Tuesday, 13 February 2018

How to manage your inner self-critic

It happens to us all from time to time, that little voice in your head that tells you you’re not good enough and unlikely to succeed in your latest venture. For some, that inner-critic can be helpful, enabling us to really think through our choices and helping us to identify areas for development and growth. However, for some, the self-critic can become so ‘loud’ that it over shadows our self-belief and gives us a skewed perception of what we can really achieve and our true potential.

Our inner self-critic can manifest itself into all aspects of life, but can be particularly damaging at work, limiting our progress. As this Pychology Today article outlines, the self-critic is a pattern of negative thoughts that stops us from achieving our goals. The good news is that we have all we need to silence our inner self-critic within ourselves too – it just takes a bit of time and practice!

We’ve pulled together a few exercises to help you keep your self-critic at bay.

Work out what your critical voice is saying and why

Most negative thought patterns are borne out of prior experience which can usually be traced back to an early-life event. Try to focus not just what your critical inner voice is telling you but why that would be true. Remember that this thought process does not reflect reality - it is a just a thought you have internalised. Once you have broken down what your critic is saying, it will be easy to find flaws in that viewpoint which make it easier to override your critical voice. For example, when your inner critic says you can’t do something because you haven’t done it before, you can override that statement with the plans you have in place to gain the knowledge and experience you need beforehand.

Write it down

Have you ever noticed that the voice in your head is so much louder than all the other voices around? That’s what makes it most powerful. One way to counter this is by writing down what your critical voice is saying to you. "I can't get anything right” should be written as "You can't get anything right" then take a long look at these statements and think for a second about them. What would your colleagues think if they saw the statement? What would your family think? Seeing things from a different perspective will help you to see these thoughts for what they are - self-destructive falsehoods. Take a couple of minutes to counter these statements with a more realistic evaluation of yourself and your abilities.

Say it out loud

Your inner-critic is unkind and hurtful. When you hear your inner voice talking to you, spend a moment to repeat what it has said out loud. Would you speak this way to your friends and colleagues? No of course not. How would you react if one of your colleagues spoke this way to you? Let’s be honest, it just wouldn’t happen, so why do we accept this of ourselves? Saying things out loud is a great reminder of just how destructive our self-critic is and a good reminder to be kinder to ourselves.

If you do tend to be overly critical of yourself, join the club, you're definitely not alone. However, it’s important that we do what we can to address these negative thoughts and nip them in the bud, turning them into a positive dialogue that will help us grow, rather than self-fulfilling prophesies.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

How to motivate yourself and others

According an article in Psychology Today the one thing that sets aside people who achieve their goals from those who don't, is having the motivation to succeed. Motivation can come from within or can be stimulated by external reward.

However, studies show that while external rewards have their place, we usually value our internal drivers more, so we’ve developed a few hacks below to help you draw on your inner motivation – but don’t forget to build in a few small external rewards to your daily routine too, to keep you focused and enable you to reach your true potential.

Keep your eye on the bigger picture

Rather than think about the task in hand, concentrate on the ways in which completing that task will take your closer to achieving your goals or realising your dreams. The secret to staying motivated is to link what you are doing back to your real value drivers. Always take the time to remind yourself why you are doing what you’re doing.

Set an achievable to-do list

Nothing is more off-putting than a huge list of tasks and not enough time to complete them. By setting an achievable to-do list and managing people’s expectations about what you can do and by when, you can keep motivated enough to complete the things that need to be done. Unrealistic expectations – set by yourself, or by others – are the main reason for failure. Be kind to yourself and set yourself up for success.

Visualise what you’ll feel like when you’ve done it

You’ll feel great, right? Like a weight has been lifted and this will leave you feeling more positive and motivated than before. Visualisation is a tried and tested practice that helps us rewire our thinking. Our brain can be tricked into thinking we’ve done things which makes it easier for us to complete the tasks we been putting off. When we think about the positive feelings we’ll have when we’ve completed a task we will be more willing to actually do them. Think successful to be successful.

Just do it – in small bursts if needs be

There is nothing more motivating than being fully present and totally focused on one task at a time – and having a tight timescale in which to complete the task you’ve been set can really focus the mind. Have you ever been amazed at how much shopping you can fit in your basket when they announce the shop will close in ten minutes? Or how many emails you can get through when you have a meeting to get to shortly? Start putting a timescale against tasks for completion to keep the motivation turned up and the procrastination dialled down to a low. Don’t go over the time you have set yourself and if you haven’t finished what you set out to do, simply schedule in another session later in the day/week. See how much more productive you are.

Reward your own productivity to keep the motivation juices flowing

Having something to look forward to is a great motivator. Make a deal with yourself – if you can do what you need to accomplish in the morning you’ll take a lunchtime walk in the sunshine to clear your head; if you get through the afternoon’s tasks you’ll take a long bath and set some time aside to make a start on that new book.

There are some great articles about both internal and external motivators, like the ones below. Just remember to do whatever works best for you – not for others.



Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Managing groups and recognising team personalities

Being able to identify your key strengths and core skills are central to setting and achieving your goals. And as a manger, knowing exactly what your team is capable of, will make the difference between success and failure.

If you ask people where their skills lie, chances are they will be able to give you a long list of their qualifications and work-based achievements. What sets the great managers aside from average managers is their ability to see through what is written on paper and gain an appreciation of people’s soft skills too. Having an understanding of what each team member brings to the table will enable you to not only bring out the best in your people, but also achieve your collective goals.

We’ve outlined a few of the common personality types you may find in your team to help you with this – go ahead, see if you can find a match in your own talent pool and do whatever you can to play to people's strengths to get results!


These people are great for mediating conflicts and keeping everyone on track. Your leaders guide meetings and keep them on track, as well as helping to delegate tasks within the team. Leaders are often good communicators, focus on the end results and are able to motivate and bring out the best in others.

Team players

Not everyone can lead and having some real team players on your side are key to getting things done. You can tell the team players by their enthusiasm when working with others towards a common goal. They’re usually eager to help, willing to compromise and diplomatic. They might not the greatest self-starters, but once they’ve been briefed you can guarantee they’ll see tasks through to a successful conclusion.


Always probing and seeking more information, questioners are great at finding gaps or inaccuracies in plans and projects. As well as asking the questions, they are often more than happy to find their own answers or conduct the research necessary to make sure that no stone has been left unturned when it comes to planning. Questioning types within your team – if you don’t take their constant probing personally – are usually great at testing new concepts and ideas before the planning phase.


Every team need a subject expert. These are the people who know all there is to know about the specific area of the business. Not only that, if they don’t have the information they will go out of their way to find it.


Thriving on rules and regulations, planners are essential to keep the more creative members of your team on task, organising everyone so they’re set up for success. Creating order and cutting through chaos is what planners do best, so if you have a natural planner on your team, use them wisely. They’re great at improving efficiency and thinking projects through from concept to completion.

Creative thinkers

Yes, we know that sometimes creative types can drift away into their own little world of concepts and ideas, but when you can actually ground what they have in their heads, creative thinkers are the ones who excel at problem solving, delivering fresh ideas that can reinvigorate business development and build the concepts many businesses need to stand out from the crowd. Creative thinkers can be frustrating to work with but if you place them in the right team, their input usually adds real value to a business.

This article: How To Manage Personalities To Get The Most Out Of Your Teams breaks down team personalities into three different groups – have a read and find out how to propel your team’s performance from OK to outstanding…

Monday, 8 January 2018

Personal development tips for busy people

By now most people are back at work after the holidays and we all share high hopes for what lies ahead - we may even have set resolutions that will make us better people and help us live a happier, more fulfilling life. It’s also the time of year when we look at our career and identify goals that will enable us to grow. But how attainable are these goals and resolutions that we set? Is it possible to set realistic objectives – both personal and career based - that won’t get overlooked once we’re back in the thick of our busy, day-to-day routines.

We’ve found some self and personal development areas that can be built into our daily lives. Let’s make 2018 a year of personal growth and self-development – without it being a chore!

Get online

It used to be that if you wanted to learn a new skill you had to go to night school, or take time out of your day job to attend courses. Not so now. If there’s anything you want to know or learn, the internet is your friend and what’s better is that many are free or low cost. More than that, most online courses or webinars can be done at your leisure, when it suits you. Why not schedule an hour in your diary once a week to take you closer to achieving the goals you’ve set?

Explore mentoring

Becoming a mentor or working with a mentor are both great ways of developing your skills in a less-formal fashion than traditional training courses and leadership programmes. Sharing what we know with others is a great way of appreciating the skills and experience that we have and, conversely, working with a mentor is an effective way of enriching your own personal development while exploring new ways of thinking and working. And what’s more, it can all be done at a time and place that is convenient to you. You can read more about mentoring, in this blog post.

Venture into volunteering

There are so many charities out there looking for a wide range of skills and experience to help them deliver vital work with local communities. Volunteering is a great way of either sharing the skills you have within a different sector or learning something new. Either way, volunteering can help you fulfil your personal development goals for the year. Many charities have their own training courses too, some of which lead to recognised qualifications. They do often require a regular time commitment, though this could be as little as two hours a week - well worth scheduling into your calendar. Check too with your employer, as some allow you to complete volunteering assignments within work time as part of their corporate and social responsibility programmes.

Write your goals down

As with most activities and priorities, the way to bring your personal development goals to life, is to write them down. In fact, go one step further – write them down and then schedule time in your diary to work on them. Writing things down legitimises them, giving them time and reiterating their importance. It doesn’t have to eat into your day either. Read a text book during your commute to work, or during your lunch break; or listen to a webinar or tutorial before you go to bed. Make your time work for you. If it’s important to you, you'll find the time.

If you are still struggling to find the time to work on yourself this year, this article from the Guardian outlines some handy time management tips of busy people to give you some ideas.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

How to give feedback people listen to

When we’re at school we accept that we'll be taught things, that we will learn new skills, ideas and concepts from others and that this information will enable us to grow as individuals. Once we join the workforce however, it becomes harder to accept such teachings, advice and guidance from others. As adults, we become naturally defensive and skeptical which makes it difficult for us to take a lot of the feedback we’re given constructively.

In many ways, feedback can be as tough to deliver, as it can to receive. However, if done in a clear and constructive manner – as outlined in this blog article– it’s a great way of helping people realise their true potential.

Two-way is the best way

Nobody likes to be spoken at, so if you really want people to take on board what you have to say you’ve got to at least try and involve them. If you frame the feedback more as a conversation, giving your colleague the opportunity to discuss, question and challenge what you are saying, it will make for a much more collaborative process and one from which you could both learn something. More importantly, it will create a platform from which you can work together to create a way forward.

Prepare to take action

Feedback is not a finite, one-off action, it’s a process. Once you've shared the feedback – and made your colleagues aware of any issues and problems you’ve highlighted – you can’t leave things there. The most important part of the feedback process is what happens afterwards: the steps that you take to support your colleague through any issues identified, the plans you create and the goals you set to improve performance going forward. Use two-way discussion to go over ideas and be open to the suggestions made by your colleagues, so that you can support them however you can.

Review your plans

Make sure that any action plans you create are timely and measureable. All too often, colleagues are given feedback and then left to navigate their progress by themselves. Commit to additional feedback sessions to discuss progression so far and next steps. The way you handle the feedback process will determine how your colleagues will give and receive feedback in the future, so it’s important to get it right.

And don’t forget our three golden rules for sharing feedback – they’re guaranteed to get your message heard!

Be specific

Now’s not the time for beating around the bush. When you give feedback make sure you talk about specific behaviour and specific examples that demonstrate the point you are making.

Be timely

Strike while the iron is hot is a saying that applies when sharing feedback. It’s got to be done while the issues are still front of mind. If you have feedback to give, then just get on and give it.

Be sensitive

Pick a suitable moment to share your feedback. You’ll know when colleagues are open to discussion and times when your feedback will not have the impact you are seeking.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

The importance of career planning

Most of us have a dream or ambition about what we want to achieve in our working lives. It’s often a dream we hold close, sharing with few – if any – of our colleagues for fear of appearing too ambitious or not hungry enough. However, how many of us will actually achieve what we set out to? How many of us actively manage our own career paths?

Rather than meaning that our focus is not on the job we’re currently doing, a realistic career plan is an essential component of personal and professional growth. It helps build the skills and capabilities we need in a structured way that enables us to realise our true potential.

Career plans, when created and reviewed properly, keep us motivated by setting a specific timeline for accomplishing the things we want to achieve. So how exactly do we set a meaningful career plan for ourselves?

Start with the big stuff

Where do you see yourself in five years / ten years from now? You’ve got to be clear about your destination before you can plot out your journey. Yes, it seems a long way off, but we’re talking about long term goals here – rather than incremental steps.

Be clear about what you can do already – and what you have still to learn

Once you know where you are heading, you need to conduct an honest skills assessment: what skills are you looking to develop? What gaps in your knowledge and experience do you need to fill? You need to be realistic with yourself about what you can do – and for those things where your skills are lacking, you need to develop a realistic training journey to build your capabilities. The skills you need might be achievable through your current job, or a training course. Other skills may require exposure to a different sector or job role in order to build the capabilities you need.

Decide on your career goals and desired jobs

The reality is that, while some career planning and coaching may be available within your organisation, most planning and career exploration needs to be undertaken in your own time, outside of work. Deciding on your career goals sometimes means coming to the realisation that what you really need lies outside of your current employer; similarly taking advice from your current employer may make you feel obliged to find an internal role that fits part of your career plan – yet still falls short of your big dream job. A true career plan is independent and impartial – and that means making the time outside of work to do it.

Put your career path plan in writing

A plan that isn’t written down is only an idea. Once that idea has been committed to writing, it’s a plan. Writing it down makes it real. It provides something tangible to review and measure and the legitimacy that’s needed to prioritise it in our lives. Share it with others – in full or in part - as necessary but in order to realise your goals and aspirations you need to treat your career path as a living, breathing document. There are plenty of templates freely available on the internet to help you on your way.

Finally, once you have your plan in writing – own it! No-one will ever care as much about your career as you do. The power to grow and develop your own future lies firmly in your hands. Seek support and assistance from others as you wish, but ultimately it’s all up to you.

You might also find this post about goal setting helpful: http://firstpsychologyassistance.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/why-making-firm-positive-goals-and.html

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Why introverts miss out on leadership roles

A recent study has shown that introverts often miss out on leadership roles they are more than capable of doing, simply because they overestimate how stressful these positions will be.

In the study nearly 200 undergraduate business students were asked to complete personality tests devised by NASA. Before starting, they were asked to rate whether they would find it fun and exciting, or scary and stressful. They also rated each other for signs of emergent leadership during the task, such as influencing group decisions and leading conversations. Introverts showed less emergent leadership than extraverts and expected to experience more negative emotions and feelings during the group task.

While that makes sense, it does suggest that there is a pool of talented leaders out there who will never realise their true potential, just because of how they perceive things to be. That’s a shame, given there are many reasons why introverts actually make excellent leaders who bring out the best in their teams.

Introverts think, then act

Introverts never speak without thinking things through first. They are great at reflecting on how what they say will impact on others and be perceived. They don’t speak unless they feel they can add value to the conversation and you can be sure that their responses will be measured and considered. Yes, their meetings may be quieter than those facilitated by extroverted leaders, but they are able to cut through organisational noise to distil the important data and information.

Introverts like to dig deep

There’s nothing superficial about introverted thinking. They like to investigate and research to a level of detail that extroverts wouldn’t deem necessary. They listen and they love to ask questions – probing questions that get to the crooks of the issue. As leaders this results in a greater understanding and appreciation of what’s going on in their departments and a deeper grasp of their team members and what they are capable of.

Introverts are calm

If you’re working in a busy or stressful job, you need someone who can bring a sense of calm to the operation and the higher up the chain of command that calm is, the easier it is for it to exude across the whole team. Introverts are great in times of crisis and they won’t make a mountain out of a molehill, that’s why they make such good mentors and coaches.

Introverts like to plan

You won’t catch an introvert out through a lack of planning. Being prepared and rehearsed is one of the reasons introverts make such good leaders. They plot out scenarios in their mind before they happen so are very seldom caught out, plus their tendency to air on the side of caution means they have realistic expectations of themselves and their team members.

Let’s not forget, some of the world’s most successful leaders are self-confessed introverts, like Bill Gates and Mahatma Ghandi. So be sure to share this blog with the talented introverts you know and encourage them to achieve their true leadership potential.