Like you, we have quite a few areas of interest, so we post everything under one or more of these main labels: Personal Development, Business Development (startup and marketing), Intelligence (emotional, spiritual, etc.), News, Fun, Newsletter (chat about things we've emailed). Enjoy, and keep in touch!

Friday, 18 December 2009

Do goals have to be financial?

I recently attended a training evening organised by the worthwhile business networking organisation BNI.

After an enjoyable dinner with pleasant conversation, the high profile speaker for the evening gave a challenging talk about what our expectations were of our businesses and of our BNI membership the purpose of which is to increase our turnover.

It's good to be challenged. It's good to have goals. However I don't believe that everyone is motivated by money, and research bears this out, although some people are particularly good at making it and such skill is valuable!

I felt that there was an underlying belief that everyone is in business purely to make money, and I found this approach limiting. Aside from anything else, I'd like to think that doing good work is a good starting point for business growth. Perhaps it was a useful focus for one talk, however in my coaching work I like to make less assumptions about people's values and motivations, spend time understanding their actual goals, and then help them to reach them.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009


This week I heard some fascinating presentations about helping people to reach their full potential. The occasion was one of the regular get-togethers organised by the Institute of Business Consulting in South West Britain. The evening, yesterday, was hosted at At-Bristol by Veridian plc who wanted to tell us about their learning tool Freemind, designed by Tom Fortes Myer.

This is a collection of recordings on CD which individuals and organisations can use to get rid of the blocks to achieving their full potential. The underlying belief which Tom explained, and which I can agree with, is that performance = potential - interferences. So achieving potential is about getting rid of blocks. Before the talk I spoke to someone who had used Freemind. She spoke of how it had transformed her life since she started to understand that every situation she faced was an opportunity for her own development. That statement is, itself, transformative. by which I mean that it changed my own way of thinking.

The recordings are available on CD or by download from the Freemind web site, which includes some sample recordings free of charge.

Tom's talk was complemented well by a talk by Jan Childs of EQ4U about Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and how it is much more important in the development of leaders than IQ. I recommend her book "Understanding Emotional Intelligence in 90 minutes," which can be purchased from the web site.

Part of my own fascination is the relationship between Emotional Intelligence and Spiritual Intelligence. Spiritual Intelligence is to me about the uniqueness, connectedness, and vocation of human beings in creation - which embraces the growing desire amongst employees in particular and people in general for meaning and purpose in their work. I notice that Jan heads off in this direction in her book, particularly in the final chapter, and I see the Tom's approach to unlocking potential as drawing together the spiritual and emotional.

Thursday, 3 December 2009


I recently attended a training session for coaches. The presenter was asking us about what gives us energy. Is it activity that is intellectual, emotional, physical, or spiritual? What fascinated me was that most of the coaches in the room struggled to engage with the word 'spiritual' - indeed some seemed strangely hostile to the word.

However there is growing interest in 'spiritual' things by which I don't mean religions but people's concern for meaning and purpose in their life and work, not to mention concern about the planet we inhabit together. Furthermore authors are writing about spiritual intelligence as an important area of development alongside IQ and EQ.

It seems to me that effective coaching requires some awareness of the different areas that affect people's lives. Even in business coaching, although the goal of the coaching will be business-related, effectiveness requires a whole-person viewpoint.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Easier to start your own business?

At the recent finals of the Wiltshire New Business of the Year Competition, the entrant who impressed me most (but did not win) was a nineteen year old from a local town who was fed up with being unemployed. She decided to set up her own dress shop because she saw there was no other shop in the town selling the kind of clothes she wanted to wear.

As I reflect on the support I give to those who are looking at making choices in their career, I find myself wondering whether it is easier at the moment to start a new business than to find employment. It's certainly one way for new graduates to delay paying off their student loan.

During a recession is not necessarily a bad time to start a business. It takes time to get everything in place, by which time potential customers may be feeling more confident.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Business Help

I enjoy coaching, and bring great encouragement as well as more tangible benefits to the people and businesses that I work with. I'm great at helping other people to step back from their business and be more objective. Yet I'm not much good at doing either of these things for myself, so I need to be on the receiving end of coaching too.

It's not easy to stay buoyant in the current economic climate, so I was pleased that my appointment with a business link adviser last week encouraged me and helped me to see the reality of my situation. He pointed out that the issues I'm wrestling with are typical for a business of the size and age of Finding True North; he reminded me that my turnover is growing!

Business Link advisers don't see themselves as coaches. They like to signpost business people to the services that they need. I found it a great help to go on their business start up course when I started up in business. Given that their advice is free, and an encouraging sign that government wants to support businesses, and even the course only cost about £100, it shocks me when I hear of people who have leapt into starting a business without ever making use of them.

Recommend them to your friends!

Friday, 13 November 2009

Technology - a poor master

I had a great evening yesterday, in the company of twenty or so colleagues from the Institute of Business Consulting of which I am a member because of my coaching and consultancy business. The occasion was the annual Chairman's Networking Dinner impressively hosted at Casani's French Bistro in Bath by our illustrious regional chairman, David Rigby, who has a real gift for these things. The enjoyable meal was interspersed by ten-minute speakers and there was the opportunity for much idle or deep and meaningful conversation.

I found myself talking to two people who, like me, have a significant background in Information Technology. The conversation with the person on my left was all about the problems of using computers today. This ranged from the way in which computer media or files from a decade or so ago cannot be read by today's computers, to how we are losing historical records because inks used for printing documents (and photographs) do not last well. I still intend to print out a lot of my digital photos to add to my traditional album - that may be necessary if my p.c. is wiped out by EMP or plagued by future incompatibility; but what is the point if the prints will not last? My conversationalist is still using a 35mm camera with traditional film.

After the main course I chatted to the person opposite me. Her work as a consultant focuses on helping teams of people in remote places to communicate with one another. She encourages the embracing of modern technology, taking people beyond mere web-conferencing to the on-line virtual world of Second Life. She sees such use of technology as essential in today's environmental crisis. She is the first person to have offered to help me sort out the wardrobe for my avatar. I have not accepted yet!

I am struck by the contrast between these two conversations.

I am very aware that as a personal and business coach I value working with people face to face: yet I use e-mail to arrange the appointments, and I am typing this on a computer now. It alarms me when I visit offices and see people glued unergonomically to their computer screens even to the exclusion of a lunch break.

It seems to me that in today's society we risk being turned into machines by the machines, that is to say we become dehumanised. What it means to be fully human is a bigger topic than I allow for in this one article however, as I attempt to think through the extent to which I should use automated e-mail newsletters (etc.) to promote my business, I feel that I first need to envision the way in which a healthy society makes use of technology, and be faithful to my vision. A challenge in Finding True North!

"Technology is a great servant, but a poor master." In times of technological change, and when "the market" wants us to adopt new technology for its profit, what values do we need to hold on to use technology to grow in our humanity rather than to be dehumanised?

I suspect that people have been asking similar questions since before the Atom Bomb, and maybe not enough during the Industrial Revolution. Paul Vallely impresses me with his writing, and I note his article in the Church Times of 6th November 2009. He comments on the row over the sacking of government scientific adviser David Nutt and concludes that the problem is not our contempt for science, but that scientists condescendingly do not (always) see that "science must be subjected to social values not be a substitute for them."

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Stick to the basics

I like to give air time to people writing under the banner "Finding True North." Here's some good advice from Robert Goshen about sticking to the basics, remembering relationships, and staying humourous!

Train to Gain funds coaching training

When I started Finding True North I was looking forward to developing leaders in business through my own coaching, but I had not seen training others in coaching as a particular goal.

Having been asked by Wiltshire Wildlife Trust to train their ten top managers over three months, I find that this is going well and is enjoyable for me as well as them. Since I am a real advocate of coaching as an approach, or an attitude even, this is a natural way to encourage greater use of coaching. WWT see it as a way for managers to encourage each other and their staff to take more initiative and help the organisation to develop its entrepreneurial culture.

I am pleased at the continuing availability of funds from the Leadership and Management Advisory Service of Train to Gain to develop leaders. This is helping our clients to invest in training - whether that training is coaching for their directors and other leaders or training in coaching. Up to £1000 is available to each organisation.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Do away with e-mail hassle

Most people I know have trouble at work managing large amounts of e-mail, so it's great to see some practical advice on Peter Kenworthy's site, 3D HR, at http://www.hr-adviser.co.uk/HR-Guidance-sheets/managing-email.html. Guidance is also available as pdf for download at http://www.emailhelpdesk.co.uk/Download-files/. (If you have trouble with these links, paste them into your browser address bar.)

He also runs training courses on e-mail handling.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Leaders are accelerating!

We have found that our coaching has been particularly popular in helping CEO's, directors and senior managers of businesses and charities to adapt quickly to promotion or new responsibility. We find that this is partly about coaching to their agenda (as all coaching does!) and also using appropriate tools to describe their personality and motivated abilities, so that leadership style can be developed and built on those strengths.

So we have launched our new Leader Accelerator coaching programme. This helps recently promoted leaders to fill skill gaps and rapidly ramp up to full effectiveness, thus bringing fast Return on Investment to their organisations. Through bespoke coaching, and some use of diagnostic tools, the Leader Accelerator allows leaders in business and charities to understand their strengths, character, and communication preferences – and develop their uniquely effective leadership style.

Like most of our coaching programmes, businesses and charities with up to 249 staff will probably be eligible for a grant of up to £1000 from Train to Gain.

Download leader accelerator information here.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Be audacious to beat the recession!

I’ve been impressed by a recent article in the magazine Engineering & Technology (5th May). It’s an extract by Steve Carter from his book “Road to Audacity.” He is a psychologist, fellow of the Royal Geographic Society, and makes three fascinating points about handling change, which seem to me to be a good framework and to apply more widely than just the present recession. Here’s my summary paraphrase.

Things never stay as they are, so we need to be as attached to the present as we would want to be to a building that is on fire! Leaders must not offer false comfort, but be honest about what is happening now. We need to be in fully in touch with reality, and this includes listening to our staff.

So where to jump to? We can’t stay where we are; motivating people to avoid something does not work; and anyway if we avoid reality things may get worse not get better! We need to have prominently in front of us in our mind that which we are seeking to build. Know what you want to become, and be passionate about it.

If the vision, the desired change, seems to be too distant, people feel not motivated but powerless. Therefore there needs to be a focus on small steps, that is realistic goals in areas that people can make an impact (compare Stephen Covey's "Circle of Influence"). People need to be clear about how they can contribute. So the leader’s task is to present the reality, the vision, and also the plan for this leg of the journey.

Read his full article here.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Will you survive the recession?

"Survive" sounds like a negative word in the way that we use it in English: it conveys a sense of coping (which is perhaps a healthy British skill). However the two - originally French - syllables in there point me to "overcoming" and "life." So a better question may be, "How can we overcome the recession and live life to the full?"

People who do so are likely to both keep an eye on where they want to get to, and grow relationships with people. In these they will both give and receive support. These effective relationships may include friends, colleagues, suppliers, or clients. This focus on both task and relationship is important.

A coaching approach is a good way to offer support, and a powerful model that is often used is GROW (more about this later).

Step 1 is the Goal. As you seek to live life to the full, what is your goal? Where are you trying to get to? How will you know when you get there?

As an example, I may have a goal of replacing my ageing small car with a new Saab Turbo. However it is good to dig deeper to clarify this as better Options may emerge. Is my real goal to avoid fear of my current car breaking down? Is it to have a reliable way of travelling to and from work and holidays?

A final thought: Do the people who are close to you know where they are going?

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Business Leader Grant

We're excited that, at this time of concern about recession, Train to Gain continues to offer up to £1000 to develop leaders of small businesses and charities in their "leadership capability." It gives us a way of increasing our own contribution to the economy, and to small businesses in particular, by providing valuable coaching to our clients more liberally.

As I get in touch with CEO's that we know there seems to be a lot of interest, and some see ways of making use of the scheme in the services that they provide to their own customers too.

Since many of the issues in business are to do with relationship and communication skills rather than technical competence, it will be interesting to see how this will take shape.

More details of the scheme are on our main web site: Leadership and Management Advisory Service.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

The gate of the year

As we move into the start of a New Year, there is a tangible sense of the unknown in the business community. Some respond with optimism; others have already been affected by declining income in their businesses.

A poem comes to mind helpfully.

I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year, "Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown." And he replied, "Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light, and safer than a known way."

This is an extract of a broadcast by King George VI on Christmas Day 1939, which was a significant moment in British history. Click on the link for more details.