Do you want to be recognised?

Picture the scene. It’s the end of a very long day. You have worked your butt off to get the task in hand finished and not only is it finished, it’s brilliant! It’s all they asked for and more. It’s under-budget, it’s on time and frankly, it’s a miracle that you got it done. You’re worn out but so pleased with how it’s all gone.

What would you like to happen next?

You may not be expecting a ticker tape parade but you might quite like someone to at least notice what you’ve achieved. Lowell Milken, the American pioneer of education reform, had this to say about recognition:

‘The power of recognition is one of the strongest forces for stimulating human and social action.’

That may be so. The topic of recognition is one which often comes up in coaching sessions with my clients. In a recent conversation, John (not his real name) and I were talking about what might prevent people giving recognition when it’s due.

What stops us giving due recognition?


John identified four obstacles to recognition: some of which he’d noticed in himself, some of which he’d seen in others –

Not noticing someone’s contribution in the first place

If you’re a manager of a large team, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly who did what. John realised he needs to take time to engage with his team to ensure he’s aware of each individual’s contribution rather than making assumptions.

Not being specific enough

Leading on from his first point, John noted that a general ‘good job!’ is almost worse than no recognition at all. Knowing who did what allows him to offer specific praise to the individual with the result that the individual knows that she has been noticed and her contribution acknowledged.

Not wishing to sound corny or fake

John talked about how awkward he’d felt in the past when he’d been recognised in public – in team meetings or even at a company conference. I asked him how he’d prefer to be recognised and whether he knew how the various members of his team might like to receive praise. John commented that maybe that ‘corny’ feeling wouldn’t necessarily apply to everyone: ‘some of the team are really extroverted and love public praise so they wouldn’t find it fake at all; for the others, I need to come up with ways to praise them that are more suited to their personalities. I had a handwritten thank you note once from the CFO that I’ve kept for years.’

Isn’t it enough that we pay them a salary?

John remembered a conversation he’d had with a fellow manager before a company meeting at which a few key workers were going to be publicly honoured for the value they added.

‘I just don’t get it,’ said the other manager, ‘we pay them a good salary. Isn’t that enough? Why do we have to go through all this rigmarole?’

We’ve all metaphorically walked a little taller when we’ve been given some positive feedback, haven’t we? That would suggest that how we feel about our work isn’t just governed by how we feel about our salary. An employee who feels valued by their employer feels engaged with their employer and a company with high levels of employee engagement is a more successful company.

However, John pointed out that it’s not just about making the company more successful: it’s about the importance of expressing gratitude to others for the difference they make, whether that’s in the office or out there in the real world.

Today’s pebble for you to ponder: are you good at giving praise and recognition where it’s due?

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, why not email me to see how we can work together?

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One hundred days

‘When you interview for a new job, they often ask you what you’d do in the first hundred days,’ said my client – let’s call him Phil. ‘Now I’m about to resign and I’m on three months’ notice, I’d like to think about what I want to do in the last hundred days.’

I was intrigued so I asked him to tell me a little more.

‘Well, this company’s been good to me and I want to make sure that I leave my team and my projects in the best shape possible. We’ve had our tough times but I want to feel that I’ve gone out on a high. I want to look back at my time with them and be proud of what I’ve achieved and the legacy I’m leaving behind.’

With that in mind, Phil chose his three key areas of focus – his team, his projects and his handover – and we spent his session setting goals for the last hundred days of his time with the company. He committed to some daily, weekly and monthly action points and identified whose help he would need in order to achieve them.

You may not be on the point of resigning and even if you are, you may be on one week’s notice or six months’ notice, so you may be wondering how this post relates to you.

Well, this post is published on Friday 16 September 2016. On Thursday 22 September, there will be one hundred days of this year left. Rather than spring this on you, I thought I’d give you a few days to contemplate that fact and decide what you might like to achieve in the remainder of this year. Whether it’s a huge goal or a small goal, whether it’s to do with work or family, all of us can probably think of something that we’d like to look back on with satisfaction by the end of the year.

days dates goals reflection questions achievement

Today’s pebble for you to ponder: what will you achieve in the final one hundred days of 2016?

What do you think?


Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching. 

If you’d like someone to help you achieve your goals for the next hundred days and beyond, why not email me to see how we can work together?




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Distraction from distraction by distraction

Ever Googled ‘dealing with distraction’? I just did: there are about 1,210,000 results. Actually, first of all, I Googled ‘distraction’ – 58.8 million results, in case you’re interested … but, sorry, that’s just a distraction from my point.

distraction from distraction by distraction ts eliot four quarters burnt norton

We can assume that lots of people search the internet looking for ways to deal with distraction. Several of my clients have talked to me about how to handle being distracted in the workplace or at home and we’ve found ways for them to combat the issue.

A client of mine – let’s call her Joanna – said something very interesting in one such session and I think it reveals something we’re not that keen on admitting about distraction.

‘I’m not even properly distracted,’ she said, ‘I’m distractified.’

‘You’re ‘distractified’? Tell me more about that,’ I asked, wondering what was coming next.

‘Oh, that’s just what I call it when I know that there’s nothing external getting in my way, it’s just me finding stuff to do so I don’t have to start the other thing. You know, like a sudden urge to tidy out the filing cabinet instead of writing up a performance review, or looking online for holidays instead of sending an email to my sister about why we’re not going to them for Christmas. That’s distractifying!’

With that one word, I think Joanna nailed what is possibly a major reason for distraction – we distract ourselves as an avoidance technique. I’m pretty certain that each of you reading this can think of at least one situation in which you’ve distractified yourself. Am I right?

This distractification – this intentional (although possibly subconscious) distraction – acts like a big fluffy blanket, protecting us from the task or situation we’d really rather avoid.

Why do we do it? All sorts of reasons: we may be scared, we may be unsure, we may be feeling overwhelmed or exhausted, or we may just be feeling a little bit lazy. The problem is that sooner or later, we’ll need to put down that comfort blanket and deal with the issue. So how do we do that?

I don’t think that there is just one answer to that question but here’s one idea: do a small task. If the issue you’re distracting yourself seems too big to tackle, just do a part of it. If it’s too scary to deal with, take one small step forward by speaking to someone else and enlisting their support. If you recognise you’re possibly being a bit lazy, try spending 15 minutes on the task and see what you manage to achieve.


Today’s pebble for your contemplation: are you distracting yourself from an issue or situation you need to tackle? What small task will you undertake this week to help you deal with it?


Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching. 

If you’d like to make progress in your work and life, why not email me to see how we can work together?

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How coaching can help you handle stress

Here is a picture of one of our vegetable beds at the height of Summer:

image only green manureEven the most horticulturally-minded of you is probably thinking ‘I’ve never seen those vegetables before.’

Well spotted! There are indeed no vegetables in that vegetable bed: those are the flowers of a seed mix known delightfully as ‘green manure’. We’ve been planting veg in that bed for several years now and each year, we’d notice that the harvest wasn’t quite as good as the year before. The soil had been over-used and its resources were depleted.

One possible solution would be to clear out the veg bed and just leave it empty for a season. We soon realised though that it would be impossible to stop it becoming choked with weeds.

Another option would be to cover the whole patch with black plastic. That would suppress the weeds but apart from that, it wouldn’t really add anything to the exhausted soil.

And so we went for option three: sow green manure seeds. As well as preventing the bed filling with weeds, these seeds are selected for the nutrients they add to the soil once you cut them down and dig them back into the ground.

How coaching can help you

Our personal and professional lives can become like that vegetable bed: depleted in resources, seeing diminishing returns on our work, feeling exhausted.

Perhaps you think ‘it’ll all be fine, I’ll just flop on the sofa tonight and watch a film’ but then you find you can’t concentrate on the film as your mind is busy replaying your day, worrying about how your direct report reacted or why your boss hasn’t replied to that e-mail. Maybe you take your laptop home, feeling that if you can just get some work done away from the hustle and bustle of the office, tomorrow will be a better day.

These solutions aren’t really solutions, are they? You’re still worn out, still worrying and your resources aren’t being replenished.

As a coach, I help people discover what’s behind their stress and how they can make some changes. Together we examine how they spend their time and whether that’s the best use. We uncover what’s really important to them and ensure those areas are prioritised. During a session, away from their desks and their phones, my clients’ minds lie fallow whilst at the same time, we replenish their resources. In that thinking space, they are refreshed and restored, leaving sessions with new energy, ideas and plans.

Like the soil, mind is fertilized while it lies fallow, until a new burst of bloom ensues.

Today’s pebble for you to contemplate: where do you find the space to allow your mind to lie fallow and be restored?

If you would like to find some thinking space for yourself, why not email me to see how we can work together?


Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching. 



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It’s a sign! Changed priorities ahead

For the last couple of weeks, we’ve been in France. We drove about 650 miles during our trip: it was quite something getting used to driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road and the different road signs: yellow diamonds, symbols that look a bit like missiles but indicate priority, and so on. However, I noticed this sign just after we disembarked from the ferry on our return to the UK.

changed priorities ahead roadsign

Changed priorities ahead – hmm, sounds like a cue for a blog post!

I don’t think of myself as a visual learner but signs seem to inspire me. This one got me thinking about my priorities and how they have changed over time. My values remain constant and underpin all I do but circumstances at work or at home mean that my priorities shift. Sometimes the changes in circumstances are down to me – other times, external factors have played a part: either way, my priorities needed to shift.

Today’s pebble for your contemplation: have your priorities changed? If so, have you adjusted your goals to match those new priorities?

If ‘changed priorities ahead’ rings true for you and you’d like someone to help you plot your new route, why not email me to see how we can work together?


Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.

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From August 2011: What makes you come alive?

I’m taking a screen break for a couple of weeks so am bringing you a couple of August archive posts – this week, it’s the turn of What makes you come alive?

There’s no denying the fact that we are living in an uncertain economic era. When it comes to the job market, people are asking themselves which career they should pursue to ensure they can find employment at the end of their training. If we want to emigrate to particular countries, it’s a lot easier if our work is on the ‘skilled occupation list’. As potential university students consider their course choices, the introduction of £9k a year tuition fees is focussing their minds on which option will give them the best ROI.

So which careers are needed? You could say that people will always be born, need education, need food, become ill, need care in later life and ultimately die. Maybe that suggests a career as a chef or an undertaker, a teacher or a midwife.

Do you want to be taught by a teacher who’s only a teacher because she saw a gap in the market? Do you want to eat a meal prepared by a chef who’s actually a frustrated forensic scientist? (I guess that chef would probably be very good at carving!)

‘Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do%

Howard Thurman, an influential American philosopher and civil rights leader said this:

‘Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.’

Today’s pebble for your contemplation:

What makes you come alive?

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, why not email me to see how we can work together?


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From August 2010: The long and winding road

I’m taking a screen break for a couple of weeks so am bringing you a couple of August archive posts – this week, it’s the turn of The long and winding road …

When I started training as a coach, the task ahead of me seemed huge. I had to read many books, attend workshops, write countless assignments, create personal development plans, be coached myself and coach five people for six months.

Laid out before me like a map were the various stages of my journey: my internal satnav would tell me things like ‘complete five learner sessions then turn to your feedback questionnaire’. Sometimes I came up against roadblocks – struggling with a particular assignment or a client having to cancel our session. I had to take a diversion and as soon as possible return to the route to my destination.

But we all know that if you’re driving, you can’t read a map at the same time. That’s why some people have satnav, even downloading celebrity voices so that they can be given directions by Darth Vader or Homer Simpson. That disembodied voice keeps them on track and giving them alternative routes when they come up against traffic jams.


Whilst I was doing my course, I needed to surround myself with people who could keep me on track. My husband, my coach, and a colleague all played their parts in checking my progress, helping me work my way around the various roadblocks, keeping me on track when I felt like wandering off. Being accountable to someone else as well as myself meant I couldn’t make excuses or wallow in bouts of ‘what have I taken on here?’ and provided me with an incredibly patient and unending source of encouragement along the way. They all played their part in ensuring I got to my desired destination for which I am very grateful.

Having learnt the value of accountability, I’ve continued to seek out such relationships and to offer accountability to others.

Today’s pebble for you is this:

Who or what keeps you on track?

Any thoughts?


Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching. 

If you’d like to make progress in your work and life, why not email me to see how we could work together?

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