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Sunday, 20 January 2013

AESOP Consortium and The Open Channel launch their collaboration on Accelerated Learning for Dementia Friendly Communities

This week AESOP Consortium and The Open Channel has begun to pilot a short programme of Accelerated Learning Sets to help public, voluntary and private sector partners work out how to make their communities more Dementia-Friendly.

Building on the experience of their work for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation 'Creating a Dementia-Friendly York', Janet Crampton, Janet Dean and Ruth Eley have devised an Accelerated Learning Programme which supports professional and community partners in supporting and challenging one another to make where they live and work more dementia-friendly.

Supported by the Department of Health and with the opportunity to feed the outcomes of the programme directly into the Prime Minister's Challenge via the Alzheimer's Society, the Accelerated Learning Programme is being piloted in two locations in the north, with interest building from across the country from partners keen to participate in the roll out of the work later this year.

Why should we become more dementia-friendly?
Statistics show that dementia is increasing with the rising numbers of older people. The programme aims to increase the confidence and skills of health, social care, voluntary and community and private sector partners who are providing any kind of service to people with dementia in the community. The programme is focused on the needs of people with dementia and their carers and can involve them directly in the learning process. We are not just interested in health and social care services, but in all aspects of the community - the physical environment, the people, the leisure and commercial resources that people use.

How can we become more dementia-friendly?

Our approach is solutions-focused and will help you lay the foundation for becoming dementia-friendly by working within and across the whole organisation, locality or business sector. If you are committed to supporting people to live well with dementia the programme can help you identify how to adjust your overall approach, refocus specific services and improve your environment.

How does Accelerated Learning work?

Starting from the premise that you are already interested in becoming more dementia-friendly, we offer an approach that doesn’t start at square one. We start by helping you to identify what you already do that is dementia friendly. Then we work with you to build an understanding and commitment across and between the sectors about what is most important for you at the moment and what is going to accelerate your progress towards becoming dementia-friendly. We’ll bring you examples of good practice for you to consider adopting, showing you places that are already someway down the track, and we will
bring you expert speakers who will inspire you to change your place too.

Who would be involved in an Accelerated Learning Programme?

We will ask you to nominate a learning ‘set’ of no fewer than 6, no more than 15 people. They should be people who have the power to influence change in your community or organisation, who recognise the challenge of dementia, and who are willing to work with partners to ensure that being dementia-friendly becomes your normal way of operating.

How is an Accelerated Learning Programme structured?
Reflecting your requirements, we would offer to design you a programme taking into account what works well or what might need to change in each of four domains, which we call the ‘cornerstones’ of dementia-friendly communities or organisations. The experienced team from AESOP and The Open Channel will work with you at your venue, normally over a fixed number of days, depending on what you require. A sample programme might cover:

• An introductory session where we will work with you to establish your baseline position, looking at where you are now.
• Further sessions where we will use the Four Cornerstones of Place, People, Networks and Resources to help you develop a rich understanding of how you can become more dementia-friendly, and
• Support to enable you commit to an Action Plan for the future 

Issues that are emerging in the pilot Programme - do these resonate with you? 

  • Access to services (diagnosis, referral, experience of the person with dementia)
  • Transport
  •  Housing
  •  Awareness of dementia and wider awareness of mental health issues, particularly in older age
  • Choice
  • Fear and Stigma
  • Lack of early support for carers
  • Lack of training of health and social care workforce
  • Lack of awareness in local services - e.g shops, banks
  • Poor support for single people, people without family carers
  • Too much emphasis on what people with dementia can't do rather than what they can.
If you want to find out more about the Accelerated Learning Programme and how you could get involved, please contact us.
Janet Dean
07789 067131 janetdean@theopenchannel.co.uk

Janet Crampton
07540 503030 janetcrampton@aesopconsortium.co.uk

Ruth Eley
07786 979997 rutheley@aesopconsortium.co.uk

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Steve Loraine: Supporting the Strengths of Young People

This week my colleague Steve Loraine from The Open Channel writes about his work with young people and the positive results which flowed from focusing on strengths.
'I've been working with Strengths profiles such as Strengthsfinder http://sf1.strengthsfinder.com/HomePage.aspx  and more recently Strengthscope http://www.strengthscope.com/  for over ten years. My assignments have involved working predominantly with leaders and senior managers of large public bodies, 'though not exclusively, with my work taking me into the voluntary and community sector and commercial organisations as well.

Most recently and very differently, I had the opportunity to provide Strengthsfinder and Strengthscope profile feedback sessions to several younger people; a current student and two recent graduates now looking to start their careers.

One of the recent graduates had spent the better part of a year working in short-term assignments, as an intern and in the catering industry. She had been interviewed on several occasions for entry-level posts in her chosen career and whilst performing well at interview, had not yet landed a coveted job. The specific field she was interested in is highly competitive, with employers having a strong field of candidates to choose from at shortlist. She was seeking an 'edge' to gain entry into her career and an older relative and client of mine had suggested that Stengthscope might be a way to achieve that.

After a preliminary conversation with my new client I arranged for access to the the web-based questionnaire, which takes around 25 minutes to complete and is best done when one has a quiet period to concentrate on the task, although it's easy enough to save the profile part-done and come back to it later.

Once I downloaded the personalised report from Strengthscope, I was able to arrange a telephone feedback conversation with the client. I generally prefer face-to-face work when executive coaching, but the nature of a strengths feedback session, which is as it sounds, i.e. feedback about the profile and not non-directive coaching, means that it lends itself to telephone work particularly well. I allow an hour for a decent feedback conversation, although a little longer allows for a more thorough exploration of the excellent quality report and its potential.

So, this we did and our conversation around the report, which I'd emailed to the client a day or so before we spoke, was highly engaging and productive. With many clients the notion of concentrating on strengths comes as counter-intuitive, given the power that deficit and problem-focused paradigms have on our organisations and indeed our daily view of the world via the news media, feedback from some managers, self-help books and so on. By starting with and concentrating on strengths, without ignoring activities that might weaken a client's performance, the conversation takes many interesting and encouraging turns. For the clients, and they mention this often, the energy they feel as they explore their strengths and how to optimise them can sometimes come as a pleasant surprise.

So it proved in this case. As we explored the profile, various questions from the client suggested that with little mainstream paid work experience to call on, she felt  the profile might be of limited value for her. Because, though, the Strengthscope profile identifies distinctive strengths, i.e. "ways of thinking, feeling and expressing emotions that lead to exceptional performance," clients can call on a whole range of activities, paid and unpaid, to inform their understanding of the profile. With this wider interpretation it was possible for the client to appreciate her significant strengths and then begin to compare them to the activities of role she was seeking.

At this point we were also able to deal with the perception that there might be an ideal profile for job roles and whether her profile matched that 'ideal.' The answer of course is that research into strengths strongly suggests that in any given role, the profiles of exceptional performers often have no little similarity, i.e. there is no 'ideal', only the strengths set of each person, applied to a particular role. So, we worked on what her significant strengths might offer to the required role, how she would represent those strengths through her understanding of them and how she could talk with confidence to the inevitable question posed by interviewers, "tell us about your strengths." The feedback session concluded with the client feeling comfortable with her significant strengths and how they could add value to a role in her profession and in fact, any number of roles.

A few weeks later I was delighted to receive an email from the client informing me that at her very next interview for her chosen career she had been successful and appointed to a large, nationally known company. When she received feedback on her interview performance, one of the key aspects of the performance concerned how she had been so clear about her strengths and how she would apply them to the role! Success.

We've since had a number of conversations with final year students who believe that having a sound understanding of their strengths, as defined above, would be a real advantage to them, not only in interviews, but more generally as they decide on their career choices and even as they take temporary work whilst considering their futures. Every 'edge' helps in a highly competitive jobs market.

For an informal conversation about how Strengthscope and Strengthsfinder can help you as a student, or for your son or daughter coming to the end of their time in further and higher education, visit us at www.theopenchannel.co.uk '

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Good Behaviour Starts in the Boardroom


How can Boards model good behaviour?

In my work as a Board member, both voluntary trustee and paid Non-Executive, and as somebody who works with Boards as a coach and facilitator, the importance of practising good behaviour and being a model for the whole organisation is a constant theme. Why should it be such a challenge?

There are three things worth thinking about – what we mean by good behaviour, whether we act consistently in line with an agreed definition, and whether we talk openly about what is happening. If any one of these is unclear, erratic or fudged then we may be in trouble.

What is good behaviour?

It is good that organisational leadership and people management has focused increasingly on behaviour in recent years rather than relying on structure and role definition to guarantee that somebody will do the right thing.
For most of us in complex organisations doing a job well is about more than completing a series of tasks. Good organisations need good behaviour. After the vogue for hard-nosed leadership in the 80s, we have been increasingly influenced by a broader range of ideas which stress collaboration, mutual support and praise as having more power to motivate than competition and shouting.

But have we gone too far the other way? Are we at risk of being too polite? Does good behaviour mean not being prepared to speak up, to tell the truth when somebody might not want to hear it. The Quaker concept of ‘speaking truth to power’ is often assumed to be about the opportunity an ordinary person might have to tell a leader how it looks from their perspective, and not to be reticent because of the power held by the leader.

But how do leaders – members of a Board – speak the truth to one another? Some of the recent crises in the financial and public sectors have shown that groups of very experienced and committed people can fail to challenge one another, preferring to maintain the group rather than allow dissent, even if that dissent reveals the truth.

In a recent online discussion of the Guardian Public Leaders’ Network I spoke openly about some of the challenges of being a Board member, and it is no easy task to strike the right balance between being true to yourself whilst being part of a group. 

Is it a matter of style over substance?

Good board behaviour must pay heed to the needs of the group, and Boards are charged with doing what is right for their organisation. But what if there is disagreement or dissent? How can you ensure that your voice is heard without coming across as argumentative or contrary? 

In my view good boards welcome dissent, or at least try to make sure that different voices are heard, and recorded. Poor boards are upset by difference. Consensus is about working through, it is not about making people feel they can’t speak up.

It is important for Boards, and particularly for Chairs and Chief Executives to know when they are dealing with differences of opinion or differences of style. To be able to spot, and to work out through discussion and debate if a point of view is just that or if it is something important that the Board as a whole is missing. People can have pet subjects, they can ‘bang on’, but if they have found an early truth, don’t dismiss them.

None of us want to be members of Boards which are full of conflict, anger and vitriol. But we should be wary of feeling too comfortable at the Board meeting – too cosy, unchallenging, is bad behaviour, poor style. Some chairs want to feel more in control than others. When meetings happen in public it can be very scary to have input coming from leftfield, but it is unhealthy to over-orchestrate and serves nobody in the end.

Aim for conscious, open leadership

The worst Board and wider organisational cultures are shrouded in mystery and secrecy, involve cliques and factions and are riddled with half-truths and misunderstandings at best. We come to the Board as individuals, seeing things from our own points of view – this is our strength, that we bring different things and share a range of ideas and suggestions to move the organisation forward. 

But we all have to reach the same level of understanding at critical points of decision-making and for this to happen it is important that we speak our concerns and share openly our positions, so that we can see, hear and feel where our agreement has come from and to what we are committed, together.

A chair needs to orchestrate this, but we must all participate. If we disagree we must say so, in the meeting and prepare to be recorded. Bad behaviour is silence during the meeting and whingeing after. We should explain ourselves clearly, and if we do not understand we should say so and why. It is not good behaviour to be party to decisions we don’t understand and then feel we can disassociate ourselves from them later.

This is the behavioural code which I try to employ.

Friendly, courteous, polite.

Listening, contributing, collaborating.

Open, honest, reflective.

True to yourself, fair to the group, committed to the best for the         organisation and its purposes.
Prepared to challenge often and if necessary to dissent on record.

I will score better on some of these than others, nobody is perfect. But within a group we should be able to demonstrate the best behaviour that we need to function effectively as a Board. We are in the helicopter seat together, and we must navigate well. How can we expect good behaviour if we don’t model it – but first we have to define it, agree with our definition and then we all have to do it.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Why It Is Important to Value the Lows

On New Year's Eve, my 18 year old daughter tweeted that 2013 couldn't possibly be better than 2012. The optimism of the young! Her memories of 2012 are of a month in Thailand and starting her university life, so no wonder she looks back fondly. She has forgotten the trauma of her missed-by-a-whisker A in Psychology and the ups and downs of early relationships. But it is the downs that enable us to identify the ups - without them life would be a flat line.

I guess that's easy to say if your life is balanced or there are more ups than downs. For more people than ever last year the downs just kept coming, and for yet more I suppose 2013 doesn't offer much relief. There are many people to talk to on the streets who are being pushed further and further down as they lose jobs, homes, families and control. People living on the edge protect the rest of us from falling off - we should think ourselves lucky.

I think myself lucky in having seen my brother hit rock bottom and survive. Exactly a year ago a nurse in Mallorca told me that if I wanted to see him alive again, I would need to get out there fast, and I did. What I found was somebody who had drunk himself almost to death. Unable to cut his finger and toe nails because he shook so badly, he was malnourished, skinny yet swollen because his liver had pretty much packed up. Pneumonia put him in intensive care - a lucky discovery that it was e-coli on his lungs was what saved him.

After four months of confusion, delusion and distress in and out of hospital and a nursing home where at 61 my brother looked frail in comparison to residents more than 20 years older, he cut free and flew home. A further couple of weeks of tests and recuperation in hospital in Portsmouth, and we brought him to live in York. We both knew that living with me would be a nightmare, so he has a room in a shared house 20 minutes walk away.

Since June it's all been up - his physical and mental health has been permanently compromised but for now he functions perfectly well, living happily and alcohol free. On Christmas day he had lunch with us, arriving early for the opening of presents and enjoying being part of our family rituals. This was the first time we had spent Christmas together in more than 40 years, and it was both a blessing and a miracle.

My brother is lucky. He has family and friends who help him. He has enough money not to need help from the state, so he has choice. He enjoyed alchohol for most of the time he was drinking, but even he would acknowledge that it wasn't worth it. He was really scared to get to the brink and he is grateful and happy to have survived.

Most of us would choose life. Many of us would like to think we had happy, healthy, prosperous lives. Some of us dream of riches. I dream of just enough. Too much of anything is bad for you. Too much poverty, too much wealth. Too much worry, too much couldn't-care-less. 

When I look back on 2012 I think of the dark start to the year and the light which emerged at its end. I think of worrying about spending too much and earning too little. I think of buying less and yet having more. It's been a year of fear but also of gifts - the cities of Palma, Barcelona and Liverpool, our son's graduation and first job, new friends, new contacts, new opportunities. Working with Compass UK and Metropolitan bring new challenges and much satisfaction.

There is no joy, nothing to be gained, in punishing the poor and needy. Work is for sustenance, satisfaction, contribution. Good wealth is for distribution. Love, power and money - share them. In the pack, I see myself in the middle. I would like us to be closer together, keeping each other from the edge.