Women, it’s time to stamp out the naysayers

Stamp out the naysayers










In my previous post, I made a call for Women, it’s time to Be Bold. As part of my own Be Bold journey, I am running my first London marathon on 26 April. At aged 48 and with a dodgy left knee and hip, it pales in comparison to the parathletes at the Paralympics and Commonwealth games who have inspired me.

Rather than the usual fundraising activities, I have decided to use my strengths, what I do best and will benefit others and designed the Be Bold programme for women to step up, step out and be courageous to get ahead, progress, achieve results, success and fulfilment.

I have followed my own advice and reached out for help and have had overwhelming support and good wishes. However amongst those there been a couple of naysayers and negative comments.

In your journey of Being Bold, you will meet people who will be unsupportive, may even oppose what you trying to do or achieve or say unconstructive or unhelpful things. This comes at a time when you are already feeling vulnerable and trying hard to maintain your self- belief and confidence.

How do you keep perspective, maintain optimism and belief? Some of the things that have worked for me and my clients

Acknowledge your feelings

When someone says negative things, it is human to feel hurt and upset. I certainly did. And for half of the day, it festered within me until I came to terms with and responded to them.

Let your feelings surface, listen to what they are telling you and deal with them.

Is there any validity in what is being said? Although painful, be open to criticism and explore if there is anything truthful that you can learn from what was said

Did you act and behave with integrity and in good faith?

Put it into context: out of 12 comments, 11 comments were positive and 1 negative. We tend to hone in on the unconstructive and forget to acknowledge the positives.

You have the power

Other people often project their own issues/ inadequacies unto you. There is nothing that you can do about that. It is beyond your control. Bring the power back to you and don’t let one or two negativities and naysayers bring you down. You can choose not to accept what they say. Make the right choice.

Respond with dignity and integrity

Thank them for their feedback and comments. There is no need to engage in discussion, to explain, assert your perspective or probe. Remember that you do not need to seek their permission and you do not want to get into lengthy discussions. This will only zap your energy and focus. Acknowledge, let go and move on.

Remind yourself of the ‘why’

Remind yourself why you are doing what you are doing, the benefits you will achieve and keep that bigger picture and vision in mind. Do not allow yourself to get sidetracked as this will lessen your focus and momentum.

Celebrate the learning

Accept that you will meet naysayers, setbacks and obstacles in your journey. Create a mindset that sees them as learning opportunities to test you. Life would be pretty boring if everything was plain sailing. Responding to such challenges helps us to develop our resilience. And the more resilience we develop, the braver and bolder we become. Bring it on!

Write it down

On your Be Bold journey, recording your thoughts and feelings in a journal is a powerful activity. It will help you to process what you have experienced in a safe environment. Writing can be very cathartic. Writing about painful emotions experienced can help to release the intensity of these feelings, leaving you feeling much calmer and ready to face the world again.

Journaling can also help you to clarify your thinking, put things into perspective, pay attention to what you are feeling and learning. Remember to record your all of your achievements and successes, no matter how small. These act as great reminders for boosting confidence

Keep on Being Bold and surround yourself with people who will champion and support you. And ask yourself – how are you supporting and championing others?

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Women’s it’s time to Be Bold

Women, it's time Be bold 2 Last Friday I was invited to attend the Forward Ladies Women in Business awards. One of the speakers was Rachel Hannan, who co-founded Gatenby Sanderson, a leading executive recruiter and now a business adviser and angel investor. As she shared her entrepreneurial journey, citing Angela Coutts as a role model, her message was for women to be more confident in putting themselves forward. This resonated as something that we women, are often reluctant to do.

Have you ever wanted to apply for a job but did not because you could not tick all of the 10 requirements? So you fixate on the 2 things towards the end of the list that you could not tick and convince yourself that you will never get the job so you don’t bother applying.

Or perhaps you know that you deserve a pay rise but dare not ask in case you are told ‘no’? The fear of being rejected is enough not to ask.

Or an opportunity has come up which will stretch you but you don’t feel able to put yourself forward because whilst you are competent and skilled, your belief in yourself is quite not 100% – there are those niggling self doubts.

Waiting for perfection and fear of failing are self imposed barriers that hinder our chances of achieving greater things and success. Self assurance and confidence in your abilities and self is as equally as important as competence.

A few years ago I came across a quote by Basil King Be bold and might forces will come to your aid’. I was struck by its encouragement and optimism and have used it prolifically since – to take chances, to risk failure and at the same time to have that hope and optimism that others may, in my journey, come to my aid and support me. And sometimes the results are successful and positive and other times they have failed.

How do you take that step into the unknown, accept that failing and fear is part of life’s biggest learning opportunities and to go forward and Be Bold? Some of the things that have worked for me and my clients include:

Give yourself permission to be bold: Start off with the mindset that you have the power, inner resources and ability to do this. It is there within you. Give yourself permission to take that risk, to put yourself forward, to know that you don’t have to be perfect, to tick all the boxes…You might not get it right, you may a mistake, you may fail…and if you do, be compassionate towards yourself.

Be kind to yourself: This is not about self pity, indulgence or lessening your standards. It’s about remembering that you are human. If someone you cared about failed or was unsuccessful in a getting the results sought, would you berate them, tell them off …? What would you say or do? Do the same to yourself.

Identify and leverage your strengths: Be clear on your strengths and what you do best. Ask a range of people who know you well (boss, peers, friends..) to give you feedback on your what do well. Find ways to integrate your strengths into your daily tasks and activities. When you do things that you enjoy doing it makes you feel good, keeps you energised, engaged and boosts your resilience.

Plan and prepare: For example if you are negotiating for a pay rise ensure that you have done your homework. Find out the process and the layers of management involved. Get a benchmark salary range by finding out how much other people in similar roles, organisations, sectors get paid. Build a business case with evidence of skills, achievements, your value and how you go beyond the norm. Preparation, rehearsal and anticipating challenges ahead and your response to them can minimise the stress and fear of such situations

Stretch yourself: Being out of your comfort zone can be difficult, hard work, uncomfortable and harrowing at times. However, it is from undertaking such acts that we develop mental toughness, grow, progress and achieve our greatest accomplishments. Start by finding little things that will stretch you. This might be as simple as engaging in conversation with someone you don’t know, giving feedback to a colleague, trying out something new at work….As you build your confidence, step up and increase the stretch…and continue to do so throughout life.

Stay in your own lane: Stay focused and resist from comparing yourself and your performance to others. There will always be someone who makes more money, has more clients, does it better, gives a more polished presentation…than you.

Seek help: Do not be too proud to ask for help. There are many people out there who are willing to support, mentor, give advice…. Make a list of people who you think would be able to help you and be brave in asking for their support. They can only say no or refuse! Chances are one or two will be the ‘mighty forces’ that will come to your aid. In your journey you will find people who will buy into you and your story, when they offer help, seize it.

For more on this, read my earlier post on 4 ways to Boost your confidence and self belief. Follow me on LinkedIn and on Twitter @verawoodhead

Reaching out for your help: On the 26 April, I will running my first London Marathonfor Children with Cancer UK. Rather than the usual fundraising activities, I have decided to use my strengths, what I do best and will benefit others. I came up with Be Boldwhich is a 1 day programme for women to step up, step out and be courageous to get ahead, progress, achieve results, success and fulfilment.

I am running 2 workshops on Saturday 7 Feb and 7 March with all proceeds to Children with Cancer UK. Please join me, tell your colleagues and friends about the event and help me to raise £2000. Alternatively, you can make a donation through my Fundraising page.

Thank you and hope that some ‘mighty forces’ will come to my aid. Vera

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Be Bold in 2015

“Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid”, Basil King

Join me and a small group of like-minded women as we find the courage, commitment, support and help to achieve the results, success  and fulfilment that we desire 

On the 26th April 2015 I will running my first London Marathon for Children with Cancer UK. Rather than the usual fundraising activities, I have decided to use my strengths and what I do best and will benefit others. I came up with Be Bold which is a 1 day programme for women to step up, step out and be courageous to get ahead, progress, achieve results, success and fulfilment.

I am running 2 workshops on Saturday 7 Feb and 7 March with all proceeds to  Children with Cancer UK. Please join me, tell your colleagues and friends about the event and help me to raise £2000 . Alternatively, you can make a donation through my Fundraising page. Thank you so much for your support. Vera 

 You are invited to BE BOLD 2015


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Getting creative with Quotes

This week I have been having fun with colours and layouts and adding my quotes to them. Love to know what you think of them . Drop me a line. And if you have some of your own do share. Vera

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4 ways to boost your confidence and self belief

Dandelion clockHave you ever been in a situation in which you did not perform as well as you could or something untoward happened which has resulted in your confidence being blown away?

If like me and many others, just thinking about it fills you with dread and a reluctance to put yourself in such situations again?

Some will reflect, learn and pluck up the courage to have another stab at it. For others, it may be much harder because you have convinced yourself that you will fail. You avoid similar situations and become unwilling to put yourself forward.

This limits new opportunities and possibilities being opened up to you and can have an adverse effect on progressing your career and moving forward.

Try using the techniques below to change the way you think.

confidence caption 3

Boost your confidence and self belief

Reframe limiting beliefs: Albert Ellis, founder of REBT, developed a way to teach people how their beliefs cause their emotional and behavioural responses.

For example, you dwell on the negatives of a ‘bad’ experience of giving a presentation. These negative thoughts are played over and over in your mind until they become embedded beliefs.

Whenever placed in similar situations, the feelings of anxiety and nervousness emerge. It is not giving a presentation that causes those feelings, it is the beliefs that you have associated with them.

Examples of such limiting beliefs are the need for approval from others (if this is not 100% they will think less of me) and it must be perfect with no hitches (if there a mistake then it has all gone wrong)

Dispute and banish those negative beliefs and replace them with positive performance enhancing ones. For example, ‘I realise that my belief is unrealistic and keeps me stuck. The only way I’m going to find out about the quality of my ideas is by presenting them. If they are rejected, it is important for me to distinguish between my ideas being rejected and me rejecting myself because my ideas have been. If someone does think I’m a fool I certainly don’t have to agree with them….’

Use an anchor: Physiologist & psychologist Ivan Pavlov discovered a phenomenon called conditioning. At meal times he would ring a ring to call his dogs to the food. After a period of time he found that even without any food, the dogs would salivate from hearing the sound of the bell.

An anchor works in a similar way. By conditioning responses to an anchor we are able to get into a specific state. How to do this:

  1. Think of a time when you were really brimming with confidence, self belief and feeling on top of the world. Relive the memory of that experience. Construct thoughts, images, feelings and visualise yourself in that state
  2. At the peak of that state, when the feeling is most intense, anchor that feeling to a unique trigger such as a light pinch of the palm
  3. Change into a neutral state by moving around and doing and thinking positively about something different.
  4. Repeat that process and practice several times until every time you pinch your left palm you will be in a confident state

Visualisation: Imagine and play through the desired outcome in your head. Rehearse and practice the scene until you perfect it. Bring the little details to life..what are you wearing, how you are feeling, how you are speaking, how you move about the room, what questions might come up, what your response would be…

Affirmations: These are short, I, Me and My statements that you repeat to yourself in order to change limiting beliefs. How we feel and act is influenced by our thoughts. Change the way you think and you will change the way you feel and behave. State your affirmations in the present tense. “I am a confident speaker,” ‘I am confident in my speaking abilities’

Practising these simple techniques which help you to think more positively about yourself and raise your confidence and self belief.

Get out there and banish those limiting thoughts

Follow me on LinkedIn and on Twitter @verawoodhead

Work with me at Edimo Coaching & Development

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Getting to aha moments with your staff

Tired man

There is nothing more magical than observing a client harnessing his creativity and inner resources to generate that ‘aha’ moment.

Oscar, one of my clients entered the room, appearing to be carrying the world on his shoulders which are hunched, a look of weariness on his face and fatigue in his body.

He had been seconded to a new strategic role on a part time basis and I was working with him to tackle some of the challenges and issues that he faced.  These included:

  • Be part of a new and evolving environment. Whilst he is used to working with complexity he is less comfortable with uncertainty and an ever shifting landscape. His role is not defined, he is unsure of what is expected of him and  if he is doing the right thing
  • As he is only there 2 days a week, he feels that he only knows what is going on superficially
  • He spend a lot of his own time reading and preparing for meetings and is struggling to manage his time and priorities
  • There isn’t enough time or opportunity to build connections and relationships
  • He feels like he has moved from a big fish in a small pond to a little fish in a big pond and sometimes feel out of his depth and lacking in confidence

We explored and worked on identifying and aligning actions and behaviour to core values, using strengths, identifying priorities, being clear on career direction, making use of time management strategies, obtaining feedback from stakeholders and identifying areas for development…

Set outcomes were being achieved, feedback from stakeholders was excellent, feeling of less stress, happier, more authentic and self aware were expressed earlier. So it was a surprise to see him looking so deflated.

His worries were to do with his long standing role. He was starting to notice areas of inefficiencies – of engrained ways which were unproductive, where staff were not holding each other to account, of not working collaboratively, of poor relationships and leadership, of feeling that he was the only one that was noticing this and wanting to be proactive about it. As he talked, he injected little sighs which made his shoulders sag even more.

We started to work through those complexities, untangling them and breaking them down into more manageable areas.

The whole thing was too messy, too much at stake, too many people involved and seem insurmountable to Oscar. For every way forward, there were 2 steps backwards, for every possible solution; there were an obstacle in the way. We were not getting anywhere, just going round in circles.

It was time for a break, some quietness and a change of scenery.

Heading outside for a drink, we took a brief stroll to take in the winter sun and admire the changing colours of the landscape.

Aha caption 4

On our return, I asked Oscar to reflect and feedback on the dialogue so far. As he began to do this, there was a sudden shift in his being. His posture changed, he sat upright, there was energy in the room which wasn’t there before.  His expression shifted to one of clarity, of insight and new perspective. There was a dawning on his face.  It was the realisation that he saw his future in his seconded role and that to do this he needed to tackle the issues in his own organisation.

Aha moments are those blink of an eye moment of clarity when there is significant new insight which moves an issue from something which was seen as insurmountable to finding a way forward.

Techniques that you can use with your staff to help generate insight

 1. Get into the habit of asking powerful questions. Powerful questions are often followed by silence as the answer is not known. The individual has to pause and reflect deeply thus provoking thinking, feeling and reacting differently about the issue in hand. This helps to promote new ideas and visions about possibilities

 2. As Nancy Kline says, we need ‘time to think’. Create and leave plenty of space for self reflection and time for the individual to ponder. Make room for silences and be comfortable with and saviour them

 3. An uncluttered mind helps with creativity and generating new ideas. Consider engaging in dialogue when the individual is most energised and least stressed. Use simple meditation, mindfulness and breathing methods to induce a state of calm, quiet and relaxation

4. Hold conversations in a peaceful and relaxing environment  Just as an uncluttered mind can aid the flow of creativity so can the environment.

5. If you are stuck, take some time out, do something different before revisiting the issue or problem

6. Try looking at the issue from a different angle or an alternative perspective

 And to  foster your own ‘aha’ moments  

  • Take up regular exercise as it helps to quiet the mind
  • Set aside some quiet undisturbed day dreaming time at least once a week and let your mind wander freely
  • Practice mindfulness or meditation
  • Be open and keep your mind curious

Powerful insights emerge in moments of quiet. Indulge in silence.

Photo freedigitalphoto.net

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Go beyond your limit

“Set some goals then demolish them” ( Nike) 

YMHave you ever been in a situation where you have felt so overwhelmed by the task ahead or where you have set a goal which seems so mammoth, that you go into panic mode and spend your energy being in a nervous state?

This has been me:  many times over the past 6 months since I made a commitment to run the Yorkshire Marathon.

At the start I thought, how difficult could it be? So many millions have done it before me. What’s a dodgy knee and hip compare to some of disabilities of those inspiring parathletes at the Paralympics and Commonwealth games? Where did they get that mindset, that inner strength, that resilience…I was about to find out!

Keeping the expectations real

I now know the true meaning of “it’s a marathon not a sprint”. For an impatient person who always wants to get there as quickly as possible, this was the hardest lesson of all. Slowly, gradually, one step at a time…it’s like learning all over again.

I thought I was pretty healthy and fit. I have done some running before. So why was I not progressing as fast as I should be? It turns out my expectations were unrealistic.

I decided to go for an assessment at our local gym. The ‘plodding’ that I had done before might have kept a certain level of fitness but not to the degree that I had expected. “If you want better results, you have to work harder and put in more effort “, said the instructor in his no nonsense voice. There nothing like honest feedback to get you motivated.

Little steps grow into miles

I am a great fan of Stephen Covey’s Begin with the end in mind. However the end of an actual 26.2 miles was far too unthinkable to comprehend. I just couldn’t visualise myself running that distance so I had to break it down into increments – 6 miles, 8 miles 10 miles, 15 miles, 18 miles, 20 miles…

When you find that 10 miles is such an effort and you are knackered and those nasty gremlins get into your head whispering, “I have done less than half of it and there is just no way that I could do that again, ever…I’m never going to do it”

And that’s when panic sets in and you lose belief. You wallow, mope about, blame everything else that is going on in your life….

But by now you are secretly addicted to the endorphins, of seeing if you could go that little bit further, so you put your kit on and continue. You have made a commitment, you have progressed, you have swatted those gremlins and bit by bit you eventually get to 15 miles and it’s like, “maybe I can do this…”

Setbacks are there to test you 

Sometimes work and life takes over and there is just no time to go for a 2-3 hour run so you have to think about strategies that will help.  Planning in intervals, fartlek, hill running… to build up speed during these shorter periods of running are helpful.

Shoulder, knee, hip problems, injuries and illness…all have to be accommodated. It helps to be flexible. Finishing at the desired time is now unrealistic. It was time to reassess and readjust to something more realistic.

Mindfulness and Mind games

Never in my 48 years, have I been so in tuned with my body. Knowing when to push, when to stop and when to rest.

At the start, my image was that of a Tin Man – all clunky, creaking and disjointed. A chat with colleague on using metaphors changed that. If you were ever on the moors at 6 am in the morning over the summer, you would have heard me humming, “here comes the well oiled machine” – it got me through the hills at the beginning!

I found long distance running pretty boring. After 2 hours I had run out of things to think about, problems to solve and had already put the world to right.

I tried counting to 8 and repeating, using landmarks as goal posts, singing and listening to audio books. In the end, music with beats  160-180 beats per minute kept me going.

Throughout all this, I became more attuned to my surroundings and the beauty of the landscape around me, observing as it emerges from spring, blossoming in summer and turning golden in the autumn – priceless. I stopped to take pictures on route and below are some from around Ilkley, Denton and Nesfield.

marathon collage


“If your dreams don’t scare you they are not big enough” (Nike) 

As the big day approaches, so did the nervousness. Not knowing what to expect can be stressful and that’s without considering the practicalities of getting to the venue, the weather, how many layers to wear…

And the what ifs: what if I don’t make it to the end? what if my knee does not hold up, what if something happens, what if…. Must breathe, stay focused, remind self that I have got this far.

Yorkshire marathon medalThe day is here and it’s all very surreal. Somehow I am at the start line and off I go along with the rest of 6999 runners. The halfway mark goes by and everything is fine. And then the knee gives in.

A couple of painkillers, some gel on the knee and off I go again, taking it very steady. The crowds are cheering, the finish line is in sight…and it’s over.

 The learning 

There is always learning – about myself, motivation,  resilience, coping mechanisms, being in harmony with my body and with nature and having Vaseline as my new best friend !

Is one attempt enough – perhaps I could do better? I am wiser, I have learnt, I could try again – until the next one!

Not sure if it’s for you?

 “How to run an ultramarathon ? Puff out your chest, put one foot in front of the other, and don’t stop till you cross the finish line.” Dean Karnazes

“Your only limit is you” (Nike)

Go on, dream big and make it happen 

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Are you Thriving at work?

TY speakersLast week I organised and spoke at the Thrive Yorkshire Business Growth Conference.

I facilitated a discussion on Thriving. I deliberately chose to focus on ‘the self’ as often in our busy 24/7 lives we  tend to forget about the most important asset -ourselves.

We can learn new skills, acquire knowledge about marketing, sales and how to be more effective on social media – but we also need to learn about ourselves. About how we can be more effective, at our optimum and practice self care.

There are many things that can help you to Thrive from  having the support of a mentor to meditation. I chose  and focused on the 10 below

10 things  that can  help you Thrive

1. Know yourself 

selfAt the heart of any business – be it a one man band, a company or a conglomerate is the owner, the founder, the CEO. And this is where the tone, the culture, ‘how we do’ business is set.

Business success does not just depend on technical expertise, skills and knowledge. How you conduct yourself, your ability to communicate, build relationships, the way you interact   and lead all play a significant part in your overall effectiveness, performance and success.

Within this there is one quality that trumps all, and that is self-awareness, the foundation of emotional intelligence.

Improving your effectiveness starts with being aware of your strengths, values, what motivates and drives you and what your preferred style is.

Your values give you clarity and focus on what is important to you. They act as a moral compass, a guide in how you prioritise and spend your time.

Knowing your strengths is about recognising where your talents lie and putting them to use. Your strengths are unique to you and are more than just things that you are good at. Your strengths energise and engage you.

Being self aware helps you to identify your preferred style – how you behave, communicate, interact and relate to others. This is crucial in business which is built on relationships – be it with your staff, customers, clients, suppliers, distributors, peers ….

When you know how others see you, you can take actions to improve, modify or adapt your behaviour. Here you might find out things that you do well but also areas that you need to work on, do more of, less of

2. Know your direction of travel

IM8A plan provides focus, direction and actions which must be taken to achieve business success, sustainability and growth in relation to what is happening in the dynamic and changing environment.

This does not need to be lengthy but one which can reviewed and used as a living document and not one that gathers dust in a draw!

Having objectives goals and targets gives you something to works towards, to aim for, to track and measure yourself by.

If you have staff, engage with them so that they know where your company is heading and the ways in which you intend to get there. Tell them how the business is performing in the competitive environment, what changes and developments are afoot. Don’t let them guess.

The more you share, the more valued your staff will feel and will develop a better connection with the business. Help them to see the bigger picture and how their roles contribute to this and the bottom line. Show them the link between their daily efforts and how this contributes to the success of the company.

 3. Grow your network, connections and build relationships with a wide range of people. It will help to expand your influence, increase your visibility and you will always have someone to call in time of support and help. A ‘go to ‘ person is a powerful one

4. Keep your focus laser sharp by minimising distractions: Be present, in the moment, give your full attention to the task in hand. Work off line when possible and limit your time on social media, put your phone on silent and check your emails at set times

5. Go beyond your comfort zone:  try out new things, stretch yourself, don’t be afraid of failure

6. Learn to delegate, outsource:  You cannot do everything. Outsource smaller and less important tasks and concentrate on what you do best

7. Manage your actions and energy (time) You know when you work best and are at your optimum. Tackle your challenging tasks when your energy levels are at the highest. We all have the same 24 hours, how you choose to spend it makes the difference. Focus on what is important and helps to move you closer towards achieving your goals and ambitions

8. Develop a positive approach: be grateful for what is present in your life, challenge and replace unhelpful thoughts with more encouraging ones , look for the good in situations, stop hanging out with negative people, be mindful, meditate

9. Learn to say NO: be focused on your values, your priorities, your goals. Implement a 24 hour period before making commitments. Keep it simple, there is no need to give an explanation. Be direct, say it with grace and confidence and not as an apology. Keep practicing

10. Exercise regularly and get enough sleep to help you re-energise, sharpen your thinking and be at your optimum.

What would you add? What would be your no. 1 tip?

 What helps you to keep flourishing?

 Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.Net

Vera Woodhead at TYI am a Coach working with aspiring & women leaders to hone their leadership; progress their careers; achieve business results

I have worked with SMEs on behalf of Bradford & Leeds Chambers of Commerce, the Goldman Sachs 10k Business growth programme, Growth Accelerator, Net315 and in my own consulting practice.

I am a part-time lecturer in Leadership, Chair of Ilkley Business Forum, Ambassador for Women on Board and a non-executive director at the Thackary Museum.

Follow me on Twitter @verawoodhead and connect on LinkedIn

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Eeh by gum, that was Grand

When the world’s biggest cycle race came to Yorkshire, it did so with a big bang last weekend. Saturday 5 and Sunday 6 July were a climax after events across the county in the 100 days leading up to the Grand Depart.


I am not a cyclist nor am I a cycling fan. However I am a great enthusiast of Yorkshire, having lived here for 24 years and love the people and the beauty of the place.

What stood out for me is how an event can:

Bring people and communities together

Across the county, we saw people coming together to plan and put on events from large scale cultural events to getting yellow jersey bunting knitted.

In our town of Ilkley there were a host of cycle themed activities from theatre, art, food, drink and culminating in the Ilkley Cycle Races and the Spectator Hub at Riverside Park. Over the 3 days, there were 2 giant screens, fairground rides, beer and food tents, children activities and outdoor movies.

These provided opportunities for people to come together not only to watch the Tour de France but to build and share experiences with their families, friends and the wider people amongst them.

TDF Riverside gardens

During this period, 70 people (Ilkley Guides) gave up their time to welcome and point tourists in the right direction in Ilkley. Here is Agnes one of the Guides with some of our pocket sized Town and Event maps which were given to visitors. These were printed by the Ilkley Business Forum as part of our contribution to the event and the town

TDF agnes

Why is all this important?

Because community and social connections impact on our well being as shown by studies where stronger and broader social connections are associated with positive mental well being, increased feelings of happiness, self worth and longevity.

Research has also shown that people are happiest when giving and psychologists have found that spending money on experiences tends to brings us more happiness than material purchases.

If you need proof, take a look at the pictures and footage from the weekend and you will certainly see happy people in their masses

TDF Riverside

From dreams to reality  

That the Tour came to Yorkshire in the first place is a testament to Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire whose dream to bring the Tour to the county came through. Taking that vision and turning into reality has been awe inspiring and has certainly leveraged Yorkshire’s brand and profile nationally and internationally.

The can do attitude, overcoming obstacles and progressing something that you so strongly believe in, despite scepticism are attributes that we can develop in ourselves.

Creativity and humour

Yellow fever certainly raged across Yorkshire as the county swathed itself with the yellow of the Tour de France, There were yellow bicycles in all shapes, sizes and texture across the county. The ingenuity and creativity that has been unleashed was simply astounding.

TDF Leeds station

Individuals, streets, communities, villages, towns entered into the spirit of doing something unique. People took pride in showcasing their part of the county.

How good would it be it this was to continue and that people find ways to build on this?

The Pride of the people

If you watched the Tour de France on TV it would be hard not to be astounded by the stunning landscape, hills and scenery as the magnificence of Yorkshire unfolded.

Over 2.5 million people lined the route in various forms standing by the road side, cherry pickers, scaffolding…they found a way to be a part of the Tour and were proud to share and showcase their part of the  county. The welcome and the support that the people showed were just remarkable.

TDF Addingham roundabout

Christian Prudhomme, the director of the Tour de France said the crowds seen on route over the weekend were “unbelievable, incredible, amazing, astonishing”

It was certainly one of the greatest Grand Départs of all time. And one that will live on in Yorkshire for years to come

My takeways

- Anything is possible. Have a dream, have belief, garner support, turn vision into reality …show great leadership…

- We can all do this….in our own individual ways….get involved, form a group, be part of a group,  make an impact, make  a difference…get involved

- Get connected, build relationships, be part of something, give generously…you will be happier

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Rejoice in being a Quiet leader

Thinking1“From the start, with a quiet demeanour, Vera has provided robust input and challenge at board meetings…”
and so goes my board appraisal (my first with this organisation) last week which was an excellent one, exceeding expectations.

As I read the above, I wondered if there was some inference that by being of ‘quiet demeanour’, I would not be able to challenge, speak up, ask incisive questions…?

The word ‘quiet’ has popped up several times over the past couple of weeks:

- Recently I attended an assessment centre. Sitting in a circle with 5 other candidates, we were given the task of ‘coaching’ a manager. As soon as the manager had stopped talking,  2 members of the circle adopted a quick fire approach which lasted for several minutes with little opportunity to intercept.

The assessor fed back that I was “quiet at the start”. Now, I am a person who likes to think before I speak and I was intent on listening and assimilating the information before I opened my mouth. When I did get the opportunity, I thought my questions were insightful, stretching and helped the manager to move forward. My response to the assessor was, ‘were you seeking people who spoke first and the most…?’

Question: There are 2 candidates with near identical experiences, qualifications, recommendations. One is charismatic, convivial, quick to answer questions; the other is quiet, thoughtful in responding, taking time to demonstrate a depth of perspective…who would you recruit…..?

- The parent/ teacher 5 minute meeting at my local school went in the typical way it has done for the past 10 years. No 1 son is hard-working, full of ideas, works well in small groups, is bright, articulate, intelligent BUT he needs to speak up, be more participative in class discussions…a recurring theme.

One teacher at his primary school commented at a parent / teacher discussion, “he would never be the light and soul of the party”. That stuck, because I thought it was an inappropriate, irrelevant and insensitive comment to voice in front of a 7 year old child (we were both present at the meeting)
Being true to self, I constantly ask about and question the range of teaching methods, how they cater for different learning styles, what different techniques they use to engage with and ensure that all pupils have a voice…….am labelled, ‘difficult parent’.

Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking says that “our culture is biased against quiet and reserved people and though introverts make up a third to half the population, our most important institutions including our schools and our workplaces are designed for extroverts.” Watch her excellent TED talk here and take this quick test to see if you are an introvert or an extrovert.

- No 1 daughter recounts the story of 2 of her friends applying for university places. Both have the same grades, one has more work experience and the other is very talkative and ‘good at self promotion’ (her words). Following their interviews, the latter has been offered 3 places, the former none.

Spotlight1So now I am wondering if extroverts and outgoing chatty people are seen as the epitome of how successful people act and are favoured in recruitment and selection processes and in leadership positions?

The world is not full of gregarious and ‘shine a light’ on me type people. You do not have to the centre of attention, always talking, be the one to fill the silence…..to be successful, confident and a leader.

I don’t like to compartmentalise myself and would say my style varies from introvert to extrovert depending on the situation and context. I enjoy solitude as well as large gatherings and taking the spotlight when I need to.

Frances Kahnweiler,  in her book, The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength cites that introverted leaders:

  • Think first, consider, reflect and then respond
  • Focus on depth and like to dig deep into issues and ideas before considering new ones
  • Calm and composed in a crisis
  • Prefer writing to talking
  • Like solitude and spending time alone

Grant et al (2011) in their study found extensive evidence which suggest that ‘extraverted individuals are more likely to emerge as leaders’. It seems that our culture favour the extraverts, the socially dominant, the talkative, the commanding the centre of attention leader – and who not surprisingly, are more likely to be found higher up in corporate hierarchy.

Their findings highlight that, “in a dynamic, unpredictable environment, introverts are often more effective leaders – particularly when workers are proactive, offering ideas for improving the business. Such behaviour can make extroverted leaders feel threatened. In contrast, introverted leaders tend to listen more carefully and show greater receptivity to suggestions, making them more effective leaders of vocal teams”
The study showed that when employees are proactive, introverted managers lead them to earn higher profits. When employees are not proactive, extroverted managers lead them to higher profits.

In Leading Quietly, Joseph Badaracco, tells the stories of people who choose, “responsible, behind the scenes action over public heroism to resolve tough leadership challenges and the techniques they adopt”. He goes on to say that the “vast majority of difficult, important human problems -both inside and outside organizations – are not solved by a swift, decisive stroke from someone at the top. What usually matters are careful, thoughtful, practical efforts by people working far from the limelight. In short, quiet leadership is what moves and changes the world.”

Introverts are more receptive to people as they listen, they engage, they do not dominate the space, instead they create space for others to enter into dialogue and to offer suggestions, feedback and ask questions.

So, if you are quiet, thoughtful, introverted… celebrate your disposition. According to Susan Cain there is a Quiet revolution starting… join in.

There is no one way or one style. Anyone can learn to practice effective leadership regardless of your personality type. Know yourself, identify your strengths, develop and use them, seek feedback and be aware of your blind spots and use techniques and strategies to mitigate against them.

Rejoice in your gifts and your true self. You are as awesome as you are.

Grant, A;  Gino, F and Hofmann D. (2011)  Reversing the extraverted leadership advantage: the role of employee proactivity. Academy of Management Journal. Vol 54, Issue 3, P528 -550

Photos 1, 2 courtesy of  Freedigitalphotos.net

Vera in 2012I am a professional coach (MA in Coaching & Mentoring) at Edimo Coaching & Development, which provides bespoke solutions in people, leadership, team and organisational development.                                  am committed to helping women succeed and thrive in the workplace, developing their leadership brand, confidence, impact and gravitas. 

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