What would motivate you to change?

What would motivate you to change? Money, what other people think, or is it something else?

As a coach and someone who is interested in changing behaviour, I’m curious to know what inspires individuals to make a decision to behave differently.

Daniel Kahneman, a nobel prize winner and recognised psychologist, notable for his work on the psychology of judgment and decision-making, challenges the assumption of human rationality. In his book, ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’, he suggests that individuals are driven more strongly to avoid losses than to achieve gains; individuals are not only loss averse but are also motivated by the negative instead of the positive e.g. if an individual were to be offered a good sum of money to finish a project, they may not finish it, yet they may finish the project if their job is threatened. I’m not suggesting that managers use the stick instead of the carrot, going forward, but this is definitely food for thought.

The book goes on to discuss how individuals are nudged by ‘what other people think or do’. Many of us have stayed in hotel rooms which use a sign in the bathroom, requesting guests to ‘Save the planet and use your towel again.’ Kahneman’s research however shows that using the sign, ‘Join the 75% of our guests, who re-used their towel’, had a greater impact in re-usage than the average. 10% more, in fact! Small changes can have enormous impact.

Companies can change all that they want (processes, management, new ways of working, reorganisations, etc.) but it’s the individuals working in those companies, that need to embrace and implement change. Without the support of individuals, change doesn’t happen. So how are people motivated to change?

How are you motivated as an individual?

Or, how does your company guarantee successful change?

I welcome you to share your comments.

Further recommended reading:

  1. Nudge (improving decisions about health, wealth and happiness), Thaler & Sunstein
  2. The power of Habit (Why we do what we do and how to change), Charles Duhigg
  3. The Marshmallow Test (understanding self-control and how to master it), Walter Mischel
  4. Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman

What is your immediate thought?

A dear friend shared this lovely story. Please read it and then answer the question below.

Apple story

How quickly did you judge the little boy?
There’s a lot of learning from living in the moment, not getting ahead of ourselves, not thinking for other people and, generally being mindful of our thoughts and how they make us feel. The weekend is a great time for reflecting on what we may have done differently this past week.

Have a great weekend.

Helen Martin is a qualified coach and trainer and lives in London. She is a member of the Association for Coaching and coaches individuals through change. Helen coaches 2 people per month at no charge. She can be contacted here.



Redundancy: learning from the biggest taboo

“I understand what being made redundant feels like. I’ve been there. I knew change was on its way, but I never actually believed that it would affect me and when it did, my world stopped revolving. I felt angry, I felt sad, I felt happy, and then I felt angry all over again. I was surrounded by incompetent people, so why was I being made redundant?  I went through all the emotions on the change curve; one’s that I had learned as a manager; and I was gobsmacked that I was feeling the way that most text books described. I felt embarrassed by my predicament and having to explain my new situation to anyone was excruciating.

For me, talking to others, brought healing. My anger subsided, I felt less sorry for myself and I began to realise that while I was not entirely at fault, there may have been things that I could have done differently while I was employed. Talking to friends and family helped me to accept my situation. I became more self-aware and I explored new opportunities. It also helped me to articulate my story with a little more ease and taught me that showing this new vulnerable side of myself wasn’t as negative as I had led myself to believe. Redundancy is not a dirty word!” Published with permission from the author.

What can be learned from redundancy on the short term:

  • Talk about it. Talking is often a good way to soothe painful emotions. Talking to a friend, family member, health professional or coach can help the healing process.
  • Allow yourself to feel sad. It’s a healthy part of the ‘grieving’ process.
  • Keep up your routine. Keeping up simple things, like going for a run or walking the dog can help.
  • Sleep. Emotional strain can make you very tired. If you’re having trouble sleeping, please consult your GP.
  • Eat healthily. A healthy, well-balanced diet may help you cope better.
  • Avoid things that “numb” the pain, such as alcohol. It will make you feel worse once the numbness wears off.
  • Speak to a coach or counsellor – Only you will know if this is right for you.

What can be learned on the longer term:

  • Use the time to become more self-aware. No new organisation would go to market without a business plan and a strategy, so reflect on what you have learned from your situation, think about your own personal brand, what you are good at, what you love doing and create your own game plan. You may also want to read one of my latest blogs: How to accelerate your career.
  • Stop using the word ‘redundant’. There are many reasons why companies make employees redundant. For a prospective employer, hearing that a company has restructured, downsized or moved to another location and how any one of these changes affected your position, will make sense.
  • Update your CV.
  • Reach out to your network. By the time you do this, you should be able to articulate your story as positively as possible. Know what you want, and while I wouldn’t suggest that you ask everyone in your network for a job, you may ask them to consider you, if they hear of something.
  • Approach recruiters.

People who lose their jobs through redundancy don’t own this space. Similar feelings and emotions are described by people when they experience any massive change e.g. losing a loved one, going through a divorce, losing your home, becoming insolvent, moving to the other side of the world for work or study and leaving family and/or friends behind, etc. It’s often hard to look on the bright side and it’s almost impossible to learn from the experience while you’re in it. The future however, can be bright.

Helen Martin is a qualified coach and trainer and lives in London. She is a member of the Association for Coaching and coaches individuals through change. Helen coaches 2 people per month at no charge. She can be contacted here.

Coaching through the Ages

My great aunt was inspirational; a generous woman; the glue in her community; a friend and confidante; everyone was welcome in her home and the little that she had, was shared. I believe that people like my great-aunt were the coaches of their day. Their doors were always open, the kettle on and they were always available as that listening ear.

It’s easy to assume that everyone has someone to confide in, but today, that may not always be the case. People may: live far away from their families and friends, be alone, hold senior positions which make it impossible to discuss the bigger issues, etc.

The only difference between the coaches of today and my great-aunt, are ‘the number of tools in their toolkit’. Today’s coaches may have more knowledge about how the brain works, but they listen and question in similar ways.

“A coach has questions for your answers”, encourages you to think deeply about your assumptions and challenges your limiting beliefs. A coach is someone you can trust, a confidential sounding board who can help you reach your personal goals and aspirations, through reflection, self-discovery and awareness and behavioural change.

Reflecting on my great-aunt’s wonderful life, I trust I can carry on her good work as a professional coach and trainer. These are big shoes to fill. Wish me luck!

In loving memory of Agnes Rogers 1920 – 2016.


How to accelerate your career!

Have you ever felt that your colleagues were doing well in their careers, being recognised and promoted and you, on the other hand, weren’t going anywhere? If you want to make a decision about your next career step, read on. Today, I’m sharing a self-help tool, which I like to call the sweet spot. If you find your sweet spot, you can accelerate your career.

The sweet spot is an objective way to assess your own perspective vs. that of your peers, manager or stakeholders. It’s based on 360-degree feedback which can be used constructively to hear what you and others, recognize as your strengths and weaknesses. N.B. Not everything you are good at doing, you may actually like doing and not everything you like doing, you may not actually be good at.

  • Use your C.V./Resume and write down all of your skills and expertise in a list e.g. project management, financial management, PowerPoint, strategy, events management, etc. Include all of your skills; not just the ones that you like doing or are good at.
  • Give yourself a score from 1 to 5 for each skill that you’ve listed. 1 is the worst score and 5 is the best. So if you believe you are good at a task, give yourself a score of 4 or 5 and if you believe you’re not so good give yourself a score of 1 or 2. A neutral score is 3.
  • Using the same list, give yourself a score, from 1 to 5, if you like or dislike doing the task. There may not necessarily be a correlation between the tasks that you’re good at doing and those that you actually like doing.
  • Next, ask three or four people that you trust, and who know you well enough (from a business perspective), to use the same list and to score you on what they believe you’re good or bad at. They should use the same scoring system 1 to 5. Do not however let them see your own scores. These people do not need to score you on how you ‘like or dislike’ a task.
  • Once you have correlated all the scores i.e. your own score and those of your (ex) colleagues, highlight those scores where there is more than a two point difference between your personal score and that of your (ex)colleague. e.g. if you have scored yourself 5 and a colleague has scored you 3, then you should ask this person to explain why they gave you this score and ask for concrete examples of when you worked ‘well’ or ‘not so well’. Remember perception is reality.
  • Listen to their feedback and write it down. Do not however challenge their feedback or defend yourself.
  • Hopefully, you will start seeing a trend in their answers i.e. what people perceive you to be good or bad at.
  • Your ‘sweet spots’, are those skills/expertise that you love doing, you believe you are good at doing and, that other people recognize that you’re good at.

Using this knowledge, create your future career plan:

  • Once you have determined your ‘sweet spots’, reflect on what, how much or how little you’ve learned from jobs you have had in the past.
  • Which jobs inspired you the most, which one’s were you passionate about and happy doing and why?. You may find that there is a correlation between your sweet spots and the jobs that you’ve loved doing.
  • Using your sweet spot feedback, scan the internet for more senior positions which require your ‘sweet spot’ skills.
  • If you’re unsure about transferable skills, talk to your peers, your manager, an HR manager or recruiters.
  • If you’re planning for a more senior role (3 to 5 years into the future) you may need to learn new skills. Which skills, will you still need to develop to be offered that ‘senior role’?
  • Enrol for courses or training and use the time to up-skill.
  • Tell your peers, your manager, recruiters, your HR manager about your dreams and aspirations and what you are doing to make these dreams come true e.g. discuss your 360- degree feedback and your career and/or learning plan.
  • Develop any additional skills over your specified period (in bite-sized chunks) and grow (year-by-year) towards the next step in your career.
  • Your personal growth and development should be in your hands and in your control. Don’t outsource decisions that you need to make yourself, to the company you work for!

Good Luck! If you need any help in this regard, please contact me.

Helen Martin is a coach and trainer and is based in London.

How do you compare?

Seeing the attached picture, prompted me to write again. I hope it presents you with some food for thought and some reflection.

As a child, my parents penciled how tall I was growing on a doorpost in our hallway. My growth was never compared to that of my brother. As I grew older, way too often, I found myself comparing myself to my colleagues, my friends or even celebrities. I wanted to be slimmer, wealthier or achieve the success that others had. I may even have pointed an imaginary finger at a colleague who had worked really hard to receive a promotion and I pondered why my colleague had received it and I had not.

Everyone has a different pace, different priorities, different challenges and different things that they are willing to compromise throughout their lives. Before comparing yourself to someone else, remember that when you point your index finger at someone, there are 3 fingers pointing back at you. I’ve come to realize that when I look at someone who has achieved success, that I may only be seeing the result of that success. The diet and early morning rises to exercise; the scrimping and saving to purchase the larger home; the stretch assignments, late night calls and weekends at work; all go unseen.

I’ve learned to be happy for the achievements of others and to be ecstatically happy with what I have achieved myself because as the old adage goes, ‘you reap what you sow’, and all that I have accomplished is what I have been willing to commit to; what I have been willing to sacrifice and the work that I have done.

So, next time you find yourself comparing your own efforts to someone else, you may want to stop yourself and reflect.

Helen Martin is a coach and trainer based in London.

Measuring up

7-steps to manage a difficult conversation

Whether you need to have a discussion with your manager or give advice to a friend, just the thought of some conversations may leave you feeling anxious and you may decide to avoid the subject altogether. Today, I’d like to share with you, a fairly simple 7-step method to manage difficult conversations.

Please consider the following:
A. What do you want to achieve by the end of the conversation for yourself and for the other party?

B. What do you really want? What are your feelings telling you about what you really want?

C. Why would smart, well-intentioned people be behaving in the way that they have been? Develop 3 hypotheses (use respect, empathy and curiosity).

Use the following 7 steps to structure the conversation. I have also included a completed example below:

Step 1. Name the issue. Give a neutral and concise description of the issue.

Step 2. Clarity – give a specific example of the issue.

(At this stage, you may need to break eye contact to stop the person interrupting you. If they still interrupt you, ask if they would kindly let you finish what you would like to say).

Step 3. State calmly how you feel about the issue. I feel ‘disappointed, annoyed, sad…..’ If you can substitute ‘I feel….’ with ‘I am…..’ you’re on the right track as this will prove that it’s a feeling.

Step 4. State why it matters…..’This matters because…’

Step 5.  Identify your own contribution to the problem.

Step 6. Reassure that you want to work with the person to resolve the issue.

Step 7. End with an open question.

Follow the steps and write down an issue of your own; then practice on someone as you may still need to work on your tone of voice and/or body language to achieve the best result.

Example:  Your statement should take under 60 seconds.

1. I would like to talk to you about the job application process in our company,

2. for example, the ‘senior’ position that was recently posted to the intranet.

3. I feel disappointed that this new position was posted without anyone in the department knowing that the job existed.

4. This matters because I would have liked to have applied for the position and the current way of doing things is perceived as unfair.

5. I understand that it’s my responsibility to manage my own career and therefore to keep an eye on job postings,

6. I would be happy to help build a new process so that everyone who is interested in new opportunities has a fair chance to apply.

7. What’s your take on this?

It may take a few test runs, to become comfortable with this process, but it’s one that has been found to work well.

Good luck!

Helen Martin is a coach and trainer and is based in London.

Managing yourself through Change

Some of my friends tell me that I am brave because I am not afraid of change, while others think I am crazy and that I take unnecessary risks; I would like to challenge them all.

Change is not comfortable; in fact it’s scary! But what’s scarier: Having the carpet pulled out from underneath you because you would rather ignore change; or, having your own plan in place, irrespective of what the world throws at you?

As a leadership coach, I have met many people who have become paralysed by change, even if they knew it was coming: from, company reorganisations in which they have been made redundant, divorce, to promotions, etc. Change paralyses! Or does it? What if you always had a plan?

Acting like the victim in ‘Karpman’s drama triangle‘, blaming the establishment, government, schools, your partner, your family, your manager, etc. for all of your woes, won’t make your problems go away. When you point your index finger at the world, there are three fingers on your hand pointing right back at YOU. Is there something YOU could have done to avoid a situation? And more importantly, how do you ensure that you take control in future?

Are you happy with your job? Is your organisation happy with you? Where do you see yourself in a few years? How would you need to develop yourself to get there? What are you doing to remain true to yourself? How can you ensure that you are always one step ahead? What’s your Plan B?

Don’t wait to be unpleasantly surprised and for change to happen to you. Be part of the change. But before you start, ask yourself how committed you are. If you want to lose weight: how committed are you to going to the gym, eating less and moving more? Work towards your own ideal future and towards your own goal, irrespective of what other people expect you to do.

I hope I’ve given you some food for thought and quiet reflection. Change need not be scary if you are following your own plan. I will close with a few words from someone much wiser than I am, “We, but mirror the world. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.” – Mahatma Gandhi. Life changes are inevitable but when we initiate personal change, we rise to the challenge, ensuring a more positive result.

Helen Martin is a coach and trainer and is based in London.

Who inspires you to be great?

I found my inspiration today from my recently graduated, 24 year old nephew’s, facebook page. His words inspired me because many of us will hit walls somewhere in our lives; whether it’s during study or later in our careers and the key often lies in finding what we are truly passionate about; what we love doing. If you’re motivated after reading my nephew’s inspirational words, I would encourage you to read a blog that I posted a few months ago, ‘Find your passion and accelerate your career’; it may help you to structure your thoughts and offer you some guidance.

vincent_van_gogh_-_wheatfield_under_thunderclouds_-_vgm_f778“The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint. The greats were great, cause they paint a lot.

🎓 My Uni story does not begin well. I started straight out of high school because I thought it was the right thing to do. I tried marketing and hospitality management, failing exam and missing lectures. No effort I put in got any return. I was in a negative state of mind. I went to my parents one night to tell them I was going to drop out, I was not happy.

Adolescent late weeknight hang outs gave me the chance to listen to one of my best mates tell stories from his day at work. He chose to do a year working full time for a property company in the hills. His stories captivated and intrigued me. My interest stemmed to study, then to distinctions, then to mentoring other students within the course and now working. I’m so grateful for my family and friends who were there for me through the hard times and the good times, the lecturers who dropped some heavy knowledge, lecturer and role model, Dr. Pham, who got my foot in the door and my property brother, John, for starting it all.

Congrats to everyone who pushed through and graduated. It’s not smart to be dumb.”

Happy weekend.

The Time for Giving

A few weeks ago, some colleagues and I decided to do some volunteering. It’s that festive time of year again and we wanted to show our support of our community.

We contacted our local Foodbank and we were thrilled to be able to spend a few hours wrapping presents; presents that had been donated generously by donors and departments stores. People visiting the Foodbank during the festive season are not only given a hamper of food but they also receive gifts for themselves and their family.

It’s so easy to judge and to label people, without having any knowledge of their circumstances. The day we volunteered, we heard stories that many people who collect food, only visit once or twice. Some of them find themselves dealing with bureaucracy, waiting for support from the government or they’ve just hit temporary hard times.

So, whether you have a preference for calling it the holiday season, or like me, you’re celebrating Christmas, remember that this season is most definitely the time for giving!