Archive for the ‘Personal Impact’ Category

Are you living your values?

Thursday, November 27th, 2014

Twice a month I attend and help run a local networking group for small business owners. The key focus of the meeting is to discuss topical issues, share challenges, knowledge and support each other.

This morning we talked about authenticity and business leadership values, a topic I cover in the first chapter of my book 'Soft Skills for Strong Leaders'.

What is it that drives our behaviour in our day to day dealings with clients, suppliers, colleagues and fellow networkers? How do we come across to others, and what is it that we do – or don’t do – that motivates people to want to do business with us, and to help us succeed?

I facilitated the session to encourage fellow business owners to recall people from the past and present day, who have had some influence on the way they do business. Some mentioned ‘dreadful’ bosses who were unapproachable, were poor communicators, and led by the stick rather than the carrot. Others talked of inspirational role models who they aspire to, from the likes of Richard Branson and Clive Woodward to first time bosses who took the time to listen, to challenge, nurture and instilled a strong work ethic.

Following on from this discussion, we each then explored our top five ‘business leadership values’. What kind of business leader/owner are we? What do we stand for? What is important to us about how we do business and come across to others? What have we taken on board, either consciously or unconsciously, from our role models?

There were many familiar terms, such as trust, integrity, honesty, transparency, respect, giving back and professionalism. There were also values including; profit, success, structure, inspiring, adding value, fairness, knowledgeable.

What I always find interesting is our personal interpretation of each of these words, What does ’trust’ mean to you? Or 'transparency'? You can bet it means something different to each of us. 

There is also the assumption that what is important to us is also important to everyone else, but this exercise demonstrated that despite our similarities, it highlighted our uniqueness in what specifically is important to each of us, and the reason why. 

So, having given some thought as to what is important to you, what actions do you take on a day to day basis that demonstrates you are fulfilling your values? You may say that honesty is important to you, but are you shying away from giving honest feedback to a client or supplier? 

It’s also worth considering (and actually finding out) what the values are of your clients and suppliers. What is important to them – and what can you do to fulfil those values?

Just thinking about what is important to you and to others can help you to reflect upon, and to influence how you conduct yourself at home as well as at work each day. When you are living and breathing your values, whether they are your work values or core values (which apply in any context), you will be able to be more authentic and genuine.

The result is that you will gain more trust, enjoying deeper and more rewarding relationships with those around you.

“One day they will find me out…”

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

If you have ever quietly said this to yourself, you are not alone.

And dare I say it, even I have had these thoughts from time to time… Writing a book (Soft Skills for Strong Leaders) and asking for honest feedback is really scary! What if people don't like it? What if they actually sit down and read it and think it's rubbish? Thankfully no-one has said this directly to me, and I have had some wonderful feedback, but some might not like it, and I have to accept that they are entitled to an opinion.

'One day they will find me out…'  is a phrase I often hear from managers and leaders, particularly those who have recently moved into a new role. They are good at putting on a brave face and portraying an air of self-confidence to the outside world, when secretly they have doubts whether they really do have the skills to deliver on their promises.

So, where do these doubts come from? And what happened to the confidence that they started out with?

Self-confidence levels fluctuate daily, by the hour and even by the minute. Self-confidence is the measure of how much trust and faith you have in yourself and your abilities, and how you project yourself to the outside world.

I meet many people who can act confidently when needed, but confess to not truly feeling it on the inside. You know the saying ‘fake it ‘til you make it’, which simply means pretending you are confident until it becomes a habit. But in my experience, it’s better to tackle confidence issues from the inside, working on developing your self-esteem and controlling your inner dialogue.

Your thoughts have a powerful effect on how you feel, how you act, and how you come across to those around you. If you keep telling yourself ‘I’m rubbish at this’, or ‘I’ve really messed up now, what will they think?’, or ‘She is so much better at presenting than me…’ is it any wonder you start to feel anxious?

When you tell yourself ‘one day they will find me out…’ the underlying assumption is that you don’t have the skills you need, you will be exposed and you will be humiliated! This isn’t going to bolster your self-confidence at all.

Here are a few ideas to increase your self-confidence, should it start to dip….

1. Pay attention to what you are saying to yourself. Self-talk is constant, and if you are feeling uncertain about a situation, or what you are about to do or say, notice what you are thinking about. The odds are that you are expecting the worst to happen, either in how you will act or how others will think/respond.

Decide what thoughts would be more empowering, and choose to focus on something positive about the situation.

2. Avoid over dramatising when things do go wrong. That’s life! Ask yourself some productive questions, such as

·         What’s the worst that can happen – and can I handle it?

·         How important will this be in a few months time?

·         What resources do I have to resolve this situation?

3. Notice when you are generalising. As confidence levels drop, we tend to using phrases such as ‘no-one ever listens to my ideas’ or ‘I always make the wrong decision’. Notice when you use these generalisations, such as no-one, never, everything, always, and challenge yourself as to whether this is absolutely true. Focus on the times when things have gone well in the past.

4. Avoid mind-reading. How often do you have a conversation in your head, running through a difficult conversation you need to have, and mind-read how the other person will react? We assume the worst and so decide not to say what needs to be said, based on what we imagine might happen! 

If I spent my time assuming that no-one likes my book, how could I possibly have the confidence to stand up and promote it? Instead, I focus on all the wonderful comments from new managers and even senior leaders, telling me how they "continually go back to it as a reference" and "its currently doing the rounds with my leadership team", and I am motivated to get on the phone and find more speaking opportunities!

So, the key is, notice your thoughts, and if you want to feel and act differently, and with confidence, then choose thoughts that make you feel better about yourself.  Try it and see!

Do you hate giving feedback?

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

I find it fascinating to notice themes emerging from individual and totally separate coaching clients. Over the last week a common theme has been giving feedback.

It seems that many of us dislike giving feedback even more than we dislike receiving it, so what is it that prevents us from giving honest and constructive comments?

Here are some of the fears that clients have shared with me:

  • Fear of upsetting the other person
  • Fear of creating an atmosphere
  • Fear of retaliation
  • Fear of destroying a relationship
  • Fear of losing control

When communicated in the right way, giving constructive feedback is a powerful way of improving relationships, performance and productivity.

Here are some top tips:

  • Recognise your reasons for giving feedback, and share if appropriate
  • Be clear on what outcome you want as a result of giving feedback, i.e. change in behaviour, motivation, specific results.
  • Balance your feedback with positive as well as constructive comments
  • Check out any assumptions you may have i.e. don’t try to prove that you’re right
  • Ensure that you challenge a person’s behaviour, not their identity
  • Avoid blaming, labelling or generalising i.e. ‘you always’ or ‘you never’
  • Be specific when delivering positive as well as negative feedback
  • Avoid using the word ‘but’ after giving positive feedback, this negates the position

Ensure that your feedback is

  • Legal – you have the right or agreement to deliver the feedback
  • Decent – respects the individual
  • Truthful – tell the simple truth
  • Honest – based on the facts, complete and unembellished

End the conversation on a positive note. And remember, some feedback is better than no feedback


Are your thoughts sabotaging your success?

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

I love coaching. It’s such a privilege to be a witness to my client’s world and their thoughts. I find it fascinating just how much our feelings and therefore our actions are driven by our thoughts and how we make sense of situations around us. We are constantly thinking, analysing and judging. We are mulling over what has happened in the past, or thinking about the days/weeks/months ahead and our hopes and fears for what might happen.

I was working with a client recently (let’s call her Jill) who was feeling overwhelmed. She had been recently promoted, and with the promotion came increased responsibilities. Although she was more than capable of dealing with her new role, her thoughts were full of doubt. Had she taken on too much? What if she couldn’t deliver? What if she made a wrong decision?

The more she was focusing on the ‘What ifs’ and how it could all go pear-shaped, the more anxious she felt and so she retreated from taking action. As I reflected this back to her, Jill could see how her thoughts were impacting on her behaviour, and therefore her results. I helped Jill to create some fun strategies so that she could monitor her feelings and when necessary, switch to positive and more empowering thoughts. It has taken a few weeks to adopt some new habits, but the results have been worth the effort. Jill is now more confident in her new role, she’s happy to use the resources around her and is ready to accept that making ‘wrong’ decisions will be part of the learning process.

Are your thoughts helping or hindering you?

The fears behind our behaviour

Monday, December 10th, 2012

Last week I was on a course, gaining a more in depth knowledge about FIRO theory.

F.I.R.O stands for Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation – in other words, understanding the deep-seated way in which we relate to other people. This theory explores how our behaviour impacts on those around us, how we act in response to how we think and feel about ourselves – and how we behave based on how we think others see us.

It’s a fascinating theory and even after all these years of coaching, and my own self exploration and self development, I gained further understanding of what is driving my behaviour.  It was interesting to uncover that my fear about making the ‘wrong’ decision is down to my fear of being humiliated. What I know now is that this fear comes from many years ago, and isn’t relevant any more – quite a powerful lesson for me.

Our behaviour is underpinned by our feelings, and fears of being ignored, humiliated or rejected.

Think about something you keep putting off, and the ‘fear’ associated with that. Unless it’s obviously life threatening, I bet you can see which of the three fears above is most relevant.

“So vital is an awareness of THE SELF that the leader who is unaware of their own blind spots or how they impact on others is like to become a walking disaster in the workplace, a leader who may lead their ‘troops’ over the cliff face” (McCarthy & Ganavan 1999)

If you want to find out more about FIRO theory, just drop me a line.

What’s within your control?

Monday, November 19th, 2012

It’s been a tough few years, and the news is that it won’t get any easier in the short term.

Talking to friends, family and clients, most people are worrying about something. How secure is their job? Will they be able to get the clients they want? Will their children be able to get a job in their chosen industry when they finish university?

It's a fact that 'life happens'. Things happen that are outside of our control, but the key is in how we respond.

We can either hide under the covers with fingers crossed hoping things will get better, or we can re-group, re-focus and take action.

If you’re waking up in the night worrying about the future, I hope the following tips will get you back on track

  • Be honest with yourself, what's the current situation?
  • Identify what's working well. And what's not?
  • Share these thoughts with someone who is a good listener
  • Explore what you want instead of the current situation
  • What do you need to differently?
  • Use the people around you – who do you know who can help you?
  • List your options – there are always options…
  • Write out a plan of action and take the first step
  • Take at least one step every day to take you closer to your goal.

And remember my favourite quote: 'We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust our sails'

Can you embrace your vulnerability?

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

On Friday I attended the fourth module of my KPI (Key Person of Influence) training, learning how to increase my online profile, run by Ecademy founder Penny Power.

I proudly raised my hand when asked who wrote a blog, and then was transformed into the rabbit in headlights when Penny asked me if we could take a look at my blog.

My rational brain was thinking ‘brilliant, everyone will see my website’, while the deeply hidden irrational and vulnerable side of me was screaming ‘Oh my God, what did I write about? What will they (my fellow entrepreneurs, all  40+ of them) think? Will it be good enough? Will I be exposed as a fraud? It felt as though I was standing naked on the stage.

Why would I feel like this when I’m happy to write newsletters, promote my website and use Twitter and Facebook? I’m more than happy to give talks to a roomful of people. I’m quietly confident and proud of what I’ve achieved so far.

I recently watched the TED talk ‘The Power of Vulnerability’ by Brene Brown, where Brene talks about our struggle with vulnerability and how we try to numb it. We develop strategies to deal with this fear. We protect ourselves by trying to be perfect, by blaming others, by trying to over-control situations so that we won’t be exposed as ‘not worthy’ or not good enough.

Our deepest fear is that we are not worthy of being loved, being accepted or belonging. We fear disconnection and that we will be found out as unworthy of connection. And yet belonging and connecting with others gives us meaning and purpose. Connection is why we are here.

I could see from my blog that although I was offering some value to my reader at a logical level, it wasn’t offering any glimpse into who I am as a vulnerable person.  And I am. It’s time to embrace my vulnerability, to believe that I am enough.

I am now learning how to be vulnerable, to have the courage to be imperfect and let go of being who I think I should be. To take on something with no guarantees. To invest in a relationship that may not work out. To say ‘I love you’ first.

I’m not there yet but it’s a good start.

When do you switch off?

Monday, September 17th, 2012

Does it feel as though you're on a treadmill, trying to get so many things done with not enough hours in the day to do them? Are you taking on too much and putting pressure on yourself to deliver? With our self imposed expectations and long 'to do' lists, it's no wonder we sometimes feel overwhelmed and stressed. No matter how busy you are in your work life, it's important for you to find time to switch off.

  • What hobbies or activities can you do more of that help you to feel relaxed?
  • How specifically will you feel and look if you exercise more?
  • What small change can you make in your diet for the better?
  • What is missing from your life right now?
  • Who or what drains you of energy?

Pick two or three questions that resonate with you, and once you have answered the question, decide what you would like to achieve. Perhaps you want to take up a new hobby, or join a running club or eat more healthily?

Now that you have two or three ideas of what you need to do to improve your well being, it's time to make a decision. You can continue as you are and feel overwhelmed, or you can make a small change in your daily routine and feel more energised to do what needs to be done.

Good luck, let me know how you get on!

Are you hiding your ‘true self’ in meetings?

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

There has been a theme with some of my clients recently around a lack of confidence with senior people in their organisation. This is having a negative effect on their personal impact and influencing skills, and they are not adding the value that they could be adding if they felt more confident.

How come we can be confident with our team members or clients, yet when we step into the boardroom with our peers, our confidence fades? What is it that stops you from speaking up, asking questions, sharing your ideas? What conversations are you having in your mind that prevents you from adding value to the discussion?

The common cause is often a fear of some sort. It’s usually a deep seated fear that you are not even aware of until you bring it out into the open and name it. Fear of rejection, fear of saying the wrong thing, fear of taking up too much air time and a fear that your specialist subject isn’t as important as the next person's. Fears are driven and fed by our long held beliefs, in fact we have had them for so long we can’t remember where they came from or if they are still relevant. Once you start to unpick where your beliefs originated and explore whether they are still valid (which they rarely are), you can choose to let them go and find more empowering beliefs.

You can free up your mind to focus on adding value to the discussion, and show the 'real you' to your peers and senior leadership team.

Tops Tips to be more Assertive

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

A few weeks ago I ran a webinar on 'How to be assertive without appearing aggressive', and had some great feedback. I thought I'd share my top tips with you.

Assertiveness is: the ability to say what you think or feel, or to say what you need, while respecting yourself and respecting the other person.

This is the co-operative approach, looking for a win- win situation

My Top Tips: 

 ü Remember you have a choice

o   You can choose to be assertive, passive or aggressive – which would you choose? Consider why is this important to you. 

ü Respect yourself and others

o   If you have chosen to be more assertive, then the first step is to value and respect yourself and your opinions, and to respect others.

ü Build rapport

o   Anything is possible in the presence of rapport. You can consciously build rapport by discreetly adopting a similar posture to the other person, maintain eye contact, listen with respect and adopt a similar tone of voice. (This is a big topic!)

ü Monitor your thoughts

o   Your thoughts can easily sabotage how you feel, which will affect how you come across, therefore decide how you want to feel and select your thoughts accordingly.

ü Create and control your outcome

o   When you mentally prepare your response you are taking control of the situation. Think through how you want to come across and in particular, decide what you want the outcome to be.

ü STOP apologising

o   When you apologise, you have already decided that you are wrong and it tells the other person that you don’t value yourself.

ü Find assertive role models

o   Choose one or two assertive people and notice what they do that tells you they are assertive. Which of these behaviours or attitudes would you like to adopt?

ü Aim for win- win situations

o   Being assertive is not about you winning the argument: it is about finding a win-win solution.