Leading With Empathy

What defines a great leader?

Can you remember the last manager or great leader who inspired you? What made them different from the others?

There are so many attributes to being a great leader but what makes them great? So special that they can fill you with passion and ignite something inside you.

Throughout history we can recall many great leaders, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Barack Obahma and John Hume to name but a few. All these great leaders had a common purpose, they all cared about their people. Their purpose was the service of others, their people were their priority. They lead with empathy.

With the current economic climate, it is evident that companies need to be leading with care. People are struggling both financially and mentally and right now need support but most importantly they need ‘empathy’. So, what is empathy? How can organisations lead with empathy? Showing that you care that you understand and feel what another person is going through. That same person who is your employee, who is committed to your organisation and you as a company. Working in the hospitality sector I understand many businesses have suffered and know the financial impact this is having but your employees have been struggling too. In fact, many whom I talk to still are.

How many organisations can say they honestly know how their employees are feeling? How they felt during the worst of the pandemic, how they are feeling now? Empathy is about emotion and understanding how a person feels and seeing through their eyes.

“Learning to stand in somebody else’s shoes, to see through their eyes, that’s how peace begins. And it’s up to you to make that happen. Empathy is a quality of character that can change the world.” Barack Obahma

As an organisation you need to understand and show your team, what can we do to help? How can we make this better for you?

It has been proven that staff who feel valued and appreciated will work harder and remain loyal to your business than those who do not. Communication is vital in any organisation and not just at the top. Those on the ground working long hours deserve that communication too. They are the faces of your organisation and represent your company values, after all your business would not be able to operate without them. Open, direct, and honest communication shows that you care and in return your staff feel valued but sadly it is one that is overlooked in many organisations.

Listen to your employees, I mean really listen. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a fundamental tool for understanding your employees wants and needs. This theory has never been more apparent in today’s climate. The wants and needs of your employees have changed prior to the pandemic and no two individuals are the same. Due to the pandemic many employees value their work life balance, their time with their children, their job security, all quite different but all fundamental to their emotional wellbeing and their needs. Many might not feel ready to return to work full time and would prefer part-time hours, others the motivation of a regular pay check is enough.

One thing is for certain though……

Right now, your people need guidance, your support, your empathy.

 

 

When One Door Closes Another Door Opens

“In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.” Albert Einstein

During these uncertain times that the world is enduring there have been stories of kindness, empathy, and love but for some Covid 19 has brought uncertainty, with many people facing redundancy and job losses. Having to go through this process is difficult already, especially during the current climate and with this comes emotion, feeling anxious, despair and fear. But where there is darkness there is also light. Even in our lowest moments, we can find hope.

When faced with redundancy or job loss allow yourself time to think about what you want to do next. Even though it may not seem like it, sometimes we are given the opportunity to restart through no fault of our own. Maybe this an opportunity to try something new? A new career, a new business, or a new passion.

“When one door closes another door opens.”

You could utilise this time to learn a new skill to help you achieve what you want. If you love the industry you are currently working in, then there is also the opportunity to branch out into a different field within the same sector. No one knows your industry more than you. I know friends who were passionate about hospitality but have since gone into HR due to the pandemic. There are ways to generate income short term but think of your happiness too. One thing Covid has taught many of us is the simple things in life matter most.

What can companies do to help? So many people want to work, the younger generation just graduating, those who have lost jobs, those starting a new career, but they are all faced with the enormous task of competing with experience. This itself causes apprehension about starting something new.

Many candidates regardless of age, gender or race have the drive and ambition to succeed but are not given the opportunity to do so because they lack experience but how can they achieve this when companies don’t even hire unless they do. Skills can be taught but the right attitude and work ethic is something you bring to the table. Reliability, honesty, and empathy are all attributes many employers fail to overlook when hiring.

Who defines the right person for the job?

Yes, there are circumstances that require experience such as doctors, teachers, CEO’s but even they are committed to learning and growing, after all no human is perfect.

The selection process for interviewing can be outdated and many candidates do not even make the interview stage with no response or feedback as to why. This itself can be crushing for those looking for new opportunities. Each candidate has taken the time to apply to your company, they have chosen your organisation and want to work for you. The right thing to do is to provide them with constructive feedback and advice on how to improve for the future.

Every new employee has training of how the organisation operates. These same skills can be taught to someone with no experience but with the right attitude. When hiring do not be so quick to ignore those with little experience, they could be the next Steve Jobs, Sir Alan Sugar or Jacinda Ardern, they just need the opportunity.

“Success is about leaving a legacy of generosity and kindness rather than a trial of destruction”. Jacinda Ardern

Footprints In The Sand

‘Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while, leave footprints on our hearts and we our never ever the same.’

A beautiful quote and one that resonates with so many of us. Many people come into our lives and many people go but how many of those people have inspired you? Leaving lasting footprints.

Working in one of the oldest and most Iconic restaurants in London, The Ivy as a Maître’d first impressions are everything. In fact, lasting impressions for the guests is everything. Over 100 years old, the restaurant is steeped in history and famous for the many celebrities that have crossed it doors. When you come to The Ivy you already have an expectation and it is our job to ensure those expectations are not only met but exceeded. We want you to leave with a lasting impression.

However, regardless of your status, job title or salary from the moment you enter The Ivy you are treated the same. You are special.

This can be the same for anything in life that we do and the people that we meet on our journey. How many people have you met that has made a lasting impression on you? These are the people you remember, who have helped you, inspired you, supported you and encouraged you.

I have met many people on my journey who I can honestly say have inspired me in so many ways and I will be eternally grateful to not only have met them but to still have them in my life. My mother and father, family, friends, and colleagues. My lecturer Luane who still to this day I admire and respect for her ability to inspire so many young adults, myself included. My kickboxing coach Sean, who pushed me relentlessly to achieve my goals. The list is endless…. but they all have impacted my life positively.

How did they touch me? With kindness, empathy, love, and guidance. Little things, that have great significance.

Treat everyone you meet as you would be treated in The Ivy, that they are special. Life is a journey and true fulfilment comes from what we give in life and not what we receive. First impressions are wonderful but lasting impressions are forever. Be mindful of the people you meet, some will stay for a while and some will quickly go, the ones who touch our souls transform us and our hearts will never be the same.

‘Be somebody who makes everybody feels like somebody.’

Leave beautiful footprints wherever you go.

The First Cut Is The Deepest

How do we deal with pain, everybody hurts?

Humans are extremely complex and no one the same, but that is what makes us unique and beautiful. Everyone is different so; we all deal with things differently.

For some, dealing with pain is very raw.

I recently had a young lady approach me to confide in me, let me call her Lucy. A confident, smart, beautiful, and kind young lady who as I thought was incredibly happy. However, Lucy was in pain. Deep pain that she was finding hard to deal with and the only way she knew how to cope with this pain was to self-harm. This may seem very distressing and hard to read but Lucy wanted to share her story to help others. A very brave thing to do.

Why self-harm? In Lucy’s own words she said it took away the pain she was feeling inside her head. That by doing it she had physical pain that distracted her own mind, her own thoughts.

Her words were very real and very raw.

There are many reasons why people self-harm, but the main reason is they are suffering inside.
Lucy showed me her arms where she has self-harmed. Young skin with deep razor scars of her pain. I was deeply saddened that she felt this was the only way to cope. She was so young and with a bright future ahead of her. I want her and others to see that there are other ways to cope and to heal the pain you are feeling inside.

I listened to her and then explained that I too have suffered great pain in my life, deep pain like her. We all do at some stage but there is always hope and a way out of the darkness. I have just learned to deal with it in a different way. Lucy can too with the right support and help.

Talk to someone you trust and confide in. They love you and will not judge you. A relative, a friend or even a work colleague. Sharing how you are feeling will help stop the build-up of self-doubt and help you to deal with the negative emotions and feelings. Reaching out is the first step to helping yourself. Do not ever feel like you are alone. People do care about you and you do matter.

Listen to music, anything that calms your thoughts or changes your mood from sad to happy. My playlist consists of nothing but happy beats. Surround yourself with good people who care about you and will support you too. They will help you to get stronger.

Go for a walk or exercise. When you are consumed in your own thoughts sometimes you cannot think straight. Step outside. The fresh air or exercise will help your mind and body. So many people I know who feel low, feel better after doing so.

Delay your thoughts for a moment, text a friend. Ring a relative to distract you from what you are thinking. This small delay could be all it takes to stop you from self-harming. If you feel you need extra help to cope, then there are other people who will support you too. A therapist to talk through your emotions or groups online such as Lifesigns.

Rome was not built in a day, but these tiny steps can help you towards your healing. Lucy, I want you and others to know that you are different, we are all different but that is what makes you unique. That is what makes you beautiful. You just need to love yourself a little bit more.

Theatre of Dreams

We all have dreams, dreams of becoming something great, doing something great when we are younger but sometimes life gets in the way and we get a little side-tracked. If I could tell my younger self anything it would be to keep believing in yourself.

Football regardless of being a female was a great part of my life. My father is and always has been a fanatic Manchester Utd fan. Something my siblings and I inherited from him and something that I can thank him for today. I grew up in an Era of football Mainer and being from Northern Ireland you loved Manchester Utd, or you hated them. My family like millions of supporters around the world absolutely love them.

Anyone who has had the privilege to go to Old Trafford will know what I am talking about. It is called ‘The Theatre of Dreams’ for a reason.

A place where you follow your dreams, glory and happiness! The place where histories are made and rewritten.

I remember my first time at Old Trafford vividly and something I will cherish forever. The anticipation when I found out I was going and the pure joy and excitement I felt on Match Day. Walking up to the stadium you really appreciate just how many people support this great team. Families, couples, men, and ladies all walking together all with a common purpose. To see their team play. I was in awe and completely overwhelmed by everything. The sea of red tops, the singing and great spirt but nothing compared me on entering the stadium. A moment that made the hairs on the back on my neck stand up and gave me goose bumps. The atmosphere was simply electric.

I grew up following and admiring some of the greatest players in the world. Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Roy Keane, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Paul Scholes who were led by the astounding Sir Alex Ferguson. Players that inspired so many and had such a great impact on so many lives. Influencers of our time. A team that went on to win the treble and the first side in English football to do so. A team that worked hard together and had a thirst for succeeding. They believed they could, and they did. The commitment, dedication, and passion it must have taken to achieve this we can all aspire to be.

Something great.

The sacrifices they must have made, nights out, training, not seeing their friends and family all for something they honestly believed in and loved. As in life these are the attributes you need to achieve your dreams. Nothing great ever comes easy and like football you will win, and you will lose too. This is when you need the courage to keep going and never give up, sometimes you need to lose to get better. You must dig deeper and keep pushing.

“They’ll forget all the rubbish when I’ve gone, and they’ll remember the football. If only one person thinks I’m the best player in the world, that’s good enough for me.” George Best

George Best a football hero and a Manchester Utd legend. He inspired many, me included. If you can help others on your journey to greatness and touch one life, then that is the greatest gift of all.

So, I want to thank my father not only did he introduce me to the greatest team in the world he introduced me to the ‘Theatre of Dreams.’ Where anything is possible if you believe.

Be Kind To Your Waiter

We all have a favourite restaurant that we love to go to with family and friends. To relax and enjoy the ambience, food, and the staff but next time you are dining please spare a moment of consideration for the waiter who is serving you.

Boris Johnson recently made a statement claiming that those who work in hospitality were ‘unskilled labour’ a statement that many found offensive and untrue. On the contrary Prime Minister, those who work in hospitality are hardworking, dedicated, and intelligent.

I have had the privilege of working alongside some of the most interesting, smart, and dedicated young men and woman. Many of whom are studying to become a lawyer, doctor or accountant and they are committed and eager to learn as a waiter too. Single mothers and fathers working whilst providing for their families and those who chose hospitality as their profession. You do not just choose to work in hospitality, you do it because you care. You care about the people you work with, and you care about the guest.

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Mahatma Gandhi

Many of the young waiters who serve you have travelled from across Europe and further and arrive in the UK alone for the first time. In London I have the honour to work in a multicultural environment. The waiters learn and embrace the English language on their own time, they do so to understand, to understand you the guest better and to meet your needs. I am fascinated and have admiration for their ability to do so. This shows determination, motivation, and intelligence.

You see I believe that working in hospitality as a waiter not only develops physical skills but also enhances social skills too. I have watched shy teenagers develop into confident managers and leaders. How socially awkward staff conduct themselves when dealing with difficult and challenging situations and how they thrive when working under pressured environments. Hospitality teaches you the importance of respect, honesty, kindness, and empathy. Core values that are not only used in business but in life.

They appreciate, respect and value their work colleagues. There is no ‘I’ in team when you work in hospitality. As a team you are devoted to deliver excellence night after night, service after service. This can only be achieved as a team and as a waiter you understand that no one’s job is more valuable than his colleague who stands beside him every single day, who helps selflessly to ensure his team is not struggling?

They work tirelessly to ensure you have a good experience. They miss holidays with their loved ones and families, nights out with their friends and special events such as Christmas to ensure your special occasion is simply perfect. They welcome you with a smile, listen to you, remember your name and your favourite table and drink. Regardless of what is happening in their lives they show up with a smile to make you feel welcome. All this when working extremely long hours and paid just a basic salary, but they choose to do it because they choose to serve.

So, the next time you are dining in your favourite restaurant please be kind to your waiter, they could be your next politician, movie star, doctor or even become your friend.

If Only Our Eyes Saw Souls

We do not meet people by chance, they come into our life for a reason. I honestly believe this to be the case when I met one of my best friends ‘Simon’.

Anyone who has started a new job will know how it feels the day before. Little nerves of anticipation but excitement at the same time. My new colleagues were lovely, so my nerves were unjustified and despite the restaurant being extremely busy they made time to interact and include me. They made me feel part of the team. This is how I met Simon and I will always be grateful of this day.

Simon and I hit it off instantly and is without a doubt one of the kindest souls I have ever met. He took me under his wing and looked out for me, he helped make my days a little brighter with his kindness. He took time to listen, help and guide me on things that were not familiar both in work and out. As our friendship blossomed, we discovered more things we had in common. His laugh is infectious and like me he laughs at his own jokes, having a good sense of humour helps when you work in hospitality and got us through some terribly busy shifts. I could just look at Simon and he would know what I was thinking.

We share similar tastes in music and talk frequently about what we like to listen to on our days off but what connected us mainly was our love for photography. We could talk about photography for ages. Simon is extremely modest, but I am going to say he is truly gifted. His art tells a story and one that captures the imagination. I feel not only blessed to have met him but to call him my friend, my best friend.

Now what if I told you that Simon was black? Would that make a difference?

Did you assume that he was white? Simon is Simon regardless of his skin colour, the same kind soul. The same person who looked out for me when I needed a friend. So why then should he be treated any different to me? Why can he not have the same opportunities that I do? To be treated equally like I do. Black lives do matter. Simon matters and he deserves to live a life of love, not hate.

“If only our eyes saw souls instead of our bodies how very different our ideals of beauty would be.”

What can I do to help? What can we do to help? These were the questions I asked myself when I witnessed so much hurt and pain to other human beings. To understand, to encourage, to support. Educate ourselves to do better, educate our children. Racism is wrong and no one should have to go through it. You would never treat your best friend or any friend in this way.

 

The New Norm

The “new norm” it is an expression that I have heard and used myself regarding our future but what does the new norm look like and feel like?

After 3 months of quarantine in Northern Ireland it was time for me to travel back to my home in London and return to my work in hospitality. I was excited to see my colleagues and go back to the hustle and bustle of city life.

My journey back to London was very surreal and it felt like I was in a movie. I arrived at the airport expecting long ques for check in and even longer ques at security, but this was not the case. There was hardly anyone there. In fact, it felt like the airport was not open. No ques at check in, no ques at security and nothing open inside. Just people waiting around wearing masks and looking nervous. Like many others who were travelling this was probably their first flight since lockdown and worried about the implications of doing so.

The flight was comfortable, and EasyJet adhered to social distancing, any concerns I had about flying were put at ease. I had a whole row to myself which instantly put my mind at rest. Everyone continued to wear their masks as instructed in the airport and out of respect for each other. It is a short flight of only an hour so wearing the mask was not an inconvenience for that time. My concern was how could EasyJet operate with half capacity on a plane of this size? Would this be reflected in the price that we the consumer would pay? Would travelling now become a luxury?

After arriving in London, I then had to take a train and tube journey to reach my home. Like many people I was a little nervous about using the underground. At this stage I had been wearing my mask now for almost 3 hours. The temperature in London was much hotter than Ireland and the underground even warmer. It did not feel like the City that I had left. No crowds, no squeezing to get in. Just myself and 3 others on the carriage. The temperature as usual was hot and if you have ever been to London you will know how hot the underground gets. Wearing a mask is uncomfortable and at times its difficult to breath. I do not have the luxury of getting an uber or a taxi so public transport is how I and many others will be travelling. What I did realise though was an elderly man sitting opposite me and he was wearing his mask also. How hard must that have been in that heat? But he chooses to wear it because it was the right thing to do. He was showing kindness towards others. A small gesture but a beautiful moment for humanity.

I returned to my work the following day and seeing my colleagues for the first time was heart-warming, when you work in hospitality your colleagues are not just your colleagues but your family. My instinct was to hug them, I had not seen them in 3 months, and it was the first thing I wanted to do. I am a hugger and have always been a hugger. I just find it a nice way to say hello. For me this was extremely hard, and I am sure so many others can relate and is something I find extremely difficult about the new norm. Physical contact for all over us is so precious.

Despite what is happening around the world businesses are working hard to ensure your safety, public transport, aeroplanes, restaurants, pubs, hotels, shops are all adapting so that we can all get back to normal. Employees are learning new systems, training and eager to welcome you back. What I do know, regardless of what the new norm looks like and how hard it may be, if we are patient, kind and respectful of others needs then just maybe we can achieve a beautiful future together.

Be Yourself

There is an old saying that you should ‘Never Judge a book by its Cover’ and it is a saying that I am very found of. You truly never know what someone is going through in their life despite how they may act or seem. I have always been a confident lady, outgoing, bubbly and try to be positive. Working in hospitality you meet and interact with so many people daily that conversation and relationships become your way of life. No one would have ever thought that I had anxiety or even suspected unless I told them.

When my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer, I remember I started to feel anxious. Naturally, I was worried for her and my family. Without me being aware this was the start of my anxiety and my body was reacting to her diagnoses. I found it hard to sleep at night and my thoughts would be filled with her next appointments, what I could do or how could I help her. My main priority at that time was my mother and family so I knew I had to do something regarding my sleeping patterns and emotions. This is how I got into kickboxing.

Exercise is a great way to release the energy in your body and helps make you feel good. Kickboxing helped me in so many ways and I am forever grateful to my trainer Sean who always pushed me hard but took the time to teach me about nutrition. There is no better feeling than hitting that punch bag. Any negative emotion I had was released during that session. Kickboxing teaches you not only about fitness but respect for your team members too. I have so much admiration for any athlete, the level of patience, commitment and dedication to achieve a black belt totally blew my mind. Not everyone is into Kickboxing and I understand that, but you do not need to be. On the days that I cannot go to the gym I simply go for a walk, even for 30 minutes. It helps relax my body and the fresh air is also good for your mind.

As I became more aware of my anxiety, I was able to recognise the triggers and what brought them on. Stress was the main factor which lead to worry and my body was reacting to this worry. I made changes to my lifestyle that would help combat the anxiety and change my thought process too. After my mother died, I cut certain things out of my life that made me feel sad or bad about myself. I stopped watching the news, horror movies and only watched comedies for nearly a year. Laughter really is good for the soul. When I listen to music, I play anything that is upbeat, that I can sing awfully too but makes me smile inwardly. I found that I could keep myself positive by changing these small details of my life.

“Changing your mind is a strength” Gary Vaynerchuk

I reduced my caffeine intake to one cup of coffee a day as I found If I exceeded this it would trigger my anxiety. I also stopped drinking as much alcohol as this also gave me horrendous anxiety the next day. Do not get me wrong I still like to enjoy myself, but everything is now in moderation. Every night before I go to bed, I read my gratitude book. It is a journal of 10 things that I am grateful for in my life and why I am grateful for them, my last thoughts at night are happy thoughts. Having good friends who are positive and you can talk to about how you are feeling helps and I feel very blessed I have amazing people in my life. Sometimes you must step away from negative people too for your own happiness. Taking time for yourself is essential and something I am learning I must do more of as I can confess, I have always been a workaholic but in order to heal you need to love yourself too.

Everyone has different symptoms when it comes to anxiety so I can only tell you how it affects me. When it is bad it is awful, it takes over my whole body. I cannot eat properly as my stomach is cramping, my heart races and I literally feel like it is coming out of my chest. I have so much energy racing through my body but at the same time everything is difficult to do. There is no motivation. It paralyses you. What I have learned over time though is that you can utilise that energy, positively.

During Covid 19 I have discovered other ways to help keep my mind positive, writing, drawing and even social media. Tik Tok is one platform I would have never used prior and now really enjoy watching and making videos. There are genuine users who simply make me laugh out loud when I watch them. I cry happy tears. Like with any social media platform there will always be a small majority who leave inappropriate comments. How do you handle them? With kindness, they must be hurting to want to do that in the first place. The most important thing I have learnt is that there will be days that my anxiety will be good and days that it will not, but It will not stop me from being me.
Be yourself – be unique, be funny and be kind.

Never Give Up

My mother was a wonderful lady, she loved my siblings and I very much and just lived for her grandchildren, they were her world. She was very independent and strong but with a heart full of kindness and unconditional love.

I remember the day of her diagnosis very clearly, my mother and I both waiting nervously in the doctors waiting room both pretending we were not nervous to each other and everything would be fine. Even after the doctor gave my mother the diagnosis, I think we were both still in shock. It only hit us when we left and sat in her car, we both just started crying. The doctor confirmed she had lung cancer and due to her ill health, they could only offer her radio therapy but could not cure her. From that moment I made a promise to myself that would be the last time she witnessed me upset. Now more than ever I needed to be strong for her and my family.

After the diagnosis we looked at alterative treatments for my mother as well as the radio therapy. I had friends who had been through this journey previously with their loved ones and they recommended wheat grass. As a family we did our research and studies had proven it could help with the side effects of radio therapy. My mother had COPD and the radio therapy could affect her lungs after the treatment, so we started growing our own and my mother took it religiously every single day.

Caring for a loved one with cancer is like being on a rollercoaster at Alton Towers. Your emotions are constantly all over the place with every hospital appointment and treatment. Worrying has it got bigger, had the treatment worked and trying to live in hope and remain positive. I met some of the most courageous people while my mum had her radio therapy. They still inspire me to this day.

After the treatment, my mother was extremely tired and slept most of the day, but we were explained this and so were prepared for it. What I was not prepared for or any of my siblings was how much it impacted us also. We took it in turns to be with her and as her illness progressed, she needed oxygen permanently and her mobility deteriorated. My father became her main carer, while managing to work and look after the house also. He continued to be there for his wife in sickness and in health. MacMillan Cancer helped our family tremendously with my mother’s palliative care. My mother’s nurse Linda offered us advice, support and love. She visited my mother every week regardless and they became exceptionally good friends. I have such admiration for her and what she does, one of life’s angels.

As my mother got weaker it was more difficult for her to move and she could not get up the stairs to her bed at night, her only comfort was sitting up straight so she remained downstairs. My father, sister, brother, nieces and myself taking it in turns to be with her. There have been some very dark moments during my mother’s illness. In life there is nothing worse you can hear than your own mother begging you for your help ‘I can’t breathe’. Those words still haunt me today and my heart goes out to the mother and family of George Floyd. Despite these dark moments my mother fought hard throughout her illness and she kept smiling, her motivation to never give up is what has got my family and I through her illness.

We made sure as a family we enjoyed every single moment together birthdays, Easter, Christmas and days off were spent with my mother. These are beautiful memories that we will cherish forever. Sadly, my mother lost her battle and passed away on May 11 2017 but her spirit of life is what will guide us to keep believing in ourselves and to never give up. As a memory to her I started my own journey of Maggies Designs. I wanted to give something back to the wonderful care she received through MacMillan Cancer. Our family will be forever grateful to Linda and her team. Thankyou.