The HR Juggler

Archive for the ‘Values’ Category


So, my original plan was to follow-up the wonderful advent blog series with a summary post presenting my learning and the analytics and then take a bit of a break from blogging. That summary post will absolutely follow soon, but as many of you will be aware, Day 43 of the series created a tidal wave of interest and commitment from people across and beyond my network to come together and do something about the topic of mental health.

It is too easy to feel that surge of commitment and then to fail to take action. If you need any further proof, look here to a post that I wrote about mental health two years ago and have done very little about since. I have spoken at length with the author of the post and both of us have chatted with Mind to devise a plan for all who want to get involved and push for change. Here’s how it’s looking so far –

Shine a Light

We need to talk more, socially and in real life about mental health and things that matter. I would like to offer up my blog for a mini-series of guest posts about mental health issues, along the theme of the excellently named 25% Club (thanks to Lorna for that one!). These posts can be as wide and varied as you like: either from people who want to share their experiences of being affected by mental health issues, or individuals sharing the small steps that they or their organisations have made to make a difference. The posts can be either anonymous or accredited and all are welcome.

My provisional start date for this series is Monday 21st January. As ever, I am in your hands for this! I know that so many of us are deeply affected and care passionately about the topic, so I remain optimistic that we can make this happen.

Expert Guidance

This is a real team effort between me and the author of the post. We both know that to have any hope of making this a lasting change, getting guidance from experts is key. We are teaming up with some brilliant organisations who will help us publicise our efforts and spread awareness of the small, practical steps we can all take in our own organisations. We need you, as many of you as we can get, who have been touched by the post and are willing to listen and learn about how we can make a difference.  Tomorrow, there will be post from the author of Courage to tell you more about what we are planning…watch this space!

So, are you in? Would you like to be a part of this and make 2013 a year where we do all we can to make a difference to this? I really hope so! Because if not now…then when? There has never been a better time than now.


If you care about mental health and want to make a difference there are lots of things you can do

Potential really is everywhere and in everyone. We sometimes have such a narrow perception of what constitutes potential in a work environment and assign individuals to categories or labels such as high potential, leadership potential, management potential…the list can go on and on. Inevitably, the names within these categories can change, and the quality of conversation that accompanies this perceived change of status varies enormously, if indeed the subject is raised at all. It is not always the empowering, motivating experience that it could be.

As an experiment, I asked my six year old daughters what they understood by potential. Thinking about it carefully for a few moments, one of them tentatively replied, “having imagination…?” She then went on to explain that her teacher at school had asked the class what they would like to be famous for, and that she had responded by saying that she’d like to be known for playing badminton really well. My other daughter then chimed in to say that she’d like to be famous for being an author and writing books that other people loved to read. At their age, they see no limits to their possible achievements, only potential for making things happen, which is just as it should be. And perhaps there is a real link between imagination and potential, the ability to see beyond where we are now to where we want to be, the courage to try new things and learn new skills, to follow our hearts and always believe we have more to give and to grow.

Enabling people to explore their potential and bring their whole selves to work, including their aspirations and imaginations, can be truly transformational and create huge loyalty, as demonstrated in this recent article about why employees’ big dreams should be every company’s top priority. We sometimes need to be reminded to have the imagination to see not only our own potential, but most certainly to take the time to listen to how other people perceive theirs. Really listen, without assigning labels or categories.

Potential is everywhere, and in everyone…we just need some imagination to see it. What are your perceptions preventing you from seeing or asking today? I’d love to know.

We don’t talk about old people very much. We don’t always take the time to listen to them or to understand about their lives and what they have experienced. We are sometimes slow to appreciate them as individuals, and what we can learn from them.

My Nan passed away at the beginning of this month and her funeral is on Friday. She was a very old, much-loved lady and lived a full and happy life. I am unbelievably lucky to have had her in my life so long, to have known her as an adult, for her to have seen me grow up, fall in love and get married; for her to have held my newborn babies in her arms and watch them develop into the fun, independent, loving children they have become. So for me, this post is not so much about sadness, as a celebration of the many happy memories and a recognition of what I have learned from her.

Living less than a mile from our family home, my Nan was constantly around when I was growing up and was an integral part of our family life. Whenever I visited her home as a child, she always had lemonade and biscuits in her pantry, a garden to run around in, endless patience for playing board games and jobs for me to help with, whether it was drying the dishes whilst she washed up, or, when I was older, mowing her lawn. She was essentially very humble, easy to be around, almost impossible to offend, appreciative of being surrounded by her family and being part of our lives.

As a teenager, my Nan never judged or told me what to do. When I had boyfriend trouble, she gently and wisely pointed out that “whatever is meant to be will be,” providing me with great comfort and reassurance. When I finally passed my driving test, it was to her house that I drove first. She was as delighted as I was, although as I drove away, I wondered why she was waving quite so frantically…until I realised that I was driving in the dark without my headlights on!

Family Christmases were always fun and always shared with my Nan. She played every game with great enthusiasm until she was well into her 80s and even her 90s…spin the plate, murder in the dark…she would try anything and had a tremendous sense of fun. Her ability to laugh at herself, to enjoy banter with others and to have fun was undimmed until the very end of her life. She was always interested in people and delighted in getting to know my friends, who also called her Nanny, as I did. At my brother’s wedding, she gamely danced with my brothers’ friends and let herself be twirled around the dance floor…undoubtedly dining out on the experience for many years to come! My Nan was generous and always wanted to contribute. Home-made marmalade and chutney, taking my whole extended family out for Sunday lunch, expanding the invitation as the size of our family grew; lending her car to her grandchildren before any of us could afford vehicles of our own.

My Nan was consistently keen to learn new things, to challenge herself and try different experiences. She learnt to drive when she was 60 and continued for nearly thirty years until her sight started to fail her. She loved doing crossword puzzles and writing verse and even took up the local library’s offer of internet lessons in her 80s. She never felt that anything was beyond her and was willing to give anything a try. She was physically tough and cheated serious accidents so many times: in her 80s she slipped whilst getting off a train and became trapped between the train and the platform, yet emerged unhurt with barely any bruises. Widowed whilst still in her late 60s, she learned to become strongly independent and enjoyed a very happy old age, making new friends as well as treasuring existing relationships. She lived on her own until she was almost 95, when she broke her hip and was no longer able to look after herself.

The staff at the residential home where my Nan lived for the last three and a half years of her life not only provided her with excellent care, they also loved her. Right until the end of her life, she retained the ability to be interested in people, a vulnerability that endeared her to those around her and an appreciation of everything that she had, especially her family. One of the memories I treasure most is how much my children loved their Great Nanny Mo and how they clambered on her lap to hug and kiss her, even when she had become very frail. She was extraordinary and yet, in many ways, also very ordinary, a beloved Nan who was hugely appreciative of the good things that she had been blessed with. She was my Nan and a wonderful one at that.

There may be a few tears on Friday, but above all else there will be happiness of memories recalled, bonds of love and family that endure and a celebration of a life well lived. I think she’d be pretty delighted with that.


Sometimes, that which is personal, is by far the most powerful topic to write about. This post is about family, rather than business; about love, rather than HR.

My Nan is 98 and a half. She lives in a residential home and is profoundly deaf, blind through macular degeneration and often deeply confused as a result of vascular dementia. She suffered a nasty fall and a subsequent fit on Tuesday last week and was taken to hospital, where she then slept solidly for three days. The doctors could not examine her, as she was asleep, visitors came and went and I believe we all concluded that the most likely outcome was that she would pass away.

Until Friday, when she woke up.  Amazingly.

On Saturday I visited her in hospital, fearful that she would not recognise me or remember who I am (although that has never happened before). It was a shock to see her – her face and body were deeply bruised and she had not so much black eyes, as black both sides of her face. As she lay in bed and I came close up to her and held her hand, I knew at once that she recognised me, simply because she looked at me so intently and with such love in her eyes.

My Nan didn’t speak for about 15 minutes – her voice seems to have been affected by the fall, although she has not suffered a stroke – she literally just looked at me with love, with blue eyes that have seen nearly a hundred years of life. She did start to speak after a time, although much of her conversation was incoherent in its meaning. Towards the end of my visit, the nurse helped her to sit up in her bed and she dazzled me and everyone else in view with a huge smile, apparently delighted to be able to see her surroundings and look at what was going on around her.

As I reflect on this now, I feel not so much pity for a very old lady, who in so many ways is far from the Nan I have known and loved all my life; rather I feel an admiration for the sheer life-force within her that pulled her back into being. And I feel humbled that in the midst of such a difficult and desperate situation, her capacity for love is undimmed. That seems somehow so extroadinarily human.

So, that’s it. That’s what I wanted to share and write about this time. Life-force, love, memory, family, frailty and determination.

Thank you for taking the time to read it.

When was the last time that your organisation gave its employees the chance to change lives for the better? I am incredibly fortunate to work for a company that values its employees highly and also engages in some fantastic corporate social responsibility projects.

During February and March, there are three teams of Informa Business Information staff travelling out to Thailand, Ecuador and Costa Rica to work on volunteering projects, partnering with the Real Gap Experience. To read the group blog and witness the change in employees’ perspectives, the strong bond they form with each other, their passion, drive and engagement with their host communities is incredible. HR has been well represented in these trips and I can’t wait to hear what my colleagues have learnt and are planning to implement once they return home.

If you are interested, you can take a peek at what the teams have been doing here.

All the volunteers undoubtedly make an impact in the communities that they travel to, but by far the biggest life-changing impact is on the individuals themselves. And that is inspiring to be a part of.

Corporate responsibility may be many things, but soft and fluffy it isn’t. It has the potential to change lives, engage and motivate staff, engender great teamwork and achieve amazing results. Without doubt, it is one of the best opportunities that we offer our staff and has a tangible impact on our culture and environment, which lasts well beyond the duration of the projects. It only takes a few people to believe that anything is possible, to really start to create a sea change within an organisation.

Most of my exec board colleagues climbed Mount Kilimanjaro as a team last year. Another group of employees trekked across the Lunag Massif in Nepal. Several colleagues are running the London Marathon, others are participating in the Edinburgh Moonwalk or cycling from London to Paris, all raising significant funds for charity and challenging themselves and others in the process, sharing their learning and inspiring others around them.

What’s inspiring change in your organisation and culture? I’d love to know.

I’m a firm believer that if you commit to doing something, you should do it properly and make the experience as great as it possibly can be. The more of yourself, of your time and your energy you put in; the more tangible results, satisfaction and sense of achievement you and others will get out of it.

So, having agreed to walk a marathon at night (and in my bra) as part of the Moonwalk 2012 team, I have spent much of this week buying some of the basic equipment required to start power-walking, planning how I am going to approach the training and beginning to fundraise. I am hugely grateful of everyone who has sponsored me so far, if you haven’t yet and have been meaning to, the link is here.

I’m very aware that what I have done so far is the easy bit – essentially shopping, starting to walk more and planning. It is not so much the walking that worries me as I am confident that I have plenty of time to build up my stamina and fitnes levels; I am already concerned though with how I will manage walking throughout the night in this way. I have never done anything like this before and I am certainly not a natural ‘night owl’…far from it!

I am keen to raise as much money as I possibly can for Walk The Walk, which is a grant-making charity, not only dedicated to raising funds for vital breast cancer causes but is also passionate about encouraging women and men to become fitter and healthier. I rather imagine I shall become fitter and healthier myself over the next 5 months ;).

I’ve got a few different ideas for fundraising and would love it if you would be able to support me in any of them –

  • I’m willing to open this blog up to advertising over the next 5 months, in return for a generous sponsorship donation. All money raised will go to Walk The Walk and the company logos will appear on the top right hand side of my blog, with a click through to your website
  • Would you like me to write a guest blog for you? Happy to do so, in return for some sponsorship!
  • I have been dabbling in writing children’s stories lately and if you know a little person who would like a short story written especially for them, complete with illustration, then let me know and let’s talk 🙂

Contact me on Twitter @AlisonChisnell, leave me a comment on the blog…I’d love to hear from you if you are interested in any of these options. I’d also love to hear about any fundraising ideas you have tried and what has worked really well.

As the lovely Doug Shaw will attest, what goes around, comes around…and you really do get what you give! I’m determined to put in as much effort and commitment to this challenge as I possibly can…and I would love it if you can help me along the way.


Most of the posts published this week have been from established Twitter friends, nearly all of whom I have met face-to-face. So, it is a particular pleasure to introduce today’s post from Alix Passage, who I have very recently connected with online. Her enthusiasm for contributing a guest post has been fantastic and I am really enjoying getting to know her better.

You can find Alix at @AlixPassage on Twitter and over on her website.


“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom”  -Thomas Jefferson

Being yourself, putting yourself out there and letting people see into your soul: it’s an idealistic concept that many may believe in, but how many of us actually follow through? Many times it’s because we don’t want our professional lives getting too personal, or vice-versa. Countless articles circulating the web debate the topic of how much of your personal life you should expose in your  professional life; some say lots, some say none and many say a little bit of both. In the age of social media, particularly for those of us that do much of our marketing, advertising and sharing on sites like facebook and twitter there is a constant battle over where the line between work life and family life lies. Some are purely professional and won’t post anything about their personal life, some share only glossy, happy times. I’m sure many don’t want their clients to think they are too busy frolicking with their family and not enough time editing their photos. However, my line between work and home is very blurry, or even non-existent and here are a few reasons why.

It humanizes you. I am not a screen name, an avatar or made up of code. I’m a real person with a heart and soul and DNA. I have good days and bad days, likes and dislikes, as well as my own life, family, interests and obligations. It’s the things outside of those long hours editing and color-correcting in front of my computer that make me the photographer, artist and person that I want to be and that people want to hire. I’m quirky, sarcastic, empathetic, pensive and believe in equality for ALL; are these things to be ashamed to share with the world?  I think not.

It’s rewarding. It’s easy to feel alone in an unforgiving world, head swirling with nagging thoughts, notions, ideas and questions. It’s also easy to feel ashamed, embarrassed and self conscious by these thoughts. By nature NONE of us want to be the first kid to ask that seemingly stupid question in class or say that statement that everyone is thinking but no one voices. What we don’t realize is that once we DO ask that question in class there is a collective exhale as 10 other kids were thinking that same thing. For example a few weeks ago I tweeted “Why do I always default to the notion that people don’t like me? #thingsIdothathurtmyself” alluding to how self-conscious I get when I first meet people. Not only was it liberating to get it off my chest but the response was humbling and inspiring as tweeters responded saying “Me too!” “It’s nice to know I’m not the only one!” and even “I asked my MOM this morning if she liked me!”. And these are people who I deem confident, successful, well-adjusted entrepreneurs!  Wow, maybe I’m not as crazy as I sometimes think! Letting people in is rewarding on both sides of the conversation, too. Not only is it comforting to know that there are others out there who have the same wacky thoughts as you, but it is also rewarding to know that you have eased someone else’s conscience. You get that warm and fuzzy feeling inside knowing that someone out there feels a little less alone because you were brave enough to speak up first.

It helps you feel closer to others and them feel closer to you. Building on my last point, opening up to people is a bonding experience. People feel closer to you when you let your guard down, it makes them feel secure and safe to let theirs down as well. Again with social media, so many of our relationships and connections are virtual that people don’t get the chance to see who we really are as people. Putting some of you inner thoughts and emotions on your blog or website gives the appearance of personal connection in a virtual world. You could end up learning some pretty magnificent things about your colleagues, friends and even your competition!

In the end we are all just humans on this earth trying to make the best of 100 years, so go ahead and be brave. Reveal a thought today that you might otherwise keep inside, be as open and honest as you feel comfortable but try to push yourself into that scary unknown world of sharing. It may seem like a small step, but its all those small steps together that add up to a giant leap. Follow Thomas Jefferson’s poignant advice, wear your heart on your sleeve and see what kind of positive impact it has on all aspects of your life.

Some people never fail to make me smile and Natasha Stallard is one of those who does so most. She exudes such warm positivity that she can always brighten up my day, challenge my thinking, offer a thoughtful and supportive word and impart some of her infectious energy. She is a real pleasure to connect with on Twitter and you can find her at @StirTheSource.

Happy Birthday, Tash!


Inspired by Alison’s lovely invitational post to ‘Let the Light In’, I, in true seasonal theme, became one of a number of elves scurrying to deliver our Advent Reflections to this beautiful, generous and savvy Snow Queen.    Furthermore, the opportunity to be part of this work felt important. A sense that this series could be ‘consciousness shifting’ – not only for those blogging but perhaps for those reading too.   So, without further ado, to my post!

365 days ago to the day I reached a milestone in my life. I became 40.  The day was like no other day on earth and to say I cried bucket-loads is a massive under-statement.   Why? The expressions of love from others just blew me away, in fact, it kind of felt as though I was at my own funeral watching over as others spoke of me and what I had shifted, changed or impacted through our relationship, be it working, family or personal friendship.    It was then, through the tears (btw I always see tears as moments of transformation, think Alice in Wonderland!) I got to thinking ………. 

In that thinking, I stopped and started to look in at myself. I realised that I needed to slow down. I needed to allow others time to share with me their gratitude when they wanted to (not when I allowed them i.e on my 40th birthday!). Most surprisingly I realised that I finally needed to let go of the striving and pace that had driven my ‘successful’ life for so long.  So, in that moment, I took a deep breath and finally jumped off that human ledge.  What happened next was quite profound. I was given a gift, a gift of an E! Now I know what you naughty elves are thinking, but this was a different kind of E, an E that finally allowed me to move from pace to pEace.  A peace that made me laugh out loud and allowed me to see that there really is nothing to strive for and to simply allow ‘what is’, to simply be, ‘what is’.  I realised, quite profoundly, that THIS LIFE IS heaven on earth, with all it’s beautiful nooks, crannies,  global upheavals and economic disasters.  I realised that I needed to stop looking up, flapping my wings in hope and pushing forward for humanity, but to just tilt my head at the sky and smile (thanks Buddha!).  So what happened …… what really happens when one moves from pace to peace? Did I sit on a mountain for a year?  Did I disappear from the face of the earth 😉 

Well as I reflect on the year, I realise that I have had one of the most interesting, challenging, fulfilling and crazy years that I have ever had. Believe me it wasn’t easy shedding a lifetime of ‘successful’ behaviours and being willing to explore the dark as well as the light, but I sincerely believe that without that leap and commitment to let go, many of the amazing opportunities I have been given and many of the stunning people I have met (many of whom will be reading this now) would not have happened.  In January 2011, Ben Okri, one of my favourite writers released a poem on Twitter one line a day @benokri    As I reflect, I realise this was the early companion of the ‘new Tash’ – the anchor that allowed me to shed the PACE and be the PEACE.   Here’s the link for anyone who may be interested

Wishing you all amazing moments ahead, whatever they may appear as!  

Love, Peace and Satsuma’s.  Tash x


And because it’s my blog and I can if I want to….here’s a little something on your special day from all of us!

Advent: Waiting with Expectation












So, believe it or not, we are now in Advent. Now, I’m not going to start getting all Christmassy on you…yet!…but I would like to share a challenge with you and invite some guest posts on this blog.

I heard a lovely thought for the day on the radio this morning, about how Advent is traditionally the time of waiting, of starting to think and prepare for Christmas and of reflecting on the year that has been. The speaker likened the openinng of each window on an Advent calendar to letting light in…whether that is the light of hope of better things to come, the light of love of spending time with those closest to us, or simply the light at the end of the tunnel to what, to many, may well have seemed like a tough year.

What I would like to do during December is to share some guest posts on this blog about some of the great things that have happened in 2011, some of the learnings that you can share from your year and perhaps some hopes for 2012. They don’t have to be HR related, they can be about anything at all. And they don’t have to be melodramatic horrors…although equally, feel free if you want to share!

I’ll be sharing my highlights and horrors of 2011 and writing some of my usual blogs too during this time, but I’d love to have as many guest bloggers as possible during December sharing their throughts and learnings. Experienced bloggers, novices or simply someone who has always thought about writing a blog post and never got round to it. Believe me, it really isn’t as hard as it looks… 😉

I’d love to hear from you.

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