Support: by Paola Francesi

I was absolutely thrilled to be a guest speaker at the Coaching&Cava event n. 6, during a festive, celebratory atmosphere leading up to Christmas and New Year's Eve. Time for nice plans and resolutions for the New Year!

My intention was to bring in some positive emotions, empowerment and inspiration as I shared my very personal experience related to "Support", the main theme of the event that night.

First and foremost, I was very impressed during the previous Coaching & Cava event (the first one I had attended) and I feel that the previously mentioned concept of giving and taking by Adam Grant can be compared with support. Some people support and some people receive support. We can all contribute to a successful society.

To give you some personal background, English is my passion, ever since I started to learn it at a very young age. The festive period takes me back in time to when I remember watching Mary Poppins 3 years in a row at Christmas while at middle school ("scuola media", when I was 10 to 13).

After a positive period at school when I excelled in all the subjects, I experienced a challenging phase when I had to specialise. I was going to a school which was not for me - I felt stuck in a rut and frustrated - and I had to make the difficult decision to change school in order to follow my passion. However, that was when I came across an incredibly supportive English Teacher.

He had just started, so I felt very lucky for how I had crossed paths with him. He both demonstrated an impressive depth of knowledge of the subject and excellent people skills, and was a fantastic role model and forward- thinking individual.

Does this resonate with any of you? Does it ring a bell? I hope so.

This experience left me with the awareness of the key role played by teachers. In fact, they supplant the parental role and I feel that an inspirational student-teacher relationship, based on Support, can massively contribute to education.

I am now living, working and studying in this great city of London, where I have always wanted to be. I came to qualify as a fully-fledged Teacher of English as a Foreign Language. I now encourage students to believe in themselves as I feel that learning a language, like English for instance, can be truly transformative. (It can open many doors in life and enable to you to access fulfilling careers and embrace new cultures). It is important to challenge ourselves and see what we can experience outside our comfort zones, by moving and seizing opportunities in international markets.

Three years ago I qualified as a Neurolanguage Coach®. It is a very innovative and pioneering concept, founded by Rachel Paling, which embeds elements of coaching into the language learning process. The Neuroscience part comes into play to help learners achieve an ideal performing state.

In Neuroscience, Support calms down our "primitive fear centre" which is always looking out for threats. This triggers serotonin and positive chemicals that allow us to interact in a safe environment where we are less worried, more creative and able to achieve peak performance in life, and be the best version of ourselves. We are also happier achievers and more successful people if we support and receive support.  This explains the interaction between me and my teacher. It was, in fact, incredibly empowering, providing that emotional security that contributes to unlocking full potential and feeling that what you dream about can actually happen and come true. 

"Nothing is impossible. The word itself says I’m possible” (Audrey Hepburn)  

In conclusion, based on my experience, which I hoped you have enjoyed reading, I would really encourage you to connect and share your concerns. Don’t let technology take over in your relationships. We feel less important when technology is around (somebody answering a text message). Be mindful and present instead. We are designed to connect for our well-being. Support decreases stress levels and enhances positive chemicals in our brains putting us in a better mood.

I would like to give special thanks to Hannah and James for creating a safe space of trust, respect and confidentiality so that this can happen. I also felt honored to be speaking with two amazing guest speakers.   

Support is success if we help each other and so are Coaching, Cava, Networking and Confidence.

Look forward to the next event!

 Connect with Paola




Support: by Daniel Bourne

The “Big Strong Lad”

I am a former army commando and was, for a time, a high-risk searcher in Afghanistan. That particular role consisted of the unenviable task of actively looking for Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and bombs, instead of keeping away from them. I was also a physical training instructor, serving on the pre-commando training team and in a training school. Outside of my job, I was a powerlifter, covered from the neck down in tattoos. You get the picture. As they say where I’m from, I was the quintessential ‘big strong lad’… and this ‘big strong lad’ developed a really strong inner voice to support him which told him to ‘get up and go’. I could push myself physically and mentally, even during tough times – whether carrying 100lbs for 16 hours as a 19-year-old, trudging 30 miles across Dartmoor or approaching a road notorious for IEDs.

The Family Supporter

In 2012, my father had a stroke leaving him hemiplegic - unable to use the left half of his body and leaving him in a wheelchair since. Not long after that my Nan passed away, followed by my mum being made redundant and suffering a break-down. This was the start of a new role for me: ‘the family supporter’, as my mum and brother moved into my house.

I could deal with tough times but on reflection I was not equipped at all to deliver the support required. I soldiered on anyway, being the ‘rock’, or ‘big strong lad’ of support, so to speak.

Dark times

As the expression goes, ‘it doesn’t rain, it pours’ and whilst this was going on, unfortunately, a friend of mine suddenly died. I was deployed to Cyprus very shortly afterwards and didn’t have time to process the loss. Shortly after that, my sister-in-law’s partner also died suddenly. This guy was an athlete and lived his life very much like I did. It was too much: these events sent me into an anxious spiral.

I developed a health anxiety, constantly worried I was developing a debilitating disease. These were dark times for me. Nothing seemed to help.

Hearing my inner voice again

I would see doctors and psychiatric nurses, but nothing seemed to work. I was hopelessly paranoid. The only thing that seemed to calm me was my wife. She would appeal logically to my inner voice that was still there, and reaffirmed what the doctors had told me, making me realise I was catastrophising.

This lead me to realise it was logic that saved me. I knew what I had to do: I had to repurpose my ‘get up and go’ inner voice and make it battle against the anxious voice. I won't pretend that I never hear from my anxious voice, but I when I do, I recognise it and I can neutralise it pretty quickly myself.

So, thankfully, with the support of my wife and the recognition that my inner strength was still there, I regained control of my life.


●     Sometimes people with the strongest appearances (that ‘big strong lad’) could be struggling and may need support.

●     Don't undervalue your own support network: my wife knew me best, and I am so grateful for that.

●     Don’t underestimate the support you get from your own inner strength.  Reflect on: ‘Can I deal with this myself?’ and ‘How have I dealt with other tough situations?’

 Connect with Daniel




Networking, by James Herbertson

Networking is something that makes me shudder. Which may sound slightly strange for someone that has co-founded an evening with networking as one of the core principals. I have been to far too many events where it was networking for networking’s sake. And too many people, probably myself included, misconstrued this as an opportunity to sell. I came away often with a hollow feeling, and the horror story of being left stuck in the corner being lectured to on the merits of insurance or double-decker coach tours. Does this resonate?


Yet having a network is a valuable asset. Great things have happened from having a network. I have recruited team members that have gone on to be managers and hold important roles in my businesses. I have grown my companies through being introduced to partners. I have been given advice from people far better qualified. I found a buyer for my first business, Answer English. I can even be held partially responsible for three weddings, (just call me Cilla Black) from people that have met at charity & language learning events I organised, and they have gone on to marry. And by far the greatest thing that a network provides is having a group of people you can go to when faced with a challenge for support and advice.


When these positive things are seen in the context of a networking event it’s easy to concentrate on what you will receive. Good things happen from a network = go to more networking events. Hence the sales or transactional feeling. Yet to receive you need to give first. That’s why Hannah and I wanted to create an event where we would have a liked minded group of people, with a similar purpose, where you would all participate in supporting others, listening before telling, be inspired and challenged and then you would be able to carry on the conversation over a drink to celebrate your success.


Networking is not about selling. Hannah and I are both business owners so we get the desire to shout about your new company or product, did I mention Bayswater Education my new business? Networking at Coaching and Cava is about creating a network and giving first. This should be a safe environment for people to share and we should respect people’s views.


I am passionate about our industry. I know it has given me so much: learning a language taught me to communicate with people from around the world and living abroad opened my horizons. I am committed to educating and inspiring the next generation. I personally was shocked when I understood the figures that we didn’t have more equality in our industry, that despite working in education, few women became leaders in our industry. Coaching and Cava is about doing something about it. Talent should have no gender bias. Purpose is to equip the next generation of leaders of our industry through building people’s confidence, giving them support and creating a network where we can help each other be it in education or creative arts.


Now many people who attend Coaching and Cava may not naturally enjoy networking, and may have been put off networking events all together, but let me promise you that creating a network can take many forms. To give a small example: Anyone know what internationally recognised day is the 21 September? Yes, International Peace Day. As a sign of peace we decided to organise a 5-a-side football competition at Bayswater College. It also meant Friday afternoon out of the office, so no surprise how many volunteers we had. This brought together men and women from our school, our community, the industry.


For those that don’t like the idea of networking, consider this: the event brought together people that knew each other and people that didn’t from our school, community and industry, they joined in a common activity that everyone could relate to, new friendships were made, there was a social element and a team pursuit, and it was part of a far bigger goal. Call it a football match or call it networking.

International Peace Day football match

International Peace Day football match


Personally, I enjoy organising events and avoiding real work. There are of course other benefits that come from it. People that came. We had senior people in the industry e.g Steve Phillips who is the Chair of English UK, or Mark Rendell from St Giles that I was able to introduce to my team members to, who wouldn’t normally have that chance. Publicity. The event was shared online by many people on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. They all have friends, contacts and our college was at the centre of it. Association. It wasn’t the prime motivation, but we were able to associate ourselves with a much bigger organisation, a movement in fact. And we were the ones that organised it. You don’t have to go to ‘networking events’ if you aren’t comfortable there are many ways to.


A lot comes from being clear with your purpose. If you aren’t sure what your purpose is or that of your network, you may like to consider a simple idea of Sir Richard Branson. Love him or hate him he talks of an interesting circles idea in the latest edition of his autobiography Losing My Virginity: “Draw a small imaginary circle around yourself. Before you can do anything for others make sure you have the right balance and health in your own life. Only then can you draw a slightly larger circle around your home, that incorporates family, friends, neighbours and even the street outside your home. See how you can make a difference to everyone within that circle. 

If you have a bit of money, or a small company, draw a circle around the whole street or as much of the local community you feel you and your team can help. Draw up a list of things that need fixing and set about doing so. If you are a national company, draw a circle around your country and set about tackling some of the bigger issues and helping government get on top of them. 

If you are an international company, use your entrepreneurial skills to look at really big global problems and set out to address them. If every individual and every company draws circles, then soon they will overlap and we will together resolve most of the problems in the world. It’s a simple idea but I would suggest you try it and we can start a revolution of circles.”


Using Sir Richard’s template for building a network at different levels to have a deeper relationship. Starting with yourself – in our previous talks Lucinda Douglas spoke of being the best version of yourself. Have your mind in order, be physically fit and healthy. And ideally in balance. Take the time to call or write to your elder members of the family – wealth of knowledge that you can tap in to. Neighbours, have you met your neighbours? Join or organise a tidy up event. Close your street off and have a street party. Fight against an injustice a pub turning in to real estate, a bus service being stopped, rubbish littering your street, etc.


At work, lunch time – do you always sit at your desk and have a sandwich? Go out once in a while with a colleague you don’t work directly with, in a different department; bake a cake and bring it in, bring back some sweeties from a trip abroad and walk round the office and give them one by one stopping to chat with each person. When asked for help, rather than just giving the answer, ask shall we discuss this over lunch and take the time to teach someone. Don’t just launch in to it, take the time to ask how their day is, how their weekend was, last night what did they get up to. Turn up to leaving do’s. And when someone starts take the time to welcome new members e.g. at a staff meeting or better a drink after work.


Pick a cause – for Hannah I it is skilling the industry. For others it might the environment, or equality. Personally I find the Sustainable Development Goals a great place to start. Are you familiar with them? If you are not there are 17 goals including ending poverty, hunger, climate action etc. by the year 2030. If you feel passionate, contribute online, write a guest article or blog post. Hannah wrote a piece from the Desk of a guest blog for Study Travel Magazine. Or share your thoughts on Linked-in or with Jacqueline. Be a mentor and help someone else, choose a mentor for yourself.


Find people that are inspirational to you. At the last session we had three inspirational women: Sian Matos from Tti who told her story of rising to become Principal, Jane Dancaster as Managing Director and Sarah Cooper as head of the EnglishUK. Find them and ask for their advice.


And remember to give before you take. Adam Grant’s book Give and Take gives an excellent insight in to this. How there are people who take – we have all probably met people like that, people that take, they don’t reciprocate when somebody does something for them, they would seemingly rather put someone down if it means they will look better – represent about a quarter of people; givers – who are the opposite – naturally think as a team, always offering to help, willing to go out of their way to assist someone, offer advice – another quarter. And then there are the vast majority of people who are matchers – make up 50% of the planet. They are willing to give, so long as someone that takes reciprocates. Totally natural. If I buy you a round of drinks in the pub, it’s human nature to expect that that would be reciprocated. If I support you at work, when I need a favour, I am not expecting a flat-out refusal to not assist. So if you want good to come to you from an event, start with giving. Don’t start from a stand point of taking or selling. Understand your network’s challenges, introduce someone to someone, give them advice, share your experience, walk over to someone on their own…


Outside of here take the time to mentor someone; doing a learn at lunch; tackle a challenge head on. Don’t ask for a Linked-in recommendation before you have given one yourself. Give first. Then receive.


I would like to think that I have given first. Some ideas you may wish to consider. On individual level at events I like to act as a host and introduce people to each other. I try to connect people that would help each other in their careers or have shared interests. On a business level I try to have at least one mentee at any time to give them advice to help them achieve their goals. On an industry level I have joined and sit on the committees of EUK London and BETA to address challenges being faced across many businesses. And on a societal level every year I organise a Swimathon, where we have 50 people down our local swimming pool, to raise the profile of Marie Curie Cancer care and increase the fitness and health of my close friends and family.


I personally hope you get the most out of Coaching and Cava: that you meet interesting people, share and support each other… and you spread the word. See you at our next event.