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KOI Consulting Blog

The things we don't like in others are often the things we don't like in ourselves. The things we react to in others can tell us something about ourselves if we take the time to reflect. It is from this perspective that I'm writing this blog. I understand that my reflections and observations are a lot about me – like most people I know, I don't take enough time to reflect and this blog will help.

I'd love to hear from you if any of these reflections resonate with you please do get in touch.

Be a facilitator not a dictator! Know how to drive performance

Coaching is a powerful tool.  It must be yielded at the right time and for the right reasons.

A recent client of mine was finding it tough because every conversation with her manager turned into a coaching session. It was exhausting and had the opposite effect in terms of raising her motivation levels. Sometimes she just needed him to provide some direction!

A coaching skillset should be considered part of a managers’ overall toolbox – when used appropriately it’s empowering and facilitates growth, development and change which ultimately results in performance improvement.

So, when is coaching appropriate?

The art of successful coaching is to allow the person being coached to take ownership and problem solve for themselves.  It’s all about inspiring independence and resourcefulness.

A good coach will encourage others to reflect on the situation at hand and draw on their own resources to move forward.  If a manager attempts to directly solve team members’ problems, the results tend to be short-lived, often with no impact at all or can create a sense of dependence on the manager.It makes sense when you think about it -when we solve our own problems we take more ownership for the situation, we get a sense of achievement, and ultimately our belief in our own ability increases.

As coaches, when we tell someone what to do we are depriving them of the opportunity it learn and grow, we are implying that they do not have the necessary resources to work it out for themselves.

..and when is coaching not so appropriate?

There are times when a more direct approach is best.  For example if an individual lacks the skills or knowledge required to address the problem.  In these situations, as their manager or mentor, it’s more effective to provide clear direction on what is required and potentially what needs to be done. Equally, if something is time-critical, it may be more beneficial to give the solution so that it can be actioned quickly.  Lastly, if it’s a menial task or not truly a developmental opportunity.

However, the key is not to make this the default approach.  The aim should be to get the individual to the point where a coaching conversation is appropriate because it is at this point that they take ownership and can really start to tap into their own potential.

Manager as coach

The key to effective coaching is to develop self-awareness of your impact on others, and their impact on you.  Also understanding the situation at hand will help you gauge if a coaching conversation is appropriate in this case. For example, is this an opportunity for the individual’s development?  Do they have sufficient skills and knowledge to drive that development forward for themselves?

Know when to enter into a coaching conversation – understand your own impact, weigh up the situation and the individual involved.  This will lead to a more fruitful outcome for all involved.




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Lessons in leadership from short-term volunteering

I have volunteered with Suas Educational Development since 2010 working supporting the preparation phase of their short term volunteering program in India each summer. I work with the team co-ordinators to build their team and leadership skills. Each coordinator is responsible for approximately 12 volunteers during their 12 week placement.

Last year, I was asked to speak to the volunteers at their return weekend about the skills in leadership that they gain from this programme. To be honest I felt a bit uncomfortable with this, how can I possibly know what they personally gained from the experience. I did however share my thoughts based on my experience of working as an executive coach in the workplace.

The skills that volunteers develop in this program are core to being a successful leader – resilience, mental toughness, relationship building, self-awareness, passion, energy, empathy and more.

Meeting people where they are at

A story one of the volunteers shared illustrates one of the key skills or learnings for a leader.  She and her team were concerned about one of the girls, she wasn’t very engaged in class and wasn’t learning. On their way home from school they saw her sitting on the side of the road selling corn. The realisation was that their role wasn’t about measuring academic achievements per se, but making it a fun experience so she would want to come back the day after and day.  That was the difference they could make.

So often we get caught up in how we and others should be. We have all these rules, standards, expectations.  To learn to meet someone where they are at and serve their needs, rather than our own, is the most powerful things you can do. To show respect and acknowledge that who they are now and where they are at is valid is the platform from which they can grow and develop.

That applies to all of us – no one can grow or develop you. Only you can do that but you need to have a sense of self-worth and self-esteem. In a nutshell, don’t waste your time trying to fix others, but give them the support or validation they need to make their own changes.


Knowing how to take good care of yourself is another key skill for leadership – it’s putting the oxygen mask on yourself first. There is a huge misconception that taking care of yourself is selfish – that’s not true. If you are not in a good place you are of no use to anyone and likely actually pull others down. When people are in a bad place in the work environment they can be moody which affects the moods of others, they might not be pulling their weight and others have to pick up the slack.

I see this over and over, people running themselves into the ground, not taking care of their own needs resulting in stress, burnout, demotivation, anger and sadness.

Emotional skills

Volunteering in another country is an emotional roller coaster. Both in Delhi and Kolkata I saw the volunteers becoming more aware of their own emotions, how to manage them in a way that is respectful both to their own needs and those of others around them. I saw them making great human connections with others and developing empathy.

This is emotional intelligence.

Over the last 20+ years there has been a lot of research into the usefulnesss of emotional skills- research has shown that EQ is a predictor of performance and people with higher emotional skills will tend to be more successful.

Team Skills

This programme puts a lot of emphasis on developing team skills.  The volunteers will have recognised that it takes time to develop as a team – they went through distinct phases, it’s not always comfortable and sometimes it can be downright uncomfortable.

Understanding that it’s ok not to get on all the time, but to have to skills and honesty to deal with that in a way that’s respectful to yourself and others is a key skill for leadership.


Einstein’s definition of madness is to keep repeating the same behaviours but expecting different results! Reflection is one of the stages of learning, if you skip that stage you skip the full learning which leaves you open to repeating over and over and over.  I don’t think I’ve worked with anyone who finds reflection easy or something that comes naturally, however, consistently the people I work with acknowledge the importance of reflection and lament they didn’t start earlier in their careers.

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The Responsibility Trap

The whole area of feedback and performance is a quagmire of good intentions, fear of delivering feedback and confusion over the difference between accountability and responsibility.

When working with a team once, one team member shared that feedback she had received in her annual review had really surprised her.  Whilst she thought she was doing really well, the feedback was quite the opposite.  She told her team members that she felt embarrassed and that their intentions of protecting her from this negative feedback had the complete opposite effect in the end.

In fact, the issue of responsibility versus accountability surfaces regularly in my coaching sessions.  This relates to managers’ responsibility for their employees’ performance.  In particular, one question arises frequently: What are the boundaries for an employee’s performance?

It’s fair to say that each of us is responsible for our performance in work, yet it’s not always as straightforward at that.  For example, if we are not given any candid feedback about our performance, and are therefore not aware of any shortcomings, how cane we realistically be expected to achieve great performance reviews?

There is an onus on managers to communicate to their team members if they are falling short of expectations.  However, managers who have concerns about employees’ performance have often not communicated this.  When asked whether the employee in question knows of concerns about their performance, the responses I’ll hear are nearly always along the lines of “Well sort of….I’m not sure…Now is not the time…

Instead managers work through all the potential areas they might be failing the employee and then move to what they can do to fix the problem.  And all of this conjecture takes place in the absence of any consultation with the employee.

In these situations, the biggest challenge facing managers is their comfort and skill in giving direct feedback.  If you are struggling with giving someone feedback on their performance ask yourself, if it was you:

(1) Would you want to know that your boss or someone else had concerns about your performance?

(2) Would you like the opportunity to understand what these concerns were and an opportunity to address them?

(3) How would you feel if someone else worked out how to ‘fix’ your ‘performance issues’ without ever consulting you?

To be effective in addressing employee performance, it has to be a two-way conversation.  You must empower your employee to take ownership and responsibility for their own performance by setting clear expectations, providing appropriate support and giving timely feedback.  Certainly managers are accountable to the organisation for an employee’s performance, but that is very different to being responsible.

As a manager, here are some areas to help you evaluate how well an employee is positioned to succeed in their role:

Clear Direction:

  • Do they understand their role and what they are expected to deliver?
  • Do they understand how their role fits with the organisations purpose and objectives?

Skills Fit:

  • Do they have the tools, skills and knowledge they need to perform their role?


  • Are they engaged and energised by their role? Do they have the support they need to be successful?

Cultural Fit:

  • How well do they understand how to get things done in this organisation?

Whereas you are accountable for the performance of your employees and with this you have certain resposibilites, as discussed above, you need to respect these boundaries.  Step back and let employees be responsible for their own performance.



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Understanding Emotional Intelligence

Do you know anyone who doesn’t listen, who can be overbearing, regulalrly cuts people off and loses their temper?

These behaviours are often described as ‘personality’, the assumption being that our personality is fixed so therefore these behaviours are fixed. In fact these behaviours are related to emotional intelligence (EQ) and something that we can develop our skill in.

It was Daniel Goleman’s observations in his book “Emotional Intelligence” (1995) and subsequent Harvard Business Review article (1998) about the role of EI in leadership that brought this field of study to the wider business community.  Goleman (1996) defines emotional intelligence as “the capacity for recognising our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves and for managing emotions well in ourselves and in our relationships.” The theory is that emotionally intelligent people cope better in life, are more successful in their work and make better leaders.

Research shows that emotional intelligence accounts for 58% of performance in all types of jobs*. So what does that mean? If you take two people with the same level of skills, knowledge and ability, the person with higher emotional intelligence will probably be more successful in that role.

Emotional intelligence is really important and absolutely key to our performance in work and overall effectiveness in life in general because it is the foundation for a range of critical skills including trust, anger management, stress tolerance, empathy, time management, decision making, change tolerance, assertiveness, social skills, presentation skills, accountability and flexibility*.

So how do we develop EQ?

It all starts with awareness.  Our emotions tend to take us over but instead of reacting, try first to work out where these feelings came from.  Use them as an opportunity to learn more about yourself; to gain insight into what your needs and motivations and understand your emotional triggers.  Ask yourself: Why did that make me angry/sad/happy? What does that tell me about myself?

It can be helpful to keep a journal. Dump your thoughts and feelings onto the page and reflect on it at a later stage to further help you raise your self- awareness.  It can also be helpful to complete a Emotional Intelligence psychological assessment and work with a trained practitioner to understand it and develop your development plan.

Either way, the good news is that we all have the capacity to finetune our EQ and reap the benefits in our interactions with others, and utimately with ourselves.

*Emotional Intelligence 2.0, Travis Bradberry, Jean Greaves and Patrick Lencion


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Pay attention to the power of your mind

“You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you”

These are the words of James Allen, a British philosophical writer and pioneer of the self-help movement.  Although he died in 1912, I believe his words are as relevant today as they were during his lifetime.

How we think has an enormous impact on how we live our lives.

A few years ago, I was listening to a radio show in my car. A lady was sharing her view about how awful things were – she was going on and on about how depressed all her customers are “you see it in their faces”. This was at a time when the world economy has collapsed and there was doom and gloom in abundance.

Around this time I had also voluntarily left my permanent pensionable job to setup my own coaching business.  Some said I was crazy, others said I was brave (euphemism for crazy).

I was really positive about my decision –  I knew it was the right one for me.

However as I listened to that woman, I noticed my throat contsricting slightly, it was an “omg what I have done?” moment  I began feeling physically uncomfortable and quickly changed the radio station. Beyonce’s voice boomed out and I felt happy and relaxed again.

So what had happened there?

The facts of my situation had not changed in those 5 minutes yet I’d gone through this huge emotional rollercoaster.  What had actually changed was how I was thinking and this in turn impacted how I felt.

We all do it.  More than each of us probably realise.

Coffey & Murray in their book ‘Emotional Intelligence (EQ) A Leadership Impreative!’ tell us that psychologist estimate we have an average of 50k thoughts per day, the majority of which are focused on the past, the future, are negative and are a repeat of what we were thinking yesterday and the day before – our very own groundhog doomsday!

The negative thoughts Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTS) just pop into our minds and send us off in all sorts of directions. Any of the following sound familiar?

  • I’m always forgetting things
  • I know I won’t pass the exam
  • He must think I’m useless
  • I won’t get a job like that
  • She’s much funnier than me

Which then spirals into inaction on our part: ‘Ah there’s no point in trying…. complete waste of time.’

People may think this is the way our brain is programmed to work. Wrong!  That’s a another classic example of an ANT – taking a supposed fact and leaping to a precarious conclusion.

So what can we do to counteract this?

For a start, pay attention to how you are thinking.  Yes, it’s that simple.  Ask yourself: what story am I telling myself? How is this affecting how I feel about myself? What excuses for inaction am I giving myself? And turn those ANTS into Confidence Affirming Thoughts (CATS).

It really works.  I urge you to give this a go and have some fun with it –really pay attention to your thought processes and notice how often you deal in facts as opposed to your own interpretations.

We need to audit and regulate our own inner voice and ensure we’re being kind and supportive to ourselves.  After all, If you don’t own your thoughts, they are going to own you.


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