We launched a new feature last year so that you can get to know our team a little better! We’re asking members of staff from across VisitScotland to tell us a bit about themselves and their roles, as well as some of their favourite places to visit in our beautiful country. In the next of the series hear from Chris McCoy-Lavery, Equality, Diversity & Wellbeing Specialist.
Tell us a bit about yourself...
"I just noticed today on LinkedIn that I’ve been at VisitScotland (VS) for 12 years and nine months! Time flies… I came to VS from the UK Government after 33 years; I’ve often said you get more years for murder, but they let me out for good behaviour!
"My first job was a Counter Clerk in an east London benefit office in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), then made my way up to Private Secretary to the Foreign Secretary the late, Rt Hon Robin Cook, who used to talk about Scotland all the time. I then headed up HR in two Government departments – the DWP and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) – before becoming Head of Equality & Diversity at DEFRA. I hope I brought some of those skills with me to VS!
"I love football (Hull City fan) and cricket, which when I mention to my HR colleagues they have no idea what I’m talking about! I love running – and did over 300 miles in lockdown for charity. Not bad for an old Grandma. My wife Lynn is probably the most long-suffering person I know; my granddaughter is very hyperactive, the whole family tell me they have no doubt where, or from whom, she gets that from. I have no idea what they mean!"
What is your role at VisitScotland and what are your main responsibilities?
"My role is Equality, Diversity and Wellbeing Specialist and Head of the Mediation Partnership Team – the longest business card at VS! I ensure that VS is fulfilling all its duties under the Equality Act (which are many!) and overseeing the policies, writing reports, and supporting all the staff network groups. I represent VS on the Non-Departmental Public Body Equality Forum and regularly have meetings with colleagues in Scottish Government. For example, last year I gave evidence to the Parliamentary Equalities Committee about what we do to promote race equality.
"I’ve spent a lot of time this year supporting staff on a 1-2-1 basis using my Occupational Psychology and counselling skills learnt many years ago, and I hope supported my colleagues in HR, who have done an amazing job over the last year. I also head up the Mediation Partnership Team which I set up back in 2012. We now have 29 members from across Scotland, all of us professionally trained, working in the public sector. It’s a joint partnership between several public bodies and is a great example of what can be achieved together."
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week (10 – 16 May). What steps have been taken to look after employee mental health and wellbeing since we first started working from home in March 2020?
"We currently have articles on our internal staff Hub to support Mental Health Awareness Week – added with the help of my comms colleague David Paterson – plus we’ve formed some great links with charities in Scotland that support staff with mental health issues. I have developed a great relationship with Support in Mind Scotland. We were about to start a six-month volunteering pilot with them, with one of our staff working one day a month, but then lockdown came. We hope to resume this ASAP.
"Staff had the opportunity to take part in Virgin Pulse’s VPGO which was a great success earlier this year. We filled all the spaces in the first hour of informing staff – with 175 people taking part! The link between physical and mental health is well established, so I hope that folks found this team challenge helpful.
"We also joined up with the Headspace App providing free use for all staff members and we’ve been sharing articles from staff on our Hub under the ‘wellbeing’ tile. Our Future Leaders Group (FLG) has been very supportive to me over the year working from home. Each member has joined one of the staff network groups, both for support to me and the team, but also to help their own development and understanding of staff with disabilities, carers, and LGBTI+ folks in VS. The FLG has also drafted several articles on wellbeing for which I’m grateful."
Do you have any top tips for looking after our mental health and wellbeing?
"TALK ABOUT IT… Please don’t lock it inside. At VS we have some great support available to staff – our HR Business Partners, First Contact Officers, and also myself. It’s easy to say get outside and have a walk or a run, and yes it really does help, but for some even doing that is a daunting prospect.
"The first step is to ask for help. It’s not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength, and it means you value yourself. You have to tell yourself “I am worth it”. Just ask your family or friends, they will tell you… I have some insight as my mum suffered terrible depression, which is why I went into counselling, plus I had very bad post-natal depression for a year. I now know my ability to support and understand has been enriched by that experience.
"One of my old tutors many years ago told me: “You can never say to someone who comes to you, I know how you feel, because we don’t, everyone is different.” Real empathy is giving people time to share and the best thing we can do is just listen, they will soon tell you what they need. Many times over the last year I’ve asked folk “do you want me to do anything?” after a 1-2-1 and they say they just feel so much better having spoken about how they feel, and knowing they’ve been listened to and that they’re not alone.
"One of the key learning points in our mediation training is about “validating someone’s feelings” – that is the greatest gift you can give someone."
We’re so glad that we can travel around Scotland again. Do you have a favourite place that you can’t wait to visit again or is there anywhere new that you’re desperate to go?
"We love St Andrews, normally on the beach in the wind and rain, hence the wrapped-up look!"
More in the series
Want to find out more about some of the other members of our team? Get to know: