No more posts here

Hello! I wrote a while back to let you know I’ve moved my blogging to my website.  I now have a sign up option which was missing before – you’ll find it towards the end of my blog page.

I think most people have been moved over automatically but if you didn’t get my latest post about Chaos then pop your email address in over there for all future updates.

Thanks, Helen 

Been a bit quiet?

Hi! If you’re following my blog here you might have thought I’ve been a bit quiet lately. That’s because my blog’s now moved to here. And I’ve noticed I have a lack of option to “follow” the blog from that new place. I’ll get that sorted. In the meantime, check back every now & then, or keep an eye on my Twitter & LinkedIn activity if you’d like to see my latest stuff. 

Thanks for following 🙂


What do you value really? 

I write this as an imperfect human being. Some of this I’m doing better at than others. I’ll never be perfect, none of us will. So I’m noticing, challenging myself and practicing different beliefs….. My personal development areas are at the end and I hope this might generate some thoughts for you.


In work we value :

Money. Being right. Long hours. Seniority. Intelligence. Data & facts. Work over anything else.

This means we strive for more money, to climb the ladder, and to work long hours, always protecting ourselves by not letting others see our mistakes and flaws – which leads to errors and unethical behaviour.  Because it means we compete to win above all else which puts us in an ‘I’ instead of ‘we’ mindset.

It means we think people with degrees are better than others. That what those people say is more valid.

It means we make decisions from bullet points & spreadsheets, ignoring what it might mean for the employees/customers/suppliers at the other end of the decision.

It means we sacrifice time with friends, family & loved ones because work is the thing the world values – if you tell someone you can’t do something because you’ve got a big presentation to finish – then ‘oh yes, very important, you must do that’. Tell someone you can’t do something because you need to look after the kids – then ‘oh, that’s disappointing. Those kids are a bit inconvenient’.

It means we believe we’re only ‘good enough’ if this is how we live. It means that who we are is judged by ourselves and others based on what we do, how much we earn, how much fancy stuff we have, how many qualifications we have, how senior we are.


What if we valued :

Equity. Learning from mistakes. Outputs. Diversity of thought. Emotion & feelings. The whole person.

We would do the work we’re great at & that we enjoy (no matter what that job is) because we don’t need to earn more / climb the ladder to become a worthy human being / gain respect.  With less ‘winning’ needed to be ‘good enough’ our mindset would be more often in the ‘we’ space.

Instead of only wanting to hear good news and glossy ‘managed’ messages we’d be open to hearing the dark side too, the ‘what’s not working’ which means we learn and which makes for improved services and greater satisfaction for all.

We’d give people responsibility to get their work done on time to deliver our products & services to our customers. Developing them and then trusting them to think for themselves about how they do that.

We’d really listen and value a variety of perspectives. No matter what the person’s background, seniority or education.

We’d care about people beyond our own needs when making decisions and we’d listen to our own hearts and guts as well as our heads. Accessing all our information. Borrowing from Roger Steare – is the decision logical, does it follow the rules / law and is it the right thing for others?

We wouldn’t be afraid of our own or others’ discomfort or emotional responses to something. We’d see that as great information and go towards it to inquire into it, learning more about it to enable more conscious choices in what we do and how we do it. Also then enabling change to happen more easily by acknowledging where we, or others, really are instead of squashing those feelings deep down and ignoring them. However good we think we are at doing that it shows up somewhere, leaks out in a different way or a different part of our life.

We’d value people having variety in their life and see that being able to fulfil their outside interests or commitments would help them to be at their best more of the time in everything they do. Aspects of them which aren’t met through work being met elsewhere. Priorities of the other people for whom they’re responsible being valued as an important contribution to the future of this thing we call society.

So for me……I see in myself a pull towards work instead of my kids – I’m practising to shift that. I feel in myself a little buzz when a senior leader follows me – I’m noticing and challenging myself on what I’m making that mean. I hear myself talking about the big businesses I work with because it makes me feel important and think it will impress – I can’t influence what others will think as important, I can notice how I feel and challenge my thoughts. Work in progress – always learning.

[Photo credit –

This is me…

WFS Tree

Religion – a new way

This is a post I’ve been going to write for a while – in fact nearly two years! I’ve delayed writing it for fear of offending people but after a bit of tweet chat a while back I decided to step into the #ldbravery space and share my thoughts.  Plus it’s nearly Christmas so it seems relevant!!

Having feared writing this, what I discovered was that my fear was coming from my non-religious upbringing and my concern that I would write this with a mindset of ‘we don’t need religion, we’re just fine thanks’. What I’ve discovered through writing this is that much of the great stuff we do and seek today has origins in religion and so what I’ve learnt instead is that we might just do well to look to those who practice for more inspiration. And with my daughter now deciding to be a Christian I may well be learning more over the coming months!

I believe everyone is entitled to live their life and believe in what they want to believe* without judgement from others – because what works for me may be different to what works for you. This is therefore not about judgement of religion or non-religion, this is just about things I see taking the place of religion today and I’m really curious to learn what this means to others.

My religious background? I wasn’t christened or anything. I had a Church of England mum and a lapsed Catholic dad, the latter of whom resented his religious upbringing and didn’t want to enforce anything on his own kids. Plus they couldn’t have decided what to make us! I dabbled with religion around 16 when a couple of Christian girls at school made a good effort to convert me but it just wasn’t really me. Plus I was then starting to get into a phase that didn’t sit so well with the other young people in the circles where we were meant to share our experiences of keeping away from the evil of alcohol and certain movies. I didn’t feel I was on the same wavelength.

The other time I had my interest piqued into religion was at my sister’s wedding – I loved the symbolism of the Hindu ceremony and the spiritual nature of it. The joining of two families and the welcome for my sister into her new one.

I’m now finding that spiritualism… Buddhism…. I’m not sure what exactly, holds interest for me and it’s a wonder I’m just letting sit there for a while to see what emerges – like this fascinating movie The Shift. Thank you Amanda Sterling for sharing.

So please read this with full awareness that I’m not an expert in religion in any way and that these are a layperson’s observations.

In recent years religious participation – at least Christian participation in the UK – has decreased and we’ve sought out other things to take its place. These are some of the things I think we’ve found….



A couple of months back, I heard on the Radio about an event by Action for Happiness with the Dalai Lama in London to mark World Peace Day. Action for Happiness provide opportunities for people to connect and meet on subjects such as family & friends, the world, bouncing back, and more. Something which would have previously been achieved through prayer groups, or just talking to trusted friends and family at the regular routine of weekly church.


In work, the place where we no longer loyally follow one organisation for our whole career, we look for purpose – a meaning beyond just a job. Something beyond profit that has us feel we’re making a difference in the world. Something to suggest that our life on this earth matters. Needs which I’d offer were traditionally met through serving God, through believing that in meeting His expectations we’d be fulfilling our purpose on earth.

Praying and Signs from God

Friends of ours a few years back moved city to establish a new church. They talked of praying to God and being guided by Him to the place where their church should be. In that moment I had a sense that praying and coaching have similarities – speaking our thoughts, possibly out loud but not always, to enable us to make sense of a situation. Those thoughts ‘spoken’ in the presence of someone who believes in you and who listens to you without interruption to enable you to do your best thinking. Sometimes clients will talk to me after a session about the idea I gave them, when all I’d done was listen and ask questions. They had the idea in themselves all along. How much of this is what praying offers?

Street Wisdom has similar parallels to the situations where people talk of God having spoken to them, or being given a sign. Street Wisdom is all about spotting the signs around us to answer questions that we’ve been grappling with. Again, accessing our fantastic subconscious that so often gets drowned out by our conscious mind (read Timothy Gallwey, The Inner Game of Tennis if you’d like to learn more about this). Given our subconscious works better with images it makes sense that visual signs in our surroundings are able to connect with it and give us these messages.

Human Connection

In the past: Every Sunday, 10am, best clothes on, meet and connect with familiar and friendly faces at church to look for inspiration in the teachings of the bible.

Now: Every Saturday, 10am, best clothes on, meet and connect with familiar and friendly faces in town, at the shops to look for inspiration in the latest clothes and shoes.

Although this particular modern form of inspiration has (IMHO) taken a drop in meaning, connection is essential to us.  To thrive we need to make sure it’s part of how we spend our time – whether that’s shopping, going out for meals, cups of tea at home, or indeed going to our preferred religious centre.

And now there’s this new option for not just human connection but singing, appreciation, gratitude, inspirational talks but minus religion – the Sunday Assembly.  Thanks Phil Wilcox for telling me about this one. 
Given there are so many aspects of life today which appear to have originally been instilled in religious rituals and which are now being met in ‘new’ ways – perhaps there’s more to learn by looking to religion for inspiration.

What do you think?  Leave a comment!


Photo credit –

*I don’t extend this to those that believe causing harm – of any kind – to others is justified.

This is me………

WFS Tree


#barefootwinterconf Reflections

Last week I attended the Barefoot Winter Conference at Prestwold Hall (beautiful location – and yes I’m slightly biased because it’s where I got married!).  This post is a collation of my thoughts and reflections from the day which I know will help me learn and absorb, and which I hope will have some nuggets of interest and insight for you.

On the practical conference front, it was a brilliantly run event with good amounts of time for each workshop – all of which were interactive, learning sessions – no sages on stages chalking & talking.  And a good long lunch for quality network time.  A definite focus on quality not quantity all day.

Keynote – Prof Roger Steare – on values-driven orgs, leadership and ethics

Since the 2008 crash stories have continued to emerge of unethical practice in organisations.  Read about Roger’s keynote in my Storify and how we helps organisations back to ethical decision-making.


Workshop 1 – Clean Language – Revealing Mental Models through Metaphor 

This session was with Sue Sharp and Tamsin Hartley from Clean Learning.

I chose this session for what might seem odd reasons.  I’d once been coached by someone who’d just done a Clean Language course and I really hated it.  So, because I believe it’s good to challenge our assumptions, I went along with the intent to learn more and open my mind to the possibilities of how I could use it in my practice.

What was great was that the session was involving and interactive from the start.  Lots of play with the approach, group discussion and conversation.

To give some context, the purpose of Clean Language is to find out how people work and think to raise their awareness to that and understand themselves (and others if a team thing) better.  Its purpose is also to remove assumptions from our own language which could (inadvertently) influence a client’s response.

A (made up) example of a clean language interaction could follow this flow –

  1. For this meeting to go as you would like, it will be like what? > It will be fun and interactive and we’ll get through everything on the agenda.
  2. And you will be like what? > I’ll need to keep an eye on the time while also checking everyone’s OK, and I’ll need plenty of energy.
  3. What kind of [energy] is that [energy]? > It’s the kind of energy that bubbles away. It doesn’t spike up and drop down, it’s infectious and consistent.
  4. Bubbles. Infectious. Consistent.  And is there anything else about that [energy]? > It’s natural.  It’s not forced.  It’s a natural result of wanting to be there in that conversation with those people.
  5. Natural. Not forced. And where is that energy? > It’s in my heart and my head.  A sense of happiness and a buzz.

And so on…..

When we practiced in the room I found it OK asking the questions and found the flow helped my buddy go deep into his stuff fairly quickly.  I found the same when the roles were reversed and liked the simplicity of the questions for keeping cognitive noise out of my head that might otherwise have been there if I was having to process what the question actually was!

The bit I’m still not so keen on is the way you play the client’s words back to them.  They used the phrase Parrot-phrasing rather than Para-phrasing.  You can see it above with the words played back as individual words.  I believe in using a client’s own words as much as possible, again because it avoids a cognitive hurdle having to be jumped over.  However I find with Clean Language it’s very easy to sound patronising or condescending by saying the words back in their pure sense rather than in a ‘normal’ sentence.  A discussion in the room landed on the belief that it takes practice to hold an authentically curious place with this Parrot-phrasing approach, to avoid the patronising.

A great benefit of this approach is that it can enable people to get into metaphor which helps them give form to the intangible and connect them more strongly into their subconscious mind – the part of our brain that really makes us effective or not.

It can also be used with teams to enable them to describe how they want to be together – spotting the different ways people think and whether they stay with the conceptual or go into metaphor is itself a great team awareness and valuing difference exercise.

In fact, Sue and Tamsin have used it in many contexts for many situations, including with their kids, and find it to be very effective.  If you’re interested in learning more, they run training events – more info on their website.

Workshop 2 – Theatrical Approaches in Coaching

 The session was run by Sam Chittenden who owns Different Development and, with her experience in theatre, brings fun energy to her work.

To begin with Sam talked about how actors, to give a great performance, learn their lines and get into character for who they need to be on stage.  In doing so, all they’re doing is bringing a different aspect of themselves to the fore.  We are all a mixture of many different facets but we tend to fall into habits of certain versions of ourselves in certain situations.  In organisations we don’t often stop to think who we need to be in a particular moment or for a particular meeting.  Sam invited us to explore different aspects of ourselves to see what we might be missing by always playing the same role, or to discover whether our comfort zone lies somewhere we didn’t expect.

All with the intent of raising self awareness and emotional intelligence for improved performance.  Sam also talked about how her creative approaches help clients get from a place of feeling stuck into a place of action, and transferring what they spend time on with Sam into the real world.

First we did an energiser called the Fruit bowl.  Worth a go if you want to have some fun – and to learn a bit about yourself.  Everyone sits in a circle.  One person stands in the middle and says a truth about themselves e.g. ‘I have brown hair’.  Anybody else with brown hair has to stand up and swap seats (including the person who was in the middle finding a seat).  One person will be left in the middle again to share a truth about themselves.

From this we made observations of our sense of comfort or discomfort with standing in front of others, the impact on us of having to think of a truth with everyone watching – and one that we wanted to share > and therefore the different levels of open-ness that people displayed.

Next we played some roles from a classic fairytale story – the Mother, the Child, the Devil, the Crone, the Hero, etc.  For each character our energy was in a different part of our body and we had a phrase to say as we walked around acting it to each other.  Yes, we felt a bit daft and there were lots of giggles but it was really interesting – and heartening – that in a room full of coaches there were quite a few of us who felt quite uncomfortable being the soft, understanding Mother and that in fact we felt more comfortable being the empowered Hero.  A helpful place if we’re to move to a world where coaching isn’t seen as a soft ‘tea & chat’ activity.

Then we sat in small groups with a card each that had an image of a person on it.  We had to talk about an issue as ourselves and then talk about it from the perspective of the person on the card.  I found it desperately uncomfortable talking about my issue from my character because it was so untrue to how I really feel (or ‘felt’, given that my wonderful partners then did some speedy coaching with me to reframe my challenge).  One of my partners had a similarly uncomfortable experience as his card was displaying anger which is an emotion he doesn’t display and doesn’t feel comfortable with .  This led to an interesting conversation about the emotions we’re taught to suppress as we grow up because they’re ‘wrong’ and because we believe we can’t control them (“I’ll lose my temper” – really? How could it be lost, you can’t even see it? “if I start to cry I won’t be able to stop” – really? Ever??).  Our emotions drive every action and every decision we ever make.  We can’t ignore them.  Sam used a great analogy for anger – if anger is petrol then if you carelessly chuck it around it can be very dangerous but if you put it in a petrol tank it will get you from A to B.

All in all a great day!

And next one will be 26th April next year if you’re interested.  You can sign up for the Barefoot newsletter here so you’re the first to hear.

This is me………

WFS Tree


Restricted or Bountiful?

We moved house on Monday!  We’ve been living with my mum for over 7 months – she’s definitely gone above and beyond the job description!  Now that we have our own place again I popped to a large wholesale store yesterday to stock up on exciting things like kitchen towel and loo roll.  This is the second big batch of kitchen towel I’ve bought in my life – 20 in a pack!!  #awesome  When I used to buy 2 or maybe 4 rolls at a time I would save it for real necessity, using it only when it really felt like the best thing to use.  Otherwise reaching for a cloth.  Since switching my shopping habits my attitude to kitchen-towel-use has changed*.  There’s something about knowing you have a bountiful supply of absorbent paper available that makes you free and easy with its use.  Split some milk there, no problem, let me wipe it with some kitchen towel.  Red wine on the carpet, no worries, kitchen towel will soak that right up.

Kitchen Towel

When something’s in plentiful supply we feel we can do anything!

I experienced this effect with my perspective on time after my op-recovery when I went from things being hard work, kinda painful and taking a long time to suddenly being able to do lots, quickly and pain-free – this sense of maximising my time was also assisted by more exercise which boosted my resilience, thinking abilities and sleep quality.

We all have a finite amount of time in a day, and a finite amount of money or resource to do things with.  So here we have a choice – we can choose to think we don’t have enough of either, or we can choose to think that we can invest what we have in a way that is most important to us.

So, what is there in your life that you feel is in short supply?  What do you feel you’re most restricted by?  Find that and then do something with it.

Oh, but there’s a thing there.  Choosing how we invest our time / money / resource needs us to know what’s important to us so it can act like an anchor for our decision-making.  What’s most important to you?  What are your big priorities or goals?

How clear are you on this?  How clear are those around you?  Are you and your team aligned on what counts as important right now?  And if you’re working in a business where ‘important’ can be dictated from elsewhere, outside of you, it will change – sometimes frequently.  How will you know that it’s changed and adjust your sails accordingly?

So there’s another thing, stuff changes – frequently – so to help our thinking on that I rather liked this image from Carl Richards (HT Brene Brown for sharing) because sometimes we can’t be absolutely, definitely sure that what we’re choosing to do is the most important right now.  At those times, embrace the uncertainty, choose to do something and do it.

Carl Richards Embrace Uncertainty.png

[Here’s Carl’s article if you’d like to read it]

I’d love to hear about what restricts you and how you have, or are going to, choose BOTH what’s important to you AND embrace the uncertainty.

* P.S. – I appreciate this attitude to kitchen towel probably isn’t best for the environment. Sorry about that.

This is me……

WFS Tree

#CIPDMAP15 My Beautiful Career

My second seminar choice is My Beautiful Career – messing around with narratives of our careers with Prof John Arnold of the School of Business and Economics at Loughborough Uni.  With a surprising foray into standup comedy!

How do we tell the story or our career? How could we tell it differently or better?  To both ourselves and to others.  Do we have different versions for different audiences?  And how might we tell it instead?

First career and story –

Career : “The evolving sequence of a person’s work experience over time” (Arthur et al, 1989) – John likes this one because there’s no assumption about upward promotions.

It’s the life story that holds together and provides a biographical bridge to cross form one job to the next (Not exact quote) Savickas, 2009.

We use our career stories for many uses e.g. to get a new job but also to impress friends, family, a new date.

John asking audience to wok in pairs, 1 person spend 5 mins to tell the story of their career – objective facts & subjective emotional / motivational aspects, don’t get hung up on details of dates, etc.  Listener – keep time and listen really well, suspend judgement, keep quiet.  Their ‘hearing’ of the story will be used later…  Then swap.  Lots of buzz in the room.  Seeing lots of great listening too!  Lots of matching, mirroring, nodding.  Only a couple with their hands over their mouths – watch this one, you might unintentionally be sending the message of ‘stop talking!’

Now John’s going to introduce some different ways we can think about our career.  Features of a successful story?  As for everything, that’s context-specific.

His 9 points ofr success –

1. Authentic

2. Credible

3. Agentic (the person telling it is actve in it!)

4. Situations and opportunities required you to take action

5. Obstacles and tribulations

6. Key turning points

7. Triumphant success or tragic failure

8. A lead charcter we can warm to

9. Flexibility so it can be told in different ways for different reasons/contexts.

Now inviting pairs to get together again to discuss how evident those features were in the story they heard a few mins ago.  What was there, what wasn’t, what could there be more of?

John’s heard from people’s conversations that some great feedback and collaborating on option and opportunities.

Moving that forward now is to use metaphor to enable our stories to be more memorable – our brains connect to images and emotions and these things stick in our heads – worlds and lists of bullet points don’t.  Engage others in your stories  using –

Spatial – pyramids, ladders, climbing frames

Journey – paths, roads, in the driving or back seat

Horticultural – growing, flowering, blossoming and then pruned / discarded

Competition – rat races, uphill struggles, tournaments, fast tracks

Aquatics – charting progress, rocking the boat, treading water, stuck on rocks

Linked to this there are cultural career scripts that convey our story simply and say a lot in a few words – Rags to riches, The hero who saves the day, The stranger in town, Like a farce, Local boy/girl made good.

Watch out using ‘luck’ too much in your career story – can suggest you believe you have no control over your own life and are possibly a bit incapable.  Or could suggest you’re humble bragging and come across as big headed.

Everyone talking about their career and where metaphor could be used.

Final word – shameless plug – get in touch with Loughborough Uni School of Business & Economics for leadership development programmes.

This post has been live-blogged from #CIPDMAP15.  I’ve done my best to represent the content accurately and fairly but some errors may exist.  Most of it is the speakers’ content and I aim to show the bits that are my opinion.