Breaking the rules of belonging

This Christmas many of us will spend time with the most influential human system we have – our family of origin. We’re shaped by the norms and emotions around us when we grew up. One question worth pondering this Christmas might be this: “Which emotions were allowed in your family of origin and which emotions were not allowed?” As you consider this, you’ll begin to identify the so-called ‘rules of belonging’. One rule might have been ‘never be sad’ or ‘always put a brave face on it’. We bring these (often unspoken) ‘rules’ into our adult life and this is where it gets tricky. As we’re exposed to different human systems such as our partner’s family, university, workplaces, clubs etc, we come across different rules of belonging, some of which conflict with those of our family of origin. In order to grow, thrive and develop strong adult relationships, we must understand how these engrained rules help or hinder us. We can then make choices about whether we are to stay loyal to the original rules, or break the rules. In breaking the rules we risk alienation from the original system, but we also have the promise of new experiences, relationships and growth.

Take attitudes to money as an example. Continue reading


How to grow without losing your soul

SONY DSCYou’re now established as a successful business. Your reputation is growing beyond your early ‘niche’ customer base and enquiries are flooding in. You’re struggling to keep up with demand, trying to recruit fast but worried about losing what made you special.

Last Winter my husband and I returned to the Dolomites in Italy for a long awaited ski holiday. We’d skied a lot in the past and have experienced some good but also some very bad travel companies. We stumbled upon Mogens and his now wife Alice from Simply Dolomiti a couple of years ago. Having bought this small niche travel company a few years back, they developed their offering based on a very clear principle that travellers were not customers, but their ‘guests’. Everything they did was highly personal – Mogens picked you up personally from the airport, he spent time understanding what was important to you, and created itineraries and activities to suit. He and Alice personally led ski and walking tours, sharing their vast knowledge of the area with us. We enjoyed the personal attention, and the feeling that they enjoyed being with us and actually cared about what we wanted. Their success was in a large part down to their lovely personalities and welcoming approach.

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Coaching – cost or investment?

CoachingIt’s no co-incidence that Andy Murray gives much credit for his latest Grand Slam win at Wimbledon to his coach, Ivan Lendl. I wouldn’t like to guess how much Murray pays Lendl, no doubt it’s a great deal. However it’s clear that Murray sees it as an investment worth making because it gets results.

The link between executive coaching and business results is less clear. In my experience, results from executive coaching can be significant as long as there are well-defined coaching objectives and the client is open to the support and challenge that a good coach provides,. Take for example Joe, a Sales Director I’ve been coaching. Continue reading


It’s the small things that make the biggest difference


Last week I was having lunch in the Members café at the British Museum a few days after the start of a major new exhibition. It was busier than I’d ever seen it, and the team of people behind the counter were doing their best to cope despite a growing queue of customers. Two customers sat down at the table next to mine and started to complain to each other about the inefficiency of the café. The waitress, who I have always experienced as being very friendly and customer-focused, brought them over their coffees and apologised for the wait. They then proceeded to complain quite vociferously about how useless she and the team were. In a very British way I kept quiet and said nothing, but I could see that the waitress was very upset. I spent the next few minutes finishing my lunch and wondering what I should do. As I left, I took the waitress aside and gave her a few words of genuine appreciation, and told her that despite what these people had said, I could see how busy they were and that they were doing their best. The transformation in her face was immediate, her energy returned, she looked genuinely relieved and thanked me profusely for what I had said.

It would have been so easy for me to walk away and say nothing, after all it was none of my business. But it just seemed like the right thing to do, and by taking a few seconds to give her a small piece of appreciation, not only did I make a positive difference to her day, I also felt good about myself.

Reflecting on my executive coaching clients over the past few years, I also see that in many instances, it’s the small changes that make the biggest difference. Continue reading