Chevalier de Saint – Georges

By Martin Trotman

Hey everyone, I would like to share something with you today. I have an extensive music education background having studied piano and composition at the Birmingham Conservatoire which is essentially a classical institution. Later I went on to lecture and teach at a number of music institutions including South Birmingham College and University of Central England, currently MD at St Johns & St Peters Church, Ladywood. I mention this only to make the point that of all the years spent in music education, sitting in lectures, seminars, recital halls and exams, I’ve never once heard the name Chevalier de Saint – Georges, mentioned! Hopefully I have your attention! Introducing Chevalier de Saint – Georges.

He was a champion fencer, military officer, composer, virtuoso violinist and conductor of a leading Paris symphony of the time. He was also black. I have listened to this man’s music and it’s breathtaking. Unfortunately, a lot of Chevalier’s music was lost during the French Revolution, and what survived was quickly forgotten. However, what we do know is that he composed 3 sets of string quartets, 2 symphonies, 8 symphonie-concertantes, 6 operas, 3 violin sonatas and 14 violin concertos. It is said, Mozart was extremely jealous of Chevalier. The comparison between the two composers is off, says director of music at Shakespeare’s Globe, Bill Barclay “Chevalier was unfairly called the ‘Black Mozart,’ it should have been Mozart the ‘White Chevalier’. I invite you to take a listen to this man’s amazing music! I believe this wonderful music should be included in our music curriculum studies from grass roots to university level. Music was created to be heard not hidden! Thank you for your time. Hit the link below. Enjoy! Black composer series vol 1 Chevalier de Saint – Georges :

Martin Trotman has released an album called ‘Let’s begin’ which can be heard here: https://www.last.fm/music/Martin+Trotman/Let%27s+Begin

‘One Love’ (one life)

It has taken me a while to write on the subject of #blacklivesmatter and the tragic death of George Floyd. I am not going to lie – I went through a rollercoaster of emotions and anxiety about what was the ‘right’ thing to say and do. I was appalled for sure- after all I am a white person who could not relate to what or why that happened- but I absolutely felt pain. I wanted to do ‘something’ but I did not have any lived experience to speak of and whilst i’d been on a journey for some time to try and ‘discover’ what I needed to know – that was a very different world from talking publicly about it. Why that incident – more than any other – affected me to take action I will never know. I am 43, I have known racism has existed for as long as I can remember. It did, however seem to bring about a marked shift at the same time to a lot of people in my position. I can only say the world had simply had enough – and for being so late to the table – I can only apologise profoundly but I have a duty now to keep up the momentum.

I moved however quickly from what can I ‘say’ to what I can do. I called out people who I had regarded as ‘friends’ because their views I found out were different from mine; I became much more vocal about things at work (even for me!) and the more I did this – the braver I became. I am lucky I have some amazing work colleagues who are happy to support and tolerate me learning. One of them said ‘ be brave, not perfect’ and that has stuck with me.

Then I was reminded by one of my favourite songs by U2 ‘One’ (well I prefer the Mary J Blige version) and these words:

One love
One blood
One life
You got to do what you should

‘One’ U2/Mary J Blige

So, I have a question – if you have children, nieces, nephews, friends with children etc…what world do you want them to grow up in?

I now have an ask – if you want the world to look different – what role will you play?

Vivian Acquah has put together an amazing summit and I am joining her with over 60 speakers to help change the world one voice at a time – I want to be able to say to my son that I did this for his generation and she has the same message. Please click the below and show your support by sharing #amplifyDEI; either liking, retweeting or sharing on your social networks and do think about hearing from some amazing international speakers about equality, diversity and inclusion and what role you can play to bring about one love:

https://bit.ly/334P0Io

yours,

Michelle

Freedom (I won’t let you down)

So I have a confession-  no new ideas…nothing new… as I have been in a much more reflective space where I have been valuing other people’s voices rather than my own.  Shock! I hear you cry-  but I have been writing a research paper recently and suddenly a lot of things are making much more sense than before. When I first started thinking about why I decided to go part freelance last year,  I realised that some of it was about needing to have a wider voice.  I really related to Perry Timms Article when I read it recently about commitment to specialisms rather than job titles #belonging. I’ve heard — and used — this word a few… | by Perry Timms | Jul, 2020 and being connected to a purpose.

Then I reflected and thought that in order to give more…I really needed to listen more and build trust through that connection.

So this essentially became the subject of a research paper I compiled with Garry Turner and Mike Vacanti – some really really amazing connections who write some amazing stuff (look them up – tip one).  It has been a wild journey where I sometimes (being honest) felt challenged by other people’s perceptions.  I read ‘The Memo’  by Minda Harts and it took a lot of courage to lean into that discussion and understand that perspective on diversity and inclusion and I am so glad I did (tip two- read it).

So I’ve talked to and read some work by some really amazing people and thought finally ‘I get it’ . What if voices within organisations were better heard?  Would all these wonderfully talented people who go it alone, have done so if their organisations had listened more?  You know..having leaders who demonstrate that ‘vulnerability’ in their decision making (useful stuff that Mike Vacanti talks about) or being treated as human beings rather than doings that we have learnt from the works of Mark LeBusque. I wonder if some of this writing came from their own sources of frustration when they were part of the organisation machine.  I quote these powerful lyrics and liken it to our need for expression:

                     ‘Gotta have some faith in the sound

                     It’s the one good thing that I’ve got

George Michael, Freedom ’90

Experience often drives our purpose and as some of you will see in my recent interviews I am really interested in the compassionate and active listening skills that Dr Amy Bradley talked to me about in our interview https://hresque.co.uk/interviews and how belonging and connectedness strengthened her commitment to her organisation because her voice was being heard. Finally I had the most amazing conversation with Nilofer Merchant who really helped me understand how language and inclusivity plays a role and how many voices aren’t heard (tip three- Nilofer Merchant’s @work project is amazing and so generous in sharing ideas subscribe). What is needed is a push for that real call to action to change that.

So the research I did was not new but was essentially a ‘mash up’ of all of this wonderful work but how I feel I can contribute is to bring all this meaningful stuff together and ensure it is not wasted.

So the key learning for me? …. I want to hear the voices in my organisation that are not heard – I figure they may be actually more interesting and insightful. They may bring a new perspective; a new idea or a way forward that I had not thought of. That is the challenge I bring to you today.

Want to add to my ‘mash up’ – ( tip four : have a look on my website https://hresque.co.uk to see how you can contribute as I believe it takes collaborativeness, kindness and belonging to make our organisations better.

‘Walk on, Walk on’ (You’ll never walk alone)

The ‘Who am I?’ series is all about trust, because I believe it’s not one-sided and building a resilient team at work is as much about how we treat others as it is about how we behave ourselves: the old proverb, ‘treat others how you’d like to be treated’ springs to mind. This sounds common sense, but part of being able to do this is to bring to work our authentic selves and to be able to say, ‘ this is how I am feeling right now’ and for that to be okay.  I love where I work at the moment, because my team demonstrate they care every single day about each other and that makes it such a great place to work. I think I have a rare and beautiful thing as in my 20 or so years at work , it is the first time I have found that sense of belonging across a whole team rather than a few people-centric individuals. I don’t think it is down to leadership that this has happened either (although that is important component) , it is more about a colleague camaraderie or a unified language where we all feel like we are in it together and can be open and honest.

Chapter 3 : Who am I? – the trusting series

I have a great book to review today which encapsulates the essence of this togetherness much more beautifully than I ever could. I will go on to talk about Dr Amy Bradley’s The Human Moment in a minute, but those that follow me will know I always have a song that I reference in my blogs.  I was lost when trying to think of a song that resonated with this chapter.  So true to the theme, I opened up to a trusted friend who used to be my Manager who has helped me through some really difficult times. She said instantly ‘oh that’s easy: you’ll never walk alone.’ 

I can’t think of a more pertinent song for right now, as we need to feel a sense of belonging more than ever since the onset of this pandemic.  The optimist in me feels something good must come out of something so profoundly life changing. The opportunity to capture the learning is immense and we need to grab it with both hands.  So, onto Dr Amy Bradley’s book which I think provides some answers about the future of work and great food for thought.  The consistent theme of the book is around compassionate leadership and Dr Amy comes from a place of raw experience following a bereavement.  She writes about how a ‘human moment’ -a letter from her manager at the time of a personal tragedy she experienced meant everything to her and how she went on to turn a desperately difficult life experience into a vocation through researching personal trauma and professional growth.

Amy’s book is so fitting for today as she states ‘never have we needed our colleagues so much, yet never have we felt so isolated with one in six of us feeling we have no one to talk to at work about the things that worry us’.  Despite the wonderful technology that we have been able to master to connect us during this tough time (and it is truly phenomenal the advances) it hasn’t and can’t replace real human connection.  I think this pandemic has taught us how much we have all missed being able to feel that sense of connectedness as community comes in so many forms and it is not just visual.

How much did we take that for granted in the busyness that preceded the onset of this virus? We mustn’t do that again!

The book also demonstrates some really powerful illustrations of doing things well but also when both managers and colleagues really got it wrong.  It struck a chord with me as I experienced a bereavement of a close family member a very long time ago, but I still remember how it felt when no one had been told in the office that he had died and a colleague asked me how he was. I really felt for her at that moment because she wasn’t to know but I was so angry. I’d not been in the office for three weeks – busyness had overtaken human compassion, and no one thought to mention it before I returned… I never really forgot it.  However looking back I can see it with a more objective lens that it was not really anyone’s fault,  it was the human condition of how we have come to associate at work as ‘professionals’ – that was at fault, where compassion can be very much secondary.  As Dr Amy points out compassionate behaviour’ comes from a place of readiness’ and some people have just become not available to listen, too busy etc, not realising that it is that behaviour …i.e.… the ability to not hear and respond to the pain –that can change how we perceive work in a long-standing way.  As Dr Amy describes it is a ‘sliding doors’ moment.  You’ll never get that moment back.

So following COVID19 why don’t we invest more at work in the importance of empathy and compassion and hearing the true voices in our organisations rather than what we often want to hear –i.e. that which feels most comfortable?

 I believe people in the main are well intentioned,  most people want structure when they fall on hard times and will strive hard to seek normality when nothing around them feels normal and they can feel themselves losing their grip.  I also know that others can see that pain is there but also that determination that people want to get past it. Often however we have lost the ability to find the right words to say or actually to just listen and support. This is true of both colleagues and managers alike:

Cue the lines from Gerry and the Pacemakers:

‘Walk on through the wind

Walk on through the rain

Though your dreams be tossed and blown

Walk on, walk on

With hope in your heart

And you’ll never walk alone’

I feel our colleagues shouldn’t walk alone but know they have our support. Personal trauma and breakdowns can lead to absolute breakthroughs, or suffering as- Dr Amy describes- can actually lead to ‘greater self- insight’.  People who have been through really tough times often become more ‘in tune with themselves ‘ to use Dr Amy’s words so, rather than something to be feared, they are often the very people who have come to  realise what is important in life and these are wonderful gifts for an organisation to tap into.

So, what does this mean for organisational culture? Well there are some great takeaways at the end of Dr Amy’s book (8 lessons in total) that organisations can do to demonstrate compassionate leadership. This in turn should drive and embed a supportive culture. What’s great is they are simple things and therefore not difficult things to do.  I encourage and highly recommend that you read the book and put into practice its teachings. By adopting these practices, it is argued compellingly that we can get better loyalty and engagement through making our people in our organisations feel they don’t need to be:

‘afraid of the dark’ and see that ‘at the end of the storm there’s a golden sky,’. Words from Gerry and the Pacemakers but something Dr Amy has experienced herself through finding her purpose.

It would also be really remiss of me not to mention two other colleagues who have also inspired me this week with their energy for the human cause – Mike Vacanti, Garry Turner and I had a really insightful conversation about their #humansfirst journey which I am sure they will correct me on to say ‘our ‘ humans first journey. They too are definitely wonderfully compassionate colleagues also looking to bring out the best’ self’ in others.  Do look at this work too it is really ground-breaking and a powerful network to be part of.

 So, who am I? you may ask? I have discovered I am a work colleague, but also a friend who can be called on any time.

Hope this helps someone today.

Yours,

Michelle

People hold on (don’t do yourself wrong)

The current lockdown has taken me back to the 1990’s I can’t remember which year, (1997 maybe?). I’d be about 20, I was at university and I had discovered the clubbing scene.  It was a place that time had forgotten, until the birth of virtual parties online satisfying the extroversion I thrive on here in 2020.  Like many of you, finding meaning has been difficult during this time and to fill the void of being around people, I’ve been listening to a virtual DJ and thinking back to 1997 where I would have been spellbound by the flashing lights and crowds of people in a dingy dark building somewhere, naïve but happy feeling a sense of belonging relating to a ‘tune.  Fast forward to 2020 and I am dancing in the living room (a wife and a mother) sipping cranberry juice – no longer vodka- and feeling in my twenties.  Tip number one google word of mouth (Stuart Ojelay) if you need some ‘Ibiza’.

Stuart has been playing a universally epic tune from that era mixing Tori Amos ‘Professional Widow’ and Lisa Stansfield ‘People Hold On.’ I started thinking about the lyrics and our response to the current crisis organisationally both now and beyond COVID. In particular the lines:

                ‘Givin’ into life, givin’ into love

                Maybe there’s enough for everyone

                Givin’ into hope, givin into trust

                Maybe there’s enough for everyone.’

Lisa Stansfield ‘People Hold On’

I’ve also been reading a wonderful book by Mike Vacanti ‘Believership the Superpower Beyond Leadership’. Mike is a really humble guy who is achieving great things. I feel like I have known him my entire life and importantly that connection comes in part from the fact he shares the view I have (and others) that vulnerability is the key to leadership.  I am lucky to have him in my network and his book poses many questions for me about wondering how businesses are responding to our crisis and what their forward plan might look like – has it been command and control or have leaders avoided some of its traps ? Have default behaviours risen to respond to crisis( both reacting to or feeling the effects of?).

Some of these ponderings/fears Mike sums up wonderfully in his book:

‘In pursuit of control and mechanization of human behaviour , we’ve restricted our capacity to meet today’s significant challenges.  Yet this is at a time when we need to expand our human capacity. Creativity and ingenuity. What I have experienced and learned to be true is, given the opportunity people will amaze us’

I’ve been fortunate to remain in work through this time and in a team responding to the internal wellbeing issues related to COVID 19. Not front-line but nonetheless a challenging and creative time for the team who have been given freedom to respond to work towards what ultimately matters- the people we work with and supporting them to be able to help our community.

I think we have done some great things. However I know I can do more and I will take a beautiful excerpt from chapter 8 of this book to demonstrate how.  Entitled ‘Lift Others’, Mike reveals that he starts each day with a ‘morning meditation focused on two words: ‘lift others [and he ends] each day with a reflection: is it better?’.  In my self-absorbed moments I am sure this will help to ensure that I remember the purpose and help others to achieve theirs. We all want the same thing.

So back to the song

‘so who’s gonna give us the answer? Sister and brother!’

Lisa Stansfield ‘People Hold On’

My clubbing days may be drawing to a close as I hobble around my living room today from too much exuberance but I think both the book and the song have really reenergised my weekend and when I return next week I want to share that positive energy, despite the challenges we face.

Thank you Tori Amos, Lisa Stansfield and Mike Vacanti and ‘People…. hold on.’ Avoid the traps, practice self care and above all be kind to one another. This too shall pass.

An interview with Mike Vacanti can be found at https://hresque.co.uk.

Some say, ‘love (it is a river)’

I was midway through my ‘What am I? series when COVID19 began to really affect the UK and it has taken me a while to find the words to say to this crisis we are facing. I feel so terribly sad for the people who have lost loved ones; lost jobs; struggling to get work as self employed or struggling as health workers to cope with the increasing demands on the health service we are so blessed to have. I have friends and family all in these situations.

I am also sad that on mother’s day many of you (like me) are separated from our loved ones, because we love them but I am so thankful that I can still see my mother through the digital technology we have. I know that is not the case for some. I also am grateful to be a mum and to know that love. I also know that isn’t the case for some too. So many mixed emotions, running through my head. As a spiritual person , I am really counting my blessings right now for the things I have , rather than what I don’t have. That is survival.

So here is what I am grateful for (not to boast) but I hope you too can create your own list to remind yourselves all is not lost:

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

a) Ok I can’t go to the gym that I love but I am grateful that I am healthy and can still go into my garden;

b) Ok I have to stay indoors but I am grateful to have that roof over my head;

c) I can’t see my friends and family but I can whatsapp video them to see how they are;

d) I can’t see my work colleagues but I can connect through MS teams and email;

e) Some of my ambitions are put on hold but I can still learn to be better at my craft and at least I have my skills;

f) Sometimes I feel lonely but I still have food , clothes, my husband and my son close by;

g) I can’t go to church but I can tune in online , it is also a good time to read , meditate and be at peace

To those with anxiety or depression…my plea don’t focus on the news it will only distress further, know the basics from Government, focus on the fact that spring continues outside, look at the birds, the trees (life). Recall the good times, the good memories and build strategies to get you through whatever works for you. Eat well and sleep well above all else.

The final verse of the ‘Rose’ -the title of my piece sums up my message today:

‘When the night has been too lonely

and the road has been too long

And you think that love is only

For the lucky and the strong

Just remember in the winter

Far beneath the bitter snow

Lies the seed that with the sun’s love

In the spring becomes the rose.

For those self employed who have resources they want me to share, contact me on my contact page- happy to help

Until next time….

Interview with Rick Dubidat

Had a great time interviewing Rick and seeing how much he had grown as a business person during the last 15 years. In part 2 he tells me all about his influencers – I have learnt so much for my own journey… thank you so much for your time Rick.

True Colours (are beautiful like a rainbow)

The ‘What am I?’ series is all about being the ‘authentic you’ because I don’t know about you but I LIKE ME and I don’t want to be anyone else. I admit I can be like marmite, however what I have found is that I am mainly marmite when I am trying to be something that isn’t authentic.  I do wonder in some organisations where there is a huge pressure to be something ‘singular and corporate’ that the high sickness levels- that appear to go hand in hand with this- are around the pressure to be something we are not. Just a hunch at this stage…..I’m all for a set of values and behaviours to work towards by the way but this should never be to the extent that our individuality gets compromised- personality is important and if you don’t believe that …well I wouldn’t be a people manager.

Act I- The Belonging Series – ‘What am I?’

This really came to the surface this week when I did the spectoral management type inventory personality questionnaire and discovered that the colour that best described my personality (very accurately might I add) was one of the rarest in management and not the colours that most of the people in the room had.  My colours pointed to creativity, dreaminess etc… all the things that I had become synonymous with but also on the negative side it meant I could be self- destructive (also true).  Rather than get worried about this and throw myself on the nearest resilience course, I realised that whilst this is excellent fodder for me to chew over, it was so great that also my leadership team were here to hear this. It also made me think what could they do with this information rather than just me.  So I continue to embrace my ‘violet’ like a badge of honour. I also now understand that people who are yellow and blue may struggle with my violet and I can make it more pale at times and that’s ok to me but sometimes there is an absolute need for their blue to be a bit paler too as I bring something to the table too. Collectively we can make something special happen!

This month, i’ve also been holding engagement workshops with literally hundreds of people across my current workplace where one of my other colours ‘orange’ has really come in handy. Orange is about warmth and my ‘warmth’  has meant people have felt they can be themselves and tell me exactly what is going on in the organisation warts and all (their shared vision, not the corporate one) – this is such useful stuff for us to work on as an organisation and again it is because I have an absolute passion to hear from people that pays dividends… if I had been a different colour on the chart , I may have not learnt so much.

So in this chapter , I am going to interview some great people who are not afraid to be who they are and have found success through using their own identity (and I have some absolute corkers for you).  If you are still with me and want to know your colours and wear them like a badge then good for you – I’d love to know the results …because there really is only one you….why be anything else?

You give ‘love’ a bad name

It has been a busy and soul searching few weeks. I came across an organisation recently who used the acronym ‘love’ to mean living our values everyday. I also this week, heard Bon jovi’s anthem (cited above) again; discovered clear is kind, unclear is unkind (thank you Brené Brown), read a bit of Minda Harts’ ‘The memo’ . At the end of all that, I have realised there is a lot to this leadership stuff. I am quite exhausted!

I think it is easy to make excuses but in the midst of all the modern day pressure, the world has changed…it is not so much about whether you are intentionally putting a foot wrong with people who work with you as it would have been in the past; my thoughts are that leadership has evolved into a complex road to navigate for all the right reasons as people with different circumstances who have previously been much more marginalised begin to find (and use powerfully) their voice. This goes across all genders including transgender, race, sex and many more.

Act IV- The Community Series- How are you?

It strikes me that there is absolutely no possibility of future success for a leader who doesn’t seek to truly engage everyone in their team on a personal level and tries to educate themselves through appreciating that sometimes people by their experiences may not want to fully engage with them. We owe it to our colleagues to also be clear with our intentions as well as understanding more about how we can educate ourselves in what the world is like for others- ignorance is definitely not an excuse.

I think I have been giving ‘LOVE’ a bad name, by not understanding the experiences of others through taking time to understand and read a bit more rather than being reliant on others to tell me what’s on their mind – it is time to confess… have you?

I also appreciate better that people can take time to warm to you (if at all) and may need to build trust with you (if ever). I’ll be genuinely honest it has been a little one way traffic with me up until now. I know I have to build trust with others but I never have really looked at it that much the other way. I’ve absolutely no idea why and I am grateful for the writers above and their insight.

As a self confessed novice with a curious brain (some would say over curious) , I am fascinated by people and their experiences and recently I have been reading books that deliberately stretch my levels of understanding to new heights. I can only advocate this as it has been a real experience.

Over the next few weeks I will share more of my experiences but it is rare that I take the opportunity to be quite so humbled and say thank you for the tremendous writers who have braved it to make us all better people. I’ll conclude the how are you series with an interview with Steve Browne (another fabulous people person) but in the meantime, hope you stay with me and if not already done so read some hard but necessary business books that will change the world I am sure one page at a time.

Sincerely,

Michelle

People are People

By Steve Browne

If someone saw you at the beginning of your typical work day, what would they see?
Are you looking forward to the day ahead, or is there a sense of dread that something will inevitably go sideways?

If people were honest, I think they face some sense of dread because they envision an inevitable conversation with a co-worker. Isn’t it ironic that as HR professionals, whose entire existence is connected to people, that we get sinking feelings about interacting with others? To be honest, this sinking feeling captures the majority of people as they enter their work day regardless of their role, their level within the company or the department where they work.

Why is that? Are we destined to start each day at the bottom of an emotional hill just anticipating a barrage of boulders to rain down upon us? I think we have a negative approach going into the day because we are not sure how to “handle” conversations when people want to share about their lives.

Act III The Community Series- How are you?

We echo the sentiments of the incredible new wave giants, Depeche Mode, and their epic song People Are People in the lyrics –

“People are people, so why should it be You and I should get along so awfully”

We assume the worst is going to happen even before a single word is uttered. In fact, we bristle even when we greet each other. We hope and pray that the interaction happens quickly and in a passing by manner. Most greetings go like this . . .

“Good Morning, Steve !! How are you?”

“Hi Michelle, I’m fine. You?”

“I’m good.”

“Great.”

And then we quickly pass each other thankful that we got that out of the way so we can get on to more “important” things like work, email, or anything not involving any personal sharing. I think this is a HUGE miss !! People want to be seen, heard and connect. This isn’t a matter of introversion or extroversion, it’s a fact of being a human. When organizations consistently say that people are their number one asset, value, etc., but don’t encourage genuine interactions between folks, it’s a giant corporate catchphrase of hypocrisy.

When we keep cloaking our interactions under the veil of only talking about work or the tasks at hand, we honestly get less then ideal results and production. It’s true. The more we are formal, aloof and only converse about “things” we miss the intelligence, creativity and imagination of the people we’re talking to.

The value of taking the time to talk about personal happenings in the lives of those around us is the best time investment you can make in any day. 

The reason it’s so valuable is that the few minutes it takes to check in and see what’s going on in the life of the person you’re talking to gives you a deeper connection. You’re filling the emotional bucket of each other and your conversations will be more open, candid and forthright.  I understand that you need to be respectful, appropriate and professional. Those are given foundational blocks of any interaction. Again, come at this from a positive aspect to start.

Remember – people are people. So, let’s start making our interactions intentional, meaningful and valued !!

For more information about Steve Browne click here

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