Wellbeing Versus Workload? Doesn’t have to be One or the Other.

Too much to do not enough time? I’m feeling this as I write because I’m trying to get everything done before taking time off work for vacation/annual leave. I’m not the only one. A recent UK-wide study by YouGov found ¾ of ALL UK adults have felt so stressed at times in the last year that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope¹. Another study conducted by leading UK universities found 2/3 of people working in health and social care are overwhelmed and at risk of burnout². Research in the USA found similar results across a multitude of industries and professions.

In the past week alone 12,100 google searches have been conducted in the UK for the word OVERWHELM. Add in all the variations of overwhelmed, overwhelmed at work, feeling stressed and overwhelmed, burnout and it’s 10’s of thousands pf people researching it and those are just the people who taking the time and have the headspace to google it.

One of my clients has a team working in Ukraine. Yes, they are still working there 2 months after the start of the war. The day before our coaching session my client was handling the disruption in work caused by the shelling in the area where most of his team were situated while making sure his team was safe, their families were safe, and arranging if anyone now wanted to leave while managing his stress, fears and work requirements. Gratefully I’m not dealing with life and death as many of my clients are at this time.

Importance of Wellbeing at Work

The above stats underline the requirement for organizations to focus on health and wellbeing in the workplace. Decades ago wellbeing in the workplace was about gym membership benefits, health insurance, medication plans etc. A company was deemed to be progressive if the benefits extended to onsite gyms and benefit coverage for massages. It was all about health in terms of physical health. Later wellbeing extended to employee assistance programs to address some of the mental and emotional things that people face.
Now it’s about body, mind and soul – holistic wellbeing to not just cope or avoid burnout but to enjoy, contribute, be fulfilled in the way that’s best for the individual. It’s about supporting people to be authentically themselves (diversity, equality and inclusion is an aspect of this) and to be resilient to the scale and pace of change in today’s world. It’s dealing with people as full human beings and not just their head and hands who do tasks at work.

Leadership Challenge

For some in leadership positions this evolution and the current reality are obvious, and for others it’s a difficult transition. Some just want people to come into work, get the work done well and go home. There’s a discomfort around “understanding peoples’ needs and feelings,” making sure others are feeling ‘ok,’ being mindful in how work is delegated rather than just assigning tasks. This challenge can be met with better emotional intelligence (EQ). Knowing yourself and then knowing others, so you can manage the interaction to be win-win.

Wellbeing + Workload – Not a trade-off

The people are the key to getting the work done; an organization can’t succeed without productive people and for sustained productivity, people need to be healthy and well (holistically across head, heart and hands).

People + Wellbeing = Productivity

The biggest thing is to be in dialogue about this exact thing – how do we achieve our goals while looking after ourselves and others? It’s not a question of prioritizing one over the other. It’s about working in a ‘healthy’ way within a wellbeing culture. A leader’s thoughts need to be oriented around “I want you to be yourself, I can’t do it without you, your total wellbeing is key. What does that mean and how do we facilitate it?”

Tips for Working in a Wellbeing Manner

1. Be Courageous – have the courage to have the conversation about the work needs and human needs. In fact, courage is needed for each of the following tips. Courage is not the absence of fear, it’s feeling the fear and proceeding despite it. This requires self-management in emotional intelligence terms – feeling it and speaking up anyway.

2. Acknowledge Emotions– Stress is present in the workplace; the issue is to what degree? Behavioural science tells us that some amount of stress is needed to perform, it creates the energy to follow through and act, it motivates. When it’s too much it becomes counterproductive. Talk about how people are feeling sometimes. The feelings are there (‘positive’ and ‘negative’) whether we talk about them or not. Having people share their emotions can alleviate the pressure or in the case of ‘positive’ emotions make the environment better.

3. Simplify – Challenge what work really needs to be done. Are we focusing on the right things to make a difference and be successful? Question old processes, practices or expectations? This takes courage especially during change – it often feels safer to continue doing what has always been done. Are there new, faster, more efficient ways of doing some of the work? Ask because you might not know, and others might. This is vulnerable and hence takes courage as there’s a fear of saying ‘I don’t know’ in an organization and being judged poorly for it. This also included reducing the reliance on the volume of emails people send, and the amount of inefficient and needless meetings – complaints from pretty much everyone!

4. Learn how to say no or ‘set boundaries’ – what do you do when you’re being asked to do too much at work or you just have too much work to do? You talk about it in a respectful, professional, transparent manner. Tell people that consequences of taking on another task or project so choices or priorities can be clear. This touches on all 4 quadrants of the EQ model – self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and social management.

5. Foster individual resilience – promote self-awareness, reframe failure or mistakes to learnings, adopt a growth mindset, be connected to others for support and perspective, watch when your stress moves from optimal to overload, talk to others about how you feel. As part of resilience, healthy lifestyle routines are mandatory such as: eat healthy food, create good sleep habits, exercise regularly, avoid or limit alcohol, sugar, and excessive screen time, undertake regular health checks, practice some sort of mindfulness and relaxation, be in nature, have friends/family around you and enjoy some fun.

6. Ensure the practical wellbeing fundamentals are in place – ensure fair pay and benefit structures; environmental aspects such as accessible, good food onsite, physical spaces are ergonomic, legal/reasonable working hours are enforced, fitness in supported, employee assistance programs are robust and known, career development is cultivated, employees have a voice through some forum.

7. Be a values and purpose led leader (if not organizations) – be open and engaged in two-way conversation, behave in accordance with the company values and mission, encourage and role model a good personal/professional balance, create autonomy for people to do what they do, belonging and connection. Humans are social creatures and since we spend most of our waking hours at work this connection needs to be authentic and positive.

What one thing in this list could deliver the biggest improvement in your wellbeing?

What’s the leadership challenge you’re facing?

What support could you have to help your own productivity and resilience?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore how to you can optimize your wellbeing and workload and/or that of your people.

¹ https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/news/stressed-nation-74-uk-overwhelmed-or-unable-cope-some-point-past-year

² https://www.ulster.ac.uk/news/2022/may/uk-wide-study-shows-health-and-social-care-workforce-working-longer-hours-with-two-thirds-feeling-overwhelmed-and-at-risk-of-burnout

Setting Annual Goals? How To and Why It’s Important.

Annual Goal Setting? How To and Why It’s Important

Executives and managers are talking about annual objectives for next year. I’m working with a leadership team on their kick-off for the year – aligning behind the strategy, goal setting, and identifying tactics to achieve those goals. I’ll also be working with my business partner on our goals for next year – both as individuals and as business partners. We’ve been defining our vision and annual objectives together for years now.

This exercise is appropriate for work or life goals, for organizations or individuals.

Why Is Goal Setting Important?

You might be wondering what all the fuss is about in terms of annual objective setting. Why should you bother? Here are a few reasons why having goals and objectives is important:

• Gives us something to measure performance and success against,

• Creates accountability within ourselves and externally if necessary,

• Helps organize time and resources in a consistent direction,

• Focuses all involved towards a specific area,

• Provides motivation and a sense of achievement,

• Triggers new behaviours,

• Grows confidence as we progress towards them, not just when we achieve them,

• Promotes positive mental health.

Year End Review

If you didn’t read my previous blog about conducting a year end review, do that step first by clicking here, Annual Goals? Step #1 is Conducting a Year End Review. It’s hard to decide where you are heading if you don’t know where you are currently!

How to Set Annual Goals

These initial questions are different than your typical business projection exercise or creating a list of ‘to-dos’ (there are less creative questions/more direct at the end 😉). The idea is to envision success and then work backwards to identify what needs to be done to achieve it. This is how most organizations do their vision to goals process. Be specific about your goals – think about how you will measure your achievement of them as well as what they are.

• Imagine it is January 2023 (yes, one year further in the future). Reflect back on the past year, what would make you proud to have accomplished? Think of all aspects of work and life. This focuses on the DOING of the year, what you do and what you accomplish.

• From that vantage point of January 2023, looking back on an incredibly fulfilling and successful year. Feeling that pride and satisfaction, write a letter telling the story of how you made it happen. Write it as though your accomplishments were in the past, avoiding statements like “I will” or ‘I intend”. Get as specific as possible including your insights, ‘ahas’ (learnings), and milestones. Who did you become? How do you feel? Make it as exciting and vivid as possible. This focuses on how you are BEING during the year, how you feel and engage, how you want to BE to achieve what you want to achieve.

• What work goals do you want to accomplish? What are your boss’ goals and hence which cascade down to your area of responsibility?

• What are your financial goals for the year? How much do you want to make? What effort is required to do that? What investment or retirement or spending priorities do you have for the year?

• What relationships at work and personally do you want to create or foster?

• How do you want to feel physically, emotionally, spiritually?

• What aspects of your health are important to continue or improve?

• What personal qualities do you want to lean into more?

• What are you willing to give up to achieve your goals? Rarely do people look at ‘subtraction’ when they consider a change and it’s often a necessity. In today’s life you’re already busy with lots to do so don’t think about just adding more on. Think about how you can simplify. And what you give up might need to be a belief or mindset?

My goals for next year will be defined specifically on 7th January when I do our annual goal setting/’way of being’ exercise with my business partner. Some on my list to be fleshed out will be:

• Getting my award-winning book out to more people as the stories about how it’s helped people are so satisfying for me, win-win (number and ways of doing that tbd in January),

• Delivering our EQ Leadership Training to more companies (specific # tbd with my partner),

• Having even more fun and laughter in my life,

• Continuing my walking challenges, with one being more of a long-distance, multiple days walk in the countryside,

• Keeping up my French language lessons to hit 800 consecutive day learning streak.

If time and money were no object, what would your goals be for 2022?

What support would help you to achieve it, or some initial part of it?

What small step could you take towards that goal?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore how to help set yourself up for greater success and satisfaction next year.


Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Show, Don’t Tell - top skill you learned at 5 years old!

Show, Don’t Tell. The top presentation skill you learned in nursery school but have probably forgotten. How to use it effectively now.

Want to ensure people understand what you’re communicating?

Worried about presenting especially virtually?

Want to know what you learned in nursery/kindergarten that would help your presentation skills?

How to Improve Presentation Skills

Whether virtual or face-to-face presentations, the secret is exactly what every 5-year-old learns in kindergarten or nursery school. Remember Show and Tell? You show something – an object – and tell people about it. I brought my older brother into class once as my ‘object’ and told my teacher and classmates about him. Others brought pets, souvenirs from holidays, a favourite toy.
We showed something and talked about it. The children were engaged, asked questions, fun and enjoyment ensued often. We’ve lost this as adults, especially in a business or organizational context.

How often do you go online or into a boardroom and someone shows you a 20-page PowerPoint presentation full of words, graphs, charts, data? I went to one recently on empathy and it started with the definition of empathy – a great start honestly – except the presenter talked from the moment the slide appeared to the time they clicked to the next. What do I focus on? Reading the text? Listening to the speech? Overload!

Words are words whether they are on paper or verbal. Humans can’t process simultaneous auditory (verbal/spoken) and visual presentation. I’ll repeat that – sharing both written and spoken information at the same time overloads the listener, it’s too much info to take in at the same time. Many people think that if they show the words and say them, it positively reinforces the message.

It’s the opposite.

The Rationale for Good Presentations Skills

Research shows the seeing visual text and listening to audio text at the same time – words on a screen while the presenter is talking – “increases the cognitive load, rather than lessening it.” (Citing the Kalyuga Study, one research example).

Talking and showing text at the same time is called the Redundancy Effect. It overburdens the brain’s working memory by having to focus on two things rather than just one so has a negative impact on understanding.

It’s suggested by researchers including John Sweller and Kimberly Leslie that it would be better for people to close their eyes to the visual stimuli and just focus on listening to the audio in terms of learning or comprehension. Imagine though closing your eyes in a meeting or presentation, people would accuse you of sleeping or failing to pay attention.

They contend that it would be easier for students to learn the differences between herbivores and carnivores by closing their eyes and only listening to the teacher. But students who close their eyes during a lecture are likely to called out for “failing to pay attention.”

Tips for Effective Online Communication

There are many simple tips to effective online communication or virtual presentation skills:

• Use a relevant picture or visual rather than text if you’re going to speak over it, a picture helps people visualize your message, so it complements your words.

• Limit the amount of information on each slide. It’s not about the number of slides in your presentation, it’s about the amount of information on each slide.

• Use a variety of tools to keep people engaged not just PowerPoint. Use polls, music, the chat, breakout rooms, storytelling, and ask questions to involve others.

• Encourage people to stand up or move around, not just sit glued to the screen.

• Tell people to manage their volume especially if you speak loudly. The audience can forget they control the volume of the speaker and can complain after the fact.

• Be energetic and animated as you want to convey passion through the size of a screen.

• Fluctuate your volume, tone and pace of speaking as that helps people stay engaged, monotony can be dull.

• A leader’s presentation should tell a story with an opening, the detail and a conclusion.

Leadership Lessons for Good Presentations

As a presenter the onus is on you to communicate well, it’s not on the audience or recipients to create the understanding.

• Learn what you do well in terms of presenting and where you can improve. Leadership requires reflection and growth mindset to innovate and improve. This holds true for your presentation and communication too.

• Leaders provide vision and context for information – ensure you communicate the bigger purpose or strategic link for your material.

• Ask a thought-provoking question that has the audience reflect, potentially with regards to action you want them to take based on the presentation topic or about the impact of the presentation on their responsibilities.

What impact do your presentations or general communication have on the audience?

What could you do differently to ensure your message is understood?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore how to help yourself improve your communication to motivate and influence others better.

Photo by Ono Kosuki from Pexels

Leadership is BUILDING Capability NOT BEING the Capability

Good Leadership is About BUILDING Capability NOT BEING the Capability

What is leadership? I’m asked this question often and the term is explained in many of the London Business School programmes on which I coach.

Leadership is about exciting others to higher levels of performance,
to get others to do what they need to do and ideally
to get them to go the extra mile in what they do.

The last day of a leadership development programme on which I coached has participants draw an image of what their current leadership is and an image 2 years from now of what their future leadership vision is. Who do they want to become as a leader? One participant articulated his growth edge beautifully:

I want to BUILD capability of others and NOT BE the capability.

This is so true for so many leaders. They get promoted because they are good at what they do and when they are promoted they no longer do what they are good at, instead they are expected to lead others doing what they used to do. A CFO (chief financial officer) no longer does spreadsheets and accounts, a CFO leads others to do that work. THE CFO’s role becomes influencing others to do their jobs well.

When’s the last time you excited someone to outperform you?

Can you say you’ve been excited by others to go the extra mile?

How confident are you that your team’s capability is what you’d want it to be, consistently?

What is a Leadership Role?

Any role can be a leadership role. This might be controversial, and I truly believe it. Any role requires leadership. So often when people hear the word leader they think of the person at the top of an organization, the one who is so often out front. This is often the public leader or the one featured in the media. Yet there are so many more leaders that are needed to supply any product or service.

The Co-Active Training Institute has a model of leadership ® with 5 dimensions of leadership.

Leader in Front – this is the person on the stage, and a ubiquitous example would be Steve Jobs of Apple, he was clearly the leader in front at the various product launches. This can also be the leader of a meeting, running the agenda. This is the person that engages and activates others, not necessarily the one with all the answers.

Leader in the Field – this often arises opportunistically. It’s when someone is just part of a group or gathering and they sense that leadership is required, they step in and lead. Often, it’s instinctive for them such as when there’s an emergency and someone just takes charge.

Leader Beside – this is the type of leadership that happens in business partnerships or in a marriage. My business partner, Sue, and I both lead our EQ Leadership Training business. We both co-deliver our training, side by side, for our participants. From a business perspective, she often does the marketing and client relations and I do programme design, financials and business acumen. This is collaborative, open and mutual.

Leader Behind – These are all the unsung heroes that make things happen behind the scenes. They see and sense what is going and serve in a way to bring something to fruition.

Leader Within – This is the foundation for all other leadership styles. This is about leading oneself. It’s about knowing oneself and having agency and self-determination. Think of anything you’ve had to get done, it starts with motivating yourself to perform. It’s about being yourself and acting in pursuit of your goals and dreams and in accordance with your values.

By the mere fact we are responsible for all our actions and reactions, we are all leaders and can step into any of the other 4 leadership dimensions when we sense it’s needs and choose to do so. This model shows how agile leadership can be, how non-hierarchical or role-dependent it is.

What is Effective Leadership?

Effective leadership requires self-awareness and conscious choice which are the first two cornerstones of emotional intelligence (EQ). Effective leadership of others starts with leader within, leading one’s own self. Then leadership requires building the capability in others, so they can perform at their highest potential.

1. Have a goal, dream, or objective. What’s the reason you are doing what you are doing? Know where you want to go. For companies that’s often having a vision or mission statement. For someone running a meeting it means having an objective for the meeting and knowing the outcome you’d like to achieve.

2. Choose the impact you want to have in a given situation. How do you want others to feel? How can you contribute to that experience? I often ask people “what impression do you want to have” in a meeting or situation. Not in terms of putting on a performance, rather in terms of what qualities, skills or attributes do you want to demonstrate. How do you want to come across that’s genuine for you?

3. Know what excites others. If leadership is about exciting others, then you need to know what motivates or excites the people you are wanting to influence. Some people are motivated by money, status, group affiliation. Others by personal development, not working alone, power, autonomy, recognition, stress avoidance, or structure. How do you position things to others in ways that honour their motivational preferences?

4. Find “right”. When trying to motivate someone, find the things they do right and ensure you acknowledge them. Learn a feedback model that can build confidence by acknowledging what people do well and that builds competence by helping them to improve where necessary. The COIN model here is a good one with examples to both positive/appreciative feedback and constructive/developmental.

5. Be overt and transparent. When you are building someone’s capability, tell them that’s what you are doing rather than doing it by stealth. Position their growth opportunity as just that, an opportunity to develop and potentially advance (if that’s of interest to them). Make it aspirational. And share your experience of when you had to learn this same thing to normalize it and remove any negative judgement.

Leadership is about exciting people to perform, consistently and to as high a standard as necessary. That means leading yourself, and any number of other people as required. The opportunities might be obvious of when you need to lead (a meeting, your team’s performance) and there will be other times when you choose to lead from the field or behind. Be intentional about when you are the capable one and when you are needing others to be capable.

What might be possible if you could excite and lead others to do more?

Do you want to improve your leadership?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore your leadership, and how to help build others’ capabilities.

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A Good Customer Experience Suggests Evidence of Good Leadership

A Good Customer Experience Suggests Evidence of Good Leadership

When’s the last time you had a standout customer experience?

Can you say you’ve had a personable on-line shopping experience recently?

How confident are you that your team’s service is what you’d want it to be, consistently?

Read on to find ideas for improving interactions in your workplace – whether customer service or inner-office. Two recent experiences I had with the same company suggests they have a customer-oriented culture and emotional intelligence leadership.

I drink tea, historically lots of it, morning, noon and night. About 4 years ago I started drinking decaffeinated tea as the caffeine was causing problems with my system (not sleep thankfully). I did taste-test comparisons, I researched what methodology they used to decaffeinate the tea and of course considered cost and availability. My favourite became Brew Tea Co – an English company founded in 2012 by @Aideen and @Phil.

Customer Experience

Being a loyal customer, I have a regular subscription where my loose tea arrives automatically. Last month I adjusted my delivery to arrive sooner, unfortunately the transaction wasn’t possible, “said it couldn’t be processed with my card details.” I hadn’t changed the card so didn’t know what the problem was. I emailed them and got a prompt and empathetic reply from “Team Awesome.” Yup, that’s their email name. Sets the bar high, predisposes recipients potentially to that experience and can be risky.

Emotional Intelligence and Leadership

My various interactions with this company were consistently personable, that indicates that there is something in the culture or ‘organizational system’ creating the consistency.

1. Immediate Empathy to My Problem. The first line was an apology, saying they were sorry. At this point we had no idea if the issue was of their making or mine. Right off the bat they said sorry I was having a problem and asked how they could help.

2. Prompt, Positive, Passionate. I figured out that problem was caused by my bank suspecting fraud, nothing to do with Brew Team Co at all. I proceed to do the online transaction and they reached out to me and confirmed it had gone through this time. They followed me through the transaction because, yes, they wanted my business and knew I wanted their tea.

3. Knowing When Enough is Enough. Part of having good customer service is to know when it’s enough and when it’s too much. I have a regular subscription for tea delivery and they rarely email me, which is a good thing. They know people are deluged with stuff and they keep it to what is necessary.

4. Pre-Emptive Communication. My last interaction with them was an email offering me a discount on my next order as they had had a processing problem on their end and hadn’t gotten the recent orders out within the timeframe indicated (24 hours). I had no idea there was a delay, I would not have noticed a one-day delivery lag, and I’m a regular subscriber. They proactively communicated a potential delay and offered me a discount knowing I’m a somewhat guaranteed customer.

Leadership Lessons

Leadership is not a role or a position – everyone in any position can be a leader. The front-line staff of any organization need to be leaders:

• They need to lead themselves. An example, when a customer complains, is frustrated, maybe yells, a customer service rep needs to remain calm, listen, empathize with the customer. This takes a lot of self-management, to not take the criticism personally, to not get defensive, to engage in a way that diffuses the situation.

• They need to lead the customer experience as they are the “experts” in the product or service and in the process the company uses and ideally the most knowledgeable about what their customers need.

The definition of ‘experience’ is an event or occurrence which leaves an impression on someone. Impressions happen when we are touched by something or someone; they are made by influencing emotions. To create experiences for customers or colleagues in the workplace, employees need to be aware and able to manage emotions.

Brew Tea Co has made an impression on me – I trust them, I feel valued, like they care about having my business, and I enjoy their product immensely.

How confident are you about managing emotions?

Do you want to improve the ‘experiences’ your organization creates?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore your leadership, and how to help your people create great interpersonal experiences.

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: A Tangible Example of Emotional Intelligence in Real Life

A Tangible Example of Emotional Intelligence in Real Life

Wondering what cricket can tell you about improving team performance?
Want to understand how “emotional intelligence” actually works in IRL?
Need actually phrases and tactics of how to “DO” emotional intelligence?

If you hate sports or don’t understand cricket, read on. There are leadership lessons for you to learn, even from bad examples of emotional intelligence on a sports field.

Last month the England Cricket Team played a Test match with India over 5 days. Spoiler alert, England were posed to win going into the final day until 1 hour of behaviour over 7 hours of play derailed them resulting in a draw. This isn’t just me saying it, Derek Pringle, sports journalist, summed it up as “England were puerile and it totally ruined their chances.” FYI for non-native English speakers, puerile means childish or immature. You could call some of their behaviour childish and I would say they were not operating with emotional intelligence. This is commonplace in many sports teams, organizations, businesses and even families.

Emotional Intelligence and Leadership

On that last day of play, the captain, Joe Root, had a poor showing at bat just after tea (gotta love a sport with a tea break I say). What I’m going to say is speculation as I wasn’t there and don’t know Joe Root. My speculation is based on what I’ve seen and heard over decades of organizational experience.

I assume he was disappointed in his batting performance. The team might have been frustrated they weren’t further ahead. They might have been anxious or worrying that Root’s at bat didn’t edge them close enough. There could have been some lingering resentment from the previous day when the Indian bowler (the person throwing the ball) bounced the ball in such a way to hit an England batter a few times. After that, England’s bowlers appeared to lose composure or forget their strengths or choose to change tactics and target the Indian batter’s head, hitting his helmet twice. Reactions were emotive across and between both teams. Please note there are many possibilities to what might have been going on in peoples’ heads and hearts – I name a few hear to illustrate. This illustrates the importance of recognizing that lots might be going on, and you probably don’t know for sure, so get curious, but I’m jumping ahead.

Leadership Lessons:

RESILIENCE – Increased resilience would have helped England during this last day of play. Resilience means the ability to bounce back after disappointment or step backs. The speed of being able to bounce back can be a game changer (literally for England’s Root).

How to be more resilient – Be self-aware enough to know what might trigger or derail you. What things (people, situations) throw you off your stride? An example for me is if two people in a group training I’m providing start talking among themselves, that CAN derail me, make me more concerned about what they are talking about, then what I’m doing with the rest of the group. Because I know that, it rarely knocks me off my game. Knowing what might upset you beforehand helps you see it before or just as it’s happening, to then be able to tell yourself “oh, I’m being triggered”. Beforehand, decide how you want to “be” in those situations and then in those moments choose what you’ve predefined. A post-it note on your monitor to remind you of how you want to be is helpful.

REACTIONS – Humans react to things, full stop. As much as we say business is rational, emotions are present all the time, even in offices and in virtual settings. Employers want the emotions of loyalty, commitment, positivity, excitement, gratitude, and many more. Employers and most humans don’t want the “negative” emotions of disappointment, unhappiness, overwhelm, anger, frustration, resentment or sadness. We can’t have it both ways.

How to handle reactions or emotions – Just as we can be triggered or derailed by situations and people, other people can be too. And they can also be triggered by what we do or say potentially. Best way to handle both our own and others’ emotions is to breath. When there’s time you can get curious by asking what are you feeling? What’s going on for you? I sense you might be frustrated, what’s happening? Naming an emotion can often diffuse it or at least clarify it for further exploration – much more productive than avoiding it as the person will still feel it. If there’s not time, such as on a cricket pitch mid-game, help point people to who they are when they are being their best and/or to what the goal is. For the cricketers it might have been for Root to: remind the bowlers of their what they had done well yesterday (“probing a good line and length to take advantage of cloud cover and an uneven pitch” according to Pringle); or what their strengths are; or that the goal/winning is in sight, they need to put aside any frustrations and be smart about how they play this to win (and then give them specific behaviours); or give them a positive mindset to hold (that was maybe discussed in training) such as “we are better than arguing on the pitch, let’s be the winning team we can be by playing how we can play”; or maybe set out an aspiration which could be asking “what would Ben Stokes expect or want for us now in order to win?” (Stokes is a star England cricketer who is on a break for mental health attention).

STEPPING UP – Yes, the captain of the sports team is the captain. The manager of a group at work is the manager. And a leader can be anyone who is present – both literally and emotionally (in the meeting, focused the moment/being present). By definition, a leader is someone who sees what needs to be done and rallies people towards that vision or goal. There could be a number of leaders in any situation, the leader is the one who sees what shift needs to happen to perform better and influences others towards it. Leadership is not a title, it’s the fact of having followers, people who choose to follow your direction hence leaders giving big direction (company vision or department goals) and leaders giving “small” direction (what’s needed right now, in an interaction, to get the most of out people in a way that’s mutually satisfying to achieve the task at hand).

How to be a leader, no matter your position – If there’s tension, anyone in the room can say “I sense we might need a break, how about we reconvene in 10 minutes after a breath of fresh air or glass of water?” Alternately, really courageous leadership would be pointing out the tension and getting curious about what’s happening for people. To do this type of courageous leadership requires trust amongst the team. Anyone can make any of the suggestions listed in the above ‘How to handle reactions or emotions.’ Any of the England team could have stepped in and said, “what do we need to do right now to win this?” Leaders often don’t have all the answers, they often have the best questions to unleash peoples’ potential to deal with the issue at hand.

In the case of this Test match and many meetings I’ve been involved in and heard about, keeping one’s head is paramount. That’s emotional intelligence. It doesn’t mean denying an emotion or feeling, it means knowing and managing yourself and your responses so that you can be aware of others’ feelings and manage your interaction with them to achieve the desired result. A captain exhibiting emotional intelligence would have recognized he was disappointed in himself for few runs; realized his bowlers were not using the tactics that had been successful up-to-now (maybe because of frustration or anger); rallied his team at any number of points in this 90-minute time span to focus them on their strengths, who they are when they are at their best and point them to the goal of winning.

Which of these leadership lessons matters most to you?

When have you seen such emotionally intelligent leadership? In sports or business?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore your leadership, and how to help yourself and others keep your head in the game to win.

Photo by Patrick Case from Pexels

Leadership Lessons of Gareth Southgate, Past the Waistcoat

Leadership Lessons of Gareth Southgate, Past the Waistcoat

Who’s a great leader? This is a question I’m often asked by random people when I say I’m a leadership coach and author. One recent example I cite is Gareth Southgate, the manager of the England national football (soccer) team. England’s advancement to the final of the Euro 2020/1 played last month brought his leadership to the forefront, their loss taught us more. He’s famous for wearing waistcoats on the sidelines, and his leadership is more than what you see on the surface.

Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

Leadership is the ability to excite others to perform towards a wanted vision or objective. Emotional intelligence is the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and be aware and able to manage the emotions of others thereby handling interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically. Combine the two and it’s about behaving in a way that has you understanding what motivates others to influence them to achieve the necessary performance.

Emotional Intelligence and Leadership – Gareth Southgate

I could write pages and pages about Gareth Southgate’s leadership. He exhibits so many qualities of a conscious or emotionally intelligent leader. Here are 4 key attributes and an example of behaviours he’s done that illustrate those traits.

Leadership Lessons

Here are just a few of the many leadership lessons from Gareth:

Vulnerable and transparent. For those who don’t know, Gareth Southgate missed a penalty kick himself as a player that sent England out of Euro 1996. This probably ‘forced’ vulnerability on him. Few leaders ‘fail’ so publicly. He has acknowledged the criticism directed at him of being ‘too soft’ to win. He has actually spoken openly about it which might feel contrary to the defensiveness many of us might feel about judgements of us. He said, “I was not ruthless enough to be a top player. Some people will say I have that problem to be a top manager, that’s an area I need to keep developing…I ask myself ‘What are we prepared to sacrifice to win?’ It’s a big question” for leaders. By sharing his development area he’s taken power away from his detractors, shows his players everyone has something to work on and can access his empathy. Being vulnerable as a leader allows others to risk, be brave, push themselves outside their comfort zone – all necessary for success.

Empowering the team players, not his team. As he said in a recent interview with Mercedes F1 boss, Toto Wolff, “We can’t kick the ball for them. On the pitch they have to make their own decisions, react to the momentum of the game, help each other. If everything is controlled by a ‘Svengali on the side’, how are they going to be able to react in the moment that really matter for winning in the way we want them to?” He talks about responsibility being with the players, about preparing them to react in the way that promotes winning. He talks of trusting the players, giving them increasing levels of responsibility so they grow, developing them as people not just players, like “we do with our children.” If you listen to him speak, he rarely says ‘I’ when speaking of the team, the players and the accomplishments, it’s usually WE.

Taking responsibility thereby having peoples’ backs. The one place I’ve heard Gareth say ‘I’ is when he takes responsibility for mistakes. He does not blame others. After the final game, which ended in missed goals during a shootout by some young English players, some commentators blamed the players who missed scoring for having volunteered when they didn’t deliver the result. Gareth quickly said he had chosen which players would be in the shootout, he explained his rationale for choosing them and saying he had faith in them. He takes responsibility for his decisions, allowing his players to deal with their own grief rather than having to deal with the media reaction as well. When players trust their manager, they are willing to do more, their self-belief grows and we know that positivity motivates and leads to better performance versus fear which breeds doubt, caution, inaction and mistakes. He took responsibility in 1996 and he took responsibility now for his decisions and actions.

Reflection and recovery. In the interviews the morning after the final, Gareth was asked ‘What Next?’ He answered, “I don’t think now is an appropriate time to think about anything… to lead your country in these tournaments takes its toll and I need a break now”. He said it was time to reflect and rest. Rarely do you hear a leader talk of needing a break and a rest. He understands that the leader’s well-being plays a strong part in success. A leader is like an athlete, their mind and body need to be kept in optimal condition to produce the desired results. Exercise, energy, and rest are key to sustaining success. Additionally, he is very reflective on his decisions and behaviours, not just reflecting on the win or loss. This demonstrates a growth mindset which is proven to deliver improvements, learnings and innovation.

Gareth Southgate’s leadership has earned him respect from his team members and with many fans. Additionally, he’s led the England team to better results than they’ve had in the past. And he’s increased the sale of waistcoats!

Which of these leadership skills matters most to you?
When have you experienced such emotionally intelligent leadership?
Who do you celebrate as an inspiring leader?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore your leadership, and how to motivate and inspire others.

Leadership Lessons from The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020

Leadership Lessons from The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020

Did you watch The Olympics?

Have you, or more likely your child, been inspired to take up BMX, wall climbing or skateboarding?

The Olympics always entertains, informs and inspires me!  It’s not just the actual competitive activity that I find captivating, it’s the journey that led the participant to the Olympics that intrigues me.  Being the ‘doer,’ achievement-oriented person that I am, I’ve often struggled with the notion that the journey is as important, if not more, than the destination and the Olympian stories are a good reminder.

Here are 4 journeys that also teach great leadership lessons.

Britain’s Tom Dean, swimmer, contracted Covid-19 not once but twice leading up to the Olympics, the last time in January, 6 months before he was to race in the 200-metre freestyle.  Now, you might think it didn’t affect him much as he’s young and in great shape.  Unfortunately, it did; sore lungs, sluggish cardio and continuous coughing impacted his physical ability combined with quarantining stopped any training.  He went on to win the gold medal, which was a surprise for Team GB.

The Lesson: resilience, the ability to bounce back from set-backs, is both physical and mental.  He credited his coach for calming him down, waylaying the fears and building his        confidence to overcome and compete again.


Simone Biles participation in the Olympics has been controversial unfortunately.  The American gymnast bowed out of the women’s team final after her first vault due to reported ‘mental issue’.  As she explained more honestly, she wasn’t having fun, was having the “twisties” meaning she was spatially disoriented which meant she could have seriously injured herself and jeopardized the medal for the USA and her teammates who had worked so hard.

The Lesson: authenticity, passion, transparency, purpose.  True leaders know themselves, their strengths and limitations.  They are connected to their purpose, WHY they do what they do.  Great leaders are authentic, being true to themselves, rather than a character or façade and take responsibility and own their decisions.  She has been criticized  by many for bowing out, and she stands by her decision.


Welsh middle weight boxer, Lauren Price, was adopted at the age of 3 days by her grandparents as her parents were unable to care for her.  At eight it became her dream to go to the Olympics after seeing Dame Kelly Holmes compete.  Price didn’t know the sport at the time, she’s accomplished in football (soccer), kickboxing and taekwondo until she decided on boxing.  She is the first Welsh female boxer to even compete at the Olympics.  Her beloved grandfather and advocate passed away in December, not seeing her win Team GB’s final medal of the tournament, a gold.  When she won she pointed up to the sky, acknowledging his presence.  As her grandmother always says, “reach for the moon, if you fall short you’ll land in the stars.”

The Lesson: support, someone having your back, role models, drive.  Leaders never operate in a vacuum, they aren’t a one-person show.  They have a network of people supporting           them, many out of the limelight, and can range from profession support to friends and family.


Lastly, Matt Richards, another GB swimmer, was so worried about not training with the pools closed for lockdown, his parents bought a massive paddling pool to keep training.  It measured 5 x 3 meters, hardly big enough for a 100-metre swimmer.  He tethered himself to the garage with a bungee cord attached to a harness to “swim” in a stationary position.  It took a few attempts to get the tension right, once having the harness detach and hurl into his back.  This training kept is body fit and acclimatized to the water and most importantly kept his sanity as he identifies himself as a swimmer and couldn’t image not being in water.

The Lesson: adaptability, agility, good habits, determination.  When faced with an obstacle, leaders are agile, adapting to the situation to maximize their performance, determined to achieve their purpose.  Additionally, research shows that consistent, good habits around many activities such as exercise, sleep, and diet will yield good results.

These are just four stories, I’m sure every Olympian has a journey to share from which we could all learn as they strive to be among the best in the world.

What are your stories of inspiration from the Olympics?

What lessons could you apply to your leadership or life?

Maybe you just want to try wall climbing?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore your passions, leadership or inspiration.

Coaching Client Cath’s Confidence Success Story

Coaching Client Cath’s Confidence Success Story

Cath* is a returning client. Lucky me. I first coached her years ago as she was wanting to get a more senior role. She didn’t get the promotion in her organization while we worked together. She did get the higher role in another organization afterwards due to her perseverance and increasing confidence in interviewing.

Her Situation

She is the director of a quasi-NGO reporting to a board or panel of overseers. She had issues being clear in setting expectations and giving negative performance feedback so the panel authorized coaching for her. Like many people I work with, she struggled with having what most people call “difficult conversations.” Many people worry about giving “negative” feedback to others for fear of doing it wrong, hurting someone, making a mistake and facing emotions from the recipient that the leader couldn’t/didn’t want to handle.

Her Work

The coaching focused on three areas: her leadership style, her confidence and her focus.

1. Leadership Style:

• What is leadership? This seems like an obvious question and it’s the question I always start with no matter the coaching topic. Defining the topic is key to clarity. My definition of leadership is about motivating and empowering people to achieve your desired outcome.

• What is her leadership style? Most coachees struggle with this question as they find it hard to articulate. How do you motivate people, set direction and implement palns?

• What leaders does she admire? It’s always helpful to identify people that do what you want to do well. Observing others is a great way to learn what works well and what doesn’t.

2. Confidence:

• What is confidence? Clarifying the definition again.

• Remember a time you felt really confident, personally or professionally. Where do you feel that confident feeling in your body? Once you know what confidence feels like in your body you can recreate it when you need it.

• I challenged her to notice when she is or does good things and write them down. Specifically, everyday write down (yes, writing by hand to embed it) 3 things about yourself for which you are proud. This builds the confidence muscle just as reps in the gym build strong muscles.

3. Focus:

• What was her focus as a leader? Her focus was on her direct reports and how to engaged and empower them.

• Where did she want to start? She choose to start with being clearer with her direct reports in terms of her expectations about the work and how they do the work.

What did she need to do that? She needed training as she didn’t know how to give feedback. She hadn’t seen good role models of this. She hadn’t been trained on this despite holding a senior position. I gave her a copy of my book, Soft Skills HARD RESULTS, which explains how to give positive and construction feedback. This is a template that Cath used a lot for giving feedback using the COIN model, here. We role-played specific scenarios. She practiced with her staff between the coaching sessions, noticed the impact, tried again, all the time persevering through the discomfort.

Her Result

Near the end of the coaching, Cath informed me that her bosses might want some feedback from me about her progress. This is something as a coach I don’t do. The coachee’s progress is assessed by the coachee and the organization with me sometimes facilitating that discussion. What happens in the coaching is confidential. I would only say something if the coachee didn’t show up to the sessions, I was worried that they might be of harm to themselves or someone else or were engaging in something illegal.

She had her performance review in front of the board and my input was not required.

The performance of the organization over the last year (exceeding financial targets), the results of the external reviews (surpassing expectations) and how she was in her interactions with them (a confident leader) was a testament to her progress.

As one of them said, “How you are is all the evidence we need of the coaching working.”


Want your boss to rave about your performance?

Do difficult conversations worry you?

Do you want to feel more comfortable giving feedback?

Use this great template that Cath uses a lot for giving feedback, here, or get in touch to arrange your complimentary coaching session here. 


*name and identifying details have been changed to preserve client confidentiality

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

How HR Leaders (Anyone) can Build Trust in the Workplace

How HR Leaders, any Leader actually, can Build Trust in the Workplace

Trust has always been important in the workplace – among individuals, departments, functions and hierarchy. It’s now more important than ever as uncertainty is rampant in many aspects of both work and life. HR can both role model and lead the creation of a high trust culture. Anyone can impact trust – positively and negatively – through simple (maybe not all easy) daily behaviours.

What is Trust

According to Collins dictionary, trust is your belief that others are honest and sincere and will not deliberately do anything to harm you. This definition encapsulates both trust and psychological safety described by Forbes. They describe trust as you are offering others the benefit of the doubt when you are being vulnerable. Whereas they say psychological safety is you believing others are extending the benefit of the doubt to you when you’re taking a risk.

A simple example of trust in the workplace is people doing what they say they are going to do. A colleague commits to doing a specific task for a project by a specific time and then does it.
A more nuanced example of trust is being able to disagree with a senior leader about a decision even in a group setting without the risk to your career or being ridiculed.

Benefits of Trust in the Workplace

There are obvious and less obvious benefits of high trust which apply in any relationship, not just those in the workplace. These benefits focus on the workplace:

  • Having different and dissenting opinions openly shared leads to better decision making.
  • Pointing out unconscious bias comments, patterns and decisions e.g. challenging potentially racist or sexist comments in a discussion, resulting in equality, diversity and inclusivity.
  • Transferring your efforts or resources to another groups’ project to serve the organization’s greater goals.
  • Improving mental wellbeing as emotions and stress are shared so better retention, fewer grievances, less absenteeism.
  • Feeling safe so energy can go towards doing the work rather than manipulating the political environment.
  • Taking risks and speaking out leads to more creativity, new ideas and better solutions.

How to Demonstrate Trust in the Workplace

These ideas apply to HR leaders, leaders across the organization and most people interacting with others in general.

    1. Listen – really listen to people. As Stephen Covey said decades ago, “seek first to understand, then to be understood.”¹ Many people listen to respond thereby they often stop actively listening as they start to formulate their response. In my coach training listening was one of the first things we were taught. How to listen at many levels – to what the other person says, and doesn’t say, to their body language and energy, to your own intuition about their feelings. Don’t listen for listening sake, listen to learn, adapt and understand.
    2. Get curious – pause your own thoughts and potentially your defence mechanisms to understand someone else’s perspective. Ask questions to understand. A specific action for HR is to learn intimately about the business. This will help you position HR policies to support the business needs and to step truly into their shoes when you consider your initiatives and language. Encourage others to be curious too.
    3. Interrogate your own mindset – what are your feelings about risk, fear of failure, fear of looking stupid and making a mistake. Adopt a more supportive mindset for yourself, changing your internal dialogue to “if I make a mistake I’ll at least know and will learn from it.” Ask your team to become more self-aware too.
    4. Show you trust – take a risk and show vulnerability. Risk making a mistake or getting it wrong. Acknowledge when you don’t know something. Give your time, support or resources to “competing” initiatives. Be generous to others verbally, publicly and even use the words “I trust you” when warranted. Give others the benefit of the doubt.
    5. Act with integrity – do what you say you are going to do. If circumstances change communicate quickly and gain alignment to the impact of those changes. In the hardest HR situations act with the upmost integrity and with compassion. Examples are not tolerating gossip, or blame, any negativity in fact by calling it out respectfully in the moment. Not laughing at others or dismissing their ideas.
    6. Ask for feedback – and then listen and take it on board. This will show people you are engaged, care about the impact you have. This is also a great measure of how much trust there is in you or the organization. People will give helpful, constructive feedback when they trust you. Feedback might be vague or overly complimentary when they don’t feel safe to share.
    7. Encourage healthy conflict – disagreement and conflict are not bad especially when done respectfully and with the purpose of getting to the best solution, not just to ‘win.’ Practice asking questions that challenge someone’s idea in a way that shows respect. Think about debate rather than win/lose or judging right/wrong. Healthy debate leads to more thorough investigation and understanding.
    8. Own your mistakes – admit if you make a mistake or get something wrong. You can then talk about the learnings from those situations. This shows humility, builds trust and makes it safe for others to admit their mistakes. This means things don’t get hidden and continual improvement becomes possible.

What would be possible by increasing the trust in your team? The trust between people across different teams and functions?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore how you could improve your effectiveness as a leader by building more trust.

¹ https://www.franklincovey.com/the-7-habits/habit-5.html

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