One Page: Supporting our people to grow

Ian Merrill
October 3, 2022

Welcome to 'One Page'. In this monthly newsletter, I will talk about the people I have met, and the things I have read or seen relating to Shannon Trust's vision, which is a future where everyone can experience the positive impact of learning. I hope these short pieces will start conversations, generate new ideas, and help our vision become a reality.


Supporting our people to grow


Last month I talked about innovation, and how positive change can come from what we already have; building on the things that we know work. I reflected on how Shannon Trust has done this since our beginning.


Our peer mentors help fellow prisoners to develop. By building and nurturing a relationship, they are opening a door to education, training and life away from crime. We've recently grown our peer led learning by adding maths, reading support in the community and now a digital programme, which will help us reach more people.


These innovations aim to change learners' lives, helping people to embrace and develop new skills. Thinking about this has led me to reflect on how we're encouraging staff and volunteers to evolve, too.


Shannon Trust's strength comes from our team of mentors, volunteers, staff and trustees. It sounds trite to say a team is made up of individuals, but it's true. We all bring our own experiences; our enthusiasm and commitment, our different talents and skills to our roles with Shannon Trust, and then work together to bring our shared vision to life.  


England football manager, Salina Wiegman, says building an effective team “starts with building an environment where people feel safe, where there is trust. Such an environment encourages people to take responsibility, to support each other, and to learn collectively from things that go wrong.”


Wiegman’s words work just as well off the pitch. How we 'perform' for our team, and the results we deliver, helps us to develop and learn, both on our own and in how we work with other team members.


This means building on our existing skills and knowledge, while trying something new. It requires effort, openness and self awareness.


Trying anything new or different can sometimes feel like one step forward and two steps back. Whether it is learning to ride a bike, gaining experience at leading meetings, or having one of those difficult conversations we would rather avoid; it’s part of the process. Shannon Trust’s culture means we encourage people to try, and to share the learning if we get things wrong.


Of course, working on ourselves in this way is not easy or comfortable, and we need to have some patience with each other. At Shannon Trust, we are using coaching, insights and bespoke development programmes to gain greater understanding of ourselves, and how we work together. We are using these tools to work more effectively, and better support each other. Knowing how we react to pressure or change, for example, can help us try different ways to look after ourselves and adapt. Understanding how others in the team 'tick', helps us to work together better and get through the challenges.


One of the benefits of this approach is that we're 'in it together'. We are building mutual support by having similar experiences. I like to think it helps us to grow together as we blend what we're learning into our working lives.


I am delighted that we are having these conversations. We are looking at ourselves, and how we operate together, so that we can continue to develop and benefit the learners and mentors we're here to support.


Please get in touch if anything I have written resonates with you; whether you agree, disagree or you have a suggestion for how we can improve what we do.

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