I just wish I had done it earlier!

Old news now, but you know I ‘opened up’ about my life with OCD in August, and that I eventually took the fight to it and seized a healthy control over it (most of the time).

I wanted to share what ‘opening up’ has done to, and for me, because doing so was something I feared so much, for all the usual stigma associated reasons, but quite honestly shouldn’t have with the benefit of hindsight.

I hope the following might help others in their thinking as to whether or not to ‘open up’ themselves.

First of all I can categorically confirm that I am not alone! Since ‘opening up’ so many known and unknown people have spoken to me privately about their experience of mental difference and challenge.

As a consequence a tremendous amount of two-way good feeling, intention and compassion has been shared, which in itself has made us all feel good, supported and a little bit free’er (if the word exists)!

It has also motivated me to speak more and more about my personal experience, which seems to be encouraging more to do the same. What a brilliant outcome and a great step towards increased acceptance, understanding, support and most importantly, people and businesses recognising that mental difference can be harnessed to support doing even better business!

Secondly, I have been asked by some to help them tackle their personal challenges by intimately sharing how I took the fight to my illness, what my coping and containment strategies are and how I have developed a pragmatism about my OCD.

I cannot begin to describe how rewarding it is to help others combat the symptoms of their illnesses and support them to feel better about life. This again is a joint learning exercise because combating OCD is different to combating, for example, depression, however, there are some demonstrable similarities and cross overs. By sharing how we approach our own situations and challenges it enables us to grow and tweak our weaponry, which is tremendously powerful for all.

Finally speaking about my USP, AKA my mental difference, which has given me a different and sometimes enhanced skill set and capability, has surprisingly opened a new world of professional opportunities for me.

I happily and freely speak to customers and potential customers about why I am a good problem solver. It’s because I have been solving irrational catastrophic situations in my head for 30+ years, which has subsequently trained and continually exercised my brain to solve rational problems, such as creating optimum resourcing strategies and methodologies, and automating global HR functions, including; innovating new HR technologies.

I have had new event speaking opportunities on a completely different subject; mental difference in business, which include; Roffey Park Institute’s 70th anniversary wellbeing seminar, DRIVE at the House of Lords with the amazing and inspirational Raj Tulsiani and chairing regular Corporate Wellness Innovation Forum meetings.

I have also developed the HERO Mental Health Readiness Model, which supports employers to increase their entire workforce’s productivity, and have a rapidly growing list of companies that are engaging with me to present to, and consult with, them!

So here was something I thought would potentially label me, hold me back and inhibit my career. On the contrary, it has taken my career to a whole new level and forged stronger relationships with most I know, new relationships with people I didn’t and given me the opportunity to help others individually or en masse via supporting their employers.

So I’m not going to beat myself up about why I took so long to ‘open up’ (that’s me being pragmatic again), I’m going to continue to embrace and celebrate my difference, use it to support others and hopefully encourage them to ‘open up’ as well, and maybe, just maybe, we will remove the stigma associated with mental difference, and all diverse differences to that matter, together.

Let’s make 2017 the year when difference becomes the driving force for better living, relationships and business outcomes.

All the best.

Colin.

Just realised again that I’ve come a very, very long way!

Just had a realisation moment (again) that I’ve come a very, very long way!

I was given an emergency aisle seat for my flight today, 15A, by the window. When we were up it crossed my mind that if I pulled the emergency exit handle I could create a catastrophic event.

I’ve panicked about this many times before, especially as a kid! Psychiatrists would confirm that most people would have the same thought but it wouldn’t even register! I however got a pang of anxiety as my brain tried to convince me it was a very real and probable situation; an obsession.

Then the compulsion tried to set in! The need to prove to myself I didn’t actually want to do this and to demonstrate I am not a bad person. The urge to play over scenarios in my head to give me some comfort and proof. A symptom of my mental difference and something historically I have spent hours, if not days, ruminating about.

This all happened in a matter of micro seconds and Guess what? I just laughed it off, I recognised it was just my human difference kicking in and it wasn’t something I needed to engage in. I kicked it into touch and just carried on with what I was doing, which was proof reading a business plan. I didn’t need to move from my seat as a ‘just in case’, which I would have wanted to do many years ago.

I thought to myself (again); blimey I’ve come along way! So here it is, real-time proof that you can control mental challenges and play the cause at its own game. In my case targeting my rational brain to combat my irrational brain and win.

I personally believe this is a very powerful skill I have developed, which is why I am great in a business related crisis situation. A technology hack or contract going south is a walk in the park compared to the things an OCD brain gets one thinking about and trying to solve.

My mental difference is my USP! Thank you OCD!

Pah, ‘normal’ is so last week!

The definition of ‘normal’ in the Oxford English Dictionary is – Conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected:

In the Cambridge English Dictionary it’s – Ordinary or usual; the same as would be expected:

So what are we really saying here; ‘samey’ perhaps!

And come on, there really is no such thing as normal! We are all have human, and everyone has human issues and challenges…..

And I don’t know if you agree (perhaps you will comment later) but don’t we get taught the importance of being different at various stages in our lives? In fact aren’t we encouraged to be different from a young age?

For example, when I started my career in sales I was exposed to the phrase ‘unique selling proposition’ (USP). The Wikipedia definition of USP is – A factor that a business has that makes it different and or better than others out there:

Another example would be the advice we give to people writing or updating their CV! You know nougats of insight like; what makes you stand out from the rest, what difference do you bring to the party, how do you do things differently to achieve better outcomes?

For all the X Factor fans out there, the judges, and money makers behind the scenes, are looking for the next big thing or things, different or better than what’s already out there.

Finally, in sports, there is a continued drive to improve performance and outcomes by doing things differently! Different fitness and eating regimes, different innovations in equipment, different mental approaches!

I’m sorry, but surely this shows that being different is critical, and difference, is the difference between achieving improved outcomes, or the same old same old, the usual, the ‘to be expected’!

I was on the panel session at the brilliant @RoffeyPark Institute’s 70th anniversary forum on wellbeing event last week, chaired by the exceptional @SimonFanshawe OBE, and I spoke openly about achieving as a consequence of my mental difference. As the discussion progressed I talked about businesses needing to focus on skills and capability alone, and that there is no need for labelling based on difference if viewed through the right lens!

Companies have business plans designed to achieve their purpose and satisfy their stakeholders. HR then has the people plan to achieve the people element of the business plan. Finally, resourcing has the resourcing plan, to support the achievement of the people plan.

This resourcing plan and the people plan invariably hold the blueprint of the skills and capabilities needed throughout the end to end workforce to achieve the business plan. It will not and should not go into any granularity about what that workforce should look and sound like, nor include anything personal.

So breaking it down to this level of simplicity, businesses should easily be able to articulate what skills and capabilities are needed and then do the harder bit which is to go out and get these. Race, gender, sexuality, age, health etc. just don’t come into it.

Right, we need a skill and/or capability! Do you possess it to the level we need? Yes, then you make the shortlist. Simple simple stuff.

And going back to my opening, surely the people you ideally want to acquire these skills and capabilities from are predominantly those that can provide it differently and better than others, e.g. leveraging their difference!

I think I might be part of the problem in due course by championing a diversity label, namely mental health, or hidden disability. I don’t think it will be too long, at least I hope it won’t be too long, until I simply talk about having a human difference, instead of a mental one.

My mental; oops sorry, human difference has helped me bring innovation and value to all of my previous employers, and more recently clients, who have all been delighted. I’m therefore happy that I’m not normal because it’s so last week and my difference is my competitive advantage, my USP.

What’s yours?

Let’s all be Wally’s!

wally

As you can imagine I have had countless meetings and discussions with people about mental health challenges in the workplace since ‘opening up’, and I always end up quoting something from the first Crocodile Dundee movie. I must add it always gets a laugh then an instant ‘penny drop’ realisation moment!

It’s obvious now why this quote resonated and has stuck with me but it carries with it some tremendous learning. Stay with me people I am being serious!!!

Here is the transcript from the movie after the subject of Shrinks came up at a party Sue and Mick were at:

Sue Charlton: People go to a psychiatrist to talk about their problems. She just needed to unload them. You know, bring them out in the open.

Michael J. “Crocodile” Dundee: Hasn’t she got any mates?

Sue Charlton: You’re right. I guess we could all use more mates. I suppose you don’t have any shrinks at Walkabout Creek.

Michael J. “Crocodile” Dundee: No back there if you got a problem you tell Wally. And he tells everyone in town, brings it out in the open, no more problem.

The penny drops as soon as I finish the last line.  “Yes”, people say and naturally realise that if more people talk ‘openly’ about mental health, it will become less of an issue to talk about mental health. Simple but effective.

It’s so obvious but you can understand why it’s harder to ‘open up’.

Firstly, it’s still a big taboo subject and many people that have experienced, or are currently experiencing, mental health challenges fear the potential recriminations of telling their story, or asking for support.

In addition, mental health challenges are classified as a hidden disability. Underline the word ‘hidden’. Many people keep their challenges hidden and they are not generally visible to the naked eye, unlike most other diversity areas, so the result is naturally a propensity to focus on the more overt subjects.

So let’s all be Wally’s. Let’s all start talking about mental health. I’m not suggesting everyone ‘opens up’, because it is a big decision to do so and not something that should be rushed into (believe me), although the more that do, the more visible the conversation will be!

So let’s talk about our knowledge of mental health, how our businesses embrace and harness difference, the positives that exists as a consequence of mental health illnesses, yes positives including; alternative ways of thinking, critical risk identification and advanced problem solving, and let’s just be more open about how we feel and how things that happen in daily life make us feel.

Let’s all be Wally’s and bring stuff out in the open and make them ‘no more problem’!

All the best.

Colin.

p.s. If you need a starting point, why not join the Mental Health in Business LinkedIn Networking Group!

p.p.s If you want to talk about performing a diagnostic on your business I’m on +44 (0)7887 480142 and colin.minto@bigideatalent.com

 

 

How Mental Health Ready Are You?

nw-1264

Following on from my article ‘I Need a Hero‘, many people have contacted me to understand more about the four pillars; Homely, Enjoyable, Relaxed and Open.

So I have taken the opportunity to build the detail into a model (above), that you are more than welcome to use with creative license, to benchmark your organisation’s mental health readiness.

I would be delighted to share my knowledge, experience and interpretation of the pillars with you, and / or, perform the HERO mental health readiness diagnostic, an intensive five day investigative, benchmarking and evolutionary thinking programme.

Contact me on +44 (0)7887 480142, or at colin.minto@bigideatalent.com, if you would like to chat and establish if you are indeed a HERO!

Oh and don’t forget to join the Mental Health in Business LinkedIn Group to join the ongoing conversation.

All the best.

Colin.

“Nervous, proper nervous, stressed”!

school-classroom

I finished a run on Tuesday and watched the BBC news whilst eating breakfast. There was a report about the current Grammar School debate in the UK.

I was stunned with one of the comments from an 11 year old who’s parents had invested in a private tutor for him to give him the best chance of passing the entry exam to get into the local grammar school!

He said he felt “nervous, proper nervous, stressed”! What! An 11 year old being made to feel nervous and stressed at such a relatively young age! There were other comments in the report along the same lines, plus admissions from all parents featured that they didn’t agree with the grammar school initiative, but wanted the best start for their kids. They felt stressed too and were compelled to invest to secure a place for them.

As a parent of a ten and seven year old I get that parents want the best for their children. Of course we all do. But at what point do we need to temper that and consider the effect our aspirations for them may have on their mental well-being?

On Question Time last night, again on the BBC (other TV stations are available and equally valuable), the debate continued. A lady in the audience highlighted that kids were being tutored, in fact trained, to pass the entrance exam, then under-performing once in because they were geared up to pass a three hour test, not equipped for the next five years of advanced teaching and learning! Increasing stress all round in her, the panel’s and my opinion!

It got me thinking about other things that are semi related. My wife and I are actively managing what we call device time, which includes iPod’s, tablets, PC, TV and X-Box with our kids. Managing this against ensuring they both have outdoors time for their physical and mental well-being and enjoyment. But the draw, and sometimes pressure, on kids to be online is relentless, plus it appears our two much prefer device time until we get them out in the great outdoors then the momentum swings. Convenience maybe? Stressful for kids and parents? Maybe!

Loosely related was a discussion on Facebook yesterday with friends about schools not being able to apply bite cream, in this instance, to pupils because of the strict health and safety laws governing the use of medication in schools. I say loosely connected but the outcome was most definitely an element of stress on the parents, children, teachers and support staff!

So I’ll get to the point. Are we stressing our children and ourselves out unnecessarily these days due what many will describe as progress, ambition, competition, over zealous health and safety legislation or just life in general?

Are we exposing our children to stress much earlier in life and is this going to manifest itself in increased mental health challenges in schools, colleges and the workplace. I’ll actually stick my neck out on this one and say yes, because another report last night (South Today on the BBC, sorry at it again!!!!) showcased an app for sixth form students to monitor and manage their stress / mental health! Solutions are only created when a problem needs to be addressed!

So I’m not going to throw in loads of solutions because that’s not the point of this post. My point is to understand how well schools, the health profession/service and ultimately employers are prepared and geared up to manage this apparent increase and earlier stage onset of, and exposure to, stress? Are they keeping up with the knowledge, learning, support requirements and solutions required for the increase of those that will experience mental health challenges earlier or more intensely.

I think we all know the answer to this and it’s maybe why there is a considerable additional focus and profile on mental health in all walks of life and business at present. This will naturally drag us forward initially, then manifest itself in adequate and proactive approaches, initiatives and solutions to meet the recognised and expanding demand. I hope!

Until then however, and to all employers out there; in my personal experience stress related mental health challenges increase as you get older and life gets more stressful. Add to this the effect that earlier exposure to stress is having and you could argue that personal mental health challenges are more likely to present themselves or intensify on your watch!

So how equipped are you, your managers and your employees to deal with this? What does good look like and where do you go to understand best practice and tap into existing resources? I think the answer is that this is all very much work in progress as we all lift the lid on the final workplace taboo subject and speak more openly about it.

So feel free to share your views and knowledge of the strategies, resources and solutions available currently, or in the pipeline. From my perspective you are naturally all welcome to join the Mental Health in Business LinkedIn Group and get in touch with me personally to discuss the people, conferences, resources and initiatives I am getting involved with/in, and supporting, as I journey into an area I am deeply passionate about and hoping to make a difference in – colin.minto@bigideatalent.com

All the best.

Colin.

I ‘Challenge You’ to Think Within Once a Day!

5 Mile Run - Mindfulness - 080116

Like many this time of year I am exercising off the Christmas and New Year excesses, and those of you that know me know I like to run most mornings. I’ve been running most days a ‘working week’ for a couple of years now and I realised recently that I have got into a comfort zone with it, whereby, I haven’t been stretching myself and use it as my time to think about, and solve, the myriad of business and personal challenges that are always floating around as part of day to day living!

Coincidentally I was recently reintroduced to the concept of mindfulness, which is where one stops thinking about things outside of oneself for a period of time and instead focuses attention on everything that’s going on inside.

In a conversation with a networking contact I said that I practised it accidentally a few months back when I agreed to run an organised 10K at the last minute, with next to no training or preparation after a 3 week holiday! It kicked in automatically when I realised I was completely out of my depth, which coincided with my lungs, legs, arms and pretty much everything else burning! I needed to regulate everything I was doing because my personal pride was pushing me to get to the end and save any personal disappointment and embarrassment 🙂 I looked within for the whole run to get me over the line!

Heron Way 10K

(That’s my amazing son giving me encouragement in the background!)

So today I decided to blend three things as an experiment to see what would happen:

  1. Running off (hopefully) what’s left of that one extra chocolate, turkey sandwich, glass of fizz and piece of cake!
  2. Getting out of my running comfort zone and stretching myself a little!
  3. Practising a little bit of mindfulness, which is actually quite hard to master when you are starting out with it!

So I set off with purpose on all three at 07.30 this morning on a dry but cold morning. What I realised immediately was that my brain was automatically trying to think of my workload today, the mini soccer match my team is playing tomorrow and the weekend in general, so I focussed within!

I looked internally to confirm how my feet were feeling whilst pounding the street, how my lungs were feeling as I had set off with additional pace, what my breathing pattern was like and if any muscles were niggling. All was well and I found that whilst I was doing this I was travelling well, feeling good and what you could possibly describe as working optimally.

I kept going and when I noticed my mind was drifting onto other things I refocussed and looked within and noticed my speed was dropping. I was becoming inefficient at running because my mind was drifting off onto something else. I wasn’t thinking about running and motivating myself by monitoring my inner performance. So I put that right each time.

This carried on for five miles and to be fair my main battle was trying to ignore the flash of inspiration I had at about two miles to write a blog post on focussing within, which demonstrates that practising mindfulness isn’t easy when you have a million and one things going on in life! In all honestly the last mile was tough as well because it’s mainly on the incline!

So none of this will surprise any of you; most definitely the focussed runners and sports professionals out there because this is part and parcel of how they deliver excellence on the pitch, court, track and in the pool etc.

It won’t surprise you in a business context either because if you have an objective and focus using your skills and experience when tackling business tasks, you will do an excellent job and achieve excellent outcomes.

So I suppose I reconfirmed a couple of things with my little experiment:

  1. If you want to improve on something, set yourself an objective to achieve.
  2. Focus 100% on what you are doing and the objective you have set yourself.
  3. Practice mindfulness (looking within), or your version of it, to limit distractions to help you achieve your goals.

What’s my evidence to support the above and why did I include a screenshot of my running app from this morning’s run at the top of this post? I ran a personal best for 5 miles this morning, which I was extremely pleased with as it included an average pace of less than 8 minutes per mile. I also know I drifted a little throughout, so I reckon I might have a sub 40 minute in me soon 🙂

Have a great day everyone and if you get the chance to experiment with any of the above I would love to hear your stories and results.

All the best for 2016.

Colin.