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?


Photo by Aaron Hunt from Pexels

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?

Blood Donation and Organ Donation – The Best Christmas Gifts

Want to give a Christmas gift or Hanukah gift that lasts a lifetime and costs you nothing? It’s possible.

Many people are being quite reflective this year given the global pandemic. One of my clients was considering quitting her job after a couple of months into the first lockdown. She realized she wasn’t happy in her role and thought she didn’t want this work to be her future. She’s just left it. A presenter on Loose Women (a rate, cheeky, lunch-time indulgence) announced this week she was leaving the show after 10 years. As much as she loved her job, she reflected during lockdown that she wanted to be more daring and braver with her one life. She wanted more fulfillment by helping others.

I’m inviting you into this reflective space. What do you want for your work? Your life? Yourself? Who do you want to be? Most people want to be generous, help others and leave some form of legacy. Blood donation while you’ re alive and organ donation when you die are great and easy ways of doing that.

Blood Donation UK

Yes, giving blood helps others, saves lives and is selfless. As the slogan says: it’s in you to give. Assuming you meet the criteria it’s easy to donate. The practitioners at the clinics are well versed in doing their job and especially helping 1st time donors. Blood donation centres have been open throughout the pandemic. Apparently, there’s been a 15% decrease in donations in the UK during coronavirus.

Why Give Blood?

• Nearly 400 new donors a day are needed to meet demand

• Around 135,000 new donors a year are needed to replace those who can no longer donate

• 40,000 more black donors are needed to meet growing demand for better-matched blood


I’ve been donating since 1989. When I worked at P&G there was a mobile blood donation clinic in our building that we were encouraged to visit. That was my first donation and I have been doing it since. I’ve donated in the 3 countries in which I’ve lived. I’m grateful to be healthy especially this year with all suffering and fear of illness around us.

I once received a thank you card from my Mum’s cousin, whom I didn’t know well at the time. She had had breast cancer a few times and therefore multiple blood transfusions. She wrote to thank me when she found out that I was a regular donor as someone that had potentially saved her life or saved other sufferers. That hit home for me.

Book yourself for an appointment at a NHS Blood Donation clinic near you through this link .

Organ Donation

Organ donation is a great gift when you die. The donation rules changed in England last month to be opt out. That means upon death, one’s organs will be donated (if they meet the criteria) unless you’ve opted out of the donation. It’s automatically assumed you’ll donate your organs.

Unfortunately, we were not able to donate my parent’s organs upon their deaths as they had died of cancer, so the organs weren’t usable. This why organ donation is so important, not all organs can be used as it depends on the cause of the death of the donor and their condition when alive.

Tell your family you are happy to have your organs donated as the medical staff will still ask your family members. There is no link for you to follow here as I’d like to you to stay in the programme and not opt out. If for religious or other reasons you need to it’s easy to find. If you live in another country that requires opting in to donate your organs, please do so.

It’s the time of year to think about gifts and the type of year to reflect on what matters. What gifts do you want to be known for and what would you do if you were more daring? My next blood donation is scheduled for January; I have expressed my wishes to have my organs donated.

Book a COMPLIMENTARY coaching session with me here for some guided reflective time – who do you want to be? What legacy do you want to leave? What work will fulfill you more?

: Giving Feedback - Afraid they will take it Personally?

Giving Feedback – Afraid the Recipient will take it Personally?

Are you reluctant giving feedback? If so, you are like many leaders and managers. Two clients said this last week: “I don’t want them to take it personally.” What came out after some coaching was that: (1) they didn’t want to hurt the person; and (2) they were afraid of how the person might react.

These are genuine concerns when giving feedback, especially when thinking of how to give constructive feedback. You want someone to accept the feedback, be empowered by it and not defensive, to take it on board and make changes. Hence why you should read this article to know how to give feedback well. The worst thing you can do is avoid giving feedback out of the fear of not knowing how.

How to Give Constructive Feedback

Most fears about giving feedback are about giving constructive or developmental feedback. In other words, telling someone what they need to improve (formerly called giving negative feedback). Few people worry about giving positive feedback; telling someone what they do well. Honestly though, a lot of leaders give too little positive or confidence-building feedback.

⇒Learn a model for giving feedback – like the COIN model, detailed explanation and template here. This template works for positive or constructive feedback. It stands for Context, Observation, Impact and Next Step. This level of detail for both types of feedback makes it meaningful as it’s specific to the individual and not just general fluff (like well done, good work). Also, use the word YOU when giving feedback to highlight it’s about that person; it makes it more personal.

Describe How to Give Feedback Constructively

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.

⇒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

© Anne Taylor 2020

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.

How to Give Feedback – The Positive Kind

Research shows that financially successful companies give positive feedback 4-6 times for every 1 piece of ‘negative’ feedback. Few people are near this ratio consistently, at work or at home. Typical reasons for not doing it are: why should I congratulate them for doing their job?, they’ll expect a raise or promotion, no one praises me, it will go to their heads, they know their doing well and I’m British, we don’t do that.

⇒Use the COIN model and target giving feedback about behaviours you want to reinforce (positive) and behaviours you want changed (developmental). Catch people doing things well more often than when they make mistakes or when things could be improved. Practice seeing and saying what people are doing well.

Giving confidence building feedback will increase employee engagement, have them use those skills more often by making them top of mind and make employees feel more valued in their contribution. These are big benefits for just telling people what they did well.

What’s Stopping You from Giving Feedback

The biggest barrier or roadblock to giving feedback is often our own insecurity or self-doubt. We worry about offending or hurting someone which is a noble cause. The risk of not giving feedback is that you don’t help people grow by being clear on their strengths and improving their developmental areas. By not giving feedback you are not being truthful and trusting in the relationship with your employee whereas you want them to be truthful and trustworthy.

⇒ Start by reflecting on what stops you. Be honest with yourself. If you don’t really look at all the ways you are stopping yourself, you won’t grow.

Whatever your reasons are for not giving more feedback, I challenge you to figure out how to get over it. It will immensely improve your effectiveness and performance by improving your team and you’ll make them feel better about their work at the same time. My book, Soft Skills HARD RESULTS, has a whole chapter on feedback, loaded with examples, tips and tricks because it’s that important.

How could your people and results improve with you being better at feedback?

Book a COMPLIMENTARY coaching session with me here to learn how to motivate others through feedback.

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Festive Party Ideas for Remote Work or Family Situations

Office Christmas Party or Festive Party Ideas for Remote Working

Office Christmas parties can be awkward for leaders at the best of times. How do you be inclusive of all religions and traditions? How do you create a situation for people to have fun without getting carried away? How do you create time when everyone is so busy? Now with social distancing, how do you celebrate with people at multiple locations and stay safe?

The first question I’d ask is: “What is the purpose of your festive celebration?” Might seem simple and there are many answers. This is especially important if you are going to delegate the task of organizing the activity to someone else.

Once you’ve answered that I’d suggest going deeper: “What do you want people to feel during and afterwards?” You might think emotions have no place at work, and they are always present and what you do influences those feelings – ‘good or bad’. More on that in my previous article: Emotions at Work. How you want people to feel will very much dictate what type of celebration you undertake. Some examples are: to feel happy, joyous, valued, included, together, loyal or collaborative.

Here are ideas for how companies can engender the spirit of Christmas, Hanukah or the broad-reaching festive party remotely depending on size of company and budgets. The various ideas lead to different feelings. I’ve included small business Christmas party ideas too.

Festive Party Ideas

Festive jumper day – everyone wears a festive jumper. Can do an on-line poll for who has the ugliest jumper, the most homemade jumper or the biggest jumper.

‘Costume party’ so people of all faiths can dress in festive attire reflective of their traditions.

Online party by sending a festive pack to each employee with a beverage, crisps, chocolate, a Christmas cracker, etc.

A gift and handwritten card to each person. Delegate the budget to each team leader so they send personalized gifts and messages appropriate for each individual.

Advent calendar – each day of advent, a leader or a rota from the office posts a ‘gift’ in a group chat or on the company intranet. The gift can be some sage advice, a helpful tip, a joke or an hour off that day.

Christmas coronavirus survival stocking – comfy socks, hand wipes, a mask with a company logo, a food stuff, a magazine, ear buds, a nicely scented soap, hand cream, funny poster for behind their ‘desk.’ All assembled and sent to each employee.

Half day off to do a good deed in your community (safely) – check on an elderly neighbour, give a takeaway meal to a homeless, volunteer at a food bank or in a school (as allowed). Create a WhatsApp group (or other provider) to share pictures of what each person did.

Festive Party Games

Online cooking, cookie-making or cocktail-making class with ingredients sent to employees beforehand. For a cheaper version, one person sends out the recipe (could be their family favourite), each person buys their own ingredients, and everyone cooks the item together virtually at the same time.

Online game like an escape room or scavenger hunt (many companies can host these for you).

Christmas Quiz team competition or scavenger hunt with people together in small groups to solve the quiz.

Secret Santa – one person gives each employee a different name of another employee that they buy a gift for and mail it. If money and mailing are an issue, then the gift can be a virtual gift – something you’d like that specific person to have and either you have them connect one-to-one or you all share them on a video call.

Random Act of Kindness each day – someone in the company sends out a different act of kindness each day, the individual that does the act of kindness first (by sending in a photo to a group chat) gets a prize.

Festive Ideas for Feeling Valued

Handwritten personalized note to each employee acknowledging them. This can be from their manager, from a senior person in the organization or someone special to them. For example, name the qualities, characteristics and achievements that they bring to the team and to work.

Hot chocolate and fuzzies – each team member gives a compliment or appreciation to every other member of the team. It becomes a virtuous circle, it’s positive gossip to someone’s face instead of negative gossip behind their back.

Gift certificates for a local restaurant so the employee can celebrate with their family.

The intention of most festive parties at the end of the calendar year is to have a break from the work and come together as a community to have fun. The ideas above are just some ideas and what’s best for your organization and team might be different than those listed above. Keep your ears open for ideas or suggestions from our people as well. These ideas might be helpful for your family celebration as well if that’s remote this year.

What aspects of your leadership that celebrates and motivates your team throughout the year would be worthwhile to explore?

Book a COMPLIMENTARY coaching session with me here to get support during an unusual time. Many successful (and famous) leaders have professionals to help them perform to the best of their ability – be like them.


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Why do People Stockpile Toilet Roll? Leadership Lessons

Why do People Stockpile Toilet Paper/Loo Roll? The Leadership Lessons

Is there a toilet roll shortage at your grocers? Lockdown 2.0 has seen an increase in binge buying, albeit not to the point of massively empty shelves like we had in the Spring. And what does stockpiling toilet paper have to do with leadership? Lots – as it’s an example of human behaviour and motivations that might be present in your organization in a different way.

Let’s start with the theory before we move onto the application and tips.

What is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs?

Firstly, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs was published in 1943 by Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist, in his paper “A theory of Human Motivation” in Psychological Review. In simplified terms, he proposed that human behaviour is based on psychological needs we want fulfilled, often unconscious needs. Historically, it was believed that the needs of one level had to be completely satisfied before ascending to the next. Now we know those levels can be overlapping and more fluid – this is relevant to the loo roll shortage so stay tuned.

Although the hierarchy is often depicted by a pyramid, this never appeared in Maslow’s original work. The goal of his theory was to attain self-actualization hence it appearing as the pinnacle.

Although the top tier appears first in every hierarchy depiction, humans move through these needs from the bottom up. So, for behaviour and hence motivation to rise to the next level, each level needs to be satisfied for the individual. This shows how needs must be met for an individual to be motivated to move to the next level and then behave accordingly. Individuals need to feel a certain degree of internal satiation to move up the levels.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Example – Stockpiling Toilet Paper

You might be seeing why Maslow’s theory might be relevant to the loo roll shortage and why loo roll delivery has increased as a niche delivery service this year. In the face of fear and uncertainty, which a pandemic elicits, people’s needs revert to more basic levels. Will they have a job? Can they provide food to their families especially after seeing empty shelves? How long can they afford their home if they lose their job or their company collapses? These are real questions, fears and situations people have faced and continue to experience this year. Add in the remote working and imposed distancing and isolation from friends and family and no wonder people are at Maslow’s “Basic Needs” level. Many people psychologically are on the lower rungs of the hierarchy in reality.

Even those not a risk of losing their job or home might also feel this due to fear and anxiety for themselves and others they know.

Toilet paper, toilet roll, loo roll or bum wad (whatever you call it) is a means of satisfying some basic needs, providing some comfort and security for yourself and your family. It is also literally soft and comforting in feel and texture, and a relatively inexpensive purchase for a physically large item that has no expiry date. So many unconscious factors contribute to its broad popularity as a purchase. Throw in diminished supply, triggering scarcity fears, and you see why there were empty shelves.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Business Scenario

In most office jobs, the average worker normally has all their basic needs met. They have secure pay, a safe working environment, the ability to eat, drink and use the toilet during work, their families are provided for and they feel part of a ‘work team’ or group. As such, they are often in the esteem and self-actualization levels. Note, I’m not talking zero-hours contracts and negligent operations.

With coronavirus this has all been destabilized; the satisfaction of the basic needs is necessary now – with many people uncertain of their continued pay, uncertain about employer and government assistance, afraid of commuting to the office or being exposed to the virus, poor sleep due to stress and trying to work remotely with insufficient space or tech and little to no in-person colleague interaction.

You might be expecting your people to be motivated by what formerly motivated them. That might not be the case. Here’s what to do about that.

Tips for Business Using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Here are some ideas you might use for dealing with your team members during this time:

• Recognize people are at the lower level needs. Provide as much true reassurance of their jobs and pay as possible. Provide them with the tools they need to do their jobs. Some companies are sending holiday food baskets to ensure no one must choose between a special festive meal and their rent.

• Listen to peoples’ concerns about their situation. You might not be able to help and at least they don’t feel totally alone having shared it. Tune into feelings. I know most leaders and organizations are reticent about feelings at work (read my article on Emotions at Work for more on this) and those feelings are there whether you acknowledge them or not. Many leaders don’t want to deal with feelings because they “don’t know what to do with them.” The answer is nothing, you don’t have to do anything with the emotions. By acknowledging them you help people process them.

• Provide support beyond just the work needs if possible. When you truly listen, you will hear other concerns an individual might have. Is there a way of supporting that individual with concerns beyond just work? Many of my clients are being very flexible with working from home to allow those with a need to stay home to do so and those with a need to be in the office to do so (within government guidelines).

• Bring people together intentionally. Although belonging might appear to be ‘above’ the basic needs it is a strong benefit of work for many people, especially extroverts. Create occasions remotely to bring people together, remind them of the common vision that unites you all, allow them to bond again. Start or end meetings with a deeper check in/out such as, each person bring one item to show that has sustained you through lockdown.

• Create psychological safety. At the heart of this safety is “seeing” people for the unique individuals that they are, telling them that, and engaging with them in an authentic and transparent manner. Communicate as much as you can about the organization and about them as individuals. Read more in my article about Inclusive Leadership.

• Be aware of your needs and motivations and get support where appropriate. Self-care is important for everyone, including leaders. You can only give what you have. Go out in nature, move, exercise, breath, eat well, celebrate small wins, have connection with friends and loved ones, laugh, hug, help others, meditate or mindfulness, find gratitude and joy where possible. These activities create the happy chemicals for dopamine (motivation/reward), oxytocin (love), serotonin (mood stabilizer) and endorphins (pain killer).

Like it or not, we all work with human beings who have complex needs and motivations that are ever-changing. We are complex ourselves. These difficult times exacerbate that complexity. Check in with your people regularly, really check in to find out where they might be on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and then what you could do to help them feel fulfilled on that need to motivate them to the next level. My book, Soft Skills HARD RESULTS, provides more ways of authentically connecting with others.

What could you do to motivate your team more/differently that would help them feel better and hence perform even better?

Book a COMPLIMENTARY coaching session with me here to learn how to motivate others better.


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