Talking the talk…

First day of the CIPD L&D today, 30th April, which I feel privileged to have been able to attend as a tweeter and blogger.

I’ve listened to sessions on –
Cultivating trustworthy leaders
Creating a manager-led coaching culture
Developing resilient yet agile leaders

And I’m reflecting on what I’ve heard.

A variety of organisations, a variety of angles on the content.

But overall every session, a bit less from the MOOC one, has had the same messages :
You need a purpose that goes beyond profit
You need values that match your purpose
Everything you do, yes in HR, but across the whole org needs to align with your purpose and values
You need leaders who are human
And who have the emotional intelligence to know themselves so they can know their team
And all of this has to be right for your context of your org

Is this new stuff? I don’t think so.

Is it simple? Well, it can’t be or we’d all be doing it.

So what’s stopping us?

Is it our Neanderthal wiring is still too heavily engrained in us? We’re still evolving.

Is it that we’ve grown up in an organisational world where this stuff was less important. The heritage of the industrial revolution, command, control & tell.

Will we look back at this time we’re in now and recognise it as a critical period of shift where we moved to a place where leadership and the environment we create in work fundamentally changed?

Or should we just stop talking about it and accept that task and tell is what managers do??

I can’t help feeling that we’re currently talking the talk – a lot! And if we’re going to make this fundamental change happen in less than 20 years we need to get on with it, be bold, make it happen.

What does your organisation need to make this real – in everything it does?


Man in the Mirror

I just overheard some young lads on the bus on their way to school. One was asking his friend for 5p. Repeatedly. It was the first thing he said when he saw his friend which made me think this is a habit. I don’t think a bullying one. But also not really a welcomed one as his friend kept changing the subject, pretending to be distracted by his phone, etc. And it worked. The friend gave up eventually.

Earlier this week I was coaching a client who’s struggling with some family relationships where there’s unwelcome behaviour that’s being repeated over, and over. It’s causing upset & frustration in the recipients so I helped him think about what he could do to make it stop.

Both of these situations highlighted a massive learning that I’ve gathered somewhere along the journey of my life – you can’t MAKE other people change their behaviour but you can stop, think about what’s going on and CHOOSE how you respond, change your behaviour. Michael Jackson was right – if you’re gonna make that change it starts with the man in the mirror!

If we keep doing the same stuff we get the same results.

Want different interactions with people?

Change what you do. Change how you do it.

Does it matter?

David D’Souza’s post the other day ( got me thinking……

Last week my husband was away with work so it was me and the kids for a few days on our own.  Things ticked along nicely.  Yes, they argued sometimes, or course, but mostly things ran pretty smoothly and we had a good time together.

Then husband returned and things changed.  I found myself getting frustrated that he wasn’t doing things I thought he should be, frustrated that he wasn’t seeming to be on the Amery family agenda.

In hindsight, jet lag won’t have been helping.  But in reality, the cause of my frustration was me.  My (uncommunicated!!) expectation that from the moment he was back in the house, he was back on the team, back working to the same goal, back to share the workload!

And it made me realise that when I’m on my own I plan differently, I make different choices, I ask the children to help with little jobs here and there, I prioritise differently.

This caused me to reflect on my time (albeit a brief two weeks!) with my new business.  How different the world of freelance – especially as a brand new business – where it’s all you.  A complete contrast to the world I left where, yes of course I had my own work, but where there was a team of people around me who I worked with and through to get things done.

Neither is right or wrong, good or bad; they’re just different.

But I wonder what this means for productivity in an employed environment.

Not everyone’s in the same place as Tarquin in David’s post but there are plenty of people who’ll lean on others more than they should, or who just won’t do their work well because they believe it won’t matter in the grand scheme of things, or who don’t plan or prioritise because there’s always tomorrow / someone else to do the work, or who pick up this slack created by others.  All of these are people who, for whatever reason, don’t know what’s expected of them.  A myriad of mindsets left to wander as they choose.

Of course we’re never going to, and should never want to, get to a place where everyone has an identical work ethic – that would be dull.  Plus a lot of the HR and L&D profession would be out of a job!

And as with most of these things, it’s not black and white.  There’s a continuum from ‘nobody’s delivering what they’re supposed to’ all the way to ‘everyone’s a perfect, fully engaged, fully productive employee!’.

And wouldn’t it be great to understand the reality so we can slap ourselves on the back for a job well done, or figure a few things out to get working life a bit better so everyone can feel more successful.

So what’s it like where you work?  Who do you work with that is unclear of what their role should deliver?  Who do you know that thinks their work makes no difference to the organisation’s success?  What impact is it having on them…the team around them…the whole organisation?

How much does it matter?


Disney Coaching

Not that I’m advocating violence but this is a fantastic coaching approach to reframe a situation and instigate future-focussed positive action….

Are you Simba, needing to learn and move on from something?

Or could you use this story in your work?

I’d love to hear what you think.

The power of Disney!

Literally Headless


I read a great story by Doug Shaw yesterday ( which really resonated with me.

The last few weeks have been really busy. Preparing to handover my old job, getting ready for new life, attending a couple of fantastic coaching courses, organising the kids’ birthday parties, the usual household stuff, oh, and the draw of the phone, as Doug so poignantly wrote about, constantly there with the many channels and so much great content to read!

The result has been a bit of headless chicken; doing lots of things, none of them especially well. So I was glad to learn on my Postgrad coaching course that this headless chicken activity is actually a commonly female trait when feeling a bit stressed. Men, on the other hand, will focus on one thing badly – like repeatedly looking (ineffectively) for those lost keys in the same place over and over again!

When we feel like this, our prefrontal cortex is hi-jacked, we go into survival mode, we lose our sense of humour, our memory suffers, we withdraw, we struggle to see the point of view of others and we struggle to care for them. We also stop being able to reflect, plan, imagine. And, as Christopher Demers wrote (, reflecting is a helpful activity to maintain our mindfulness to the impact we’re having on the world.

Some of this physiological reaction is very familiar from the last few weeks. Not all the time, but in bouts. And I’ve tried hard, in amongst a rotten cold, to keep exercising – because I know that’s one of the key ways to keep the prefrontal cortex feeling happy and not hi-jacked. Even just 20 minutes of exercise will settle our stress response – after that, there’s no major benefit, so why do more!

So it was fantastic yesterday, on our first day of holiday, to sit outside in the peaceful Northumbrian countryside, before the kids appeared, just soaking up the surroundings, thinking about breathing well (btw did you know that smokers actually aid their sense of calm just because they have a longer exhale than inhale breath when smoking – of course, there are some downsides to this activity so try to breathe like you’re smoking – but without the cig!).

Then later, we went for a walk at Cragside where the kids didn’t even moan once about the hike up the steep steps to the top! Both activities involved no phone checking – the first because I made myself not do it. The second because there was no signal! But both worth it to make me enjoy the moment, and stop being distracted or rushing ahead to the future. I could feel my thoughts calming and my mind becoming more free. My stress-induced Type A personality giving way to my, much preferred, Type B.

But to get to this place took some effort. It required me to recognise how I was feeling, to get some of the turbulent thoughts out of my head and onto a bit of paper, to literally force myself not to check my phone (my husband thinks I’m addicted!), to step off the treadmill, to make the choice to get fresh air, exercise and relaxation.

How many people do you see rushing around in headless chicken mode? How many do you see doing the same piece of work to death, making no progress with it? Some maybe because they’re so busy, some maybe because they’re not being stretched enough and they fear life is passing them by.

These people need some help to step off, to slow down, to alleviate their stress response so they can THINK differently and creatively, opening up different possibilities of actions they can take to get different results.

But they don’t need hep with your solutions – rescuing someone with your solutions will reinforce their belief that they can’t cope, that they’re incapable of finding their own solutions, that their value in the world is low.

What’s fantastic, and as you’d expect from someone that’s been learning a load about coaching in the last month(!), is that coaching is an amazing and powerful way to do this.

Once the person can be brought back to a place where their prefrontal cortex is operating in its human mode again, they can be coached to resolve their own challenges, to find their own solutions.

And the empowerment they feel from this will help them grow with a different mindset so that next time a similar situation occurs, they’re a little bit better able to self-solve.

So next time you’ve got your head buried in a smart device, just lift it for a moment to notice who you can spot that needs some help to help themselves.