How to Expand Your Leadership Conversations

How to expanding leadership conversations

Expanding Leadership Conversations

[Time to read: 6 minutes]

One of the most difficult and yet most inspiring leadership skills to develop is effective communication.

I think most people know when they have talked with a leader who communicates well: They feel inspired and perhaps more importantly – they feel listened to.

Most of my working life has been in the information technology sector where things tend move fast – including conversations!

Over many years I have witnessed conversations where leaders have demonstrated excellent communication skills and also conversations that made people cringe!

So, how do we become better communicators and improve the quality of our business conversations?

Well, I like to use strategies that are quick and easy to implement as life is complex enough already! So, in this article I’ll share three communication strategies that have been helpful for me and for my clients:

Get Curious

My partner knows when I’m not listening to her. She’ll be talking to me and occasionally in the middle of our conversation my mind may wander – she has become an expert at interrupting my wandering mind by saying “What?!” in the middle of the silence.

It gets me every-time and brings me back to the conversation!

Although she teases me about this, it raises an important point that when our mind wanders in the middle of a conversation and we stop listening to what the other person has to say – it says a LOT to them.

This behaviour communicates that what they have to say is not important to you and that you choose not to listen to them.

In coaching, the coach listens at different levels to hear what the client is saying but also (just as importantly) what they are NOT saying.

When we ‘tune out’ of a conversation we can miss important information.

Clearing your mind of those wandering thoughts through breathing can help you stayed tuned and focused on what is being said. However, one of the most effective ways to listen to other people is to be curious and remain curious about what they have to say.

When you have a curious mindset in a conversation you ask different questions, you listen more to their responses and in turn you both get more out of the conversation.

A great way to create curiosity is to say the word: “curious” in your mind as you start the conversation.

Don’t do all the thinking 

Back in my IT business I developed a habit of trying to solve problems for other people by doing the thinking for them, by telling them what to do next.

A member of staff would come to see me, describe their problem, and ask me what to do. Back then I thought that telling them what to do would provide the best solution to the problem.

However, soon after I started my coach training, I learnt that this was counter-productive for the member of staff that was asking for my advice.

Telling them what to do didn’t help them to develop their skills or problem-solving capabilities. So, once I learnt this, when a member of staff asked me what to do, I created the habit of asking: “What do you think we should do?”. Typically, the solution they came up with would have been the one I would have suggested. But many times, their solution was much better than mine!

Remember that the person in front of you is resourceful and creative – they may not demonstrate it at times, but your conversation is an excellent opportunity for them to practice that! They do have a solution to the problem, it’s just that you may need to tease it out of them!

Create and give time to others

I remember many years ago when I was an Electronic Engineer for a U.S IT company called Welch Allyn (Data Collection Division); I visited their head-office in up-state New York for annual product training. One day we had a tour of the Medical Division head-office a few miles away. It was a large state-of-the-art facility surrounded by beautiful gardens.

I was impressed.

However, I was even more impressed when the owner of the business – Bill Allyn took the time to show me and my fellow engineers around the facility.

Here was a multi-millionaire that employed 1000s of people showing a bunch of junior engineers around the factory.

That memory has remained with me for decades. It reminds me of the importance to create and make time for others in conversations, no matter what level they are in the business.

So, the next time you have a conversation with a member of your team – make time for them – don’t rush the conversation.

As a side note, I remember asking Bill: “How many people work here?”. He responded: “Hopefully all of them!”.


I believe the importance of effective communication in leadership cannot be understated. It can make the difference between a good leader and a great leader.

In this article we have learned three easy to use strategies that can help to bring more awareness to our business conversations. But of course, these strategies can be used in all types of conversations outside of the business as well:

  • Get curious – Bringing a curious mindset to conversations will help you to listen at a deeper level to the other person. So rather than thinking about what you want to say next, you’ll be focused on what the other person has to say. They’ll know that you’re listening to them – and they’ll remember that.
  • Don’t do all the thinking – Although you may know the solution to the problem that the person in front of you has just described, try to resist the temptation to tell them what to do. Remember, this is an opportunity for the other person to think, learn and grow. Try asking “What do you think we should do?”. Their solution may be something that you didn’t think of!
  • Create and give time to others – For me, this is one of the most inspiring traits of an excellent leader. Time is a gift that you can create and give to others. I know your schedule will be busy – the other person will know that as well. But if you schedule time for them to chat with you, you’ll be sending them an important message that they are important and that you value what they have to say.

As with all strategies it will take practice to master these skills. But the rewards for the other people that you will be talking to can be unlimited.

One day they could be in a leadership position just like you are. The chances are that they’ll remember their conversations with you and be inspired by you – just like I was from my meeting with Bill Allyn.

I hope you found this article helpful.

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Why Do Harsh Words Hurt So Bad?

Dealing with harsh words

Why is it that harsh words hurt so bad?

[Time to read: 7 minutes]

If you’ve ever heard harsh words or read nasty comments about you, you might know what I’m talking about. Harsh words hurt!

For example, if you’re active on social media, it’s possible at some point that someone may have commented on one of your posts in a way that may have upset you. People can say harsh words – unfortunately, it happens.

In this blog I’ll share an experience that I had after hearing words that hurt me. I’ll walk you through how getting over painful words that people can say to you is possible and how you can use the experience to feel stronger.

This of course is just one example of how people can react to hearing harsh words about them. You may have reacted in a different way, however what I wanted to share most is that it’s possible to create a disempowering belief from hearing painful words that people say about you.

The sooner you catch that dis-empowering belief, the sooner you can de-construct it and create a more helpful belief that serves you.

“Kev’s Coaching Doesn’t Work”

I remember some years back hearing the words “Kev’s coaching doesn’t work!”. At the time of hearing those words I didn’t think much about what was said. Thinking back, I thought I had dismissed it – but I hadn’t. Subconsciously those words remained with me for years.

It wasn’t until a coaching session with my coach sometime later that I realised that these words had been holding me back. I discovered that I had given meaning to those words without me realising it. I had constructed a belief from those words that at if anytime anything went wrong in my coaching business it was because “Kev’s coaching doesn’t work”.

Thinking back, what hurt most about those words was that they were said by a friend that I respected. Perhaps this is why I had an attachment to those words and had subsequently created a belief from them?

In the coaching session with my coach through a conversation about something completely different, these words appeared in my mind. We explored them immediately!

With help from my coach I was able to de-construct the dis-empowering belief that I had created and then create and associate a new empowering belief to those words.

The Mind

The mind is a wonderful place. We create dreams in the mind. It’s where we experience our thoughts.

However, the mind can also be a crazy place!

When we attach meaning to the thoughts we have and create a belief – this belief can imprison us, or it can set us free.

In my case the belief that I created from the thought “Kev’s coaching doesn’t work” is that anytime I had a setback in business, I heard those words again in my mind. That made the belief real and thus re-enforced the fact that the belief was true.

In business we can experience setbacks, and I did, and of course I heard those words again and again.

Boy, that belief held me back!

I was ‘playing small’, I was not connecting with people and I wasn’t showing up fully in my business.

De-constructing a Dis-empowering Belief

In my case, after realising the impact of my dis-empowering belief, I was totally ready to de-construct it!

Replaying the original conversation from years ago, in my mind again and again was the first step to de-construct my belief. However, rather that hearing and experiencing the conversation as me – the ‘experiencer’ (like I had done so many times before), I experienced the conversation as an observer. I imagined that I was there years ago, but observing the conversation rather than being in the conversation. In fact, I replayed the conversation again and again as an observer from different positions.

What I discovered was very interesting…

As an observer I had no attachment to the words that I heard. I was able to rewind the conversation and replay it. I was able to look into the mind of the person who said those words and try to find out what could have been going on for him at that time.

This helped me to create many different perspectives of the original conversation.

Experiencing a conversation through the eyes of an observer can be enlightening. I was able to take away a different meaning from the conversation. I found that it helped me to provide a more objective view on the words said and why they were said.

Creating an Empowering Belief

This new perspective helped me to create my new empowering belief. It helped me to appreciate that the person who said those words back then was not it a good place. He was under a lot of pressure. He was reacting to something that some-else had said. But, most importantly for me was discovering that he was not speaking these words from his heart.

I think most of us know instinctively when someone talks from their heart. The words spoken are sincere, they’re not fake. You can see the sincerity in their eyes. Thus, the words that I heard back then were fake and lacked meaning.

Also, applying logic to my old belief helped as this person had never experienced being coached by me, nor knew any of my clients. So, my original belief of “Kev’s coaching doesn’t work” just didn’t make sense any more.

In the end I don’t suppose I’ll ever truly know why he said what he did. But for me, that’s no longer important.

The experience helped me to appreciate the power of the words that we hear and the importance of attaching empowering meanings to them.

Now when I think of those words, I smile – as I know differently, I think differently.

My mindset is different now. I use those words to help me to serve my clients even more than I did before. That’s all that matters to me.


Have you experienced hearing harsh words or reading nasty comments about you?

Well if so, I hope my story resonates with you and helps you to find a new meaning to what you experienced.

In my case the words I heard came from a friend, however you may have heard harsh words from someone that you don’t know – perhaps when on social media.

Unfortunately, there are ‘Social Media Trolls’ on the internet who seem to take pleasure in writing hurtful comments about people. If you’ve received comments from one of these people, you’ll know its not a pleasant experience. You might be interested in reading this helpful article: “Social Media Trolls: A Practical Guide for Dealing With Impossible People” written by Todd Clarke.

In either case it’s important to remember that it’s possible to change the thought, meaning and dis-empowering belief that you may have attached to those hurtful words. Take your time to look for ways to de-construct the dis-empowering belief, perhaps by looking at the conversation or words from a different perspective and/or by applying logic to the words heard.

Thank you for reading this.

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11 Surprisingly Easy Ways to Manage Your Time in Your Business

Time Management Strategies

Strategies to Manage Time in Business

[Time to read: 9 minutes]

Time – it’s something that’s equal for every person on the planet.

How is it that some people seem to get more done with their time, while others never get through their to-do list, they’re stressed, and they’re constantly trying to catch-up?!

If you struggle to get through your to-do list, run around in circles, have difficulty completing tasks on time, and after a hard day’s work, still arrive home late, then you’re probably familiar with the frustration this can cause.

For many people, this frustration can lead to overwhelming stress and the problems continue to get worse.

So how can you manage your time more effectively when running your Business?

Well, in this article I’m going to share 11 surprisingly easy time-management strategies to help you manage your time more effectively in your Business.

Feel free to watch the video or continue to read below:

No 1. – Create a NOT To Do List

Many people have a to do list, but not many have a not-to-do list.

The not-to-do list is a list of activities that you should not be doing. Perhaps there are activities that you find yourself doing without realising, which do not serve you. For example, I had a habit of regularly checking my smart phone for social media updates. When I realised this, I found that I had been wasting so many hours checking social media! Hours that I could have put to better use!

Creating a Not to do list is a concept that I heard about on a webinar recently.

Your ‘Not to do list’ could also be expanded to include specific negative feelings, thoughts, or emotions that you no longer want to spend time on. Spend a few minutes thinking about last week and write down anything that you felt was a distraction or a waste of time. Once you’ve written your list, pin it up somewhere you can see it, perhaps on the fridge or mirror. It will serve as a constant reminder to help you to focus your time on the activities, tasks, thoughts and emotions most important to you.

No. 2 – What Distracts You?

Well in my case, as I just mentioned my smart phone was a distraction for me.

Smart phones and tablets can provide us with huge benefits when running a business, but they can also be huge distractions. Alerts can chime, pop-ups can appear and notifications buzz.

If you’re finding that your smart phone or tablet is distracting you, try adjusting the application settings so that you will need to launch the application for you to receive the notifications. Then you could decide on specific times during the day to check your phone or tablet. I’ll talk about this more in the next strategy.

In your case however, the distraction may not be your smart phone – it could be your environment? Perhaps you’re working from home and the TV or radio distracts you or perhaps you’re working in your office and you’re working on an important task and people talking in the office are distracting you.

If this is causing you a problem, then try to work in a different place in the home or office, at least while you are working on the important task. This will help you to create a better environment for you to focus your valuable time and energy.

No. 3 – Less Social Media

I use an iPhone and each week it sends me a report on how often I use my phone and what applications I am using. It was an eye-opener for me to realise how many hours I had been spending on social media!

Since then I’ve tried to limit my social media time. If like me, you struggle with how much time you spend on social media – Try to limit this to perhaps two or three times a day.

No. 4 – One Thing At a Time

You may like to multi-task, but your brain doesn’t. We’ve all tried it: texting while walking, sending emails during meetings, jumping from one task to another. Today, doing just one thing at a time is often seen as slow.

However, studies estimate that switching between tasks can cause a 40% loss in productivity. Multi-tasking can also cause you to introduce errors into whatever you’re working on, especially if one or more of your activities involves a lot of critical thinking. So, avoid multi-tasking and be more productive by working on and completing one thing at a time!

No. 5 – Avoid Perfection

I’ve struggled with this one. I’ve gone from one extreme to another, where rather than not focusing enough time on a task, I’ve spent way too much time on it.

I remember creating a report where in hindsight a ‘good enough’ level of quality would have been acceptable. However, I wasted hours trying to create a ‘perfect’ report. This strategy is about balancing your skills and resources in the time you have.

If you find yourself wasting time by trying to get a perfect result with your task, try re-evaluating the actual requirements you have been given to see if what you’ve done already is good enough. Another option would be to talk to a colleague to see if they can either give you help with the task or let you know if your work on the task so far is good enough.

No. 6 – Important vs. Urgent

Ever found yourself working on urgent tasks and you got to the end of the day and realised that you’d missed the important tasks that you should have been working on?

Focusing your time on the important things in your Business rather than just the urgent things can help you to spend your time more wisely. There are always urgent tasks to get done – but are they truly important?

It can help to evaluate if what you must do is important as well as urgent, simply ask yourself:

“Is this task important or is it just urgent?”

No. 7 – Prioritise Your Tasks

Greg McKeown tells us in his book ‘Essentialism’ that the word ‘priority’ came into the English language in the 1400s and that this word was singular – it meant one thing – THE PRIORITY (the most important thing). It stayed singular for about 500 years. Then in the 1900s, during the Industrial Revolution, it was pluralised and the concept of having multiple ‘priorities’ was born. I remember being in a customer meeting where one of the items on the agenda was to discuss the company’s 10 priorities!

So, if you’re struggling to prioritise your tasks, try ranking them in order of importance and urgency using the exercise from previous strategy and work your way down your priority list.  

This will help you to focus your time on the important tasks which are most urgent first.

No. 8 – Schedule Your Week Ahead and Block Your Calendar

Blocking time slots in your calendar for the week ahead to work on the tasks you have prioritised on your to-do list will help to ensure you have the time to focus on your tasks.

But what should you do if you get unexpected meeting requests during your working week?

Well, try reserving some free time slots in your calendar to accommodate these meeting requests.

It can be difficult when unexpected requests come your way, however setting aside some free time slots each week can provide you with some flexibility with your availability for the week ahead.

If you don’t use this free time, then you can decide which of the tasks on your priority list to focus on.

So, why not plan for the unexpected and schedule time in your calendar at the beginning of each week.

No. 9 – Say ‘No’ more often

In Business you may receive many requests to take on extra tasks. For example, you may get asked to attend a meeting that you really don’t need to attend.

We can be inclined to immediately say ‘yes’ and commit to these requests, out of politeness.

However, in these situations it’s important to remember that when we say ‘yes’ to something, our to-do list just gets longer.

If you find yourself saying ‘yes’ too often then try to evaluate the request before committing, by asking yourself: “Is this request important?”

If you’re caught ‘on the hop’, you could reply “Sounds interesting, can I get back to you on that?”.

Then you’ll have time to evaluate the request and respond accordingly.

If you need to decline the request, then of course you can do so in a polite way.

No. 10 – The Pomodoro Technique

I used to get side-tracked with some of my larger tasks until I started using this technique.

The Pomodoro technique was originally developed in the 1980s. The concept behind this technique is to break your time down into 25 minutes blocks by using a timer with an alarm. Once the alarm sounds, take a 5-minute break. Then reset the timer and start a new cycle of work.

If you find yourself ‘running out of steam’ when spending hours working on a large project or task, try breaking your time down into short blocks and then take breaks. You can of course play around with the length of the blocks and breaks to find out what works best for you.

No. 11 – Use the 4 D’s of Effective Time Management

So, this is the last strategy and it happens to be my favourite!

This has helped me so many times over the years to quickly run through my to-do list and resolve what to do with each of my tasks.

The 4 D’s of effective Time Management will help you to evaluate the importance and urgency of each of your tasks and decide what to do with each of them.

So, grab your to-do list and for each task decide to do one of the following:

  • DO IT – if the task is both important and urgent – do it.
  • DELETE IT – if it’s not important or urgent then consider declining or cancelling the task.
  • DEFER IT – if it’s important but not urgent, consider deferring the task to a later date.
  • DELEGATE IT – if you are still left with too many tasks, consider delegating the task to someone else if possible.

The decision on some of the tasks may need to be made by someone else in the business – if this is the case, ask them for assistance.

For more information on the 4 D’s CLICK HERE to read the Forbes article.


So, there we are, 11 strategies to help you manage your time more effectively in your Business:

  1. Create a NOT to do list
  2. What Distracts You?
  3. Less Social Media
  4. One thing at a time
  5. Avoid perfection
  6. Important vs. Urgent
  7. Prioritise your tasks
  8. Schedule your week ahead and block your calendar
  9. Say ‘No’ more often
  10. The Pomodoro Technique
  11. Use the 4 D’s of Effective Time Management

You only have so many hours in the day, so why not make full use of that time you have and decide intentionally and purposefully how to spend your time.

Many of the techniques I have shared in this article focus on helping you to ‘create’ more time by removing the obstacles that are consuming your time.

Being your own Time ‘gate-keeper’ will help you to use your time more effectively.

Perhaps, try using some of these strategies and find out which ones work best for you.

If you have other Time Management strategies that you find effective, let me know in the comments.

In the end, it’s all about balance and learning that some days will go better than others, but having a framework to help you manage your time more effectively will help you avoid the feeling of being overwhelmed and out of control.

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The power of asking yourself questions

The power of asking yourself questions

The Power of Asking Yourself Questions

[Time to read: 5 minutes]

“What if…?” – Just two words but the answer to this question could change your world!

Questions form a daily part of life and business. We ask other people questions frequently.

We ask questions to collect information: to understand, to learn, and to help solve problems.

Being mindful of the questions you ask other people can make a huge difference to your life, business and career.

Many years ago, back in my IT sales role I noticed that I often asked clients ‘closed’ questions – these are questions that invite a “yes” or “no” answer.

For example, “Are you ready to start the project?”. The answer to this question provided me with limited information – typically just a “yes” or “no”. A more helpful question would have been “When will you start the project?” or “What needs to be in place before you start the project?”.

These questions are examples of ‘open’ questions which do not invite a “yes” or “no” answer. ‘Open’ questions tend to be higher quality questions because they provide more useful information. From that point I increased my use of them!

Asking Yourself Questions

We don’t go through life just asking other people questions, we also ask ourselves questions.

We do this when we think. Thinking includes asking ourselves questions. These questions help us to evaluate, compare and measure.

For example – we may evaluate our situation, compare ourselves to others and so on. Many of these thoughts can be on ‘autopilot’- they can be habitual thoughts – and research suggests on average we have 60,000 thoughts every day!

When we ask ourselves (think) a poor-quality question, we get a poor-quality answer. This contributes to lowering our mood and if we get into a habit of asking (thinking) poor quality questions – this can create a negative mindset.

Most misunderstandings in the world could be avoided if people would simply take the time to ask, "What else could this mean?”

Shannon L. Alder

For example, the typical response to asking: “Why do I always mess up?” is “Because you’re an idiot!”.

When you ask yourself a question, you are giving a command to your brain to come up with an answer.

Your brain will search for the most likely response, which typically is linked to the type of question you ask. This question is actually stating: “…I always mess up”.

The answer you receive: “Because you’re an idiot” is often a habitual response – and you’ll probably receive the response almost immediately because you are on ‘autopilot’.

Imagine how many of your 60,000 daily thoughts could be both habitual and unhelpful?

Using Powerful Questions

Higher quality questions that really make you think are also called ‘Powerful Questions’. Powerful questions are an important component of Coaching.

When a Coach asks their client a powerful question (at the right time) – this can provide the client with new insights into their situation.

This is because they have to think differently to answer the powerful question – this can break habitual negative thinking.

Powerful questions can help the client to:

  • look at their situation from a different perspective
  • challenge their limiting belief
  • find a new solution to a problem
  • find a way forward

You don’t have to be in a coaching session to experience Powerful Questions. You just need to know how to ask yourself them. Here are a few tips:

  • Say it – rather than just thinking the question – ask it aloud.
  • Be mindful of using “Why?” questions – e.g. “Why do I have to do this?” as the answers aren’t typically helpful.
  • Be mindful of when you ask ‘closed’ questions. These tend to start with “Is…” or “Do…” or “Have…”. e.g. “Do I have to do this?”
  • Ask ‘open’ questions – start your questions with “What…”, “How…”, “When…” or “Who…” e.g. “How could I do this differently?” as this will give you a more helpful answer – something you can actually work with.
  • When you ask yourself the question, pause, perhaps close your eyes and try to visualize or ‘feel’ the answer. Note – it helps to be patient as sometimes the answer may not come to you until later in the day or later in the week.

Making it a Habit

How can you get into the habit of asking yourself powerful questions?

…by using morning questions.

Asking yourself just one powerful question first thing in the morning can help contribute to a great day, as your brain will search for a high-quality response to the high-quality question that you ask.

The answer you receive can help to get your day off to a great start!

Here are some example powerful morning questions:

  • What can I do today to have a great day?
  • How will my life be better today?
  • What can I do today to make a difference to someone else’s life?
  • What can I do now to stop worrying about X [insert your problem/challenge here]?
  • What can I do today to resolve X [insert your problem/challenge here] that I’ve not thought of before?
  • How can I make a positive contribution to the meeting today?
  • How will I do things differently today?
  • What am I grateful for?
  • What if I did things differently today?
  • What if I stopped worrying about this right now?
  • What else could this mean?

Of course, you can create your own powerful questions as well.

Why not ask yourself one question each morning for the next 30 days and see what happens?

You might just change your life!

I hope you enjoyed reading this. If you did, please comment and share.

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