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Owning Who You Are: An Introverted, Black, Woman in Leadership

Owning Who You Are: An Introverted, Black, Woman in Leadership

Picture of Cachet Prescott

Cachet Prescott

Global Head of People

Author

Jess Koerner
Senior Marketing Executive
North America

Arcadia: Tell me a little bit about yourself. We know that you’re the Global Head of People, but what else? 

Cachet Prescott: To be honest, I didn’t realize I was a people person. Before I jumped into my career, I thought that I wanted to do something more behind the scenes. I was leaning towards computer programming or something to that effect where there were less people. But as time went on, I realized that I really enjoyed the people aspect much more than I enjoyed the technical aspect of things.  

I kind of fell into this space. I took one sociology class and that changed my world. It completely changed my perspective on what work could look like for me. Since then, I’ve been leaning into all things related to particularly maximizing people. I like to see people shine in whatever it is that they’re doing. That extends to just who I am as a person, outside of the workplace, my kids probably get very frustrated. They will often say “mom, stop teaching me” but, there’s a lesson in everything. 

Arcadia: Are there any reading recommendations that you would suggest based on your sociology background?

Cachet Prescott: I’m always intrigued by other people’s stories, so my book choice aligns with that. I can’t remember if I read it in my sociology of conflict class or another class, but one book that stands out is not necessarily about the good aspects of humanity. It’s a book called Monster. It’s about a guy who used to be in a gang and his journey of gang life; going into prison; and how it had such an impact on him. Once he was released, he wrote the book and he became a motivational speaker. He is someone that really speaks to people about this idea of redemption. It was such a good book; I couldn’t put it down.

"Monster: The Autobiography of An L.A. Gang Member" by Sanyika Shakur

Arcadia: Speaking of journeys, can you share some insight into your journey as a female leader within Arcadia, particularly highlighting any challenges or barriers you faced along the way and how you overcame them?

Cachet Prescott: My journey really showcases the power of promotion from within. When I first joined Arcadia, I joined as an associate. I was a contract facilitator which lasted all of three months before I officially joined the team. Now, I’m the Global Head of People.

One thing that has been instrumental in my journey to leadership within Arcadia has been the advocacy, support, and sponsorship I’ve received from the start. I am so advocated for and sponsored at Arcadia that I know there will always be a voice for me even when I’m not in the room.

Probably two months into me being here at Arcadia, I was asked where I wanted to be in 3 years’ time. I was pleasantly surprised by the question so soon into joining the team, so I jumped at the chance to showcase my desire to take on a global HR role. I’m a visual person, so I went to Canva and created a vision board of sorts.

Lo and behold, I took on that role just two years later.

But of course, like you said in the question, there have been challenges as well. I come to work with 3 identities: three marginalized identities that intersect and create a very specific experience for me. I’m a black, introverted, woman in leadership, and those three things coming together can be very challenging at times.

When people think of introverts in general, they can see them as aloof, antisocial, or sometimes arrogant. We are often to ourselves, may not say a lot, and people may assume that we just don’t want to be bothered, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. We’re just in our heads quite often. If you couple that introversion with being a black woman– there are a lot of stereotypes about what a black woman is, what she looks like, and how she shows up–it can be challenging.

My introversion is very contradictory to what one might assume a person in a Head of People role might be like. I’ve grown to be much more intentional about building those relationships. My goal is to really get to know people and give people the chance to get to know me. That builds a foundation for everything else.

Arcadia: How has the culture of the company evolved regarding gender diversity and inclusion since you joined, and what initiatives or strategies have been implemented or are now underway to support the advancement of women in leadership positions?

Cachet Prescott: As a global organization, we’re quite diverse already. One of the initiatives that we’ve put in place is proactively collecting information to allow for informed decision making when it comes to our people. We’re becoming very intentional. We started with our first employee engagement survey in 2022 because, in addition to diversity, there’s also the inclusion and belonging pieces of the conversation that are just as important. Yes, we have a diverse team, but it’s like Verna Myers says in her famous quote, “Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.”

“Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.”
Verna Myers
Leading Diversity and Inclusion Expert

The information we collect in these surveys is going to help us create the space and culture where people feel like they are truly seen, heard, and appreciated.

Arcadia: In your experience, how does being a woman in leadership influence your approach to decision making and leadership style?

Cachet Prescott: This is a tough one because I don’t necessarily think that it’s just about being a woman. I think all of my experiences and all aspects of me contribute to how I approach decision making. I don’t approach leadership as a woman, I approach it as a human.

Arcadia: I love that. So empowering. Can you discuss any mentorship or support programs that you’re a part of that have been instrumental in fostering the professional growth of women?

Cachet Prescott: There are a few different organizations that I’ve been involved with or serve on the board of. I was a member of CHIEF for about a year which is an organization focused on developing executive level women in leadership. Their sole purpose is to create a space for female leaders and help them understand what their development process should look like.

Another one is Fe League: I’m a member and I also serve on their board. They are similar in nature to CHIEF, and they have two versions. One that is focused on C-Suite leaders and one that is focused on female leaders in general. Whether you’re new to leadership and growing or someone that’s been there for a while, you have insights to share. It’s a great space for growth and development and a community of likeminded individuals who understand the things that you’re going through.

These are great spaces for women to have conversations that they’re not able to have in other places. They all have virtual components and many of these types of organizations have local chapters.

Arcadia: That’s great, what other advice would you give to aspiring female leaders within the organization or those aiming to break into leadership roles in their respective fields?

Cachet Prescott: One thing I really want to impress upon female leaders is that you deserve to be there. Wherever “there” is for you, you belong. You are just as capable if not more, capable, competent, and knowledgeable, of doing the things that other people are doing. Just believe in yourself and own your confidence: own your voice.

Own how you show up and again do what you know how to do. That’s one thing that I’ve learned about myself over time. Sometimes you look at other people and you’re thinking oh my goodness, I wish I could blah, blah, blah and the thing is…you can. Even if you don’t necessarily have all the skills in the moment, you can get those skills, but you have to believe that you belong there. It’s a mindset thing and there’s that famous Henry Ford quote: “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.” And it’s absolutely true.

That’s all one component of it and the other is just about being unapologetically and authentically who you are. I mentioned that at times it feels like being an introverted black woman can be challenging, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I want to be who I am while recognizing that there are times to adapt and to be flexible because that’s what we have to do as human beings. Every bit of who I am has brought me to where I am and there is value in it.

Arcadia: What legacy do you hope to leave behind as a female leader?

Cachet Prescott: I’m a mother of three female leaders in the making, and I want them to see that they can. I want them to know that whatever it is that they set their minds to, they can do it. It is possible and I want them to be able to say at the end of the day “I can, and I did.”

I want them to feel empowered. I don’t want them to feel like the odds are against them. And of course they will be at times, but despite the hurdles and roadblocks, I want them to feel like “OK, yeah, I can do it.” It’s important to me that I set an example for them and that they take it well beyond whatever I could have shown them.

Arcadia: Your daughters have quite a mother to look up to. They should be proud. Final question, it’s an easy one: what song gets you pumped to take on the world?

Cachet Prescott: This is the hardest one! But one that always comes up for me is, “All I Do is Win” by DJ Khaled. It just gets you in that place and fills you with confidence to feel like, “yeah, I got this–I’m ready to take on the world.”

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Authenticity in Leadership: A Woman’s Journey

Authenticity in Leadership: A Woman’s Journey

I was asked by our marketing team to do an interview about women in leadership, about my journey as a female leader, and the challenges I have faced along the way. I’m afraid I have rebelled against the questions already, and instead have sat down with a blank sheet to try and openly describe my thoughts about women at work and perhaps my own feelings on the topic of women in leadership from my own experiences. 

The top lessons I’ve learned about being a leader, authenticity wins: 

  • Authenticity rises above gender 
  • Authenticity earns respect 
  • Authenticity inspires others 

Authenticity Rises Above Gender

I have always been inspired by other women I work with. Not because men aren’t inspiring too, but because women always seem to be juggling more – both in and out of work. After more than 25 years in the workplace, I’m a firm believer that equality at work for women shouldn’t be about diversity quotas. To me, it’s about the right person in the right role based on their talents. Gender, as I see it, shouldn’t be part of the discussion when recruiting or promoting someone. We should all have the same opportunities and chances to shine, regardless of old stereotypes. It’s 2024. 

Authenticity Earns Respect

Early in my career I worked at one of the big 4 consultancy firms with the Global Head of HR – a woman. Shirley was in a powerful role, but she was wonderfully genuine and approachable. She seemed unafraid, even when in a very senior meeting, a tough corporate environment and often the only female. It was as if she didn’t notice that. I was in my mid 20’s, not as confident as Shirley yet but was so inspired by her. She stood out next to the many senior men around me. I look back now and believe it was her attitude to communicating with everyone equally that set her apart. 

Authenticity Inspires Others

After my time with the firm, I lived for over a decade in the Middle East where I spent many of those years both raising my children and growing my own retail business. In an extremely male dominated world out there, I pushed against the larger retail giants to carve out a niche business based on customer experience. I ran my business authentically. When it grew and I had a large workforce of people working for me, I put fun, teamwork, and smiles at the top of the agenda and people naturally worked hard. I didn’t change myself in order to lead others. I led by example. I always wore a smile even when times were tough, I worked as hard as everyone else and made sure to foster an open team spirit where we all supported one another. Both the men and the women. I channeled my inner ‘Shirley’ and was genuine with everyone.  

What it Means to be a Good Leader, Regardless of Gender.

Some people believe they have to act a certain way when they reach leadership level ‘status’. The old clichéd leader, closed off from the team and overly direct in their communication style. They believe they have to suddenly appear stoic and very serious. During the Covid lockdown, a video of a BBC news presenter went viral. While he was live on air, his children unexpectedly entered the room and disrupted the live broadcast. His initial reaction was one of frustration and anger. He tried to hastily remove the children and maintain the traditional facade of a serious news anchor, as he must have felt this was what was needed to keep the respect of his role. I think in reality, people would have respected him far more if he had embraced the unexpected interruption with grace and perhaps even seen the humour in it.  

Everyone is human, and their being extends beyond their professional roles. To push the idea of bringing your ‘whole self’ to work is to push back against the old stereotypes. 

In Summary

If I reflect back on all my working roles, I have always been authentic in my approach. Asking questions when I don’t understand something, admitting when I’ve made a mistake and learning from it, and certainly putting authenticity into my sales & customer service conversations. In a world full of bravado and fearfulness, people have always responded well to me being open and authentic. You might call it being real. 

In my role today at Arcadia, whether it’s managing a team, working with my peers or leading a function, I put integrity and openness at the forefront of my communication and decision making. I am on a constant learning journey as a leader, I fully admit that I still get things wrong and I love the fact that we have a culture here at Arcadia where authenticity is celebrated and encouraged. If you aren’t learning or failing then you are standing still. And personally I have too much energy to be standing still! 

Whilst the world is looking for the freshest perspective on the best ways to lead, I don’t believe we need to look further than authenticity. To be authentic, in all scenarios and in all decision making, is to inspire others. And perhaps, women are just naturally a bit better at being openly authentic… 

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From Clueless to Fearless: A Mom’s Rise to Leadership

From Clueless to Fearless: A Mom’s Rise to Leadership

A 10-year journey of Carla Quiatchon, Project Manager at Arcadia.

Into the Unknown

 

I entered the corporate world at a young age. 

I had no idea what I was doing back then, clueless of what was happening inside an office. All I know is that I must get a permanent job. 

But life had other plans—before I even got the contract as a permanent employee, I discovered that I was pregnant.

The pressure intensified. I was under huge pressure of getting regularized to that first job that I was not doing good enough and at the same time, I was carrying a child. 

After a few months, the training was over, and I passed! 

After a few months, I gave birth to my son. All this happened really fast. 

The challenge is not over though, I had to face something more difficult. I had to raise my son alone at the age of 19, at the age when most of my peers were still enjoying the carefree youth.

Balancing Motherhood and Ambition

I was questioning everything. I did not understand where my life was going. Until one day, something had taken all my fears and doubts. 

I need to stand up for myself and for my son. I had to believe in myself again that I am a strong woman. 

My first corporate office became my second home. Some workmates even became my second family. I promised myself to take all the opportunities that I could have in this company. I need to bank on my skills because I cannot be jobless. 

It was more than 8 years before I had the courage to discover opportunities outside this second home. 

Empathy and Growth at Arcadia

When Arcadia opened its doors for me, I carried my story like a cherished treasure into that interview room. Arcadia and their people, with their discerning eyes, saw beyond my résumé—they glimpsed the fire within me. They accepted me, embraced me, believing in my potential.

For me, this change was not easy. Leaving behind my comfort zone—the familiar walls of my second home—I stepped into uncharted territory. The company that had honed me for eight years now lay in my wake.

I told myself that I must try something new, another skill that I can deposit to my experience bank. I was ready to embrace change.

Arcadia became more than an employer; it became my compass. Arcadia gives me a whole new level of understanding of the workplace and the work itself. I am only in my second year with Arcadia, and I can brag about how much learning I gained not only as a Project Manager, but also as a contributor to the company.

Here at Arcadia, the workplace wasn’t just about tasks and deadlines; it was about people. The threads of empathy wove through every interaction, creating a tapestry of genuine connection. I felt valued—not just as a Project Manager, but as a vital person in the company’s heartbeat.  Arcadia makes me feel that I am a contributor to the success of the company. They value my hard work and most importantly, believe in my potential. I am excited to contribute more and celebrate more success with the Arcadia people. I am proud to be part of this family!

 

A Journey of Inspiration

I finally understand why I needed my son at that early stage of my life. Why I had to go through all those challenges. It hit me like a sunbeam breaking through clouds: he was my catalyst. His tiny fingers pushed me forward, urging me to be better, to reach higher. If he did not come into my life, I would not have an inspiration to always push myself to be better…To be determined in achieving more.

So, fellow travellers, remember this: inspiration isn’t a fleeting muse; it’s a flame that burns within. It whispers, “You can,” when the world shouts, “You can’t.” It’s the wind beneath your wings, propelling you toward uncharted skies.

All we need is inspiration to always move forward. An inspiration that will always remind you to believe in yourself. An inspiration to keep us going. I hope you all find your inspiration in life. Find it, hold it close, and let it light your path.

May your life be a canvas painted with inspiration—a masterpiece of courage, resilience, and unwavering belief. Happy International Women’s Month to all strong woman out there!

If you would like further information on this topic please get in touch with us at hello@arcadiaconsulting.com

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Transitioning To Arcadia: Retiring Madison Consulting

Transitioning To Arcadia: Retiring Madison Consulting

A Story of Seizing Opportunity When It Knocks

Nuala Fisher and Jackie Advani, now principal consultants at Arcadia Consulting, sat down with us to discuss what led them to make the decision to join the Architects of Change. We spoke about their experience running The Madison Consulting Group and what led to their decision to join Arcadia. 

Arcadia: Can you share a bit about your journeys and the pivotal moments that led you to this point? 

Nuala & Jackie: 18 years ago, we started our journey with Madison, but were in quite different roles then. During our time with Madison, we became more ingrained in the client experience and worked closely with our core team of facilitators to build strong client partnerships.
 
Fast forward 13 years, the opportunity to run Madison as co-presidents and with our own vision presented itself. We decided to take it. Unfortunately, our vision didn’t include Covid–that meant shifting how we interacted with our clients. This redirection from in-person to virtual opened a new landscape in L&D and it became clear that, for us to continue supporting our clients, we needed more technology, resources, and research.
 
They say the universe works in mysterious ways, and it does. Dan Spira, who had previously done consulting work for Madison took a chance and reached out to ask if we were looking to make a change. As a result of that conversation, we happily joined Arcadia as of January 1st, 2024. 

Arcadia: As you take on new roles as principal consultants at Arcadia, what core values drive your decisions?

Jackie & Nuala: Our decisions have always been driven by our desire to strengthen workforces, improve performance, and enhance engagement. When collaborating with clients to design a workshop, we kept all of these in mind. We go into every engagement believing talent can be developed and leveraged and that learners are able to take control of their learning, opening the floor to great discussions and outcomes.

Arcadia: What aspects of Arcadia’s mission and culture resonate with you personally?

Nuala & Jackie: Culture is especially important to us and was a key factor in making the decision to make the move to Arcadia. From our first meeting with a few of the partners, we saw how aligned the culture is to what Madison had built over 20 years. Our culture was one of trust, empowerment, and family. We feel at home here and we look forward to what lies ahead for all of us.

Arcadia: Looking ahead, what excites you most about joining Arcadia?

Jackie & Nuala: All of it! There are so many opportunities for personal and professional growth. We are looking forward to pooling our resources, expertise, and content. This will result in a richer learning experience for clients. Working together, we can create innovative approaches and solutions keeping us ahead of the ever-evolving field of consulting and L&D.

This statement serves to clarify that there is no merger between The Madison Consulting Group and Arcadia Consulting.The Madison Consulting Group is closing its operations independently, and only its team members are joining Arcadia Consulting. Any suggestions or implications of a merger are inaccurate. Both entities remain separate and distinct.

If you would like further information on this topic please get in touch with us at hello@arcadiaconsulting.com

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10 Critical Steps for a Personal Transformation

10 Critical Steps for a Personal Transformation

In April 2023 I was diagnosed as pre-diabetic. A HBA1c* of 42 – 47 puts you in the Pre-diabetes range. 

HBa1c of 48 > puts you in the Diabetic range. I was at 45.

* HBA1c (Glycated hemoglobin) = a form of hemoglobin that is chemically linked to a sugar.

I am 53 years old. I am 5’10” and weigh 89.9kg. I exercise every day at the gym or by running 4-5 miles around my home vicinity. I am ‘slim boy fat.’ Slim on the outside but fat around my organs. My diet is poor. Alongside the nutritional main meals of the day, I snack – crisps, chocolate, late night cereal, cheese! oh boy, I love cheese! All processed, high calorie, high sugar foods.

The news scared me which is useful for personal transformation. Fear can be a good motivator. The news was the wake-up call, the burning platform, the call to action, and the fear was the fuel.

I am a Partner at Arcadia Consulting – experts in organisation transformation and change, specialising in the human element of that change. We enable individuals and teams to adopt a resourceful mindset for change, equip them with skills and tools to execute the change and transform culture and behaviour. I should be able to crack this pre-diabetes…no problem!

There are traditionally 3 motivators that we see coaching organisations and change management gurus refer to when considering a big change:

1. Burning platform

2. Strategy

3. Goal

However, my experience in the last 12 weeks highlighted that these 3 things, or the news and the fear are not always enough. Similarly, in organisations, the market condition and the risk are not always enough to drive change.

These 7 additional motivators have been critical for my personal 12-week transformation:

4. Communication

5. Big Goal – Micro habits

6. Environment and context

7. Purpose, Identity and Self-Love

8. Chatter and Inner dialogue

9. People

10. Measurement, Patience, and Perspective

4. Communication

Tell people you have pre-diabetes. By doing so you get empathy, support and understanding. At parties (and there were many), you don’t get asked  ‘do you want some snacks?’  or  ‘have another beer’.  Instead, you get support and light-hearted humour about ‘missing out’. That is much better than keeping it a secret, getting bombarded with temptation, and being asked ‘what’s wrong with you!’.

Telling people also shifted me out of denial and towards acceptance a lot quicker than keeping it to myself. It also appealed to my sense of accountability. 

“I’ve told them now, they’ll expect change, and if they don’t see it then it can’t be out of ignorance but instead my choices… so my fault… so ‘if it’s to be it’s up to me’”.

5. Big Goal = Micro Habits

“My goal is 80kg and my strategy is to go on a diet because I’m pre-diabetic”.

There it is… the goal, the strategy, and the burning platform. So, it should be easy then? Nothing changes without behaviour change. Behaviour happens in moments, small moments in time when choices are made.

I identified small daily habit changes. One piece of toast with two eggs for breakfast rather than the usual two pieces of bread and butter. No cereal. No crisps. A small dark chocolate bar 3 times per week rather than my previous habit of one a day. I travel on the train regularly and as I take the stairs onto Platform 2 of Stockport station there is a WHSmith and Starbucks. I now immediately walk to the end of the platform to take myself away from temptation. 

Goals can be too big. Micro habits are easy to notice (have I done them or not), repeat (consistently and frequently) and record/reflect (write down in my journal). All of which drives accountability.

6. Environment and Context

The cliché is ‘it’s not the flower that’s the problem. It’s the soil, light, environment’. Cliché or not, it’s right.

My bad habits showed up when I was:

  • Tired. Poor discipline and a sense of ‘I deserve this’, whether I was travelling by train or stopping at service stations when driving home.
  • At parties and social events with bowls of snacks and crisps within arm’s reach.
  • Being told by family ‘you really shouldn’t’ have that food’, when they themselves were eating it! (Especially after a long day when it felt as though I deserved it more than them!).
  • If I were alone, bored, and everyone had gone to bed. Nobody will notice if I have some chocolate. On some occasions, I had eaten a whole chocolate bar, and then on the way back from the gym in the morning bought a new one to replace it so they wouldn’t suspect anything!

Understanding the environments and context helps you to:

  • Change the environment, e.g. remove the bad food from the environment or work away from the fridge and cupboards.
  • Avoid the context. Fill up with petrol in advance or keep busy to avoid boredom.
  • Plan and develop other strategies e.g., pre-preparing food for long car journeys.

“If you don’t create and control your environment your environment will create and control you.”

– Marshal Goldsmith

7. Purpose, Identity and Self-Love

Will power isn’t enough. When I’m tired or have a drop in self-esteem it is the habit (implicit memory) that wins.

I spent some time articulating the ‘why’ and the purpose of my transformation. It’s easy to say ‘because I might die if I get diabetes’ and that may be enough, but it wasn’t for me. I needed a ‘move towards’ motive rather than a ‘move away from’ motive. I needed a ‘who am I’ affirmation.  ‘I am a healthy, dynamic person’, ‘I am disciplined’, ‘I am strong on the inside and out’, ‘I am leading a fulfilling active life when I am 80 years old’.

As I alluded to earlier habit change is about decision change. Again, I noticed in the moments that mattered I made some poor habitual implicit choices that halted progress. This may sound weird, but I decided to carry around with me a medal I had received for running the Yorkshire Marathon in 2017. It symbolised a time when I was proud, disciplined, loved, and healthy inside and out. At the difficult ‘decision moment’ I held the medal and asked myself a couple of self-love questions. Do you respect, love, and like yourself? Would your future self (in 2 minutes or 2 days or 2 years) respect, love and like yourself?’. Maybe these questions are just habit interrupters, turning on the explicit memory system to make conscious decision vs. unconscious habits, but I found them helpful.

There is a concept in psychology that the beliefs you have about the world, situations (and in my case, food choices) can only impact you when they interact with the unresourceful beliefs you have about yourself.  

8. Chatter and Inner Dialogue

I am fully aware of the concept that ‘the brain cannot make sense of the reverse of something’. For example, if you were to say to yourself, ‘Don’t think of a pink elephant’, the brain has no choice but to think of it.

When we think of it, our attention and focus is drawn to it. As an example, skiers are aware of the risks of saying ‘don’t hit the trees’. They focus, and as such their skis often then turn towards the trees and ‘BANG’!

‘Don’t eat chocolate’, ‘don’t eat crisps’, ‘avoid sweets and sugar’! My brain was full of this chatter. As such, more crisps, chocolate, and sweets were brought to my attention. I couldn’t stop seeing them EVERYWHERE – on the hairdresser’s countertop, in TV advertisements, clutched in people’s hands whilst walking the dog…

Interestingly when your brain, eyes, and ears are focused on chocolate, it’s harder to see healthier alternatives. I’d be walking through Liverpool Street Station and all I could see were bad choices.

‘Eat healthily’, ‘eat fresh food’, ‘enjoy flavorsome salads’ – this chatter literally enables me to see healthy options. Listen to your chatter.

9. People

Enlist the help of those closest to you. In my case my wife orders the shopping.  She stopped buying crisps, Walkers Sweet Chili Sensations to be precise, and bought more fruit. I know fruit is sweet and contains sugar, but it is not processed and also contains fibre.

Talk about the journey, the difficulty, the progress. I found that there is value for all parties to be had. Not just value in relation to health but also intimacy, vulnerability, shared joy when talking about the journey together.

Much of the content of the conversations had transferable attitudes or behaviours that could be applied to very different contexts such as work, parenting, and social life challenges.

“You are an average of the 5 people you spend time with.”- Jim Rohn

This means you are either being dragged up or dragged down by these 5 people and equally you are pulling down or building up those around you.

10. Measurement, Patience, and Perspective

Measurement is the ultimate accountability. It can reward you with dopamine and stress you with cortisol depending on expectations. I had a great start – I lost 3 kg’s in 10 days, but then nothing. No movement for 4 weeks despite continued good behaviour. This for me was the hardest period.  It was the ‘I deserve a treat because I’ve worked hard’ period.

Measurement is key but the reward system should be based on the activities. I chose to feel good, congratulate myself and reward myself with a little dark chocolate for doing the right things even if the results weren’t showing up on the scales.

When learning to juggle the advice is always to ‘focus on the throw and the catch will take care of itself’.

In Conclusion

Transformation doesn’t realise much value unless it’s sustainable. As such there is an acknowledgement that this personal transformation has no end date, no planting of the flag or finish line.

A healthy person or organization needs continuous work. Now is a moment to celebrate progress but no victory salute. To sustain the behaviour, I will need to ‘hardwire’ the new identity, let go of the old identity fully, and embed the new habits.

That sounds like culture change to me, something I consult with clients about everyday.

If you would like further information on this topic please get in touch with us at hello@arcadiaconsulting.co.uk

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Permission to be

Permission to Be

Picture of 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.

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Age is Just a Number

Age is Just a Number

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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.

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A Better Me

A Better Me

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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.

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“The Answer is Always in The Material”

“The Answer is Always in The Material”

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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”.

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Your Story is Your Power

Your Story is Your Power

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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"

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

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