Returning Home. In various meanings.


Credits: Krzysztof Gonciarz, (VIDEO WITH ENGLISH  SUBTITLES TOO)

In July  it will be 10 years since I relocated to the UK from Poland and I  may be getting a little bit sentimental. This video from a Polish YouTuber who relocated to Japan, quite nicely potraits how I am feeling about my own home town I am very proud of- Wroclaw, my relation to it as it changes as the time passes and the beauty of the emigration- being able to see things with a different perspective, loosing something in one sphere and gaining in another. I would add to this, that in my opinion, it is not only “us” who gain from the migration experience. I think this is also valid for those who come to interact with us immigrants, or new comers even if this is “just” from a different part of the UK. Even though I  still didn’t convince anyone to drink black tea… Had some success with green tea though!;)

I once heard, that when you decide to emigrate, you stop being “at home” in your home country- for the exact reasons shown in the video- but you are never “at home” in the “new country”- it will either be your accent, your lack of cultural context, different childhood memories etc. that will unmask you. There are moments when I am asked about how I compare working in the UK with working in Poland. The truth is, I can’t really compare. I have been working longer in the UK than in Poland and I just don’t know anymore…

At the end of the day, this really isn’t about convincing anyone to black tea (or white). The green tea only seems to have that element of universalism…

I also  heard, that today’s organisation are that place of creation of the “third culture”, a source of an identity, code of conduct, values and behaviours. Where you can have a sense of belonging either you are from the same country or not. You share a common goal, passion for what you do and how, and you thrive on collaboration, ideas sharing, creation of outcomes of your work. Where it does not matter what accent do you speak with (again on the national or international level), as long as you have something to say or ask about. Where it does not matter how you drink your tea, as long as you are happy to contribute to the tea runs (some more than others….;). Or where it does not matter (at the end of the day) which football team you support in World Cup, as long as you are happy to support your own team on the daily basis.

It is rather symbolic, but when this year I was running my first ever half marathon (this may be a topic for a different post!), I was wearing proudly  that T-shirt with “Polska” on it (and I do believe it subconsciously contributed to my rather decent pace for my level!), and I felt at the same time a sense of “being at home” for running this in Chester. It both felt good, and not mutually excluding! And I am as proudly wearing Tshirt with my employer name when representing at different events…!

What kind of working parent are you? Take the quiz- link below!

finalLast week it was a mental health week. We had an introduction to mental health at work session that talked, among others, about the importance of our thoughts. And so I wondered- what can be some of the various working scenarios that can trigger some thoughts that can make us feel in different ways?

So I came up with the below quiz! It can be fun and hopefully may cause some thinking too! Give it a go!






DisruptHR Manchester

5 mins

On the 14th March I attended the second edition of the DisruptHR Manchester.

16 speakers had 5 minutes each to present their topics! As last time, there were some really interesting topics raised and ideas worth considering.

The talks, whilst not directly linked, could be categoriesed into topics around Career development, flexible working, employer branding, recruitment and diversity & inclusion.

Below my write- up and notes.


When we are thinking about careers, we may tend to think about them as a prescriptive list of competencies, a pre-defined model. However, there is more we can do to create value and help individuals drive their development- and the solution may be a “job crafting” model which I found particularly interesting. The idea is to make the career a “bottom –up” model, where employees can play to their strengths, develop their passion, impact what and how they do, shape their roles beyond “ this is not in my job description”. Rob Baker from “Tailored Thinking” presented some great ideas on this!

Other career development talks were around rethinking our approach to the leadership development- from top down, through traditional leadership Programme, to make it more open to all. It’s not so much about the leadership competencies, it is about being open, vulnerable, enable learning, creating failing safety environment. We were encouraged to think about the leadership through creating the “lollipop moments”- check TedxTalk by Drew Dudley if you want to find out more.

Career main points:

  • Everyone can be a leader in their own ways
  • Job crafting – personalized career development
  • It can be a small change/ thing done everyday
  • There are vast information around us: how to manage it? Seek- sense- share
  • Be curious, keep learning
  • Everyone has a talent
  • Surround yourself with not-likeminded people
  • Don’t worry about “being liked”- take action, try, explore, learn
  • Example of taking part in the governance scheme shows how people can develop additional skills by taking part in various project, not necessary directly related to their day to day job;
  • Create opportunities to engage longer in an interrupted work where we can experience the “flow”


There were quite a few talks about working flexibly. They all agreed that working less hours or in a more flexible fashion can increase the productivity, make the employees more engaged and positively impact the employer’s branding.

Some key concepts from the talks:

  • We should quit “being busy” which is holding us back and we should turn into a more meaningful work
  • Flexibility and how our brain works:
  • – We should give our brain time to rest to learn, process information, create insight, be innovative and more productive
  • – We should engage more in the “flow” type of work
  • Flexibility should not be gender stereotyping and should be available to all
  • Managing work and life for working parents is difficult (and expensive). Both – work and family life are similarly important for many parents, and can be balanced. Supporting working parents and helping them be involved in both worlds, helps them increase their productivity and engagement.


Diversity and inclusion whilst not necessary mentioned directly in the presentations as the main topic, was coming through every single one of them.

It was diversity of experiences, importance of creating a “human workplace”, supporting working parents and… making flexibility not only about working parents, including other’s needs, positions, preferences. It was about surrounding yourself with non- liked minded people so you can grow and learn yourself. It was about creating (diverse) communities, benefiting from diverse, unbiased thinking, taking various perspectives, including everyone in what and how we do, creating a sense of belonging.


We are all owners of the company’s reputation, all employees are. We should think about the reputation as a lifecycle, a piece in motion, not as a one off event or intervention. We shouldn’t be guessing what our reputation is, we can find out from various data. Employer branding is done through the experiences we create for employees, how we work, and if we stand for the values.

There was an agreement that recruitment is difficult…And that the employer branding is important to help with the resourcing efforts. The main recruitment points include:

  • Don’t hire for the skills/ experience alone, hire for values alignment, person
  • Importance of the growth mindset
  • Importance of getting the whole process right; think about the recruitment in the project management terms
  • Use available technology to support
  • Candidates are your customers-treat them right!
  • Build and be mindful of your employer branding


Vicky    Vicky slide


  • Who are the leaders? We still think in a “top down” ways- Stop thinking of leaders in “them” and “us” terms;
  • Remove labels- we have leaders everywhere around us!
  • Holding a mirror- there is a need for a purpose and being true to yourself;
  • Leadership does not equal completing a leadership training!
  • Value diversity!
  • Leadership competencies are gone!-
  • Enable everyone to be a leader- play to their strengths, recognize vulnerability, get to know themselves, allow for more learning and curiosity, finding answers and failing safety.
  • If you give permission, amazing things can happen.
  • Start with the end- what are you going to achieve and develop this

Always keep open mind & have “the lollipop moment” –Tedx talk by Drew Dudley

Paul D  busy


It used to be cool to smoke in the 60s…, today it is cool to be “busy”…- “It’s crushing us, limiting us, holding us back. Mind does not have an opportunity to reflect. “My brain has too many taps open”… Choose less to be more. 4 days a week can be more meaningful, have fifth day for rest. Sleep quality, diet, movement matters. The can be your best employer brand. Role model this!

4 day working week anyone?

  • Same salary
  • Same output
  • Less working hours
  • Efficiency
  • Innovation
  • Healthier people

“There are plenty of countries on earth where people are willing to be obedient and work harder for less money than us. So we cannot out-obedience the competition. Therefore we have to out lead or out solve the other people.” Seth Godin

Rachel Reputation   Rachel slide


  • Reputation does not have to be true. Reputation is widely held and can become reality;
  • Reputation changes on environment
  • Everybody in the organization are the owners of your reputation
  • In the digital world- everybody is talking to one another, contributes to the perception of the company
  • Employer’s job: understand how you are perceived as an employer and listen to understand.
  • It is possible to evidence who you are
  • Begin to think about the reputation as a life and dynamic piece in motion
  • Stop guessing how you are being perceived as an employer brand; start knowing

Rob Baker Tailored thinking


Encourage a bespoke work environment. People are different and job change. We should be “job crafting” around passion of an individual. We expect everyone to act ad behave same way, which is a waste of time.

Work should be more personal and more agile; use people’s strengths, how?

Job crafting:

  • Think about it “bottom up”: driven by individual; build on trust
  • It can be about really small change, you can think small- what can you do 5 minutes a day to make a change/ progress?
  • Managers should be on board and be more interested about people
  • Be curious, shift element of the job,
  • It is important to know how you connect with the job

Donna Smith    Dona Flexi


  • Be bold with how you work more flexibly
  • Re-write gender stereotypes around working flexibly (it should not be only about working parents!)
  • Challenge assumptions.
  • Create and share flexible story
  • Studies show that we can be healthier, less stressed
  • Time for flexibility to be for different purposes, for example time for volunteering
  • Flexibility not for gender/ background and more available for all; their example: someone training to be a sommelier
  • “People value the work I do and insights I provide, not that I am being available”
  • It’s not about advertising flexibility on the jobs, it is just how we do things

parenthood   parenthood 2.png


  • “I was never there”
  • Good to show to children that work has a purpose; enjoy what you do at work & life- work and life are both important and there should be room for both
  • There is only one chance to watch your kids grow up
  • Support flexibility to help me and other working parents perform to their best
  • “Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life
  • If you have the power to make someone happy, do it. The world needs more of that.

museum    MUSEUM 2



  • There is so much information around us to get our heads around
  • We need to be always learning.
  • Hard to keep hold of info/ article
  • Learn from a museum approach of curation:
  • “Curation is a way of seeing out a wide range of information, making sense of it in our own context, and sharing that with others”
  • Seek, sense, share
  • Seek: network, YouTube/Vimeo, Face to face, podcasts, journals, blogs, books etc. & research more than googling it!
  • Sense: is this credible?
  • Share: Why? Who? When? Channel? Always put in the context and think about the value!
  • Keep the right mindset: be curious, think about the intent, add value to the information, use various tools: blogs, Evernotes, flip board; get into right habit like labeling information

Experience    Experience 2


  • Memorable experiences, moments of meaning, connected communities;
  • Experience of work is made of moments – engineer moments of employee experience.
  • Help these moments happen.
  • Expectations: We’re only human- and humans should be at the center of the organization, care more; Employee experience is a human experience!
  • It is “human” to co-create, collaborate-connect the communities
  • Basics: building a social fundament based on trust
  • To create a holistic experience
  • HR need to become an architect, facilitator, innovator to business and employees
  • Stand for values
  • Physical workplace is transforming
  • Business and human results


Michelle  Michelle 2


  • Recruitment is broken; hard, difficult, expensive
  • Hiring managers and candidates hate it
  • Employees are not engaged
  • CV’s can be written by professionals, interviews are not predictable / reliable; references are not allowed; 10 year old job description
  • More predictable way: measure the right things :“not right fit”- but how do you measure culture: goals, leadership, the team: what are they doing, gaps -how do they all added to culture;
  • Look at individuals values aligned with organization motives
  • Look for growth mindset person.
  • Don’t hire for skills alone, hire the human.


Like 1  Like 2


  • We can end up being really motivated by the pursue of “like”
  • The danger of “Likeminded people”; “poor performance”= “not like me”- We are biased.
  • The power of likability in a status obsessed…
  • Alternative? Stop worrying for being liked;
  • People may be paralyzed from taking actions worrying if this will be liked? For example- writing a blog post- will people like this? Stop giving a toss about it, start doing, start surround yourself with not like –minded people, recognize that everyone has talent.
  • Helping people who are not like us.
  • The UNLIKE Manifesto:
  1. Focus on impact, not likes
  2. Focus on people unlike me



  • The role of a School governance is to hold teacher to the account, it is about vision, strategic leadership
  • Operating within the Nolan principles; Make more diverce;
  • Develop broader skills
  • You give something back, and you get a great opportunity to develop your leadership, strategic skills; you will work with various people of different background and experience and you can enrich your own experience through that
  • 5-8 hrs. a month
  • “Join250k”



  • Crowd sourcing : to generate ideas, brainstorm, expertise problem solving
  • Diversity at the center : getting together, minimize bias, continues improvement
  • Optimization: power of the crowd; spread the work; 2 weeks to write 700 items!
  • Develop social work;
  • We don’t want to make bias; geographically spread
  • Quality over quantity
  • Engage with community
  • Respond to feedback

Flow   FLOW



  • Flow: inside zone, immerse in the activity, get the “laser like focus”
  • Feel good state
  • At this point of brain: slow, new neurons fire together; they stay active for 2 days, afterwards- we use different part of the brain; learning is enhanced
  • We stay in the moment when in a long, uninterrupted work;
  • Clear goals increase flow
  • Immediate feedback helps us improve
  • Social factors- create the sense of community,
  • Flow is awesome: helps taking decisions faster, we get more creative, we feel fantastic
  • Advocate for our talent to stay more in that state of flow
  • Measure outcome of- stats of the result of the time spent in the flow



  • “Call the poet” when you want to do things differently..
  • “Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words”
  • Schools treat children as if they were made of clay
  • How do we prepare people for creativity?
  • Purpose, autonomy, mastery
  • Know yourself
  • Words have power

Culture Fit    Culture Fit 2


  • “Culture fit”- why did we kill it? Because of how we use it –recruiters say that blanket statement to reject candidates we don’t like (“It’s because of the culture fit”)
  • Bias make is death for diversity
  • Culture- what does it mean?
  • Align the candidates with your core values
  • Mind the skills gap
  • Put people in environment where they are motivated
  • Offset against our values

Emma   Emma 2


Key areas to approach to recruitment:

  1. Project Management:
  • Poorly planned and you are losing the candidate
  • Have you reserved time for each of the stages?
  • What are the expectations- they should be appropriate to the level
  • – Top talent is on the market for a very limited time: the recruitment cycle should be fast & professional;
  1. Utilizing technology:
  • Video skyping better than telephone: 55% body language- use it next time!
  1. Candidates are customers.
  • Build reputation
  • All candidates should be feeling positive
  • At least 1 constructive feedback
  • Ask them to endorse you on social media
  • If you don’t treat them well- they will leave the negative one
  • Thank them!
  • Let them be your brand ambassadors!







Flexible working and accountability


The past month had been under the Scandinavian theme for my family as we visited Denmark and Norway. When you are in a place like Copenhagen, and you work in HR, it is hard not to reflect on the work-life balance Scandinavia is known for. On top of that, I have attended a meeting on the Flexible working. I liked how it was positioned- the company knew they needed to relocate their staff to a new city, so the problem sparkled creativity and so they started working on the flexible working strategy way before the actual move.

There was a lot discussed at the panel, and from various perspectives. The opening question being – is flexibility that answer to all?

We know that flexibility is being discussed, we‘ve heard or experienced the benefits of it and have  seen some of the challenges.

However, the two aspects I would like to particularly focus on are accountability and accessibility:

  1. Flexibility and accountability.

Becki Taylor, one of the panel’s organisers, said:

“ Where I’ve seen it work well it is the managers being able to manage in terms of output, not the hours”.

This for me is probably the most important aspect of flexibility. I believe that the flexibility works really well where there is an accountability and capability. Flexibility is just exposing the health of an organisation- if we can apply it and it works – we are doing the right things- if we apply and it does not work, we may want to look for the root cause, but that will not be the flexibility itself.

I used to work for a company that was introducing a broad flexibility. How much better it was to have the conversations with managers where I could skip the part about “what is the policy about core hours” and get to the bottom of the problem. Someone was coming late? Someone was calling in sick? How great it was to have a conversation about the root cause rather than symptom and so not to talk about warnings and triggers. We could talk about performance, motivation and manager’s personal challenges. Hours as such taken off the table, we could discuss one’s performance, manager’s confidence and areas of focus. This really provided us with so much more meaningful perspectives and attention to the real desired outcome.

Those things don’t come without challenges. As one of the panellist said-   there are challenges around roles that can’t have this level of flexibility and hence causing some sense of fairness issues (even if well understood), meetings and accountabilities, trust and maturity. We know that there is nothing like “personal touch” and face to face communication.

The flexibility can take various forms:  working from home, working in a café’, starting in the morning, having a break and finishing in the evening, arriving to the office after the school run, or a run, after the rush hour, and returning before the rush hour. It needs to come with self- discipline, self awareness (as individual and organisation), responsibility, and also tools to support that. And yes, there is also health and safety to consider- whereabouts, staying in touch, desk assessment, social well-being. This is also when this magic word trust comes into play.

Some ideas for increased accountability may include:

  • Setting expectations (both ways)
  • Focus and direction
  • I like “The five dysfunction of the team” prescription for accountability which comes from a place of vulnerability, lack of “artificial harmony” and ambiguity, increased commitment and focus on common goals
  • Shared vision and value
  • We are accountable when we care, we care when we are cared for
  • Shared passion*

*Passion may be seen as overrated, but I would not underestimate that. I think that passion can drive high standards among the team. I experienced that years ago when I attended a music school where, unlike in the “normal” school, everyone was doing their homework, putting lots of effort in practicing and being prepared. We were all supportive and “positively” competitive at the same time. There was no hiding away, asking for test to be postponed or cancelled and we were pulling each other’s up rather than down. And I do know something about it, as I was not as talented as most of my peers.

Which brings me to the second point around flexibility-

  1. Flexibility is not only good for carers!

I am a mother myself, and cannot rate enough the importance of having flexible hours to be able to do the school run/ collect the kids/ attend their activity days/ plays etc. And how important this is for me that not only my employer is so understanding, but also my husband’s is. It would have not worked as well, if I was the only one to enjoy that flexibility!

However, there is another side to it too.

Quoting after Ricardo Semler, “The Seven-Day Weekend”:

“Why can we send emails on a Sunday, but can’t go to theatre on a Monday ”?

For many years I was hard on myself for being just average in perusing my hobbies: playing the piano, running, taking pictures or writing posts like this oneJ But quite recently I came across a great podcast that offered some consolation- it is good to engage in many, potentially unrelated activities, as this helps making brain connections, drive ideas and creativity. I strongly recommend to listen to this podcast:

Of course, just giving flexible working won’t increase our level of innovation, but sparking and nourishing interests can.

The trick is to create a culture, where flexibility is not perceived as only for carers. Or because it is a way to retain staff. Flexibility should be part of a wider philosophy, promoting diversity of thoughts, interest and personalities.

Whilst providing full flexibility is not really that easy, braving it can help employers strengthen their both- caring and performing culture. It requires a level of maturity, understanding of impacting factors and ability to adapt and change.

I know how we all love having measures of success and how many organisations claim to be a flexible working employers. So I have thought of my own measures of success on the national scale- and this when the meaning of “rush hour” will change, or when there will be not so obvious difference between half term and not half term traffic….



On the 11th October I’ve attended a DisruptHR event in Manchester. It was in an interesting format as there were 12 speakers who had only 5 minutes each (and they stuck to it!). I think that it actually worked well and we could take something out of this. The next one is confirmed for March 2018- check the details here!

The below is my subjective write- up on the event, that could be summarised as: 

Ways of working– create good habits, make everyday efforts to practice, think about your “why”- the purpose,  and bring value in whatever you do; cover the basics; things progress in daily efforts and practice.

Interaction– the future of work is…human! Support each others, be inclusive, people are our branding and it happens through the way we interact with them, let’s create communities and collaborate, let’s break the silos!

Learn and develop– I am a little bit obsessed with Carol Dweck’ s  growth mindset… and so for me it was good to see her work being referenced to in different presentations. The key messages for me in the learning and development context were: neuroplasticity and ability of our brain to be re-wired, the importance of growing our talents, being curious, aiming for the best, being reflective and purposeful;

Over to the presenters (and my notes):

Ben Gledhill

·         You don’t own the employer brand, your people do!

·         Job ads should be telling your story, don’t copy and paste job descriptions.

·         Social media should shout the EVP.

·         Everyone has an employer branding… it is what your employees are saying about you.

Caroline Dakin

·         I really liked this one: “ My brain has too many taps open…”.

·         You can train your brain- neuroplasticity that talks about ability to re-wire our brain.

·         We need to have good sleep! Yes, we do!

·         Be open to change!

·         Taking care of the protection factors:

1)      Psychological

2)      Physical: habits and practice

Good to think how we design our interaction around these two elements – it is about mentoring, wellness, educating people.

Stuart Blythe

·         Using sport analogy, the conclusion was to recruit the best talent and train them, which will automatically grow succession.

·         The only job of Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola is to find talent and to train them.

·         Clients often say that they would like an easier life and stop fire-fighting; the solution is to have:

1)      Clear vision

2)      Motivated people

3)      Best talent

 The common challenges with this are: fog vision, demotivated people and not the best talent.

Ian PettigrewIan’s presentation was resonating particularly well with me, as he was talking about different concepts, researches and findings in the field of HR and the possible disagreements it may be causing in the HR debate. For example, do we encourage success or celebrate failure; are we driven to help people or “When helping hurts”? Should we listen to our gut feelings or look for evidence based HR? etc.

 The answer is: It Depends! It is all in the context and it is often both.

Sandy Wilkie

·         HR is often found working in silos and not working with other departments, HR included.

·         HR spends too much effort on saying what people can’t do rather than what they can.

·         Quoting after Lucy Adams “stop making the irrelevant more efficient”, let’s create real value.

·         Focus more on enabling rather than creating rules.

·         Quoting after Urlich- we should adapt a more holistic approach to our work.

·         Treat workplace and think about it as of communities.

·         “HR should be beautifully messy”!

And interestingly, it takes the “DisruptHR” to come to a conclusion, that the future of work is …human!

Kate Vokes

·         Let’s talk what success means to us, more than the job title.

·         Simon Sinek and his “Start with why”.

·         Quoting Albert Einstein “Try not to become a person of success, but rather try to become a person of value”.

·         And a quote I particularly liked… a little bit of a reassurance in our daily struggles… “The ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones that do”.

·         Examples of Zappos and their self- managing teams.

·         We should get comfortable in leaving in the shades of grey.

·         Daniel Pink and his autonomy, purpose and mastery.

·         We should think about hierarchy versus network more.

My take on this is to encourage thinking what is our why and what value do we want to bring.


Gary Cookson·         Interesting take on the work- life balance and how those two can interchange through our lives giving spaces for hobby and work, clearing the mind and moving things forward.

·         My take: similar concept to the “Seven day weekend” and to this podcast:

Stephen Russel

·          Stephen talked about “deliberate practice”; used example from the sport day: for business everyday is the match day, we feel like we don’t have time to practice and we loose time, but we should find time to practice and getting better. Long term it pays off. It is like rugby players in training for peripheral vision so they can spot the ball quicker.

·         We should have permission to talk about basics.

·         Check out the Feynman technique.

·         “Champions don’t do extraordinary things. They do ordinary things, but they do them without thinking, too fast for the other team to react. They follow the habits they’ve learned” – Tony Dungry- Super bowl winning coach.

Mark Gilroy

·         Pay attention to the words we choose – i.e. talent pool- which sets a limitation.

·         Talent isn’t fixed, can be leveraged and grown.

·         Carol Dweck and the importance of the growth mindset.

·         Danger of using grids and boxes.

·         Huge importance of the context and talent will flex.

·         Talent isn’t about you versus company, it is about us; it is contagious.

·         Importance of inclusion, curiosity.


NAthan Quriach

·         Tech versus candidate experience- research outcomes.

·         62% graduates candidates would like to have more feedback from employers.

·         Graduate recruiters lack resources, staff and access to an audience to help them achieve their targets and exist in a hugely competitive market.

·         Organisations lack budget and time to build a positive candidate experience.

·         For grads learning through practice is pivotal.

·         Pick up the phone…- experience on a CV might not convey what you are hoping to see but an honest chat with a candidate could do.


Chris Haynes

·         Key is in the control of attention- what is happening now and not what could have happened.

·         Control circles: what you can control versus what you can’t, what you can influence.

·         Predictable source of pressure: Expectations, Scrutiny, consequences.

·         Predictable responses to pressure: Aggressive, Passive, Escape.

·         Importance of the growth mindset.

Laura Taylor

·         First impressions are permanent and they are accurate at 70%, which happens within first 4 seconds!

·         Smile is a reward!

The night concluded with  an encouraging  video on How to start a movement  

I am looking forward to the March Edition of DisruptHR Manchester!




Managing when you Speak English as a Second Language

translation 1   translating

(Photo: tourist using Polish phrase book in Krakow’s market)

I recently came across a Lifeworks resource for managers titled “Managing Employees Who Speak English asa Second Language” (you can search for it if you have the Lifeworks account). I found this guide useful and quite naturally it made me reflect on my own experience as a non native speaker.

I still remember how 9 years ago it took me at least good 30 minutes before making my very first work phone call in English. It was a very simple conversation I was about to have, but it really stressed me. I now deliver training, always pick up the phone first rather than write an email. After all, I work in HR, and I talk to people on the regular basis. I may not be afraid of making phone calls anymore, but I am still very self- conscious when it comes to my accent and my use of English.

This is my subjective guide on managing ourselves whenwe speak English as a Second Language:

  1. Don’t assume native speakers would know how it is to speak English as a second language. As Wislawa Szymborska wrote: “we know about ourselves only what we’ve been tested”; Unless you were in a situation yourself, it is rather hard to expect that people would just know how it feels, which brings me to the next point:
  2. Help others help you. Raise awareness on how it is for you not to be fluent in English or to be coming from a different country. Don’t be afraid to share your challenges, insecurities that lack of fluency may bring, ask for patience and be patient yourself!
  3. Appreciate that it may be hard for others to understand you- don’t take it personally and do your bit! (see point 4)
  4. Immerse yourself in the language- read, listen to the radio, podcasts, audiobooks. Use dictionaries. Sign up for English lessons, ask your colleagues to correct you, ask for feedback, pay attention to how the words are pronounced. Slow down if need to (something I really need to work on!), talk to people and practice.
  5. Did I mention something about not taking it personally…? Well, as tempting as it may be, don’t just jump into conclusion that if things don’t go your way, it must be only because of your language skills. Be honest with yourself and evaluate the root causes. Ask for help, talk to your manager and HR (of course!).
  6. Expand on the ways you communicate with others and showcase your point of view: write a report, an essay, summarise your points in an email, prepare a presentation, engage with people who can represent you, build on your strengths.
  7. Come prepared to meetings- don’t know the exact agenda? Ask for one!
  8. Ever felt silly about not getting a joke, asking for a sentence to be repeated for you, not being understood? Well, it is good to remember that this does not reflect on your capabilities nor intelligence. Don’t be afraid to ask for the joke to be explained to you (often you will find that there is a cultural context you were missing on), ask your colleagues to speak slower, try different ways of putting your point across, don’t give up and don’t pretend you understood something if you didn’t- you may be agreeing to  or with something you would rather not to!
  9. I would like to believe that longer term, it is not what accent you speak with,  but what you do and how you approach the challenges that speaks who you are.
  10. Engage with people who show interest in your multilingualism, even if you find the question to be very obvious. If someone asks- share your experiences and offer insights. I’ve always had great conversations which started with questions like- do you take notes in English or in Polish? What language are you thinking in? What language do you speak at home? Are your children bilingual? How do you teach them Polish etc.. I actually only recently understood why people asked me if I took notes in English. It was so obvious to me that this was the only way of doing it that I could not see pass it! It was only after having a very interesting conversation with a colleague of mine when I realised people may imagine that when we speak another language, we “translate” it back and “overhear” it into our own language. As my colleague concluded- it isn’t as using google language tools- seeing a sentence in one language to the left and its translation to the right! We just “get it” the same way native speakers do. Unless we don’t, but then we would not be able to take note of it in our language either!:)
  11. Living in a foreign country may make impact your sense of belonging in both. Communicate, engage, immerse, reach out, stay in touch, be patient. Be proud of your own culture, appreciate and embrace the culture you are living in / working with.
  12. I found that being from a different country makes me see certain patterns, behaviours, culture traces as through a magnifying glass. It raises my self- awareness and awareness of others. Isn’t it great to embrace it?!
  13. Be aware of your own biases! And don’t stereotype others (yes, we -non native speakers- can do that too, -let’s not!).
  14. There may be colleagues who would love to take opportunity to exchange their langue skills for yours! In my first UK work, I’ve organised a “language for language” group among colleagues who were happy to teach each others language they spoke, native English speakers included.Get engage in work initiatives on diversity and inclusion. You don’t have one? Start one!
  15. Not to mention organising national cuisine days or treating your colleagues to your national sweets (I do it too- there is nothing like a good culture immersion excuse to eat chocolate!;)

I like to have my tea black (and green), I like fish and chips on a Friday. When speaking in English, I tend to overuse plural forms (apparently so), I speak fast thinking it masks my accent, but it really only magnifies it… I don’t always like to answer “fine” when asked how I am, but I like how useful it is to use “how are you” to start a conversation…I talk with my family and friends in Polish, I read and write mainly in English. I find it so hard to speak about work related aspects in Polish, as all sentences and words come to me in English first, even thought that with a Polish accent. As much as I sometimes feel trapped in my accent or the two realities, I could not be more grateful for the opportunities, perspectives and insights my multilingualism brings to me! And I could not be more grateful to all my British colleagues over the years for being patient, understanding, accepting and ever so helpful with me!

Making train connections. And connecting.




I was recently travelling on a train from London. The train was full, there were delays and cancellations, I’ve managed to get a sit though. Maybe there was something about the unusual (?) situation with many trains being cancelled, maybe there was that mixed sense of gain and lost when we heard that the train was declassified (but could not be bothered to change the sit after feeling happy to get one in the first place), maybe it was just the right moment and place, but a magic happened and I made a connection with other co-passengers whilst connecting trains.

It was four of us- strangers who happened to sit next to each others- chatting, smiling, advising, asking, answering, sharing, listening.

It felt so good! Even better than checking the Facebook feeds (Sic!). We all talked about how nice this spontaneous conversation made us feel!

In fact, there is something special about making connections between people, and Jan Hills from HeadHeart+Brain actually called social connection a “super power”- check the full article here. She says:

“Our well-being depends on connections with others: this is a primary need in the brain. (In other words Maslow got his hierarchy of human needs wrong: physical needs followed by safety needs, followed by social needs… Social relationships are as essential as food, water and shelter.)”.

Whilst I am not actively encouraging to talking to strangers, this train journey did remind me of how special making connection can be, and how good it makes us feel. Placing this reminder in a HR context, and quoting after the article, these are examples of how the need for social connection plays out in business policy and practice that is worth exploring:

Trust in the workplace


Social rewards



Connecting trains got me also to my destination, and on the way I found a dose of inspiration – more in the video. 

sparking connections