Ivy House was born

Ivy House was born

In July 2013 I was sitting on the 33rd floor of a very glossy building, waiting for my coaching client to arrive. I was staring out of the sheet glass window marvelling at the mix of buildings and lives I could see going on below me and did what I always did before a coaching session. I tried to still my mind so that I could be fully there for my client. For some reason, on this day it was difficult. I became aware of a growing anxiety inside me.

Like many of my clients, he was seen to be ‘at the top of his game’. He was at the most senior level in a global organisation, earning millions of pounds a year with at least two beautiful homes that I knew of. To the outside world is life looked pretty perfect. But through our coaching, it had become very apparent that that was not the case. His marriage was falling apart, he had recently been told by the school that his daughter was self-harming, he lived in constant fear of losing his job and he had started to have chest pains on a very regular basis.

Our session began as they usually did, with him listening, with a growing sense of doom, all the things that were going wrong in his company and life, until about twenty minutes into the session he stopped talking and just stared at me.

“What’s wrong?” he asked. “Are you ok?”

“Me? Yes, why?” I replied.

“You’re crying.”

He was right. Tears were literally streaming down my face.

As I sat there, with the one tissue I had becoming a sodden scrap, I realised something had to change.

I was crying out of frustration. My client did not need to be this unhappy but he had never been taught to figure out who he really was, who he wanted to be and how to get there. He had never been shown the way to find an inner confidence that stayed with you whatever you faced. He had never understood the secrets to creating a truly successful life and, things had had to get pretty bad, before he had even started to look. Why the hell did no one teach us this stuff sooner? What the hell were we waiting for?

And that was the day Ivy House was born.

Do you play
the two-faced game?

Do you play
the two-faced game?

I was out to dinner the other night with my lovely husband. I hadn’t seen him for ages and, rather frustratingly for him, my attention was caught by a group at a nearby table. Picture the scene: two couples in their mid-twenties and an older lady, an aunt or mother perhaps, out for a celebration. The older lady – I imagine she’d been a war correspondent – was telling some amazing tales of her travels. But what really caught my attention was the woman sitting next to her. Going through the motions of polite listening, she made it absolutely clear to everyone else how much contempt she had for the older lady. The transparency was astounding, and the negative energy emitted was overpowering.

The game of doing the right thing on the surface, whilst at the same time making your real feelings perfectly clear, is as common as it is destructive. People do it all the time, and it really couldn’t be further away from smart, kind, respectful and authentic behaviour.

Be alert to it over the next few days. Do you, or people close to you, play this game?

PS. Depending on your disposition, you may or may not be glad to know that I didn’t follow her into the ladies and tell her what I thought of her game. My husband wouldn’t let me!

Do you tell little lies?

Do you tell little lies?

Susan regularly lied to avoid conflict or disagreement. ‘Not really lies at all. Small lies to avoid disappointing people’. She would say it wasn’t her decision when she was given feedback on an unpopular decision; she would say she had read the documents when she hadn’t; and she would say she was busy when she didn’t want to go to an afterwork drinks party.

When we asked for feedback on her as a leader, people said they didn’t really trust her. No, she hadn’t told huge lies, and she hadn’t defrauded anyone, but every day she had whittled people’s trust away. She had neither the courage nor the skill to speak her truth, and if she wanted to be a leader that people would choose to follow, she’d have to find both.

How good are your conversations?

How good are your conversations?

If we could fix one thing in businesses and relationships, it would be the quality of conversations. More than anything else, it is the quality of conversations that impacts how we feel, what we do and the results we get. Why then are we SO bad at them? There are 3 reasons:

We show up thinking we have to win.

We don’t. We are there to come up with the best solution together. And guess what – that may not be your solution.

We don’t truly listen

If we did, we would realise that there is a lot more information out there that we could consider, and it may change our mind.

We have no process.

Sometimes we pretend we do by having an agenda. But agendas aren’t a process, they are a list of things to discuss. Processes look at how we discuss things, how we ensure that all the best ideas are brought out and developed, and how we make decisions.

Do some reading on how to have an effective conversation and you will change EVERY relationship in your life.

Change the script

Change the script

The love of your life has finished with you. They walked out the door and that’s it. Over.
What does this mean?

‘I’m ugly.’
‘No one will ever love me.’
‘I can’t go on without her.’
‘He’s in love with someone else.’

People love being right so we assume that what we tell ourselves is true. I tell myself I’m ugly, and I believe it. I tell myself I’m unlovable, and I believe it.

The thing is, it is just a script. And if the script is hurting you, if it makes you feel bad, you can rewrite it. So, what would you like to tell yourself?

What to do when it all goes to hell

What to do when it all goes to hell

Why me? Why now? Why not him? Why not her? This isn’t happening! Oh god, it’s happening!

Sound familiar? Denial, overwhelm and despair. What else is there to do when we’d rather be anywhere else but here and anyone else but us? And then there’s the guilt, the regret, the grief and the hurt that come later.

Whether we like it or not – and what’s there to like – things are not going to go our way some of the time. It’s inevitable and impossible to avoid. So, what’s there to do?

The first step in dealing with catastrophe – and the most challenging – is to stay present. We must fully accept what’s happening. Wishing things were different, and burying our head in the sand, aren’t going to change a thing. But taking the higher ground enables us to see clearly, and from that place we can find new possibilities.

Which leads to the second step – choice. We can choose the best course of action and become creative in our response to chaos. And if there’s nothing to be done, we can make a choice to accept what’s happening, and not to be a victim to it.

And the final step? Learn the lesson. The most difficult of times can be our most powerful teachers. They can open up a deeper understanding of who we are, of our inner resources, of what matters to us. Rather than becoming defeated by life’s curve balls, we can gain strength and power from them.

Experiencing this level of control, you’ll be able to say, even as hell breaks loose, ‘I’ve got this.’

Confidence is a choice you make

Confidence is a choice you make

You have no idea how often confidence comes up in coaching sessions. CEOs of major organisations, bestselling authors and hugely successful entrepreneurs all regularly let me into their guilty secret – they suffer from a lack of confidence. They talk about it as an affliction, an embarrassing part of their character, and with a certainty that it will affect their relationship, sex life, career and success. In doing so they make it huge and powerful – a monster. And they are creating a story.

Dips in confidence happen to all of us but they are not part of our personality. No one is born lacking confidence. Instead, and rather less disturbingly, it is an habitual response to 1 of 3 things or, for those professional ‘low confidencers’ maybe all three.

We have dips in confidence when we either:

(1) spend time with some thoughts that make us feel rubbish. Thoughts like, “I have nothing to contribute in this meeting”, “no one fancies me”, “I can’t present in public” would all do the job.

(2) We don’t take action to get better at the things we value – we don’t practice presenting; we don’t prepare to make a valuable contribution in a meeting; we don’t make an effort to engage with people we’re attracted to.

(3) We don’t look after our physical state. We allow ourselves to get tired; we choose food that doesn’t nourish us and we feel depressed after drinking.

The truth is low confidence happens to all of us. The question is how to respond. Do you use it as a flag to change something or do you ingest it and make it part of your story?

You are your behaviour. Choose wisely

You are your behaviour. Choose wisely

A reporter is investigating your life (you can decide why).

She visits your friends to get the lowdown. What will they say?
She then visits your family.
Your boss.
The cashier in the local shop.
The bus driver.
The trainer at the gym.
Your neighbour.

What will they say?

Whoever you think you are, the world decides based on the behaviour it sees. In any situation, you can decide who you want to be – just choose your behaviours. But choose wisely – the world is watching.

Do you really know your values?

Do you really know your values?

Most people don’t have a clue.

Which is a bit of a problem because it is our values that anchor us. When we feel uneasy with something it is usually because we are violating a value in some way. When we are feeling fulfilled and purposeful it is usually because we are living a life aligned to our values. So, if we don’t know our values how can we check in and rebalance ourselves?

My advice – spend some time figuring them out, keep them front of mind and refer to them every day. As you do that you will refine them and really home in on what they actually are. Only then will you be able to make decisions from a place of clarity.

Oh, and before you start reeling off a load of generalisations such as honesty, kindness and family, challenge yourself to get real, and go deeper – far deeper. It will pay off in spades.

Don’t you just love a good drama?

Don’t you just love a good drama?

We’re not short of a crisis or two to satisfy our need for drama. You can get a quick fix from the latest celebrity scandal, the missed penalty, the disgraced politician. Or get a longer lasting hit from climate disaster, government corruption, the threat of terrorism, war.

The drama channel is so darn compelling. We can’t help it. We get sucked in, and once we’re in, we’re really in. We start thinking the drama, feeling the drama, craving the drama, living the drama.

There are horrendous things happening; there are huge challenges we’re facing. But, as long as we’re caught up in the drama, we won’t find the answers. If we’re serious about change, we need to choose a different channel. There are channels that inspire and empower, and it is there that we will find new ways forward. So, what will you be watching tomorrow?