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Small (baby) steps and a giant leap (of faith)

By Tariq Siraj

I will very imminently be going on paternity leave as daughter #2 is due to arrive in the coming days. I won’t lie to you, this blog was a bit of an afterthought; by ‘imminently’ I actually meant “I’m leaving the office in about 60 minutes to go on paternity leave”.

I was very keen to write something about it – but unsurprisingly my mind has for the most part been elsewhere; making sure hospital bags are packed, making sure we have child-minding cover for our 2 year old, making sure our 2 year old kind of knows what to expect, deciding on a name, working out ways we can avoid the dreaded ‘double buggy’, being amazed at the amounts of new born clothing we have, washing said mountain, getting back into that mind-set of ‘does this need sterilising? – let’s sterilise it anyway!’ and, of course, making sure my wife is happy with the levels of Häagen-Dazs in the freezer.  That, along with being at work, doesn’t leave much time to write a blog.

So, here we are, 54 minutes from leaving for 3 (or maybe 4) weeks and I’m wondering what to write about.  Actually it’s 52 minutes now as I’ve just re-read the above – and it’s hit me; uncertainty. Or rather – the joy of uncertainty.

You can attach that to anything; having a baby, work, lifestyle, sports, travel – and there is a certain beauty to not knowing an outcome.  Of course there’s a definite comfort in the safe and secure – particularly where our families or livelihoods are concerned – but in a way don’t we also live for those moments that require a bit of spontaneity? I’m not saying we abandon knowledge, due-diligence or common sense – but nothing quite compares to those times when we take a bit of a leap of faith without the security blanket.  Those slightly scary moments.

It could be the conclusion of a deal at work, the nervousness of whether you’ve beaten your PB on that half marathon, the last 20 minutes of a flight into a country you’ve never visited before or, indeed, having a baby. In fact, being a parent at all qualifies pretty well.

Reproduction is the one thing our species have always done and always will do, yet there are endless mysteries surrounding this most fundamental of human endeavours. When my wife and I get back from the hospital with our first daughter we fell onto the sofa, considered this new family member in their cot in the middle of the room, looked at each other and said ‘now what?’. And don’t even get me started on those weird black tar poos in the first 2 days – no-one told me about those!

Now, a great life example of spontaneity is not knowing the sex of a baby until they arrive – and I’ve not taken my own advice on that one. We already know it’s a girl but I have to admit, it was partly to understand in advance the levels of recycling we could do with our existing baby girl clothing, and partly that it’s just too big a piece of information to not know!  Let’s be clear, my rule doesn’t apply on that issue – it’s a step too far. I really just don’t know how people do it.

Anyway, it’s now 27 minutes to go and I really should tie up those last few lose ends. I know I’ll forget something or leave something crucial at the office which I’ll realise tomorrow – but, hey, maybe there’s a beauty in that.

 

TAS Blog - April 2017


Imposter Syndrome

Coaching

 

‘Imposter Syndrome’ is a term that is frequently bandied around, but what does it actually mean? Well, in short, it is a term that is normally used to refer to high achievers, usually (though not exclusively) women, who have a persistent fear of being ‘found out’. It can feel as if you have the word ‘Fraud’ stamped on your forehead in neon letters for all to see.

If there is one recurring theme that has cropped up in my Coaching practice over the past year, it would be this one, frequently from extremely accomplished, articulate and ‘together’ women who you would never believe felt anything other than in control of their lives and careers.

So whilst recognising that Imposter Syndrome flourishes in the most unexpected quarters, what can be done? In my experience, there isn’t a one size fits all solution,  as the roots of these feelings can stem from all sorts of circumstances, but there are certainly some strategies that can be adopted  to minimize the perception that you are not worthy of the success you have achieved or that one day someone is going to call you out on the role you are undertaking.

Many women in the public eye have been open about succumbing to this syndrome  – Sheryl Sandberg, Maya Angelou, Emma Watson, Kate Winslet, to name but a few,  and similarly amongst my own peer group – including myself. So what can be done? Here are some suggestions I’ve used myself, and that have been documented by others who have researched this thorny subject:

  • Silence your ‘Inner Chatter’ – you know, that annoying voice inside your head that tells you, often and quite definitely, that you aren’t worthy, you can’t do it, others will be far better than you..…the list is endless.  Voicing these thoughts can help to make sense of the chatter, and quite often articulating them makes them seem less  scary. So find a friend, a mentor, a trusted colleague – someone who will listen without judgement and help you make sense of the chatter – and talk to them. This should at the very least help  turn the volume down a notch.
  • Accept praise. How many times have you been given praise, or congratulated on an achievement,  only to dismiss it or make a self -deprecating remark? Next time someone says well done , take a moment to think if it is deserved, and if it is – then accept it graciously! Positive affirmation is a great was to shore up a feeling of self- belief.
  • Don’t be afraid to try something new.  Received wisdom is that men are far more likely to take a risk with something new whereas women will take the view that they can’t do something because they’ve never done it before, haven’t had the training …..the list of excuses can be many and varied!  If you never put yourself forward at work, never let your talents shine through, never say what it is that you want to do – how will anybody know? So be prepared to speak up, to volunteer for that responsibility, to ask for the training you need so that you can move forward, and sometimes be prepared to take a risk. Ask yourself – what’s the worst that can happen? And more positively, think how great you’ll feel when you succeed!
  • Don’t beat yourself up.  Sometimes we make mistakes, or we upset someone, or we don’t win a pitch, or we don’t manage our team as well as we might. That’s life,  and most of these situations don’t happen with malice aforethought .  So look at the situation honestly,  think about what you can learn from it….. and then move on. Many women are great at over analysing a situation, waking in the wee small hours to go over and over it and agonising about what they could have done better.  Try not to waste your energy in this way and rather channel it into remembering what you have done well, your achievements, your successes, the bright spots in your day.
  • Develop techniques and tricks to help you cope with those times when the imposter voice is shouting at you. Call it displacement activity, what you will, but  find something that reduces stress, calms or distracts you:  deep breathing, practice Mindfulness, go for a walk around the park at lunchtime, buy yourself an adult colouring book, indulge in some retail therapy – whatever it is that enables you to get some perspective on a situation and helps release those feel-good hormones.
  • And finally – Remember – you are not alone! Look around you at your colleagues and friends. You think they are all sailing through life, brimming with confidence,  knowing exactly where they are going and how they are going to get there? Wrong. They all have their insecurities, doubts and worries.  Knowing this might make it easier to recognise and celebrate your own achievements and accomplishments,   and empower you to reach your personal and professional goals.

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WHAT IS EXECUTIVE COACHING?

It’s a question I’ve been asked a great deal since I started my Coaching practice – often with a mixture of curiosity and sometimes total mystification!

Executive, or professional coaching, is a collaborative, results oriented process, which focuses on enabling the individual  to realise their full potential and achieve high performance and improvement at work.

‘Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them’ .(Sir John Whitmore)

Executive Coaching will help an individual enhance their levels of performance, accelerate potential and find strategies to manage change, conflict, crisis and stress. It can provide a safe and totally confidential space in which the individual can use their coach as a sounding board to discuss sensitive and confidential business  scenarios and find solutions, or ways to negotiate,  to these issues.

Coaching provides the time and space for the individual to reflect, process information and plan for the future.  In a world where we are constantly bombarded with information and choices, it can be hard to find the time to step back, reflect and see the bigger picture.  Working one-to one with a neutral outsider can help to facilitate clear and creative thinking,  manage and clear internal obstacles and unlock  ‘stuck’ patterns of behaviour and thinking that can inhibit performance.

Perhaps it is helpful  to consider  what Coaching  isn’t.

It isn’t training – your Coach isn’t teaching you a new skill.

It isn’t mentoring.  Although Coaching and mentoring share many similarities, in its most traditional sense a mentor is an experienced colleague or business associate  who will pass on their knowledge  and experience and be able to open doors to their mentee.

And it definitely  isn’t counselling – there are clear boundaries that a responsible Coach will not cross.

So what else should you know about Coaching? In a bit more detail:

  • Your Coach should be qualified,  ascribe to an ethical code of conduct  and put in place a clear coaching agreement with you that includes agreed levels of confidentiality.
  • It is important that you have a clear idea what your needs and requirements are, so that you choose the right person to work with. So in the first instance, most Coaches will offer an introductory or ‘chemistry’ session, whereby you can discuss and fine-tune your requirements in detail, and ensure that you can work effectively  with your Coach.
  •  Trust. It is the foundation of your relationship with your Coach and you should trust them implicitly.  It is a non-judgemental relationship,  they are 100% on your side and will be focussed solely on your agenda.
  • Your Coach will work with you to find the style of coaching to suit you. Whilst coaching is  usually a non-directive relationship,  the coach can employ various tools and techniques to help you get the most from each session.
  • Your Coach will listen, act as a sounding board, challenge thinking, support you, stimulate creativity and ideas, encourage and build confidence.
  • Your Coach won’t tell you what to do.  The premise of coaching is that you have the answers within you and your Coach will work with you to unlock these. You are the expert in your career and so whilst your Coach may have business or professional experience that can enhance  the work you do together,  the coaching process is all about enabling you to find your own solutions.
  • When might you consider Executive Coaching? In brief, navigating a point of change: promotion,  business change of direction, organisational change; personal milestones – change of career direction, retirement, return to work after absence (parental leave, illness); internal issues – mindset, uncertainty, lack of direction, performance, lack of confidence, to build resilience. These are but a few examples!
  • And the results? Clients develop the resources to tackle challenges with greater confidence and skill, achieve better results, whether this is for their business or themselves. Coaching should provide a platform for ongoing achievement.

For some clients a one-off programme is all they need to resolve a particular issue, for others employing a long term Executive Coach is an essential part of their personal and professional development.  Whichever camp you fall into, the Coaching experience should be a positive and hopefully enjoyable experience!

At BLT Executive Coaching we work closely with our clients to produce an individually tailored programme that places you at the heart of it. If you would like to find out more about how we work, please get in touch with us at bltcoaching1@gmail.com …… We would love to hear from you!

 

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EMPLOYEE WELLBEING

It is curious how certain terms, concepts and products and people can creep in to the national consciousness and become so deep rooted so quickly that you wonder what on earth was there before. Think i-phones,  business casual dressing, skinny flat whites,  peppa pig,  Bake Off …. You get the picture.

I would put ‘Wellness’ into this category.

The term crops up everywhere right now, and Wellness has  become a boom industry over recent years; the Global Wellness Institute estimates that the global wellness industry was worth $3.7 trillion in 2015, with no sign of a slowdown and  workplace wellness alone contributing $43 billion of this.  Companies large and small are developing Wellness strategies and these are viewed as integral to the remuneration and benefits packages being offered.

So what is Wellness and do we all need to pay attention?

Although there are many definitions  of Wellness, the term is generally used to mean a healthy balance of the mind, body and spirit that results in an overall feeling of wellbeing.  So how does this translate to the workplace?

An increasing number of employers understand the business benefits of employee wellbeing and are broadening the scope of  their  Wellness provisions, the feeling being that a happy and healthy workforce will be more productive and engaged.

And as the wellbeing movement  gathers momentum,  it is no longer a ‘nice to have’ but an area that needs careful consideration by employers as they frame remuneration and staff retention strategies.  As the war for talent hots up, there is no doubt that potential employees consider not just what they are going to be paid, but also what their prospective employers’  wellness provisions are before making an employment  decision.

Wellness programmes have historically been  seen as the preserve of larger businesses, which are more likely to have the budget  to provide such benefits.  Finding the budget to establish a Wellness programme can be challenging though and often resources are ’borrowed’ from another budget. Whilst  such programmes have shown rapid growth over the past three years, with more businesses committing to introduce new initiatives  during 2017, ultimately the culture of the business will play a large part in how the spend on a Wellness programme is prioritised.

What type of elements constitute  a Wellness programme? Traditionally Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP’s) , discounted or free gym membership and health screenings top the list,  showing the physical and mental health issues dominate the wellbeing agenda.  However, some of the fastest growing areas of wellness provisions include supporting carers, promoting sleep management, and providing financial education.  Technological advances also play a part in what is on offer – for example the popularity of wearable digital devices and phone apps to measure sleep and fitness levels offer new avenues to explore.  And then there are Mindfulness programmes, employer sponsored fitness challenges  and free fruit to add into the mix!

Let’s not forget too,  the value still placed on traditional employer paid insurance schemes  – medical insurance, income protection cover, critical illness insurance, that are still valued by employees and contribute  to the feeling of being ‘looked after’.

Here are some examples of other initiatives  on offer:

  • Health screenings
  • On site fitness classes
  • Mental health support
  • Vaccinations
  • Nutritional advice
  • Virtual GP access
  • Weight loss programmes/ fitness challenges
  • Onsite massages
  • Onsite medical support (nurses, physios, dentists)
  • Organised walking / cycling sessions
  • Stop smoking programmes

The adoption of Wellness programmes into the mainstream will generate inevitable questions as to how these programmes  contribute to the bottom line, the return on investment for a business,  the management training needed to ensure that such initiatives  are implemented properly and become  an embedded part of the companies  culture.

Whilst it is clear that there is no ‘one size fits all’  Wellness strategy, what is clear is that a happy, healthy, engaged and motivated workforce can only have a positive impact on business performance and that has to be a good result for everyone.  So whatever the size of your business and the budget you have available, Wellness is firmly on the agenda!

Wellbeing


FutureLife

You are about to embark on the next, new and exciting phase of your life – retirement! But are you ready for it?

The concept of retirement has changed a great deal in recent years. For many, it is no  longer the gold watch at 65, and then a gentle retreat into your twilight years accompanied by pipe and slippers.

Today’s retirees are often much younger and not 100% ready to give up full time work.  Or you may have reached the official retirement  age, but still have loads of energy and curiosity for the world around you.  There may be things you still want to achieve but have no idea about how to plan them.

If up until now, you have been wholly focussed on your professional life, you may not have given much serious thought to how your retirement might look, other than to plan a couple more holidays and look forward to no more commuting!

To many, retirement creeps up on them and they have no real plan for it.  Or they have ignored the issue as they don’t know where to start. This is where BLT’s FutureLife Coaching programme comes in. We believe that to get the most out of this next phase in your life, you need to apply the same level of planning as you have to the rest of your life and career.

This programme will work with you to develop a framework for your retirement. Do you want to continue working – not necessarily in your professional field? If yes, what type of work? What are the options? What skills and experience from your working life can you apply to new challenges? How do you go about finding these opportunities, whether it be paid employment, charitable endeavours, community projects – the list is endless.  What other activities do you want to pursue? How are you going to fill your time?

And what about the more subtle aspects of retirement? Are you ready mentally? How do you look back on your career? How will you approach the lack of structure? The absence of work colleagues and clients? The mental stimulation and challenge that your role has provided?

BLT FutureLife Coaching programme will equip you with the skills to plan this next phase of your life in a positive and constructive manner.  As your Coach, I will work with you to address any of these issues you are facing, establish a road map for the coming months and years ahead that you can use as your guide and reference point and provide you with a totally confidential space in which  to work through any fears and anxieties you might have as you approach this milestone.  I will  help you to find ways to realise your hopes and ambitions and give you practical guidance as to how to achieve them.

This can be a time of mixed emotions – retrospection, pride, anxiety, joy, apprehension, excitement, trepidation.  Channelling these so that you approach retirement with a positive attitude and a plan that will work for you are crucial to achieving a successful retirement and the BLT FutureLife Coaching programme will work with you to achieve this.

If you would like to have a confidential discussion as to how this might work for you, please contact Liz Watt on 020 7419 6416 or bltcoaching1@gmail.com

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