http://penelopetobin.com    Mon, 09 Jan 2017 21:40:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.7 Re-thinking education…for equality http://penelopetobin.com/2016/10/education-for-equality/ http://penelopetobin.com/2016/10/education-for-equality/#respond Tue, 11 Oct 2016 07:49:46 +0000 http://penelopetobin.com/?p=4889 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. Soft skills are: The traits and abilities of attitude and behaviour, rather than knowledge or technical aptitude.   These [...]

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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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Here’s to quiet! http://penelopetobin.com/2016/08/quiet/ http://penelopetobin.com/2016/08/quiet/#respond Tue, 09 Aug 2016 10:30:28 +0000 http://penelopetobin.com/?p=4846 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 [...]

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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.

Quiet

 

For musicians, silence is the soil

into which we have to plant music;

we must nourish the soil, make sure it’s of good quality

so that our seeds will take root.

Stephen Hough

 

After all, it’s the intervals between notes, the spaces, that give music its shape.

It’s the rests, the pauses, that make sense of the sound.

And it’s silence that allows us to ‘hear’ our lives more clearly.

 

The notes I handle no better than many pianists.

But the pauses between the notes – ah, that is where the art resides.

Arthur Schnabel

 

Silence seems increasingly hard to find.

And we’re becoming unused to it.

So much so that many of us have become uncomfortable with it.

The quiet – the space it creates and our thoughts that emerge from it – unsettle us.

We find ways to distract ourselves from it.

 

Still, despite this distancing, we recognise that we need silence.

 

We’re looking for it in our personal lives, as evidenced in the rise of mindfulness.

And we’re starting to prioritise it in the workplace. For example, the ubiquitous open-plan office is becoming recognised as a great concept if you want to alienate introverts, reduce productivity, and use noise pollution to drive people crazy!

This desire for a quieter working environment isn’t some whinge from the oldies – it’s younger people who are seeking it the most.

 

A quiet working environment is top of millennials’ wish list!

 

So research shows us that silence is a necessary and wonderful thing.

Go on then!

Turn everything off, even just for five minutes.

 

Indulge yourself.

 

And, wherever you are, have a lovely, quiet August.

 

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The ‘Free’ In Freelancer http://penelopetobin.com/2016/05/the-free-in-freelancer/ http://penelopetobin.com/2016/05/the-free-in-freelancer/#respond Tue, 17 May 2016 07:10:12 +0000 http://penelopetobin.com/?p=4812 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 [...]

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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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Does your child have the skills for success? http://penelopetobin.com/2016/03/skills/ http://penelopetobin.com/2016/03/skills/#respond Tue, 22 Mar 2016 09:12:35 +0000 http://penelopetobin.com/?p=4775 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 [...]

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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…

In the past, education was about imparting knowledge. Today, it is about providing students with the tools to navigate an increasingly uncertain, volatile world.

Andreas Schleicher, Director for Education and Skills, OECD

child sitting on books / skillsA serious bias towards short-term teaching to the test persists throughout the education system in the UK. This approach doesn’t give young people the soft skills they need to succeed now – the skills that employers are crying out for.

We will do the next generation a grave disservice if we fail to create an education for all that meets the needs of the 21st century workplace.

Kirstie Donnelly, UK Managing Director of City & Guilds

According to research by Development Economics Ltd, strong soft skills can boost an individual’s lifetime earnings by up to 15%, but in the McDonalds Backing Soft Skills report, it was estimated that more than half a million UK workers will be held back by soft skills deficits by 2020.

And it’s not only in the workplace that soft skills are determinants of success – they are crucial for personal happiness, particularly in times of rapid change.

What can parents do about the soft skills deficit?

Well, bang on the headteacher’s door, maybe?

And on the policy makers’, certainly.

And introduce more soft skills development into home life…keep an eye out for an upcoming post about this!

Meanwhile, check out Carol Dweck’s short and brilliant animation on how to help a child reach their potential.

 

 

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Do You Get Enough Sleep? http://penelopetobin.com/2016/01/do-you-get-enough-sleep/ http://penelopetobin.com/2016/01/do-you-get-enough-sleep/#respond Fri, 15 Jan 2016 09:30:16 +0000 http://penelopetobin.com/?p=4765 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… What to do about it if you’re not… And how to create the best environments – at home [...]

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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…

What to do about it if you’re not…

And how to create the best environments – at home and at work – to help others sleep better too.

Happy snoozing!

How Sleep (and Lack of it) Affects performance on the Job

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Happiness vs Depression http://penelopetobin.com/2015/12/depression/ http://penelopetobin.com/2015/12/depression/#respond Mon, 21 Dec 2015 09:23:34 +0000 http://penelopetobin.com/?p=4702 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 [...]

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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.

I’ve been reminded of how this is the case for the many who suffer with depression, and how others’ misunderstanding of the illness can add to the problem. I wanted to pass on thoughts that have been shared with me, and offer ideas for how this time of year can be made easier and happier.

Depression is not the opposite of happiness!

Happy people can become depressed, just as healthy people can get flu but are still essentially healthy, athletes can get injured but are still good athletes, and vocalists can lose their voice, but are still professional vocalists.

However, when an injury is physical it’s easier for others to see, to understand, to sympathise with, and to respond to. When the illness is hidden, others can be insensitive, albeit unintentionally, which makes matters worse.

Reminding ourselves of how best to support people with depression is always valuable, but perhaps especially so at a time of year when their problems are thrown into painful contrast with the all-pervasive joviality.

Guidelines for a Happier Christmas

Here are some really simple guidelines for supporting someone suffering from depression:

  • First and foremost, listen to them
  • Let them know you understand – not what they’re feeling, but just that they’re feeling bad.
  • Don’t try to fix their life. As one reader commented to me, “When someone’s trying to navigate their way through a storm, it’s not helpful to tell them that their boat needs a paint job!”
  • If you offer to help, make it clear that you mean it. Ask, “What can I do to help,” instead of a vague, “Let me know if you need anything”
  • Rather than saying, “I care about you”, show you care through your actions. Small surprises and kind gestures have a huge impact
  • Ditch the platitudes
  • No shaming! A positive psychologist suffering with a bout of depression told me that a friend had laughed at this apparent dichotomy, saying, “Well, you’ve got to admit it’s funny isn’t it!”
  • Suggest going out for a walk, or doing an exercise class together. It lets them know you want to spend time with them…and moving the body is a good way to give the mind a rest
  • Be persistent with your offers, even if they’re not accepted. Depressed people still want to be included, even if they can’t always participate fully
  • If you’re tempted to say, “There’s a lesson in this” stop yourself! If there is a lesson in what they’re going through, they’ll find it for themselves, in their own time

You can help those with depression by being aware, sensitive, empathic, and using common sense.

But then that’s not a bad way for us to be with anyone is it!

Have a Happy Christmas

Want to get 2016 off to a great start? Read Happiness is Go! on the Barrier Breakers blog.

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Are You A Recent Graduate? (Or The Parent Of One)? http://penelopetobin.com/2015/11/graduate/ http://penelopetobin.com/2015/11/graduate/#respond Mon, 16 Nov 2015 09:35:10 +0000 http://penelopetobin.com/?p=4658 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 [...]

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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…

This month, one company’s research showed that only one in five of their 1000 candidates during the last 12 months demonstrated the necessary soft skills – and the problem is growing.

Meanwhile Dr Anthony Seldon spoke out about his belief that state schools have much to learn from the private sector, which is far better at preparing students not just with good grades, but with “a grounding in soft skills.” He recognised that:

State schools are “the victim of forces

that compel them to focus on a narrow range of exam teaching”

Writing in HR Magazine, James Caan, building on his recent work with McDonalds and a host of major employers and business groups, said:

Not only will better recognition and promotion of soft skills benefit the UK economy, it will also make a significant difference to the businesses, careers and lives of young people.

He quotes the research findings, which include the fact that 75% of employers say there is already a soft skills gap in today’s workforce, and that economists predict by 2020 more than half a million UK workers will be significantly held back by a lack of these skills.

I’ve worked in the area of soft skills development for the last 15 years, from the time when they were seen by businesses as nice-to-have, fluffy add-ons – and were consequently never addressed. Things have changed! But while awareness has grown, the problems produced by a lack of soft skills are becoming ever more apparent and pressing…

Yet little – correction, nothing is being done at a government policy level

in any department.

This means we’re on our own.

Graduates are setting off into the world of work without the necessary skills.

And they may not even be aware of this – not until they try to find a job!

Does this situation bother you?

Let me know…

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Would you like to have a coach? http://penelopetobin.com/2015/09/coach/ http://penelopetobin.com/2015/09/coach/#respond Tue, 22 Sep 2015 08:24:39 +0000 http://penelopetobin.com/?p=4621 Do you have a coach? Maybe you feel like you don’t really need one? Well, check out what these rather successful guys have to say about it… I believe in coaching. There’s no better way to get honest feedback, perspective, clarity on your direction, motivation…and so much more. I’ve always had coaches, both as a [...]

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Do you have a coach?

Maybe you feel like you don’t really need one?

Well, check out what these rather successful guys have to say about it…

I believe in coaching. There’s no better way to get honest feedback, perspective, clarity on your direction, motivation…and so much more.

I’ve always had coaches, both as a business person and as a performer.

And I’ve also been a coach for eons!

And you know what the secret is to a successful coaching experience? It’s obvious…

You need a good coach!!

So here are a few pointers to finding one:

  1. Not all coaches are equal: The plethora of easy-to-gain coaching qualifications have led to an abundance of coaches with certificates but without true skills. What’s most important is that your coach has experience, wisdom, empathy, humour, and insight.
  2. Find the right coach for you: As with any professional service, you’ve got to pick a provider who specialises in your main area of concern. Then during the introductory session you can find out whether or not you’re a good fit, not only by how you get on, whether you like their style, or how insightful their questions are, but also by taking note of your gut reaction. However…
  3. A coach is not your friend: A coach wants the best for you, but it’s their job to have the difficult conversations that others might shy away from. You need to be ready for this, and to feel confident that your coach will be direct with you. Similarly, you’ll need to be honest with them. So, is this someone you could trust?
  4. Coaching is not therapy: Coaches work primarily from the present and into the future, and are not qualified to help people with serious emotional problems that require in-depth analysis of the past. Be clear with yourself at the outset about what you are looking to change and be sure that coaching is the right route to take to achieve those outcomes.

So are you thinking about getting a coach?

I coach people in leadership roles, who are going through a time of transition, and who are open to change.

If this sounds like you, why not have a get in touch with me, and let’s see if we’d be a good fit!

Whatever kind of coach you need, don’t hesitate a moment longer.

As long as you choose wisely…

Having a coach could be the best investment you ever made!

 

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Women in Leadership http://penelopetobin.com/2015/08/women_in_leadership_roles/ http://penelopetobin.com/2015/08/women_in_leadership_roles/#respond Mon, 17 Aug 2015 08:30:18 +0000 http://penelopetobin.com/?p=4510 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 [...]

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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…

get a clear picture of the quartet in their mind’s eye,

relax into the vibe of the club,

and enjoy the groove of the music.

I asked them to watch how the musicians were fully engaged, how they worked together and listened closely to each other, while each player was simultaneously expressing themselves.

Then I asked the audience the question: “How many players in your imaginary jazz group are women?”

I watched as everyone in the audience

grimaced with internal embarrassment.

 

The response to my question was typical, and in no way reflects upon this particular audience. However, the context of the talk highlighted the depth of these unconscious biases, and how they trip us up, even when we are fully aware of their existence and their destructive impact.

It was a reminder that if we tell girls “you can do anything you choose”, then we do them a disservice; we’re giving them a glib platitude rather than the less palatable, more complex truth.

Unless girls know the extent of biases – their own and those of others – they’ll be ill-prepared for reality.

And the biases will continue to hold sway.

It’s hard to be eternally vigilant.

But, as they say, that’s the price of liberty.

 

p.s. How many women would there have been in your group?

 

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Is this unprincipled? http://penelopetobin.com/2015/07/unprincipled/ http://penelopetobin.com/2015/07/unprincipled/#respond Mon, 06 Jul 2015 08:11:32 +0000 http://penelopetobin.com/?p=4486 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 [...]

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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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