Monday 28 December 2009


A friend is one to whom we
may pour out the contents
of our hearts, chaff and grain together,
knowing that the gentlest of hands will sift it,
keep what is worth keeping,
and with a breath of kindness,
blow the rest away

Monday 21 December 2009

Learning to say 'No'..........

Much of my Coaching work revolves around the ability to communicate effectively and strongly from that place called 'YOU'. For most of us this is a lifetimes work and difficult to achieve alone.

80% of my practice concerns itself with 'Communication and Relationships'. Within that a sizeable proportion of that work is bound up with a challenge in relation to saying 'No'. Why should this be? Is it a cultural thing, a hierarchical thing or just randomly found in individual people? - Hard to say, however I do have an opinion! Saying 'No' EFFECTIVELY is a challenge for most people. It took me a long time to understand that. It implies you have both a good understanding of yourself and an easy/acquired relationship with the world and more especially the world of others!

Dear to my own heart is the notion of 'Win-Win'. I talk about it a lot. This means both sides come out on top. Failure to say 'No' means it becomes a 'Lose-Win'. You lose, someone else wins, often followed by guilt, shame and hurt. Not a happy place, we need to UNLEARN. It's my belief that until you master HOW and WHEN to say 'No' effectively you limit your effectiveness and more importantly your own happiness. In my experience, through this work you will also learn WHY you don't say 'No'. I'm a firm believer in the hierarchy of logic and sequencing of events. Let me explain what I mean and why it's relevant here.
Some things just ARE more important than others (relationships, family, integrity, love) and these things should get priority and appear in the sequence (order) of things before other (less important) things. So why don't we do this more often if it's that simple? That's the point. It IS simple, it just isn't EASY! Anything in life worth having has to be earned and toiled over. Here's the distilled logic as I see it and the sequence. Hope it's useful.
  • Most of us don't know what's IMPORTANT to us (we call these our Values-what we value the most)
  • Without knowing this we fail to develop vital DECISION-MAKING skills.
  • Unless you know what's most important how can you decide and choose?-You can't!!
  • Your decision making becomes INCONSISTENT and UNDER PRESSURE you either cave in to yourself or do someone else's bidding.....How does this ACTUALLY happen??
  • Unless you know what to say 'YES' to how can you say 'NO' with surety and confidence?
  • When you know 'A' is more important than 'B' you can choose 'A' with confidence.
  • Most people don't know HOW to do this and that's WHY they're unable IN THE MOMENT to say 'No'........See, it's simple, just not easy!
  • That's why working with a Coach to help you through this is so powerful. Everything good ultimately comes from this clarity.
  • You become more EVEN, CALM and less CRITICAL, less JUDGING and more UNDERSTANDING. You begin to like yourself and others equally and freely.
  • It's almost like an early glimpse of Heaven! Your STRESS levels reduce and you WORRY less about this. PERSPECTIVE is more omnipresent.

That's what we mean by saying 'life's a journey'. Yet journey implies positive movement towards something and unless we know where we're headed, we're likely to end up anywhere. That's where we end up when we can't say No...we end up NOWHERE.........This is painful work and slow at times, but when you do master it the payoff is a FREEDOM that cannot be bought, only earned. Why I love what I do so much is that is the beating heart of Coaching. A good Coach will help you as I call it 'engage with your own story' and help you understand your own story. When we fail to say 'No' we help someone else write theirs or some version of it . I believe that's why people are unhappy. We ache due to lack of real identity. We spend all day with ourselves yet we barely know ourselves. This is because all the LESS Important stuff is in the way, in front and you can't see anything real. Don't despair, here's a way out and a place to start. You can start anytime and keep coming back till it gets better (you will get derailed, that's normal!)

If you want the life you could have, then start by really engaging with these 2 questions;

Q; What is the MEANING of my Life....?

A; To detect your unique gifts and talents

Q; What is the PURPOSE of my Life?

A; To use those gifts and talents

...........What are you waiting for..............??

Get busy working with your real gifts. When you do, saying 'No' will become a whole lot easier. You only spend 24/7 with yourself, it's not like you don't have the opportunity! I remain convinced being able to look life in the eye and say 'YES' to knowing AND doing both of these things is a passport to happiness, well-being and overall prosperity.

As we approach the festive season and reflect on what we did/didn't do in 2009 remember what John Wayne (I kid you not!) once said "Today is important but not nearly as important as tomorrow. Why? For tomorrow gives us fresh hope , a clean slate and the ability to start all over again" If 2009 wasn't so wonderful don't despair, 2010 can be better. Start by saying 'YES' to Life...Your life!

Monday 14 December 2009

Abraham Lincoln's Leadership Principles

I came across this impressive list of 10 Leadership Principles attributed to Abraham Lincoln and over the coming weeks will include some others (Shackleton's list is also insightful) to develop the Leadership theme and reflect on how little has changed in Principle and how well those Principles still serve. Lincoln himself stated that; 'Practices may change, but Principles never change'

Here's his list of 10 Principles

  1. Surround yourself with whatever talent the given enterprise requires
  2. Welcome, even encourage principled dissent
  3. Timing's not everything but often the difference between success and failure
  4. Exercise selective hearing during a contentious group discussion
  5. Unless absolutely certain be willing to grant benefit of the doubt
  6. Exhaust opponents by listening to them
  7. Appreciate effort but only reward performance
  8. Serve with malice towards none and charity towards all
  9. Lead with 'firmness in the right'
  10. When dealing with forceful personalities, focus on common interests

Much of what's espoused today is already enshrined here.

  • Real conversations-'allowing' the truth to surface
  • Tolerating differences- Today we call that diversity
  • Smart Trust-erring where possible on the side of generosity
  • Performance Management- Appreciate effort but ONLY reward!

No wonder these people cast such a long shadow and are justifiably iconic.

Right now my favourite is #6, Exhaust opponents by listening to them. Let them talk their way into capitulation!

What's your favourite & why does it resonate with you?

Monday 7 December 2009

The Eisenhower Matrix....Understand your own 'relationship' with Time

Stephen Covey's credited with devising the 'Time Matrix'. Many of you who've been on Time Management/Personal Effectiveness programmes will know about this. The originator of this was in fact Dwight D Eisenhower, WW2 general and later President of the USA. What he did was brilliant. When presented with a problem he routinely asked 2 questions.....

1. Is this Important..?

2. Is it Urgent..?

If the answer was NO to both he did not get involved! Here's a great 5 min sketchcast which explains the Time Matrix better than anything I've seen or tried myself. Here's the link;

Most people who engage a Coach are busy. Good Coaches use this approach as it does 2 fundamental things.
  1. It creates space. This allows room to look at what you do and space to make changes.
  2. It clarifies your own work patterns. These can be difficult to spot accurately on your own.

Without such an approach, you do not have any real framework to make decisions about things. This is an essential building block, it then highlights other areas to work on. Common skill gaps this throws up are; decision making, problem solving, learning how to say 'No', planning, scheduling, diary management. Nothing in itself is a panacea, but with the correct building blocks in the correct order you will improve quickly and continue to get better over time.

What's your own Achilles heel?!