Jacky Leonard's blog

Category: Training & Coaching

Out with the old and in with your new best self

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

"If you want the best the world has to offer, offer the world your best"  

Neale Donald Walsch


Well, here we are at the end of another year that I’m sure many will be pleased to see the back of.  On reflection, overall 2016 has been good to me, with a number of personal and professional highlights such as getting my book written and published, picking up some wonderful new clients and helping relocate a Catamaran between Greece and Turkey.  I’m grateful for my fabulous friends and family and count myself fortunate to have their continued support, love and kindness in whatever challenges life brings, or I choose to tackle.  On a sadder note, I lost a cousin who was my writing inspiration. I will remember Evie with great fondness; her capacity for kindness, acceptance of people’s right to be different and her keen sense of fun.  

Review 2016’s news and views and you’ll discover a year that had its highs, accompanied by perhaps more than its fair share of volatility, uncertainty and tragedy.  One friend on Facebook described it as ‘the year that just keeps on taking.’  An understandable perspective given the bad and ugly events experienced around the globe, all of which have been well documented so I’m not going to dwell on them here.  Instead, I’d like to end 2016 on a note of hope about the positive impact you and I can have if we continue to offer our best.

In a world that seems increasingly intolerant, quick to judge and blinkered to the many qualities that link and connect us, I hope 2017 will bring more understanding, acceptance and kindness.  Instead of looking outwards and being quick to criticise, let’s deal with things within our control and think about what we think, feel and do and how this might impact on others.

I’m sure you all want the best for yourself and those closest to you, but is that where your goodwill stops?  It’s easy to extend a helping hand to people you like, or those you think are like you.  What about the ones outside your inner circle, or those who are different, challenging, or in need? What are you contributing to the wider community? 

What about your behaviour; are you a drain or a radiator?  Of course, we are all capable of both, but where do you spend most of your time and how does this affect you and those around you?  It’s important to do the right thing, as well as to do things right.  Never underestimate the impact of a seemingly insignificant gesture.  A smile, your time, listening with empathy, making a charitable donation, every act of kindness, however small, counts.  Perhaps, instead of focusing on differences, we can acknowledge and celebrate the similarities that bind us, look for people doing things right and be more appreciative of our own and others qualities, strengths and abilities.  If the statement, ‘you get what you focus on,’ is true, we can all benefit from concentrating on being and doing our best in the forthcoming year.


Here’s a story that illustrates the power in a simple act of kindness, regardless of the odds.

A man is taking a walk along a beach, when ahead of him he sees thousands of starfish which have been washed ashore. As he continues along the sand, he sees a boy, walking slowly and stooping often, picking up one starfish after another, putting them into a bucket, walking to the sea and tossing each one gently into the ocean. “Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” he asks. “Because the sun is up and the tide is going out and if I don’t throw them into the water they will die.”

The man looked at the lad and sneered “Don’t you realise there are miles of beach and starfish all along it.  You can’t possibly save them all, you can’t even save one-tenth of them. In fact, even if you work all day, your efforts won’t make any difference at all.”

The youngster listened, then calmly bent down to pick up another starfish and gently threw it into the sea before turning to the man and saying. “I made a difference to that one.”


I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you a happy, healthy and successful new year and leave you with one question to ponder…How will you be your best and make a difference in 2017?




Every day's a school day

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

“A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.”

When I gave up a proper job (my brother’s sentiment, not mine), I decided to redress my life balance and make time for more experiences.  Each year I allocate time in my diary to ‘play,’ experience new things and have adventures, in all areas of my life. I believe every day’s a school day, so continual development is really important to me, however I also believe this learning can come from a wide range of experiences, providing I keep my mind open to possibilities and say ‘yes’ to the opportunities that come my way. 

Prior to 2006, I had spent a lot of time in my comfort zone, without really knowing it.  I loved my job and the people I worked with, but I was becoming restless and frustrated and wasn’t quite sure why.  I’d spent time on extra-curricular activities such as co-leading expeditions, qualifying as a teacher and even walking on hot coals, but nothing was really hitting the mark.  After a lot of soul searching I realised I needed the challenge of pastures new and wanted to see if I could make a success of running my own business as a learning and development consultant and coach.  Not known for doing things by half, I decided I needed a physical, mental and emotional push, so I signed up for a 4-month ‘adventure’ at Plas y Brenin, encountering the fun and extremes of the mountains, lakes and rivers of North Wales. 

I’ve been involved in a number of sports at a performance level since childhood and have been able to master new skills quite quickly, but this was different.  The great outdoors offered a challenging array of activities, many of which can result in serious injury or death, if you aren’t confident, focussed, and mindful.  I found out a lot about myself.  I discovered I didn’t learn to do things as quickly as I had 10-15 years earlier, particularly when fear entered the equation.  I re-learned how embarrassing, painful and tough to take, failure can be.  I realised how important the ‘why’ is when choosing to apply yourself to anything.  I discovered, although the passing of the years had brought me greater experience, skills and greater knowledge, I’d noticed some deterioration e.g. my recovery rate, eyesight (features on maps are so small) and confidence. All useful lessons when starting a new venture and also invaluable from a coaching perspective.

Since then, I’ve had many adventures, at work and at play.  For example, as an introvert, the thought of giving presentations to large groups of people used to hurl me towards my panic zone.  In the words of Susan Jeffers, I decided to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ and now regularly find myself delivering sessions to hundreds of people.   I’ve discovered, sometimes uncomfortably, that there is no growth in comfort.  You have to expose yourself to a little embarrassment, pain and frustration and be willing to take a leap of faith, a calculated risk and still accept you’ll make a few mistakes along the way.  You have to be able to graciously accept feedback from others, as even when you may not always agree with their perspective, it will always be of value.  You have to be resilient in your approach, agile in your thinking and flexible in your attitude if you want to achieve anything.

I love the quote “a mind is like a parachute; it works best when it’s open.” That’s where you start by opening your mind to possibilities.  Saying ‘yes’ and giving others the chance to say ‘yes’ to you. 


  • What’s your next challenge? 
  • What strides are you making to step outside the C zone into stretch to continue your learning journey?
  • What have you learned or rediscovered about yourself, or your business today?

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.



Mindful March

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

“A new destiny starts with one thought – a powerful thought”                www.just-a-minute.org


With the daffodils in bloom and Spring emerging from the depths of an extremely wet Winter, I decided this month I would be more mindful, as opposed to mind full and to keep it simple, I stuck with the rule of 3 and chose a trio of areas on which to direct my focus: Breathing, Eating and Walking.

It’s estimated you have between 60-80,000 thoughts a day...and maybe not all of them are as positive as you’d like.  That’s an awful lot of thinking, so is there any wonder you find yourself mentally drained at the end of each day.  Could mindfulness help…and what is it anyway?

It can be described as a mental state achieved by focusing your awareness on the present moment, being fully aware of what’s happening outside and inside your body, calmly acknowledging and accepting your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. It is now commonly used as a therapeutic technique to manage stress and promote wellbeing.

I started with breathing, after all it’s the first thing all mammals are, sometimes forcibly, encouraged to do when you’re born. It’s an essential, unconscious, automatic act, so why focus on it?  Well, it seems you may not be doing it as well as you could and this can have a negative impact on your posture, stress levels and efficiency of your bodies systems.  Breathing practices feature highly in activities such as meditation, martial arts and yoga because of it’s numerous benefits including helping to release toxins; elevating your mood and reducing excessive stress.

There are many breathing exercises, from those that give you a quick oxygen rush, to the slower, measured and more calming form.  

Here’s one I practice at night to help me switch off, or during the day when I need to focus and get some clarity.

1. Inhale through your nose, expanding your belly, then fill your chest to a count of 5
2. Hold and Count to 3

3. Exhale fully from slightly parted mouth and feel all your cells releasing waste and emptying all old energy to a count of 5.

This should be done slowly, deeply and rhythmically, breathing in through the nose for 3-4 seconds and out for 3-4 seconds.

See more at: http://www.onepowerfulword.com/2010/10/18-benefits-of-deep-breathing-and-how.html#sthash.eGSY0b70.dpuf


What about eating?  Another essential activity that is often done habitually, without too much conscious thought.  I come from a family that eats like something is about to swoop down and take the meal away if it’s not consumed in haste.  Not a good thing, for your digestion, weight management, or enjoyment.  Therefore, it’s easy for me to default to the ‘eat and run’ approach to meals.  Here are a few tips I’ve picked up from the nutritionists, psychologists and physiologists I’ve worked with who specialise in adopting healthier eating habits.  Practicing these activities have helped me be more mindful in terms of the quality and quantity of the food I eat and the speed in which it’s consumed. 

  • Eating in the company of friends and family
  • Sitting at the table, rather than eating from a tray on your lap in front of the visual Valium (TV)
  • Using a smaller plate
  • Eating regular meals, so you’re not over hungry when you eat
  • Using fresh, wholesome, healthy ingredients, rather than packaged, processed food
  • Taking your time, by putting down your fork after each mouthful
  • Savouring each mouthful, enjoying the smell, texture and taste

Employing these strategies have made eating a more pleasurable experience for me, rather than a mindless activity.



Finally, to walking.  A wonderful weight bearing activity that has a range of benefits including refreshing your mind, improving your physical health and lifting your spirits.


I love walking, through the countryside, up mountains and along coastal paths.  I find it good for my soul, as well as my health.  It offers me time to remember what’s really important and re-energises me physically and mentally.  I’m fortunate enough to have walked in some wonderful places such as Peru, Iceland and Kenya as well as the UK’s National Parks and I now have the beautiful Cotswold countryside on my doorstep.  I quite enjoy the solitude of a walk alone, or with a dog.  However, if you prefer company, there are a number of walking groups and organisations countrywide that provide a convivial social environment.  Here are 3 links that may help you find one near you.




10,000 steps a day is the recommendation, however The British Heart Foundation, recommends starting with just 10 minutes a day.  Get up, get out and enjoy the fresh air and freedom of a walk.  I use a Fitbit to record mine, (alternative monitoring devices are available) and have set some other personal targets, which ‘Go Green’ when achieved.  This allows me to measure my progress and helps keep me motivated.

Being more mindful during my walks this month have added a new dimension and enhanced my experience.  Try this:  When you’re out walking, firstly focus on your breathing, the origin, the depth and pace.  Then notice how the ground feels underfoot, how each step impacts on the body, which muscles are working.  Change your focus to the environment around you and without judgement, absorb yourself in the sights, the sounds, the aromas, spending a little time to be completely mindful of each in turn.  You’ll might find you notice things you’ve missed before and start experiencing your ramble from a very different perspective.

Next month is Adventurous April.  I challenge you to step outside your comfort zone and try something you’ve not done before. Enjoy!


Are you due a life audit?

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

“Regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention.”

Frank Sinatra  


Do you ever give yourself the opportunity to stake stock?  To give yourself a few minutes, hours or even days to reflect where you’re going, where you are now and acknowledge how far you’ve come on your life journey?  It’s an interesting exercise and can sometimes be prompted, quite unexpectedly following a milestone or emotive event.

As a coach and learning specialist, I’m used to undertaking reflective practice of what I do in a professional capacity.  Although, to do a full life audit properly can be a little more painful, particularly if you really take a good long, honest look in the metaphorical mirror and ask yourself the tough questions. 

I recently returned from a trip to North Wales where I was visiting a friend on her smallholding.  She and her husband upped sticks and relocated to the Welsh hills from the Cotswolds to live their dream of owning a property with a few acres of land.  In anticipation of moving and not wanting to do anything by half, they started learning Welsh and set about finding a new base.  Now, several months after relocating to Gods own country (being Welsh I may be a little biased), they’ve established themselves into the local farming community and have acquired quite a menagerie that includes ducks, geese, chickens and a small flock of sheep.  It was a joy to see her living her dream.  I had a wonderful few days and even got to help with the lambing.  It will no doubt be one of those memorable experiences that stays with me for a lifetime. 

Watching her absorbed in her new life, got me thinking about mine.  As a child, I remember asking my Nan, if she could have anything what would it be.  She responded “To be healthy and happy.”  I’m sure I didn’t really understand the significance of that statement at the time, but I’ve since become aware of how wise she was. You can’t buy either of those things, although you can experience life with those attitudes and that outlook creates opportunities for you to live your best life…whatever it might entail.

I’ve never had a master plan for my life, but I like to think my Nan’s words have been a compass for my choices.  I left what my brother calls “a proper job” at the end of 2006 and after spending a four-month sabbatical playing in the Welsh hills, I set up as a freelance learning and development consultant.  At the time of deciding to leave that ‘proper job’ (which I loved), I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, or how things would map out.  I was restless and had a burning desire to do something else before it was too late.  I wanted to challenge myself, experience new things and spend more quality time with friends and family.

So far, my journey since then has been an eclectic mix of experiences.  I’m fortunate to have been able to strike a good balance between what a famous confectionary company calls work, rest and play.  There have been peaks and troughs, successes and missed opportunities, moments of sheer joy and utter frustration.  Life’s like that!

I’ve been lucky to work with a variety of wonderful people, across sectors, helping them to develop strategies to improve their performance in the areas that mean most to them. It’s simultaneously energising and exhausting and I hope I can continue to contribute to the development of many more interesting, fascinating and passionate people. 

One of the best bits of being self-employed is the feeling of having more choice how I spend my time. I’ve stepped outside my comfort zone and used the experiences to grow at work and at play.  I’ve travelled, met wonderful people and rekindled my love of writing through blogs, poetry and learning resources. I’m happy to work my socks off for my clients because this feeds my need for challenge, commitment and contribution.  In addition, I now give myself permission to play and enjoy the many things life has to offer.

I believe it’s important to balance the life account and ensure you’re getting the return on the investment you want.  I seek activities that feed me; my brain, my heart, my soul, as well as my bank account.  So, I’m sure Nan would approve.  I’m happy, I’m healthy and embracing what life has to offer. I’m blessed with loyal, kind and thoughtful friends, a wonderful family and fabulous clients. There’ll continue to be highs and lows and I hope I’ll handle them with confidence, passion and humour, in my own inimitable fashion, learning as I go.


What about you?  Are you living your best life, or is it time for a life audit?










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



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?






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


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.

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.

Just Because

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

“If you’re the boss, just because they don’t ask, doesn’t mean your employees don’t have needs.” 

― James Levine

In my last blog I said I wasn't a fan of 'why' and suggested you replaced the word with more creative ways of asking people for the reasons behind their decisions or actions.

I personally like to know the intentions behind people’s behaviour, so perhaps that’s one of the reasons I’m such an advocate of the word.  American psychologist Dr Robert Cialdini, in his book Influence Science and Practice, presents more compelling evidence in support of it.   He says if we ask someone for a favour we “will be more successful if we provide a reason.”   It's a word that’s used as a precursor to many explanations we receive as children, so you’ve more than likely learned to respond in a certain way when hearing it. Psychologists refer to it as a fixed-action pattern, something which triggers your pre-programmed learned behaviour.   An experiment (Langer, Blank and Chanowitz, 1978) demonstrated a simple request with the addition of ‘because’ improved compliance by over 30%, even when no real reason was given i.e. “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make some copies?”

So it would appear this simple word can be an effective influencer and powerful in its application.

In your role as a manager, trainer, mentor, when you give information to your team do you give them the ‘because’ and tell them 'why' things are done a particular way, or why you’ve made a specific request?   It would seem giving the thinking behind your requests or actions is more effective for a number of reasons…

  • It’s an effective influencer
  • It helps 'sell' your idea
  • It enables a greater understanding, thus minimising mistakes that can happen if people do things by rote
  • It can allow your team to consider viable alternatives, solutions or improvements because they appreciate the rationale
  • Having to give a reason is more likely to make you think it through

So, if you can't explain the reasons things are done a certain way, perhaps it's time you did!  Is it because you’ve always done it that way?  You may be missing more creative, efficient or effective ways of achieving the same thing.

Try it and see...because it may pay dividends.

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?

Making a difference?

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

Over the past 7 months I've have had the pleasure of working on an inspirational project with three of the major players in the active leisure sector. Funded by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), DC Leisure, MEND and Lifetime formed a partnership to recruit and train around 150, 18-24 year olds across the country to become Community Activity Leaders.  Successful candidates took part in a six month placement in leisure centers’ across England.

For a variety of reasons many of these young people have found it very difficult to find sustainable employment.   Our aim was to provide them with a job opportunity that would improve their employability by the end of their contract.

Throughout the project, as expected their performance has been mixed; some taking full advantage of the opportunity and other’s falling at the first, second or third hurdles.  It would make a fascinating psychological study into attitude and motivation.

The first batch of ‘graduates’ completed their placement last week.  Prior to their departure they attended an exit session.  This had a dual purpose, firstly it allowed us to evaluate a number of aspects about the project and just as importantly, it was designed to help them reflect on lessons learned and plan their next steps.

For the first exit session I adopted the Forrest Gump philosophy – life is like a box of chocolates…I really didn’t know what I was going to get!  It turned out to be a real joy.  The majority of these young people have gone through such a transformation in the past months; it was like they’d grown up!  They were interested, engaged and participative, genuinely appreciative and positive.  I swear I was witness to an attitude transplant in some cases!  They tackled each activity admirably and demonstrated an ability to self reflect and look to the future with a little more optimism.  I was truly exhausted by the end of the day!

The saddest thing is that some of them will be unemployed again now their contract has ended – their placement was only for 6 months.  My consolation, based on my observations during the session, is the belief that the opportunities they’ve had on this project have made them much more employable.  In fact some of them have already been offered positions at their host centre’s or elsewhere.

Although I’m known for my objectivity this is intended to be a very personal perspective.  I know projects such as these will be evaluated by the funding organisations on hard data.  The attitudinal changes and emotional impact is often excluded which I think is a shame, so in my quest to redress the balance I wanted to include some of the very human elements of the project.  After all it is about people.

There have been times during the project when I wondered whether it was all worthwhile.  My reflections following that first exit session are that if supported by people who care enough to give a damn, a project like this can make a difference.