How to Motivate Yourself to Keep Everyone Else Motivated

How to Motivate Yourself to Keep Everyone Else Motivated

Normally you’re self-motivated, that’s one of the reasons you’ve been so successful. What I’m hearing from many coaching clients is that the unrelenting sameness of the situation and the ever-changing playing field are leading them to feelings they’ve rarely experienced – lacking the BIG spark they usually have with which they ignite others. Feeling demotivated, weary or lacking your usual drive might be new for you.

To want or need to motivate yourself is not selfish. It’s akin to dawning your oxygen mask in a plane before assisting anyone else in putting their mask on (remember when we used to go on planes?). You can’t give what you don’t have. And in some ways, that’s why people are feeling fatigued – they’ve given more to others than they’ve muster in themselves.

Motivating yourself is part of EI or Emotional intelligence. It’s about managing your own emotions in an appropriate way for the situation. It’s also about navigating interpersonal relationships in the best interests of all the people involved and the organisational needs.

What is Resilience?

Firstly, this might be more about resilience than motivation. Resilience is the ability to handle adversity and bounce back after hardship. The problem now is that this hardship has been extreme, broad reaching and prolonged. So, there might be things to do with resilience that also will aid your motivation.

These might seem basic and many people struggle with these healthy practices. Try and be intentional to have these in your life now.

Look after your physical health.

Get a minimum of 7 hours of good-quality sleep a night. That means turning off screens and devices about 1 hour before bedtime (to clear the blue light from your system). Sleep experts advise not to have devices in your bedroom.

Eat a healthy diet. Drink 1.5-2L of water per day. Minimize or eliminate caffeine especially in the afternoon. Eat lots of varied foods, especially vegetables, pulses and fruits and less processed food. I suggest less sugar, alcohol and simple carbs as they have little nutrition and might trigger repetitive indulgences.

Exercise. Move especially when working from home. Get both cardio and strength exercise regularly.

Be in nature. There are physical and mental benefits of being outside, fresh air at a minimum and hopefully, among trees, grass, flowers if possible.

Have a support system and collaborate – personally and professionally.

• I’m working with a colleague and friend on group leadership development programmes and this has led to better ideas, creativity, more enjoyment, new business and companionship through a solitary time.

• I have a group of close friends, three of whom I meet with monthly on video. Last night we supported one friend on a dilemma she was having; we listened, asked questions, reflected back what we heard and sensed, shared the impact on us individually, asked what she needed, said we were here. These are ways of sharing burdens, feeling connected, being supported and being able to support another.

• I have an accountability partner that I work with to declare my actions around things I’m procrastinating on and she does the same with me. Sometimes those things are the same and sometimes different. That shared space helps.

Get mental health support as appropriate. There is no shame is getting professional support as you would a personal trainer at the gym for your fitness or a dentist for your oral care.

By following the basics you’ll have a better chance of being resilient and motivated.

How to Motivate Yourself at Work

These ideas can be implemented immediately, there’s no prework or extra equipment needed to start on these.

Use the Pomodoro technique. It’s a time management technique of using a timer, often set for 25 minutes, to work and then a short break. Even just start with working 5 minutes on something important (not scanning emails). Commit to do only 5 minutes on a task and often you’ll end up working on it longer.

Get up and move around. Movement creates motion, take a short break and walk around to shake off the cobwebs. If you can go outside into fresh air for that short walk, do it. Stand up straight, head held high, open your chest with slow large in breaths. Movement changes your body physiology and your psychology.

Focus on feelings, not trying to persevere through will power alone. We are usually more productive when we are feeling positive feelings. What are some of the wins you’ve had lately that you can celebrate (no matter how tiny they are)? Focus on the contribution you’ve made, the progress that’s already got you to where you are (even if it’s just that you’ve now identified there is a problem). Fuel these feelings of accomplishment to move forward.

Why do you do what you do? Reflect on what value you add and what benefit you bring to others with the work that needs doing. What are the personal and professional reasons that you do your job? What difference do you make in someone’s life (customer, employee, family, etc)?

Reward yourself for making small steps. Research tells us that rewards are responsible for 75% of why we do things (punishment for the other 25%). That reward could be a coffee, a walk, a break, a huge congrats from a friend for your efforts. A Time article even suggested giving a friend $100 and if you complete what you said you would on time you got the money back!

Finish each day with a list of 2-3 priority things for the next day. This allows you to hit the ground running the next morning. By knowing the next step of a project or task you can get tucked in immediately, not have to retrace your steps to figure out what to do next.

Advanced Ways to Motivate Yourself

These ideas are more advanced because they take a bit more time and reflection to put into practice.

What’s the need behind the demotivation? Behind every “negative” emotion there is a need because it’s the unfulfilled need that is causing the “negative” feeling. When you’re frustrated because a colleague has missed a deadline, the need is probably for people to do what they say when they said they do it. Is the demotivation stemming from tired, afraid, overwhelmed, confused, angry? Address the underlying need.

Have a vision. Building on the idea above about why you do what you do; have a vision of success for yourself and your work. What’s your purpose at work? In life? Knowing the bigger reasons will help you get things done when you encounter smaller obstacles. My guess is that the covid-vaccine scientists were totally motivated to help people live and get back to a more normal life.

Get Positive. Research shows that being happy increases productivity and contributes to greater success. To nurture positivity, you have to notice it, create it if necessary and feel it. Everyday write down at least 3 things about yourself, your work and your life that are positive. Ruminate in those positive feelings. Feel them. At first you might have to really think hard about what those things are. Over time the daily practice will have you notice those positive events the moment they happen.

Surround yourself with people that inspire you and help you raise your game. We know that we become like the people with whom we hang out, that’s why parents are often concerned who their kids have as friends. If you work with people that are committed, motivated and inspiring you can tap into their energy.

Get a partner. Find someone with a similar blockage and support each other to move towards success. I’m doing this now around new business development. I have 2 vacancies in my coaching practice, as does a colleague so we’re supporting each other weekly to fill these. Just as you are more liking to go for a run if you are meeting a friend on the street corner than if you were on your own, partner with someone for the tasks you struggle to complete.

In addition to all the above ideas of how to improve your motivation, the other thing is to be kind to yourself. As is said, this is an unprecedented time and it continues. Motivation, productivity, and mood will ebb and flow in this situation. Be kind, patient and compassionate to yourself and others. Compassion is proven to get your further than harshly driving yourself based on research by Kristin Neff.

Book a COMPLIMENTARY coaching session with me here for support in motivating yourself and others to inspire and lead in the way you want? What would make you more effective?

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What Could You Give Up to be More Effective during Lent?

What Could You Give Up to be More Effective?

This week sees the start of the Christian time of Lent. Of note, this isn’t a religious post. It’s a post about being more effective as a leader and/or person.

What is Lent?

Lent is the 6 weeks leading up to Easter. Lent is observed in many ways depending on someone’s personal beliefs/convictions. Some people give up a luxury/treat item like alcohol, chocolate, meat etc. More traditional observers might follow stricter fasting of giving up meat, fish, eggs and fats. That’s why Shrove Tuesday, the day before Lent starts, is celebrated with as Pancake Tuesday – pancakes use up eggs and fats you might have before abstaining.

What to Give Up?

For those who don’t follow the Christian observances, Lent still offers an opportunity of how to be effective, for you to give something up that would help you be more effective.

To get feedback on your performance, one question I suggest in my book, Soft Skills HARD RESULTS, is: What should I stop doing? Often, we get in our own way. This question will invite people to tell you things you are doing that don’t serve you well. As an aside, it’s partnered with two other questions to round out the feedback you get:

What should I start doing?
What should I stop doing?
What should I continue doing?

To declutter your home, I’m giving up an “item” a day for the 40 days of Lent. Each day I will find something in my home that can be thrown out, donated to charity, re-gifted to someone who would love that item. It’s easy to do – when you open a drawer or closet each day just identify something that can go. For me decluttering makes me feel lighter and more spacious. Not sure I’ll go into my wardrobe this time though, as there are many pieces I haven’t worn in almost a year with the various lockdowns.

To clear your head, what are the repetitive thoughts you have that disempower you? Identify the reoccurring thoughts you have about yourself. We all have internal scripts that run underneath the surface that we don’t even realize how often we talk to ourselves. Notice what you say to yourself when something happens, especially things that are disappointing or frustrating. For example, I don’t have time. I’m stressed. I have too much to do. I screwed that up. I’m not good enough. Notice what your self-critical thoughts are and then reframe them. For instance “I don’t have time” becomes “I choose how I spend my time.”

To change a bad habit don’t stop it, change it. It’s hard to stop a bad habit so can be easier to change the habit rather than trying to abolish it. Instead of giving up drinking, substitute a sparkling water in a crystal glass with a slice of lime instead of alcohol. If you bite or pick your nails, chew on a toothpick instead.

The Challenge

What could you give up that would improve your effectiveness as a person or leader?

Don’t jump over that question – answer it. This is your chance to let go of something that’s holding you back. This will improve your leadership and potentially your daily life. Sometimes it’s even easier to let something go then to start something entirely new.

The 40 days of Lent gives you the chance to reboot your initiative each day for 40 days. Even if you “fail” one day, you have the next day to try again. Be kind to yourself depending of what you are giving up.

Book a COMPLIMENTARY coaching session with me here to help you identify what you could give up that’s holding you back. What would make you more effective?


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Emotions at Work are Just Data to Get Better Results

Emotions are Just Data – Understand Them for Better Results at Work

There’s a common opinion that business is just about the facts, being rational and that it’s not personal. And we’ve all seen the following at work whether in others or ourselves:

• Disappointment about a project or promotion not coming to fruition,
• Stress about an impending deadline,
• Frustration about someone ‘s delay in getting you information you need,
• Excitement about a project about to launch, and
• Tears/crying.

So, emotions are present at work!

Emotional Intelligence at Work

Success at work requires intelligence – both intellectual and emotional. As people advance in their organizations, their role and success are more about how they motivate, inspire and collaborate with other people and less about “doing the work.” For example, a CFO’s success is not how well they complete a spreadsheet, it’s rather how well they lead their teams, influence other stakeholders and co-pilot with the other leaders.

Emotions as Data

Emotions are data. Just as sales, staff turnover, and market research are all data. The data needs to be analysed to become information that you can then action. Say your company is below the sales target this month. You analyse the data to determine what’s causing the low sales number until you identify the root cause, so you can find the appropriate solution and act on it.

And emotions are the same. They tell you something. The emotions we think of as “positive” are emotions we feel when our needs are being met. The emotions we think of as “negative” are emotions we feel when our needs are not being met. Same for other people. When someone is engaged and attentive, a need of theirs is being met (they are intellectually stimulated, hopeful about an idea, or being valued for example). When someone is frustrated, a need of there is not being met (they are not getting the answer they want, or fast enough for example).

Emotions at Work

According to research¹ by Cynthia D. Fisher at the School of Business, Bond University the most common negative emotions experienced in the workplace are:

•  Frustration/irritation
•  Worry/nervousness
•  Anger/aggravation
•  Dislike (of someone)
•  Disappointment/unhappiness

It’s these “negative” emotions that are perceived as more problematic at work so that will be the focus of this article, how to manage those emotions.

Managing Your Emotions

Managing your emotions at work is critical for your success as it allows you to have the impact you want to have.

1. Notice and name the emotion you are feeling. State (internally or externally) “I feel …” This allows you to accept the emotion rather than avoid it. Avoiding the emotion will have it linger longer. Try to notice your emotions as early as possible, before you are blind- sided by them.

2. Allow yourself to feel the emotion in your body. Again, this is counter-intuitive, and it will diffuse the emotion, for example you’ll feel a shirt and a sense of calm will arrive.

3. Ask what the need is behind the emotion. Ask what is the message in this emotion? Once you’ve identified the need you can then find a productive solution to satisfy the need. Often it can be as simple as asking for what you need (from yourself or another) with the emotional language removed as you don’t feel it anymore.

4. Discover your triggers. We are often ‘triggered’ by other people. When we’re triggered it’s rarely that person that is bothering us, it’s usually something about them that reminds you of a previous experience. Notice the people or their characteristics that bother you. Write them down.

5. Express your emotions in an appropriate way. Saying you are angry or upset by someone in a calm voice is okay, yelling or belittling someone is not okay. Focus on your feelings rather than assuming their intentions.

More ideas can be found here.

How to Manage Others

I believe a big part of a leader’s role is to help people feel good at work, have “positive” emotions about their work, their contribution and the organization. Here are some ways of dealing with “negative” emotions before building positive ones.

1. Notice people’s emotions. In school we are taught language and numerical literacy, start to learn emotional literacy so you can notice emotions and ‘name’ them (even if just to yourself initially). Here’s a link to a previous blog on Myths about Emotions. Being able to name something helps to start to understand it. Saying to someone “you seem frustrated” can make people feel seen and saying it in that way says you don’t know or assume, you sense.

2. Ask people how they feel then go deeper to find the unmet need. Don’t accept fine, great, ok – those aren’t emotions. Asking and really listening to understand means people don’t lose time or energy ‘stewing’. Ask them what they need to find out what’s behind the emotion. Once you (and they) know the need behind it, both of you can determine how to satisfy that if appropriate. Do this in private for psychological safety.

3. Acknowledge someone’s emotion. You can’t change their emotions; you aren’t responsible for making the emotion go away. Just as was recommended to you above in managing your own emotions, allow them to feel their emotions so it can dissipate, and they can move on faster rather than let it fester. Get comfortable with the discomfort, you’ll build loyalty and help them move forward faster. Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away.

4. Encourage and support your staff to build up their emotional resilience. Provide programmes promoting physical and psychological wellbeing if possible. Encourage healthy eating, sleep, exercise, proper breaks during the workday, connecting with friends and family, going out in nature and talking about thoughts and feelings.

5. Give space. If things are heated or someone is consumed by their emotion, suggest a break or pause. Allow them to compose themselves or have them go out for a walk. Come back to the discussion when they are able. Talk to them about possible positive intentions of those involved and focus on solutions not judgements and accusations.

In summary, emotions are nothing to fear. In fact, you want to encourage emotions in a respectful way so that people don’t waste time worrying or being angry or frustrated. Freeing people of their “negative” emotions allows them to focus their emotional energy on more productivity. When dealing with the negative emotions you can then ask what’s needed for them to feel inspired, engaged and loyal?

Book a COMPLIMENTARY coaching session with me here for support in how to handle or manage emotions at work? What would make you more effective?

¹ “Emotions at Work: What Do People Feel and How Should we Measure it?” by Cynthia D. Fisher. School of Business Discussion Paper; No. 63, February 1997. © Copyright Cynthia D. Fisher and the School of Business, Bond University.

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Balancing Strategic Focus vs Operational Execution

Balancing Strategic Focus vs Operational Execution

This topic of strategy vs operations has always been a discussion point with my Executive coaching clients. It’s comes up even more now with the uncertainty of the pandemic and ever-changing guidelines. For example, working with people in retail has meant that one day the stores are open and the next day the stores are mandated to close, with differing requirements by region. Having to respond to these types of operational changes is mandatory, time consuming and draining. How does a leader prioritize time, energy and headspace for strategic initiatives with this constant operational firefighting, let alone get others on-board?

Strategic vs Operational Thinking

Never has a company asked me to support their leader on being MORE operational. It’s not their operational thinking and focus that needs to be developed, especially if they’ve just been promoted to a more senior role. It’s usually about helping the leader develop their strategic thinking.

Operational thinking is required too. Strategic thinking is of no value if it doesn’t get implemented operationally. Ensuring operations are well-thought through and running smoothly is important to success. If operational thinking isn’t happening during the execution there won’t be any operations or business to worry about in the future.

A successful business needs both sound strategic thinking to chart its course while having optimal operational thinking to deliver the day to day requirements.

What is Strategic Thinking?

It’s the intentional thought process a leader does to figure out how to achieve long-term success for the organization, team, initiative or project (depending on the leader’s scope). It’s about focusing on the future and working back how to lay the foundation for success. It involves lots of critical thinking skills like analysis, conceptualizing, identifying patterns and options, synthesize making choices and engaging. It’s about creating connections or links between different ideas, sources of information and opportunities for greater synergy or success.

Big A vs Little a Agendas

The concept of Big A and little a agenda is from my coach training and I teach my clients about it too.

When I work with clients we define their leadership development goals for the coaching. The ‘Big A Agenda’ is this bigger, overarching goal. At each session, the client brings situations and topics from their work life for which they want coaching. These daily topics are the ‘little a agenda’. In the coaching we create links between the little a agenda to the Big A Agenda so that each coaching session progresses them towards their leadership development goal. It’s the notion that every step you take is one more step in your legacy.

This concept gives you an opportunity to link operational topics or issues back to strategic priorities and opportunities while working with people on the execution. It’s a great chance for you as the leader to re-affirm the link between the daily operations and the businesses strategic goals (as there should be a link).

Tips to Balance Strategy vs Execution

There are no hard and fast rules on this, as it depends on the business and its current situation. Here are some ideas:

Remember this is a big part of your job. If you’re not doing this type of thinking for your business, area or function than who is? Every leader has some level of responsibility for strategic thinking. This means delegating and empowering others to do what they need to do so you have some time for this priority.

Set aside thinking time in your schedule before other people fill it up with operational topics. Put time in your calendar for your priorities before other people take your time for their priorities. Book it off. Call it something that doesn’t sound dispensable to others if they can see your calendar. Make it a “meeting” rather than solo time as solo time is easier to relinquish. Time is reported as the #1 barrier to strategic thinking.

Change your location. Take yourself out of your usual environment to trigger your brain that this is different than daily business. Also, it will minimize interruptions and distractions. Go for a walk. Sit in another room. Be in nature. Watch traffic in an intersection of traffic. Sit in your car (in the driveway even).

Stimulate thinking through a different lens. Strategic thinking is about the future. How can you put yourself into a different perspective than today’s position to think differently? A client and I once went to a museum together (when we could) and walked around assessing what we were seeing through the lens of his business. What would this museum piece tell me about my business? How could an exhibit inform my business’ future and/or success? What can I learn from this museum theme?

Talk to people who are outside your regular circle. My last 2 articles have been on bias – the Fundamental Attribution Error and Confirmation Bias. To minimize bias, it’s helpful to have an outside perspective, a person very different from yourself to highlight blind spots of which you’re not aware. Also, read information and data from different sources to broaden your input and perspectives.

Listen with an open mind and question, question, question again. Listen to what is being said while suspending your own judgment and assumptions. Listen to what is said and not said. Question what you hear, what is underneath what is being said. Be deep in your discussions, curious, not superficial, not taking what is said on face value.

In summary, prioritize your time to do what only you can do which is the strategic thinking for your area of responsibility. Delegate and empower others to execute so you can deliver on your responsibility. As you deal with operational issues, how could you do it strategically when possible thereby getting the best of both worlds?

Book a COMPLIMENTARY coaching session with me here for support in further developing your leadership to balance the strategic vs operational. What would make you more effective?


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A Rife Unconscious Bias for Leaders to Perform Better

Another Unconscious Bias for Leaders to Unearth

This is my second article about cognitive bias – the collection of faulty ways of thinking that might be hardwired into the human brain according to American Professor, Ben Yagoda. He says science suggests we’re hardwired to delude ourselves. Some say it is possible to re-wire biases. This time I’m highlighting confirmation bias. Many people are more open to the notion that they could have confirmation bias than the Fundamental Attribution Error I wrote about previously, but I’m getting ahead of myself.


Many of us understand the idea of bias as it relates to media. A common example is the news media being biased in their reporting in favour or one political party or the other. Bias applies to individuals too. It’s a way of thinking about the world or interpreting things going on around us which has typical patterns or is systemic to us as individuals. Our experience of the world is subjective; we experience things in our own way. And we behave from our own perspectives hence why knowing a potential bias is helpful to determine if it’s has negative consequences and therefore needs to be reviewed.

What is Confirmation Bias?

Confirmation bias is the tendency to see, seek out, interpret and favour information that supports our existing ideas, beliefs and values. We gather evidence to support our thoughts and beliefs (both the conscious and subconscious ones).

For example, if you decide to buy a blue Mini, you will start seeing blue Minis everywhere. It’s not because more blue Minis have been unleashed on the roads, it’s just that you now have a heightened awareness of and predisposition to them. In many cases you are looking to confirm the decision you made to buy a blue Mini.

The Risk of Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias has us see and seek information and data that corroborates our ideas and hypotheses. By definition, it has us discount or ignore anything that appears contradictory or different to what we believe or think.

This is what social media algorithms do – they see what we searched for and give us more of the same. If you’re searching for the best plant-based recipes this might be all right. If you are trying to understand who to vote for in the next election your initial thoughts will just be confirmed.

A Trump supporter will hear his speech and get confirmation of his positives while a Trump detractor will hear the same speech and get confirmation of the negative opinion – all from the same words.

Confirmation Bias Leadership Implications

Confirmation bias appears in every aspect of life, including work, as it is a form of judgement (good or bad), our brain assesses things to make sense of it. To name just a few leaders should be particularly aware of are:

Judging People’s Performance – if you think a team member is good at their job you will see more things that confirm this belief. If they make a mistake, you are quicker to dismiss it as an exception. Conversely, if you think someone is lazy, you will repeatedly find evidence to confirm they are lazy.

Making decisions – many people have an intuitive response when faced with a decision. What confirmation bias tells us is that they then gather as much evidence as possible to justify proceeding with that decision. This also means we can say the decision is based on sound rationale and not emotion.

Hiring or promoting situations – Imagine the leader of another department is someone you don’t like, they have different ideas than you, behave differently, and have a different disposition. And their results are consistently strong, maybe even above expectations. Confirmation bias would need to be put aside to give them the recognition or respect they deserved.

Unconscious Bias – 6 Steps to Tackle It

A bias is only unconscious if you don’t know you have it. Therefore, the first step in any development area is to start to become aware of it.

1. Become self-aware about your own biases and notice how you confirm that, often unconsciously. These biases could be towards yourself, others or concepts/ ideas. I worked with a coaching client this morning who sometimes feels “not good enough” and therefore tries to “prove” he is. When he receives emails from his boss, he reads it through the lens of “not good enough” so perceives criticism where none is intended.

2. Foster diversity of people, ideas, perspectives and input. Talk openly about confirmation bias. Some experts say it’s the most pervasive and damaging bias. Involve people of diverse backgrounds in developing solutions and making decisions. Diversity includes race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, education, age, experience, etc. Let a project or decision be viewed by someone outside of the project (or department or organization) for an ‘external’ view.

3. Create a system of open communication. We find it easier to see the shortcomings in other peoples’ thinking than in our own and vice versa. Create a culture and compassionate communication that allows flaws and gaps to be pointed out in each other’s ideas and solutions. This requires courage and bravery especially for junior people to point out bias in a senior leader.

4. Reward behaviour that highlights omissions, differences and gaps. People rarely want to speak up with a dissenting view for fear of being punished (hence whistle-blower laws). To mitigate that fear the act of sharing contrary data and opinion needs to be rewarded. The first time someone says something contradictory how do you (or others) respond? Learn to acknowledge and praise them so others follow suit.

5. Systematize your company’s decision-making process to include contradictory data. By doing this you make the standard process more bias-proof. For example, at P&G we were trained to do one-page recommendations that included strategic rationale, financial benefit and research or data of probable success. It could easily have included a fourth element of risk or contrary data. By adapting current systems to include highlighting potential bias is easier than creating a new and separate system to address the bias.

6. Conduct “autopsies” in advance of key decisions or projects. Gary Klein, a cognitive psychologist, suggests ‘post-mortems’ in advance. Imagine a project has failed very badly and analyse what led to that failure. This can become part of the procedure or checklist for key decisions. This forces the contrary view and encourages the contrary evidence to be considered. It’s easier to collect evidence in support of our theories (we can never fully prove a theory until it’s implemented), so take time and try to disprove them to be more certain.

Awareness and understanding are the keys to better ideas, interactions and hence results. You can’t eliminate all biases and you can be aware and mitigate them to have the impact you want to have. This is especially important for these emotional-charged times in which we are working and living.

Book a COMPLIMENTARY coaching session with me here for support in further developing your leadership. What would make you more effective and fulfilled at work and/or life?


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The Unconscious Bias Every Leader Needs to Know to Improve

The Unconscious Bias Every Leader Needs to Know

We all have biases. They aren’t all bad. I hold a bias that those in the medical profession are caring, intelligent and giving. It’s usually the biases with negative consequences that need our attention.

There are many types of cognitive bias. A bias is a way of thinking about the world or interpreting things going on around us which are patterns or systemic to us as individuals. Our experience of the world is subjective; we experience things in our own way. And we behave from our own perspectives hence why knowing a potential bias is helpful to determine if it’s has negative consequences and therefore needs to be reviewed.

Attribution Error

What is the Fundamental Attribution Error that creates bias? It is the idea that we attribute someone else’s behaviour to their character or personality, whereas we attribute our actions to external factors outside of our control. We hold other people fully accountable for all their behaviours, whereas we give ourselves the benefit of the doubt. We judge others personally for things, deciding that they were internally motivated to do what they did.

Here’s a real-world example: A client missed a session this morning which I was a few minutes late for anyway. If I attributed his no-show to poor planning and laziness and mine to the fact I was receiving a delivery, I’d be guilty of the fundamental attribution error. His character was to blame for his no-show whereas I justified my lateness because of the delivery (out of my control). (FYI, I didn’t blame him as he’s always punctual, so I knew something unusual, out of his control was going on, which it was).

Same with kids. Have you ever chastised your ‘lazy child’ for not doing their chores while you make an excuse for yourself for not getting your work done that day?

Especially Relevant When Giving Negative Feedback

This concept of attribution error came up recently at London Business School when I was delivering a (virtual) session on how to give feedback. When you are giving feedback please ensure you aren’t falling into the attribution error trap. Look at the behaviour the person is displaying and stay neutral about the intention or reasons for it (until you know).

Behaviours and the negative impacts of others are often attributed to character or personality under this error. They are mistaken for intentions often leading to you being emotionally judgmental (overtly or just in your mind) which then masks any understanding and empathy you might bring to the situation.

When you make an attribution about someone’s behaviour to their personality or character, those attributions tend to stick. They stick because of confirmation bias – we search for and interpret data that confirms our beliefs. That’s why it’s hard to shake a first impression of someone or something.

Other Implications

The Fundamental Attribution Error can impact any interaction you have. It can influence who you select to work on a project or get a promotion. It has been found to be the cause of everything from misunderstandings, hurt feelings to firings.

Unconscious Bias – 6 Steps to Address It

A bias is only unconscious if you don’t know you have it. Therefore, the first step in any development area is to start to become aware of it.

1. Notice what thoughts you have when others do something ‘wrong’ or act in a way that has a negative result versus your own actions. How often are you falling into the attribution error? What are the patterns you might have around blaming/judging/assuming? A specific person or situation?

2. Give people the benefit of the doubt until you learn more. If you notice you’re going to attribute someone’s mistake, error or bad behaviour to their character, brainstorm other possible attributions you could make to uncontrollable factors. This can help you break the cycle of attributing erroneously. What situational factors might be happening? These situational factors might be impacting more people than this one person, so could lead you to improve things overall.

3. Practice gratitude. When you notice your annoyed or frustrated with someone (even yourself), make a list of 3-5 positive characteristics or skills that they (you) have.

4. Get curious about what’s behind someone’s behaviour rather than assuming. As the image that accompanies this article suggests, get clear on what is real and what might be a figment of your imagination. You could ask them “what was behind that behaviour?” to learn more. Practice empathy – understanding what it’s like to be in their shoes and how they feel.

5. When giving feedback focus on the behaviour, not the intention or character. I recommend the COIN model which is “when you did/said this…” the impact was “this, this and this.” See here for detailed explanation. Ensure you see and understand a pattern of behaviour before making big decisions. If there are patterns of repetitive negative behaviours for someone, have a conversation with them to understand what’s behind it before making any big decisions about their work and role.

6. Look at your own actions for self-development. Look at your own patterns of behaviours with negative implications and examine if you need to do some development work. Are there themes in what you judge others for that might be applicable to you?

Awareness and understanding are the keys here to better interactions and hence results. You can’t really eliminate all biases and you can be aware and mitigate them to have the impact you want to have. This is especially important for the emotionally-charged times in which we are working and living. Our beliefs and biases about working from home, governments, mask-wearing, covid, racial unrest and more can cause division, blame and unhelpful responses if we don’t recognize and give consideration to others’ perspectives.

Book a COMPLIMENTARY coaching session with me here for support in further developing your leadership. What would make you more effective and fulfilled at work and/or life?


Ditch New Year Resolutions. Find fun things to do near ME.

Ditch New Year Resolutions. Find fun things to do near ME.

I don’t do new year resolutions. They often don’t work according to research. They are often punitive (lose weight, exercise more, less alcohol, stop smoking).

This year I’m doing 21-4-21 with a focus on FUN (yes, even during a pandemic). Those who have followed my writing for years might recognize this as I’ve done 49-4-49 and 50-4-50 previously. 49-4-49 was forty-nine fun things between my 49th and 50th birthday. 50-4-50 was fifty acts of kindness to others the 12 months following my 50th birthday.

What’s Next

Christmas, New Year’s and the holidays are now behind us. This year has started out a little turbulent shall I say. We’re half way through the first month. Time is ticking. What’s next for you?

You can set your own direction. You can go with whatever comes along. You could do both or nothing.

Make Lemonade Out of Lemons

So, what are my 21 things you ask? I don’t have a full list yet, that’s part of the fun of this project. My list has to reflect the fact that, for me, this year has started in another lockdown and I want to jump into this project now and not wait for lessening of restrictions.

What I have on my list so far are:

Assemble a colourful puzzle. I’ve chosen a 1000-piece impuzzlble – it’s not a picture or scene, it’s repeatable pattern of 5 colours making it somewhat hard to figure out which of the 200 yellow pieces fit together. Scientific research proves doing puzzles lifts one’s spirit.

Knit a snood. My cousin sent me a kit to do just that! A snood is a loose-fitting collar to keep your neck warm. Research from Harvard Medical School’s Mind and Body Institute proved that knitting induces the relaxation response, lowers the heart rate, and high blood pressure drops. Further research shows it induces relaxation and reduces stress and anxiety as well.

Play in a virtual escape room. I like trying to solve the puzzles with friends that gets you out of an escape room. Apparently, they are offered virtually now so I’ll be finding one to try with some friends.

Cook 21 new recipes. I have 3 on my list for this weekend from Ottolenghi’s new cookbook, Flavour.

Participate in a pub quiz. This could be online or in person when permitted. Love me a pub quiz.

Play Yahtzee with a games group.

Kayak on the Thames when possible (and frankly when warmer and drier in the UK).

Climb at Go-Ape, a tree-top climbing course. I have a gift certificate from my birthday last year to still enjoy.

Do karaoke. This scares my silly and I want to give it a go.

Find some dance-event like when I did the silent disco a few years ago with my friend from Germany.

Visit the winter lights at Kew Gardens at the end of this year. Need to book this now was it’s a very popular event and had to close early this winter due to lockdown.

Walk Hadrian’s Wall. It’s a former defensive fortification of the Roman province of Britannia, begun in AD 122, located in the north of England. It’s 90 miles long, which I’m doing remotely right now, walking that distance over the next 35 days, with the hope to do it in situ later in the year when travel is allowed.

The added benefit of this project is that I’m feeling excited doing the research and planning for the activities themselves. Any ideas you have for me to add to my list would be greatly appreciated, especially for fun things to do early in the year when restrictions will be in place. And if you want to join me for a fun event this year, please reach out and suggest something.

2021 will pass (if you’re lucky; the alternative is not pleasant) like every other year. What would make it fun, satisfying, enjoyable, connecting, exciting, joyful, loving, fulfilling, gratifying for YOU?

Book a COMPLIMENTARY coaching session with me here for support in setting a direction for yourself this year. What would make you more effective and fulfilled at work and/or life?

Photo by Vincent Gerbouin from Pexels

2021 Create more of what you want/less of what you don’t.

Vision for 2021: Create Your Future. More of What You Want.

With 2020 behind us, thankfully, and the lengthening of daylight each day, my positivity says things can only get better. Now is the time to think and dream about 2021. What would you like to intentionally create for yourself this year? By thinking about what you want to create in your life this year and how you want to BE as you do those things, it just might be the hope you need to get through these darker months.

Now there are people out there that say they don’t want to plan; they want to accept what comes along spontaneously. If they plan they think they’ll take the fun out of life or miss what comes along. Why not have both? Think what you want in your life and be open to the serendipity that comes along.

Just like a company has a vision and strategic plan, or at least successful companies, you as an individual would do well to have a vision and strategic plan for your life. This isn’t about making New Year’s resolutions, those don’t work. This is simply about thinking about what you want and being intentional about having more of that in your life.


Lessons Learned

In last month’s article I suggested reflecting on 2020 which you can reread here. The self-reflection was to capture the successes, achievements and celebrations and release the failures, disappointments and regrets. From those reflections of the past year, what are the lessons you’ve learned?

What matters to you?

What do you want more of in your life? Less of?

If you could have a do-over of something within your control this past year, what would you do differently?

Think baby steps, what are some qualities you’d want more in your daily life (humour, fun, depth, lightness, purpose, consciousness)?


Create Your Future

With everything you’ve learned from 2020 now create a captivating vision for 2021. Think about the following questions. As you think about 2021 also think about how you want to feel. What would excite you about the year? It’s not just what you want to achieve, it’s also about how you want to feel.

What do you want in the year ahead? Think of all aspects of your life – family, work, personal, financial, health, fun, spiritual, relationships, etc.

What are you tolerating that you’d like to change in the next year?

What would you add more regularly to your life for more enjoyment, fun or fulfilment?

What is something you’d do this year if you didn’t care what people thought of it/you?

If this year was a chapter in the book of your life, what would this next chapter be called/what would its title be?

Things I’ve been thinking of for this year are: more joy, laughter, singing, delivering a new leadership program with a colleague, gratitude and lightness.


Capturing Your Vision – Vision Board or Something Else?

Now that you’ve thought of the various aspects you’d like in 2021, you have an idea of the overall them (from your chapter title) and some qualities or characteristics you’d like to experience more it’s time to pull them all together.

There are a few options for how to do this however, first why do this? Because we know that by engaging the creative part of your brain there’s more chance of following through than just relying on willpower. Images and visuals

1. Make a vision board – this is the most popular suggestion although this doesn’t appeal to everyone. Find images (from the internet, canva, pintrest, magazines) of the things you’ve just identified and put them together (on a poster, on-line). It’s essentially a collage, so you have a visual reminder of your aspirations for the year.

2. Write a list – so you can refer to it periodically through the year to plan your intentions into your schedule.

3. Pick some music that represents your theme and qualities – play it often.

4. Draw yourself a picture – this is what I’ve been doing for the last couple of years. I draw images and words for the coming year and at the end a central image usually emerges that I then photograph as my phone wallpaper.

There’s no right or wrong way to capture your visioning, do what appeals to you most or create your own idea and let me know what that is. Once captured plan

2021 will pass (if you’re lucky; the alternative is not pleasant) like every other year. To have an idea of how you want it to be better or different than 2020 requires visioning and then action. Take the time to dream, it doesn’t have to be long or all at one time. Then live the vision through reminders, action and inspiration. And enjoy whatever else comes along the way!

Book a COMPLIMENTARY coaching session with me here for some guided visioning time – and some practical tips for how to achieve that vision. What would make you more effective and fulfilled at work and personally?

: Conflict –Resolve it, if not Avoid it, at Work or Home.

Conflict –Resolve it, if not Avoid it, at Work or Home

Conflict exists at work, in the home and in the world at large as we know. How you deal with it will impact your effectiveness as a manager or leaders, your success in work and life and your happiness and well-being as a person. Many coaching clients dislike conflict. A new client had lower effectiveness scores on her 3600 report for “measuring progress of her team’s projects, ensuring accountability, giving direct feedback and addressing difficult situations.” The qualitative comments echoed a desire for “direct feedback, clarity of her position even if different than others, and tackle difficult situations early.”

Conflict Meaning

Conflict is essentially a disagreement between two or more people. This seems simplistic and often conflict is a serious disagreement or argument, often occurring over time. Conflict can arise from poor behaviours (bullying, discrimination, harassment, poor performance), misunderstandings (office etiquette, language, politics), differences (in opinion, personality, human, work ethic, ideas) or miscellaneous other things (ego, laziness, jealousy, assumptions).

There are two kinds of conflict. One is real conflict where you know there is tension, disagreement and differences with another. The second is what I call imaginary or ‘anticipative’ – this is where you assume or perceive or fear there might be conflict based on thoughts and feelings you are having, before even raising it with the other person. This article will give some tips for both real and anticipated conflict.

Of note, language is important. It influences us (when we think it) and others (when we say it) immensely. Notice the difference in how you feel and the impact of ‘we are in conflict’ vs ‘we disagree’ vs ‘we have a misunderstanding.’ Reserve ‘conflict’ for things that are truly that scale.


The way to avoid conflict is to deal with any frustrations or issues early. The expression “nip it in the bud” is apt, deal with poor performance or behaviour as soon as you sense it. If you notice you’re annoyed or frustrated take time to figure out what the issue is and develop a plan for addressing it (either within yourself or with the other person).

Design Your Alliance. At the start of a coaching relationship I talk to my client about how we want to work together (download template here). We review goals and roles to agree expectations, we talk about what brings out the best in each other, we identify the qualities each of us are bringing to this working relationship. We even talk about “what if something’s not working? How do we want to raise it/deal with it?” By talking about all this overtly it sets a foundation and gives permission to talk about any deviations from this plan. You can do this with your boss, co-worker, employee or friend at any time.

Listen and Ask. Listen to others both what they are saying and not saying. Listen for any resentment or frustration with you or others to identify it early. And ask open questions (best questions start with WHAT) to find out what people are really thinking and feeling, what motivates them, what the reasons are for what they do, and what’s going on for them. Active listening and curious inquiry to understand can prevent tensions as people feel seen and heard and issues can be aired and addressed early.

Share Assumptions and their Impact. We create assumptions about people, ideas, situations all the time (it’s how our brain works). Often our assumptions about others are wrong as we are interpreting things through our perspective. When we act on those wrong assumptions it can lead to misunderstandings between you or negative feelings for you. When you view someone in a ‘not-so-nice-light’ ask yourself what am I assuming about them? What impact does that assumption have on you emotionally and intellectually? What underlying belief might exist for you? Doing this reflective exercise might reveal some emotional blind spots you have about yourself. For example, Joe isn’t doing his fair share of the work on a project. You assume he’s lazy and coasting on everyone else’s effort. That makes you feel resentful and wanting to exclude him. The underlying belief might be that you feel others might think you’re not pulling your weight and you don’t feel good enough.

Learn how to have ‘Difficult’ Conversations. Many coaching clients say they hate having difficult conversations and therefore avoid them. First, note the language. If you label it a difficult conversation it probably will be so define what the intention of the conversation truly is: “developmental, aligning expectations, giving feedback, clearing assumptions, working better together.” Secondly, learn models and tips for giving ‘negative’ feedback (one model can be found here), aligning expectations having performance management discussions. Lastly, make sure you are giving positive feedback and celebrating success of others regularly (5 positives to every 1 negative is the proven ratio¹), so they know you value their contributions and hence aren’t just hearing negative things from you.


It’s a tall order to provide a process or tips to resolve conflict in a short article as resolution depends on the situation, number of people involved, the severity and duration of the conflict, legalities etc.

Name it. Acknowledge that the conflict is present. Name the elephant in the room to yourself and those involved. This doesn’t have to be a grand announcement. The words could be as simple as “I sense some friction or lack of alignment between us that I’d like to clear up.” Ask about their thoughts and feelings. They might be reluctant so share yours. Say what you’d like to happen such as “I’d like us to work through this to be happier and more successful colleagues.”

Put the Issue Between You Both. Literally. If the conflict is about a specific topic or situation then write it down on a piece of paper, sit side by side (less confrontational) and put that paper on the table in front of you. This puts the issue more objectively outside of yourselves and the relationship and becomes the focus of resolution rather than blame. This can be done virtually by signing into the video conference on a second device and putting the paper/topic as that devices ‘participant so the two of you look at it in a third view.

Strive for the ‘3rd solution’ – not your solution or their solution, rather a better, new solution. I don’t mean compromise. Dig beneath the surface to identify the underlying needs or motivations of each party. Encourage each of you to find alignment rather than agreement. What can you align on? It might be as basic as agreeing there is a problem between you, or what the worst-case scenario is or what process you both wish to follow to find resolution. Brainstorm options or solutions together that would satisfy each of your needs.

Have Someone Facilitate. Ask a neutral third party to help. This could be a leader, HR partner, a professional. Someone looking for a resolution between the two rather than a judge of who’s right and who’s wrong. I had an emotive engagement with a colleague years ago involving misunderstandings and assumptions. A coach colleague of ours facilitated the discussion between us to get to understanding of each other’s points of view and essentially both accepting responsibility for the situation and clear the air to move forward.

This is the Start not the End. This first conversation should be viewed as just that, the first in a series. Check in with each other. How’s it going? You could each rate the effectiveness of the solution or process on a scale of 1 to 10. What would it take to increase the rating (if it’s not a 10)? You might need smaller more frequent conversations because of the emotional nature of the conflict. Recognize it’s a journey rather than a quick fix.

Research shows that organizations with diverse people, ideas and solutions are more innovative and successful when well managed. Diversity means differences by definition. It’s not avoiding the differences that are key, it’s managing them for optimal engagement and results.

What conflict resolution skills would you benefit using?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore how you could resolve, if not avoid, conflicts


Endnote: ¹ Dr John Gottman 2002

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

Self Reflection of 2020 to Capture Your Lessons Learned

Self Reflection of 2020 to Capture Your Lessons Learned

We won’t forget 2020. We’ll remember where we were this year like my parents did when JFK was shot. Let’s also remember the lessons learned through self reflection on the good, the bad and the ugly of the year. This exercise of reflection will help identify the silver linings for yourself from what could be called a rubbish year in many respects. For some, the fact you are still here and standing is worth acknowledging and celebrating.

Self Reflection

Coaching is often described as a reflective space for coachees to think. Self reflection is when you do this thinking on your own, thinking through things for yourself. It allows you to see and appreciate the good, to learn from the bad and let go of the ugly. At this time of year, self-reflection can be the precursor to creating your New Year’s resolutions as you review what happened over the last year. Sometimes people skip over the learnings and just go to the resolutions. Trust me the self-reflection will assist with any future actions.

Why is Self Reflection Important

Self reflection is a means to both celebrate the good and develop oneself as a leader, manager, parent, friend or person (in any capacity really). You assess your effectiveness in a given situation, in a specific role or over a period of time as a way of identifying how effective you are being, what is working for you and what could be better. At work people often review a project (often that’s failed) to determine what worked and what didn’t to learn the lessons and improve the odds of success next time. There’s value in also doing this for things that have gone well to reinforce the strengths and enjoy the success and journey. Self-reflection is the same thing, except the subject is us.

Self Reflection Questions

My suggestion for how to self reflect is to dedicate some quiet time to reflecting on 2020. It can be with a mug of hot chocolate as one colleague is doing today or a walk in the park. You decide.

Ask yourself the following questions about your whole life – work and personal.

  • What were the highlights from the year? Think beyond just your biggest wins or achievements. The discoveries, milestones, adventures, opportunities that you want to remember.
  • What are some things you’d like to let go of from 2020? The mistakes, missed opportunities, regrets which you compassionately want to forgive yourself for and release.
  • What were the challenges you overcame this year? And what were the qualities or resources that helped you overcome them?

Lessons Learned

The goal of self-reflection is to determine what’s worked, what hasn’t and what you want to create from those learnings for the future. It’s taking the lessons learned from the reflection and asking So What? What do you want to create for yourself given those learnings?

  • What were the lessons you learned from your highlights and lowlights this past year? It could be lessons you’ve learned about yourself (your strengths, weaknesses, talents, beliefs, values, hopes, fears)? About life (priorities, society, the world)? About work (a skill, passion, growth)?

Now What?

1.  Celebrate the wins, really celebrate the good. We often gloss over these things because they went well. This is your life, enjoy it.

2.  Release the lowlights. Let go of the missed opportunities and mistakes. Be compassionate with yourself as you would a friend. Some people burn the page they’ve written these regrets on, or go into the woods and yell, or physically shake their body to expel the energy (I know, these sound Woo-Woo, do what works for you to let them go).

3.  Articulate the lessons in both the good and bad stuff to help in the celebrating and closure.

4.  Next month I’ll have an article on creating your 2021 vision, keep these lessons at hand for that work.

Some reflections by many people this year are:

Health is important in terms of physical and mental well being. Most people learned something about their relationship to food, alcohol, exercise, coping and self-care this year.

Proximity and physical connection with friends and family is to be treasured. And how creative we can be in the absence of this.

Nature and the environment can bounce back if we humans reduce our negative impact on it.

The life experience is full of tensions (reducing virus spread vs opening up the economy fully, wanting to be with others vs keeping others safe, physical vs mental health) and it’s about balancing risk and reward for ourselves and society. These tensions can be within ourselves and between people.

The basic functioning of most Western societies is in the hands of essential workers who are often lower paid and more vulnerable. There’s something around what we value, how we compensate, and recognize those key workers.

Tolerance of differences, acceptance, fairness and equality or lack thereof were in the headlines for the wrong reasons this year.

We truly are, a closely linked, interconnected world. For some that’s positive and for others negative.

Be more specific and tangible with your reflections and lessons learned than these macro themes that way you can use them to create more tangible outcomes for you.

I can’t share my reflections and lessons with you as I haven’t done them yet. Every year a friend and I meet after Christmas to review our learnings from the year. We reflect, share, tease out and interrogate the things that matter to us. The categories we evaluate can vary slightly each year; we’ve looked at work, well-being, family, relationships, finances, fun, home and essence/who we are as human beings. These reflections and lessons then help us create a vision for ourselves for the next year based on what we want more of or different or to maintain from the current year.

2021 will pass (if you’re lucky; the alternative is not pleasant) like every other year. To have an idea of how you want it to be better or different than 2020 requires reflection. Take the time, it doesn’t have to be long or all at one time. That reflection gives you your starting point for creating something new or different in the future. You can’t get to Paris until you know whether you’re starting from Toronto or London.

Book a COMPLIMENTARY coaching session with me here for some guided reflective time – what have you learned? How do you want to incorporate that into your life? What would make you more effective and fulfilled at work and personally?