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Essenwood Consulting https://essenwood.co.uk Developing leaders and their teams Thu, 31 Oct 2019 11:10:44 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.3 145950190 You can’t manage time https://essenwood.co.uk/you-cant-manage-time/ Thu, 31 Oct 2019 11:10:39 +0000 https://essenwood.co.uk/?p=1286 “I’ve got too much to do”……”I haven’t got enough time”…… “I need to go on a time management course”.  Sound familiar?  Most of us have said these things.  It’s a real problem – the relentless pressure of too much to do in the time available can cause stress and ultimately lead to ill-health. 

But it is a fallacy to blame a lack of time or to think that you can work faster or smarter to keep on top.  You can’t “manage” time – it will tick away regardless.  What you can do is manage how you think about yourself, your job, your life. 

Knowing what is important to you in your life. 

Are you spending enough of your time on the right things?  What gives you a sense of self-worth?  It is usually when we can’t do the things that give us a sense of self-worth and make us feel good about ourselves, that we feel the pressure of having too much to do.  Try this tool to review your priorities.

Learning to take control

Feeling at the mercy of other people’s demands undermines your self-confidence – you end up responding to their needs rather than your own.  Shift your mindset so that you don’t automatically accept all invitations or requests for help.  Learn to say “no”.  Remember that when you say no, you are refusing the request, not rejecting the person.   See page 220 of my book for more tips on this. 

Being realistic

Human beings are not good at planning realistically.  That’s why big projects over-run on cost and time.  It’s true of our personal and work lives too – we think we can do more than is feasible in the time available.  Jonathan Wolff hits a chord with me in this article when he writes “We forget that the day fills up with utterly predictable chores, even if not predicted.  We forget that we get tired”.  Allow space in your day for the things you haven’t factored in. 

I am not knocking time management tools – I find several useful, especially personal Kanban and mind-mapping – but even the most perfect tool won’t alleviate the pressures you feel if you are not spending enough of your time on the things that make you feel good. 

Use the small stuff to take the edge off the big issues https://essenwood.co.uk/use-the-small-stuff-to-take-the-edge-off-the-big-issues/ Thu, 24 Oct 2019 09:10:52 +0000 https://essenwood.co.uk/?p=1272 Hardly a day passes without reference in the news to mental health problems, especially in children and young people.  We are living through difficult times in an atmosphere of conflict and anxiety about issues such as Brexit, the climate emergency, war in the Middle East, knife crime……and so on.  No wonder we are feeling the strain.

What can we do to protect ourselves from the psychological harm of feeling too much concern about things over which we have almost no control? 

Stephen Covey’s concentric circles of concern and influence can help – see my version above. Concentrate your energy on those things you can control or influence.  Ok, you can’t solve the climate emergency, but you can recycle more, drive your car less, join wildlife campaigns and lobby your MP.  Similarly, with Brexit, you can join in petitions and marches, and use your vote when you get the chance. 

But we also need to do the small things in our own lives that will help to ameliorate this corrosive atmosphere and protect our young people from the psychological danger of excessive concern without influence. 

Do what you can to look after your and their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing:  eat good food, take exercise, walk in the fresh air, get enough sleep, make time for friends, family and fun, have some news-free days, go to the cinema, read a book, take up a new hobby, go to a yoga class…….it’s all small stuff but it can take the edge off the big issues.  For more coping strategies, try my SPICE questionnaire.   

Holidays – Review and Renew https://essenwood.co.uk/holidays-review-and-renew/ Fri, 27 Sep 2019 08:46:55 +0000 https://essenwood.co.uk/?p=1231 The Thomas Cook collapse got me thinking about holidays and what they are for.  Amongst the many different answers to that question, a common one is “to get away from it all”.  But what exactly are we getting away from? And why do we feel we need to?  Whatever it is we get from holidays, wouldn’t it be good if we could put some of that holiday feeling into our day-to-day lives? 

A holiday can be an opportunity to REVIEW how your life is going and to RENEW your energy for making changes towards how you want it to be. 

The Wheel of Life is a great tool for thinking about the different parts of your life and deciding on where you want to make changes. 


Today I am going with friends to Jersey for the weekend.  It will be an opportunity to spend time with them, have some fun together and explore an interesting place. I know it will make me feel good.  My “Review and Renew” pledge is to build more of that into my day-to-day life!

Stress Mindset https://essenwood.co.uk/stress-mindset/ Thu, 19 Sep 2019 11:51:56 +0000 https://essenwood.co.uk/?p=1225 We experience stress when pressure exceeds our ability to cope.  This is a really interesting article from the BPS on “stress mindset”.  People with a “positive” stress mindset – you believe  stressful challenges can lead to positive outcomes, such as learning and achievement – are more likely to come up with coping strategies than those with a “negative” stress mindset who see stress as unpleasant and debilitating.  (NB these findings refer to one-off events rather than long term continuous stress).  

It seems that we can turn around a negative mindset to a positive mindset.  One suggestion that I definitely won’t be following is to watch a horror movie before taking on a stressful challenge!

However, here are some Dos and Don’ts from the article that can help develop a positive stress mindset:


  • Remind yourself of your strengths and previous success
  • Ask your partner to send you a supportive text (but not one with advice)
  • Visualise your partner


  • Use self-defeating humour or self-discounting statements
  • Think about the negative consequences of failure

More tips in How to Get On with Anyone, Chapter 16 “Enhancing your Self-Confidence”.

Trust and Leaders https://essenwood.co.uk/trust-and-leaders/ Wed, 14 Aug 2019 14:50:36 +0000 https://essenwood.co.uk/?p=1216 There’s a definite lack of trust at the moment – in our institutions, in politicians, and sometimes between leaders and their teams at work.  Trust arises from shared experience and our judgements of each other’s behaviour.  

About trust:

  • We trust people whom we regard as reliable and predictable – people who do what they say they will do.   
  • It’s not just about doing what you have said you will do, but also about acting with positive intent for others and taking account of their needs and perspectives.
  • Getting to know people on a personal level develops trust.  Taking the risk of revealing more about your own feelings, values and beliefs will encourage people to trust you. 
  • Working with others in a collaborative way builds trust – identifying common goals and shared purpose, showing commitment to achieving outcomes that work for all parties, being mutually accountable for results.
  • Trust has an emotional dimension.  To trust other people, you need to feel positive emotions about them, rather than negative emotions like fear, uncertainty and doubt. 

How often can we honestly say we behave in these ways, even with people in our own organisations, let alone people outside?

What can leaders (and others) do to create more trust at work? 

  • Take time to build rapport and get to know people
  • Take the risk of being honest about mistakes 
  • Be open about the actions you take to put them right
  • Build collaborative relationships rather than competing ones
  • Acknowledge potential conflicts of interest
  • Show the courage to speak truth to power
Types of Grief https://essenwood.co.uk/types-of-grief/ Thu, 08 Aug 2019 08:44:59 +0000 https://essenwood.co.uk/?p=1212 In a recent blog I wrote about how the SPICE holistic model can help in managing grief (see chapter on Building Resilience in How to Get On with Anyone).  It prompts you to think about your whole self – spiritual, physical, intellectual, career and emotional sides – and to identify actions for healing.  The recovery paths after bereavement for each person are different and are strongly influenced by the specific circumstances and the nature of the individual relationships.  It is likely that personality also plays some part in how we respond to and recover from grief. 

Knowing about how different personality types respond to grief can help family members understand and empathise with each other at this difficult time.   

WDM84797 Patience on a Monument smiling at Grief, exh. 1884 (oil on panel) by Stanhope, John Roddam Spencer (1829-1908) oil on panel 126.5×110.5 © The De Morgan Centre, London English, out of copyright

Dr Lisa Prosser-Dodds has researched how different personality types respond to grief and has come up with a simple model of coping styles, based on the MBTI function pairs, which she describes in this TV interview .

Here is a summary of her “grief types” and how I have seen them played out in my own recent experience of bereavement. 

ST – the Practical griever.  The least emotionally outward with a focus on what needs to be done, and how to realistically get through this.  My ST husband showed this response, with his focus on the practicalities of organising the funeral and dealing with the estate.

SF – the Guardian griever.  They want to guard and uplift the memory of the deceased and they do real and tangible things to this end.  My SF mother has a photo of husband alongside her, has hoarded treasured mementoes and likes to have his ashes with her.  

NT – the Mastery griever.  They want to get it right and may use resources such as books and self-help groups to help them deal with it.  I can see this aspect in myself (INTP) – one of the things I did was to re-read the notes of Clare Ayers’ session at BAPT 2019 about understanding grief and loss.  

NF – the Searching griever.  They want to find meaning and they search for the meaning they can find in their loss. 

With such different responses to bereavement and different paths to recovery, misunderstandings can occur, making it hard to support each other through grief.  Being aware of these potential differences can help family members be kind to each other and support each other in their own unique ways. 

Grief and SPICE https://essenwood.co.uk/grief-and-spice/ Wed, 24 Jul 2019 08:50:53 +0000 https://essenwood.co.uk/?p=1203 My father passed away recently, then two days later his brother-in-law also passed away, leaving my mother and her sister both widows and the extended family dealing with the emotional impact of bereavement.  The reactions, responses and recovery paths for each person have been different.

Looking for some guidance on “what’s normal” in reactions to bereavement, I turned to a summary of Clare Ayers’ session at the 2019 @BritPsychType conference, on “Understanding grief and loss”.  Two points came across strongly:

  • how each person responds to grief is unique
  • it does have to be managed. 

Life after a bereavement is never the same again, so the goal is to build a new life while still valuing the grief you feel.  The SPICE model, which looks after the whole person, can help you do this.  Here are the actions that are helping my mother and me to manage our grief now: 

Spiritual actions:  my mother found great comfort in going to Church on their wedding anniversary recently.  For me, getting outside into beautiful surroundings, helps me feel connected with the world beyond myself.

Physical actions: playing tennis, going for bike rides and generally getting out provides physical relief from my emotional turmoil.  Walking down the road to the shops, taking a stroll around the garden, hanging out the washing – these can all help to bring balance.

Intellectual actions: ways to occupy and engage your mind can help – my mother has taken to doing crosswords, and she watches TV quizzes.  I find solace in reading  books and watching sport or nature programmes on TV.

Career actions: getting back to my normal work, and my coaching clients after a 4 week break, is helping me to recover, though I am aware of the danger that I bury my emotions by being too busy.

Emotional actions: my mother has photo of my father by her side and takes solace in the eloquent letter he wrote to her.  Talking about my father and having the support of family and friends has been immensely important for both of us.   

Clare Ayers’ session included dos and don’ts on how to show empathy for someone grieving, and in particular:

  • Allow them to grieve as they want to, not as you want them to
  • Allow them to do what they can.

It’s a timely reminder that in grief, as in life, we are all different.

To do or to map? https://essenwood.co.uk/to-do-or-to-map/ Tue, 09 Jul 2019 09:24:33 +0000 https://essenwood.co.uk/?p=1196

Japanese management techniques like kaizen and kanban were all the rage years ago when I worked for Ford Motor Company and ICL.  The concepts of continuous improvement and just in time delivery are still relevant to most businesses these days.  These ideas work on a personal level too –  continuous learning, growth mindset and now personal kanban can help us live happier lives.  Personal kanban is a technique for managing your work in progress so that you get things done while not feeling stressed by having too much on your to do list.

There is a great summary of how it works here.   I tried it out and it works for me.  It really does take the pressure off that feeling of never getting enough things done.  And because it’s a dynamic process of adding items to your work in progress as you finish others, it really feels like you are moving ahead. 

But using it in isolation from other techniques can mean that the big projects never getting broken down into do-able chunks.  So I combine it with mind-mapping.  I have a mind map of all my projects (coaching clients, workshops, book promotion and writing, BAPT, house, garden, family and friends) and I review this weekly to identify what needs to be done on each of them.  I then use this to feed specific actions into my to-do list for the week.  This way, I can give attention and balance to all aspects of my life.

What sort of father are you? https://essenwood.co.uk/what-sort-of-father-are-you/ Thu, 13 Jun 2019 18:19:38 +0000 https://essenwood.co.uk/?p=1180 Gone are the days (thank goodness) when fathers were remote figures whose children hardly knew them.  Now you can be your natural self far more.  But what is your natural style?  There are four styles that people tend to fall into when they communicate, and each one has benefits and pitfalls.  Which style fits you? 

The Mobiliser Dad

Mobilisers like to get things done.  Their motto is “Let’s do it now!”  They tend to be energetic and determined, straightforward and direct.  Mobiliser dads like their children to get on with things (especially their homework!).  Top tip: beware of seeming impatient, and don’t forget to make time to listen to your child.

The Navigator Dad

Navigators like to think ahead.  Their motto is “What’s the plan?”.  They tend to be focused and methodical, calm and intense.  Navigator dads like their children to think first and plan ahead.  Top tip: beware of seeming too serious – don’t forget to talk to your child and have fun!

The Energiser Dad

Energisers like to involve others.  Their motto is “Let’s do it together!”.  They tend to be expressive and engaging, persuasive and enthusiastic.  Energiser dads like their children to get involved and be communicative.  Top tip: beware of seeming too intrusive and don’t forget to give them space.

The Synthesiser Dad

Synthesisers like to weigh things up.  Their motto is “What result do we need?”. They tend to be patient and approachable, unassuming and modest.  Synthesiser dads like to give their children options and ‘be there’ for them.  Top tip: beware of seeming too accommodating – don’t forget to tell them what you want.

Find out more about your own style – download a free chapter of my book here: https://essenwood.co.uk/book/how-to-get-on-with-anyone/

Beliefs and Identity https://essenwood.co.uk/beliefs-and-identity/ Fri, 07 Jun 2019 07:47:36 +0000 https://essenwood.co.uk/?p=1174 In the last few weeks, I have written about beliefs, especially self-belief, and how to behave in a way that helps you and others feel significant, competent and likeable – key ingredients for self-worth.

Cover of Pink Floyd’s album Division Bell

But what about people with whom you fundamentally disagree, people who don’t share your beliefs?  This is difficult, because beliefs are an important part of who we are; when others disagree with our beliefs, we feel a threat to our self-worth and identity. This triggers the flight or fight response, we react emotionally, and the situation escalates into conflict, making it even more difficult to find common ground.  Once emotions kick in, people become more entrenched in their positions. We see this happening now on the argument over LGBT teaching in a Birmingham primary school and of course Brexit.

You can’t control other people’s emotional reactions, but you can control your own, and responding in a calm way will influence how they react.  Take a pause, count to ten, breathe deeply, think about what you want to say.  Use active assertiveness – say what you want clearly, use self-confident speech and body language.  Appreciate that when people react emotionally, it’s a sign that their needs are not being met – ask open questions to clarify what they want.  Find out what people are feeling rather than what they think. 

Adopt a position of “radical open-mindedness” – be prepared to switch your perspective to theirs, to understand their beliefs and explore the consequences. There may be aspects on which you can agree and can build consensus. It takes courage and humility to consider another person’s point of view and to set aside a familiar way of thinking to give a fair and honest hearing to alternative position.  Switch from the past or present to the future and use inclusive language – “how can we take this forward?”, “what shall we do next?”

Challenge your own beliefs.  Ask yourself what is your belief doing for you: how does it help you and how does it hinder you?  How are you acting out this belief and is this helping you live your life in the way you want?  Similarly, what is their belief doing for them?  Is there another way of meeting the need that is driving their belief?

We live in an increasingly complex, crowded world of competing interests.  There will always be situations where people have strongly held, opposing beliefs, especially on political, moral and religious matters.  Where beliefs are irreconcilable, we must find ways to respect the difference and find compromises that work for all.  Taking the emotional reaction out, recognising the need to work together to build consensus, rather than taking up opposing entrenched positions, is the only way forward.