I love listening to people’s stories. Finding out what motivates them, makes them tick, gives them real satisfaction. And then doing what I can to help them thrive. That was at the heart of my work as a personal coach, and in different ways, my writing, speaking and training reflect the same interest in people.
This interest goes way back. Even as a small child, I was helping my siblings to give improving lessons to our troupe of soft toys. At the age of 9, my headteacher asked me to keep a confidential eye on an elderly teacher so as to fetch him if she had one of her funny turns. I was so proud he saw me as a caring, responsible child.
When I joined Teesside Industrial Mission, my main focus was on women and work, and how they could thrive in the workplace, home, and public spheres like the church. These were also themes I studied for my PhD (awarded in 1988 for my thesis “In search of a feminist theology of work”) Being Social Responsibility Officer in the Diocese of Oxford also meant a focus on people – addressing needs and encouraging Christians to engage with social and ethical issues.
As well as lecturing on the St Albans and Oxford Ministry Course in the 1990s and early 2000s, I helped the mature students on this non-residential course negotiate the academic, personal and spiritual challenges it threw up. I had a similar role as a personal coach and work consultant in the 2000s. Although I no longer take on new clients, those skills and insights still inform my current activities.
Between 2005 and 2017, I regularly invigilated exams. What started as “a little job on the side” developed into Exam Team Development, the social enterprise I founded with my colleague Barbara Wynn in 2011. Essentially, invigilation is about helping people thrive, by creating an environment in which everyone has the chance to do their best. After seven years going all around the country to train invigilators in schools, colleges and training organisations, and co-authoring online invigilation training courses, I’ve retired from both invigilating and training. I still do a popular talk on the lighter side of invigilating, called “The invigilator who set fire to his trousers”.
Since 2014, I’ve been the voluntary Development Officer for the Oxford & District Table Tennis Association. I set up Cowley Table Tennis (now taken over by Oxford Community Table Tennis Club) to encourage people to enjoy playing social table tennis. This too is about helping people develop and thrive.
Finally, that same interest in how people grow, learn and change comes out in my fiction and non-fiction. It’s central in all my novels, and the theme of my blog. I’m especially interested in how people continue to grow, learn and change as they age.