Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Want to make a change? Focus on the small ones

Monday, January 13th, 2014

How’s your success with those New Year resolutions?  It’s depressing isn’t it!  At the very moment we are resolving, in our hearts we know we won’t follow through.  One possible reason for this lack of will is that we set our sights too high. 

One of my coaching clients last year developed a smaller scale approach that she called ‘tweaking’. She figured that if she made a  small constructive change in her communication, but did it consistently, she should get some big results. It worked for her. Her particular tweak was that when team members were discussing work challenges, she would just pause quite a while before she spoke. She realised that often she was sapping team confidence by providing all the answers to challenges they faced. The vow of  silence forced her to wait rather than to leap in and often as not, the team found their own perfectly good answers to the problems.

Many highly productive tweaks are tiny.  As the article: How small changes make a big difference shows. Teams who use constructive touch such as high fives, tend to win more than those that don’t.

In communication, I’d expect the two most common valuable very simple tweaks would be:

1.  Planning conversations and meetings – even if only briefly. The success of this comes from the plan making us mindful of the purpose of the conversation.  Once we know why we’re having the conversation, the brain will focus. Without the awareness, the brain can be hi-jacked by the moment.

2. Listening more – to everyone, including ourselves! We already know what we know, listening can at least add to the information we have.

I wonder what simple tweak would alter your life?

Does what you say and how you say it matter?

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

You will be all aware of how language can make a difference in this global world. We get around with the language we were born with and others manage to speak several.

Some words translate and become common to your own language. The English language has borrowed many words from different countries. Although some people are unaware of this. For example the classic George Bush comment at the beginning of the Gulf War “The French don’t even have a word for entrepreneur “!

However some words that have changed for the good are now able to cause offense.  I remember when gay meant happy and then it was absorbed into common parlance for homosexual ,taking away the negativity of that word.

It gave people who had been alienated in some areas of society a sense of article

Now it seems to be changing again and in youth culture it means stupid or ugly.  This must be distressing for young ‘gay’ people to find that a word that was so positive now denigrates.

I know all language changes and morphs but is it time to be even more aware of just how the adage can be so wrong “Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never harm me”

Because they can.

Managing your Christmas expectations

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

Christmas brings a bitter-sweet challenge for many of us – we are reminded of how much our family means to us, but the reality of Christmas togetherness often challenges that joy.  I’ve felt for a long time that the Waltons have a lot to answer for with regard to family life!  The key to enjoying the season’s cheer is to manage your own expectations.  Figure out how to create a realistic and constructive story around what is manageable and life gets easier.

This year I’ve re-discovered Byron Katie’s work on changing your beliefs.  She is very insightful and practical.  Katie has a process to work on beliefs that is very powerful and surprisingly fun.  The good thing about her is that there are lots of examples on her in action on YouTube, so you can really figure it out. I was off work for a couple of weeks during the year and took the chance to find a lot of her clips and enjoyed them immensely. I didn’t notice any examples that explored people’s beliefs about Christmas, but the process works beautifully.

The Work has a series of simple steps.  First you  identify the belief that is causing problems:   ‘We must all share close family feelings at Christmas’…. or whatever your belief may be. Then you examine that belief, its accuracy and its impact on your behaviour.  Then Katie just gets you to turn it around to a different and more constructive belief and you work through the same process. It’s really fast and productive…yes. you do have time to do it before Christmas!

Here’s an example and I’ve chosen a classic Christmas challenge: He criticises me!


Four sides to every story: Prepare to manage a conflict more constructively

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

Recently  two of my yoga friends relayed to me a coffee conversation with a visiting yoga guru. It was interesting to see them describe a conversation with two viewpoints that were so different you would have thought they were different events. Neither could accept the other’s view of it. One talked about  the person as self-centred and uninterested in anyone else.  The other said the guru was very caring and so willing to share her knowledge with other people. Each was amazed that the other could possibly see the same conversation so differently.  I remembered a previous boss saying: ‘There are always at least four sides to every conflict’

It is very useful to access this awareness of different views, when we are emotionally involved in a conflict.   NLP provides a handy technique,   Perceptual Positions, to use as you prepare for a difficult conversation.  Using this tool, you shift you physically around the different viewpoints in a conflict and gets you to talk about the conflict from each positions’ point of view. It sounds a bit 80’s, but physically shifting certainly helps us see the different viewpoints.

Recently I’ve been re-visiting Byron Katie’s fascinating work, called, prosaically,  The Work.  She calls this shift to an alternate perception, ‘turnaround’.  Seeing it in action is very productive, confronting and yet often soothingly hilarious!  The idea is that you make a statement you believe, for example: ‘She was condescending to me’. Then you explore turning it around in various ways: ‘I was condescending to me’,  ‘She wasn’t condescending to me’, ‘I was condescending to her’ .  Then just see what happens to your approach.


Meetings – Are they a complete waste of time?

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

I have just returned from a meeting about having a meeting.  How many of you spend an inordinate amount of time during your working day in meetings ?

The first problem is: Why are you there? Often the meeting request is put in your diary (no thanks to technology) and you arrive on time – in my case to find the key people are late, or even more annoying, the meeting  has been ‘rescheduled’.

The next problem that seems to be universal is the purpose of the meeting. What do you hope to achieve from it? This is a special problem if key decision- makers are absent.

Timing is something that seems to escape the consciousness of Chairs and participants. You will be like me and have come across people whose main function is to be present, not offer much, go off on tangents and then start a whole new conversation just as you thought it was time to finish.  Short of screaming, there is not a lot you can do….

Or is there?

Our top tips for successfully surviving meetings are:

  • Ask yourself “Do I need to be there”? Is there another form of getting the information that would be more efficient,  such as a Skype meeting. Can others email me the outcome?
  • As the Chair, always let the participants know what the purpose is and what roles and responsibilities they have.
  • Nominate a timer and have the conclusion time written up where everyone can see it.
  • What outcomes do you want from the meeting? These should be on the agenda which should be sent well in advance.
  • Send out the  minutes/action points as soon as possible following the meeting

In today’s busy world,  a meeting can be either a useful face-to-face experience, or it can be yet another time waster that just leads to frustration.  There are some other useful tips at a website that goes by the memorable name of  The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur



Great talk on presenting technical stuff to non-technical people

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

Jean-luc Dumont presents a very useful lecture on Communicating Science to Non-scientists.  It applies equally well to technical non-science material and is worth the 1 hour listen. My stimulating friend Lesley Moffatt sent me the link because we are both involved in the Rotary Club of Wellington Eureka Science Communicators awards

Mindfulness and being present

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

A podcast today  reminded me about the need for all of us to sometimes take time to smell cialis pills the roses.

For example, before an important meeting or a presentation we think we are focusing on what we need to d,o but often all that is happening is worry. We are concerned about how the meeting will go; will our message be understood; will we make the impact we want to.  All of this worry adds to our anxiety and stress. It can lead to ‘catastrophising’.

What we need to do is refocus our thinking on being more present. We can use our senses to take 5-10 minutes to relax. For example, go outside and feel the sun (or wind!) on your face . Use your senses to be aware of your surroundings. You can practice at home while doing chores or on your way to work. In Wellington, New Zealand it is the beginning of Spring and the Tui are singing their hearts out as I walk down the road to work. Such joy in the present moment.

More and more research studies show that  being mindful can make a difference in improving our sleep. It may even stimulate brain connections and  growth of new neural connections.

Mindfulness helps executive functioning skills such as decision making and memory.  Elizabeth Blackburn’s research into the impact of mindfulness  suggests that in pre- and post- menopausal women it can increase DNA repair.

So the challenge is to ensure that when you are focusing, you are thinking positive thoughts rather than worrying. Become adept at being present for at least five minutes a day and you will be thrilled with the results. You will feel great and may find you get fewer minor ailments such as colds.

Dealing to your self doubt

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

Some years ago I led a self-confidence workshop as part of a weekend leadership programme. One of the guys on the programme stood out as confident, good at sport, good personality and, yes, a hunk too!  I was stunned when he told me that his self-confidence wasn’t good and he really needed to work on it.  The incident made me realise that often people who seem confident are probably still experiencing self-doubt.

I’ve been thinking about this because I am finishing up a year’s coaching as part of the coaching panel for an excellent women in leadership programme.  As my clients look back, it is interesting how often these very able women were grappling with self-doubt. Many of them gained a lot from realising that others in the programme experienced the same doubts.

What are some solutions to the problem?

An older and very successful friend once told me that his approach was to: ‘Take a big bite and just keep chewing’.  That fits with Maggie Thatcher’s comment that she wasn’t born strong, she just became strong.

There’s an article by Agapi Stassinoapoulos in that great resource – The Huffington Post taking a constructive angle on the challenge: Notice self-doubt in other people  and ask them how you can support them.

While you’re in the Huffington Post, you might want to look at the article with the wonderful title: Do we ever get over self-doubt? I used to doubt it, but now I’m getting over it!