At Capitalise, I lead our customer-facing education journey for the thousands of accountants and business advisers we’ve partnered with – empowering them to support their SME clients with accessing capital. For the most part, that means delivering our face to face education sessions (digitally now in a post COVID world), as well as designing and creating new online courses and materials.
So far this year, I’ve worked directly with over 500 UK advisers and have seen almost the same pass through our online courses. So, it’s fair to say that education is a bit of a passion of mine, although it’s not always been that way!
Last week whilst reorganising some old boxes, buried deep beneath some bad photos (and some equally epically bad hair cuts), I found a single old school report booklet.
I remember liking school. I was a popular kid – sporty (well I played rugby) and I was good at what I was good at. But I struggled having not come from a family that particularly valued education. I remember that, on the whole, I had to motivate myself and keep myself focused. There was no ‘you need to do your homework’ prompts from either of my parents. I’d find out many years later I actually had a mild form of dyslexia which no doubt compounded the reasons why I found things challenging. The fact that my felt frustration was often displayed in less than productive ways led me to be branded as a ‘troubled student’. In English – I got a LOT of detentions. There were a few rocky years for sure (okay years one through four mostly).
But I had BIG goals. At the time, I wanted to be a Pilot in the RAF. As an 80’s kid, my favourite film was Top Gun, and I had visions of fighting Migs over the sea, much like Tom Cruise did. I always considered Iceman was talking to me when he told Maverick “You Can Be My Wingman Anytime”. Deep down, I wanted to learn. To be good. To be the first in my immediate family that had an education and a stable career. Maybe even one day to own my own house!
And thanks to a few fantastic teachers, a tough headmaster (but one who I guess saw my potential) and a better circle of friends, in year five things turned around. I got good enough GCSE’s to go to sixth form and then onto University where I left with a respectable 2:1. I never became a pilot (I ended up falling in love with films more and followed that career path) but for the most part, I guess, I ended up doing well.
I guess the lesson here is that even if someone seems a lost cause it may not be the case. Maybe at a different school, I would have been rejected or ignored. I would have left school with no qualifications and with a very different career ahead. Sometimes we need further guidance or a new approach, or maybe a nurturing environment that will help us truly find and fulfil our potential.
This isn’t always down to the individual to identify and call out, though. As leaders and businesses owners, you have a responsibility to see the bigger picture. The failure of an individual can often be more of a reflection of their circumstance, rather than on them directly.
Today in 2020, we are lucky to have a world of educational resources at our fingertips. Want to learn Spanish? Pick up Duolingo. Need to tune a Guitar? Head to the App Store or YouTube. Need professional coaching? Just go online and find one of a million gurus, coaches and experts. But we need to create an environment where people are encouraged to learn, and they are encouraged to be their best selves. Investing in people and their personal development will only improve and strengthen a business as a whole.