Home » Uncategorized

Category: Uncategorized

That time when I learnt how to build better relationships

As someone who has always found it easy to connect to people, earlier in my career I oversimplified the effort needed to create a great experience for others. I was wrong, hella wrong, but I didn’t know what I didn’t know at the time. 

Once I started to understand myself better, and create the structure that I needed to thrive, I was able to build it for others. Only then did I realise how wrong I’d been, and that I hadn’t been courageous enough with my feedback, my straightforwardness and where I was choosing to spend my time. 

Building solid relationships takes effort, but if you can get it right, you will see the difference within yourself and the humans around you. It essentially means learning to access who you really are, developing your self-awareness, and using that as the foundation for all your relationships. 

Sounds simple enough right…? *winky face*

AUTHENTICITY IS THE SECRET INGREDIENT FOR AMAZING RELATIONSHIPS

For me, being authentic is when I am connected to the wisdom of my soul; when I am moving and being in the world in total alignment with my values. 

THE CHALLENGE IS, HOW MANY OF US FIND IT POSSIBLE TO BE TRULY AUTHENTIC? 

We don’t stray from our authenticity on purpose. Most of the time, it’s often a survival technique we learned growing up. If I act like X, people think Y about me. It’s the difference between living from our head versus living from our body. 

If that all feels a little abstract for you and you are rolling your eyes and thinking “She’s a yogi right haha,” let me help you to think about it a different way. 

We often hear that true authenticity stems from showing up as who we really are. Yet, given there are so many factors in society that can alter us in some way (often unwittingly and in childhood), I think a better goal is to show up as who you really are on that day. 

Who you really are is the true, vulnerable, imperfect you who can be honest when you are worried about something instead of being pulled into stress responses. Who you are also has a nagging voice within you when you do something that doesn’t really serve you—that’s a wise voice it’s worth getting to know, but I’ll move on for now. 

Understanding the real challenges around authenticity is an important part of understanding others. 

Many of the more challenging behaviours that humans exhibit have been formed in a reaction to their environment. Becoming a leader means learning to hold space for the reactions of others and balancing the needs of each individual and the wider team. 

It takes genuine care and kindness to create a great experience for others. It also takes you doing your best to show up as who you really are also, albeit just on that day. 

Now I appreciate that is quite a big ask for most of us. Even if we have developed relatively good self-awareness, we can still be triggered or pulled into stress responses. Or just be having a wonky day. Me included. 

So what can we do about it? 

What we can do, though, is set ourselves up for better relationships by adopting a human success mindset. Namely, a way of being with others that means we try to work to awaken authenticity in all parties. 

ADOPTING A HUMAN SUCCESS MINDSET

Customer success is a term that has grown in popularity and rightly so. It makes sense to do everything to support a customer being successful with your product and therefore business. 

What I am suggesting here is to apply something similar to the way you consider your relationships with others. 

Taking the customer analogy further, let’s start by looking at some of the psychological factors that are at play when we feel compelled to buy something. 

  • Unity: we have an emotional need for community so, if we feel a connection to others, we are more likely to buy from them. How can you create the opportunity for this type of connection? 
  • Reciprocity: we have an emotional need to give something back after receiving something. Therefore, whatever we give to people, we build up their reserves of good feeling towards us. How can you be of service to your people? 
  • Authority: we have to feel like the thing we are buying is credible, therefore we need to feel like the person behind it is credible also. How can you make sure you are showing up as your most authentic self on that specific day? 

How can you work in service of these things to the humans around you? 

Next consider your relationships with your team through the lens of a marketer or, for a bit of more modern fun, ‘Influencer’ instead.

STEP ONE: You have to get to know your audience. Creating a stakeholder empathy map is a smart move here. 

On the left you can see the stakeholder empathy map, on the right, the space for your ideas of how you can build a better relationship

These are wonderful tools for breaking down:

  1. What do people need and expect from you? 
  2. What pleases them? What problems can you solve to keep them happy? 
  3. What displeases them? Where have they reacted badly in the past? 

If you are leading or participating in a team, I recommend doing this for all of your closest colleagues at the very least.

STEP TWO: Consider the different ways that you might be able to engage with your team. Like all good Influencers, you will need a blend of ‘content’ and connection points that address:

  1. What are the goals they want to achieve and how can you support them? 
  2. What are their biggest fears and how can you address them? 
  3. What problems are they facing and how can you help to unblock them?
  4. Things that reinforce and support your belief and trust in you. 

STEP THREE: Build out your marketing plan for each person.

  1. What are the channels of communication they prefer? How do they communicate with you? What is their style of communication?
  2. How do they like to receive and give feedback? Given this differs a lot from person to person, I recommend you contract together around this. 
  3. What are the things that you can do to make them feel seen, heard, and valued? Remembering those little things about them can go a long way in relationship building.

Once you get in the flow of doing this, you will feel the energy of your team or peers lift. Over time this whole process will start to become more natural and blend into how you approach getting to know people as standard. 

If that all feels a little clunky for you, let me leave you with three pieces of advice that you can blend into your own authentic leadership style (remember, leadership is an energy, not just a role): 

  1. Be consistent. Your consistency with you will enable you to build a consistent foundation for your people.
  2. Serve before you tell. Ask questions and seek understanding first. Focus on collaboration to get to the right outcome. 
  3. Always show gratitude. A little thanks goes a long way, even if a project isn’t quite where it needs to be. 

HERE’S TO BEING EXCELLENT TO EACH OTHER

In practical terms, authentic leadership means working to understand the humans you work with and what their needs are, then balancing individual needs and those of the team. 

It definitely means working a little harder at the beginning of a new relationship to build the right foundations but, once you have them, your relationships will become stronger and more flexible, regardless of what comes along.

That time when I realised you need to become the leader that you have been seeking

One of the biggest things I coach folks on is around relationship dynamics, often at work, but also more generally.

As humans, we have a tendency to elevate those in important roles in our life as being something ‘more than’ us, we also elevate our expectations of them to match that pedestal.

For a long time I was right there with you, a new ‘leader’ would come in, I would expect them to be supportive and for them to champion me as I grew. And so often, at best that expectation led to disappointment, at worst, that expectation saw me choose to be in an abusive relationship for 12 years.

So who is at fault here? Me or them?

For a long time, I thought it was them. I would work alongside them, hoping the magic dust of leadership (good or bad) would rub off on me.

It never did.

The truth is, my expectations of them was all wrong. It was me that needed to become the leader that I was seeking.

Why do we want to be led?

  • Because we are afraid
  • Because we perhaps got a little stuck in childhood and are looking for someone to become the parent that we didn’t have
  • Because adulting is hard and it’s easier to have someone else do it

You see, you don’t need another leader, or to be controlled by another partner or friend. You need to sit firmly in the driving seat of your life, and start to make your own choices.

  • Self leadership is learning to trust your instincts
  • Self leadership is taking the time to figure out who you are and why you are
  • Self leadership is embracing imperfection
  • Self leadership is knowing how to access the things that you need, at the time that you need them

What happens when we lead ourselves?

I cried when I got my wedding pictures back recently. It was an emotional moment for two reasons, firstly because I was marrying a man beyond my wildest dreams. But secondly, I looked at those photographs and I saw that I had become a woman beyond my wildest dreams

Ruth at 20, 25, 30, even 35 wouldn’t have imagined Ruth at 42. She therefore didn’t set goals that led me in this direction, but what she did do was gradually start to lead herself. She set boundaries. She learnt who she was. She learnt who she wasn’t. She learnt how to love and accept herself.

That self leadership saw her change her life many times over, build a career, start a business, find love with another human (that was actually love this time haha) and ultimately, move to America.

Our story isn’t about a knight in shining armour, arriving from America to rescue a woman in her 40’s. It’s of two people leading themselves, learning themselves and then choosing the right partner for their next chapter.

Big change starts with little change.

Having realised the magic of self leadership on my own, I make it my mission to support other humans to step into their power, and to become the leaders that they are seeking.

How do we step into our leadership energy?

By focusing on the most important relationship in your life, the one you have with you. You do that by figuring out how you can love and accept yourself, just as you are.

I want to be really clear that this is not about starting to live in toxic positivity and pretending everything okay when it isn’t. The ‘just as you are’ is the most important part. It is easy to love ourselves when we think we are doing well at something, but what about when we are not? Can we still love and accept ourselves then?

We are aiming for a true friendship with ourselves, where we can be our own cheerleader; a steady drumbeat of love, support and commitment.

Then it becomes much easier, given that we know how to be a good friend to others, we already understand the theory when it comes to applying it to ourselves.

For me that means things like:

  • Being the person that helps you process life’s setbacks
  • Being able to catch yourself in negative self talk
  • Offering yourself support, knowing how to access the things that you need, at the time that you need them

If we can learn how to become our own best friend, we can then hopefully stride forth into self leadership in all aspects of our life. How can you be your own best friend today?

That time when I realised the true value of social health

Loneliness is a silent assassin for some of us. 

Some people feel the absence of humans more keenly and quickly, but there are many of us who quietly noodle along, contentedly solo, seemingly all gravy but living with the absence of human connection.

During lockdown in London, this was very much me. I felt very comfortable in my own company, and became super insular, feeding my soul by simply walking up and down Portobello Road and getting to see and interact with humans from afar. I managed to still maintain my close friendships virtually but the people I saw IRL were usually Amazon people or staff at the local grocery store.

I was lonely. I missed humans, but I didn’t consciously realise it for a while. Then sadness came my way and I finally let myself feel and acknowledge my loneliness.

After I acknowledged it, I then did everything I could to change it, and made sure I saw my people more.

Our social well-being is up there with all of the other key things we need to thrive. The World Health Organisation states: ‘Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.’

Our social circle matters. Our connection to our community matters. It is a very important component of what we need to thrive.

Now I am adapting to a different life, one that means that I have a partner, and therefore human contact in abundance, but I am also in a new place, trying to find my tribe and create a new community.

Moving country is a trip for sure, full of magical new things, but also full of sadness for the people and places you have left behind. I am both delighted to be experiencing new things, and also missing my community and my people. I feel a longing for connection and at times, loneliness.

I’m determined to prioritise my social well-being, now knowing just how much it matters, and make sure that I make new friends here IRL.

Here are some of the things I am planning to do:

  • Try out the local co working space; look out for the person who has her eyes darting up and down from the laptop, and keeps getting coffee haha.
  • Go to a few local classes; look out for the person getting there early and staying late, starting conversation as we grab our yoga mats.

I’ve written before about a more positive definition of resilience. Which is really to know ourselves and our emotions well enough to know what we need, and then take the steps we need to take to get ourselves to more stable footing. What I have just described to you above my friends, is resilience in action.

When we deny ourselves the opportunity to feel what is real to us, we deny ourselves access to authenticity. Authenticity starts with our ability to be honest with ourselves first, and continues when we become whole enough within ourselves to be honest with others.

Developing resilience is about developing flexibility

For me that has meant developing a toolkit that enables me to be able to know how to get back to myself, based on whatever comes my way. I highly recommend starting to consider what you might need in yours.

I can’t tell you what you need, that is something that only you can figure out. My toolkit looks a little like this:

Stillness: Finding the means to connect to my body, for me that means using a gentle breath meditation.

Structure: I need my days to follow a set structure to thrive, before that I operated in chaos.

Support: I have my team assembled that support me in different ways on different things, and I am always adding new members (see above haha).

Self love:  The conversation that I have with myself when no one else is around and the way that I look at myself in the mirror. The way I forgive myself if I get something wrong.

My invitation to you all is to take a moment think about your social well-being. Do you get to spend time with a variety of people who light you up? Do you need to add a few more in, and create the space to meet new humans?

How can you feed and water your community this week?

That time when I realised that leadership is the energy you operate in

Leadership isn’t about what role you currently hold, leadership is the energy you operate in. 

Difficult relationships can provide us with some of our biggest stressors. At one time I had a particularly difficult relationship with a boss. Looking back I can see that my enthusiasm for working on things that I was passionate about could easily have been annoying, but at the time, it was a different story. 

I would lean on the counsel of friends regularly, really just looking to offload and have them soothe my heart and give me sympathy for this terrible person I had in my life. 

Then one day something clicked. I read a book called “The Art of Possibility” by Benjamin Zander and Rosamund Stone Zander, something about that book and the idea of assuming the best in others, made my look carefully at the relationships I was participating in. In the case of my boss, I wasn’t assuming the best when I interacted with them, I was assuming the worst. 

I was holding my breath each time we interacted, which meant that I wasn’t allowing the space for anything to flow. I was leading the situation, but leading it to a negative outcome. 

I decided to do the conversational version of breathing out. I relaxed, I started to sit in open body postures in our meetings, I smiled, I opened my heart and I stopped assuming the worst. 

And it worked. Gradually that person began to exhale also, and over time, their energy matched my own. 

What I had done was become the positive leader in that situation. By taking responsibility, I had lead us to embrace a different dynamic together. I realised then how much power I truly held in the way I allowed myself to experience others. 

Leadership as an energy 

In a recent coaching conversation, we got into the weeds of dissecting what it means to step into positive leadership energy. 

We ended up landing on the idea that it is when you have managed to step into being vs performing. 

What do we mean by that? 

Most of us have spent and or spend a lot of our lives performing. Our early blueprint of life sets the foundation for the personalities we curate. 

For a while I used to think my personality was me being truly authentic, it isn’t. It’s a series of ways of being I have concocted to stay safe in the world. If I can make you smile, I’m safe. If I can show you I see you and care, I’m safe. 

Our personality is a performance. 

But look, that performance is so etched in who we have become, I’m not suggesting that we are ever going to lose it.

What we can do though is dial up on our being-ness.

  • Being is when we are on the journey to love ourselves. 
  • Being is when we start to appease less, and ask ourselves who we are seeking to serve in each moment. 
  • Being is when we know how to connect with the stiller parts of ourselves and do so. 
  • Being is when we start to celebrate our abilities. 
  • Being is when we start to live in alignment with our values. 
  • Being is when live our boundaries. 

Being is when we take responsibility for our role in our lives and breathe out all the things we are holding onto. 

Dialling up our being-ness takes work, and a commitment to do so. There may still be some ways that we find ourselves performing along the way to get there, and that’s okay too. 

When I was learning to have boundaries, I felt I had to hold them very firm and rigid. I was performing my boundaries, because I hadn’t had them before so had to hold them very rigid. When I finally started to let go, and let myself be, my boundaries became softer, and more fluid again, but landed in a way where they still serve me first. 

If you can just start with one tiny thing, to BE a little more this week, boundaries might be a great place to start. There might be small things that you can hold a little firmer on, until they find their natural way of being. 

For each of the ways I talked about us being, they are the definition of leadership energy. If we can step into it and claim it, it’s the single best thing that we can do for the people around us, because by doing so, we invite them to do the same for themselves. 

That time when I wanted us to learn to celebrate our differences

Hands up who at some time in their life has felt like they aren’t intelligent? 

(Side note: yes, that is meant to sound like an absolute, because for many of us, that view of ourselves has felt absolute.) 

If a lot of you just threw your hand up in the sky, I am right there with you. What I can also tell you is that there are lots of people like us, and it is no surprise; we exist in structures and societies that favour one kind of intelligence. 

It’s insidiously etched into our souls throughout education, and keeps going in the working world. We exist in a competitive system that teaches us the dark art of comparison early on. You can basically supplement the word intelligent for pretty much any of the other things that we think we aren’t. 

That comparison impacts us all in different ways and creates a tonne of different cages in our minds depending on who we are and our level of sensitivity. 

When we are littler beings, we take the outward assessments of us (that give rise to our own inward assessments) as final

Our littler being version of us, will have looked at the capabilities or looks of others, realised that they have something that we don’t, and rather than then figuring out all the brilliant things we do, simply make a rule about ourselves that we are not [insert whatever that thing is here]. 

We take for granted all of the magic that we bring, because when we find things easy, we assume that everyone must think they are easy too. 

As a coach, I work a lot with people around self esteem is something that comes up a lot. It is something I have also done a lot of work on personally. 

Different but still valuable

Coming back to intelligence then, I can tell you that I am someone who can either hyper focus and remember everything or remember nothing. I can find it hard to read and retain a lot of detail, and I have to be quite deliberate with reading in general. However, what I have always been able to read is humans, situations and energy (there she goes again with that yogi chat haha). 

I am great at finding creative solutions and my brain fires up excitedly when inventing new things. It tends to move quite quickly and can context-switch in a flash. I love these things about me now, but when I was younger, even in adulthood, I would compare myself to others and worry. 

For anyone who is either wrestling with their own relationship with their intelligence or seeking to support others, I’d like to offer a reframe that might make you fall in love with your intelligence a little bit, just like I have. 

Two legs good, four legs bad 

There is a book called Animal Farm by George Orwell that a lot of us read at school (wow, I remembered it haha). It’s a story about the shifting power dynamics as the animals, on four legs, take back power from the humans on two legs… only to eventually create a similar hierarchy once again with some of them starting to walk on two legs and becoming the ruling class. 

I like to refer to this with my coaching clients with two legged intelligence being the intelligence that we think we desire more than our own. I truly respect two legged intelligence, I am actually in awe of it. I would love to have the ability to read lots of detail and retain data. It’s that awe that has made me question my own intelligence so much. 

But what if we could learn instead to celebrate ourselves and our brains, just as they are?

In  Animal Farm terms, I like to think of the type of intelligence I have as four legged intelligence. I have all four hooves on the floor, so I can feel energy, I can assess environments quickly, I can read humans, I can optimise and solve problems. I don’t always retain data, and sometimes reading a lot of it is a challenge… but when I apply myself deliberately and intentionally to things, I can fire up that part of myself. 

My hooves mean that I can feel more, which is a tremendous gift, but can also be overwhelming. 

When I started to realise the magic of my brain, my four legged intelligence, I was able to start to celebrate it.

Can we therefore offer ourselves and our society a reframe? 

Two legs good, four legs good, three legs good, five legs good…? 

You are good at that stuff. I am good at this stuff. Sometimes you are good at this stuff. Sometimes I am good at that stuff. That person over there is amazing at this other stuff. You have this. I have that. And so on…

Can we please just find a way to celebrate ourselves as we are and work to remove comparison? Can we please see the beauty in one another’s differences and understand that we become more powerful when we are simply exposed to them and we don’t think we are failing because we don’t have what they have? Can we agree to just be beautifully different in some ways and brilliantly the same in many of the ways that make us human? 

If you are reading this, my guess is you are already past the school age where a lot of these views are formed. Might I invite you to think about how we break this down in the here and now? How can we learn to celebrate all that we are and all that we bring without the need to be worse or better than each other? 

In case that question left you feeling a little bit stuck…

My advice would be that many of the biggest changes we can make start small, they start with us.

How do you see yourself in the world? How do you see your intelligence? Is there work you need to do on your relationship with you.

Once we develop self awareness around this, it becomes easy to support those closest to us with their own self perception. That may start to add up into a growing number of people who start to believe in themselves and their abilities.

When we believe in ourselves and have confidence, that’s when we start to be a little bolder with our ideas and start to innovate on the world we find ourselves in. And boy does our world need some innovation. 

That time when I learnt the value of values 

I know I’ve been speaking a lot lately about the importance of becoming aligned with our own values, but trust me folks, this stuff is dynamite. I’ve started to work with a few of my coaching clients on this very topic and it’s enabling some really powerful conversations. 

The new year is felt by different people in different ways and in different ways on different days. Some years you might feel pumped; like hell yeah come at me. Some years you might just feel a little overwhelmed. 

This year I am both.

Wherever you are right now on your new year spectrum this year, I got you. 

There is something that you can use to ground yourself in the moment, whatever that moment is: your value system. 

I didn’t know the value of values for the longest while. I think I had some kinda awareness of my intuition but I totally disregarded it. If my nervous system was freaking out about something, a person or a situation, I overrode it. I simply wasn’t aware of the signs my body was giving me. 

I lived a highly stressed, highly disconnected life for a reeeeeeeally long time. 

The first time I listened to my intuition I didn’t know I was doing it. It was when I chose to leave my ex-husband and file for divorce. The pace of change at that time was so fast for me, that I simply went on autopilot to get through it. 

The first time I consciously learnt how to access my intuition was a couple of years later. I was finding it hard to know what I wanted on any level, and a friend at the time simply advised me to start small and try to make decisions that made me happy. 

It was a rudimentary model to say the least, but I at least started to really think about what I wanted for the first time. I actually had some tattoos at the time to symbolise the things that I was using to steer me; ‘energy, strength, grace’ for the way I wanted to operate, ‘change’ for my appetite to try new things and ‘challenge, transcend, transform and explore’ for how I wanted to evolve. I didn’t realise then but this was my first foray into learning to live by my values.

I made choices more instinctively but still floundered often, making as many bad decisions as I did good ones. Still, it was a start. 

Things started to shift when I learnt the power of values at Shazam, where I took the business on their first journey to create their own.

Shazam, at the time, was a business surviving on passion and hadn’t done a great job of articulating what mattered to it most in terms of values and behaviours. I was leading Talent and working to attract brilliant minds to the organisation. For me it made sense to be able to speak about the reality of life at Shazam in that way. 

It was a journey to get there, but when we did, I understood this was so much more than an attraction tool, our values provided an operating model for how we choose to work together and make decisions. 

Having been single and unsuccessfully dating for a few years at this point, I realised that values could be a useful lens for making more personal decisions. 

I worked out my own values with a simple tool and started applying that to my dating life. It wasn’t just about who they were, it was about the person that I was when I was around them. That was perhaps the most important marker of all. 

The result was amazing. I have since rebooted my values a number of times and everything that I am doing right now (like my Pancakes & Peacocks pod) is formed around those values. 

Living in true alignment with my values is one of my most significant goals for 2022.

They are: 

⚡️ Innovation: with a focus on continuous improvement, I am careful to protect my space for creativity and problem solving

⚡️ Community: that I nurture and build strong relationships with other humans that enable us to share ideas and encourage one another to dream bigger

⚡️ Integrity: in how I show up, to myself first and foremost, for that is the foundation, but also in how I move through the world and live in my truest expression of me

⚡️ Love: I seek to love first, ask questions later. Love limitlessly and sincerely, myself first, then let that permeate everything that I do

⚡️ Courage: the value that is the foundation for all the others, to be brave enough to love, challenge, create and importantly, to ask for support

What are your values? If you want to do a simple exercise like I did in the beginning, you can use my worksheet here

Whichever kind of January person you are this year, goal focused, overwhelmed or something else. Let your values guide your decisions and you won’t go far wrong. 

Wishing you an aligned 2022, with love always.

That time when I developed a different relationship with fear

I hate to be the one to break it to you, if indeed I am, but most humans are most significantly limited by one person and one person alone. Ourselves.

We hold ourselves in places, patterns and relationships that don’t serve us. Most of the time we aren’t doing it consciously, we are doing it because we are afraid. There’s usually some good to be found in most scenarios, even if the entirety of the situation doesn’t work for us. We latch onto those things.

I’ve often talked about it in terms of the brain trying to keep us safe, that’s literally what it is doing. In high stress situations, adrenaline floods our system and disables our prefrontal cortex. Our prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that facilitates problem-solving and creative thinking.

What the brain actually does in reality is come at us with thoughts and ideas that move us away from the, probably slightly bolder, initial drive that was within us. We then start to listen to our brain and begin to decide that the bold idea is a bad idea, and everything that was moving us towards it starts to look a little better again.

I have lived this cycle over and over again, so trust me, I know.

The brilliant news is that there is another way.

You can instead do what I have done, and learn to see your brain for what it is, understand what it is trying to do, but then make decisions that feel more expansive for you. To do that though, you have to realise that fear is never going to go away, it’s always gonna be there, in the form of your brain, trying to keep you safe from harm. The real shift therefore is learning to hold that energy of fear in your body, being able to rationalise why it is showing up, and move forward in the way that truly serves us regardless.

By acknowledging, understanding and processing that the fear exists, we re-engage our prefrontal cortex, and supercharge our ability to do our best thinking.

Here’s how I do that.

#1: Figuring out how I feel about it.

Firstly by acknowledging and saying out loud how you feel about the situation. Even if only to yourself. You might not feel fear directly, but you might feel a sense of frustration, or a little more stressed – those are often signs from our nervous system that something isn’t right.

When we give ourselves permission to say how we feel out loud, we allow the emotion to dissipate. It loosens the hold it has. Like when you admit you need help with something. You feel your shoulders relax. It doesn’t change anything for others, but it changes everything for you. Now your mind is freed up, and fear is no longer in the driving seat, your problem solving brain can start mentally processing and creating a plan for how to deal with this.

#2: Perform an allergy test.

Once you have acknowledged how you feel, Identify the reasons for how you feel. The sources of your fears. Write out all the things you are worried about. All of them. It might be things like:

  • What if I look silly?
  • What if XYZ doesn’t like me?
  • What if I never meet someone else?
  • What if I never find a better job?
  • What if I fail?

Then run through all the things you have just written out in your mind one by one and allergy test them. Which one makes you feel the most awkward, stressed or wonky? Once you think you have the thing that is causing you the most concern, now to overcome it.

#3: Overcome your own objections

This is where I recommend having a conversation with yourself on a pad of paper between You (the most calm, brilliant, rational you) and Brain. If you are wondering how to access your rational side that isn’t afraid, start by thinking how you might answer if it was your friend who was telling you their feelings about something, and you were helping them to rationalise them.

  1. Divide a piece of paper into two columns
  2. Let your Brain state its concern at the top on one side
  3. From the You side, ask your Brain why you feel that way
  4. Respond as honestly as your Brain can
  5. Ask your Brain why it feels that way
  6. Respond as honestly as you can
  7. Ask your Brain again and what it thinks the feeling is underneath
  8. Keep going until you get to the honest bedrock of what lies beneath this fear – we keep asking why because it means that we get past all of our justifications and excuses, also known as ‘the Brain’s tricks’
  9. Next help yourself to understand a more realistic outcome

Let’s see that in action.

I’m worried about the client presentation I need to give next week. Why? Because it is a really big deal and a lot of the senior team will be there. Why is it a big deal? Because it is an important account so I am worried about getting something wrong. What would happen if you got something wrong? It could feel embarrassing and I might lose the respect of my peers. And what would that mean to you if that happened? I would feel bad and separate from the rest of the team.

The underlying theme here is a fear of what other people think.

Given it is normal for people to make little mistakes in every day life, if you were to get something slightly wrong, what is a more realistic outcome? In the example above, simply that I would apologise for the misstep, and complete the rest of the presentation.

Getting comfortable with fear

As I continue to learn to hold the energy of fear in my body, and be okay with it, I wanted to share with some of my best moments of getting comfortable with fear, in the hope that it might serve for a little inspo within yours:

2010: Setting myself free to leave a relationship that didn’t serve me. My brain held me in that one for 12 years, latching on to glimmers of goodness, rather than seeing it as the world of pain it really was. It took a lot to leave it, but when I did I never looked back – well, only to look at why I chose it in the first place!

2012: Setting myself free to be me and to make decisions that served me. That was supported by being at Shazam, but also was the time where I learnt to say no and to have boundaries, I’ve got better at those too over time. I am now a people pleaser in recovery, but I have to work hard to stay that way.

2020: Setting myself free to be loved by another human. Having learnt to love myself throughout the past decade, I finally became able to let love in. It was a love that asked me to step into fear and hold it in my body, not just because love is scary at first, but also because my love is based in America and I am in London.

2021: Setting myself all the way free. This year I left my job without having a job to go to. I literally had no plan, I just knew that change was needed. I decided to have faith in the Universe, given that we have a good relationship by now haha, and trust that good things would come my way. I am pleased to say they have.

Side note: the new and emerging Pancakes and Peacocks community is one of those things. There are many of us who have felt trapped in the working world we have created, and I am thrilled that many of us want to come together to think about how we might do that better. If that’s a mission that sounds interesting to you, let me know.

I’m going to leave you with two questions that I am asking myself all the time now, perhaps to reflect on over the holidays:

  1. What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?
  2. What would you do if you were able to hold the energy of fear and do it anyway…?

That time when I realised that the way we do work isn’t working

As a People and Talent person for over two decades, I’ve built and rebuilt teams and organisations like Shazam, Onfido and bp Launchpad. Whilst I was in the thick of it, working hard towards trying to make these businesses successful made a lot of sense to me. This year though, things felt different.

I realised this year that I have seen similar culture struggles, relationship issues and growing pains play out over and over again within otherwise incredible organisations. Kind hearted, well-meaning, brilliant people come together to build something with the best of intentions. Some of the team (often the leaders) feel like they are creating a great culture, whilst many of the team feel like they are overwhelmed and underwhelmed, all at once. I have been on both sides of that coin at one time also.

By moving away from Talent and stepped into heading up People teams as a People person, I was responding to the call of my purpose by attempting to support other humans to find the flow of life, growth and work that works for them. I feel I only ever created glimmers of that. Instead it has felt like I have spent time either papering over the cracks of organisational distress or before that as a headhunter, helping them to leave it.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again so this summer I did something radical. I decided to stop. I left my job.

I took a break, a proper break.

There in the midst of the unravelling of my relationship with work, myself and where my frustrations lay, I realised that the way we do work isn’t working. Not for a lot of us.

Sure, there are magical pockets of people thriving here and there, but they are magical pockets. Across industries, across locations, I see soooooo many companies who aren’t able to create an environment where all their humans can really thrive.

I think we can do better. I think we can build something different. Something where we all actually thrive and feel like we belong.

Why does it matter so much?

Creating the space to innovate is essential, for humans, for businesses and for our society as a whole.

When people are thriving, that is when we do our best work. We become brilliant, bold and even more innovative and apply that energy to whatever we are doing. When we feel safe and like we belong, we are free to innovate without fear. When we feel the opposite, we spend all of our time in survival mode and working on the closest problem in our lives, rather than the ones that might be the most impactful. Until all the people in our organisations feel like they belong, we won’t ever truly get to experience the magic of them.

With space we can learn how to thrive, and once we create space for ourselves, we can learn how to build it for others.

I’ve decided to spend a little time unpacking the world of work and reimagining how we might do this better. I’m thrilled to be working with some brilliant clients who want to reimagine their environments currently, coaching some amazing humans and building out aa course with the ASPIRE team on how we create the space to innovate. I’ll be sharing my findings as I go, here in cyber space with writing and on my pod Pancakes and Peacocks.

If this is a mission that resonates with you, let me know. I am keen to see if there might just be a community of reimaginers out there who want to come on that journey with me. One of those reimaginers is definitely Jules Fedele. And taking her lead, I’m going to set some longer term impact focused goals, some very similar to Jules (that’s likely why we found each other!), you can hear her explaining them here.

I have realigned my purpose to be to help people and businesses to reimagine, experiment and reinvent our environments to create a space where we all truly thrive and feel like we belong. That translates to the following impact goals:

  1. To create space for innovation within humans, whether by supporting organisations to create that environment or by supporting the individual to create the space for themselves.
  2. To support leaders to step into a truer expression of themselves through deep self awareness and being to lead from that place in what Jules refers to as Embodied Leadership. Only when we learn how to do it for ourselves can we really provide that space for others.
  3. To be part of a community of reimaginers that reinvents the idea of work to create a thriving community of beings of all life stages, that come together and create things, have a tonne of fun and step into the fullest expression of ourselves – mind, body, soul.

Who is up for a little reimagining with me?

That time when I developed some habit hacks

Do you struggle with your habits? Whether it is creating the ones we want to have or breaking the ones we already have locked in – most of us have at some stage. 

Let’s start with a definition first. Let’s remove the idea of BAD or GOOD habits. One habit could be really positive for one person and negative for someone else. It is all completely individual and will evolve over time – just like you do. I can also tend to find that this years positive habits end up being next years negative ones haha, is anyone with me on that? 

Habits shifting has been an important part of my own evolution. Learning to treat myself better has supported my growing ability to truly love myself.

I believe that the way you live sets the bar for who you believe you are. 

That means that if you aren’t quite there with loving you yet (you know who you are), evolving how you live to support you better, can positively influence that perception. 

Before structure for me, there was chaos. 

12 years ago my life was in total chaos. The formulation of (at the time) more positive habits around my eating enabled to start to take agency over my own life. I took charge of my weight and managed to lose 3 stone (42 lbs). 

There is something quite magical that happens to a human being when they step into their power and realise that they have the power of choice. For me that didn’t come in one great flash of wisdom, even with the weight loss. It came through developing the power to control, review and iterate a thousand tiny habits.

Habit shifting is something I am pretty much always working on – as is my relationship with myself.

Let’s work together on this.

There are some great books on this topic, notably James Clear with his Atomic Habits and BJ Fogg with his Tiny Habits and so much of what they say in those books I share – it is the little habits that set the foundation for how we live our lives.

If you want a quick start on how to start thinking about where you might be able to create better habits in your own world, but don’t know what you want to change, perhaps a little self care audit might be a good place to start.

Here’s the Self Care audit that I use to check in on how I am tracking against these things and to set goals around where I want to be. Feel free to change the questions around what works for you. There is no one path to wellbeing, it’s a completely individual and inside job. 

Honestly though, most of us already know deep down what is truly serving us and what isn’t. 

If you have given the audit a go and you have your one thing you would like to add into this week. Here’s some ideas (likely some also from the folks I mentioned above, can’t remember who said what haha) for making and breaking habits. 

1. Habit stacking 

If there is always something you do, it is SO easy to make add one habit to another. We all clean our teeth in some way every day (I am sure), so is there a way you can create a habit around that habit.

2. Create triggers

Earlier this year I wanted to make a habit of taking a vitamin every day (Heights – life changing!), and given I wanted to take it at lunchtime I leave it in my kitchen where I will see it when I make lunch. You can also set alarms on your phone. 

3. Create or remove barriers 

Whether you want to add something or take it away, it helps to create or remove barriers accordingly. If I want to stop eating something, I stop buying it. If I want to wean myself off something, I have sometimes gone cold turkey altogether. I did that with salt because I was SUCH a salt monster that I needed to be a little more extreme. Now I have re-educated my palate and can eat salt more responsibly. 

4. Habit replacement 

When I was trying to break a snack habit a while ago, I simply stopped buying snacks. At the time the snack habit craving kicked in, I simply made a cup of tea, then gradually weaning myself of the replaced tea habit. 

5. Make it feel satisfying

Is there a way that you can gamify yourself to feel like you have been rewarded for either doing or not doing something? Sometimes the act is enough of a reward in and of itself, but in case it isn’t, can you keep a daily tally? 

6. Create an accountability partner or group

When I was learning how to meditate, it was one of the hardest habits I had to teach myself. I found communities of likeminded friends and we created WhatsApp groups. When a person meditated, they simply posted an emoji into the chat. It was a great trigger to everyone else to meditate if they hadn’t yet today. 

When you can get into the habit (see what I did there haha) of creating and removing habits in a more iterative, fluid way it makes tackling the bigger changes a whole bunch easier. Developing a mindset of continuous improvement becomes easier the more you do it. Just like if you are working on a software product, if something doesn’t work, you simply remove it and try something else. 

Try also to view any ‘failures’ as positively as you can. They are there merely to provide data points for future growth.

What I learnt about habits in my own world, is that the small habits I was able to create and remove where the things that have added up to the total transformation in not only how I live, but more importantly, how I see myself. 

If you feel like you need a little extra help around your self perception, or indeed habits, holler at your girl. 

That time when I realised that I wasn’t who I thought I was

Do you feel like you are enough?

It’s a big question, right?

It took me a long time to recognise that I didn’t and what choices that had caused me to make, but even longer to start to realise just how much of my ‘personality’ and behaviours are driven by that deep seated falsehood.

I thought I would share some of what I have been learning about me in the hopes that it might either evoke you into sharing some of what you have learnt with me about yourselves, or simply inspire you to delve a little deeper into your own voyage of discovery.

When I was very young, I was confident, fiercely independent and pretty intense, but also thoughtful and reflective. I knew I what I wanted and I had no issue asking for it. As soon as my parents start to feed me solid food with a spoon I insisted on holding it and doing it myself. That is who Ruth Penfold is.

In the years that followed, fairly quickly I began to observe what my being-ness did to others. I gradually learnt to unconsciously adapt my behaviour to create the reaction that I was looking for in others. This is how I created my persona; namely a set of behaviours that helped to make me feel safer in the world and a little more like I was enough.

Those were things like;

  • Finding a way to create warmth in interactions with new people quickly, ideally making them laugh by being silly and playful.
  • Holding back my voice and thoughts in interactions to make sure I speak in a way that doesn’t make people think less of me.
  • Not asking questions to create total understanding of what others are saying, so that they didn’t have a negative view of my level of intelligence.

By constantly calculating how I showed up in the world, what I was doing is not truly being present. I was (and sometimes still am) constantly searching for a way to create an opinion of me in others, rather than allowing them to feel me at my fullness.

I thought these behaviours were who I was.

I thought the warmth I was creating in interactions with new people was just me being that confident, unapologetic child I once was.

It wasn’t.

Don’t get me wrong, being able to inject energy into interactions with others in the right way is beautiful. It is something I still celebrate about me, but now I am careful to connect into myself before I do so and that means I can better assess who I am serving in those interactions. Am I serving my truth or am I simply serving what I hope will be others’ opinions of me?

How did I realise this?

I first really became aware of this when I found that I would often not be successful in interviews for leadership roles. I would get feedback that people loved the interaction with me and ‘thought I was great’ but they didn’t have confidence in my ability to deliver things in a structured way.

Whilst my brain is definitely creative, I actually work in a fairly structured way. I am meticulous around deadlines and continuous improvement. In interviews, however, people weren’t able to feel that side of me at all.

When I became aware of it, I learnt how to take a breath and connect to myself before an interview. That enabled me to become a little more aware of when I was in ‘performance mode’ so that I could make sure that (what I thought at the time was) both sides of myself could show up.

Where am I now?

Whilst I have worked really hard on learning to connect to myself and speak with (and trust) my authentic voice, people sometimes still feel that disconnect. This year I have really become aware of that. When my ‘safety persona’ is in play, it means that people think that is who I am. When I show up differently, it can create a lack of trust.

If that’s something you have ever experienced about me, then I ask you for your forgiveness. I am always working on deepening my connection with myself in order to create a safe environment within, so that I can show up in every interaction as my most authentic self.

Since April, this has been something that I have really been focussing on and I have done a few things to support me with this:

  1. Connecting with those I work with most closely to create the right environment for giving and receiving feedback. It is important to me that I make sure that they feel able to call out to me where they see something that doesn’t feel authentic to them.
  2. I did a block of sessions with James Hansen. Through my work with him, I also made a new commitment to my closest people to speak up when I feel negatively impacted with them. Giving feedback is a skill that I have learnt and continue to learn professionally, but I can still find myself holding back when it is something that creates an emotional reaction in me. Truly honouring and speaking my truth in those situations is something I am working on.
  3. I became part of a Tribe. A Tribe is a group that comes together once a month to coach one another on whatever they are experiencing. We are only three sessions in but it is an incredibly enriching experience. Learn more about Tribes and how it works here. Through this group, my ask to them was to support me by calling out when they feel like I am not bringing my authentic self to the group. It was wonderful but a little overwhelming to show up to that group in my honest, raw and vulnerable form – no performance, just Ruth and all the shades of emotion that brings.

Perhaps the biggest thing I have learnt over the past three months is to love and accept myself fully in spite of these modes I have created to survive. I love and cherish myself even when I catch myself slipping into performance mode.

At my core I truly believe I am enough, and I will continue working on developing that understanding so that I can one day show up fully to all situations at my authentic best. If any of this post resonates with you, I’d love to hear more from you about what you are doing to work on truly claiming the human being you were always meant to be.