From The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work – John M. Gottman

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – Part 2 of my newsletter on SORRY

If you’re in a relationship with another thing called a human being (wonderful, annoying, unfathomable, magnificent, lovable) – and you want it to last . . . YOU NEED THIS BOOK.

Filled with stories from his research with hundreds of couples over 30 years, it’s easy to recognise yourself among them. Gottman says he can spend 15 minutes watching a couple who have been together for 12 months and tell you with over 90% accuracy if they’ll be together in 5 years. He identifies the behaviours that destroy relationships and gives you practical exercises you can do alone or together to reduce their impact in yours.

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

The Four Horsemen of the ApocalypseOne of my favourite parts is his explanation of The Four Horsemen. The negative interactions that will suck the life from your relationship if you don’t find a way to rein them in. They are

Criticism and blaming

In which he makes a distinction between a COMPLAINT (We’ve no eggs. You said you would buy some on the way home. I’m upset because I can’t make the cake for the cake sale. Will you go and buy some now) and a CRITICISM (You told me you’d buy eggs. You’re so useless. Now I’ll have to go and get some. It’s time you shaped up).


When you claim superiority over your partner in some way. A “better than” way of thinking. Contempt includes things like sarcasm, sneering, cynicism or making your values seem better than your partners. By the way, couples who do contempt have more colds and flu than those who don’t!


A way of blaming your partner back and saying, “It’s not me, it’s you”. This includes playing the innocent victim, saying “I’m doing my best”.


In all its horrible forms . . .  like not making eye contact, reading a book/newspaper to avoid a conversation, walking away, turning to social media, shutting yourself in another room.

Now that you know about the The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse you can learn more in the book or on 4 videos with John Gottman below. He’s remarkably droll and funny about his learning, well worth watching.


An epidemic of sorry

Whenever I think “I don’t know what to write about in my newsletter” life offers me a theme. This month I seem to have been surrounded by apologisers. People who say SORRY at every verse end. In fact, at the beginning of every verse too.

  • “Sorry I’m late” – even when she emailed to say she would be . . .
  • “Sorry I haven’t replied to your email before” – less than 36 hours after I sent it (when did we start believing that instant response was the only way to do things?)
  • “Sorry to ask such a daft question” – when 3 other people in the room had the same query . . .

Recognise yourself here?

It’s mainly women who do it, though I know some men who indulge too. This form of apologising takes away your power. It makes what you say less valid. And it devalues the word SORRY.  Keep it for when it’s really needed.

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assumptions and expectations

Assumptions and Expectations are the hidden poisons that slowly strangle relationships at work

Here’s installment 2 of create better relationships at work – 6 audio tracks and tips to enable you to craft good relationships from the beginning.

If you’re landing here for the first time check out part 1 here

Listen to the recording below, then work you way through the exercises below.

Noticing your assumptions and expectations

The Event Itself

Begin by writing a couple of sentences about what the event is. This isn’t an exercise in she said – he said and storytelling! Pick a work event that just happened, a one-to-one encounter or something that is just about to happen. Be honest with yourself, no one else will see it! Just write down what you notice.

assumptions and expectationsWhat I Might Be Assuming/Making Up About It and the People Involved

Write down what your assumptions are. Then keep asking yourself “what else am I making up – based on the past, my fears about the future, what I believe about these people, what else is also going on in my life”.

Remember that your brain is really skilled at selecting bits of data that fit in with what you already believe. If you’ve made up your mind that this other person is lazy, a bad timekeeper or doesn’t listen then you’re going to notice every single time they do that. And you’re NOT going to notice when they get it right!

What Are You NOT Seeing? What Other Evidence Is Available To You?

Change your perspective and experiment with looking at this from the viewpoint of the other people involved, a TV camera or a helicopter. What else is there to see here?

What I’m Expecting This Other Person To Do For Me.

These expectations may be realistic or unrealistic, just write them down. Then you can have a laugh at yourself, dump the unrealistic ones and get clear with the other person. Only when you say your expectations out loud can you find out if the other person is thinking the same. Unspoken expectations are toxic.

You might also like to jot down what might happen if you DON’T deal with these things and leave them unvoiced

What about where there’s a change of circumstances? It’s worth thinking through what you might do if you are unable to meet your agreements. Like going back and saying

We agreed that the deadline for that piece of work is Friday. Machine X is broken or I’ve been asked by the team leader to do Y. I’d really appreciate your help in working out my priorities and how we’re going to achieve what’s needed

Only when we get clear with other people can we turn those assumptions and expectations into AGREEMENTS that are clear and easy to understand.

Turn toxic assumptions and expectations into powerful and supportive agreements that create better relationships at work

create better relationships

Create Better Relationships!

Over the next few weeks I’m offering you six audio tracks covering 6 Simple Steps To Create Better Relationships At Work.

In these audio tracks and exercises I want to do just that. To help you make work a better place by improving relationships with your boss, colleagues and the team down the corridor. Because relationships are the things that make work WORK.

create better relationshipsIn tough times, even when the job is awful, the people can make it okay. And even the most wonderful of jobs can become awful if the relationships are dysfunctional.

So let’s get down to brass tacks. If you work with other people then you ARE in a relationship with them, even if you’re not speaking to them.

Relationships at work are just relationships. But they come with added hierarchies, upbringings, pay differences, who gets the desk by the window and a multitude of other potential interferences.

You don’t have to love your workmates – and you do have to work with them – to produce something important.

What gets in the way of our ability to create better relationships?

Here are the things I see that can spread toxicity amongst teams if they are not addressed

# unspoken assumptions and expectations that are taken as true and facts

# fuzzy standards and blurry boundaries

# gossip and talking about people behind their backs

# making other people wrong when they just hold a different opinion or perspective

# inability to forgive and carrying grudges round

# teams colluding with each other in ignoring problems and hoping they will go away

If someone at work was in physical pain or distress others would come swooping to help. Yet when the distress is emotional they may be abandoned or told that they are wrong.

So these are my 6 steps to reduce the chances of pain and distress and to create better relationships that, at the very least, help you to get on with the work. As well is losing less sleep, having more time to devote to the job and feeling generally better about your job.

Each track comes with some exercises, tips and tools. They are here as a resource to come back to whenever you are creating or mending a relationship. Don’t expect to try this once and have it perfect! If you haven’t been used to designing relationships from the beginning then it’s like learning a new language. Practice little bits and pieces of it, try it out and learn what works for you. Just begin!

Track 1 – Design From The Get Go!

Here are a wide range of topics you might want to explore together

What are the most important things to you about this role, the dealmakers and the deal breakers?

How can I best help you to do your job?

These are the things I would most like to have from you and what they mean to me.

This is the habit I have that most stops me doing my best and how you could support me to minimise its impact.

What’s a stretch for you in this job?

What’s the thing that scares you about it?

What pace do you like to work at?

How do you like to get feedback?

How do you learn and process things? Do you like to read it, look at a picture, talk it through or go away and think about it?

How much detail do you like?

What’s your version of being on time?

How do you approach deadlines?

How will I notice if you’re struggling? What will I see and hear?

How do you like to report back on how you’re doing?

If you trusted me enough to tell me how to manage you most effectively, what tips would you give about how to motivate and inspire you?

If you’re in a slump, how do you want me to be with you? What kind of encouragement works?

What we are both committed to doing the relationship isn’t working?

What would stop you coming to tell me about something that wasn’t working for you?

What do you never want me to do? What’s the worst thing I could say?

There will be other things that are important to you. Pick out the ones that matter and find a way to talk about them.

TIP – have a go at answering these questions for yourself. See what you learn about what makes you tick!

Shonda Rhimes

Do you know Shonda Rhimes?

If you’re a Greys Anatomy, Private Practice or Scandal fan the answer is probably yes. I’m not, or WASN’T, so she came as a surprise.

For those not in the know Shonda Rhimes writes for TV. And now she’s a director, producer, runs her company Shondaland and has a string of awards to make your eyes pop. And she’s a lone parent to 3 girls.

So how come I didn’t know her? Because she made a career out of hiding all that talent and sheer hard work behind “I’m no good, no one wants to hear from ME (just from the characters I write), “I just got lucky”, stage fright and eating. Shonda Rhimes was FAT (seat belt extender in the airplane kind of fat). Continue reading

It’s the time of the longest night, the shortest day. The winter solstice of the northern hemisphere.

A time when, ever so imperceptibly, the light begins to return. By the 25th we’ll be JUST able to make out the difference.

solstice The turning of the year was a time when our ancestors lived a life of relative ease. In most years there were still stores of food and there was little work to do on the land in the darkest and coldest months. So, they hunkered down in front of the fire, told tales, sang songs and feasted. They burned a large log around the solstice and spread the ashes on the fields to promote fertility. It’s now our chocolate Yule log!

A good part of our northern Christmas festivities are drawn from those pre-Christian celebrations of Juul or Yule. A festival honouring the heat, light and life giving properties of the sun.

And boy do we need that sun in our lives. It’s been a gloomy year, this 2016. We have lost many well-known faces who collectively made our world a warmer place to live in. You will have your own particular faces that meant much to you.

elaine-jaynesFor me the greatest loss was the death of my coach and leader Elaine Jaynes. I wrote about her in a blog post a few years ago, yet I now realise she was so much more to me than that. She is the one person in my world who loved me totally unconditionally. That’s a gift beyond rubies. I miss her daily – and I still talk to her daily because her photo sits by my computer.

To add to the loss is the uncertainty. Political turmoil everywhere we turn. Civil wars, side taking, strikes, posturing and preaching – little real conversation and even less listening.

My beloved NHS and the people who work in it face a tough, tough winter.  Chronic underinvestment in training and developing staff means we face a severe shortage of qualified and experienced staff in key areas. Those that are in post are shouldering heavy workloads.

We carry much loss and uncertainty into this mid-winter . . . fire, light and warmth are called for.

Go make a solstice bonfire!

Throw all your old and unwanted thoughts on it. Toast marshmallows. Sit and watch the flames. Sing a song. Dance round it. Welcome the return of the light. We need it.


Strictly Come Dancing

How coaching and leadership can change a life

Strictly Come DancingIt’s Strictly Come Dancing time of year

In the dark weekend evenings of autumn I’m in 7th heaven.

I’m fascinated by Strictly. Fascinated by the glitz and the show business and the costumes.

Yet more fascinated by the dancing, the coaching and the developing skills of the celebrity dancers.

Dancing is in my blood

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mind and body

The land of being liked can also be the land of loneliness

Mind and body are inextricably linked together

What one is holding seeps into the other. So, a powerful part of my coaching work is exploring how my client’s thoughts and feelings impact on their bodies. And vice versa.

I’m working with a client now who is making a job transition. Since her early teens she’s worked very hard to please her parents. This never ending balancing act meant studying through school, going on to university and finally to a post graduate course and a professional role. Yet it’s been unfulfilling – because it was based on someone else’s values, someone else’s version of success.

So, in a courageous move, she’s found a job in a related field and is moving on. Because she doesn’t want to repeat the same patterns and mistakes in her new life so came to me for help. Continue reading

Fright night may just be around the corner! If the thought of going to work is enough to give you leadership nightmares it’s time to take a look in the mirror . . .

Mastering a skill takes a lot of courage – and leadership is no different.

Learning to lead takes time, and transitioning into a leadership role is often fraught with worry and apprehension.

The fear of failure is natural – when we’re out of our comfort zone we feel scared. And even the best leaders are sometimes faced with the challenge of overcoming things that leave them a little terrified.

I’m all about enabling women to shake off these leadership nightmares and gain the confidence to LEAD!

With Halloween fast approaching, there’s no better time to tackle your inner gremlins and face your leadership nightmares head on.

Let go of your inner gremlins and leadership nightmares

Can’t, won’t, don’t? If you’re terrified of not being good enough, or constantly make excuses as to why you can’t complete a task – your inner gremlins are taking over.

It’s hard to break the mould, but if you truly want to rid yourself of demons, you need to let go of false limiting beliefs so you can begin to form new empowering beliefs instead.

There’s plenty of ways to banish leadership nightmares to the graveyard for good, and none involve cackling over a cauldron! Read my blog for a crash course in kissing your limiting beliefs goodbye.

Don’t get spooked by making scary decisions

Being faced with so many decisions can leave you wanting to scream – and they’re not always as straightforward as trick-or-treat. You can sometimes feel buried under the pressure, but face your decision-making demons head on.

Taking full responsibility can be an uncomfortable pill to swallow. It may even feels a bit like the chocolate covered sprouts I saw someone making for Halloween trick-or-treat “gifts”! Yet, as a leader, it’s important to find your own way to get that message inside you.

The best approach is to plan; know what problems may rise from the dead and have solutions in place to solve them.

However, sometimes mistakes do happen and you’ll make a choice that leads you into scary territory. Don’t let your slip ups and leadership nightmares haunt you. Get your Ghostbuster machine out, suck them up and let them go.

Ghostly apparitions can be invisible – not you!

Do you sometimes feel like you struggle to be heard? Or perhaps you feel like you’re hiding in the dark? It’s time to step out of the shadows – making sure your voice is heard loud and clear is key to leadership.

You don’t need to howl at the moon, yet you do need to have strong vocals.

It may feel strange speaking as an authority figure at first, but don’t succumb to eerie silence. It’s easy to train yourself to have the confidence to say what’s on your mind.

For some tips and tricks, check out my blog post

Constructive Feedback Doesn’t Have To Creep You Out

Giving both praise and constructive feedback are two vital jobs of leaders and managers.

It’s important to let your team know they are appreciated – it makes for a happier and more productive workforce.

And it’s also important to be honest as soon as things are getting the tiniest bit grim. It saves ending up in a horror movie in the future.

It can seem scary to tell your team you need things to be done differently. Don’t get yourself lost in a web whilst tiptoeing around the issues. Just keep things simple and be open and honest.

Read my blog entries on giving feedback, for tips on how to improve.

For when things are doing great:

For when things go wrong:

unsung heroes

Unsung heroes are a huge part of the NHS

unsung heroesFour years from its first outing FabChangeDay is now a beach bonfire of passion and commitment, powered by social media. Individuals and teams get fired up to collaborate and create change for the better. It’s not too late to make your own pledge.

One of its central ideas is pledging your intention publicly. Here’s mine.

“I pledge to grow leadership from the inside out in every nurse I coach” #FabChangeDay

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