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

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Having it all...

I spent a brilliant evening searching through TED talks recently, and as per usual it didn’t fail to disappoint. I came across this little gem from Anne-Marie Slaughter asking if men and women can ‘have it all’ and the barriers that are currently causing challenges. I loved how balanced it was, not just a ‘women in the workplace’ approach like so many of these kind of discussions can be. Whilst I think there is huge value in focusing on specific groups, I do think it’s beginning to have the opposite effect and creating a culture of resentment that people think they need to wear a skirt to get promoted, or even singled out for all the wrong reasons if you are a woman.

Anne-Marie shares her own personal experience about how a career change really made her face into what was important to her – not what she’d conditioned to be, but the actual bare faced reality of what she wanted from her life. What that meant for her was choosing family over a new role, instead of feeling like she had to move up the career ladder.

Slaughter positions that real equality doesn’t mean valuing women on male terms, but instead it’s a wide rand of equally respected choices for both groups. It’s about accepting that work traditionally done by either gender is just as important as the other, something which I feel is an incredibly powerful thought and a big challenge on our culture.

The biggest spark is when she questions how same sex couples should deal with situations that arise around work / family balance. The answer being that no matter how they answer it, it puts focus on work / family situations are a family issue rather than a gender issue – what a thought!

I won’t go into more detail about what Anne-Marie covers, but it’s well worth the watch for some refresh on thinking and a spotlight on what both sexes should be asking to change current culture. So I’ll leave you with these questions that have come to my mind since watching…

• What stereotypes are you reinforcing in the world?

• What one thing can you do to overcome them?

• What advice would you give to the next generation about what they can do?

Happy questioning x

Tuesday, 25 March 2014


Life continues to throw up so many situations and questions for us all on pretty much an hourly basis that it’s no wonder people can get bogged down in the day to day transactional treats (heavy sarcasm) that we are continually faced with.

Although there is a massive spectrum of challenging situations depending on who you are, one thing will be constant – they exist for everybody. I’m partly in such a situation at the minute, and so are many people around me – going through some good old change that is making some pretty big life changing situations for people. So it got me thinking – when you’re faced with such highly emotional and unknown situations, what can get you through? For some it will be a sympathetic ear or maybe completely closing down into yourself. For me, I’ve had a particular question (of course) racing through my head to get me through that I’m keen to share with you...’what is important to me?’

As I sit typing this, my tummy is throwing some interesting shapes as my growing little one finds exciting ways to flex their arms and legs, which essentially gives me my answer very simply to that question – my little family are what are important to me. Right now, it’s helping me keep a check on my irrational thoughts of things outside of my control, and I’m grateful I’ve got a way of getting a grip!

So, the next time you’re faced with what feels like an impossible decision to make, uncertainty or something making you feel uncomfortable, try asking yourself – what’s important to me? Your answer should lead you at least in a direction and help get some clarity and perspective on what you’re facing.

Happy answering x

Friday, 14 February 2014


As I enter this particularly strange (but very good and exciting!) point in my life, I’ve become even more aware of the human behaviour that is comparing yourself to others.  It’s something that has been merrily playing in the background up until now, but it’s beginning to take centre stage a little more.

In younger years when I’d come back from school having had the dreaded Friday test in a particular subject, beaming at my results that I’d worked so hard for my parents couldn’t resist the killer question – ‘how did everybody else do?’ (I won’t go into the psychology behind them asking that question, I don’t have the emotional stability!!).

Pregnancy books, apps, website and people in general provide multiple opportunities on pretty much an hourly basis to compare experiences.  Some providing great comfort (‘oh that’s normal? Phew!’) while others can put the fear of God into you (‘no, that shouldn’t happen *eeek*’).  In most other aspects of life we have to opportunity to compare ourselves – exam results, points scored, stats, achievements.  So what’s the impact? And more specifically, what is the impact on YOU?

There are a couple of people I’m friends with that spend their time comparing themselves to other friends and it only ever goes one way – down! It mostly stems around what they’ve achieved by a particular point in their professional life and then migrates to every other aspect – home, family, travels.  I’m all for ‘benchmarking’ but come on, we’re all unique…aren’t we?

I’m in the camp of there is a place for knowing how well you’re doing and what you’ve achieved (sorry but I’ll never get the non-competitive sports days and the like). However, I do think there’s a tipping point and constant comparisons between you and others can drive you insane.  Quite simply you will end up comparing apples with oranges and take yourself down a dark road.  So with that in mind, before you next go venturing off into a check list of where you are in life versus your best friend (or arch enemy for that matter), ask yourself these questions:
  • What’s the significance of me carrying out this comparison?
  • Does it matter how I’m doing compare to others?
  • How will the answer help me?
  • What’s reality and what’s my emotional reaction?
  • What do I want to do stretch myself in my own unique way?

 Happy questioning x

Monday, 20 January 2014

A very happy New Year!

So I seem to have blinked and missed the last 4 months…I had to temporarily abandon my beloved outlet of blogging in favour of something far less appealing – morning sickness.  Yep, that’s right, there’s a mini questioning person on the way and we have a very happy Speak household! With every intention of being a low maintenance preggo lady, I have failed miserably thanks to relentless sickness that has been testing my resilience and patience so I feel like most aspects of my life have been paused…until now!

It’s such an exciting time for us and I’ve decided enough is enough, I need to get some of me back otherwise I’m in danger of rapidly falling off the proverbial cliff.  So here goes…my first blog in a while.

In the spirit of New Year, I thought I’d tackle the age old tradition of setting those oh-so elusive resolutions and their value.  I’m going to split this out into a couple of different areas…

What’s stopping you?
Before January 1st, what stopped you making the changes anyway?  Apart from it being a moment in time, what is the significance for you?  I’m not asking it flippantly – I know for some people it will hold a heap of importance to start at that particular moment in time but if you’re not one of them it’s worth having a think about why you haven’t made the change until now.  Will the reason still be hanging around?  What’s different for you now?  Don’t get yourself heading in the direction of a road travelled over and over and never reaching your goal.

Advice and Input
Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and pretty much any media outlet / celebrity has been rife with asking their ‘fans’ what their chosen changes are going to be.  It has always fascinated me why it’s such a topic of conversation (I secretly think people are just looking for ideas!) when actually I think they should be very personal, not something of a competition.  I guess everybody will have their reasons and if it’s support to keep you on track you need I do get it, but in my experience it’s less deep than that and just a conversation filler.  By answering this question you’re immediately leaving yourself open to the inevitable…advice!!  Are you ready to hear how your colleague’s Great Aunt Maud lost all of her weight or how James in Accounts plans his healthy eating?  Probably not a resounding yes!

I’m finding it increasingly more apparent that advice always comes from the right place (well, most of the time) but what you actually end up doing is your choice.  How you lose the weight, save the money, take more time out for you etc should come from what you want to do.  Fresh ideas and thinking are nice but only for a period of time – I can guarantee if you continue to take in and listen to everybody’s advice no matter what it’s regarding you will over complicate what you’re trying to do. My advice (no irony intended)…keep it simple!

If you spend proportionately too much time looking for input and opinion, you’re most likely driving down the value of your resolutions (or any idea for that matter) in the process – you’re heading on a path that wipes away the reason you set them as they become watered down with other people’s opinion.  Use your judgement about when to reduce the listening and crack on.

As you set your resolutions, ask yourself these questions…
      ·         Am I being clear about what I want to achieve?
      ·         Is my action plan mine or something I’ve borrowed from someone else?
      ·         Will I know when I’ve achieved it? How will I know?  
      ·      Who can help me?
      So before you dash off to start writing your list, take some reflection time.

Wishing you all a Happy New Year, love me and a growing bump x