Forward Planning Means Taking Control

Taking Control (c) R Dennison May 2013

Taking Control (c) R Dennison May 2013


According to the latest figures UK unemployment is up to 2.52m.  Perhaps it is no coincidence then that UK employees are anxious about their situation.  Research conducted by Cardiff University academics provides a snapshot of what is causing those anxieties.

No surprises about the findings: a reduction of job status; actual job loss; and unfair treatment in the workplace are preying on respondents’ minds.  I think a bit of extra planning might help address these concerns and help employees feel like they have more control over their future.

As a first step it might be worthwhile keeping a lifeplan up to date (or even creating one in the first place), so it is easier to chart the longer term goals that you want to pursue.  If the prospect of pay cuts / producing more-with-less resources / job loss causes worry, it has to be a good idea to have some information in your back pocket, including:


– What reward does your present job provide?

– How does that reward fit with your key values?

– What else might you do if the job was to abruptly disappear?


The sudden shock of a major change – like redundancy – would be reduced I think if the jobholder was already clear about what else it would take for them to live their best life.

Questions like those above, and the answers they generate, help build that reserve of self-knowledge.

The Guardian’s coverage of the research findings are available here


(Details of the 2012 Skills and Employment survey, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the UK Commission for Employment and Skills is available here at  )

Jobs for the Boys


Gettting An Interview (c) R Dennison 2013

Gettting An Interview (c) R Dennison 2013

Last month I wrote about Ben Drew’s Each One Teach One initiative.  This is a charitable trust which intends to Fund inspiring projects to help young people to build their skills and in turn improve their lives and link up youth provision, so their journey makes more sense.

It seems to me these organisational goals make a lot of sense, for young people on the starting blocks and ready to compete.

As the BBC’s Panorama programme ‘Jobs for the Boys’ showed recently there are some young people for whom the challenge is getting to the start line in the first place.

The programme, which was presented by ex-Arsenal footballer Sol Campbell, looked at the disproportionately high impact of unemployment on young black men.  Apparently the rate of unemployment for young black men is roughly twice that of their white counterparts.

This sounds like there is an extra bit of thinking involved in asking young black men the three classic goal-related questions:

–       What do you want to achieve?

–       When do you want to achieve it?

–       What is the first step in that direction?

The extra question, to explore in some depth, could be:  What challenges could you face in reaching your goal?

Those challenges could be internal (self -esteem related) or external (trying to succeed in a harsh employment climate).  Either way, if the goal is ‘to be successful at a job interview’ then there may be challenges ahead.

One key ingredient could be culturally informed action and support, to foster the sense of self-esteem of young black men, where that is the principle barrier to success.

Certainly the Department for Work and Pensions and their partners working directly with unemployed people have their work cut out addressing this issue.

Good luck as well to organisations like the Black Training and Enterprise Group ( ).  This non-profit, led by Jeremy Crook, is active in addressing the backdrop, against which disadvantage arises.

Fingers crossed that in a decade young black men will be much less likely to be unemployed.  With the successful intervention of positively motivated groups and individuals they may just be achieving their goals more easily.

Another Thought About Bullying


A Glass Broken (c) R Dennison 2013

A Glass Broken (c) R Dennison 2013

I posted on the subject of bullying recently and co-incidentally the Guardian has just featured the topic too.  Their timely illustration (of the impact of workplace bullying) appears in the work advice section.  A reader’s letter recounts the difficulties linked to working with someone whose behaviour sometimes involves bullying.


Most people would recognise that typically the atmosphere in the workplace can combine both positives (interesting tasks) and negatives (challenging people).  Most people accept that sometimes their job can seem like the proverbial half-empty glass.


The Guardian’s advice-seeker has spent time trying to talk to a supervisor who can tackle the bullying issue.  The supervisor hasn’t grasped the situation successfully.  For the correspondent their glass is not half empty.  It is actually broken.


Reading between the lines the correspondent seems to have a narrow set of options.  Option one, they put up with the situation (more unhappiness for them and for the bully).  Option two, they start looking actively for other jobs they could be doing.


There is a crying need, I think, for coaching support to be made available to managers on this topic.  Bullying makes workplaces unproductive, creates stress and wastes time.  Managerial support would equip supervisors with the empathy, people skills and confidence to sense bullying is occurring, intervene firmly to end it and leave a climate of zero-tolerance afterward.  Hopefully this kind of learning is going to become commonplace in future and bully-friendly environments a thing of the past.


Two Wheels Good – Four Wheels Better

Inspiration (c) R Dennison 2013

Inspiration (c) R Dennison 2013

Having noted that Sir Alex has now announced his retirement from Manchester United, I should point Sir Chris Hoy beat him to the retirement arena by a few days.  However Sir Chris, at 37 years of age, is actually changing gears in career terms.

As the Daily Telegraph coverage confirms Sir Chris is leaving the world of cycling to pursue a goal in the world of motor sport, courtesy of the SR1 circuit for novice drivers.  Speaking about the inspiration to pursue this new challenge, he has said:

“I love cars, I love racing bikes, I’ve still got that competitive instinct even though I’ve retired from racing bikes, and I’ve driven on circuits for a number of years now, just on track days, so to combine the two and to have a little bit of fun… it’s just a great chance for me,”

It is great too that he has identified what is important – competition plus fun – and transferred the same confidence he brought to the velodrome to the racing circuit.  That calculation suggests that his goal is clear, and the steps he will be taking to move toward what he wants are equally certain.  I would put money on him being successful in his new field too, given time.

Sir Alex Knows What He Wants

Alex Ferguson

Alex Ferguson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sir Alex Ferguson is clear about what he wants in his retirement.  He sounds like a man who understands what is really important about taking this decision at this time.  He sounds at peace with his life as a result.  In his statement he says:

“The decision to retire is one that I have thought a great deal about and one that I have not taken lightly. It is the right time. It was important to me to leave an organisation in the strongest possible shape and I believe I have done so…I am delighted to take on the roles of both director and ambassador for the club. With these activities, along with my many other interests, I am looking forward to the future”.

I like that he is looking forward to the next chapter of his life.  Good luck to him.

Confidence, Basic Skills, and Young Offenders

Cooking With Confidence

Cooking With Confidence


A few years back I was lucky enough to visit a prison to see how offenders were able to improve their basic skills and confidence.  The approach was very simple.  It started with an egg.


There were a few others ingredients too, however cookery classes made it possible to deliver literacy, numeracy and social skills all at the same time.  I guess there is a quiet sense of satisfaction to be had from working through a recipe, measuring ingredients and cooperating with the instructor to produce a good quality result.


It is naïve to think greater confidence in itself reduces re-offending rates, but it may play an important part in opening offenders’ eyes to possibilities, beyond their familiar offending behaviour.


I got to thinking about the relationship between confidence, basic skills, and people who are in custody as a result of the latest report from the Centre for Social Justice   The CSJ believes that the English justice system is failing to educate young offenders.  Edward Boyd, the Centre’s deputy policy director says:


“The youth justice system is being treated as a dumping ground for youngsters that no one knows how to help.  Education is one of the best ways of reducing reoffending – but Youth Offenders’ Institutions are failing to do this”.


Hopefully reports on the CSJ’s findings will shine the spotlight on the role of Secure College’s.  More effective learning there will help young offenders make wiser life choices.  That in turn will give them greater scope to identify what it is they legitimately want, and what constructive actions they will take to take to get it.  Which may just be good news, for the young people, and for the rest of society.

Taking An Opportunity To Be Creative

Thanks for dropping by.  As you might have spotted there seems to be a problem with some of the pictures I have selected to illustrate previous posts.  Some of them disappear and reappear after they have been posted.  I’m not sure why this issue has arisen now.  Apologies for any inconvenience caused.


On the up side, I am going to be more creative and that means taking the opportunity to generate more illustrations and photographs myself.  That should make the blog even more distinctive.  So, do keep visiting and enjoying the posts.

Bullying – No Joke

Just Say No

Just Say No

Even if it has never been an issue for you, it is probably obvious that bullying is not funny at all.  The BBC reports on one factor possibly contributing to playground harassment, apparently University of Keele research suggests it is linked to the use of humour.

Correspondent Sean Coughlan reports the University’s Dr Claire Fox’s comments that:

“Children who use humour to make fun of themselves are at more risk of being bullied”

It is as if self-defeating jokes send a signal to the would-be school bully that their potential target is self-effacing and underneath that, vulnerable.

I wonder how many teachers (or managers in the workplace) rise promptly to the challenge of tackling this sensitive area ?

As a start a coach might ask about the wording of any mission statement that the school or workspace has regarding the zero tolerance for bullying.  Beyond that, there are a few additional coaching questions that spring to mind:

What resources does a leader possess to promote the confidence and self-esteem of the people around her ?

How comfortable is she with planning what to say in a conversation with the perceived aggressor, making it clear their behaviour is no laughing matter?

What approach has she outlined to support the person targeted, without over-doing her show of concern?

Once the person in charge recognises the sensitivities in the situation, tackling bullying and then raising confidence becomes possible.  It might be uncomfortable to open up the issues when they are still raw, but having a clear goal to work towards is the starting point in each case.