My ‘tuppence’ worth of advise for parents/guardians who’s children have returned to school this month
Earlier this month, I was asked to contribute to an article in Cork’s Echo themed around a piece of advise I would offer parents/ guardians who’s children are returning to school. The month of September is always a maelstrom of activity in this house and writing this article served as a gentle reminder to myself to ‘practise what I preach’! I hope you enjoy.
“As a parent of three school- going children, there’s no denying that the return to school transition can bring with it a rollercoaster of emotions and an injection of pace that can at times be overwhelming.
These days are often characterised by a forensic focus on our never-ending ‘to do’ list as we wonder if we have ‘everything sorted’. As if somehow, reassuring ourselves that if our children have all the material items that they need, they will be fine…right?
When we strive for perfection in this regard, we can often loose sight of what is most important at this time – connection with our children and compassion for ourselves.
For a lot of children, returning to school can be an anxious time, particularly for children changing schools or transitioning from primary to secondary school. It can represent a change in identity and status for them. Having a parent/ guardian who has a calm presence is important in enabling them to navigate this transition. This involves taking time out to relax, listen and chat as well as provide reassurance and encouragement. All of this is invaluable to our children.
Of course, it’s very hard to be ‘present’ if we are running from pillar to post. In my coaching practise, I have observed that while many adults are compassionate towards others, they are at a loss when it comes to themselves. It is my belief that the most important relationship we have in our life is the one we have with ourselves, therefore, our route to self- compassion may involve practising kindness by not judging ourselves harshly, aiming to remove the word ‘should’ from our narrative and by backing ourselves.
As with every other September “This too will pass”.”
In these uncertain and “busy” times, how do you know if you’re heading in a direction that’s serving you unless you are taking the time to reflect and re- assess? Try journaling as a route to enabling your self- reflection!
As a coach, my job is to support my clients in navigating and instigating change. Through the coaching process and as we tap into ‘real- time’ passions, values, and priorities, more often than not, a client will realise that the change they ‘thought’ they were after, is not actually in alignment with the direction they wish to go in.
Every day offers us the opportunity to learn more about ourselves and the world we live in. We are all pressed for time, under pressure and striving to move forward and I find the most effective route to process and make sense of what’s going for ourselves and in the world around us is to journal.
“Ink it, don’t think it”. Journaling is a very effective tool to process your thoughts and feelings. It’s supports you in getting clarity on your thoughts and feelings, improves your mental health and your focus. (Who wouldn’t want that?!)
If you’re a ‘first – timer’ or perhaps, haven’t journaled in a while, I recommend using these 3 prompts to guide your journaling experience- think 3 x 3 x 3. Spend three minutes answering three questions, three times a week. The three prompts that I recommend as a useful starting point are:
What’s going well for me right now?
What needs my attention?
What am I grateful for?
If you would like to develop your journaling. Try the following prompts:
Reflect on the last 12 months, what went well?
What are the next 6 months asking of you?
How do you want to show up?
Journaling once is helpful but the true magic will come as you make this practise part of your wellbeing toolkit! I would love to hear how this works for you.
I was delighted to share my thoughts in the Evening Echo recently on the #IWD theme for this year #BreakTheBias alongside some fantastic women. Here’s the article I wrote:
As a woman and mother to a daughter (and two sons), I‘m passionate about achieving gender equality in the workplace. As a life coach and workshop facilitator, I have focused considerable energy in the last decade on empowering women through my bespoke training programmes and coaching sessions and I have heard firsthand, the challenges that women face relative to bias across many organisations. I see the opportunity and the responsibility to use my role to increase awareness on these challenges and offer tools to break down the barriers and biases that hinder their success.
The theme for this years’ International Women’s Day (IWD) is #BreakTheBias. 73% of women experience bias at work—yet less than a third of employees are able to recognize bias when they see it. Whether deliberate or unconscious, bias makes it harder for women to get hired and promoted and negatively impacts their day-to-day work experiences. To compound this, in the last 12 months, I am hearing an overwhelming number of stories from women about how the pandemic has intensified challenges that they face with some opting to step back from roles due to increasing challenges at home or not go for a promotion as they are already overwhelmed. In 2021, McKinsey and company produced their annual survey sharing a worrying set of statistics concerning women in the workplace; nearly 82% of women surveyed said that their lives have been negatively disrupted by the pandemic and nearly 70% of women who have experienced these disruptions are concerned that their career growth may be limited as a result. This makes it difficult for companies to level the playing field.
So, let’s talk about bias – what is it and how does it impact in the workplace? Biases are mental shortcuts that our brains’ use to make sense of the world around us. (Just think about your own upbringing and life experiences, and how they have influenced your view of the world.) We all have biases. In fact, we can have biases that are either conscious, meaning that we are aware of our own prejudices, or unconscious, meaning that we are not aware of them. While conscious bias or discrimination is generally regarded as a negative, it can often be easy to recognize and to address. Unconscious bias, on the other hand, can have a more adverse impact, primarily as we are unaware.
I will be giving several talks across March to celebrate IWD this year. The aim of my workshops are to educate and empower individuals and organisations on bias – we will look at the 6 types of bias that women face in the workplace, as well as how to how to identify and challenge bias. We will also review the impact of bias on decision – making at work using specific examples. Finally, we will explore the route to ‘de-biasing our organisations by focusing on our own individual responsibility, because as long as we make bias about other people or organisational culture, we are minimising our role to take ownership and make a real difference.
Of course, lots of significant progress has already been made in the field of gender equality globally. But looking at the broader data trends, it is shameful that less than 5 percent of CEOs in the US and Europe are women and that women continue to be paid less than men for doing the same work. For me, it’s unthinkable to imagine my daughter, Katie, entering the workforce in the next decade to face some of the same barriers our mothers’ did 50 years ago. So, we still have some real work to do.
We’ve been trying to tackle the world’s hardest problems with only 50 percent of our collective brainpower. It’s time for that to change. By bringing more women into positions of power and influence, we can finally use the full measure of humanity’s talents and ambitions. Gender equality is a moral and a business imperative but unconscious bias holds us back. We need all the best ideas, and the most courageous and authentic leaders, to tackle the challenges ahead.
Gillian McGrath is a Cork based Life and Business Coach and experienced facilitator. For more information, you can contact her directly on email@example.com
As I emerge from my ‘Covid Cocoon’ (like so many others) this January, I’m choosing to embrace ‘NEW YEAR, no new you necessary’. While January is traditionally a time for New Years Resolutions, a time to pressurise ourselves into thinking about how we can improve our lives and take action, lets not forget that Winter is also associated with rest and recovery (let’s take guidance from mother nature on this!)
This January, I’m reminded of the power of pace and the importance of building resilience rather than setting unrealistic resolutions.
In his fantastic book “Atomic Habits”, James Clear says that we “do not rise to the level of our goals, we fall to the level of our systems”. In this case ‘systems’ represent our habits and actions. So, in the spirit of the new year and positive change, I’m sharing ways that you can invite a meaningful route to resilience into your life by regularly adopting the following granular habits and activities (it’s also a reminder to myself!):
Presence – pay attention to what you’re paying attention to! What are you allowing ‘in’? It’s great to be informed but do you need to know every twist and turn of the pandemic? Social Media can be great fun, but studies also link it with low self- esteem. How do you speak to yourself? Numb the negative narrative and speak to yourself as you would a good friend.
Get active – we often note folks ‘pounding the roads’ in January and how it drops off mid- February. James Clear (aforementioned) advocates consistency over intensity when creating meaningful habits. Start small. Introduce 20 mins of activity into your daily practise and go from there!
Journal – there are many advantages to journaling. As a process, it enables you to gain clarity and understanding over your thoughts and feelings by writing them down. If, like many others at this time, you are struggling with stress or a loss of focus, journaling can help you to regain control which can only improve your outlook and mental health.
Plan something to look forward to – I’m great believer in seizing small moments of joy. If we have learned anything from the last 2 years it’s that life is fragile and so, it’s important to take the joy when we can! A walk or coffee with a friend, or go mad and book a holiday!
Bring people in – Tell some close friends or colleagues about the new habits you are trying to institute. I see first hand the value of support and accountability through my coaching practise. Don’t do it alone. This will transform your motivation and your tribe will be there for you for accountability and support.
Pay attention to your immune system – I am not qualified in this area, but again, on a granular level, how much sleep are you getting? Are you introducing movement into your day? Do a diet check (are you getting sufficient protein and fibre?) What’s your water intake like? Also don’t underestimate the impact of stress (especially the low- level kind) These all impact our immune system so take small steps to address these!
False starts and slip- ups are normal when you’re creating new habits. One or two won’t undo your hard work. Back yourself and Be kind to yourself and you will get back on track.
And finally, choose acceptance. Acceptance does not mean resignation. Rather, it’s about approaching life from a place of peace and not pain.
My clients know that I’m a big fan of ‘tea- spoon size’ changes and whatever these are for you, seek to bring these intentionally and regularly into your day to day. Worry less about shifting gears and instead favour a more empowering set of habits that will support you as you navigate the weeks and months ahead. Don’t leave it to chance, make it a choice, and curate your route to resilience seizing each day in 2022!
Gillian McGrath is a Cork based life and business Coach and experienced facilitator and public speaker. For more information, go to http://www.changegrowsucceed.com
“I’m 40, my kids are 12, 10 and 9. I have 20 years to make a discernible impact. How do I go about getting back into the workplace? Where do I even start?”
Is this you? Whether you’re looking to return to work after a break, change direction completely or step up after stepping back it can seem like a momentous task. Having supported countless women (and many men!) in their return to the workplace over two decades, I have identified patterns of challenges as well as tips and behaviours that empower people in returning to the workplace and these are outlined in this article.
Careers are not linear. It’s unlikely that the career you embark on at 21 will go in a straight line until you retire. In fact, it’s highly likely that there will be many bumps along the way such as you end up hating your chosen career, you burn out, you find a new passion or perhaps you take time out to rare your children or care for elderly relatives. Careers ebb and flow.
More women than men still see their career as a series of reactive moves, responding to circumstances as best as they can but if you think like a chess master and play the long game – this begins to change. There is a bigger game at stake other than work- life balance. It’s called the game of ‘creating your life’ and it’s played one move a time. It’s important to invest the time and energy in engaging with this to set yourself up for success.
At Change Grow Succeed, we have identified 8 critical tasks and behaviours that will support you in achieving results – these are:
Your mindset is key.
Watch out for self-limiting beliefs or expired stories such as “I feel irrelevant” or “I’m too old to start again”. Roosevelt says “Believe you can and you’re half – way there”. Be intentional about fostering a mindset of possibility (over judgement) and begin by getting curious about yourself, your interests and your priorities. Curiosity keeps judgement at bay and will enable a positive mindset.
Consider your career and wider interests, now.
Remember, we are products of a dynamic environment and what interested you in a job 5 or 10 years ago is likely to be different to now. Life happens and this alters our outlook and priorities. I often ask clients to consider and make a note of what they love learning about or what experiences leave them feeling energised. This provides important insight into the ‘here and now’.
Complete and audit of your skills, strengths and talents
It’s important to explore what puts ‘fire in your belly’ and gain clarity on what energises you. There are some great online resources available to support you in this regard. I often refer clients to the self- assessment section of www.careersportal.ie to make progress with capturing transferrable skills and completing interest inventories. Licensed psychometric test can also be invaluable. Seek out more information (a coach will be a good resource for you here).
List your professional skills and background
It doesn’t matter how long your career break was. The likelihood is that before, you were a successful professional. Capture your professional skills and work history – it’s your story to tell.
Your Network is your net worth!
Networking can appear to be a daunting task if you feel that you’re ‘out of the game’. However, if you think about it, your network is your community of people who empathize with you and want you to succeed. This tribe can be an emotional lifeline in your job search as well as offering support and guidance. Get curious about the people in your network (you might find them pitch – side or at the school gate also!). Focus on being interested (not necessarily interesting) and be the first to give. Seek to build relationships and doors of opportunity will open. Did you know that you are 4 times more likely to find a job through your network than a recruitment agency?
Generate/ Update your LinkedIn Profile and accompanying CV
Over 500 million people use LinkedIn and it’s worth mentioning that it’s the only social platform where employers and potential employees can connect. Unlike your CV, uploading a photograph is paramount as current data tells us that your LinkedIn profile is more likely to be viewed with a photo. Once your profile is created, connect with people and groups and follow those companies whom you are interested in.
The best CV will always be written with a particular job spec in mind. If I could offer any guidelines, it would be to try and keep your CV to no more than 2 pages, write in the third person and include a ‘Personal Profile’ at the top – usually 3-4 sentences outlining your relevant skills and experience for the role at hand. Don’t hesitate to label your ‘planned career break’.
Own your career break
Seek to reframe any ‘gap’ in your C.V. as an opportunity. Perhaps it was an opportunity to rare a young family or to care for an elderly relative. Perhaps it was due to illness or injury and you used the time to heal and re-focus. Maybe you have broadened your skills during this time or deepened your network. Whatever your reason, your ability to reframe and own it will set you apart from the crowd.
Engage a life or career coach
A good coach can be an invaluable asset in this process. Seek out someone who is accredited and with experience and who is a licensed practitioner in psychometric assessment. My qualifications in psychology, life and business coaching as well as psychometric assessment as well as my experience in industry and multinationals all compliment my ability to empower clients at Change Grow Succeed, enabling them to make progress and achieve positive change in their lives.
So, there you have it – 8 tips to set you up for success when returning to work after a career break! Most of all, believe in yourself. You were successful in the workplace before and will be again. Stay curious, keep learning and get comfortable reaching out to your network. Back yourself – you’ve got this!
Confidence is often viewed as the holy grail of success and happiness but what if we feel we don’t have enough of it? Moreover, to what degree must we ‘fake it to make it’ or is confidence a skill we can learn and if so, how?
Our belief in our own capacity to ‘push through’ has never been as important; perhaps you
have been furloughed due to the pandemic and are feeling shaky and uncertain or
yearn for a change of direction but don’t know where to start or
are returning to work after extended leave and find yourself in a role that appears barely recognisable
It is your belief and confidence in yourself that will be the key catalyst in instigating and accomplishing positive changes.
As a psychology student 15 years ago, I first came across the term ‘Self- efficacy’ coined by Canadian Albert Bandura. Fundamental to this concept is the notion of ‘trial’, of giving something a go – to try something even if you don’t know what you are doing. It is from this point that confidence can be cultivated. Confidence is a skill that can be learned, as long as you are willing to give it a go.
At Change Grow Succeed, we believe that learning and doing are key cornerstones in building confidence and we advocate the following 7 Habits to cultivate or strengthen yours:
Numb the Negative Narrative – Do you tell yourself that you need more confidence? Maybe you spend more time talking about the negative aspects of yourself? Pay attention to the impact of your personal narrative. Some beliefs can be expired or self- sabotaging and certainly keep you stuck. Try telling yourself a different story. Become intentional about sharing what went well or progress that you made.
LifeLong Learning – Regardless of what you want to become more confident at, any learning has a spin – off effect. Instead of dwelling on a lack of confidence, take a course on something that interests you. The combination of pursing a passion and engaging your brain will shift your energy and your confidence will spill over and be noticed by you and those around you!
What’s your why? If you are not connecting with what is important to you and why – how will you know if you’re on the right track? Our ability to pause and evaluate is an essential activity to engage with, particularly, if you need to rebuild yourself after a knock- back. Your ability to focus on your ‘why’ is your motivation for accomplishing whatever it is that you yearn for, as well as ensuring focus and discipline and pursuing what you believe in will give you confidence. If you’re at a loss as to where or how to start this process, reach out to a coach for industry – led tools and tips to support you.
Pause perfectionism – do you find yourself thinking about ‘worse case scenarios’? To what degree does this habit foster self- doubt or caution and reduces your capacity for self- belief? Often, the focus of perfectionists is ‘what could go wrong’ which fosters a negative mindset . When actively seeking to improve your confidence, seek to reframe risk with opportunity and pursue the bigger picture!
Tribe therapy – In the last year, my observation through my work is that some individuals have lost confidence as they have lost connection with themselves and with each other.Our relationships have the ability to lift us up, they can also tear us apart. Evaluate who is in your network. Cherish those connections who support and empower you and consider disengaging from those who bring you down. Seek out those role- models who embody the confidence that you respect and identify what is it about them that resonates with you. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable!
Ditch thinking for Doing Our brain is hard wired to protect us. It responds well to comfort zones. Research shows that people who perceive their confidence as ‘low’ are plagued by rumination or ‘analysis -paralysis’. Getting out of our own head is a must here. Stop thinking and start doing. Remember, confidence is an active process. Small acts of bravery can shift your energy. Trial something new today!
Power Pose – In her excellent TedTalk,Amy Cuddy shares that power posing (embracing more expansive body language) ignites physiological changes in our bodies. She tells us that two minutes of opening up and stretching our arms out fires us up with testosterone, boosting our confidence. If you think about it, most of us spend our days hunched over a laptop or phone (making ourselves small) so if you were to be intentional about opening up your posture on a daily basis -to what degree would this shift you into a more positive mindset? Try it and see!
Which new habit would make the most difference to your confidence? Trial something new today – get comfortable being uncomfortable and note the shift in your own energy and confidence!
Gratitude is part of my well-being toolkit and I’m feeling very grateful to have received this lovely card and humbling testimonial following a coaching engagement with a client recently. I took time to re- read the lovely words this morning as I settle myself into a busy week. It re- focuses my ‘why’ and I consider myself very fortunate to work in an area that I am passionate about.
The personal touch of a ‘thank you’ card reminds me of our capacity to positively impact the days of those people whom we interact with. The message inside was lovely and the clients’ more ‘formal’ testimonial reads as follows:
“Gillian is a fantastic coach. While the process is challenging and can be uncomfortable, the benefits I have observed from our short time together include:
A greater level of self awareness
A greater focus on meaningful work;
I feel empowered and enthusiastic about my contribution to supporting both my own personal and organisational goals
The first step (and the step after that!) can be daunting but I’m so glad that I pushed myself and that Gillian was there to support me every step of the way. A heartfelt Thank You Gillian.” – J.C. Engineering Manager (Science & Tech)
Gillian McGrath is a Cork based master trainer, public speaker and life and leadership coach. For more information, contact her on firstname.lastname@example.org
“We should just put up our Christmas Trees’ and be done with 2020!”
I must admit, I have heard this more than once over the past few weeks. 2020 has been beyond tough; the collective ungrounding ‘gifted’ to us by the Covid-19 pandemic was unlike anything we have ever (and continue to) live through. Routines that gave our days and weeks’ meaning and structure have grinded to a halt and we are forced to pause, stay apart and watch the maelstrom that is unfolding. It doesn’t surprise me that people want out and want out now.
However, we are not yet at the end of the year- there are 3 months left! While we can’t control the outside world, we can seek to examine the path we are on and evaluate if our energies and activities are supporting us. Autumn is a season of transition, a “second spring” and therefore an opportune time to reflect, reset and course correct (if necessary).
Great results start with great questions and often the most challenging questions are the ones we ask of ourselves. At Change Grow Succeed we have devised 5 Killer Coaching questions to provoke your thoughts and help you to reclaim your ‘mojo’ for the remainder of 2020!
Question 1: What gives your life meaning?
This may sound like an obvious question but bringing conscious awareness to what puts meaning into our lives is crucial in determining our priorities. If this year has taught us anything, it’s that our priorities can change quickly. Indeed, the impact of the global pandemic on our own lives and the lives of others can alter our view of the world (as does the arrival of children, a bereavement or general life experience). Taking time to understand what’s important to us ‘in this moment’ helps us to gauge whether we are on the right path or not and prioritise our energies appropriately.
Question 2: Review the year so far, what has gone well?
Before you baulk at this question, take stock. Autumn is traditionally associated with harvest so take the time to evaluate and appreciate your achievements in 2020 noting that survival is every bit as valid as achievement for the year that’s in it! Perhaps you adapted well to remote working or did some voluntary work or. Maybe you survived the home- schooling or were able to blend work and life. Recognise your achievements. Thank Yourself.
Question 3: What are you like when you’re at your best? What are you doing?
How often do you engage with activities that you love doing? How could you access these more often? In coaching, I often task clients in transition to “reflect on the last time they had fire in their belly” and invite them to note what they were doing. This process prompts us to identify and label those activities that bring us joy. You will have greater clarity and feel more energised and confident as a result.
Question 4: What’s the best thing that could happen to you next year?
This question invites us to think about 2021 and encourages us to engage in some ‘blue sky thinking’ to consider what we might want to achieve or complete. In her excellent TedTalk, Laura Vanderkam invites us to complete this retrospectively; she directs us to place ourselves at the end of 2021 and to imagine that it has been a fantastic year both personally and professionally. She encourages us to note the reasons why and then explore how we might set about achieve them. This is another great approach to considering possibilities for the future, possibilities that we could be proud of and get excited about!
Question 5: How will you champion yourself?
There’s no denying the disruption that impacted all of our lives in 2020, but how do we speak to ourselves when things don’t go our way or when we feel afraid? Are you kind to yourself or do you criticize yourself harshly? Do you hear from your inner coach or inner critic? Self kindness is life changing and science backs this up. We are often told to “Be kind to yourself” yet so many of us are resistant or don’t know how. We are stuck in old habits. From her research, Kirsten Neff (author of “Self- Compassion” and Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Texas) shares that self – compassion makes you “more likely to take responsibility for yourself, trial new things and dare to fail”. So, locate your inner coach, back yourself and show gratitude to yourself!
At Change Grow Succeed, these are the 5 killer coaching questions we have identified to help re-wire your thinking and reclaim your mojo this Autumn. No longer distracted by the summers’ long evenings we can actually commit to a chosen path and go for it. Good Luck!
Gillian McGrath is a Cork based Life and Business Coach, Public Speaker and Facilitator. For more information, or to reach out to Gillian directly, go to www.changegrowsucceed.com
At Change Grow Succeed we also support clients privately in crafting a vision for what’s next in their lives both personally and professionally. As a coach, meeting my clients where they’re at and seeing the world through their eyes is a prerequisite in enabling objective support. It was a privilege to work with Emma and I am so grateful for the thought and effort she put into describing her experience of our time together:
“I wanted to make a change and to do work that made me jump out of bed everyday. Gillian motivated me to pivot my career. She listened to my worries, my fears, and my self confessed “imposter syndrome” and let me re-frame it as excitement and an opportunity to work on how I communicate about what I do. After taking Gillian’s advice and doing some research, I am about to relaunch myself, identify my brand and work in a niche area I enjoy working in. I am excited to be proactive about my career rather than reactive. Gillian has been the plot twist in my career story. ”
Supporting our clients in achieving results that are meaningful and of value to them is at the core of our Change Grow Succeed and we were delighted to receive the following testimonial from our clients at CoreHR:
“CoreHR has engaged Gillian McGrath from Change Grow Succeed for the past three years to bring our leaders through a year-long Leadership Development Program. We would highly recommend Gillian to any organisation looking to develop and transform their management teams at all levels, into high-performing, effective and responsible leaders.
When Covid-19 struck we were halfway through the delivery of the program and faced with postponing our classroom-based delivery. Gillian pivoted from classroom facilitation and coaching and meticulously planned the remaining modules to a virtual offering, utilizing a broad range of online tools and applications to ensure high interaction and participation. Times of crisis and rapid change require strong leaders who can set direction, drive business continuity and motivate their teams. A true test of any leadership development program is the leaders ability to put theory into action!”