A Healthy Balance

One Portion Of Five A Day (c) R Dennison August 2013

One Portion Of Five A Day (c) R Dennison August 2013

It isn’t fair.  You work really hard, get the job you always wanted, start to enjoy your success and then your weight becomes an issue.

If you are David Cameron (photographed on holiday recently displaying a bit of middle aged spread) there will always be someone to remind you about your weight and the impact on your health.

All this in a climate in which: Central government promotes a healthy diet including five portions of fruits and vegetables per day; Birmingham council has promoted free sessions in their leisure facilities to encourage good health http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-22350807 ; the Royal College of Psychiatrists draws attention to the link between physical activity and positive mental health.

Since the consensus is that being healthy is a good thing, how might an average person use coaching support to form a health goal?

Well, any success goal will be more powerful if it is phrased in a positive and forward looking way.  So the plaintive cry of ‘I don’t want to drag around this middle aged spread’ will benefit from some further thought.

To help the coachee refine their goal the coach might ask some questions to establish what the personal benefits of ‘feeling healthier’ would be.  For instance: what has the coachee done already to change their situation; how many steps are there to get from where they are presently to the healthier state; what will friends and family be saying when the coachee reaches their healthier state.

Answering these questions starts to build up the background to the healthier state the coachee hankers after.  It also may start suggesting what powerful initial step he or she could take to move them in the right direction.

Ultimately, the coach can help the coachee clarify their situation.  Taking the action necessary to start to attain the goal is the coachee’s responsibility.

Sign Of The Times

self-esteem, groups and hate

self-esteem, groups and hate (Photo credit: Will Lion)

Blogging about personal development in a time of austerity is highlighting some powerful contrasts and connections.

On one hand there are young – and not so young – people who are motivated high achievers (like the former Olympian Rebecca Adlington or footballer Robbie Rogers I have recently blogged about) who are confident of their own ability to make choices which allow for self-development.

On the other hand there are people not in education employment or training (the so called Neets) or offenders like those documented by commercial television living in Her Majesty’s Prison Aylesbury.




Their lives and those of youth not (yet) involved in the criminal justice system are seemingly defined by low self- esteem, disengagement with / alienation from society, and perhaps adverse mental health outcomes.



Either cohort could be supported to develop better outcomes for themselves and those their lives touch.  The question is who should have the majority interest in providing that support?


Should it be central government policy which highlights the need to resource those people, and which provides such support directly (so young people’s energies are channelled into social rather than anti-social activity)?


Or should local communities come together, to make the most of central government Big Society funds, using their skills to deliver change in the lives of the least fortunate neighbourhoods?


I have led a Community First panel for 12 months and I will be reflecting on my Big Society experience in coming posts.  Meanwhile I am aware of the pressures on the potential pool of volunteers for those sort of projects (people with the skills, confidence and desire to help make change happen).


Proposed cutbacks on numbers of civil servants in the Education department seem counterproductive too.  After all, they and their peers in other departments are part of the pool of potential volunteers for Big Society activity.



Obviously there are major questions about the best route by which to reduce the fiscal deficit and balance national spending.  However there’s a question mark against the wisdom of leaving some under supported people entirely to the operation of volunteerism (where individuals delivering those outcomes may be under pressure to produce high level outcomes while being a little under prepared to so).


Maybe there is work to be done to increase the capacity of the voluntary sector to deliver better quality outcomes.  Doing that first may reduce the potential for further drains on health, welfare, education, and criminal justice resources further down the line.

At Your (Civil) Service

English: Martin Donnelly, Permanent Secretary ...

English: Martin Donnelly, Permanent Secretary of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in the United Kingdom (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

UK public servants come in for some real stick.  Unfairly in my view.

Pay freezes, head count reduction and the relentless pressure of producing more results with less resources take their toll.  At least one civil service representative body, the Public and Commercial Services union – www.pcs.org.uk – seems set to ballot for strike action.

At least one central government permanent secretary (chief executive equivalent) has a job plan which includes doing something about that.


Martin Donnelly at the department for Business, Innovation and Skills has a job objective which includes improving outcomes amongst his middle managers and generally rewarding good performance in the organisation.

It must also be good for morale therefore to learn that David Cameron enjoys good relations with civil servants  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-21009377 .

Armed with that reassurance it should be possible for organisational leaders to work with staff to identify some goals, including:

– their main goal for 2013 and how it benefits them individually + their stakeholders (including senior colleagues and, crucially, the politicians they answer to http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-21040142

– how to positively motivate stakeholders to pursue those gaols (Cabinet Office has some ideas though  http://blogs.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/behavioural-insights-team/2013/01/07/sticking-to-our-new-years-resolutions/

– gainging clarity on what ‘success’ looks like, will acquiring skills such as project planning and contract management be important across government, as the Public Accounts Committee chair, Margaret Hodge, suggested in December 2012? http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-20604173