Learning and Development-Manchester homeless man leads large enterprises and government on L & D

Today at 3pm I walked out of a print shop in Manchester City Centre. As I passed a Spar shop, I noticed a homeless guy and his elderly chilled out black Staffy dog. 

“Any change mate”

I had some change in my pocket, I pulled it out and dropped it into his dirty hand. As I turned to walk away he proceeded to start a conversation...

“like those shoes mate”,

I laughed and said the first thing that came to mind..“these old things”. I walked a few more steps towards my car, he shouted..

“I’ll be where you are one day” 

The defiant statement stopped me in my tracks and I dropped out of my rushed day. I turned back and walked towards him, he looked up, I noticed his chipped, stained teeth...

“What do you mean by that” I asked

“You know...you look like you are doing well for yourself....you have nice clothes, a nice leather bag, you know...you look like you are successful”

This got me curious, he had just highlighted his own fundamental misunderstanding but I knew more importantly, he had something he wanted to say.

How do you know when someone has something to say? It’s intangible, it is subtle and often appears irrelevant. Especially, if it isn’t in line with what you are motivated to achieve that day or in the near future.

I stood listening to him and asked a few questions about his life, sure enough after 5 mins it started to come out. He had lost his dad and that became what he innocently took to be the catalyst to him ending up on the street. He explained he wasn’t supported by his family, the most valuable and reliable support he had was from his long time side kick, his dog. 

The system didn’t provide much support either, except when the temperature dropped to zero at which point shelter became more readily available (this is in the process of being changed to a winter months policy). Even when in shelter he said he was often robbed by one of the 10 or so room mates he slept next to.

After he had finished talking, he immediately thanked me for taking the time to listen. He said that in the past people had given him a £20 note, parents had bought him a sandwich in front of their kids and he had free bedding hand outs in winter. He said the bedding handouts were “usually sold for drugs or left in doorways”. He then proceeded to describe why he valued our conversation above the £20 note, the sandwich and the bedding.


What he valued was engagement. It’s what happens when you are disengaged from the daily grind or forget about your latest time management strategy. It is the same answer I have heard from many homeless people and it is a lesson we are failing to understand the relevance of in business and education.

The government acknowledges the problem we have with a lack of mental health and have even announced a suicide prevention minister but unfortunately the policy to monitor happiness in schools is not the answer. 

Although I admire the governments attempt to address the mental issues that derail learning and development, giving teachers another set of reports to do, with already limited resources is not the answer. It will actually compound the problem. The answer which has been there since the beginning of human history and is the key to all learning and development is very simple...genuine engagement. 

Engagement involves a different use of intelligence, creating a structural strength, a cultural change, this is key to maximising all learning and performance. 

On the organisational level it enables a business to thrive in a sustainable framework. Like any structure or network it is developed with the outcome of engagement, relationships between the individual parts. From this position it’s easy to build outward towards a healthy performance culture. The development of individuals and their ability to communicate will in turn create the desired organisational growth.

The ultimate asset for any business is individuals armed with the social intelligence to engage with colleagues and clients, it directly contributes to business growth. These individuals will understand engagement and its relevance to large enterprises. They know what underpins all business relationships, both internally and externally. 

The homeless guy had innocently fallen for the trick we all do, he believed he needed support from others to survive as an adult. I know he is innocently forgetting support is an internal equation, not an external one. If that internal support does desert us though and our capacity to learn and develop is overwhelmed, then a strong structural intelligence has to be in place to put us back on track. In business, education and wider society. 

A happiness report is as worthless to a homeless person and it is to children. The focus must be on genuine engagement, it needs to be developed in every organisation, without it you can’t even provide an accurate appraisal. Engagement guides the individual back to their maximum performance levels.

When the individual forgets how support works, we need structural intelligence to remind them of their capacity to navigate the professional and personal extremes that will inevitably come from time to time. 

The ultimate organisation, is both competent and engaged. With inevitable market fluctuations and individual performance fluctuations you need to develop resilience, an intelligent structure to navigate uncertain periods. You need to build an adaptable management team, making key decisions from a progressive and stable framework. 

With maximum engagement comes maximum progression. Progressive sales , progressive communication, decisive recruitment, low attrition, responsive market navigation. Combined, they optimise performance. 

At Lit Within we can take care of the structural intelligence that is required to develop and maintain engagement. Engagement with clients and engagement internally. Organisations will gain a new found efficiency with the improvement in engaged communication. This leads to efficient workflow between departments and an increase in the impact of your sales force as their ability to connect with clients increases. All you have to focus on is being good at your job, your competency.

We specialise in the efficiency of development, increasing your organisations learning capacity. You focus on the data analysis, the qualifications, the skillsets. We take care of the ability to progress. The ability to break through ceilings. The level of performance you have is on you, the efficiency and speed at which you can absorb relevant new data to progress is on us. 

The lesson learned from the homeless guy I met in Manchester is that, at times, circumstances are tough. Markets, motivation and families are unpredictable and uncertain. Navigating them requires an understanding of individual development and organisational structure. The understanding is what breeds engagement and responsive action. When the individual is disengaged the structure must be responsive and internally intelligent enough to know how to lead the individual back to maximum, sustainable performance levels, this is the essence of leadership, re-engaging the disengaged. 

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If you want to maximise results from existing resources you must invest in what has maximum impact. Data analysis is required but impact comes from engagement, the data tells you the story and the engagement writes it.

What does your organisation want to write?

What do you want to write? 

Lewis Buxton

Lit Within Consultancy

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