Thursday, 15 November 2012



The question about how much of  our identity is shaped by nature (our genes) and how much by nurture (our environment and upbringing) has long been one of the hottest debates.   Were we born this way or made this way?

It’s probably a  combination of both nature and nurture that goes into making us who we are.  Outwardly ,our identity is made up of  genetic details like our race, gender, appearance and age, whereas our inner  qualities and characteristics are  developed through  the influence of our cultural background, family beliefs, upbringing and education. 

Recent research  however into ‘epigenetics’ shows that circumstances undergone by our ancestors are ‘imprinted’ onto our  genes and therefore it could be genetics which are responsible for some of our sub-conscious behaviour and characteristics. Perhaps the ‘epigenetics’ theory goes some way to explaining why some men may still feel driven to act in the role of ‘provider’ or ‘hunter/gatherer’ and feel of no value when they are unable to perform this role.   

Although the nature/nurture debate is an interesting one, identity can also been seen as a mix of  how we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us.  Much of our identity is about the roles and labels we are given by ourselves and others and more importantly,  how we choose to respond to these.

For many of us, the beliefs we have about ourselves come from our upbringing and family background.  If we have always been labelled by our family as ‘the difficult one’ or the perceived by our family as ‘the clever one’ we spend much of our life trying to live up to our ‘label’.  We can also use our label as a means of limiting ourselves to a certain set up of  behaviours and actions – ‘I can’t do that, it’s not the way I’m made’.

For many people, a major part of their self-definition is the roles they take on as a boss, a parent, a father or a carer for example. Many people simply define themselves by the job they do. Once these roles are taken away or change they become confused and depressed about losing such a crucial part of their identity,

In my practise as a coach, I see many clients who either consciously or unconsciously relate to identities given to them by others and spend much of their time trying to fit into them. For example, one of my clients was seen by his family as ‘the fixer’ and would always call on him to do DIY tasks.. In reality, he found the tasks really difficult and stressful to do but didn’t want to stop doing them as he would lose the credibility and praise which came with his ability to live up to the role.  When challenged to look at the consequences of  taking on this ‘false’ identity, my client was able to realise that establishing his own identity would release a lot of pressure and tension built up through trying to meet unrealistic expectations put on him by others and himself.

In today’s society, outward labels (literally!) are used to make judgement calls and assumptions about our identity.  How we dress, what car we drive, where we shop, what job we do,  where we go on holiday can be used by other people to label us as a certain type of person.  We can end up shaping ourselves to ‘fit in’.

Alternatively, we can take control of  how we wish to be perceived by others or how we wish to label and define ourselves.  We can choose different labels and different roles at different times dependent on the circumstances and the outcome we want to achieve. By remaining fluid in our identity we can open up a world of possibilities rather than limiting ourselves by  the ‘labels’ we give ourselves.

I used the example of a client in my last blog who only saw himself as ‘depressed’ .  He had become defined by his illness.  It was not until he opened up his perception of himself in other roles like a golfer, a father and a friend that he was able to start to move away from his depression and embrace his other identities which gave him more positive results.  

Our different identities are a mis-mash of  nature, nurture, self-beliefs and the perception of others.  Becoming aware of these different identities, where they come from and what we do with them gives us the opportunity to become responsible for ourselves .  By acknowledging each different aspect of our identity we can take control of  our constituent parts and decide how to best use them – or not as the case may be.  We might not like our role as ‘bossy older sister’, but at least in becoming aware of it and why its part of our identity we can decide whether to embrace it, change it or ditch it. 

So where do the different parts of your identity come from,  who is in control of  them  and how are you going to use them?

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Who Am I? No.1

Some dictionary definitions of identity are as follows:

·      The state or fact of remaining the same one or ones, as under varying aspects or conditions;
·      The condition of being oneself or itself and not another;
·      Condition or character as to who a person or what a thing is;
·      The state or fact of being the same one as described;
·      The sense of self, providing sameness and continuity in personality over time and sometimes disturbed in mental illness.

The origin of identity comes from the late Latin word ‘indentitas’, which means repeatedly, again and again. The synonyms are individuality, personality, distinctiveness and uniqueness.

How do these definitions and explanations of identity relate to you and how do they determine who you are? Another question might be, ‘Where does your identity come from and does it come before or after my character and personality have been developed by events and situations’.

The reason I am writing this article is to explore how our identities can be changed, for better or worse, during periods of mental ill health and how or whether coaching can help individuals understand how their identity can affect their wellbeing.

It is generally true that our capabilities and our identities are inextricably linked. However, it is also generally true that our identity can impose limits on our capabilities and it must follow, therefore, that by expanding or changing our view of ourselves we can increase our levels of capability. For example, if we see ourselves as having low confidence and self-esteem we act accordingly whereas if we see ourselves as having an abundance of confidence and self-esteem we will act much differently. So, as well as being linked to capability, identity is influenced by the beliefs we have about ourselves.

Our identity is not just as a result of how we see ourselves but is also affected by how others see us and how we internalise these, generally, perceptions and the beliefs we then generate based on the inner-dialogue we subsequently have, whether this is true or false.

The most important fact to remember is that we all have the power to influence our own and others identities. But what about when we are mentally unwell, how does this change our identity and what can we do about it? This is a significant question that I am asked frequently when I am coaching clients. Having been challenged myself with mental ill health for over 30 years, I can empathise with the view that just surviving is a major challenge let alone trying to figure out who you are and how you might work on your identity.

The reality is that we will act consistently in accordance with our beliefs of who we are, whether these beliefs are true or not. If we have a belief that we are mentally unwell, there is a great danger that we will assume the identity of being a sick person and this in turn becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more you identify with your illness over time the stronger the bond you develop with this belief and the harder it becomes to change.

It is true that changing these beliefs, the essence of who we are, can be difficult but it is not impossible as most people think. How many times have you or someone you know said “I am who I am, this is just the way I am”. In many cases I have worked on, someone who believes they have depression, for example, will feel depressed because that is who they think they are. I have coached many clients with depression and they all have said to me when I ask them why they have come for coaching ‘ I am depressed’. My usual answer is that they are a father, mother, daughter, brother, sister, son, husband, wife, manager, cleaner, etc., who happens to be feeling unwell at the moment. By giving themselves the label or identity of being depressed this actually precludes them from thinking about alternative identities. Indeed, when I challenge clients thinking and thoughts about who they are I am usually met with resistance or indignation and they can even become defensive. It is almost as if they can excuse how they feel and behave based on their identity they have given themselves. Unfortunately, these clients, on their own, will not believe that they can change, both in the short-term and in the longer-term.

In fact, a shift in our identity will produce new thoughts, feelings and behaviour. It will create new beliefs about who they are and this will produce profound and sometimes quite rapid lasting improvements to the quality of their lives. In order to achieve this shift we have to change our conviction about who we are by creating a new identity, which will shift all their current behaviours from feeling depressed to feeling well. This, in turn, will generate long-term physiological and psychological changes that will be entirely consistent with their new identity.

One client of mine felt so depressed he could not leave his home for two years and yet he really enjoyed his going to his country club playing golf, swimming, having a sauna and using the gym. Having challenged his identity in the first session I encouraged him to look at himself differently and to take on the identity of someone who was fit and well by acting as if. He came to see me on our third session two weeks later to tell me that he had been to his club, played a round of golf, had a swim, used the sauna and the gym. He did admit that it had been really difficult for him but having done it he really did think and feel he was getting better. After seven one-hour sessions he went back to work and has been making plans for a long overdue holiday.

I shall be writing more about identities soon but in summary, identity and its associated beliefs have a powerful influence on how you think, feel and act and yet your identity is a choice. What are you going to choose?

Monday, 13 August 2012

Identify how influential you are as a Leader – Part 2

Identify how influential you are as a Leader – Part 2

You might also sometimes be tempted to engage in a coercive style of leadership when it's not absolutely necessary. Remember that forcing others to do things through the use of threats never works, regardless of how you view the situation.

You can probably build a stronger leadership presence by sharpening the skills and knowledge that are vital to your area of leadership. Make better use of the principles of reward and motivation; develop your soft skills to improve your interpersonal attractiveness, etc. This will magnify your influence as the liking of people toward you will surely increase.

Rightful power may be inherent in your role; you may understand the principles of reward and motivation; you may be able to take command when needed; and you likely possess some high-level skills and knowledge.

A leader who takes the time to listen to what others have to say is always appreciated by people. It's very motivational when someone gives you that respect and that respect is usually reciprocated. This is the start of great leadership.

There's always a scope of improving. Stay true to yourselves; learn to be even more outgoing, extrovert and more dynamic in a wider variety of circumstances with a wider range of people as it will help you to improve the leadership skills and your influence as well.

As individuals, you are bestowed with the ability to learn, grow and enhance every aspect of your abilities. By taking full advantage of this, you will make the most of each new day and further your success.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Identify how influential you are as a Leader – Part 1

Identify how influential you are as a Leader – Part 1

Your ability to influence others at work, at home and in your community determines the degree of your leadership qualities. The ability to influence is a great tool that can be further strengthened and refined. It requires an understanding of where your power lies and to what degree it matches the situation. After knowing about the source of your power, you can maximise its use more effectively and in the most appropriate way. This will in turn enhance the scope of your influence as a leader.

Noteworthy components of effectual leadership can be summarised as understanding your own leadership preferences, being open to experimentation, assessing your true level of genuine power, defining clearly the goals you wish to accomplish and knowing your audience.

Being in a position of authority is primarily one of responsibility. The level of authority you actually hold, and what type of people you lead and in which type of environment depend on the position that you hold.

You are a senior manager in your company, you have your set of duties to perform and lead the team for achieving the set goals. The questions that might arise are - Are you influential enough to give you the expected results? What is the best way you can influence the young leaders in your organisation to develop into potential leaders? And, are you contented with the way your team looks out to you in times of emergency?

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Leadership Skills

Leadership Skills

Leadership skills have become the most essential parameter for a managerial position in any organisation. Good leadership skills are required for the success and growth of the company. An inexperienced leader can be groomed for the job, but an incompetent leader will be a miserable failure no matter how experienced he is. Getting ahead in business in a competitive and challenging environment requires you to be a good leader with the leadership qualities to make you stand out from the crowd.

Always remember, good leaders are good listeners. Learn to listen; it is an essential aspect that will help you to avoid making big blunders. Don’t assume you know what others say and think. Whether it’s a team meeting or a one-on-one conversation, put your entire focus on what is being said.

Showing off leadership skills does not mean bossing people around. Display your leadership qualities in your actions and your ability in taking important and tough decisions. Your main objective should be guiding people in doing what they need to do. Leadership is not about just talking and telling people to do things. To be a leader you need to be empathetic about those around you.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Leaderships Tips

Leaderships Tips

Socialise with your co-workers. Good leaders must be able to connect with those they lead. Make them feel special by sending them motivational messages and messages on their special occasions. This effort will be appreciated and will certainly reinforce the belief of you being on top of everything. Treat everyone with the same courtesy and respect, irrespective of the position that they hold. Appreciate the value of every employee in your company.

Planning is another crucial attribute of leadership. A leader will enable his team to plan for success by instilling the planning and strategising attributes among his followers. A goal is impossible to reach unless it is backed by an effective plan. Good leaders teach their team goal setting techniques, and how to nurture a strategic plan for reaching the desired goals faster and in an efficient manner. Successful delegation is the most important leadership skill to have. If you are able to delegate various responsibilities well among the team, it will surely make your team effective. Delegate the tasks after knowing the strengths and weaknesses of each person on your team.

A leader establishes hope and motivation in his people. Your job as a leader is to play up the strengths so well that the weaknesses disappear. If playing your team members off one another is required, do it by filling in the gaps yourself. It’s an instant mantra for success. By polishing your leadership skills and putting them out there for everyone to see, you’ll catch the eye of the powers in your organisation. Start leading the people around you and discover a change in your life.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Common Traits of Effective Leadership

Common Traits of Effective Leadership

A leader can efficiently express his confidence, assertiveness and his sense of responsibility. There is a unique personality profile for a natural born leader. It comprises a set of instinctive characteristics that can be studied and learned by those who feel they are inadequate in a leadership position. Examining these leadership traits will bring you closer to fully understanding what it takes to be successful at that position.

A good leader must be sociable, he should have a good nature, must be extrovert and outgoing. People tend to follow those who are in higher spirits.

Another leadership quality portrayed by a good leader is self-confidence which is related to being self-assured, certain, brave, fulfilled, self-reliant and poised. High confidence allows the leaders to deal successfully with challenges. Their self confidence permits them to take decisions, handle all types of situations, set an example for everyone and articulate the thoughts and opinions.

A great leader should be assertive when it comes to decision making, a leader cannot afford to falter in such circumstances, he needs to lead without hesitation and without the risk of losing the confidence of his subordinates. For this he must be persuasive, influential, headstrong, opinionated, possibly argumentative and hostile. He must avoid being stubborn in such situations that demand quick actions and decisions.

A leader must be bold enough to function normally even in unfamiliar environments, he should be quick to accept challenges and have a will to take risks to accomplish their objectives. When important and tough decisions need to be made, it is the leaders that are bold who triumph.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Leadership Accountability and Responsiveness

Leadership Accountability and Responsiveness

Accountability and responsiveness is another trait of effective leadership. A good leader should take accountability of all his actions and decisions, whether right or wrong.  In addition, the leader should also be dominant, influential, controlling, commanding, directing and authoritative with a very strong desire to influence and direct others.

Never stop the learning process, always seek self-improvement that will strengthen your leadership attributes. This can be accomplished through various formal classes, training programs, self-study and interacting with others.

Set the example and be a good role model for your employees and followers. Effective leadership is about focusing on opportunities and not complaining about things you cannot change. Focus on what you can do and take responsibility.

Effective communication is a must for a leader. He should not hesitate in reaching out to people who have different perspectives. The art of communicating with people who have different views requires a good leader to be patient while explaining his thoughts, it also exposes him to new ideas or perspectives he may have not encountered otherwise.

By studying and deliberately making an effort to practice these traits in various environments, anyone can improve their leadership skills and emerge as an effective leader. Mastering these traits will lead the path of success at work, home, and eventually in your well-being. Have an active leadership style, and be quick enough to take control of situations.

Assume the role of a leader naturally and enjoy the responsibility and challenge of being in charge!

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Achieving The Pinnacle of Leadership

Achieving The Pinnacle of Leadership

The future of any organisation - a firm, an institute, a company or even a nation, is secure only in the hands of able leaders who have the abilities to influence the masses with their thoughts and actions. Effective leaders have the skill to listen, think, foresee, understand and act. They dare to dream and live to lead; they understand that success does not depend on their titles, but on the values they maintain and the choices they make on a daily basis. Leadership is not achieved through technical expertise; it is based on a sound relationship with people.

Self-serving leaders are not as effective because their employees only obey and follow them. The skills and knowledge processed by the leader can be influenced by his or her attributes or traits that include beliefs, values, ethics as well as the character. Knowledge and skills contribute directly to the process of leadership, while others contribute certain characteristics to the leader that make the leaders unique and different from others.

Leadership development must start at an early age. Introducing children to leadership traits through activities like team games will help them explore their hidden leadership signs. At the corporate level, leadership exercises can help identify true leaders in the organisation and sharpen the managerial skills they have.

Good leaders do not worry about excellence, they simply build it. They do not contemplate whether leaders are born or made, they believe in leading and with their virtue of self-reliance; they accomplish their aims and get them to the pinnacle of perfection.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Leadership – From Good to Significant

Leadership – From Good to Significant

A leader is someone who has a vision; he has a dream and the passion to pursue it. With his effective analytical skills, decision-making ability and a go-getter attitude, he easily influences others to follow him willingly. Leaders are nurtured through a never ending process of self-study, education, training and experience. He possesses virtues like dedication, integrity, fairness and open mindedness to greet new ideas, thinks out-of- the box and takes initiatives for innovating.

The basis of good leadership can be attributed to honourable character and selfless service to your organisation. People follow good leaders as they have trust in their decisions; they want to be guided by someone who has a clear sense of direction and who can convey a strong vision of the future. They judge a good leader through his ethical ways.

In the corporate world, it is quite often asked whether all managers make good leaders. This opens doors to the concept of corporate leadership. Leadership portrays an integral part in the growth and success of any organisation. For managers to lead the organisation, they need to possess leadership skills like planning, organising, accountability, motivating the team, team building, delegating and effective communication. No matter if the company is small or large, it is vital to have good leaders. For this, leaders have to be created.

Yes, leaders can be made, by instilling in them, the qualities of a good leader.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Enhancing Leadership Skills

Enhancing Leadership Skills

Each and every organisation needs a leader and each person in that organisation is capable of leading in some way, shape or form. How do you see yourself in the following questions:

  • Are you influential enough?
  • Do the ways in which you exercise your influence reap the desired results?
  • What is the best way you can influence the young leaders in your organisation to develop into potential leaders?
  • Are you satisfied with the way your team looks up to you in times of crisis?

Leading others is a very influential exercise and the ability to influence others can be refined and strengthened in due course of time. The most basic way of beginning this is by understanding the basic core from where your power comes from. Once we recognise the core of our power, we can use it more efficiently and in a more comprehensive manner, enhancing the scope of our overall influence.

If you want to be a good leader, you must set up such examples that you yourself follow. Leadership traits tend to be developed with situations overtime so the more you focus and refine your leadership skills the better the results.

Leadership programmes and leadership coaches are experts at nurturing the leadership qualities in employees and the question that arises is, where do you start? How do you tap into the unrefined and untapped prowess in your young employees?

Start by seeking out and questioning executive and leadership coaches or enrol on a programme that will give you and your organisation the edge it deserves.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Leadership – Can Anyone Learn to Lead?

Leadership – Can Anyone Learn to Lead?

Isn’t leadership a quality which is inborn in every leader? Leadership is not an easy road to follow and involves a lot of hard work, however, if you are ready to leave behind your ego and past experiences at the door and want to make your organisation a better place, then leadership will embrace you with its arms wide open.

A leader is a person who has a gift for expressing his/her views, but has refined listening abilities. He/she is a person who is knowledgeable and trustworthy, although not all knowing. A leader sets examples and follows them precisely in a way in which they are supposed to be followed. Leadership qualities are in all of us and if we are willing to except a significant change, despite the hardships that follow then success as a leader will be inevitable. 

Have you ever wondered why some people attract followers and others don’t? Can the art of attracting followers be learned? A leader takes forward a team with him. He works for a team, being a part of that team. Teamwork sets up an environment which enables everyone associated with it to feel that they can be a part of something bigger and better.

Another major aspect of leadership is communication. Communication is a two way process involving both the leader and the team members. It is about creating awareness and achieving a common understanding. It is important for a leader to be a good orator but what is more important for a leader is to be able to listen to others. When you listen to people, you give them respect, and this gives you respect in return.

Leadership is an incessant journey. Once you understand the significance of leadership, you look for ways to build and improve teams with a common vision and values for achieving the organisational goals. And yes, you can do it too!

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Leadership – People, Teams and Planning

Leadership – People, Teams and Planning

Leadership is intrinsic in nature and a leader knows that it is about the people, and not for themselves. It is about leading from the front. A leader believes in getting things done rather than suggesting what should be done. A leader not only finds the problems, but he also finds the solutions for those problems.

Leadership is an art and a growing science and a good leader needs to recognize and realize ways by which leadership can lead to improved employee participation. 

A leader enables his team to plan for success. A goal is impossible to reach unless it is backed up by a plan. Leadership is an ongoing process that makes you decide where you want to be in future. The role of a leader is to indoctrinate the planning and strategising attributes among his/her followers. Good leaders teach their team goal setting techniques, and how to nurture a strategic plan in order to reach the desired goals faster and in an efficient manner.

A leader establishes hope and motivation in his people. Leadership is not about just talking and telling people to do things. It is about going out and reaching out for the things and making sure the things turn your way. To be a leader you need to be compassionate about those around you.

Being a leader can be a very motivating job for the leader as well. If people look out for you in a crisis or any other situation, you are not only making a difference in their life, but it is your life which is getting motivated as well. If you give hope and faith to others, it is ultimately enhancing your own faith and hope. Come out and start leading the people around you and discover a change in your life as well!

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Leadership Traits

Leadership Traits

  • What is leadership?
  • Is there a particular set of rules that define leadership?
  • How important is leadership to you?
  • Do you see yourself as a leader?
  • What according to you are the most basic traits of a leader?

These are a few of the questions every manager ponders over in his mind. The art of being a leader comes from within but what are the traits of a good leader?

  • A leader never waits for others to get his work done.
  • A leader strives to work so that it inspires his team in achieving the desired goals.
  • A leader leads by example
  • A leader is respected and admired
  • A leader is always pushing the boundaries of impossibility

Leadership is not a fancy term which you can conjure freely anytime at your discretion. Leadership has nothing to do with who you are. On the contrary, it is more inclined towards what you do.

A leader stands out from the crowd. Everything about him has uniqueness including the way he does his work, the way he speaks, and most importantly the way he takes control of things under crisis. A true leader is honest, compassionate, authentic and congruent in his actions.

Are you ready to be a leader?

Friday, 1 June 2012

Understanding and Embracing Leadership

Understanding and Embracing Leadership

Understanding the significance of leadership is the key to any business’s success, regardless of size. More than ever before businesses need to be contemplating the importance of leadership and asking the questions.

  • Why is leadership so significant?
  • What are the qualities of a good leader?
  • Can anyone be a leader?

We are all capable of leading. A leader could be anyone. It could be a manager or any executive or even a sole trader. A leader is someone who influences and inspires people in accomplishing organisational goals. A leader motivates others to find problems, seek solutions and shape decisions in a way that prove fruitful for the organisation. A leader is a person who visualizes a dream and strives hard for the achievement of that dream.

I have a simple question for you. Can you become a better leader for your organization?

All leader and successful people need a coach or a mentor. Try naming any top athlete or sporting personality that doesn’t have a coach, can you? We all require a leader who can show us the right way and the right coach can have a huge impact on the way we conduct our professional and personal lives. When leaders influence us in a positive way, we become excited and strive to enhance more of our involvement for the organisation.

Friday, 13 April 2012

The Difference between ‘Good’ Stress and ‘Bad’ Stress

The Difference between ‘Good’ Stress and ‘Bad’ Stress

Stress is a term that can imply several things and therefore has different definitions. Put simply, stress occurs when an event or situation is too much for you to handle. Stress is typically experienced in response to physical and/or psychological stimuli. You can also experience stress by merely anticipating problems. But what is good stress? Unless it is sarcasm, we do not really hear people say, "I really feel stressed -- isn't it great?" But the fact is that if we did not have some stress in our lives -- the 'good stress' variety -- we would feel rudderless and unhappy!

The so-called ‘good stress’, or what psychologists call ‘eustress’, is actually the kind of stress that we sense when we get excited. The pulse rate becomes faster, the hormones also change but there is no threat or fear! This is the kind of feeling that comes while taking an adventurous ride in an amusement park, on a first date or simply a visit to a very exciting place. This is referred to as stress as the hormones do get disturbed but actually it is good stress and does leave us feeling excited about life. It lasts for a short while before we become used to the positive change.

The stress that we truly need to worry about is chronic or bad stress. This comes when we face stressors again and again and feel that we will not be able to cope with the changes they bring in our emotions or our behaviour with others. A stressful job or an unhappy life at home typically brings chronic stress. Other common causes include financial difficulties, breaking up with a close friend, death of a loved one, loneliness, discrimination or harassment.

The good news is that you can change some of your bad stress into good, positive stress. Though not all forms of bad stress can become good stress, but it is possible to change the perception of some of the stressors in life. Such changes ultimately change the very experience of stress. This is because during a stress response, the body reacts strongly to perceived threats. But when you do not perceive something as a threat, your response to it is also not threat-based – fight or flight.

Identifying the chronic sources of your stress and changing your perception of them can help to cut down ‘bad stress’ in life. A person can make the shift in his/her perception by focusing on resources, seeing the hidden potential advantages of a situation, and reminding himself / herself of his / her strengths. In addition to these, freeing the mind of negative thoughts, having a good diet, enjoying adequate hours of good quality sleep, regular exercise, practicing hobbies and being in the company of people who make us happy can truly help us beat bad stress. Most importantly, getting into the habit of thinking like an optimist can be immensely helpful. Once you master the practice of looking at things as challenges more often, it becomes more automatic.

When you sincerely try to add some positive activities in the mix to promote eustress, you can truly create a nice balance of good stress in your life.