Posted by: ginalazenby | November 26, 2018

Mastering Body Language for Connecting in the Digital Age

Our Conscious Cafe Skipton group at Avalon Wellbeing Centre with speaker Carole Railton seated front row right.

Behaviourist, Carole Railton, is one of the world’s leading experts on body language and how we can adapt in the digital age.  London-based Carole joined us in Skipton in November for a Conscious Cafe briefing and discussion about modern body language. 

Carole shared and demonstrated several tips for us to connect. She also brought up several copies of her book “The Future of Body Language: How to Communicate Effectively in Business Through Multimedia” which sold out. Most of what she discussed can be found in that book so if this is a subject which interests you, you can get hold of your own copy here.

We had a fun evening and I’m going to share 4 key things that we learned that you might also find interesting and helpful.

We learned that we give off so many unconscious signals to others. Our communication with others is on so many more levels than the words we speak.  Speaking is just a small part. We make our minds up about others in just five seconds and Carole pointed out that in the Digital Age, that judgement online goes down to just 3 seconds!  The more we can understand about our own signals and how we read others, then the stronger connection we can make when we speak and reach out to individuals or groups.

As Carole suggests, understanding body language becomes even more important where technology is increasingly used. Rather than letting phones, Facetime and Skype become barriers to connection, especially when we are long distance from others, we can learn how to make subtle changes so we make deeper connection and are better understood. 

1 Being Regal

A great tip for when you are about to speak, either online on Zoom, or for a video or live on a stage. Make yourself regal to adjust your posture to create a powerful foundation for your speaking. 

  • Walk round with a crown on your head… Carole had us all walking round the room with this imaginary crown. This keeps your head straight and still which reinforces the connection between your head and body.  It also slows you down. Slow is good. The more senior you are the less movement you make and the slower you are … think of the Queen.
  • Now imagine a heavy cloak on your shoulders. This will pull your shoulders back and down to open up your lungs and breathing. Breath is everything in speaking.
  • Now imagine that you have a long tail. It’s rather like having a third leg and it helps you keep balanced. The regal stature will give your voice and speaking more authority.

2 Feet on the ground

You need to be stable when you speak. Everything straight and firmly grounded. Twisted feet, crossed legs, one foot off the ground, slouching .. all these things affect what you will say and how you say it. Watch people on TV interviews (the BBC’s Andrew Marr show is a good one for seeing the whole person sitting including their feet and judging who is winning the argument .. and who is on the back foot!).   

Sit or stand with BOTH feet planted firmly on the ground, and straight.  It does take training and practice but helps you remain calm, clear and focussed particularly when under pressure. And make sure you wear appropriate sized shoes that are comfortable.  Personally, I can feel the difference between wearing attractive high heeled shoes and when I speak wearing flatter shoes without those gorgeous heels. So I might rock up to a speaking event with two pairs of shoes and change before I do my talk so I can feel more grounded and stable with my speaking … it all depends on the event and what level of support I think I need but I am aware of the difference.

3 Keep Still

The more senior you are, or are perceived to be, the less movement you make. Less is definitely more in this case.  Top speakers and leaders do not make distracting movements and they keep their body language tight and controlled. They are economic with gestures.  Carole revealed that when she coaches women speakers and executives, she points out to them that women can fall into the trap of making too many movements and thereby diminishing their authority in the eyes of others present. It’s all subconscious!  

Watch out for when you might be searching around on your desk for papers and pen in a video presentation .. get ready beforehand. When going into a meeting, resist the temptation to rifle through your handbag or briefcase for pen/pad or iPad. Try strolling in and making one single powerful streamlined gesture. Be neat and tight with your body language to create a more powerful impression and command authority.

Carole has been asked to review the top TED speakers in the world. The TED videos are an amazing phenomenon and some of the most popular speakers go viral with millions of viewings. TED have pioneered the power of shorter presentations and none of them are longer that 18 minutes … this really encourages people to think more deeply about the points they are passionate about and not take a whole hour to make impact. Read Carole’s review. Each speaker uses some of the body languages techniques that make a powerful speaker … but none of the speakers use them all!

4 Connect to influence rather than persuade

If we want to make a point, get our ideas across, win an argument or simply be understood, then it is best to do so in a way that you connect with the other person. That way you influence them to  come over to your side rather than persuading them. Subtle difference.

You do this by look them in the eyes when you speak and because we receive information into our left side, you speak looking into their left eye.

This will work if you are relaxed, your breathing is relaxed and you make it normal. Again, both feet straight on the ground. You can break contact and look back but don’t take on an interrogation stance. Speaking and looking into someone’s left eye will help connect with them and they will drop in to the same pattern and do the same to you. It can take a bit of practice but it is a great tip for connecting with people. It is all about speeding up understanding and communication. It is not about manipulating because if you are not genuine you will not be able to hold that eye contact in a relaxed way. 

To get a fuller briefing on all these points, I recommend you read Carole’s book



Posted by: ginalazenby | November 11, 2018

Is it time to re-think work?

Re-thinking how and why we work – Conscious Cafe met at the newly opened Avalon Wellbeing centre at Broughton Hall, Skipton. Here we are with Avalon co-founder (centre, 4th from right) Paris Ackrill.

Is it time to re-think work?

This was an interesting though for our October Conscious Cafe which took on the subject of the future of work for our discussion. There had been quite a bit of coverage in the press about the Green Party’s policy recommendation for the country to switch to a shorter working week … as the norm. They were proposing a permanent four day week as the standard expected by the Government. I recall many years ago the New Economics Foundation (NEF) putting forward the idea of a 21 hour work week. I’ve always wondered how that would work. It seemed so radical.  The NEF want us to work to live, not live to work. How can we take on such a radical idea?  Well the NEF don’t have all the specific plans in place but they want people to engage with the idea and talk about it. So that is what we did for our evening in October at the Avalon Centre for Wellbeing. And coincidentally, wellbeing is at the very heart of this conversation.

A four-day week or 21 hours is not simply a reduction of hours or workload, it involves a fundamental strip down of the psyche, a massive shakeup for how we see ourselves and what work means to us. It is not just about working less and having less pay, it is about reevaluating life and how we spend every precious day.

How would we be affected by a shorter working week?

There’s more to think about than financial needs when we are trying to figure out how 21 hours a week could work. That’s a complicated and tangled issue that is too complex to resolve in a short conversation, in fact it looks unresolvable. As soon as we delve into that then we are asking ourselves more questions, ones with highly complex answers. And in this whole working downshift, who will be left behind? Those who are disempowered and not financially strong enough to make the choice. But is it a choice? What happens when we ask ourselves: “Can I afford to work less …..Will my needs being met?”

What the NEF is arguing is that we need to shift away from being consumers and creating a life where we have to work longer and longer in order to afford more modern living expenses. We are falling in to the trap of earning so we can buy more things and experiences that are not necessary to our fundamental well-being. With a deeper connection to our own inner world, more time reflecting on who we are, we might lessen within us the need to strive and compete, and push ourselves to spend. Duane Elgin’s book ‘Voluntary Simplicity’  (published in 1982) is an anti-consumerist handbook and persuasively sets out a way of living that is not just outwardly simple, but inwardly rich. Lynne Twist, author of  ‘The Soul of Money’  speaks powerfully of the role of money in our lives and says we have lost track for what is sufficient… we need to stop and ask ourselves … what is enough? Both authors point to what the NEF is flagging up, that our consumer needs are outstripping the planet’s ability to provide, hence the Green Party want to take this premise on as a core part of their manifesto.

Life Unbalanced

A full working week may provide us with just enough money but for many, the downside of working longer and harder is an unbalanced life. A whole industry has been built on the angst of working people who seek treatment for their anxiety. It’s forecast that work stress will be one of the biggest killers in the next decade.  In our society today, we have a massive tendency to overwork in terms of quantity of hours or intensity of effort. This leads to various kinds of personal health crises and burnout. When people grind to a halt, as so many invariably do, they then have to organise their own recovery and begin to make new choices about how they will construct their life and work with greater emphasis on quality of life, and maybe different work that engages them in new ways… perhaps taking on more enjoyable and fulfilling careers. If society valued the unpaid work that many people have to engage in and prized non-work activities then that might reduce burn out.

Here are some of the insights and nuggets from our Conscious Cafe discussion:

  • employers should not treat people like machines: we are not robots. We have rhythms and cycles. Sometimes we need downtime for our mental or physical wellbeing. With such an emphasis on speed we are encouraged or expected to power through times when we do not feel well or we feel compromised.  If we feel the need to pull back, it would be great if we could feel supported in taking care of ourselves without being penalised. 
  • With the right knowledge we could work smarter rather than harder. If we were taught more about our own bodies and understood our own needs then we could manage ourselves better to the benefit of all.  So much research has been done now about our brains and how they function. Rest and pleasure are powerful ingredients for being creative. Certain environments and atmospheres help with learning, recovery and productivity.
  • Recovery time is important. The gap between intense work and being around computers and electromagnetic fields can be too short to recover for the next bout of work. And so many people are not using the right modalities for recovery .. alcohol and watching TV do not regenerate, they simply anaesthetise us. We need longer gaps between work and access to activities that restore our wellbeing.
  • Compassion is key. This needs to be married with the drive for success and achievement that pervades many workplaces. Yes let’s achieve but at what cost are we arriving at personal and company goals? What cost to the self .. the whole .. to the long term … to the community … the planet? If we build compassion into the fabric of life as a norm it would be a game changer.
  • It starts with compassion for self: if compassion is not seen as an important value but one that needs to emerge in business, then it has to start with us. How can we care about others if we don’t care for ourselves?
  • Spreading the love: in our quest to serve and help others, do we give too much away? Are we giving more to strangers that to our own family and loved ones? Who deserves more of our love, attention, energy, focus and care?
  • If I work longer do I produce more? there are so many examples where people achieve the same or more in less time through focus because they have to accomplish in a shorter period … so they do.  Presenteeism ….just being in the officer at work, does not make you more effective. 
  • What are we teaching girls about work?  there were examples of being taught at a girls’ school to value accomplishment and achievement over home-making and family life. Education that used to prepare girls for less demanding careers and more focus on being married to a breadwinner were deeply criticised. Has the pendulum swung too far? Women who were not taught the value of being a home-maker are having to re-program themselves. Can we teach a more balanced approach to paid and unpaid work. Does the education of boys include teaching about equality in relationships and home life?
  • Care work is not valued. This is one of society’s biggest needs, particularly with an ageing population. Care work is ether very low paid or for many, it is unpaid work done on a volunteer basis by family or community. Those engaged in the care industry are not seen as doing important work and yet their contribution enables the rest of society to function. 
  • Unpaid and domestic work needs to be valued: where domestic work is done in a home by one of the partners, male or female, that supports the household and family life, this work needs to have increased status and be valued. Where this work, often invisible and always unpaid, is not valued, it creates an imbalance in the relationship and can be a source of unhealthy discord. The law values the unpaid contribution in women in the home when it comes to divorce .. society needs to take this recognition out of the court room and into the marketplace.
  • Inequality: we can’t let the progress that allows people to make choices about working less hours or days a week to exclude those already living on the edge financially. Some people work many more than the standard 40 hour work from deep need just to stay afloat. How do we make sure that everyone is included in the quest for a more balanced life?
  • Work is seen as suffering. How have we constructed work as a deficit, as a burden to be endured? That work is effort that takes something from you and has to be endured until you are fortunate enough to retire and do nothing? 
  • Can we love work? What if it were seen as a source of joy and that was the mutual expectation of employees and employers?
  • We only have one life…. this is not a rehearsal. That being the case, how can we arrange our lives so we enjoy every moment?   The realisation that there is more to life than the ‘daily grind’ can come to us when we face mortality in ourselves or others … or we look breakdown in the face. Why wait til we get to that point before we take on the brave choices of creating a different life for ourself? There comes a point for many when quality of life becomes the most urgent priority. Why wait until we are ill before we seek a work life that has more meaning?

New technology,  with the advance of robots and artificial intelligence, will potentially make workloads more efficient and even remove some jobs altogether.  The School of Life have produced an information pack, presented as a card game, with 52 careers listed and an indication of the risk of each one being replaced by a robot. 

One card particularly caught my attention among the careers of Dermatologist, Coroner, Zoologist and Uber Driver, and that was “HomeMaker”. On each card is a rating (1-100) for ease of entry, pay and among other things, the risk of being replaced by a robot. You can read the full list here. I was intrigued to see that even the Homemaker actually had the possibility of replacement by robot which is surprising but I did love what was written about the homemaker role and I feel it sums up where society is with care work. 

Homemaker The Ultimate Multitasker 

What the job involves: probably the most important job in the world but that carries no salary – and, furthermore, requires constant kindness, patience and generosity. If you do the job well, no one thanks you for (possibly) 30 years. If you get it wrong, you will be blamed in therapy almost continuously. The job has deep intrinsic satisfactions, but extremely low status. People who do it often say they do ‘nothing’ when asked for their profession by busy bankers at dinner. 

Who it would suit: someone who wants to change the world and knows that it changes through the wise, disciplined and kind upbringing of children. Someone who will not get medals, while deserving them. The upholders of civilisation. 


Difficultly difficulty of entry 2

Job stability 99 

Meaning/purpose 95 

Salary 0

People skills required 100 

Stress levels 82

Degree of nonsense 1

Risk of being replaced by robot 19





We ended the evening with much food for thought with personal realisations about the rightness of the brave choices yes that we have made, how fortunate we are to have access to resources to make choices, how consuming work can be and the power of taking time off to rebalance ourselves.

Join us for our next Conscious Cafe on November 15th.

Posted by: ginalazenby | October 12, 2018

How to Create Circles of Trust


A small gathering of Conscious Cafe in September at Gina Lazenby’s Healthy Home in Skipton

How to Create Circles of Trust 

  • a Conscious Cafe conversation in Skipton in September

For our September gathering, in our opening discussion we shared about our individual understanding of the evening’s topic and what called us to take part. There were two separate conversation threads. One was about the issues that arise when trust is given then broken, and the pain that follows, while the other was about building circles of trust as communities of support, and how these can be expanded.

What we all seemed to agree on was the value of the Conscious Cafe Skipton as a circle of trust. The group that comes together for these meets is a very supportive community where we feel we can share more deeply with others, even when we don’t know the people well. Such is the atmosphere of trust that we have created and continue to build on at each event, that we feel empowered to share and be open and vulnerable. No matter how personal and individual we think our story, there is always another person, and often more, who resonate with the experience and feelings, and the ensuing exchange provides a gift for all. Just having a circle of people willing to listen can transform a situation without anyone needing to offer advice. It is the being heard that can be so healing for both the large and small life events that can take over our lives.

It seems that the key to a Circle of Trust is having a small group of people who are willing to listen without judgement. How can that be created?  The example of Conscious Cafe is that there are rules that are explained .. everyone has an equal voice, there is a generosity for listening and a curiosity for people to understand more about a subject and how other people relate to that subject. Once you feel that that there is a listening for whatever you have to say, then it is easy to make a single step forward and based on the supportive response, the next steps open up for you.  As long as we can listen with compassion we can provide the opportunity for others to share  and risk vulnerability.

Gina explained how she has been running Women’s Gathering for years and has established them as Circles of Trust that may continue as communities of support or may just last for the one evening that they are convened. Each one is based on a circle of sharing and listening.

Expanding your Circle of Trust: 

  1. It starts with us. How open are we? Perhaps we need to drop our guard a little and be willing to be more open. Have we set boundaries for others people not to get too close that we could perhaps relax? 
  2. With a desire for your own self-protection, is there something that you do that pushes people away? Can you find ways to let down your walls, close the gap between you and others and be more trusting?
  3. It can be hard when others set boundaries around how much they will let us in to their lives but we have to honour them. Most people do this for their own protection rather than something being wrong with us. How wonderful when we find a true friend with whom there are no parameters and we can have unconditional friendship.  
  4. Be aware of how to create boundaries and learn to adjust them as necessary.
  5. Yes it takes confidence to move out into the world and find a wider circle, but you can test the water without jumping right in. Small steps. 
  6. Let go of your pride, ask for help. Be surprised at the magic that can follow when people step forward to help and end up being in your circle of trust. Sometimes all it takes is for you to open the door, and you have the key.
  7. Seek and you will find. Set the intention for finding new friends and allies with whom you can build trusting relationships. Make yourself open and synchronicity usually delivers. Allow things to come to you and be open-minded when they show up.
  8. Maybe you need to start your own club around an idea you are passionate about (books, films, walking, animals).  That always helps bring you closer to like-minded people.  

Changing a Circle of Trust: 

  1. How great a gift to have long-standing friends who know us over the years or to still be in touch with childhood friends with whom we have shared so much.  A best friend over the decades who truly knows us and to whom we can always turn. 
  2. Sometimes, as we grow and evolve, our friendships may not move with us and we can reach a point that our values have become different to those who have been closest to us. It is not a failing on our part but we need courage to be honest and to let these people and friendships go to be replaced with new friends with whom we can fully share our expanded selves. Being on the same path as someone else can bring a closeness that does not take years of shared history to create.
  3. It can be liberating to realise and acknowledge that your current friendships no longer serve you. 

Self Trust is at the heart of everything: 

  1. How do we know who to trust? As much as we can ask others for advice and research someone, we have to use our own judgement in each situation. What feels right?  Only we have the answer and that means we have to go within and trust our feelings. The better you know yourself, the more self reflection you have, then the more likely it is that you will know when to share and with whom. Trust your own judgement.

When Trust is broken: 

  1. This can be so very painful. And of course there are degrees of trust and different levels of what you might consider lapses or betrayal. But once it is broken it can be very difficult to regain, if at all. It is worth delving into our compassionate nature and trying to be generous by exploring why trust has been broken. Was it a simple lack of awareness that a direct conversation can resolve? Was the breaking of trust done out of malice with the intent to harm you? Or was what happened a hard choice made and the means for the other person to protect themselves? However hurt you might be, it is worth taking a look before closing the door on the relationship or situation.
  2. It is healthy to find ways to forgive and move on otherwise one episode of broken trust (however major) can close you down in a way that you think is self protection but is actually limiting your growth. Painful memories always find a place to live inside the body. They need to be removed. One simple way is crying. There are others and professionals can help in releasing traumas.  

A Circle of Trust can be just two people: 

  1. When someone is sharing with you and you start to hear them speak against someone else, it takes strength and courage to say: “This is gossip and I’m sorry I don’t want to hear it”.  But say it you must in order to feel congruent. Listening to gossip is being unkind to someone else and breaking their trust in you. You always have a choice no matter how hard.

Does Trusting change over the years?: 

  1. Getting older and reaching transition ages of 40, 50 and 60 can cause us to be more self examining. Perhaps as we age we might find we build more circles of trust outside our own family. 
  2. There is something about ageing and shifting identity that can cause us to lose our confidence, or least feel challenged as we go through transition processes. Losing friends later in life can perhaps affect us even more as we face life transitions. Kindness to our own selves is so important. We can forget to care for ourselves. People seem to find it much easier to beat themselves up than to be kind! We can have plenty of “should” phrases inside our heads about what we think we ‘should’ do or how we ‘should’ feel. Let them go. 

The key to building Trust: 

  • Be authentic and honest, share who you are.
  • Be willing to be vulnerable.  Very often this gives permission to others to do the same.
  • Stop judging and start reaching out.
  • Stop being wrapped up in your own little world and be open to others.
  • Be kind. Decide to respond to situations and people instead of reacting. 
  • Learn a new language for expressing how you feel. Discover ways to talk about feelings, that you may not feel a fluency in, but be patient while you explore this. 
Posted by: ginalazenby | July 11, 2018

How to have “Making a Difference” as part of your life

Guest Facilitator Dr Phyllis SantaMaria (centre) joins our Conscious Cafe evening in June for a M.A.D. discussion !

We had an inspiring and informative evening exploring the concept of making a difference…. M.A.D. for short. What did that concept actually mean in our day to day lives? The surprising learning was how we might be doing so much already without realising .. and how we can do much more, with just a little extra awareness and attention.

For this evening we had a guest speaker from London. Dr Phyllis SantaMaria joined us to share her life’s work. Starting out in a family of ten children in the segregated south of the USA, Phyllis’ early upbringing and personal journey have very much informed her choice of career and work. Her entrepreneurial drive came from her parents who were enterprising in their quest to create a living that would care for a very large family and also give benefit to others. One of Phyllis’ most powerful early memories were of a local black resident who worked in a grocery store. Even though his neighbours were white, he still brought home leftover vegetables for Phyllis’ large family. She never forgot this kindness that crossed a massive chasm of separation by race and prejudice. 

Very much influenced by her family’s desire for social justice and their community work, Phyllis became a US Peace Corps Volunteer in remote Guatemala where she formed the first Guatemalan weaving group with Mayan women, resulting in socio-economic impact that she managed to track through five decades’ of friendship.  Similarly her work in Kenya, Germany and the UK has been in transformational education.  Twice a UK national coordinator, first for the BBC’s Domesday Project and secondly for the UN Year of Microcredit, winning UN and World Bank awards. Passionate about having helping people have their work and life create social impact, we were delighted to welcome Phyllis to our Conscious Cafe in Skipton. 

Phyllis is currently writing a book on this subject looking at what any of us might do that ends up creating a social impact. Very often people can feel that making a difference in the world involves doing something big or providing more of our energy and money than we feel we might be able to give.   

It is more effective and satisfying to direct our resources into an area that we are more certain needs what we have to give … and that what we offer, actually works.  Does anyone remember stories of western aid given to third world countries where containers of “aid” were left on the docks because they were the wrong kind of help or could not get through to where they were needed? Such a waste.

Personally, I recall being involved in a women’s leadership program in rural India spearheaded by the Hunger Project. Originally wanting to help villagers, cash was donated. This was primarily used by the men, and wasted on alcohol. So to circumvent this, the money was then given to the women for them to use but it was taken from them by the men and used for alcohol. Finally, it was resolved not to donate cash at all but to set up leadership training for the women so that they were empowered to create their own change in their villages. The investment was the same but it was spectacularly successful in creating the social impact needed.

 Phyllis led the discussion by stating that beyond what we might know we are doing with our time and money by donating to good causes, we are each likely doing many more things that are having an impact on people’s lives … or we could easily do more at relatively small cost to ourselves if we changed our awareness.

Skipton Conscious Cafe June resources worksheet

Shining a light on examples of the resources we have and how we might be using them, Phyllis gave eight ways that we can make a difference. 

  1. Eyes: Reacting to what we see – responding to a lonely neighbour, noticing workers paid too little for the service provided (The Church is getting behind a campaign to report on modern day slavery at places like car washes and nail bars), seeing products that are far too cheap and not buying them.
  2. Ears: Listening out for and reacting to talk about the increase in Food Banks, the disengagement or dissatisfaction of workers, doorstep lending at extortionate rates, hearing about the closure of an important facility.  When you see or hear something that is not right then you have information that you can pass on or react to. Once you know, then you know. You are no longer blind and deaf to injustice.
  3. Heart: when something touches your heart then you are able to decide what issues matter to you. You cannot take on everything. Some things might stir momentary compassion in you and you give a donation or a smile, while other issues tug at you and you feel called to take a step forward. This is something we each decide … what is it that touches my heart deeply that I cannot step aside from? Perhaps we then decide to empower ourselves or others to make a difference, respond to diversity, inequality or financial inclusion.
  4. Mouth: Once our heart engages, what is it that we feel passionate about enough to be a champion for and speak out about? Maybe start or get involved in grassroots action. Can we talk with special interest groups, maybe writing a letter to a newspaper or creating a blog post is a good step or putting together a Meet-Up group to bring others together. Our voices have power .. even ONE voice can make a massive difference in getting the ball rolling for change.
  5. Hands:  We each have a pair of hands. These can be used to join in cooking meals for the homeless, gardening for a neighbour, volunteering at a Food Bank or Litter Drive, visiting people in prison.  What could you be hands-on with? Even in your own street or neighbourhood?
  6. Pens & other Tools:  You have specialist skills… as a gardener, driver, artisan, carpenter, copywriter, accountant. A profession or trade has provided you with some kind of know-how that other people can get real benefit from and for which they might have no means to pay for. You could do accounting for a community interest group, mentor young people for social mobility in your field of expertise, advise on personal financial management, even create a PR campaign for a community group or cause.
  7. Home: You could share your resources of where you live to others by renting out a room to a lodger, car-pool with other travellers, loan out tools, hold community events or meetings in your home. Maybe a good declutter frees you of some excess and provides a charity shop with goods to sell.
  8. Money: Yes you can give some of your money away to a list of causes that you have chosen but beyond that you can decide to invest with more consciousness and wisdom.  Where is your pension invested, have you looked at ethical funds that give a return and also make a difference? What about social impact investing like social housing or green energy? Bulb is a new company that provides 100% of its electricity from renewable sources at very competitive rates. Doing good no longer has to cost more.  The web provides many opportunities for peer to peer lending and microfinance schemes internationally and closer to home.

When you review these eight areas against what you are already doing, you might find that you are engaged in providing a social impact much greater than you realised. Skipton Conscious Cafe make impact worksheet.

Phyllis talked about engaging your heart. There is a great deal of sorrow in the world, both in the news and down our own road, and we cannot take on everything. We can however, engage in what matters most to us so it’s important to take a moment and ask yourself what matters most to you?

Personal passions can be divided into ten areas with sub themes that might catch our attention because we have a personal history with them or simply feel moved by particular plights.  Your passion might be in health; helping children or elders; death & hospice care; mental health and addictions; improvement in employment; the environment; disability; financial inclusion; disaster relief; or perhaps mind body spirit well-being.  Take care to give to what matters most to you.

Some of the insights and ideas shared after our discussion:

  • Do something very simple .. take a bag out with you when you walk out in nature and collect any rubbish you see.  “I often forget to do this but now I will commit to making the effort”. 
  • Working in social care as a profession, people can sometimes feel overloaded with helping others all day in their workplace but you can still volunteer time if you choose to help others in nature, in a garden.  
  • Society should place more emphasis on volunteering as something that everybody does as a natural part of their existence. 
  • Beyond sponsoring charities and giving money, buying the Big Issue, some would like to volunteer to help people who are homeless but wonder how to get started.  If you are not sure where to start with volunteering, ask around. Do some research. 
  • Encourage more people to clear out their clutter and use Freecycle, a great and under-used resource where folks share unwanted items for free. Pass it on!
  • Next time you declutter, instead of bothering to sell on eBay why not give to a Charity Shop for them to sell.
  • Helping a neighbour rebuild a garden wall has become a fun community project.
  • Being a go-to person for problem-solving and listening for your community or family because you are resourceful and available is a massive contribution. Again boundaries are important about when and how you make yourself available.
  • Some people love to make others happy and go out of their way to help others feel good and be helpful. Again .. learn when to pull back and find ways that regenerate your energy.
  • Stepping forward and picking up a task nobody else has bothered to do but from which many in the community will benefit, is a way of making a difference. That leadership moment when you decide to take something on, unpaid, is a great act of service.  Like organising a recycling project.
  • Is the product too cheap? Think about who is paying the real cost for the cheapness. Be an ethical buyer and become more informed about what you spend your money on.
  • Take more responsibility for your own wellbeing and health so that you are less of a burden on the NHS.
  • Growing veg and sharing with others is both a joy and a contribution.
  • Even being unwell and researching ways to get better then sharing tips with other people is a way that can make a big difference in the lives of others who are similarly challenged.
  • Sometimes you don’t need to do any actions beyond the simple act of listening with respect. Providing an ear can really be a help to others. 
  • Volunteering in nature can kill two birds with one stone (please not literally!) by helping on nature projects in the wild you can regenerate yourself and be a resource to others, at the same time.
  • And your own family. Sometimes the resources and attention we give to needy people in the community can also be directed to our family members. Don’t forget what is so close to your own home.
  • “I do much more than I thought … now that I really look at all I do and contribute.”
  • “I feel very privileged to realise I have so many resources at my fingertips that I can make available to others.”

It all begins with us

How can we be constantly available to help and support others if we don’t support ourselves? This means drawing the line somewhere and taking time out for us. Selfish is a strange word in the English language. It never sits well with people but unless you do take care of yourself, you will run out of energy, resources and even patience. Everybody understands that we might have to pull back to regenerate ….. sometimes. Try not to get to the point where you actually feel totally drained. Learn to say “No”. I can’t help with this or I can’t do that right now as I need a rest. If you are not used to having boundaries then learn how to use them in your life. You matter. Do not feel guilty about prioritising self-care, whatever that looks like for you.

If you want to make a difference in the world then there are so many creative ways to do that. Yes you can have a big ambitious, grand vision … and you can also look over to your neighbours and closer to home to find an area where you can give and know that your contribution has impact. You do not need to go to Africa to fight poverty and disease and injustice … you can find that right under your feet in the UK. Just keep asking how you, along with others, can make this world a better place. You will get answers and shown what you can do. You will make an impact and you will feel a sense of renewal and purpose from your acts of generosity. 

Dr Phyllis SantaMaria, our facilitator for this evening, is based in London and is a Founder Director of the UK’s Financial Inclusion Forum since 2005 and Learning without Borders since 2007, Learning without Borders today provides coaching and consultancy for individuals and organisations in how to make a social impact with your work, combining experience in financial inclusion and career development.

Conscious Cafe Skipton next event: a social evening on Tuesday July 17th to network and discuss our next season of events starting again in September. More info here.

Posted by: ginalazenby | May 23, 2018

Do you know what you are good at?

The Conscious Cafe Skipton community evening in May deliberated over our strengths and how well we might know ourselves.

Are you Good at what you do …. and do you know what you are good at?

At first glance the question might seem innocuous but once you start to churn it over in your mind, it can bring up all sorts of doubts and anxieties. We don’t appear to live in a culture that values praise, certainly not at work. It is indeed possible to be employed in an organisation and never clearly know that your contribution has been of value or for you to receive feedback that highlights your strengths and good points. So the knowledge about what you do well can depend on you having a high level of self awareness or an innate positivity about yourself. For many, this is missing, so if you are not one of the lucky ones who is brought up with a strong sense of self, you can be badly affected by colleagues and superiors who feel compelled to point out everything that’s wrong with you …… instead of all that is right!  That may be water off a duck’s back for some, while for others it can erode self esteem and confidence over a lifetime.

In the intriguingly named book The Man Who Lied To His Laptop” by Stanford Professor Cliffiord Nass (watch him speak here), social science experiments showed that the famous ‘Sandwich Technique’ does not work. Say something good, insert the criticism in the middle then finish off with something good again has now been proven to be totally ineffective. Whilst it is human nature to receive compliments and take them on board, anything negative cuts through us and prevents us hearing or remembering anything positive. We seem to be wired to want to get things right so feedback about shortcomings must be presented with a suggestion for specific action that can be taken to make the required change. If we can focus on what we need to do for correction, then we can move forward. Without that, our poor brain festers on the hurt of the criticism and tunes out all the positives. And we seem to have very long memories when ti comes to these hurts.

Some organisations introduce regular meetings and communication programs that foster listening and sharing which encourages positive feedback among small groups of employes. This is extremely helpful and healthy for people. If only this was common practice.

We started this May Conscious Cafe evening by sharing what we thought our strengths were, with a partner who then relayed them to the group. We then moved on to discuss a series of self-reflective questions in small groups (try the questions for yourself, the list is at the bottom of the blog post). Our end of evening feedback was about insights gained from any of the questions that we each chose to focus on.

Some insights:

  1. Portable Skills: Skills that we have developed or used in one career can be transferred and made useful in a totally different second career.  We might not recognise them at the time of making the shift but we can reflect later and see them as part of our core strength to be leveraged again.
  2. Missing Skills: There can be a tendency to focus on what is missing, perhaps from our formal education and even underplay the other strengths and skills we have gained along the way. It is important to realise that the University of Life is a great teacher! By putting a bit too much emphasis on the formal education missed, we can let it make us feel less than when we might well have gained in other areas that more than compensate.
  3. Life skills gained outside the formal workplace can be just as valuable as those gained in paid employment but sadly, they are rarely valued. Unpaid work and organisational skills at home are not recognised by society as having value and yet, they are often very similar to what many people do in their paid jobs. If we value them ourselves, then that is the beginning to having others valuing our work too.
  4. Self awareness about what we can do well seems to be a skill in itself which is generally part of professional training or perhaps comes from a mindfulness practice. If you have not had a career with good professional development, you might never have been exposed to the concept of reflecting on what you are capable of and good at. Taking up mindfulness helps develop practices of looking within and taking a compassionate and honest view of the self, which most people find enriching.
  5. Ikagai: There is an interesting Japanese concept called Ikigai.  Your ikigai is at the intersection of what you are good at and what you love doing.  Read how to use it here.
  6. Embracing it all: The Australians coined a modern term for people who embrace the many aspects of themselves … Slashies. Instead of simply being known for one profession with a hidden passion or hobby, Slashies embrace their totality .. Book-keeper/Web Designer/Singer/Songwriter/Carer … it’s all there in one long description .. the whole you. 

Profiling Can Be Useful

We discussed the value of profiling systems and whether people had a good experience of the information that they were given. Most people in a professional context are familiar with the Myers Briggs system which is actually based on the I Ching and the work of psychiatrist Carl Jung. Other systems linked to this and also coming from the east, are profiling systems that use the five elements, most familiar in chinese medicine.  The Five Institute has a free online profiling test that shows you how much you exhibit of five basic energies of water, wood, fire, earth and metal.  Most people can easily recognise and interpret the qualities of these natural elements. Here is the link if you would like to try it out and see if it resonates with how you see your strengths and capacities. These profiling systems can be useful if they add to your self knowledge and affirm what you know about yourself. 

The whole notion of asking somebody what they are good at seems to go against the grain of a reserved British culture. Nobody seems to feel comfortable blowing their own trumpet and the notion of Tall Poppy Syndrome says it all about cutting down those who appear to shine and get a bit too big for their boots. And yet, it is really helpful to know what you can safely take on as a rewarding and useful role in society and be clear what it is best for you to avoid when you know it is not the best use of your time and skills. 

Setting up situations where we can be advocates for each other and be introduced to a group by someone who knows us, and cares, is one way of getting across our value and having it be known, accepted and us feel comfortable. To be able to share fluently what we can be called on to do makes us valuable and useful and is not bragging.  

As the Na’vi say (In  Avatar) “I see you”.

If you know what you are good at and you find a role that uses those skills and talents to the full, and you also love that work, then you are truly blessed!

This arrived in my inbox this morning (thank you Alessandro Ferullo) and I think it is a good way to end and reflect this discourse.


Those who know others are intelligent

Those who know themselves are truly wise.

Those who master others are strong;

those who master themselves have true power.

Tao Te Ching


Next Conscious Cafe meeting is Monday June 18th before our summer recess.

List of the Questions we asked ourselves …… try them yourself .. after you ask yourself what you are good…

  1. Have you ever been profiled? Was it helpful?
  2. Have you ever been given feedback on what you do well? (and not just areas for improvement)
  3. Are you clear about the best use of your time and energy?
  4. Are you aware of the value you bring to your work and roles?
  5. What has give you your awareness about yourself ….. your own journey … feedback?
  6. Do you actively praise others?
  7. What negative feedback/criticism have you had that has had an impact on you .. positively or negatively?
  8. Are you leveraging all that you have .. and if not why not?
  9. What makes your heart sing?
Posted by: ginalazenby | May 8, 2018

Are You Doing Too Much?

Conscious Cafe Skipton April.jpg

Are You Doing To Much?    (20 insights from our discussion evening)

Quite clearly for most of us the answer is yes. Our April Conscious Cafe gathering in Skipton gave us an interesting discussion because most people have come to accept this as a way of life and have little incentive or ability to change. It is true that 21st century modern life is so much more complex than it used to be and there is a staggering amount of choice available to us which in itself makes even the smallest decision much harder work. With so many possibilities for our free time, why on earth are we so short of it … and in some cases, so worn out?!

Busyness has a lot more to do with psychology than work load. For some bizarre reason there is a worthiness in having to do so many things and not feeling able to take time out simply to be. How dare we be so selfish!  Why is looking after yourself so frowned upon?!

I recall a time I was interviewed for a book about female entrepreneurs called “The Pilgrim Mothers”. In my interview I spoke of a childhood memory of my parents always working hard and being busy and how that might have affected my drive in adult life. I laughed about my memory of walking into a room and finding my mother sitting down with a cup of tea. She would act as if she had been caught out and say “I have only just this minute sat down”. The sub text being of course, don’t get the idea that I am being lazy here … I am only guiltily taking two minutes for a quick cup of tea then I will get back to work!! I gifted my mother a copy of the published book and when I walked into my lounge I saw her sitting reading it with a cup of tea. She laughed and repeated her line … “literally, I have just sat down”!  So if there is guilt about taking any time out of busyness, then no amount of workload reduction will help .. we will simply look for other ways to fill our time and feel worthy.  

With a world packed full of leisure waiting for us to enjoy why do we frown upon the simple act of stopping and taking time for ourselves. And worst of all seems to be the notion of actually doing nothing at all.  I recently added on a holiday week to a convention trip to San Francisco.  I hired a car and drove south to Long Beach with every intention of visiting a network of colleagues I knew down there and making the most of my time. In the end, that rental car sat outside my friend’s house for five days untouched. I had an idle week with a daily routine of a walk, a swim, a couple of meals, one visit to the cinema and lots of reading on the porch or on my bed on cool days. I did feel rather guilty as I had brought various packets of notes for writing and all sorts of other things to ‘catch up’ on now that I finally had some time. In the end, I just let my brain stop working and I enjoyed reading novels, not even worthy non-fiction!  When I revealed to friends that that was how I was spending my time … doing nothing …three different women congratulated me for being a role model for simply stopping and taking a restorative pause for myself. My inactivity inspired them! I knew I needed the break and I took it.  Instead of being normal, it appeared to be an outrageous luxury… a holy grail that is hardly ever attained and worth acknowledgement when done!

Our Conscious Cafe group conversation in April explored our own attitudes to activity and rest and what we thought was going on in society. Here are some insights.

  1. Expectations keep us busy doing things we think we should do. These can come from family, culture … and now social media. We need to pick them apart and consider why we are doing what we are doing.
  2. Comparing ourselves to others through the images we see on social media can be a shortcut to feeling that we are doing less than we should. Even though we know this is nonsense, do we still let ourselves get caught up in that? 
  3. Being retired does not necessarily stop the feeling of busyness.  Even without the massive call on our time of full-time employment, it is still possible to create an overfull day .. or at least the feeling of it being overfull. Does the habit of busyness carry over to retirement?
  4. Learning a de-stressing technique, whatever it is, can be a life-saver. However you come to this, through work or being directed into it by a loved one, any training can stand us in good stead for changing the way we relate to work and potentially create balance in our lives. It is a good idea to make a list of everything you have to do then consider what you can delegate, what you are not in control of, what is not important, what does not really need doing, what drains you .. it might be an eye opener to see what actually is left! 
  5. The need for control: this can be a bad habit. At some point you have to examine why you feel the need to manage everything that is in your universe and rationalise whether it is worth the downside and stress of being over-busy and over-committed.
  6. Low self-esteem: this can hit any of us at any time for different reasons and does not have to be a permanent part of your life or personality.  When you are feeling a bit ‘less than’, one strategy for coping is to over-provide, over-care, over-give hoping this will make up for some lack we feel within. Work on the feelings about yourself more, and less on your job list.
  7. Changing roles and taking on something new and unfamiliar can be a challenge. Giving up full-time paid work outside the home in a professional role then becoming a full-time stay-at-home parent can be stressful. If you make your day look organised and easy then it can mask the difficulties inherent in managing motherhood.  Many women can take on too much as they strive to receive recognition for the responsibilities and hard work in motherhood.
  8. Hard work is worthy. If you are working hard then you are doing good, and on the right track.  Of course, working smart is really the key but there is a lingering tendency in the work culture for the need to look like we are working hard and that does not give much of an incentive to enjoy what we do and make it look easy!
  9. Perfectionism is a loaded word. Sometimes it is good to have high standards and be known as a perfectionist expecting the best from others. Creative, self-formulated perfectionism can be seen as a blessing that leads to continual improvement. We appreciate people who go the extra mile and exceed expectations. But delivering this must not be at the cost of oneself. Balance is key. Always do what you can and consider the cost of pushing yourself to an edge to deliver perfection .. time and time again.
  10. Critical inner voice: is this what is driving the activity and effort?  If so, standing back and having a reality check is important. Then another honest conversation about asking for support would be of value.
  11. Kindness: the drive to over-do comes from us not being kind to ourselves. This is the biggest lesson.  The old oxygen mask metaphor holds true. What kind of resource can you be for other if you are continually wearing yourself out? Take care of yourself.
  12. Learn to say “No”.  Letting other people fill up your diary takes away your control. You need to have boundaries about when you are available and when you will take time for yourself to do something playful or nurturing or even nothing at all. Why do you keep saying “Yes”. What do you get out of being always available?
  13. Toolkits: many folks have studied meditation or mindfulness and wish they had known the benefits when they were stressed out in the corporate world.  There is so much out there to help including plenty of apps and downloads.
  14. Language: listen to how you talk about what you are doing. The words “should”, “must” and “need” are better replaced with “I choose to” and “I like to”. Words are very powerful. If over-activity and busyness come from attitude and a choice that we are making at some level, changing the words we use go a long way to altering our habits.
  15. Play: Is play just for kids? Who has time to play as an adult? Play seems to have disappeared from adult life as it is not valued and yet it plays an enormous role in helping us unwind, get creative, let go of stress and generally restore our balance. What’s so bad about making time for fun??
  16. Duvet days. If you are not familiar with these they are days when you simply do not feel like facing the world. Generally, having a day when you just allow yourself not to take part in the outside world and you hunker down for a long sleep, read an entire book .. or whatever … these moments can nourish us deeply.  Sleep is a powerful healer. Sometimes you just have to go with it, cocoon yourself, and come out the other side feeling more whole! Yes, being a parent might need some planning, but seriously, sometimes it is the best medicine.
  17. Language of self-indulgence. Self-interest. Being selfish. Self-centred. These words applied to self care are all very loaded words. If you put them aside and look at the motives underneath then you can choose whatever vocabulary you like.  Taking some time to be by yourself or to do something of your choosing that is simply for you .. whatever it takes to restore you on a daily or weekly basis … everybody can support you in this. When we recover our mojo then we are back again being supportive to others. Start learning how, and when, to put boundaries around moments in your routine when you are simply are not available.
  18. Telly or quiet time? Which is best for relaxing? True, deep relaxation comes from switching off and going inwards for some recalibration of your nervous system to restore. Watching a soap opera can be enjoyable but it is a distraction and not always as regenerative as a walk in nature or quiet mediation. When you know that they do different things then you can use them differently. Watching TV has its place.
  19. Identity: Is your job defining you? If so much activity is clustered around your routine then when you consider getting rid of some, you have to then think about who you are when you let go. How much is your identity tied up with “doing” .. who will you become when you step away?
  20. What’s best? The more you take time out to have quiet reflection the more your life can be put into perspective and you can perhaps have some sane and clear thoughts about how you are managing your life and routine. The more time you make for “being” then the better quality of your “doing”. 

People ended the Conscious Cafe discussion evening: 

  • resolving to take a day to do absolutely nothing (now and again); 
  • deciding not to feel guilty about doing nothing; 
  • valuing living in the country and close to refreshing nature; 
  • aiming to think more about what activities drain energy and can be let go of; 
  • feeling reassured that they were not the only one who is so busy; 
  • feeling inspired to stop back and make space;
  • letting go of judgements.

I can recall a colleague giving me some straight-forward honest feedback and told me that I was giving off busy-energy .. even if I was not very active, I seemed to be. He told me it was not attractive and could be tiring for others to witness. Wow!  It took me a long time to really understand that this was not related to the amount of work I had to do, or chose to do, but the vibe that I gave off and this could be changed by an internal shift of calmness. Since then I have really admired people who have the ability to bring a peaceful energy to a situation and yet they still get things done. It is a kind of graceful unhurriedness I have always aimed to emulate. Making meditation and quiet reflection part of my daily routine has been very helpful for me. And I have to keep reviewing what I do to make sure I can scale down the busyness to an appropriate and sane level of activity. I find getting caught up in a good books pulls me away from my desk 🙂  And so it continues ….

How do you manage your busyness?

Are you good at doing nothing?

The next Conscious Cafe evening in Skipton is on Thursday May 17th and ask the question “Do you know what you are good at?”. More details.

Posted by: ginalazenby | April 9, 2018

Values in the workplace can make us love or hate our jobs

Conscious Cafe March 2018

Our Conscious Cafe meeting in March to discuss values in the workplace

Our last Conscious Cafe meeting in March in Skipton we discussed values in the workplace. Did you know that a lot of people are unhappy at work, and if not openly discontented, ongoing research by Gallup states that over two thirds of people are not engaged in their jobs? They would leave if they could. That is a shocking statistic but the survey data comes from an ongoing daily global poll, taken since year 2000, of hundreds of thousands of employees tracking enthusiasm, contentment and commitment in the workplace. It’s not just about the work that each individual has to do, or the team of colleagues that they work with, job satisfaction is very much tied up with the culture of the employee’s organisation.  And the culture comes from the top, led by a set of guiding values that vary from company to company.

As I opened our evening circle I shared my experience of one boss who talked openly and publicly about compassionate management. Jeff Weiner, CEO of Linked In, spoke of the three values that guided the company: being open, honest and constructive. It surely is one of the reasons that Jeff has been lauded as one of the USA’s top CEOs, as rated by staff. I had attended an interview Jeff gave in San Francisco during Wisdom Week in 2014, and have transcribed what he said about how he runs LinkedIn with compassion … “We are not just building companies, we are building humanity” said Jeff. Oh that all companies felt the same!

At our March Cafe evening we had 4 questions on the table to discuss about how familiar people were with the values that formed their own company culture, what might help people thrive and whether a culture could be changed. From the shared feedback, these are the insights below that I have summarised:

Where do we learn our values?

Family upbringing is key. Good parenting is crucial. Many who were brought up in a family environment that taught strong values but because of the changes in family life, there is a worry for young people today and a fear they might have lost their moral compass. That may be true for some but there are many young people today who care deeply about the future in a way that previous generations might not have. The young seem to have different aspirations, many are more enlightened as if something has been awakened in them.  Perhaps there are old-fashioned traditional values that have different priorities to the newer modern values that steer millennials?   It is clear that single parenting with a father missing can be a disadvantage for some young people. In the USA, troubled youths involved in gun violence invariably come from broken homes.  How can we supplement values education for children in challenging family situations?

The workplace is a key place for us to live our values

Where we work and spend so much of our lives provides an important place for us to learn and change. Coaching and emotional support at work is now more readily available than it was 20-30 years ago. Workplaces are so much enlightened places for us to be.  If there is a misalignment of values between what we feel is important to us and what is prioritised by our employer, then that can be a great source of stress for us, and eventually a reason to leave.

Do we know what the values are in our workplace?

A lot of people don’t know and they don’t question or think about them while others  know specifically what the work values are. These can be stated in policy manuals and reiterated at annual reviews .. but that does not help people to remember and become familiar.   How many values are there.. a long list? There should be a top three at most to be memorable. There is something called a 30% rule, and the magic of three.  … people only ever remember 30% of what they hear. Most people can only quote three of the Ten Commandments, and that is after they have been around for 2000 years!  Even when values are not explicitly articulated, if they are embodied and practised daily by the top leadership and/or business owners, then they are present and can be followed and modelled by others.

Are the values practised in the workplace?

It is one thing to state a set of values but it is quite another to embody them and have them guide daily work and decisions. Sometimes people are not aware of the values that create their work culture until they change employment and discover a whole different way of working guided by a different value system. Only then, by comparison, do they become aware of the guiding values behind their workplace. People who work in coaching, with several corporate clients, get to witness the very different values that people have to operate with. The opportunity to make comparisons can help them give insights to their clients. An example was given of destructive values  operating in an educational establishment which only really became apparent when that person moved, after twenty years, to a non-profit and found that back-biting was not normal as it was not tolerated with kindness as a core value. It is not always possible to see the impact of a work culture that tolerates negative behaviour until you move to one that does not.

When positive values are absent and situations deteriorate …

This is when situations look so unsafe that some individuals feel that the only way to bring about change is to blow the whistle. This is no small thing to do and often requires enormous courage to bring to attention of a wider group, that positive values have been lost and a shift is creating a damaging culture. Systems and organisations can be so deeply resistant to change, and feel so threatened that whistle blowers have to be promised anonymity and protection, instead of being openly rewarded for the good service they are providing. Cultures of openness rarely need to have change brought about by whistle-blowers.

When the leadership compromises …

Sometimes the values that are embraced by the organisation come under threat, like during austerity programs or profit drives. Then it seems that in some cases they are set aside for other priorities. If management does not adhere to the same values as everyone else, that is a big problem and can be confusing and demoralising.   The higher up the hierarchy and the culture changes with leaders playing lip service to the values required of the rest of the workforce.  An example was given of an organisation that embraced Compassion as a strong value but during austerity cuts, the notion that people were told they were lucky to have a job felt very uncompassionate.

Bosses from hell can ruin a business

One individual can change the work environment for a team and even a whole organisation.  A poor leader who is a bully can raise stress levels in a way that is very different to having a large workload. If people feel valued, appreciated and respected, large workloads can be tolerated, especially if everyone pulls together under a good leadership. But when one person is hellish in their behaviour, they make others’ lives hell too.  These people who are critical, moody and unsupportive create a negative and damaging culture around them. Invariably, these people have been over-promoted, under-supported in their own progression and cover up their struggle with defensive bullying behaviour. They can close down to feedback because they have not been taught how to be a good boss and have not had good role models to learn from. Teaching all children emotional intelligence in schools helps prepare them to handle relationships, good communication and personal feedback in a positive way. Bullying behaviour rarely starts as an adult at work with the genesis forming earlier in life.

Handling the Boss from Hell

Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, is well known for being a champion of compassion for LinkedIn. When he spoke about how he managed his business through the value of compassion, he set out 4 key pointers for dealing with difficult bosses. Read more here on the transcript (page 3). Where you feel your job is unsafe with any attempt at feedback to your boss, or there is no listening at all, supervisors and mentors can be extremely helpful. They can give guidance and support to make a difference.

Bosses we love

Jeff Weiner has been rated number one by employees in a top ten list of highest rated CEOs in the USA so it is worth reading the transcript of the talk he gave about managing compassionately.  In the UK we came up with examples of good bosses as John Lewis (currently a female CEO in 2016, Paula Nickolds), Quaker owned businesses, ethical Yorks university, Suma wholefoods cooperative.  John Lewis is an example where product knowledge was less important than the positive attitude of all the staff, who are called members rather than employees.

Is there hope .. what can we do when there isn’t a culture of positive values embedded in our workplace? 

What can be done if you don’t resonate with the work values and you choose not to or cannot leave? Take it in your own hands, be an exemplar yourself. What have you got to lose if you decide to fully embody the strongest values of your workplace.  If you take the easier route and don’t, then you end up compromising and lowering your standards which ultimately means you lose your self respect. If you become a champion of positive values, then you will be seen as a leader and a light to others. No matter where a person is in an organisation, they can contribute. Their voice is important and they will have impact if there is any listening within the organisation structure.

Restorative work practices can create important shifts

An example was given of bringing restorative work practices into the workplaces, this is something this is invariably sanctioned at higher levels but not always. There are many references online of Councils doing this. One aspect of this is frequent weekly meetings that are essentially listening circles that offer employees the opportunity to really get to know each other and develop better relationships. It was noted that people can work alongside each other for years without knowing many personal details about people’s lives that help to make them who they are. These communication building blocks really help change the culture and help share positive values.  Restorative work practices – toolkit.


The key to a successful work culture is good, strong leadership

Difficult and bullying bosses can literally ruin people’s lives and cause massive damage to a business.  In cultures of domination, bullies seem to know how to thrive in the hierarchy. A good team can survive in a bad organisation. When a good boss leads a team, and has strong positive values, they provide a good role model for everyone for best practice behaviour. These people walk their talk, listen well and see people’s strengths. As Jeff Weiner says, it takes courage to be compassionate, it is not a soft option but it is strong way to operate.

Our Conscious Cafe event was a thoroughly enjoyable evening of rich conversation. Feedback at our closing included people being intrigued and inspired with new ideas, nourished by having a space to share what was important to them, feeling hopeful for the future .. and feeling good about making time for oneself to take part in brilliant conversations even though there are so many other calls on personal time in the evening. Thanks for showing up folks and for your wonderful, heartfelt contributions!

NEXT Conscious Cafe event in Skipton is Wednesday 18th April and we are asking “Are You Doing Too Much?” Read more here.

The Conscious Cafe gathering in Skipton in February discussing gender relations .. a very interesting and spirited evening!


Just before Valentine’s Day, a group gathered for a Conscious Cafe evening in Skipton to take on what could be described as one of the biggest and most powerful conversations there is … and one which is not aired in public very often ….  sex, relationships and the workplace.

So much has been happening in the media recently with the #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns and the sordid revelations about harassment.  While there is universal condemnation of bullies like Harvey Weinstein, other names and memories are being highlighted in the media and it is not always clear if every situation warrants the trial in the court of public opinion. Some men have come under attack because of the supportive comments they have made, while well-intentioned, may have been worded better. The fear of saying the wrong thing will make many men withdraw and yet, the conversation that needs to be had about how we move forward has to involve and engage both sexes. We all need to feel that we can speak and be listened to.

So, with curiosity, I proposed an evening to discuss “Chivalry & Flirtation in the Age of Equality – Where do we go next?”  I was delighted when one third of our gathering were men who felt they had something to contribute to this conversation. Bravo!  And what a great evening it was. I started off with a review of what was happening now in the media then we broke into five small discussion groups. Here is a summary of the reporting back from the conversations.  It would be true to say that a whole weekend of debate would hardly have scratched the surface but our evening was a start to what can be a painful and challenging subject as we begin to explore a better way for men and women to work and play together. There might be legislation in place for sexual and gender equality but out there in the workplace, the attitudes to the role of women, the contribution of the feminine and sex and relationships needs a big update…. one in which we all need a say and a big listening for each other.

The Media storm – does the media ever tell the whole story?   Is the print media the biggest influencer in this issue?   Are things going too far…. Is the media doing a good job or is it being too sensational?  Public exposure of individuals about sexual harassment is causing a trial by media and in the court of public opinion. How do we manage this when behaviour can be somewhere on a spectrum of misguided transgressions all the way to abusive or violent behaviour, some of which is criminal?

  • There was a feeling of frustration at the portrayal of issues in such a black and white way. Things are always much more nuanced.
  • It would be good to look at languaging things differently.It can be hard for men not to feel defensive when they read sensationalised stories and hear criticism about men … seemingly “all men”.
  • The media can trivialise and objectify and the way so many people are put on trial is pernicious. Lives are being ruined without the full truth shared. Yes there is a witch hunt happening, compassion is also needed.
  • The media is a good barometer of the confusion in society and the media is mostly not helping.
  • We need to find ways to have good open debate without the aggressive questioning that we can see on TV. We must not be frightened to find ways to talk about sensitive issues to find our way through them.  Th media is not really taking the lead here.

Are we going too far?  It seems that actions and approaches from men to women who are now in their 60s and 70s were once tolerated as part of the work culture … French actresses Catherine Deneuve and Brigitte Bardot have both quoted as saying “today’s feminists are going too far” and being hypocritical … using their wiles to attract men in power then complaining about harassment later.  Catherine Deneuve has since apologised.

  • It is the system that is making people who they are, acting the way they are doing.  Even in an egalitarian family, young people are exposed to so many other influences in our culture that is shaping them. The system at large is undermining what families are teaching children.
  • There is an epidemic of chauvinism, it is rampant. What happened to the ‘new men’ who emerged in the 90s? No, feminists have not gone too far… there is much further to go.
  • 100 years ago women got the vote …. but there is still a lot to fight for. We are only at the beginning. There is much to do to achieve an equal paradigm. It is only really now that we are initiating open conversations about social justice and equality.
  • Patriarchal domination has been around a long long time and we have only just begun to make the changes and shifts needed. With the majority of women reporting that they have been sexually harassed at some point in their lives, one in four women have apparently been raped … and across the world, only 3% of land is controlled by women … there is much to change to achieve real equality.

Who knows what is acceptable behaviour today? Who decides? Is common sense enough? Are we clear what harassment is? Can we all agree?  The idea of vilifying all men and condemning everyone where there has been a hint of an issue is counter-productive. Is there a line to be drawn somewhere?  After the Weinstein revelations and the #MeToo hashtag campaign, women are now treated with greater respect … what does that look like?  People are now more aware of appropriate ways to treat colleagues. Is this true and what does this look like? 

  • There was a feeling that it is impossible to make rules about behaviour, there are just too many variables.
  • It is important to have self awareness so that each person knows what is not appropriate. Always pay attention to what feels appropriate with others in any given moment.
  • We should be able to voice how we feel and to feel confident to say “No thank you … I don’t want a hug”. Sometimes we are in positions when we are not able to voice how we feel when we are uncomfortable.
  • We must look at what we teach young kids about appropriate behaviour.
  • Language is key: using the word feminist can create a wedge between some people with everyone having a different feeling about the term, positive and negative.  It can set up antipathy. We don’t like labels!! Can’t we just be sexless … be people?!
  • Let’s focus on how we treat each other, regardless of being a male or a female… just be ourselves .. respect each other.
  • We can’t just focus on the symptoms, we have to deal with the cause.  We can start with laws, these come first then after the culture catches up.  Laws can provide a statement for what is acceptable behaviour.
  • Here is a news clipping about Google and Facebook’s recent ruling about employees asking each other out (once only and without a clear YES, never again).

The Next generation of men: teaching our teenage sons about what is appropriate behaviour, especially in the workplace. For young men growing up today, where is the bifurcation point/s that might send them in one of two directions? …… to be a highly self aware millennial who would “never do that” or to exhibit laddish behaviour and feel that in today’s highly sexualised culture they push and try to get away with anything they can. At these points of possibility, what are the interventions?  

  • All participants agreed that fathers can give good role modelling. This is so important for boys.
  • It is indeed a reality and a great shame that boys get their sex education from the internet. Laws about what is available online and who can watch it are struggling to catch up.
  • Apart from better sex education, better relationships education is important. If schools cannot deliver this then maybe an outside agency is brought in to teach this. Some schools are getting to grips with this. It varies.
  • The internet is providing so many ways for dysfunctional behaviour like revenge porn. Previous generations did not have to cope with these new outlets for laddish behaviour. No wonder young people are confused. Art is hard to be young and foolish and fully understand the long-lasting repercussions of what is posted online.
  • The internet provides a whole new landscape for dating… flirtation is now very much in cyberspace. Face to face you can tell how someone is behaving and if they are trustworthy. Today it is much more difficult.
  • Young girls are finding themselves pressured sexually at younger ages. It seems it is becoming harder to say “No!”
  • In this modern internet era young people are being given a space to express their sexuality and experiment  .. that is seemingly positive … but some guidance for boundaries are needed.
  • Education is key for young boys. If you demonise their natural sexuality then it will find a way to come out but in a shadow side.
  • The digital age radically changes parenting and it can be hard for parents to keep up, especially older ones who feel out of their depth, or who don’t know that they are out of their depth.

Young women today are appalled at what older women put up with in the past. Are they being hyper sensitive when advised to brush things off and ‘get over it’  when faced with similar situations?    Are today’s female millennials empowered and confident enough to stand up for themselves?    Do we need to protect today’s young women in the workplace?   What advice to give a daughter in the professional arena in an age of mass pornography?

  • Young women are certainly more aware of harassment issues that might be happening around them today .. so much more is being talked about openly.
  • So many of today’s young women are empowered … by their mothers, fathers and so much more consciousness about gender equality. They are more aware of what is possible.
  • Yes in some cases there is a generation gap. “How could those women have allowed that behaviour?” … but many have compassion and realise things are a bit more complicated. Times were different back then.
  • Young millennial girls have had strong female role models growing up, perhaps more obviously so than previous generations. The Spice Girls had great impact because they were so radically different to other girl groups. More feisty, self-directed, less compliant.
  • There are predators out there and young women need to learn skills and be able to protect themselves.
  • The idea of protecting young women in the workplace is not perhaps so palatable … Protect? perhaps we should give guidelines. Maybe discussions about what to wear to look professional, and to be aware of what vibe they are giving out.
  • Better to change the workplace so that women don’t need to think about being protected.
  • Some feel that equality is an illusion and that we are not even close. We need a big attitude shift so that we can see each other as equals, as humans.
  • We have created difficulties with the ready availability of online porn. It used to be that companies could block for company computers but now people can watch it on their phones at work estimated at between 10-20%
  • by Nichi Hodgson is the author of The Curious History of Dating: From Jane Austen to Tinder and a sex and relationships broadcaster
  • The ready availability of porn is harmful to men too. It is packaged in such a way as to hijack the addiction part of the brain and exploits men’s vulnerability doing damage.

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Posted by: ginalazenby | February 19, 2018

The immense creativity of women

Freshly arrived in San Francisco, although not feeling very fresh, I pulled myself out of my jet lag to join a Women’s Creative Circle who meet once a month in a home on the hills of San Anselmo.

After a delicious lunch provided by our host and supplemented by what participants each brought, ten of us sat in a circle with a few minutes each to share what was happening in our lives in terms of a creative project or where our creative energy was being expressed.

Oh what joy and nourishment. I learnt something from every woman who shared and it was so inspiring to have an age difference of almost 50 years between youngest and oldest.

Projects discussed included sculpture, weaving, painting, book-writing, book reading, learning new ideas, jewellery, home remodelling, soft toys, travel .. managing financial affairs .. you name it, we are creative in so many ways.

Such was the rich and diverse life experience in the room that I felt any one of the women could have been called to join a company or organisation Board and given her wisdom and insights. And yet this is not how Boards are structured is it? They have very narrow channels of required job function experience that narrow down who can sit on them …. and they are missing so many women. Maybe it is time to bring in a few creative women elders…..?

What inspired me most:

  • How nourishing it is to talk about creativity beyond just art but to include work and finance as well… and also to sit in a sharing circle of women.
  • So many projects that we take on do not have End Dates but when they do, they can give immense satisfaction when there is completion. If something needs to be finished put a closing date on it.
  • Sometimes a project needs to be open-ended because its completion or journey is not something that we can determine while we are working on it. This is particularly the case when maybe an art project might in some way reflect and mirror our own growth.
  • When is something complete and ready to give away, sell or let go of? You will have a knowing if you go within and ask. This self enquiry needs to be balanced with any perfectionist tendency we might have which holds us back from being complete. Learning to be comfortable with imperfection is key … the Japanese principle of wabi-sabi where imperfection adds to beauty and becomes part of the story of something is important.
  • Our art and creativity grows as we grow. By looking at what we are working on in a mindful way we can see our own progress.
  • Creative projects can be used to handle anything that we have to face in life .. if we are creative .. even grief and loss.
  • When we are asked to reflect on the creative output in our lives we can find that we have been highly resourceful in areas and take an opportunity to acknowledge ourselves for the achievement.  Don’t forget to pat yourself of the back once in a while!!
Posted by: ginalazenby | February 8, 2018

Get your house ready for new year

January 1st is the first  day of the calendar but the new energy for the year does not come in until February 4th (the Feng Shui new year) and February 16th, the date for Chinese New Year in 2018

  1. Decrease the clutter: it’s a big ask to do a major clutter clear in January when you are probably feeling a bit limp but discard what you can, even if it is symbolic! Even if the place just looks tidy it helps for the new energy to roll into your life and home over uncluttered surfaces.
  2. Get the rubbish out:  make sure your bins are all emptied and anything that needs to be recycled or moved on is actually off the property.
  3. Let in the light: The weather might be a tad cold outside so if you are hardy enough your windows will love a wash. Rain and snow can leave the glass a bit dirty and you want as much pure light as possible to get in. Keep the corners of the rooms well lit with side lamps, replace broken light bulbs, bring out the candles and  switch on the white fairy lights.
  4. IMG_9032

    Fresh flowers do wonders for bringing uplifting energy in

    Lift the energy with colour: the Christmas decorations have all been packed away and you might be thinking that by comparison with the December festive sparkle, it all seems a bit grey. Bring back the red could with cushions. Keep the red poinsettias alive. Coloured plants and flowers all help lift the level of vibrancy.

  5.  Freshen your bed: Wash the bed linen so the bed feels new and you can always put on a different set of bedding. It’s amazing how a freshly made bed can give you a boost.
  6. Stock up the pantry: a full fridge and a larder with the storage jars topped up is a signal to the universe that you are a house of abundance. Top up the log basket by the fire. It’s all a sign of you being ready and prepared.
  7.  Rest & reflect: As the new energy year comes in take some time to rest and reflect. Maybe you can ask your self what is your word for the year… tune in and think about your theme.
  8. Twinkle: lift the dull energy with items that please and catch the eye. So the Christmas baubles have gone, you can still create uplift with glitzy ornaments.

When I tuned in to my word of the year I got “mise-en-place” and that followed the Angel card of Efficiency which I chose for 2018 (or more correctly it chose me!).  It’s not a single word but it is a french phrase for being ready .. everything in its place. It’s something already in my vocabulary as it was drilled in to me at Hotel School. You don’t start cooking until you have all your ingredients ready, all measured out in little bowls so everything is to hand. A very good motto for life and obviously even more important for me this year.   What’s your word of the year?

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