Beanstalk Blog

Loss in the time of the pandemic

Apr 5, 2021

I have become something of an expert in grief, this past eleven months. Covid-19 snatched my life partner of 37 years from me on April 18th. My life as I knew it came to a brutal and traumatised halt. No chance to say goodbye. I know I am not alone, although it’s hard not to feel it. Over 126,000 people have died as a result of Covid-19 in the UK alone. It’s calculated that on average nine close relatives or friends are seriously affected by each of these deaths, and that means over one million people struggling with loss and…

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The magic of Time to Think

May 1, 2016

I spent a wonderful day with Linda Aspey, organised by the Association for Coaching, exploring Nancy Kline’s Thinking Environments.  If you’ve been here before, you’ll know that I’m a fan of this most person-centred approach.  I’m not about to unlearn everything else, but there are times and situations where simply giving your best attention and creating a space in which another person can think out loud will lead to the most profound realisations and development of awareness.  It seems to me especially priceless as a way of pausing the relentless activity and requirement to act and react that is so…

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6 tips to help you get that job

Mar 26, 2016

I’ve read that lots of people will be dashing off application forms for new jobs this weekend.  I’ve just finished recruiting for a post at Share, and as usual, there was the mix of excitement at a few excellent applications, and despair at the poor quality of so many.  So here are 6 tips to help you to get to interview and beyond: Use the personal statement part of the application – or whatever the employer has asked for – to set out your vision for delivering the job you’re applying for, and how, point by point, you meet the…

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Loving Nancy Kline’s Time to Think

Jun 14, 2015

There’s one book I come back to again and again for inspiration and grounding.  That book is Nancy Kline’s Time to Think (1999, Ward Lock). I was lucky enough to experience the magic of Nancy’s teaching first hand on my School of Coaching programme, and my copy of her book bears an inscription that never fails to warm my heart and humble me, reminding me that I was party to something very special.  These days we’re bombarded by input, stimulus, diverse demands, and the need to respond instantaneously to the never-ceasing deluge of e-mails and social networked communication.  How timely,…

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Mindfulness Meditation Improves Decisions, Reduces Sunk-Cost Bias

Jun 14, 2014

It’s interesting to see research backing up what a lot of people who regularly meditate already know. I’m also interested in the suggestion that people take “mental time out” before making decisions: this is what people who are naturaly reflectors do, and I’ve found that they often come back with the best ideas and thoughts if they’re allowed the space they need.

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Space to Think works for women…

May 17, 2014

I’ve been delighted at how successful the pilot group of “Space to Think” has been.  The anonymous survey has shown that the women taking part have hugely benefited from working together, and that the format is really effective.  You can have a look at the results here: Group members’ comments say it all: here’s a sample:   “It is just great to have a space where you can focus on what the real issues are and then have independent, non-judgement input from the facilitator and your peers.” “It is a great place to stand back and consider issues in…

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13 tips for working brilliantly with people

Mar 31, 2014

Space to Think is a new project for women running small to medium sized charities or social enterprises.  Here are 13 tips distilled from the wisdom of the current group.  They were so good, we just had to share them: Use the probationary period Recruit for attitude – it’s easier to train people in any skills they may lack Don’t be limited by your budget: you can bring almost any skill in through volunteers Every day is an opportunity to find out something amazing about the people in your organisation Sometimes the answer or solution to your quandary comes from…

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Coaching Thoughts: … Of why many coaches resist supervision

Mar 25, 2014

This blog really sang to me. We owe it to our clients to make sure that we’re quality controlling our work, opening ourselves up to scrutiny, leaving that ego behind. In this very crowded and unregulated field, I would recommend that potential clients choose coaches who are affiliates of a professional body (such as the EMCC); undertaking regular supervision; and continually updating their own learning and development.

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Space to Think – Women Leaders of Smaller Voluntary Organisations

Jan 30, 2014

Nourishing space for women running small to medium voluntary organisations Starting February 27th – join up now! How might things be different for you in 9 months’ time if you have regular support in an environment where everyone has particular skills and expertise that they share, and where there’s space and time to think, reflect, gather strength?  This is probably the most difficult and challenging period in modern times for small to medium charities and social enterprises, especially those working with vulnerable people.  You are working long hours, multi-tasking, keeping your boards and management committees up to speed, and trying…

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Be kind to your Kindle!

Dec 26, 2013

Be kind to your Kindle!.

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Keeping the faith

Nov 3, 2013

Yesterday I went to one of those events where you get to hear about a rare new pot of money, some of which may trickle down to small voluntary organisations in order that they may make a difference to increasingly desperate people’s lives.  That’s after the big guys have creamed off all their profits….but let’s not go there.  I met up with a colleague who runs a small mental health charity that does extraordinary things and promotes creativity, positivity, and healthy lifestyle to people who are struggling with their mental health. “I’m losing staff,” said my colleague.  “They can’t cope…

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Lost in the Drama Triangle

Jul 27, 2013

A friend was describing a situation that was causing great distress to someone in her life.  It was a story of two women who had once been very close, but whose relationship had deteriorated to the extent that each was seeking police protection from the other.  As this sorry tale unfolded, I realised that there was something familiar about it.  “Could this be the drama triangle playing out?” I asked.  “Tell me more!” said my friend. Some of you will be familiar with Stephen Karpman’s concept of the Drama Triangle.  It’s an idea originating in Transactional Analysis, or TA, and…

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Taking care in tough times

Mar 10, 2013

As you’ll know, if you’ve been following my online activity, I work both as a CEO of a medium sized charity, and as a coach.  Oh, and I write books, too.  Working as a CEO and also coaching others, as well as having been, until recently, a charity trustee, gives me a very particular view on issues facing leaders in the third sector.  These are really, really difficult times.  The results of a poll carried out by NCVO of charity leaders, published in January, indicated that charities were having to deal with declining income, whilst meeting increased demand.  Paul Ashton,…

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Reflections on leadership…

Feb 17, 2013

Last Wednesday I stepped down as a trustee of Asylum Aid.  I’d been on the board for 8 years, had acted as its vice chair, and even spent a year in the role of acting Chair, and it felt like a good time to have a break.  My decision was helped by the fact that we’d got some skilled and enthusiastic newcomers on the board: I’d be leaving it in very capable hands.  But I shall carry on being a strong supporter of this extraordinary organisation which achieves so much for some of the most vulnerable people in our society. …

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Don’t lay all the blame on the system

Feb 7, 2013

  The reports about the abuse at the Mid Staffordshire Hospital, and the accounts of similar appalling neglect at others, make horrific reading.  Not only did people die needlessly in our hospitals, but they died in pain, stripped entirely of their dignity, starving, dehydrated, filthy.  And we call ourselves civilised.  It seems that those ultimately responsible have escaped punishment and are either living on fat pensions or still drawing salaries that the rest of us could only dream of.  There’s been much talk of the failure of systems and culture, the focus on financial targets, on ticking boxes.  I don’t…

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Charity Funders, have a heart…please…

Jan 19, 2013

I write this wearing my SHARE Community hat, but I think my experience will resonate with many of you working in the charity world.  We all know that times are tough and that it’s more difficult than ever to get our brilliant projects funded.  I know that funders have to make hard choices, and that they just don’t have enough to fund every great idea.  But the ones that really frustrate and annoy me are those who refuse to give any feedback after they reject your bid.  And I speak as someone who has been applying for funds – more…

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..and now for the other excellent blogs!

Jan 9, 2013

  Hello again! When I accepted Tamara’s nomination for “one lovely blog”, I only nominated one blog to pass on.  To tell you the truth, it was late at night, and all this social networking stuff just eats up time; so I thought, well one blog nominated is better than none, and I hope you’ve all enjoyed reading about Henry’s happy philosophy.  But I really needed to nominate seven.  Those are the rules.  And in the time since last posting, I’ve come across some real gems.  Some I read regularly, some are new. So here’s one of my very favourites: …

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One lovely blog…

Jan 8, 2013

Many thanks to Tamara Essex for nominating me for the One Lovely Blog award.  What a lovely thing to do!  In case you haven’t seen hers, and she has two, they’re always worth reading and are practical and informative – in the case of her consultancy blog – and touching, funny, and thought provoking – in the case of her Spanish blog: So the rules are that I have to write 7 things about me.  Here goes. 1) I was the first Fairy Liquid baby.  Yup, the kid in the cot on the black and white TV advert in…

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It’s a wonderful life….

Dec 24, 2012

A few days before Christmas, I found myself in tears watching the Frank Capra classic with James Stewart.  “It’s a Wonderful Life” is the Christmas movie of all Christmas movies.  If you haven’t seen it, here’s the gist: George Bailey has always done the “right thing”, from rescuing his brother who’d fallen through the ice when they were children, to stopping a grief-stricken pharmacist from making a fatal error in preparing a prescription, to abandoning his dreams of travelling the world in order to save the bank that his father had run with humanity and compassion.  The baddie of the…

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A difficult time for some…

Dec 8, 2012

Although this can be a challenging time of year, I love nothing better than a crisp, blue, sparkly winter’s day, and the Christmas lights make  me smile.  And I love that there are ice rinks popping up all over the place.  I passed one at the Pavillion in Brighton last week, and had the pleasure of attending an evening event at Somerset House, where the courtyard is now a winter wonderland of skaters and festive lights.  I’m lucky.  I have a warm home, a loving partner, friends and family, a good job, and good health.  My thoughts lately have been…

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Beyond the water cooler

Aug 19, 2012

I’m writing this article wearing my chief executive of SHARE Community hat (hard hat? train guard’s peaked cap? wide-brimmed straw hat decorated with shiny cherries and gingham ribbon? chic beret?) because I want to share something with everyone else who’s in a leadership role.  Following a recommendation by our Investors in People assessor (we achieved the Bronze award last year), I’m using appraisal season to have a one to one meeting with all the staff, rather than just those for whom I hold line management responsibility.  It’s proving to be a revellation.   I like to think I’m on good terms…

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Conversations for tomorrow – today.

Jul 22, 2012

One of the advantages to having trained as an executive coach with the excellent School of Coaching is the ongoing access to professional development events.  Last week’s event, led by Professor Peter Hawkins, was particularly stimulating.  It was a masterclass in leadership team coaching, and challenged those of us participating on a number of levels.  Professor Hawkins opened by proposing that the speed of change is accelerating as never before, and that the world in which we operate is becoming ever more complex.  And this, he suggested, calls for a different approach to leadership and therefore to the task that…

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Frazzled? Take ten….

Jul 2, 2012

I’ve been feeling frazzled.  My life feels like a never ending task list.  I’m juggling lots of complicated things, am lucky enough to have work that I love, but like most of us, face challenges that are made more stressful in a recession.  My particular challenges include growing SHARE and making it sustainable, finding new work for Beanstalk, and finding markets for my fiction.  Oh, and there’s my partner’s big birthday to organise, too… It’s all good, this is not a moan, but there’s a toll in terms of keeping my energy high.  How do people cope with small children…

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No thank you, I’d rather wait…

May 7, 2012

I am on a crusade, and I’m inviting you to join me.  Now’s a good time to start, if you haven’t  done so already: think of it as a post-May Day revolution.  You don’t have to take to the streets, or brandish placards.  There aren’t any petitions, or at least, I don’t think there are.  You may have to sacrifice a little time now and again, but nowhere near as much as if you were doing a voluntary job or going on a demo or guerilla gardening.  It’s very simple, and you can do your bit the next time you…

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So, tell me….

Apr 29, 2012

I’ve been had two powerful lessons in communication this week.  One was from the EMCC workshop I went to on how to build your coaching business.  The other was from my newest colleague at SHARE, whose job as employment specialist is to help people with severe mental health needs to get back to work.  What struck me was that both Natalie Carrick, presenting the workshop for coaches, and Peter, whose job may seem almost impossible to some people given the current economic climate, were talking about the same thing.  Essentially they were stressing the centrality of focusing not on what…

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So who’s this Jonathan character?

Mar 21, 2012

So who’s this Jonathan character?.

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Petition to save Gaby’s deli

Nov 21, 2011

Petition to save Gaby’s deli.

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No more Pollyanna…

Oct 25, 2011

You remember Pollyanna, don’t you?  First cousin to Anne of Green Gables? (I’ve already lost my male readers…come back, this won’t take long)  Created in 1913 by Eleanor Porter, little Pollyanna, despite being orphaned, was relentlessly optimistic and invented the  “glad game” where she looked for the positive in adversity.  The stories may be dated and somewhat nauseating, but the principle’s not a bad one, and I like to look on the bright side wherever possible.  But I feel the need to have a rant, and the first thing I want to rant about is responsibility – or rather, people…

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But…(or writing towards the light)

Sep 18, 2011

This has been a week with some truly glorious moments.  A week in which my soul’s been touched.  A week rich in meaning and connection, too.  Sometimes you just have to be open to it… I name this blog in honour of Ali Smith, who, with her friend and fellow writer, Jackie Kay, was reading and talking and thinking aloud at Foyles bookshop on Charing Cross Road last Wednesday.  Now going to Foyles is itself somewhat magical.  If you’ve never been there, it’s a huge rambling bookshop on the fringe of Soho.  There are 5 floors (I know Waterstones also…

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It’s complicated…

Aug 22, 2011

  I was going to write about the riots.  That was last week.  I started to write, I started from the point of view of my little niece who watched Croydon burn from her 9th floor window.  I stopped while I read what other, more clever people were writing.  I reflected a lot: wasn’t there a parallel between my experience as an exploited migrant worker in deepest feudal France in the seventies and the young people rioting?  We stole food, my comrades and I,  just enough to stop feeling hungry, there was plenty left for the farmer and his over-fed…

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Let’s connect with the kids and put the mobile phones away… (Connections 2)

Jul 17, 2011

The boy had a sharp haircut and wore a miniature bomber jacket.  He looked serious: his forehead was creased into a frown and it looked as if he’d had plenty of practice.  He reminded me of Muhammed Ali, the boxer, in his heyday.  He had that kind of  don’t- mess-with-me look.   He was chewing Juicy Fruit gum.  His mother also chewed gum.  She shoved his buggy into the buggy space so that he was facing the blank wall of the 250 bus.  He frowned some more.  His mother’s neck was bent towards her shoulder where she clasped her mobile…

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Only connect…

Jul 1, 2011

This is my year for connecting.  Or rather, it’s my year for reconnection, and it’s got me thinking a lot about the relationships we have, those we think we’ve lost, the meaning of it all.  And how connection with the people in our lives whom we think we left behind long ago lies dormant like a seed buried deep within a forest, only to spring to life after a forest fire has made it pop and given it the space and energy to grow. This month I travelled to Israel.  Some of you will already be tutting and muttering, but…

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Getting away with torture and the art of good PR

Jun 3, 2011

The scandal of Castelbeck and Winterbourne View which broke as a result of the Panorama undercover investigation has appalled the nation, and I’ve already retweeted some of the learned articles from the Guardian and Independent.  I’m left with a whole range of feelings.  Like my colleague and deputy at SHARE, I’m so proud to be working in an organisation that really does live its values and treats people with the decency and respect they deserve.  It was also something of an antidote to see Orchard Hill College in Wallington in action the morning after I’d seen the Panorama programme.  Staff…

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Keep going, keep growing

May 30, 2011

If you’re struggling to lead your small to medium charity through these challenging times, Beanstalk’s new Keep going, keep growing coaching group is for you.   The series of 6, monthly sessions will give you the space and mutual support you need to work through the issues that keep you awake at night.  I will be organising the sessions to take place in a convenient central London location.  Each session will last for 2 hours.  Rules of strict confidentiality will apply. The whole programme costs £300 and the group will consist of between 6 and 8 people.  The first programme will…

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Keep going, keep growing

May 30, 2011

If you’re struggling to lead your small to medium charity through these challenging times, Beanstalk’s new Keep going, keep growing coaching group is for you.   The series of 6, monthly sessions will give you the space and mutual support you need to work through the issues that keep you awake at night.  I will be organising the sessions to take place in a convenient central London location.  Each session will last for 2 hours.  Rules of strict confidentiality will apply. The whole programme costs £300 and the group will consist of between 6 and 8 people.  The first programme will…

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