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.

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.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!


‘God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

the courage to change the things I can,

and the wisdom to know the difference.’*

Reinhold Niebuhr, 20th Century American Theologian

Whether working with business executives or groups, in order to create momentum towards positive and lasting change, there is a crucial ingredient that must be present: acceptance.



This has nothing to do with striving for external acceptance from others but refers to accepting, without negative judgment, what has already taken place up to the present moment – the situation as it exists right now is what it is. This sounds rather obvious but on reflection it’s a harder concept to then put into action than one would suppose. In terms of deciding to create change in our lives, the past is not a matter of distant record but began the moment we make that decision.



If we are really serious about wanting to begin a new chapter, it’s the ‘what happens next’ that counts and not what’s already occured. The benefits can be so much greater if we are not chained to issues from our past, be it recent or distant. It is just not possible to build positive change on negative foundations – there is no ‘up side’ to carrying past burdens with us into our future.



The burdens we carry with us as negative emotions often concern, for example:

  • irritation with things that may have been said or done (or not)
  • regret at things not achieved
  • frustrations for opportunities missed
  • destructive guilt and shame over poor decisions
  • anger at wrongs suffered



This does not mean brushing aside the consequences of past actions or ignoring commitments and responsibilities. It signifies understanding more about ourselves, the events in our lives, and being able to view what has occurred in the past with calmness and wisdom. This puts us in a much stronger position when it comes to deciding to begin living right now.


We shall not dwell on the importance of self-forgiveness here, as that subject alone requires a good deal of time. Suffice to say that any of these negative and destructive emotions can thwart the forward momentum we seek. Overcoming the inertia created by so much extra baggage can be daunting and can even put us off from setting out on a new journey altogether – so set down that burden – accept that what has been, is done.

Once we are able to embrace acceptance, that’s when things start to get exciting. It is in that same moment, that very moment, that we can begin to put our new plans into effect. The act of understanding and accepting our past is the first and most important step. We permit ourselves to think and act unfettered by yesterday’s emotional baggage which in turn allows us to meet challenges with clarity – focusing on our hopes, our desires and our passions.

“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called opportunity and it’s first chapter is today*”

Edith Lovejoy Pierce, English Peace Activist & Poet

Alan Keyse is a fully qualified Business and Life Coach who now applies his 30 years of experience as a sales executive to coaching Emotional Intelligence to business leaders, executives, managers and their staff. Alan specialises in stress reduction; conflict avoidance; & employee engagement. 

*This is not, in fact the original quote but is the most widely used version and remains attributed to Niebuhr



In modern life we prize having multiple options and choices, but one of the greatest limitations to achieving these are our own thoughts and perceptions. Therefore, an ability to challenge and shift our own perspectives, and therefore our perceptions, is a huge asset – especially if we occupy a leadership role.

“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”

Anais Nin, Author 1903-1977


We continually ask questions of our environment, our safety and of ourselves, as they are essential in making the string of judgements and moulding the beliefs required to function and survive effectively. This is what kept us alive in the wild, and it is what we have to do constantly in order to make daily and life decisions. In this subliminal minute by minute flow of ‘what do I do next?’ the decisions we take and the choices we make are conditioned by the questions we pose.



The nature of the questions we ask of our lives or our world will condition the answers we receive. These answers, in turn, can reinforce beliefs we already hold. But what if a particular belief is negative and erroneous, for example ‘I can’t’, ‘I’m useless’, ‘I’m good for nothing’, ‘no one likes me’.  What if our perspectives and perceptions lead us to judgements and beliefs that can be to the detriment of ourselves or of those around us?



If our thinking takes us up a blind alley, particularly at work, a useful and sometimes challenging exercise, is to abandon our line of enquiry and follow instead a thread someone else puts forward – usually a friend or a colleague. This may feel uncomfortable simply because we are removed from our normal channels of thought. We may be compelled to move in a direction that would not be our automatic choice given our own upbringing and conditioning – that direction may even be counterintuitive.



The benefit is that we are really challenging our own thinking. In fact, the more uncomfortable this process becomes the greater the rewards can be. This is particularly true when meeting an obstacle in a project at work or in our lives in general. Simply put, if a chosen line of thought proves stubborn then take a run at it from a different direction to that you would intuitively select. This can serve a purpose if only to confirm that we were on the right line already: discounting an alternative route – properly explored – can really shake up progress.


If we care to look, the perspective of questions others may pose of us can often be far more illuminating in areas we may not even have thought to explore.  There is always a way out of a maze: approaching a problem or challenge from an altered perspective creates options and choices and can get a stalled situation on the move once again. While true and lasting change may not come easily, the journey can be exhilarating and liberating once the shackles of our own modes and conventions have been tested robustly.


Alan Keyse is a fully qualified Business and Life Coach who now applies his 30 years of experience as a sales executive to coaching Emotional Intelligence to business leaders, executives, managers and their staff. Alan specialises in stress reduction; conflict avoidance; & employee engagement. 


Most entrepreneurs will be all too aware of the pressures that go hand in glove with being self-employed. The pressure not only to succeed but also to be seen to be successful, is inherent within the very fabric of our society. 



We are taught to want to ‘succeed’ from a very early age, and once past infancy the forces at work, driving us forward: our parents; our teachers; and our friends, are irresistible. We become conditioned with the need to compete and in a competitive society this is a useful driver to have. However, if we become conditioned to value our worth by what we believe the world thinks of our success, our thought process and behaviour can create huge dissonance with our core values.



Most of us at some time in our lives have uttered the plea ‘stop the ride, I wanna get off!’ but seldom do we question that urge. What many of us do not appreciate is that we do not need to ask permission of a third party to stop the ride, in fact all the controls we require are in our hands. This does not mean have to mean walking away from existing life styles, nor for abdicating responsibilities. Rather, it is a call for regular pauses, short periods of reflection to re-evaluate our understanding of our lives, our aspirations and our emotions.



How often do we question how we personally measure success & why? Our social and cultural conditioning measures success by whether or not we surpass those around us. We spend our time, therefore, making comparisons with our peers and competing on that basis. We often fail to explore what success really means to us. As a result we spend our time chasing goals reactively preset, and which may have absolutely nothing to do with our innermost desires and core values. Only by matching our lives to those desires and values can we attain our own true success and fulfilment.


It is for all of us to challenge our own thinking and, possibly for the first time, take a serious look at what makes us tick as opposed to what convention dictates it should be. If we take the time to take a look, we may be pleasantly surprised.


. Alan specialises in helping executives, entrepreneurs & their staff to manage stress levels, conflict resolution, self confidence & potential burnout! In doing so he employs mindfulness, emotional intelligence, life coaching/CBT, & more than 3 decades of experience as an international sales executive.



FEAR OF FAILURE: The Claustrophobia of Creativity

‘Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt’



Fear of failure is, more often than not, the fear of not measuring up to others in our peer group. It can also be a fear of falling short of what we believe to be other people’s expectations of us. Such anxiety does not originate from within us but is acquired over years of social conditioning and learnt behaviour. The good news is that it can be identified, observed, & left far behind us.



Our desire for external appreciation, approval and esteem is perfectly natural for us. We are after all a social animal and so need to find cooperation within a very complex social structure. This desire, however, can compel us to abandon any consideration of ourselves in favour of a futile search for external affirmations of our worth. The desire to please others in order to feel of value becomes a need that can never be fulfilled –  and can distract us from focusing on our own potential and fulfilment.



If we are trying to live up to the expectation of others this is often because we imagine what they want, what they are thinking. In such cases we are second guessing what they are thinking and are invariably wrong. The fact is, we have no idea what other people are thinking.



How often do we hear this brand of 1980s movie mantra rattled out as the worse kind of tough love / hard motivation in the workplace? Well, we’re human beings which means we are going to fail – so we’d better get over it. What really sets us apart is our ability to learn from mistakes/weakness/failure, whatever we want to call it. Every advance of the human race has been hard won through trial & error. From Shakespeare to Michael Jordan the ethos remains the same: the worse thing we can do is not even try.



Through regular mindfulness practice we can make positivity of outlook, clarity of intention, & compassion, our moment by moment priorities. As a result, the external approval we once sought so desperately fades in importance and we no longer have that overwhelming need to satisfy others. Instead we find a profound sense of our inherent worth & our core values. With this comes an underlying strength & calm which gives out very positive energy to everyone we come into contact with.

Whatever we seek to achieve, we should allow ourselves the luxury of the compassion, the patience, and the common humanity we so easily afford to, for example, our close friends. We see our friends strive and fail and yet we are there supporting them all the way. We are no less entitled to the same understanding. Once we have thrown off the shackles of fear ‘lest we fail’, we will meet challenges, be they in business or at home, with an enthusiasm that views errors and failure as merely signposts on the way to greater successes and achievement.

Alan Keyse is a fully qualified Business and Life Coach who now applies his 30 years of experience as a sales executive to coaching Emotional Intelligence to business leaders, executives, managers and their staff. Alan specialises in stress reduction; conflict avoidance; & employee engagement.