10. Take Some Me-Time

Part 10 of my series on developing great leadership skills based on Girlguiding’s article here:

12 steps to becoming a great leader

“When you’re leading a group, it can be all too easy to burn out – so it’s important to take care of yourself. Practise saying no, and being polite but firm.”

So this is my guilty post.

I’m glad this is on the list though, as it justifies the recent ‘No’ I handed out.

A couple months ago I was asked to consider becoming a Peer Educator Trainer, a local session was going to be run later this year and they were looked for people aged 19-30 to train to become trainers. I loved the idea of passing on my Peer Educator knowledge and a weekend away with similar aged guiding members would be fun so I said I was interested.

Then I received the email with the details of what would be expected and I was not prepared for the amount of time this commitment would take. One weekend to train in London, completing two qualifications, and then being committed to four weekends a year anywhere nationwide, for the next three years.

At first I was excited by the prospect of gaining a preparing to teach qualification. I was considering it, although it was A LOT more than I expected. I was thinking like a day or two to train and then one weekend away later in the year, and maybe one next year! I suppose I was rather naïve, and I do completely understand why Girlguiding would want that big commitment from the people it is putting their money into training.

So I discussed it with James, and talking it through really put it in perspective. One weekend away on top of the two weekends already with the Brownies, plus the occasional volunteering at a big event and many day trips through the year was already difficult for him to hear. And I hate seeing him like that. So another four was unthinkable. And he was right. One weekend every three months, plus my Brownie commitments, plus not knowing how far I would need to travel before being at work at 9am on the Monday after.

This was a time I had to put James, and my own wellbeing, first. I said No.

I have complete respect for any Girlguiding member that takes on this commitment, I had no idea how much goes into becoming a Girlguiding trainer! From what I had previously read online I thought it would be more laid back, it was a role I had thought I would progress into but it is indeed a huge commitment and that would be one thing too many for me right now.

So I’m going to focus on my Brownies, take a few steps towards helping the local Senior Section and make sure I include some me time during each week.


5. Aim for the Sky

Part 5 of my series on developing great leadership skills based on Girlguiding’s article here:

12 steps to becoming a great leader

“Young or old, there really is no age limit on learning – and we offer plenty of opportunities to help expand personal horizons. Want to improve on safeguarding or first aid? You could try one of our e–learning modules or find out about courses run locally.”

I could work a little harder on this of recent. I cannot actually recall the last training session I attended, probably the county training the year before last. There are so many opportunities in Guiding but sometimes fitting them into your diary can be difficult.

The County I run my Brownies in runs lots of training on first aid, safeguarding, being our best, games, outdoors, etc. I suppose what makes it a little more difficult for me is that I don’t live in that County. A Saturday morning three hour training takes five hours out of my day accounting for travel. I realise this is my own fault but it does put me off trying more things.

The upside is there is lots of e-learning on the Girlguiding website. I have done the Brownie training, the Senior Section training – to prepare me for helping our Young Leaders progress – and the branding training – to ensure our unit website was consistent.

Perhaps I shall make a commitment to complete every online training – to be as prepared as possible. I will update on my progress as I complete more training.

I am in fact signed up for one County training in a few weeks which looks at PR. I would like to be better at getting the word out about Girlguiding in local newspapers, I tried this once before and it wasn’t successful. This is completely new to me so I am very excited for it!

2. Embrace opportunity

Part 2 of my series on developing great leadership skills based on Girlguiding’s article here:

12 steps to becoming a great leader

“Good leaders make an effort to constantly brush up on their abilities. We’re always amazed at the enthusiasm with which our volunteers take on new challenges, which is why we offer extensive and varied development opportunities to do so.”

One of the upsides to being a leader during my Senior Section years was that I could take on extra opportunities. Having the option to train as a Peer Educator not only allowed me to visit other units and share the knowledge I had learned but it also gave me valuable time to develop my leadership skills.

Training as a Peer Educator took me out of my comfort zone and into a weekend long training with a bunch of people of similar age that I’d never met before. It was confidence building right from the start. Over the weekend we looked at how to lead discussions with the girls, how to tackle safeguarding moments and how to spread the word about what we do.

It involved a lot of team work with a large group of people. It involved leading an activity to a group of fellow Senior Section members. It involved long periods of working with new people. It was a rather draining couple of days for me but I definitely benefitted from it.

I was then able to travel around the county meeting new leaders and their Brownies and Guides. I was welcomed into each new unit and given total control over two weeks of their programme. I created my own resources to help the sessions run smoothly.

Being a Peer Educator was an opportunity I really loved being a part of and I’m so glad I embraced it while I could.

Moving forwards, I plan to continue looking for new opportunities. One in particular I have coming up is a PR/Photography training session which I am excited for. The great thing about Girlguiding is there are plenty of opportunities to take part in. Some seem a little more confusing than others, I have often looked at outdoor activity training and have been so confused about how much work is involved. Maybe once I have the time I will enquire about how these ones work (if I have the funds for it).

Step 1. Believe in yourself

Inspired by a recent Girlguiding blog post / magazine article I am starting a series of 12 blog posts about steps to becoming a great leader and how I have tried to achieve them in the past. You can read the Girlguiding article here:

12 steps to becoming a great leader

Step 1 – Believe in yourself

“Remember: you are awesome. By staying positive, trusting yourself, and not being afraid to ask for help, you can set a great example. And keep in mind that it’s OK to fail – it’s part of learning.”

So… when have I failed in Girlguiding? And how did I overcome it?

The first thing that springs to mind was my first Brownie Holiday. Our unit did not have a licenced leader able to take Brownies away overnight, so as soon as I completed my Leadership qualification I started on this.

My mistake? Assuming more Brownies would sign up to attend and therefore under charging the parents.

There was so much interest from the girls, but out of  group of 24 only 8 girls signed up. This could’ve been parents reluctant to send their kids with a training leader, I’m not sure why the number was so low, but I started to panic I couldn’t even use the weekend toward my qualification.

Speaking to District Commissioner we managed to find three Brownies from her unit who wanted to join us making the numbers up to 11. I had the numbers for the weekend but the amount I had charged was still too low. I had to do the awful task of writing to the parents and explaining the situation. Luckily all were okay to pay extra for the trip.

It was an awful experience and one I hope never to find myself in again. I now charge a fee under the impression of a much lower number. If we have extra money we use it towards bigger activities or return some after the event.

This was very much a ‘learn from your mistakes’ moment and I have grown from it.

Another mistake I had to learn from the hard way was accepting a Brownie transfer. We had one request from a parent who’s daughter couldn’t attend her old unit due to a sibling’s medical sessions taking place at the same time, following an accident. As a charity it seemed the right thing to do, especially considering a girl had just left us unexpectedly due to a family incident.

Unfortunately this led to nasty phone calls from another parent, asking why this girl had special treatment as her daughter was wishing to move to us to join a friend, she had been on our regular waiting list. In my opinion her daughter was a completely different situation and could’ve stayed in her old unit but having these conversations isn’t the way I wish to spend a Wednesday evening.

From this I learned to run any Brownie transfer through the District Commissioner, so it can be a joint decision rather than all on my shoulders. Perhaps my decision wasn’t the right one, but from now on I’ll be getting a second opinion!

Girlguiding can be tough sometimes, and causes stress you wouldn’t want to volunteer for, but you learn from mistakes and use the support group around you to work these things out. It is these moments you develop confidence from, and the fun moments definitely outweigh these little rare moments.

Fit for Life – Phase 3

Phase 3 of an octant is a long-term commitment and should take at least 30 hours, can include gaining a qualification or teaching something to others. My Phase 3 is something I spent ten months training for…

Phase 3: Train for and complete a 10k run

With all the training I had done with ‘Couch 2 5k’ I was looking for a new challenge to keep my motivation for running. I thought it would be a good aim to look at doubling the distance I could run.

I took up my training for the 10k run in September 2014, with an aim to run Race for Life in July 2015. This gave me plenty of time to train for my goal. I signed up for the race in January 2015 and was sent information on how to fundraise, what to expect on the day and my race number. At this point I set up a training programme, a mixture of strength and stretch workouts and gradually increasing distances. Over the winter it was difficult to keep up motivation for going out in the dark to exercise so I started including weight training indoors into the schedule to improve the strength of my legs.

As the mornings became lighter I started a new training programme using my Garmin Forerunner 10 watch to time and check the distance of my running. My aim was to run 5k three times a week, with a longer run on a Sunday to build up to my 10k target.

Before the race I only completed 10k on one occasion, on Sunday 28th June. I completed this in 1 hour and 9 minutes. This was confidence building for the day as I knew I could complete it.

On the day of the 10k run I attended Chelmsford Hylands Park for the start at 1100am. Starting the race was quite daunting as I didn’t know what to expect. I’d only ever run on pavement and hadn’t run on grass before. I found the first 5k quite easy, and I seemed to be ahead of time. The race became difficult between 7km – 9km and I struggled with the hills around this section of the course. However, when I reached the sign for 500m left to go I felt a boost of energy and ran at a steady pace to the finish line.


I completed the race in 1 hour, 1 minute and 29 seconds. I was very happy to finish in a time so close to the hour, and was surprised I must’ve held a very steady pace.

Through sponsorship money I raised £195 for Cancer Research UK. I covered at least 30 hours in my training for this event, running or working out at least an hour a week over ten months.