How to re-frame your work life around You: my walk n’talk takeaways
Scene #1. It’s a sunny lunchtime in London’s Fitzroy Square. I’m sitting with Lizzie, an independent creative director. Around us are workers making the most of their lunch break, reading books or engrossed in screens, sitting with their take-outs under a tree. We talk about the importance of celebrating the life we live — being confident about our legacy and achievements — rather than comparing ourselves to others.
Scene #2. A week later by the Thames Estuary. Andrew, a designer and letter press artist, and I walk past the cockle sheds of Leigh-on-Sea. This old fishing town has a rich history. The company names on the sheds reveal generations of families of fishermen. We explore how Andrew, who grew up with the smell of ink in his nostrils, can shine the light on his own story. How he can attract the right kind of clients by telling the stories about the work that fuels him.
Scene #3. A few days later, I’m in Soho with James, a designer and brand consultant. As we walk slowly through Soho Square, James sets out his strategy for carving out a multi-dimensional career. He is good at building brands online, but needs clarity on his own proposition. As James builds his new role as a consultant, we discuss how he can treat himself as he would a client: to build his own brand.
These are the revelatory moments that helped nudge three of my recent clients to re-frame their working lives.
These days most of us move at such lightening speed we don’t stop to answer the really important questions. Questions such as, “how can I do the work I really want to be doing?”, “how can I re-frame my working life so it’s more Me?” or “how can I up my game to make more of an impact in the organisation?”
Nudges happen because we take time to slow down and stand back. Sometimes you need to slow down to go faster.
In my own career I was moving so fast I couldn’t see what was happening beneath my feet. I didn’t slow down to address those burning questions until it was too late. It was late 1999 and my job was making ill. I had to make life changing choices. I quit my job (watch my Do Lecture to hear my story).
I’ve been there, done it. I’ve fallen down and got back up again with the battle scars to prove it.
Over the last few years I’ve been on a journey of self-discovery, getting reconnected with my story and purpose. Now it’s time for me to help others. To help executives, entrepreneurs and freelancers uncover the essence of who they really are, to use that as the bedrock for building a more successful career or work life.
When I was designing a programme, I knew I’d need to get my clients out of the office. It’s impossible to have transformative conversations in a boardroom or corner office, you need to go on a journey. You need to get outside, I find there’s an honesty out on the streets.
That’s why I run these sessions as a walk n’talk. It feels very Me. I have always loved the spirit of the flâneur — wandering around, exploring the side streets without a map, discovering insights. Out on the streets you can uncover answers and insights that have lain dormant for years.
I know people are busy. The idea of committing to an open-ended coaching programme can put them off. So I designed a one-hour session that neatly fits into a lunch-time. You can come monthly, quarterly or just the once.
I’ve really enjoyed the last few weeks, walking around Soho, Fitzrovia and along the Thames estuary in Leigh-on-Sea. I’ve learned a lot. If you’re looking to re-frame your work life around You, here are four recurring themes from my walk n’talks:
- Shine the light on you, your story and beliefs. Whether you’re launching a startup or carving out a freelance career, it can be hard to stand out. If you shine the light on your own personality, telling the stories about your working life and what drives you, you’ll attract the right kind of clients. Have the confidence to tell your real story. It’s like my friend Martijn says, “the closer you stay to yourself, the more interesting you are to others.” So don’t hide away, let the real You out!
- Make sure you’re doing things your way. Sometimes it feels there is a cookie-cutter approach to doing business, and we need to run our work lives the same way everyone else does. Instead of following the herd, stick to running your life your own way. At every decision you take, ask yourself: “Am I doing things my way?” Be different, embrace your inner rebel.
- Remember — you are your own architect. Sometimes we feel we need permission from others, we forget that taking control of our future is down to us. So build it your way. If you want to carve out a multi-dimensional role, do it. If you’ve got a burning desire to play around with a side project, what are you waiting for?
- Redefine what success means to you. Climbing the career ladder isn’t for everyone. I have discovered that ‘upping your game’ is different for everyone. It doesn’t have to mean earning more money or getting that sexy job title, it might just mean doing more of the work that matters, or having the freedom to choose where you put your attention. Celebrate running your work life your way.
And here’s what Lizzie, James and Andrew told me about their experience:
“This walk n’talk has helped me step up. Whilst walking around the streets of Soho, where I started my career 20 years ago, I started to appreciate my achievements. You helped me join things up — to see where the shadows fall, and find courage to shine a light in there and decide to own it all, with confidence! That shift is immensely valuable. There’s a really reassuring-not-arrogant sense that you’ve been there, done that, not really shockable, and that I can say anything at all and you’ll be good with that. That is treasure.” Lizzie
“Ian’s walk n’talk gave me a chain of ‘A-ha!’ moments as we paced the streets of Soho. The experience made me realise the importance of pausing for breath and of taking a step back to see things from a distance. I now have the start of a really strong framework that I can use to assess future decisions and am much clearer on how to position myself as a consultant.” James
“I’m still on a high after yesterday’s session. It’s really fired me up on where I can take things next. The takeaways ranged from small actions right through to bigger over-arching mindsets I need to adopt going forward.” Andrew