Jacky Leonard's blog

Category: Business Coaching

Reputation by Association

Categories:  Business Coaching, Delivering Authentic Customer Experiences

A reputation once broken may possibly be repaired, but the world will always keep their eyes on the spot where the crack was. 

Bishop Joseph Hall

 About a month or so prior to the last MOT on my Volvo, I noticed a large crack across the bottom of the windscreen.  Driving has become an obstacle course of pothole avoidance, so no doubt I managed to inadvertently hit a few. 

I called my insurance broker and was directed to their recommended supplier, who informed me I would have at least a 2 week wait for a replacement to be fitted.  I asked if there was any way of speeding up the process (MOT pending) and was willing to travel to one of their bases, rather than them come out to me.  No luck, so I called my broker, this time to complain about the lengthy wait.  My last experience of a windscreen replacement was efficient....done on the day it broke, without fuss, so my expectations were that this would be sorted within the week.  They were apologetic but could basically do nothing to speed up the process, so I waited.

The allotted day arrived and as I was working away I briefed my house/dog sitter about the appointment and had arranged a MOT with my local garage the day after the repair.  All sorted…or so I thought, until I received a call from the Windscreen Technician, who told me he was at my house but had the wrong windscreen.  Not wanting to shoot the messenger, I asked him what would happen next.  He said he’d notify the office, but it was likely I’d have to wait another couple of weeks and rang off leaving a frustrated and unhappy customer.

In fairness, the company called me back promptly to reschedule and I was offered a shorter wait time of 8 days if I travelled to Tewksbury, unfortunately not possible this time.  Given my MOT would now be overdue by the time the replacement was rescheduled, all I could do was park the car off road and wait.

To add insult to injury, I had just received an insurance renewal for the vehicle, so rang my broker again and was put through to the manager. I explained I was hoping to sell the vehicle, but a month wait for the windscreen repair was putting that on hold. I also said I was thinking of moving my insurances elsewhere.  After listening, thanking me for being calm and offering an apology for the situation, he explained they were only the broker. He then offered to reduce my renewal fee.  Whilst this was a kind gesture, it was worth very little as I intended to sell the car as soon as it had a MOT.

The brokers response was reasonable, the problem was, rightly or not, I was now linking them with my bad experience, with good reason. They recommended I use this windscreen repair company, so they were connected to this inadequate service by association.  I can’t believe my case is an isolated incident.  I still think a 2 week wait for a new windscreen is unreasonable, especially as I initially offered to drive somewhere to have it fitted before the MOT ran out.

Sadly, when you are connected with an organisation who doesn’t share you service standards, when they get it wrong, you'll invariably get tarred with the same brush and your reputation will get soiled.  Once that happens, you’ll be left clearing up their mess.

So, my question is…why would you continue to work with a company that makes you look bad?  Here are some things to consider regarding your current associations, alliances and business relationships:

·   How healthy are your business alliances?

Look at each relationship and rate their service delivery.  Are they meeting your and your customer’s expectations?  How many complaints have you received in relation to the service they’re providing for you?

·   Do you share similar customer service values and standards?

Inconsistencies are a big cause for complaint.  A misalignment of values can create a painful relationship.  You may find it difficult to agree on the fundamentals and could end up clashing on how to approach service delivery and resolve complaints. 

 ·   Do they value your customer in the same way?

Are they as customer focused or friendly as you?  Do they regularly go the extra mile to exceed the customer’s expectations?  Remember you’re being judged by the service they deliver.

 ·   What provisions do you have in place to deal with suppliers, or associates if their services fall below your standards?

How do you deal with complaints about them?  Do you have a reporting system, minimal service standards and penalty clauses, if they fail to meet expectations?

Business alliances are important.  Customers are seeking reliable, easy options and will often prefer to access services from one supplier they trust.  It’s unlikely you’ll be able to deliver everything they want directly, so outsourcing is an acceptable option. 

Do your homework to get the right fit and your reputation will remain intact or could even be enhanced by association.

Lessons from The Friendly Games

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Sport and Leisure

“Gold medals aren’t really made of gold. They’re made of sweat, determination, and a hard-to-find alloy called guts.”

– Dan Gable

With the 21st Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast well and truly behind us, I’ve been reflecting on this wonderful event.  I, like many others, was enthralled with the spectacle, energy and passion, which kept me glued to the visual Valium (TV) to catch the highlights whenever possible.  Follow this link to revisit some of the best moments: https://www.gc2018.com/article/best-moments-gold-coast-2018-commonwealth-games

It’s always been my favourite sports event and I was fortunate to support Badminton Wales as a Team Manager at Glasgow 2014.  It seems to live up to its title of the ‘friendly Games,’ and this year seems to have been no exception.  However, friendly, didn’t mean any less competitive.  Competition was fierce, records broken and personal bests achieved, as athletes from 71 nations across the Commonwealth came together to battle for sporting honours.  It had everything…nail biting finishes, unexpected wins and edge of the seat competitive action.  There were tears of joy and pain, displays of grit and determination and a wonderful sense of comradery that crossed sports and nations.  I was immensely impressed with the way athletes from all disciplines, performed and conducted themselves throughout the event on and off the field of play. 

All home countries excelled, with England coming 2nd in the medal table, Wales in 7th, Scotland in 8th and Northern Ireland 20th.  Wales celebrated their most successful Games to date, edging ahead of Scotland in the medals table with 10 Golds to Scotland’s 9. Proud to be Welsh!  Well of course I am; and these events tweak your patriotism a little more. 

It takes years of dedication, practice and sacrifice to be successful in any endeavour.  I believe there’s a lot we can learn from sports and those involved. Tenacity, resilience, agility, dedication, commitment, teamwork, leadership…the list goes on.  Elite athletes epitomise these skills in their pursuit of glory, self-actualisation and personal fulfilment.

Let’s not forget the many people who are part of the team that support, encourage and dedicate their time, resources and energy to enabling them to be their best selves and showcase their talents. The parents, coaches, trainers, team managers, technical staff, officials, organisers, therapists etc.  These individuals work tirelessly to create the right environment and conditions that allow athletes to focus their attention on improving their performance.  Regardless of the sport, it’s a real team effort.  Planned, executed and reviewed continuously towards a clear, well-formed outcome.

So what lessons are there for you?  Here are just a few questions to consider about your own business:

  • Do you have a clear vision of the future and a well-defined strategic plan?
  • Do you and your team have the competencies required to take the action needed to make your business a success? 
  • Do you have access to good support networks?
  • Do you know your competition strengths and shortcomings?
  • Do you view your failures as feedback, or allow inevitable set backs to throw you off course?
  • When things don’t go quite to plan, do you find ways to recover quickly?

If the answer is YES, that’s fabulous.  Keep up the good work.  If, however the answer is NO, or you’re not sure, perhaps it’s time to improve your game plan.



Too much business?

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose

"Nothing is more expensive than a missed opportunity."

H. Jackson Browne, Jnr

It appears many small businesses owners and sole traders don’t need new business.  I make that statement on the back of my personal experience and from information received via friends and colleagues.  Frankly I’m flabbergasted at the number of businesses that fail to follow a hot lead.  Don’t they know how difficult and costly it can be to find new customers?  Why would you bother to invest in promoting your services if you have no intention of following through?

Recently, I wanted a few jobs done around the house so I checked out the local directory and asked for recommendations from people within my online network. I called 9 local business to request quotes for the various jobs, some from the local directory others via referrals. I got through to them all, we exchange information on the phone and I was booked in for an appointment.  They each dutifully arrive, 7 of the 9 even turn up at the agreed time; then after a short assessment of the work, they promise to send a text or email within a few days and yet 6 out of 9 never get back to me...even after I call to chase the quote. 

Now there could be a number of reasons for this including:

  • The recession is over and they have too much work...is there such a thing?
  • They didn't like me (hard to believe I know), although even if this was the case I'm not sure why it matters in this case
  • They've stopped trading...this would not be surprising given their lack of response
  • They can't be bothered - good old apathy

One thing is certain if you fail to follow through with a customer who has already identified a need, shortlisted you to help fulfil their requirements and given you an opportunity to quote, you miss the opportunity to convert a red hot lead. Now, I can understand if you decide not to quote, I've done this myself because I don't believe I'm a good fit for the client, but even then I’ve made courtesy call to explain.  To come out to see a prospect and not follow through is simply barking mad and a waste of time for you and the prospective customer.

With businesses going to the wall, often due to an inability to anticipate customer needs, offer innovative solutions and stay ahead of their competitors, can SME's afford to be so blasé?  Customers are not easy to come by and often expensive to acquire; can you really afford to pass them by when they make a direct approach to you?

One thing is for sure, if at some time in the future I have more work on offer, I won't be contacting them and will certainly not recommend them to my network of friends, family and business contacts.

It's been a lesson for me. I've began re-evaluating how I interact with prospects in terms of response times to calls, enquiries and requests. If, like me this has made you think about how you do business, give yourself a pat on the back, because complacency will send you down the road to ruin.


Square pegs, round holes?

Categories:  Business Coaching, Training & Coaching, Delivering Authentic Customer Experiences

"...the right person, in the right place, at the right time.”  CIPD

One of my consistent observations is the power of people within an organisation…and I’m not just talking about the suits.  Staff at all levels of the organisation have their own specific role to play.  However, like parts of the human anatomy, if one piece is neglected it doesn’t take long before it breaks down and needs attention.  The medical profession can do marvellous things to put you back together again and repair the damage, but sometimes your body will reject the implant, treatment or medication, simply because it’s just not compatible. 

So what has this got to do with your organisation?

Well, you may have tried, or be trying to do the same thing i.e. ‘implanting’ the wrong people who you later have to reject because your culture and their values are incompatible, or neglecting those people within your organisation who are doing a great job because your focus is on the 20% who are underperforming.

Because time is tight and you’ve got your own job to do driving the business, these underperformers are sometimes not dealt with quickly enough and before you know it they’ve infected others with their inappropriate behaviour.  Pretty soon you have an epidemic of demotivated and poorly performing staff that will cause you a lot of wasted time, money and energy to put right.  Dealing with performance management issues eats away at these precious resources.

So where do you start?  Right at the beginning.   You must recruit the right people; the ones that share your passion, energy and drive.  Your organisations culture and their values must be aligned at the start or you’ll end up with an unhealthy cultural fit.

According to Gareth Roberts, author of the CIPD’s (Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development) Recruitment and Selection publication, "Recruitment and selection is the foundation of all other HR activity. Get it wrong and it doesn't matter how good the development programme is, how well an employer motivates their staff, how well they manage their performance, or even how well they reward them - they are always making up for that one bad decision.”

Regularly reviewing the work required within your area of responsibility will enable you to identify any shortfall in your team’s knowledge, skills and competence and allow you to fill the gaps by selecting the most appropriate intervention e.g. training, mentoring, coaching etc.  Continually developing team members offers opportunities to promote from within, however this still needs to be achieved through a fair, equitable and non-discriminatory process.

Regardless of how good an employer you are, there will be times when a vacancy arises.  Making a prompt decision about the most appropriate option i.e. restructure, replace or job share, will help you to start the recruitment process swiftly, avoiding any unnecessary drop in service.

The best candidates will be able to demonstrate the right balance of technical expertise and behavioural skills for the job role. However, it's up to you to provide a fair, unbiased and equitable recruitment process so you can make the task of finding the most suitable candidate as easy as possible for job seekers and interviewers.

Over the next few months I’ll be running Recruit & Retain Staff Workshops in collaboration with CIMSPA.  Using practical tools, models and learning activities, this 1-day workshop will help you to successfully navigate the stages of the recruitment process and put the right person in the right place at the right time.

Forthcoming dates include:

23 June in Rochdale

06 July in Cwmbran

28 July in Belfast

13 October in Rusden

For specific details on venues, times and cost just follow this link to the CIMSPA website http://www.cimspa.co.uk/en/events/cimspa-events.cfm and book your place.

I hope to see you soon.



Success is a Journey

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Training & Coaching, Life Balance and Wellbeing

“Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is usually more important than the outcome.  Not everyone can be number 1”                      

Arthur Ashe


I’ve used this quote a lot over the years to support the need for continual improvement.  However, the more I revisit it, the more meaning it has for me. 

Over the years, you’ve probably seen, or read about elite business or sports people who experience a meteoric rise to success.  Most don’t achieve it overnight; in fact, many achieve great things, only to self-sabotage, crash and burn and lose everything.  Some stay in the gutter, while others use their failings as feedback and pick themselves up, reconsider and redefine their purpose, identity and values and decide what they need to do in order to get back on track. 

In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, self-actualisation sits proudly at the top of the pyramid.  However, achieving your greatest ambitions can be dangerous unless they are aligned with who you really are…and you know where you’re going next.

Arthur Ashe, was correct, you can’t all be number 1.  You can however, be your best self, if you identify your purpose, align that with those things that matter most to you, then choose behaviours that support you in that journey.


Here’s my take on ‘the journey’:

  • Know who you are and where you’re heading

  • Create short, medium and long term goals to use as milestones and checkpoints along the way

  • Celebrate each and every success, however seemingly insignificant

  • Reward your effort, as well as your achievements

  • Be present and focused each and every day

  • If you are what you consistently do, behave in a manner that is aligned to your purpose and identity

  • Treat failure as feedback and learn from your mistakes

  • Practice daily – i.e. taking a step, however small, in the right direction

  • Enjoy the ride – contrary to the title from one of the James Bond movies, sadly you do only live once

  • Look positively towards the next horizon


In short…Continuous Improvement = Continued Success



Ready, Set, Goal

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Training & Coaching, Life Balance and Wellbeing, Sport and Leisure

'People who aim at nothing seldom miss the target.'

Well here we are again…another year over, a new one just beginning.  ‘Tis the season for resolving to do something different.  To set yourself something, which often, even with the very best intentions will be forgotten, or left for dead before the year has had chance to really get going.  So how can you carry your resolve with you into 2016 and ensure those new year’s promises are not left by the wayside? How do you keep on track and achieve those things you really want to be, do or have and make this year your most successful to date?

Here are my top 7 tips to help you on the road to success:

1.  Make it as easy as 1, 2, 3

Never mind top 10, choose a maximum of 3.  Too many goals can be overwhelming and may result in none being achieved.  Consider those things you really, really want, because any goal worth having will mean some sacrifice on your part.  They can be big audacious ones, or small significant ones, just as long as they’re meaningful for you.


2.  Take a commitment check

Ask yourself, ’Why do I want this?’  and ‘Why is that important to me?’ Align your goals to your values (i.e. those things that are really important to you) and you’ll be more likely to achieve them.  

Now rate your commitment and importance on a scale of 1-10 (1 = I’m not that bothered; 10 = just try to stop me).  Ask yourself, ‘what does achieving this goal really mean to me?’ and ‘How committed am I to doing what it takes to achieve it?’

If you’re not scoring at least 8 on that scale, you may want to set another more meaningful goal, or ask yourself, ‘What would need to happen to make it an 8, 9, 10?’  If you can address that, do it, if not, think again.


3.  Make them SMARTER

Each of your goals should be:

Specific – unambiguous and expressed precisely, in sufficient detail to mean something to you.

Measurable – set yourself some milestones along your journey and include a mechanism whereby you will know when you’ve reached your chosen destination.

Achievable – make them big, by all means, just make sure you have the skills and wherewithal to make it happen, or have a plan on how you’ll get what you need.

Relevant – the have to be meaningful, appropriate and significant for you to want to spend the time, energy and resources it will take to achieve them.

Timed – set yourself a deadline or timescale, so you can keep track of your progress.

Exciting – uninspiring goals can be boring, demotivating and left unfinished.  Choose goals that challenge, inspire and excite you.

Recorded – Write them down and share them with others.  This makes them more real and adds a little extra commitment.


4.  Use the 3 P’s

Make your goals:

Personal – something you really want and is within your control

Present tense – as your brain can’t tell the difference between fact and fiction, you might as well tell it you’re already there by expressing it as if you’ve already achieved it, then give it a timeline e.g. I am 10 stone in September 2016

Positive – write down what you want, not what you don’t want


5.  Use the right tools

There are many goal setting tools out there, 2 of my particular favourites are the GROW model and Brian Maynes’ Goal Mapping.  You can use these on your own, or get a coach to work with you for maximum impact.


6.  Make marginal gains

Small things done consistently achieve big results.  Even those seemingly insignificant actions can create compound interest and before you know it you’re there.  Equally, failing to take daily action can set you back to square one.  If you are what you consistently do, then it makes sense to decide who that is, then do what it takes every day, to be that person.


7.  Start Now

There’s no time like the present, so do something, however small, straight away…and keep going.


There you have it!  Well, what are you waiting for?  What WILL you do NOW and NEXT to get you closer to making 2016 your best year yet?

Wishing you a happy, healthy and successful 2016, whatever you resolve to do.

86400, Are you making them count?

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Training & Coaching, Life Balance and Wellbeing

We all have the same 86400 seconds to play with every day, yet it seems there are some people who manage to use that time better than others. So what’s the reason for that?  Are you bored, overworked or lazy...or do you just have uninspiring goals?  Let’s face it you’ll often find time for those things that you deem most important to you. 

The reality is you can’t manage time.  So, as it’s impossible to get more of it, (that clock is going to tick away those seconds regardless), you can only manage yourself within the time you have available. With that in mind, maybe the question you should be asking is ‘how can I maintain my energy, motivation and focus to ensure I get the best out of my day and achieve the things I want, at home and at work?’

Here are 6 practical tips to help you get the best from your time:

1.  Appreciate your own and others perspectives

You’ll see time from your own perspective, which may not be the same as those you live or work with.  This can sometimes be cause for confusion, frustration and even anger because you won’t understand why your family, friends or colleagues don’t view things in the same way as you.

 2.  Accept that you can’t manage time

Those seconds will tick away, regardless of how organised or tardy you are.  All time management activities focus on helping you manage yourself within the time you have available.  To do this effectively, you must be honest about your strengths and challenges and find ways of capitalising on the former and dealing productively with the latter.

 3.  Know your outcome

An important management tool for getting the best from yourself and others is to first set yourself some clear goals.  Identify what you want to achieve, how much you really want it and when you want it.  You can then decide how you’ll get it and who needs to get on board to help you.

 4.  Think of it as planning a journey

Managing yourself to achieve anything is akin to going on a journey.  Before you head off you’ll hopefully be fully aware of where you are now.  You then have to decide where you want to go (your destination, goal or outcome), when you want to arrive, who you’ll travel with and how you’ll get there.  One of the most important steps is often forgotten…WHY are you taking the journey?  What are the reasons you must reach this destination?

 5.  Align your WHY with your values

The Why is your driver, the factor that will help keep you motivated even when the going gets tough.  It’s more likely you’ll assign the right level of importance and give your journey the appropriate level of effort, time and resources if you and your team identify your reasons for wanting this goal and how it specifically aligns with your values and your organisation’s culture.

6.  Just do it…once

When you’ve set yourself a goal or task, get on with it.  It’s easy to procrastinate, find other (less important) things to do, or distract yourself with and before you know it, half the day has gone and you’ve achieved very little.  Address things once; prioritise, then deal, delegate, delete, defer or ditch it.  Set specific and dedicated times to deal with tasks such as emails and only deal with personal stuff when you have a planned break or have finished work.

If you’re a procrastinator, check out Do it or Ditch it by Bev James.  A wonderful book that will help you stop dithering and start doing/

Find a management tool, technique or model that works for you and stick to the guidelines above and you’ll find you’re more efficient, personally effective and productive. 

If however, you’re like me and prefer to experience your learning with others.  I’m running 86400 – Make them count workshops in partnership with CIMSPA over the next few months.  Here are the ones scheduled so far:

29 October 2015        Stoke Mandeville

03 December 2015     Manchester

15 December 2016     Pontypool

Using practical tools, models and learning activities, this 1 day workshop will help you identify the things you simply must do, explore the reasons you’re time challenged and consider the attitudes, behaviours and approaches that will help you use your time more effectively.  To find out more

For specific details on venues, times and cost just follow this link to the CIMSPA website http://bit.ly/cimspaevents and book your place.

I hope to see you soon.






The Coach's Challenge

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Training & Coaching, Life Balance and Wellbeing

"The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own."                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Benjamin Disraeli

As a coach, it’s critical to remain impartial, objective and curious, trusting that your client is the expert in everything related to them.  However, we’re brought up in a culture where it’s natural to judge, compare and critique; to want to pass on the knowledge and expertise you’ve acquired?  After all won’t that give your clients a shortcut to success? 

When I started my coaching journey, one of the hardest things to master (and I’m still working on it daily) was to set aside my judgement and not give advice.  Observing new coaches during their learning journey with The Coaching Academy, I know this can be one of the trickiest skills to master, especially when you’ve come from a background where you’ve been held up as ‘the expert,’ or been in a role where you are supposed to provide ‘the solution,’(as if there’s only ever one)!   If you’re not careful, the ‘I know best’ stand can become your default position.  It’s a real draw back for a coach, disempowering for a manager and frankly a little annoying in anyone.

Something that has helped me be less critical of myself and others is the NLP presupposition ‘people do the best they can with the resources they have available’ and the Stephen Covey quote “We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behaviour.”  I find these simple statements help me pause just long enough to extend the gap between the stimulus of the client’s comment and my brain’s response of ‘I know what you could do’.  That short gap helps stop me judging the person’s behaviour, or jumping to an over critical conclusion. 

Let me offer you some examples which may be familiar…the person who cuts you up on the road, the friend who insists on repeating the same sob story again (despite them telling you they’re going to sort things out), the colleague who doesn’t seem to possess an ounce of ‘common sense.’  It’s so easy to be critical.  Why can’t they be more like you?  The simple answer is they aren’t you; they don’t share your map of the world, your values and beliefs or your resources…and even if they did, they might choose to use them in a very different way.

After all isn’t it a little egotistical to believe you have all the answers?  Remember how empowering it is when someone reaches their own conclusions…especially if it’s prompted by a timely, pertinent and insightful question from you.  Appreciate that even when you have a perfectly good solution, it’s yours, based on your experience, knowledge and background and while it may serve you, it’s unlikely to help them.

Before I sign off I’d like to leave you with a poem I wrote whilst managing a certificate weekend for The Coaching Academy.  It’s a tongue in cheek take on that question I hear often from new coaches…’Can I give advice?’


The Coach’s Challenge

Can I give advice?  Can I tell them now?
Some clients seem so clueless about the what and how.
I know just how to help them, there’s things I can suggest
To get them closer to their goals and be their very best.
The problem is I’ve been told that coaching’s non-directive,
I’m supposed to ask them questions, be attentive and objective.
But surely that can’t be right, when I have so much to give;
I could tell them what to do and think and how they ought to live.
So explain to me just one more time why coaches don’t advise?
Particularly as we’re clearly, so brilliant and wise!

©Jacky Leonard April 2013



Now There’s an Improvement

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Training & Coaching, Life Balance and Wellbeing

“All the world is my school and all humanity is my teacher.”
George Whitman


I’m an advocate of lifelong learning; for me being ‘green and growing’ is an integral part of who I am.  Being curious and willing to learn new things and keep up to date with constant changes in my personal life and business, keeps my mind active, alert and interested.  I spend the best part of my life, learning…about myself, my clients and what changes I can make to improve our experience of the services I offer.  It’s a full time job! 

I’m pleased to see many organisations insisting their members undertake regular continual professional development (CPD). It’s a must if you want to absorb new concepts, challenge your perception and develop new approaches.  For me, it doesn’t always have to be directly related to what I do.  Looking back over the range of CPD activities I’ve engaged with over the years I’ve probably learned more about how to get the best from myself and others when I’ve chosen pursuits that might initially seem a little out of the box. 

So, how do you spend your time and hard earned cash developing yourself?  Next time you’re asked to a meeting, conference or networking event ask yourself…

  • What’s the point or purpose?

  • Is this the best use of my time and resources?

  • What are my specific outcomes?

  • Can I achieve these outcomes in a better way?

  • How does this activity fit into my overall PDP - Professional or Personal Development Plan?

  • What are the tangible benefits to me and my business?

  • What’s the anticipated return on my investment in terms of my personal growth, business development, income etc?

Remember…every day’s a school day.  One of the most cost effective learning tools is your own self-reflection.  I use the traffic light system (stop, continue, start) as a simple reflective exercise.  At the end of each day spend 5-10 minutes thinking about your impact today and ask yourself...

What did I learn or re-discover today about myself or my business?

And as a consequence what will I choose…





“Commit yourself to Lifelong learning.  The most valuable asset you’ll ever have is your mind and what you put into it.”
Brian Tracy



Engaging with your customers

Categories:  Business Coaching, Effective Communication, Delivering Authentic Customer Experiences

Here we are for the third and final Blog on the topic of engagement. 

This time it’s about the people you do business with…your customers.  Your staff (if you have them) and your end users are the most important people you’ll deal with.  Like them, or loathe them, the simple fact is, without them you don’t exist.  These days’ clients are very discerning; they want a personal service; after all, who wants to be treated like a number?  Transacting is not enough, you have to create exceptional experiences and positive interactions that WOW your customers into returning and leave them desperate to tell their friends how fabulous you are.

The thing is, your clients don’t owe you anything, especially their commitment, unless there’s something in it for them.  The essence of any interaction is mutual exchange.  You’ll find it much easier to sell the benefits of your service if you find out what interests, excites and motivates your clients.  So how can you do this consistently?  Do you, and every member of your team deal respectfully with all customers treating them as a person, not a process, and an individual, not a collective?

Here are 5 simple tips to engage effectively with your customers:


1. Say my name

What’s in a name? Well a lot actually!  Destiny’s Child, had it right, it’s so important to use someone’s name as it makes your interaction far more personal and friendly.  Exchanging names is even better.  Don’t wait to be asked…give them yours early in the conversation and let them know you’re available to help them whenever they’re ready.  Knowing and using your customers’ names and remembering something about them helps build rapport and develop a more positive relationship.  Be sincere and genuine in your approach. Good manners cost nothing and a “please” and a “thank you” go a long way too.


2. Be interested

Yes, I’ve mentioned this one in previous Blogs and I make no apologies for highlighting it here again.  I can’t emphasise it enough; it’s really that important.  You’re not there to entertain them…unless you’re an actor, comedian or circus performer.  Your role is to provide a service, or better still an exceptional experience.  To do that you must ask, before you tell, or sell i.e. find out exactly what their challenges are, what they want, or don’t want and how you can find a solution that’s the best fit for them.

You can’t possibly provide a personal service that meets the customers’ requirements unless you take some interest.  Follow these simple steps and you’ll be well on your way. 

  • Ask questions and listen to what the client has to contribute
  • Summarise, so you’re sure you understand
  • Ask more questions to clarify if you’re not sure
  • Listen for what they want, what they don’t want and their possible objections 
  • Tell them how you can meet those specific needs

You can’t do this effectively unless you really show you’re interested in them. There’s an old adage, peopledon’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.  It may sound corny, but it’s true.

3. Tune in

This leads us nicely on to my third tip…tune in; I mean really listen and make every customer feel their getting your full attention.  You’ve probably heard of every customer’s favourite radio station?  WIIFM…What’s In It For Me?  You have to tune in to it before you begin any interaction and try to put yourself in the customer’s space.  If you’ve done your market research you’ll probably have a very good idea who your ideal client is, where they’re based, what’s their pain and what they’re about. That puts you on the same frequency, but you will still need to tune in and eliminate the static before you can get a clearer sound bite of specifically what they want. 
Be attentive, ask relevant, open questions and focus on their response, without pre-empting it.  It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you’ve heard it all before, particularly if you’ve been in the same business for a long time.  Remember, every customer is different, each have their own challenges, budget and outcomes.  You just need to take the time to listen without prejudice, preconception or pride before you reveal how you can help. 
Removing that third P, pride is particularly relevant when dealing with complaints.  If you find yourself thinking I’ve heard this all before, stop and ask yourself why you haven’t addressed it earlier.  If you don’t bother listening, your clients they’ll spend their money elsewhere.  Many won’t even bother to tell you what they want unless you ask and if they’re dissatisfied with your service they’re more likely to whinge and leave than complain. 

4. Keep your promises

Most customer complaints come from a failure to meet their expectations.  They’ve seen your promotional material, read your website, or even had a recommendation from a friend.  This and their past experiences of similar services have coloured their perception of what they should expect from you.  Imagine how disappointed they’ll be if you fall short of these expectations.
Review your promotional materials, listen to your customer interactions and check if they match the service you provide. You want customers to at least get what they’ve expected so they continue to choose you as their service provider, leave with a good feeling and refer others to your business. 

It’s far better to under promise and over deliver, but if you really want to impress how about over promising and over delivering!


5. Check out the customer’s perspective

Be careful not to make assumptions about what you think your customers want; it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing you know everything your customer’s heart desires, when the opposite is quite often the reality, particularly if you’ve been in the business for a long time.  Ask and consider...

  • What’s most important to your customers? 
  • Why do they use your services rather than your competitors?
  • What one thing could you do to improve the quality of their visit?

Do an MOT; a Moments of Truth exercise.  It’s a bit like mystery shopping your own business to find out what it’s like from the ‘other side of the counter.’  Check out all the systems, procedures and stages in your client acquisition process.  How easy is it to buy from you?  Looking objectively at your own business is not as easy as it may seem, however it’s really important to keep customer focussed.  So if you can’t do it, engage someone that can. 

There are professional mystery shopping organisations, or you could brief a trusted friend, colleague or existing customer. Also, consider what opportunities you have for your customers to give you their feedback and create a dialogue with you.  Then when they do bother to comment, let them know you appreciate their feedback and remember to inform them what action you’ve taken to enhance your services, particularly if it was something that the client requested. If you receive a complaint, follow it up and do something about it.  It is possible to create a good experience out of a bad one, if you really value your customer.

So there you have it.  Which one will you start with today?

Getting Engaged?

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Life Balance and Wellbeing

How often are you fully engaged in what you’re doing?

In this hectic world, are you choosing to live at a break neck speed, rushing from one task to another, hardly pausing for breath?  Do you find it difficult to completely focus on the job at hand, or the person in front of you and be ‘in the present?’  Are you easily distracted by your phone, emails or thinking about the next task?  Are you just going through the motions with half an eye on the ball? 

If you’re living your life in an unconscious competent state you can get caught up in an endless routine of doing the things you’ve always done, in the way you’ve always done them, not really thinking about the reason, outcome or how you might improve the process.  The business and personal consequences range from the inconvenient to the disastrous.  Here’s my invitation to get off the treadmill…even if only for a few minutes and get interested.  I’ve trawled the web and my personal library to provide you with a variety of practical tools, tips and techniques.  My next few Blogs will focus on helping you get present and re-focus on yourself and others. 

So, where do you start?  My suggestion would be to begin with YOU.  After all, it’s your first area of expertise and something you can directly control.  Here are 7 ways to help you re-engage with yourself.


1.  Be on purpose

Do you know what you want, why you want it and how to get it?  I’ve coached a lot of people who know what they don’t want, however if you believe that you get what you focus on, a more effective approach is to know where you’re going.

Throughout recorded history, the most successful men and women have been those who’ve learnt to develop their natural goal-setting ability into a powerful skill for achievement. Goal setting is a natural function of the brain. Making a decision triggers a subconscious process that transforms the decision into an action.

Traditional goal setting techniques focus on left-brain words and endless repetition, Brian Mayne’s Goal Mapping uses imagery – the language of the subconscious.  Click the link below to learn more and access your free Goal Mapping tool.



2.  Take responsibility

“It’s not my fault.”  “They made me do it.”  “He/she makes my life a misery.”  Ever heard (or said) these statements.  At best their disempowering.  They relinquish responsibility for your thoughts, feelings and behaviour.  So if not you…who exactly is responsible for these things?  Take control of them, or someone will take control of you!  Listen to your internal dialogue and retune it to a more positive, accountable and empowering channel.


3.  Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulnessis "the intentional, accepting and non-judgemental focus of one's attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment"  Wikipedia

Here’s a link to get some tools to help you become more mindful about your disempowering habitual behaviour.



4.  Meditate

Meditation is a fabulous tool to get you into the present and experience peace and a real sense of wellbeing.  I resisted it for years, finally took a couple of classes and WOW!  What a powerful activity to help you clear your mind of all the unhelpful chatter, relax and reconnect with yourself.  Now I know you’re a busy person so maybe taking a whole hour out is too much.  The good news is, you don’t need to.  Below is a link to a wonderful website where you can access free 1 minute meditations.  Surely you have just a minute?



5.  Be more active

Being an ex-physical training instructor, personal trainer and performance athlete, I could write a whole series of Blogs extoling the virtues of physical activity.  You’ll be pleased to know I won’t. The benefits are well documented and there are numerous activities you can do iincluding: cycling, dancing, exercise classes, swimming, walking, weight training, yoga etc.

If you haven’t done much since PE at school it is usually best to have a quick health check first.  Then decide what will be most fun, rewarding and interesting for you.  The link below takes you to the Change4Life be more active web pages.



6.  Be interested

Are you still curious about life, the universe and everything?  The older I get, the more I realise how little I know.  Maybe, like me you had a series of bad experiences that stopped you asking questions of the curious kind.  The types of questions that can truly open up interesting conversations, challenge beliefs and expand minds.  Do you still look at things with interest, wonder and excitement, or have you become busy, cynical and blasé.  Perhaps adopting a child’s view of the world will give you a fresh perspective.  Click here to find out why.



7.  Appreciate your life

There’s always something to be grateful for if you take a little time to look around you and reflect on what’s really important to you.  Research has indicated that people who practise gratitude on a daily basis are capable of being 25% happier. 

Here’s a link to Thank You, by Liggy Webb, a book about the benefits, opportunities and joy of being grateful.



So what are you waiting for?  You now have 7 ideas; 1-a-day for the next week.  Go on…get engaged!



Good will to all?

Categories:  Business Coaching, Effective Communication, Training & Coaching, Life Balance and Wellbeing

Strong people don't put others down. They lift them up.              Michael P Watson 

The weather’s getting colder and the long dark winter days can sometimes have an adverse effect on your mood.  Are you still managing to radiate warmth, positive energy and good vibrations or are you guilty of intolerance, impatience and irritability…often to those you care about most?  In the latter state, it’s easy to find yourself slipping into a self-righteous, holier than thou attitude, judging people on their behaviour, rather than their intentions.  It’s not pretty and can lead to bad feeling, frustration and conflict.

It’s easy to judge others.  You may even feel you’re doing it with the best possible intentions, based on your own high standards, core values and personal moral compass…but who’s to say you’re right?  These measures could very well be right for you, however they may be completely off the mark for the person you’re ‘evaluating.’ 

One NLP (Nero Linguistic Programming) pre-supposition states:

People do the best they can with the resources they have available

Just imagine how different you’re attitude and approach to others might be if you truly believed this statement.  It does offer an alternative perspective and if adopted could enable you to seek the intentions behind the behaviour and help you reserve judgement. 

As you head towards Christmas with the message of ‘goodwill to all men…and women’ ringing in your ears, perhaps it’s worth considering what you could say, or what you might do for a friend, family member or colleague each day that will help to lift them up, as opposed to put them down.  What do you like about them, what do they do well, how do they contribute positively to you or others?  For a change, notice what they do right…and tell them. Try a compliment, rather than a complaint or criticism. 

It’s not as easy as it may sound.  Firstly, you may not be used to doing it.  Secondly people aren’t used to receiving compliments…they may feel awkward, or embarrassed and not know how to respond. They may even be suspicious of your motives, particularly if they are not used to receiving positive comments or reinforcements from you.

A good way to help them accept what you’ve said is to follow the compliment – question method:

Pay them a compliment, then follow it up with a question.

As they’ll be focussed on answering the question they won’t question the compliment.

It might sound something like this…

“Thank you for dealing with that complaint, you responded perfectly.  How did you develop such good listening skills?”


“I really like that jacket you’re wearing, that colour really suits you.  Where did you buy it?”

Following this approach should mean you get less “Do you really think so?”  “What, this old thing?” responses and you’ll leave the person feeling really good having taken the compliment in the manner it was intended.

My new good habit (starting today) is to pay someone a genuine compliment every day.

What will you do today to lift someone’s spirits?






National Customer Service Week

Categories:  Business Coaching, Effective Communication, Delivering Authentic Customer Experiences


“Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.”


Walt Disney

As we come to the end of National Customer Service week I thought it might be timely to ask, “Are you consistently creating exceptional experiences for your clients or customers?”

Whatever service you offer, chances are someone else is providing something similar just around the corner.  Good clients are hard to come by and often costly to attract, so when you do get them interested you need to WOW! them into choosing you as their preferred service provider and make a consistent and concerted effort to exceed their expectations at every opportunity.

Which of the following are your customers regularly experiencing?

  1. An OW! – a miserable moment.  An experience that fails to meet your customers’ expectations; one they remember, for all the wrong reasons; one they’ll tell all their friends about...and anyone else who care’s to listen, although you’d really prefer they didn’t!

  2. A HOW – a neutral moment.  An experience that is just as the customer expected; no surprises (good or bad); one they’ll forget quite easily because it made very little impression either way.

  3. A WOW! – a magic moment.  An experience that exceeds the customers’ expectations; one they’ll remember and tell their friends about for the right reasons.

Starting off a relationship with an OW! Rather than a WOW! is never a good customer service strategy.  It is possible to create a WOW out of an OW, but would you want to risk it?

Sadly, it seems poor service is too readily accepted these days.  The up side is this makes WOWs quite easy to achieve, providing you listen to your customers and really consider your service from the customer’s perspective.  This can be a challenge, particularly if you’ve been in your business for a long time.  Complacency can creep in and there’s a tendency to start believing you know best as you’ve heard/seen/done it all before.

Failure to WOW! your customers could be costing you…

  • A loss of reputation

  • Shrinking profits

  • Low staff morale

  • Increased staff turnover 

  • Increased client attrition

  • Higher recruitment costs (internal and external clients)

  • Reduced organic growth

  • Loss of up selling and cross selling opportunities

  • Wasted time, effort and money


To celebrate National Customer Service week, join me in a quick review and ask yourself:

  • What are the WOWs in my organisation? 

  • Who consistently delivers them?

  • How can I capitalise and create more of these magic moments?

Download my free report which outlines 7 straightforward strategies could save you time, energy and money and help drive clients to your business rather than to the competition.

Go WOW them!

A Winning Edge

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Life Balance and Wellbeing, Sport and Leisure

In my last Blog I asked “…when there's often very little to separate athlete - they all train hard, want to win, and are in excellent physical shape, what's the difference that makes the difference?  What does it take to be the best…in sport…in business…in life?”

You’ve probably witnessed it.  A clash of sporting titans, seemingly equally matched in terms of physical prowess, technical expertise and preparation.  Yet, one comes out on top and the other ends up being the also ran.  So, what is the difference?  What does it take to have that winning edge?  Having been fortunate to observe and work with elite performers in business and sport, here are my top 10 winning ways; behaviours and beliefs that all ‘champions’ access and utilise to great effect.


1. Self-belief – “You know I need that cockiness, the self-belief, arrogance, swagger, whatever you want to call it, I need that on the golf course to bring the best out of myself.” 

~ Rory McIlroy

Champions have a healthy dose of self-belief, even if, like Rory McIlroy, you only display it when you’re ‘on shift’.  That’s not to say you won’t have the occasional doubt or hiccup; just don’t allow yourself to get shifted too far off course by them. You have to believe to achieve!  Winners, expect to win.  Sounds simple, doesn’t it?  If you want to win, you firstly have to have high expectations; a real belief that you can and will succeed. 


2. Team support – “As long as I have that support from my team, and I have that confidence in myself that I train really hard, I think there's no one out there who can defeat me in my weight class.” 

~ Nonito Donaire

Behind every successful performer, there’s usually a group of people working consistently and tirelessly towards the same goal.  Your support team might consist of family, friends, peers, or technical professionals.  Coach, mentor, or key stakeholder; their role and importance depends on the business or game you’re in.  It’s unlikely you’ll achieve all you want without them.

Make sure your ‘team’ are full of ‘Radiators’…positive, like minded, motivated people with similar values, beliefs and goals. Stay away from the ‘Drains’…people who drag you down and soak up your energy. 


3. Consistency –“In any team sport, the best teams have consistency and chemistry.” 

~ Roger Staubach

Whether you’re managing a work team, playing a sport or delivering customer service, you’ll be more successful if you can consistently produce the goods time after time.  Most people in teams like consistency; you know where you are, what’s expected of you and what you need to do next.  It’s also much easier and more fulfilling to work with someone if their values and beliefs are consistent with yours and they behave in a manner that’s congruent with these.


4. Tenacity – “It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.”

~ Babe Ruth

To be a top performer you have to possess the drive, determination and persistence to succeed.  To stick with it when the going gets tough and never give up, no matter how bad things may seem. That can often mean, picking yourself up, dusting yourself off and starting over, with a change of approach and renewed enthusiasm when things don’t go according to plan.


5. Adaptation – “If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you always got.” 

~ James P. Lewis

If you want to be a winner you have to be able to think on your feet and make the changes needed to get the best out of any situation.  Whether that’s adapting to a new system, process or environment, or getting ahead of the competition, the quicker you adapt to the new normal, the more likely you’ll be able to accept the change, discover alternative options and find a new strategy to get you closer to your goal.


6. Technical expertise – “The top experts in the world are ardent students. The day you stop learning, you're definitely not an expert.” 

~ Brendon Burchard

Are you an expert in your field?  Do you possess those exceptional skills, knowledge and competencies required to be the best?  It takes time, effort and commitment to become an expert, but the rewards are worth it.  You’ll notice experts in any field can invariably demand more for their input; whether that’s on the field of play,  in the boardroom or on the shop floor.  

To be good at anything, you have to practice every day until skills are honed and successful behaviours become habitual; practice until you can’t get it wrong…not just any old practice, ‘perfect practice’…the type where you’re completely absorbed, doing it for real and playing full on.  Practice it physically, mentally and emotionally until it becomes second nature and you can reproduce it at any time, in any given situation, against any competition.  


7.Mental toughness – “I’ve been in a poor physical shape many times in my career and I’ve had some of my best results. My best performances happened because my mind was in the right place. The mind is definitely stronger than the body.” 

~ Kelly Slater

Can you handle difficult situations?  Can you step up to the plate when the going gets tough; when you’re tired, things aren’t going as planned and people start to doubt you?  It takes a huge dose of mental toughness to maintain a high level of performance through the inevitable disappointments, challenges and setbacks that life throws your way.  Your success depends on your attitude; how you perceive the situation (challenge or problem?) and what you’re willing to do to make it work.


8. Passion – “There are many things in life that will catch your eye, but only a few will catch your heart…pursue those.” 

Do you love what you do?  Or as my friend Brian Mayne put’s it…Are you doing the thing that makes your heart sing?  Successful people are invariably absolutely passionate about what they do and their ‘why’ (motive/reason) is completely aligned to their values.  Your passion provides momentum and keeps you on task when things are tough.  If you pursuing something you love, you’re more likely to be good at it.  You spend more than half of your waking hours at work, so shouldn’t it be doing something that turns you on?


9. Outcome oriented – “Staying focussed on your goal is a lifestyle not a weekend plan.” 

Are you completely focused on your goal and willing to make the sacrifices necessary to achieve it? It’s easy to get distracted by irrelevancies, pulled off track, or sidelined into doing something else.  After all, there are so many distractions these days…technological gadgets creating constant interruptions, conflicting demands on your personal resources and people insisting you do more with less.  It can be difficult to keep your eye on the prize and continue to move consistently towards your goal, particularly if you’ve set yourself some big, audacious ones. 

Ensure you have a plan that includes your goal and the milestones you want to pass en route.  Set yourself some journey goals to help keep you on track, gather momentum and act as review and reward stations along your route. 


10. Being Present – “The secret of health for both the mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles…but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.” 

~ Buddha 

Do you live in the moment, or are you constantly planning and reviewing without really being present?  I’m not suggesting high performers, don’t plan…far from it.  Most will keep records of their plans, track their performance and review their next steps, making the necessary changes and adaptations to continually improve.  However, you have to be present at each stage of the process.  Be absorbed in the task; be in the moment, be focused on the job in hand.  

Athletes are aware of the potential distractions that can take them off track.  They consider the ‘what ifs’ and practice how they’ll deal with them when they arise.  This allows them to be in the moment when they play; to quickly shake off the disappointment of a bad call, a poor shot, or an opponent’s comment and stay present, goal focused and ready for the next move.

 So all things considered...what's your next move to getting that winning edge?


The Team Works

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Sport and Leisure

Congratulations to all athletes representing the home teams at Glasgow 2014.  So many notable and inspiring performances from the Commonwealth’s sporting elite.  I had the privilege of supporting Badminton Wales at The Games.  My responsibility as a team manager was to take care of everything off court so our players and coach can concentrate on their game.

It was truly fascinating to witness the competitiveness, camaraderie and commitment; the highs and lows, the desire and passion, the energy and drive there on display in one event.

It was a wonderful, albeit surreal and exhausting experience.  Team Wales were keen to promote the concept of ‘togetherness,’ one team working together to achieve more, supported by statements such as “We are all part of something bigger, something special, no-one of us is greater than the whole.”

It reminded me of an African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far go together.”

Working together to achieve a common goal.  Home nations being lifted by enthusiastic supporters, to exceed expectations and medal targets because of all involved.

Of course you only get to see the few fleeting seconds or minutes it takes to compete, not the months of long, hard, demanding preparation it takes to get there.  Even athletes competing in individual events have an extensive support team to help them go far…and fast.  Coaches, managers, physiotherapists, medics, nutritionists, physiologists, psychologists, officials, administrators…not to mention family and friends.

For some this event was a milestone on their journey to the next big event, World championships, Olympics etc. For others it may have been a wakeup call and the realisation that there is still so much more to do…more sacrifices to make, more miles to run, more skills to hone.

So when there's often very little to separate each athlete - they all train hard, want to win, and are in excellent physical shape, what's the difference that makes the difference?  What does it take to be the best…in sport…in business…in life?

Of course talent plays a big part - an innate ability to perform is a great starting point, but there are a lot of talented people out there that never achieve their full potential.  Perhaps they don’t have the single minded determination, perseverance or the right support to achieve their very best.

If you want to go far, as well as fast it may be worth asking yourself:

“Who are the important players in my support team, in my business and life?”

“How can I ensure I get the best from myself and my team?”


Making Progress?

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Life Balance and Wellbeing

“Progress often involves some element of risk.  You can’t get to second base and keep your foot on first.” 

Fred Wilcox


Having worked in facility management and spent much of my leisure time in the hills, I’ve done my fair share of risk assessments.  Even now, I catch myself doing dynamic checks.  I’m not hyper vigilant, OCD, or risk averse, however I do have a healthy mental safety checklist. 

Fred Wilcox is spot on.  If you want to make progress of any kind, you have to take a risk.  You can plan, look at contingencies and do your due diligence but there’ll invariably be an element of chance.  I found myself in that position back in 2006, when I took a leap of faith and gave up a ‘proper job’ (my brother’s terminology) to set up as a freelance Learning and Development Consultant.  It was scary up to the point where I made the decision, and then I felt a weight had lifted and couldn’t wait to get to ‘second base.’

My questions to you are:

  • What’s nailing your foot on 1st base right now?
  • If you’ve done all your research, planning and preparation, why are you’re still treading water?
  • What belief do you hold that’s limiting your opportunities and hindering your progress?
  • What are you scared of?  Success, failure, looking foolish, the uncertainty of change?

We all have different tolerances and perceptions of risk.  Are you motivated to head toward pleasure, or move away from pain? You may be one of those people who thrive on the edge or the type who’d prefer to check all directions twice before putting your foot on the accelerator.  

I’m not suggesting you throw caution to the wind and dive headlong, blindly toward the next fad, fashion or latest trend.  However, don’t let your risk aversion stop you from making progress and being the best you can.  You may have a goal you’ve always wanted to attain…what’s stopping you making the progress you want?  Think about it…it might be time to take your foot off first base.  Make progress a habit by making small steps every day to create momentum.

Try Again

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Training & Coaching, Life Balance and Wellbeing

“I'm always doing things I can't do - that's how I get to do them” - Pablo Picasso

How about you? 

Do you have a go at doing things you can't...or think you can't?  Or are you content with limiting yourself by not even trying? 

And what about the people you manage? Do you encourage them to try, learn and develop, even when they think they can't? 

I see a lot of people at work, in sport and life, who have a heap of natural talent, but give up when the going gets tough and they are required to step up to the next challenge. 

I was facilitating a session about taking a coaching approach to giving feedback with a group of managers a couple of weeks ago. The issue of rewarding effort as well as outcome came up.  I believe you should acknowledge both.  Unfortunately, too often I see people trying really hard, sometimes against the odds, yet their efforts go unrecognised. The result is, unless that person is particularly intrinsically motivated, they begin to reset their standards to the lowest common denominator and start to deliver less than they are capable.

I'm guessing you have friends, family and colleagues who are naturally supportive of you...and probably also your share of those who, even with the best intentions, feed your insecurities and put doubt in your mind. Spend more time with the former if you can.

You too, have the capacity to dash people's hopes and efforts, or support them during the times they need a sounding board, helping hand, or cheer leader. To pick them up, dust them off and encourage them to have another go. Remember to do the same for yourself too. 

You'll come across a lot of people who'll take pleasure in judging you, putting you down and planting seeds of doubt.  The only question you need to ask yourself is, "Do I really want to invest the time, energy and resources to achieving this?" 

If the answer is "yes" go for it and don't let anyone stand in your way.  

One of my personal heroes is the climber Alan Hinkes. A no nonsense, Yorkshire man, Alan set himself the audacious goal of climbing all 14, 8000 metre peaks. He is still the only Briton to have achieved this. He hung in there despite illness, injury, the death of climbing colleagues and personal setbacks. The epitome of pushing yourself to do something which you've not done before. 

Remember nothing's impossible, except striking a match on a jelly! 

“Being defeated is often temporary, giving up is what makes it permanent” - Marilyn Vos Savant


No Fear!

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Life Balance and Wellbeing

If you listen to your fears, you will die never knowing what a great person you might have been - Robert H. Schuller


Fear is a strange concept. On the one hand it's a necessary, built in response, offering a friendly warning of potential threats, dangers, or risks to life and limb. It says "hold on a minute," "have you thought this through" or "watch out!"

It's less friendly alter ego can eat away at you, offer extreme scenarios and conjure monsters in your brain.

This can create the kind of mental state that takes you straight to the primitive response of fight, flight, or freeze, often summoning irrational thoughts, unhelpful behaviour or complete inaction. The result is just what Shuller suggests...unexplored opportunities, unfulfilled potential, in short, a life less lived. 

I meet many people in business and sport who allow fear to paralyse their potential.   Whether that is a Fear of failure, the fear of being taken advantage of, a fear of being wrong…even the fear of success. If left unchallenged these fears can take root in your psyche manifesting limiting beliefs of the worst kind, about yourself and others. This can lead to a reluctance to try, because you think you can't, or you'll look foolish, or things might not go to plan. Before you know it you'll, often falsely, believe you're just not capable. 

I have a belief that many fears are born from the misperception that you are in complete control. Therefore, when you are placed in situations where this view is challenged the anxiety starts and can take control of your next move...if you let it.   One of mine involves flying.  I don’t allow my fear to stop me getting on a plane, even though I have to relinquish control of my destiny to someone else.  Rationally, this makes perfect sense as I know every passenger (including me) is much safer for that decision, however, this doesn’t prevent me becoming a little anxious.

The good news is, like me, you have choice.  You have the capacity to decide how you deal with your fear. Do you let it paralyse or empower you?   You can worry…or alternatively, deal with the things you can control and manage your perception of the things you can’t.

Jacky Leonard

2013, and there is was…gone!

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Life Balance and Wellbeing

 "Every moment is a golden one for him who has the vision to recognize it as such." - Henry Miller

Is it me, or did last year speed by quicker than usual?  At the end of 2013, I almost thought I’d blinked and missed what was actually quite a significant milestone year for me.  So to check I hadn’t slept through most of it, I sat down with my diary and looked back over the year.  It was only then I realised I’d managed to cram quite a lot in during my 50th year on the planet. 

In typical learning and development fashion my thoughts soon turned to…what can, or did I learn from it all that I can share, which will be useful for me and may even be helpful for you.  So here goes, call them reflections, resolutions or realisations and take from them what you will.

1. Time flies

It’s one of your most precious resources.  When it’s gone, it’s gone; spend it wisely on those things that are most important to you, or lose it on the ‘sand’ of life.  (Read the story at the end of this Blog for more details on the ‘sand’). As the years pass I am more acutely aware of the important stuff and how this is not a rehearsal.

2. Life-long learning

I’m a big advocate for life-long learning.  Once you stop learning, you stop experiencing all that life has to offer.  There are many ways to gain new knowledge, skills and capabilities; I’m going to mention just one here.  Self-reflection!  It can be a surprising, enlightening and painful process; although in my opinion always a worthwhile one.  Use a little of your precious time to reflect and learn from your actions, inactions and mistakes and decide how you will use that new knowledge to improve your world.  However, try not to spend too much time in the past or the future.  As the old adage says, there is no time like the present; it really is a gift so enjoy each moment here and now!

3. Appreciate your world

Have an attitude of gratitude for your world and everything and everyone in it.  It’s easy to start taking people for granted and judging them too harshly, particularly if they are close to you.  Instead, start noticing the good in people, the wonder in things and the beauty on this planet.  Embrace and celebrate diversity and uniqueness wherever you find it.  Try to view the world through a child’s eyes occasionally; I promise, you’ll get a whole new perspective and see things in a very different light.  You may experience less cynicism, prejudice and complacency and more wonder, anticipation and kindness.  When you find yourself judging others, just remember it’s easy to project your inadequacies onto others.  Stop and check it’s not your own shortcomings you’re judging, reflected in them.

4. Laugh out Loud

I joined Facebook a couple of years ago and nearly closed my account because of the privacy issues and bad press.   I then realised the posts contributed positively to my day.  Some made me think, smile…and often laugh out loud.  Any medium that does that can’t be all bad.  Apparently laughter is  the best medicine and it’s free and easy!  I think it’s particularly healthy if you can laugh at yourself.  I can be intense, but I’ve learned it’s OK to act your shoe size sometimes…and I do!

5. Keep your promises

Do you find it easier to keep the promises and commitments you make to others, than the ones you make to yourself?  I know I can be guilty of that.  You can’t truly respect others unless you have a healthy liking for yourself.  Be kind to yourself first.  You have to believe you’re worth the same respect, time and effort you afford others.


6. Be your best self

Whatever that means to you, be it, do it, feel it…you deserve it!

Believe in your dreams and take daily action to make them a reality.

There is one final point, based on the story I briefly mentioned earlier.  I saw it on a friend’s Facebook feed recently and thought how well it encapsulated all that’s important in life.  It will be one I read time and time again whenever I need perspective.

7. Remember the Golf Balls

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large, empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous ‘yes.’

The professor then produced two Beers from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

‘Now,’ said the professor as the laughter subsided, ‘I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things - your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions, and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car. The sand is everything else - the small stuff.

‘If you put the sand into the jar first,’ he continued, ‘there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life.

If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are most important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.

Spend time with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with grandparents. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and mow the lawn. Take care of the golf balls first, those things that really matter.  Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.’

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the Beer represented. The professor smiled and said, ‘I’m glad you asked. The Beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of Beers with a friend.’


As you begin 2014, keep track of what’s important to you…hold on to those golf balls!


Jacky Leonard


If at first you don’t succeed…

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Training & Coaching, Sport and Leisure

“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something, but I can’t accept not trying.”

Michael Jordan

I’m with MJ on this one!  Failure is a natural part of the learning process.  It’s healthy; it provides an opportunity for improvement if you dare to reflect on its lessons and decide how to do things differently.  The only real failure is not to try at all, or quit the first time you get knocked down.  So…are you playing full on, or are you too quick to throw in the towel just because you’ve encountered a tough adversary?

If you watched this year’s men’s Wimbledon tennis final you will have witnessed a great example of what trying really looks like.  Andy Murray, desperate to win the Wimbledon trophy after coming so close last year; and the past champion and world number one Novak Djokovic, in a thrilling head to head.  Two men at the top of their game, in peak physical and mental condition, giving their all and doing their damndest to emerge as the victor.  Who’d have wanted to be Djokovic that day?  It must have seemed like the whole of the country was rooting for Murray.  Did he give up?  Hell no!  He made Murray dig deep as he saved three championship points resulting in the most exciting display of tennis, mental control and nerves of steel from both men.  

I was incredibly impressed with both players’ attitudes, behaviour and mental toughness as well as their sporting prowess.  I also admired the way Djokovic handled defeat.  He’d thrown everything he had at Murray and although clearly devastated to have lost, he was modest, generous and gracious during the post match interview. 

There are certain occasions when giving up is just not an option, or you’d never have learned the complicated, but fundamental skill of walking.  Did you wake up one day and just walk across the room?  I doubt it…you had to try…and fail…and try…and fail…and try…you get the idea.  You were encouraged, supported even cajoled into sticking with it. The truth is you can’t win all the time; you will fail at something, at least once and maybe more.  The trick is to use the experience as feedback not failure. 

Parents should beware the pitfalls of letting your children win all the time.  Learning to fail is as important as learning to win; they’re two sides of the same coin.  People react differently to winners and losers and you need to experience both and discover ways of dealing with the feelings each provoke.  Kipling expressed this so eloquently as “if you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same.”  For your own sanity you would be wise not to let success go to your head, or failures go to your heart.   

So…If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again or in the immortal lyrics of Chumbawamba’s Tubthumping…“I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down.”

Are you response able?

Categories:  Business Coaching, Training & Coaching, Sport and Leisure

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”  ~ Victor Frankl1

How many times have you heard that whining phrase “…it’s not my fault.” or “they made me do it…” or at least a statement expressing a similar sentiment?  Think about what it actually means.  In essence the individual expressing it has surrendered all control.  They no longer have possession of their faculties, or the ability to choose how to respond or react to the stimulus, event or person in question.  What a disempowering place to be!

Yet, you’ll hear this sort of language expressed on a daily basis.  It allows the person saying it to relinquish responsibility for their actions; to pass the buck onto someone else, to shirk accountability.  They’ve become Pavlov’s dog!  Stimulus-response; with no space in between for choice, or thought about responsible action.

Whilst at the European Junior Badminton Championships recently I got into a discussion with one of the players.  They had just come off court after a close match and I overheard one of them say “The umpire’s decision cost us 4 points.”  My immediate response was “Who cost you those 4 points?”  I had to ask it twice and reframe it to “What was the reason you didn’t win those next points?” before it had the desired impact and they admitted the most likely reason was they’d allowed themselves to become distracted by a dubious line call. 

One of the reasons for the loss of focus was they headed straight into stimulus-response.  The umpire’s decision was ‘wrong’ and ‘unfair’, therefore they should have won the point.  When they didn’t, it was only a small step to blaming their loss of the next few points on the umpire too.  Not logical I know, however at the time, in the heat of the moment it made perfect sense.  The real concern here is if you insist on blaming someone else for your lot, you stand little chance of doing anything positive to influence what’s happening in your life. 

If you’re in a leadership role it’s even more important to be response able.  The best leaders not only take responsibility for their actions; they’re also accountable for the behaviour and performance of their team.  They applaud their team’s successes in public and coach out their developmental issues in private.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space.”  Sometimes that “space” may diminish because of hectic lifestyles, leadership styles and personality traits, however it’s still there.  You have the power of choice…if you want to experience continual growth and personal freedom, choose wisely.

1Victor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor.  Author of ‘Man’s search for meaning,’ an incredibly powerful, moving and inspiring book about his personal experiences and observations of life in a Nazi concentration camp.

A modern day epidemic?

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Life Balance and Wellbeing

Just read an article on www.publicservice.co.uk providing startling statistics.  Obesity in children under 11 has increased 40% over the last decade.  At the current rates, without effective intervention, more than two thirds of Britain’s population will be overweight or obese by 2050. 

This ‘epidemic’ has significant financial and health costs; with over £5 billion a year being spent on the problem and a loss of 9 years life expectancy, and the scariest part of all is that no one is immune!  Regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, family history, you can all fall prey to making poor lifestyle choices which ultimately not only affect how many years you add to your life but also with how much enthusiasm, energy and passion you live it!  

Surely, maintaining a healthy weight is a simple equation of eating less and moving more…right? Unfortunately, although it may be simple it is far from easy.  There’s a minefield of options on the market to help you obtain the ‘perfect body.’  Few seem to provide a sustainable answer to the question, “how can I achieve and maintain healthy weight?”  The result for many is a roller coaster of weight loss followed by the seemingly inevitable weight gain.  Unfortunately, modern day eating habits often involve over indulging in high fat, high sugar options because they are usually more readily available and in many cases, cheaper than following a healthy diet. 

So how do you get off the Roller Coaster?  Well…you are what you habitually do, therefore the choices you make each day regarding your activity levels, and dietary intake will have a significant impact on the quality of your life.  Even if you decide to “stop the ride, I want to get off” and make more conscious choices about your behaviour around food and exercise it can still be difficult.  Identifying exactly what you want to achieve and the reasons why you want to make these changes are positive first steps and here are some others. 

Studies of 5000 people who lost significant amounts of weight and kept it off long term showed these results:

  • 78% eat breakfast
  • 75% weigh themselves at least once a week
  • 62% watch less than 10 hours TV a week
  • 90% exercise for about an hour a day
  • 80% used a healthy diet and exercise to lose weight

Interestingly, only 10% used just diet and 1% just exercise. 

Remember; when you embark on your journey towards a healthier weight there are 3 distinct stages…

  1. stop the weight gain
  2. achieve the weight loss you want
  3. maintain your new healthier weight

Each stage may present different challenges, so be aware of your strengths and weaknesses. Consider the reasons for your past successes and failures so you can build in your own personal strategies and find a support network to help deal with those difficulties when they arise.  Oh and one last thing; identify ways you can reward yourself (other than food) and celebrate your successes.



Constructive feedback?

Categories:  Business Coaching, Effective Communication, Being on purpose, Training & Coaching

Performance development guru Tony Robbins suggests “...everything before the but is bullshit” and he's got a very valid point.

I’ve heard critical feedback referred to as the 'bullshit sandwich.' In other words a filling of criticism neatly placed between two slices of praise. You don't fool anyone; it's still criticism. There's no such thing as ‘constructive criticism’...it’s just criticism. When was the last time you came away clicking your heels after receiving negative feedback, dressed up as a 'praise burger?' There is however, ‘constructive feedback’ which is framed and presented in a very different, more thoughtful and empowering way.

Think about the last time you received feedback from a friend, colleague or family member. It seemed to be going so well and then their intonation rose and you knew what was coming next...oh yes, that dreaded ‘but;’ that little word with a big meaning. How did you feel after they'd used it? Did you even really listen to what was said after the ‘but,’ or had you switched off by then?

The word 'but' has the unfortunate result of undoing the impact and meaning of the preceding statement. 

Here are some examples:

The way you dealt with that customer was great, but...
I think you have great potential, but...
I'd love to help you with that piece of work, but...


Take time to notice when you, or other people use the word, and the impact it has on the recipient. Observe their body language and listen to their response...if there is any. It often has a way of taking the wind completely out of their sails.

So at this point you may well be asking 'what should I use instead?' This depends on the context of the sentence. For instance words such as 'however', 'nevertheless', 'though' are often longer versions of the ‘but’ and can therefore result in a similar disheartening impact.

My suggestion would be to end the sentence on a positive note and start a new one outlining any other feedback, or use 'and' as a link if you have additional pertinent information relating to the same area.

Let's take the three earlier examples:

The way you dealt with that customer was great. I was particularly impressed with the way you actively listened. What could you have done to have made an even bigger impact?
I think you have great potential and would like to help you develop your skills further. How could I be of most help to you?
I'd love to help you with that piece of work and i can free up some time to talk to you about it next week.

So next time you are giving feedback consider the outcome you're trying to achieve and the impact you wish to have and let that influence the language you use. You'll often get much better results, BUT don't take my word for it, try it yourself.

Don't ask me why

Categories:  Business Coaching, Effective Communication, Training & Coaching

I'm not a huge fan of the word WHY in a coaching or leadership context...let me explain my reasons.  It's often delivered in a way that sounds confrontational, accusatory and overly challenging. It invariably sends the recipient into defensive, aggressive, or passive-aggressive mode and it can therefore inhibit the brains capacity for problem solving. It's also a lazy probing question. There are so many other, more effective ways of information gathering.

I'm all for challenging; I think it's healthy to push yourself, or be pulled out of your comfort zone; It's usually when most learning takes place. However, I believe there are more effective ways of getting answers, or kick starting a person's reflective processes than why.  You have to build rapport and have a person's trust before you can ask why and expect a well formed answer.  I’m not suggesting you never use it, merely that you apply it thoughtfully.  When you do believe it’s appropriate consider how you will frame and tone it for best effect.  So what questions could you ask to illicit information, or get someone into a reflective state in a non-confrontational manner?

How about these starters for 10?

  • What was the reason...
  • How did that happen...
  • What caused you to...
  • Tell me about...

These are less aggressive and also offer the subliminal suggestion that there are solutions to each question, if your recipient takes a little time to think.

So how and when will you replace why for a better outcome?

Thought for the day

Categories:  Business Coaching, Life Balance and Wellbeing

Isn't it interesting how you can attend the same event with a group of people and have a completely different experience?  It's all courtesy of the 'baggage' you carry around, made up of a complex mix of values, beliefs, experiences, education, personal and professional connections, gender, age, religion, ethnicity etc...

Perception is everything!  It can excite or scare you, pressurise or challenge you, motivate you to great things, or make you quit.  In the words of Denis Waitley

“Life is the movie you see through your own eyes. It makes little difference what's happening out there. It's how you take it that counts.”

If this is true I would rather my movie be a comedy drama than a horror story!

Performing under Pressure - top 10 tips

Categories:  Business Coaching, Life Balance and Wellbeing

"Man never made any material as resilient as the human spirit.”

Bernard Williams

I was at this year’s school games in May managing the team from Badminton Wales. Around 1600 of the UKs best young sports people took part in 12 sports ranging from athletics to wheelchair basketball over 4 days of intensely fought competition.  At these events my role is to support the players and coaches and deal with all things off court so they have as little of the logistics to worry about as possible.  I consequently spend a great deal of time observing the behaviour of performers during play and in their downtime; their response to winning and losing, their internal and external triggers, their interaction with their peers, tournament staff, team staff and parents.  How some players, team staff and parents thrive on a challenge, others battle to survive and a few crumble under the pressure. You can witness the full range of emotions on a playing field...from elation, frustration, relief, anger deep sadness, sheer joy and everything in between. It's a fascinating mix of human dynamics and shows the best and worst of people...young and older. 

Rudyard Kipling, in his poem If, suggested triumph and disaster be treated the same. A worthy sentiment, but one which is not particularly easy to execute when you've put your heart and soul into your performance.

Even elite athletes aren't immune to stresses, strains and self doubt, where very often it's the mental games you play with yourself that are the fine line between standing on top of the winner’s podium or being one of the also rans.  This year's Wimbledon provided us with some classic examples of how important being mentally tough is in achieving your goals.  You will have witnessed how fortunes can turn in an instant because of an internal trigger, external distraction or interruption.  The seeds of doubt, once sowed can strangle your dreams...if you let them. Of course these challenges are an intrinsic part of the elite sports persons day job. So what lessons can you learn from them that will allow you to meet the demands of your daily challenges? If you're one of those people who lets the stress of a new project, a demanding or critical person, or deadline get to you, how do you continue to perform well, even under pressure? 

Here are my top 10 tips for rising to the challenge and keeping it together when the going gets tough…

  1. Know your stuff! - be technically brilliant in what you do...and continue to hone your skills at every opportunity. Even the most naturally gifted people appreciate the need for continual improvement, particularly if they want to stay ahead of the competition.
  2. Keep your eyes on the prize - be clear about your outcome i.e. what you want to achieve, why you want it, who'll support you and your timescales and make sure those you work with are clear about those things too.
  3. Be prepared - I'm sure you've heard the old adage 'Practice makes perfect.' Well that's not entirely true; practice actually makes permanent, only 'Perfect practice makes perfect.' So the quality of how you prepare is as important as the time you spend preparing. Visualisation and positive pre-play are great preparation tools.
  4. Believe to achieve - raise your right hand in the air and say after me...I believe! Identify and eliminate your limiting beliefs. If you allow them to creep into your psyche they'll gradually eat away at your confidence, erode your self esteem and cripple your progress. Before you begin any challenge you have to believe you can do it, after all nothing is impossible...except perhaps lighting a match on a jelly!
  5. Silence your gremlins - many people beat themselves up verbally e.g. "You'll never be able to do that."  "Remember what happened last time you tried that." “Can I do this job now I’ve taken it on?” etc. Do you speak kindly enough to yourself? Controlling your internal dialogue and replacing any negative thoughts with more positive self talk can be an incredibly empowering tool.
  6. Reflect for success - It may be tough to accept, but you're probably not perfect (there I've said it). You're bound to encounter the odd set back, hurdle or period when things are just not going to plan. Take time to reflect on how you deal with your successes and your failures; it can say a lot about you.
  7. Act as if - sometimes the only way to gain that boost of confidence is to fake it 'til you make it! Acting with confidence can often make you feel that way.
  8. Be a radiator - a positive mental attitude has so many advantages; for a start you'll be a pleasure to be around; people will warm to you and you’ll be able to influence them more effectively. It also helps your brain cells to transmit messages more effectively to its neighbours thus enabling you to create more opportunities.
  9. Get in balance – If you’re someone who believes in everything in moderation…including moderation, you may need to get a lifestyle check up.  Are there things, or people in your life that are being neglected because you’ve not got your life in balance?  The wheel of life is a useful tool to help review your current situation and reflect on those areas that may need your attention.
  10. Make it happen - eventually you've just got to take a risk, stick your neck out and go for it.  Remember...we all make mistakes; it's a natural part of the learning process. The only failure is quitting when things get tough.

Go on then…perform!



Seemingly Impossible?

Categories:  Business Coaching

"It always seems impossible until it's done." 

I came across this quote from Nelson Mandela and it got me thinking about how important self belief is if you want to achieve anything.  There are many famous examples of achievements society believed impossible which were disproved by a 'lone ranger' or rangers!!  Those special individuals who weren't satisfied with the status quo and were prepared to step outside their comfort zones to be the first and make things happen, regardless of the personal consequences. 

And...as we're getting closer to the time when you (and I) will make heaps of promises (in the guise of New Year resolutions) and often see very few of them through to their conclusion I thought the topic of self belief would be worth a mention.

It's strange but true...as an adult you'll accept the inevitability of personal failure far more readily than you did as a child.  We are far less likely to 'have a go' for fear of failing, or looking like a numpty!  Phrases like "I can't..."  "I've tried before and couldn't..." "I'm not sure I can..." "I'm too old to..." enter your vocabulary and soon enough they become a mantra for not trying anything new...or giving up before you've given it your best shot!  Ultimately, this negative self talk can reinforce the limiting beliefs you have about yourself and stifle your creativity, productivity and development.  It doesn't stop there either...people around you are far more likely to accept you falling at the first hurdle and will judge you because of it.

Thank goodness this isn't the case with children...otherwise none of us would have learned 2 of the most complex skills the majority of us possess...walking and talking.  Let's take walking as an example.  How many times did you try that and fail?  Did you give up?  Hell no!  Why?  Because it just wasn't an option.  That's what 'able bodied' people do isn't it?  So everyone around you expected you to do it and what's more they openly encouraged and supported you every step of the way (excuse the pun)!  No-one ever turned to you after you hit the floor for the umpteenth time and suggested "walking's not for you, I'd try something else if I was you...shuffling on your backside seems more your thing."

So...whatever resolutions you set yourself...whatever ambitions you want to achieve, regardless of the size or significance, believe in the possibility.  Judge yourself kindly as often the biggest hurdles are the self imposed ones and the most difficult step is the first.  Be your own best friend and believe you can.

I like to believe we're all doing the best we can so instead of being annoyed, angry or frustrated when those around you aren't 'doing things right' (which usually means aren't doing them the way you would), offer encouragement, support and advice, rather than passing harsh judgement.   It will be much more helpful to them and a great deal more rewarding for you.

Remember nothing's impossible (except striking a match on a jelly)...so raise your right arm in the air and say after me...I believe!!

Who’s the Daddy (or Mummy)? – your customer that’s who…

Categories:  Business Coaching, Effective Communication, Delivering Authentic Customer Experiences

“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us – we are dependent on him.”


If I asked you to list your company’s assets, would you reel off the items on your balance sheet, or would you put your customers first?  They really do deserve that number one slot; think about it; they are the most important people in your business; your life blood; the means and the reason for your business, not an interruption to it!

When I refer to your customer I mean both the internal and external variety; your employees as well as the paying clients.  If, like me you’ve worked in a contractual situation you may have the additional consideration of a purchasing authority to add to the challenges of managing a team and satisfying an end user.

Each of these ‘customers’ is an important asset.  Love or loathe them, you simply can’t ignore them – without them you don’t exist!

Place customer satisfaction firmly and proudly at the heart of your business so everything you do reflects a desire to provide the best service possible.  Forget how important they are and you may not feel the pain immediately, but it will hurt soon enough.  Attrition can start as a small leak; but trust me; it doesn’t take long before you’ll be haemorrhaging customers and it will take more than a sticking plaster to stem the flow. A high turnover staff can have a dramatic effect on the consistency of your service and will invariably have an impact on your ability to retain customers.  The cost of replacing them (staff and customers) is significant and can eat away at your profits at an alarming rate.

The process of exceptional customer experiences start internally.  You can’t possibly create an inviting, friendly, professional environment if your staff are at war with you and each other.  Any unrest within a team will hang over your business like a dark cloud and is about as easy to get rid of as a bad smell.   So before you consider throwing more resources at attracting new customers it may be worth checking if your internal service strategy is fully functional.

Over the coming months I’ll be focussing on how you can consistently provide exceptional experiences for both your internal and external customers.  For me, exceptional service is simple.  It’s the creation of an environment where staff can’t wait to come to work and customers can’t wait to bring their friends. Simple, but not easy; it requires a passion for people, a desire to make a difference and the energy and commitment to take consistent action.

Resistance is Futile!

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Life Balance and Wellbeing

I was watching an old episode of Star Trek Voyager the other day where the crew had a chance meeting with The Borg.  Now those trekkies amongst you will know that these are a particularly unpleasant group that grows their community by assimilating other species while chanting “Resistance is futile”.  Firstly let me assure you, I have no designs on assimilation; it just struck me that the phrase illustrates perfectly the need for adaptation and flexibility in business.

The fact is organisations that resist change will get left behind by those that move with the times and are willing to adapt to keep ahead of the game.  The most successful people and organisations see opportunities, even in the bleakest times and what’s more they take advantage of those that arise, even if this means making changes.  Let’s face it change can be painful; after all it’s easier to maintain the status quo, but the reality is that nothing happens without action.

As a coach my job is to help organisations identify the appropriate changes required to take their businesses forward and grow, even in difficult economic times.  I’ve had to adopt the same strategies for my own business and trust me they work – I’m still here!!

To deal efficiently and effectively with the transitions…

  • Focus on what you want rather than what you don’t want
  • Be clear about your goals and why you want them
  • Check that these goals are aligned with your values – are they really important enough to you?
  • Review where you are in relation to where you want to be and identify the gaps
  • Set yourself a plan of action
  • Focus on the profit producing tasks
  • Take time out to work on your business, rather than just in it
  • Get support – find a peer group or mentor to challenge, motivate and inspire you

And most importantly of all TAKE ACTION!

If you find yourself frustrated, anxious or in ‘pain’ look at it positively as it’s usually a good catalyst for action.

Remember, resistance is futile – ring in the changes and make things happen.

Jacky Leonard


Creating a memorable first impression

Categories:  Business Coaching, Effective Communication, Delivering Authentic Customer Experiences

We live in a world where there are too many suppliers and not enough customers…

Whatever service you offer, chances are someone else is providing something similar just around the corner.  Good clients are hard to come by and often costly to attract, so when you do get them interested you need to WOW them into choosing you as their preferred service provider.  That first impression is incredibly important so do it right.

Customer service comes in 3 distinct packages.

An OW!a miserable moment.  An experience that fails to meet the customers’ expectations; one they remember, for all the wrong reasons; one they’ll tell all their friends about…and anyone else who care’s to listen, although you’d really prefer they didn’t!

A HOWa neutral moment.  An experience that is just as the customer expected; no surprises (good or bad); one they’ll quite easily forget because it made very little impression either way.

A WOW!a magic moment.  An experience that exceeds the customers’ expectations; one they’ll remember and tell their friends about for the right reasons.

Starting off a relationship with an OW! Rather than a WOW! is never a good strategy.

It takes seconds to create that all important first impression and it will often be formed before you even open your mouth.  Consider how you personally present yourself to your customers; are you giving the right impression, or already falling short of their expectations.  Of course it’s not just you; if you employ staff to help deliver your service how do they come across?

And it doesn’t stop there…

Anytime your prospective customers come into contact with any aspect of your service you’ll be judged.  Do your promotional materials, resources, premises etc. present the appropriate image?

Remember, you never get a second chance to create a first impression.  Start well and strive to consistently deliver an exceptional level of customer service every day.

La la la…I’m not listening!

Categories:  Business Coaching, Effective Communication, Delivering Authentic Customer Experiences

In my 20 plus years working within service organisations I’ve come to the conclusion listening is an underrated, but really vital skill.  I’m often left cold by what passes for good listening.  What I frequently observe could be more accurately described as ‘waiting to interrupt’!

I was at a presentation for Investors in People a few years back where David Fairhurst, VP People at McDonalds gave his simple success formula for creating exceptional customer service.

It was:

L2 (C+E)+R

The translation?

Listen a lot to customers and employees and respond

Great isn’t it?

It’s about being INTERESTED, rather than INTERESTING!  However, as with all simple concepts, they sometimes aren’t quite so easy to achieve and require a good deal of effort and commitment from the whole organisation and in particular from the person doing the listening and responding.

So what’s the reason listening is such a difficult skill to acquire?

Well, we talk at a rate of around 125 words a minute, yet have the ability to listen at a rate of 400 words a minute.  This often means we are way ahead of the person who is speaking and as a consequence can get distracted.  Our minds can wander and we either end up thinking of something else; or the speakers words may trigger a connection in our brains to information we’d like to share.  At this point we are in ‘waiting to interrupt’ mode, rather than really  listening!  So it truly does take commitment, effort and a genuine interest if you want to be an effective listener.

Go on, give it a try.  Alternatively, you could just stick your fingers in your ears and say after me la la la…I’m not listening!!

Living life on purpose…

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose

I’ve just finished Andre Agassi’s autobiography ‘Open’.  What a fascinating, interesting and inspiring read.  Agassi gives a frank account of his life in tennis from his earliest memories of having his father place a tennis racket in his hands as a very small child, to eventually finding his purpose for playing.  Agassi takes the reader on his journey of self discovery.

How can someone be good at something they hate?

‘I hate tennis’ – privately throughout his competitive career Agassi hated the game he excelled at, but publicly he deceived us all and told us what he thought we wanted to hear.

Only in the twilight of his competitive career did he start to find his true purpose, a real reason for playing and winning.

As I read this book I was once again reminded how important being purposeful is in affecting your drive, motivation and ultimate success.

So my questions to you are:

Do you know your purpose?

Are you living life on purpose?

Perhaps it’s time you did…

Go make things happen…

Jacky Leonard

Reflect for success

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose

‘Tis the season of goodwill, good cheer and over indulgence!

If however, we’re wise men and women it is also a great time for reflection; an opportunity to look back on 2009 and learn some lessons from our actions and possibly also our inactions!

Here are Leonard’s 11 questions to prepare you for 2010. Take a little time to consider your responses; you may wish to focus on one particular area of your life e.g. your business, or take a helicopter view of the whole picture.

Above all, be honest with yourself and decide how you will use this information to make a positive start in the New Year.

1. What action have I taken that I’m most proud of this year?
2. What was the one thing I didn’t do that I wish I had?
3. What was the reason I didn’t do it?
4. What gave me the most pleasure or satisfaction in 2009?
5. What were the reasons I found most satisfaction in this/these areas?
6. Who did I really enjoy spending my time with in 2009?
7. What were the reasons I enjoyed being with them?
8. What one thing can I do to ensure this/these relationships continue to be positive?
9. What one thing will I do to improve communications with my clients/customers in 2010?
10. What are the two most important things I learned, or re-learned in 2009?
11. How will I use what I learned in 2009 to best affect?

Wishing you all a very happy Christmas and a healthy and happy 2010.

From a reflective Jacky Leonard

Go make things happen…

Jacky Leonard

Call NOW to book your free business booster consultation
01451 860399
07894 904041

Are you making things happen yet?

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose

There are 3 types of people in life

Those that make things happen

Those that watch things happen

And those that wonder what happened!

Which are you?

I have to admit I’ve been every type – sometimes all in one day!

So do people have a natural propensity to take action, while others prefer to observe proceedings, or even at times find themselves so immersed in the past or future that they completely miss what’s going on around them now?


If like me you’re likely to have been all 3 at sometime what factors would influence your action or inaction?

Here are some factors to consider:

  • Personal Experience
  • Belief systems
  • Values
  • Experience of others
  • Culture
  • Religion
  • Peer pressure
  • Environment
  • Friends and family
  • Education
  • Media pressure
  • Perceived competence
  • Desire

I’m sure some if not all of the above contribute, however I want to focus on what I believe is one of the key drivers and that’s…

DESIRE – how much do you really want to make things happen?

Whether your goal is to:

Do something e.g. run a marathon

Be someone or something e.g. a successful author

Have something e.g. a shiny red sports car

Or even Go somewhere e.g. a cruise around the world

You’re more likely to be successful if you are truly committed to it and absolutely passionate about it.  Or as Brian Mayne says it’s doing the “thing that makes your heart sing”.

Remember the old adage “where there’s a will there’s a way” well there’s certainly something in that!

Consider people that have apparently succeeded against all odds.  Who would have believed we’d see a black president in the White House?

“My parents shared not only an improbable love; they shared an abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation. They would give me an African name, Barack, or blessed, believing that in a tolerant America your name is no barrier to success. They imagined me going to the best schools in the land, even though they weren’t rich, because in a generous America you don’t have to be rich to achieve your potential.”

Barack Obama

They have a goal; maybe a pretty audacious one, but more importantly they have a burning desire to achieve it.  Their WHY is strong enough so even when the going gets tough they find extra reserves within themselves and find a way to make things happen.

This may mean reviewing their goal, adjusting their course, or even starting all over again.  In fact they’ll do whatever it takes to reach their outcome, because their reasons are so powerful that it’s not a matter of ‘maybe’ or even ‘must’; it’s a very definite ‘WILL’!

Woulda, shoulda, coulda just doesn’t work here. As Tony Robbins says there are plenty of people out there who “should all over themselves!”

Now consider those occasions when you’ve achieved most…

What was the difference that made the difference?

Tapping into that place; that state; that desire – the one where you’re at your most resourceful.  Your positivity creates clarity, discovers options and provides the energy to take action.

Well what are you waiting for?

Go make things happen NOW!

Jacky Leonard

 07894 904041

Do you know where you’re going?

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose

“Would you tell me which way I ought to go from here?” asked Alice.

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get,” said the Cat.

“I really don’t care where” replied Alice.

“Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865)

I came upon this excerpt from Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland the other day and thought how perfect a metaphor it is for the lack of direction in many small businesses. I have similar conversations with business owner/managers; like Alice they are sometimes not really clear about what they want to achieve or where they’re taking their company.

As a coach it’s not up to me to dictate their direction, especially as invariably they already have the answers and just aren’t asking themselves the right questions. That’s where I come in; my job is to help them find clarity of purpose and identify priorities by asking the right questions and providing the appropriate tools to ensure the actions they take are as effective as possible and justly rewarded.

So do you have a vision and goals for your business and if you do, are you on track? It’s easy to blame the current economic climate for a downturn in profits, but are you working smarter, not just harder and taking advantage of the opportunities that present themselves, even in a recession?

Taking time to re-assess your priorities and evaluate the reasons for your current situation helps to provide perspective and get you back on track.

After all, people who aim at nothing seldom miss the target!

Call now for a free 45 minute business diagnostic to get you back on target.

Jacky Leonard

07894 904041