Why I’m Celebrating Somerset Day

Today is Somerset Day.  For most of you, this may be insignificant – but for me, since I was born in Somerset and have chosen to reside here most of my life, it’s a pretty important occasion.

Somerset Day is a pretty new thing: it was created just a couple of years ago to celebrate all that is great in the county and of course, to promote the wonderful county.

I for one love the county.  I was brought up in a small village where our house was surrounded by fields.  I spent most evenings playing in the garden and fields after school; and exploring the woods on weekends.   It is the exact childhood I wanted for my own children and so when the time came, my husband and I moved to a similarly small village.   We spend much time with the children exploring nature or mores as they are growing up, playing cricket.

Somerset is clearly a great place for business too, with lots of businesses thriving.  Being in Somerset has been a real asset for my own coaching business: I love that the countryside offers space to help clients free their mind of the clutter which prevents them from seeing the wood from the trees (excuse the pun).  I love how when clients visit they instantly relax and can leave the pressures of city life behind – and I am sure this also helps clients to make real breakthroughs, enabling them to move their own business forward.  I also love driving to see clients in the county and seeing the contrast between the Levels and the various hills, and the different wildlife that brings – it brings a real appreciation of life.

I am sure that Somerset Day will promote and bring about the best of what is Somerset, and I will certainly be celebrating these successes; but it is also a really useful reminder to me of just how the county has helped shape my life and my growing business.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why a mastermind is good for you and your business

Running Mastermind sessions is a passion of mine.  I love watching a group of people who may not previously know each other form a strong group: challenging each other to get things done, bouncing business ideas around, supporting each other when work feels tough, and celebrating in each others success.

But still a lot of the people I meet in business do not know what a Mastermind is, or how it can help them and their business.

So what is a mastermind?

A Mastermind is a group of people who meet monthly (some meet more regularly or less frequently, but my groups meet monthly) to discuss areas of their business they want to work on.  The aim of the sessions is that everyone gets an opportunity to discuss an area they wish to develop and they are then supported by the rest of the group to create a clear plan on how to deliver.  This is usually achieved through good questioning by the rest of the group and also by the group offering their knowledge and expertise (it’s good to have a group with different skill-sets for this reason).  But of course, having a plan is not enough – the group is also there to hold each other accountable; ensuring that if someone has made a commitment to do something, they do it.

Why is a Mastermind good for you and your business?

1. You will be part of an exclusive community

As part of a mastermind you will become part of an exclusive group. You will meet monthly and you will form strong bonds with the group you are in.  Not only that, mastermind groups are usually formed for their complementing skills.  This means that the group as a whole will be able to problem solve easily, ideas will flow and you will develop amazing action plans that really deliver.

2.  You will have peer support

It can be pretty lonely being a business owner – particularly if you are part of a small business, or work from home.  Having people who in your mastermind who you know are in a similar position and who you can bounce ideas off is great for giving you further sense of purpose and making you feel that you are not alone.

3. You will achieve results – FAST

A huge benefit from having a group of people listening to your work issues, is that you have a range of experience to draw on.  This means that when it comes to finding solutions you will come up with them quickly.  Also you will develop great plans for delivery and have a whole group of people asking about how the work is going.  Therefore, you have accountability – there is no hiding from getting the work done.  Consequently, unless you want to be the one to admit to the rest of the group that you haven’t done what you said you would; you will get your plan delivered – and of course, that means you will get results and much faster than when working on it alone.

4. You will gain confidence

There is nothing like feeling part of a successful community and delivering in your job.  When you feel successful, guess what? Your confidence soars! Who wouldn’t want this?

5. You will grow your network

The mastermind may be small (usually less than 8 people) but you will get to know those people really well and they will become your best supporters.  Therefore, you will be introduced to / recommended to, each of the members networks over time.  Consequently, by being part of the mastermind you will grow your network not just by the number in your group, but you will typically also gain the network of those in your group.  And the best bit is, that a a group you will genuinely want to support and help each other – and that means promoting each others business, which of course, leads to more business.

6. You will meet new people to collaborate with

As a close group who want to support you (and with complementary skills), it is highly likely that members in your group might find ways of collaborating.  You might find someone in the group who is a perfect fit for a project you are working on or you might have the skill that they need.  This will allow you to achieve far more.

 

If you would like to find out more about Mastermind groups or are interested in joining a mastermind in the Somerset / Devon / Dorset area, then contact:               Yvonne@astara-coaching.co.uk for more details.

 

 

 

Why We All Need Heroes

This weekend I took my cricketing-mad son to the Somerset Ground to watch Somerset play Essex, and Charlie’s cricket-hero, Alastair Cook.  Charlie has loved cricket since he was around 18months old, when we used to throw tennis balls gently towards him, while he smashed them with his foam bat.  Over the years, he has progressed to being  a keen member of our local cricket club and avid watcher of any cricket match available.  Inevitably, this has led to him having a cricket hero, Alastair Cook: a left-handed batsman, like himself.

Charlie loved the match and was keen to watch how his idol played.  Knowing that my son would love nothing more than to be a cricketer himself, I asked him whether he thought he could do the same.  He thought for a moment and said, “Yes”.  This then led to me asking him what he would need to do to get there and we had a long conversation about the steps he would need to take, sacrifices he may need to make and how he would feel when he achieved his dream.  He was inspired – and not just inspired by what he saw, he was inspired to take action: the action to jump out of bed early this morning and go for a run (he hates running, but it was part of his plan!).

It made me think how important it is for us to all have heroes in our life.  Our heroes inspire us, give us something to strive for, someone whose behaviour we can model and give us a vision of success.  This helps us to plan what we need to do and most importantly, give us motivation for taking the all-important action.

Looking back, I have had many heroes in my life, ranging from my Mum (whose belief in equality and determination has been my inspiration), to Teachers, work colleagues and well-known Coaches.  All of these heroes have enabled me to form my own vision for my business (and life) and helped me to draw on what’s needed to get there.

Having a hero should not be limited to when you are a child; we all need at least one in our life as they really can make our life better.

 

 

 

 

 

Why Mindset Matters

Our mind is a powerful thing: it’s what creates our thoughts and ideas and drives us to take action.  But it can also hold us back from taking the action that we need.

I often coach clients who during their session becomes both clear on the outcome that they want and the actions that they need to take to get there.  I also check how they feel about it – and usually the client says that they are happy to take the action forward; and that they know it will deliver the results.  However, at the beginning of the next session, it’s clear that they haven’t done what they’ve said they are going to.  When questioned, the biggest factor to this is that the client’s mindset has got in the way and more specifically, they don’t have the thoughts and beliefs that are aligned to their outcome.

Why is this important? Well, in the years I have been coaching, the main difference between people who are successful in what they do and those who do not succeed, is mindset.  Those who have beliefs that are aligned with their outcomes can more readily generate the thoughts, feelings and therefore, actions which drive them towards that very goal.

But the good news is that if your mindset is not in the right place, it is possible to change it.  By understanding the beliefs and mindset that is holding the person back, it is possible to challenge those beliefs and thoughts by introducing opposing positive beliefs which will support the client in achieving their outcome.  Therefore, if a person has a belief that they ‘are no good with money’, then a positive belief might be that they, ‘can manage money well and always have more than they need’.  These beliefs can be strengthened by using affirmations, so the person will tell themselves positive statements associated with money daily to retrain the brain those thoughts that are going to be more aligned with their goals and outcomes.  Consequently, in this case an affirmation might be, “Money comes to me easily and I always have more than I need.”.

Affirmations are important; they help create the right mindset to create the right action and it’s that which creates success.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Learning to unplug

I was brought up to believe that I could achieve anything I wanted if I worked hard enough.  It was a belief I strongly held and yes, I have achieved lots in my life: good exam results, great career…but that did come at a cost – I did have to work really hard at it.

Not only that, when my career involved being an employed Director (employed by someone else, not my own business), it seemed that everyone was conditioned to work really hard: putting in as many hours as they could, skipping lunch, and running round the building like headless chickens whilst they demonstrated just how busy and important they were.  And yes, everyone was important, they were doing a great job – but the stress was so visible and a number of colleagues burnt out, including myself.

For me it was a wake-up call.  My burn out manifested itself in lots of illness that wouldn’t go away – my body was literally telling me to stop.  I knew that if I continued at the pace I was, my body might stop for good.  As a mother of two young children, it scared the hell out of me.

It taught me a lot – about the power of stress (and how at it’s worst it reduced me to feeling useless and helpless) but most importantly, about resilience.  I thought I was highly resilient – and I was.  That meant that I was seen as a good worker who delivered, which meant more and more work landed on my desk.  But what I learnt about resilience is that it’s all a balancing act – if our stressors exceed our resilience, then we will break (and everybody has a breaking point, no matter how resilient you think you are).

In order to become more resilient, we need self-care: we need to do things that top up our cup and make us feel good and happy. It really made me evaluate just how much I did for myself: very little.  I thought about all the things I love doing such as running, walking, reading, spending quality time with my boys, spending time with friends, taking a long soak in the bath and actually, I got to do those things infrequently.

Since then I have changed my life enormously.  I now have my own business which I have grown over the past four years – I spend my days coaching and training others in how to develop their business and make it successful.  One of the biggest messages I give, is that in order for us to be successful we cannot work at a hundred miles per hour all the time – if we try to operate like a machine, we will burn out (and actually who leaves their machines and gadgets on 24 hours a day? We all know they will burn out and go up in smoke!).  If we are to be successful we need to be clear on our strategy, focus on the important and we need to make time for ourselves; we need to unplug from the daily treadmill and do things that make us happy.  It is then we have the energy and focus to live enriched lives, to deliver what’s important and to be truly successful.

Celebrating Women Everywhere

As it’s International Women’s Day, I thought it was a good opportunity to reflect on the success of women everywhere.  Times have changed and now women are brought up believing  and expecting that we can ‘have it all’ – but that does in itself bring challenges.

I know I have said this before, but my own story is that I spent many years working in the NHS at a very senior level; whilst juggling two very small children.  I felt an obligation to work, to be a good role  model, to make use of my degree, to use my brain (I also had a financial obligation to work).  I also had a strong need to do a good job and deliver the best I could.  However, that was in direct conflict with my need to be a good mother to my boys and to not miss out on their sports days and nativities.  This resulted in a lot of guilt: guilt that I couldn’t do my job well enough and guilt that wasn’t the mother I wanted to be.

I was lucky; this was my impetus to change and I retrained as a Coach (in hindsight I am not sure how I managed this alongside working full-time and looking after the children!), and eventually I set up my own business.  I haven’t looked back – I love my job and I now have the opportunity to agree my own hours; being able to go to the important school events, help the children with their homework and have a rewarding career.  There are still juggles along the way and I don’t always get it right but I know that I am doing the best I can for both my job and for my family life; and I believe that I am finally a good role model for my children and other women who want to ‘have it all’.

Of course, I appreciate that I was lucky as I was clear about what I wanted to achieve.  It isn’t always that easy – and I coach a lot of women who feel as stuck as I was in a corporate job: wanting to find a way out, but not knowing how.  I also coach a lot of women who feel guilty about not being able to cope, or they feel they should be better in some way.  But in all the time I have been coaching, I have never met someone who isn’t genuinely doing their best, given the situation they are in (and that situation is often combining working, being the main care-giver and looking after the home).  For that, we should be proud – we should be proud of what we are achieving and most of all, we should be celebrating the success of women everywhere.

 

Every Action has a Positive Intention

“Every Action has a positive intention”, is an NLP presupposition which we should all be mindful of.  So often, we assume the worst in people – that someone is foolish for taking a particular action or selfish, or unkind…

Instead the NLP presupposition assumes that every time someone acts, they are trying to achieve something or avoid something, but that intention is coming from a good place (based on their resources, beliefs and experiences).

In my coaching sessions I have often come across clients who are angry with a colleague; a colleague whose actions may have caused upset; may have lost the organisation customers; or caused damage in some way.  Clients become so focused on the resulting outcome, that they fail to understand that their colleague did not come to work with the intention of doing a bad job.  In fact, most people go to work wanting to do the best they can but sometimes it goes wrong: in trying to achieve something, they take an action which they believe is the right one, but it results in something unintended.  Asking clients to see it from the colleague’s perspective or to discuss the learning from it, rather than dealing only with the outcome, is far more productive (and supportive) and often prevents the incident from becoming more damaging.

I often have to remind myself of this presupposition when it comes to my children too.  Once I left my son in the living room for a few minutes to come back in and find him drawing on the floor.  I instantly wanted to shout and tell him to stop, but reminded myself not to.  Instead, I asked him what he was trying to do, “I’m making a cave!”, he replied, beaming from ear to ear.  My heart instantly melting and I said, “Ok, that sounds fabulous – how about we get some giant paper, so you can make your cave really big and so it doesn’t damage the floor?”.  “Yes, please.”, he replied, eager to keep playing and to keep me happy.

The outcome was good: my son got what he wanted; and not only did my approach save any more damage; it also allowed everyone to continue to feel good (instead of causing upset which would have happened if I shouted).

Remembering that people’s actions generally come from a good intention really does have benefits, for working relationships and at home.

A change in perspective

“We can’t change others, we can only change ourselves.”, is a presupposition in Neurolinguistic programming which helps us to understand the differences between people but also the reactions that people have.

We all have experience, beliefs and values and intrinsic preferences (such as how we take in information or express ourselves) which means that we see events differently; and most importantly, how we react to events and interact with others.

So often in coaching, my clients raise issues about relationship with others – opening up about their frustration that someone has behaved in a particular way, said something hurtful or not understood their point of view.  And this is often followed a statement that the other person is, “unreasonable” and by the question, “How can I get them to change?”  The assumption being, that the problem sits with the other person and that by that other person changing, it would solve ‘the problem’.

In truth, the reality is, that we cannot change others but all is not lost – we can change ourselves which in turn, can improve the situation all round.  That change, usually starts with a change in perspective and by that, I literally mean trying to imagine what it is like to be in the other person’s shoes.

How can you do this?  Well, it starts by really imagining yourself to be them!  Start by taking on their posture, think about their likes and dislikes and what it is they need.  Then as you move on, think about what it is that they need from you.  The play out the conversations or interactions you have had with them; and think about how you may have contributed to the outcome.  Did you give them the information they needed?  Did you come with beliefs about how the other person would react, which affected the communication style (it’s surprising how often we are guilty of communicating in a defensive way because we are anticipating a particular reaction!)?  Did you take into account what was going on in the other person’s life and show empathy?

So often, when we see this new perspective, we get a huge sense of understanding and that as a minimum gives us a shift in how we see that event.  It literally changes us and can remove much of the angst and frustration around the event.

Furthermore, that new level of understanding gives us real insight in how we can change our communication with the other person; telling us what they need to hear, how we should say it and what body language we can use.  And guess what?  This change in us, often creates a change in the reaction we get – so good all round.

So next time you are getting frustrated with someone else (particularly if it’s an ongoing relationship such as family or work colleagues), do try to understand that person more, see a new perspective and don’t be afraid to change yourself – it will always be for the better.

Productivity doesn’t always mean working harder

School holidays for me represents a change in pace in my work as I juggle seeing clients (usually fewer due to their own holidays), creating programmes and web content and of course, entertaining my two crazy, energetic and lovely boys.

This always makes me reflect on what are the most important tasks I need to complete, which I can also do in short bursts whilst the children are playing football or entertained by a DVD.  But of course, the whole reason I changed my career and began working for myself was because I wanted to spend MORE time with my children – and actually doing stuff with them, rather than being in the same room, doing my work whilst they do something else.

What I have found during these holidays is that actually when I am most relaxed – whether it’s lying on the sun lounger on holiday or chilling out with the boys after an energetic game of cricket, is that ideas come more freely.  There’s something about relaxing which means I don’t have to think too hard for the ideas to come.  So for me, spending that quality time with the children has been really productive – it has meant I have come up with some really focused ideas about how I can take my business forward.  I have captured these ideas by scribbling them down and translating these ideas into small workable tasks- which I can either take forward when the children go to bed, or I can take forward when the children go back to school in a few weeks.  And what is great, is that I feel more energised because I have a much stronger focus on what I’m delivering and yet I have not done this through working harder – I have done this by having fun and enjoying time with my family.

Productivity comes in many forms, but it doesn’t necessarily mean working harder…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Understanding who we are not

Recently I met a Coaching client who was struggling to market her business.  As a fellow Coach she knew that she was the face of the business and that to attract clients she had to show more of herself and so had to be clear about who she is and what she can offer.

As coaches, we usually focus on what we want, believing that having a solution focused approach is what draws us towards our outcome.  But when she was thinking about who she was and how she wanted to be perceived she was feeling really stuck.  So to help her through I had to turn that thinking on it’s head.

So I posed the question – “Who are you not?”.  The shift was immediate as my client could immediately describe the image, skills and attributes that didn’t fit with her.  She then proceeded to admit that there were other skills and attributes that she admired in other coaches and which she aspired to be (and often presented herself a being), but actually in reality they were not part of her.  This meant that when she tried to market herself, she wasn’t being authentic.

This naturally led to the question, “Who are you?” and “What makes you unique?” which created a clear vision of who she is, what she does well, how she can support her clients and led to her describing her unique selling point.  She felt so much more conformable with her new vision and realised that by being able to sell herself in an authentic way, she would then attract the right clients to her.

It was a good learning curve for me too.  I love solution focused coaching but I’ve learned that to truly understand ourselves we sometimes need to explore what isn’t us, to fully understand what is.