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Kate Burton's Blog

Occassional thoughts on life

Book reviews, articles, thoughts on life.

And the Next Question is… by Rachel Alexander and Julia Russell, Published by MX Publishing

Book Reviews Posted on Mon, August 01, 2016 22:16:10

Think of the most important question you’ve been asked. Or an important question you’ve asked yourself. What do I want? How do I spread my time over all these commitments? What name should I give this baby? How do I get a job I love doing? What shall I do next? What’s the meaning of life? And so on…

We’re faced by big and small questions constantly as we make decisions to get us through the day.

Writers of non-fiction write the book they need to write in order to answer an important question in their own minds. In the process of their own exploration, they offer lessons to their readers too. Here the authors answer a difficult question facing anyone attempting to coach another person which is ‘Help! What’s the most powerful question I can ask this person right now?’

The book has been compiled as a result of many years’ coaching experience of finding appropriate questions to ask clients, and the authors come up trumps with more than three thousand suggestions. All the questions are grouped into relevant topics that come up in coaching such as overwhelm, motivation, decision-making, conflict and difficult conversations.

Although the book is essentially a tool for coaches, it will appeal to anyone interested in the subject including those who want to manage in a coaching style and those who’d like to adopt a coaching style in the way they communicate.

When I first picked it up, my instinct was that it was for new ‘rookie’ coaches. After all, asking powerful questions is a core competence for any professional coach. Yet, as those of us who’ve been coaching for many years know, it’s easy to get stuck in our ways. We have favourite questions and predictable ways of asking them. This is why I’m keeping the book on my desk and then opening it at random to challenge my own thinking habits. It’s a neat resource that earns its space and is definitely worth buying in hard copy as it will be so well-thumbed. Just like a good cook book, it offers inspiration and sustenance.

Seven Principles for Brilliant Women (and Men too):

Coaching Posted on Mon, August 01, 2016 22:14:42

I coach so many amazing women. Talented, focused and hardworking. (And plenty of men too!) People like you…

The thing is. They usually don’t notice how good they really are. ( I meet more humble women than men.) They highlight what they can’t do perfectly rather than what they do so well. Come on ladies, step up. Why wait in the shadows helping others to shine when inside you are wondering why nobody is giving you the space you deserve?

Here are seven ways to take ownership of your shiny talents and use them to make a difference in the world.

  1. Pay attention to your own passion and energy. Only you can take ownership of your life, so don’t wait for others to set your direction and tell you what to do. Start by noticing what fires you up and gives you energy. Spend more time in this space and you’ll be unstoppable as you inspire other people with your enthusiasm.
  2. Appreciate yourself. Set your intent to validate and appreciate yourself and what you stand for. When others see how you value yourself, they’ll value you more and have the courage to be more like you.
  3. Develop a protective skin. Skin is the biggest organ in the body and has amazing properties to protect and heal. Imagine that you can put an extra super-coating on your body as you step up and face the world. One that others can’t easily tear or damage, and which will repair itself if knocked. Can you think of anyone brilliant who never gets criticised? No, then decide you don’t have to please everyone, all of the time.
  4. Develop your sponsors. Everyone benefits from others who look out for them and filter opportunitities their way. I’ve noticed that while women are good at getting mentors, men are particularly better at getting sponsors. Make sure you cultivate relationships with those people who want the best for you, will extol your virtues rather than delight in your faults or make you feel scared. Leave behind those who love to control or criticise and look for those who’ll stretch and support you to raise your game.
  5. Quiet the voice on your shoulder that says: ‘Who are you to put your head above the parapet?’ It’s normal to have some noisy ‘chatter’ that gets in the way. Stop and listen to the infamous words of Marianne Williamson as you ask yourself: “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?” Actually, who are you not to be? . . . as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.’
  6. Replace humble with daring. So many women, in particular, play safe. They fear their own vulnerability. In order to harness your courage, you need to be-friend your vulnerability. Once you do, you’ll find your own natural and greater leadership. Dare to dream the impossible. If you reach for the stars, then you can always set your sights closer to earth.
  7. Let others be brilliant too. Be generous in your support of others. They’ll appreciate it and reciprocate. The world is big enough for everyone to be their best, so never try and keep others down through your own insecurities and comparisons. The best leaders let others fly.

Be bold. Have fun. Get on with it!

And if you need help on the way, I can offer loads of resources, books, coaching and workshops to support you. Whatever your dream, just ask me for help.

And remember, share the principles with other brilliant women, and men too…

30 Minutes to Change Lives

Coaching Posted on Mon, August 01, 2016 22:13:14

Can you really change someone’s life in 30 minutes? I believe you can. And often in less time. A few words, an insightful comment, acknowledgement or question may be all it takes to effect positive change.

One proven way to change people’s lives is through good coaching. A focused, professional coaching conversation can be very short and very incisive. It can shift the conversation from the superficial transactional level – where people never mention what is really important – to a meaningful dialogue that transforms how someone thinks about a situation.

This year, I’ve begun running a series of workshops aimed at those who lead and manage other people to improve the quality of conversations they have with their colleagues and direct reports. It’s called Café Coaching Conversations and offers great tools and techniques that are easy to learn and apply immediately. It means that you can meet someone in a public place, like a coffee shop, and have a focused coaching conversation that really helps to solve problems and create new solutions. Best of all, you don’t need to come up with the answers. You learn how to let someone else find their best way forward.

If this sounds interesting, you may like to come along to the new series of workshops. Or have a chat with me about how to make a difference in 30 minutes.

Happy Money, Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton

Book Reviews Posted on Mon, August 01, 2016 22:04:15

Does having money make you happy? According to the old Beatles song, we know instinctively that ‘Money won’t buy you love.’ Yet who would honestly turn down a lottery win? Given that most of us need to earn a living, what can we do to change how happy we feel about money and improve the choices and trade-offs we make? As it promises in the title, “Happy Money” from researchers Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton explores the relationship between money and happiness with an easy to read work backed by serious research. The message of the book is that money can make you happy once you understand how to spend smartly.

Happy Money offers offers five key principles to your approach to money from choosing experiences over possessions to investing your money on others. The five principles can be used by companies who want happy employees and customers too.

The five principles are:

  1. Buy Experiences; spend your money on experiences you’ll remember rather than collecting objects and smart cars. You’ll remember the day out with friends much more than the new item of clothing.
  2. Make it a Treat; instead of splurging on an expensive super frappacino each day, make it an occasional treat to savour that special cup of coffee. We look forward to treats and remember them.
  3. Buy Time; before you spend, ask how a purchase will affect how you spend your time. ‘If I buy this, how will it affect how I spend my time next Tuesday?’
  4. Pay Now, Consume Later; we enjoy our purchases more when we anticipate them in the future, rather than getting the bill later after the event. So reverse the trend of consuming then paying to paying then consuming. When you buy tickets to an event or treat well in advance, the pleasure comes in the build up.
  5. Invest in Others. Spending on other people and sharing an experience with others make us happier than spending on ourselves.

Given that in my work, I meet so many people who feel ‘time poor’, I turned quickly the chapter on the third principle: ‘Buy Time. ’ While it’s theoretically possible to use money to buy time, the research demonstrates that people with more money do not spend their time in more enjoyable ways on a day-to-day basis. In fact, wealthier individuals spend more of their time on activities associated with relatively high levels of tension and stress, such as shopping, working and commuting.

We may be conditioned to think that ‘time is money’, especially those who are aware of their hourly or daily rate of pay. Yet this mind set limits happiness. The research showed that transforming decisions about money into decisions about time has a surprising benefit. Rather than seeing time as a vehicle to get more money, they suggest viewing happier time as an end in itself. Our choices about how we spend our time are deeply connected to our sense of self. Choices about money can lead us to think in a cold, rational manner. This cocktail of money and happiness is one that majority of us imbibe. Who can honestly say that they’ve never had some anxiety over money? Believed that life would be great with loads of money? Or felt the tension between spending time on what we want to do, compared with what we feel we ought to do?

Overall, Happy Money is light-hearted read offering key principles, backed up by extensive research to help you question and re-evaluate your spending habits and money mind set. For anyone who’s working and chasing the money, it provides guidance to increasing your contentment right here and now. Spend your money wisely!

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain

Book Reviews Posted on Mon, August 01, 2016 21:58:25

Is it OK to be quiet in a world that values being visible, outgoing, and showing a powerful personality? One that is organised for people to live and work in groups from the moment they start education through their working lives, even extending into residential care? Being loud, communicative and confidently expressing your needs seems the aim in today’s society, regardless of whether you have something valuable to contribute. Preferring time to think and be quiet is less acceptable.

Cain distinguishes between the Cult of Character and the Cult of Personality, a shift in the different kinds of qualities that society has recognised over the last century. The traditional Cult of Character honours qualities such as citizenship, duty, honour, good deeds, morals and manners. By contrast the Cult of Personality is all about being fascinating, stunning, glowing, dominant and forceful.

As someone who remembers the criticism of my quiet style at school , and ‘failing’ a graduate assessment centre for not contributing enough in a boisterous role play, I breathed a sigh of relief when reading Cain’s book for the first time several years ago. Many people confuse my learned willingness to lead and engage in groups as extraversion. I love people; I’m often described as a ‘people person.’ Yet I also need to offset time in company with time alone to re-charge. My best creative work happens when I have time alone to ‘moodle’ and play with ideas that I’ve discussed with others. As I get older, I’m increasingly discerning about choosing the company I keep.

‘Quiet’ highlights the difference between those who love being in the spotlight all the time and others who are more comfortable when a spotlight is shone on aspects of what they do or say and researches how much of this difference relates to nature or nurture.

At last, here is someone who honours the introverted personality, the person who likes to reflect and have time to consider their position before they go public. She deliberately celebrates the strength and power of introverts as she explores how those who are naturally quiet, serious and sensitive can get overlooked. Great inventors, artists and leaders. Introverts learn to adapt to societies demands on them in order to be listened to. Yet they find group activities can drain their energy and distract their thinking.

This book explains a lot while inviting further questions. As a coach, I work with many leaders who need to communicate well and be innovative in new products and ways of working and was drawn to her ideas and the stories she shares.

Cain suggests that the fear of public speaking is exacerbated for introverts who can be highly susceptible to external distraction. When the introvert gets up to speak, he can’t get his thoughts in order easily as the external stimuli of the audience drains his energy. When the extravert gets up to speak, he makes sense of his ideas by speaking out loud and gains energy from the group. This adds insight into the question of why some people need to be very well prepared for public speaking and others like to wing it.

She also talks about creativity being reduced in group settings. Back in the 1950s, Alex Osborn created the concept of brainstorming, yet research shows that many great ideas get shut down by the extraverts in the group dominating the process. Traditional brainstorming does not lead to releasing the best ideas. In a fascinating chapter entitled ‘When Collaboration kills Creativity’ she provides evidence to challenge the view that people who hope to be innovative should work in highly social workplaces telling the tale of Steve Wozniak’s early design work to create the first Apple computer. Woz’s advice to those who aspire to great creativity was: “Work alone. You’re going to be best able to design revolutionary products and features if you’re working on your own. Not on a committee. Not on a team.”

If you’re interested in wanting to provide the environment where everyone can thrive, whether that’s in education, the workplace or family and relationships, this book has much to offer to get the best from everybody’s styles. It’s an intelligent, persuasive and warm read. Sit back, listen to her ideas and enjoy.