Are you a Parent, Child or Adult at Work?

Are you a Parent, Child or Adult at Work?

Feel like you’re parenting unruly children instead of chairing a business meeting?

Thought someone’s behaviour at work was like them throwing their toys out of the pram?

Have you been guilty of being critical or judgement of a colleague?

Ever noticed yourself reacting critically or defiantly in a work situation?

You are not alone.

I’ve had a client once say my 6-year old behaves better than ‘so and so’ in that meeting.

Another executive client realized his own childish behaviour of sitting quietly and obediently in a meeting for fear of upsetting someone.

They are not alone.

When we are interacting with others we are often unconscious of our behaviour, sometimes reacting (appropriately or inappropriately) versus responding.

This dynamic can be just as true at work as it can at home. At home with your children, parents or even partner.

This theory is part of Transactional Analysis (TA).

Transactional Analysis

TA is theory of psychology developed by Eric Berne in the 1950’s. It’s based on the idea that one’s behaviour and social relationships reflect an interaction between aspects of each person’s personalities that were established early in life.

His famous book is Games People Play from 1964.

Each interaction between me and something else (person, group, object, idea etc) is a back and forth. Each “interaction” in called a transaction hence the term Transactional Analysis – analysing what’s behind each human encounter.

Ego States

Just as Sigmund Freud had 3 ego states in his theory of psychology (Id, Super Ego, Ego), Eric Berne defines 3 ego states as well, building on the work of Freud.

Ego states are ‘ways of being.’ Who we are as we are showing up in our relationships and interactions. It’s the ‘come from’ place of your thoughts, feelings or actions – the energy behind it.

TA defines the 3 ego states as Parent, Adult and Child.

None of these are wrong, except when done to hurt ourselves or others. Most of us have some of all three, they all have pros and some have cons.

Once you understand ego states it becomes quite easy to see them in others, and yourself.


This is when we think, feel or behaviour like the adults in our childhood. We recorded what the adults in our childhood said, did or felt and think this is normal as a child.

This ego state of Parent can be CRITICAL or NUTURING.

The Critical Parent has rules, defined right and wrong, limiting beliefs about what is possible and not possible. It’s about pursuing ideals and obeying rules and regulations. And not just laws or rules of society, also rules of the family eg. “our family goes to university.”

The cons are controlling, critical, patronising, and finger-pointing.

The Nurturing Parent is about showing thoughtfulness and affection towards others. Pros are keeps you safe, calming, nurturing and supportive. Great when you are a parent caring for a child.

When brought into other relationships it can be a problem.

It can be suffocating, assumptive of what others want, or rescuing where you do too much for others, doing things without being asked, thereby no asking what others might want. Nurturing

Parent can create trust or dependency depending how used. And cause resentment in the Nurturing Parent “because of everything they do with no thanks.”

When acting from a Parent ego state we are in our past, borrowed from the adults, parents, or primary caregivers of our past when we were children.


This is the felt and lived experience of when you were a child, the thinking, feeling, and behaving like when you were small. This is a precious, fragile and vulnerable part of ourselves. This ego state of Child can be FREE CHILD or ADAPTIVE CHILD.

The Adaptive Child can have 1 of 2 responses.

The Adapted who is compliant knows there are rules and follows them eg “I’m so sorry for being late” in a pleading voice, or before anyone has even commented or cares. It’s often compliance with rules – both written and unwritten.

The rebellious response from Adaptive Child knows there are rules and rebels against them – going against them. The cons are rebellious, tantrums, difficult, and insecure.

The Free Child ego state has no rules, is sourced from a time younger than the adaptive child, is unaware of rules. Usually shows up as fun, creative, playful, curious and spontaneous.

When acting from a Child ego state we are in our past, we made recordings of who we were and how the world works when we were young and apply that to new situations in our present life.

Our Child can be hurt and upset in the here and now based on a situation unrelated to our childhood however, triggering of something in that childhood.

The photo in this article is me in Free Child – more creative, spontaneous and fun. A state that nourishes me, so I consciously step into it.


This ego state is based on the here and now, the present reality, grounded, not from an aspect of our past.

We think, feel and respond to the here and now, not conditioning or pre-programmed memories from our childhood.

An adult thinks, judges and makes decisions objectively factoring in the data and situation present in this moment using facts and feelings as relevant.

The pros are reasonable, logical, rational, non-threatening and non-threatened.

The “Ideal”

The ideal is to take these 3 separate ego states and integrate them within ourselves.

It’s to become conscious of the history or past that might control you or impact how you react in the present.

We want autonomy; to have an integrated adult ego state being in the here and now, having a foot in adult and invoking the energy of Parent or Child as appropriate.

Top 5 Leadership Tips

• Know some of the unwritten rules of your childhood that might trigger you. I was often nurturing parent and would be resentful when my partner or friends didn’t reciprocate my (unsolicited) advice or kindness.

• Ask questions of others that can help you understand their “go to” ego states (without thinking you’re a psychologist). What brings out the worst in you? (criticism, being told no or you’re wrong). What brings out the best in you? What helps you be creative

• Notice when someone reacts disproportionately to the current situation and recognize they might be triggered, it’s often them reacting from their past. They aren’t just reacting to this one moment, they are reacting to every cumulative time they’ve felt this way hence the “overreaction.”

• Be patient when someone is triggered. They are in the amygdala part of the brain, the primitive emotional part of fight, flight or freeze and have lost their ability for rational thought in that moment. Be silent, soften your face and voice. Ask what they need in this moment.

• Own your behaviour if you are triggered. I’ve often said to a friend, “I think I am being triggered as I’m noticing anger and shutting down (compliant child) as you are telling me what I did was wrong. Can you rephrase it so I can hear you and understand please?”

What are your Parent and Child default reactions?

What do you do when team members are in Parent or Adult?

What would it take for you to be and stay in Adult? (to call forth the adult in others)

I work through these questions and more with many of my clients, so they can motivate and support their teams, and so they get the best Adult contributors they can.

Are you curious to learn more to be more motivating and productive? Contact me at for a complimentary introductory call. I guarantee you will learn something helpful about your leadership in that initial call.

Resource Influence: Accredited Certificate from The Power Institute 2022.

Leadership Lessons from the UK Post Office Scandal

Leadership Lessons from the UK Post Office Scandal

With every success there are lessons. The same with failures, a tragedy in this case, that huge lessons beyond just leadership need to be learned.
The UK Post Office has been at the heart of a decades-long scandal, that shockingly continues.


The scandal is that over 700 Post Office sub masters and mistresses (sort of like franchise owners) to-date have erroneously been accused, fined, penalized, and in many cases tried and convicted of theft.

It stems back to a new computer system that was installed in 1999 for postal outlets to use for all transactions. The system was faulty and could be accessed unknowingly by the software provider, Fujitsu. Frequently the system showed that money was “missing” hence the Post Office management accusing the franchisees of theft and fraud.

The system was used as the evidence to fine and charge people. Multiple sub post office masters and mistresses were accused and at the same time told that they individually were the only ones having the issue of short balances.

As part of their contract they were required to pay the Post Office the ‘lost’ money from any shortages. These franchises re-mortgaged their homes, took our loans and borrowed money to “give” the Post Office the amounts declared “lost or short” by the Horizon software.

On top of having to pay back these losses, many were fined, and some charged and convicted and sent to prison.
In the UK local post office masters and mistresses were often the hub of a small community and not only were they financially out of pocket, their reputations and characters were ruined.
There’s one post master, Alan Bates, that has led the charge for decades to keep the issue in the limelight to get justice. He’s one of the few positive leaders in this sad saga.

Current Situation

Everyone now knows and agrees the software was at fault and the sub post masters and mistresses were lied to, erroneously accused.
The Post Office has admitted it has been poorly handled internally.
Many of the affected still haven’t had their payment of the losses returned, nor their fines or penalties. Some convictions still need to be dropped. The question of compensation has been raised however, no where in sight of being paid out.

Management of the Post Office, Fujitsu and government officials have appeared before an inquiry.
A recent @ITV dramatization of the scandal has put the scandal into the public eye, well worth a watch IMHO, and pressure is starting to be put on the government to rectify it.

That’s the long intro…

Leadership Lessons

This travesty is a huge example of failed leadership. As with any success and often more frequently failures, the key is to garner the lessons so it’s not a lost cause and it can be prevented from re-occurring again.

1. Leaders know culture eats policy for breakfast. The culture of an organization will overrule any written policy. Culture is a culmination of the behaviours that are modelled and allowed. Culture starts are the top and cascades down. Leaders monitor the culture, often through 3600s and engagement surveys.
Culture needs to include safety for raising issues and concerns. Psychological safety is key, especially in today’s complex world, and leaders must infuse that in the culture.

2. Leaders take responsibility. Leaders are role models and figure heads for the organization and beyond. They own the fact that the ‘buck stops with them.’ They are ultimately responsible for every decision made in the organization. This requires trusting their people, process and safety checks in the system and transparency and integrity of themselves and others. This didn’t happen in the Post Office, even with the recent head who was dismissed in 2023. He appeared at an enquiry into the scandal without having obvious details such as dates and names with no proper apology.

Leaders are held accountable by the board, shareholders, the media, the public, their customers so the best place to start is for leaders to be self-reflective. Many have private mentors, coaches or family that support them in this.

Taking responsibility includes admitting mistakes, making heartfelt apologies and striving to rectify the situation. And it means stepping down when appropriate.

3. Leaders ensure accountability at all levels. Following on from the leader holding themselves accountable, leaders hold others accountable. They call out poor behaviour, publicly if necessary; people know the consequences of good and bad; they speak to what behaviours are wanted; they give positive and constructive feedback regularly; they communicate expectations and goals clearly, repeatedly, create alignment behind those and measure progress.

Leaders need to promote learning from mistakes, allowing permissible mistakes, having difficult conversations and letting people go when necessary.

4. Leaders influence beyond their organizations. Everyone, especially leaders, have a “leadership shadow.” Just like a shadow, it is cast outside of ourselves, it can be dark, and it can extend far beyond our expectation or understanding. Leaders cast their shadow further than the organization. Aware leaders proactively manage their shadows to ensure the impact they want.

Leaders ensure alignment of their goals, culture and vision among suppliers, partners, associations, politicians and all key stakeholders. They proactively manage relationships. That didn’t happen with the Post Office; they were quite insular and secretive.

5. Leaders are curious. Leaders can’t know everything, if they do they are probably stifling their people, their growth, the performance results and organization. Leaders need to be curious. This is especially important when leaders encounter differing ideas, thoughts and opinions. And when there seems to be uncertainty, issues or voids in information.

The smartest person in the room is usually not the one with all the answers, they are more often the ones with the best questions. That’s curiosity. Approaching things with a beginner’s mind, and leaving preconceptions, assumptions and perspectives at the door. I was once advised to play the fool more, don’t think you have all the answers, if you do everyone else is redundant.

Research shows that diverse thinking teams achieve better solutions to issues, faster than those with the same cognitive approach. Leaders make sure those differing styles and approaches are shared.

6. Leaders prioritize people over processes. A big failing of the Post Office was blindly following the technology, dismissing people, even when the magnitude of fraud increased (especially versus historic figures). Leaders listen. Leaders collect differing perspectives. Leaders consider everyone in the value chain, not just those closest, nor the data without the narrative.

Leaders often must take data and create a story or narrative around that story, because data can often be interpreted in different ways. It’s the story, context and narrative that give data meaning. People and their stories create the meaning.

What Now?

For the Post Office? Who knows?

I’d want the sub post masters and mistresses to be reimbursed, compensated, pardoned and categorically exonerated in all ways immediately.

For leadership, it’s about knowing yourself, who you are as a leader, how you want to lead, and continually managing your impact – regardless of the situation.
I know you haven’t had a failure on the scale of the Post Office scandal, and we can all learn. Neuroscience confirms that are brains have neuroplasticity – research says you can teach old dogs new tricks.

If you’re a senior leader or established founder and feel like now is the time to take your leadership to the next level, get in touch to arrange a no-obligation consultation: DM 

What leadership would propel your business and people to satisfying success?

What have you learned from your failures?

What have you learned from your successes?

Anxious to give a team member feedback and know you should?

Anxious to give a team member feedback and know you should?

Worried you’ll hurt someone (or they’ll get emotional) if you give them feedback?

Don’t believe you can give your manager feedback?

A recent @LBS Executive client in one of our coaching sessions identified 3 beliefs for himself:

• Feedback means criticism, constructive input; ‘feedback’ is never positive
• He feared they’d “get emotional” which meant tears or anger
• A compliment – criticism – compliment ‘sandwich’ was the safest approach

My belief (based on 1000’s of hours of coaching, leadership development, programmes and decades of experience):


So what?

Feedback is both

• “positive” – confidence building, reinforcing someone’s belief in themselves about something they do well and
• “negative” or “constructive” – competence building, helping someone improve in an area that would serve them well.

The COIN Model is a brilliant model for giving both confidence and competence building feedback (and for receiving feedback but that’s another topic).

It’s 4 easy steps.

C – Context – where and when was the occasion on which you want to give feedback (eg. a specific meeting, a zoom call, a presentation; yesterday, this morning, Monday)

O – Observation – what did you observe the person doing? Be ‘clean’ in your language. Identify the behaviour the person exhibited – what did they say or do that you want to praise or improve them on? (eg. don’t say you were rude in the meeting, instead say “when you talked over Susan in yesterday’s meeting). Clean language removes the judgment, assumption or perceived intention behind the behaviour.

I – Impact – what impact did that behaviour have? On you, on others, on the business, on the customer, on the task and on the person themselves. It can be a practical or emotional impact. (eg. using the above talking over Susan example, the impact was that others did not speak freely, I was frustrated you didn’t let them finish speaking, you didn’t make a good impression).

N – Next Steps – what you want them to do next time (eg. let people finish speaking before you walk). In the case of positive feedback, it can be as simple as “keep doing it.”
A few top tips:

1. Over time, cumulatively give more confidence-building feedback than competence-building (fill the bank account with positive entries before making a withdrawal from the emotional bank account)
2. If someone cries, give them a tissue and let them cry. Afterwards ask them what they need? And what was going on for them hearing that feedback?
3. If someone gets angry, depending on the degree of anger, either reschedule the meeting for another time to let them cool off (don’t say cool off though 😉) or if it’s a smaller dose of anger, softly and compassionately as what’s going on for them in hearing that information?
4. If you’ve given more positives over time, you’re less likely to get an “emotional” response because they know you care, and you see the good they do too. Notice, we are uncomfortable with “emotional” reactions when we assume tears and anger and not happiness and gratitude.
5. Sandwiching a negative between two positives is rarely a good strategy. People won’t believe the good, so that was wasted. And they won’t completely understand the bad because it’s been mixed up and softened with all the other words.
6. You can give feedback upwards, sideways and downwards – all around; not just to those that report to you.

What thoughts and feelings do you have when you hear the word “feedback?”

What would be helpful for you to learn about motivating and influencing your team?

Share your horror stories of receiving feedback in the comments below (no names, keep it anonymous to protect the guilty) to learn what not to do!

For a complimentary template of the COIN model with prompts and an example, click here

Contact me here to arrange a complimentary session on how to give feedback more effectively.

What could a dog teach you about leadership? A lot.

What could a dog teach you about leadership? A lot.

Do you have a dog?

Do you ever wonder what goes on in their brains?

If you don’t have a pet, would you like one?

I don’t have a pet. Never had except if you count goldfish or a turtle.

Lately I’ve had a few friends who have dogs and one dog in particular, Lishka, makes me wonder should I get one?

I had the opportunity of looking after her and found so much about her that was applicable to leadership.

Here’s some dog behaviours us humans could use more:

Dogs are curious. A short walk actually ended up being a lot of mileage because she checked into every corner, under every little bush, around every pole and back-and-forth across the laneways.

There was an enthusiasm to that curiosity as well. A desire to find out more, to explore, a want to find something new or special.

Tips for Being Curious:
* Approach ideas with a beginner’s mindset. If you knew nothing, what would you consider about this idea? Listen without judgement.
* Stop yourself when you say “that won’t work”, “we’ve done it before“ and ask, what do you mean? How would that work?
* Ask questions. Especially before deciding or giving advice.
* Take something outside of your usual realm of reference and try to apply it to a problem you have that needs to be fixed (like how dogs could influence leadership 🤣)

How often are you enthusiastically curious about your people and about the ideas that they bring to you?

When I took Lishka for a walk, she was appreciative.

When I threw the tennis ball for her to fetch, she returned it with tail wagging, head bobbing, and what I thought was a smile on her face.

When I petted her head, her tail wagged, she was appreciative.

And even when I did nothing but sat with my cup of tea reading, she nuzzled in and was appreciative just to be in the same space.

Tips for Being Appreciative:
* Smile. With your mouth and eyes.
* Say thank you. And mean it.
* Say “I appreciate when you (insert specific behaviour)…”

How often are you warmly appreciative to your colleagues, teammates, and those you work with?

Fully Present
Dogs are fully present. Whether Lishka was fetching, a ball, sniffing a pole, or nudging my leg to get a treat or a petting, she was fully present.

Even when she was resting in her basket, when I went to another room or called her, she perked up and was by my side instantaneously.

When I was rubbing her ears, she was just fully there tail wagging, and head nudging further into my hand.

Tips for Being Present:
* Focus on one thing at a time – meaning when talking to someone, turn over your phone or turn off your computer hence remove distractions.
* Slow down, look at what you are doing, if that means you’re talking to an individual look them in the eye. Listen. Don’t plan what you’re going to say next.
* Breathe and feel your feet on the ground or your bum on the seat. Your body can’t help but be in the present so if you connect to your body in those moments, you’ll be in the present.

How often are you present with your colleagues? How often are you fully present?

Drop your ideas about dogs’ behaviours, or pets in general, that are applicable to leadership in the comments below.

What dog like behaviours could you apply to your leadership?

How could you be more curious?

What do you need to do to be fully present when you’re engaged with another person?

For more tips on being a better leader here’s a link for my book. Soft Skills HARD RESULTS – a practical guide to people skills for analytical and task-driven leaders. Or get in touch here to arrange a complimentary leadership session with me.

2023 in review

Your 2023 in Review

I can’t believe it’s that time of year already – the more experienced 😉 I get, the faster time flies!
This time of year signals something to me beyond just the holidays. I find it’s a time for reflection as well.

Every year I compose a Year in Review newsletter than goes to all my family and friends recapping the year in words and photos. It’s not one of those cringe ones (honestly). This affords me a great opportunity to revisit all the highs and lows for the year, a chance to relive the life I’m living. And let go of some of the “ouches” of the year.

When I worked at P&G and Nestlé I did annual Business Reviews for the brands I managed. This is the same sort of thing for my life! I believe that if you don’t reflect on where you’ve come from you’ll miss some of the joy, celebrations, and learnings.

Doing this reflecting on the year is what I call “completion.” It’s the step before “creation.”

Step #1 – COMPLETING 2023

Here are questions to help you review the year. Research studies show it’s best to actually write down your answers and not just ‘think’ about them to garner the most learning, enjoyment and release from the exercise.

1. What accomplishments are you most proud of from 2023?

2. What are your top joys, celebrations, highlights and milestones from the year?

3. What challenges or hurdles did you overcome in 2023?

4. What new connections did you create this year?

5. What difference did you make in 2023? In the world, the community, your family, for others.

6. What did you learn this year?

7. As a coach I have to ask, how have you grown in 2023?

Spend time over the next few weeks, dipping in and out of these questions, as different things will come to you over time. It’s also fun to ask others you’re gathered with this holiday for their reflections on the various questions for themselves.

Book a call here to discuss what this review has highlighted for you or your organisation and how I might help.

More Resources?

If you’d like more food for thought on this process you can check out previous blogs I’ve done over the years about completion:

One on Self-Reflection here or more prompts on the year-end review here.

Self Reflection of 2022 to Capture Your Lessons Learned
What are the Lessons Learned from the Last Year? Learn Why Self Reflection is Importance and How to Self Reflect with these Self Reflection Questions

Stay tuned for Step #2 – Creating 2024 in next month’s blog.

I wish you and yours the best of this holiday season – whichever holiday you celebrate.  All the best for a prosperous, healthy, joyful, loving and fulfilling New Year.

Warm wishes until next year…

The Benefits of Coaching and Listening

The Benefits of Coaching and Listening

What if your team were more Self-Reliant?

Want People to be Inspired and Motivated?

Do your team members want to feel Empowered and Valued?

Coaching is one way of doing all that and more. Coaching is a skill, a set of tools and also a mindset. What I’m presenting here is coaching as a skill and set of tools. This will not make you a certified coach; this will assist you in using coaching skills as an option in your toolbox of leadership skills.

I’m mentoring a business leader right now whose goal is to have her team “self-coach”, coach themselves so they don’t have to come to her for solutions, answers, or direction.

Benefits of Coaching

• People learn to think their way through a situation, enabling them, making them less reliant on you.

• People bring their ideas and thoughts to the situation which might result in new, unique solutions and more creativity and diversity of thinking.

• It’s less work for you in the long run as you train them to figure it out (make them more independent and empower them when it is done well).

• You don’t have to know everything all the time (which might be a blow to your ego).

• People feel valued and heard and often are more engaged as they are genuinely asked to explore their ideas.

• You develop leaders, grow greater talent, thereby growing the organization’s capability (and it just might be more fulfilling for you).

Coaching is really just the creation of a reflective space for someone (the client or coachee or employee or fellow human being) to figure out their own solutions and ideas in relation to a particular topic. This is done by the coach (or leader in your case) listening in a deep and non-judgemental way and asking open (sometimes powerful) questions that help the employee discover ideas and possibilities in themselves.

I’ve coached people for 10 minutes who were passing by on the street (it was part of a street team providing free coaching in London) and been given feedback that they found the experience profound. I’ve coached people for hours to the same result, meaning coaching can be 10 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour or longer – depending on the situation, topic, what they want out of it and the time you have.

Tips for Coaching

• Follow the energy of the person you are coaching – whether it’s positive or ‘negative’ energy. That energy tells you what’s important to the person.

• Ask a question – before you respond to someone asking you a question, ask them a question. For example, if they come to you with a problem and ask your suggestion, ask them “what do you think we should do?”

• Ask an open question – ask a question that starts with WHAT preferably. This sends people to the creative part of their brain. Don’t use WHY – that sends people to the defensive part of their brain. Keep HOW or WHEN until the end – as you want to be sure people are solving the right problem before coming up with a solution.

• Use short questions – short questions, even “So what?” create clarity for the listener. Longer questions tend to take time and focus away from the thinker, can contain implied solutions or be leading.

• Learn GROW – it’s a simple 4-step coaching structure of Goal, Reality, Options and Will Do.

• Listen more than you talk – in coaching the energy should come from the person you are coaching, not you.

• Do A&Q, not Q&A – listen to the answer you hear, and build the question from what they’ve said, not from what you think would be good to ask.

• Silence is golden – be ok with silence. Don’t fill it. When you ask someone a question and they are quiet, it means they are thinking. It’s probably a question they’ve never been asked before and hence need to think about the answer.

Have you ever been in a meeting where someone asks a question that causes everyone to pause? I have at Nestle. Often the smartest person in the room is the person that asks the best question, not the one with all the answers.


Listening is the starting point for great communication including coaching. Through my coach training with Co-Active Training Institute (CTI), I learned there were three levels to listening, which changed how I listen and engage (most of the time)1.

The Three Levels of Listening

Level 1 –

Internal Listening/ Focused on Self

Your focus is on yourself, your thoughts, feelings, issues. When someone mentions a topic you immediately go to your thoughts, feelings and opinions on that topic. It’s about your internal narrative or conversation.

Level 2 –

Focused Listening on the Other

Your focus is on what the other person is saying in a laser-like fashion, as though you’re under the ‘cone of silence’ in the old Get Smart TV program. When someone mentions a topic, you want to know that person’s thoughts, feelings and opinions about the topic. You have little awareness of the outside world.

Level 3 –

Focused on the Whole or Global Listening

Your focus is on everything, the space, what’s going on inside you and with the other person, what’s going on energetically. This is where intuition or gut-feel might come in; the action, inaction and interaction.

Try listening at these 3 levels – what have you noticed? All 3 levels have information/data that can inform you about the person and/or situation with whom you are interacting.

Coaching and Listening go hand in hand. Using both with transform the potential of your team members (and other stakeholders and even your children).

What are your top tips about coaching and listening?

What would be possible if your team were more self-reliant?

What would it take for your to try coaching more?

If this is something you want to shift for your team, get in touch to discuss the possibilities at

1 Witworth, Laura and Karen Kinsey-House, Henry Kinsey-House, Phillip Sandahl. Co-Active Coaching. Davies-Black Publishing. P34-40, 2007

5 Lessons of Leadership from Football Legends

5 Lessons of Leadership from Football Legends

Have you listened to the podcast The Rest is Football?

Any interest in football (soccer in North America)?

Ever wonder what 4 ex-footballers could teach you about leadership (and life)?

I never thought I’d cry during a football podcast, and I did.

I started listening to this podcast a couple of months ago to follow a sport again (given baseball and hockey get no coverage here, my sport fix has been barren for years).

The first episode featuring Thierry Henry was about more than football, it was a masterclass in leadership and life lessons.

Here is a snapshot of those insights, regardless of your opinion of football or footballers.

Emotions are Integral to Performance

As much as leaders want to say that business is rational, factual and to not get emotional, emotions are ever present in work.

Thierry Henry, famous former French striker and now coach to France’s under-21’s, said:

“I realized later on that at the time…I was scared [while playing]. These emotions are normal emotions of a human being. I couldn’t say I was scared [in the locker room}. I didn’t know how it would go down. I lied.”

Thierry performed to the highest level, he is thought of as one of the greatest strikers of all time, and one of the greatest players in Premier League history.

And he was scared.

At that time, and in that space, he didn’t feel safe to share those emotions. He lied.

What might your team members be hiding?

What emotions might your staff be feeling?

What could you do to create psychological safety in your workplace?

Allowing those emotions to be shared is key to unleashing people’s potential.

If someone is scared, they won’t be doing their best work. They will be trying to hide the fact they are scared – energy and effort that could be going into their performance.

Ask people how they feel. Don’t accept ok, fine, good. Those aren’t emotions.

You can find an emotion or feelings wheel online to help with building your emotional literacy.

If you think someone is frustrated, sad or anger – ask them “My sense is you might be frustrated, are you?” It isn’t about you being ‘right’, it’s about helping the other person express their feelings.

Leaders Strive for Self-Awareness and Growth Mindset

“I’m in tune with myself right now and I’m still trying to, to be better.” – Thierry Henry

Knowing ourselves is one of the four quadrants of Emotional Intelligence (EQ).

By knowing ourselves, what drives us, what motivates us, what scares us, what we hide, we can interact better with others. By knowing ourselves we can be more effective in how we communicate, lead, and motivate others.

EQ Leadership Model

As a coach and EQ leadership trainer I’m probably biased in wanting people to have a growth mindset and strive to be a better version of themselves.

I take this seriously myself as a professional. I do professional development for maintaining my accreditation. I do personal development to ensure my ‘stuff’ doesn’t get projected on those with whom I’m working.

Professor Carol Dweck defined the growth mindset in 2015 as the belief people have that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.”

When one believes they can learn and grow, they can do just that – rising to the challenges that face people in business, in organizations and in life.

Celebrate the Wins, Even if it’s Hard

One of the questions in the 360º feedback reports I review with leaders in my coaching practice is about celebrating success.

This is often an area of opportunity for many leaders.

A lot of leaders focus on the ‘gap’, what’s not done or not done well.

Thierry Henry expressed the same for himself,

“It was rough, it was touch. It was difficult. It was always what I didn’t do. Not what I did, what I didn’t do that mattered.”
He was told he never used to celebrate his goals. He said “No, because I was thinking about the one that I missed before that was easier to score [than the one I did].”

It’s not just about celebrating achievements. It’s also about celebrating the effort along the way and at the end.

Research shows that motivation and energy are improved when the ratio of positive feedback to constructive feedback are 4-6 positives for every 1 constructive.

The COIN Model is a great resource to use, download the template here.

Like children and dogs, try to find people ‘doing right’ more often, daily even.

Motivation can Come from Unknown Places

Thierry shared about his fear of not being good enough.

He said it came from his Dad. The day he was born, his Dad proclaimed, “this guy is gonna be a great footballer.” Thierry got accolades from billions of people for his football success and “I just wanted it from my Dad. I was chasing something that I could never catch. My little me wanted to hear it [from him].”

Many people feel this. Brené Brown’s research says this feeling is pervasive. People in your teams might be feeling this.

Your role is not to be a therapist. Your role is to make sure people know that:

• their contribution matters,
• their efforts (not just achievements) are unique and appreciated,
• they belong.

Each person is motivated by different things – money, status, learning, team involvement, collaboration, childhood conditioning, power and more.

What motivates each of your team members?

How do you adjust your delegation and communication to their motivators?

Vulnerability Begets Vulnerability

After Thierry shared his story about his father, not feeling good enough and the fears he had playing, Gary Lineker empathized and shared his own vulnerabilities. He said,

“I had a similar relationship with my Dad. Wasn’t until he was on my deathbed…[was] the first time I heard him say I love you, it was in the last conversation we ever [had]… I cried my eyes out in the lift, nurses asked if I was ok…I’m really happy I said.”

Alan Shearer then shared about his Dad.

As Thierry says “And Gary by sharing, obviously, it is contagious when you show vulnerability and you show empathy. You brought me to that story.”
Vulnerability takes courage.

Firefighters are courageous running into burning buildings to save perfect strangers. And by doing so they are being vulnerable. Putting their safety at risk, and their lives and the risk of not being able to save someone and having to live with that fear/guilt.

Leaders need to be vulnerable first, before their team members, because of the risk.

Leaders can share what’s called “allowable weaknesses.”

A CFO can’t say she/he is bad at numbers and can’t read a spreadsheet. They can say that public speaking scares them.

Vulnerability isn’t for the sake of exposing, it’s in service of expressing, sharing, empathy and freeing up constricting energy.

Think about something you can share about yourself, that’s relevant, that others could relate to in order to start the (foot)ball rolling.

Most of The Rest of Football podcasts I don’t understand because I don’t know the players, team or rules well enough. This one I could understand and appreciate. I appreciate it for the vulnerability each participant showed, and for role modelling the humanity that’s present everywhere, even in football 😉.

What could you do to build psychological safety in your workplace?

What would take your leadership from good to great?

What could you do to motivate and inspire your teams?

Get in touch with me here for a no-obligation consultation.


The Rest is Football name and images are owned by Goalhanger Podcasts
COIN from The Feedback Imperative, 2003 Anna Carroll
Growth Mindset, 2015 Professor Carol Dweck

Ever felt insulted or criticized by someone?

Ever been called high maintenance?

Ever received bad feedback at work or personally?

I have.

I’m single, looking for an LTR* and so on a dating app.

I was messaging with a man through the app about his invite to meet up.

I replied proposing a time and location for meeting up and asked if that worked for him.

He replied that I was a “Princess” and “high maintenance.”

That’s the response I got for replying in the affirmative to his suggestion.

So many reactions:

• I was bewildered and confused.
• When I told a friend, she said “You are a Princess and deserve to be treated as such. He is not your Prince”
• My friend’s husband said, “Give me his number and I’ll tell him how to behave”
• And then a friend sent me the meme below

There are 4 Emotional Intelligence angles for this situation. I’ve shared the last 3 on separate posts on LinkedIn and the first being a new perspective.

Where to Give and Receive Feedback

Like a good photograph you want your subject to appear in their best light, to look good. And you as the photographer want to have your work well-regarded. Same for giving any type of feedback, you want the subject or recipient to look good and for you to be perceived well or credible.

In my dating interaction above, I didn’t look good and he didn’t look credible or come off well.
He gave feedback to me in the form of labels, at an “identity” level – with a label of You are A Princess, You’re High Maintenance.

This type of feedback helps no one – the recipient often feels defensive or helpless to understand or change; the giver appears mean, imprecise, or judgemental.

  • Give feedback at the outer 3 levels of this bullseye below – focusing on behaviour. Be specific about the behaviour (good or bad) that you want to comment on – what specifically did the person do or say. Environmental comments are about where or when someone did something that impacted their effectiveness (positive or negative). Capability is about how they did something and often can be helped with training.

This bullseye mitigates the likelihood that someone will take the feedback “personally” as it focuses on environment, behaviour and capability rather than identity and values. This is about a team member’s effectiveness of doing the job. If you give feedback about someone’s identity that is personal. It’s why parenting experts advise to tell a child “that behaviour was bad” rather than “you are bad or bad boy.”

Where to Give Feedback

Where to give feedback
© Anne Taylor 2020 Soft Skills HARD RESULTS

Of note, this bullseye can be used for giving and receiving feedback. If you receive feedback that’s towards the middle of the bullseye ask, “what did I say or do that made you feel that way?” Or, depending on who’s giving you the feedback at an identity level, be confident in who you are and your value potentially choosing to ignore the feedback.

Don’t Take Things Personally

My potential date’s response was not about me. He didn’t know my intention. He doesn’t know me beyond some messaging.

To not take something personally, one has to see that his response says more about him than me.

Maybe he didn’t like someone dictating time and location to him. Maybe he thought I was shoehorning him into my availability. Maybe he wants to be in control or take the lead and I went a step too far.

So I didn’t take it personally.

According to the book, The Four Agreements, of which Don’t Take It personally is 1 of the 4 agreements, any criticism of me is not about me. It’s about the giver.

It goes on to say, any compliment of me is not about me either.

That feels harder to accept.

Except we can’t dismiss the bad and take the good.

Of note, criticism is different than proper feedback delivered with clean language focused on behaviours.


That potential suitor clearly had the perspective that I was high maintenance and a Princess.
I had the perspective that he was low effort and not my Prince.

This is often the case in many interpersonal relationships – we each have our own perspectives which are often different.

This matters when you are working together as it can create conflict or at a minimum, confusion.

If we don’t have a common understanding of a topic, challenge or issue we might be working at cross purposes.

People often assume that their understanding of something is everyone’s understanding of that thing.

We know people literally see things differently (remember that blue/gold dress image that went around social media years ago? Many swore it was gold, others that is was blue).
Great solutions come from differing perspectives. This is the whole advantage of diversity.
The learning is not to be unconscious of perspective, nor entrenched in your own perspective nor fight for it at all cost.

The learnings are to:

• realize we all have our own perspectives,
• surface those differing points of view,
• create common understanding and alignment,
• craft richness of thought and idea generation,
• establish common ground to move forward.

Clean Language For Giving Feedback.

The comment of “Princess” or “High Maintenance” is not clean language.

It’s an opinion, evaluation or judgement of me.

My use of the term clean language, derived from Non-Violent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg, is about separating out observations, feelings, needs and requests.

The cleaner our language when talking to another person, the more likely they are to hear what we are saying. The less likely they are to get defensive or withdraw.

When I received this reply on the dating app my first response was Screw You! And it might not have even been that nice 😉

Then it was “I’m not a Princess” because I have my own baggage around that term.

It took a little while for me to get to the interpretation and understanding I’ve been sharing here these last few weeks.

If he had said the following I would probably have maintained contact with him:

When you suggest such a specific time and location for meeting, it makes me wonder if you have time and space in your life for a boyfriend. Do you?

Because he just reacted, and name-called, I didn’t know what he was feeling or thinking. And I admit, I didn’t want to make the effort to learn.

If his first inclination is to judge me that’s probably what he’d do if we were in a relationship.

Clean language is especially important when giving feedback.

People need clear, tangible feedback so they know specifically what they do well and what they could improve.

Saying someone is “rude or egotistical” is an opinion or judgement.

There’s nothing helpful that the person can grab on to and learn from.

Saying “when you talk over people during a meeting” that is a tangible action or behaviour of the individual that they can understand and improve. You still might think they are rude and that’s not helpful to evoke change.

This clean language about actions or behaviours when giving feedback is the ‘O’ step of the COIN feedback model. See link in comments below for the whole template on how to give positive and constructive feedback.

If you want to motivate and inspire your teams, give great feedback so they develop more, or feel less frustrated by people get in touch for a no-obligation conversation click here

What are your feedback disaster stories? What are your dating disaster stories?

What feedback do you need help giving?

What feedback have you gotten that’s helped you

* LTR = Long-term Relationship

Say Thank You Despite the Times - Being ‘Grateful’

Say Thank You Despite the Times – Being ‘Grateful’

Are you concerned about the rising costs?

Is the environment and climate change a worry for you?

Do you think the country/world is going to ruin?

It’s easy to get in a downward spiral about the state of things – rising costs, healthcare waiting lists, annoying politicians, let alone war and conflict.

Media and news focus on this, it’s at our finger tips 24/7.

And what you focus on influences your mood, attitude and resilience.

It is easy to say Thank You during good times. More difficult to do in tough times. And it is possible to find things to be thankful for despite the stressful and uncertain situations.

Benefits of Being Grateful

The best time to start a gratitude practice is now as it improves your wellbeing. Multiple research sources document the benefits of being grateful, or living with the perspective of gratitude, across five key areas¹:

1. Emotional wellbeing – happier, less anxiety and depression, bounce back from stress

2. Physical health – better sleep, fewer aches and pains, less pain, more exercise

3. Personality – more optimism, self-esteem, spirituality

4. Social interactions – more friends, better marriages, deeper relationships

5. Career enhancements – greater networking, better teamwork, less absenteeism, greater employee and client loyalty

These benefits are great at any time in our lives and even more important during times of stress.

It’s such an important thing for me that it’s the last chapter in my book, Soft Skills HARD RESULTS.

My Origins with Being Grateful

I was a regular watcher of the Oprah Winfrey Show back in the 1990s–2000s. At that time, she was broadcasting her one-hour daytime talk show on national TV, well before she had her own network. In 1997 an episode of Oprah featured Sarah Ban Breathnach talking about her new book, Simple Abundance: a Day Book of Comfort and Joy.

I loved the show, so I bought the book and then its corresponding journal (which I dug out while writing my book to figure out the date I started my gratitude practice). I started the practice of capturing my daily gratitudes in that journal and have continued doing so on and off, but mostly on, for 25 years. It became a nightly practice and continues that way. It’s a relaxing and peaceful way to end my day and go to bed to fall asleep

What Am I Grateful for? The Positives

Let me state the obvious – I am not grateful for the suffering, hurt, grief, fear and loss that so many people are suffering from at the moment. I feel for those globally who are enduring hardships of every type.

And knowing light can co-exist alongside dark, helps us.

I’m reminded of some gratitudes I saw, felt and heard in 2020, with the outbreak of the covid-19 pandemic:

Consciousness about waste and need. People are turning to fresh ingredients where they can and are not wasting food, heck even heard of grilled celery being eaten so it doesn’t go to waste. I know I’m spending more time cooking new and nutritious meals.

● For some, being forced to slow down, to be less busy, less rushing around, less hurried-sickness (something many of my executive clients suffer from normally).

● People are seeing value in occupations they might not have noticed before, like carers, grocery workers, delivery people, telecom engineers, manufacturing and obviously healthcare providers (although I think these people have been valued previously and certainly differently than a shop attendant).

Generosity – offering to shop for the vulnerable, free exercises classes on-line, volunteering in their communities, reaching out to others, people donating money and rooms for sick or healthcare workers, free food and parking to healthcare workers.

Creativity is flourishing – companies making ventilators rather than cars, new hospitals built in a week which would have taken years previously, face-to-face things now being done virtually.

Top Tips for Being Grateful

The evidence is clear that being thankful and seeing our lives in a more positive light, regardless of everything going on, is better for us.

● Make it a daily habit or ritual. I do it at bedtime, others share their gratitudes around the kitchen table as a family.

● Physically write the gratitudes down in a journal or notepad – this engages your eyes, your hand (kinaesthetic movement), and your brain, making the gratitude more tangible as it’s a multisensory exercise. If you only ‘think’ about them they are just more fleeting thoughts.

● Be specific – the detail is what makes the experience rich and creates the good feeling.

● Try it for 30 days and notice the changes.

● If you’re grateful for an achievement – celebrate it and ask yourself what you did to make that happen. This helps us not only celebrate the DOING (what we did) but also the BEING (who we were while doing).

Gratitude at Work

This isn’t just a personal exercise. It can be done at work with colleagues or your team.
When colleagues share things they appreciate about each other it creates psychological safety and makes us feel better as it releases dopamine.

We often do this at the end of Leadership training programmes amongst small groups – Share one thing about each colleague that you’ve appreciate during the training. Suggest they think of sharing behaviours the person exhibited, qualities or characteristics you’ve appreciated or specific things they did or said.

NEVER EVER has anyone not been able to come up with something nice to say.

Everyone, the giver and receive, report feeling so good after the exercise.

Imagine if your team members felt good more often at work. What could that positivity and mutual admiration create?

The Evolution

Over time it does evolve and become easier. When I first started I had to reflect on the day to find things for which to be happy. Sometimes all I could think of was the weather or a friend. Over time it became easier. Now as I go about my day I notice things for which I’m grateful and actually feel and think that in the moment. When the bus is there ready to take me on my journey immediately, I do have a quick realization of being grateful I didn’t have to wait and can be on my way quickly. It can change the way you look at the world.

It can also change how you can interact with the world. When I’m grateful for something involving another person I’ll offer express that gratitude to them specifically and also do it in a tone and manner that is truly reflective of my thanks, not just a passing “thank you.”

You can download a free blank template for my daily Gratitude Practice here.

Thank You Reflection

Thank you for reading this. I invite you to reflect and share:

What are you grateful for today?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and what you’re thankful for – contact me here to let me know one gratitude you have for today or something about another person for which you are grateful 😉


¹ and


Photo by Marcus Wöckel

From Dependent and Time-Sucking to Self-Reliant and Autonomous – How One Organisation Upskilled their People

Want more self-reliant and autonomous team members?
Want more collaboration across your organisation and less silos?

Do your leaders create positive, solution-oriented, self reliant employees?

For the last 4 months The EQ Leadership Formula Duo of Sue Belton & Anne Taylor have been working with an SME to develop their senior and middle leaders; upskill them with coaching, feedback and collaboration tools – with the underlying result being growth mindset and emotionally intelligent leadership group.

Proud to say it’s been a success with more growth and development still to come but we’re jumping ahead of ourselves. Learn how you too can have the same positive result as their case study…

Situation – Too Reliant on Senior Leaders

A medium size, fairly flat organisation approached us wanting to develop more of a coaching and feedback culture in their organisation with the target of training 20 middle and senior leaders.

The presenting problems were:
• Staff were overly-reliant on the executive team for helping them find solutions and make decisions
• Staff were issue-oriented, seeing obstacles, and feeling uncertain
• Staff were silo’d in their problem-solving and impact across the organisation

Action – Building EQ (Emotional Intelligence)

Through the lens of our proven EQ Leadership Formula Model, we did a needs assessment to determine the impact and outcome they wanted. We then designed the interventions that would be best suited to achieve those outcomes.

Development was needed across all four quadrants of our EQ model, with the specific desired outcomes for staff:

1. To develop their own solutions and be less reliant on the executive team.
2. To practice more coaching behaviours such as listening and asking questions and “tell” or give advice less.
3. To realise the benefits of working collaboratively and become less silo’d in their thinking and behaviour.

The needs assessment determined the following highly experiential interventions were necessary:

• Workshops on how to Coach in the workplace
• Workshops on how to Give Feedback – both constructive and confidence-building
• Observations of executive leaders coaching with each other with full debriefings

This last invention of training, observing and supervising key executive team leaders had two benefits:

• For the executives to role model the ideal coaching behaviours and growth mindset to the middle and senior leaders.
• To have the executive leaders realise their role in creating the ‘reliance’ of the senior leaders on coming to them for solutions and decisions.

Result – Development of EQ across all four quadrants, leading especially to Self-Awareness, Self-Reliance and Autonomy
Qualitative feedback was:

• Really useful skills that can benefit work and home life
• Clear explanations, with great practical activities
• Engaging, interactive, interesting and useful
• It was more relevant to my role than I initially thought

Average post-intervention score for:

• Quality of training was 9/10
• Quality of instructors 10/10
• Relevance of the training to the workplace 9/10
• Net Promoter Score of 78

Our programme sponsor said this at the end of the programme:

“The feedback I have received has been really positive, and they have got a lot out of the sessions. We have noticed them using the methods shared in your sessions and I know for sure that they have started using the feedback during professional growth and monitoring sessions”.

Next Steps – Culture Change & Growth Mindset

The key decision maker said they want us to continue working with them to further embed the learning, and to support the culture change.

Anne & Sue will celebrate the work and the feedback (we practice what we preach!) while reflecting on what was learned.

With the participants’ feedback we are now designing the next intervention with this now engaged and enthusiastic group.

**As any sustainable culture change needs to happen top-down, part of the design will include 1:1 coaching of the key executive team. This will enable them to lead the change, be the change, and ultimately create the mindset and culture they want.

What Else?

What aspects of EQ would you or your people benefit from developing?

Would your organisation benefit from having more resourceful and self-reliant leaders?

What bottom-line benefits would this give you and your organisation?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore how you could develop your emotional intelligence further to motivate and inspire your teams to achieve.