Most Socially Influential Employee

One of the coolest things happened in work. I got an email from our social media manager letting me know that I had emerged as the most ‘Socially Influential Employee’ at Post Office for December. Apparently it was due to the reach of my tweets about last posting dates and my experience as a ‘Christmas Maker’ in St John’s Wood Crown Office in the lead up to Christmas. (See picture above)

This made me feel super proud. I even featured on a PowerPoint slide!

It was in fact this time last year that I was counting down to the redundancy scrap heap when the lovely Vicki Thacker at Fraser Jones called me to talk through an opportunity. As usual she described the role and asked what I thought, only then telling me the name of the organisation. I think my initial reaction was “POST Office?! I’m not really sure I see myself somewhere like that.” My perception of the organisation was that it was a bit ‘old school’ and somewhat dated in its offer and approach.

I saw myself as fitting better into an organisation which was forward thinking, would allow me to innovate and create, and which wasn’t ridden with red tape which would mean I’d struggle to deliver anything meaningful.

Aside from a short-lived stint in vocational education, I’d spent pretty much the whole of my professional career to date in blue chip FTSE 100 organisations and so a dalliance into the public sector seemed an illogical move.

But I went along for the interviews, got offered the role and, as I approach my one-year anniversary in March, I’m so proud to be part of an organisation that’s going through one of the most exciting business transformations in the UK.

I’m still amazed at how few people know that Post Office is no longer part of Royal Mail Group. In fact, the organisations separated in April 2012 as Royal Mail Group prepared to privatise.

Whilst commercially The Post Office will continue to sell its award winning range of Financial Services products such as insurances, travel money and mortgages, its branches are pivotal in providing communities with the front office of government with checking passports and issuing tax discs, pensions and benefits payments. We also offer Royal Mail Group’s mail services.

The three things I love most about working at the Post Office:

1. Being a learning and development professional here is so cool. I look after leadership development and, as Royal Mail Group had historically owned the curriculum, I have the opportunity to grow the function organically. I’m not battling with legacy programmes or frameworks. We’ve launched refreshed behaviours, a leadership framework and had the benefit of designing our approach to developing our senior leaders, working alongside some fantastic organisations. I also have the opportunity to innovate with technology and champion cutting edge app-based social learning. Again, very cool.

2. I work with the most fabulous people. Our Chief HR Officer has pretty much built her HR leadership team from scratch in the past twelve months and they in turn have had the opportunity to do the same. Yes we’re lean but the people I work with are bright and creative yet realistic and pragmatic. I also have a brilliant boss which is often so hard to come by. It feels so good to be part of a team that’s beginning to earn its stripes as a strategically aligned partner to the wider business.

3. There is a sense of collective desire to want to make a difference. From the colleagues I worked alongside in branch at Christmas to the staff who work in our supply chain operation, the subpostmasters and everyone in between, we all want to be part of transforming the organisation into a commercially performing business yet retaining our social purpose. I love that our advertising slogan is ‘handled with care’ as I really do feel there is an appetite to live that statement in the way we all go about our daily business whether referring to our customers, our products, or indeed the way we treat each other.

Yes there are invariably moments when I feel like the mountain is steep and high and I’m never going to get there. I sometimes wish I could win the lottery and become a lady who lunches rather than have to go to work but I think we all secretly aspire to a life where the corporate treadmill is less of a necessity and more of a choice.

And right now this is my choice. We are in the middle of recruiting our 2014 graduates and I’m hoping I will be able to spread some of my enthusiasm for the business so that they feel as excited about wanting to join us as I do almost one year in.

I feel so proud to work for such an iconic UK brand which continues to serve and support the communities in which it operates and I look forward to playing a part in its future.

Gabriella x

PS All views are my own and not those of my employer.
PPS Do you want to know more about our products and services?!


Mysterious Girl

Being a Dryathlete™ has definitely made me more mysterious. FACT.

I know this because every time I’ve gone into my local since it opened last year, one of my favourite bar men (Joao, see pic above) knows that I like a glass of prosecco with a (quartered) strawberry in it. When I went in on Thursday it was a whole new experience. Aware of my new Dryathlete™ status he was unsure of what I’d go for. A woman of mystery indeed! Peter Andre would have been intrigued.

So rather than embarking on a simple cork-popping exercise, he got chopping with a rather juicy looking water melon, some apple, cucumber and mint. Add to that some crushed ice and he basically made me a Mr Frosty* with none of the nastiness. And it didn’t turn my tongue blue either.

Ahhhh…. Mr Frosty.

In other alcohol-avoiding outings last week, the ‘Quizz and Fizz’ at Searcy’s champagne bar was actually fine too. It was on the upstairs concourse at St Pancras station and it was so cold that we were given a heater, blankets and a hot bottle to keep warm. I can confirm that sheepskin mittens look much better wrapped around a cup of tea than a champagne flute and so I didn’t feel too hard done by after all!

I can do this.

Dinner in the pub on Sunday night with a group of local pals who I’ve not seen properly for ages was another good test. My flatmate got straight on the rouge and I automatically ordered myself a large bottle of sparkling water, which swiftly arrived accompanied by an empty glass, a tumbler of ice with silver tongs and a little plate of lime wedges with cocktail sticks (NB I just asked for a glass with ice and a slice of a lime, but the creative flair was appreciated!). Only in Maida Vale.

The cutest thing ever was a friend introducing me to 100% black grape juice drunk from wine glasses when I popped over for a cuppa on Sunday afternoon. Being really honest, I’m not sure I would actually be able to tell whether it was alcoholic or not if put to the test. Apart from maybe the telltale leg tingling that usually happens five minutes into my first glass. A nice alternative to satisfy a bit of mind trickery.

I’m still feeling all of the benefits of being a Dryathlete™ that I wrote about some weeks ago and there’s no denying how much fitter I’ve got during January. I’m 100% sure it’s down to my being a Dryathlete™. I did a personal training session followed by a boxing bootcamp on Sunday. Both in the rain. There’s no way I could have or would have done that on a hangover.

There’s also no way I could have headed up to Bolton at 05:30 on a Monday morning and then do a full day of meetings with a hangover. (I also have no desire to do that ever again, hangover or not!)

It’s weird, I’m not even looking forward to my first drink. It feels somewhat like a first date but one where you’re setting yourself up for disappointment rather than the one where you’ve got a flippy over stomach because you so want it to be a good one. I will of course have a cheeky few but am not sure I’m expecting fireworks.

Lent is coming up in a few weeks and whilst my abstinence usually extends to sweets, chocolate, crisps, cake, biscuits and ice cream, I’ve never been quite holy enough to extend my list of forbidden indulgences to alcohol.

But there’s a first for everything.

And besides, hangovers are sooo 2013!

I can do this.

Gabriella x

* As well as not letting me drink from pint glasses, mum wouldn’t let me have a Mr Frosty when I was younger either as she said it was ‘junk’. I might get one now. Just to be a rebel.

Mocktail Schmocktail

The penultimate weekend as a Dryathlete™. DONE. Woop. In fact, double woop.

The big test came last night when I went out to a cocktail bar in Shoreditch for a friend’s birthday. Despite the absence of anything non alcoholic on the menu, the lovely barman made me some delish mojito mocktails. That said, lovely though they were, they would definitely have benefitted from a shot or two of Bacardi. Wishful thinking, eh?!

I decided to head home at 22:30 as everyone else was drinking, getting the shots in and generally getting merrier. It was OK though as I picked up a Malteaster bunny and a copy of Closer from Sainsbury’s as a treat for my journey home where I then settled down to watch this week’s Silent Witness two-parter with a bottle of Evian and no hangover on Sunday morning.

I have three big social tests coming up in the week ahead where I would generally be leading on the fizz consumption:

1. ‘Fizz and Quiz’ at Searcy’s champagne bar with the girls. We booked this before I committed to Dryathlon™. I mean what’s the point in going to a champagne bar when you can’t even drink champagne?! I hope to God they don’t have a ‘Schloer’ equivalent. I feel as though I may as well be miserable sat at home drinking Robinsons Fruit and Barley orange squash (no added sugar) than be miserable because I’m the only one in a champagne bar who can’t drink champagne. That’s like torture for me! I’m hoping the fizz abstinence means I actually take the quiz seriously. Here’s hoping there’s a showbiz and cocktail round.

2. Connecting HR Networking event. This is a lovely group of people who I met via Twitter. The group gets together every few months to chat HR, organisational development and learning and development over a beer or two. I love these events because I can talk about the subject I love and learn more about it from others but in a relaxed environment with no formal structure. It’s almost impossible to get to talk to everyone who comes along so I’m nearly always still there at last orders with a glass of wine that’s become warm as I’ve continued to chat. I wonder how long I’ll manage to stay out this time?

3. Catching up with an old pal from my Tesco days. The last time we caught up we got through a fair few champagne cocktails at Vertigo 42. I’m so excited to see her and I’m hoping the fact we have so much to catch up on (including her recent wedding!) will be enough to make me forget that I’m not actually drinking.

I can do this.

Actually I do have one more social event planned this week and that’s with the people I work out with. Most of us are either doing Dryathlon™ or don’t actually drink anyway (yes, really) so I’m hoping the non alcoholic solidarity will carry me through. We’re going to one of my favourite locals where they have a fantastic mixologist who has just launched a new detox cocktail menu. Who knows, maybe I’ll love it so much he’ll never pour me a prosecco with strawberry in it ever again.

Roll on 1st February.

I can do this.

Gabriella x

The Rules of the Game

It’s Day 16 of Dryathlon™, the mid-way point, and I’m bored of it now. Last night was the first night I felt frustrated that I can’t have something because the rules of the game have taken the choice away from me. And whilst I’m still choosing to play, I don’t like the rules anymore! But I’ve come this far.

I can do this.

I found myself in three very different situations over the past few days where a glass of prosecco would have been most welcome. In fact, a bottle would have been even better. I feel so sober at the moment that I think I’m almost more sober than sober! (if of course that’s possible)

1. Spending time with children. I spent the weekend with a friend and her two daughters, aged four and five. They are the most lovely, bright, curious, well mannered little girls and my friend should be super proud of the amazing job she does of being their mum. But it’s constant. After painting their nails (each toe had to be a different colour), plaiting their hair (it had to be a fish tail) and spending two hours at a six year old’s princess party at a soft play centre, I felt like I needed something to take the edge off. Something more than five cups of green tea. I honestly don’t know how she does it. And she does it every day. I also don’t know how she is doing DryathlonTM. She is amazing.

2. My stolen phone. I got home on Sunday to find that my lovely iPhone 5 wasn’t with me. It’s usually glued to my right hand but on this occasion I was busy watching last Friday’s episode of Silent Witness on my iPad which lasted literally until I got off the tube at Maida Vale. As soon as I realised it was missing I watched it painfully move further south through the New Forest as I tracked it on the ‘Find my iPhone’ app. The phone was fully charged but, on arrival at Petersfield, it was manually turned off. It has never been switched back on or handed in. All I wanted to do on Sunday was have a drink to take the edge off how I was feeling. Instead I went for a run. In the rain. I ran for two miles.

3. A networking event. I’m due to launch a pretty significant leadership programme into our business and one of the companies I’m working with was holding a showcase and networking event. They always put on a good show with free-flowing wine and delicious canapés. I spent my whole day in a workshop, had brain mush and an hour to kill before the event. So I popped into the bar in Gaucho for a drink whilst I caught up on my emails. The cocktail menu was all alcoholic but the lovely barman made me a few different virgin cocktails which kept me happy. Interestingly, rather than saying “I can’t drink alcohol”, I found myself saying “I don’t drink alcohol”. Psychologically, I think it helped. At the networking event I then drank a lot of ginger beer. I’ve always felt at ease at such events but, for the first time ever, I felt quite exposed. I felt I was less relaxed, worried I was less engaging and even, perhaps, a little boring. I managed to stay until 22:30 and had some really meaningful conversations but felt quite flat when I got home.

So in summary, whilst I am still feeling all of the benefits of being a Dryathlete™ that I outlined in my previous blog, there are three things I now dislike about Dryathlon™:

1. I feel like my freedom of choice has been taken away from me because there are rules that are restricting me.
2. I miss my social life. I’m avoiding going out and doing the things I usually do because I’m worried I’ll feel like I’m missing out. I’m just doing exercise instead.
3. I feel like I’m super serious all the time. Not on edge, but just quite serious. I want to feel more relaxed and more, well, like me.

I’m now starting to think about how things will be after this period of abstinence. I’m not sure that denying myself what I want when I want it is really for me, but hope I will have more of an ‘everything in moderation’ approach to my relationship with alcohol. We shall see.

I can do this.

Gabriella x

Don’t Tell My Mum About The Pint Glasses

One whole week as a Dryathlete™ and quite possibly the longest I’ve gone without even a sip of alcohol since I came of age. A worrying thought.

From the school days of drinking Mad Dog 20:20 and Hooch behind the rugby club, the university years of downing bottles of blue WKD, shots of Aftershock and pints of Cider and Black, through to the past fifteen years of trying to find the best wine producer in the world through careful, regular sampling, this is a very strange feeling indeed.

That said, I’m now really starting to notice a difference. There are five main signs so far.

I feel fresher. Whilst getting out of bed is unlikely to ever become a simple task, I feel significantly more refreshed when I get out of bed than I usually would. This means I seem to spend less time faffing around in the morning and have a greater focus on getting myself ready and out of the house more quickly.

I have more energy. I’ve noticed a massive difference in my physical strength and endurance. Running has become easier and I can sustain the exercises in my personal training sessions for longer than I could before. The downside is I’m finding it harder to get to sleep at night on the days I’m not training as I seem to have excess energy which needs to be burnt.

I’m less bloated. Just that really.

I’m much more hydrated. I’ve been drinking two to three litres of water a day. Often after work I’d automatically have a glass of wine or prosecco. Even if I’m thirsty, I don’t usually have a soft drink with it, instead using wine as my sole method of hydration. As a result of Dryathlon™, I’ve been drinking water rather than wine when I’m thirsty. In fact I’m finding I’m thirsty much less often than usual.

I’m much more alert. In work I’m finding I’m a lot sharper and able to make decisions more quickly. I seem to stay focused on specific tasks for longer without getting distracted or drifting into procrastination mode. This is probably where I’m feeling the most positive impact of being such a high performing Dryathlete™.

Chatting in the office with other Dryathletes™, we all confirmed we are amazed at how much more focused and alert we feel. There is a real buzz amongst the team, as well as a sense of pride that we’ve surpassed even our own expectations!

In fact, I wonder what the increase in the organisation’s effectiveness would be if we all became perma Dryathletes™. In fact, imagine the impact on the UK Economy if its entire workforce gave up alcohol.

Now that’s a thought.

I can do this.

Gabriella x

PS Don’t tell my mum I used to drink from pint glasses at university. She says it’s very unladylike.

Hoping for a Wimbledon Invite

It’s day five and I am most definitely now a bonafide Dryathlete™. FACT.

The reasons I know this:

1. I wasn’t sick in Poundland. Basically, the man in front of me in the queue smelt so bad I thought I might be sick in my basket all over my bubble wrap. There is no excuse for anyone to smell that bad and Poundland sell shower gel and washing powder for a pound for goodness’ sake! The benefit of being a high performing Dryathlete™is that, had I had my usual prosecco-fuelled hangover, I would most definitely have been sick. And probably in my new Mulberry handbag (Bayswater in Dark Blush, FYI).

2. I went to one of my favourite pubs in Maida Vale, The Waterway, with my flatmate and, rather than ordering my usual glass of Laurent Perrier Rose, I skipped through the drinks menu and got stuck into the Virgin Cocktail offer. Some might say I was even a little excited at the volume of options available for us Dryathletes™. Rather than go with the Apple Mojito and feel cheated there was no Bacardi in it, I decided to go for the ‘Forbidden Fruits’. I felt this was the most ‘edgy’ option on the menu and must say I rather enjoyed it. That said, if I’m really honest, it could have probably done with a shot of vodka.

3. I managed to hold my plank for 60 seconds in my personal training session this morning. I’ve never done that before. To be fair I’m usually hungover for my Sunday morning sessions and get a bit light headed after about 20 seconds when my nose is touching the athletics track. So I’m feeling quite proud of myself now. The downside is Edo now knows I can do it and is highly unlikely to let me get away with anything less in Tuesday’s session. Hmmmm.

So here we are at the end of the evening and I’m feeling super proud that I’ve made it through my first full weekend as a Dryathlete™. The worrying thing is that I don’t actually remember the last time I went five whole days without at least one drink and so it’s amazing what I’m capable of when I put my mind to it.

I also have a feeling that the profits from Robinsons Fruit & Barley Orange squash (no added sugar) might just go through the roof this month. I wonder if they’ll invite me to Wimbledon this year to say thanks? I’ll most definitely be up for a few glasses of Lanson by then.

I can do this.

Gabriella x

Saturday Night Schloer

Schloer. I’ve never really seen myself as a ‘alternatives to wine’ kind of drinker. But this evening I really had the urge to drink from a champagne flute because I was starting to miss it.

Knowing it may be a little over ambitious to think that I could trick my mind into thinking that, if drunk from a champagne flute, my Robinsons Fruit & Barley Orange squash (no added sugar) may seem like a suitable alternative to an alcoholic tipple, I dragged my sorry self out of the flat and ventured to our local Tesco Express in search of a Saturday night treat.

And there it was in prime position on the top shelf. Two varieties – one to represent white fizzy wine and one to represent the rose equivalent. I decided to go crazy and opt for the rose.

Back home I got out one of my favourite LSA champagne flutes (so trendy they were once queried by a male friend as “why am I drinking out of a vase?”) and poured my first ever glass of pink Schloer. And downed it in one.

Talk about boring, empty calaories. For an extra 20 I could have had a glass of champagne damn it. In fact, for 70 fewer I could have just had a glass of my Robinsons Fruit & Barley Orange squash (no added sugar).

So as I sat on the sofa inhaling the sweet scent of my flatmate’s glass of rouge, I ‘got on it’ Saturday night style with my fake rose. What a crazy chick I am!

It’s now midnight, I’m wide awake and watching the highlights of the Darts World Championships feeling reminiscent of being at Ally Pally just three weeks ago drinking warm wine from a plastic cup, wearing a Ladbrokes hat and waving my one-hundred-and-eighty poster with my self-penned caption on the back. Not sure I can imagine being there drinking Schloer.

Or maybe my willingness to participate in plastic-cupped wine and hat and banner activities is the whole reason I should wean myself off the pop?

So there we go. Four days down, including my first weekend. Just another 27 to go. TWENTY SEVEN! Maybe next year I’ll defer to February. At least then I would have fewer days of torture.

I can do this.

Gabriella x