Are you in a mad dash to the end of 2018?

You probably have last minute targets to meet, end of year reports to write, goals to sign off on for 2019, final performance appraisals to lodge ...

And then there is the frenetic start to the new year waiting for us all, usually a time for sales kick off meetings, product and campaign launches, budget allocations and ...

Sandwiched in between, for many of us, are those precious days of the Christmas and New Year break. If you have children, not only do you want to make sure you don't miss the wonderful carol services and school plays, but we also have to be 'Santa ready', which usually means a constant whirl of shopping, wrapping, sending and general last minute dashes.

And yet Christmas is so precious. It's a magical time of year, when we want to be relaxed and engaged with our friends and family, but too often continue to have one foot in work, mentally, if not physically.

In our 'always on' world how can we make sure we, and our team take a proper break this Christmas? Unless you're clear with your team and your stakeholders what cover is available and what is expected, there may be unintended consequences with people feeling 'on the hook' even though they're taking holiday.

A client who leads a global marketing team admitted to me recently that she had never taken a full break from work. She considered checking work emails daily a normal activity that was somehow expected, even on Christmas Day. It's not too late to make sure this doesn't happen for you and your team this Christmas.

Here are a few practical tips to help you and your team get some proper down time, they're easy to implement but require you to consciously decide that you and your team need and deserve a proper break.

  1. Agree with your team what needs to be covered during the break and who can do it - be pragmatic and realistic. You will need to plan some contingency cover for illness etc.
  2. Agree this proposal for cover with some of your key stakeholders to ensure your plan meets their needs.
  3. Publish your schedule to everyone who may need to be in touch with your team over the break. Be clear with your internal and external customers and stakeholders what level of cover your team is offering along with contact details for the people who are covering your department on each day of the break. Ahead of the break, add these service cover details to websites, email sign offs and VM messages. Ensure you all use consistent language and are clear on the instructions for who to contact. Be clear that everyone else will be taking a full break and unless there is an emergency will not be picking up the phone or emails.
  4. Set up a text alert system within your management team. Use an escalation process so not everyone needs to be notified depending on the severity of the issue. Consider implementing a positive text each day, with the person on duty sending an 'all quiet today, no alerts' text which can let everyone exhale and enjoy the festivities.
Self care is so important for us to be the best we can be - at home and at work.

This Christmas give your team the gift of real down time because you collectively know you have a plan for the right cover, so you can all relax. I'd love to hear what ideas you have for helping you and your team achieve real down time. Maybe together we can help everyone have a great Christmas break. Please share this article if you think your network might benefit from this approach.

About me:

After 30 years in a successful corporate career, leading large teams and change programmes, I now work as a personal and business coach. I help leaders and their teams reach their highest potential and achieve the change they want, without sacrificing the things they value. Whether it's through 121 coaching or consultancy, my first priority is to support my clients in achieving meaningful results. 

See more at or email me on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

If you need to drive change in your business or you're looking for a leadership coach I may be able to help you get where you want to be for yourself, your team and your business. 

There is no such thing as a neutral exchange.  Everything we say and do has an influence and leaves an impression on others.

The goal of leaving everyone and everything better than you found them, may seem like a lofty goal, after all as leaders there will be rough patches for ourselves and our teams.  But it’s not about what you have to say, it’s about what lies behind those words. 

I love to run daily (OK more of a slow jog, but I do love it).

I stopped recently because I pulled a hamstring and I missed it. With my leg recovered I decided last night I would run first thing this morning. I woke up to a grey, wet morning and immediately rationalised why going out wasn't a good idea. My inner talk tuned into my fear of getting hurt again. I wanted to run but I feared injury (and the rain didn't help).

Desire and fear are our most potent emotions and the tussle between them plays out in our daily lives.

I decided to run. My desire was greater than my fear of injury and rain.

I was rewarded with this amazing view of the sun breaking through the clouds on the beach. And I didn't hurt myself in the process.  Fear holds us back every day, it's our survival instinct which just wants us to be safe. But being safe isn't living and it means we miss out on experiences - big and small.

Do you also find your inner 'fear talk' holding you back? Try tuning into the flip side of fear - your desire, it could lead to the sun breaking through for you too.

The scene from ‘The Incredibles’ where Elastigirl shouts at Mr Incredible ‘This is Not about You!’ has been played out in our house in homage to our favourite action movie. But it's in the workplace this message probably needs to be delivered the most. The traditional 'command and control' approach might be outdated, but it's alive and well in many organisations and with an unhealthy focus on the leader as the superhero it's destructive for both leader and team.

Have you ever walked out of a 121 catch up meeting and thought ‘that was a waste of time, why did we bother?’

This sounds harsh, who doesn’t want to catch up?

But I remember feeling this way after many catch ups with a particular boss. The problem was I didn’t feel heard, he would take over and talk, often about his pet project of the moment and before we knew it, the time slipped away and we were both onto our next meetings.

“As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” - Maya Angelou, Civil Rights Activist

We're lucky enough to have a boat which we keep in Southern Ireland and in the summer love to spend time with our children and grandson messing about on the water. With children around, we're super concerned for safety, and the mantra we find ourselves saying over again is "keep one hand on the boat for you" - often shouted as the kids scuttle around the boat having fun.

It struck me this is a good metaphor for how we need to hang on to our own self care as leaders. It's too easy to get swept away with the stress of everyday and lose a grip on your own sense of well being. Great leaders always keep 'one hand on the boat' for themselves, so they are safe and stable and have the other hand free to support others.

In my last corporate role I often got trapped in a cycle of back to back meetings each day, and found myself having to catch up with my ‘real work’ at the end of what had already been a very long and exhausting day.  I would often still at the office at 7.30 or 8pm struggling with a never ending 'To Do' list.  I realised this led to a series of back outcomes for me every day it happened. 

All businesses can expect to need to change significantly every 3-5 years.  With new technology, new market dynamics, new economic imperatives, new customers and a shifting global landscape there are many change forces at work for all of us.

When you are in the grip of a difficult change programme it can seem that you are the only one impacted and that no one has it as tough as you and your team.

I was in my local hairdressers the other day when I noticed an exchange between the salon owner and a customer who came in to book an appointment.  I noticed the customer was clutching a photo of a celebrity whose hair style she obviously admired.  I also noticed that the celebrity had a totally different type, length and texture of hair to the customer.  As the salon owner took the customer aside for a consultation I thought 'oh dear unrealistic aspirations!'.  When the salon owner returned to me I commented that this must have been a difficult conversation and she surprised me with her answer.  'Not at all' she said enthusiastically, I love customers who come to me with a very clear idea of what they want, no matter how unrealistic it is, this gives us a great starting point for their vision.  We may not be able to achieve an exact replica, but I will have a very clear idea of where they want to be, and then we can then look at what is achievable.  It's the customers who come to me with no clue what they want that are a problem.  This gives me nothing to work on, and without any other vision they will most likely end up with a slightly updated version of what they have today, and that's probably not what they really want.

- 'With confidence you have won before you’ve started' Marcus Garvey, political leader, journalist, publisher, entrepreneur

Confidence is life’s natural enabler. It enables us to believe in our abilities, to brave new situations, to flourish in the moment. It’s the magic that helps us to speak up, the oil that greases our performance, and the belief in our value that enables us to negotiate what’s important to us.

Confidence is not a veneer of bravado, it's not an outfit you can put on for a performance. It’s the catalyst that turns the combination of opportunity and competence into long term, meaningful success. Confidence is as essential in today’s corporate workplace as basic communication skills, and yet it remains for many of us, elusive and something we still need to learn to cultivate.

There's a lot written about the importance of mapping the journey and creating the right vision as a critical part of any successful change program.  In fact, the ability to 'articulate a clear, compelling vision' is ranked number 1 in the recent research carried out by Sirius Decisions on critical leadership skills. 

It's clear this is necessary as a communications tool, to get customers, employees, shareholders and other stakeholders on board and for them to buy into the vision and understand the strategy behind why the planned change is necessary.  But the need for a clear and compelling vision isn't enough for the team that are going to be doing the hard work of change.  They need something more than a compelling vision from the person in the driving seat. 

Does your LinkedIn profile do you justice?

According to Business Insider IntelligenceTechCrunch & Fortune, LinkedIn (LI) crossed the half-billion user mark in 2017. Founded in 2002, LI has grown their active user base to 260 million (March 2017 Apptopia) with 40% (Omnicoreagency) logging in every day.  LI claim to be the most used social platform for Fortune 500 companies, evidence of the journey they've been on since the early days when they could have been dismissed as another job site.

As LinkedIn has grown in importance, so have the number of people who really understand how it works and how we can use it.  I have listed some of the best experts I have found at the end of this article so you can tap directly into their wisdom.

It's likely that your public LI profile will be the first thing everyone finds when they Google your name. Whilst you have less control over what appears first in Google you can make sure your LI profile tells the right story about you.

How does your profile look?  Is it doing a great job promoting your skills and experience? Does it show you as approachable and relevant?  Does it attract your tribe and encourage other like-minded people to connect with you?

If like many of us, you have been meaning to refresh your LI profile, read on for some practical, actionable tips. 

Want to be a great leader? Start by putting yourself first

Serving others is, in my opinion, the only great way to lead. 

So it may sound counter-intuitive to say you must put yourself first. Yet this is a lesson I learned the hard way whilst striving to become more of a Servant-leader to large corporate teams.  I learned that you must put your own well being first, because if you don’t, you won’t have anything to give to people working alongside you. And when you take care of yourself, you role model this approach and multiply the benefit.

After many false starts, I learned to treat my energy like a rechargeable battery, but the 'Aha' came with knowing that consistent recharging  is essential, or your battery gets so low you are unable to top up overnight.