Lifeflowbalance Blog

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As a member of the Board of Directors for The Society of Education Consultants (SEC) I am proud to announce that we will soon be extending our activities to include regional events.

These events will be organised in partnership with other influential organisations and networks connected to the education sector. This initiative is still in development, however, I can say that our first regional event is most likely to be in Nottingham.

We are looking to partner with the East Midlands Women Leading in Education Network which provides access to the DfE list of coaches who have made the pledge to coach aspirant women leaders for free.
Women Leading in Education
I made this pledge last year. If you are interested in either making the pledge and joining the list of coaches or wish to register for coaching then you can do both of those things by following the links provided.

These regional events will be open members and non-members of SEC, I look forward to seeing you at one of them at some time in the future
From September, I will be promoting the following exciting new additions to my suite of services:

Fledgling online Group Coaching for education professionals looking to make the transition into education consultancy. More This niche business coaching package will give you all you need to develop and launch your consultancy in 6 months. Register your interest here.
Full Flight and Flow One to One Coaching for Education Consultants who want to take a fresh look at their business because you are feeling stuck or need space to develop new possibilities in your life and business.

The programme was inspired by my work with Mal Khrishnasamy, who joined as a client while she was in the early stages of her transition from school senior leader to Education Consultant and coach. I love the logo she created between our first and second session of coaching and the lovely testimonial she wrote.
Lifeflowbalance testimonial

In addition, for clients choosing to work with me from September, I will be able to offer two new services to add another dimension to the self-exploration and transformational process of leadership development coaching.
  • Strengths Profile psychometric that can be used to support career and leadership development coaching. Cognitive, Emotional, Social and Spiritual dimensions are all covered in this comprehensive empowering model. It was developed by positive physiologists and backed by rigorous research.
  • 360 Degree Strengths-based Feedback Questionnaire plus Debrief coaching session.

More news about these in September...
#LeadershipHacks  @lifeflowbalance

The Disruptive Power of HOPE

I do not normally write about politics, but the events of the last 7 or so days demand comment. Nothing has recently exemplified the essence of a ‘determined perseverance’ in the face of seemingly impossible odds, better than the performance of Jeremy Corbyn, during #GE2017.
Preceding this he’d had to hang on to leadership while members of the parliamentary party tried to oust him our refused to work with him fearing that his ‘old fashioned’ socialist policies would mean the end of their careers. What then appeared to be arrogance can now be seen as the exercise of patience based on sound assessment of the possibilities and a principled belief in a cause. that the tide was turning in favour of hope based politics, even if some of us were unable to see it.

He has done this with visible dignity and calm. What has fascinated me throughout the period since he was elected to lead the party is the gap between the vilification he has received from the right-wing press and some in his own party, and the respect and popularity he has generated amongst those who voted for him – three times- to be labour party leader and this was before the seismic events of the general election results still playing themselves out as I write. I was by no means a fan, but having met him, I withheld judgement. Waiting for time to tell. And it has not only told, it has roared.

Hope Not Hate!

Hope not Hate

Following the election of Trump, and the vote for Brexit I nailed my flag firmly to the mast of hope with the blog series, The Habits of Hope Based (Self) Leadership #HopeinAction2017, from which the above quote is taken. So did the Hope not Hate Campaign that helped to create this disruptive result by developing a sophisticated strategy for engaging with people. Speaking directly to the fears of different sectors of society. Inclusive, empathetic and diverse messages were crafted and communicated, under the radar of the certain, the confident, the complacent. Those who seized the opportunity presented by uncertainty turned the tide in their favour.

" Hope combined with intelligent action is a disruptive force and opens the way for change and innovation."

Leadership Lessons from #GE2017
  • Dream big and keep your feet grounded in the realities of what it means to fight for change, it's not easy and never proceeds in a straight line.
  • Embrace uncertainty, work with the possibilities it opens up for dialogue and engagement with the forces over which you have influence and or control.
  • When you have a strong and compelling message in which you believe and which offers hope to others, do not be afraid to speak out, even if you are a lone voice at first, the tide will turn.
  • Be the leader you are looking for, don't wait for a hero to arise. Believe that you can make a difference, and act accordingly.Tell stories of empowerment, make clear your values and sense of purpose; resist the urge to peddle fear and abusive criticism.
  • Lead yourself with integrity and authenticity.
  • Capture all of this in a mantra that becomes a battle cry- Hope Not Hate! The #GE2017 song of hope.

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#LeadershipHacks  @lifeflowbalance Importance of Self-Acceptance

Are you fully aware of the self-narrative you have developed that may be holding you back? If you are aware, do you know how to change it?

Not everyone is able to self-coach. Why? Because we all have blind spots and they are only revealed to us through feedback. The kind of feedback that leads to deep-seated change is often best offered by an impartial partner who is non-judgemental, compassionate and challenging; wholly focused on your growth and development.

* John had spent most of his adult life struggling with traumatic events; the early death of his father being the most life changing. Now in his late 50s and approaching retirement he has come for coaching because he ‘just can’t live with it anymore’. The IT, that John has resolved to finally face is his own internal self-critic. The one that has developed a narrative telling him that he is undeserving of his success and that he is a fraud.
Now, I am not talking about that inner voice that gives you a mild ticking off when you fall in some way below the internal standards you set for yourself. That inner voice is a healthy sign of self-management and self-regulation. The observer self, the best self that we nurture as responsible adults.
Be the best of you!
John would describe his inner voice as brutal, harsh; if it were a colour that colour would be red; the volume is loud, intrusive and utterly destructive to his sense of self-worth. He is also aware of having chosen to listen to it, even as a child, over the external voice of praise coming from his mother. His mother he remembers as a positive, affirmative influence; but it was not her voice that he internalised. As a team leader while he is caring and nurturing of others he is harsh and unforgiving of himself. It discolours his life and is exhausting him.

When coaching it is not necessary to determine why John chose to listen to his harsh inner critic over the more positive voices around him. What is important is his decision to change that now.

Here are the three key steps John and I worked through to transform his relationship to himself.

Establishing the current reality for John and his motivation toward change:
Break the cycle of negativity.

John feels stifled, withered and stunted by his way of talking to himself. In his eyes, this impairs his performance at work leading to procrastination and indecisiveness. He is not living to his full potential.

Challenging John’s view of his current reality- What in your life is Golden?

Listening to John I hear all the negatives that are his distorted view of himself and his reality. So to challenge this and bring his strengths into the light I asked- What in your life is golden? After a pause, he communicates freely the success he feels he has made of fatherhood, his creativity, and his love of helping others. I feedback to him the total change in demeanour between John when talking about his ‘negatives’ and John when talking about his ‘positives’.

Hearing this he is surprised. He had been blind to the outward manifestations of his internal state and mindset. However, becoming sensitive to these help with the next stage. I ask him to turn his attention to the difference he felt when talking about what was golden. He noticed the change in energy, he felt more engaged and his words flowed with ease. This was the self he wanted to be more often.

Mindful – Awareness and Acceptance
Mindful self-leadership.
During the next few weeks, John agrees to practice catching the negative thoughts as they arise, and instead of holding on to them, to image them as clouds which either pass on by or which dissolve into thin air. The key principle here is to practice acceptance of the thoughts rather than to do battle with them. To say, “This is what I am thinking, but it is only a thought, it is not reality, let it go. Breath into this and let the thought drift away on your out breath.” Being aware that his negative mindset affects the tone and pitch of his voice, his facial expressions and his body language (sitting up straight or slumped in the chair) also helped to alert him to changes in his internal state.


Mindful awareness and acceptance are the foundations for the other key principle of mindfulness which is self-compassion. When you have a harsh inner critic, trying to consciously reframe that voice can be counterproductive. To begin with, John found that in paying more attention to what his inner critic was saying to made him feel even more de-motivated. He was more aware of all the things he had not done and trying to say positive things about himself did not work. He was running away from acceptance by trying to replace the negative with positive thoughts.
But with persistence and over time he found that the negative thoughts dissipated more quickly and then started to come less frequently when he stopped fighting them. He did not have to consciously replace a less negative thought with a more positive thought he just began to notice the positive things that were there before him more. As his holding onto the negative voice decreased, so the space for more positive ways of relating to himself opened up. From never being able to say, ‘I have done this well’ John can now comfortably say’ This is good enough!’ and for him, that is a transformation.


In our last session together John said,” I feel that I have come a long way. There is less negativity in my head and I have got some skills to manage myself better. I feel happy, even though I now there is still stuff to work on I feel that I can do that myself now.”
So I fulfil my purpose. First to be a space of safety, then to be a source of challenge- what does not challenge you will not change you. And then to hand the process of continuing change and growth back over to my client. Ths is success.

*Real names are changed to protect client confidentiality.

If you have considered engaging an Executive Life Coach but something has held you back why not give it a try by booking a no obligation free consultation/coaching session with me?

Take the leap!

Request your session here.

7 Habits of Hope Based Self Leadership @lifeflowbalance
This last post, in 7 Habits of Hope Based Self-Leadership series, is dedicated to the most important aspect of our humanity: Connection.

The drive to connection is based on a basic human need: it is a need that is the foundation of both good physical and mental health. While we know that social isolation and loneliness is a risk factor closely associated with poor mental health we often ignore that it is also a factor that creates a high risk of developing chronic diseases in later life just as much as eating a high in saturated fats and sugar. What is important here are not only our personal habits in relation to relationship building but our collective responsibility as social beings for personal and social wellbeing.

Personal Reflection

What a sad and alarming headline: Thousands of children seeking help for ‘loneliness’!

On April 17th, this year the NSPCC reported that a growing number of young people under the age of 18 are reporting a growing sense of isolation that, for some is bring them the point of suicidal despair.

I cannot help feeling, as a result of reading this article, that as a society we are failing our young people. Because undoubtedly those who rise to the top and contact services like Lifeline are but the tip of the iceberg. And we are failing them not because we are not putting enough money into mental health services for the young (which we clearly are not) but because we are failing to provide the many things we know as a society are conducive to good mental health and welling being. We are depriving our young of the basic, protective conditions that would help them to become resilient, happy, human beings. We are failing to do so because as adults we are allowing the very fabric of what it means to be human to become frayed and dissected with neglect.

Power of connection.
If our young people are suffering from loneliness we need to make them feel connected. And this is not really that hard. This comes down to the quality of a relationship. Parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents; teachers, social workers, the police etc. etc. we are all accountable. Quality relationships do not cost money. But we have to be prepared to fight for the right material conditions that support our capacity to be human. Freedom from grinding poverty; access to basic means of life including a safe place to live, places to play safely and meet together. Not just physically safe places but psychologically safe places. Where we are greeted with a smile, without judgement, with respect and where people know our names.

“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” ~ Brené Brown

Putting mental health lessons on the school curriculum will solve nothing if these basic conditions cannot be met. Adults and the young alike are affected by toxic levels of stress but there is much that is within our sphere of influence and control. However, it requires courage, imagination, and resistance to the atomisation of our concept of social responsibility.

Protective behaviours for good mental health.
What are we doing, in our families, schools, places of work and communities to support our young; to support each other and break down behaviours that isolate and dehumanise us?

"What is clear is that the world is becoming an increasingly complex place to grow up in with children and teenagers' facing daily pressures to achieve what society defines as a successful life - grades, relationships, physical appearance," said, Peter Wanless, NSPCC executive director. He continued, "It is, therefore, vital that children and teenagers have people around them, in particular, parents, who they can really open up to about how they are feeling."

We can’t blame technology and social media for this epidemic- we need to take responsibility instead and exercise boundaries based on what we know in our guts, and as a result of scientific research, to be true. Talk to our young, introduce them to and help them nurture face to face as well as online connections, create safe spaces to that enable them to grow into their full potential.

Building relationships for wellbeing

Here is the official NHS advice; it’s so simple really!

Building relationships for wellbeing means:
  • strengthening your relationships with people who are close to you, such as family and friends and colleagues
  • broadening your relationships in your community and the wider world

There are lots of ways to build stronger and closer relationships:
  • If possible, take time each day to be with your family. This could include a fixed "family time" each day.
  • Arrange a day out with friends you haven't seen for a while.
  • Switch off the TV and play a game with the children, or just talk (see some tips on talking to children about feelings and talking to teenagers).
  • Make the effort to phone people sometimes – it's all too easy to get into the habit of only ever texting, messaging or emailing people.
  • Speak to someone new today.
  • Have lunch with a friend or colleague.
  • Visit a friend or family member who needs support or company
  • Volunteer at a local school, hospital or community group.
  • Make the most of the technology – video chat apps like Skype and FaceTime are a great way of staying in touch with friends and family, particularly if you live far apart.

You can read more from the NHS website, here.

Self-Leadership Challenge

The celebration of human connection needs to a be a daily habit. Share how you practice it, and how it contributes to your wellbeing and the wellbeing of those you are connected to.

Let me know if you have enjoyed or been stimulated by this series.

7 Habits of Hope Based Self Leadership @lifeflowbalance Habit No.6 is about the importance of legacy building. Paying full respect to what has gone before that has nourished and brought us to our full power. To build a legacy that supports and empowers all who depend on us and those whom we chose to support, interact with and collaborate.

Personal reflection

I recently went to see the film ‘I Am Not your Negro’. It was a powerful reminder for me of some the people who have helped me, as a young adult, come to consciousness, who shaped my world view and helped me find my voice.
  • James Baldwin
  • Malcolm X
  • Martin Luther King

And others not featured in the film
  • Steve Beko
  • Maya Angelou
  • Alice Walker
  • Toni Morrison

And some more, that may surprise you
  • Lenin
  • Engels
  • Hegel
  • Trotsky
  • D H Lawrence
  • Jane Austin
  • Charlotte Bronte
  • Dostoyevsky
  • Chekhov
  • Tolstoy

The list could go on, and it's diverse, international, as well as being complex and contradictory.

But then that is what I am-- complex and contradictory. My inheritance reflects the same contradictory diversity which is the foundation of the legacy I am daily trying to build.

Family history and socio/political history intersect. While my list of influences reflects the choices I have made as a teenager and young adult there is also the legacy passed down to me through my bloodline.

My father died of prostate cancer in March 2014. The time I spent with him during his last months was a bittersweet delight. I had already felt the legacy of his work ethic throughout my life. But I also learned something of the long song of independence and fighting spirit handed down through the family from distant ancestors.

Of the many memories, he shared with me for the first time were recollections of his great grandfather who was a Jamaican Maroon. The Maroons were African slaves who escaped from slavery upon their arrival on the island, to establish refugee communities in the mountainous interior. They fought a historic battle against the British with whom a treaty was signed after their defeat of the British forces seeking to take them back into slavery. Since this victory in 1738, the Maroons have existed as a free nation, on the lands they were granted as compensation for their enslavement and forced transportation to Jamaica: a nation within a nation.

This story of legacy is further complicated by the fact that my father had a welsh name – Phillips. A name bequeathed by slave owners with the real likelihood that they passed on more than just a name. We know that children were born of the sexual abuse of slaves by their owners.
It has taken a lifetime to for me to reconcile these contradictory but mutually defining parts of myself. I was born into a name derived from a slave owner with the spirit of independence and rebellion carried forward from Maroons!

It inspires me to think of this spirit living on through me and my children. It reinforces for me the futility of racism and xenophobia. History and the movement of people have connected us in myriad, visible and invisible and sometimes terrible, ways. This is, for me, a cause for celebration.

In support of legacy building, then, as a daily habit:
  • I practice gratitude for this complexity.
  • I celebrate and collaborate with like-minded people.
  • I support causes the help people to believe in and accept themselves in all their rich contradictoriness and diversity. My business is also founded on this principle.
  • I support people to make the changes they aspire to in order to live more fully.
  • I strive to be a champion and role model for progressive change.

In this, I work to give legacy building its true power.

Self- Leadership Challenge
What is your daily contribution to legacy building? How do you celebrate the legacy that sustains you?


& habits of Hope based Self-Leadership. Habit No. 5
Habit Number 5 is about developing and nurturing a self – empowering narrative based on reality and accepting yourself as wholly human, fallible and resilient in turn.

Focus on your internal dialogue, if your internal dialogue is self-deprecating and negative no amount of positive strokes from others will change this- you have already become fused to a self-limiting story about yourself that only you can change.

Personal Reflection

My mindfulness journey has taught me this, as has my work with clients who have been tormented by their inner critic. The positive strokes of others are only accepted when you believe yourself worthy of them. Mostly we reject them. “He’s only just saying that to make me feel good.” That’s not true. You wouldn’t say that if you really do not know me.”

I have had to learn to have a more compassionate relationship with myself, to accept my vulnerabilities as well as my strengths, as a basis for developing a healthier relationship with my thoughts.

When I am feeling sad, I approach the emotion with curiosity, rather than by dismissing it as a sign of weakness. This empowers me, it does not mark me out as indulging in negativity.

It can be quite stressful trying to force myself to be positive all the time. Accepting that you are having a bad day enables you to manage it; you recognise the thoughts and emotions and decide how to relate to them. A much more useful state than denial!

Self-leadership Challenge

How is your 'story' holding you back? How can you re-frame it to be more self-nurturing?

Please do share and comment below...
& Habits of Hope based self-Leadership. habit No. 4.
Being the lone voice of dissent can be challenging and uncomfortable. Like the grain of dust that through friction produces the pearl it is essential to both respect it and be it, when the situation calls.

This habit, of listening to your own inner voice that registers discomfort with the status quo as well as respecting and holding a place for the lone dissenter in your team, family, community, group of friends is a hallmark of courageous self-leadership and leadership of others.

Where have you been the lone voice of dissent? Where do you suppress your inner dissenting voice; where can you hear the lone dissenting voices around you?

Personal reflection

I know the personal cost of suppression of that inner voice of dissent and the courage required to give it expression. At two different points in my career, I was called upon to make a choice- loyalty or dissent. In the first case, I chose loyalty which turned out to be misplaced in the second I chose to speak out and leave my job as a result.

You may be aware of that famous experiment carried out by psychologist Stanley Mingram in the early 1960s, following the horrors of the holocaust, which seemed to suggest that human beings have a natural tendency toward obedience i.e. are drawn toward compliance with those who are in positions of authority. The context of the experiment was a classroom in which teachers were instructed to administer an electric shock to learners if they failed to learn a list of words. The shock was fake but the teachers did not know this and followed the instruction even when the shocks were high enough to cause considerable pain. They were not under any external threat or duress either. The results caused a considerable shock at the time and remain controversial.

However, the most important conclusion from this research is that there are mental habits we can nurture in order to counteract this tendency.

4 Protective Habits
  • Question the authority's legitimacy. Just because someone has a role does not make them fit to be followed. The importance and power of ‘followship’ are being emphasised as the symbiotic other of leadership. One cannot exist without the other. Leaders only have impunity if we give it to them.
  • Follow your moral compass and act on it even when you appear to be in a minority. When given an instruction that makes you uncomfortable ask yourself "Is this something I would do on my own initiative?" The answer may well be "No," because, according to Milgram, moral considerations play a role in acts carried out under one's own steam, but not when they emanate from an authority's commands.
  • Don’t give in to even the smallest discomforts, letting small things go leads to bigger things getting through your moral threshold later. Acquiescence to the commands of an authority that are only mildly objectionable is often, as in Milgram's experiments, the beginning of a step-by-step, escalating process of entrapment. The farther one moves along the continuum of increasingly destructive acts, the harder it is to extract oneself from the commanding authority's grip because to do so is to confront the fact that the earlier acts of compliance were wrong.
  • Find allies: If you are part of a group that has been instructed to carry out actions you find go against your moral grain, find an ally in the group who shares your perceptions and is willing to join you in opposing the status quo.

It is tremendously difficult to be a lone dissenter, not only because of the strong human need to belong but also because via the process called pluralistic ignorance-the compliance of others makes the action seem acceptable and leads you to question your own negative judgment.

In one of Milgram's experiments, the subject was one of a 3-person teaching team. The other two were allies who refused to continue shocking the victim. Their defiance had a liberating influence on the subjects so that only 10% of them ended up giving the maximum shock.

Would love to hear your take on this.

7 habits of Hope Based Self-Leadership. Habit No. 3 The habit of making the small acts of courage that enable you to live your life with integrity are as important as the large movements of people or the achievements of visible and visionary individuals that shape history. You can be a leader in your family, relationship, friendships, community and at the head of a corporation or workplace but to lead others well one needs to learn self-leadership too. And the challenge can sometimes be to lead with integrity across the personal and professional domains.

I know that as a young teacher with children I was often frustrated by the way in which the patience and calm I was able to practice in the classroom seemed to desert me at home. I would get flustered with my own child or shout at my husband when similar acts at work would never cross my threshold of what would be considered acceptable. I was also an impassioned activist campaign for justice and equality in the social and political arena, and still the separation between how I lived in public and private troubled me.

Of course, there were mitigating circumstances: I worked long hours, teachers have to take work home with them, you can also take many of the issues that trouble your students or team members home with you. One has only so much emotional, mental, and physical energy. I was using all mine up at work leaving very little capacity for my family once I returned home. However, I did find the energy to carry on marking books, planning or doing admin after my children were in bed, or to go canvassing or campaigning at the weekends and attend or organise public meetings.
How was it possible for me to do all that and yet tolerate the discomfort I experienced between the quality of time I gave to home and the quality of time I gave elsewhere.

Self-Leadership Challenge

How do you lead yourself with greater consistency – be a more whole person living the same values seamlessly whether at home, or at work.
My answer to this question has come over time, as I have owned, in later life, the power I have over my own life. For most of my 20s, 30s, and 40s I was driven by a host of musts and shoulds that distorted my judgement. I was not a bad person. But I made some unhelpful choices. The most unhelpful choice I made was to equate my sense of self with what I did for a living, investing almost everything I had in this equation. The distance I have travelled is measured in these words I wrote while on a train last week going to meet a friend.

“When life purpose and work become fused our sense of self is distorted and fragile. When work is called into the service of our life purpose, rather than being synonymous with it, we can live with more balance and less fragility.”

Emulating others, no matter how great they are, is not a substitute for being true to who you are, your best self as your best self grows and emerges out of your learning and mistakes.