The lost art of noticing

I was at a Christmas carol service last night. I arrived in good spirits after a meal with friends. As the service started I found my mind wandering back to the lively conversation we’d had at dinner. My thoughts then moved on to my Christmas shopping list. I suddenly became aware that I hadn’t been paying full attention to the amazing talented choir of young people. From that moment of realisation I put my thoughts aside and concentrated on what was going on in the moment. It felt amazingly relaxing to just soak up the wonderful candlelit atmosphere and beautiful music.

One key element of my coaching model is termed ‘The Art of Noticing’. I work with clients to help them pay more attention, to notice what’s around them, to notice other people and to notice themselves and their behaviours. The first step in any change is to pay attention. How much attention are you really giving to this blog? Do you give your partner your full attention when you arrive home tired and distracted by a tough day at work? How much attention do you pay in meetings, or do you half listen and spend the time catching up on your mails?

Distraction is the scourge of our modern life, exacerbated by the ubiquitous technology around us. It takes practice to improve our skills of noticing, so try this as a practice over the festive season. Make a conscious effort to take note of something about every person you meet. Perhaps the colour of their eyes, something they’re wearing, the way they walk, the way their face wrinkles when they smile, what words they put emphasis on. Paying attention not only improves relationships, it allows you to be more productive and creative. And, bonus, you’ll probably also find that people find you much better company as a result!


Let’s get Physical

What does our physical self have to do with business? Business today is about bringing the best brains to solve ever more complex problemsPhysical with word and to create more innovative products and services. Whilst most people today recognise that looking after themselves physically also gives them an edge in terms of resilience, stamina and cognitive ability, the reality is that many of us pay lip-service to this notion.

Physical energy is the foundation stone of high performance. When we wake up with a hangover or try to survive on a very few hours sleep, our ability to think well, to show empathy towards others and to put in discretionary effort is severely impaired.

So, over the holiday period, Continue reading


How do you freeze courgettes?

I’ve spent much of today working at home catching up on some of the latest articles and blogs on leadership. However this morning I found myself distracted by the glut of courgettes in my garden and ended up on Google looking for tips on how to freeze them.  Coming from a family with a very strong work ethic, I felt a slight sense of guilt for thinking about courgettes in the middle of the working day, even more so when I went out to harvest today’s crop.

In an excellent article in HBR recently, Shawn Anchor and Michelle Gielen refer to the importance of recovery for building personal resilience. They claim that a lack of recovery is costing our companies $62 billion a year in lost productivity. According to them, the key to resilience is trying really hard, then stopping, recovering, and then trying again. They distinguish between the kind of recovery we can do during the working day and the recovery we do outside working hours.

Many people are programmed fom an early age to think that any kind of recovery during the working day makes them a slacker and low performer. But science says otherwise. Taking what I call moments of ‘micro-recovery’ during the day helps us to recharge our batteries, both physically and mentally.

Back to those courgettes….. The few minutes I took to go out into the sunshine and pick a few courgettes was like plugging myself into the ‘charge’ socket, enabling me to spend more time in productive mode when I went back to my desk. So next time you find yourself in endurance mode, telling yourself you’ve got too much to do to take a break, yet finding your mental focus waning, give yourself a break and allow yourself some micro-recovery. It might be a few minutes fresh air (leaving your phone on your desk), it might be listening to your favourite song, it might be going to the other side of the office to say hello to a valued colleague. Switch off for a few minutes at regular intervals during the day and you’ll most likely find that your resilience, performance and creativity benefits.

For support in building your productivity by increasing your personal resilience, contact me on +44 (0)7411 483319 or e’mail me at


Favorite “If speaking is silver, then listening is gold” (old Turkish proverb)

Gold“Mum, you never listen, I’ve already told you three times where I’m going tonight!”.

Not sure whether other parents of teenagers recognize this, perhaps it’s just me, but this is a common refrain in our household. Why, I ask myself, is it easier to listen well to my coaching clients than it is to my own family?

So many conversations at home take place in a distracting environment. The radio’s on, you’re updating your online shopping order while the dinner’s in the oven, your phone buzzes with a text that’s just come in, and you’re keeping an eye on your work e’mail for the information you need for tomorrow’s client presentation. It takes intentional effort and discipline to stop and focus on the other person.

Continue reading


The Mastery of Leadership Part 3: Mastering Relationships

Mastery of Leadership.jpg

Welcome to Part 3 in this series about my model ‘The Mastery of Leadership’. This time I explore the second aspect: Mastering Relationships

It’s my strong belief that in today’s complex global marketplace, no one leader can ever have all the answers. In order to become and then stay competitive, leaders need to harness the talents, perspectives and creativity of everyone in the organisation. Hence I believe that Leadership is essentially collaborative. It’s about relationships. It’s not about knowing things but it’s about harnessing the talents of the whole team.

One of the most important skills to master in any relationship is listening. I believe that true listening is the most under-rated yet most powerful of leadership skills. Effective leaders Continue reading


Favorite The Mastery of Leadership Part 1 – an Overview

In a recent radio interview, 72-year-olMastery of Leadership.jpgd Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones was asked why the Stones still had the appetite to perform. His response was “I think it’s because we still think we’re getting better…..from the way I’m feeling, there’s promise of more…who’s going to jump off a moving bus?”

Dan Pink, in his book ‘Drive’, pointed out that ‘Mastery’ is never quite achieved. It’s something that we strive to approach without ever quite reaching it. Yet many of the most successful people continue to strive towards mastery, knowing full well that they’ll never quite touch it, even if they get really close.

And so it is with Leadership, mastery is impossible but the best leaders continue to learn and develop because, as with the Rolling Stones, there is promise of more. Continue reading


Favorite Why do women wear lipstick?


Walking to the station this morning a runner shot passed me. She was clearly working hard as her face was beetroot-red and sweat was pouring down her face. Nothing particularly unusual there, she was running after all. But one thing stood out. As she went by, I noticed that she was wearing bright red lipstick. That got me thinking…what compels people to put on masks when they go out? Is it social pressure or is it some kind of wish not to ‘show’ themselves bare-faced, as they truly are, wrinkles and all? Perhaps a bit of both.

One of my current clients, Sophie, a relatively young woman in a senior position who’s successfully driven the rapid growth of her area of the business, talked to me about the ‘face’ she puts on when she’s goes to work – her ‘professional’ face. It’s served her well. She’s seen as the consummate professional, calm, focused and knowledgeable.

But she’s hit a problem.  Continue reading


Favorite How to manage your emotions effectively at work

The crying gameWow, you’ve built an amazing reputation in your field. You’re moving into the senior ranks in your company, responsible for teams of senior experts delivering valuable services to clients. So how come you feel increasingly in a state of constant emotional turmoil? One minute angry and frustrated at your boss’s inability to give you breathing space and autonomy, the next wracked with self-doubt and anxiety.

You may work in a team or whole organisation in which ‘being emotional’ is a sign of weakness. And you might have developed a very effective professional ‘mask’ to disguise your true feelings. You’re apparently ‘fine’. A colleague of mine recently shared their take on the word ‘FINE':  “Feelings Inside Not Expressed”. That’s more like it!

The problem is that emotions don’t go away when we’re at work. When we feel that there’s no permission in our culture to show emotions, we suppress them, particularly the negative emotions such as sadness, anger, anxiety and frustration. But what’s the cost, to you and the business? Here are some.. Continue reading