Diversity & Inclusion : how we’re making it worse

What’s it like to consider that our efforts to make ‘different’ people feel included are taking us away from what we’re trying to achieve?

Image Credit: Perry Grone : Unsplash

It’s time to pause. Just notice for a second, and see if what I suggest here has an inkling of truth to it.

We are creating more exclusion in our efforts to include.

What I see in my sphere of the world is people calling out causes that need to be fought for.

I see people defiant and definitive about the change that needs to happen to include those excluded. read more

Wellbeing: what’s not working?

Last night a group of coaches, HR pros and leaders gathered in the pretty town of Castle Donnington to talk about wellbeing and explore what’s not working, why are the figures going up, what is needed? All facilitated by Debbie Leafe using Nancy Kline’s Thinking Environment.

The group

In the context of the work I do with clients – reconnecting them to their innate ability for connection, clarity and calm – this session was important to me, both to give our delegates an experience of those innate qualities on the day, but also for them to explore what wellbeing really means and what really needs to happen. read more

How do you create a community?

On 13th September Cat Hase and I ran a Street Wisdom for September’s Learn > Connect > Do event, and welcomed an inquisitive bunch of wanderers to the PKF Cooper Parry offices up here in the East Mids.  You can *see some of them there in the photo 😉 (*courtesy of Cat’s creative skills and in the absence of us thinking to take photos!)  Thanks to these wonderful people buying tickets to find wisdom in the streets, we’ve now upped our total donated to Twenty:Twenty to £325 so far this year – more than last year’s total already!  We’re delighted!!

As well as that great news, I wanted to share about the experience of one of the delegates because it led to learning and insight for me too.  This is the kind of brilliance that comes from Street Wisdom and I didn’t even wander!

Jonny, Head of Fundraising at Twenty:Twenty, brought the question – how do you create a community?  Clearly an important question for his job, and for many in the world of work whatever the sector.

His first thoughts as he began his quest were “well, an airport runway, how am I going to find inspiration here?’.  And of course he did, because our mind is a wonderful thing and Street Wisdom is an amazing tool to access it.

This seemingly dead-end question led to a realisation that the runway is in fact itself a creator of community.  All the people who visit the airport, who work there, who transport people there, who work in the businesses that are only there because of their proximity to the airport.  These people are all part of that airport community.  They might all have different individual, small-group or large-group purposes to be there but they’re all connected by that central tarmac object.  All part of that community.

Later that night, or the next morning, I can’t quite remember….I had a realisation too…..multiply that up.  Take it bigger.  Take the earth.

We might all have our individual, small-group or large-group purposes here but we are all connected.  We are all together, living our purposes, connected by this shared central earth-shaped object.  All part of this community.  And not just humans – plants, creatures, weather, water, mountains…..  All connected.

What does this change for you?

Religion – a new way

This is a post I’ve been going to write for a while – in fact nearly two years! I’ve delayed writing it for fear of offending people but after a bit of tweet chat a while back I decided to step into the #ldbravery space and share my thoughts.  Plus it’s nearly Christmas so it seems relevant!!

Having feared writing this, what I discovered was that my fear was coming from my non-religious upbringing and my concern that I would write this with a mindset of ‘we don’t need religion, we’re just fine thanks’. What I’ve discovered through writing this is that much of the great stuff we do and seek today has origins in religion and so what I’ve learnt instead is that we might just do well to look to those who practice for more inspiration. And with my daughter now deciding to be a Christian I may well be learning more over the coming months!

I believe everyone is entitled to live their life and believe in what they want to believe* without judgement from others – because what works for me may be different to what works for you. This is therefore not about judgement of religion or non-religion, this is just about things I see taking the place of religion today and I’m really curious to learn what this means to others.

My religious background? I wasn’t christened or anything. I had a Church of England mum and a lapsed Catholic dad, the latter of whom resented his religious upbringing and didn’t want to enforce anything on his own kids. Plus they couldn’t have decided what to make us! I dabbled with religion around 16 when a couple of Christian girls at school made a good effort to convert me but it just wasn’t really me. Plus I was then starting to get into a phase that didn’t sit so well with the other young people in the circles where we were meant to share our experiences of keeping away from the evil of alcohol and certain movies. I didn’t feel I was on the same wavelength.

The other time I had my interest piqued into religion was at my sister’s wedding – I loved the symbolism of the Hindu ceremony and the spiritual nature of it. The joining of two families and the welcome for my sister into her new one.

I’m now finding that spiritualism… Buddhism…. I’m not sure what exactly, holds interest for me and it’s a wonder I’m just letting sit there for a while to see what emerges – like this fascinating movie The Shift. Thank you Amanda Sterling for sharing.

So please read this with full awareness that I’m not an expert in religion in any way and that these are a layperson’s observations.

In recent years religious participation – at least Christian participation in the UK – has decreased and we’ve sought out other things to take its place. These are some of the things I think we’ve found….



A couple of months back, I heard on the Radio about an event by Action for Happiness with the Dalai Lama in London to mark World Peace Day. Action for Happiness provide opportunities for people to connect and meet on subjects such as family & friends, the world, bouncing back, and more. Something which would have previously been achieved through prayer groups, or just talking to trusted friends and family at the regular routine of weekly church.


In work, the place where we no longer loyally follow one organisation for our whole career, we look for purpose – a meaning beyond just a job. Something beyond profit that has us feel we’re making a difference in the world. Something to suggest that our life on this earth matters. Needs which I’d offer were traditionally met through serving God, through believing that in meeting His expectations we’d be fulfilling our purpose on earth.

Praying and Signs from God

Friends of ours a few years back moved city to establish a new church. They talked of praying to God and being guided by Him to the place where their church should be. In that moment I had a sense that praying and coaching have similarities – speaking our thoughts, possibly out loud but not always, to enable us to make sense of a situation. Those thoughts ‘spoken’ in the presence of someone who believes in you and who listens to you without interruption to enable you to do your best thinking. Sometimes clients will talk to me after a session about the idea I gave them, when all I’d done was listen and ask questions. They had the idea in themselves all along. How much of this is what praying offers?

Street Wisdom has similar parallels to the situations where people talk of God having spoken to them, or being given a sign. Street Wisdom is all about spotting the signs around us to answer questions that we’ve been grappling with. Again, accessing our fantastic subconscious that so often gets drowned out by our conscious mind (read Timothy Gallwey, The Inner Game of Tennis if you’d like to learn more about this). Given our subconscious works better with images it makes sense that visual signs in our surroundings are able to connect with it and give us these messages.

Human Connection

In the past: Every Sunday, 10am, best clothes on, meet and connect with familiar and friendly faces at church to look for inspiration in the teachings of the bible.

Now: Every Saturday, 10am, best clothes on, meet and connect with familiar and friendly faces in town, at the shops to look for inspiration in the latest clothes and shoes.

Although this particular modern form of inspiration has (IMHO) taken a drop in meaning, connection is essential to us.  To thrive we need to make sure it’s part of how we spend our time – whether that’s shopping, going out for meals, cups of tea at home, or indeed going to our preferred religious centre.

And now there’s this new option for not just human connection but singing, appreciation, gratitude, inspirational talks but minus religion – the Sunday Assembly.  Thanks Phil Wilcox for telling me about this one. 
Given there are so many aspects of life today which appear to have originally been instilled in religious rituals and which are now being met in ‘new’ ways – perhaps there’s more to learn by looking to religion for inspiration.

What do you think?  Leave a comment!


Photo credit – http://www.pumcqva.org/

*I don’t extend this to those that believe causing harm – of any kind – to others is justified.

This is me………www.wildfigsolutions.co.uk

WFS Tree


In a crisis

In a crisis we come together.

While standing on the train station this morning, waiting for the fast train to London with all the regular commuters, the silence was deafening. Everybody was so separate. So isolated. So absorbed in their own world.

It felt desperately alien to me and I wanted to talk to someone – anyone – to create some human connection.

Our train was delayed, only by 5 minutes, but as the tannoy announced its arrival I thought about those instances when trains are REALLY delayed. Where people start to talk to each other; first about the state of the train service but then moving on to work and personal conversations. Sometimes discovering they have some kind of connection in common. And in those instances when the train finally arrives, people cheer together – connected through the adversity.

We see it over and over again. Give us a crisis and we come together. I remember in my last job when one of our shops was very sadly burnt to the ground. The team effort which ensued was incredible, there was pace, there was communication and collaboration across boundaries, deadlines were left for dust, people went over and above. And it resulted in a new store being built in record time. A store which then went on to outperform its previous sales results as it became a beacon of pride for the local team and community.

I remember at the time it was used as an example to say “we can achieve amazing things when we come together like that. If we can do that more of the time, we’ll be flying”.

So what stops us? What is it that means we only connect in a crisis? That means we only behave as our most awesome versions of human beings when the chips are down.


I saw this TED Talk of Simon Sinek recently and I think there might be an answer in here.

Our primitive brain still plays a significant part in how we operate today.

Simon describes in this talk about our primitive heritage when we had to connect and be social for our survival. We had to be able to collaborate to ensure someone was on night-duty and watching over the rest of the tribe while they slept. We had to work together to catch food so everyone could eat.

And in the days of our primitive heritage, a state of crisis was more the norm than the exception. Our stress response was a necessary physiological response to ensure we survived to see another day and ensure procreation would continue.

Bringing this to today, the stress response is still alive and well, it’s just that the sabre toothed tigers have turned into bosses, competitors, shop fires and delayed trains.

And so it’s in these circumstances of threat that we pull together, connect and collaborate just as we would have done all those years ago.

So this is perhaps an explanation for our innate ability to pull together in a crisis but how do we make it happen more of the time? And how do we make it happen without the need for the stress response to kick in? Because as much as our ancestors lived more on stress than not, pulling together more often than not, I would guess their life expectancy was a fair bit shorter than we have today. We know that prolonged periods of stress make us ill – physically and mentally – so the answer isn’t to create stressful situations more of the time.

So what is the answer?

Maybe it’s the opposite.

Positive Psychology is about making more of the good stuff. Finding strengths and doing more of those things that let us use them. Focussing on what’s gone well. Seeing what’s gone not so well as an opportunity to learn and adjust. Being appreciative of what we have. Being believed in.

When these things are present we’re awesome versions of human beings and even better because, in contrast to the stress response which narrows our thinking, being in an environment of positivity and safety broadens our thinking. Broader thinking means more opportunities are spotted and more great things are created.

This broader thinking is what enabled us to progress ourselves and our world from those primitive days. Although back then the predominant feature was threats, there were times when we did feel safe and it was in these moments that we invented stuff and created new solutions to help our subsequent generations find shelter, food and stay safe more easily.

So by now, you’d think we’d have invented so much of this great stuff that we’d feel super-safe and be at our best, most positive selves all the time.

And yet that’s not true. As Rick Hanson writes in Hardwiring Happiness, our mind is still like Teflon for the good and like Velcro for the bad. Another hangover from our primitive days to ensure we stayed alive.

So this positive stuff, we have to work on it. We have to re-train our brains to help us be our awesome+1 selves more of the time.

But imagine that: awesome teamwork, communication, delivery of results, going above and beyond – and all without the need to be in a crisis!

This is me – www.wildfigsolutions.co.uk

WFS Tree

No man is an island

“Mummy am I Muslim or Hindu?”
“Neither darling, you don’t really have a religion.”
“So can I choose what I am?”
“Yes you can!”
“Oh good! That means I can marry Shey and be a Muslim. My teacher said that if one person doesn’t have a religion they can marry anyone and be the same as them.”

This was a recent conversation with my 5 year old daughter.  I loved the simplicity of it.  Her thoughts reminded me of an item I heard on the radio last week where a Christian lady was being interviewed about her 40 year marriage to a Jewish man.

The point of the item was to highlight the challenges of living a tandem life like this. She talked about the difficulty their parents had accepting that they would marry. How they worried that she’d feel excluded from his Jewish celebrations because she wouldn’t be allowed to join in. How they wouldn’t be part of either community and therefore how they’d have none.

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”  ― John Donne, No Man Is An Island - Meditation XVII

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”
― John Donne, No Man Is An Island – Meditation XVII

Being part of a tribe or community is really important to our primitive brain.  We like to spend time with people like us because it helps us feel safe and, as far as our primitive brain’s concerned, safe = good.  The minds of this couple’s parents would definitely have been seeing this marriage as a serious threat to their safety and security.  And especially in those days.  40 years ago when they married – about 1975 – there were three TV channels, no mobiles, no internet, definitely no social media.  This meant two things:

………The world was much smaller and awareness of wacky things like inter-religion marriages was incredibly low.

………And, being part of a religion at that time was a significant source of having our basic human need of ‘community’ met.  If you didn’t have support there, where could you get it?

Today we have so many ways to be part of a community – whether virtual or in real life – yes religion, and also communities based in work, sports, music, shopping, theatre, food, friends and family …and more, and then there are all the social media community options…..

They provide us with support and a sense of belonging.  A sense of shared purpose with others.  Community is one of our basic human needs that, if not met, leaves us with a sense of dissatisfaction with life, and a lack of balance. Or worse.

If you stop now and think…..  What communities are you part of.  Why not list them out.  How important are each of them to you?  Where would you like to spend more time?  What would that give you?  And what would that mean for your other priorities?

But what about communities you’d like to be part of but never ventured into?  Communities that might challenge your thinking, your attitudes, your experience – and ultimately help you grow and develop in some way.

That little voice of our primitive brain is still there sometimes, telling us whether it’ll be safe or not.  Just like the parents of that couple 40 years ago.  And yet there they are, still happily married with a richer life because of it.  From the joining of their two religions, they’ve had a great breadth and depth of conversation about how to live their lives together, how to raise their children.  And apparently their kids were the most enthusiastic with the most mature perspectives in RE class, because of their broader and more varied experience.  And they’ve benefitted from the support of two communities rather than one.

So what communities do you want to join that could broaden your horizons and give you a new perspective or a new challenge?  And what’s stopping you?

I believe in people being the key to success and that success is unlocked by great bosses. And being a boss is a tough job.  

If you believe in this stuff too, get in touch for a chat and let’s see what we could do together – 07718 316 616 or helen.amery@wildfigsolutions.co.uk or take a look at my website to find out more.

Executive Coaching and Development for SME leaders –

creating success for you, for your team, for your business.

[Photo credit – world-visits.blogspot.com]

Some other musings on engagement……and comms

Following on from Gemma Reucroft’s Musings on Engagement No.2 http://hrgemblog.com/2014/01/14/musings-on-engagement-no-2-connections/comment-page-1/#comment-406

I believe there are a number of layers to engagement –

There’s engagement with the purpose of your organisation because you believe what it’s on this earth to achieve (beyond profit)

There’s engagement with the team you’re part of because you’re all connected in delivering something smaller that contributes to that overall purpose

There’s engagement with your line manager because they value you as an individual and have beliefs similar to your’s that you can make your own, so that you go that extra mile without even thinking about it.

[Incidentally, I believe a person’s connection at any of those levels of engagement can be broken by relatively small acts which they deem ‘wrong’, and can lead to resignations. But by far the most powerful connection, and therefore the most likely reason for people to leave, is a break in the connection with their line manager – and therefore this being the most critical engagement route to be maintained. We all know, of course, that people leave their boss, not the organisation.]

But, underpinning all of this, I strongly believe that comms plays a key role. With a significant caveat – if it’s approached in the same ‘Why, How, What’ Golden Circle way.

What’s being seen increasingly in work is the need to talk to people through internal communications about the ‘why’ if the business wants stuff to get done. Some of this might be Gen X starting to be more prevalent in the workforce, but part of it is also about people wanting to have a strong reason why in a world where there are a million conflicting priorities – the things they believe in most will get done. And actually a strong reason why is a critical determining factor of success if you speak to Andy Gilbert of GoMADThinking.

In addition, consistency of messaging in comms, continuously reinforcing the beliefs of the organisation, will maintain those connections to the overall purpose, and therefore continue engagement of employees with why they’re there. I don’t think it’s brainwashing…..!