Oct 112016
 

For equality to become reality, I believe we must re-think our education system.

We have to move away from the mechanistic ‘teaching to the test’ approach,

And towards one where soft skills are embedded in every learning experience.education

Soft skills are:

The traits and abilities

of attitude and behaviour,

rather than knowledge

or technical aptitude.

 

These skills – such as communication, leadership, confidence, motivation, self-awareness, creativity, and teamwork – are increasingly recognised as key to enterprise, entrepreneurship, and leadership.

Soft skills are an asset that neither employers nor employees can ignore.

James Caan CBE 2015

Many believe soft skills are critical determinants of survival in the face of current challenges…

They’re the skills we need to adapt successfully to a globalised, rapidly changing, unpredictable environment.

However, there’s a massive soft skills gap, particularly affecting young people:

By 2020, more than half a million workers will be held back by a lack of soft skills.

Development Economics 2015

While these skills are essential to workplace success, as well as personal wellbeing, their value extends even further.

Soft skills are the secret to self-empowerment and equality

 

If we truly want an education system that develops the individual,

That encourages questioning, reflection, and a curious mind,

That creates a lust for lifelong learning,

And that brings about social mobility and equality,

Then soft skills must be prioritised.

Soft skills open our eyes to reality…

They give us the strength to change things for the better…

And they provide us with the resilience that making change demands.

 

There is evidence that this new kind of education would have dramatic benefits,

Not only for the young people concerned, but also for society as a whole.

Graham Allen’s report, Early Intervention: The Next Steps, detailed “the immense penalties to society and to the individual of failing to provide a strong foundation of social and emotional capabilities early in life.”

There is also a great deal of evidence that girls in particular will benefit from soft skills development.

In the recently published Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing, England, 2014, young women have emerged as a “high risk” group, with more than 25% aged 16 to 24 suffering from common mental health problems.

Girls are now three times more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety than boys.

Social Trends in Adolescent Mental Health, Nuffield Foundation 2013

Girls are under intense pressure.

We should all be concerned.

Without the tools that soft skills provide, girls have inadequate support mechanisms with which to combat these pressures.

And rather than using their energy to reach their potential and move towards positions of leadership on an equal basis, they’ll struggle for years to come, to understand and deal with this damage.

If we care about equality we must support all young people – and girls in particular – by putting soft skills at the heart of education.

 

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Aug 092016
 

August in London is rather wonderful.

Simply, it’s very quiet.

Ahhh, lovely.

Just listen to…nothing.

 

Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration!

But there is less noise, fewer frenetic drivers, more relaxed people, as everyone’s blood pressure drops a notch.

It’s calmer, a time to regroup, to catch up…even the email spammers seem to be taking a break.

 

I adore silence. Probably like many musicians.

 

This may seem strange.

But it’s really not. Continue reading »

May 172016
 

Are you one of those people who have left a regular job and set out on your own?

Or would you like to be?

Would you like to be a freelancer?

Would you like to be free?

Ah yes, the ‘free’ in freelancer is a big clue to the appeal of this way of living.

The ability to shape your own life and determine your own destiny is a huge pull for many who feel they’re living life in a straight jacket of someone else’s design.

But making the leap into freedom is a huge decision.

George Bernard Shaw quote

However, if freedom is calling, you need to listen, or you’ll always regret it.

One of my coaching clients who’s recently made this transition is ‘struggling’ a bit. Every time I ask him how he’s doing he tells me he’s worried because, “I’m not used to feeling so happy. I feel guilty!” :)

He’s moved from a very stressful working situation into one that gives him the freedom to pursue a different way of being, one that’s more aligned with who he is and what he wants from life, and one that makes him wake up looking forward to the day ahead. He’s loving the process of discovery.

Still, making this move isn’t all roses, otherwise everyone would do it.

So what are some of the ‘thorns’?

Well, in no particular order, you’ve got to be okay with…

  • financial insecurity
  • a requirement to self-motivate no matter how tough the going gets
  • a lack of benefits or holiday pay
  • the need to build your own network of colleagues
  • delegating, managing and leading
  • doing jobs you don’t enjoy (yep, maybe like selling!)
  • no skiving
  • the buck stopping with you
  • making all the decisions
  • setbacks and failure
  • working really long hours
  • friends and family thinking you’ve gone crazy

Could you handle those thorns?

Do you have the necessary business acumen to become a freelancer?

And the right soft skills?

Is freedom still calling?

If you say “yes” to all that, then it’s time to start making plans!

Getting a coach to help you is a great place to start…

contact us

And getting free will be the best thing you ever did.

 

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Mar 222016
 

The effect of a soft skills deficit is going to have a big impact on us all before long, and this will be of particular concern to parents. Latest warnings indicate that UK children are losing out to those in Asia, in terms of  getting a grip on the essential soft skills needed today. Unfortunately our education system is seriously stuck in the past… Continue reading »

Jan 152016
 

There are certain things that mess us up, even if everything else in our life is going swimmingly!

And one of those is sleep.

Here’s an infographic for you to peruse, to see if you’re getting enough zzzzzs… Continue reading »

Dec 212015
 

Recently I’ve been writing a series on Happiness. I’ve had some inspiring feedback and thought-provoking insights from readers. So I wanted to pause Happiness – the series that is – and pick up on some of these observations.

Christmas is a time when happiness comes centre stage, and we’re all meant to be in the festive spirit, with plenty of ho ho ho. But for many people Christmas is tricky, bringing up difficult memories, highlighting problems, or causing a sense of isolation. Continue reading »

Nov 162015
 

Congratulations!

But are you worried about whether you’ve been prepared with the best skills for today’s world?

I’d be interested to know your thoughts on this…

Education is still relentlessly focused on preparing young people to pass exams. But the research seems clear; this approach ignores the skills that employers are now looking for, the skills that allow young people to effectively navigate rapid, constant change, the skills that encourage imagination, creativity, and innovation, and the skills that will develop an individual’s wellbeing and success.graduate

There’s plenty of recent evidence… Continue reading »

Aug 172015
 

Not long ago I had the pleasure of speaking to a large group of business women, all of whom were in leadership roles. In my talk I invited the audience to come with me to a jazz gig, and to imagine the scene as we entered the club and wove our way through the crowd to get to our table.

I asked them to see the jazz quartet up on the small stage – pianist, bassist, drummer and saxophonist – playing sweet, swinging music.

I talked about how the musicians reach peak performance because of soft skills such as communication, trust and teamwork.

And as I described the process of improvisation I suggested that the audience close their eyes… Continue reading »

Jul 062015
 

In his classic book, How To Win Friends And Influence People, Dale Carnegie sums up the first chapter with this advice:

Principle 1. Don’t criticise, condemn or complain.

Now I get the idea, and work by it in general, believing there are far more constructive ways to go about things.

But I’m also a big believer in speaking up when you see injustice, and in doing what you can to change things for the better.

So at what point does Principle 1 become unprincipled?

Happy/UnprincipledMargaret Heffernan wrote:

We make ourselves powerless when we choose not to know. But we give ourselves hope when we insist on looking.

It might be easier and safer to keep quiet, to keep your head down, to not mention – or choose not to see – when things are awry. We may be more likeable if we keep smiling, are always friendly and chirpy, never question anything.

But when does that easier, safer, likeable point shift?

And when does our silence make up complicit?

If we know International Aid is being syphoned off by corrupt officials, shouldn’t we criticise this? If we see abuse happening next door shouldn’t we condemn it. If we believe inflated bonuses are being paid to a boss who has caused immense damage, shouldn’t we complain about it?

If you want to change things – if you want to break barriers – you surely can’t do it without criticising, condemning or complaining.

But if you want to win friends, then Dale Carnegie is probably right, and it’s best to follow Principle 1.

It’s a matter of choice and of principles.

 

 

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