Travelling to a different emotional space …

walkaloneA story of walking out

I was feeling unappreciated and misunderstood. “I’m going out!” I announced with an air of finality like a teenager, and I stomped out.

Down the road, cut down the alley, across the main road and down towards the farm on the other side, then up the track that crosses the railway; finally up the steep hill through woods on the other side. I was puffing slightly when I reached the path along the downs at the top. I struck out further north, beyond our normal walking tracks into less-known territory, seeking to get as far away as possible. Soon I was a few miles from home, walking briskly along a woodland path through beech and chestnut. The signs around me of the dying year suited my frame of mind.

It was a beautiful autumn day, and I strode out, enjoying the rhythm of my steps and the energy of the exercise. I walked for a good hour and didn’t see a soul: surprising  how much space there is in the countryside – even in the south east! In the solitude I glimpsed a young deer which emerged from the trees up ahead, crossed the path calmly and disappeared into deep undergrowth. I felt pleased that it hadn’t panicked: silence, space, me and a deer.

By the time I found myself walking towards home rather than away from it, two hours had passed and I was deeply absorbed with an idea in my mind for a new project. By the time I reached home I was all eagerness to write it down.

My earlier mood? I could remember the earlier spat, but was in an entirely different place mentally and quite happy about the way forward. Plus, there was that warm creative glow…

Sometimes, all that is needed is space to free up and think; and the mind frees up as the body frees up. Nancy Kline in her excellent book Time to Think suggests that we all function immeasurably better when we have time to think for ourselves. Independent thinking is a rare commodity in the workplace. You might say that you are thinking all the time, but being engaged on a problem and thinking for yourself are different. Thinking for yourself requires space and attention. You can give that attention to yourself or someone who knows how can hold that listening space for you. Time, space and attention are the sponsors of creativity.

At my courses, when I observe participants happily engaged in an exercise, I realise that an important element of this kind of training is the space it gives to minds freed up by enjoyment to think independently and creatively. The changes that are born in that thinking space are often transformational and extraordinary.

What better time for thinking and creating than these shortening days of late autumn as nature settles down for its quiet season? – Nature has its time off too to prepare for spring. Farmers wanting the best from the land leave fields fallow some years to restore nutrients. People need breaks to restore mental fertility and balance. I wonder what will come into fruition for you in this “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”?

… and what space you will give it to allow it to emerge? 

NLP Conference – London, 12-14 November 2010

The NLP Conference has an especially impressive line-up of speakers and topics this year. It’s always a great opportunity to hear some of the best NLP trainers and developers in one place.

My own session – “Hypnotic Voices” – strays into the area of psychotherapy. Successful  hypnotherapists use the voice with particular skill and provide excellent models of vocal magic. But their techniques will also be of great interest to coaches, teachers, public speakers and all who use language to ‘take people to a different emotional space’.

I talk about techniques – but it’s more than that. The spoken voice has a considerable effect on other people, more than we are aware of consciously. To make vocal connections on a subtle deeper level requires physical, emotional and holistic alignment. This is what makes the learning so fascinating and the ability so fulfilling.

NLP Conference – London 2010

NLP Conference 2010

The NLP Conference looks exciting this year – an especially impressive line-up of speakers and topics. It’s always a great opportunity to hear some of the best NLP trainers and developers in one place.

My own session – “Hypnotic Voices” – looks to psychotherapy for new learning. Successful  hypnotherapists use the voice with particular skill and provide excellent models of vocal magic. But their techniques will also be of great interest to coaches, teachers, public speakers and all who use language to ‘take people to a different emotional space’.

I talk about techniques – but it’s much more than that. To make vocal connections on a deeper level requires physical, emotional and holistic alignment. This is what makes the learning so fascinating and  the ability so fulfilling.

The Hypnotic Voices session is on Saturday afternoon at 4.15. The Conference Brochure says:

Hypnotic Voices

The spoken voice has a considerable effect on other people, more than we are aware of consciously. If you are a hypnotist, therapist or coach you want to use the spoken word to influence your client yet maybe are not sure exactly how to do this with the voice you’ve been given. This session will introduce you to three key techniques for using your voice in trance work and generally for influencing people beneath their conscious awareness. The session is of special interest to those who work in the fields of hypnotherapy, coaching or clean language and is also suitable for everyone who wants to be able to exert more subtle influence with their voice.

To Book log onto:

 Let me know if you are planning to be at the Conference and I’ll hope to meet you at my workshop.

 See you there!


Feeling the Fear

Feel the FearSummer ending. This morning I hear the rumble of passing cars as the school at the top of the road gets into action after the holiday. It’s a time of beginnings for all ages: starting school for the very first time, entering secondary school, getting ready for college or going back to work after the holiday break.

Rested, refreshed?

Rabbit in headlightsActually, for many of us what actually arises at this moment of new beginnings – even if we don’t tell a soul – is FEAR.

We don’t want it to be so but there it is, and there doesn’t seem to be much we can do about it. Are we alone in this? And what is this fear feeling? Are we saying to ourselves that we’re not going to cope? We’re not good enough? We’re found wanting? Are we thinking the world’s a dangerous place? We are not sure, the feeling is so nebulous.

What we do recognise is the effect: a blocked sensation, a stiffness taking over the posture, a shrinking within, a weakness, a hesitation to speak. It says “I can’t” as surely as Sir Winston Churchill’s “black dog” of depression.

Many people at work have such symptoms every day – especially currently when they feel especially vulnerable to reorganisation and cuts. The fear saps vitality, stifles creativity and makes the person feel small – like a rabbit caught in the headlights, frozen in a moment of impending doom! – even as they increase their efforts and double their stress.

The instinct is to force control on the situation – to spend extra time, prepare more carefully, look both ways before proceeding, micro-manage, make extra efforts to get things right, check and double check, to watch other people’s reactions, calculate risks …

 – and surely that’s good. Yes, it surely is …

And yet, and yet …

What if life is less like a crossing the road and more like white water rafting?

When I’m hurtling down the river rapids of life what is going to help then? Very different skills: steering rather than trying to put a brake on, looking the way I’m going rather than at my fellow passengers’ reactions, opening to currents of opportunity rather trying to get the paddling correct, freedom rather than rigidity, breathing rather than stiffening, exhilaration rather than holding.

It’s going with what is happening as it happens.

In terms of moving beyond fear, it means as a first step movement with and breath.

So, at this moment of new starts, it’s the perfect time to take a deep breath, and the time to get moving. A brisk walk gives us more energy than internal dialogue as we enter the workplace. The voice comes out stronger when we fill our lungs first. Singing a song at full volume in the shower gives us more courage than giving ourselves a critical lecture. A short amble up the hill produces more good ideas than two hours facing a screen.

So I breathe out the old air and take a good in-breath. I shake myself loose, start to move, and something shifts.

White Water RaftingSuddenly I’m enjoying the late summer sunshine, feeling optimistic, thrilling to the next challenge and all set to surf the rapids as well as move in quiet waters –  ready for the world again.

Happy river running to all of you!

– and many quiet waters!

Confidence Connections on the Website

 1.  “10 Secrets to Overcoming Performance Anxiety” Download free e-course.

2.   The “Voice of Influence” workshop has some powerful resources for going beyond fear – the next course is on 30 Sep – 1 Oct. As a previous participant said:  “It’s fabulous how these two days transformed my fear into real FUN! Can’t wait to do some more speaking.” Alex S  

3.  NLP Diploma: NLP is the great confidence builder – the Diploma offers six days of rich practical learning over a couple of months. People find it difficult to put NLP in a nutshell, but what you will certainly get out of the Diploma is the ability to be a more effective communicator and get on better with everyone, surer direction in your life, greater self awareness – including liking yourself better! – more influence and increased success at work and outside.  This makes it a great leadership course.


Cicely Berry – Voice Genius

Cicely Berry

the actors' coach

Isn’t Wikipedia wonderful? I check out Cicely Berry this morning and as usual it comes up trumps:

“Cicely Frances Berry CBE (born May 17, 1926) is the voice director of the Royal Shakespeare Company and is world-renowned in her work as a voice and text coach”

it tells me. She is indeed coach to the professionals and particularly adores working with Shakespeare. I love her work because she values authenticity highly and connects people with who they are. Browsing again recently through her book “Voice and the Actor” published in the seventies she has some wise words about communicating your inner self.

Your tensions and limitations as a speaker come from lack of trust in yourself, she says. Perhaps you are over-anxious to communicate or too keen to present an image. Perhaps you are trying to convince your audience of something about yourself. You may even be relying too much on what works for you and become too predictable … even if you have an interesting voice. All these approaches lack true freedom.

As Cicely says elsewhere, “We are drawn to a voice which vibrates and which has resonance.”  Freedom is having no preconceived idea of how to sound, no holding on to the voice you know, no unnecessary tension.

Wow, that’s a real letting go, but how we love to hear that in a speaker – the speaker is liberated and we experience the energy of that liberation. Worth aiming for, I think.

Tibetan Singing Bowls

Singing BowlHave you come across a singing bowl? I bought one when I went to Kathmandu. It is a metal bowl that sounds like a bell when struck with a soft mallet and it is the most remarkable object.
Antique singing bowls were made of alloys containing up to seven different metals – for example copper, tin, zinc, silver, gold, nickel and iron. Some bowls even contained a most prized metal they called “sky iron” which came from meteorites such as found in Tibet.
There is something quite extraordinary about the sound these bowls make. The different metals within the bowl produce different harmonics so that a well-made bowl produces several tones at once, resulting in a sound that is rich, full, harmonious, complex and enchanting. The oldest bowls have a specially warm and peaceful tone that creates a meditative calm when you hear it. The tone lingers for quite some time and you can feel its effect within you.
Monks in Buddhist monasteries used such sounds in meditation. The sound vibrations promote wellness and balance. Sound being one of the spiritual paths to enlightenment the bell also reminds them to be mindful in meditation.
Striking the outside of the bowl with a mallet is one way to produce the sound; but the bowl furnishes its most incredible tone when played in a different way. You hold the bowl freely on your open palm and rub a mallet lightly around the rim of the bowl. There gradually emerges from the silence a continuous singing tone, a complex chord of harmonic overtones, which develops into a surprisingly powerful sound. If you’d like to hear and see how to do it go to Joseph Feinstein’s demonstration at

I like to think of the singing bowl as a metaphor for coaching. First of all – like the people you may coach – every bowl is different; each has its own shape, its own size, and its own individual combination of metals. And each responds to the player in different ways, and responds to each individual player in a different way.
The bowl only sings when it is supported so that it can vibrate. Nothing is forced; sound emerges from the light touch around the centre. The touch needs to be subtle, like connecting with something alive. The swashbuckling actor Errol Flynn when asked what is the proper way to hold a sword replied that you should hold it like a small bird: “If you hold too tightly the bird dies and the life is lost. If you hold too loosely, the bird escapes and flies away, and you’re left with nothing” So too with the singing bowl. And so too the relationship with someone you coach – not too tight and not too loose: too much control and many possibilities escape you; too tentative a connection and you fail to hold a supportive space that engenders change.
As a coach you hold the space as a bowl surrounds the emptiness within it. The old monks meditated on the “voidness” in the bowl – it is from that unknown space that truths and insights emerge. If we think we know what is inside we make mistakes or force conclusions. We don’t know before we start; it emerges as we work together with someone. What we do know for sure is that the person, like the singing bowl, is extraordinary and exceptional: a unique voice that wants to be heard.
Here are some more glorious vibrations created by Tibetan singing bowls for you to enjoy.

Coaching in Companies

What’s the effect of coaching in companies?

What a tricky question!

But researchers attempt to answer it from time to time. N2growth, a leading venture growth consultancy, released in 2006 the results of a study quantifying the business impact of executive coaching. The study included 100 executives – mostly from Fortune 1000 companies – who received coaching.

The coaching delivered an average return on investment of 5.7 times the initial investment in a typical executive coaching assignment according to executives who estimated the monetary value of the results achieved through coaching.

The study included data on executive behaviour change, organizational improvements achieved, and the return on investment (ROI). Participating companies realised improvements in

  • Productivity (reported by 53% of the executives who estimated the monetary value of the results)
  • Quality (48%)
  • Organizational strength (48%)
  • Customer service (39%)
  • Reducing customer complaints (34%)
  • Retaining executives who received coaching (32%)
  • Cost reductions (23%)
  • Bottom-line profitability (22%)

Other benefits to executives who received coaching were

  • Improved working relationships with direct reports (reported by 77% of executives)
  • Improved working relationships with immediate supervisors (71%)
  • Improved teamwork (67%)
  • Improved working relationships with peers (63%)
  • Increased job satisfaction (61%)
  • Reduction of conflict (52%)
  • Increased organizational commitment (44%)
  • Improved working relationships with clients (37%)

An excellent thing then…

However – as Einstein had written on his wall – “Not everything that counts can be counted; not everything that can be counted counts.”

A coaching culture is not always a straightforward or comfortable environment – it requires a courageous approach, and a certain amount of letting go. Leaders sometimes talk about a coaching climate, magnetic leadership and empowerment – and then use command and control to impose a new coaching paradigm  – which doesn’t exactly align with the spirit of coaching!

Here’s a little domestic story:

I used to walk my son to school when he was very young. His favourite day in the summer was Tuesday – swimming day – when the whole class would troop down to the local leisure centre. Most early mornings I would shout up to him from the kitchen, “Remember your swimming things!” Sometimes I forgot to remind him and he forgot too. On those days after depositing him at school I would rush home for the forgotten items and deliver them to the school.

That is – until I went back to work. One Tuesday we reached school and he suddenly remembered that it was swimming day. But that day I had to tell him that I was off to work and did not have the time to go home for the swimming stuff. Tears and pleas were in vain. There was no swimming for him that day. He was bitterly disappointed.

The result? From that day on, he always remembered his swimming things on a Tuesday – for himself. It was an important bit of growing into responsibility for him.

For me it was a revelation: that bringing people into full responsibility is not always about controlling or leading or teaching – sometimes it’s even about letting go.

Now translate that to a business context in which I am the team leader and my son is the team member. At a certain point I hand over responsibility for something – which means I let it go and allow the person to grow. If I actually let go – and here’s the rub – mistakes may happen: letting go means giving up control over results. But the approach allows the team member to take charge and in doing so they step into greater capability and sense of responsibility – not only for now but for life.

Of course, coaching is not all about letting go. The coach needs a whole tool bag of different tools. But it is about the coachee being in charge of their life and the coach believing the coachee to be creative, resourceful, whole and extraordinary – and to be trusted.

Much ‘strong’ leadership keeps people small.

“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and
you help them become what they are capable of”
Joseph Wolfgang Von Goethe

Coaching is about encouraging people to step into their greatness – what a gift to the organisation – and yes to the ROI too …

Coaching has many different tools for helping people as you walk beside them on their journey. Learning to be an excellent coach will help your organisation and is also a great development tool for yourself. You learn what you teach; you teach what you learn.