SHE’S SOFT, BUT NO PUSHOVER
When Merlene Carrington started her life coach consultancy 14 years ago, she had a good reason for doing so. “No one can give me the job I want to do,” she said.
She developed her talent in some tough environments: 17 years at the Foreign Office as a Disabled Persons’ Officer, in what she describes as a “culture that was unforgiving”, another four at the political think-tank, Operation Black Vote, and eight years as a Magistrate.
“I spoke to lots of people, who had their disabilities as one set of issues, but their confidence and self esteem as another set. I spent a lot of time speaking with them about ways of coping and managing anxiety; colleagues’ lack of understanding, and enforcing the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.”
Her career has always been about encouraging people to be active in civic society – as school governors, board members, community activists – rather than to passively accept the decisions other people make about their lives. Today, Merlene helps “people to live out the thing that God has put them here to do”. She has mentored people at the School for Social Entrepreneurs and on the award-winning Breakthrough mentoring programme, aimed at senior and junior civil servants.
“Some of the most amazing things happened,” she said, reflecting on what she calls one of the high moments of her career. “When you start with the closed fist of someone who has shut down, and then end up with an open hand or flower, a person empowered to move forward… nothing else gives me that level of satisfaction.”
Struggles and challenges
There are life coaches everywhere, which begs the question: What makes Merlene so special?
“People say it’s my level of compassion, yet they still understand that I will accept no excuses! If you are not willing to work with the process, then you are not ready,” she said. “My approach to life coaching is holistic. I was doing it long before they gave it a fancy name. Sometimes, the problem at work can be found in another area of life, as we have many aspects to our character, so I can’t say I just focus on career or eating. I’m a life coach.”
It also helps that she speaks candidly of her own challenges and struggles, so people know they are in the presence of someone “real”.
“There have been times when I have been clear that God has been directing my path and telling me what He wants me to do, and then other times when I have been in tears saying, ‘Where are You, what is going on, what does this mean?’
“I have tried things and been disappointed. I have had the mountain and valley experiences, and God has taught me so much. One of the biggest lessons is nothing I do will ever be wasted. Another is to keep going through the storm and the sun will eventually shine.”
Merlene runs two monthly seminars, one on Career Crossroads and another on Finding Your Purpose. For more details, visit
How to inject a little love into your business
Expecting employees to work in a corporately sterile environment is, thankfully, a culture of the past. Today, big companies make huge investments to create workplaces where people love to come to work, because happy workers lead to lower staff turnover and better served customers and clients.
Here are a few tips on creating a loving work environment:
- Be mindful of the dreams, interests and aspirations employees have. Find ways to link these to their role.
- Set regular supervision periods to sit and talk with employees about how they feel about their work and progress.
- Use Scriptures as the basis for workplace guidelines and policies. For example, “Treat your colleagues as you would have them treat you”. Do the same with customer care.
- Since we like to surprise loved ones, why not introduce an element of surprise for employees or customers? It is great as a marketing incentive, but even better if you spring the surprise after they have actually made a purchase: “It’s just as well you ordered that meal, because today we’re giving away a free orange juice with each one sold.” They will surely come back.
- Respond quickly to enquiries and complaints. The quicker you do, the more your customers will love you.
Does business law make you yawn?
Many business owners don’t address important legal aspects around doing business, because they are unaware of its requirements or don’t understand the jargon.
That’s why the HiB Business Advice Centre is running a free workshop that looks at business law in plain English. It is aimed at start-ups, small businesses, owner-managed businesses and medium-sized enterprises to help them understand the basic principles of the legal, regulatory and compliance frameworks that impact upon their businesses.
The topics under discussion include: Business Structures; Contracts; Company Law; The obligations on directors or private limited companies; Employment issues, and Legal notices and e-commerce contacts to be used on the business website.
The workshop, designed to empower small and medium businesses, is being run in partnership with Christian The Law Firm. It takes place on Thursday, 27 February 2014 from 1pm to 3pm in London. See the website at www.harrowinbusiness.com for further details.