…you want a piece of me?

Ann Stow
4 min readFeb 2, 2023

A bit of a ramble about how I got here…

We don’t always know where we’ll end up — but the journey is always worth it

This turned into a personal one, so read if you wish, it’s a bit of a ramble — I hope you enjoy it! I thought I would try and write something about what I know, am aware of, & think about a lot. Narrowing down where to start is a challenge, as an old friend (ex-colleague) used to say, ‘I get about a bit’. That still makes me smile, and feel appreciated, his comment far from being derogatory simply indicated that I have a great positive network of people that know a lot about a broad range of things. We didn’t have many occasions where I didn’t know someone that knew, or that didn’t have the right contact to speak to and was happy to provide an introduction. Our work at the time was in Military Influence, mostly strategic, but very often ensuring that the tactical was aware of the strategic and vice versa — which led us through a minefield of operational space.

Our work was based on, and built on Applied Social Psychology; we were behavioural influence advocates before the unit and talked about strategic and systems thinking — a lot (I know that dates us, but, well we’ve been around a while too). I love the big picture, but I also like a microscope — without the stuff under the microscope there is no big picture. I am fascinated by connections, networks, links and gaps.

There’s a buzz that hits when someone gets what you’re saying and tries to make it work to develop trust & relationships and save lives on all sides of thinking and behaviours; a General once said I had pricked his conscience — then started to make changes, little ones but they counted to us.

My interest in people goes way back I started work at 16 in a customer service department of the local gas company (yes, I know that IS a long time ago) — I worked with some new people. Bearing in mind I had just left school, it was during this employment that I discovered that people don’t all want the same thing out of work, some aren’t great with people, some don’t want new ideas even if they would save time and/or money (my first encounter of the phrase “we’ve always done it this way” — I still come across that phrase today and usually ask why with some very interesting results). I learned to work with people I didn’t get along with & who really didn’t get along with me — I learned that these people are really valuable to challenge your own thinking, to understand different perspectives and to learn to stand up on your own two feet when you are sure you have something valuable to say. Some of those I grated against most became great friends, mentors, checkers and balancers — they gave me more than most and for that I am grateful.

I continued to work with and for people, what I mean is I was either serving, managing, developing, mentoring, being mentored or networking / building networks throughout my life. People are my thing.

No wonder then, when I was given the opportunity to take a degree, that I took Psychology. I couldn’t believe how fascinating people really were, and while some of the theories and practices, ideas and connections made complete sense (many ‘aha’ moments), some I struggled with — read deeper into until I understood what they were saying and then made links across disciplines and areas of psychology for them to settle in my mind. I thought everyone did that. The deep awareness and understanding of concepts and theories and their application and their links with other disciplines like Sociology, Anthropology, Geography, Politics, Philosophy Linguistics (how bloody fascinating is Linguistics?!), stood me in great stead for new thinking and a decent grade at the end.

Fascinated by behaviour and cause and effect, I took an MSc in Forensic Psychology, which was interesting, but didn’t float my boat like I thought it would & didn’t have the policing and community focus I was seeking, but I still loved the learning and developed my thinking along Social Psychological and linguistic lines, coupled with a keen interest in qualitative research.

I LOVE the granularity and texture which qualitative research brings to a topic and am constantly surprised when people rely on numbers alone (I shouldn’t be by now, but I still am amazed how narrow a view some people have, or are willing to have). Too many organisations fall back on numbers, thinking they are the panacea. They don’t seem to realise that numbers can be manipulated to say what you want them to. And fail to recognise the colour and lived experience that qualitative data adds.

Whatever I have done, people have been front and centre. Now I have my own business, helping others to understand the power of people, mostly for organisations that want to be great places to work. Relationships, in and out of the organisation are crucial — building trust and confidence which flows into and out of the business, making it successful.

Relationships within and between organisations are their heartbeat and those with a strong heartbeat illustrate the best, have strong understanding between the front line (the face of the organisation to the ordinary Joe/Joanna) and the executive. In these organisations people listen and act on what they hear: being heard is one of the most valuable gifts someone can receive — being heard, understood, and having your knowledge used and acted upon is priceless.

#peoplefirst #listentohear #humanise

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Ann Stow

Passionate about making organisations more human - one conversation at a time.