I DO NOT OFFER TOOLS (unless you need a spanner)

In this ‘on demand’ world, the urge to get ‘what I want, when I want it’ is all pervasive and the area of executive coaching is no different. I work with busy people who have huge responsibilities and who have to withstand the pressures that come from being successful in highly competitive environments. So I fully understand their desire for straight answers and quick results.


However, one of my first jobs during the initial assessment I have with clients is to stress that I offer no tools, no shortcuts, no ‘quick easy tips’.


I am of the school of thought which maintains that our thinking, our perceptions and our behaviour, are vital contributors to the direction of our lives. All three of these take decades to evolve though social conditioning from family, peer group, education, cultural environment and so on.


Therefore, any elements of our behaviour that we wish to alter are well and truly embedded. That is not to say that they cannot be changed or even eradicated because they can. It is just that it will not be a quick and easy fix – and to let people believe otherwise is, I believe, misleading at best


There certainly are any number of techniques and exercises that can be employed to help achieve goals and create positive change but I would describe none of them as quick and easy. They are not complicated but they do require real application. An example of this is my series of ‘Confidence Booster’ blogs, each of which deals with a different technique. No single exercise can resolve self confidence issues but must play a part in a much wider and deeper champaign of action. 

CONFIDENCE BOOSTER No.7: Get a Positive Charge

It’s a simple fact that the more external negativity you allow into your life the more down you feel. Now, there are sources of negativity over which you have no control and very little influence, but there will be areas where you can make a positive difference to your environment.

THE CHALLENGE: To create a more positively charged environment in which to live.

If you allow yourself to be surrounded by ‘down beat’ and depressed energy from people, places and media, you are at a disadvantage before you even get started. Is there any benefit to your confidence in permitting this to continue? If you wish to up, maintain or enhance your confidence, it will be more difficult if you are weighed down by the burden of a negative environment. Remember that negativity is contagious and it loves company, but the same is true of positivity, so….



  • Seek out the company of supportive, positive and motivated people (this means reducing exposure to pessimism, doubt and psychological lethargy)
  • Do not allow your enthusiasm and motivation to be eroded by the negativity of others – you’ll know who they are. Where possible keep a distance because they just love to spread frowns.
  • Look out for negative judges, labellers, self confessed control freaks, or those who are simply unkind. The time may come when you may be able to help them….but you first.
  • Seek out different physical environments – try something new: gym, pub, café, restaurants, clubs, sporting clubs, parties you attend etc. Taking positive action will create positive change.
  • Beware what you read, listen to and watch. The constant media flow does have an affect how you feel – it’s your call.
  • Adjust your social media friends / likes as this alters the tone of your feed. Or take a holiday (temporary or permanent) from certain social media altogether.

This may seem obvious, however, so often  we can run our lives on auto pilot which will obscure what needs changing. It is said that if you own the action you own the consequences so a number of small adjustments can have a greater impact than you can imagine. The trick is in the doing.


THE CHALLENGE: To overcome inaccurate statements, self-talk and mindset. 

My clients get to hear about this over and over because accuracy has a complex role in combating a very powerful adversary of self confidence: cognitive distortion. This may sound complicated (it is) but if I highlight the most popular forms you will know what I mean:

  • Filtering – amplifying negative information while diminishing or completely excluding positives
  • Polarised “black & white” thinking – leaves no room for manoeuvre for yourself & others & leaves no room for balance
  • Overgeneralisation – With sparse information, creating strong opinions on a wide range of people, subjects or situations
  • Rushing to assumptions – not waiting for all (or any) available information on a subject & so assumptions are drawn & decisions made in considerable ignorance
  • Catastrophising – Why settle for a drama when a full blown crisis will do? This is when everything is bad even if it has happened only once. “I’m rubbish at this”, “No one likes me”, “You cannot trust anyone”, “Today was disastrous” etc etc.



It’s called tracking which is, in this context, keeping a log / diary of instances when you are inaccurate in any given situation about yourself, people, your day etc. If you are unaware of behaving in a particular way then how can you do anything about it? Just being aware of it will make a huge difference.

BEWARE: real and lasting shifts in deep seated mind set and behaviour takes hard work and consistency

Now you may be thinking that this is all a bit obvious and that calling yourself ‘useless’, for example, is merely a turn of phrase. But words have a huge significance: not only do they tell the outside world a great deal about us, but they also say much about our moods and mindset. Get control of them and they WILL begin to affect your attitudes and emotions for the better. 

CONFIDENCE BOOSTER No.5: Stop Comparisons

THE CHALLENGE: To stop using unfavourable comparisons to others as a stick with which to beat yourself.

Look out for this popular trip wire if you are trying to restore some lost confidence. If you are comparing yourself unfavourably to those around you: friends, colleagues, even relations, then you are actively undermining your own position and where’s the upside to this waste of mental energy?

  • Finding inspiration in the achievement of others can be a great source for motivation, however, be careful this does not slip into negative comparison – which is very fruitful ground for weighing down your own self confidence…..completely unnecessarily.
  • You are unique and possess your own skills and abilities, but how can you properly concentrate on your own performance if you are busy getting anxious about how someone else is doing?

How many sprint races were lost when, instead of dipping for the finishing tape, a competitor decides instead to glance across at the competition? 



Improve your own game – you have already identified your skills in BOOSTER No.2 so:

  • Set out a plan to enhance the things you are already good at, and to challenge yourself in areas where you may need to improve.
  • What new element would you like to add to your skill set? Identify it and then set about getting it

Up your own game – this is where true motivation comes from….not in glancing at what others are doing….they will have different strengths and weaknesses to you. Watch out for wasted energy wishing you were like someone else – it’ll never happen so rule it out of your thought process.



I really enjoy connecting with larger groups of people because the atmosphere is always buzzing and I really like to see people challenging one another’s perceptions (including my own).

Of course these sessions, whether they be workshops, seminars, or set piece lectures have a very different dynamic compare to my 1 to 1 sessions:


  • Group sessions, by their nature, lack the intimacy of 1 to 1s
  • 1 to 1 sessions are very much led by the client and the discussion as it develops, whereas group work is more structured in advance
  • Group sessions tend to be one offs, or limited in number and therefore there is more detail to take on – 1 to 1s tend to be more gradual
  • Group work is great for understanding concepts but are, of course, unable to address in detail any personal issues

Like all of my coaching, in its various forms, I find group work very rewarding on a personal level. There’s no lip service here – I write and plan the session until I am personal moved by the content and I am convinced it will work.



  • Team building
  • Leadership & management development
  • Improved conflict management
  • Enhanced rapport between company and staff
  • Greater staff resilience
  • Greater unity of purpose within the team and the company in general
  • Increased productivity

I take a fresh approach every time when prepping, be it for one of my own workshops or for a session especially written for a corporate client. I value the input of my clients and together with them I will plan a session(s) to best reflect what they want to get from the experience both on an individual and a group level.


CONFIDENCE BOOSTER No.4: Handling Criticism

The challenge: To take criticism the way it is intended and learn the lesson in its context.

If we offer or simply think critically of someone in a negative sense, we are not seeking to improve or to support, but are simply passing judgement. On these occasions, there is something else at work which in most circumstances has little or nothing to do with the poor soul on the receiving end. In most instances it’s about our own ‘stuff’ – our frustrations, our disappointments, our ‘what ifs’ etc. Ultimately, that judgement may have nothing to do with the target at all!

The same is true when we find negative criticism coming our way:

  • It has next to nothing to do with us.
  • The comments cannot be objective (otherwise they would not be negative).
  • This breed of criticism will not be helpful.
  • If the criticism comes from a stranger, it’s not even personal – how can it be? Remember they do not know you.

Therefore, we are merely the canvas upon which another person has chosen to sketch out their issues. Incidentally, if the negative judgment comes from a close friend, then that is a clear sign that your friend is in need of your help and support. Pitch in and find out what on earth’s the matter.

With all this clear in the mind, it is easier to take positive feedback from friends and colleagues in a constructive way and in the manner in which it had been intended – with good will.


  • Identify the source of the criticism/feedback and ask yourself, “What is their intention?” – Is it well intentioned or not? Is it to your benefit or not? Write it down.
  • Note an instance (more than one if you really want to drill down on this issue), of when you feel you have been criticised either recently or in the recent past… write it down.
  • What was your reaction? Keep writing!
  • Then conclude – on serious and accurate reflection, is the criticism really something that should be taken to heart?

As in all personal development, this is an ongoing process and the more you practice doing this, the more it will become a good habit. Over time, this will replace the feelings of being under siege when you are criticised and will remove the reaction of self-defence – be it internal or external.

CONFIDENCE BOOSTER No.3 : The Damage of Comparisons

Another unnecessary pressure we heap on to ourselves in an already pressured environment is when we compare who we are, how we look and what we have achieved, to others – & such comparisons are rarely favourable.


  • It’s time to measure up to your own standards and not those set by peer pressure and the desire to be like someone else – these have a detrimental effect on self esteem in a very profound way.
  • If you compare yourselves to others you are not going to have the full picture necessarily: the sacrifices they made to get there; how happy they are with the outcome; the effects on other aspects of their lives i.e. home & family. You do not see the full picture so you cannot know how successful someone REALLY is beyond the superficial.
  • While you are busy measuring up to others you can miss your own opportunities where your particular strengths & talent can shine – effectively you stifle your own talents.



  • Identify your skills and abilities (as in No.2), and match these to goals you would like to achieve. This way you play to your strengths…..why would you want to do anything else?

By all means, seek inspiration in others, in their achievements and the examples they set – but in doing so give full credit to your own abilities. In aiming for your goal, ensure you do it your way and for your reasons. The keys word here is AUTHENTICITY, which will check negative comparisons at every turn.

CONFIDENCE BOOSTER No.2: Is Failure an Option?


The fact of the matter is that if you are reading this and are a member of the human race you will make mistakes, maybe even the odd howler, I guarantee it. The secret is to accept this fact and cut yourself some slack – but I am not asking for any more or less than you would a good friend or work colleague.



If you suffer with issues of self confidence (and most of us do at different times), and if you are prone to working yourself over for making mistakes, you can set yourself a whole set of unnecessary challenges:

  • Reluctance to take risks
  • Stifling your abilities
  • Ignoring your achievements while highlighting your failures



  • Write a memo to yourself listing your abilities, which will be a matter of public record and fact – so that not even you can dispute them. Don’t roll your eyes….do it.
  • Note down your past successes – as you may well have buried them beyond normal daily recall. Get them out, dust them off and put them on display (this is for your benefit, not ours, as it will be you that cannot see them).
  • Check out what some of the most successful people in history have said about failure – in particular our greatest scientists, who reached the heights of achievement through trial & ERROR – get it?

There’s nothing wrong with striving for perfection and having to make do with mere excellence. The trick is not avoiding making mistakes or failing – it is in doing so and using that stumble as a lesson & not as a source of corporal punishment!

CONFIDENCE BOOSTER No.1: Maintain Proportion



We have all heard the adage that this life is not a rehearsal. What that says to me is “please do not waste a day” and that is what I try to instil in my clients who suffer with low self confidence and low self esteem. True, we cannot always succeed but it is a good reminder to have in the background to nudge us from time to time: avoid dwelling on an issue that we may have perhaps built up beyond its importance – also known as, wasting time.


Pick an age you wouldn’t mind reaching 80, 85, 90, message from the Queen? It’s up to you. Then convert the years from the present until that date into days. Seeing your life quoted in days can cause a moment of pause and bring home just how precious is each day. You’re not always going to be able to have good days, in fact some may be down right hard work, but the idea is to become more determined as how you view your valuable time and your priceless life.

The benefit is that getting into this habit will help to put issues and problems into context. It will not make them disappear, but in the grand scheme of your life, they may well take on more realistic dimensions, and appear in their correct proportions – and not seem to be monumental obstacles.

Try it and see….

MAKE IT STICK! How to set goals & stop back sliding.


MAKING IT STICK: understanding how to set goals & not backslide

The workshop was conducted together with Adam Strong of www.xclusivecorporatefitness.com. In these excerpts, I concentrate on speaking about the ‘head game’ – not just the preserve of elite sport, but also vital in business and managing and sealing goals.