Friday, 14 September 2012

If at first you don't succeed....

I've been waiting for a few months for the time when I would be able to write this particular blog. Earlier this week the event I'd been waiting for happened...Andy Murray won his first Grand Slam tournament.

A British educational writer, W E Hickson, was the person who was credited with writing:
'Tis a lesson you should heed, try, try, try again. If at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again.'

And at his fifth attempt at winning a Grand Slam, he was indeed, successful.

But perseverance alone will not turn failure to success. Albert Einstein famously defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. That was why, after being the runner-up in three Grand Slam finals since 2008, on New Years Eve 2011 Andy Murray appointed Ivan Lendl, a former world number one and winner of eight Grands Slams as his coach and mentor.

Apart from the fact that I'm an avid follower of tennis (I even prefer it to football!), I'm also delighted that here is a very high profile example of how coaching and mentoring can have a huge impact and achieve outstanding results.

So it is with high hopes and expectations that in a few days time I start my course to gain professional qualifications in coaching and mentoring. Lots of other courses I looked at only cover coaching. Although coaching and mentoring are different, they work very well in tandem, as long as you are clear on when and why you use each of them. From Andy Murray's perspective being mentored by someone who also had been runner-up in his first four Grand Slams, he will have been able to discuss their shared experience and understand how Ivan Lendl was able to progress. A coach's job is to listen, question, challenge and listen again and help the person being coached to come up with the answers themselves.

I'm sure that this is just the start of even greater success.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Finding your personal brand

One of the most important 'must haves' for any business is a website to showcase what you offer. As part of setting up my coaching / training business I've spent hours on-line looking at web designers across the country and have finally selected one to work with.

The first step in creating my site is to think about my logo and brand. If you have a business that is selling something tangible you have a starting point from which to create your brand. But when what is being sold is intangible, in my case my knowledge, skills and experience, it is harder to visualise that as a logo.

To help me give some guidance to the web designer she has asked me to fill in a questionnaire. So I have considered what type of look I want the pages to have; I've discarded 'antique', 'artistic', 'kids' amongst others and gone for 'contemporary', 'professional' and 'approachable'. I've also considered types of font, colours and graphics. But the question that made me think the most was about slogans or tag-lines. Do I want one? And if so, what should it say?

We all have our own individual principles, values and beliefs. It may be hard to sum them up in the few words of a slogan but can you describe who you are and what you want people to know about you in a few sentences? Commonly known as The Elevator Pitch, there are plenty of tips on-line on how to put one together.

The Havard Business School have an 'Elevator Pitch' tool that helps you construct a pitch and then analyses it.  (

This was my first attempt:

Recognised as an expert coach, mentor and trainer, I help individuals and businesses to maximise their strengths to enable them to excel in their chosen field. I am interested in discussing how I can help you maximise your strengths and excel.

I was quite happy with my first attempt until I saw that it was only 41 words and would take me 11 seconds to deliver; an average pitch is 231 words and takes 56 seconds. Think what opportunities I've missed with my brief speech. Back to the drawing board then!

But I do hope that even that first attempt highlights what is important to me when I coach and mentor. If I decide to incorporate a slogan under my business name it will be....maximising your strengths.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Lessons from the Olympics - Cheering and honking!

Like millions of others I've spent the last few weeks caught up in Olympic fever (and not blog-writing!) and have watched a wide variety of sports I never knew I'd be excited about. When the ticket application process started last year each member of my family discussed the sports they'd like to see and we submitted requests for our choices. We were only successful with one application; much to my husband's and son's delight this was to see the Beach Volleyball at Horse Guards Parade. And it turned out to be a very entertaining afternoon, the culmination of which was seeing the GB Women (Zara Dampney and Shauna Mullin) beat Canada. The British pair are ranked 37th in the world but were able to compete at London 2012 as they were representing the host nation. With only 24 teams in the competition Zara and Shauna had to really punch above their weight to achieve a victory.

For a Canadian view on the match read this:
or for less sporting analysis and more pictures try this!:

But what struck me about lots of the GB performances where the athletes performed much better than expected was the impact of the crowd; how they cheered and encouraged the competitors to give every ounce of strength they had left and which helped team GB surpass all expectations on the total number of medals won. Jessica Ennis said that the noise of the crowd gave her goosebumps and made her want to raise her game even more. And time after time when the athletes were interviewed they said how the crowd cheering them had made a big difference to their performance.

All of which made me think about the geese in Gung Ho! (a book by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles about the three things needed to motivate a team). Like flocks of geese which constantly communicate and encourage each other when they migrate in flocks, with each geese taking a turn to lead, successful people also need to be cheered on.

Watch this 3 minute clip on You-tube - Lessons from Geese.
It reminds us that:

"Our honking needs to be encouraging."
" Outcomes are more powerful when there is support and encouragement."
" Individual empowerment comes from quality honking"

And there are lots of British athletes who will testify to that.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

On leaving a legacy...

On Monday morning I logged on to check my emails and the news of the death of Dr Stephen Covey flashed up on my screen. For those that are not aware he was the author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, a book which has sold more than 20 million copies since it's publication in 1989. He wrote a number of other books on leadership and management, ran his own management training company and gave motivational speeches around the world.

And over the last few days I've been reflecting on the impact that his books have had on me and how or indeed whether I should make this a subject on my blog. I'd not come up with an answer until I sat down tonight and read some of the on-line articles about his life. I've been struck about how similar they all are; detailing the facts and figures of the number of copies of his books sold, his 9 children and 52 grand-children and the various accolades and honorary degrees he received. All very laudable but nothing that really gave a sense of the man - which comes across so strongly in his writings.

Then I found this article:

and after reading one of the comments left about this article I looked up the interview in 2005 that this student had with Dr Covey which gives a real insight on his thoughts on mentoring.

At the start of the second chapter of the 7 Habits - Habit 2 'Begin with the end in mind' he asks you to think about what you would like four speakers at your funeral to say about you; someone from your family, a friend, someone from your work and somebody from your church or community organisation that you've been involved with. He asks you to think about what type of person they would describe, what contributions and achievements; what difference you have made to their lives.

"If you carefully consider what you wanted to be said of you in the funeral experience, you will find your definition of success."

He wrote a follow-up book 'The 8th Habit', the first part of which is about finding your own voice and the second part is all about inspiring others to find their voice. I started the book some years ago now but didn't finish it but I feel the time is right to continue to read on. In the introduction he suggests that to get the most out of the book that you teach and share as you go - which is what I intend to do over the coming months.

“There are certain things that are fundamental to human fulfillment. The essence of these needs is captured in the phrase 'to live, to love, to learn, to leave a legacy'. The need to live is our physical need for such things as food, clothing, shelter, economical well-being, health. The need to love is our social need to relate to other people, to belong, to love and to be loved. The need to learn is our mental need to develop and to grow. And the need to leave a legacy is our spiritual need to have a sense of meaning, purpose, personal congruence, and contribution”                                                                         Stephen Covey

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Corporate Crises and Cottage Industries

'Banker Bashing' has been the country's favourite activity ever since the economic crisis came to the public's attention in 2008 but in recent weeks it has reached fever pitch. I remember, just when I was starting out in my career, when Midland Bank acquired an American bank called Crocker and shortly afterwards realised the extent of the poor loans and losses that it had bought. At that time Midland employees, when asked who we worked for, were reluctant to mention that it was Midland Bank, such was the tarnished reputation it had quickly acquired.

Now I don't suppose there are many 'bankers' who are happy to publicly declare the type of company they work for. So maybe it is good timing for me to be making the transition to becoming a 'former banker'.

In my first week of 'gardening leave' ahead of my formal departure date at the end of July, I struggled to adjust to the change of mindset needed for being a self-employed business owner. Day three was spent in the kitchen making jams, chutneys and fruit crumbles using surplus produce for sale and use in our B&B.

At the end of the day, as any meticulous banker would, I totted up the potential revenue, the cost of production and the anticipated net profit and to my dismay calculated that my morning's work would, at best, result in total net profit of £13.62. And I thought back to the previous week when it would take a matter of minutes to earn that (and no tears from chopping onions either!)

So ingrained had the corporate mentality become that I was only valuing my work in terms of pounds and pence. But gradually and with prompting from friends and colleagues who would like the same opportunity to start afresh, I am beginning to realise that running your own business, with the freedom to create things in the way that you choose and in accordance with your values and principles is much more meaningful and satisfying and that producing something of quality is more valuable than the face value of the product on the shelf.

Six years ago Holly Tucker and Sophie Cornish started a business from home. Now it has become a multi-million pound business that helps hundreds of independent designers and retailers sell their products enabling them to reach wider markets and in turn as these people expand they employ more people. Their book 'How to build a business from your kitchen table' was published this week (www.

The world and the global economy needs multinational, corporate companies but I wonder if the first thought has become, 'what is the impact on the bottom line and what can I earn from this?'

Finally after my previous blog on goal-setting in which I talked about the need for constantly setting and re-setting goals;  I've since been thinking of a few lines from a poem by W H Davies - "what is this life, if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare". More on work/life balance another time!

Below an example of building your business at the patio table (the sun was out - it's always sunny in Norfolk!)

Ready for sale......

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Goal Setting Urban Myths

For some years I've quoted a Harvard University study from 1953 about the impact of writing down your goals, namely that the 3% of those who graduated in 1953 and who wrote down their goals were collectively worth more than the remaining 97% of the graduates who didn't set goals and /or write them down. When I've done presentations in recent years on the importance of pro-actively managing your own development, I've used this powerful example as one of the reasons to have a written PDP or a set of goals on paper.

Today, to ensure that I had my facts right, I googled the study and, to my surprise, found conflicting articles on the topic:

and then....

So it appears to be an urban myth - but the under-lying principle for me still stands. But as that would make a very short blog, I pondered some more and flicked back through the past copies of the monthly newsletters I used to write. One started with the headline 'Make it happen' - which is one of my driving force philosophies. On the wall in our self-catering cottage we have a framed quote (because both of us felt it summed up why our business has happened):

Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen.

Michael Jordan NBA Basketball player - arguably the world's greatest basket-ball player

Read more of his philosophies at

 Formal goal setting at work is commonly done at the beginning of the year and maybe mid-way through the year is a good time to review your progress as well (see second-hand thinking blog) but to really keep things happening day in, day out (or at the very least week in, week out) writing down items on a 'to-do' list (which are still goals you want to achieve) makes it happen.

For months and months we've talked about having a check-list for our B&B and the cottage rooms to ensure we don't miss anything and to keep consistently high standards. When I started supporting Mike in the business for this summer it went on to the 'to-do' list and within a few days that item had been crossed off (there's also something very satisfying about crossing off the items you've done). And at the end of what may feel like a frustrating day in the office, if you can look back at your list and find you have achieved something then you know you've made progress. Just remember there are always more things to keep adding to your 'to-do' list - because that's how you can really make things happen.

 For as Sir Winston Churchill said:

"Every day you make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb."

Monday, 2 July 2012

Second Half Thinking

At this time of year my thoughts are focused on Wimbledon but since 2005 this time of the year also reminds me of the concept of Second Half Thinking which Sir Clive Woodward detailed in his book 'Winning' about the how England won the 2003 Rugby World Cup.

After the 1999 World Cup he realised that it was necessary to make some changes. One of the problems was that although the team started a match well they did not start the second half of a match with sufficient focus and he realised that what he wanted was to see "the players performing as if it was the first-half all over again".

Changing the player's shirts at half-time was symbolic - a "physical act to trigger our minds to 0-0, fresh start, Second Half Thinking." He felt that "it should be irrelevant what the scoreboard said". If the team were losing they needed to forget the first half and play really well in the second half and if they were winning they needed to win the second half too.

In June 2005 my then Area Manager shared this idea with the branches under his leadership and challenged us all to think about what we would do differently leading our branches for the second half of the year. I was working as a Service and Sales Manager in Crawley at the time and the branch performance and engagement of the team were going well; so was there a need to change?

We used the idea of Second Half Thinking to celebrate the team's successes in the first half of the year with an indoor lunch-time barbecue on the 4th of July and we changed the layout of the furniture and bought lots of plants to give the place a fresh feel. At the lunch everyone was encouraged to jot down their ideas on big flip chart sheets under Stop, Start and Continue headings and we talked these through at a subsequent team meeting and implemented almost every idea (including replacing a wobbly toilet seat...because that was clearly important to someone!)

I've used this concept several times since; as a branch manager having recently taken over a very demoralised team and as an area manager encouraging my branch managers to take a fresh look at how they were doing things, each time taking the opportunity to celebrate the successes of the first half of the year as well.

But it also is a great prompt for anyone working towards individual goals or targets. What may have been the right approach in early January at the start of the annual performance cycle may not be appropriate now - but how many of us look at our performance objectives on an ongoing basis and change our approach in response to outside events?

For me, having started gardening leave last week it is the perfect opportunity to stop looking back and missing what I can no longer have but to look to the second half of the year and put some new goals in place. So goal setting will be the subject of my next blog......