Joining Knowledge Change Action – “it’s OK to be as I am”

As I enter my 5th week as new boy Trainer Consultant at KCA it seemed a good juncture to sit down, take a breath and look over my shoulder to reflect on the journey so far. I came to KCA after eighteen years managing front-line services in a youth homelessness charity. Like a lot of people, 2020 had been a nightmare for me. The perfect storm of global pandemic, combined with service demand at an all time high and my mothers deteriorating Alzheimer’s left me in a frazzled state and in serious need of a change.

Out of the blue a friend sent me the advert for the KCA job. I knew within seconds that I would be applying. My background as a counsellor had led me to spending years in my own organisation training and supporting colleagues in psychologically informed working and reflective practice. The stressful experience of the pandemic reinforced in my mind that my service delivery days were numbered.

Drawing on my own support network I slaved over the application process and was overjoyed when I heard that I had an interview. My stomach did a few somersaults when I saw the question for the presentation was about using ideas about Trauma, Attachment and Resilience to help staff through the pandemic. That was me – I had needed some of that. Within seconds of the zoom interview starting I felt at home with Sus, Kate and Sal. It felt more like a conversation between colleagues. The ninety minutes flew by until I was knocked sideways by the final question. Tell us what your team would say about you on a really good day and a really bad one. I felt a tear behind my eyes as I told them that a good day would see my standing up in a training session bristling with the too and fro of the sharing of ideas I was passionate about. The voice of my friend and interview coach was in my ear telling me to “be myself” as I shared that my colleagues had seen too many bad days over the last year. The days when I was barricaded in my office and I jumped when the door knocked.

When the phone rang later that day and Sus offered me the job, I don’t think my joy was contained. I spent the rest of the day calling friends and jumping up and down. After the joy followed the reality that I would have to work the two months notice period before leaving. This doesn’t sound much looking back but at the time it felt like two years. I realise now that this is because I was experiencing a form of toxic stress. My resources were depleted. Each hill seemed like a mountain. Every problem seemed like a disaster. I kept on – well supported by my manager – just putting one foot in front of the other – knowing that there would be an end.

Luckily I was able to take a week between the two jobs to visit my son and grandchildren in France. I hadn’t had a whole week off for nine months – not allowing myself to leave my team in crisis. When I started at KCA – I was very worried that I wasn’t ready and needed more time to recover from my recent experience. By the end of my first week I was able to tell my friends what a wonderful organisation I was now working for and how happy I was. The KCA team did a number of things which helped me to settle my nerves – or as I now see it – regulate my nervous system.

The first thing was the time everyone in the team took to meet me – get to know me as a person as well as a colleague and to reassure me that it’s OK to be as I am – that is – with my imperfections and vulnerabilities. That we all have unpredictable life challenges and that if they come up – the team will work together to support each other. Although to be honest it will take me some time to fully believe this – it was great to hear on my first week.

Another thing which stuck in my mind was being told that KCA has a mission of helping people relate better with each other and that this included how colleagues relate. This helped me a lot to feel like I was in the right place. My induction was made much easier by not being on my own with it. The fact that KCA arranged for me and Anisha to start on the same day and that we instantly hit it off well enough to provide mutual support through the process has been just what I needed.

The things which really settled me on top of things already mentioned was Sally’s reminder that the worst thing that can happen is someone doesnt get trained on that day. This really made me aware of the impact of coming from a job where each day vulnerable young people will have nowhere to stay or will remain in risky conditions if my team didn’t perform little miracles. This high stakes responsibility allowed me to drift into a hyper-vigilant state which was understandable but not helpful for anyone – including myself.

So now as I go into month two I am starting to unwind into the world of Five to Thrive and Mending Hurts. My brain is relaxed enough to start taking in the relationship between the limbic system and the prefrontal cortex without flipping my lip. As I assess my own resilience factors and engage my vagus nerve I start to make links and see patterns. It’s not that I’m not terrified of my first few months of training delivery – but I am seeing that as tolerable stress which I am doing all the right things to manage.

Thanks to everyone for welcoming me into the KCA family. I hope I am able to live up to the faith you have put in me and one day to become the safe pair of hands I became in my former roles.