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Mindfulness at work

Whatever our profession, whether we work from an office or from home, it is a given that our workplace is where we spend a high proportion of our time as adults. For most of us, we work for a mixture of reasons – to pay the bills, to do something that we enjoy, to do something that fulfils us, to provide identity, and enable us to contribute to society in some way. Some or all of these may apply to you. Whatever your motivations are, the bottom line is that given the important part that work plays in our lives, if something goes wrong in our work place, or if work becomes overly challenging or stressful, it can have a devastating effect on us and in turn impact negatively on all other parts of our lives.

According to the Health and Safety executive (HSE) in 2014/15 440,000 people in the UK reported work-related stress at the level they believed was making them ill. That is 40% of all work related illness. And that is what is reported – I would argue that many people suffering from high levels of stress simply ‘get on with it’.

Of course, there’s no doubt that certain levels of pressure can be motivating, and some jobs are, by their very nature stressful. In an uncertain world, both politically and economically, in which many businesses are being buffeted by circumstances beyond their control, and therefore expecting ever more from their employees, levels of stress are only likely to increase.  However, if as the HSE states, stress is ‘the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures and demands placed on them,’ and as a result the incidence of stress related absence from work increases, surely it is worth considering all strategies  that can have a positive impact?

How does this manifest itself?  Absenteeism, increase in grievances and complaints, workplace unrest and higher staff turnover are but a few issues. On a personal level, when under pressure we can often resort to a less conscious mode of relating to ourselves and the world around us,  making choices based on the need to simply survive.

Mindfulness is a term that is much overused and frequently misunderstood.  However before you dismiss the benefits mindfulness might have in  the workplace, or think it as all far too fluffy and frankly a bit weird, I think it is worth considering the possible benefits.

So what is mindfulness? Simply put, it is defined as ‘Deliberately paying attention to your experience as it arises without judgement’.  Mindfulness offers a way of training the mind to be more skilful in dealing with workplace challenges; when we are more mindful, and acting less on autopilot, we appreciate that we have options in how we respond to challenging and stressful situations and people. We develop the inner resources that enable us, in the midst of such situations, to centre ourselves and access a core of stability and resilience.

There has been a great deal of research undertaken on the benefits to a business of introducing a mindfulness programme and these include a reduction in stress levels, increased levels of emotional intelligence, lower rates of absenteeism through sickness, increased self-awareness, improved sleeping patterns, higher levels of well-being and work / life satisfaction  – to name but a few. What’s not to like?

So what might a workplace programme involve? There are myriad courses, workshops and coaching programmes available to suit your business and budget, but all will work on enabling participants to incorporate mindful techniques into their daily life, to train their attention to become aware of unhelpful thought processes and habits that feed stress levels, and learn how to work with challenging situations in a more creative and resourceful fashion.  Theoretical training, guided mindfulness practice, discussion groups and exercises to practice between sessions will all feature.

There are other options available if a formal training programme isn’t for you. For example, the popularity of the Headspace app (millions of users in more than 190 countries), which provides on line guided meditation packs, is testament to the growing popularity of mindfulness techniques  to cope with a whole range of issues. If your workplace does not provide a formal mindfulness programme, this is a great place to start.

Mindfulness isn’t of course the only strategy available  to deal with stress in the workplace.  And whilst it has many devotees, it is fair to say that  there are those who don’t feel quite so passionately about it. However, from both personal experience and the wide reading and research I have done on the benefits of mindfulness,  I would conclude that whilst it might not be the only strategy to mitigate against workplace stress,  it is certainly worth including amongst a portfolio of techniques that employers and individuals should have on their radar.

- Liz Watt


15 ways to get the best from your Executive Coach

If you’re new to  Executive Coaching and not quite sure what to expect, or maybe you are just about to start on a Coaching programme and want to make the most of the opportunity, the following hints and tips might help you.

Coaching is a two-way process involving Coach and client as equals; the more active a part you take in the process, the better the outcomes are likely to be for you.

1. The role of your Coach.  Your Coach is there to support, challenge, listen, stimulate, encourage, share feedback and offer anything else they have in their tool kit to help you make the changes that are important to you. Your Coach isn’t there to solve your problems for you though – ultimately you are the one that has responsibility for your own work and life.  The relationship should ideally be an active, adult-adult partnership in Coaching, rather than anything that suggests you are dependent on your Coach.

2. Communicate with your Coach.  Be proactive in asking  your Coach to adapt their style to suit your personality. Every Coach will have their own distinct personalities and style,  yet a good Coach will be able to flex their modus operandi to suit you, e.g. by being more or less direct/challenging, by moving at a faster/slower pace or by sharing more or less of their thinking and ideas with you. They will welcome you making your preferences clear,  because their aim is to coach you as effectively as possible.

3. The Coach’s job is to ask you for even more than you might normally ask of yourself
Your Coach wants the best for you and for this reason will be looking to offer and encourage ‘stretch’ wherever possible. Your Coach may well question the limits you set for yourself and encourage the setting of more challenging goals and targets.

 4. Your Coach is your success partner, not an accountability service
Coaching will work best for you when you are actively seeking to get the best from yourself and when you take responsibility for your own growth and development.

5. The value of Coaching isn’t based on how much time is spent Coaching
The value of coaching depends on quality rather than quantity: when both you and your Coach are fully engaged in the task and working hard then success should follow – it is a bit like going to the gym and really working at it, rather than thinking you will get results just by pitching up.

6. The Coaching session in itself is not what gets you results
Ultimately it is down to what you do and how you act after the Coaching – what you choose to put into practice. The Coaching session is the starting point and should be the catalyst to  help you  plan and prepare to get the best out of what you are doing.

7. Talk about what matters most to you
You are not there to conform to any expectation you feel your Coach may have of you – least of all are you there to please the Coach in any way. Yours is the only agenda that counts and if it is important to you, your Coach will work on it with you.

8. Focus on yourself
Sometimes clients worry that coaching is somewhat self-indulgent – a bit of a selfish luxury. I would counter that you can only effectively do your job or serve others well if you are yourself fulfilled, purposeful and operating to your fullest potential. When you succeed, others should benefit too: if you are unhappy, unfulfilled or frustrated in your work or blocked in some other way, it is likely that others will not get the best from you. So rather, consider Coaching as a really positive way to enhance your own performance and in turn the contribution you can make to those around you.

9. Be open to seeing things differently
Very frequently, the issues you face are not in themselves the real issues! Often it is the way we see issues and how we think about them that needs to change. Even when some of the issues we face are objectively daunting or difficult challenges, we can use coaching to open ourselves up to new ways of responding to them. Opening your thinking up will open up new possibilities for choice. Your Coach can help you identify ways of seeing, thinking and responding that may offer you very different options and approaches.

10. You can develop and evolve with coaching
Coaching is both a developmental process and an evolutionary one. It helps clients accomplish more  - the developmental aspect – and can also lead to different thinking and possibilities for growth and change – evolution.

11. Use your coaching to help you think about – and design – the kinds of environments and systems you want to work in
We can all exercise some choice and responsibility in creating the kind of environment to allow ourselves to flourish. Even when our organisation places apparent restrictions in our way we can often exercise at least some discretion in the physical, social, professional and cultural contexts in which we work and live. Coaching encourages a whole-system approach and links personal change to the contexts we inhabit.

12. Take charge
You can proactively take charge of the coaching process, to focus it on what you most want and need. I would encourage you to come to each session with a direction in mind, perhaps a list of issues or questions you want to address. Ultimately the more you know what you want out of your coaching the better. Your Coach can then work with you to craft really specific and relevant goals for your coaching.

13. Be real – say what you think
When what we say does not reflect what we are really thinking, we aren’t being authentic. Coaching is not an abstract exercise or an intellectual joust but an opportunity to work together with your Coach in a climate of shared honesty and truth. When you are authentic it really helps to get the best out of your Coach.

14. Promise what you can deliver
Whilst I encourage ‘stretch’ coaching,  I would also suggest that you’re mindful of what is realistic and doable for you. Overextension can cause anxiety and  guilt, be honest with yourself as to what you can realistically take on as a result of your coaching.

15. Share what you are doing with your coaching
People close to you may see and feel the effect your coaching is having, either directly or indirectly.  It may be worth considering,  where possible, to be open with others about what you are trying to achieve via your coaching.

If you would like to find out more about BLT’s Executive Coaching service, please contact Liz Watt –


Strewth……Pressure is ramping up for Australian government as they splurge $5 billion on consultancy services.

Could they not have looked at an internal resource to complete this work? With that sort of money, they could have built a new hospital or even an airport!

- Andrew


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Why are there so few top British tennis players?

Well, that’s Wimbledon over for another year and once again I find myself wondering why we have so very few British world class tennis players?  Tennis is a relatively inexpensive sport – the kit need not be expensive and hiring a court in a local park doesn’t break the bank, and is open to everyone. So, it should be the same as football in terms of accessibility with young exciting players coming through the ranks?  Ah, but …… I hear you say ……to progress in tennis you need expensive lessons, coaching, and to attend training camps etc etc. Well, even if we accept this to be the case, there are plenty parents willing to pay for tennis lessons and coaching. So, if the appetite is there and the talent is there ………what’s going wrong? Where are our young, exciting tennis prospects for the future?

Much has been written previously about the lessons business can learn from sport in a variety of different areas. Perhaps, this is one occasion where sport can learn from business? I meet many people on Future Leader and Fast Track schemes in industry and consulting where high performing individuals are identified and offered a structured training and coaching programme to be the future leaders in a business. The Lawn Tennis Association strikes me as an organisation with many resources at its disposal and must have future talent development programmes in place ….but where’s the success? Time for tennis to follow the lead from industry if we’re hoping for more Wimbledon champions in the years ahead!

- Catriona



Hugo Boss, New Look and now Klana whats next for Permira?

Permira snaps up a 10% slice of highly valued fin-tech start up Klana.

- Andrew

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