The One word that will change your life instantly. NO.

It’s just a word, one that you will have hear a thousand times in your life. Said at the right time in the right place it can relieve stress and create clarity both in your professional and personal life.

As a leader, you will need to work out your own beliefs and values around the word NO. How and when to say NO is a core skill we all need to have, here’s why.

1.      When you have a belief that the people around you are consistently asking more from you, and your finding yourself unable to say no or if you finding yourself blaming others for taking up to much of your time or focus, it’s NOT about them, it’s about you. If the people around you don’t have clear consistent boundary’s set by you, then they will consistently prioritise their own needs and agendas.

2.      If you find yourself saying YES, because you’re concerned about how someone else might respond to your NO, in the world of leadership there isn’t really much space for literally being liked, and the chances are you are people pleasing in the hope that people will follow you as their leader because they like you. The result when playing the role of the people pleaser leader is that you begin to lose the focus needed to deliver on what needs to be done and achieve the results your actually responsible for.  

3.      We need to recognise that saying NO is a skill, and at times an art form. It takes some personal responsibility to reflect on your beliefs and past experience. Then you need to create a clear picture of who you are when you say no and what the specific outcome is behind your intent when saying no.

4. If not recognised and managed, the NO word can build a significant body of resentment, like a dripping tap, till one day you will spill over! Resentment is a nasty beast!

5.The world will NOT come to an end if you stand your ground, speak your truth and are confident when you need to say NO to someone or something. You have no control how anyone will choose to respond to your NO. However, if said when necessary, with consistency and after being filtered through your core values, you will in time, toughen up and feel confident in the NO space.

A Quote from Mt Buffet I was sent by a client who had just done the NO homework.

“the difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say no to almost everything.” I’m not saying that you need to say “no” to almost everything, but I am saying that your success rides on your ability to honor your truth. “

My untested theory is that our beliefs about the NO word is a significant throw back from childhood when we were told NO for whatever reason, on some level at the time it hurt our feelings. This, in turn, created a whole belief system around the NO word.

Just stop for a moment and reflect back and look for when and how the NO word was used in your formative years. Parents, Caregivers, teachers will all undoubtedly used the NO word at some time. What you witnessed and absorbed in your formative years have already set your unique belief system - every decision you make around the NO word has been formulated from childhood.

Just for one week, observe your own use of the NO word.

If you’re finding that you don’t use it well or effectively.

1.Take some time to think about the word no, what it means to you and how your belief systems support your thoughts and behaviour, around the word NO.

Starting from childhood and working up to the present day focusing on your formative years think about as many occasions as you can remember where NO, was the central issue.

2.Then repeat the exercise only this time focus on your working life.

I could go on, but you get the idea. By focusing on the source, core beliefs and as and when they were formed this, in turn, creates the self-learning and then the opportunity to implement the change needed to enable us to feel safe, empowered and confident when saying NO!

Sian x

Confidence Snatchers!

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When clients say

“I don’t feel very confident”

I’m usually inclined to go down the road of gremlins and filing cabinets! There will be one of 3 culprits, what I like to call “the confidence snatchers”

Negative self talk

Lets just clarify what I mean by negative self-talk. Sometimes described as your inner voice. Lets be clear, your not alone we ALL have that voice.

Many years ago my coach [yes, coaches need a coach!] described it as,  My Gremlin.

Decades later, my gremlin and I are very good friends, we have an honest relationship whare I tell him to “shut the …. up” if he’s ferreting on and undermining me. “You can’t do that Sian, you can’t say that Sian, any minute now that person is going to know you’re a complete fraud Sian, what on earth are you doing walking out onto that stage to speak in public? You have nothing important enough to say, people will judge you and think your stupid” Sound familiar? 

What I’m doing is acknowledging that at times I’m not feeling confident. Listening on some level to my gremlin, but ultimately learning to quieten the voice and CHOSE to be confident.

My suggestion is to literally draw a picture of what you believe he/she looks like. My Gremlin is male, green, and sits on a wall. Then I ask my clients to write down everything they know about their gremlin. Where he/she came from/ personality/ when they pop into your head/ how they make you feel/ what are they criticising exactly and more importantly, is it true?

I respond to my gremlin by saying (sometimes literally out loud) Yes well that was X years ago when that happened and since then I have done some kickass jobs and lived a rich and full life full of many challenges. I’m still married and my kids aren’t in prison. Today now, I back myself, I know who I am and I’m not afraid of being ME! 

It’s taken a bit of time, months even years, to perfect the narrative and understand that we ALL have a dark side. The ‘us’ we don’t like, or are afraid of, the ‘us’ when we feel a little week or unsure. That’s when your gremlin is waiting in the wings.

We all have some story’s and beliefs about yourself that rear their ugly little heads when you start questioning your ability’s in all areas of your life. That negative self talk is a manifestation of old beliefs your choosing to hold onto, the negative stuff about yourself. Observe the narrative from your gremlin, take notes and reflect what’s said, when, and is there a pattern, and most importantly IS IT TRUE?

I’m reminded of a client who was given a major promotion in one of those lofty ivory towers in the financial world in New York.

She called me one day crying, “I’ve lost all my confidence, I cant do this job! My new boss thinks I’m an idiot. What on earth was I thinking when I accepted the position.” I was listening to self destructive talk. I asked her to take her full hour lunch break and pop into a store and buy a packet of crayons and cheep and cheerful notebook. 

Later that day I received a photo of her gremlin.

She cut him out, laminated him and stuck him on the front of her computer. Her journey of discovering her negative beliefs started that day - we worked together spring cleaning the “I’m not good enough cupboard” Two weeks later she asked for a meeting with her new boss, framed as a quick catch up to check in and see if I’m on the right track. We had prepared a list of the big and small things she thought she had done well and her learning about herself/the company followed by a list of things she needed to focus on. These were specific skills, further in depth learning, and how she planned to address these issues.  She called me from the carpark after the meeting. “he said he had been impressed with my work so far and had received good feedback from other directors. He then said If all the people I worked with had my ability to self evaluate themselves with such clarity and confidence, the whole business would run better and my life as a senior partner would be so much easier indeed”

I couldn’t resist, I asked quietly… “still think you don’t have any confidence?” said with love.  XS 

Where to find the confidence when you need it most.

REAL confidence is like a filing cabinet. You open it up when needed and relate whatever you need confidence for to a life experience that helped prepare you for this moment.

Most of us, simply forget what we have achieved and more importantly the beliefs about ourselves those achievements formulated. Women are particularly challenged in this area of filling their confidence filing cabinet with the stuff they have done, done well and are proud of (but that’s for another blog.) 

This cabinet doesn’t need to all be major huge events and could be as simple as solving an argument by mediating between siblings or friends or pulling rabbits out of hats when a problem arose that needed some creative thinking.

One client was really worried about an interview and kept saying she wasn’t at all confident. I asked what the absolute core of this role was - in one sentence what are you being asked to do? “Crisis manage and find solutions immediately for the continued service delivery whole IT system, worldwide (this is my interpretation of what she said, the tech language she used was mind boggling.)

“They want me to prove I can think outside the box under pressure.”

I took her on a completely different path of thinking. When had she had reason to panic because she needed to pull a rabbit out of a hat in her personal life.

There had been a Christmas day from hell some years before. When her sister had arrived on her door step at 6 am with 3 kids in tow. Single, unattached and with a hangover. she was informed that their dad was in hospital with a suspected appendicitis and she needed to look after the kids and give then some kind of Christmas. She described it as the worst moment of her life - she had no idea what to do with them, let alone if making them happy on Christmas Day when their dad was in hospital was even achievable.

By 9am they were at the serpentine in Hyde Park watching the Peter Pan swimming race, open top bus rides, fast food, ice-creams and a visit to Ripleys to see the weird and the wonderful. Job done - a Christmas day the kids have never forgotten. This was 10 years ago and to this day her nephews refer to it as the best Christmas EVER.

“If I achieved that with no prep time, I can do anything” Indeed, you can Hillary.

We reviewed what had been achieved.

  • Managing people.
  • Emotions
  • Expectations
  • Found solutions
  • New inventive options
  • Took on responsibility with no lad in time.
  • Don’t need to prepare for everything all the time.
  • Have amazing resources at hand, and didn’t even know.

All you need to do is start cataloging your life achievements and file them in the confidence cabinet.

The more you fill the cabinet and review your learning the more confidence you can find - even at short notice!

PS… she told that story at the interview - and got the job!

Fear of making mistakes.

There really is no way of doing everything right or perfectly all day everyday. And if we were honest the people we work with who actually believe they are a part of this elite tribe are a pain in the ass to be around mainly, because of their lack of self-awareness.

Every mistake I have made in my life both personally and professionally have been gifts.

I was once advised by a very wise woman to ask myself a question when I believed I had made a catastrophic mistake. She told me to ask myself  “what did I learn”

Most peoples working environment involve some sort of team/group collaboration. To be a team player with integrity, you have to be able to acknowledge when you make a mistake. It’s a skill that will open doors to promotion and very possibly leadership roles. 

People are drawn to professionally honest workmates. Their core values tend to burn bright and create a sense of possibility to try new things and be brave when challenging projects and tasks. It takes away the fear of failure when people can be comfortable about what, with hindsight, they would do differently.

Making mistakes makes you human, learning how to acknowledge your failings without being a martyr or seeking forgiveness is a sure sign of emotional intelligence.

A few years ago, a client was very worried abut a taxi fare (for a LOT of money) that he had paid for on his work credit card after a boozy lunch with some important clients. Nothing about his decision making was in line with company policy. It didn’t sit well with his values and he was feeling guilty and concerned that someone would call him out about bad decision making and the cost to the company. I used my coaching board room technique.

Turn this scenario upside down… you’re the CEO and sitting at the top of the boardroom table. In comes a manager who has asked for 5 mins of your time to discuss an issue that is concerning him. This member of staff tells your story, and adds his preferred solution. My client was quiet for a few moments; this is what he said:

He’s learned a huge lesson about alcohol and working lunches, also about his own professional values. He offered a solution of paying for the Taxi fare out of his own pocket and at the next full staff meeting share both his mistake and learning. I suggested that possibly the public confession wasn’t necessary unless his boss asked for it.

It’s an interesting example, it reflects the importance of our values and ability to confidently do what you believe is the right thing. True confidence is when someone can be brave enough to be themselves, even when they know they have make daft decisions. I do have to also add, that people who confidently apologise, identify their learning and then repeat the behavior…mmmmm. More con than confidence, me thinks.

Everyone wants to "get it right" in their careers, but you shouldn't let the fear of getting it wrong stand in your way of trying something new. A project may not turn out as planned, and you may make mistakes. But as long as you learn from those experiences, you haven't truly failed.

Lerner said "Some of the greatest 'failures' have led to innovation. Our research reflected this – respondents said that they got more confidence from learning from their mistakes and moving on."

Accept your flaws.

Everyone has imperfections, and can feel like a failure at times. Acceptance therapy has shown that recognizing your issues can reduce the distress caused by them.

Think about what is about yourself that bothers you. Then acknowledge that these are things that make you special and more relatable to others. It is easy to find common ground with others who share your insecurities.

ENFORCED CHANGE AND A LACK OF SHARED VALUES.

Frightening isn’t it when your faced with someone who has real or perceived power over you when their core values aren’t aligned with yours. I and many people across the globe didn’t get a restful night sleep after watching America vote to have a leader who presents as a narcissistic crazy man who doesn’t value the core values of democracy.

Driving to work today I was listening to BBC world service, leaders from democracy’s all over the globe were all in their own words saying the same thing.

“We can work with the new president, ……. by focusing on our shared values.”

“We will collaborate and manage the changes ahead cooperatively as we have done with past presidents”

But what happens if there aren’t any shared values? What happens when the leader doesn’t want to collaborate or cooperate? What happens when one person holding all the power has a very different vision of what the relationship is now, and will be in their powerful future?

There is an opportunity for some self learning for all of us today, as we sit back and reel at the monumental change in the world order.

Are you living with a person or situation in your life today, where there are few if any shared values, be that at work or in your personal life.?

I see it all the time in relationships, personal and professional.

The bullying leader who has a strategy and agenda that they believe must be implemented regardless of the cost - human or otherwise. Employees who are left disempowered, feeling disrespected and undervalued resulting in a turnover of staff, and a drain of intellectual property and cultural wisdom. The bully wrongly concluding, they if don’t like the heat …get out of MY Whitehouse.

The divorcing parents who, fight over children and assets, needing to win, because the law says they are entitled. Usually somewhere I see the pain of enforced change coupled with beliefs around rejection and fear of a future they have no idea how to visualise. Any memories of shared values and vision as parents is extinguished through fear and anger. The love has gone and the communication is by texts and lawyers letters, continuing the battle over teaspoons and parenting rights.

The client who enters their work environment everyday, scared of what will be asked of them to accept as ok behaviour.  Unchallenged racism, sexism, and dishonesty where you’re encouraged if not instructed to leave and personal ideas of integrity outside the workplace. Where the values of the company are printed in on the website and trotted out by HR, but are not seen or felt by the people who come to work to contribute in a fair and open environment, only to be belittled and ridiculed by valueless leadership. A work culture of fear and intimidation that results in unhappy people turning slowly into unhappy hamsters on the working wheel.

If you don’t have a healthy and confident ability to respect and empathise, the focus reverts to winning with an unwavering belief that you need, and must be RIGHT.

When we watch The Donald on TV... it’s that very belief in himself and his opinions that strike terror in our souls. The Donald truly believes he is RIGHT about “everything” that comes out of his mouth, and touched by his grubby little hands. Inconvenient truths are belittled and discarded. The Donald absolutely believes he’s RIGHT - about everything and anything.

The world truth now is that this man now IS the power broker, he has the mandate and authority to enforce his will.  I suspect he will be no different than he has been in his life thus far. I see him as the ultimate school bully, who has an entourage that believe they’re safer standing in his tribe, or are to scared to do anything but follow just in case the wrath of the bully is focused toward them. His entourage is admittedly a large tribe of angry disaffected American voters, Republican politicians, money hungry corporates and rich individuals who need to get on board THE Donald train fast. They want and need to believe they can and will be great again. (Whatever that means exactly?)

We all need to review our values today. 
The emotional underbelly of our civilisation was unleashed.
Crazed frothing dogs of hatred now feel empowered to share their rhetoric. Just take 10 minuets to see the hate pouring from social media and Fox TV. Empathy, integrity or even a wiff of emotional intelligence is hard to find . The racist, xenophobic, misogynistic , homophobic bullies are now running the playground .You don't have to live in the USA for the smell of difunctional power to found. It will permeate into all of our lives.

There are people we know, friends family and colleagues who are a little bit braver after the election. We have another world leader devoid of democratic values and some people among us will take this as the green light to emulate The Donald's beliefs and values.

Every one of us need to be clear about what we value and believe. Every one of us will need to find the courage and fortitude to speak out and challenge what I sadly believe will now become the new norm.

I’m not a psychic and I don’t have a crystal ball. I will however predict that his entourage will see The Donald strut around intimidating and harming the emotional equilibrium of an entire country, quite soon.

You see without core values to follow, as I said at the beginning, we begin to feel unsafe when lead by people who don’t display integrity and empathy. (Hillary take note!)

So, what can we learn?

Take a little time to review who you are, what are your core values and are the choices you’re making in your life based on who you believe you are.

That uncomfortable feeling we have about The Donald, might just be an opportunity for you to dig a little bit deeper into your own soul and realign your core values to the choices and behaviours you’re living with.

If you don’t have an emotionally healthy, and confident ability to respect and empathise, if you don’t chose to be the man or woman you want to be in the world - what exactly is it you’re here to contribute?

I’m not sure if anyone can control or council The Donald. You and I certainly have no opportunity to change the will of the American people. But what you can do is ensure you’re living your life with your values aligned with your tribe.  We are all going to have to dig deep, find the empathy and values we believe in, to permeate the world we inhabit, one person at a time.

WE CAN CHANGE THE WORLD, ONE PERSON AT A TIME……START WITH YOU!

SIAN X

Has stressed become your new normal?

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How do you know when you have lowered the bar to such a point that being stressed feels like your normality.

These are the kind of things I hear from clients when we talk about stress as well as how it manifests itself on a daily basis in their lives. You see, stress is mentioned in nearly EVERY coaching session. It may not be named as such, but, I can assure you, it's there for the majority of people at some time. It might well be roaring like a lion, or buzzing like an annoying fly, but it’s there for nearly all of us - unless you’re a devotee of calm, wear orange and sit crosslegged for 14 hours a day.

Just take a second and reflect on the past two weeks, see if any of the following make you feel... just a little uncomfortable.

“I take painkillers every day. Some days I forget how many, or even why I’d taken them”

“I’m ecstatically pleased if I can get 5 hours sleep, can't remember what 8 hours was like.”

“I just belittle any ache or pain, it’s inconvenient, irritating and needs to be ignored.”

“It is normal to use my workload and responsibilities to rationalise my nasty tempers and negativity at home and at work.”

“Fitting in my husband into the daily schedule was impossible. Yet, I somehow expected him to know when I wanted a hug or, god forbid, intimacy. If it wasn’t forthcoming I’d equate his lack of his mindreading skills, to the possibility that we might need a divorce.”

I could go on but I’m quietly confident you understand what stress can look like in people’s lives. The thing is, do you know if stress is in yours, and if so how low have you lowered the bar?

Here are some sure signs that you're likely to be stressed and putting your health, if not your life, at risk. (I say that because it's EXACTLY what I did to myself!)

Ignoring the little health issues.

Chances are you have had headaches, sore throats, neck pain, little bit of a temperature, sneezing, niggly coughs for months, slightly upset tummy, back pain, tense shoulders - any of this sound a little familiar?

Have you just ignored your body and anything it might be trying to tell you?

Could you be accepting some, or all the above, as a part of your normal daily life? Think maybe you have lowered the bar just a little?

The thing is they are NOT normal. They are likely in some way to be compromising your immune system screaming out for you to slow down and eliminate some stress.

Lack of quality sleep.

When your head hits the pillow, you should be floating off into slumberland where quality rest and relaxation awaits you. If your laughing out loud at that description and feel like you slept with a brick as a pillow and have run through every possible solution to every problem at home and or at work, prepared your to-do list and rewritten it twice and you have only been in bed for 40 minutes, chances are you’re so stressed your mind/body is stuck in stress mode. Your body is literally too frightened to relax and find sleep just in case all this catastrophic stress stuff your feeding your mind actually happens while you're asleep!

Hard to focus and concentrate

There isn’t an exact way of explaining how stress manifests itself when you’re trying to concentrate. Everyone is so very different.

Sometimes described as a fog that clouds your thoughts… Memories can be challenging, names of the people you're around every day, stuff that you really do know but alludes you because your mind feels tight and the simple things just don’t tumble out when you need them… Like a bottle neck in your thinking and your thoughts... Can’t not mention the snappy, irritable stress monkey who lashes out with a roar that is in no way commensurate with the tiny wee issue at hand (that could have been me… couldn’t possibly say)

Only you will know what happens to you when you're stressed, what’s important is that you take the time to learn exactly how you uniquely respond to stress.

We talk a lot about stress in coaching sessions, learning how to recognise it in yourself is step one. The following is my suggestion; it may well help you create some personal learning in the minefield of stress in today’s world.

Keep a diary for 2 weeks noting the following. This isn’t anything scientific, it’s just the very basics of self-reviewing how you’re really living.

1.       every ache and pain - where was it? for how long? what did you do about it?

2.       Sleep diary every night for 14 days. What do you eat/drink in the 3 hours before bed? what were you stressed about? how many hours sleep did you get?

3.       Remember to breathe and record when you needed to remember to breathe!

4.       Forgetful, irritable, inconsistent? Record how your stress you feel relates to the people in your life, how are they impacted? How are you impacted by them?(said with love wrapped up with a huge ribbon. You’re going to need to be brave and honest!)

5.       Take 30 minutes to just think about your basic beliefs around stress/ relaxation/ self-love. Who modelled positive behaviour or not so positive behaviour?

6.       After 14 days, take a real long hard look at what’s happening. Go and see your health professional if you have any concerns and show them your 2-week diary.

The answers to all the above challenges are held in healthy food, exercise, positive people, some humour and a good night’s sleep. To name but a few. You see I know the answers, just like you do but it's making the time and prioritising our own NEEDS that is the challenge - let’s keep that little basket of issues for another blog!

If you really want to escape the things that harass you, what you’re needing is not to be in a different place but to be a different person.
— Seneca, Letters from a Stoic

Helicopter Parenting!

I was asked to comment on an article called "What a Stanford Dean Says Parents are Doing That’s Ruining Their Kids"

Helicopter parenting says a lot more about the pilot of the machine than it does about your children. Whenever I speak to parents who are constantly "worrying"about how their children are doing academically and socially , I observe an adult desperately trying to: A. Rewrite there own life experiences or B. Using their role as a parent to fill their own needs in finding significance in their own lives - "Living through there children"

Take one week to just observe the people who you admire as successful functioning adults. Most, if not all will have learned one fundamental lesson as a child - Emotional resilience in the face of failure, in whatever form it manifests itself.
A low grade
Not invited to the party
Not chosen for the team
Not part of the IN crowd
Learning to manage failure is a key life skill that keeps your kids SAFE!

When they run or fly away from your nest, the world will most certainly be at times harsh and cruel. The kids that don't know what to do with those tremulous emotions when the going gets tough are AT RISK. Those are the kids that could develop mental health issues, become emotionally unbalanced and either withdraw or lose a sense of self. These are the kids that withdraw and find emotional solace from a computer screen or....take risks with sex, drugs and alcohol to dampen the fear of their negative feelings.

Teaching your children to love themselves and have empathy for themselves when the going gets tough is ....in my opinion the single most important life skill you can develop with and for them if you seek to have emotionally intelligent children who can function as adults in an ever demanding, changing world .

Letting them fail may seem counter-intuitive to the job description of being a parent. It hurts like hell to stand by and literally watch it happen. But a meltdown at 5 years because the world isn't fair, guided by a parent who acknowledges the pain and explains the solution, is finding a different way to think, see and learn about FEELINGS.

Those are the parents who are teaching emotional resilience.

Diverting the pain with presents, redirect blame and excuses will be storing up a whole bag of rats for their child in adolescence and young adulthood. 

It's not easy being a parent, I know only too well . I share my learning not because as parents we got it all right. Quite the contrary. We learned from some significant mistakes and misplaced understanding of unconditional love.

So before you go climbing into the cockpit of your Helicopter.......check the map!
Where exactly are you going and what kind of young adult will be at the end of this journey .
Xs

3 things to do if you are not being listened to at work

ARE YOU BEING LISTENED TO AT WORK?

THE FIRST 3 THINGS TO DO IF YOU THINK YOU’RE NOT BEING LISTENED TO:

1. Step out and OBSERVE the bigger picture when you’re feeling isolated and unheard.

2. Focus on what you’re doing right, build your confidence with evidence.

3. Take some time to reflect where your beliefs about yourself come from. Self-awareness is the mark of a mature, emotionally intelligent professional. 


I was coaching a female exec in London a few years ago. She was part of a senior leadership team and her day began with an early am whip meeting. It’s a creative environment with the sharing of ideas as a core part of what they do. The client explained that she had a dread both physically and emotionally when walking into the room every morning. Her tummy would feel queasy and she kept questioning her contribution – she felt it wasn’t good enough.

“I’m not listened to or taken as seriously, it feels like I’m being humiliated. I share my ideas and the first thing that I’m asked is ‘have I got anything else’. I’m left feeling like I have nothing substantial to contribute and I’m useless to the team. Where does my confidence disappear to?”

She was considering either asking for a demotion because she thought maybe she just wasn’t cut out to be in the senior management team, or alternatively finding a new job.

The following is the homework she agreed to do after we discussed options and clarified the rational as to what information we were looking for. I thought her learning might be useful for us all reflect on during those times when we think were not being heard.

I have edited her learning in italics under each piece of work.

HOMEWORK:

For the next week, step out of your own headspace and observe your colleagues. Does the same thing happen to them? If so, what do they do in response?

Of the 8 people present, 2 women 5 men….and the boss. 3 were also not really listened too. Interestingly it is all the women, and only one of my male colleagues.

It would appear that other senior managers might be feeling the same way I do?

It was incredible to watch it play out. This sounds a bit bad, but it actually made me feel a bit better about it all. I wasn’t the only one! All of them shared their ideas, but the difference was in their responses. No one actually rolled their eyes, but it was as if they all expected for their ideas to be rejected. I think maybe I was doing this as well.

Slight drop of the head with a fixed smile on rejoining the moment.

My male college was actually worse somehow, he was so tense when sharing his ideas, and he fumbled with his words a little and didn’t sound confident at all. Interestingly he’s not like that at all during the normal working day when you speak with him. 

Look back over every morning meeting over the past month, and identify where your unique ideas were taken up.

OMG when I actually looked at the detail it probably averages out at one idea a day, which isn’t really that bad. In fact, it’s better than some of the people I consider high performers. 

In the past month, identify where you did contribute positively to discussions in regard to other people’s ideas at these meetings.

Around 2/3 of the time I had some kind of contribution, somewhere in one form or another. I started thinking about this and I could see a pattern.  Once the meetings are over we usually move towards the kitchen to make a coffee. It’s there, that I get asked for my opinion! My boss isn’t around but my colleagues clearly value my input… I could see it happening.

Who is being listened too at these meetings? How do they deliver their ideas, is there a process, a core skill they employ that makes people listen?

Major learning… it’s not just me! No one was really being listened to consistently. I noticed the boss usually had his head down, either just staring at the floor or checking his phone under the desk. I was really interested in one techniques used, one colleague literally stops talking until the boss raised his eyes, then my colleague continued.

There might well be a process they follow, I need to observe more to be sure, but it’s something like - share the idea, relate it to the outcome for the client, usually there was a statement at the end, and we would be the first that have done before - it will be a feather in our cap. The boss clearly likes the thought that we are first or better than our competitors.

Take 30 minutes in a quiet place and a notebook (lunch break in the park around the corner from the office.) I asked her in roughly chunks of 10 years to reflect on how people have listened to her. Family, school friend, teachers, Uni, first jobs etc. Nothing too onerous, just think about important conversations and how people listened to you.

Well this was a revelation. It would appear I have a bit of an issue with getting my point across with men. Most of the negatives were with males. Dad seems to appear quite a lot as someone who didn’t really listen to me, or at least I felt that. He didn’t really think what I had to say had as much weight as my brothers. Very old fashioned my dad!

The others were mostly disagreements I had had with a few people and interestingly I didn’t exactly find resolution with any of these people. That will be me avoiding conflict again Sian, hehe.

Hope this has been some food for thought and some useful tools for next time you’re feeling unheard at work. xs

 

7 tips to becoming a GREAT leader

So you want to be a leader, or you’re considering how to be a better leader?

Let’s clarify a few key points before you go haring off to apply for that next rung up the ladder or enroll in an expensive course that offers all the right leadership tips. The following is the world according to Sian. These are the key things I have learnt from my own professional experience and more recently my executive coaching. I have spent the past 40 years watching and learning from some great, and not so great leaders.

1: Leadership has nothing whatsoever to do with a title or a certain position. Having followers of any kind, especially ones that voted for you, doesn’t make you a leader either… just in case you were laboring under that misinterpretation

2: Using your authority, power and position as the main tools to lead others to get things done, will inevitably end with isolation and poor communication. That kind of leadership can best be described as bullying and intimidation.

3: To be a good or indeed a great leader, the first person you need to practice your leadership skills is on YOURSELF! We all want to follow people who have integrity and confidence. That confidence comes from knowing who you are as a person first, then you will find the leader you’re meant to be from within.

4: Learning to lead your own life with integrity is the defining factor that separates the wannabe’s from the good, and indeed the great leaders. Leadership is all about relationships, and we won’t trust anyone who cant trust himself or herself.

5: Leadership qualities come from within; they are the foundation of who you are. It’s your life purpose, core values, and a meaningful understanding of your life story and beliefs that create the foundations of those elusive leadership qualities. Lead your own life, know who “you” are first.

6: Authentic leaders inspire and motivate the people they lead to act and make good choices to achieve a shared vision. This is the confidence and wisdom to know what your role is as a leader. Only then can you support everyone else in understanding and delivering within their role.

7: You know when you’re leading with integrity. This happens when there is congruence between your skills, talents, and abilities, values and vision. Only then are you free to express yourself openly. That’s what authentic leaders look like. Those special humans, that quite literally have the leadership qualities that can change our personal or professional worlds.

How to start leading your own life...

By asking yourself what is likely to be the most challenging question you will ever answer.

“What is my life purpose, why do I exist and what can I achieve in my lifetime”

That question can be applied to every corner of your life, whether you are a CEO of a multinational, business owner, manager, parent or life partner ……you get the idea.  

I have some workbooks that can kick-start the process and give you some structure and process to follow. But in all honesty, I need to you consider very carefully before you embark on this road of self-learning. Once started it can, and will if you’re brave enough, change the very core beliefs that you now have about who you are. Empowering, most definitely, but it comes with a caveat. It takes time, focus, and the ability to empathise.

In Sian’s world...GREAT LEADERS all have the ability to empathise firstly with themselves. Only then can they empathise with the people they lead. 

Just ask Sian - The dangers of being a despotic mother

I have 2 boys, now in their 20”s. They would possibly be somewhat alarmed at how often in my working days their mother mentioned them to illustrate some learning while coaching some of my client’s who are parents.  After 27 years of trying to get it right as a parent, I’m more than happy to share what worked and more importantly... what didn’t!

In the past week I’m counting up 5 people who for different reasons were focused on one child who wasn’t quite being, behaving, delivering what, as a parent, they thought they should be.

All of the following is said with LOVE… I’m not judging or criticising, I’m just sharing some stuff that might just help you get off the hamster wheel of being a worried parent.

Client one | The essence of what Mum was saying was:

My 15 year old son has a bad attitude when he’s speaking with me. He seems to suddenly enjoy making fun of things I say. I don’t know who this person is! He’s always been a good boy and has been close and affectionate towards me and now he just challenges me and doesn’t do what I ask.  I’m sick and tired of the mess in his bedroom, ironed clothes just left in a pile on the floor, dirty clothes dropped and left for me to clear up.

I’m not sure anymore exactly whom he’s hanging out with. I’m thinking there are some boys who might be being a bad influence and that’s what’s causing this change in him. He goes to hang out at their homes all the time, but doesn’t bring his friends home.

I asked for the bigger picture, who was he outside the house… school, socially.

The answer…. A Grade student, very much liked by his teachers, does very well in all the extra curricular activities and has won several prizes in school, has lots of friends, got a part-time job in a café and has a clear vision of what he wanted to do at University.

We discussed in some detail what were Mum’s values, specifically in relation to parenting. At first she had no idea what I was asking.

It’s like having a strategic plan to work from when parenting.

You know what you want them to turn out like, so you focus on the values that will deliver this amazing human being you are responsible for for 18 years. We came up with the following:

Education: Mum believed it was the most important thing she needs to focus on, otherwise “he won’t have a future”

EVIDENCE: All good there then! A Grade student with prises

Manners: Mum agreed he was socially skilled and that knew how to behave and used appropriate manners when needed.

EVIDENCE: Teachers, boss at work, family, and friends have all commented on what a nice young man he is.

Organisation: This is where the wheels were falling off according to Mum. I challenged her by indicating the obvious. How could he be achieving all of this stuff at school and at work if he wasn’t organised? Then the penny dropped. Mum believed that she was actually responsible for making it happen because she was frightened he might fail and let people down. Or the absolute worst her son wouldn’t be as perfect as she could make him! (that’s apparently being a good mum) Mmmmm……

First comment… Perfect people are a nightmare to live or work with - ask my husband hehe. Your son probably doesn’t care that his clothes are cleaned and ironed. He doesn’t care because its not something he ever has to think about, it just one of the many things that just happen, because mum makes it happen.

There is a fine line between supporting and babying sons.

Trust me when I tell you they are genetically predisposed to finding someone who will look after them (said slightly with tongue in cheek.)

HOMEWORK:

It’s time for you to reassess your parenting values, and look to see what kind of young man you’re going to send out into the world at 18.

Focus on some new refreshed values and do this in discussion with your Son.

I’m putting INDEPENDENCE on the table! What does an independent young man look like to you and to your son? What are the behaviours of an independent young man?

The messy bedroom issue… every parent I have ever spoken with apart from 2 exceptions complain about their children’s bedrooms.

This is my view and learning - doesn’t make me right but did keep me sane! By 15 a child’s room is their own private space. Parents MUST respect that. To ensure you don’t need the help of the public health dept agree a time frame for cleaning and changing sheets. Your son does ALL of that work. You as a parent get to set the benchmark of expectation for cleanliness, but sadly mum, NOT tidiness. It’s entirely up to him at 15 how he wants to live inside his bedroom. You can’t, nor should you control that space. If he doesn’t value the clean ironed clothing - STOP doing it! Show him how the washing machine works and introduce him to an iron.

There will be a day in the not to distant future when he complains about not having clean something’s, and he can’t find his favourite shirt, you notice he’s going to school with a dirty shirt and your stress levels go from 1 to 10 in a nano second. Watch the scenario and don’t react! No one worries when you need clean clothes for work, no one jumps up to look for your cream shirt that you need for the suit your wearing today, and in truth, only you know if the jumper you're wearing really could do with a run around the washing machine.

See where I’m coming from?? He needs to self manage or look like a scruff.  The truth is it’s NOT your responsibility - it’s his!

I have cried buckets and raved and shouted way too many times over messy bedrooms. Looking back, it was a waste of time and energy. It was a battle I never won and, if I’m honest, it was a lot more to do with my issues of control and guilt for being a working mum, than it had to do with clothes on a bedroom floor. It made me think I was a bad mum for not having a pristine house with bedrooms fit for a photo shoot everyday.

Now this is Sian being firm but fair! This young man is delivering on all the major values. Get over yourself! Celebrate the amazing things and stop looking for bloody trouble! Your son is exactly what most of us can only aspire to hope for in our own little monsters. He’s a good boy who’s trying to pull away from a controlling mum who has expectations that are much more about her than the issue of clothing on the floor and some eye-rolling attitude at some of the things you say. Newsflash, he’s 15 and sees the world completely differently to you. He’s supposed to create challenges between you so he can justify leaving your apron strings and finding his own independence.

New friends, bad influences? Start by asking him, then make sure your home is open for his friends to visit AND feel relaxed and welcome when they arrive. It’s the best way ever to know who’s around. This does of course necessitate you to share your home/space/heat/power/peace/quiet time, and at 15.... all the food in the fridge. You get the idea… Talk to him and invite his friends into your home.

We had a way of doing the kids in our house routine. Every Sunday by 12 noon you had to text mum with the number of people you had invited to 6pm dinner. We never questioned who or how many. The deal was we would feed and water everyone IF they contributed to dinner discussions and cleaned up afterwards. Yes, there were times when I wanted to leave and eat dinner on my own at McDonald’s, because I was tired or just wasn’t in the mood for a houseful of teenagers but those are the parenting hard yards - when you deliver the vision of how you want/need your family to communicate. Enough said!

The question I left mum with to think about was: “who are you going to be in 3 years time when your son leaves home?’ I only had to ask the question and the tears started falling... ahhhh so that’s why you were being a despotic mother.

Mothering a boy is a whole lot more than just doing shit for them!