Ruth Dance
Written by
Ruth Dance

Are you learning? 

Today marks new beginnings as I take on the role of Managing Director of The Inspiring Workplaces Academy, a division of Inspiring Workplaces (a result of the merger of The Employee Engagement Alliance & EE Awards). As ever, when I start something new, I find it incredibly useful to look back on the challenges and learnings that have brought me here. 

18 months ago, I had the biggest surprise of my life finding out my husband and I were expecting two more boys… twins! No one could have prepared me for that news. And little did I know, many more unplanned events were on the horizon. 

A turbulent and challenging pregnancy, a few weeks spent in neonatal intensive care, a global pandemic that shook our world, spending 6 months at home with our 4-year-old boy and twin babies, and much more gave me plenty of opportunities to be pushed to my physical and mental limits and in that process, learn so much. 

“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” –Stephen Hawking

I had clear plans for what I’d achieve when I started maternity leave and everything in that plan was ‘thrown out of the window’ the second lockdown hit. 5 weeks ago I booked a much-needed break to France for my family, today that was cancelled. 

Many organizations are thriving through this as they adapt – but some are failing.  

Take the example of the Scottish based Brewery house, Brewdog, who quickly adapted their systems, processes, and resources when the effects of the pandemic hit their business to produce something much more in demand than beer – hand sanitizer, which has seen over 50,000 units distributed among many hospitals within the UK. Or Dimo’s Pizza place in Chicago who used their pizza ovens to make face shields for healthcare workers and delivered them in their pizza boxes. Prior to Covid, we’ve seen examples where organizations didn’t have this ability to adapt quickly and as a result, they failed – Blockbuster Video employed 85,000 people globally in 2004 – a little over 5 years later they filed for bankruptcy.

Right now, in these fast-changing times, pushing yourself to be more flexible and adaptable is more needed than ever. This is easier and more natural for some than others. How often are we questioning and challenging the plans we set out? Do we need a plan b, c, d, or e, or can we adapt our mindsets quickly, easily, and freely as we need to and not only survive but thrive? 

“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing” – Henry Ford

Many will argue, our governments or political leaders made mistakes during the early stages of the pandemic. Others may say, we are continuing to make mistakes.

Caring for 3 children under the age of 4 for 10 hours a day, 5-6 days a week with no manual or support network led to me making many mistakes. But, through every mistake, we’re learning. We’re learning how to adapt, how to grow, how to make things better.

Some of the most inspirational organizations I’ve come across, celebrate their mistakes, and loudly, so others can learn from them too.  I love the example of bubble wrap – which was originally invented as a textured wallpaper that didn’t work. So the creators tried to market it as home insulation which was again a failure until eventually, it became an overnight success as they used it to transport a computer for IBM from one location to another. 

Another favourite of mine is the well-known story of 3M who in 1968 was developing an ultra-strong adhesive to use in aircraft construction when a mistake led them to make a very weak reusable adhesive – this could have meant ‘failure’ but instead led to one of the most used stationery items globally – the Post-It note. 

“The moment you stop learning, you stop growing”  – Ken Blanchard

Learning doesn’t just take place in the ‘classroom’ anymore. Nothing has taught us that more than the past 6 months… Every day I try to reflect on what I’ve learned; about myself, about others, or about the world. On the days I don’t do that, I noticeably struggle to keep perspective and feel like I’m growing. 

So…what did I learn over the past year whilst the world stood still and my family didn’t stop moving (or crawling):  

  • Take life by the horns, everything is always worth a conversation, don’t be disheartened if plans change and take everything as a lesson life is teaching us. 
  • We’re learning every single day. From our successes, and failures, from challenges that are thrown at us to the mistakes we make ourselves.  
  • Learning is growing. Learning is what inspires us. And learning can make us inspiring. 

During the past 9 months, whilst I’ve been raising the little ones at home through a global pandemic, our team have been super productive developing our business. The Employee Engagement Awards & The Employee Engagement Alliance had spent time listening and understanding over the last year and reacted to what our members and followers wanted; “To change the world, through the world of work” and as a result of the two businesses merging, Inspiring Workplaces was born.

My passion for learning stems from much more than the last 9 months and it’ll come as no surprise to you that I couldn’t be more excited to be leading the Inspiring Workplaces Academy.  

In my career, I’ve worked with a training provider and in-house at multinational organisations such as Christie’s the auction business and News Corp. I’ve delivered personal & team development, management, and leadership programs internationally and I’m an accredited coach. 

Following a successful 3 years leading the membership community of The Employee Engagement Alliance… I’m super enthused to be channelling my energy outside of raising my family and leading the Academy at Inspiring Workplaces. 

The Inspiring Workplaces Academy

The Inspiring Workplaces Academy is all about you and your organization. We want to help you, your colleague’s and organisation’s development.

Want to change the world, through the world of work? Become an inspirer today and join one of our first in a series of sessions run by me. There’s limited spaces and they’re at a special introductory rate so be sure not to miss out. 

Understanding our purpose and connecting that with our inspirations is one of the biggest contributors to productive people and work. 

Register here for: 

With so much change and uncertainty surrounding us. How do we empower our managers to manage inspiring people, lead inspiring teams and create inspiring work.  

Register here for: 

The community will help you during these tough times and this session is open to anyone who has recently found themselves out of work. We will explore how to make the most of our networks, identify transferable skills and how you can take control of what’s next for you in the world of work.  

We want to give back through our Academy and the Inspiring Workplaces Foundation – therefore this session sees no charge. 

Register here: 

Thursday 17th September – 10am ET 3pm GMT


We would love to work with you on your engagement plan, your strategy or help you as you re-align or re-adjust.  We also work with a great group of fellow consultants whom we trust to deliver great work with you. 


We are also able to offer 1-1 coaching sessions to help you identify and work on whatever you need to help realign, move forward or reach your goals to become an inspiring leader and/or inspiring workplace. 

Book an hour with us now.

Or let us know what you’d like to see next up in our suite of programs, and how we can support you in becoming an inspiring leader and inspiring workplace. 

I’m ecstatic to be back and really looking forward to seeing and speaking with you very soon. 

~ Ruth

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