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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Where has my mojo gone?

These past few weeks have been mentally and emotionally challenging for me. I was uncertain as to whether I should  ‘bare/ expose’ myself by sharing a personal story.     After much  contemplation and cogitation, I have concluded that life has it ups and downs and it would be inauthentic to just focus on the good and positive and pretend that nothing has happened.                                                                                                                                   So have put my thoughts into a poem. Here goes:

Where has my mojo gone?
My thoughts are black and weighing me down
They have cast a shadow over all that is positive and good
When things don’t go right and failures are abound
They drag you into a spiralling vortex
Where no amount of exercise, affirmations or positive thinking helps
And the inner Gremlins have started to dwell
Now Eeyore is my best friend
And my mood is permanently blue
But, life goes on and I have a choice
I can choose to wallow or I can choose to crawl out of my hole
My friends, family, faith, routine gives me a helping hand
It is time to accept what is
To live in the present
And recognise that each day brings a new dawn
With new possibilities and opportunities
I am now a little wiser and tougher
And thankful that my mojo is back working

When things are tough, talking about it, writing and journalling can be helpful and cathartic.

Have you ever lost your mojo? Experienced prolonged negative thoughts? What helped you to get back on track?  Love to hear from you

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6 ways leaders can build their resilience

Stressed BusinesswomanChange, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity can be found in most workplaces today. In such environments, leaders are required not only to cope with the resulting adversity, emotional ups and down and stress but at the same time, support their people and help them move forward in these challenging times.

This requires leaders to be resilient. This is the ability to deal effectively with stressors, pressures and challenges and perform to the best of your abilities irrespective of the circumstances in which you find yourself.

Although we cannot control what happens to us, we can control how we respond. This was demonstrated when working with some senior managers of an organisation which is undergoing restructuring and significant changes.

- Mary is overwhelmed. The changing and challenging demands of the job are affecting her work and home life. She finds it difficult to sleep and this is making her short tempered. Her colleagues describe her as someone who is becoming disengaged; less focused and is negative in her attitude. She is constantly whinging, blaming others for the ‘mess that we are in’, that others ‘don’t understand or care’ and has fallen out with her team

- Sue knows that she cannot influence the decisions made and that they are outside her control. She gets on with doing her job and has taken the view that ‘we have come through worst than this’ and will do so again

- Helen has adopted a, ‘bring it on’ mindset and is constantly looking for solutions to the problems that are arising. She sees it as a challenge, as learning and is realistically optimistic. Her ‘can do’ attitude is appreciated by her team.

Feeling positive, being in control and doing the job in hand whilst facing tough times, hardship, overcoming obstacles and bouncing back are aspects of being resilient and all of which can be developed.

The best approach is to build your resilience on a daily basis so that it becomes part of your everyday routine and habits. Try these 6 strategies:

1. Build connections

Engage, connect and build relationships with a wide range of people. Invest the time in getting to know others. When you need to let off steam, find a listening ear, a supportive friend, some advice…you will have an array of people to call upon who will want to help and support you

2. Manage your energies and take care of yourself

Eat healthily, aim for enough rest and sleep, be active and exercise as much as possible. It releases those feel good endorphins which are an instant pick me up. It will also give you the time and space to think, reflect and put things into perspective.

3. Be mindful and meditate

Bring awareness and commit to noticing new things in your daily life – your own emotions and feelings, the things that you do on auto pilot, the people who you are interacting with, the conversations that you having and the environment around you.                         Breathing exercises and meditation can help you to relax, declutter the mind and increase your focus. You can find a wealth of information and resources on the web

4. Stretch yourself

Do something that you have never done before on a regular basis. This could be anything from trying out a new recipe to taking up new hobby or sport. Undertaking new things and learning new ways can help to build our inner strength and resourcefulness thus enabling further positive coping.

5. Reach out and help others

This can help to reduce self centredness and a fixation on our own problems. Try volunteering your time by offering to mentor someone, helping out at a local group or becoming involved in something that interest you. The more we do for others, the more rewarding and enriching our lives become.

6. Build your positivity

Identify and use your strengths on a daily basis, hang out with positive like-minded people, act as you want to feel and use positive language when you speak.

 How do you cope with uncertainty, stress and challenging situations?

What strategies have worked successfully for you?

Photo credit: Flickr user o2k

This is an updated version of an earlier post

Vera in 2012I am a professional coach (MA in Coaching & Mentoring) working with women and leaders to build their confidence and know how, to progress, make successful changes, leverage their influence, impact, presence and communication.                                                                       I am a part-time lecturer in leadership and work within organisations to develop high performing teams, mentoring schemes and facilitate skills training in leadership and management development. 


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6 ways that listening can help you become a better leader

Group meetingLast week, I spent some time in an organisation with their executive team attending different meetings and discussions which gave me the opportunity to observe them in action with a range of people and situations.

As the week progressed it became evident that there was a common thread running through my observations. There seem to be a lot of talking and not enough listening. The senior team were:

  1. Doing most of the talking
  2. Leading and taking over the conversation
  3. Interrupting the other person’s flow
  4. Not picking up on non verbals and body language cues
  5. Not demonstrating that they are listening

I began to wonder if this was a culture thing where it has become the norm to act this way? Can an organisation have a culture of not listening?

Listening is fundamental in leadership because

-   By listening to your staff it demonstrates that they matter, that you value what they say and that they have a voice which is heard. Your staff will be more willing to share ideas and give feedback if they believe that their opinions are valued and respected 

-   It shows that you care about what is being said and this helps to develop trust and rapport and  better relationships and connectedness

-   It creates opportunity for learning. Good ideas, innovations and knowledge and can come from those who are at the coalface

-   Allows you to understand your employees’ perspectives

Listening skillsIn my role as a coach, my listening skills are well honed as it is crucial to my practice. But this has not always been the case.

I still have in my possession one of my earlier school reports with the comment,‘ Vera’s grades would improve greatly if she did less talking and more work’.

The major communication skills include reading, writing, speaking and listening. We learn to speak at an early age and at school we are taught to read and write. But what about listening? Who has ever taken a course on listening? 

Most of us when we are in conversation, listen with the intent to response. As the other person is speaking, we are thinking about our response to what is being said. We are filtering what is being said through our own lens and our own paradigm. How many times have you heard someone tell a story, and another person would chime in, ‘oh, yes, my boss was XYZ and she used to do ABC’ or ‘yes that exact same thing happened to me and I did…’

 Stephen Covey in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, said, ‘ listen to understand before you can be understood’. To understand what someone else is saying you need really listen and put yourself in their shoes and view the world as they do.

6 tips from a coach to help you hone your listening skills

1. Enter into the conversation with an empty mind

We all have voices that run riotously in our heads…the piece of work that has to be finished by 3 pm, the 2 pm client feedback,  the difficult conversation that you have been putting off and which has been weighing on your mind, the text from your daughter reminding you to pick her from gym which has jogged your memory that you need to fit this in with taking your son to swimming…

It is impossible to listen with all that mental clutter going on in your head. Clear your head by letting go of your thoughts. Imagine that all your thoughts have floated away and your mind is now a blank sheet of paper. Practice some deep breathing for a few minutes and allow your thoughts to drift away. If those niggling thoughts return, continue to focus on your breathing.

2.  Put aside your assumptions

Suspend your own preconceptions, assumptions and lens through which you see the world and focus on the other person’s perspectives. Try to discover his standpoint and the beliefs and assumptions that have led to this. Listen with an open head and heart. Hear and feel what is being said from the other person’s viewpoint. Imagine yourself in his shoes

3. Be a mirror

When two people are really paying attention to each other they often copy each other’s posture and will have similar body language. Their gestures and movements match each other. This is called mirroring each other, because they form a mirror image. Observe your and other person’s body language, gestures, posture, vocal tone and volume.

4. Show that you are listening

Demonstrate that you are listening by providing brief acknowledging responses, such as ‘uh huh’, nodding your head, making eye contact, adopting a relaxed body posture

5. Do not interrupt

Interrupting is a way of saying, ‘I have something more important to say than you have’. This interrupts the flow of thinking which may have led to some crucial discoveries, ideas or outcomes. Constant interruptions may lead to disengagement as the person will soon realise that you are not listening. 

6. Ask good questions to check for mutual understanding:

-   Open ended questions-  who, what, when ,where, why ( use the latter with care as you may come across interrogative)

-   Probing questions – to gain further information, follow up and obtain more detail

-   Paraphrasing – summarise and reflect back what you are hearing and sensing to ensure that the message is received correctly. This is a good way to check that you are both saying the same thing and avoids either of you making assumptions.

-   Observing – as well as listening, be attune to body language and observe  for non verbal clues which will help you to match what is being said and the manner that it is said.

Effective leaders are excellent coaches. Develop your listening skills and enhance your coaching abilities.

What has helped you to hone your listening skills?  

Images Freedigitalphotos.net

Vera in 2012I am a professional coach (MA in Coaching & Mentoring) working with women and leaders to build their confidence and know how, to progress, make successful changes, leverage their influence, impact, presence and communication. I am a part-time lecturer in leadership and work within organisations to develop high performing teams, mentoring schemes and facilitate skills training in leadership and management development.

Join me on my free Inspiring Change event to celebrate International Women’s day on 8 March 10 -12 pm, The Wheatley Inn, Ilkley

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Stop micro managing and start coaching

Group meeting“I couldn’t possibly let him close the deal on his own. What if he gets it wrong or can’t answer a question, I have to be there”, says Gary.

I am in a room with 11 sales managers who have been identified as ‘not able to let go, not letting their sales reps develop, taking over their work…”

As part of a 4 month programme, the managers start by giving their perspectives and context. As I listen to their stories, I am conscious of how typical the problem of micro managing is and the consequences that this has on teams and organisations.

Are you a micro-manager? Do any of these apply to you:

  • I find it difficult to embrace uncertainty
  • I have little faith and trust in my staff
  • I am reluctant to let my staff take considered risks
  • I punish my staff when mistakes are made
  • My staff do not have a voice and their ideas are not listened to
  • I do not share information readily
  • My staff do not have clear stretching goals and objectives which are aligned to the vision and strategy of the organisation and they don’t see how they contribute to this

If you have ticked any of the above, here are my 9 top tips to help you stop micro managing and suffocating your staff.

1. Be confident in your decision and their ability

Are you confident in your decision that the person has the right skills, knowledge and resources to do the job? Then articulate and demonstrate this to the employee. Show that you trust them to do the job and ‘walk the talk’

2. Roles, goals and the bigger picture

Engage with your staff so that they know the company’s purpose and strategy and the ways in which it intends to get there. Help them to see the bigger picture and how their roles, goals and objectives contribute to the success of the team/ department /organisation and the bottom line.  

Take the time to educate them about aspects of the business that will help them to do their job (current financial results, long-term objectives, market share information, other relevant statistics…).

The more you share, the more valued your employees will feel and will develop a better connection with the business.

3. Delegate authority and autonomy

Give them the authority they need to make decisions. Establish metrics in advance so that they know what the desired outcomes are and set clear standards for performance results.

Give them room to discover their own individual methods to approach their work. The degree of independence you give should correspond to each person’s level of experience and competence. Not all of your staff will be at ease with a high level of autonomy. Ascertain what level of guidance they will need from you at the beginning.

4. Check for understanding

Clarify understanding and interpretation by getting feedback. What must be achieved? How the task will be measured? What are the deadlines for completion? Agree on milestones and progress reports and how you will monitor. Inform relevant personnel who may need to know what is happening

5. Provide resources and support

Delegating authority without providing sufficient organisational support will set them up for failure. Give them the tools, techniques, training to handle a wide variety of situations from technical to soft skills.

The degree of support will vary on the employee skills and knowledge and experience level. Start with small steps to begin with.

6. Hold them to account  to produce the outcomes needed

Ask the employee to assess himself. If the target is not met or the work is not satisfactory, hold to account and discuss. You are there for advice, perspective, and guidance, but the employee manages the solution. Resist from stepping in and taking control in solving it.     If you are communicating and measuring against set standards, you will know if you need to get more involved.

7. Acknowledge that mistakes and failures will happen

Mistakes and failures are part of the learning process. Be prepared for this.  Have courage and show some of your own vulnerability. Share some of the failures that you experienced in similar situations and what you learnt from them. Help them to analyse problems and determine how to prevent similar occurrences in the future.

Rather than immediately blaming individuals, look first for weaknesses in your efforts to offer them increased autonomy. Did you give someone more authority or responsibility than he or she was ready to handle? Was sufficient training provided? Were goals and expectations clearly stated?

8. Coach, step back but be present

Looking over their shoulders and continually checking up on your staff will wipe out their self-confidence and desire to take the initiative. Coach your employee to do the job – both technical and soft skills.  Provide the support, guidance and encouragement to help the employee achieve results.

It will take time and patience but the rewards are well worth it.  You don’t have to be hands-on for the right outcomes to occur, but neither are you uninvolved and unaware of what’s occurring.

9. Acknowledge

Give continued encouragement, support and reinforcement and acknowledge small successes and accomplishments.

Take the opportunity to cultivate a coaching approach and watch your staff grow in their competence and confidence and develop a sense of meaning and purpose in their work. You will be amazed  how much more effective they will become.

Are you someone who use to micro manage? What has worked for you? 

Did you have a boss or manager who micro managed? How did that make you feel and how did you deal with it?

Image Freedigitalphoto.net

Vera in 2012I am a professional coach (MA in Coaching & Mentoring) working with women and leaders to build their confidence and know how, to progress, make successful changes, leverage their influence, impact, presence and communication. I am a part-time lecturer in leadership and work within organisations to develop high performing teams, mentoring schemes and facilitate skills training in leadership and management development.

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