The Bottom Line

Bottom Line 1unnamed

When you work in the area of people development, you’re often invited to submit a proposal, and in the past I understood that decision makers wanted to know how the proposed intervention was going to affect the bottom line of the company. So I would tailor my proposal to attempt to provide an answer to this question.

I always felt awkward about it, not only because the causal relationship between people and profit – though significant – is seldom a direct one, but also because I never believed that the bottom line was the bottom line. Money is almost always NOT the bottom line for human beings. Yet, it seems okay for companies – that consist of and are created by and for human beings – to have profit as their bottom line, and for their leaders to make decisions based entirely on return on investment.

Is money really the only consideration for a company? Naïve question, you might think. But I don’t think so. It matters, yes. But is it the only consideration?

There are certainly myriad examples of how money as the bottom line creates distortion. Take sugary drinks: soft drinks companies make millions but create addiction to sugar resulting in widespread obesity (extremely costly, though not for the drinks company, we presume). False safety checks on cars have enabled more cars to be sold – though clearly noxious to health – and a criminal practice that backfired. The gig economy creates wealth but all too frequently through uncertainty and lack of basic guarantees for workers. Heavy-duty plastic wrapping for fruit and vegetables makes for longer shelf life and profitable speed at checkouts, but destroys the planet with plastic waste. Hefty corporations make the lowest bid for work while promising good practice, efficiency and effectiveness, yet fail disturbingly often to provide adequate services in an increasing bid for profit. Changing conditions for care-workers so that they are not paid for journeys between clients and have impossibly reduced time to provide care makes money for the care company but exploits its workers. Business decisions that make sense in terms of profits today maybe at the expense of harming the company tomorrow.

The term “bottom line” has two meanings.

  • One comes from the total at the bottom of a balance sheet and refers to financial considerations such as cost or profit and loss. I’ve been using this meaning so far.
    .
  • The second means the fundamental and most important factor. The bottom line in a negotiation would be the single crucial sine qua non you want from the negotiation – the non-negotiable, if you like.

Bottom Line 2

So, presuming that you don’t make money just for the excitement of the chase or to create a pile of gold to look at,

What do you earn money for? What is the bottom line, in this second sense, for you?

I have heard many answers to this question – such as: satisfaction at work, a roof over our heads, food for my family, wellbeing, leisure, comfort, luxury, increased freedom, more possibilities, love… The answers often involve values.

The corollary of this question is:

What injustices, fabrications or unkindness do you go along with in order to keep your job?

How many times do you shut your eyes or look the other way?

What personal values are trodden on as a result?

Conflicts of values are exhausting and harmful for us. Many illnesses and mental breakdowns are created by such conflicts. Plus, we diminish our thinking powers by numbing ourselves to our own truth.

So …?

Life’s complicated — it’s the economy, stupid; people have to work. But one step might be to open our eyes to what matters to us and what we believe. This will make us consciously aware when someone or something tramples on our values. For example, if honesty is a fundamental for you – a bottom line – you are going to suffer in an environment where economy with the truth is the norm.

In what ways might you respect what matters to you when your values are threatened?

Or even,

What changes do you need to plan in your life to move away from a noxious environment?

I don’t discount small changes. When I moved from a challenging partnership to working on my own, I built a website and promoted my work in a way that felt more authentic and truthful. As time went on, even my proposals to companies reflected my beliefs more. These changes were positive for my sense of me, good for relationships and, well I never, pretty good for business too.

What’s your bottom line? I have this picture of a fishing line going down into the depths of an ocean to the deepest places. What emerges from your deepest places regarding what really matters to you? Is it health… wellbeing… peace… love…? I could say with plenty of validity that business success is enhanced by bringing such values into the workplace, but that would be to express the relationship upside-down. Fulfilment comes from being aware of these aspects of you and holding them as your compass for action and change.

I’ve found a quote to pin on my wall this week …

Your life is like a coin. You can spend it anyway you want, but only once. Make sure you invest it and don’t waste it. Invest it in something that matters to you and matters for eternity.  ― Tony Evens

And to honour both sunshine and my theme, a short poem from 14th century Hafiz:

Even
After
All this time
The Sun never says to the Earth,

“You owe me.”

Look
What happens
With a love like that,
It lights the whole sky.

Happy summertime,

Judy

You are warmly invited to my one-day
Masterclass on 17 October 2018:

Coaching and the HeART of Conversation

in Guildford, (courtesy of Guildford Coaches Group) for coaches and others interested in communication and conversation

What does new information emerging from neuroscience tell us about the different attention of the two hemispheres of the brain and its urgent relevance to our communication with each other? And how do we bring the full presence of our humanity into our coaching and conversation so that something new and creative can be born?

A rich day of lively exploration and personal experience with the aim of allowing something new to emerge in each of us

More details – and booking for both Guildford Coaches Group members and others here.  
(or copy the following to your browser: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/coaching-and-the-heart-of-conversation-tickets-47400353734)

Do hope you can join us at this special one-day event.

Data protection (again)

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As usual, my books

The Art of Conversation — Change Your Life with Confident Communication
What an important topic! Conversational skill isn’t really about being articulate and having a fund of things to talk about – though that’s what most books on the subject would suggest. It’s more about being at ease with who you are and knowing how to connect with others. Only then do you have authentic and satisfying conversations.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms — 25 Sure-fire Ways to Speak and Present with Confidence
This is a book about performance anxiety – offering 25 different strategies to perform with confidence. But it’s not just about presenting and performing – you’ll find its ideas useful for eliminating anxiety throughout your life.

Voice and Speaking Skills for Dummies
The perfect resource to discover the power of your voice, understand how it works and use it like a professional, whether in meetings, addressing an audience, or standing in front of a classroom.

Voice of Influence — How to Get People to Love to Listen to You
“The body language of sound”. Like body language, your voice gives you away. Find your authentic voice, speak powerfully and influentially, and reach people on a deeper level.

Ralph Vaughan Williams

Money and beliefs come up against each other for every artist. I’ve just finished a highly enjoyable novel by Linda Proud on such a conflict for the great artist Fra Philippo Lippi. The composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (from Dorking where I live) wrote at the age of 18 that he was surprised when his teacher Parry declared that a composer must write music as his musical conscience demands. It was quite a new idea for the aspiring young composer.

The Vaughan Williams Singers are celebrating Vaughan Williams 60th anniversary with a concert at his former home, beautiful Leith Hill Place near Dorking, now owned by the National Trust, on Bank Holiday Monday, 27 August. As I’m involved, I thought I’d share the information with you:  https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/leith-hill-place/features/over-hill-over-dale-august-concert 

Enjoy bite-sized learning at home

Sign up for a free E-course to enjoy at home (I never share your email with anyone):

10 Secrets for Overcoming Performance Anxiety
How to Speak with More Authority
Understanding NLP
10 Tips for Having a Great Conversation
How to Raise Your Profile

 

 

Is Survival of the Fittest the Only Game?

sharks

“Survival of the fittest” is proved, signed and sealed. But are we ignoring an important part of the story?

Increasingly often these days the news bulletins have me scratching my head, furrowing my brow and muttering, “What!?” Most often it’s in the area of politics. One political “what?” this week was news that senior doctors from overseas who’ve been appointed to fill key roles in over-stretched hospitals around the UK are being blocked from taking up their jobs by the Home Office because their NHS salaries are too low under immigration rules. Work that one out!

Another “What!?” was caused this morning by the excitement of BBC commentators at a demonstration of whales imitating human sounds. We already know that whales communicate in sophisticated ways with each other. So what’s so special about their ability merely to copy human sounds?

Blue Planet II was an excellent antidote to lazy human thinking. Time and again we were shown examples of underwater creatures demonstrating previously unseen behaviours of intelligence, subtlety and cooperation. Especially cooperation.

There was the clownfish, searching for a suitable surface for the female to lay her eggs, that received the assistance of his whole clownfish family to move a coconut shell into a suitable position. Different species were also observed to work regularly together. A coral trout would signal the position of likely prey to an octopus by tipping onto its head and flashing white, allowing the octopus to reach into a crevice and flush the fish out – after which either the octopus or the fish won the prey.

Blue Planet II showed behaviours never seen before in sea creatures and that was exciting. However, the commentary still expressed a kind of shock that animals could be witnessed working together at all, when we already know that animals work together. We know about lions and wolves hunting in collaboration; we know how animals stay in a family group to help raise siblings, we know about communities of bees and ants.

Is the shock because we are currently living on our planet as though survival of the fittest were the only story? It’s good to remember that even Charles Darwin wrote about cooperative and indeed loving behaviours in dogs, elephants, baboons and other species. He just concluded from this evidence that natural selection favoured groups who cooperated.

Not long after the publication of The Origin of Species, Peter Kropotkin, a Russian Prince, undertook an expedition to Siberia, and found little evidence of competitive struggle. He discovered human societies where people shared with each other and animals cooperated to find resources to survive. Where opinion was coming down heavily on the side of survival of the fittest, his book Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution tried to redress the balance.

I find myself wanting to do the same. Cooperation has often rung true for me. Many times career breaks have come at just those times when I was enjoying connection without thought of advantage … for example, the time I was sharing my excitement in investigating the concept of charisma with a new acquaintance – and was suddenly offered a whole series of work on charisma with the Cabinet Office … the time when I was able to help a colleague at a difficult time, and through that connection was later invited into a successful collaboration that has lasted … the time when I was bored in a conversation but decided to focus with interest on the other person and then suddenly learned something that was immensely useful to me … you’ll have your own examples.

Cooperation or survival of the fittest? Both clearly exist in nature. It’s not a question I can answer. Nevertheless, it’s a hugely important question for the world of work – for the world – if the balance today has shifted too powerfully in one direction. We still operate in a world of bonuses and competitive rewards as though they were the only game. Employees are still encouraged to see peers as competitors. Politicians all over the world are treating the survival of the planet as a survival of the fittest death game, or are merely playing an “I’m better than you”, “mine’s bigger than yours” game. Yet, sharing, creating and transferring knowledge between members of an organisation is known to be a model that works well. Shouldn’t we be exploring such options with energy or applauding those who do?

If you and I spend the rest of this week noticing examples of cooperation and applying the principles of cooperation in our work and home lives, I wonder what the results will be? I’ve a feeling we might find the experience energising and positive. If you try the experiment, let me know what happens.

Go well,

Judy

 

OTHER MATTERS

Help in my books for  communication, presenting, voice … life …

The Art of Conversation
What an important topic! Conversational skill isn’t really about being articulate and having a fund of things to talk about – though that’s what most books on the subject would suggest. It’s more about being at ease with who you are and knowing how to connect with others! Only then do you have authentic and satisfying conversations.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms
This is a book about performance anxiety – offering 25 different strategies to perform with confidence. But it’s not just about presenting and performing – you’ll find its ideas useful for eliminating anxiety throughout your life.

Voice and Speaking Skills for Dummies
The perfect resource to discover the power of your voice, understand how it works and use it like a professional, whether in meetings, addressing an audience, or standing in front of a classroom.

Voice of Influence
“The body language of sound”. Like body language, your voice gives you away. Find your authentic voice, speak powerfully and influentially, and reach people on a deeper level.

Coaching

Whether you already feel successful or are struggling with challenges, coaching can help you make the most of your potential.  Email me or call me on 01306 886114 if you want an initial conversation about what coaching might do for you. Coaching can take place face-to-face or via Skype or phone.

Voice and Communication Coaching

It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. How you come across depends on your voice and how you use your body. Self consciousness is the grand saboteur. You’ll experience positive results after even a single coaching session. Email me or call me on 01306 886114.

Enjoy any of my E-courses

They just pop into your in-box over 3-5 days. (I never share your email)

10 Secrets for Overcoming Performance Anxiety
How to Speak with More Authority
Understanding NLP
10 Tips for Having a Great Conversation

For Whom the Bell Tolls by John Donne

(familiar – and sort of topical)

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a Manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

 

Paul

IMG_9026I don’t know what made me think of Paul.

Well, I do actually. I was listening to Radio 3 when they played Musetta’s aria from Act 2 of La Bohème. As the music soared, I started reminiscing about the years I lived in Italy, and my mind drifted to the audition that had won me a scholarship to study at the Music Conservatory in Rome. Paul, who was a member of the small instrumental ensemble I sang with, had accompanied me on the piano for that audition.

Paul: eighteen or so years old at the time, younger than the rest of us. Skinny, quiet, unassuming; in my memory he lived solely on egg and chips. But also dependable Paul, Paul the fine musician, who could play anything you put in front of him, plus extemporise and write arrangements to suit our ensemble.

I idly wondered what had happened to him, and Googled his name.

Oh my goodness, there he was – with less hair and middle-aged, but unmistakeably the person I knew, still with that gentle demeanour. I then looked up his bio, and that’s when I caught my breath. As pianist and as conductor, he has accompanied some of the greatest and most famous musicians in the world, including José Carreras, Jessye Norman, Bryn Terfel, Sumi Jo, Lesley Garrett and Paul McCartney. He has performed piano concertos. He has conducted West End shows including Singin’ In The Rain, Barnum, Charlie Girl, The Phantom of the Opera and Carmen Jones. He has conducted the BBC Concert Orchestra, the Philharmonia, Royal Philharmonic and London Symphony Orchestras. There was also a long list of recordings. How on earth had I missed it all?

Back then, there were five of us in our ensemble. What gave rise to Paul’s career? He was the unassuming, un-pushy one. He didn’t talk much. He wasn’t the ideas man of our music group; he went along with whatever was happening and then played whatever was needed and made it look easy.

When I think about him now, two qualities stand out.

The first is clarity. Music was what he was about. That’s what he was – a fine musician. He loved music and it absorbed his energies. As a result he became very good at it. That gave an impressive clarity to how one thought about him. You knew that if he was playing, you’d enjoy the music making, and the music would be wonderful.

The second quality is a lack of ego. He didn’t make a noise and a fuss. He didn’t promote himself – he promoted music generously, and music is about relationship. Many people worry about publicity, competition, self-promotion and all the rest. But when there’s a single mindedness and clarity about what you are and do, others notice anyway and want to join with you.

So I take this from my reminiscence:

Do what you love; love what you do.

Give it your wholehearted attention and energy.

Learn to do it well. Be always learning.

Enjoy generous cooperation in your chosen field.

Thanks, Paul.

WHAT ELSE?

Guildford Coaching Group

1 December in Guildford
I’m running a morning session for coaches on Unconscious Bias. We all display bias, but much of it’s unconscious – so what on earth can we do about it? It’s got me thinking, and hopefully will get you thinking too. Book early as these events are popular and numbers are limited.

My books

The Art of Conversation
What an important topic! Conversational skill isn’t really about being articulate and having a fund of things to talk about – though that’s what most books on the subject would suggest. It’s more about being at ease with who you are and knowing how to connect with others. Only then do you have authentic and satisfying conversations.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms
This is a book about performance anxiety – offering 25 different strategies to perform with confidence. But it’s not just about presenting and performing – you’ll find its ideas useful for eliminating anxiety throughout your life.

Voice and Speaking Skills for Dummies
The perfect resource to discover the power of your voice, understand how it works and use it like a professional, whether in meetings, addressing an audience, or standing in front of a classroom.

Voice of Influence
“The body language of sound”. Like body language, your voice gives you away. Find your authentic voice, speak powerfully and influentially, and reach people on a deeper level.

Coaching

What holds you back? You might think that your own particular set of difficulties, setbacks and doubts don’t fit any coaching model. But you’d be surprised how a simple conversation with a coach helps you to get rid of obstacles and move forward to what you really want from life. Six months from now you’ll be saying, as other have, I don’t know why I didn’t do it years ago! Email me or call on 01306 886114 if you want an initial conversation about what coaching might do for you. Coaching can take place face-to-face or via Skype or phone.

Voice and Communication Coaching

It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. Do you realise what an amazing potential resource you have in your voice? How you come across depends on your voice and how you use your body AND your breath. Self-consciousness is the grand saboteur. You’ll experience positive results after even a single coaching session. Email me or call me on 01306 886114.

Lack of ego – a poem

No one writes better on this subject than T S Eliot. Try this from his Four Quartets:

Shall I say it again? In order to arrive there,
To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,
You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy.

In order to arrive at what you do not know
You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.

In order to possess what you do not possess
You must go by the way of dispossession.

In order to arrive at what you are not
You must go through the way in which you are not.

And what you do not know is the only thing you know
And what you own is what you do not own
And where you are is where you are not.

Newsletter Archive

Look here for older blogs – just scroll down. Or click on one of the descriptive tags to sort the archive.

 

 

What Does Success Look Like This Year?

Success and Keeping OnI bought Alan Bennett’s latest book last month. I’m thinking of using the title, Keeping On Keeping On, as my New Year’s Resolution, as in, “This year, I think I’ll ‘keep on keeping on’.”

It’s the time of the New Year Honours, and whatever the spread of gongs, we notice the famous in the lists. They were successful, and that’s the message: if you work really hard, you can be successful too and win your gong. Make your resolutions: be bold and ambitious; demonstrate toughness and resilience; meet the right people; go get that prize.

Most of us want to be special, and this ambition suggests that most of us deep down fear that currently we’re a bit ordinary. Funny that – I now prefer to put that the other way around – realising that we’re all amazing and special, and our better task might be to get rid of our ego and find the ordinary in ourselves.

Upside down that might seem, but it’s been an upside down world this last year. Events have frequently demonstrated the worst in our leaders, and the aftermath fills us with fear for the coming year. If the kind of leadership demonstrated last year is special – if egotistical power-loving behaviour is “special”, who wants it?

What about a different goal for an important year – the ambition to be kind, for example? Now that would really be something.

I see much that is kind in Alan Bennett. Not just that he moved “the lady in the van” parked in the road outside his house into his garden and didn’t even consider it an act of charity; not just that he donated his archive to the Bodleian Library as a gesture of thanks to the British welfare state that had given him educational opportunities that his parents would otherwise never have afforded. Not his northern ‘of the people’ accent. More that in his autobiographical books and indeed all his writing his humanity and kindness shine out on every page.

Maybe for many, your New Year resolutions this year are to achieve particular goals and targets. But for others, this may not be your year for reaching goals, but for keeping on keeping on. Maybe you have parents becoming frailer, children needing you more, friends who are unwell or distressed, maybe your own mind and body demand your attention? These don’t have to be impediments to your goals – maybe they contain the pearl of great price for you this year.

Or maybe, as you make your resolutions, you reflect that you have made these same resolutions before, even many times – you’ve travelled and travelled, yet you’re back in the same old place again.

There’s a thought-provoking poem by Denise Levertov, called For Those Whom the Gods Love Less. (Hear her reading it here.) The title comes from a Greek saying that those whom the gods love die young. So those who live longer … Anyway, the poem begins:

When you discover
your new work travels the ground you had traversed
decades ago, you wonder, panicked,
‘Have I outlived my vocation? Said already
all that was mine to say?’

Don’t panic, she reassures. You might feel that it’s the same every year, but even in repetition the light falls differently and “radiant epiphanies recur”. She urges, “You can, you must proceed.”

TS Eliot, whose complete poems Jeremy Irons (there’s a voice!) has been reading all this week on Radio 4, declares, “the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time.”

So, maybe for you it’s your year to step aside from the Hero’s Journey for a moment; to draw back a little from the yoga stretch or your target in the gym, to go easy on your BHAG (big hairy ambitious goal), and find an “ordinary” resolution – maybe merely the resolution to be kind? (Or to be loving or peaceful or generous or grateful?) Now wouldn’t that be extraordinary? Special even.

Who of our politicians, business leaders, the great and the good, or celebrities famous for being famous is kind? Who would we choose for a New Year’s Honour if the criterion were to have been kind? Why isn’t there a Nobel Prize for kindness? The wonderful travel writer and human being Jan Morris in conversation with John Walsh from The Independent said,

Kindness is the ultimate path, the one thing that can stand up against all the shit, the ghastliness. It’s the ultimate human quality. I’ve often thought of starting a political party of Kindness, which would estimate the proportion of kindness there is in any policy. It would be the criterion for a whole system of government.

I really like that! So here’s the challenge: let’s look at the powerful this year and tweet any demonstrations of their kindness we notice. In fact, why just the powerful? Let’s all build a year of kindness. What kindnesses did you meet this Christmas and New Year? Today? It’s a way of perceiving that we all need urgently in these times, and I don’t think we’ve appreciated its full power yet.

PS – Kindness offers a bonus too. In a talk I attended last autumn, David Hamilton (author and former developer of drugs for cardiovascular disease and cancer for the pharmaceutical industry) explained  that research at Oregon State University has proved that kindness – whether we act kindly or unbelievably merely witness a kind act – activates our parasympathetic nervous system and causes our body to produce oxytocin that calms the heart, slows ageing and makes us happier. Oh, and it’s contagious. So kindness is good for us too!

Happy New Year!

Judy

 

ALSO …

Learning Public Speaking from TED

TED Talks are probably by now too famous to need explaining, and if you Google TED you’ll now find scores of websites offering you help in delivering the perfect TED Talk. I find this short talk, TED’s Secret to Great Public Speaking by Chris Anderson, the current curator of TED Talks, one of the most useful.

Coaching

A few simple conversations with a coach can be life changing and worth the investment many times over. It’s not just about help with a to-do list, though it could be that too. It’s about getting to know yourself better – your skills, values and qualities – and discovering how to be the person you want to be. Then your way becomes clearer and smoother and you achieve more with less effort..  Email me or call me on 01306 886114 if you want an initial conversation about what coaching might do for you.

Performance Anxiety

Suffer from performance nerves? Read my book, Butterflies and Sweaty Palms. It’s full of excellent strategies for speaking and presenting with confidence, and dealing with scary gremlins. We’re all scared at times and need a helping hand. Here’s the proper link to my E-course, 10 Secrets for Overcoming Performance Anxiety. A couple of coaching sessions, face-to-face or Skype, can also make all the difference.

Speaking with Authority

Download my e-course, How to Speak with More Authority. Or read my book, Voice of Influence.  Find your authentic voice, speak powerfully and influentially, and reach people on a deeper level. My ‘Dummies’ book, Voice and Speaking Skills for Dummies is also full of useful tips and strategies.

Engaging in conversation with ease

Read The Art of Conversationand find out how to make connection with people on a deeper, more satisfying level. Start with my free E-course, 10 Tips for Having a Great Conversation, for some first ideas.

Poem

I’ve just added another favourite poem to my website collection. Slow Dance by David Weatherhead is a poem for busy people. Maybe that’s you?

Is change possible? D’you already know how it’ll turn out?

What’s possible?

What's possible in life?I often used to think of life’s progress as a parabola, with a curving trajectory rising and rising and then falling again. The rise would include learning, growing, achievement and success, and the second falling part would be – well, I didn’t quite know what, gradual decline and death I supposed. Only, now I’m definitely on that second half, I’m not so keen on the image and can’t help thinking that a different representation with more sense of the possible would be preferable.

The trouble is, the image of rise and fall is a self-fulfilling prophecy. From half-way, we look back on a set of memories – interpreted for many of us through negative internal dialogue – and then expect a future that repeats the patterns of the past with an added sense of decline. Not good!

That’s why I like the story of John McAvoy

John was born to be a criminal. His dad died when he was young; his uncle was a member of the notorious Brink’s-Mat robbery gang, his step dad was serving a life sentence for armed robbery, and the whole family was involved in serious organised crime. At 16 he owned a sawn-off shotgun and was aiming it at security vans across London. By the time he was in his early 20s he’d earned a life sentence for conspiracy to commit armed robbery and landed in Belmarsh high security prison where he shared a wing with such role models as Islamic terrorist Abu Hamza and some of the 21/7 bombers.

Reading so far, you wouldn’t guess at a happy outcome. Only you’d be wrong. Two things happened.

The first was a common one – most of us experience a version of it at some point in our lives – the rough awakening. He’d known plenty of violence in his life, but one day in prison, he saw on the TV news that his best friend had died, thrown out of a car on a roundabout in a police chase in Holland. Shut in his cell, John suddenly thought, “What the f*** have I done with my life? Nothing.”

The second was a rarer gift: another human being saw something possible in him he couldn’t see himself. What happened was this: like many another prison inmate he used to exercise hard in the gym just to get out of his cell. One day he was working away on the rowing machine and a prison officer, Darren Davies, was watching him. The next day the officer came into the gym with a series of rowing records printed out and casually suggested he look at them. John realised he could probably beat them, and for the first time for years felt a sense of excitement at what might be possible. The prison officer took steps to find out if official records could be officially broken in prison and then – with difficulty – obtained permission from the governor for John to make attempts on the records. John set to with all the focus and determination he had earlier used for crime, and broke the British record for rowing the marathon plus several other British records. He then smashed the world record for the distance rowed in 24 hours. Darren gave up his day off to sit with John for a day and a night while he cracked the record.

The happy outcome?

The records John broke while in prison coincided with raising money for charity and ultimately his sentence was reduced. He was put in touch with Putney rowing club and later, looking at what was possible for people his age in athletics, he changed discipline and opted for the Iron Man triathlon, consisting of a  gruelling 3.86 km swim, a 180.25 km bicycle ride followed by the 42.2 km marathon. Previously, he couldn’t swim and hadn’t ridden a bike since he was 12, but that didn’t hold him back. He now has a personal coach and sponsors, and this year the probation service allowed him to travel to Frankfurt for his first European Iron Man Championship. He performed creditably, inching towards the European record. He’s thoroughly accepted in athletic circles and seen as a hero.

But of course, there’s another hero in his story: the prison officer, Darren Davis, the man who recognised raw talent in a hardened criminal, believed in the possibility of change, and then gave of his interest and time. He’s the man who sowed the seed of success, without whom none of this would have happened.

How to be a catalyst for change

One of the great things I learned from NLP and coaching studies was that we can all be agents of change. I found mentors who believed in me when I hardly believed in myself. Then in turn, students of mine have awakened others to possibility. One completely turned around a member of staff who was just about to be dismissed, through awakening a sense of the possible in him – the organisation had never seen anything like it. Another wrote to me after a gap of several years to say that the change process started back when she felt lost had led to an entirely new career as producer for the BBC.

Such stories are wonderful to hear, but mostly none of us get to know the results of seeds we sow – what exciting outcomes result from perhaps even a short moment of intense interest and caring for another human being. It happens in those moments when we see, not just the person before us but also the possibility within someone who doesn’t yet believe in that possibility for him or herself.

We all tend to look at other human beings and see what we already know. This other seeing views with fresh eyes, eyes that know nothing, and glimpses possibility. I say eyes; I might say heart.

Anyone who pays attention can do this. There’s an autumn story of an acorn who pays more attention than the other acorns. It notices that acorns that fall to the ground crack open and start to grow into oak trees. Most of the other acorns are appalled and disgusted with the idea that they might fall and crack open, and ridicule the acorn’s assertion. But the acorn looks up at the towering oak above them, and says to the other acorns in amazement and wonder, “Look! – We are that.”

Luckily, as John McAvoy would say with gratitude, it only takes one.

Everything possible to be believed is an image of truth. William Blake

ALSO TO SHARE 

Coaching

When I talk above about “the man who recognised raw talent, believed that change was possible, and then gave of his interest and time”, I am of course talking also about coaching. A few simple conversations with a coach can be life changing and worth the investment many times over. Email me or call me on 01306 886114 if you want an initial conversation about what coaching might do for you.

The Miracle of Voice

It’s not just what we say, it’s how we say it. Do you realise what an amazing potential resource we have in our voice? I thought you might enjoy an article I wrote about this miracle. Click the link above.

Download some of my E-courses too (I never share your email with anyone):

10 Secrets for Overcoming Performance Anxiety
How to Speak with More Authority
Understanding NLP
10 Tips for Having a Great Conversation

My Books

The Art of Conversation
Conversational skill isn’t really about being articulate and having a fund of things to talk about – though that’s what most books on the subject would suggest. It’s much more about being at ease with who you are and knowing how to connect with others. Only then do you have satisfying and buzzy conversations.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms
Subtitle: 25 brilliant strategies for speaking and presenting with confidence. It’s about WHAT to do if you’re scared. And don’t worry – we’re ALL scared at times.

Voice and Speaking Skills for Dummies
The perfect resource to dip into to discover the power of your voice, understand how it works and use it like a professional, whether in meetings, addressing an audience, or standing in front of a classroom.

Voice of Influence
“The body language of sound”. Like body language, your voice gives you away. Find your authentic voice, speak powerfully and influentially, and reach people on a deeper level.

Training Courses

Would your company benefit from a group session on voice, communicating, presenting, NLP or coaching? Get in touch. Read testimonials here.

TEDx Dorking

TEDx Dorking was a triumph last week. One of the speakers reminded us about the Ken Robinson talk on creativity in education – it really is good, have a watch … or watch it again. He tells of a six year old creating a picture in drawing class. What are you drawing?” the teacher asks. And the girl says, “I’m drawing a picture of God.” And the teacher says, “But nobody knows what God looks like.” And the girl says, “They will, in a minute.”

Oh what mighty oak trees might grow, how high would the parabola of life sweep, if children’s confidence and creativity were recognised and nurtured!

Go well,

Judy

Lesons from Fools

Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 21.32.18I’m in my twenties, and I shout over the boiling kettle to my flatmate in the other room, “Where’ve you put the tea?”

“In my sock drawer,” she shouts back, her tone of voice also suggesting, “Der! Where did you think?”

Who says everything needs to make sense?

 

The BFG

Roald Dahl used to love the unexpected. The BFG (Seen the Spielberg film yet?) is a great example. He is satisfyingly scary – oh, that horrifyingly huge hand that plucks Sophie from her bed! (“Seriously, that book should be banned – it could cause children serious psychological problems.”) Yet, in a neat piece of shape shifting, we discover that our huge BFG is in giant-terms a runt himself, bullied by vastly huger giants.

Again, so ignorant a giant that he can’t even talk English properly (“Words is oh such a twitch-tickling problem to me”), he makes many of the wisest comments in the book.

“Yesterday,” he said, “We was not believing in giants, was we? Today we is not believing in snozzcumbers. Just because we happen not to have actually seen something with our own two little winkles, we think it is not existing.”

Shape shift again – he’s simple-minded, yet with special powers: “I is hearing all the wondrous and terrible things,” he tells Sophie, “all the secret whisperings of the world.”

But to be serious, seriously …

But to get away from children’s stories, do you believe in seriousness? The world divides into the serious – everything to make sense, and the non-serious – lightness and humour, especially for events and situations that are serious or terrifying or just plain paradoxical.

Some examples of the divide:

Serious: Job interviews on the whole. Your reasons and explanations have to ‘make sense.’ When I had a job assisting in running job selections for one of the big accounting companies, the selectors mostly rejected CVs that didn’t fit a consistent pattern – for example, an unexplained career gap was considered a serious impediment to selection. By the way, just think of the people who wouldn’t be selected by such a ‘serious’ method? Albert Einstein – expelled from school, and in any case considered ‘slow’; Bill Gates – dropped out of Harvard; Stephen Spielberg – couldn’t get the school grades to get into University; and thousands of other remarkable people.

Serious: Politicians (many of whom have excellent CVs with not the tiniest chink of a career gap between Oxbridge and Political Adviser.) Most politicians like pattern and structure. They talk about “sensible people” as in “all sensible people will agree that I am right.” Oh and, “This is the right thing to do.” Very serious – very simplistic … very righteous …

Serious: a life that makes sense. Most people are reassured by a past that is coherent, even if it’s a complete shambles. Look out for the minute smirk of satisfaction when someone says, “I’m a failure because …;” (complete the dots: negligent parents, wrong school, bullying, unfair treatment…). Once they’ve made the past fit a pattern, it carries on just as coherently into the future: “I’m destined to continue a failure because I never had a chance because of _____” (same reasons). Seriously flawed thinking, but it “makes serious sense.”

What about non-serious?

Non-serious: “What I mean and what I say is two different things,” the BFG announces rather grandly.” Nonsense… funny … and true. Both humorous and profound in the same sentence.

Non-serious: Coaching – where humour is allowed to walk side by side with major life themes and difficult feelings – the humour doesn’t deny the feelings, it universalises them as a human condition and makes them less scary, allowing the work to be done.

Non-serious: Dancing, writing, running, painting, singing – ‘non-productive’ activities where joy underlines the energy, where results can be profound.

You get the idea:

Serious: You’re going to be a perfect accountant, your working life the perfect pattern of progression.

Non-serious: Well! They broke the mould when they made you! You’re unique, you’re original, you’re wonderfully, amazingly YOU.

In literature, wisdom often emerges from the mouth of the fool: Dostoyevsky’s Idiot, King Lear’s Fool, the wisdom of children, Winnie the Pooh – that bear of little brain, The Beatles “The Fool on the Hill” and on and on.

I have found that seriousness and rationalisation make me heavy, over-conscientious, detail obsessed and anxious. Lightness gives me energy, fresh ideas, and a better view of the whole, including other people. Anxiety shrinks and cripples; laughter releases and expands.

Life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about. Oscar Wilde

Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive. Elbert Hubbard

Lighten up and you lighten up those around you. Fear crawls away to trouble people who are more serious. In lightness you rediscover flexibility; rigid control becomes redundant; the mind begins to play and discover new patterns; relationships become fresh and interesting; grace returns.

Autumn, new beginnings … what about treading lightly for a while? You might find yourself laughing at how many good things happen and at how much you achieve.

Tread softly, breathe peacefully, laugh hysterically. Nelson Mandela

And the rest …

E-courses

Have you dipped your toe into any of my short chunks of learning – gifts to download from my website? Just sign up to the ones you want (I never share your email with anyone) Choose from:

10 Tips for Having a Great Conversation

10 Secrets for Overcoming Performance Anxiety

How to Speak with More Authority

Understanding NLP

Coaching

Coaching is for anyone and everyone. I hear from senior people in organisations who want to air ideas and solve problems, executives who wish to polish their skills, unemployed people who want to get back into the market, people who feel in a rut and wake up one day to make that first step – a phone call, people from all walks of life. Maybe it’s time for you to take that step? A few sessions of coaching are affordable and potentially life changing.

Email me or call me on 01306 886114 if you want an initial conversation about what coaching might do for you.

Coaching with Compassion – Sun. 9 Oct – London

Another great event in the Spirit of Coaching series, hosted by the Brahma Kumaris in London – 2.00-5.30pm.

An opportunity to explore the depth and meaning of compassion and the important role it can play in the coaching process.  For all coaches and anyone interested in personal growth and development.

It’s free, but you need to register here.

My Books

The Art of Conversation    No one ever taught us the art of conversation – no wonder many of us struggle. Change your life with confident communication.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms    The practical answer to the fears and anxieties of presenting, speaking in meetings and expressing yourself when the going gets tough. 25 brilliant strategies for speaking and presenting with confidence.

Voice and Speaking Skills for Dummies     Discover the power of your voice, understand how it works and use it like a professional, whether in meetings, addressing an audience, or standing in front of a classroom.

Voice of Influence     “The body language of sound”. Like body language, your voice gives you away. Find your authentic voice, speak powerfully and influentially, and reach people on a deeper level.

Training Courses

Would your company benefit from a group session on voice, communicating, presenting, NLP or coaching? Get in touch. Read testimonials here.

Go well,

Judy

 

judy@voiceofinfluence.co.uk

 

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What’s the Job of a Coach?

golden-statue-of-hero-riding-horse-2701x1986_101722 (1)When planning my old website my designer decided to make the subject headings gold – I quite liked it. When I tried to replicate the tone in my newsletters I discovered that the colour that appears as gold on screen is in fact a dirty yellow/ochre/brown colour. It just deceives the eye into thinking it’s gold.

When you think about it, even when you see a gold object in real life, its golden glitter is not intrinsic, but the result of reflected light – its glow is not inside it, as it were. If you want that, you need a source of light. Gold objects are not sources of light.

I was pondering this after coaching someone the other day. Sometimes, as coaches we are asked to polish a person’s golden image – i.e. to enhance their persona.

Let me explain. The client tells you that he (or she of course – I’ll carry on with ‘he’ for now) wants to achieve a particular outcome, and seeks your help to achieve it. The GROW model of coaching describes the process quite well – here’s one version:

What’s your Goal?

What’s your current Reality?

What are the Obstacles stopping you from reaching your goal? And then, what are your Options for dealing with these?

Finally, what is the Way Forward? What Will you do, by when?

Let’s say the client has come to me with the goal of ‘walking his talk’ as a leader – of coming across more powerfully. People who have inner power and confidence tend to speak in a deeper voice, stand tall and balanced, and look at their listeners. So – to put it simply – I help the client with voice, deportment and eye contact. He then looks and sounds powerful enough to convince quite a lot of people quite a lot of the time. But not all the people all the time. It’s hard to put your finger on it exactly, but there’s something artificial about the image – exactly that, in fact – it’s an image.

In working in this way, I’m helping the client to polish his personality and make it glitter like gold, rather than helping him shine with his own light from within. In so doing, I’m short-changing him.

Let’s imagine that this client – this leader – had a father who always told him he wasn’t good enough. Now in adulthood, however much he is promoted and treated with respect, there’s a small voice inside him that continues to whisper, “You’re not good enough.” That’s a pretty common scenario – you might even recognise it yourself. I can help him burnish his golden image till we’re both blue in the face but it won’t send the small negative voice away, and so he’ll never quite convince people of his leadership qualities. We see this in public figures all the time – the EU debate is a great place to look at the moment – there are those who play the role of powerful leader and those – far fewer I might add – who radiate moral power and genuine authority from a source within.

In order to do the latter, our client requires something different. I need to help him find his confidence and integrity inside, like a light within. And that means that I have to be capable of seeing the potential existence of that light within him, even when it’s obscured by a glittering reflection.

And for the client to see it too, it’s necessary for him to look beneath the glossy exterior and come face to face with himself – face to face with timidity or vulnerability or fear. Once that demon is faced – and incidentally it’s scarcely ever a real demon but only a shadow on the wall – then the person is able to step up to real authority and leadership, and convince with his authenticity. As wise old Rumi tells us, “The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”

What is the glossy exterior, this glittering reflection that wants to create smoke and mirrors and reflect glory and power? It’s the ego.  But as coach, I know that a person’s real power – their source of light – is revealed when in coaching we go underneath the gloss to their authentic values and knowledge of self.

We coaches don’t achieve that aim all the time. When we do, that’s the real deal; that’s what we’re here to do.

Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion. Rumi

 

Coaching

Have you thought about finding a coach? If you haven’t experienced good coaching before, speak to someone who has. It’s extraordinary how in a surprisingly short time you can achieve results that transform your life, and stick. Whether you lack confidence for an interview or change of direction, are stuck in a work or close relationship, can’t find your way forward or want to be more effective in your work and relationships, coaching can achieve successful lasting change for you.

I offer one-to-one coaching both to executives a senior level and to people from every walk of life. It’s quite usual to book a series of 6 coaching sessions, either face-to-face or by video or Skype. I also offer one-off sessions to boost your confidence and skill for a particular conference speech or an important interview.

Don’t hold back if you’re looking for support in some area of your life – I can probably offer a solution that will suit you.

My books

Why not start off by buying one of my books – widely available – and then contact me with any questions you may have.

The Art of Conversation

– Change Your Life with Confident Communication. My most popular book – change your life with confident communication. Learn how to connect better and enjoy successful conversation with people.

Voice and Speaking Skills For Dummies

All you need to know about speaking – in the familiar easy-learn format of this series.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms

– 25 sure-fire ways to speak and communicate with confidence. Suffer no longer from paralysing fear – you too can speak confidently and surely. This book is highly practical and effective.

Voice of Influence

– How to Get People to Love to Listen to You. People jump to conclusions about you because of your voice. Get your voice working for you and see the amazing difference it makes in your life!

Speaking and training

Though not running my open courses this year, I’m still public speaking and training, so do get in touch under either of those headings.

Other Links

The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Western World by Iain Gilchrist is a startling and important book – several centimetres thick! – that describes the tension between two fundamentally different ways of being and thinking in the world today. Iain has now brought out The Divided Brain and the Search for Meaning – a 10,000 word summary of his original book – fascinating stuff, easily accessible and well worth a read.

Another interesting read for coaches – and others – is Insight Dialogue: the Interpersonal Path to Freedom by Gregory Kramer – brings insights from interpersonal meditation that can prove valuable in coaching.

A Poem

Finally a poem by D H Lawrence on the subject of ego.  You can find other favourite poems on my website here.

When we get out of the glass bottles of our ego

When we get out of the glass bottles of our ego,
and when we escape like squirrels turning in the
cages of our personality
and get into the forests again,
we shall shiver with cold and fright
but things will happen to us
so that we don’t know ourselves.

Cool, unlying life will rush in,
and passion will make our bodies taut with power,
we shall stamp our feet with new power
and old things will fall down,
we shall laugh, and institutions will curl up like
burnt paper.

Do contact me at info@voiceofinfluence.co.uk if you have questions or comments about any of the above.

Enjoy the long June days,
Go well,

Judy

What do you want to be remembered for?

Henni copyHenning Mankel, author of the Wallender mysteries, died a few weeks ago. You know, Henning Mankell, the Swedish Crime Writer …  It’s interesting isn’t it how we shoebox people with our brief descriptions? – Swedish Crime Writer … bestselling author …

Mankell’s Wallender mysteries have sold over 40 million copies, but Mankell’s life was more than two-thirds over before he published the first of these novels when he was 49; many exciting experiences of his life were already behind him.

At 16 he dropped out of school, left home and travelled to Paris, and then went to sea working on a freighter, an experience he’s said to have enjoyed.

(Henning Mankell, young adventurer…)

Returning to Paris, he worked as a stagehand in Paris, set out to become a writer, and took part in the student unrest of the late 60s.

(Henning Mankell, Bohemian ...)

The proceeds from his first published play financed a flight to Africa, where he spent much of the rest of his life. He was proud of his theatre work – he wrote over 40 plays, and spent many years as the artistic director of Teatro Avenida in Maputo, Mozambique. He built up his own publishing house to support young talents from Africa and Sweden.

(Henning Mankell, playwright and theatre director ...)

Yet, asked where his heart was, he would probably have said he was most invested in social and political change. He used the crime genre as a means of critiquing politics, big business, social unrest and corruption. In Africa his outrage at the inequalities of the world grew and deepened. He campaigned against Aids and landmines. He endowed a children’s village in Mozambique and gave much of his fortune to charities he believed in. He sailed on one of the ships that attempted to break the blockade of Gaza in 2010 and was seized by Israeli commandos.

(Henning Mankell, committed political activist …)

Always questioning, in almost the last article he wrote before his death from cancer he asked, “What happens to people’s identity when they are stricken by a serious illness? … Have I changed …?”  Knowing the end was near, I wonder what he would have most liked to be remembered for? What epitaph would he have chosen for himself?

(Henning Mankell, himself …)

Autumn sunshine and the dying year – perfect weather for wandering around churchyards. It’s got me thinking about epitaphs – a whole life in a handful of words –

“HERE lies the body of Daniel Saul,
Spitalfields weaver, – and that’s all.”
(St. Dunstan’s, Stepney)
HERE lies poor, but honest Brian Tunstall;
he was a most expert angler,
until Death, envious of his Merit,
threw out his line, hook’d him,
and landed him here the 21st day of April 1790.
(Ripon Cathedral)
A TENDER mother and a kind neighbour
(Stock Church, 1845)

Isn’t that one of the best? I wouldn’t mind that one.

Epitaphs are mostly composed by others, like an end of term report. Not many marks for the next!

HERE lies
Ezekial Aikle
Age 102
The Good Die Young.
East Dalhousie Cemetery, Nova Scotia

Geoffrey Chaucer became the first poet in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey when he was reinterred in a grand tomb by one Nicholas Brigham 150 years after the poet’s death. The engraving tells us – in letters the same height as those used for the word CHAUCER – that “BRIGHAM paid for this at his own expense.” thus getting Nicholas Brigham remembered as the person who muscled in on Chaucer’s fame and mentioned money!

Jo Rowling was asked how she would like to be remembered, and she answered, “As someone who did the best she could with the talent she had.”

When Hilary Mantel was asked which book she was most proud of, she mentioned neither Wolf Hall nor Bring Up the Bodies, her Booker Prize winning books, but said, “A book I wrote in my twenties called A Place of Greater Safety about the French revolution. It wasn’t published as my first book but as my fifth. I wrote it against the odds as nobody except me believed in it.” She was more proud of her self-belief in hard times than of the fame that came later. Jo Rowley would probably have empathised with that.

The brave young Pakistani woman, Malala, shot by the Taliban, said, “I don’t want to be remembered as the girl who was shot. I want to be remembered as the girl who stood up.”

Rosa Parks (famous for sitting down) said, “I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free … so other people would be also free.”

So here’s a coaching question for you and me:

How do you want to be remembered?

And (following your answer), that being so:

What are you investing now on this legacy?

How much of your time?

How much of your energy?

How much of your money?

And – given that information:

What do you intend to do about it?

The fact is, that many (most?) of us don’t spend our time, energy and money on the things we would claim to be most important for us and that we would want to be remembered by. For example, a study was done on teachers who were asked to list 25 value words in order of importance, and then to describe three examples of how they put their number one value into action in the classroom. Most teachers in the study had great difficulty in providing even a single example of how they put their most important value into action. No wonder they were stressed.

Ask yourself the question in your own line of work. How much of your time and energy are you spending on what’s most important to you? Happiness is about spending most time with things that you value most, and least time with what you value least. If you find yourself doing the reverse, you’re out of tune with yourself.

A self enquiry for this week perhaps? November’s a good time to plant bulbs for flowering in the spring. What do you want to be remembered for?

Have a good month,

Go well,

Judy

Of interest …

Coaching

Do any of the following apply to you?

  • You feel a bit stuck – in your job, or a relationship, or in life in general.
  • You’ve some ideas you’d like to follow up, but you never quite get round to it.
  • You lack the confidence to do certain things – including maybe contacting a coach!
  • You guess that coaching is quite a major undertaking – in terms of time, commitment and cost.

What to do?

Jot down first thoughts about your issues and what you want in an email and send it to me, judy@voiceofinfluence.co.uk. Then we can talk it through on the phone. If you wish to proceed with coaching, you can start with a single session with no expectation or obligation to continue. Costs are surprisingly reasonable.  If you go for Skype coaching – which works brilliantly – you can learn in the comfort of your own home.

Workshop – Voice of Influence

Gain this important life skill once and for all – the confidence to get up and speak with authority and influence in any context. Is the next workshop going to include you? Email me now to register interest. Groups are kept small. Next workshop February 2016 – I hope to meet you there.

Event – What to Say When you Don’t Know What to Say

A coaching event to watch out for, with Jo McHale. I love the title – it should be an inspiring session – and it’s a great group, open to all: Guildford Coaches at Trinity Centre, Guildford, 27 November, 9.30 – 12.30.  More info and register here.

E-course – 10 Tips For Having a Great Conversation

  • Overcome your nervousness with other people.
  • Find out how to break the silence and get a conversation going
  • Learn how to get on someone’s wavelength in conversation
  • Find out how to make more intimate connection in conversation
  • Learn the secret of enjoying chatting to people.

Over the next 5 days you’ll pick up 10 valuable tips for improving your conversational skills. And over the next months you’ll notice the difference in how people respond!

Other Free E-Courses to Download

* How to Speak with More Authority

* 10 Secrets for Overcoming Performance Anxiety

* How to Raise Your Profile

* Introduction to NLP

YouTube video –  the excellent Brene Brown again

Excellent as ever in this short talk about what gets in the way of your doing what you’d like to be remembered by.

Books – The Art of Conversation

My most popular book – change your life with confident communication. Learn how to connect better and enjoy successful conversation with people. Check out all my books on my Amazon page

Voice and Speaking Skills For Dummies

All you need to know about speaking – in the familiar easy-learn format of this series.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms

Suffer no longer from paralysing fear – you too can speak confidently and surely. 25 sure-fire ways to speak and communicate with confidence. This book is highly practical and effective.

Voice of Influence

People jump to conclusions about you because of your voice. Get your voice working for you and see the amazing difference it makes in your life!

Daily ideas and speaking tips on Facebook and Twitter

Enjoy the tips! Join the discussion!

Dog Days

NB Book Autumn Courses in London now!

Voice of Influence Workshop – 24-25 SEPT
Find your powerful speaking voice. Connect with confidence

NLP Diploma – Starts 19 October
Powerful communication skills – successful relationships, leadership, influence, coaching. Three 2-day modules over 2 months
Details below

Summer time and the livin’ is easy … ♬ 

3992418634_a4903d7a8a_b

Warm days, long days, dog days …

I associate August days of my childhood with kicking a ball idly in our road with the dusty smell of privet hedges in the air. For many of us summer’s a dull routine time at work, a period when people take a holiday if they can, or if they can’t – or want to avoid school holiday periods –  just carry on.

Last year I had a lively August with interviews and article writing following the publication of The Art of Conversation. This year, it’s quieter, and in the less urgent pace of this time of year age-old questions find gaps to creep in: “What am I aiming at?” or “What should I do next?” or “What am I doing with my life?” You know the kind of question, that brings with it a dissatisfaction with the status quo, a discordant sense of un-channelled energy and an inability to settle to things; so that the easy-livin’ time of year gets to be the most disturbed, even as the sun shines and nature looks at its most beautiful and inviting.

Now you’d think urgency might be good – that it might make something positive happen. But I’ve found this kind of urgency to be exactly the opposite: there’s nothing worse than that speeded-up “gotta do, gotta do, gotta do” feeling for achieving anything useful.

  • “Gotta meet people” – and your vibe puts people off
  • “Gotta get work” – and your desperation repels
  • “Gotta do something important/worthwhile” – and your jittery energy scatters your thoughts and produces confusion and hopelessness

Yet, remembering back a few years, it was in just such a slump time of year when I created the bulk of my first book. It was autumn. Paid work had dropped off and I was feeling, if not exactly a failure, very far from a success. I didn’t realise at the time what a fertile period it would prove to be.

So I’m thinking now, how did that happen?

Very simple really, I found a way to accept that it was the way it was. I’d just read Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now, that probably helped. For once I stopped fretting and accepted that this quiet period was how it was and this was where I was. It was the absolute opposite of “gotta do gotta do”.

So, looking back from now, I’d say this is what helps:

  1. Accepting that things are as they are as they are …
    not trying to change reality, and not taking anything in life as a personal affront. Knowing that nothing is more important than whatever I’m doing now. Telling myself, it’s okay; there’s a time and season for everything; a pause is good too.
  2. Finding joy in simple things, birdsong at dawn, sunshine, a tree, daisies at the roadside, a kind word – pausing for a moment to appreciate
  3. Focusing on this moment – watching my breathing and witnessing it slow down as often as I remember during the day. Telling myself, breathe, just be; everything’s okay; all is well.

And then, from this space, to notice any inner touching – any tiny thread of intelligence/desire/intention as it arises. For me it was, I wonder if …?” “What if I just write some of these thoughts down…?

Occasionally I do things against my inner voice, but you really should go for the thing that touches you most – even if you don’t quite know why it does. Alan Bates

In that state of ‘non-doing’ seeds had time to germinate and an idea matured without conscious pushing. I look back on the time with gratitude now, as that writing was the beginning of much good stuff that followed.

I wonder what might touch you or occur to you in odd idle moments this summer?

Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant. Robert Louis Stevenson

Happy long days!

Go well,

Judy

 

VOICE!

Naomi Woolf wrote in an article last week in the Guardian that “When people feel from your voice that you are confident, they will believe that you are smarter, and that you are better at what you do – even when you are saying the exact same thing.”

It’s true – people immediately think they know what you’re like, just from listening to your voice. If your voice doesn’t work well for you it’s really worth doing something about it.

The next Voice of Influence Workshop in London on 24-25 September is a great way to find your voice and confidence in a small group. Don’t put it off if you feel a bit daunted – every bit of feedback I get after this course confirms that it’s friendly, supportive and highly effective – even transformative – so what better time than now?

I also offer one-to-one face-to-face or Skype coaching on voice and presenting. Email me if you might be interested.

 COMMUNICATION AND PERSONAL EFFECTIVENESS

The new NLP Diploma starts on 19 October. NLP training is surprisingly effective. What will you get from it? Powerful communication and better relationships, confidence in all situations, more focus and clarity about where you’re going, surer decision making, leadership and coaching skills … and much more. Past delegates’ comments.

Module 1: Communication & Relationships 19-20 Oct,
Module 2: Leadership & Influence 9-10 Nov,
Module 3: Coaching & Change 26-27 Nov.

Never has quality NLP Training been so accessible! – Pay What You Can system for self-funding applicants. The very modest registration fee is for the basic venue and material costs, and the voluntary (but necessary!) element payable anonymously at the actual course according to what you can pay is for the NLP training and coaching you receive. More here.

NLP PRACTITIONER COMPLETION MODULE – 3-5 September

The NLP Practitioner qualification is widely recognised professionally as a mark of your ability to resolve problems, achieve successful outcomes and lead others with skill and emotional sensitivity. Personally, you will find that your relationships improve, you achieve your life goals more easily and you ‘find yourself’ in all senses of the term.

If you’ve completed my NLP Diploma you can be certified as an NLP Practitioner. This includes attendance at the 3-day intensive NLP Practitioner course.

NB!  If you have already completed the NLP Practitioner Module you are welcome to repeat the 3-day training completely for free. Email me very soon if you’re interested.

Spirit of Coaching Retreat in Oxford

The Spirit of Coaching next international retreat for coaches is at the Brahma Kumaris Retreat Centre in Oxford from 2-4 October. Other retreats have been rich and rewarding for participants. If you are a coach and would be interested to attend this ‘by invitation’ event, email me and I’ll pass your name and details on. It is free, though contributions are always welcome.

 

 

 

 

Are you becoming a caricature of yourself?

Screen Shot 2015-05-30 at 17.50.56How truthful do you allow yourself to be?

And does it matter?

Maybe more than you think it does …

 

We’re in a coach driving past a particularly lovely country mansion on our way to Stratford-upon-Avon. I’m the tour guide. It’s the ‘80s. A woman from Texas asks, “Who lives there?”

“Oh,” I reply. “I don’t know. It’s grand, isn’t it?”

My answer goes down like a lead balloon. The questioner pouts, shrugs and turns to look out of the window.

A month later, a man from Wyoming asks exactly the same question as we pass the very same house.

“Oh,” I reply, put on my guard by my previous experience and getting creative on the hoof. “Great question! It’s the country residence of the Earl of Wigshire. He used to come down from London by horse and carriage for country weekends. Quite an eccentric character by all accounts, pretty wild parties … and he bred potbellied pigs!”

“Wow!” responds the questioner, looking pleased.

That’s one kind of untruth. And if I’d cared enough about creating that happy response, I might have made a career of it.

That’s not what I think!

But what’s much more common is distorting the truth without meaning to. Have you ever had the experience of saying something in conversation and then thinking after you’ve said it, “That wasn’t really true – that’s not really what I think at all”? It happened to me last week, when I felt under pressure to say something. Some words came out of my mouth, and I realised that I didn’t really think that at all – I was just saying what people say in such circumstances.

In this way, we parcel bits of our lives, our thoughts, beliefs and feelings, into bite-size pieces, so that we can speak them. They’re not exactly untrue; but they’re not true either. Most of the time we don’t notice such lapses, we just assume that what we speak is what we think. But then, if we don’t notice, what we speak becomes by creeping stealth a substitute for truth.

The author Tim Gallwey – always a rewarding thinker to listen to – talks about the images we cultivate, and how the job of a coach is to see through veils to the person underneath all the acts and posturing. The hardest acts, he says, are not the bad self-images that mask a worthwhile person, but the good self-images people assume to make people believe they are wonderful, which actually cover up their real wonderfulness. “An image is an image,” he says. “What about the thing being imaged – you?”

Story-time

When we converse with people and don’t feel entirely comfortable, most of us tend to put a gloss on our words to preserve our self-image. With ‘glossing’ our stories take on a life of their own, and they grow and change with each telling. Our first stab at expressing an uncomfortable truth may come out as:

I’ve just lost my job – a new cut-throat boss was appointed…

For the next occasion this develops into:

Oh, my company were downsizing the workforce by a third – I took the chance and grabbed redundancy.

which later becomes:

Oh, I decided to start my own business – corporate life had got a bit stifling.

which arrives at:

I run a business consultancy. Working for yourself is the only way I think.

What’s wrong with this? There are times when words are expected of us, and it isn’t always easy to find the best words for the moment, particularly when we feel vulnerable. However, what can happen, I think, is that bit-by-bit we buy into our own edited stories, and as a result lose a layer of self-knowing and live a little less authentically. Eventually, we become caricatures – ‘spitting images’ – of ourselves. Watch it happen with politicians!

Funnily enough, the truth almost always offers a much better story than any anodised version and demonstrates a more powerful version of ourselves. For example, maybe I lost my job as in the example above, and was shocked, angry and defeated for a while. Maybe I struggled for years to find anything to take its place. Yet somehow, out of despair I dragged myself together, discovered resilience and courage, became innovative and created purpose for myself. In so doing, I learned about myself, and found qualities and strengths I didn’t know I had. Now that’s a much more interesting and human story and more worthy of respect than recounting that I’ve always been unfailingly wonderful and am endlessly wonderful now.

There was never a better opportunity to get real than in our own times. Most of us are getting pretty fed up with word-manipulation and spin, and there’s a new wave of dissatisfaction creeping into media headlines.

Call me naive, politicians, but how about saying what you really think?” challenges journalist Sophie Heawood.

By God, believe in something,” actor Michael Sheen tells politicians, describing today’s political climate, “where politicians are careful, tentative, scared of saying what they feel for fear.”

Successful entrepreneur Martha Lane Fox expresses shock as an MP at the artificiality of the Westminster world, “this suffocating implausibility, where nobody except mavericks will say what they mean.”

Why the fuss about driverless cars,” says journalist Marina Hyde? “We already have robot politicians.”

If you want to get real, start with speaking truth to yourself. How to tell if you’re doing that? Pay attention not just to your brain, but to your visceral awareness too.

For example, let’s imagine that at a party someone asks what I do, and I reply, “Oh, I’m at home with a baby; I’m planning to start my own business as soon as he sleeps through the night.”

What am I aware of? A feeling of awkwardness, of defensiveness, lack of congruence, a sense that what I’ve just said is not authentic. I’ve blurted it out because I’m feeling inadequate in this company as a still-at-home parent.

So I ask myself, what is the truth here – for me? Maybe that I’d love to be able to talk about business success and the world out there, but that in actual fact – even as I worry that others won’t see it that way – I’m currently doing the job I’ve wanted to do all my life, and it’s tough and rewarding in equal measure.

Much better story. And without doubt much more likely to build human connection the next time we dare say it as it is.

 

NEWS

Courses start up again in September, with the NLP Practitioner Completion module at the beginning of the month for those who have completed the NLP Diploma. Meanwhile …

SPIRIT OF COACHING: MAGICAL CONVERSATIONS – THE SECRET OF GREAT COACHING

Saturday 27 June, 9:30am – 4:30pm

Contributors include Judy Apps and Jackee Holder, coach and author of Soul Purpose and other books.

An uplifting day exploring ways to create conversations which open the mind and heart to a world of new, unlimited possibilities. For all coaches and anyone interested in personal growth and development. This day is free. Registration essential by Wednesday 24 June: Click here to REGISTER

AUTUMN COURSES

(All dates waiting for final confirmation)

Voice of Influence Workshop

24-25 September

Find your voice, confidence and ability to connect to any audience with confidence. Group coaching at its best.

NLP Diploma

Module 1: Communication and Relationships – 15-16 October

Module 2: Leadership and Influence – 5-6 November

Module 3: Coaching and Change – 26-27 November

Modules may be taken separately.

Register for all courses here.

Join me for ideas and tips on Facebook and Twitter!

COACHING

If you’re wondering about next steps in work or in life, feel stuck or don’t find satisfaction in what you do, coaching’s a great way to find confidence, purpose and direction. It can also be very reasonable in terms of cost. Email me or give me a call (01306 886114) if you want to know more.

FREE E-COURSES TO DOWNLOAD

Current titles:

* How to Speak with More Authority

* How to Overcome Performance Anxiety

* How to Raise Your Profile

* Introduction to NLP.

MY BOOKS

Available in print, audio & e-versions.

The Art of Conversation

If you’re shy and don’t know what to say or feel you blabber on, or want to make more meaningful connections with people, this is for you. Great for coaches too.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms 

If you want to overcome performance nerves, this reader-friendly book offers 25 different strategies for speaking and presenting with confidence – and they work! It’s already published in Italian, Malaysian, Arabic and Thai as well as English, and I’ve just received the Polish edition.

"Butterflies & Sweaty Palms" - in Polish!

“Butterflies & Sweaty Palms” – in Polish!

Voice and Speaking Skills For Dummies  

A comprehensive guide – dip in anywhere and discover practical tips for developing a more robust and interesting voice. Includes my audio CD.

Voice of Influence 

Gets to the heart of voice – how to connect and influence others through your voice. A good read with plenty of personal experiences and practical advice.

Do get in touch with me if you have comments or questions, and please feel free to pass this newsletter on if you’ve enjoyed it.

Go well,

Judy