we may do differently to a verbal thinker, which may help verbal thinkers understand the process we follow better: https://www.lifehack.org/275993/7-things-only-visual-thinkers-will-understand

If you’re scratching your head wondering who among your family and friends are visual thinkers. Here are a few indicators:

“1. Many visual thinkers are naturally original.  Since visual thinkers often think in pictures without realizing it, they may often create mental movies and are day dreamers. This triggers more innovative and imaginative thinking. In turn, they are rewarded with the ability to visualize things from multiple perspectives, making them creative and fascinated with large ideas that may not seem realistic to others.

2. They may not excel when trying to understand topics piece by piece.  Don’t get me wrong, they are talented in witnessing connections between things. Although, they may get frustrated if they cannot see the bigger picture or the “why” in the “what” to begin with. Piece by piece thinkers can see ideas in a linear way. In contrast, a visual thinker will try to see all of the parts at once and how they interact with each other. A good way to take this into account is to imagine a 3D map of thoughts.

3. They are constantly taking in new things.  Due to this 3D way of thinking, they have the tendency to notice and experience more of their surroundings. This can express itself from being aware of the wind blowing outside to the kid tapping his pencil in the back of the room and back to the teacher’s explanation of logarithmic differentiation. Many visual thinkers are easily distracted, but can also feel more immersed in their atmosphere, making them great explorers.

4. They have the potential to remember more or have a photographic memory.  Feeling more connected with their surroundings may cause an emotional attachment to what has happened in their presence. This makes them more susceptible to remembering the details of each moment in their life that would usually be overlooked by most people. Similar to the idea of mental movies that was mentioned earlier, they will visualize memories in a picture or scene exactly how they saw it at the time.

5. They may have trouble putting thoughts into words.  Lots of people have trouble explaining how they feel or even putting their ideas into words. If this is you, consider the possibility that it’s because you think partly, or mainly, in pictures. Often, a person will simply label themselves as a poor communicator. In reality, it’s not the fault of the person, but the way that their brain makes sense of information. I mean, how does one put a visual scenario into words without working harder than most to say it out loud?”

by Alexis Thomas, https://www.theodysseyonline.com/5-signs-visual-thinker

Photo by Rob Schreckhise on Unsplash

“The best indicator is your job, as visual brains lead to visual professions – engineer, doctor, pilot, computer expert, graphic designer, artist, dentist.”

Cheri Florance

Often surgeons are also visual thinkers and respond better to a video of a procedure to learn than a verbal explanation. This may help explain the difficulties visual thinkers have in comprehension. My daughter certainly finds this tricky and in all honesty, it only just occurred to me that this may be the cause… her obsession with YouTube and emojis finally explained!

Hope this was interesting!

Love Ruth x

Diversity Strategy? Now include, please.

I started this blog thinking about hierarchy in the workplace and how to incorporate younger people in board level decisions. It seems to me that the over forties need guidance from the digital generation to enable their business to succeed in the rapidly changing online world. How can this be made to happen?

The current age related pattern of progression and influence may no longer work when the under 30s understand and use more stuff in this territory. A Walkman (seen below!) is no longer cutting edge and, even with the retro revival, just can’t keep up!

Photo by Florian Pérennès on Unsplash

The other week saw the publication of an article in The Guardian on current opinions relating to women in the boardroom. Apparently, we women cannot cope with the culture…

“I don’t think women fit comfortably into the board environment”

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/may/31/pitiful-views-on-women-in-boardrooms-permeate-ftse-firms

To say I’m annoyed is an understatement. Perhaps the boardroom culture just needs to change.

I guess I am a feminist, I just never called it that as I didn’t think it necessary anymore… (not since the late eighties anyway 😧). It seems that this is not the case. As I have a nine year old daughter, I hope her experience is different. However, some indications say not.  Such as the slogans on children’s clothes – ‘Hero‘ for boys, ‘Princess‘ or ‘Pretty‘ for girls – it’s been slightly changed by a recent campaign by Sarah Young, though unfortunately not that much (see https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/tesco-mothercare-sexist-marketing-childrens-let-clothes-be-airtred-boy-shoes-girls-a7881291.html).

For the next generation going into work and the millennials entering the workplace now, isn’t it important to eliminate even the subtle, seemingly discriminatory practice at a senior level? Simon Sinek published a video earlier in the year on what millennials are primed to need in their career – it’s not the same as the baby-boomers or the yuppie generation due to their education style, upbringing and just their experience of the world. This is not surprising and kind of a relief:

Simon Sinek on Millennials in the Workplace: https://youtu.be/hER0Qp6QJNU

Discrimination takes place, that’s a reality, whether due to race, gender, age, disability (physical or mental) and sexuality. As a result, many companies are introducing training for hiring managers to reduce unconscious bias and it will be interesting to see how long it will be until this takes effect, and indeed if it will be effective. Let’s hope so.

Photo by Debashis Biswas on Unsplash

I heard Chris Davies speak the other week, purely by accident. He made it to the final of The Big Painting Challenge on BBC1 this year. It’s amazing as he can only see clearly approximately 2 m ahead and after that just sees colours. (Here is the link to the final on iPlayer: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0b2n3g1)

Chris’ talk touched me as he explained that although he did a degree in design, he was unable to find a job in this field when leaving university. He has invested himself instead in painting and has started to showcase his work on this website:

https://www.chrisdaviesart.co.uk

I guess I’m wondering why he could not find an employer at the time who could accommodate his sight impairment in his chosen area. He has a job now but not one that reflects his intelligence and skill. In the world of web accessibility, wouldn’t he have an advantage over everyone else in defining what sight-impaired individuals need?

I for one am hoping that the inherent biases from entry level up to the boardroom are sorted out by the time this kid reaches working age… I get the impression he will have a pretty strong opinion on it!

Photo by Atlas Green on Unsplash

Have a fabulous week! Hopefully you can change something for someone out there.

Love Ruth x

Management through Kindness

I believe in kindness. Especially in my work life, or at least, I try!

This comes partly from a book that a friend of mine gave me, a few years ago, which has stayed with me, ‘The Power Of Kindness: The Unexpected Benefits Of Leading a Compassionate Life’ by Pierro Ferrucci (ISBN 978-0143129271). Sounds pretty fluffy, but I think it can be used in work too…

I also try and live by a mantra from the Cinderella film:

‘To have courage and be kind.’

(I watch alot of children’s films at the moment, they are full of morals to take into adult life, and this is from the one with Helena Bonham-Carter as the fairy godmother.)

Photo by Oliver Cole on Unsplash

Increasingly, especially for the millennials, people hope and need to have understanding and kindness in their workplace. Everyone is on the wheel of life, working to make ends meet, raising the kids, supporting elderly parents, trying to maintain a social life… while often working full-time. As a result, in work if people do not acknowledge the other parts of your life which are, in some ways your more important life, then things may start to go awry.

I’m being fluffy again, but emotional connection is why most people stay in a job or a company. The support each person receives from colleagues, bosses and peers is fundamental to their loyalty to that role, whether they admit that or not. The ability to influence change and participate in decisions ranks next on the list, giving a fundamental connection to your role in a company.

Having managed a fair few teams in different environments, up to 50 people, I have reached the conclusion that a leaders job is to ‘shape’ the team, not to give interventional management directives. This means both looking at the individuals and their skills, reflecting on the overall company aims and creating a kind of people puzzle. The puzzle includes skills, personalities and roles as well as environment and sometimes training, that will enable the team to reach it’s goal, mostly independent of the leader.

As a result, I like the saying:

‘Bad leaders are feared, good leaders respected and great leaders are not noticed at all.’

(Apologies I can’t find this quote online, so don’t know who to accredit it to, please let me know if you do!)

I believe much of the ability to lead without being noticed can be attributed to a style called ‘servant leadership’. To me, this is treating people with kindness and rewarding kind behaviour in others. Needless to say it requires empathy, true understanding and care. It enables an organisation to make appropriate adjustments to support the team, respond to feedback from the team, overcome unforeseen hurdles and allows people to be themselves, truly getting into their personal zone and working at their best.

I call it People Architecture. The Taj Mahal is the physical version of what it looks like to me, virtually! (Plus I love this photo and the story behind the building!)

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Servant leadership is about presence, influence and setting an example. It’s hard. It requires consistency, rooted in underlying values and honesty. That’s hard.

It also requires giving credit where credit’s due. Plus letting go of feeling that perfect can only be achieved through your vision of the solution, else there is no flexibility for others to problem solve and create their own solution.

By understanding the underlying needs of each individual, a leader is able to build on each person’s self-esteem, talking to the real person, not the image they may like to portray. Of course there is a level of boundary setting to maintain performance, but this can be mostly emotional boundaries and does not have to be just functional objectives.

Photo by Matt Collamer on Unsplash

I hope this has given food for thought and is reasonably interesting…

Love Ruth x

P.S. My grandfather was the kindest man I know… for example, I am useless with directions, so pre-sat-navs, he would lead me out of his home town, my car following his car, until we reached the roundabout he knew, I knew. I miss him. I hope he’s up there reading this and thinking well of me.

The Childcare Challenge!

Back in the day, when this picture was taken, I suspect that things were simpler for childcare in a way. Maybe there wasn’t the level of choice parents have now, especially for women, but most women stayed at home and looked after the kids themselves. Now this is pretty unusual, which brings me to the subject of childcare providers, the highs, lows, pitfalls and for sure the minefield of what choice to make for your child(ren). Not to mention the demands of your workplace and what that means logistically!

A friend of mine wrote this blog recently about choosing to have children or not in relation to work, it’s great!

https://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2018/04/25/guest-post-dont-ask-maternity-lack-thereof-bias-workplace/

My perspective is more about what happens when you’ve made the choice and the subsequent options parents are faced with in order to continue working…

Cost is often the primary criteria and I suspect for many, certainly for me, cost influences much of the choice. Availability is the second factor. In many areas, there is actually little choice. Finally, and the deciding question, is whether you and your child trust and feel comfortable with the person who will care for you child, see them develop and sometimes get to see things you will miss.

The possibilities are mostly conditional on the age of your child.

Initially, if returning to work after the year of maternity leave, there’s the Nursery option. Great hours of coverage, usually 7.30 am to 6.00 pm, but the fees are high, £800 a month when my daughter was born, now more. As a result cost is sometimes prohibitive, especially if you are part-time instead of full-time. Monday to Friday is usually discounted in terms of day rate, Monday to Thursday is not. Sometimes nappies, food and milk for bottles is inclusive, other times nurseries expect you to bring your own… as if the logistics of working while raising a baby/toddler was not stressful enough! Even more painful, parents have to pay even when on a family holiday, to reserve and keep their Nursery place! Nightmare. The best thing for me was that my nursery, who were lovely, potty-trained my daughter. That’s got to be worth paying for!

The light, at the end of this particular tunnel, is in the form of a new nursery format in London, with pay as you go. Let’s make this the future:

http://www.cuckooznest.co.uk/

For those with higher incomes, a Nanny is an option, albeit with the minefield of holiday and sick pay as well as needing to offer a pension. It’s not something I’ve tried but seems successful for others. Just way beyond my financial reach!

A full day Childminder comes in pretty economically compared to a nursery, there’s still the requirement to pay to reserve your hours even when on holiday, but there’s alot of flexibility. They also usually supply everything.

In all honesty, the private websites that are now available for finding childcare have not been helpful for me. Providers rarely reply, I guess because they have enough work already, and I think the early morning and evening hours I need are rarely attractive! More helpful has been the local government childcare registers, for childminders particularly, and friend’s referrals. This is the Oxfordshire website:

https://www2.oxfordshire.gov.uk/cms/public-site/find-childcare

Once your child goes to school, fortunately childcare costs drop. However, for some reason I never seemed to have more money! Suspect other childhood costs step into replace it…

My daughter now uses Breakfast Club and After School Club regularly – after school every day and breakfast as required. She’s nine years old, and loves it! It’s well run at our school and she has loads of fun. For me, it’s also miles cheaper (up to £4 for breakfast and £10 for after school, though this reduces if you pre-book). As it happens, this is a relief, as there’s little alternative where I live. The challenge is that breakfast club is only from 8.00 am which makes early starts difficult and after school to 5.30 pm, so I’m lucky I work from home most of the time.

Previously I’ve had after school childminders, as I’ve worked full time throughout. This gives the child a home environment, which I felt was important when she was younger. My childminders, three over the years, have been great! Both flexible, kind and supportive as I’m often on a day trip somewhere and back late. I consider all of them friends and have been very lucky. My daily cost was about £15 for pick up from school and three hours care each day.

Other options I have tried are after school help at home which works well, especially if your child has after school activities, and covers the late shift if I’m in London or elsewhere. My challenge is still early morning starts… that’s a tricky slot to fill but luckily I have supportive, if not local, parents and local friends.

Finally, there’s the Au Pair option… Overall not the best experience for me for a couple of reasons. I suspect this was partly due to the size of my house, as others seem to find it works. I also found having someone else in my house all the time difficult. I realised and think otherwise have found that it is like having another, teenage child, so not easy. It’s also comparatively expensive, if very flexible, and it may have just been me and the fit with that particular au pair.

If travel is part of your remit, you may also like to read this:

https://wellthoughtthrough.wordpress.com/2018/04/28/single-parents-and-business-travel/.

I hope it’s helpful for single parents and couples alike.

The decision to go back to work and related childcare requirements also needs to factor in salary expectations and working hours. Plus whether Childcare vouchers are available and the impact on Child benefit entitlement for higher earners and higher tax brackets. So in the decision to work part-time versus full-time work, these all need to be in the calculation. As it happens, for me it’s a necessity whatever, but for others there may be other factors to consider.

All the best with your choice of childcare, whatever that is for you!

Regards,

Ruth x

Employ the Kids!

I recently came across Raspberry Pi. It was recommended to me as a birthday present for my nephew – he’s a budding techie, pictured below setting up my new MacBook Pro and smiling from ear to ear…

I had no idea what a Raspberry Pi was. I read the Amazon description and still didn’t. Figuring there must be something in it, I asked around. Apparently most people know already, however if you don’t, it’s a kind of ‘trainer computer’ for potential developers. It’s basic computer parts you put together yourself, install an operating system of your choice and go develop code which can be pretty cool. Who knew?

The kind of technology jobs that exist now, and I suspect will continue, include Product Management, Technical architecture, Development and Design. But what new roles will appear and how on earth do we know what to prepare our kids for?

Already, we have up and coming areas like Artificial Intelligence, Data Science, Big Data, Robotics and who knows what else will be invented with the growing desire to travel in space…

As many people likely know, recently Dyson has founded The Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology, focussed around innovation. It’s affiliated to Warwick University. Among it’s other aims:

“…Dyson covers all your tuition fees, you could graduate debt-free.”

http://www.dysoninstitute.com

That’s got to be attractive and you would hope, encourage the engineers of the future. In light of Brexit, the UK will need to maintain our edge to remain competitive globally. We need to offer something over and above others to encourage buyers to pay the inevitable duty charges that will be introduced. And as Dyson says:

“Britain’s great strength is its innovative, design and engineering natural ability and we’re not using it.”

https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/james_dyson_509705

Recently, I spoke to Arm Limited (https://www.arm.com) at UKSG, who now have a publishing arm. It’s intent is to educate and prepare future employees, to essentially ensure Arm have a ready made skill base to draw from. As this company make the foundations of the processors for pretty much every gadget – Apple, Samsung etc – I figure they’ll need help from the kids for the next generation of development. At the moment there seems to be a lag in the level of education they see in the graduates, whatever the reason. I suspect this is true for other companies too.

These are two examples of how companies are addressing the skills gap, so I wondered how companies in engineering and other sectors are thinking of addressing this too. Wouldn’t it be great if our children were actually prepared for their future possible careers…

Regards (an ambitious, for her child, parent of one),

Ruth

Single Parents and Business Travel….

Is it even possible to hold down and succeed in a job requiring travel as a single parent? Well I do it… so I’m thinking ‘yes’ despite the perception of many people, with or without children.

It takes a great support structure, including:

  • mainly family and friends, relatives or otherwise, prepared to step in and help,
  • a rigorous logistics plan,
  • and, most importantly, a flexible, well-prepared, secure in the knowledge they are loved, small child.

Alex Jones was on Radio 2 the other day talking about her book, ‘Winging It, Parenting in the Middle of Life’ (ISBN 978-1911600015) and I realised that this is a relatively untapped conversation. A friend also suggested it as a potential and lesser discussed topic.

Travel is an inevitable part of many senior roles, and therefore required, and yet is still perceived as inadvisable, for mums especially, to do the level of travel expected. Of course it’s a choice. Of course it has a price. Equally, being prepared to travel enables working mums to reach their full potential in many workplaces and for single parents is often a necessity to make ends meet. I wonder whether the choice to travel or not is one of the roots of the gender pay gap…

The reality is that kids are resilient. Parents can leave their kids with trusted carers. It is possible, just hard.

Preparation is essential. I don’t mean travel plans. I mean mental preparation for the child. Giving age appropriate notice of travel (not much when they’re young, increasing as the child gets older), details of timescales, care and logistics information for them to maintain their routine, and a picture of where your going and why, helps.

However it’s actually hard, not because of the logistics, but because I miss my daughter when I’m away. I trust the person she is with. I know that she is likely having fun, equally I somewhat enjoy the freedom of the responsibility (this is also a mummy taboo…). Despite this, there is a longing to be back together which is a difficult feeling for both. A sort of elastic cord which pulls you, resulting in a kind of relief when you are together again – and lasting approximately 6 minutes before the inevitable bickering begins! I’ve found the physical distance makes little difference, London or Australia, it feels the same.

In my experience, a week is a maximum in terms of duration absent, after that it’s just a strain for both parent and child. A working week is okay. A weekend not so much. The second week, agony.

Until the child is three-ish years old it is easier as they have little concept of time. The main hurdle is when they realise a suitcase means you’re going away. The actual absence is relatively easy.

After four, they know how long you’ve been gone and count the days. They are generally happy to see you when you come back, but there is often a tantrum/reaction period by the child after that – up to a full day with my daughter! They kinda punish you…

From seven, the child understands it’s a work thing, they adjust and adapt, though to be honest there is always some price. Gifts, especially conference freebies, work well. I’ve found they semi-compensate but is not the same as physical presence, obviously. Time spent together on returning is also precious. Do something simple together when you get back and normal is re-established pretty quickly.

I’ll let you know what happens at ten! I’m hoping WhatsApp and Skype will help more as we move to a more emotional rather than practical support phase. Who knows? It’s all winging it as a parent!

It would be great to hear the experience of everyone else. Hoping I can learn…

Will get back to publishing topics now. Safe travels!

Ruth