I love planning, organising and seeing events pan out along with the buzz and atmosphere. When I was at my lowest though when grief for my mum really hit I hated events ending. That feeling of being part of something, the euphoria, of making a difference to others, connecting with people, building on people’s strengths, connecting. When it ended that was it, what was my reason for being, what did I need to do now. Looking back I probably hadn’t found the joy in the work I was doing, I wasn’t being challenged enough, I was grieving but didn’t appreciate that and trying to find those connections and sense of belonging somewhere. 

Lou Mycroft’s reflections this past week on #JoyAM following her being at the OER Conference and talking about the principles of Joy have really got me thinking. And contemplating that momentum we had when planning the Big Conversation event for #JoyFE. This week I reached out to the members of the WhatsApp group that helped pull the event together after listening later in the day to Tuesday’s broadcast. It is almost a month since the event, we had promised to do something, did I need to do anything, did anyone need any support but also it was such a joyous space I wanted to reconnect with them all and find that momentum, especially while in a hotel room on my own.

In this morning’s broadcast (Friday) Stacey Salt commented: “It was the most relaxed and collaborative event planning I ever experienced, it made the organising Joyful 💛💛💛” It really was, but what made it so? Why was it joyful, why was it collaborative, why was it relaxed? It goes back to those principles that Lou has been talking about this week and the fact that we want everyone to understand joyful practice and what it can bring them. 

For me as I come to the end of my current time with Girlguiding London and South East England (this time on the staff front), I know that it is about working towards a common purpose, shared values, connecting and clear communication. I now understand that there will be a next time, that I’ve made new connections and we can get that electricity fizzing for the next moment or event and I believe I’ve found that light within myself to shine and belong. 

Would love to hear what makes your light shine or how you achieve a joyful practice. 


#JoyFE 3rd birthday – what is joyful practice


It is so lovely to see so many of you here today and we hope that you are intrigued by today’s #BigConversation as we are here to celebrate 3 years of the #JoyFE collective.

3 years is a long time, yet it is no time at all for us, as a ground breaking collective we are still finding new things to do.

As we go through the session a different active #JoyFE volunteer will guide you and inform you on what is happening in this our first #BigConversation, a conversation of possibilities.

#JoyFE – Joy for Education (all education) is rooted in Joyful Practice. So, what is Joyful Practice? Well for me it is exactly what we did to put today together. 10 of us from all over the country have pulled together, the format, content, who’s doing what and resources without the need for millions of meetings, but through consideration of our shared values and our commitment to ‘can we afford not to’. Today is the result from a WhatsApp group, voice notes, a Google doc and a few of us coming together in Thinking Environment spaces – all proof right there that we don’t need endless meetings to ensure change happens and we can do the work.

While that is one example of Joyful practice working, joyful practice for me has come a way of life, though for a leader and a manager that can be hard work at times – that actually is the point, as Lou Mycroft often reminds us we have to do the work on ourselves to do the work. And as a leader it is essential that I help change practices to help us achieve more and ensure we’re not drowning in meetings or having meetings for meetings sake. What is required to ensure we achieve joyful practice is trust, understanding and working together to make change happen.

Over the past 3 years I have been grateful to #JoyFE being there, while I was made redundant twice the #JoyFE collective was there reminding me of the work still to be done, and helping me to know I need to read, learn and reflect and took me to Karen Walrond and The Lightmaker’s Manifesto. This quote from her book is a good reminder for me and us all.

“Throughout those dark days, what stays with me most are the moments of light. Being part of something big and beautiful and generous. An experience that fills you with meaning and hope and faith. The combination of these emotions, well it feels like joy.”

This is essential, that hope and faith, but #JoyFE will also add that through this we also need to consider kindness, trust and wellbeing, which links us back to the thinking of Joyful Practice that #JoyFE comes from, which comes from C17th Netherlands and the Dutch Jewish Philosopher Baruch Spinoza and that “influenced joyful practice acknowledges the pain, fear and sorrow of the world around us, and channels it into an affirmative ethics of action.”

And if we really want to achieve Joyful Practice then it is that alignment to personal ethics and values rather than mindless compliance. It’s that ‘I would prefer not to…’ and it’s how can we change, because how can we afford not to. It’s considering meetings and thinking how we can work with trust, kindness and wellbeing

I would like to finish with one more quote this time from Brène Brown another person the #JoyFE collective has led me to, but if you know me you’ll know I love twinkling lights, so this really appealed to me:

So, let’s take today’s joyful moment and find those lights to discover new joyful practice around meetings and ensure we have kindness, trust and wellbeing in the work that we do and the meetings or spaces we find ourselves in.

Thank you.

Two pieces – human reactions


Two weeks ago, I wrote two pieces, but since writing them things have changed. Sometimes as a leader, things are taken out of your hands and when you see hope not everyone does and bureaucracy enters into the room – more on that another time. First the two pieces I wrote the on 1.11.22


Something that runs through me is caring. It is pretty central to all I do that caring for others, sometimes it might not seem so when passion and integrity come into play, but they often come out because of my caring of the cause.

Sometimes caring too much or giving too much of myself can be detrimental, but I will go on caring forever.

Those who don’t care or seem to care I find quite strange. Those that seem quite self-centred or lack integrity is often where I come across barriers and get frustrated. Does that mean I am not caring? Or does it feel to me that I’m not caring because I’m frustrated and want to see the right thing done? Or is this a clash of morals and ethics?

As a leader dealing with people is hard, and you’re going to find those that have differing views. That is absolutely fine and healthy. But what is important as a leader is listening to those views, finding out what the other person thinks or wants to say. Also, if they think something can be done another way then give them the opportunity to try or explain their thinking.

So, to ensure you continue to care for everyone, it’s important to listen and draw out that thinking, and give people the opportunity to explain themselves so you can fully understand them.

For me this has become so important as I learn how to deal with my dad’s dementia, and really care and listen to him. The other week he explained to one of the carers hoe he had walked a long holding my hand, making sure I kept my balance when I was learning to walk and now I was doing the same for him to regain his balance and steady him. It has become integral in my relationship to be calm, listen, guide and care as both he and my mum taught me to do.


Everybody experiences grief/loss differently and it is their own personal experience. There are moments where it can suddenly come out of the blue again and you are stood in the middle of a public place tears rolling down your face.

Many years ago, my friend told me that we just had to the emotions come out and go with it. She was absolutely right then and since I have quoted it back to her on occasion too. She’s still right!

There can be a song, a word, an occasion, a hearse going by, an ambulance outside somebody’s house than can trigger emotion and all I can say is go with that emotion. Cry it out, shout it out, talk it out. It is okay to feel all of those things. We’re human and things will get us.

I’ve felt fragile again recently and I often describe grief as the layers of an onion skin being peeled away making me feel open to the elements or rather emotions. But I can recognise this feeling now and know that I need company and the comfort of connecting with people, to not be afraid of the tears flowing and to talk my thoughts and explain my emotions.

This is how I cope, but it may not be the same for you, as I said your grief is your grief and no-one else’s. Unfortunately, though it’s hard you have to go on your own journey of grief and ride with the storms, and if you need to seek the support that is out there.

It is strange that I wrote these two things two weeks ago, since writing them things at work have been a blur and moved through the emotions, but through it all I have experienced grief and also cared massively for the students and staff. The two really do go hand in hand, because if someone is grieving you really do need to care about them and ensure they have support around them. All of the staff of the organisation I was working for are now experiencing grief for its loss, redundancy can be awful, but administration is brutal. So, to all the staff of Aspire please do look after yourselves, grieve for what has happened, but look after yourselves and ensure you get the care and support you need.

33 Days in…


I’m now 33 days in (technically 37 today, but let’s not split hairs!) to my new habits and some are going better than others. In my New Year, New Habits forming blog I said that Domink Spenst wrote in his The 6 Minute Diary “A few days were not sufficient to change your habit…It actually takes 66 days to do that.”

Though I am not quite there with all my new habits being embedded the half way mark has given me the opportunity to reflect, and consider how I might ensure I was able to achieve more of my new lifestyle. These habits are all about ensuring a better work/life balance and that I maintain positive mental wellbeing.

What has really helped for me is connecting with nature and starting my day outdoors, along with listening to @LouMycroft’s JoyAM broadcast. It was Lou that got me thinking about why I always seemed to get headaches or be ill after being on holiday. The difference was I am outdoors so much more on holiday and feel healthier for it. When I didn’t set my day up right yesterday I really noticed the difference and felt discombobulated in the evening and got to trying to work through some frustration late at night.

What this has taught me and I want to pass on is take some time to find ways to ensure you have positive mental well-being and take time to reflect. For me it really is about setting up day properly, connecting with nature (and the added bonus to that is sharing my connections through photos), and at the end of the day finding three good things that had happened. All of this helps me to be a better leader and be there for others.

So, go, consider what is good for you, and start forming habits that ensure you have time to reflect, learn and have positive mental well-being.

For me also some big thank yous to Lou Mycroft, Annie Pendry, Joyce I-Hui Chen, Jane Erickson, Dominik Spenst and Karen Walrond for helping me find structure, form habits, journal, connect and reflect. These are all things I learnt were necessary after difficult times, but help me now to stay true to my personal values and ethics.



Since writing about Quaker values and adult education the other week, I have started exploring different aspects and looking at various websites for information. But one word that keeps coming back to me is community. It also sprang up when going back over my reading of Karen Walrond’s The Lightmaker’s Manifesto and caused me a bit of an epiphany moment over potential research and direction, but first back to community.

Growing up my parents were all about community. My mum was Chair of the school PTA, my parents helped fundraise for the local hospice, our village hall, the school, Brownies, collected people’s newspapers for recycling, community and caring was at the heart of family life and it is still there within me now. Both my volunteering and my work are about creating community, and when that doesn’t seem fair or equal of not to true to the values and my ethics, I can get entangled in things and quite passionate about them.

For me community is not just about where you live, it’s your team at work, it’s your colleagues in and out of your work place, it’s the students in your class/on your course, it’s your district/division/county if you’re in guiding or your unit. And community is not just one entity, I am a part of many communities.

Thinking about this further takes me back to a conversation with someone I am mentoring at the moment in guiding (think we need to consider the term of mentor in guiding) who has just taken on a new team, and we talked about taking on a new team and how to connect with them over something other than guiding so can get to really know the people and have some fun. That is so important in building a community/team – getting to know people and providing that space to be and come together for something.

In the Joy Fe community it is ensuring that ego and title are left at the door, we find out how we are, and we listen to each other. That is what being part of a community is all about. We might all have different ideas, and we might not always agree, but that’s fine, a community and the world would be very boring if we were all the same. But often a group of people come together as a community for a purpose or a common goal and we need to work out how we belong in that community and live or work together.

So, why is building community so important for me? I guess it is that sense of belonging, that connecting with others, caring for people, trying to learn, trying to change things, trying to create something. Communities can change, grow or detract, but for me it is entwined with all those other bits and why for me as a leader building the community I am part of is so important.

World Mental Health Day


Last week I talked about values and today I listened to @LouMycroft -as I try to do every weekday morning in term time- on her #JoyFE broadcast on Mental Health and also read about Girlguiding’s specialist adviser for mental health’s experiences, and it got me to thinking about my own points of mental ill health and my values.

As I sat thinking about the two times I have really suffered with my mental ill health, it has been where two of my personal values have been rocked. That is around caring and community or family -connections or network or teamwork- it basically all boils down to community. They were times where I wasn’t sure how I fitted into a community and I wasn’t being shown the care from others that I often gave to them. But was this really mental ill health or a natural response to what was going on around me?

These two experiences and being able to reflect on them has helped me to understand the signs of when I need a little more support and find a caring connected network, but also how little daily regimes can really help my positive mental wellbeing.

I have also experienced grief counselling, coaching and thinking environments, which have all been beneficial to help me reflect, find solutions and do the work on myself to do the work.

So, as a leader it’s important to reflect back to your values, consider counselling, coaching or a thinking environment- what is best for you -and ensure you maintain positive mental wellbeing, because now there is so much more going on than coming out of a pandemic. We really need that sense of community and practice of care. And let’s consider the frameworks that are there to really help one another.

Quakers, values and Adult Education

4 October 2022

Thanks to @AnnLimb I discovered that Sunday 2nd October 2022 was World Quaker Day. I haven’t yet listened to the Radio 3 broadcast that went out on Sunday morning, but I do intend to. Ann’s tweets though really struck me around the Quaker values mentioned – simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, sustainability – which resonated with me and reminded me of my own values, but also Friends Centre’s values and the piece I’d like to research around Quakers and adult education.

I’m not really sure when I first noticed the Quakers, it may have been when I started working for Friends Centre or perhaps before. I was always intrigued by the Friends Meeting houses in my local village and one of the local towns, but never fully understood what they were or what happened there. Then 13 years ago I started working at Friends Centre, though when I joined I didn’t think much about the name, but during my 11 years there I started to understand more about why the organisation had been set up and the values that were set in 1945 still remained 75 years later when it was forced to close in 2020.

It is those values of Friends Centre and those Ann shared on Sunday that are right here in my heart, what my mum was about and my dad still is. There are a few more in there too, but simplicity, integrity, community shout loud to me and as a leader I strive for, trying to cut through bureaucracy and KPI lines to get to what really matters.

It is those values that completely got me when my first line manager at Friends Centre showed me a copy of the initial handwritten purpose of the organisation (always organisation for Juliet (Dr Juliet Merrifield) never company) along with my dad mentioning at a similar point that an ancestor of mine had attended Brighton Friends Meeting House, and had been buried in the original Meeting House’s burial ground. I realised that I was proud of what that group of Quakers in Brighton had set out to do, what we continued to do and what so many leading people in education had found at Friends Centre. And as I travel around the UK and learn more about different buildings, organisations and people I find it interesting how many have connections with Quakers. Look to our old chocolate companies, Carrs Biscuits, Clarks shoes, and some of our banks they were all formed by Quakers. Dig a little deeper and find out about the communities they built and the importance they put into education.

So, I am proud to have worked for an organisation that was set up by Quakers and had Quaker values at its heart, and know that these values are within me and are core to what I believe in and I want to explore and find out more about Quakers and Adult Education.

I would love to research on it, so watch this space, but what does this all have to do with leadership I hear you ask! – Oh so much – there’s values, there’s taking time to reflect, there’s ensuring your team learn and are supported in that learning, there’s caring for the community you are part of and lead, there’s fighting for that cause (with peace and simplicity) to ensure a happy, caring, reflective, always learning work force.

New year, new habits forming


For those of you not in education, we often see September as a starting point for a new year and a time to set our new year resolutions or rather goals or promises to ourselves, so yes I do mean new year!

Several weeks ago now I wrote more of a reflective piece rather than a publishable one on my frustration with bureaucracy and funding for Adult Education. I was taken back to that piece this morning as I start new habits and reflect on @LouMycroft’s JoyFE morning broadcast.

All those weeks ago, I wrote:
The past three springs from about mid-March to the beginning of July seem to
disappear in a flash. All of my good intentions of learning, reflecting and
supporting my team seem to go out of the window, because I am caught up in
fighting fires or caught up in pressures or bureaucracy because of reporting or
requiring people who are not operational to understand operations as a way of

Yesterday, I sat down and considered all the things that I like to do to find contentment and I usually end up doing on holiday, but can’t do or they seem to get squeezed out of my day in busy times. These include things such as having breakfast outside, or ensuring I have an hour’s lunch break or walking before and/or after work (it used to be part of my commute and I miss it).

Lou spoke of all of these things several months ago, and trying to do things she loves doing on holiday and bringing them into every day. She kind of came back to that this morning when she talked about radical rest and that physical and mental health are so important.

This and me setting new weekly intentions or habits yesterday took me back to something I read in Dominik Spenst’s The 6-Minute Diary around habits:
“A few days were not sufficient to change your habit… It actually takes 66 days to achieve that. Roughly the same time frame applies to any other behaviour you want to change.”

So, as a new year begins in education I have taken this time to set new intentions and reflect and consider them on occasion. Let’s see if I can last 66 days, so they do become my new behaviour/habits. I often find it hard personally to have daily habits, but I want to get better at this for my own mental and physical health.

As a leader I also find it difficult, because barriers such as funding constraints, justifying the bottom line or a report for the board get in the way. But what we must do as leaders is take stock of what we are doing because if we do not have good positive mental and physical health our personal values are effected and we cannot help anyone around us.

Go set those intentions, fund that balance for your own positive mental and physical well-being and I look forward to hearing, sharing and reflecting on how we are doing.

Communication, communication, communication

April – July 2022

Over the years I’ve been part of groups looking at how to improve communication in organisations, written on it for guiding publications, reviewed the effectiveness of communication methods being used and trained on it, but as a leader it is one of the most difficult things to get right.
As I come out of a period of busy-ness both work wise and personally, I know that there are times over the past couple of months where it just hasn’t been quite right! And because of the busy-ness, this blog was started back in April and only got finished at the start of July!
So, as I know I have had times where I haven’t got it right, it is also the one thing many people complain about and usually when you think you have got it right too!

There are two important points to communication, oh no as I think about it perhaps four!
1. the message
2. the method or methods to communicate the message
3. as a leader understanding the way your different team members like to be
communicated with and like to communicate
4. ensuring you are and the person you are communicating with is open to
That fourth point is often the most vital part to communication, and even when people are ready or open to listening they still may not hear or understand the whole of your message, because we all interpret things in our own way.

So, let’s consider each of these points one by one so I can explain what I mean by each.
What exactly are you trying to convey? Is this an announcement about a decision that has been made and needs to be shared? Are you inviting people to join in with something? Are you advertising an event? Are you sharing your thoughts on a topic? Are you gathering opinions? Does a collective decision need to be made? Basically, what is it that you’ve got to say, which leads to the method or methods to be used.

We now have so many ways to communicate either through social media or email, both of which can be instant and fast. But we need to remember our audience and sometimes a letter or printed form may be best. Within guiding I have found that constant regular messaging in a variety of forms is best and ensuring you keep your audience updated. I know that there are those think constant messaging within guiding can become a bore, but you are not going to capture all of your audience within one hit.
There is also nothing better than face to face communication to deliver a message. What is important though is:
along with some planning.
Any good event of key message needs to be planned with a good communication plan behind it. But with any planning cycle it is also important to reflect, review and adapt. It is also important to consider that there is always more than one method to communicating your message!
I know all of this theory and as I said train on it or am able to train on it if you need me to! But, when you are caught up in the moment and things are getting fast paced it is hard to remember this. So, pause, take a step back, perhaps even use Dr Lou Mycroft’s oft reminded phrase ‘I would prefer not to…’ to give you time to consider, plan, gather your thoughts and deliver your message appropriately.

The message and method were really those first two important points I mentioned at the beginning, but what I have learnt and has really hit home over the past two years as I have started to reflect and learn more are the second two important points to remember in regards to communication as a leader.

I personally hate emails, well that isn’t completely true, emails do have their place and they can be very useful. I feel though that we are now over reliant on emails and they are not always the best form of communication (remember method).
There are members of teams I have worked in though who love email and would prefer to carry out everything by email. It’s not always practical though, but you do have to consider this when communicating with your team.
As a leader it is essential to establish how your team members like to communicate, but also to establish with them the different forms of communication you use and why you use them. I have previously worked with a team to consider all the different methods of communication and when it is best to use each one. Perhaps it might be useful to do this with your team or confirm that if they want a quick answer on something then messaging or asking to call you might be best, but also establish what is best for your team member too.
It really does all come down to what is the best method for the message or discussion and please try and avoid having a conversation with me by email or using email to a group of people I am part of to gather opinion for a decision to be made!

The key to communication though is ensuring that your audience is in a place to listen and want to listen to what is being said.
In the description to Nancy Kline’s book Time to Think: Listening to Ignite the Human Mind it says: “The power of effective listening is recognised as the essential tool of good management.” (I really do need to add this to my reading pile)!
I certainly agree with this, it is important to listen to your team and hear what they are saying. You might not have all of the answers, but by listening you can sometimes guide the speaker into finding the answers themselves or if it is a specific query going off and finding that answer.
As American educator Stephen Covey said: “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” So, as you listen to the speaker remember to listen intently to them to be able to understand. At times and depending on the environment or situation you may wish to ask questions for further clarity or confirm what has been heard and you have understood.

As I said at the beginning, I know the theory and I understand the importance of good communication, but at times I can get caught up in the bureaucracy or deadlines or emergencies and it takes me away for the things that are important. I need to find ways and do the work on myself (I hear that voice Lou) and I must remember as a leader to make the time to plan effective communication, listen intently to my team and don’t lose the passion for the work I am involved in so I can speak with love.

The Ripples of Learning & Reflection with a little bit of connection

15th March 2022

This week within the FE/AE World there is so much going on. I am writing this blog on the eve of #JoyFE’s 2nd birthday, and will reflect on how that initiative has inspired me. But there is also the HOLEX network (one I won’t be attending this time, and shall miss connecting with colleagues across the country), a #UKFEchat with the two brilliant thought provokers Dr Lou Mycroft and Catina from @The_WLN on women’s leadership and practices of care and belonging, then on Friday it’s the AP Connect Conference. It really is a week of learning where as last week I had a week of reflecting, but both weeks have involved connections either on screen or via social media.

During the last few months of the organisation I led before it went into administration I could have really done with some time to reflect and at parts some learning to be able to help support my team. I did end up with some weekly off-loading sessions with a trustee, but this was possibly all a little too late.

When I fist became Principal/CEO of the adult education charity I worked for I ensured I learnt and asked to join a Mini MBA course at Birkbeck. These 4 day long sessions really were useful and gave me an introduction into four main areas of business. I then learnt to write bids and successfully became part of the Community Learning Mental Health Research project, where I reconnected with Catina and met Lou for the first time. This also gave me an insight into research projects and government departments. After that the organisation became a member of HOLEX and I attended their termly network events. This helped me to learn more about the adult education landscape and connect with key people within the sector thanks to this network and championing the cause on Twitter. At some point during this time I became aware of #UKFEchat and took part in discussions online on a Thursday evening. I sang the praises of this space in tutor training and encouraged others to get involved.

All of this activity was learning, but I never took the opportunity to reflect on all this learning or consider how I could put some of these tools into leadership and helping my team develop.

March 2020 – a month after one of the worst weeks I’ve ever experienced in work – we went into lockdown, and up sprang #JoyFE. Thanks to HOLEX I had reconnected with Lou and through following Catina on Twitter I started following Lou too. I saw this activity going on, but couldn’t find the head space to commit to attending the morning sessions or engaging. I just tried to look back at my Twitter feed from this time to see how much I did tweet through those four months only to realise it was two years ago, and I’ve tweeted a lot since then! I am sure though that it was very little as I know after reflecting last week that when I get knee deep in something I miss a lot of tweets and read only at certain times of the day, but keep watching.

My twitter network though were so supportive when news of broke about the organisation going into administration and I am grateful to the encouragement and support I received from them. I watched the FE/AE community from the edges during that time, but started learning about myself, my skills and my values and learning and developing again. When I got a new job I was determined to learn and reflect.

I went on to meet online Jo Fletcher-Saxon and Annie Pendrey, they opened up the world of writing, campaigning and reflecting though I wasn’t doing as much as I would have liked in those first nine months in a new job, but it was a start. Three new colleagues really helped along the way too and still do. Then in September ’21 Lou started up her JoyAM broadcasts and I committed to catch them every term time week day (a few weeks have been missed due to those full on work days again, but there really is something about us in education making resolutions in September rather than January). I looked to become part of the AP Connect programme, watched out for WLN (Women’s Leadership Network) sessions, I was learning again. On holiday at the end of September I picked up my journal once more and started reflecting. I’ve also started writing, made more connections and started reading. I don’t do as much reading as I would like, but thanks to Fey Cole and Stacey Salt’s enthusiasm around #chapteraday more reading is starting to happen, which leads to learning, connecting and reflecting. Also grateful to the connections with Joyce I-Hui Chen and Tracey Lee for helping me to reflect last week, along with connecting with Jane from the Adult Education Hub. A big shout out to the #BowerBirdWritingRoom collective too for giving me the opportunity to be in a shared writing space with other writers and readers.

So, my message to you as a leader is don’t ever stop learning, read, reflect and connect. By doing these things you help develop yourself, but also are able to share your learning with your team and help them develop or even better you get the opportunity to learn from them too. I have talked about a lot of connections within the post-16 sector, but I’ve also found the voluntary community forums useful for learning and I’m sorry Jess Sumner I haven’t talked more about my learning through repping and chairing of meetings – more on that another time.

GO – learn, read, reflect and connect with others.

One World, One Woman (of 10 million – WAGGGS statistic, but what about FE/AE?)

8th March 2022.

I got a long weekend, the weekend just gone and partook in connecting with a hobby of mine and one of my friend’s goals. It was great to get away from work (something I absolutely advocate for, but it’s not always easy to do), and my visits got me to reflecting along the way and forming this blog.

On Saturday I was in Chelmsford with my friend (found through guiding) where we followed a brown sign to Hylands House. We walked round the grounds and discovered the One World garden constructed for the centenary of Scouting. It got me to reflecting about the worldwide movement I am a part of and also how I have seen pictures of Scouts in the Ukraine handing out food packages. I tweeted in recent weeks that it was sad to see the atrocities happening in Ukraine following Thomas Bach’s speech at the closing ceremony of the Olympics and also as we had Thinking Day in guiding and thought of our sisters around the world. The world really is a small place and we are all connected, often by shared values. We can all be activists or as Karen Walrond says lightmakers we find those causes we value and link to our own personal values and as per her Lightmaker’s Manifesto: “My privileges afford me the power to help the powerless. …I dream of a better world and aspire to join the march toward it’s attainment.” Karen Walrond: The Lightmaker’s Manifesto 2021.
And as @LouMycroft tweeted this evening (8.3.22) “The ethics are in the admin. Every time. In the minor gestures, every time. That means everyone can be an activist in small, consistent, persistent, affirmative ways through the ethical practice of resistence. #Posthuman”
I need to learn more about posthumanism, but for me values and ethics are paramount in my work and my volunteering to ensure people are given opportunities they may not otherwise have had.
I have not met Karen Walrond, but have had conversations on Twitter with her and her book is opening my eyes to who I am (as well as the talk I heard from Karen Arthur on Friday). Thank you to @TutorStacey_AP and @ColeFey for motivating me to ensure I read more through #chpateraday, both inspiring me to learn and read more. I have met Lou Mycroft though and she is one fabulous woman who I am proud to call a friend. 💛

When I heard that Kerry Lord of TOFT (if you crochet she is addictive, but love her ideas and makes) was going to be at Stitchfest and displaying her Making Women who Made History designs I badgered my friend Alison to try and work out how we could get to the show and go to Chelmsford all in one weekend! It resulted in us both taking Friday off and having a mini adventure.
It was great to meet Kerry and her team at the show and meet all the makes in the Making Women who Made History story so far. I now have four of them to make, because I feel it is important to take inspiration from women and show that we are capable, we can achieve many things and we are activists.
These quotes that Kerry has brought to my attention, a long with teaching me about women I hadn’t heard of, I wanted to share with you. I feel they are important reminders (I also will be making two of these people in crochet form):
Junko Tabei – 1939-2016 – “Do not give up your quest.”
Amelia Earhart – 1897-1937 – “I want to do it because I want to do it. Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be a challenge to others.”
Marie Curie – 1867-1934 – “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood.”
These three women went out and broke the bias, and it is essential that we highlight their stories and give role models to aspire to.
Thank you to Kerry Lord for your inspirational makes, and Alison for the adventures and being a fabulous leader yourself.

This a long with the intro act to Aled Jones’ concert Saturday evening, the wonderful @TutorStacey_AP’s new blog and seeing Amelia Earhart in crochet form, got me thinking about my granny and her two daughters – all three inspirational women in their own right.
My granny was born with a hole in her heart and wasn’t expected to survive. She started smoking at the age of 12 and only stopped in her 70s when my mum refused to buy her cigarettes during a time she was in hospital. Played the cello in a band. Had three children, though was told after having my aunt she shouldn’t have any more (my grandad though apparently really wanted a boy – thank goodness my uncle then came along)! And she refused to learn to drive, because she knew my grandad would make her drive one of the lorries if she did. She was a fabulous woman and had two sheros – Amy Johnson and the Dutch Queen Wilhelmina. I never learnt why she admired Queen Wilhelmina, but think it was something to do with her story during the war, but I know she admired Amy Johnson’s flying. So, when I do finally get to crochet Amelia Earhart she will be Amy Johnson in honour of my granny.
Last month we lost my aunt and memories of home and family have become raw again. Loss and grief comes in waves and never leaves us, but it helps shape us and helps us to remember. My brother reminded us in the eulogy he gave that at one time my aunt was only one of two women lorry drivers in the whole of Sussex. Maybe this was why I always loved Long Distance Clara in Pigeon Street. My aunt taught me lots and also how to be an independent woman living on her own.
There is so much I could say about my mum and how her values (a long with my dad by her side) shaped me into the woman I am today. I sometimes wish I had a bit more of her not caring what people thought about her in me, but that’s where I need to battle my imposter syndrome more!
I thank these three women for helping shape me (also my nan) as well as all those inspirational women I know and have met through work, guiding and through friendship. We are all fabulous and we all can break the bias, stay true to your values and let me know who your inspirational women are. We can shout them from the roof tops and show that women can.
One last thank you must go out to my blogging buddy @draperel who motivates me to continue on blogging.
Oh no there is another thank you – it goes to you Karen, without you and Alison I really would be a mess on the floor!

Thank you all
Go out there and be an activist, be inspirational
and seriously I want to hear who
your inspirational women are
or how you are an activist.

Fun, warmth & laughter 2

24th February 2022

After some light-hearted banter from my current colleagues, because I didn’t mention them and a reminder from @LouMycroft with her wearing of a bright jumper, I realised there was more I wanted to say on this topic.

During my period of job search in autumn 2020 I reflected on words that resonated with me and two of those words were fun and bright. This was me (in the words of a song from The Greatest Showman) and what I was really about. Through that reflection period I knew these were two words that I wanted to ensure were part of my next role.

Let’s take bright to begin with and what that really means to me and how I now bring that into my practice. Along with the word bright, there were three other words/phrases that ended up back on my sheet in autumn 2020, which were warmth, welcoming, positive and ray of sunshine. I feel that all of these words are connected and important as a leader to bring into your every day. Is this a practice of care? Hmm, something to ponder on I feel.

So, how have I brought brightness and warmth into my practice? To begin with it is about being open, bringing positive energy to the workspace, engaging and connecting with people. For me it is also, at times, about the clothes I wear, the bright jumper, or the one with hearts on or the one with butterflies on or for my vcsf colleague Jess her Friday lockdown shoes. When we went into lockdown 3 in January 2021, for my first team meeting of the year I put my heart jumper on to send out love to them and bring a smile to people’s lives. IS this the #microjoys @JFlectcherSaxon named and talked about through @JoyFE’s work? More to muse and ponder on at a later date. I would also love to hear how others bring warmth and brightness into their work spaces (it might even be that bright wall or the fairy lights on display throughout the year).

And then to that other word fun and not forgetting the Leadership Team I’m now part of! My first blog on this topic came after a day with my fellow colleagues which involved some bonding, laughter, fun and of course work. The Leadership Team is a fairly new team with three of us joining the organisation in the past 14 months, but I really am very lucky as they are a great group of people to work with. We do have a good time and fun, warmth and laughter definitely feature through our week – sometimes getting told off for sniggering!

The team I lead are also lovely and I hope they feel the fun, warmth and laughter that is there, and I’ll continue to wear the bright or heart jumpers to bring some ray of sunshine into everyone’s day somehow.

Fun, warmth and laughter


No, I haven’t mis-spelt that first word it really should be fun and not sun!

Many moons ago when I worked on the Prince’s Trust Team Programme I was introduced to The FISH! Philosophy ( It is a philosophy that centres around four practices that “strengthens trust, teamwork and engagement – the foundation your team needs to excel.” ( – What is the FISH! Philosophy?). It was the first time I had really been introduced into a theory of practice, and at the time two of the practices really struck home. The other two do now too, one links for me to Nancy Kline’s Thinking Environment (, and the other connects to @JoyFE’s Joyful Practice. The two practices at the time that I started to relate to my work were Play and Choose your Attitude. The FISH! Philosophy explain these as:
Play – Tap into your natural way of being creative, enthusiastic and having fun. Play is the spirit that drives the curious mind, as in “Let’s play with that idea!” You can bring this mindset to everything you do.
Choose your Attitude – Take responsibility for how you respond to what life throws at you. Your choice affects others. Ask yourself: “Is my attitude helping my team or my customers? Is it helping me be the person I want to be?”

The choose your attitude practice was one my colleague and I really started to use with the team were supporting at the time, as the 12-14 people on the course showed up each day with very different attitudes but they needed to work together. We devised a menu of positive attitudes and the team members needed to choose one each day as they came into the team space. Those 16-25 year olds started to understand the need for choosing their attitude, and I believe still that this is really true for teams to work successfully. My team today are probably sick of hearing me say “we can do this” or “we will get through”, but it is the attitude that I believe is the right one to have. As a leader you might not have all the answers, but you can go out and seek them together, as long as you all know that they are out there somewhere and you can and you will find them.

At the time I was introduced to these practices play wasn’t picked up as much as choose your attitude was. Through watching the film of a group of fish mongers in Seattle that The FISH! Philosophy first used to illustrate the four practices, I noticed how much fun the team had in their working environment. While I kept my sessions for those on the Team programme light-hearted, for me it was about building relationships with colleagues and being able to have a laugh.

This only slowly came back into my thinking in September 2020 during some coaching sessions I was having, and looking at words that resonated with me. Two words that really struck home were fun and bright, some may consider that when I get on my soap box or feel that some injustice has been carried out I may sound like I’m ranting, but for me that is my passion coming out. The other part is ensuring I am fun and bright and added into the mix is warmth and laughter.

For me to be a good leader I feel it is essential to be a warm, caring person that people feel they are able to approach and have an honest conversation with. It would also be a rather boring place if you also weren’t able to have some fun and laughter with those you work with. So, if you are ever in a meeting with me, you might see me add a little humour into proceedings or you may just hear laughter down the corridor.

As a leader you need to find those connections, look to have some fun in your day with your team and ensure that you are approachable and human!

So go on, go out there and spread a little bit of fun, warmth and laughter, and hopefully some sunshine will be in the mix too.

Playing to the Team’s Strengths

8th February 2022

I have led many different types of teams both in guiding and at work, but something that is so important when working or leading a team is playing to each other’s strengths, and knowing what people like or don’t like doing.

About 14 years ago now, I was asked to head up a new marketing and communications team within my guiding county. I was good at design and editing, but wasn’t aware so much of media or photography. My county commissioner had drawn a group of people together who were all interested in or knew about marketing and communications and had asked me to head up the team.

The team were from across the county and were people I only seen maybe once or twice at county events, but didn’t really know them or their skills. The first thing I set about doing was setting up a skills chart of all the areas we needed to cover. Our first meeting together was then looking at all of these skills and adding any that I had missed, and noting down who knew how to do things like websites, radio interviews or write newspaper articles (since I have done this more recently social media, blogging and vlogging have all been added to the list)! The team worked together for about three to four years. We got to know each other well, worked brilliantly as a team, and have worked together since in other ways. Two of us being on a marketing and communications team together for our own guiding region too.

So, why did this team work and why did others want to be a part of it? Basically, we knew each other’s strengths, and worked to these. We gelled as a team and had fun. We also knew what our common purpose was, what we needed to do and how to come together and work with or around challenges that we faced.

It is sometimes hard to do this in work situations, and I’ve found that there can be struggles when people don’t have the same goal, or values or they don’t agree with the ultimate goal or don’t understand the bigger picture. As leaders it is our role to help them to understand that goal or bigger picture or look to see where the differences lie and how these can be overcome.

So, as a leader how can we ensure we are all going in the same direction? It is our role to help individuals to understand that goal or bigger picture or look to see where the differences lie and how these can be overcome or to help them think through their current thinking or thought process. But for me, it is also important to get to know your team, find out what they do and don’t like doing in the work place, but also about their values and their passion. I’m also a big advocate of open and honest conversations, so that my team are happy to come and talk to me or think through things together. It is also about ensuring all the team members know each others strengths and can work together to achieve.

There is also the team that I am a part of at work, that is the Leadership Team of the organisation as well as the Programmes Team I lead. Recently, the Leadership Team have been working on a common goal, which has brought challenges, but this has been achievable because we all know each others strengths, how to support one another and most importantly have a laugh.

It is now essential that I go back to my department and follow up on the activity I did with them back in October and have some more team building days along with some fun and laughter. Because when you have a team that plays to each others strengths you can really go places.

As I began to type up my words this evening it took me back to a piece I saw today on the @JoyfulFE twitter feed around Spinoza’s definition of potentia and how the collective work in constellations and create spaces to dance. In the future I hope to look at this further and consider how to come together in constellations in my team around future goals/tasks.

Draw the curtains at the end of the day

25th January 2022

This past weekend I arranged with a friend to help me make curtains. As I contemplated on the fun and pleasure this had brought me, it got me to thinking about a post on outlets, and how drawing the curtains was a good metaphor for this – draw the curtains on your work at the end of each day and find something else to do.

In March 2020, just before we went into lockdown for that first time, I decided I wanted to learn how to crochet. I found some online tutorials and taught myself and thank goodness I did.

Through the toughest times in the next four months as things got worse crochet gave me those breaks I needed. I learnt to close the door (or draw the curtains) on my work and focus on something completely different. I have always told staff to take breaks, not work in the evenings, but was never very good at that myself and hadn’t really seen it in any of my managers either. At a time when I needed to be able to switch off I had suddenly found something that helped me to do this.

What I have learnt though is that if you continuously don’t take breaks, answer emails in the evenings that it can become the norm, people expect it of you all the time, and because you do it others feel they have to do it too. It needs to stop and as a leader you need to show that there are limitations, you have limitations and as my good friend Lou Mycroft said this week – “know your limits.”

As I started my new job last year, I was determined to ensure I had an hour’s lunch break each day and I worked the hours I was due to work. That doesn’t always go to plan, but I now know that I can’t continue it on an ongoing basis permanently and I need to use the phrase “I would prefer not to…” more often.

While the lunch breaks sometimes diminish or disappear what is constant is what I do to fill my time outside of work. I have now been crocheting for almost two years, and if you follow me on social media you may have seen some of my crochet window displays. I find this is a way of bringing joy to me as I see the windows each day, and hopefully to others too. It also helps me to take my mind away from pressures at work, because I am concentrating on something completely different, and I am not good at just sitting still!

I have also started to ensure that my team take breaks, are not working all hours and that we have an idea as a team what others do to relax outside of work or have other things to do. It has helped build us further as a team, and also to connect more. All important aspects of leading and facilitating teams.

We all have to know our limits and know when to stop or have that evening on the sofa and watch Death in Paradise! (Don’t worry you don’t all have to watch it, it’s just one I find easy to)! So, find those outlets, find those things outside of work that bring you joy. Once you’ve got those outlets sorted you really can draw the curtains at the end of the day and relax.

Support, encouragement & Friendship

11th January 2022
Something I have found, no matter at what level of leadership (management) you are at, it can be a lonely place. When you are at the top in a charity, you have the board and then those you lead; in senior management you have your line manager and then the team you lead. If you’re really lucky you work in a team that support and encourage you and you achieve goals together.
It is sometimes hard in a leadership position to know how much you can be yourself and say everything you want to say. Sometimes this can be because answers are still being sought and until the bigger picture is confirmed you can’t pass on the information. Sometimes it’s because you need to process the information yourself before you pass it on. Sometimes you just are stuck to know what to say. Or for me sometimes, it’s because I feel I’m there to support my team and they don’t need to know what’s going on in my head, personal life or what I am struggling with at work. What I always tell my team though is that I need to know what they are thinking and have honest conversations, so I can help support and work things out together.
So, I say that to my team, but as a leader it is just as important you know where you get your support and encouragement from. This doesn’t always have to be in your own work place and the support and encouragement I have got from my network: @JoyfulFE, HOLEX and guiding are just as important, along with my friends and family.
Yesterday, I presented a new style of report in the organisation I work in. Over many years I have worked on a style of self-assessment report that works for me and goes away from long documents where the real detail gets lost. Over the time of developing this I have had the support to show me where to go, angst at having to write detail, but also encouragement and this resulted in positive feedback on the new style. A pleasing result.
This type of support and encouragement though is not always as easy to come by. Therefore, as a leader it is important to know the different people you can go to support for and at times why you might need that person.

– Do you need to speak to someone as a sounding board, who will help to guide you through your thinking?
– Do you need advice on something that has happened and how you handled it?
– Do you need someone who will give advice and help you to form potential solutions?
– Do you just need a listening ear, so you can have a rant?
– Do you need someone to say you’re doing a good job and you can do this?
– Do you want someone to show they care and love you?
– Do you need somebody to give you a hug?
– Do you need somebody to just tell you what you need to do or that it is all okay?
– Would it help if the person was external to the organisation you work in?

Many reasons for needing support, and knowing who is in your group of supporters and how they might be able to support, is key to having a good working environment to thrive in and help you lead and care for others.
Through your support network you will get encouraged, but you will also get honest feedback too. So, when thinking of those people who you go to support for, it is also important as Brene Brown mentions in Dare to Lead to consider whose opinion of us matters, because we also need to look at our actions and reflect.
Once you have that figured out for yourself, then it is as important to ensure your team receive the same support and encouragement and that they know their own support network.
And, don’t forget friendship and family too, because we need care, love and connections to survive and thrive.

First Musings

10 September 2021
The past 18 months has not just been about the pandemic, it has been about finding myself as a leader and how I can put what I have learnt into practice.
July 2020 was horrendous for me personally. We were in a pandemic and things were happening to the organisation I worked for that were out of my control, but I was in the middle trying to steer the ship and look after myself for a change. Feelings of aggression, blame, hate and kindness; support one minute but not the next; not being able to process information before people were demanding answers; were all flying around me. I wasn’t sleeping, I was blaming myself, I was hating the fact I couldn’t give people answers or be my usual optimistic self and find a way out.
31st July 2020 – I had formed a bubble with one of my best friends (Alison) and was at her house as it all came to an end. (I am so grateful to her and another friend Karen throughout this time – friendship and care are two extremely important values to me). It was over, and that night I slept my best night’s sleep in a long time. It was on Alison’s sofa cushions in her living room, as it was just far too hot to sleep in her spare room in the attic!!
A month later I started my road to recovery and thanks to some coaching sessions I started to see my own worth, defined my own personal values and wrote the following:
People will view us in different ways due to the circumstances they find themselves in. You just have to be true to yourself and live by the beliefs you have.
Take time to reflect on these though and ensure you can continue to be true to yourself.

It has taken me a year to process all of this and write about the experience or as my coach told me at the time (and she was right) the trauma. It brought tears as I wrote, but thanks to the wonderful #JoyAM broadcasts from @LouMycroft that I started listening to at the beginning of September, I started to look at leadership and values. She got me thinking and it led me to this first bit of writing. It is now 3rd January 2022 and I have decided I want to share my thoughts on leadership further and do more writing in 2022. So, I’ve set up these pages and please bear with me as I start to share all my thoughts and ponderings on leadership within the world of adult education.

Lighting up Leadership

Welcome to Leadership Lights where I shine a light on my musings about leadership and my experiences of leading teams in adult education.

I have been leading teams in a variety of settings for the past twenty odd years. These have included teams of volunteers at large scale events or within a local area for guiding, an international group of English speaking employees in a branch of a Japanese language school, teams of 16-25 year olds and then their team leaders, tutors in adult education settings and then their managers/leaders.

In 2022, I thought I would take this opportunity to reflect on my experiences in adult education and share what I have learnt and also what I am still learning.