How often does someone say to you, in work or another context: “Just let me know if I can help” and you say: “Thanks, I will.”

And then you don’t.

Every ordinary one of us carries round a wealth of experience and wisdom, but we often fail to tap into that of others when it could really help us. Why? It could be pride that prevents us, a reluctance to bother someone, or just a (perceived) lack of time.

Sharing problems and wisdom has been part of the human experience forever; how else would knowledge of fire and the wheel have spread to the whole human race? And now, with 24 hour access to kindly talking apps, we can seek knowledge and information from across the globe instantaneously.

But there’s another way to share and resolve everyday worries, and I believe it is greatly under-used and under-rated. The posh term for it is “peer coaching” but I like to think of it as Constructive Coffee Conversations.

In my last post, I talked about the principles that lie behind a genuine coaching conversation (see Coaching: Just Another Buzzword?). Applied to a coffee session, or a walk in the park if you prefer, there is the potential to turn a moanfest into a constructive conversation that provides a way out for anyone feeling stuck. It can take as little as 10 minutes.

The trick is, if you are the one coaching, to ask open questions, always without trying to anticipate or provide the answers. Find out:

  • Where would your friend/colleague like to be at the end of this conversation?
  • What is the problem – what lies behind it?
  • What are the options for making a change? (Encourage imaginative, off-the-wall suggestions; have a laugh)
  • What will the friend/colleague do next to make the change happen?

Stay focused and if it seems appropriate,  reward yourselves with cake.

Here’s a quote that follows on from a very pleasant Constructive Coffee Conversation I had with a colleague who felt totally overwhelmed by “duties” and had no time for herself; she made a few small changes and I asked how that felt:

“I feel great. It’s felt quite empowering. It’s like the scales have fallen from my eyes and I can see how simple it is to resolve things by just taking action. Even very small changes have led to quite dramatic results already. It’s fantastic!”

Learn to be your friends’ best buddy, and then Coaching & coffeepass this around so they can learn to be yours.


Business loves buzzwords: in times past, I would amuse my Dad (by then, long retired) by collecting buzzwords and buzz-phrase2016 2Bees from the workplace. The more ludicrous they were, the better he liked them. A favourite was “Let’s run it up the flagpole and see who salutes”, but he was almost as amused/irritated by such everyday clichés as “at the end of the day”, and “going forward” (whoever wants their business to go backwards?)

Occasionally on the point of using such a phrase myself, I usually pull back in time; some part of me is imagining what he would say if he could hear me!

For some businesses, the word “coaching” is in danger of becoming a cliché which is at best misunderstood and at worst counter-productive. Coaching “skills” may be covered off in short workshops or courses, without participants really gaining a clear idea of how this powerful communication tool could, and should, be used.

(Best, perhaps, not to ask my opinion on tick-box training – another cliché?  In my view, if you undertake training that makes no difference, rather skip it and spend the day in the pub.)

So what is coaching, and what difference should it make to the way we communicate – at work, and elsewhere?

Coaching is not

  • A roundabout way of telling someone what to do
  • A vehicle for demonstrating your own skills and knowledge
  • A way of forcing someone round to your way of thinking
  • Advising, mentoring, training or counselling

It’s a much more exciting process, based on listening, questioning and challenging. It’s a journey which the coach must undertake with real curiosity and humility, always trusting that the person being coached already has the answers and the resources they need to move on. At the very most, the coach is turning the lens to reflect a slightly different view of the world.

Coaching is about

  • Believing in the ability of people to grow and change, to make decisions and to follow them through
  • Focusing on possibilities for the future (not past errors)
  • Allowing the person being coached to decide on her own best course of action
  • Being very curious to see what she will come up with – and prepared, often,  to be surprised at the outcome.

You know you’ve got it righBeet when the person being coached lights up and says “Thank you.”

You know you’ve got it right, when you can honestly say: “Don’t thank me; you did it all yourself”. That’s the buzz.


Getting off my bahookie

One of the changes I want to make this year is to write more.

The odd thing is – I really like writing.  Once my bahookie is on that seat, I can tap away happily and not notice time passing.  I put pieces together for Facebook (frequently) and a blog (less frequently) for my website, and I can spend absorbing hours designing training materials when I have a deadline to meet. My client newsletter is a pleasure to write – once I get around to it.

The odd thing is – I coach people day in, day out, to follow their dreams and break up the unfeasible into manageable “chunks” (all the time disliking the word “chunks”, but so far unable to find a better one).

The odd thing is – I love doing it, I know how to do it – and I have spent a whole year not getting around to it.

Fortunately, I too have a coach and a very good one. She it was who took me to lunch and winkled out of me my real objections. Put simply these were:

  •  It has to be good
  • I need to make time
  • I don’t want to write in my day job workspace

She succeeded in helping me to replace my lack of enthusiasm with a determination to do something – anything. Here I am, then: I have transformed my office, very simply, using a scented candle in a teacup, a desk lamp and a print of two people jiving against a vibrant background.  Dance music is playing through my headphones as I’m typing.

Sounds mad? The associations are clear in my mind, at least: four years ago, I couldn’t dance. And now I can. I knew I would love it but I put off learning for years (no time/am not fit/might not be good enough – sounds familiar?).JiversAndt it’s good to remind myself that when I started learning to dance, I almost gave up. I dislike not being good at things and anger threatens to take over when I don’t succeed straight away. I still stamp my feet like a petulant child on the dance floor when I’m struggling to learn a new step. My dance partners find this very funny.

So, I need to laugh at myself too, accept my failures, and just get my bahookie off the dance floor and back on this seat – bringing all that learning with me.


This wonderful, vibrant pastel drawing, by the way, is by Jo Sunshine Art from Maryhill, Glasgow.

Watch your language in the New Year

As a coach, I have an annoying habit. When the person I’m working with says she will try to change or do something, I say: “Don’t try.” Just that. Don’t try.

After a second’s pause, most clients get it. Brief irritation sometimes shows on their face. Then they usually say: “I will do/change whatever-it-was”.

I love the New Year. This year I was lucky enough to be spending a few days with relatives, mostly relaxing in their lovely Suffolk 16th century cottage. My brother-in-law, though, found time to mentor me over coffee on the changes I want to make in my life.

Here’s what we considered:
1. My key goals: financial, work, home and leisure
2. The changes I will make to my present way of doing things
3. The learning I will do on the way, formal and informal
4. The practical planning for getting on with it.

Vision boardFor me, a vision board works wonders. I pin up pictures and cartoons that illustrate what I’m going for and that make me smile.

Try it. Start every by day by looking at your vision and reminding yourself what it is you really really want. Then…stop trying and just do it.