A Gentle Spring Clean

The clocks have just gone forward and it is officially British Summer Time – I know it doesn’t feel like it yet!

But it is a good prompt to do some metaphorical spring cleaning – always more fun than the real thing! How do you do this?

Think of some recurring thought you have which makes you feel bad. For example you may think you are not good enough at something, or that someone else has a ‘down’ on you… your brain will already have suggested something to you.

Now take that thought and write it down or make a pictorial representation of it on a piece of paper. And take the paper, destroy it and bin it!!

Once we have literally got rid of the thought, we need to replace it with something more useful to us, something that helps to build our good mood. So find something equivalent, such as: ‘I am good at ….’ Or ‘X really likes me’. Now write that different thought down in bright colours, or again, make a picture to represent it. Stick it to your computer or your desk for a couple of days, and let it soak into your unconscious – and smile whenever you look at it.

You can repeat the process as often as you like – have a good clear-out and start the spring with a joyful heart!

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Being a Customer

I have recently been working on a proposal to help an organisation become more customer focused, and it has really made me think about the other side of the story – the customer. My conclusion is that we all need training to be good customers, not just to treat customers well!

Most of us are passive victims as customers, whether the responsiveness to us is good or bad. Yet with a little pro-active effort on our part, we can often change our experience for the better.

For example, smiling, saying hello, saying thank you, all make a difference to our server and take little from us. Imagine for a moment that you are that server. You have to be pleasant all day/evening to the unresponsive and unsmiling creatures most of us are – wouldn’t you get to the point of being unresponsive? On top of that, you maybe have a boss who never praises you, and doesn’t appreciate what you do – are you sullen and fed up yet?!

We can help people to want to serve us with a genuine smile, by treating them well, by making them feel noticed and valued. And if they do make an effort for us, we can appreciate it, rather than only commenting if we have a complaint. Let’s have a ‘Being a Good Customer’ week!


  1. Smile and say hello to 5 people who are in some way serving you this week, even if they don’t respond.
  2. Thank anyone who serves you well this month, and maybe write a letter appreciating their service to their boss.
  3. Apply the same principle to those who ‘serve’ you at work – your colleagues, and those from other departments who help you to do your job.


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Inside Out

Have you noticed how your mood and state always seem to be how the world is at that time? When we feel good, the world seems full of good news and friendly people; when we feel down, there is always more to be gloomy about!

This is no accident of fate. It is about what we are using to filter the possible information around us. When I feel low, I have on the ‘reasons to feel low’ filter, so I notice lots of them.

It makes sense, therefore, to always work ‘inside out’. That means I work on me first, then start looking outwards. If I can change my mood, I will change what I notice, and will be able to have a more positive impact.


  1. Notice how the world reflects your mood.
  2. Give yourself treats to make you feel good, and notice how the world also feels easier to handle.


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New Year’s Resolutions

At this time of year we all tend to think about New Year’s resolutions even if our choice is not to make any! We are often put off by the fact that we have failed to maintain them in the past, and therefore want to avoid ‘failing’ again.

What if we were to approach it in a different way? After all, it is a natural inclination in human beings to want to be continually improving ourselves, so the principle is a good one – perhaps we just need a more effective way of achieving it.

My proposal is this.

Start by imagining that you are at the end of the year, and feeling good about yourself.

Now answer the following questions:

  1. What have you continued to do well this year?

(Examples might be: give myself regular treats; spent good time with the children; done my job well; had exciting holidays)

  1. What have you done even better this year?

(Examples might be: gone home at a reasonable hour more often; gone for a walk at lunchtime more often; paid real attention to family and colleagues more often)

  1. What have you started to do better this year?

(Examples might be: begun to get fitter; eaten more healthily; kept my work in perspective more)

  1. What have you learned more about this year?

(Examples might be: how to use my common sense at work; how to be a good father; how a different culture works)

  1. What helped you to achieve these things this year?

(Examples might be: putting the list on the side of my computer to remind me; keeping my targets achievable; getting support from friends/colleagues/family)


Try this out – and make it fun!

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Helping Other People

We have all been encouraged to be helpful to others, and we often do this by trying to ‘fix’ things for them, and give them solutions to their problems. Our intentions are good, but we don’t always prove to be as helpful as we intended.

What we forget is that what would work for us won’t necessarily work for someone else. For example, I am planning to have Christmas holiday in the sun, and haven’t yet decided where to go. As soon as I mention it, people offer me suggestions, before they have any idea of my criteria for a holiday.

It sounds as if I am being dismissive if I ignore their ‘helpfulness’, but actually most of their suggestions don’t take account of my preferences and circumstances. They are suggesting what they have enjoyed, or would like to do, in the context of their own circumstances.

What their suggestions do give me is the opportunity to clarify further my own criteria. If I don’t find their idea appealing, what would appeal? And if they asked me about my criteria for a good holiday first, then their suggestions would be more directly helpful.

How often do you try and fix other people’s problems? Most of us do it, at work and at home, so this is just a reminder that we could be genuinely helpful by not suggesting a solution. Instead, we could help the person to clarify exactly what would work for them by asking questions such as:

‘What would make this feel right for you?’

‘How exactly do you want this to be?’

‘What would help you to find the solution to this?’


Next time you want to solve someone’s problem and help them, ask them questions instead of giving an answer.

Before you ask someone for their help, tell them exactly what you mean when you state the problem, and what you want from them.


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Having Enthusiasm

Have you noticed how infectious enthusiasm is? We all respond to someone who obviously has put their heart and soul into something rather than just their intellect.

The word enthusiasm originally means ‘inspired by God’ or ‘the God within’. This may sound off-putting to some of you, but it captures well the sense that enthusiasm is heart- or spirit-based, and therefore appeals to us at a deeper level.

An example I came across recently is of someone who works for Virgin airlines. She is a member of the ground crew, doing an apparently ‘ordinary’ job, yet she talked for half an hour of how much she loves what she does and whom she works for. She saw her job as important to the company’s success, and gave her all to it willingly, because the company also made sure that she was cared for, and had her own life as well.

To invoke enthusiasm in others like that, we need to ensure that they feel valued and important, and that their individuality is appreciated.

To invoke it in ourselves we need to find what makes our heart sing in our work, and build on that.


  1. When are you enthusiastic? Look for what makes your heart sing at work.
  2. When do you encourage others to be enthusiastic? Look for opportunities to make others feel valued and important, and cared for.


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Life is a bitch and then you die, or: Life is a beach and then you fly

I was reminded again recently of how powerful the culturally given beliefs are – you know, those things we know are true, because things happen which reinforce them.  For example, we can probably all find evidence in our personal experience that people are not to be trusted, or that the world is not a fair place.  It is interesting to notice that we can also find evidence that the opposite is true. Most of us have experienced people being trustworthy, or something which felt very fair and just.

The evidence we choose to notice will affect how we expect others or the world to be.  It really is our choice: evidence for all beliefs is there for us, otherwise no-one would believe them!

And have you noticed how we tend to get what we expect?  This is because we give off an unconscious message that tells the person how we are viewing them, and nine times out of ten, they “play the game” and respond how we expect them to.

So why make life harder than it already is?  Decide to believe what is more useful to you, and start collecting evidence!

Homework :

1.       Next time you need help from someone, assume that they will be helpful.  Imagine them being open to your request, and see what happens.

2.       When you come across someone who is optimistic about life, find out what they believe about people, and about how the world works.  Deliberately look for evidence which supports their belief.  (If you are already optimistic, list some of your own evidence).


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‘I’ve always prided myself on being good at analytical/logical thinking, and when I was asked if I would like to go on a programme on developing my skills as a leader I thought I would learn to be even more logical and analytical. Half way through my first day all I could do was shake my head in disbelief.

We had spent the whole morning looking at ways I could make myself feel good and, although that was very pleasant, it felt both selfish and irrelevant to me as a leader.

The workshop facilitator persisted in looking at personal stuff for the rest of the afternoon, which was spent on how I think. Analytical? Nope! My intuition, for goodness sake! I haven’t used that since I was a child. I went home and told my wife that it was a most unexpected day. Two hours later she told me to shut up.

I was curious about the next day and had to admit I felt rather good about myself. As we began to explore what made a good leader I realised that I had what it took, but it wasn’t what I thought it was.

Since that five day session I think I have used about half of what I learned with Di – which is about 100%, at least, more than I have taken from other courses. It makes more and more sense, and it works. No, it really works.’


Di says:

Adam spent the whole of the first day staring at me and shaking his head in disbelief. I could feel his gaze on me the whole time.

It’s a common reaction. At first many people think I am crazy. And I remind them that, when they do get themselves in a state where they feel good abut themselves, they are in a superb position to help others get more from their work.

Western society’s love affair with logical and analytical thought reflects a belief that science could solve all of our ‘problems’ This ‘logic’ breaks work down into boring and meaningless tasks, so that the work does not inspire and motivate, and ultimately the work gets done badly. Nice logic!

We have got to the stage in our culture where many of us think that work has to be boring, hard, stressful. If not, the story runs, we are not earning our money or our leisure time: “work hard, play hard’.


1. Enjoy your work today.

2. Give yourself some treats: stop and smell that flower, smile at that toddler, use your favourite soap, wear your favourite clothes.

3. Take a risk: go in after the traffic, leave your tie at home, leave your e-mails until you have spoken to everyone face-to-face

Enjoy your work today.

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Emotional Resilience

An aspect of emotional intelligence that we don’t often pay attention to is the ability to ‘bounce back’ when something unexpected happens. This can be anything from an unexpected traffic jam which makes you late, to a bereavement or drastic change of work circumstances. It is so easy to get knocked back in our culture. We tend to see the world as conspiring against us anyway, and so fall too easily into self-pity and being a victim of circumstance. If we were to view the world as ‘on our side’, then we would look for the gain from the change. When we develop emotional resilience, we react differently.

We forgive ourselves if our initial reaction is negative, and just let it go.

We pick ourselves up and get on with things, just like a child who has fallen over when learning to walk
We consider what the learning is for us in the particular circumstance, and actively take the learning.


Take an example where life dealt you an unexpected blow in the past. What have you/could you learn from it, in a positive sense?

Identify 4 ways in which the world has conspired with you, by offering you unexpected changes.
As you receive some ‘knock’ this month, stop and go through the process stated above.

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What is emotional intelligence?

So, what is it? It is the reminder that we all do have emotions and are often led to act by them, but if we don’t acknowledge their part in our decision-making, we are likely to be reactive rather than responsive. It used to be called wisdom, or common sense, but, as Robert Cooper says, the trouble with common sense is that it is rarely practised.

When you use your emotional intelligence, you recognise, value and use your emotional reactions constructively. You know that you are in control of your reactions, and consider the consequences before simply acting on them.

For example, we all get frustrated in a traffic jam. Not using your emotional intelligence leads to being driven by your frustration. So you end up stressed at least, and sometimes it can develop into road rage, or causing accidents.

And if you stop for a moment and consider, you realise that the frustration is not constructive, and will not change the situation. Using your emotional intelligence is more likely to lead to putting on some favourite music, thinking about some issue you have to resolve, or just enjoying the countryside you can see.

On the positive side, most of us have ‘had a good idea’ – something that came spontaneously, which we then dismissed as being impractical, irrelevant, or illogical. If we use our emotional intelligence, we often realise then, rather than when it is too late, that the idea is worth following through on.


Take 4 of your ‘instant reactions this week and just stop and ask yourself the following questions before either dismissing them or simply reacting:

1. How does this help me to live my life well?

2. How will this make a positive difference?

3. What will be the effect of this in the future?

As you hear the inner responses to the questions, make sure that you listen to your heart as well as your head – if your heart sings, you are on the right track!

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