In 2008 my mobility was severely restricted. It stemmed from a calamitous gymnastic accident at the age of 15. As my mobility deteriorated, I just accepted it as an inevitable consequence of my accident.
Blind perseverance nearly crippled me
As the years went by my mobility deteriorated further. I pushed myself to use the stairs rather than lifts whenever I was out and about. Whenever possible I walked between meetings in London rather than use the underground. My priority was to keep as fit as possible.
I relied on the magic of an exceptional chiropractor to keep me as upright and as mobile as possible. But eventually I had to admit that this was not a long-term strategy. My destination appeared to be a wheelchair; the prospect was horrendous.
I learned that folk looked at my face to gauge my level of pain. When it was particularly bad they said I resembled a panda with my pale skin and big black eyes; not a good look. I perfected the art of finding something to lean against whenever I had to be on my feet.
I continued to work but inevitably had to limit my assignments. Driving any distance became very difficult forcing me to arrange for a local taxi driver to ferry me to clients around the country. We became friends, spending many hours on the highways and byways. He was slightly deaf, so I frequently had to be reminded there was no need to shout when I arrived home.
I became rather irritable, and the fun went out of life. Laughter became an infrequent visitor which cannot have been fun for my family and friends.
Articulating the problem enabled me to resolve it
The crunch came when I found I could not step over a railway sleeper without using my hands to lift my leg. This was the catalyst that prompted me to seek medical help from an orthopaedic consultant. He told me I had severe osteoarthritis in both hips and less than ten percent movement. No wonder I found walking exceedingly difficult and a constant pain. I just thought this ‘normal’ and something I couldn’t change.
The issue was addressed by having both hips replaced with eight weeks between the two operations. I was assured that my new hips would outlive me!
Overcoming the odds is truly liberating
My operations were transformative. They took the strain off my spine and enabled me to move more freely. Amazingly I was no longer in constant pain and could look forward to a more normal life.
I recognised I had to plan my recuperation. I did not want to ‘run before I could walk’ and risk injuring myself. Hip replacements are something you do not want to repeat.
At the time I had an apartment in a converted Victorian mental hospital. Climbing the fifty- five stairs to get to my bedroom and bathroom was something of a challenge, but with time was doable.
The grassy area in front of the building was enclosed by a pavement which measured a mile. This was ideal for my early attempts to walk, remembering that I had no ‘good leg’; both were recuperating.
Like a snail hobbling on crutches, I initially walked round the circuit in an hour. This was my daily activity gradually increasing my pace to a more normal twenty minutes an hour. I went to a health club to build my flexibility and stamina, and twenty months later was able to join a friend walking a half marathon in Kirkcudbright. Patience and perseverance paid dividends.
The sky is the limit when you accept help
As I recovered my friends remarked how well I looked. I was brighter and my face had lost the haggard panda look. I felt energised. My outlook was more positive. I could think more clearly and concentrate more easily. My decision-making was more focused and better. Joy and laughter came back into my life. I stopped being a grumpy grouch.
I came to realise I could be active and lead a fuller life again. My enforced inactivity had been difficult, so the prospect of throwing off the shackles was fantastic. My love of the outdoors and walking with friends was reignited.
I joined the ramblers in Warwickshire and teamed up with a great walking companion; together we became keen hill walkers. Sadly he moved out of the area, ending our weekly expeditions to the hills. I decided if I couldn’t get to the hills as a matter of routine the answer was to move to them. I relocated to Derbyshire Dales, giving me easy access to the hills whatever the weather.
I quickly made new friends with like-minded hill walkers. Some of the routes we embarked on were outside my comfort zone, but I always rose to the challenge.
I may be slower up the steep hills and take extra care when scrambling over the crags, but my walking companions always wait for me. They are not over-protective but will come to my aid when needed. When conditions are hazardous, I am cautious, not wanting to risk a disastrous fall; then a steady hand will appear to make sure I stay upright. My friends are a joy to be around offering help, support, and a great many laughs.
We watch each other’s backs, and that gives me the confidence to undertake walks I would be unable to do by myself. I’m always pleased when I am not last up the hill and can offer help and companionship to others.
Leadership teams and hill walkers are great role models for each other
Before we go hill walking we need to know:
- Does everyone know the starting point?
- Have we agreed where we are going?
- Has someone got a route to get us there?
- Are there any particularly tricky sections?
- Does everyone have the right kit?
- Does anyone have any concerns?
- Is everyone happy to do the walk?
- Does the weather forecast suggest we may have to shorten or alter the walk?
- Has the walk leader got a plan if this becomes necessary?
- Will there be a pub or café stop at lunchtime?
These are exactly the same things you should be considering around as a Board; is there a destination and strategy that everyone has signed up to; have you done the risk assessment and prepared for change should the circumstances change; is the leadership equipped to get everyone on the same page, able to play their part in securing the long-term goals?
Whether striding over the hills or sitting at a Board meeting we need to recognise the temperature and temperament of the group, to make interventions that can mitigate the difficulties, and get everyone focused on an agreed approach. In both cases there is enormous satisfaction when a difficulty has been addressed and a good solution found.
Serious walkers love the challenge of a new walk. We are at our happiest clambering up unfamiliar hills, discovering new paths, and scanning the wonderful views. It is a real antidote to the demands of work and daily life. We live in the moment; we don’t have time or inclination to dwell on the things that trouble us in the office or at home. By not focusing on the problems, a solution to a tricky issue can suddenly reveal itself. It is just like our sleep. The brain keeps working at a subconscious level which is a great asset.
The characteristics of the individual are also important: flexibility, tenacity, adaptability, happy to embrace the unfamiliar. Above all, we know we need to work together, to help each other, and to make sure that we are all committed to the same plan.
If these characteristics are exhibited in the Board and Executive you will be able to harness a willing and committed workforce.
You may be facing new terrain or uncertain conditions in your business. An organisation in this position invited Kennedy work with them so that they were better able to offer essential services to the NHS. Have a look at how they navigated the challenge here.
If you’d like to see how Kennedy can help your business contact us today.