You can choose how you think about this situation

After the first lecture of my MA in Coaching and Mentoring in September, I seriously questioned my judgement. I was genuinely concerned about my ability to make sound decisions, why had I decided to add to my already overloaded life? I have done an MA before and it was hell on earth to get through, why was I doing this to myself again?

After the week we have all just had, my decision to study was absolutely bang on. I am so grateful that I did make the decision and that I stuck with it. I can now see it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. The support from the amazingly inspirational people at Uni this week has been phenomenal. In addition, the knowledge I have gained in such a short space of time has got me through a tough week and will continue to get me through the difficulties of the coming weeks. So, I was keen to share with you all the main learning that is getting me through – Existentialism (Viktor Frankl).

We are free to choose how we think and feel about a situation

Existentialism – Viktor Frankl

Existentialism suggests that life is a constant process of change and transformation, we are in constant flux. We have choice, freedom, responsibility and self-determination about how we think and deal with the experiences of life.

The freedom to choose how I think about the current situation we find ourselves in (Corona virus) is what is getting me through. I have been hit by huge waves of panic this week, where I could have easily curled up and sobbed. But I stopped myself from spiralling into negative thoughts because I know that wouldn’t serve me well during this time. I recognised that I needed to change how I am choosing to view this situation. I have the ability to look at this situation and determine how I want to think, behave and take action. This is a great opportunity to change our ways of working to provide greater flexibility away from the 9-5, it is time with my daughter that I wouldn’t otherwise get, it is a time for community, kindness and recognition of key jobs we have taken for granted in the NHS, retail, manufacturing, delivery drivers etc… It is time to look at how we can adapt and turn our talents to different things, opening opportunities to a global community – i.e. the Body Coach (Joe Wicks) is going to be the world’s PE Teacher!

Crisis are times that old patterns are revisited and change for the better is initiated. The disaster you are trying to avoid can be a blessing in disguise.

Corey (2017)

In times of crisis make choices on how to proceed and how to bring new order to your life

Corey (2017)

We have a choice about how we make sense of what is happening to us. I know we are facing difficult times, job loses, financial difficulties and the loss of loved ones. We can’t control these things, but we are free to choose how we think about it. We can choose how we interpret our experiences and we can make a choice about what action we take and how we behave.

Create meaning from the situations we find ourselves in. If you have a ‘why’ to live your life by, you can bear any ‘how’

To look at this another way, my amazing colleague and friend read an article Building an ethical career in ‘The Harvard Business Review’ (Jan – Feb 2020) . She has spoken to me a lot about it as it really struck a cord with her. The area that resonated with me was David Brooks CV virtues (skills, ability and accomplishments that you can put on your CV such as ‘increased ROI by 10% on multi million dollar project’) and Eulogy virtues (things people praise you for after you’ve died, such as being a loyal friend, kind and a hard worker). CV virtues tend to relate to what you’ve done for yourself, whereas Eulogy virtues relate to the person you are and what you have done for others.

This got me thinking, how can we choose to behave and think in a way that is congruent with our ‘Eulogy virtues’ during this time – What type of person do I want to be during this time? What do I want to do to help others?

The HBR article suggests you ask yourself:

What eulogy virtues are you trying to develop?

What do you want to be remembered for?

What do you want to contribute?

Human life begins at the far end of despair. Life is difficult, with many conflicts and challenges but without these life would not be interesting. Joy cannot be experienced without facing despair and anxiety of life.

Rollo May

Life is difficult but we can make our own meaning, we have the power to decide how we are going to think about this situation and we can choose how we act. You are responsible for your decisions.

Ask yourself the following:

How do you feel about this situation?

What do you want to do about the situation?

What choices do you have?

What can you control?

What have you done?

What could you do?

What are the consequences of your choices?

What actions are you going to take to deal with the situation?

If you haven’t already I encourage you to read my previous blog on change, there are some really useful questions and models on how to deal with change that you might also find helpful.

In order to grow we need to be able to tolerate uncertainty and with this comes a level of anxiety which we need to learn to live with, rather than extinguish. That being said, if your anxiety is starting to get the best of you or your thoughts have spiralled please reach out for support. A great resource is Shout – text 85258 or call the Samaritans on 116 123

Take Care and Do Be Kind and True – much love to you all Kathryn x

If we unite, nobody falls

I have been really struggling with what to write this week. We are in the mists of the Coronavirus outbreak and the behaviour of humankind has troubled me somewhat.

Individualism has been a real eye opener for me, rather than buying less so there is more to go around the exact opposite has happened.

With my team coaching hat on a spark of inspiration hit me when I saw the above picture. We are so much stronger and happier when we unite as a team. The feelings generated when we are united and part of a team, looking out for one another is ten times more powerful than the angry and aggressiveness of individuals out for themselves.

Trust is an essential ingredient to any united team and we gain trust through generosity, vulnerability and kindness.

We each have a part to play in coming together in these difficult times – What small step could you take to unite with those around you? What could you do to reach out and unite with your neighbours and local community? How can you support colleagues?

Take care of yourself and one another.

We expect women to work like they don’t have children, and raise children like they don’t work

The above quote, pretty much sums up mine and many others experience of being a working parent. Whilst we talk a lot about attitudes towards working parents having changed, the sad reality is that typically it doesn’t feel that way for many women. Trying to do a great job at two important roles in life – your job and being a parent – can be very stressful and the level of guilt that this evokes can often lead to feelings of anxiety and depression.  

In HR too often we focus on the transactional aspects of parental leave, ensuring the transactional ‘paperwork’ is completed in accordance with policy and process.  We apply a ‘one size fits all’ policy that we roll out time and again, with little thought or time dedicated to the emotional wellbeing and mental health of the parent to be/new parent. Often the wellbeing side of things is left to the line manager to deal with, who typically has very limited experience, understanding or empathy in this space, particularly if they do not have children themselves.

Having recently become a mental health first aider and in my role as of Head of HR, I recognise we need to take a more holistic and personalised approach to supporting new parents in the workplace so that we benefit from the engagement of a fantastic and diverse talent pool of working parents. This change is not going to happen by introducing an amazing, fancy pants policy, process or form, but from small nudges that gradually start to move the dial on attitudes, behaviours, mindsets, assumptions and approaches towards working parents.

There are 3 ways that I am working to nudge us in the right direction these are:

  • Raising awareness – holding the mirror up to colleagues, leaders and people managers so they are aware of the impact of their behaviour towards parents to be / working parents and simply talking about it, sharing information and articles so that people are more aware about the subject
  • Doing something different – implementing programmes of coaching, training, advice and support for parents to be / working parents and line managers that go beyond the transactional process and policy
  • Changing our ways of working – in the world of technology that we live in today managing and leading people from a position of trust than presenteeism, to allow much greater freedom on how, when and where people work to alleviate some of the pressure of juggling two important roles of working and being a parent

The most important thing to recognise as a working parent is that you are doing great and be kind to yourself. Ask for help if you need it and talk about the reality of your experience – everyone feels the same but we tend to portray an image of perfection – so be open and honest, it helps to know you are not alone.

Check out or email for more info – Anne and Liz are brilliant coaches and provide a forward thinking programme for expecting and new parents

Dealing with Change

‘It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change’ 


Many of us find change really uncomfortable, even change for the good can be incredibly daunting. Change and how to deal with it, comes up a lot in my studies (MA in Coaching and Mentoring). I have learnt some really interesting approaches to change that I think you might like…

Growth is natural, change inevitable


How often do we see change as an opportunity?

Most of the time we see change as a threat, not an opportunity. At times of change we tend to hold onto and focus on the past, we are ridged, reactive and confused. We become immobilised and a victim of the change. These behaviours come out when we see change as a threat.

If we view change as an opportunity, we are activated, pro-active, and versatile. We focus on the future (not the past) and rather than separate ourselves from the change we get involved in it. This latter point is really key. It is suggested that change is painful because we lose a sense of control. I can relate to this, stuff happens which is beyond my sphere of control and when this happens my natural instinct is for my threat response to kick in. The more you stay outside of the change, the more it feels like it is being done to you – therefore ask yourself:-

How can I be more involved/proactive in this change?

How can I increase my involvement in this process?

‘Change is a painful experience – it is easier to see what is going than what is coming… with the increase in the pace of change we must either prepare for ever increasing pain or change how we deal with change


How can we get better at dealing with change?

This is where HR rolls out the “change curve”…. whilst this is a useful tool to help understand the change process, I found learning about William Bridge’s model ‘Making sense of change’ much more useful. This model looks at Endings, Transition (neutral zone) and new Beginnings.

The ending is where we recognise that something has come to an end. We need to recognise that the change is marking the end and the start of something new.

The transition is where a lot of the work is done and emotions are processed. This part can be energy sapping and you can tend to isolate yourself. This stage takes time as you need to re-orientate, complete old ways and begin new patterns rather than thinking that you need to try and repeat what has gone before. During this stage you tend to move through Fear – Hope, Anxiety – Relief, Pressure – Stimulation, Leaving Old – Accepting New.

The new beginning is where you start to feel excited about opportunities rather than looking back. You start to learn from the past rather than dwelling on it. You start to look for new scripts rather than acting out old ones. This latter point resonates with me so much. I feel we often try to shoe horn things into the shape of the past and get frustrated, upset when they don’t fit or try to re-create things that have gone before rather than get creative and innovate to meet the new /changed reality we are in.

Coaching through change is powerful

Coaching is a really powerful tool to help you progress through these stages of change and to support you in not getting stuck in a stage.

During change it is all too easy to fall into the drama triangle where you become the victim or persecutor, expecting someone to rescue/fix you. Coaching can help you step out of the drama triangle.

If behaviours go unchecked you may slip into your inner Child, becoming fearful, passive, sulky and procrastinate. It can also go the other way where you slip into your inner Parent, becoming critical, controlling and rigid. These behaviours not overly helpful and can lead to more pain/discomfort. A Coach can enable and empower you to deal with the change in a proactive way, guiding you to deal with the change in your adult state.

Another useful thought from Rational Emotive Behavioural Coaching …

At Uni we have been learning different theoretical approaches to coaching and I read this in Rational Emotive Behaviour which really resonated with me – “It is not the situation that upsets us, its what we tell ourselves about the situation that upsets us”. So notice what you are telling yourself about the change- ask yourself:-

How are your thoughts helping you?

How could you re-frame what you are telling yourself in a more positive/proactive way?

Questions to reflect on

If you are dealing with change at the moment or perhaps next time you are facing change, take some time to reflect on some of these questions…

What has really ended here?

What will stay the same?

How can you re-frame discomforts to positive opportunities for learning?

What key learning do you want to take forward?

What are you doing to stay connected and involved?

What are the opportunities?

How will you use this to boost your skills and capabilities?

What are you excited about?

If you have any questions or would like to get in touch, email me at

There is no failure, only feedback!

Feedback is the gift that keeps on giving!

I love feedback – don’t get me wrong it can hurt like hell, strike you right in the gut and it can play on your mind for days… but I love it all the same, because it’s an opportunity to learn. When I hear those words ‘Kathryn, are you open to some feedback?’, which I always am, I know I immediately hold my breath and brace myself for what is coming next. All my non-verbal cues are probably communicating anything but ‘yes please, I love feedback’.

I think we all feel this way about feedback and I think this is because it makes us feel vulnerable. Vulnerability is a key leadership skill, recognising that we are not perfect, we have blind spots, we are open to learn and improve is a great strength, not a weakness. So whilst it might be uncomfortable, open yourself to feedback, ask for it, embrace it!

You understand and learn about yourself better when you are prepared to receive feedback, to seek out and hear what others think, and then reflect on this.

The 100 Year Life – Lynda Gratton & Andrew Scott

Another key aspect to feedback discussions is how amazing they are at building trust in a relationship. Having an open and honest discussion, where you are both willing to listen and learn, opening your minds to each others perspective and challenge both of your assumptions, fosters a great relationship – they are such a good conversation to have with someone, it is a shame people shy away from them so much!

I think people shy away from it because there is a skill or things to have in mind when giving feedback. My tendency to brace myself for feedback is most likely because I have been on the receiving end of feedback that has been delivered in a way that has been one way, which has left me confused and unable to decide how to move forward. So, you do need to give some time to thinking about the feedback you want to give, but don’t overthink it! To help you with this, I have picked up some tips over the years which I have shared below…

Top Tips for Giving Feedback

  1. Intention – always give feedback with a kind heart, good intentions and be true (‘I mean you no harm’, ‘Do be kind and true’) Give feedback with the intention that you believe the other person has agency, you believe in their ability to receive and learn from the feedback – your intention should be adult to adult, not a power trip!
  2. Avoid the sh*t sandwich (this is where you say something positive, say something developmental, say something positive)- I know this is a technique many people like, but for me and from my experience in HR, I don’t like it and it doesn’t work. Do one or the other, don’t try to ‘soften the blow’ or ‘dress it up’ – when you do that you create fear around feedback and it loses its meaning. People don’t hear and learn from the vital information you are trying to share with them as it gets tangled and hidden with the other guff you have added around it. Feedback is a learning experience and if your intentions are good, why feel the need to do anything other than share with the person what you need to say and what they probably really need to hear?
  3. Believe in what you are saying – when giving feedback people want to talk it through and have a discussion about it so they can learn. If you are flimsy or you don’t really believe in the feedback you are giving, this can be really confusing for the person and can cause the person you are giving feedback to, to have a negative reaction. I experience this a lot when people want me to give feedback to another on their behalf, rather than being brave/able to have the conversation themselves (it creates far more problems than it solves). In these situations, coach the person to be able to give their feedback directly to the person
  4. You can give positive feedback – people often focus on giving constructive/developmental feedback and are either silent or give limited information when someone has done something really well. In positive situations people typically say ‘great job’, ‘well done’. Providing positive feedback where you give details and information on what was great or done well can have a massive impact on development and motivation
  5. Timing – you need to give feedback in the moment. Waiting for your next meeting or 121 loses the impact and impetus of the feedback. What I tend to see is people putting it off until the next 121 and then saying nothing at all, because, well, it was ages ago and isn’t relevant anymore. By doing that, you have let your colleague down. Your feedback, in that moment, could have been a great opportunity for learning which is now lost – booooo!
  6. Ask – this links with some of the tips above, I always ask the person if the time is right to give feedback and/or if they are open to feedback. Asking for permission demonstrates an adult to adult approach and signals your intention. It also gives the other person the ability to say ‘No’ – which is okay. You never know what is truly going on for another person, they might have to leave to pick up children or have heard some difficult news. If someone says no, accept their response and ask when would be a better time or ask again tomorrow.

Feedback Techniques

Positive feedback

‘The three things I love about what you have done are 1)…, 2)…,3)… ‘ ‘What are your thoughts?’ ‘How are you feeling?’ ‘What will you take forward next time you do this?’

I love using this feedback technique, it feels really motivational and energising.

Photo by Pixabay on

Developmental Feedback

‘When you …..(describe the situation/behaviour, the more specific you can be the better)

‘What happens is….. (explain the impact this is having on you, the task, activity, people)

‘Tell me how you see the situation?’ (open it up for discussion, understand their viewpoint)

‘What would you like to do going forward?’

‘What do you need from me?’ ‘How can I support you with that?’ ‘What can I do differently?’

The great part of this feedback technique is the discussion part – Tell me how you see the situation?. It creates a great open and honest discussion, that further builds trust. It demonstrates you are equally prepared to listen and learn… who knows you might have made some assumptions that you need to learn and reflect on?

Another technique I love which is quick and easy, in the moment and is great for groups/teams ….

‘I am observing ….. (say the behaviour or situation you are seeing)

‘What do you think the impact of this is?’

What would you/the group/the team like to do going forward?’

This is a great technique to use in team meetings if you are noticing things are going off track or you are noticing behaviours in others that are not conducive to the discussion. Keep your observations general, don’t finger point i.e. I am noticing people may be starting to feel frustrated, What is the impact of this? (wait for answer and then ask..) What do we want to do going forward?

Photo by Gerd Altmann on

I hope my musings on feedback are useful, I will probably write about this topic again as I lots of thoughts on this! If you would like to learn more, I recommend the podcast ‘Manager Tools’

There is no failure, only feedback

Action Learning

Tell me more about this Action Learning you speak of….

So unfortunately action learning has a massive stigma in the UK. When you talk about action learning the majority of people roll their eyes and sigh (I used to do it too!). This is because we call sooo many things action learning, but they aren’t really action learning. At best they are nice group activities, at worst they have zero impact and turn people off action learning forever, grumbling about the wasted time they will never get back.

This is a massive tragedy!

Now working in HR I have forced (in a friendly way) many a person through action learning sets, insisting it was good for people, but secretly relieved I didn’t have to attend them. So when I got my first job heading up a HR team and action learning was suggested to be included in the leadership development programme I was running, I wasn’t impressed… until I watched a demo of the World Institute of Action Learning (WIAL) method and wow, just wow it is amazing. I attended the next training course to become a Certified Action Learning Coach (CALC) and won an award in September 2019 for best application of action learning – super proud moment!

If you haven’t guessed already, I am now the BIGGEST action learning fan girl!

First, a little bit of history….

Action learning dates back to the 1940s and a guy called Reg Revans. Reg introduced the concept when he was Director of Education at the Coal Board. At the time there were loads of problems which were normally left to the ‘gentlemen’ to fix from their nice offices in London. However, Reg recognised that bringing together a small group of engineers, apprentices and managers to work on the problems faced in the pits, not only fixed the actual problem (as those working closely in the pit where able to share their observations of what was seen and heard rather than what people from a distance thought the problem was), they built strong relationships between workers and managers (they were working on urgent and complex problems – nothing like adversity to build camaraderie) and everyone in the group developed problem solving and leadership capabilities. These groups were so successful action learning was rolled out across the whole industry. The main thing Reg observed was ‘there is no learning without action, and there is no action without learning’ – very wise words!

How does it work?

A group of 4 – 8 people, work on a complex, real and urgent problem. This is facilitated by an action learning coach – who is not involved in the problem solving but focused on the performance of the group.

There are two rules:-

1. Statements can only be made in response to a question

2. Anyone can ask a question of anyone at anytime.

Whilst doing this important work, we also work on identifying and developing our leadership skills – this is an essential and key part of the process.

You can do action learning in 90 mins or over several days/weeks – depends on the size and complexity of the problem.

Why do you love it so much?

I love this method of action learning because it is a powerful problem solving tool. The use of questions and statements enables breakthrough thinking and creativity. The method is inclusive, encourages diversity, it is calm and allows for silence (how often do you experience silence in meetings? probably never! Imagine having space to think in a meeting… ). The process also really helps focus the group on solving the actual problem, so problem exploration is key and ensuring agreement of the problem before solutioneering is essential.

The other thing I love about it is that it focuses on and develops great leadership skills, which we all need no-matter what level of the organisation we operate at. With the fast paced and ever changing world of work, we all need to be effective leaders and action learning creates the environment to practice the skill, receive feedback and self-reflect.

How have you used the method?

I have used action learning in lots and lots of different ways, for example:

  • technical problems on projects
  • strategy problems with the C-Level Executive Team
  • business challenges with leadership groups
  • employee engagement problems identified from engagement/pulse surveys
  • learning circles after leadership development to aid learning transfer

What would be the key take away?

Using the legendary words of Albert Einstein ‘If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than 5 minutes’

Trust the process, you will be amazed!

How can I find out more?

Get in touch with me at

Visit the WIAL website –

Also a great book recommendation (I love a good book) is ‘Optimizing the power of action learning’ by Michael Marquardt, Shannon Banks, Peter Cauwelier and Choon Seng Ng

#coaching, #WIAL, #actionlearning, #leadership