Permission to be

Permission to Be

Matthew Crome

Matthew Crome

Senior Consultant

Imagine a gate in a fence that divides a field.

The field and the surrounding landscape paint a picture of all your life experiences: the people you have met, the places you have been and the adventures you have had. All those events that define you as the wonderful, unique person you are.

In my story, in my field, I am one side of the fence. Everyone else I’ve ever met is on the other side, and I’ve often wondered why.

The fence and the gate? There is nothing remarkable about either of them. Neither is imposing or threatening. It is easy to see what is beyond. There are no ‘Keep Out’ signs on the fence or locks on the gate. The fence is not so high that you can’t see over it, it’s not so solid that you can’t see past it. The same goes for the gate, although I suspect the gate will take some effort to push open – it may be stuck as it hasn’t been opened in a while.

The part of my field I’m focusing on right now is the bit that looks at the last 25+ years of my career in leadership development. The people I can see on the other side of the fence are a mix of colleagues, friends, bosses, clients, and delegates. They include some remarkable people from a range of cultures and countries, not to mention organisations and industries. And I have always been curious and fascinated to learn from their stories and experiences.

From where I’m standing, I look across and I pay real attention to those folks who are being extraordinary and achieving remarkable things in their lives. They are being courageous and skillful. They are being creative and imaginative. They are being bold and ambitious. They are being thoughtful and caring. And I can see them doing it all. In some cases, I taught them the skills and techniques to do and be those things.

The question I ask myself is: why do I stay here on my side of the fence in isolation and not push open the gate to be with the crowd? After all, I know about the things they are doing and, I can do some of those things they are doing. But I have realised that I haven’t given myself permission to be any of those things.  Instead, on my side of the fence I choose to be fearful and doubtful and whilst I know I’m missing out it feels, at least, familiar (I’ve been here a long time). I suspect that to others this shows up as apathy, procrastination, a lack of courage, ambition or even intellect. On my side of my fence my internal dialogue is one of being a fraud, a coward, an imposter, unworthy of the company of those talented people I admire. 

My friend and colleague Alistair Skellern wrote recently about the power and value of ‘constructive and positive self-talk’– a topic I’ve also taught for years. In response to Alistair’s article my team-mate, Guy Pollard, shared a quote with us from the American actor Wentworth Miller. He said: ‘If I spoke to my friends like I speak to myself, I wouldn’t have any friends.’ These two ideas really made me stop and think. Reflecting on some of my own self-talk I realise that I’ve slipped into the habit, sometimes, of giving myself a hard time.

On my journey I’ve heard stories about, and have experienced firsthand, organisations that talk a good talk about their culture but behave very differently. By contrast, those businesses that truly live their values are amazing places to be. I think this is why I choose to stand where I do; it’s somehow safer here on my side of the fence. I have learned to observe from a distance and protect myself from the harm caused by false promises and misplaced trust. My reluctance to push through the gate is also grounded in my fear of being hurt in some way.

Over the last two years however, that has all changed and I’ve made a couple of important decisions:

Decision #1

I’m now in a workplace that says and does the same thing. This congruence creates a nurturing, trusting and supportive environment. I’ve noticed my colleagues on the other side of the fence enjoying the benefits of it and, to a person, they have been calling and waving at me to come and join them. I have, at last, finally given myself permission to be safe. Despite sometimes feeling vulnerable and fearful, I feel safe in the knowledge that I am supported by those remarkable colleagues I work with and want to spend time with.

Decision #2

I’m now consciously practicing a more forgiving and positive conversation with myself, especially in those moments of self-doubt. I have to raise my voice sometimes, to break my habitual dialogue, so it is a work-in-progress. So far, so good.

I have at last pushed the gate open. It needed a good shove, as I expected it would. It is scary and exciting in equal measure and I’m looking forward to being a more complete version of myself with my colleagues. 

One final thought. I suspect there are other gates in my metaphorical fence, and I will deal with them when I need to. For now, as with any journey, it’s all about the first few steps.

Want to Learn More?

Age is Just a Number

Age is Just a Number

Jean Fuller

Jean Fuller

Resource Manager, EMEA

After twenty-five years working at IBM, I retired with a wealth of skills and experience and nowhere to go. Several months later, after hours of dog walking, housework, and coffee mornings, I thought “is this it?!”

Just as despair was beginning to set in, I received a call from Andy Patterson, my old boss at IBM, enquiring if I was interested in returning to the workforce and joining Arcadia Consulting. Eureka! A purpose again, return to work.

Ten years on, Arcadia Consulting has grown beyond all expectation, and I continue to be an integral member of their workforce. What I’m simply trying to say is…no matter what age, you are important and have a valuable contribution to make to the growth of our economy.

Arcadia has embraced the true meaning of ‘diversity’, where you don’t have to be at the beginning of your career, young and ambitious to be able to become a valued member of a successful team.

Real ‘diversity’ though isn’t about recruiting lots of different people. It’s about giving that diverse group a real sense of belonging and ‘belonging’ in a business demands a culture that respects everyone’s contribution, skills, perspectives and lets them flourish, speak out and challenge how things are done.

Some might call that psychological safety, I would call it caring, showing interest, being inclusive, collaboration and just teamwork.

I no longer feel part of an ‘invisible’ community that you join after reaching a certain age, but a valued member of a thriving successful team of amazing colleagues.

So, what’s in a number? Don’t let age be an obstacle that prevents you from tapping into all of the skills and experiences that you are capable of.

Want to Learn More?

A Better Me

A Better Me

Sharon Chow

Sharon Chow

Client Services Administrator, APAC

Jumping out of my comfort zone required courage. My desire to be a role model to my daughter and ensure she grows to be the best she can be, equipped me with this courage.

Prior to joining Arcadia, I spent 14 years in the same job, doing repetitive tasks every single day. Reflecting on my 2-year journey at Arcadia, I am proud of my growth and progression. It has emphasised to me that I can further my professional development and expand my horizons.

As I took my first baby steps and transitioned from my old world into my new world, it was almost overwhelming how much I needed to learn and develop, especially as the skill set required was different and I was exposed to a new industry.

Change is uncomfortable, and I discovered quickly that the change journey has hurdles and challenges that I had never anticipated. When I thought of giving up, I always asked myself, “is this the kind of role model I want to be for my daughter?”. The answer was always no.

My determination of being a role model kept me on track during the bumpy road. I learnt from my mistakes and errors and made sure I did better next time. I quickly adopted a strong growth mindset.

Typically, in life, we allude to a paradigm of win/lose or pass/fail. To challenge that paradigm, Arcadia have come up with a tool called Win, Learn, Change. I am grateful for the working environment, my friendly work team and learning this concept, which I practice regularly.

The tool helps you get closer to your goal (in my case, being my daughter’s role model), by changing your mindset from success/failure to Win, Learn, Change. The tool promotes continuous improvement by guiding individuals to focus on learning and success rather than the unconstructive idea of failure.

Win

Quite often in our lives we’ll take the wins, but we won’t ask “what went well?” and why it was good. That’s the learning opportunity that is normally missed. We don’t just learn from the things that go badly; we also learn from the things that go well. Use these reflections as a future roadmap next time you are confronted with the same situation. Focus on what you did.

What did you do or think today that took you towards the achievement of your goal?

Learn

Things that didn’t work as you hoped yet provided learning.

What did you do today or think today that took you away from your goal?

Change

Things to change for next time, action steps.

What can I do or think next time to take me closer to my goal?

Another important distinction to make here is that this is not a results tool, this a progress tool. This is something to apply on a regular basis. I find keeping a WLC (Win, Learn, Change) journal helps.  

If somebody asked me today why I jump out of my comfort zone and make changes in my life, I would answer very differently to how I would 2 years ago. I have built my confidence through travelling through the change curve many times and facing adversity. I know that I can only be my daughter’s role model when I am my best version of myself.

Want to Learn More?

“The Answer is Always in The Material”

“The Answer is Always in The Material”

Matt Worsdall

Matt Worsdall

Principal Consultant, EMEA

“The answer is always in the material” – maybe it even saved my life?

Just last week I was delivering a Growth Mindset workshop with a colleague, Steve Ellis. As often happens we were posed with a tricky question from a participant, being reasonably green in the world of delivery I was thankful to have a more “seasoned” professional by my (virtual) side who handles the question in what was nothing short of a sublime fashion, being respectful enough as not to offend but considered and direct enough to quash the question and put all responsibility to take action back on to the participant; I was so impressed by the display I even started grinning (hopefully no-one noticed!). After the session we ran through our usual feedback and debrief and I asked “how did you do that?”, his response was simple – “the answer is always in the material”.

This got me thinking, for those of you who know me, earlier this year I found myself in a spot of bother – I was in a critical condition with a double dose of heart and kidney failure – throughout my adult life I have said “make mine a double” on many occasions, however it looked like on this occasion that I had bitten off more than I could chew! Be careful what you wish for is probably the moral of this story. Anyway, several weeks of laying in a hospital bed really got me thinking, before starting at Arcadia I was a “passive” believer in the sentiment that mindset matters. Having previously worked as Personal Trainer and Recruiter I often would espouse the virtues of mindset without really knowing why – it just sounded good and was certainly fashionable and was an in-vogue thing to say.

So I set myself a challenge, now faced with a life or death situation “let’s see if this mindset stuff really works or is it just a load of fanciful guff”. Some of you may have seen the Arcadia Mindset Mondays series on Instagram where we are currently working our way through 10 winning behaviours, so as I sat in my hospital bed, instead of thinking about dialysis and kidney transplants I focused my attention to working my way through the 10 winning behaviours to see if I could employ any strategies that would assist me in my struggle, my breakthrough was astonishing.

Without wanting to turn this into a written workshop, three things really stood out to me;

Create a Winning Identity (as opposed to a dying one)

I really had to dig deep here to think about what I want to be know for, both personally and professionally and the label of “sick” wasn’t going to do (unless of course made in reference to my “sick” guitar playing”) – I had to consciously create an identity that would get me through this “I am strong and resilient”, “I can get through this”, “I will take better care of my body”. Everyday I repeated these positive affirmations until they became hard wired.

What could be good about this?

Well in the moment of diagnosis, seemingly nothing. But after the initial shock I purposefully tried to seek out the hidden opportunity behind this problem. I was surprisingly pleased with my findings;

  1. I am young enough that I can own this problem and still influence the outcome
  2. I now value my health and will respect my body
  3. This will force me to live a healthy lifestyle
  4. If this didn’t happen now, would I have survived it in 5 years time?
  5. I have a new found appreciation for pretty much everything
  6. I am so over ‘sweating the small stuff’
  7. I have been given a second chance at life – I am blessed…

The list goes on, I may even go as far to say this was potentially the best thing that could have happened to me at the time, certainly the most profound.

Living on "the slight edge"

Playing in a rock and roll band has always taught me to enjoy life on the edge, but how much on the edge I was living, I had become oblivious to. Only when looking back can I see that the small decisions I made every day took me slowly but surely to the cliff edge, then I fell, and boy was it painful! I now have focus and take enjoyment in making every decision count and thinking long term about the sum of everyday. Each day counts, more than I could ever have imagined.

The list could go on and on, but I have a word limit so hopefully that’s enough for today. So back to the beginning, when considering “the answer is always in the material”, I guess we will never truly know the extent of it’s affect, but for me, it is my belief, “that the material that saved my life”.

Want to Learn More?

Your Story is Your Power

Your Story is Your Power

Quinn Lo

Quinn Lo

Operations Director, APAC

I grew up in a highly competitive environment.

Living in Hong Kong, I spent 7 years of my teenage years in a “grade A” local school, where the culture considered a “good student” as somebody who is academically outstanding, musically talented or good at sports.

I wanted to show that I was a good student too. However, I was always mid-range level in my grades, nor did I have any talent on music or sports. I never seemed to be able to have a voice, and I didn’t receive support in the school environment.

At age 15, my class teacher complained to my Mother on parent’s day and said, “she is not cooperative”. In response, my Mother answered, “what you describe there is nothing like my daughter, she is a good girl, and a diligent student”. I will never forget how she defended me.

I am not sharing the above story to complain about the education system in Hong Kong, but to highlight a personal growth journey that brought me to where I am today.

Society are not giving children and young adults a fair chance to grow and thrive into their adult and professional years if they are not supported in a way that allows them to unleash their own talent and potential. They need to feel empowered to believe there is something they are good at.

In my situation and throughout my teenage years, I suffered from what I call ‘I am not good enough’ syndrome. I believed that what I did, didn’t have much value and that I didn’t have anything that I was particularly good at. This naturally impacted all aspects of my life and prevented me from being a better version of myself.

A conversation with a colleague a couple of years ago completed shifted my mindset and perspective on how I see things. I shared that I believed my role was relatively easy in comparison to other, what I believed were, more important roles. They replied, “you think your job is easy because you are naturally good at it, and it doesn’t mean everyone can do your job.” This powerful moment answered a question I had been searching for a long time to answer, “what am I good at?”.

This conversation not only changed how I see things, but also invited me to be more self-compassionate and confident in myself. It allowed me acknowledge that I matter. Through sharing my story and my willingness to be vulnerable, I was able to find courage and resilience in my life journey.

“Your story is the most powerful part of who you are, the struggles, failures, success and everything in between. Remember always to stay open to new experiences and never let the doubters get in the way"

Michelle Obama #IAmBecoming

To all those who are thinking you are not good enough, remember that life is a bumpy journey that shapes you to become stronger.

Want to Learn More?

Your Heart Matters

Your Heart Matters

Mark Weston

Mark Weston

Head of APAC and Global Partner

It’s been nearly a year since I woke up on a Saturday morning with a pain in my left armpit. I had no idea what would happen an hour later.

We had just moved into a new office in Hong Kong and we were delighted that this was a real upgrade on where we were before. We had a few bottles of bubbles, some snacks to celebrate and no doubt some of Tom’s tunes in the background. We all left at a reasonable time and went home.

I am English, a cricket fan and love the fact that our test matches start at 6pm HK local time, which means that late into the night I can watch them play. I dozed off and woke up in the morning on the sofa, with an annoying tension in my armpit. It wasn’t painful, more annoying than anything else; but a constant annoyance, almost like someone pressing a rod or pole under your arm. To this day it’s been hard to exactly describe.

This is the part I am not particularly proud of. I took paracetamol thinking it would go away. After all, I had never experienced this before, so it was hard to compartmentalise as the situation as ‘something to worry about’. After 60 minutes of this ‘annoyance’ I told Paula (my wife) and given there was no obvious ‘heart attack’ dramatics, we didn’t leap to any conclusions. 

However, time was ticking and little did I know that this was actually a countdown clock to whether I lived or died. The annoyance grew to a consistent grip like sensation, which is when I called the local doctor. The advice was immediate….’get to the ER immediately and don’t waste a second!’ It had already been 90 minutes from when I had woken up with the ‘annoyance’ to now. 

My wife drove me to the ER at TKO hospital and waited. Thirty seconds later I was having a check, 60 seconds after that I was being taken to very quickly to have an ECG. I remember lying there with the amazing staff at TKO hospital saying to me that I was in the middle of a heart attack and they need to move me to another hospital for emergency surgery.

From a mindset perspective, it was hard to believe. I was 48 years old, sure liked a few drinks on occasion but generally healthy. How was this happening to me?

‘Clank clank’, the metal sides of the bed got slammed into place and we were off to the transport ambulance to Queen Elizabeth hospital.

I survived as you know, but my story is more about raising awareness to the signs, rather than going into my life now. Ninety minutes was a ridiculous length of time to wait, but I just had no idea that a pain on my left side would be a blockage. 

My advice to anyone now, would be to get to the hospital if you feel anything out of the ordinary from shoulder to shoulder, neck or even back. If the pain is prolonged and doesn’t let up, get there immediately. Don’t listen to your own internal dialogue, as this will be saying “this will pass” or will (like me) cause you to waste precious time! My cardiologist said that an extra 15 minutes and I would have passed away. To be completely honestly, in the last 5 minutes before they operated on me, I could feel myself getting a bit more relaxed, maybe slipping away.

As I was being transported in the ambulance to Queen Elizabeth, with Paula trying to keep up behind in her car, weird thoughts were dominating. Does Paula know all our bank account numbers? Does she have access to investments? Have I got everything sorted so her and the kids can carry on without me? Very rational based. 

But as I was laying there in the ambulance with two doctors standing over me with heart starting paddles, I remember thinking about my kids (they were both out with friends at the time) and the fact that I might not get to say goodbye. The emotional came after the rational.

Anyone reading this, please be aware that at no time was I in any pain. No grabbing of my chest, no falling down; just an ongoing tension to the armpit in my case. 

I was lucky and owe my life to three groups. My wife who ordered me to phone the doctor, the doctors who wasted no time in telling me to get to the hospital. Lastly the amazing staff at TKO and QE Hospital Authority in Hong Kong who saved me. 

Partners and loved ones, don’t trust the narrative of “it’s not that bad” or “I am sure it will pass”. Skip a few steps above and fast track to the ER.

Click here for more detailed heart attack symptoms.

Want to Learn More?

Change – Adding New Colors to My Canvas

Change – Adding New Colors to My Canvas

Angelena Cala

Angelena Cala

Associate

Change takes courage.

I received an overwhelming number of notes of “thumbs up” and congratulations when I shared that I have recently started a new chapter of my professional life – doing what I love, what I believe in and what I choose to. I decided to leave behind the chains of corporate demands and luxuries. Naturally, this came with questions…What helped me to take the decision, how long did I take to make this move? Was it scary? 

This got me reflecting. If this was something I knew I wanted and have often talked about, then why didn’t I make the change any sooner?

Change and I were never strangers.

My career path has never been strait-jacket and I would often describe it as a “dog’s breakfast”. It was colorful – just like a box of different crayons. Each crayon was a career move, a career experience and life moments that helped me “paint”  another canvas of opportunity.

I embraced the challenge to change and made the decision to change – sometimes without thinking it through. The canvas did not always turn out what I had in mind but more importantly, it was a learning experience. So, should I have made the move sooner? 

Maybe I grew older and wiser.

Habit, experiences and familiarity can be nemesis of change. Overthinking, over planning and overprotecting my “WHY” and not surrendering to spontaneity, it was all happening. Desirability bias was occupying my vision of what could be. I knew and I was aware. 

Lo and behold, I have been a fat cat nesting in the valley of familiarity, enjoying the warmth of the known, believing in the illusion of stability and debating innocuously my doubts or hopes. 

Clearly, this does not sound like wisdom with age. Instead, it seems like a state of paralysis. Maybe, the word ‘change’ has become too big, too hairy and too scary. I was lacking the courage to leave my nest of familiarity.  

“If knowledge is power, knowing what we don’t know is wisdom.” Quoting from Adam Grant’s new book, Think Again, I realized that I was giving it too much of the power of knowledge and had become captivated by the oldest emotion, fear.

Change is growth.

Sadly, the moment of enlightenment did not have the melodramatic effect of a  remote retreat or a volcanic hike I was hoping for but was it was ostensibly and simply a “AHA” moment. 

It was firmamental, I reframed. I unlearned. I acknowledged that fear was not going away. I needed to talk myself out of fear.

I reconnected with my passion, what I love doing and what I miss doing. I became curious about the future and began to see change as growth. 

Growth enabled experimentation. It was a positive experience and it fired up ideas and creativity within me that enabled me to paint the canvas of this new chapter. A combination of growth and curiosity allowed me to flick a switch and grow the desire to understand and to try. 

However, growing didn’t mean that I had to throw away my box of crayons. Instead, my new journey will add add more colors, more crayons into my box. So, bring on the canvas of life opportunities. 

The decision to make a change, however long it took, was uplifting and emancipating because I am growing again, with the rainbow of hope and new beginnings.

Want to Learn More?

Cheenee’s Arcadia Journey – Year 1

Cheenee’s Arcadia Journey – Year 1

 Cheenee Chan-Dela Cruz

Cheenee Chan-Dela Cruz

Senior Project Manager

Over a year ago, I had the opportunity of joining Arcadia Consulting. I live in the Philippines and amidst the pandemic hitting the world, I am truly fortunate to have a job where I can work virtually. 

In my 10 years of working, this is the first time where I have joined an organisation with a great culture and set of values. During my first few days, I was blown away with the warm welcome that was given to me. Everyone was so nice and very accommodating. I noticed a big difference transitioning from a large company to a small, family-like firm. I felt I could reach out to anyone whenever I needed something or some advice. Everyone is always open to suggestions and has a growth mindset so we can continue to improve and innovate our ways of working.

Despite the various lockdowns and being in a separate country to my UK colleagues, we managed to get through it together and continued to build our relationships. In addition to work related meetings, we ensured that we had regular meetings focusing on wellbeing, resilience and mental toughness.

Arcadia is very invested in our personal development and helps us reach the goals that we set for ourselves. At the end of the financial year, we did an activity where we submitted feedback for each other. This helped me identify my achievements from the past year and celebrate the results of our hard work. We also identified our contributions to our values and our ‘Win, Learns and Changes’ as we move into the next quarter so we can advance our skills and knowledge. The feedback I was given enabled me to identify the changes I need to make to my daily work.

As a Senior Project Manager, I work directly with the team and our clients in making sure that all the session deliveries run smoothly. One of the best things about my job is receiving feedback from participants and knowing that they enjoyed and learned tremendously from the session.

I can say that I am living the best highlights of my working life and I will not trade it for anything else. I will always be proud of what we do as a firm and will always be grateful for the privilege of working with the Arcadia family.

Want to Learn More?

Reassurance

Reassurance

Tom Forrest

Tom Forrest

Senior Consultant

I recently experienced the life-changing event of our first child.

My wife and I felt relatively well prepared for this, attending a pre-natal course and reading a small library of baby books, as well as receiving a massive supply of advice and supplies to help smooth the new arrival.

Like just about everything over the past year, our best laid plans fell flat and just about nothing about the birth or following weeks went to plan.

Dislocated from family and friends through geography and COVID-19 restrictions, we missed their wisdom and practical first-hand help, and we had the feeling that we were getting everything wrong. Minor situations felt much larger and more important than they should, and we over scrutinised our every action. Inevitably this made us feel unhappy and overwhelmed.

However, help was at hand. As people became aware of our predicament, friends and family rallied round. We received messages of support and relief parcels containing baby products and chocolate, but best of all we received reassurance.

My mother in-law is the best purveyor of reassurance. Along with her practical advice she always ends every call to us with the words “You are doing so well”, or “Don’t worry, you are doing a great job.”

Reassurance is of course, the thing that humans always need. Whether young or old, whether a grizzled veteran or a new recruit, we all need some words of encouragement. This has become more  important than ever in times of change and uncertainty where our lives can sometimes feel like an ongoing emergency.

From a work perspective, we regularly question our value and impact, agonising over our failures and minimising our successes. Even when business is good, a sense of insecurity is never far away.

In a normal work environment, regular face to face contact allows our colleagues to more easily recognise when we need support. Recently however, the seismic changes have forced us to look inward as we scramble to adjust to the new. This introspection has not only left us to question ourselves more often but has also led to a disconnection from our colleagues. The feelings of isolation have been magnified by remote working. My colleague, Tiara Sanders, explores this and offers some tips on managing your own mental health in her latest blog.

As we can impact on our own mental wellbeing, we can also affect the wellbeing of others. Remembering that your colleagues are beset by the same nagging sense of doubt as you is a great motivation to offer them some words of reassurance. We don’t need to overthink this, as even seemingly unoriginal words or gestures can make a big difference. It is important however, to steer away from flattery, which is lying for our own advantage.

The great thing about reassurance is that it does not take any preparation or deep thought. In fact, it is often the most banal of sentences which can provide the best sustenance rather than something rehearsed. A simple line at the end of an email, or a kind word on a call, whether one to one or in a group can make a big difference to the way someone feels.

My personal experience is an example of going through the change curve. Our Arcadia Mindset Advantage Paper describes how leaders should use these lessons to best to redress the void, characterised by uncertainty. Recovery is best started with care and reassurance and leaders need to understand that when handling their people through these difficult times. To quote the paper:

“Leaders don’t always know the answers either so they must lead with care, giving and building trust through intimacy, reliability and selflessness rather than credibility.

Intimacy demands knowing how the change is affecting people’s personal experiences (home, kids, family, social life etc.) and being interested in their world.

Reliability means delivering on promises, on time and being a responsive servant leader. During change, ambiguity and ‘not knowing’ adds to the fear. Not responding to emails, voice messages makes this worse. Respond even if it’s with an ‘I don’t know’. Selflessness means giving  (time, energy, attention, resources, development, information, recognition, support, care) rather than taking (immediate performance, task completion,  requesting time, energy and resources!).

Leaders need to adopt a giving style to reciprocity. As per the ‘Give and Take’ book by Adam Grant, focus on giving value to others without expectation of receiving or taking of equal value.”

With that mind I just wanted to say although it has been a tough year, keep going, I think you are going to be fine.

Want to Learn More?