Life lessons from Adele

At the Grammys in 2016, Adele’s live performance of All I Ask was blighted by sound problems. Speaking on The Ellen Show later that week, she said, ‘Next time I have any sound issues, I am going to start over. [I’ll say,] “Sorry, that’s not working for me.”‘

Fast forward to this year’s Grammys where Adele was invited to perform a tribute to her hero and friend, George Michael. Forty five seconds into a slowed down, orchestral version of Fastlove, she realised she’d got off to a very shaky start and did what she said she’d do: she stopped and started again.

I have huge respect for anyone who has the self-awareness to realise things aren’t working and the determination and confidence to take action to address the problem. Asking for a second chance, or a ‘do over‘ as my friends in the US call it, is surely a sign of strength.

Today’s pebble for your consideration: are you realising that you’re doing something you really ought to stop and start again? Will you do so?

Any thoughts?


Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.

If you’d like to make progress in your work and life, email me and let’s have a conversation about how we can work together.


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Change and wisdom

One of my goals for 2017 was to join a choir and so on Monday evening, I found myself in a church in a local town with a dozen people I’d never met before. After some warm up exercises, our first song wasn’t one I know but I recognised the words. It’s called the Serenity Prayer Song and you may recognise the words too:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change all I can
And the wisdom to know the difference

Those words reminded me of a conversation I had with a client recently. We had used my ‘circles of influence‘ tool to help Ella process her concerns around an issue at work which had led us onto a discussion about what we can and can’t change.

Ella’s a very visual person so she set to work with her coloured pens on a huge sheet of paper to list and illustrate her cans and can’ts. As some of it was quite personal, I won’t share a photo of it but I do have her permission to share the general subject headings.

Things I can’t change

  • Other people
  • World events
  • The past
  • The passage of time
  • My boss

Things I can change

  • My behaviour towards other people, whether that’s family, friends or strangers
  • My attitude towards world events: instead of being anxious or depressed, I can learn more about them, find out how I can help or make a difference, even if it’s only in a small way
  • I can change my future by reflecting on my past, seeing what I can learn from my decisions I made and experiences I had so I can plans for the future
  • My attitude towards getting older: maybe I can’t do all the things I used to do (due to responsibilities, physical changes, work and life circumstances) but I’m moving into a new phase of life. I am a different person at 40 to who I was at 20 and I have a different set of opportunities ahead of me
  • My attitude towards my boss. I can learn more about who she is, what makes her tick and how I can help her. Ultimately, if I’m still not happy, I can change my job


After we finished, I asked Ella how she felt. ‘I feel great,’ she said, ‘I feel calmer knowing what it is I can’t change and I can devote my energy and attention to those things I can change.’

Today’s pebble for your thoughts:  could it help you this week to evaluate the things you can change and those you can’t?

What do you think?



Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching. 

If you’d like to make progress in your work and life, email me and let’s have a conversation about how we can work together.


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When teamwork isn’t working – resolving conflict

Claire* was frustrated. ‘The project itself is going great,’ she told me during a session, ‘but the atmosphere in the team is terrible. I’m all for healthy debate and I don’t expect everyone to agree all the time, but two of the team are at odds with each other and it’s having an impact on us all. I need to come up with a plan.’

Before we set to work on a plan, I wanted to know more about what was going on. Claire gave me background about the team as a whole and her perspective on the working (or should we say ‘not working’?) relationship between Sarah and James*.‘They’re both very talented and good at what they do but they’re competing with each other and it’s getting out of hand. It reminds me of two children fighting over a board game: it feels like any minute now, one of them is going to tip over the board and storm off. I can’t fix it for them but as their manager, I need to find a way to facilitate a better working relationship between them. I’ve talked to them both individually but they don’t seem to be able to talk to each other about it.’


We worked through Claire’s options for dealing with the situation and she came up with the following plan.

  • Gain acknowledgment from both parties of the existence of the conflict
  • Understand the impact of the conflict on each other and on the team
  • Gain their commitment to deal with it
  • Ask them each to acknowledge the value the other adds to the team
  • Ask each of them to describe their current relationship
  • Ask each of them how they would like it to be
  • Ask each of them to describe three specific ways in which they can work towards creating the better relationship they just described
  • Discuss the potential impact of these actions on the team and on each other
  • Commit to the specific actions
  • Agree a timescale in which to review them

A couple of weeks she’d held the meeting with Sarah and James, Claire called me to update me on how it went. ‘It wasn’t the easiest conversation I’ve ever had but having got them to commit to dealing with the situation, we ploughed on with it and by the end of the session, we’d agreed a way forward. It’s early days but I’m already seeing a change in the way they behave towards each other. What’s even better, they are noticing it themselves and so is the team.’

Today’s pebble for you to ponder: whether it’s your children going through a tough patch with each other or a tricky working relationship between colleagues, how can you help facilitate resolution of that conflict?

Any thoughts?

*All names have been changed.

Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching. 

If you’d like to make progress in your work and life, email me and let’s have a conversation about how we can work together.

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Feeling like a fraud? Dealing with imposter syndrome

Jon* and I were sitting in silence as I waited for him to respond to my question about how he was feeling since he’d started his dream job. After a while, he looked up and said, ‘It’s great, I guess, but there’s this nagging voice in my head that’s really bugging me.’

‘What’s it saying?’

‘Stuff like  – “who do you think you are?” or  “maybe you just got lucky”.’

Like so many of us, Jon was experiencing imposter syndrome which is also known as ‘fraud syndome’ or ‘impostor syndrome’ (in writing this, I’ve learnt that both imposter and impostor are correct spellings). In fact, a study suggests that 70% of us will experience this syndrome at least once during our lives and is often experienced at times of high achievement.


Whilst the fact that most of us have this experience occasionally can be comforting in itself, Jon was looking for something he could actually do to combat imposter syndrome. We decided to start by listing all the ways in which the syndrome showed up for Jon. On giant sticky notes, he wrote the following:

  1. I’m not a real expert.
  2. I only got the job because I was lucky.
  3. The other managers seem so much more confident than me.
  4. I daren’t ask for help.
  5. When other people give me positive feedback, they’re just being nice.
  6. If I make a mistake, they’ll see me for who I really am.

Sticky note by sticky note, I challenged Jon to dig a bit deeper and consider each imposter thought from a different viewpoint.

  1. What is a ‘real’ expert anyway? Sure, there are people here who have been here for ages and know everything there is to know about the business but I have relevant skills and experience and can bring a fresh perspective.
  2. It wasn’t luck. I went through a pretty gruelling interview process and I worked hard to demonstrate why I was right for the role. The Director agreed and that’s why I got the job.
  3. I’m comparing how I feel on the inside with their external appearance. I have no idea if they feel that confident inside. Maybe they sometimes feel like imposters too.
  4. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. My manager is there to help me. I have my coach. I am building relationships with my peers: I can ask them to help and in turn, I can offer to help them.
  5. If I refuse to accept positive feedback, I am questioning the judgment of the person offering it. I will thank them for the feedback and will work on learning to accept it.
  6. I’m only human. I will make mistakes. What matters more is how I recover from those mistakes.

As a final action point, I asked Jon to spend a few minutes each evening jotting down a few lines about what had gone well and what hadn’t gone so well that day.

That was six months ago. I spoke to Jon recently. ‘I have to admit, I do still feel a bit like a fraud sometimes,’ he commented, ‘but now I recognise that and analyse the underlying thought behind that feeling. Keeping a diary has helped me process my thoughts each day but also gives me the opportunity to look back and see that actually, things are going really well and I am making progress.’

Today’s pebble for your consideration: do you recognise imposter syndrome? What steps can you take to deal with it this week?

What do you think?

*Client’s name has been changed.

Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching. 

If you’d like to make progress in your work and life, email me and let’s have a conversation about how we can work together.




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You’ll never get anything done if you don’t do this

Picture this.

As I’m falling asleep one night, I think to myself ‘I must do the washing tomorrow’ and decide I’ll do it first thing before work.

Next morning, I sort the washing into lights, darks, and delicates.

I carry the first load downstairs to the washing machine.

I place the clothes in the washing machine.

I shut the door firmly.

I add the detergent to the dispensing drawer.

I turn the dial to the correct programme on the washing machine.

I walk away.

I return a couple of hours later, ready to go and hang out the washing on the line in the garden.

I see that nothing’s happened: the dirty clothes are still dirty clothes.

What’s gone wrong?

And then I realise exactly what’s happened.

Without this, nothing happens

Without this, nothing happens

I didn’t press ‘start‘.

I’ve worked with a lot of people who have some audacious goals, some fantastic intentions and some marvellous plans. Many of those people have gone on to make them a reality. Some of them haven’t.

For the majority of those who haven’t been able to realise their goals, the most common reason is that they just didn’t get going. For one reason or another, they didn’t press ‘start‘.

It seems so obvious but if we never start, we can never finish.

Starting to work towards a degree in Law doesn’t mean you have to take the final exams today; perhaps the first step is to find out whether your current qualifications would be sufficient or if you need to take some additional courses.

Starting your own business doesn’t mean you have to win Entrepreneur of the Year this year; maybe the first step is to check out your competition and clarify what you will offer.

Starting to train for a marathon when your longest run so far is a 5k doesn’t mean you have to go out and run a half marathon next Saturday; perhaps the first step is to work towards a 10k race.

We’ve probably all heard the Lao Tzu quote ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’ Without that first step, that starting point, nothing will ever happen.

Today’s pebble for you to ponder: So you have a goal: have you pressed ‘start’?

What do you think?

Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching. 

If you’d like someone to help you get started so that you can make progress in your work and life, email me and let’s have a conversation about how we can work together.







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Can difficult conversations be made any easier?

We all have to have tricky conversations from time to time. At work, they might start with ‘Have you got five minutes for a quick chat?’ (usually at 5.25pm on a Friday!); at home, ‘We need to talk’ might be the opener.

Last week, I was working with a client – let’s call him Steve – on this very subject. He’s been managing his team for about nine months now and it’s been a pretty turbulent time for the organisation. He’s been on the receiving end of some difficult conversations and has had to initiate several too. He was looking for a better way to handle them.

To work out what a good difficult conversation would look like, first I asked Steve to list all the ways a difficult conversation could be truly terrible. Here are just some of his thoughts:

  • The wrong time
  • The wrong place
  • Off the cuff
  • Failure to allow the other person time to process the information
  • Too personal
  • One-sided
  • Failure to listen
  • Angry tone

groucho marx If you speak when angry, you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret.

Having established that, Steve could then identify the elements he needed to consider each time he faces a difficult conversation:

Pick the right time and place

The office canteen is not the place for a tricky conversation. Neither is it a good idea to initiate one as your colleague is putting on his coat and heading off to collect his children from school. Steve is aware of his team’s commitments outside work and they share a diary so he can see when they are in meetings. He has resolved to book meeting rooms and to choose times which will allow the conversation to take place without either party anxiously clock-watching.

Plan ahead

Raising a tough issue is not a ‘oh, I’m glad I bumped into you –  I just wanted to chat to you about …’ kind of thing. Steve will make sure he’s thought through the issues, made notes of what he’d like to get across and what questions he’d like to ask. When it’s appropriate, he will give the other party advance warning of the subject in order to allow them to plan ahead too.

Allow time for processing the subject

Following on from planning ahead, Steve noted that he can’t always give the other party the subject matter in advance. In all cases, but particularly in this case where the news may come as a surprise or be difficult to hear, Steve realised that it’s essential he allows the other party time to digest what’s being said. He admits that he is sometimes rather nervous about his team member’s reaction so he just keeps on talking, hoping to somehow make it easier. He’s noticed that this can lead to his colleague feeling overwhelmed and almost switching off from the conversation. He will either slow down the pace of the conversation (and stay quiet) or in some circumstances, offer a break in proceedings and they can pick up again later.

Allow time for questions and to listen effectively

Steve said that he sometimes felt tempted to rush his way through delivery of the uncomfortable conversation so he could wrap it up and move on and acknowledged that this made it rather a one-sided process. Just as it’s necessary to allow time for processing, it’s essential his colleague has time to ask questions and seek clarification. Likewise, he needs to take time to actively listen to his team member and to do so with an open mind.

Stay calm and professional

Groucho Marx (probably) said ‘If you speak when angry, you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret.’ An angry conversation is rarely a helpful one. Like most of us, Steve has unfortunately had experiences at work and outside work which have made him angry and, again like most of us, he’s wanted to address the matter there and then. ‘That’s when it gets too personal. I focus on the person, not the behaviour; I say things I don’t mean; I generalise and worst of all, I get shouty. It never helps.’ To counteract this, Steve’s going to count to ten (or a hundred!), and then work his way through this list to help him make a difficult conversation as effective as possible.

How about you?

Today’s pebble for you to consider: how will you handle difficult conversations better?

What do you think?

Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching. 

If you’d like to make progress in your work and life, email me and let’s have a conversation about how we can work together.





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Looking for an epiphany?

When I sat down to write this post, I realised that it would be published on 6 January: Epiphany.

Aside from its Christian connotation, epiphany is also defined thus:

a sudden, intuitive perception of, or insight into, reality or the essential meaning of something, often initiated by some simple, commonplace occurrence.

Like many of you, I spent time over the Christmas break reflecting on the events of 2016 from both a personal and a wider perspective and looking forward to 2017. I had already chosen my one word for 2017 (you might like to choose more than one) but still felt that there was something missing, something I was yet to discover about my plans for 2017.

Then I came across a post by Brené Brown on Instagram outlining four questions she asks herself at the end of each year. Working through those questions,  I had my own epiphany: my own intuitive perception of what I was missing through four simple questions.

Here’s my slightly edited version of her questions:

2017-blog-graphic1. What do I want more of in my life?

2. What do I want less of? What’s no longer working for me?

3. What will make me feel more alive?

4. At the end of every day, and at the end of every year, I need to know that I contributed more than I criticized. How have I contributed and what will that look like moving forward?

I’m not going to share my answers with you and I can’t guarantee that if you ask yourself these four questions that you will have a sudden revelation of how to make 2017 your best year yet. I don’t believe either that this is a once a year process where everything falls into place on 1 January and we just follow the steps until 31 December!

However, I do believe that it’s helpful to pause every now and then to reflect and evaluate, making tweaks to our plans and checking our course as necessary.

Today’s pebble for you to ponder: are you looking for an epiphany? What are you doing to help that happen?

What do you think?

Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching. 

If you’d like someone to walk alongside you as you gain clarity about your work, your life and what you’d like to achieve, email me and let’s have a conversation about how we can work together.

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