Episode 29 - Mandy WardNeed a cuddle? You might need to learn all about the 'Cuddle Monster'. We're making conversations about cuddles count!
Mandy Ward, Author and Book Mentor
Making Conversations about Cuddles Count!
We have all asked the question ‘If not now, when?’, right?
That was definitely one that was pondered by author and HR specialist, Mandy Ward.
She turned a difficult situation to her advantage when Covid-19 hit in 2020, by launching her own business “Write My Book“.
Mandy is the creator of Oxy the lead character from one of her books ‘The Cuddle Monster‘.
It’s a delightful tale that touches small children and helps shape their confidence through cuddles.
It seems to us that we are all missing cuddles, no matter our age so we are really happy to share this conversation and encourage everyone to cuddle those that we can.
Wendy is certainly looking forward to her next cuddles.
And she really wants to cuddle everyone who’s been sending emails into the show recently.
Thank you for these.
Keep them coming.
We love reading them out on the podcast!
Missed our previous episodes?
You can catch up with any of the other guests we’ve been making conversations count with, here.
If you’re on your mobile device, you can hear them in your favourite platform (Apple or Spotify etc) here.
Listen to other episodes on your favourite platform…
Full Episode Transcript
Making Conversations Count – Episode Twenty-Nine
Wendy Harris & Mandy Ward
6th May 2021
00:04:14: Write My Book
00:05:16: Book ideas
00:06:46: Ishikawa technique
00:08:47: We’ve all got a story in us
00:09:46: Learn from those older and wiser
00:11:19: Mandy’s pivotal conversation
00:13:45: Get down off the mountain
00:16:14: There is so much help out there
00:17:21: Final comments
Wendy Harris: 2020 hit everybody on the planet, and one of the things that, I don’t know about you, but I miss the most was being able to hug someone. Whether that be a close friend, relative or colleague in the office, there is that connection that a hug gives us. Well today, in this episode, we’re making conversations about cuddles count.
What’s new Wendy Woo? We’ve had a couple of email reviews come into the office, which was great to hear and I’m going to read them to you now. “Dear Wendy, I started listening to your show after I saw it shared by Steve Judge on his social media”, good on you, Steve, for sharing. “I wanted to let you know how inspiring I’ve been finding the episodes and have spent the last hour with tears in my eyes having discovered some of your earlier episodes. I won’t spoil it for other listeners, but the Nicky Pattinson episode was very powerful. Keep it up, Wendy, your newest fan, Keith”. Well, that’s great, Keith, thank you so much, it was a powerful episode I have to agree.
Here’s another one, “Wendy, been listening for a few weeks since my sister mentioned your show to me, because I’ve been struggling with marketing. She told me about your recording with a man who hates marketing”, that’ll be Jonny. “I absolutely loved it and I’ve been hooked ever since. I’ve just binged five other episodes. I’ve pressed the big follow button on Spotify so I’m looking forward to hearing more. A quick question, what’s been your favourite episode, so far? Please say hello to my sister Sally-Jo in Brighton, thanks, Col”. Well, Col, thank you so much for using that big follow button on Spotify, and my favourite episode? Shhh, don’t tell anybody but my favourite so far … they’re all my favourite.
Right now, I’m going to introduce my latest new favourite, Mandy Ward, from writemybook.co.uk making conversations about cuddles count.
Mandy, we always start the episode by sharing how we met, and it’ll be no surprise to a lot of the regular listeners that we met on the wonderful platform that is LinkedIn.
Mandy Ward: Yes. I’d posted about my recent picture book Cuddle Monster character called Oxy, which is short for Oxytocin aka the cuddle hormone and a character that I created to help children with anxiety and specifically, it really resonates at the moment because of what’s been going on with COVID and the fact that we can’t actually physically hug the people that we want to hug, which is quite difficult for children to understand, so that’s very good timing actually.
Wendy Harris: Mandy, I mean I’m lucky enough to have had the book in my hands and been able to pass it on to my five-year-old nephew who I can’t cuddle at the moment, and I just saw such a beauty in that story, and I could just see that there should be no child really without the Cuddle Monster.
Mandy Ward: Yeah, absolutely. Well, as I said earlier on, I’ve sent it to a friend who’d ordered it and she passed it on to her brother who’s having a difficult time at work and he read it with his son and they both cried. So, from a letting out emotion perspective, it’s a very positive thing and the more we can do to support each other at this moment, especially now coming January through to March, there’ll be a tough few months.
Timing-wise, obviously I didn’t know COVID was going to occur, but getting on with the book during the lockdown, alongside another book that I was writing at the time, it’s been a really positive journey.
Wendy Harris: Of course, in what you do, Mandy, you’ve got your own books that you’ve got on the shelf, so to speak, for people to read; but your journey changed last year, didn’t it, where you’re now helping other people bring their stories to life.
Mandy Ward: Yes, what happened, I’d had a very successful — still got a successful career in HR if I want it, because good HR people are always challenging to find. So what happened, obviously we had COVID, and I finished a temporary contract in April last year, which started off to be a couple of weeks to help someone out and I ended up there being there ten months. I got to the end of April and I thought to myself, “If I’m not going to do it now, I’m never going to do it”. So, I changed my profile on LinkedIn and waved HR off in the distance and my first customer came along and since then, I’ve been helping that customer and other people to tell their story.
Wendy Harris: Is there any specific stories that seems to be attracted to you, Mandy, or is it a real wide range of stories that you’re handling?
Mandy Ward: There’s quite a range actually. What I’ve had more of lately, which makes a lot of sense, is life stories and people wanting to tell their story and wanting to help others through telling theirs.
I had an interesting chat with a young man last Thursday actually for half an hour. The question that a lot of people ask me is, “Do you think my idea is a good idea?”, and there’s no such thing as a bad idea, because everybody’s life is different and everybody’s got something that they can send on. Through having this chat with this young man, even though he’s only 25, he’s had a lifetime of experience in terms of becoming resilient, managing a disability.
I said, “Absolutely, you’ve got a great idea there”, and because he’s still close to school, which is when a lot of defining moments happened for him, the hurdles in life that were thrown at him that he overcame, he’s absolutely got a story that he can tell that he can help other people; not just those who’ve got a similar disability but inspiring everybody to move forward.
Then the other stories have been fiction stories that people have wanted to get out there, and in particular there was a chap I met a few weeks before Christmas who had started writing a story that I was asked to read. The story was what I thought was a romance, but the story is actually intended for a much younger audience, but that wasn’t coming across; so, I spent probably three hours with this guy and helped him structure his story and gave him a framework using an engineering technique called Ishikawa, I don’t know whether you’ve ever heard of that?
Wendy Harris: I have. I can’t profess to know what it stands for.
Mandy Ward: It was a professor who created a problem-solving technique and it’s all about cause and effect, which a good story is all about Mr X did this and he did it for these reasons, so it’s a cause-and-effect technique which helps you understand how to solve a problem. If a character does one thing, why does he do it? If you start off a story at the fish face end with a solution at the other end, you work through the spine of the fish and you work through the spine of the book at the same time.
I spent two and a half hours with this guy and helped him come up with a structure for his story, with a start, a middle and an end which would be more attractive to the ideal reader. It’s sometimes as simple as helping people structure the book to get them kick-started on their writing journey. There’s a wide range really but a lot lately, I think, is to do with the fact we’ve got COVID going on and people want to tell their story, because we never know whether we’re going to be here tomorrow. It sounds quite morbid but actually, if you’ve got people in your life and then they’re no longer there, what do you know about them?
Wendy Harris: Yeah, I’ve seen an upsurge of — certainly sitting on the sofa, through the Christmas break, I don’t normally get to see many adverts because I’m just so busy; but with the amount of TV I’ve consumed it was interesting, the Tell Your Life story; that has really risen. In fact, I’ve got a family member that I thought would be a good present and a good gift for and then saw the price and I thought, “She’s never going to agree to that”. But it’s having that process in place, isn’t it, if you can get some form of structure? And the other interesting part of any good conversation or story is that it’s always seated in some emotion somewhere, isn’t it; going to trigger something?
Mandy Ward: Yes, yeah. Of course, Derren Brown got a group of people together from all parts of Europe in one of his episodes, I remember, and he said, “I’m going to write a personality profile about all of you”. He got them all in a room, because he had a conversation with each of them separately, then he got them all in a room with all these envelopes he was about to hand out, and he dropped them all on the floor. He said, “It doesn’t matter, because they’re all the same. We’ve all got the same emotions, we all have similar challenges, we all have emotions that we have to find ways to manage and resilience that we need to build”. We’ve all got a story in us, definitely.
Wendy Harris: Going back to that young man that you talked about with the disability and only being in his 20s, it kind of made me think as well that age is just a number; you can’t tell maturity from somebody’s age. I remember being told when I was sort of 13 years old that, “You’ve got an old head on young shoulders”. I think that is because life experience does kind of build that maturity up, doesn’t it?
Mandy Ward: Yes.
Wendy Harris: If you’re listening to somebody and you’re trying to guess what age they are, I can say safely from sort of 30 years of just purely speaking on the phone, 30 years ago I’d have got wrong, but I’ve got better at guessing that age over time; that there are subtleties of maturity that comes out and that life experience, I think it’s sort of how it sits with you in your voice and your tone. Would you agree that that comes out in story telling as well, Mandy?
Mandy Ward: Yes, it does, and the other thing from both sides of the scale, just because somebody’s older doesn’t mean that they’re wiser. It’s quite interesting because I took a job a few years ago and somebody said something to me and I thought, “Ah! I’ve got to that stage where I look like a seasoned wise older lady”, but they don’t necessarily know what’s going on in my head. A lot of the time we can make assumptions about people; there’s a lot to learn from people coming up the road behind us and there’s also a lot to learn from people who are a lot further up the road. I’m a little bit older now and, yeah, there is wiseness at both ends of the scale.
Wendy Harris: So, Mandy, it seems like a really good moment for me to introduce your pivotal moment where you can share that conversation that will hopefully inspire others listening if they’re finding themselves in a similar situation.
Mandy Ward: Yeah, wasn’t necessarily one individual conversation but a series of conversations around the expression, “If not now, when?” Many years ago, I think it was a Financial Times, a female journalist had written, “Never live so high on the hock that you can’t say ‘knickers’ to your current employer or the role that you’re in at the moment”.
So, there was a series of conversations that I had with mentors throughout the years where it’s about finding the courage to do something different and being practical about it as well in terms of having security behind you and money in the bank to say, “I’m going to do this and I’m going to feel safe in doing that”; so, it’s been a series of conversations really that have proved pivotal.
Wendy Harris: Waiting for the stars to align.
Mandy Ward: Yeah, and again when I talk about, there’s no such thing as an overnight success, it can take many years; and in my own instance, that journey did take probably 10 to 15 years until I got to a point where I felt not only, if not now, when, COVID brought it along for a lot of us; it’s being in a situation where you’re secure enough to be able to do that without putting yourself or anybody else at risk financially. That was always very important for me.
Then, it’s being able to take calculated risks, talking to my mentors that I’ve had, so mentors that don’t necessarily know that they are mentors. They’re good friends, people with experience, people that have opposing views to you that can challenge you so they can sometimes rock your foundations because you always think the way you always think. You know, if you’ve got somebody out there that’s a critical friend that always spots mistakes, you want them in your life because they’re going to stop you from falling over. They’re going to stop you from making the mistakes that are obvious to them, but are not obvious to you because we can be blind.
We’ve all got blind spots, so it’s having somebody around that can say, “Actually, Mandy, have you thought about X, Y, Z?” “Okay then, I hadn’t thought about that”.
Wendy Harris: Sometimes as well, because that experience can build up over time, you forget how long that you’ve been creeping towards the end goal. So, that journey you think that you haven’t started it, when actual fact you’ve got quite a well-trodden path behind you.
Mandy Ward: It’s important to look back and realise how far you’ve come; you know, what’s got you to that point where the same for me last year was, “Jump off the mountain and build the plane on the way down”. I think that is very accurate as to how that leap of faith feels, because the way I’d describe it is when you start doing something new, it’s like being on the end of a bungee rope with nothing to grab onto. You know that second bounce of the bungee, then the third bounce and there’s nothing for that person to grab onto. That’s how it felt for me and how I describe it.
I think that’s an accurate summation of how it feels when you’re starting out and doing something totally different. So, taking baby steps, I was advised at least three months’ gross salary behind you, and I know that’s not practical for everyone, but have a side gig, start something as a side gig and ask yourself the question, “Can I do this and start the journey?” Like you said if you look at the pyramids, they took a long time to build but they started with one square, didn’t they?
Wendy Harris: Often it’s making that start, that’s the leap of faith right there, isn’t it, that you’ve started; it is that one step in front of the other and before you know it you’ve walked a mile, and before you know it you’ve walked a marathon, and before you know it you can very quicky build up to where you want to be. Like you say, having those right people around you that support you and have those conversations, good or bad, because we need the good and bad conversations, don’t we? We need to be questioned too as well as the pat on the back that you’re doing a grand thing.
Mandy Ward: Again, pivotal conversations include the expression that, “Feedback is a gift, but it’s not always gift-wrapped” is the one that a friend of mine uses quite a lot, and actually that feedback is critical to success. It’s not about running out there and buying an expensive coach necessarily, there’s a lot of people who could be willing and are willing if you ask to be mentors. It’s quite a flattering thing when somebody says, “Can I ask your advice on something?”
They know the commitment has got to be there both sides really and if there is somebody that’s willing to mentor you, they don’t necessarily have to know that they’re a mentor. A thank you can be a thank you card or the words, “Thank you”, it doesn’t have to be a paid situation. In fact, quite often it’s best if you pick somebody who’s totally separate to who you are and what you do for a living.
Wendy Harris: I’m involved in a second business with my work wife, Collette, who I’ve missed dearly in lockdown because we do face-to-face events. In our startup, we approached The Growth Hub, and it was a brilliant resource as a start-up because we were luckily enough to get onto their 12-week mentor programme. You could have them whenever you wanted and they’ve got coaches, they’ve got people that are in the situation that will give up their time freely for start-up businesses to help them along the way. Often you don’t know what help it is that you need, until you start asking questions.
Mandy Ward: One thing I’d say about people who are making the jump is there’s that much out there, sometimes it can be totally confusing. You can drown in the advice and help that’s out there. There’s that much out there that’s for free and there’s that many organisations, there’s groups from Facebook, Freelance Heroes is a really good one who I’ve connected with on Facebook. If you ask a question on LinkedIn, LinkedIn’s a fantastic platform because everybody wants to offer their opinion and everybody’s got an opinion which is great, and the different viewpoints.
Wendy Harris: Yes.
Mandy Ward: So there’s lots of ways to have those pivotal conversations, isn’t there? I know I haven’t picked on one in particular but there’s been —
Wendy Harris: I think one was, “If not now, when”.
Mandy Ward: Yeah.
Wendy Harris: That’s the running theme for you, Mandy, and I’m so glad you chose to because that is how we met. I’m not sure that we would have met if you were a HR specialist, yet Oxy, that Cuddle Monster brought us together and is going to continue to bring us together as that journey continues. I can’t wait to see him physically.
Mandy Ward: That’s the plan for this year and what’s been lovely about Oxy is exactly what you’ve just described there. There’s been many discussions and pivotal conversations, like the lady that had a copy and gave it to her brother who was in his 40s, you know, it helped him massively. You start the journey you just never know where it’s going to lead and what you have to be, I would suggest, is be flexible in your approach and be curious. When people invite you onto things like you’ve invited me onto this, Wendy, it’s me stepping out of my comfort zone because it’s my first podcast, and you’ve got to do these things. It focuses the mind because it gives you something else to worry about.
Wendy Harris: Well, it hasn’t been too painful has it, Mandy? It’s been a grand conversation and I’m so glad you accepted. Thank you for giving up your time to come and chat to us about Oxy, about how you can help people write their book through your, Write My Book website. So, please tell the listeners how they can pick up the conversation with you either online or wherever.
Wendy Harris: I do hope you enjoyed yet another new episode of Making Conversations Count Podcast show. It’s great to have those reviews coming in for us to read and be able to share and give you a shout out. It’s really important that you start following the show, because things are changing in the podcast land and if you’re not following you may just miss an episode. It’s also great that you can leave a review for guests.
So, make sure that you click the ellipsis, or the three dots, or the three lines, whatever it is on your podcast page. Click the follow and then if you click “settings” and make sure the notifications are enabled as well for automatic downloads so you’re never ever going to miss any of the future episodes that are coming out.
HOW TO CONTINUE MAKING CONVERSATIONS COUNT…
We don’t want the conversation to stop there!
- If you have listened and enjoyed the show, please leave us a review. Every time someone leaves a good review a little happy dance is done!
- Wendy’s best-selling Training Handbook can be bought here – “Making Conversations Count: How to sell over the phone”
- If you want to carry on the conversation with Wendy, get in touch to book a free ChinWAG.
- To stay up to date with all of the latest episodes, subscribe to our Making Conversations Count email newsletter.
All of our listeners are important to us, so we would love it if you can connect with Wendy on LinkedIn and send her a message with your favourite episode!
BROWSE ALL EPISODES
Hear what people are saying about the show
I love this podcast. The guests you have on all bring something new to the conversation and definitely thought-provoking.
Sometimes this means I change something I do, or something I would say, and other times it’s a real opportunity for reflection.
Thanks for sharing your guests with us Wendy, the podcasts are brilliant.
I always enjoy listening to Wendy’s Making Conversations Count podcast and admire her talent for drawing out people’s stories and getting to the heart of things for finding out what makes them tick.
We all have pivotal moments and Wendy manages to find the right parts, showcasing the reasons why someone is who they are.
It’s those details that we connect to and come to more understanding of why people do what they do.
Love this podcast series. It’s a great idea to have a theme of ‘pivotal conversations’ and the variety of guests from massively different backgrounds keeps it fresh and interesting.
Wendy is a natural host and makes people feel at ease to share their stories.