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October 2009


I was recently on a coaching forum and found a question about self-esteem: what had readers seen of literature specifically about coaching to build self-esteem? The person asking the question was doing an MA on the topic, so great for him to get loads of helpful references. For me, however, it reminded me of the importance of not just reading about self-esteem, but thinking constructively about how we do build our clients’ self-esteem – or not?

I like to cite Nathaniel Brandon’s comment that self-esteem is the most powerful force in the universe! That certainly makes it pretty important. And of course there is general unanimity that one’s performance in life at anything is directly correlated with one’s level of self-esteem. Put crudely: the higher one’s level of self-esteem, the greater one’s level of performance.  But performance is not the end benefit – the better we perform, the more we enjoy life – in fact, enter the zone where time stops and we are fully absorbed with actually two things – the doing and the mastery. There is something incredibly satisfying – whether one has or has not got an audience – about performing at the level of complete mastery. The dancer at this point becomes the dance.


On a practical level, as a professional mentor, I frequently encounter issues of low self-esteem in some of my clients. When I do it is important to distinguish between the use of left and right brain tools. In short, for some people, it is enough to explain concepts and provide what might be termed logical exercises that enable them to move forward. These exercises can be very small steps indeed; in fact, the whole principle of kaisen suggests that working on very small steps has far more likelihood of succeeding than the big radical shifts.


Here is one, small, left brain tool that anybody can do. Fill the right side of your pocket with 10 small coins (in the UK 5p is ideal). I like to ensure they are all shiny although that isn’t essential. Then, during the course of the day, every time you think a positive thought about yourself, or correct a negative one with a positive substitution, transfer one coin across to the other side pocket. Aim to transfer all 10 during the course of the day. If that becomes easy, try to get all 10 transferred back again. The brilliance of this is that the small chinking of the coins reminds one to be positive and create positive self talk. It is also a very small step – seemingly inconsequential. Who could not do it?


However, for some, the problem is more deep-rooted and these ‘left brain’ activities and ideas simply will not work. Right brain, holistic, tools are necessary. These can include things like NLP, especially when weighted with hypnotherapy techniques. I personally prefer image streaming, meditation techniques, and EFT - these are astonishingly powerful ways of impacting the self esteem. What this is really about of course is aligning the sub-conscious mind to support the rational mind - and if it doesn't, there is not much chance of progress.

Out of ten, how would you rate your self-esteem? (10 is high, 1 is low). Does your self-esteem need a boost? Remember, what we focus on, grows in our experience.




As many of you know, our company specialises in the language and metrics of motivation. You would think – at least in business – that motivation was/is an indispensable part of the ‘mix’. By which I mean: every organisation should actively consider a strategy for motivation for all its staff. The assumption, for example, that we have an HR department, so therefore it’s ‘covered’ is often fallacious.

Why many organisations pay so little attention to motivation is a mystery, but when the same holds true, albeit to a lesser extent, for leadership, then something is seriously wrong. For if there is one factor that is consistently identified as being THE most important component of an organisation’s success, then it is leadership. The quality of leadership is intimately related to results.

So it is that we need to take a wide – generic – look at leadership before narrowing down the attributes necessary for a specific organisation. What, then, are these generic attributes? What exactly are we looking for in a leader?

I think there are two main aspects of leadership that any leader has to be thoroughly conversant with. First, leaders must be able to work ON the business or ON the organisation. What does that mean? In essence I reduce this to two major skills: the strategy for the organisation and the implementation of the processes, systems, structures that enable the strategy to be delivered.

Secondly, working IN the business or organisation. This working IN is not about the systems; it is about recruiting, creating and sustaining the winning teams. Such teams seriously leverage human productivity. As they say in the jargon: TEAMs – Together Each Achieves More.

But the final part of working IN drills down to the individual – the leader must not only build the strong, winning teams – s/he must also motivate every individual in the organisation, for it is the motivation that will provide the biggest impact on performance.

So, generically, leaders must work ON the organisation (strategy and system) and work IN the organisation (teams and motivation) too. Is there anything missing from this picture? Yes, I could argue that motivating people is a leader’s skill that is not only inwardly focused on staff, but outwardly focused on suppliers, customers, and the wider audience of the world’s opinion too. We might call this PR or negotiation!

But semantics aside, there is one major area I haven’t covered – without which none of the other skills work effectively in the long run. It is more a quality than a skill. It is the leader’s commitment to personal growth and to learning. Without that commitment and action, leadership is running on empty – and it soon shows.




On some of the Discussion groups I belong to on LinkedIn there has been quite a bit of discussion on the topic of new tools for coaches: are there any, which do you use, and do they need them anyway?

The short answer has to be: yes, there are many; which you use will depend on your own experience, learning, preferences; and yes, coaches need them. In truth too many coaches (and for that read trainers and consultants) seem to adopt the ‘education’ view of coaching. You know what I mean? I trained to be a lawyer and I qualified in 1985, so what do I need new training for? For ‘lawyer’ also read dentist, doctor, teacher, professor or just about anybody who wants to be stuck in the groove of what they ‘learnt’ thirty years ago, and think that that serves the client well.

One of my scariest true stories occurred some ten years ago. I was called into a major (for the UK) food processing company to deliver a programme called Investors in People. This company employed hundreds of people, and had been owned by one man and run in a particularly patriarchal fashion. One year before he had retired, sold out to venture capital, and now they were aiming to get a return on their investment.

I stood in the corridor as some manager told me how pleased they really were to see me. Oh, good, I said.

Yes, he continued, only we’ve never had training before. I smiled at his exaggeration.

Well, I said, you’ve never done Investors in People before?

No, we’ve never had any training. I looked perplexed. He looked nervously around.

His colleague beside him took up the story. Occasionally we could do it, but we always had to have two trainers.

I am sorry, I said, I don’t understand what you are talking about.

Well, she said, you got fired if you were found training anyone – fired on the spot.

Really? I said. So what’s the point then of two of you doing the training, if you’re both going to be fired!

Ah, said the first manager. That was so you didn’t get caught! I seriously had no idea what he meant. You know, he said, one did the training, and one stood on guard to let you know if Mr X was wandering down the corridor!

Why did he do this? I asked incredulously.

He reckoned he paid you to do the job, so why would you need training if he employed you as capable to begin with? Fair point, eh? May be, but only in an antediluvian world.

We all need tools – and the insight and wisdom to use them effectively and appropriately. The good thing about good tools is that they help ‘sell’ the business proposition because people are attracted by the self-evident power of the tool, and it acts like a guarantor of the service provided by the person. Certainly, our Motivational Maps have worked in this way with some of our coaches.

Recently I came across a superb Canadian company, called appropriately The Coaching Tools Company, see , which allowed me to trial some of their products. Very impressive indeed. I especially liked their Troll Travels – Who Am I? tool. Invariably as a coach one comes across defining identity issues; this particular tool makes this such a fun activity: you first make a list of all your qualities, and then are sent off to three bridge encounters. At each bridge you have to give away a certain percentage of your qualities to pacify the troll. You are left at the end with only 10% of your qualities, but these are the CORE you! Brilliant. Totally relevant to anyone reflecting on their personal or career development.

The other thing about these tools is how attractive they are laid out, which is always half the battle in presenting stuff to clients. So – check them out – well worth a visit. Sharpen one’s tools for the next round of coaching!