This is just the beginning.

I woke up at my usual time this morning, a little after 6:30am, and my daily routine picked up where I last left it on Tuesday. I poured myself a steaming mug of coffee, opened a sachet of wet food for the cat and settled down in front of the TV whilst scrolling through my tweets. But today didn’t feel quite the same as it usually does.

I felt guilty.

You see, on Wednesday 14 June my routine took a slight deviation. I, like many others, took part in #ukhousingfast. We forfeited our meals for the day and made a pledge to donate money, raise awareness and gather items for our local food banks, a service which so many families (too many), rely upon.

HF tweet

 

We stood united. An army of housing people posting messages of support and sentiment throughout the day.

We achieved some amazing things that day; our tweets reached over 178,000 people; we smashed our £1000 fundraising total, and; hundreds of items made their way to local food banks, specifically those run by the amazing Trussell Trust.

UKhousingfast analytics cropped

Huge thanks to Asif Choudry for providing the stats

 

But my guilt remained. It was far too easy for me to get up at 4am and scoff some porridge and banana to help get me through the day. Far too easy to call at my local chippy to feast when the clock struck 10pm and the sun settled down for the day. To go to bed that evening, get a good night’s sleep then wake up the next day smoothly easing myself back into my normal routine just felt wrong.

What I’d experienced for one day is sadly the norm for so many, day in, day out. Food poverty doesn’t just affect those who find themselves homeless, some of them are fortunate enough to have a roof over their heads, they may even have work to go to, but they come home, they’ve paid their bills and they then search the cupboards with nothing but a void space staring back at them. These people are our customers, our tenants, our neighbours, our friends, our family.

I spent 14 June trying not to think about food. 1000s of people in the UK cannot think of nothing else but food.

Food banks are an essential service which is relied upon too often and this has got to stop. Evie Copland nailed it with this tweet:

EC tweet

 

My guilt is slowly easing knowing the good work we have all done; seeing the coming together of people who have shown endless generosity and kindness for others in need has been wonderful.

Donations

Donations made by my awesome Bromford colleagues

 

We have made a difference, so thank you, each and every one of you, but don’t be fooled into thinking this is the end.

Let’s make a stand, let’s make a change, for this is just the begninning.

 

Stories in Music

The last few posts I’ve written have concentrated a lot on my leadership experiences but this time I wanted to take a different direction, so I’ve taken inspiration from the creative mind and wonderful stories of a fantastic colleague of mine; Steve Nestor (if you don’t follow Steve on social media I strongly recommend that you do).

If you follow me on Twitter you may have noticed that in the last month or two I’ve started to creep more of my personal interests into my tweets, it’s a decision that I made on the basis that I used to have two twitter accounts – one for personal and one for professional – but then I thought;

“Hey, there’s only one me!”

Followers of mine, who don’t know me well enough already, are soon starting to realise that I love my music. I buy lots of it, I download it, stream it, listen to it at concerts, festivals and clubs, I follow many DJ’s, bands, record labels and online publications, and thanks to my love of music I have many, many happy and fond memories associated with it.

So, because of this passion I wanted to create something different and here it is; my first Haiku Deck. This has been made on the principal of the ‘less is more’ approach and I’ve kept the text to a minimum (just 80 words, I think I counted). I’ve taken my love of music and curated a short story for you. It’s somewhat fictional but does echo sentiments of where I’ve been personally and where I see things in my life at Bromford right now.

I hope you enjoy.

http://www.haikudeck.com/p/t1DKvvnRT6

(sorry but I can’t embed my Haiku Deck at the moment so this link will have to do, if anybody has any ideas how to get around this please let me know)

Define your timeline.

Right then, the first thing I’d like you to do is take a blank piece of paper and a pen (or an iPad and stylus, if that’s your thing), and draw a wavy line from the top-left corner to the bottom-right. Go back to where you started the line and make a small dash coming from it. From here I want you to write where your life journey began – a small reference to your family. Making your way down the line continue to make small dashes marking each with significant milestones in your life where someone or something has had a major impact on your life or career. Mine looks something like this:

Image

Why is it I’m asking you to do this? Well, it’s something I’ve never thought of doing before but it was introduced to the group during the launch of Bromford’s Talent Academy by the fantastic Jeff Grout. For around half an hour Jeff took us on his journey, noting key points and his influential milestones along the way. Working within our tables we were each asked to discuss key moments of our own with one person from each group to be elected to share there’s with the room. We heard some incredible stories; funny, sad, motivational, tear-jerking – but all with a fundamental message of inspirational benefits.

So, who has been the biggest influence on me? It was somebody who’s always been there but who I’ve never really recognised as being quite so inspirational in my life until now; my sister.

From an early age my interest in Art quickly becomes apparent and it was Lynn who supported me with this, giving me tips and ideas on how to get the best out of a composition and create a sense of three-dimension through the clever use of shading. My parents would encourage me to do my homework as soon as I came in from school but instead I chose to play out until dusk and then scramble home on my BMX to get it done before bed – and it was Lynn who would often stay up with me to help get it finished. After successfully completing my GCSE’s she made a big fuss of me and celebrated by inviting me to stay over at her house and get pizza and a DVD.  Don’t get me wrong, we didn’t have the perfect of relationships (I know this story is painting a picture that’s quite the contrary) but trust me, we had our tiffs and squabbles!

After passing my A-Levels I made the decision to go on to University, our Dad wasn’t convinced by the idea but it was Lynn who persuaded him this was a good thing if I wanted to progress with a career in design. So at 22 I came out with my degree but no whiff of a job in design – was my dad right after all?

After short spells working in a supermarket and banking, Lynn prompted me to apply for a job working within Bromford. I’d never heard of them before, had no desire to work within housing and didn’t see myself working in a call centre for the rest of my life but figured that if Lynn had several years’ service already here, it can’t be such a bad place.

Yet to pass my driving test I relied on lifts, so very often Lynn would pick me up in the morning and drop me home each night (she never accepted a penny from me). When she wasn’t available she would arrange for some of her colleagues who lived close by to ferry me to and fro! Thanks to Katie and Marg for this.

Fast forward to 2012 and I’m not far off completing 9 years at Bromford – not bad for somebody with no desire to work in Housing who’d never heard of the organisation before, eh?! Working in the Customer Service Centre was a brilliant time for me. It had its ups and downs but gave me an appreciation for the frontline service of a business and how it impacts with many, many people and services within a business – especially the people we are all here for, our customers. From here I went on to work within the Asset Management Team – helping to deliver the repairs that were issued by the team in my previous role – which then leads me to where I am today; the Neighbourhoods Team.

Everybody takes risks in life; one of my biggest ones was to come into housing with no experience. So was it a wasted degree, far from it! My confidence grew, people skills matured, ability to work with others became more natural, my creativity and innovative mind honed and I’ve now taken these into my role as Project Manager today. But if it wasn’t for the influential figure of my sister I’m certain I wouldn’t be where I am, nor who I am, today.

It’s been quite a journey for me so far but one with plenty more mileage in it yet and much more learning to absorb. To finish I quote Mahatma Ghandi (a favourite of Mick Kent too):

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”

 

As part of our Talent Academy we’ve all been asked to share our journey, this is just the start of mine and I’d love to hear yours too…