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