What to do when you are ‘stuck’?

2004_1116Image0080The picture was taken in Italy on a walking holiday when after a shower of rain the muddy clay was an inch deep on the bottom of our boots.  A friendly helper to the rescue!

I’ve been working as a professional coach for seven years and have come to recognise that when clients are ‘stuck’ a number of things may be happening!

(1) Being stuck is a feeling as well as a thought.  What does being stuck feel like for you?  What images does the word stuck conjure up for you?

(2) Being stuck may be completely unconscious.. I don’t know I’m stuck but I know things are not as I want them to be.

(3) Being stuck may be precisely what the feeling is immediately prior to a significant breakthrough.  The stuckness can almost be like a labour pain (!!) – great when it’s over but part of the journey to success.

(4) Being stuck may be a feeling created by overload and the stress level of the situation simply leaves one unable to take the next step.

When recognised and confronted honestly (sometimes with another trusted person in a supportive but challenging environment) stuckness can be reframed from a Barrier to a Door just waiting to be pushed.  The other side of stuckness is a great place to be!

So, what to do when you are stuck?  Pay attention to the feeling and the thoughts associated with that feeling.  Know that it is temporary – if you choose it to be.  Know that one step at a time may be the way to go… and seek professional or informal support from someone who can be both supportive and challenging to help you get to the other side of stuckness.  Someone who can be your best coach through the process.

5 Confidence Boosters

049Based on my research, there are certain conditions that positively enhance and encourage confidence. Confidence is not a fixed state:  it is influenced by a wide range of factors including the environment and contacts we have around us.

Make sure you create the environment and relationships around you that support your confidence.  Here are 5 confidence boosters.

1. Being listened to.  Being listened to (and heard!) is one of the gifts we can offer each other as human beings.  Perhaps being listened too begins by developing ourselves as good listeners, and developing relationships where that gift of listening can be shared and is mutual.  In a coaching setting, sometimes the coach is the first person who has truly listened without any agenda to the client: listening to hear rather than listen to speak. Find ways of offering and receiving listening of that quality.

2. Feeling supported.  Life is a mix of joy and sorrow – that is just how it is!  Having a network of support around gives us the confidence to face the tough times, and stretch ourselves.  In the year 2000 I worked on and still have a personal mission statement that covers the important areas of my life.  One of the statements is that I will nurture and encourage my children to lead independent lives making sure they know they will always have a place of support when they need it.  Feeling supported helps us to confidently face the tough times in life.  Ensure that within your relationships you have people who act as ‘radiators’ in times of challenge and not only ‘drains’.

3. Feeling more in control.  During the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow one of the athletes talked about the need to control what you can control and not fret about what you can’t.  Feeling more in control begins with focussing on what you can control – ie focus on the right things!

4. Having a sense of hopefulness. Hope in its best form is a sure and certain belief, not some kind of wishy washy blindness to reality. It is intrinsically linked with optimism and self belief.  If you are someone who is always looking at the clouds and expecting rain, go read some great books on the importance of positivity for well-being, or find someone who can support you to take a more positive view of life.  Having a sense of hopefulness is a key building block of confidence.

5. Receiving feedback.  Don’t default to wondering and speculating about what people are thinking about you or your performance, ask for feedback.  Ken Blanchard says that “Feeback is the breakfast of champions” and there is wisdom in this.  Feedback allows you to understand how other people experience you.  Treat less positive feedback purely as information which you can use as you choose, and gain confidence from positive feedback which affirms your self confidence.

The picture for this Blog is a poppy doing what it does best:  blooming confidently. Work on your confidence and be the best you can be too.

Is your confidence drooping?

Drooping Poppy

Drooping Poppy

If you were to take a reading of your confidence right now – what word would describe it? I love poppies and we are loving the wild garden that has been planted directly across from our house.  However, this particular poppy reminded me of what happens when confidence is eroded, so I decided to write this post about the six factors that can erode confidence.  These confidence stealers were identified in my research a few years ago.  Are you experiencing any of them?

1. Other people’s negativity.  We all know how draining it can be to spend time with people who are either negative about themselves, the world, everyone they talk about, and You!  It’s easy to ‘catch’ some of this negativity for ourselves.  So keep a watching brief on the people you spend time with.  Challenge the negativity, and if it feels contagious take a step back if you can.

2. Excessive challenge. Challenge and stress are a necessary part of life and some of us thrive on challenge.  However, even for those who love nothing more than a complex and demanding challenge, our bodies are not designed to live under the umbrella of excessive challenge.  In a book published some years ago called Why Zebras don’t get Ulcers, Robert Sapoisky spells out in clear terms what happens in our bodies when we are under excessive unrelenting challenge.  It is not a happy picture.

3. An unrealistic workload.  Sometimes our unrealistic workload and expectations of ourselves are set by ourselves and sometimes set by others.  Either way, an unrealistic and unrelenting workload will result in us feeling that we are never achieving enough, never at the end of what we have to do, and generally feeling we are not succeeding.  And what reward does our confidence (and our bodies) get for completing a task… another one!

4. Lack of control.  I have yet to find the person who is completely comfortable when they and everything around them is out of control.  Feeling out of control is just that – a feeling.  Feeling in control gives us a great sense of confidence, feeling completely out of control is a scary place.  Of course, we need a dose of realism about what we can actually control, but the more we have a sense of control over our main life choices the more confident we are likely to be.

5. Feeling negative about yourself and assuming other people feel the same.  This one is for all those people out there who can be pretty tough on themselves, feeling they are ‘never’ good enough, clever enough, smart enough, talented enough, never could do a great job or be the star.  This is an unhelpful trend and really saps at any sense of confidence – it is compounded greatly when we put everyone else in our own negative viewpoint.  We have no idea what they are thinking unless we ask.  We leads to the next confidence stealer.

6. Lack of feedback.  There is good evidence to suggest that if we are not getting feedback we default to feeling that any feedback given would be critical.  There is no evidence for this of course. Perhaps you can test this by asking for some feedback from someone you trust to be honest and helpful.

Check out your own confidence level, and have a good look to see if any of the six factors are impacting on you right now.  Self awareness is the beginning of taking steps to revitalise your confidence and stop the droop.  What areas do you need to think about, challenge or change in order to give your confidence a better chance of blooming?

These are six of the stealers identified in my experience.  Are there any others you’d like to share?  In next week’s Blog, I’ll write about the factors which increase confidence.  Look out for that next Friday.




Wisdom of the 5 Brains

It has been fascinating to ask people in our Introduction to Conversational Intelligence® events if they can think of a time when someone really pressed their buttons, or if they can think of a person who seems to have this skill in abundance!  Go on, have a think about it yourself.  Can you think of a time?  Who presses your buttons?

As we explore these occurrences, it is astonishing to hear the strong emotions that are identified.  Emotions like anger, frustration, betrayed, annoyed, confused, shocked.  What is equally astonishing is that some of these instances which remain a trigger for strong emotion took place years ago!

And just as interesting, as you will see from the list above, most people default to a negative memory… not one filled with joy, hope, positive anticipation, and feel good.

Knowing how to build conversations that create space to transform, trigger more useful parts of the brain, and be self aware about our own conversational style and its impact on others is at the heart of Conversational Intelligence®.

The brain is of course not easily represented in a picture as we lose the dynamic three dimensional complexity.  As a result of all we are now learning in the field of neuroscience, we now know a great deal about the neurochemistry of the brain when in different kinds of conversation, and know how to get the best out of our conversation by giving the brain the best chance of an effective conversation.

In Conversational Intelligence® we are interested in these 5 areas:

  • The reptilian brain – the most primitive part of the brain
  • Heart brain – enables us to connect all our internal systems and connect to others
  • Limbic brain (Amygdala) stores a history of all emotional experiences, nurtures and builds relationships
  • Neocortex – hardwired for language, storing information, basic reasoning
  • Prefrontal Cortex – the executive brain, hardwired for higher level co-ordination of the whole brain

This is a tiny peep at neuroscience.  When we link all that we know about neuroscience and the opening up of more and more information about the brain – we can use this powerful body of work to look at how to have the most effective conversations, how to identify our own conversational style through using one of the survey tools, and equip ourselves with effective skills and behaviours for great outcomes in relationships, teams and organisations.  Conversational Intelligence® (C-IQ) tools and models also allow us to be more skilful at navigating conflict in a more productive way.

Our clients and participants in our one day Introduction to C-IQ events are learning the skills to transform relationships and organisations.  We hope this blog will give you a glimpse of the possibilities of Conversational Intelligence®, confidence that the work is based on evidence based research, and a desire to join us in applying the tools and models to our mutual future success.

For dates of forthcoming Introduction to C-IQ days drop us an email.  We are also happy to travel for groups of 6 or more.  We are also in the process of setting up a closed online group for further development and discussion for those who have attended one of our days to embed the learning and share experience of using C-IQ.


This conversation is going nowhere!

You know the kind of conversation I mean.  You’ve probably been part of one… where every new sentence adds a new layer of complexity, frustration, and helplessness as each person seeks to have his or her point of view heard to the extent that no one is actually listening.

Taking a position in a conversation can be useful, but it can also become a block to further dialogue and resolution.  At that point you are simply looping the loop together until someone either escalates it, walks away from it, or gives up the will to live.

Conversational Intelligence® gives us a number of frameworks based on the latest neurological evidence, to understand how to have better conversations.  And since every relationship, team and organisation is built on relationships, sharpening up you C-IQ is a very good thing.

I am delighted to be one of the first people globally to be trained and certified by Judith Glaser to deliver learning and development using the full range of C-IQ models, tools and assessments.  Initially we are running 3 Introduction to Conversational Intelligence full day learning experiences in Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh.  We expect to continue to run these on a rolling programme.  Be the first to learn how to skilfully get more out of your conversations!   Full details from Jillian at Jillian@harveymcmillan.co.uk, my leadership development company.


Shifting Culture through Conversational Intelligence

161011-c-iqlogoCulture has become the secret sauce of organizational life:  the thing that makes the difference but for which no one has the recipe.  Margaret Heffernan

I’ve been reading Margaret Heffernan’s little TED Book on things which are Beyond Measure: the big impact of small changes.   As a coach I have often drawn two lines on a page to form a wedge  to demonstrate that a small change on a consistent daily basis will achieve a huge change over time.

However, going back to the question of culture in organisations, over the 10 years I’ve been working independently as an Executive Coach, and facilitating Leadership Development for senior teams, the most frequently raised topics have revolved around organisational culture and organisational communication.   At last I believe that the body of work known as Conversational Intelligence (C-IQ) developed by Judith E. Glaser has the potential to transform organisational culture through having intelligent conversations.

Two years ago I read Judith’s book, and have been using some of her work with clients ever since:  the simplicity of her tools when combined with the latest research in neuroscience form an impactful and intelligent body of work which profoundly impacts on client’s ability to improve conversations at individual, team and organisational level.  This has the ability to transform organisational culture.

The links are described well in this quote by John Allman et al, quoted in Judith’s book:

“To get to the next level of greatness depends on the quality of our culture, which depends on the quality of our relationships, which depends on the quality of our conversations.”

Everything begins with a conversation.  So here’s a challenge for you to undertake over the next week… On a scale with 1–10 with 10 being high, rate at least three of your conversations every day and start to think about how you could improve your conversations, your relationships, your culture and your overall outcomes.

Martha was so impressed with Judith’s work that she decided to be at the front of the queue if the opportunity came to be accredited.  She has been studying in the first cohort with Judith for most of this year and is now delighted to be part of a small global team of high level coaches and consultants about to be accredited.

This will allow her to use the full range of C-IQ tools, and to deliver Conversational Intelligence training and development for clients whether that is through Executive Coaching, Team Coaching, Focus days, Strategic away days for Senior Teams, Revisiting Conflict Resolution and Handling Difficult Conversations through C-IQ.   This gives a few examples of where C-IQ  can be integrated into your life and work.  C-IQ is beginning to transform conversations globally… be an Early Adopter on this and be  at the front of the queue in expanding your own Conversational Intelligence (C-IQ).

Talk to me informally about how C-IQ can shift your conversations, relationships, culture and outcomes.