Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Fighting the fear

When I was going through my accreditation in change training one of the tutors made a statement that will stick with me forever - 'grown ups are just tall children'. Simple as it is I'd never thought in this way before and it gave me a new view on life. Suddenly I had an explanation for pretty much all adult human behaviour! 

As I have been going through my return to work having had 10 months maternity leave, I've felt really aware that I am experiencing the need to fight the fear (for a variety of reasons) and all too aware that I'm a tall(ish) child. The extremes of feelings when someone 'holds your hand' or leaves you feeling bewildered and not sure what's happening can be a dicey time. It has made me take stock of who I have around me and the kind of person I'm becoming - these changes, I'm beginning to realise are making me shape into a new person. 

There are some things about me that will fundamentally never change - my family comes first, I have an infatuation with stationary, I love being outside and I'm unable to go into a supermarket without a list that is written in the order I walk through the store (normal/not normal, delete as you see fit). However there are so many things I wouldn't have anticipated and for me that is what is causing the need to fight the fear. Fear that I want my career journey to be different but I'm not quite sure how I'll navigate it. Fear that I'm going to be pigeon-holed as 'a mum'. Fear that I might miss something my little girl does for the first time. Fear that I'll miss something at work! The list goes on, but the solutions are becoming clearer every day, but I'm having to work hard to remind myself that I do have the resilience to get through it. 

Are you fighting the fear of anything right now? Does everything seem to be coming at once? Is there a leap of faith you need to take but you keep putting off? Here are some questions to help get your thinking moving:
- what is it that I'm actually fearful of?
- what one thing can I do right now to reduce the fear or anxiety?
- what one thing can I do each week for the next month that will help me?
- who can help me to fight the fear?

When I first heard that phrase about grow ups as tall children, I thought it could be seen as a bit of a derogatory explanation. I guess to some it would be, there aren't many adults who enjoy being called a child. However, when I sit and think about it all we're really saying is everybody needs there hand holding from time to time with a bit of help from a guardian...so don't be too hard on yourself when you're feeling the pressure or fear, someone will be there.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Destination unknown

My husband will confirm that I am a terror for having to have everything planned, decided and mapped out way before it happens. Now, most of the time this pays off (I think he'd agree with that bit too!) however it's also a royal pain when I find myself in situations where the are far too many unknowns and nothing to grasp on to to steady myself.

Right now I'm in a 'destination unknown' head space. Now I like to pride myself when I'm at work and not sweating the small stuff and worrying about the wrong things (far too many people have that under control already!), but bring me out of the office and into home comforts and it falls apart from time to time! Doesn't take a genius to work out why, but it does take a bit of something to fix that rush of emotion, panic and confidence that escapes me when I need it most.

I'm not one for New Years Resolutions, but I feel the need to set myself a challenge or two in the coming weeks to help me be ok when I'm faced with uncertainty and I'd love to share them with you. So....
1. When I have decisions to make and a foggy head is in front of me, I am going to make a cup of tea and sit quietly for 5 minutes. Then, and only then can I start to think about what I need to do.
2. I'm going to get 'out of my head'. Some of you will get what I mean straight away with this one! Rather than push everything around in my grey matter I will share with someone else or scribble it down in my notebook. I must not over think things!
3. I need to give my brain some stretching - away from baby related activities and the TV! I am dedicating 20 minutes a day (BIG deal for me right now) to reading. Again, nothing baby related!

They are my challenges and I know if I stick to them I'll re-address some balance when it comes to needing to be rational and decision making.

Do you need to do something similar? I'd love to know your challenges!

Monday, 3 November 2014

A whole new world

Since July 2nd 2014, my life has completely changed.  That was the day that my beautiful daughter made her grand entrance into the world and life has been full pelt ever since!

I always thought I'd be ok at coping with a baby - I'm the eldest of 4 sisters (2 of which are much younger), and have always had young cousins around, so although it's obviously very different when they're your own I was going into this parenting lark feeling good.  Oh how I misjudged that one!  I had avoided reading too many books, but just enough to get by, and tried to tune out some of the more over zealous advice we were given from friends and family - all the time reassuring myself that we'd tackle it in our own way.  I still stand by that sentiment, it's just taken me a while to get there!

It's taken me some time, but everything has begun to fit in now.  Finding our routine, getting comfortable with feeding, recognising her different cries and trying to take each new challenge with a relaxed outlook have all been big hurdles for me.  As someone who is used to working in a corporate environment that although could be crazy and manic at times, it pales into insignificance when I put a newborn next to it - motherhood has been the hardest but most amazing job I've ever had.

BP (Before Polly) our evenings consistent of leisurely home cooked meals, DVD watching or catching up with the Sky+ box. Our weekends were always busy but we still went at our own pace.  Everything we do now revolves around our little lady and I love it.  Once I came to accept that what I was, what I did and how I did it was gone it was like a weight lifted.  I didn't need to do everything in the same way still, I had a new and exciting way of being with my little family - it was time to get my arms around it and enjoy it.

I had to ask myself a pretty big question when I began to hit a bit of a wall - why am I trying to live in the past? The more I asked myself the question, the more I could move forward and get on with living my refreshed version of life - my new world!

So, it's over to you - if you've gone through a big life change but are still clinging on to the way you lived before ask yourself...why?

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Just say yes...or should you?

When I first started working in the big bad corporate world I was the ultimate people pleaser – need a report running? I’m on it. Need all that extra work doing that rationally we know we can’t meet the deadline for? Pass it my way. Want someone to do a tea run? I was your gal. After about 6 months the feedback came thick and fast (from the people asking these questions I might add!) – ‘you’re a yes person’, ‘you take on too much’, ‘you need to learn to challenge back’ – you can imagine the kind of thing.

It immediately made me call in to question how I was being perceived in the work place – was I really the doormat? I’d judged doormats before, I’d looked at them and thought ‘who are you trying to please’. Suddenly it was me being the try hard. What followed was a swift wrap on the knuckles (self inflicted) that actually what I’d been trying to do was make a good impression, and with it being my first ‘proper’ job the only way I knew how was to take on more and put my all into everything and then some.

Over the years it’s flexed – there are still times when I am or indeed need to be, a yes person. Sometimes no matter how much courage I may have I ultimately work in a hierarchical organisation where seniority has a habit of dictating what ends up getting done. There are, luckily, many exceptions to this as well though – there are very definitely a couple of very senior people who do actually listen to the thoughts and opinions of their team which can lead to a more constructive and efficient approach to working.

As I’ve moved around and had accountability for leading others the impact of those times when I jump a little too quickly to ‘yes’ has become apparent as well – luckily not all that often, but it’s a different challenge when you’ve got others to think about – their work load, making sure they feel they can do their job without being micro managed, allowing creativity not to be stifled. It’s not so different at home – if we spend our time agreeing to everything everybody suggests you’re left with no time for you (and significant others) and what should be nice relaxing weekends and evenings suddenly get eaten up by doing things on everybody else’s agenda – eeek!

So are you a yes person? I’ve got some questions for you...
• What is the impact on you of being a yes person?
• What is the impact on those around you of being a yes person?
• When have been the times you’ve actually just needed to comply?
• Where have the opportunities to challenge been?
• Have you taken those opportunities?
• How do you want to identify when you have scope to challenge?

There’s no time like the present to check in – time for some reflection?

Happy questioning x

Wednesday, 4 June 2014


I spied this quote recently from Andy Stanley – ‘Growth creates complexity, which requires simplicity’ while I was having a read of some articles about making the complex simple. 

I’m generally surrounded by a high level of complexity because of the role I do and the organisation I do it in, so I’ve come to expect a work life that involves a lot of being on my toes.  It often spills into home life as well, and in both areas I have to challenge myself to break down the complex.  Sometimes it’s for me, sometimes it’s for those around me.  My goal always remains the same though – reducing stress and keeping things straight forward!

The more time I spend coaching others the more it dawns on me that complexity is subjective.  Not coachees, but my grandparents have found their way of life for the last 4 years complex and stressful – my Nan had a stroke and being the fitter of the two (and general matriarch tendencies!) they have been thrown into a different way of existing ever since.  Now much of their complexity is completely self-created – they’ve changed about 10% of the way they live since her illness, when in reality it needs a major overhaul.  It creates an unnecessary amount of complexity for them and those that help them, but from their perspective keeping life as it was as much as possible is what keeps things normal and simple.  A psychologist would have a field day!

In an everyday environment I see many people dealing with their own kind of complexity – multiple projects, tricky deadlines, demanding line managers, mastering the ever challenging work/life balance.  So what do you do?  Curl up in a corner and crumble?  Or carry on regardless?

Whatever way you migrate to, have a think about these questions to help you along your way:
  •      What is the reality of the situation?
  •      Where is the complexity coming from?
  •          What would make this really simple?
  •          How can I make that happen?

I’m going to stop there with the questions, rather than over complicate it (!) with many more – but hopefully you get the gist.  As with most situations, the power of the question is huge here.  Trying to carry on in the same way you have always done or not looking for ways to simplify the way you work in a world of growing complexity will take you in a direction where your blood pressure rises unnecessarily and you get yourself caught up with stressful situations.

Happy simplifying x 

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

What makes a great leader?

I’ve taken the inspiration for this blog post from another TED talk, this time from Roselinde Torres, all about what makes a great leader.

Torres takes time to ask some very pertinent and topical questions within the opening lines of her speech – the ones that particularly struck a chord for me were:

  •        Are leadership programmes preparing people for the future or what’s been there before?
  •        Why are leadership gaps widening despite growing investment?

She continues by talking about the false positives that are created by using the traditional leadership measures (360, leadership engagement indexes etc.) – a great point and thought for the those in this development field for what the future measurements need to look like.  Using the same measure year on year might give you consistency for comparison but it hardly moves with the changing environment we’re all in.

On the programmes point, controversially for some I have often struggled to see the value in leadership programmes that are either ‘sheep dip’ experiences for large groups of people or designed way ahead of time of knowing what a group’s collective needs are – why jump the gun and assume what a group might need when you could end up completely disengaging a massive chunk of your audience? On the flip side, I’ve also seen brilliant examples of modules and full programmes that have been delivered and had a lasting impact, but they’re always made up of multiple ‘interventions’, have been thoughtfully pulled together with a clear purpose and consists of ways of making the development stick once the course has been completed.

Roselinde positions that there are 3 questions that will help identify and expose great leadership.  As a question lover, these have really hit home with me:
  • Where are you looking to anticipate challenges? (i.e. who are you meeting with, where are you travelling, what’s in your calendar – remembering that great leaders see around corners!)
  •  What is the diversity measure of your network? (professional and personal, biology and thinking)
  • Are you courageous enough to move away from something that has made you successful in the past? (you don’t go along to get along, not just talking about risk taking but actually doing it)

Since watching this session, I’ve found myself asking these questions of myself and others around me to really pin down what I value in a leader and how I want my style and approach to change an evolve.  Next time you find yourself reviewing your direction and what you need to be developing, borrow these questions from Rosalinde and I’m certain when you’re honest with yourself you’ll find it enlightening and focusing!

Happy leading x

Friday, 11 April 2014

Are you doing what you love?

Strengths based development (and more recently recruitment) has been a personal passion and interest of mine for some time, so much so it’s running the risk of becoming my ‘wallpaper’ as I take for granted that not everybody uses or even understands this approach.  The sharp focus is back though, and so here comes my next post all about doing what you love.

There are bags of evidence out there about why people should use their strengths more in every aspect of their life – not just work, but home life too.  As a snap shot, it can boost someone’s confidence, give them higher levels of energy, make them more resilient or be more engaged with what they’re doing to name but a few outcomes.

My latest read on the strengths topic has come in the shape of ‘The Strengths Book’ from Capp.  I love the accessibility of the book and how it really shoots straight to the point about how to realise ‘the best of you’.  It explains the four quadrants of the model that is the heart of their approach – learned behaviours, weaknesses, realised strengths and unrealised strengths.  Learned behaviours being things that you perform well but you are de-energised or drained after doing them, weaknesses are then things that you perform poorly at and find de-energising or draining.  Your realised strengths are things which you perform well at find energising, and your unrealised strengths are things that you perform well at, find energising but don’t do very much. 

The book goes into detail about how to limit or make the most of each of the four aspects above as well as a breakdown of 60 strengths they use in their profiling, that I won’t go into, but I would thoroughly recommend giving the book a read – it’s so accessible and pragmatic as a tool but also as an on-going way of living.
So it leads me to one very simple question – are you spending time doing what you love? 

The answer might not be that simple for you, in fact I guess for most it could be a wakeup call so tread carefully with yourself – small changes could make the world of difference to you, this isn’t about having to drastically change your job overnight or what you spend your time doing, but there’s no time like the present to make positive changes to spend time doing things that make you happy.

Happy thinking x