Friday, 8 November 2013

The power of the introvert

So my new favourite thing to do is watch TEDtalks. Anything goes as long as it gets me thinking and the latest find about the power of the introvert from Susan Cain did just that. Click here for a quick path to watch it.

It's conditioned in many of us that extroversion and being the loudest gets you where you want to go, and the more I observe this in reality the more it makes me that really the case?  There are some amazing 'introverts' in the world, great thinkers who are at their best where they're working on something by themselves or fantastic strategists with the ability to make millions if they're given the right environment to work.  The more I look at it, the more I think that introversion gets confused with lack of confidence - I feel passionately with this one that B doesn't follow A.  I'm just going to say it - you can be an introvert and still be confident, and extroversion doesn't get you where you need to go.

Spending time watching this clip and thinking about the true meaning of introversion has had me sitting back and reflecting.  This is going to surprise most people that know me, and no sniggers please, but I'm introvert. Yep, you read that right.  I might be ok with standing up in front of people and delivering a training session, running a meeting or just having a conversation, but actually I'm at my best in my own company.  'Group think' is great for some things but I'm finding it increasingly difficult to think clearly when I'm surrounded by lots of people and really feel a difference if I take time out by myself. At one point I'd have absolutely described myself as an extrovert but things have definitely changed for me. As far as I can tell introversion doesn't mean you have to be shy...thoughts on a post card, or just a comment on here!

Enough about me and my indulgent rant, and swiftly on to the questions I'd urge you to think about...
- what is your perception of introversion?
- what do you know about the reality of introversion?
- what assumptions do you make about introverts?
- do you have a favourite...introvert or extrovert?!
- what are you?
- is there anything you need to change about the way you think about introversion?

Take some time to have a think...I hope it challenges some common misconceptions!

Happy reflecting x

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

What's in a face?

I recently saw a TED talk from Cameron Russell about image and looks (click here to see it), and the impact that they have on us as a society – particularly how we judge people, what desires they fuel and the reality that they mask.  It makes for brilliant viewing with a message delivered form the heart and a wake up call for those of us who really do judge a book by it’s cover – Cameron is a stunning Victoria Secret model.

It got me to thinking…what happens to our lives when we let image dictate our opinions?  When we buy a beauty product, item of clothing or magazine we’re generally buying a lifestyle and particularly with the latter we’re buying something that isn’t reality in a lot of ways.  It’s leading to impressionable minds be conditioned to thinking that outside beauty is best – be it your face, house, car or clothes. 

I’m sharing Cameron’s message with as many people as I can (and will listen) – it’s so powerful and has really made me question…what can I do differently? Give it a watch (it’s only about 8 minutes) and then ask yourself the same question – let me know your plans!

Happy watching x

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Is it worth it?

In a world where we’re trying to do more with less, times can get tough and somewhat draining. Looking around and indulging in my favourite past time (people watching) has opened my eyes to how it’s starting to affect people (good and bad) and is making me ask some questions…prompting this blog post!

Find an environment where you do your best thinking and answer the following questions…
• Do you ever find yourself feeling exhausted?
• Do you strive for 100% perfection for yourself and those around you?
• Do you like to have the final say?
• Do you find yourself correcting people’s approach even if they get the same outcome?

For a long time I was guilty of the last two – the former particularly as a teenager and the latter as I started to line manage other people. I’m still swamped by the ‘perfection’ point, but learning to deal with it and knowing when to back away has been a very enlightening journey! So, now is the time to ask yourself…is it worth it?

I’m not talking about throwing in the towel and becoming a recluse or ignoring the world around you, but taking a step back and evaluating if you’re sweating the small as well as the big stuff can help you to take stock and direct your energy to the right stuff.

Someone close to me recently read ‘What got you here won’t get you there’ and came away quoting ‘is it worth it’ as a thought to use whenever he is faced with a challenging situation or applies it to times when he should really back off and say nothing rather than having to have the final word. It’s now nothing short of a way of life for him.

So the next time you find yourself in a pickle over something seemingly stressful, or you’re rushing in to talk about something you don’t need to add to, or you’re about to critique somebody because they aren’t your carbon copy please ask yourself…is it worth it?

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Marching on together

Don’t worry Dad, I haven’t suddenly become a Leeds United fan.

I have however started to thinking about coping mechanisms and what keeps people going in uncomfortable situations after seeing a huge range of the beauties in action over the last month. Everything from humour, not talking, over talking, self talking, running away, carrying on regardless…it all intrigues me and I love watching them play out in people. Mine has morphed over the last few years – it started off with self talk and has migrated with carrying on regardless…humour has never been able to feature!

Asking around, a number of people couldn’t answer when I asked them what their coping mechanisms were and it got me to thinking…if you don’t know what they are how do you keep them topped up? If you’re going through a turbulent time the mechanism could start to dry up and it’s important to have a bit of something in reserve to get you through.

So, in the week ahead have a think…
• What are your coping mechanisms?
• What are your back ups when they run down?
• What do you want them to be in the future?

Don't under estimate the power of resilience and your coping mechanisms to keep you marching on.

Happy thinking x

Thursday, 8 August 2013


I was perusing the BBC website earlier this week when the article questioning how many times the good Doctor (Who) could be reinvented with a new leading fella. It got me thinking…is there a limit when it comes to reinvention? And more importantly, when is the time to do it? The world is filled wall to wall with brands that diversify, expand and change every week – so is it savvy to flex or is it just inability to make a decision about what your ‘market’ is? So, there’s one question hanging here…what do you think? Let’s get interactive – tweet or reply with your thoughts, I’d love to know your opinion!

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Frame it...

In an earlier blog (Perspectives) I touched on ‘frame of reference’ (FOR) and the importance of acknowledging different perspectives.  I reckon it deserves a little more air time with a post of it’s own now, so here goes!
Have you ever had a conversation with someone and you just don’t understand where they’re coming from?  What about when you’re the one doing the talking and no matter what you say that other person just ‘doesn’t get it’? Well, that’s all down to frame of reference. 
‘So what?’ I hear you cry…well it’s all about helping you get your point across and making it stick.  It might be a change in behaviour, a new routine or just a one off activity you need someone to do – but no matter what it is,  FOR will help.
Picture the scene…you need to get someone to help you out with a task.  For you, it means it’ll get done quicker and you can move on to your next task quicker.  For them it’ll mean more work, however they’ve been looking to get some more experience and if you don’t have to do it all you’ll be less stressed with those around you, and the person you’re going to ask doesn’t perform well when they’re in a stressed environment. You also know that they like to be thanked in a low key way, and are a lover of chocolate.  So, when it comes to asking them to help, which bits do you pull out that will be most influential to get them to help, and keep them on side going forward? I’ll give you some options…
a) ask them to help because it’ll mean you’re less stressed and you can get on with the other things on your list, it’s more work (you want to manage their expectations) but they’ll just have to make time.  The week after, you make a big song and dance in front of a huge group of people with a thank you card.
b) ask them to help because it’ll get them some exposure to something they’re interested in, the environment will be less stressed and you’ll help them work out how to fit it in.  A couple of days later when it’s just the 2 of you around you give them a box of chocs to say thank you.
A or B then?
Spot on – B of course! The ‘helper’ has been talked to in their FOR and more importantly rewarded in their FOR. 
You might be sitting their thinking, ‘this is easy, I do it all the time’ but the harsh light of reality tells a different story.  Looking around I think people do about 50% of the time, but the urge to project our own thoughts or feelings onto someone else takes over.  As giddy as you might feel about the benefits to you, have a heart and think about the other person – they have their own view of the world (FOR) and when it’s challenged resistance can surface.
Give it a go the next time you’re talking to someone about a change you need them to get on board with or an activity – you’ll feel the difference!
Happy framing x

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Get with the programme...

...and the programme is relevant feedback!

It's coming up to mid-year review time for many people across the globe, which means only one thing - an influx of feedback requests.  I've blogged in an earlier post (Breakfast of Champions) about some elements of giving feedback, but today I feel the need to put some focus on the 'relevance' of the feedback you are giving, and specifically the timeliness.

As you're completing the 20th request for feedback, have a think to yourself as you're dishing out your thoughts
- when is this feedback from? 
- is it still relevant* for the colleague?
- have I got some recent (and great quality) examples to bring it to life?

*I ask the second question about relevance on purpose, as I think this is the exception to the rule because if the feedback is 12 months old but still something that you think is holding the other person back then you need to say it.

Out of date comments could mean the person a) can't do a thing about it or b) they've worked on it already (and you're not close enough to know) now is the time to keep quiet.  It's very flattering to be asked your opinion on how someone is doing and get your input into their development, but do this frustrated questioner a favour - leave your now massaged ego at the door and resist the tempation to type/write/talk about something that happened 18 months ago and hasn't resurfaced since.

There is another side to this, and that is those requesting feedback need to consider who they're asking for input from. Asking people who you've only had a couple of experiences with at best is unlikely to end in quality feedback.  When you're making your list about who to ask, think who can add value and insight for you not just people who you've had a one off positive experience with who will give you a boost.

Quality feedback is few and far between, but little by little we can all make in roads together.

Happy weekend x

Wednesday, 10 July 2013


A oldie but a goodie, the simple question of 'why?' Is going to be the focus for my next post.

Whenever I'm coaching or mentoring someone I like to start by understanding what their drivers are - their reason for change, the final straw, the epiphany...or simply just why they want to make a change and or achieve something new.

So here comes my first question - do you ever find yourself starting something and giving up before it's done? Well, that's most likely down to you not having a strong enough reason for making the change - your 'why'.  It's one of my favourite principles coined in Go MAD - The art of making a difference, where Andy Gilbert quotes Fredrick Nietsche who very wisely says that 'a person can bear any what if they have a big enough why'. Insightful hey?

As ever, you're not in it alone though, so if you want to do a review of your whys, here are some questions to help you get clarity:
- what is super important to you?
- what will happen if you don't make the change?
- what motivates you to make a change?
- how are you going to surround yourself  with your motivators?
- what's the plan now?

Don't be hard on yourself if you're giving up on things, you just need to spend some time thinking about your reasons why. If you don't spend time thinking about it...then you can be very hard on yourself!

Happy reviewing x

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Time and a place...

We're on the home straight...the final component in a thinking environment is Place - the importance of where you are having your meeting / brain storming session / catch up / heart to heart (delete as appropriate).

We were edging into this component in an earlier post about 'Ease' but now the spotlight is firmly on it, and it's time to ask yourself some questions about the kind of meeting environments you find yourself in as well as creating.

Now here comes a very deliberate leading question...when have you had a conversation in a really inappropriate place?
- what was the conversation about?
- what was the outcome?
- on reflection, did the environment play any part on the outcome?
- why did you have it in that location?
- if you could have the conversation again, where would you have it?

If you can't think of an example, then imagine some of the worst places to have a conversation - what could the impact on a conversation be?

Now let's get positive...where's the perfect place to have a meeting or conversation?  You might now have a list of different locations in your head and probably saying to me 'well it depends on the conversation obviously'...and you'd be quite right but I'm really just getting you to have a good long think about all the possibilities.

The theory behind this is that if someone is in an environment conducive to clear and fresh thinking, where they feel safe and secure they will be at their best (think Maslow's hierarchy of needs, worth a Google if you've not come across it!).  So the next time you're planning a meeting, no matter how impromptu, put some thought into the location or you could be in for an uncomfortable situation.

Happy chatting x

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Incisive questions...

Well really this one should be my favourite component shouldn't it?! 

I don't have favourites though, and actually the first time I read about incisive questions it took me more than a few moments reflection to really 'get it', but I love it now.

So first the Nancy Kline explanation - 'removing assumptions that limit our ability to think for ourselves clearly and creatively' which to me essentially means removing those barriers that are clipping our wings when it comes to our finest thinking...capiche?!  I'll bring it to life with an example I think touches most of us at some point in our lives...time management.

- First you take the limiting assumption, which in this case is 'I am a victim of time pressure'
- Next you turn it into a liberating alternative assumption like 'I have a choice about how I spend my time'
- Then comes the incisive question 'if you know you have a choice, how would you re-structure your time?'

The process can apply to absolutely anything though, and if there's a particular area of your life you're feeling limited in or frustrated because you can't move beyond where you are now this beauty might just help to liberate your thinking.  Before you start the process, ask yourself these questions as a temperature check of where your thinking is at:
- what assumptions am I making that is limiting my thinking?
- is that assumption true?
- what's an alternative assumption I could make that would help my situation?
- with my new assumption in mind, how do I feel?

Just keep to the running order of limiting assumption > liberating alternative assumption > incisive question and it should work like a dream.  If you're a first timer then I'd strongly recommend getting someone to do this with you, and let that person be someone who you know will challenge you - it's all too easy to remain in the pit of despair and staleness!

Happy questioning x

Monday, 24 June 2013

We're all different...

We look different, smell different, have different it's no wonder we all think differently.  And welcoming different points of view brings us on to the next component of a thinking environment - Diversity. 

How diverse is your thinking environment?  The exact meaning of this component is described as 'welcoming divergent thinking and diverse group identities', so let's get questioning to explore...

- what was the last new idea you came up with?
- who was there when it happened?
- what were the circumstances when you came up with it?
- who do you have in your trusted circle inputting into your ideas?
- how would you describe their approach to new ideas?
- how does that description compare to your approach?
- what kind of person stimulates your best thinking?
- who do you know that thinks differently to you?
- how much time do you deliberately make sure you have with this person?
- is it enough?

The list could continue but I want you to use these to get your grey matter thinking in a different way about who you're surrounding yourself with...are they all mini-me's or a nice eclectic mix of varied thinkers?

The bottom line with diversity (inside or outside of a thinking environment) is that it should be on your priority list if you're after fresh and new thinking.  Surrounding ourselves with different people who operate in different ways will only challenge your assumptions and make you think differently. It won't be without it's challenges because let's face it having a multitude of outlooks and approaches can make for differing agendas, but if you can move through the barriers and see them as ways to facilitate your best thinking, everyone is a winner!

Happy reflecting x

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Just give me the facts...

Information.  Some people reckon it's power, Nancy Kline says it's the seventh component in a thinking environment, so let's explore...

This is where the polar opposite of emotions comes in - just giving the factual information for a situation with all the raw feelings removed.  Imagine the last time you were caught in the middle of a fiery discussion, loaded with emotions and everybody vying to get their point across. What would have happened if (delete as appropriate) mr/mrs/miss/ms/lord/lady rational had waded in to bring everybody back down to earth with the bare facts and got you focused again on what you were trying to achieve?

Not everybody has fact giving as a natural talent, and if you don't have it (which is absolutely fine by the way) it's going to be important to find those that are and surround yourself with them.  Yep, it might be time increase your circle of friends!

In the spirit of a thinking environment, you could more formally assign the role to someone in a meeting or discussion so you always know that no matter how emotive a situation gets or if you just get caught up in aspects of a decision you don't need to, you will be pulled back by your information giver.  If however you're reading this and thinking 'I don't know anybody who could take on that role no matter how much arm twisting I do' or it might be that you're flying solo and you're having to take on every role then fear not, I have a solution for that too.  Information doesn't have to come verbally from a person does it?  So how about a visual (A3 paper, flip chart, a slide, a post it...anything really) that has the facts on it for you.  You could have it up in the room, on your desktop, stick it on your mirror as you're getting ready - absolutely anywhere as long as it is in plain sight and clear. 

So, the next time you're heading into a discussion, a meeting, or some alone time working on a project before you start ask are you going to keep the factual information front and centre?

Happy planning x

Monday, 10 June 2013

It's just emotion...

Feelings. Quirky things, but they also have their place in the thinking environment.

When feelings take over the results can be extreme - everything from over zealous joy to the dark depths of depression...quite a spectrum.  So imagine the impact feelings have on your thinking - it's got big warning signs written all over it.  So what do we do?  Well we can't ignore them, they have a habit of getting louder and more vivid if we do that. Which leaves the option of paying attention to them and letting them be released..surely not?!  It's time for the stereotypical British stiff upper lip to be removed and embrace the feelings.

Feelings are emotive, unique and can be a de-railer if you try and suppress them.  They'll distract you and cloud your finest thinking which goes against pretty much every principle I've written about so far and those that are yet to be explored.  However they shouldn't be feared - after all what's the adage in all training relating to difficult conversations?  'You can only control you'...and that means your feelings!

Can you remember the last time you had a discussion with someone that got heated because it got all caught up with feelings, only to think a few days later after you've had time to reflect that actually it wasn't such a problem after all?  I've been there too many times than I care to share (although those that know me can probably do the maths!) and I wish I'd have let my emotions out in a more constructive way rather than a sudden explosion.

The way to embrace them in a thinking environment is to really let them out and be released.  This doesn't mean spontaneously standing up and shouting them out loud, or allotted agenda time for them ( let's face it doing it in a contrite and tidy way goes against what emotions are) - but there is somewhere in the middle that could help because largely the emotional outbursts happen when someone thinks their feelings are not being acknowledged.

For some, simply being asked how they are feeling will be enough to be able to talk about them and let go.  For others who perhaps don't feel like they are in the right environment or company to do that they'll need something different.  It might be that you speak to people before a meeting, or agree some principles before you start a meeting that you're in a safe environment and without people saying what they really think you won't get the best outcome (sounds a bit formal and 'worky' but I don't mean it to and it should work with non-work related things too).

Another activity I've seen done is 'heart storming' where the person leading a conversation gets everybody in the room to write on post its how they're feeling.  For the writer it means that their emotions have been noted and won't be forgotten, and in particular for a thinking environment it's one less thing to hold in your head to block your thoughts.  It's a double edged sword though - in the wrong hands it can become an emotionally charged mess so use with discretion and avoid this one if you're in two minds about where you could end up with it.

There's some personal responsibility with emotions as well, and specifically what you're doing to let them out.  Before you head into a situation that you have some emotional baggage around, see if there's a safe place to park it.  Safe might mean; somewhere you know you won't forget it when the opportunity for the 'emotional release' comes up or even sharing it with someone else so you put the emotion into perspective.  Whatever it means to you, going in packed with emotional charge will lead to an explosion so make sure no matter what the situation you know your emotions can come out in a safe way.

Happy weekend xx

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Come on, you can do it.

Sometimes a little encouragement is all we need, so it's just as well it's the next component in a thinking environment.

In this case, it's all about giving courage to go to the unpopular or alternative ideas and let's face it - we all need a gentle nudge to go to those places sometimes.

Cast your mind back to the last time you were in a group of people and someone said something that you'd been thinking all along but didn't say it.  Imagine that you didn't say it because it was a bit extreme or the polar opposite to what you would do normally.  What would the impact have been if someone had given you some encouragement to speak out?  I'm guessing you'd have got in there sooner, that's what!

This one involves a bit of digging though, because I reckon what that encouragement looks like is going to be different depending on who you are.  It might be a pep talk before a meeting, someone throwing you a friendly smile and nod, or someone being really blunt with you telling you to get your point across no matter how left field it might be.  The digging needs to be two-fold though - finding out what you personally need as encouragement as well as what those around you need to gee them along. 

It can be really straight forward in the question that you ask yourself (or others), so here are some examples:
- what helps you get thoughts out?
- what gives you courage to speak out?
- what would make you feel comfortable to suggest something a bit different?

Getting these thoughts out will let your finest thinking come through, because holding onto thoughts in your head will only ever be a distraction.  If you need anymore encouragement to crack on with finding out what helps you, remember that situation when somebody said what you were thinking and they got praised for it (and maybe even a pay rise and promotion - extreme I know but I'm trying to drum up some emotion here!), were you kicking yourself?

So, what are you waiting for?  Have some reflection time now to work out what is going to help you and plan in when you're going to have the conversation with others to find out what encouragement they need. It's going to feel liberating, I promise!

Happy encouraging xx

Friday, 31 May 2013

Feel the love...

In at number four on the thinking environment components is Appreciation.

Put away your bear hugs for a minute though, let's explore first...Appreciation is all about showing a genuine acknowledgement for the others person's qualities, not necessarily a big love-in.  I realise it can mean a bit of digging deep in some cases, but stay with me for now.

Cast your mind back to the last time someone acknowledged your qualities...
- how did it feel?
- what did you do afterwards?
- how did your thinking change?

It might be a bit more of a spring in your step, a bigger smile or a bit more confidence, but there will have been a reaction. Those warm and fuzzy feelings feel good don't they?  Nancy shares that a ratio of 5:1 appreciation:criticism is the Rolls Royce to aim for.  I'm usually someone who is against ratios and targets like that, but I can see where she's coming from - let the good out way the bad.

Those nice feelings will help with free flowing thinking, getting people to keep positive and ultimately have brilliant quality thinking. So, next time you're with someone ask yourself, have you taken the opportunity to show your genuine appreciation?

This one kind of does exactly what it says on the tin so slightly short and sweet...bear hugs back out now.

Happy smiling x

Easy does it...

Up next in a thinking environment is 'Ease'.

Have you ever felt un-nerved when you're talking to someone because you're not in a comfortable environment, felt rushed or pressured?  How did you react to it?  Did you begin to rush your message or cut it short?  No matter what the reaction I bet you weren't at your best when you were talking.  Now imagine if you'd have been given quality focused time where you didn't have to rush...what would have happened then?

The timing...
I remember being young and playing various make believe games, and dragging whoever was around into said games.  When that person was a grown up I'd have their co-operation for about 15 minutes before they'd gently say to 'ok Char, just 2 more minutes'.  My bottom lip would be straight out, I wasn't at the end of my game and I was going to have to cut it short.  I now see it from their point of view that I was probably make them play at being a zoo animal, supermarket customer or school child when they probably had a million other things to do.  However, as well as the bottom lip I'd immediately cut the game short no matter what stage we were at (and usually only just beginning, my games lasted a while) and feel really quite deflated.

A bit of a throw back example but the principles are the same - cut someone short and they'll feel a bit put out and lose their creative juices. 

A more up to date experience and one you might recognise is when people come into a meeting (or something equivalent) and say they've only got 10 minutes when we've blocked out half an hour.  You rush your message, miss a load of things and don't get a quality discussion.

Keep in mind the next occassion you're talking to someone - if you have the time, give it up to them.  If you don't then be up front but find an opportunity when you really can have a quality conversation together.

The environment...
Picture the scene...a busy-ish corridor and someone has collared you to catch up about a pressing project.  How do you feel having that conversation?  It can be really off putting if there's lots of noise going on around you so suddenly the great opportunity someone has seized to talk to you becomes a confusing conversation full of distractions.

It's not always possible but the next time you head for a catch up with someone think about the location - you can't always have natural light and fresh air, but don't let the coffee queue be the default location.

So, to round off this post here's the killer question - are you doing everything in your power to put people at ease?

Happy Friday xx

Saturday, 25 May 2013

A relationship of equals...

The next component in a thinking environment is 'Equality'.

Do you work in a company that thrives (and manipulates) on a hierarchy culture/operating model?  What does that hierarchy mean?  Is it grounded in financial reward, specialist knowledge or length of service?  How does it affect everybody that works there?

Hierarchy can cause a big barrier when it comes equality, and it's really only human nature - but that's why we need a bit of nurture thrown in for good measure.  Those at the top of the hierarchy earning a pretty penny should be there for a reason, and they are likely to be the best person for that job because of their knowledge, judgement, influence, skill...the list could go on (although there are some examples where this isn't true!).  So what goes through their head then when they're having a discussion with someone more junior?  Do they let them have more opportunity, less opportunity or the same amount of opportunity to input?  If your answer is anything other than 'the same', I know what your thought process would have been. However, consider for a moment what it would look like if they were given equal time and opportunity - not hushed because they were more junior or in fact given more time because it's a chance to shine in front of someone more senior...

I think the result would be quite stark.  Give someone an equal footing and they will shine - not because of the brilliant opportunity but because they are being treated as a person and an individual.  Their input will come thick and fast, and most importantly they will feel appreciated and like they have genuinely earned their place in the room rather than someone taking pity on them.

So, the next time you're heading into a meeting or a conversation with someone ask yourself -
- have I treated that person as an equal?
- How can I remove any pre-judgement I have in my head about why they aren't my equal?
- If it's me that isn't being treated as an equal, how can I get my voice heard?
- How can I remove any thoughts in my own head that I'm not an equal to the person opposite me?

The key to this will be unpicking the pre-judgement you have in either situation.  Find a way to work through that because you'll probably find a good chunk of the reasons are irrational!

Happy equalising xx

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Attention please...

A few posts ago I introduced the idea of a thinking environment from the work of Nancy Kline, so I thought it was about time I go into a bit more depth on them.  Nancy talks about 10 components of a thinking environment, and first up....


Do you listen with palpable respect? 
Paying attention may seem easy - you just make sure you have eye contact, look interested and respond when you need to surely?  Well that'll get you so far, but now it's time to take it one step further.  The challenge - giving someone attention without interruption. 

Interruption will come in different forms - as the listener you might get overrun by different thoughts in your head that distract from the talker, or you might literally interrupt when they're talking.  Either way, when those occur it's going to have a negative impact on the other person even if you genuinely think you're helping or it's a way to show you're listening. 

If someone thinks they are going to be interrupted they will conduct themselves differently - they might be more cautious, only talk about certain parts of their thinking - and it's likely to be the parts that will provoke the best discussion later on that they won't share because they don't want to get into there and then.  There's some research that even suggests when someone gets interrupted their IQ drops! 

So how can you help?  Well consider these questions before you start 'listen' to someone else:
- is my mind going to be on the conversation?
- what instincts do I need to control?
- how comfortable am to not interrupt? (and therefore how can I increase my comfort?)
- what's the best thing that could happen if I input after the other person has finished talking?
- what's the worst thing that could happen if I input after the other person has finished talking?

You will be able to watch someone else's thinking transform if you give them unadulterated attention...I promise!

Happy listening x

Monday, 22 April 2013

Let's face the music...

...and face into honest conversations.

I'm a big believer in having honest conversations.  Without them, we run the risk of wandering through life frustrated with others or (possibly even worse) not having a true picture of how we're performing or behaving.

It's not always easy though - they can be uncomfortable, take unpredictable turns and get emotional.  We can't plan for every eventuality, but we can plan to have them and fend off any feelings of shying away from these 'eek' moments.  To help you along your way here are some reasons (disguised as questions of course!) to consider the next time you put off a looming honest conversation...

Are you hand holding?
- how much time are you spending doing something that isn't your responsibility? If you're picking up extra 'stuff' because someone else isn't performing and you don't want to talk to them about it, you're going to reach a breaking point.
- home or work, hand holding is allowed when someone is new to something - but NOT if they're not performing and you're bridging gaps on their behalf.

Is the best person doing the job?
- have you got someone doing something because they were right place right time?  Are they genuinely the best person to be doing that job?  If they're not, then at best there will be missed opportunities but at worst that person will be heading down a route of note performing which is never a nice experience for anybody concerned.
- You can head off the corrective performance management conversations by facing into this issue up front - tackle the problem at the source with this one and don't settle for anything less than the best person.
- Those that are in the wrong jobs will ultimately block the right people getting to them - think long term and the impact that could have.

What will the impact be on the person?
- picture the scene - you've had a planned and considered honest conversation with someone that was balanced and focused on how to get the best out of that person.  How do they feel? What do they do afterwards?
- with great conversations comes engagement and energy to move forward.  If someone isn't happy they're probably going to be feeling down and have a level of awareness about their performance not being where it needs to be.  Talking to them about it in a productive way will help them feel better and wanting to push forward.

So, 3 reasons / questions to consider when you're sitting thinking about your next honest conversation!  There are oodles of reasons that people have come up with over time but these are my 3 favourite and the ones that I always think about carefully before hand.

Enjoy x

Friday, 19 April 2013

Me, myself and I...

If someone was to ask you if you are self-aware what would you say?

Well for starters, if it was me, in the true spirit of being the questioning lady I'd challenge the question (!) to be more specific than that because we're complex human beings who change state regularly, so my self awareness fluctuates - I lose it when I get emotional or angry, but I'm more attune to it when I'm feeling reflective or going about my day in a step by step way.

I read a book a little while ago that was all about emotional intelligence, which is something that fascinates and scares me for the same reason - the awesome power it can have over individuals, both for themselves (intrapersonal) and those around them (interpersonal).

So how do we become more self-aware?  Even if we think we are, it's good to check in sometimes.  Here come the questions that will help you on your journey of self discovery...
- what are your goals in life?
- what are your beliefs?
- what do you value the most?
- what drives you to succeed?
- what rules do you live by?

Answer them for yourself and then ask some people around you to answer them for you too.  Do your answers match up? 

Now before you start explaining mis-matched answers away because you think someone doesn't know you...STOP!! You should only ask someone who knows you really well - you're not seeking perception feedback, you're testing your own self awareness. 

Differing answers can really help increase your self awareness.  When my (now) husband and I were building up to our wedding day we had to go to the famed marriage classes.  One of the questions was about your biggest fears in life and you had to talk about them - I'll be honest, I struggled to articulate it until Mr Speak swooped in with what his thought of my biggest fear was...and he was spot on.  He knew the answer because he understands my goals, beliefs and values and I momentarily forgot!  In that moment my self awareness dropped a few points but someone was there to help me - you're not in this alone.

Happy discovering xx

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Change: revisited

Oops, I've made an error! I'm yet to revisit the subject of change and some tips as I promised a couple of posts ago - so here it is...

- what are the controllables?
No matter what you're experiencing there will be some things you will be able to control.  Work out what they are, and get your hands round them pronto! You might have to dig deep you might need someone to help you work out what they are, but I guarantee they exist.

- what's your coping mechanism?
It might be going for a walk, talking to a sounding board, shopping, eating, sleeping...really the possibilities are endless because of how unique we all are.  Whatever helps you get through tough times find it and use it, but be aware that it could change and acknowledge when you mite need something else to help you cope.

- what do you need to let go of?
It might be a way of operating, it might be a process, it might even be a relationship - whatever it is its time to identify it, let go and move on.  It'll help you move through the 'denial' stage of change and help you look to the future. There are lots of ways to get through the letting go - visualisation of what you want to move to, writing it down on paper and literally destroying it, talking it through with someone - find your way that helps you move on.

- enjoy the here and now
We spend a lot of time living in the future (and is probably encouraged in lots of jobs) and I think we forget how it feels to live for today.  It can be great to be planned and prepared, but we then spend a lot of time living with the unknown and not making the most of what have on offer right now in front of us.  Worrying about what may or may not happen will zap today of your energy.  Think about what you're grateful for at the end of each day to help you focus on this mindset.

It's really not so scary!

Happy changing xx

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Are you being genuinely inquistive?

I started this blog to ask, help you ask, and try to find answers to questions.  In hindsight, I probably should have started with this entry!

I was talking to a friend this weekend who was talking about a time when he was away with work recently and found himself being asked a heap of questions by a little boy of about 6 who was on holiday with his parents.  The questions (of which there were about 15!) ranged from 'are you stopping at the hotel' to 'what are you having for tea', and as he was recounting the story to me something sparked in me...when was the last time we were all genuinely inquisitive?  No hidden agenda, just innocent fact finding questions when you're genuinely interested in what the person opposite you has to say.

I know I'm guilty of thinking I'm being inquisitive with no agenda, but I generally (and most of the time need to) ask questions to find answers that will impact me in some way at some point.  For me it's mainly circumstance of my line of work, but let's face it we're not in work 24/7 (and if you are we need to talk about your work/life balance!) so now is the time to make a change and embrace your innocent curiosity!  You're essentially going to be making other people feel good about themselves because it's as simple as showing an interest in someone as a person, not what they can do for you now or in the future.  In turn, I promise you'll feel equally as good about yourself - positivity and niceness radiate!!

So, here's the challenge....find 1 question to ask someone everyday for the next week that is nothing to do with work or directly impacting you.  Yes, ok, slightly contrived at the moment but it won't always be - as I've said before it's about forming new habits and I'll have you in the swing of it before you know it. 

In a weeks time, ask yourself this question:
- how is being genuinely curious about people making me feel?

Set your reminders now...I hope you get a nice answer!

Happy questioning xx

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

The definition of insanity... doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results (Einstein once said!).  I read this quote as I was prepping to deliver a change management session, and it got me thinking...why do we forget sometimes that what we get out is directly linked to what we put in?

Changing ANYTHING in your life can be a scary situation and those that profess to 'like change', I'm sorry but I just don't believe you (hold off on the rotten fruit for a moment).  You might like being flexible and showing your agility, and I can totally understand that - I'm one of them, but let's face it change brings with it the unknown, unexplored situations and if it isn't landed well then a heap of other rubbish 'stuff'. 

However, is it time for a change?  It might be your lifestyle, eating habits, where you go on holiday even...but whatever it is I'll help you through it.
If you're already a convert like Einstein and you absolutely buy in to the 'putting the same in gets the same out' and you have a rough idea of what and how you need to change then you can skip on, but if you're not quite there yet and want a helping hand here come the obligatory questions from your Questioning Lady...
- what is it that you want to change?
- why do you want to change?
- what's the best thing that could happen if you made the change?
- who can help you make the change?
- where are you going to record your actions
- how are you going to track your progress?
- when will you know you've achieved it?
- what are the consequences of not changing?
- how will you celebrate when you've achieved it?

You need to answer these questions honestly and fully - if you don't have reason enough to change or a vivid idea of what success will look like you're going to struggle.  It's going to be about forming new habits and that comes with time, but it also means determination and setting some accountability for yourself.  Only you can change you at the core - why wait?

I'm keeping this topic going over the next post so stay tuned for some tips!

Happy thinking xx

Tuesday, 26 March 2013


A little friend of mine (Harry) recently saw this sign, turned to my husband and said 'look - it means that doggies can't put their tails in a fire'.  Giggles ensued, but it got me thinking - perspective, and more importantly knowing other people's perspective can be incredibly powerful.  If anybody had tried to correct Harry, I wonder how he would have felt? 

So what happens when you're trying to work with someone else whose perspective is totally different to your own? 

Whenever I'm coaching someone who is going through a challenging time with other people, I'll always find myself asking 'and what do you think the other person is thinking / going through / experiencing?'.  It's often a challenge if you don't really know a person to be able to answer a question like that, but that's generally what I want to show someone.  If you don't know someone, how can you get the best out of them?

It's a balancing act though - I was once delivering a session about maximising performance and talked about the importance of knowing someone if you're facing into a challenging conversation.  I started talking about hints and tips that we're fairly common sense to get people thinking about how they could get to know the people around them.  At the end of this section of the course I asked if there were any questions, and I kid you not, someone put their hand up and said 'so should I go around anybody in my department I don't know and ask them to tell me about themselves?'  This person was not kidding, and only slightly facetious.  I nearly put my head in my hands and questioned my skills a trainer.  Onwards and upwards though, and I retorted that it was about being sensible and genuine about it, it's not a competition of how much you know and it needs to be relevant etc etc. 

Understanding somebody else's perspective or 'frame of reference' will be important when you're working with them (and particularly if you're landing change) to really make something stick.  So here are some questions for you to think about the next time you venture in to working with others (that aren't carbon copies of you):
- where is their head at?
- what previous experience or knowledge do they have with this situation?
- what's in it for them?
- how does your perspective differ to theirs?
- who is best placed to help you get to know their perspective?

This is a starter for 10, I will be exploring 'frame of reference' in relation to change as my blog progresses (and it is my new favourite thing to do!).

Happy perspective hunting x

What's right...(part 2)

How's the positivity working out for you so far? It's time for the 'so what' in this second instalment. 

So, take yourself back to the visioning exercise - I'm going to make some an assumption because we're not face to face that you've taken yourself to the place where you can clearly see what a positive reaction would look like to your chosen situation.

Now, write down what that positive approach feels like so you visibly have it somewhere. Then answer:
- how do you feel when you react positively?
- what feels different between your positive reaction vs the alternative?

Then comes your action plan:
- do you have the drive to maintain the positive / constructive approach to facing challenging situations?
- what will happen if you keep constructive?
- how many times are you going to allow yourself to have negative slips? (nobody is perfect, you need some allowances)
- what do you need to do next?
- who can you share your actions with? (think about who can help you keep it up)
- how can you use reflection time to look back on your new approach and how it's making you feel?

And there it is.  Simple. Straight forward. Achievable. You have the power to unlock your positive and constructive side - others can help but nobody else can do it for you.  It may feel alien to start off with, but stick with it - once you start to experience the new feelings you'll get addicted.

Happy planning x

Monday, 25 March 2013

What's right....(part 1)

...with people, this country, the world, the universe even?!

How much time do you spend in a haze of negativity each day?  How many hours do you think it adds up to over your lifetime?  My money is on a loooong time, because let's face it even the most positive and perky of us get down.

So, it's time to do yourself a positivity audit.  Nothing scientific (because I'm not that way inclined and wouldn't have a scooby on how to start), just a bit of personal reflection time and honesty.

When you get home tonight, find 10 quiet minutes to yourself and answer:
- what challenged me today?
- how did I respond to the challenge?

Then with a fresh and un-biased eye, answer:
- what would a negative response look like to my challenges?
- what would a positive response look like to my challenges?

And finally, with the answers from above have yourself a visioning exercise:
- close your eyes (if you want to of course and you're not in a particularly public place where you might get some funny looks or a nudge to check you're awake)
- using the answer to 'what a positive response would look like' take yourself to that place
- use positive language to describe it to yourself
- keep it vivid - what are you wearing, eating, drinking, who is around you etc.

I'm not looking to turn you into Pollyanna, but I do want you to consciously feel what it's like to handle things in a constructive way rather than the doom and gloom that we so easily slip into.  There is a difference, but the key to believing it is feeling it. 

Start with this and part 2 will be along shortly...

Happy Monday x

Friday, 22 March 2013

I'll take a bottle of confidence please...

Confidence - one of life's great mysteries for some.  I've seen it on more development plans than I care to mention (with no specifics goals next to it can I add!) and it's on par with 'raise your profile' for fluffy-ness.

I'm in no doubt that for lots of people it is genuinely something that holds them back from making a crucial decision, stops them presenting to people or makes them question their worth.  I'm also in no doubt that it can be tackled and overcome. 

I want you to take yourself back to a time when you felt great about yourself...what were you doing?

Now, picture the situation in your head or write it down.  Describe it as vividly as you can - use your senses and emotions to take yourself back to this brilliant time. Now answer these questions...
- what made you feel so good?
- what will help you feel that good again?
- how did you feel during the situation?
- how did you feel afterwards?
(again, writing down or recording the answers somewhere is going to be important)

So now you've laid some foundations, it's time to do something with it.  I want you to answer these questions now...
- what are the situations that cause you to lose confidence?
- what happens during the situations that frightens your confidence away?
- who do you see as having consistent confidence?
- how can that role model help you?
- how can you use your visualisation from above in these instances?

Positive visualisation is just one way of overcoming confidence issues, but it's extremely powerful.  Using role models / peer coaching / spot mentoring are all oldies but goodies - think about who you really admire and how you can use them, they'll love being asked.

There will be times when you are at your most energised and putting your strengths into full force, and those times are when you're at your most confident.  So why don't you use those skills more? It really is that simple.  Go on, give it a go!

There will be people out there that this is a deep routed challenge for, for a variety of reasons and to those people I'd urge you to not doubt yourself.  Everybody has potential and greatness in them - it just takes some deeper digging for some, and if you want help with that digging please get in touch with me via this blog.

I'm going to sign off with a health warning (imagine flashing red sign here).  What confidence means to you, won't be the same to everybody else.  If you're thinking that because someone (or you) is a bit quieter, more reflective and not loud and out going DOES NOT mean they're not confident.  In fact, I would argue that these could be some of the most confident and secure people out there - those that can sit in silence and think without having to justify their existence with lots of noise.  Don't be hard on yourself if this is something you challenge yourself on - it's different strokes for different folks.

Happy reflecting x

Monday, 18 March 2013

The quality of everything we do... based on the quality of thinking we do first.  This little gem comes direct from Nancy Kline, a lady I have heard speak and whose books I love to dip in and out of (Time to Think and More Time to Think).

So what does that mean to you?

If you rush, feel stressed and like you have no space to think you won't be doing your best work (and we're talking major fluke if you do).  Those reading who profess that they do their 'best work under pressure', I'm really going to challenge your understanding of yourself, but don't worry, I'll be gentle!

I want to walk through a couple of ways to get yourself into a 'thinking' mindset, so stick with me - this may get uncomfortable.

1. Think about a situation when you have had to complete a piece of work quickly
- Take yourself back to the day / time it happened
            - where were you?
            - how were you feeling?
            - what was going on around you?
            - what was driving the speed of completion?

2. What did you do first?

3. What did you do next? (and so on...)

4. Looking over your account - emotions and facts - what do you want to do differently next time?

Assuming you're reading this in order, I'm going to shed a bit of light on why I've asked those specific questions...

In times of high stress, looming deadlines, high volume of workload, it can often lead to an 'all hands to the pump' situation.  It means little thinking time and the desire to just get something completed can take over and you're left with a high-octane situattion where you're clambering to get anything done.  I'd expect a lot of people to answer question 2 with something along the lines of 'well I thought about what needed to be done and got on with it...' and then for the account of the situation to develop into more people getting involved, additional requests coming in, deadlines being met by the skin of your teeth etc...we've all been there!

So, in addition to my 'what would you differently next time' question above, here are some more for you to think on...
- what really needs to be done?
- where do you do your best thinking?
- where do you do your best work?
- who energises your freshest thinking?
- how can you use reflection time?
- what do you need to be able to create a plan of action?
- how do you want to use deadlines? (I'm thinking of our better under pressure workers here!)

I'll be exploring the work of Nancy Kline in future blogs, I love the concept of creating a thinking environment for yourself and others - I've been on both sides, but have now come through as a firm believer that if I do my best thinking up front the output will be far better than anything I could have done if I do a rush job. 

But for now...happy thinking x

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

It's not's me

No, not a cheesy break up line - but a mindset that I put before you.

The phrase 'we live in a blame culture' is banded around without thought sometimes in my humble opinion.  We say it, we realise it, but what do we actually do about it? 

I hear lots of people talk about an impact somebody else has had on them - good and bad, but it's the bad ones that are met with emotion.  'It's their fault'...'she should have done xxx'...'they've left it to late'...'he hasn't engaged me', quite honestly the list of sentence starters of this ilk that I hear from friends, family and colleagues can get long! 

I've observed it's generally caused by a feeling of being on the back foot, like you haven't been included in something you should be, and quite simply wanting to find the route cause of a fault or understand why something has gone wrong.  We start to cast the net out to find the culprit(s) and can find ourselves laying blame at other people's door...

So I'm going to ask you a question - what could you have done differently?

Now I'm not being provocative or laying any blame at your door (!), but rather than finger pointing and trying to rationalise somebody else's behaviour, why not look at your own?  You know yourself, your drivers, what makes you behave in a certain way, so take advantage of it.  It's a big help if you're trying to remove the emotion out of a situation for yourself.  There will be occasions when quite genuinely somebody else needs to be held account when a mistake has been made, but this is about covering all bases and staying balanced in your view of a situation. 

So, some questions to think about before you put your self reflection into practise...
- What will the impact be on you by asking yourself ‘what could I have done differently'?
How do you want to record your reflections?
- How can you role model this behaviour to others?
- If your answer is truly 'nothing', what role does empathy need to play for you? 

Happy reflecting!

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

No thanks, I can do it by myself...

When was the last time you asked for help?  What was the situation? How did you feel?

I'm fairly certain I don't speak just for myself when I summarise a lifelong observation that asking for help feels uncomfortable for most.  It might be a single parent trying to successfully juggle life, an ambitious colleague wanting to progress off their own steam or a frustrated toddler who just can't seem to get the final pieces of the puzzle to fit.

Whatever the situation, I've no doubt there will be about 25 reasons why someone wouldn't want to ask for help - they think they know best, they don't want to put someone else out, and the old classic - it's quicker to do it yourself.  I've been there with most of the reasons, but the one that is most common for me (drum roll please) - I'm not comfortable showing vulnerability.  Admitting areas of non-strength and showing humility, I'd like to think I've got nailed (but open to feedback of course!) but actually asking for help on a task where I think it'll show I can't cope or deliver something and I'm flawed.

So, I'm finding that a bit of self coaching is the only logical way to go right now and I'd like to share the questions I'm asking myself to move forward with this particular challenge...
- what is the best thing that could happen if I ask for help?
- how will it positively impact the other person?
- what will it mean I can do / do differently?
- will I be able to switch off sooner?
- how will it positively impact the quality of what I'm doing?

I'm keeping it positive and focusing on the benefits, and so far so good.  I'm able to blog tonight because I asked my husband to cook tea because of a looming deadline at work - he did without question, I got my work done and with time to spare to complete my new favourite (cathartic) hobby.  So, the next time you're adamant you know best / don't want to bother someone else / think you should give it one last go (delete as appropriate) try asking yourself the questions above and see if anything changes.

Sleep well x

Saturday, 2 March 2013

The breakfast of champions...

In my line of work, it's said loud and proud that 'feedback is the breakfast of champions' and to be honest I easily went along with that idealism as I was starting out in the big bad world of corporate life. Fast forward a few years, and my take on this statement is raising my next question...why do we listen so attentively to other people's opinion about ourselves?

Don't get me wrong, I think seeing yourself through someone else's eyes can be really powerful - however it can also be soul destroying if the so-called feedback isn't delivered in the right way and in fact irrelevant! I've had a recent experience with someone I trusted and ordinarily valued their opinion, but they caught me off guard with some fairly harsh feedback that might have been relevant 6 months ago, not for now, and even being objective about it I'm not sure it would have been that helpful back then!

I won't lie, my initial reaction was raw emotion and it began to make me question everything that surrounded my working life - my standing at the company I work for, my experience and knowledge...what EVERYBODY else thinks of me. *bring on the personal crisis* I gave myself 4 days to be upset about it. I shared my feelings with a couple of people who thoughtfully pointed out I could choose what to do with the feedback now that I had it, so it got me I value this other person's out dated opinion of me more than a) my own and b) lots of other people. I opted for dialling down the negative voice, but not dismissing it completely and I've moved on (no, really I have *slight gritted teeth*)

What is it about other people's opinion that affects our own judgement? I've seen even some of the most secure and controlled people be thrown off kilter because of a few thoughtless words, and it doesn't feel nice to experience or watch.

My really is a great gift to give and I mean that sincerely, it just isn't always a gift you want to receive. Before you venture in to sharing your thoughts on someone with them, have a think about...
- who is it going to benefit? (i.e. you or the other person...think about what the answer should be)
- have you thought through what you want to say?
- is the person in a place to hear it?
- what will the person be able to do with your feedback?
- are you treating them how you want to be treated, or how they want to be treated?

I'll almost definitely be exploring giving and receiving feedback in future blogs, it really faciniates me. For now though, I'll leave you with a plea - next time you head into a 'feedback' conversation, take a second to think about it, you could be making a difference to that person's life, good or bad, that you didn't intend to.

Happy weekend x

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Let's begin....

What do you do? Where do you live? Why are we doing that? Who wants to live forever? Why do fools fall in love?'s full of questions. We're an inquisitive bunch aren't we? (See what I did there...)

I like to think of myself as a naturally curious person who takes pleasure in asking and thinking about questions - but no ordinary questions, POWERFUL QUESTIONS. A favourite past time of mine is people watching - pure unadulterated gawping and ear wigging that only adds fuel to the growing list of questions that run through my head on an hourly basis. I'm going to use my blog to get the thousands of questions out of my head, answer some, and generally share my musings as a people watcher.

Happy reading, and be gentle, I'm new!