The suns rays coming through the clouds onto a lake

What is Coaching?

Have you tried to describe a problem to someone and before you finish they tell you emphatically exactly what you should do to solve it? However in doing so they haven’t taken into account all the other constraints which you’re facing which are likely to make their solution irrelevant. So you try to explain, but they insist that this solution will work… so you walk away frustrated and no further forwards in solving your problem?

Although the problems of each person may sound similar on the surface, a solution that works for one person often isn’t relevant for the other, and the only way to know what is the best course of action is to delve deeper into the exact nature of the problem. Given that the individual with the problem is the one who knows it best, the most useful course of action is to help them to find the solution themselves.

Coaching works on this principle – a coach acts as a sounding board to really listen and help you to find a solution to the problems and challenges you are facing, introducing different perspectives and tools to facilitate them in the process.

A coach will help you to move through the problem solving process by:

  • setting clear, realistic, achievable goals
  • fully explore where you are, what you have already done, what solutions you have tried and what you have learnt as a result.
  • generate ideas of what you could possibly do – and push you hard to think of new approaches you haven’t tried already
  • identify clear actions that you will take and when you will take them.

This sounds like a very simple process and something you can do yourself, so what value does a coach bring? A coach will:

  • make sure that you work through this process properly, drawing out those things which you wouldn’t always recognise yourself and helping you to face the challenges that you don’t realise you are avoiding.
  • ensure you  celebrate your successes, keeping you motivated and moving forwards.
  • hold you accountable, helping you recognise those actions which you set which are repeatedly not done and explore what the resistance is to this task, understand the reasons for avoidance and find an alternative solution that works for you.
  • introduce you to a wide range of tools and techniques to help you to work through a challenge. A coach will select these tools to fit your needs and help you to open up to a new perspective.

Most simply though, by working with a coach you achieve your goals faster because you make a commitment to someone other than yourself to take action and you have a time and a date when you will report back on progress. Furthermore the action has been well thought through is something you believe in.

Coaching can be applied to a wide range of areas for improving business performance as well as personal and individual development. For some examples please see my offerings page.

If you’re interested in finding out more then give me a call or send me an email to set up a chat.

Snowdonian mountain range

My Welsh 3000s Challenge – June 2013

In June this year, I took on one of the biggest challenges of my life without really realising how big it would be. I agreed with 6 of my friends that this year we would do the Welsh 3000s. How hard can it be I thought? I’ve climbed a few mountains, I’m pretty fit and it’ll be a great reason to finally go to the top of some of the Snowdonian peaks that I haven’t yet done (including Snowdon itself).

What is the Welsh 3000s? For those that haven’t come across the Welsh 3000s challenge – it is to get to the summit of every peak in Wales over 3000ft in under 24 hours without using any transport. Fortunately, the peaks are all located in Snowdonia and so this is “only” 26 miles in total with a scary 3,500m of ascent.

Team Photo - starting offI like a challenge – and this sounded like it would push me a bit – plus it fitted nicely with a couple of other things I had going on – the moonwalk (26 miles of walking in a bra overnight for breast cancer) and the University’s fit@50 step challenge – I was convinced it would get me a pretty good step count!

To keep me even more motivated I decided to look for sponsorship for this, connecting it to the moonwalk – giving me a reason to raise even more money for a great cause.

Climbing Snowdon at Sunset Snowdon BivvyThe start of the Welsh 3000 is the top of Snowdon, so on the evening of the 8th June, we set off up to the mountain, to bivvy at the top, ready to get going as soon as the sun came up. Now you’d think it would be quiet at the top of a mountain in the middle of the night wouldn’t you – in actual fact it was packed – several hundred people walked through that night – doing the 3 peaks challenge (not half as tough as the welsh 3k!! ;)) fortunately we were warned so we camped out of the way of the hordes on the railway station!

Early Morning Walk Begins 

Peak 1 - top of Snowdon - 430am - the startWith the sun rising at 4:30am we were up and ready to go. I couldn’t walk the whole way in my moonwalk bra, so it spent most of the time strapped to my rucksack, with changes for a couple of pics on some of the better-known peaks.

So we were off – the views were stunning, looking down over the cloud nestling in the valleys.

By 8am we had done our 3rd peak – Crib Goch – the ridge with a sheer drop on either side – and we were headed down to the road for the first of our support stops. Our support crew were in the car park waiting for us with bacon sandwiches, tea, coffee and plenty of energy to motivate us.

Starting to get a little tired. Less than an hour later we were off again – up to “The Glyders” for the tough middle stretch. It was an amazing day and the scenery was really beautiful. By 5pm we’d reached Tryfan and I was really starting to feel the size of the challenge. Worn out by the scree coming down by Bristly Ridge I just about made it to the top but my legs were really starting to wobble. We’d been walking and scrambling solidly for over 12 hours – hard to believe, but we were still going! The route off Tryfan took us down to the road again and was the stage where I realised that while I’d been training in the gym for uphill, I really hadn’t done any for downhill. Once again our stunning crew were at the bottom waiting for us – this time with soup, bread and cheese and were even willing to give us foot massages.

Getting really tough – only 10 hours walking to go!

With 2/3 done it was time to get going again – into “The Carnedds”. This was where it started getting really tough. As we made our way up once again all that kept me moving was to put one foot in front of the other. After the top of that first peak on the last leg (no 9 overall), it got a little easier – right up until the sun started to disappear.

As the sun set at around 10pm, in my head we were very nearly there. We actually still had another 5 peaks to go! An hour or so later we were struggling to find the route – walking through rough ground aiming for some shadow of a peak in the distance – it wasn’t too steep – the hills over here were more rolling – but that peak never seemed to get any closer – and I was starting to lose count of how many we’d done and how many to go. More steps later, at around 2am we found what appeared in the dark to be a field of sharp spikes stones sticking up from the ground – the last hurdle between us and the end of the challenge.

After 21 1/4 hours of walking, we had made it… amazing!!! Time to celebrate!!!

Oh No – we still have to get back down!! However – we were at the top of a peak – somehow I’d blocked from my mind that we still had to go down several thousand feet to get to where we’d parked the cars – and as I’d discovered earlier, going down hurt – lots!

Final Step Count!2 hours later, at just before 4am, we finally got to the car we’d been walking for just under 24 hours and actually done closer to 32 miles (plus the ascent of Snowdon the day before). My step counter (zeroed at the top of Snowdon) told me I’d done pretty well – 94,677. (One part of me had the idea of trying to get to 100,000 but my feet would not move one more step!!!)

Such an amazing achievement! It took me about 2 weeks to get a real feel for the enormity of what we’d achieved. I knew that this challenge would really push me – but I didn’t know how. It definitely taught me just how far you can go by putting your head down and putting one foot in front of the other – it’s amazing how the steps add up!

So far we have raised just under £920 for breast cancer covering both events (my target was £250!!) – if you’d like to sponsor me and help me hit £1000 here then follow this link http://www.walkthewalkfundraising.org/tough_trio

Thank you!!

Monitor your Business Performance

Out of all the things you do, do you know what creates the most value for your business? Does the performance data you capture actually link to the specific aims you have for the business or is it just the info you think you should track, which would tell you something if you just had time to process it?

Imagine being able to quickly review that data and get an immediate impression of how things are going in the business and how well things are progressing against your goals. Imagine being able to identify where effort is being wasted and quickly refocus that effort on something more valuable.

A natural progression from a business plan is to identify a set of metrics which are easy to capture which will help you to monitor progress against the plan and the success of the strategy, allowing you to review and adapt where effort is invested and get the most value for the business.

I work with clients to identify success criteria across different areas of the business, identify key metrics to monitor and then provide support in reviewing the results against the success criteria in order to adapt and improve performance further based on these results.

A paper aeroplane with the shadow of a real aeroplane

Develop a Vision for your Business

Does your reality fit to your original dreams for your business? Does what you do on a day-to-day basis match what you envisioned yourself doing when you first started working in your business? Do you feel so overwhelmed by the difference between reality and your dreams that you don’t know where to start?

What if you could develop your dreams into a vision so that you can see, hear, feel, smell and taste it as if you could step right into it? Imagine the inspiration this could give you to make it happen, and how well you would be able to communicate it to your staff, your customers, and investors – and see get them excited too.

Building on a number of different creative approaches such as vision boards, goal mapping, and Neuro Linguistic Programming techniques I will work with you to develop a compelling vision, identify how best to communicate to others – and then help you to break it down into smaller goals so you know how that everything you do contributes towards it.

Open book with lots of ideas emerging above it

Planning for Business Success

When was the last time you looked at your business plan? Is it something which you use on a day to day basis, or, as with many companies, is it sitting dusty on a shelf somewhere – a plan which was written for someone else to tick some boxes (for the bank for investors) and then filed away and forgotten about?

How powerful would it be if that plan realistically captured your ideas for the business including how you wanted it to develop and evolve? Imagine if this plan was easy to monitor and update so that you could track progress against goals. Even keeping a business delivering at the same level week on week requires planning – making sure that customers continue to buy from you, keeping products relevant and that you continue to stand out against competitors.

Capturing ideas and putting a realistic and structured plan around them can be a real challenge, especially when there are multiple stakeholders who all need to agree. Often the process of keeping the plan up to date with relevant information can be an overhead in time, which you just can’t afford.

I work with clients either one-to-one or in teams to turn their vision and ideas for the business into a concrete and realistic plan, captured in a format which fits what they need to keep it up to date and relevant.  I also structure workshops and group sessions to communicate these plans to others in a way that gets their buy-in.

 

“I found having honest and independent feedback on the way we were conducting our planning tasks was particularly useful” 

Matt Pilmoor, Flightworks

Getting the Most from Your Team

How effective are the teams you work in? Do they work together, appreciating the strengths of all parties or do you find yourself in discussions and disagreements which really hold the business back?

For teams to work most effectively together they need to have a common goal which they are all committed to, whether this is the success of the business overall or a project or activity within the business. In addition they need an understanding of each others’ motivations and interest in achieving the goal. Without this understanding conflict often arises, either openly or hidden, which interferes with the performance of the team and results in increased time and cost to achieve the goal as well as unhappy people.

I work with teams to help them to understand and agree their common goal, share what’s important to them in a safe environment, breaking down barriers and getting them in a place where they are able to perform most effectively. I can work one-to-one with individual team members as well as facilitating teambuilding sessions, where possible building the outcomes from profiling tools such as Myers Briggs, DISC, Strengths Deployment Inventory (SDI) and Belbins.

Dandelion losing its seeds

Create Time for Important Tasks

Are you feeling overworked and stressed out from the pressure of delivering the day-to-day tasks? Do you have a huge to do list which always seems to be longer at the end of the day than at the beginning?

Imagine having the confidence that every task you do takes you one step closer to your business goals. Imagine having the time and space to be able to step back and really consider what activities need your attention in order to make the business a success. What would it feel like to see that to do list shrink and be under your control.

There are many simple yet effective tools which can help you to use your time more effectively. Tools such as the Urgency vs. Importance Matrix made a huge impact on where I focused my effort both in my business and in my day-to-day life. The biggest challenges though are in finding the tools which suit the way you work and discovering how to best use them to suit your individual needs.

I will work with you on a one-to-one basis to identify the main things which steal your time and introduce you to the most relevant tools for you. I will also support you in integrating these into your day-to-day working life so that they become second nature to you and give you a long-term solution.

Develop Yourself as an Individual

How often do you review your own skills and knowledge? Are you growing and learning or are you repeating some of the same mistakes? How much are your personal weaknesses holding you and the business back?

Self-reflection and personal development of both you and your staff are important for the growth of the business. Identification of skills gaps allows a plan to be put in place to address them before the business suffers. For technical skills and specific interpersonal skills this can often be addressed through training. However often training courses are only first step, how many courses have you been on when you’ve intended to do something differently, but been so overwhelmed by your workload when you’ve returned that you never quite got round to implementing what you learned? Or you tried to implement it, but hit a barrier and so gave up?

One-to-one coaching can be extremely useful to developing effective leadership and interpersonal skills, building on an individual’s learning or that from a training course. I typically work with clients over a series of sessions around one or multiple areas to identify the skills and knowledge they currently have and those they want to grow. I introduce new tools and approaches as well as honing and improving current ones, and help them to identify opportunities where they might try them out and get feedback on their performance so that they can improve even further.

lightbulb with element saying ideas

Innovate New Offerings

How do you stay ahead of your competition? Does the culture of your business encourage innovation and new ideas? Do those ideas get put into practice or do they get stuck as concepts with no ownership and no one progressing them?

It’s common for people to become focused on just delivering on their job, especially when they are busy, making it difficult for them to justify taking the time out to talk to others and feed in their ideas. New ideas for products, process improvements, better ways of doing business and working with customers are all important for a business to thrive. These ideas often come from breaking down boundaries between areas of the business, getting people talking to each other, sharing challenges and working together to find ways to address them.

I work with clients to design and deliver facilitated workshops which create the space and time to allow people to think, talk and develop new ideas. The facilitation ensures that the time spent is focused on delivering value for the business, with a follow up plan in place so that people come away feeling that their time has been well spent. It also ensures that everyone has the opportunity to contribute, not just the people that shout the loudest.