The hippo, the salesman and the significance of shoes

The hippo, the salesman and the significance of shoes

This week I’ve been asking myself how bad things have to get before we ask for help.

I’m thinking of all the people who struggle with a relationship without seeking counselling. Or those who wrestle with a problem at work and try and solve it on their own, rather than ask for help from managers or peers, or even a coach. Brené Brown, in her research into relationships, discovered we have a strong social imperative to appear strong and avoid feeling vulnerable.  Yet she believes:

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”

Which reminds me of an extraordinary day I spent back in Zimbabwe


How journaling reduces stress and boosts creativity

How journaling reduces stress and boosts creativity

How journaling reduces stress and boosts creativity

Did you know there’s robust research showing that writing a journal helps us let go of difficult emotions, cuts down on over-thinking and procrastination and leaves us calmer, clearer and less stressed?

The research shows a journal habit:

  • • helps your brain regulate your emotions (less shouting at the kids/your spouse/the TV)
  • • gives you an outlet for your full range of emotions (yes, it is healthy to feel anger, fear, jealousy, envy, no it is not healthy to bottle them up or throw them on your nearest and dearest)
  • • boosts your ability to cope with change and adversity (and who doesn’t need that right now?)
  • • strengthens your sense of identity and feelings of self-esteem and self-confidence (vital for people not working whose identity has been entwined with what they do)
  • • build your self-awareness and emotional intelligence (which will stop you being replaced at work by a robot – yes seriously)

I encourage all my executive coaching clients to keep a journal 

After all, coaching is a change process; one that requires reflection, un-learning and experimenting with new ways of doing things.  The process of change will throw up the full range of emotions and will challenge us to think differently about ourselves.  So, look again at those research findings above to see how keeping a journal can be an important part of the coaching process.

As I write this, I realise that coaching is an act of creation; generating new insights, opening up new possibilities and choices.

And there you go.  Sitting down and writing has allowed that new thinking to emerge for me.

But I’m going to be honest, most of my clients don’t end up keeping a journal

For some of them it seems a bit “woo” and for some of them it seems so hard to get started.  There are few things more intimidating than a blank page and a sense that this is an extravagant indulgence when you are so busy (and perhaps also stressed).

Getting started with journaling is HARD and it CAN seem a bit well, woo.

So let’s start with a few common myths:

Myth #1 Writing a diary and a journal are the same thing

They’re not. A diary tends to be a record of things that you’ve done or plans that you have.  What I call “out-there stuff”.  Journaling is “in here stuff”; thoughts, feelings, reactions, hopes and dreams. There can be an overlap between the two, but writing a journal is a structured form of brain dumping. Or what we call in psychology “letting go”.

Myth #2 Writing a journal is about neat handwriting, good grammar and having something important to say

If writing a journal was about good handwriting, that would count me out.  Journaling can include doodling, scribbling, drawing and mind maps. You certainly don’t need good grammar. Developing a journal habit will show you that you always have something important to say, it’s just a case of allowing what needs to be said to come out on paper.

What really holds us all back from writing a journal?

We are held back from writing a journal because of the way we learnt to write

We didn’t learn to write in the same way we learnt to talk.  Our speech developed through experimentation and lots of trial and error.  Our errors were often seen as adorable by our care givers; toddlers mangle the language and it’s cute and funny.

We learn to write under supervision and strict rules

We aren’t allowed to make up our own spelling rules; we have lines to write on and punctuation to get to grips with.  We have teachers and parents watching how and what we write and we are being marked and assessed right from the get-go.

So it’s hardly surprising that when we are adults and we get faced with a blank page in a journal, our Inner Critic and our Inner Editor hold an intervention and start telling us loud and clear that we have no idea what we are doing; who are we to think we are worthy enough, smart enough, reflective enough to fill this beautiful book with words?

Writing a journal is both an act of creativity and a doorway to further creation

There are no rules or limits when you use a journal. If you begin with a blank page in your journal, you could just ask yourself: “How am I now, in this moment?”

The process of answering this question by writing, doodling or drawing for just a few minutes allows you to untangle what you are thinking and feeling.  This opens a space cognitively and emotionally.  This “decluttered”, grounded state is the perfect start point for creativity.  You have given your brain processing speed to consider new ideas and you have given yourself the emotional capacity to take risks.

In this curious, creative space you have also reduced your stress, as neurologically it is impossible to feel both anxious and curious at the same time.

For more reading on how to get started with journaling, click here.


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I would highly recommend journal writing. I joined one of Moyra’s journal safari sessions a couple of weeks ago and have been keeping a daily journal ever since. The main benefits for me is it’s helped me to keep perspective in these times, not to be too hard on myself and be thankful for the things I have achieved.

Justin Ellis

Innovation & Strategy, British retail bank

Leadership training from our kids?

Leadership training from our kids?

Leadership is more important now than ever before. People are stepping up into leadership roles at work and within their communities as we band together (while practicing social distancing of course) to support our colleagues, friends and neighbours. 

This year That curly headed tot in the picture turns 24, and of course it makes me feel OLD.  And I’m asking myself, “How on earth did that happen?  How can I be the mother to an adult when I still feel like I’m finding my way?”

It makes me think that the most important leadership role we ever take on is the one we have as a parent

Just like leading in corporate life, we get a real live person to take care of without a manual, a training course or a coach to help us out.

How fear of failure prevents us from being our best selves

How fear of failure prevents us from being our best selves

Fear of failure – we’ve all experienced it one time or another

Beth had signed up for coaching because she was leading a transformation project fraught with politics and big egos.  Despite her experience and the faith that had been placed in her, she was concerned that she would “drop some of these moving pieces.” 

Like a lot of my clients she was afraid she might fail

Today that fear seemed close to the surface. When I asked her what she would like to think through in our session, she seemed startled.

“Well,” she said. “I guess I just want to talk it out loud…if that doesn’t seem too self-indulgent?”

The value of just talking to someone who is really listening without judgement is often a way clients begin to make sense of their jumble of thoughts and feelings.

But clients also bring their inner critics with them

I could hear her inner critic loud and clear.


Beth told me that she felt that she should just get on with it.  She was a master of planning; used to this stage…..etc….etc.  And then she was off into the detail of the project.

She really did need to talk this one through.

And it was helpful for me to listen less to the deep content of what she was saying and more to the emotions that lay beneath the words. A pattern began to emerge:

“If I don’t….”


The difference between leaders and managers? Knowing the difference between boundaries and barriers

The difference between leaders and managers? Knowing the difference between boundaries and barriers

Boundaries should never be barriers. Much has been written about what motivates and drives people.

Perhaps we can condense this all into the notion that at its simplest, what drives us is a desire to feel loved and accepted, to feel physically and emotionally safe.

Down the ages our desire to “be safe” has been reflected in where we choose to live, what we use to defend ourselves and who we choose to care about and trust.

So what does this have to do with leading others in modern corporate life?


Team coaching and Leadership: How to work with a team where the trust has gone

Team coaching and Leadership: How to work with a team where the trust has gone

“What’s the difference between management and leadership?”

A variation of that question (leadership versus management) is keyed into Google more than 1.2 million times a month. Leadership certainly is a hot topic.

Do people want to know the difference between leadership and simply being a manger, or are they asking how to be better at what they are doing?

Leadership steps that management must take to get better at what they do include:

So here’s a true story of one of the managers I worked with

Perhaps you could assess this manager against those leadership steps?