Tag Archives: coaching

Why your lifestyle can be affecting your credibility at work

Why your lifestyle can be affecting your credibility at work

‘Nobody ever takes me seriously’ complained Rachel*. ‘I’m as qualified as they are and I’m doing a good job with clients but they treat me like the office junior. I’m really fed up with it.

‘Why don’t they take you seriously?’Messing_about_at_work

‘Because I’m a girl and the youngest person there. They’re all just sexist old farts.’

‘Well, Sally’s only a couple of years older than you. Do they take her seriously?’

‘Yes, but she’s different.’


‘I don’t know, she just is.’

I decided to park Rachel’s unflattering description of her colleagues for now and instead asked her to tell me more about Sally, how she behaves, what she says and the image she projects at work. Gradually we started to unpick why Sally is different from Rachel and why people take her seriously. Here’s the first thing Rachel identified:

‘She never crawls in to work, late, complaining about her hangovers.’

‘Do you?’

‘Sometimes.’ Rachel paused. ‘Most weeks, to be honest. I need to stop that. I need to keep my personal life to myself.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘I talk a lot about what’s going at home, my boyfriend, my flatmates and what I’ve been doing with my friends.’

‘Why is that a problem?’

‘I do it too much.’ Rachel paused again. ‘It looks like I care more about what’s happening outside work. And nobody at work needs to know that I had a row with Jason, or drank too much on Saturday. It’s none of their business. It makes me look bad. I need to focus on work stuff at work and leave what’s happening at home behind me when I get to the office’

‘It sounds like you don’t always behave appropriately then’.

‘I had never thought of it like that, I was just having a laugh. But laughs at work and laughs outside are different. You can enjoy your job, but having a laugh with your colleagues isn’t the same as what you do and say when you’re having a laugh with your friends. I had never thought of that before. It’s no wonder they don’t take me seriously. They think I’m a party animal who lives in a soap opera.’ Rachel slumped back in her chair, her hands over her face. I gave her a minute or two to reflect. When she was ready I resumed the coaching session.

‘OK, so it sounds like you’re blurring the boundaries between home and work a bit too much. Is that fair?’

‘Definitely. I forget where I am sometimes. I need to think more about what’s appropriate. Sally never talks about her social life. Ever. If she’s out with people from work she doesn’t get drunk, or gossip, or rehash things the next day. She has a good time, she’s a good laugh, but she doesn’t bring it in to work. That’s one of the things I’m doing wrong. I feel really embarrassed. I think I need to change a lot.’

It’s easy to blame others for not taking you seriously but, as always, you need to look at yourself and your own behaviour first. In your 20’s you often socialise with colleagues and that can make it hard to adopt a more professional persona when you’re back in the office. It can also be difficult to identify and maintain clear boundaries between your social life and your work life and, as with Rachel, lack of boundaries may be one of the things that undermine your credibility.

We’ll look at more factors that influence how seriously you will be taken in my next blog. You may alos want to look at recent blogs on becoming a manager: newly-promoted-and-its-all-got-weird-heres-some-help and developing your confidence as a leader: modesty-and-confidence. In the meantime, if you recognise yourself in Rachel and want to clarify your own boundaries click on the link below for a free coaching session, on me.

* All names have been changed. This story has been told with the permission of ‘Rachel’.

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Alchemy A-Z of running your own business: K is for kaizen

Alchemy A-Z of running your own business: K is for kaizen

Kaizen is Japanese for ‘good change’, although in the West we usually refer to it as ‘continuous improvement’, and is a principle first adopted by Japanese manufacturers in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s with the intention of improving processes and eliminating waste.  Continuous improvement sounds exhausting but actually it’s simple: every day look at what you can do to make you and your business better (remember for small businesses everything starts with you, the business owner: assume you’re the problem until proven otherwise). So how do you do this and why does it matter?

The how is easy; it’s about learning from mistakes but also actively looking for and finding ways to do things better. You may well be doing it already, perhaps in response to customer issues and complaints, perhaps because one of the team has spotted a way of doing things differently and so save time, money or improve quality. For successful businesses kaizen is usually part of the culture, they consciously seek out ways of improving what they do.  Instead of blaming people when things go wrong they treat mistakes as a learning opportunity, looking at what happened and why and making sure that they never happen again.

One of my clients is proactive about kaizen.  They end every week with a team discussion about what they liked best about the week just gone and what they will do differently next week.  It’s positive and keeps them focussed on getting better.

I sometimes record workshops I run or individual coaching sessions (with the permission of the participants of course) and play them back a few days later, critiquing myself as I go.  Yes, it’s excruciating but what I learn is invaluable and makes me a better coach.  Kaizen can be hard work, even painful, but it’s worth it.

Why does it matter? Occasionally I come across businesses who think that what they’re doing is always right and the only way to do things and if customers don’t like it then they know what they can do. Guess what, customers will indeed do one. Closely related to kaizen is cycling guru Dave Brailsford’s notion of ‘the aggregation of marginal gains’, small, incremental positive changes which, when taken together, make a massive difference to performance.  The impact of this is nicely illustrated in this graphic by James Clear http://jamesclear.com/marginal-gains


Marginal gains

So take a moment to think of a few things you know you can do better.  What resources do you need to improve them?  How can you make the necessary changes?  What difference will they make to your life or your business?  What’s stopping you?  Remember, this is where coaching might help – someone not involved in the day to day can often see things you’re missing and hold you accountable for making the changes needed to make your business better.

For more information about how coaching might help you improve your business please get in touch for a no-obligation chat. You can do by calling me on 01235 861 311 or emailing me at info@alchemybusinesscoaching.biz.   I look forward to hearing from you.

Shock of the week: man appoints female coach!

Shock of the week: man appoints female coach!

I’ve been amused, and sometimes surprised, this week by the reaction to Andy Murray appointing Amelie Mauresmo as his coach. Some comments and objections were just ridiculous and won’t be repeated here but I’m glad to say that mostly the press has tried to be even-handed. Nevertheless, the excellent Neil Harman writing in The Sunday Times and The Times described Murray as ‘unconventional’ and his decision as ‘courageous and stunning’, not to mention ‘historic’. Why the surprise? Is it because Mauresmo was a bad player? Hardly, she’s a former world number 1 and Wimbledon champion. Is she a lousy coach? We don’t really know; she has only ‘dabbled in it fleetingly’ (Harman again). She’s ‘fragile’ apparently and ‘can’t use the men’s locker room’ (various commentators). She’s also openly French. Will any of that make her a bad coach? I can’t see why.

Murray and MAuresmo

The subtext of course is that birds can’t coach blokes (unless she’s his mum or wife, natch, in which case he’s probably a mummy’s boy and/or hen-pecked), although the other way round is of course OK, even desirable.

All of which interests me because I have an equal mix of male and female clients on my books at the moment, and historically it has always been about 50/50. So is it just me? I don’t think so. Research into executive coaching has shown that sometimes both women and men prefer to work with a female coach. Furthermore, men tend not choose their coaches on the basis of gender but on the professional characteristics of the coach (Gray and Goregaokar, 2010). Nor is there any evidence that gender affects the ‘helpfulness’ of the coaching intervention, rather it is the quality of the ‘working alliance’ or coaching relationship that counts (De Haan, Culpin and Curd, 2011). This all fits with what Murray himself has said:

‘She’s obviously a fantastic player. She won Wimbledon, she was world No.1, won the Australian Open. Just from speaking to her, she’s very calm, she’s a good person. I think we will communicate well together and I think that’s a very important part of coaching.” (Andy Murray quoted in The Telegraph, 8 June 2014)

It may not work out of course, sometimes coaching relationships just don’t gel or have the expected and desired effect but it looks like Andy chose Amelie for the right reasons so let’s wish them well.

For more on how to choose your coach check out this post from February 2014: http://www.alchemybusinesscoaching.biz/choosing-your-coach


Briggs, S. ‘Andy Murray appoints Amelie Mauresmo as his new coach’ The Telegraph 8 June 2014

De Haan, E., Culpin, V., Curd, J. (2011) ‘Executive coaching in practice: what determines helpfulness for clients of coaching?’ Personnel Review, Vol. 40 Iss: 1, pp.24 – 44

Gray, D.E., Goregaokar, H. (2010) ‘Choosing an executive coach: The influence of gender on the coach-coachee matching process.’ Management Learning 41: 525

Harman, N. ‘Murray appoints Mauresmo as his new coach’ The Sunday Times 8 June 2014

Harman, N. ‘Amelie Mauresmo gender not an issue for unconventional Andy Murray’ The Times 9 June 2014

Photograph: worldinsport.com

For more on how to choose a coach check out this post: http://www.alchemybusinesscoaching.biz/choosing-your-coach/

The Alchemy A-Z of building your firm: I is for Ideas

Executive thinking strategicallyThe Alchemy A-Z of running your own firm: I is for Ideas

Sometimes you’ll have lots of ideas: some will just pop into your head, others will be planted there by people who are trying to sell you something.  Sometimes you won’t have any, you’ll be completely and utterly stuck, without a clue what to do.  Either situation can cause problems so here’s some suggestions for what to do when you have both too many and not enough ideas.

One of my clients has what feels like hundreds of ideas a week – some are brilliant, others are bonkers but she can’t always tell the difference and gets distracted by chasing after the shiny new thing that’s going to change her life or make her a fortune.  Most of the time what she really needs to be doing is focusing on getting her business stable, but we really don’t want to lose that creativity so we had to come up with something that helps her prioritise.  The first thing she does is to stop and think about what the idea is going to do for her right now.  What will it stop her from doing?  Is it going to make things better or worse?  Will it cost her money?  Take up her time?  And what good will it do?  What’s the best and the worst thing that can happen if she doesn’t do it?  What’s the best and worst thing that can happen if she goes ahead and do it?  We’ve found that the answers to those questions help her to decide whether to follow up on the idea now, or leave it for a while.

Ideas can be too good to waste so you don’t want to forget about them completely.  I find it useful to keep a note of all my ideas, however mad they may seem, and jot down when I think that the time might be right for them: that could be anything from next week to next year to some undefined point in time.  I then put a note in my diary to revisit the idea stash and decide whether now is the right time to dust any of them off.  In other words my ideas are not ignored or forgotten, they’re just parked until a more suitable time.

If you have the opposite problem and are feeling stuck there are a few things you can try.  I find that the single best way to solve a problem is to stop thinking about it, go off and do something else, preferably something that requires intense concentration so there’s no room in my head for whatever it is I’ve been agonizing over.  The answer usually comes to me over time, it’s as though the right thing to do just needs to bubble up from amongst everything else that’s going on in my head.  Distancing yourself from a problem can also allow the emotion to subside and that is often enough to let the right decision emerge.

If it’s a creative problem, like writing a blog or a workshop, then sometimes just diving in and writing something, anything, is enough to get started.  Breaking off and doing something else can also get the creative spark going – even walking on a treadmill has been proven to enhance creativity as reported in this recent BBC article http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-27186709

It’s often the case that two heads are better than one so kicking the idea or problem around with a trusted friend, colleague or mentor can lead to amazing insights.

If you have any other suggestions for managing ideas, or would like to a free session to discuss your ideas please email me at jackie@alchemybusinesscoaching.biz or call me on 01235 861 311.