What is your life compass?


A life compass can help keep you focused and aligned to what is important. It can help you recognise when you have drifted away from your purpose and what brings joy.

I’ve been thinking more about my own life compass recently. Two areas have emerged; helping others succeed and mastering emotions. Inspired by Derek Sivers, I’ve found that these succinctly provide the minimum alignment to support my personal reflection and decision making.

Below explains a little more about each one and how they might also be areas for your compass:

Helping others succeed

It is an inbuilt human desire to help others succeed. It is also proven that through helping others it boosts our happiness and life satisfaction:

There is science also behind why this is helpful for a healthy, fulfilled life. 

Scientific studies show that helping others boosts happiness. It increases life satisfaction, provides a sense of meaning, increases feelings of competence, improves our mood and reduced stress. It can help to take our minds off our own troubles too. 

Kindness towards others is be the glue which connects individual happiness with wider community and societal wellbeing. Giving to others helps us connect with people and meets one of our basic human needs – relatedness. 

Action for Happiness


  • When did I last help someone else succeed?
  • Who can i help and what might they need?
  • What can I offer, that i know something about, that probably wont happen unless i take responsibility for it?

Mastering your emotions

A life long journey is becoming more aware of our emotions and internal processing. Much of our thinking is automatic but through daily practices of meditation, journalling, yoga and others we can become more aware of our emotions.

Managing your impulsive, emotional Chimp as an adult will be one of the biggest factors determining how successful you are in life.

Steve Peters

Do this regularly:

  • Close your eyes, take 5 deep breaths and ask yourself, how do i feel right now?


Q: What is your life compass?


60 Second Summary: Influence – Robert Cialdini

3 Big Ideas:

  1. 6 weapons of influence:Reciprocity, Commitment, Social proof, Authority, Liking, Scarcity.
  2. We respond automatically to the six types of influence. Understanding this allows us to manage how marketeers and other people t try to influence us without realising
  3. Learning the principles of influence allow you to recognise when they are being used on you so that you can avoid doing something you’d later regret


A well-known principle of human behavior says that when we ask someone to do us a favor we will be more successful if we provide a reason. People simply like to have reasons for what they do.

Since 95 percent of the people are imitators and only 5 percent initiators, people are persuaded more by the actions of others than by any proof we can offer

1 Follow Up:

The six principles can help encourage change in organisations and help influence leaders to change behaviour.

You may also like my summary of Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialised World – David Epstein

If you have more time…..

Big Ideas Expanded


We should try to repay in kind, what another person has provided us.

Common Examples:

  1. Free Gifts 
  2. A leader offering attention and mentorship to followers in exchange for loyalty
  3. Refer a Friend Deals (Refer and receive one month free)

Influencing Change:

  1. Put together a personal learning list for a leader you want to influence
  2. Buy lunch for someone who you have a difficult working relationship with – Luncheon Technique
  3. Buy a book for a leader you want to influence. On a topic you think might help with a challenge they are facing – Make it personal by including a note

Make these acts feel personal. This will maximise its power.

Commitment and Consistency

When stating a belief we are wired to try and act consistently with that belief. 

Common examples:

  1. Front of Door Technique – Ask a person to agree to a large request by having them agree to a modest request first
  2. Ask people to recommend your product, they will likely to continue using it as they have publicly endorsed it

Influencing Change:

  1. Ask leaders to state publicly their support for a cause – e.g. Diversity – They are more likely to act consistently with that publicly stated belief
  2. Ask leaders to publicly champion a new way of working, such as agile

Social Proof

We view a behavior as more correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it.

Common Examples:

  1. Canned laughter (laughing track) causes viewers to laugh longer and more often. It is more effective in poor jokes.
  2. Bartenders seed their tip jars with a few dollars to give the impression that tipping is the norm.
  3. Bystander Effect – individuals are less likely to offer help to a victim when other people are present; the greater the number of bystanders, the less likely it is that one of them will help.

Influencing Change:

  1. Connect people with role models – make new behaviours seem like the norm
  2. Share success stories widely
  3. Organise panel events where teams can share their stories


We tend to obey figures of authority (people with titles or expertise)

Common Examples:

  1. Uniform and other clothing can create appearance of authority – Thai Gem Scam is great example of this principle and others!!
  2. Job Titles in corporations – e.g. Vice President
  3. Referencing experts in your work

Influencing Change:

  1. Asking an external well know speaker(possibly author) to present to your organisation
  2. Referencing the source of an idea when sharing it, perhaps from a book
  3. Asking senior management to recommend a training course to their teams


We are more likely to agree to someones request if we know and like them

Common Examples:

  1. Give compliments
  2. Express shared interests
  3. Joe Gidard – “I have never sold a car in my life. I sold Joe Girard.” – Understand that you are not selling a product, you are selling yourself

Influencing Change:

  1. Dressing in a way that is similar to those you are influencing
  2. Finding common interests
  3. Using language that is familiar

Scarcity (FOMO)

We perceive something to more valuable when its less available

FOMO(Fear of Missing Out) – the uneasy and sometimes all-consuming feeling that you’re missing out — that your peers are doing, in the know about, or in possession of more or something better than you

Common Examples:

  1. Restaurant with a queue outside – Creates impression of scarcity
  2. Black Friday – “One time deals that cannot be missed!”
  3. Booking.com – 42 people are looking at this hotel now

Influencing Change:

  1. Limit the number of people and teams you work with. Create impression that services are lower in supply and high in demand
  2. Express that spaces on a training course are limited (first come first served)

Thai Gem Scam

Perfect example of many principles in action. Story taken from here: https://www.into-asia.com/bangkok/gemscam


Bangkok’s infamous gem scam has ruined the holidays of many, many visitors to Thailand and it is an important thing to be aware of beforehand if you want to avoid becoming yet another victim. 

The con-artists always targets the new, first time arrivals (THE BACK DROP IS UNCERTAINTY WHICH MAXIMISES INFLUENCE POTENTIAL) to Thailand and consequently you find them hanging around the main tourist attractions, particularly Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, Wat Arun and the National Museum. New arrivals are often somewhat surprised at the friendliness of people (LIKING) in the Land of Smiles, and unfortunately can become a bit too trusting of strangers which leaves them vulnerable to this scam. What we’ve described below is a typical example, but there are many variations.

It usually starts with a male stranger approaching you, often in uniform (AUTHORITY), on the way to or nearby any of main tourist attractions, and telling you that you can’t go in at the moment. They can come up with dozens of reasons why: “Oh didn’t you know it’s a Buddhist holiday today”, “closed for cleaning”, “closed for repairs”, “only Thai people can enter in the morning”, “closed because the monks are chanting now”, “it’s only open on Wednesdays” etc. (CONSISTENCY – YOU WANT TO STICK TO HOLIDAY PLAN) By far the best approach is just to ignore anyone trying to talk to you on the way in, which may seem rude but it can be very difficult to get away if you start any conversation with them. In the vast majority of cases, there is absolutely no truth in what they are saying, it’s just a ruse to get you started in conversation with them. If the place really is closed, find out for yourself from the entrance and don’t take anyone’s word for it. No one is going to be offended if you try and enter, even if it really is closed for a holiday.

Not wanting to offend or appear ignorant (CONSISTENCY), you may let them talk you out of going to Wat Pho or wherever it is you really intended to go. But not to worry, your new friend knows somewhere equally impressive that is still open – “the famous 100m high Standing Buddha temple”. It’s not mentioned in your guidebook for some reason, but he will kindly mark the location of it on your map for you. He may also casually talk about a special promotion on gems or jewelry that is on today, but will put no pressure on you to buy any. (SCARCITY)

After another 5 or 10 minutes of conversation, he will usually offer to arrange a tuk-tuk ride for you to the new temple at a bargain price (10B/20B, say, or even for free) (SCARCITY) explaining that tuk-tuks overcharge tourists and so he can get that the price that cheap for you because he is Thai (LIKING). Alternatively, they claim that by taking you there and then to a special export shop they get free petrol/gasoline coupons and so that is why it is cheap.

Either way it’s worth remembering that tuk-tuks are no cheaper than taxis in Bangkok, and even the shortest of rides starts at around 50B. If you’re offered a ridiculous price like 100B (or less) for a whole afternoon’s worth of sightseeing, it’s only because they know they can make much more out of scamming you.

At the new temple (the so-called ‘Standing Buddha temple’, ‘Lucky Buddha temple’ etc – really just an average temple in an out-of-the-way location), the tuk-tuk driver waits outside while you go in. Inside you’ll be fortunate enough to meet a smartly dressed (AUTHORITY) Thai man who speaks excellent English (LIKING), and claims to be a university professor / business man / student / tourist official etc. You’ll chat for a while (they often have excellent knowledge about your home country), and eventually the conversation gets round to jewelry and gems, confirming the special deal (SCARCITY) on at the moment that the man on the street mentioned earlier. Essentially, this special deal involves bulk buying gems at a low price in Thailand in order to resell them for a vast profit in your home country. This is dressed up in any number of ways – you don’t buy from a shop but from a special “international export center”, today is a special export day, it’s an opportunity previously only open to Thai students to finance their studies abroad but now tourists can do it as well (SCARCITY) , there’s a special tax break today, it’s part of a tourism promotion, it’s a wholesale factory price, backed by the government, you get a certificate of authenticity and a money back guarantee etc

On to the gem shop, and you are well looked after with personal service from the manager, free drinks etc. (RECIPROCATION) There then follows a high-pressure sales pitch, after which far too many people are persuaded to spend in the region of 100 000B (US$2500), 200 000B (US$5000) or more on gems which they hope to resell at a profit in their home country. The gem shops often pay lowlife foreigners to linger in their shop posing as a customer and casually mention to you that for years they have bought Thai gems from this shop, sold them back in France / USA / Singapore / etc, and have made loads of money doing it (SOCIAL PROOF). A bit too conveniently, they’ll have receipts and documentation on them to back-up their story.

For many people, the knowledge that a fellow foreigner has done it successfully is what finally persuades them to buy (SOCIAL PROOF). To ensure you get the gems out of Thailand safely, with no problems from customs, the shop will offer to mail the gems to your country for you. When you actually come to buy the gems, you may find the shop doesn’t have the facilities to accept credit cards itself (a warning sign in itself – Visa and Mastercard have cut them off for high levels of fraudlent transactions). You may have to go and buy gold from a nearby shop with your card and then pay them in the gold you just purchased.

What most people find out soon enough when they try and sell them is that the expensively purchased “gems” are really only worth a tiny fraction of what you paid for them. You’re actually more in luck if you’ve been sold worthless bits of cut-glass masquerading as gems, as this is actually illegal and gives you a legal leg to stand on. Either way, virtually all the money that was spent on the gems is now lost. The receipt, money back guarantee and certificate of authenticity are barely worth the paper they’re printed on.

Book Summary: Happiness Hypothesis


The Happiness Hypothesis: Putting Ancient Wisdom to the Test of Modern Science

3 Big Ideas:

  1. Happiness Formula (H = S + C + V)
    • Happiness = Set Level + Conditions + Voluntary activities
      • Set Level -The set-point theory of happiness suggests that our level of subjective well-being is determined primarily by heredity and by personality traits ingrained in us early in life, and as a result remains relatively constant throughout our lives
      • Conditions – Relationships(connection) is one of the most important conditional factors to happiness. You can never adapt if you loose connections.
      • Voluntary activities – Focus on activities that bring joy to others. Such as showing gratitude, kindness, favours.
  2. Retrain the Elephant – A strong metaphor throughout. Rider = Rational Brain Elephant = Compulsive, Irrational brain. Lasting happiness does not occur through an epiphany. It occurs through focusing on the relationship between rider and elephant, and retraining the elephant. You need to consistently act you way to change through tiny habits.
  3. Coherence is a strong theme throughout. Living coherently leads to happiness. This includes coherence between different levels of your personality, personal values, environment you live and work within, relationships you have.


  1. “Happiness is not something that you can find, acquire, or achieve directly. You have to get the conditions right and then wait. Some of those conditions are within you. Other conditions require relationships to things beyond you: Just as plants need sun, water, and good soil to thrive, people need love, work, and a connection to something larger

  2. “Work less, Consume less, Attach less, Connect more”

1 Takeaway:

Focus on building good relationships in my life.

Relationships between myself and others, between myself and work, between myself and a greater purpose.

The Happiness Hypothesis: Putting Ancient Wisdom to the Test of Modern Science

Big Ideas Expanded:

The brain sends bad feedback signals quicker than good. We are wired for negativity bias.

Three beliefs depressed people hold:

  1. I’m no good
  2. My world is no good
  3. My future is hopeless

Three best ways to change thought patterns:

  1. Meditation
  2. CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy)
  3. Prozac

A Metaphor for the mind. The rider and the elephant.


The rider and the elephant are often in conflict. The elephant usually wins.


Streetlight Effect: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Streetlight_effect

You can’t change your mind(or anything else) through will power alone. You need to act you way to changes through tiny habits done consistently such as meditation and thinking habits formed through CBT

Our search for knowledge is flawed. We search for facts that confirm our position and once found we stop thinking and looking for alternatives (Conformation Bias)

Our perception of others is often correct. Our perception of self is flawed. We have significant blind spots. The ego is strong. We see ourselves through rose tinted spectacles

Naive Realism – we see the world objectively, everyone else is wrong!

Progress Principle – Joy comes through the journey towards the goal not achievement of the goal.

Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work

Adaptation Principle – In the long run, it doesn’t matter what happens to you, good or bad, you will ultimately return to your happiness equilibrium which is largely influenced by your genes. Also referred to as Hedonic Treadmill

Relationships(connection) is one of the most important factors to happiness. You can never adapt if you loose connections.

Experiences, such as going to a concert, give more happiness due to their social value. They bring connection

Voluntary Activity essential is your daily habits. Build reciprocal habits can have biggest effect. Such as showing gratitude, kindness, favours for others

Happiness = work less, consume less, attach less, connect more

3 levels of personality (McAdams):

  1. Basic internal traits (having)
  2. Personal values, goals, projects (doing)
  3. Life Story (making)

Coherence between the 3 levels is essential for happiness

3 typical responses to tragedy:

  1. Active response(taking action)
  2. Reframing (such as into a positive)
  3. Avoidance

4 types of Life Goals:

  1. Spiritual
  2. Work/Achievement – People least happy if they drive towards this goal
  3. Relationship
  4. Legacy

3 ways to manage your environment:

  1. Adapt – respond to changing environment
  2. Shape – changing the environment to suit needs
  3. Select – choosing the environment to work within

People are not computers. The technology metaphor is now so pervasive we see people at machines. And therapy as the repair shop. Our metaphors are wrong. People are more like plants

Most plants will come back to life without repairing the plant. Focus on the conditions. Fix the environment the plant(person) will naturally spring back to life. 

2 vital conditions for humans to flourish:
  1. Social connection (love)
  2. Compelling purpose or goal greater than ourselves

Vital Engagement = Flow + Meaning

Image result for vital engagement flow meaning

Coherence is important for individuals happiness. Coherence at the three levels of your personality. If you do not have coherence, it is likely you will be tormented. Without good skills to diagnose your personal system, you may struggle to find the problem You need coherence with your personal “optimisation” goal.

When you do find coherence, it may be one of the most profound moments in your life.

Items which need coherence: – Habits – Goals – Values – Work – Love

These items are always in healthy tension but importantly there needs to be coherence.

Coherence needed at all levels:

  1. Physical
  2. Psychological
  3. Social

We have an internal desire to share learning and ideas. The desire to reciprocate shares this even further and creates a virtuous cycle. Helping others succeed is hard wired into humans.

The Happiness Hypothesis: Putting Ancient Wisdom to the Test of Modern Science

Book Summary: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life

The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life

3 Big Ideas:

  1. We have so much fucking stuff that we don’t know what to give a fuck about anymore. You need to find what to give a fuck about. You must give a fuck about something.
  2. Understanding your personal values the most important challenge we all face to lead a better, happier life. “Self-improvement” is really about: prioritising better values, choosing better things to give a fuck about.
  3. Choosing to say no, to reduce options, and living with less, can lead to a happier life. This goes against our consumer, have it all, culture.


  1. “Our values determine the metrics by which we measure ourselves and everyone else.”
  2. “What are the values that you prioritise above everything else, and that therefore influence your decision-making more than anything else?”

1 Takeaway:

Happiness = Increase awareness of your personal values and lead a life in alignment with them

The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life

Big Ideas Expanded:

Self Awareness Onion:

  1. Recognising Emotions
  2. Understanding why we are feeling a certain way
  3. Personal values: Why do I consider this to be success/failure? How am I choosing to measure myself? By what standard am I judging myself and everyone around me?

Good values are:

  1. Reality-based
  2. Socially constructive
  3. Immediate and controllable.

Value Examples:

  • Honesty is a good value because it’s something you have complete control over
  • Popularity, is a bad value.
  • Value: Honesty – Metric: Express myself honestly to others

Healthy values:

  • honesty
  • vulnerability
  • standing up for oneself
  • standing up for others
  • self-respect
  • curiosity
  • charity
  • humility
  • creativity

Questions to drive self-awareness:

  1. What if I’m wrong?
  2. What would it mean if I were wrong?
  3. Would being wrong create a better or a worse problem than my current problem, for both myself and others?


  • Backwards law: the more you try to be certain about something, the more uncertain and insecure you will feel.
  • Until we change how we view ourselves, what we believe we are and are not, we cannot overcome our avoidance and anxiety. We cannot change
  • If you lack the motivation to make an important change in your life, do something—anything, really—and then harness the reaction to that action as a way to begin motivating yourself. (Same message in Tiny Habits)
  • Ultimately, the only way to achieve meaning and a sense of importance in one’s life is through a rejection of alternatives, a narrowing of freedom, a choice of commitment to one place, one belief
  • We are defined by what we choose to reject.
  • Commitment gives you freedom because it hones your attention and focus, directing them toward what is most efficient at making you healthy and happy.
  • Consumer culture is very good at making us want more, more, more. Underneath all the hype and marketing is the implication that more is always better.Make more money, visit more countries, have more experiences, be with more women. But more is not always better. In fact, the opposite is true. We are actually often happier with less.
  • Much of the advice out there operates at a shallow level of simply trying to make people feel good in the short term, while the real long-term problems never get solved.


The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life

The Four Fatal Fears of your team

As a leader I’m always curious how to create the right environment for teams to succeed.

Increasingly, elite sports teams have been sparking my inspiration.

Eddie Jones, England Rugby Coach, recently highlighted the work of Frank Dick. A former director of coaching for British Athletics. He led the GB team into a golden era, coaching several elite athletes such as Daley Thompson and Sebastian Coe.

In the build up to the 2019 Rugby World Cup, Frank coached the England Rugby Team on improving leadership capabilities.

Frank focused on what he calls the “Four Fatal Team Fears”:

1. Making a mistake

2. Losing

3. Criticism

4. Rejection

When individuals and teams are fearful it will significantly impact their performance. Over time, a fearful team environment will impact the mental wellbeing of the team.

Leaders should accept that these four fears appear to some degree in every team. Establishing the right environment and systems that enable the level of fear to be reduced is vital.

Here are just a few behaviours you can role model to help reduce the fear within your teams:

  • Share your own mistakes with the team – What did you learn and how did it help you become stronger
  • At the end of every 1:1 ask for feedback – What can i do differently?
  • Share feedback you receive from others with your team – Not just the good, but the constructive too
  • Celebrate acts of bravery from the team – This might be even the smallest action, such as a quieter team member contributing an idea in a meeting

By acting as a role model the team are likely to model your behaviours which in turn will go some way to addressing the four fatal fears.

To conclude, the next time you are working to develop a team, perhaps taking a moment to reflect on these four fatal fears may help you find a breakthrough.

My Life and Rugby: The Autobiography

How to measure coaching conditions – The “Agile” Shipping Forecast

The Shipping Forecast is a BBC Radio broadcast of weather reports and forecasts for the seas around the coasts of the British Isles. In October 1859, the steam clipper Royal Charter was wrecked in a strong storm off Anglesey; 450 people lost their lives. Due to this loss, Vice-Admiral Robert FitzRoy introduced a warning service for shipping in February 1861, using telegraph communications.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a similar shipping forecast for agile coaches? A way to assess the conditions we are going to face to enable better coaching decisions. Are the seas going to be rough or smooth? Will the ship sink or swim?

The Shipping Forecast assesses 4 conditions; wind direction, strength, precipitation and visibility.

What would be the conditions of a “agile” Shipping Forecast?

I have identified 5 conditions:

Item Description Why
Shared Why There is a problem statement all involved agree with and are passionate about. With no clear problem definition, people are unlikely change. It is likely people will ask “why are we doing this”
Capacity Change takes time and emotional energy. All those involved need to the time and space to change. This often means reducing work in progress. Adding change activities on top of an already overburdened group is not sustainable. Whilst motivation may be high early on, often efforts will end in the long run.
Management Commitment There is commitment from Management within the organisation.   As high up the hierarchy as possible. This commitment translates into direct action with demonstrable leadership. Not cheerleading from the sidelines. Lack of management buy is citied by many as a primary reason for change failure. Demonstrable leadership by management will inspire change within the organisation.
Safety Phycological safety has been identified as a primary factor in the performance of teams. It is a critical factor in enabling change. Do people feel safe to voice their concerns and opinions? Or is there an atmosphere of fear? Without the right levels of Phycological safety there may be low levels of engagement in the change. There is also a risk of imposed change rather than integrated change.
Stakeholder Support Is there support from the wider community for this change. This could be sponsors, influencers of the work you are doing but not direct contributors Without support from the people around the change, they may put many roadblocks in the way. You may not need direct action from them but you’ll at least need their support.

How could I assess these 5 conditions?

I identified the key questions for each conditions and built a simple survey.

Item Measure How
Shared Why What is the purpose for this change? Ask everyone involved to write down in 100 words or less

Translate into agreement scale

Capacity My team are too busy to improve 5 – Strongly Agree

4 – Agree

3 – Neutral

2 – Disagree

1 – Strongly Disagree

Management Commitment What is the level of commitment from your direct management? 5 – Committed

4 – Supportive

3 – Undecided

2-  Unaware

1- Opposed

Safety How comfortable are you in raising issues amongst the group? 5 – No Problem, I’ll talk about anything

4 – I’ll talk about almost anything; a few things might be hard

3 – I’ll talk about some things, but others will be hard to say

2 – I’m not going to say much, I’ll let others bring up issues

1 – I’ll smile, claim everything is great and agree with managers

Stakeholder Support Our stakeholders are supportive of change 5 – Strongly Agree

4 – Agree

3 – Neutral

2 – Disagree

1 – Strongly Disagree

Each of the results are added up to give a score out of a possible 25.

  • >20: Good (Smooth Seas)
  • >10 <20: Caution (High winds)
  • < 9: Stop (Storms)

How are the results used?

At the start of a coaching engagement.

It helps identify the current conditions within the group/team. The results will help the coach create the engagement actions. For example, if the conditions suggest there is no “Shared Why” it may be a good starting point to run a vision setting session for all involved.

During a coaching engagement.

Conditions change over time so the barometer is used to regularly review. The shared why we created from that vision session a few weeks back, do we still have agreement? The barometer helps give a trend over time which provides further insights.

You can try out the “Agile” Shipping Forecast here: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/6LWHJSV

Please do share any feedback and I would live to hear more about what conditions would make your shipping forecast?

How I became an ICF Associate Certified Coach

Snip20180218_2Last week marked a significant milestone on my journey to become a coach as I received my Associate Coach Credential from the International Coaching Federation (ICF). The ICF are one of the governing bodies for coaching globally and it’s an honour to be recognised as a certified coach.

Compared to many of the certifications i’ve managed to obtain in the IT and Agile world the ICF ACC requires a high investment in training and time. Its taken me almost two years to get to this point. The journey has been a fun ride but at times navigating the coach credential process can be overwhelming.

Here is an outline of my journey and what helped me get to this point!

When does your journey start?


Check out my Coaching Toolkit for more details on the tools listed.

Know Your Onion! A Virtual Coaching Circle for you to learn Coaching

Coaching can be a confusing and daunting topic to learn. Many people are confused by the various approaches and schools of thought. Is coaching the same as mentoring? Whats the difference between coaching and counselling? Isn’t coaching just asking questions?

I started my journey 2 years ago with the same challenges and questions. I have found some answers, discovered new questions and have grown immensely through the journey.

One of the things that has really helped deepen my coaching awareness is Coaching Circles. These are small group sessions that enable you to learn collaboratively with others about coaching.

Know Your Onion! is a Coaching Circle, hosted virtually, aimed at anyone who wants to learn more about coaching. It is primarily aimed at those new to coaching but anyone is welcome to join. This coaching circle is free of charge.

We will not be learning about onions, explained below, unless someone has an onion addiction they’d like to overcome?

I want to join now! 

I want to know more. Read on…..

What is a coaching circle?

A coaching circle is a small group of individuals with common goals who want to work on those goals in a supportive and motivating environment. This coaching circle is aimed at anyone who wants to learn and deepen their understanding of coaching.

The coaching circle will be hosted virtually and will adopt an experiential learning approach which means participants will learn by doing!

Each coaching circle will be facilitated by a trained and qualified coached who will take the participants through an exercise to experience different aspects of coaching; listening, observing, empathising, questioning, integrating.

A typical session will involve participants taking it in turns to present a goal or challenge and then receive coaching from the rest of the group.

You will have the opportunity to coach, be coached or simply observe.

Sessions will be held monthly and each session will be around 60 minutes in length.

Each circle is limited to 8 people so that everyone feels comfortable to contribute.

Why Know Your Onion?

a) Its a song by one of my favourite bands – The Shins

b) Its random

c) It’s also a phrase to describe that means to be knowledge about a subject [1] which is what this circle is all about!

Register here to receive details for the first Know Your Onion! Coaching Circle

If you would like more details feel free to contact me via twitter @TobySinclair_

Here are 3 links from my blog which might help if you want to learn about coaching:

I was also recently guest on a “Ask me anything” Coaching session. You can watch the replay here


3 amazing ways neuroscience can supercharge your coaching

Neuroscience sounds like a complicated topic. I was never very good with science at school and when I heard about science stuff I would often break out in a cold sweat. However, over the past year i’ve been immersing myself into the world of science. As a coach, i have found an understanding of the the brain and body incredibly helpful in supporting the transformation of my clients.

Last week i attended a course entitled “Neuroscience for coaches” led by Amy Brann who wrote a book with the same title. I signed up for the course because i wanted a way to learn more about how neuroscience could supercharge my coaching. I attempted to read a few books on the topic but often found them difficult to read so wanted an experiential course to help immerse me into the topic.

Amy’s teaching style was great and really helped me quickly grasp some of the concepts of how Neuroscience can really help coaches.

The 3 ways i learned that neuroscience could supercharge my coaching were brain basics, the neuroscience of change and neuroscience of emotions:

1 – Brain basics


As a coach i think its important to understand the basic structure of the brain. This helps you understand more about what could be happening inside the brain of your client. An appreciation for how the different parts of the brain interact, how neural pathways are formed and brain chemistry. A very simple technique we learnt was the Peter Siegel hand model which is a simple way to explain the structure of the brain. I learned about the 4 common brain networks; Executive, Salience, Default and Limbic and also about the chemistry of the brain; oxytocin, dopamine, adrenaline, cortisol and serotonin.

2 – Neuroscience of change

Neuroplasticity is defined as:

“..the change in neural pathways and synapses that occurs due to certain factors, like behavior, environment, or neural processes. During such changes, the brain engages in synaptic pruning, deleting the neural connections that are no longer necessary or useful, and strengthening the necessary ones.” [ref]

As the definition eludes an understanding of neruoplasticity is important for coaches. In brain speak, if we are to create lasting change we need to help people create and change their neural pathways. Throughout the course we explored further the science behind change. Studies show that neural pathways are formed through emotional experiences and repeated exposure. If we are to help our clients we need to engage their emotional brain, amygdala, and form habits around the behaviours they want to adopt.

3 – Neuroscience of emotions


A third topic we explored was the brain and emotions. The amygdala is the part of the brain most associated with emotions. We explored how versatile and different everyones brains are. Emotions are often processed differently from person to person. Often we use framing for emotions either through visual queues such as facial movements or language. These can however often mislead the brain and we can interpret the emotion incorrectly. Emotions are hard to interpret and often requires a high degree of self-awareness to be fully in tune with their emotions.  Coaches often explore feelings with their clients and often ask questions such as “How do you feel about that?” Understanding the neuroscience of feelings and emotions it was clear what a big question this was. If we are to truly answer this question it requires a deep awareness.

Neuroscience is a vast emerging area. The 2 days with Amy helped me explore this fascinating topic which has really got me interested. I have already bought 2 books to read about the topic further.

Coaches who want to explore the Neuroscience of Coaching further i would highly recommend Amy’s 2 day course or Amy’s book; Neuroscience for coaches.



What masks do you wear? My experience at a mask therapy workshop

What masks do you wear?

We wear masks throughout our life allowing us to both reveal and conceal our identities. The mask we wear will often depend on our social context and our emotional state. Many people have a closet of masks, developed since childhood, which we swap and change many times a day; a mask for work, a mask for family and a mask for friends. These masks slowly evolve and change so much that many people often loose a sense of identity. Is this the mask or is it really me?

What characters are hiding in the shadows?

Coaching has often helped me explore my identity. Coaching has allowed me to reflect on situations where I have acted differently than i might have wanted and when I have felt hijacked in my thinking. As a coach I have also learnt that congruence of identity is important to forming transformational coaching relationships. Carl Rogers highlights congruence as a core condition to building a therapeutic relationship.

I have often felt followed by shadow characters, parts of my personality just below consciousness, always there, but not fully experienced. Often these shadows only come to life if provoked, such as when I feel under pressure. Jung described this as the “Id”; an unconscious aspect of the personality which the conscious ego does not identify in itself [ref]

I’m often intrigued to explore these shadow characters, to be more aware of how they can help and hinder my personal development. Throughout coaching relationships I will often help my clients explore the different characters in their shadows, often the characters which are holding them back from achieving their goals. If i’m to encourage my clients to explore the parts of themselves I too must be open to exploring myself and gaining a deeper awareness of who i really am. How can I explore the characters in the shadows?

Exploring the masks

Last week I attended a mask therapy workshop facilitated by the wonderful Steve Chapman who provides a great summary of using masks:

Masks are the ultimate permission giving tools. They allow us to tap into and unlock different parts of ourselves. They can help us to find different ways of moving, different ways of thinking and different ways of speaking. They can kick start our imagination, our creativity and get us back in touch with our natural spontaneity. They allow us to develop characters that are exaggerations or polar opposites of how we experience ourselves on a daily basis. They allow us to explore different parts of our personalities in order to get to know ourselves better and understand some of our foibles, projections and fixed self-images that keep us stuck. Best of all masks are a powerful, exciting and highly entertaining method of personal development.

The technique is grounded in Gestalt therapy which focuses on thoughts, feelings and action in the present moment. The mask is used as a physical embodiment to enable you to experience the mask in the present moment.

During the workshop Steve led us through several activities including an improvised TED Talk and a Soap Opera to help us fully experience the personality behind the masks.

My shadow characters

Throughout the day we wore different masks which resulted in very different experiences across the group. During one exercise, the mask of Bernie, a weird, bald, toothless man led me to a very emotional experience.


Whilst wearing this mask I became an old man, full of regret, broken dreams and sadness. The few short minutes wearing the mask were very intense. After removing the mask it took a few minutes for the emotion to subside.

Reflecting in the break I felt more aware of the shadow characters I mentioned earlier. Through Bernie, one of my shadow characters became real. The experience enabled me to gain a deeper awareness of my relationship with regret and with the future. It helped me to gain a greater appreciation of the present moment and what life can give today.

The power of masks

The mask workshop demonstrated the power of using masks to experience the different parts of my personality. I was very surprised at the intensity of the experiences across the day. Towards the end of the day Steve remarked that it can often take many months to make sense of what happened. Personally i’m still processing my experience from this fascinating, creative and emotional day.

What masks do you wear?

Do you have a Bernie lingering in the shadows? Maybe your shadow character is an imposter, the inner critic who always casts doubt in your mind? Or maybe your shadow character is a creative genius waiting to be given permission?

If you want to explore your shadows and gain a greater self-awareness I would highly recommend taking part in a mask workshop!

Find out more here: http://canscorpionssmoke.com/