Sunday 30 December 2007

New Year

Further to my post below, I am delighted that an earlier article on New Years Resolutions has been chosen as a front page article by This can be viewed by going to, or by clicking on

What a great end to 2007!

Friday 7 December 2007

It's almost here.

The New Year stretches before us like 365 blank pages of a personal diary.What will be written on those pages by this time next year? Will it be a tale of health, wealth, romance and wondrous prosperity? Or will those pages tell a story of misery, sorrow and sadness?

There's only one thing for sure... whatever is written on those pages will be authored by you and me! Isn't that neat? Just think... each of us is writing our own personal action adventure... and...We Can Make It Come Out Anyway We Want!

The above words were written by Neil Asher on his blog, and don't they just ring true? As we approach the start of a New Year, we all have the opportunity to start afresh, to turn over a new leaf, to be everything we wanted to be. The possibilities are endless, limited only by our own imagination, and self-imposed obstacles.

What is stopping you moving ahead, moving forward, being what you want to be?

What boundaries are you placing in your own way? What patterns of thinking or behaviour are inhibiting you from being your best?

Make that change, and take that first step by contacting EPM Consulting ( for Personal, Executive & Lifestyle Coaching.

Your new life might only be one click away!!!

Tuesday 7 August 2007

Barriers to Listening & Communicating well

The best communicators are the best listeners, and the best conversationalists are also the best listeners, partly because they have been so attentive. Many complaints and conflicts arise because someone feels they have not been listened to properly. The simplest way to make others feel valued and appreciated is to actively listen to them.

Here are 12 common blocks to listening:
Comparing yourself to the speaker and your experience/knowledge etc. with theirs.
Mind Reading
Trying to figure out what the speaker really means, rather than listening to what they are actually saying.
Rehearsing in your own mind what you're going to say as soon as you get the chance.
Only listening for certain things, ignoring the rest and letting your mind wander if you don't hear what you want or expect.
Judging what the speaker says, rather than listening in an open non-judgemental way.
Only half listening, then allowing your own related thoughts to take you into a daydream.
Identifying with what they say and referring it back to your own experience e.g. "You think that was bad, wait till you hear what happened to me!"
You quickly spot the problem that the speaker is relating and you want to jump in and tell them how to put it right.
Jumping into the conversation as soon as you disagree with what you hear.
Being right
You don't listen to anyone else because you are already right and don't want to be challenged on anything.
You suddenly changing subject when you get bored or uncomfortable with the topic.
Responding by saying whatever you think the speaker wants to hear

If you want to enhance your listening skills, it requires conscious effort. Select one or two of the blocks to listening and consciously be aware of when you slip into them. Awareness is of course the first step, and be prepared to feel awkward at first. But stick with it - remember, the price of perserverence is always less than the pain of regret!

With listening and communication skills in general, the more you resist the temptation to impress in the other person’s eyes, the more you will actually shine, and be appreciated by them. Don't you feel valued when someone gives YOU their undivided attention?

Source: Adapted from "Messages" by Matthew McKay, Martha Davis & Patrick Fanning

Tuesday 3 July 2007

Using 'The Secret' for Effortless Success

Daily Disciplines for Effortless Success
Six Steps for Activating "The Secret" in Your Life by Jack Canfield
The first step to using Law of Attraction as presented in the movie The Secret is to clarify exactly what you want. Remember—determine, write down and talk about what you do want, not what you don’t want. Be as specific as possible. Once you have clarified what you want, do the following each and every day.

1. Morning Intention, Visualisation and Releasing
As soon as you wake up in the morning, take about 5 minutes to focus your mind on your desires, goals and intentions. Start by sitting in a comfortable position, closing your eyes and visualising your desires and goals as already being fulfilled. Spend 30 seconds to a minute on each of your core desires and goals. You can also take a few moments to visualise your day going exactly as you would like it to. When you do this, you will often find negative limiting beliefs that are the result of negative programming from your childhood will come up. You may hear thoughts like “I could never afford that,” “there’s no way I’ll ever get that,” or “who am I kidding?” coming up. Don’t fight or argue with the thought; just release it. Remember to also spend several moments feeling the feelings you would feel if you had already manifested your desire in your life. The intensity of the feeling is what fuels the intensity of the attraction.

2. Use External Images to Keep you Focused on Your Desires and Goals.
To keep yourself focused on what you want to manifest surround yourself with visual images of the things and experiences you want to attract into your life. There are many techniques you can use for this.
1) Cut out pictures of the things you wish to own (like your ideal car or home) and pictures that represent the experiences you want to have (like the perfect relationship, your ideal job, perfect health, being at your ideal weight, more joy, inner peace or balance in your life)to remind yourself of how you want it to be. Tape them up where you will see them every day—on the mirror, the refrigerator, or your bulletin board. You can also scan them into your computer and make them into a screen saver or a continuously running PowerPoint program.
2) Combine your pictures and words that you cut out into a collage on a large piece of poster board.
3) Make a Dream Book by putting the pictures into a 3-ring binder pasted onto the pages or slid into plastic page protectors. When you look at any of these pictures, do what Bob Doyle, who is featured in The Secret teaches— think the thought, “THIS IS MINE NOW! THIS IS WHO I AM!”

3. Think a Better Feeling Thought
Start paying attention to the many times during the day that you have emotional responses (to other people, experiences, or your own thoughts) that are not in alignment with having or producing your desires. Pay special attention to when you feel disappointment, resentment, frustration or anger about your experiences and circumstances. Remember, it’s your feelings (which are created by your thoughts, opinions, and beliefs) that are attracting your current circumstances. You must make a vibrational shift by changing your thoughts to ones that make you feel better (i.e., raise your vibration). Remember that you must become a vibrational match for the things and experiences that you want to attract into your life. It is especially important to focus your thoughts and behaviors on things that cause you to feel joy. Focus your thoughts on thoughts that bring you joy (your lover, your best friend, your grandchildren, your favorite holiday spot) and your actions on doing the things you love to do (pet your cat, work in your garden, listen to your favorite music).

4. Have an Attitude of Gratitude
It is critical to take time each and every day to focus on what you are grateful for. Some people do this in the morning before or after they visualise their desires; others prefer to do it in the evening. Focus on all of the things in your life (most of which you take for granted) that you are grateful for—your health, your children, your job, the nice weather, electricity, running water, a nice stereo system, your flower garden, your pets, your friends). No matter what your situation, there are always things to be grateful for. The more you focus on what you are grateful for, the more things and experiences you will attract to be grateful for.

5. Take Action
There are two kinds of actions you can take. Obvious actions are things like, if you want a better car, going to test drive all of the models you are interested in and choosing the exact car you want to have, and saving 10% of your income in a “car account.” If you want to be a doctor, apply to medical school. There are also what I call “inspired actions.” Once you begin to do the things described above, the universe will start responding by sending people, resources and opportunities you need to manifest your desired result. You are going to find that you have inspired ideas; you must act on them. You must follow those gentle proddings from the universe. Often these intuitive impulses will have no seeming connection to achieving your goal, but if you follow them, they will lead you down a path of wonderful fulfillment. Here’s a quick way to know if the actions you’re taking are taking you closer to the fulfillment of your dreams and desires. If you are feeling joy while you are doing them, then you are on the right path. Remember, joy is your internal guidance system, just like the GPS system in a car, telling you are taking the right actions. Follow your joy.

6. Acknowledge that it is Working
If you start to see something change for the better, acknowledge that it is happening. Appreciate it. When you receive unexpected income, acknowledge it. When you meet someone who can help you achieve your goal, acknowledge that Law of Attraction is working. The more you acknowledge that it’s working, the more it will work. It’s that simple. If you are attracting things into your life that you don’t want, remember the Law of Attraction is still working. Instead of thinking or saying, “It’s not working,” ask your self, “What am I focusing on, thinking about, talking about, feeling or doing that is attracting this into my life?” If you want to know what you are thinking about, notice the results you are producing in your life. To change those results, you will first have to change your vibration by changing your thoughts and feelings. While there are many techniques that are variations on these themes that you can apply, there’s nothing else you have to do.

See more from Jack Cranfield at

James Sweetman is the author of Graduate to Success and is a leading authority on Peak Performance. If you are ready to step into your potential, visit

Tuesday 29 May 2007

Light a Conversation Fire

There is a great tactic anyone can use that guarantees great conversation regardless of who you are talking to. The top movers in the world of business and even those charming people who light up any social event know this secret and you can use it too. This is a critical life skill and thankfully it is much easier than people think to excel at conversation skills once you know the smart way to go about it.

There are three simple steps to lighting the conversation fire:

1. Complete Attention.
Give complete attention to the person you are talking to. Yes, all of your attention. Resist the temptation to scan the room, play with the loose change in your pocket or start thinking about what you need to do later in the day. Talk and listen to the person before you as if this is the most important person you have ever met and as if this conversation is the most important discussion of your life. When you do this the other person cannot help but notice the respect you are showing him. This is flattering. You will find whoever you are talking to will respond very positively to this attention. They will warm to you, speak more freely and pay close attention to what you say.

2. Conversation is like fishing.
Small talk is the starting point. Why? You engage in small talk to fish for great topics of conversation that appeal to you and the other person - you are looking for shared interests and passions. For this reason, and following on from step one, pay very close attention to the non-verbal behavior of the other person as he talks. You need to spot clues that indicate his interests. And, you want to avoid those topics he finds boring, annoying or distasteful. It is easy to spot these clues as long as you pay more attention to how someone talks than to what he says. You´ll still hear everything he says. You then simply look for clues as indicated by more enthusiasm in his voice and body language.

3. Follow the path of least resistance.
When you spot a topic that generates enthusiasm follow that lead and drive the conversation in that direction. This is very easy to do since people love to talk about what interests them. A few good questions to open up the topic is usually all it takes. A spark then ignites the conversation and before you know it the conversation takes on a life of its own. Make sure to match the enthusiasm of the other person in your voice tone and in your body language. This is important. If you fail to do this you will dampen their enthusiasm.

One important point. Some topics will get an emotional response that looks like enthusiasm but are to be avoided is meeting someone for the first time. If an issue agitates the other person the annoyance is like a negative passionate enthusiasm! This is risky ground with someone you do not know very well and is best to steer clear of. Look for positive enthusiasm especially topics that cause someone to smile or laugh. Make it a goal to fish for topics that make people feel good and you´ll make friends with new people even faster that you expect.

You can light the conversation fire anytime you want to by remembering these three points: give complete attention to the other person, fish for great topics and follow the path of less resistance.

Over time you will get better and better at each step until it becomes second nature. At this point this process will run on automatic and meeting people becomes a lot of fun. This is a key point. It takes a little practice to get this right and when you do people will find it very difficult to not give you their undivided attention. You should work every day to send out positive and creative signals to others by your words, actions and body language. The way you act can have either a negative or positive impact on others as well as yourself. If you want to succeed in both your personal and professional life, or further develop your people skills, it is crucial to change from a pattern of destructive, negative thoughts to positive,creative thinking.

Why not try it out yourself . . .what have you got to lose?

Similar tips are available from

Friday 18 May 2007

Stress & Distress

Stress Management

When people talk about stress, they generally apply a negative meaning to the word. In addition, most of us are conditioned to thinking negative thoughts when we hear the word stress. However, there is a subtle but important distinction between stress and distress, which is what we usually mean in this context.

Stress can be a positive thing. In a physiological sense, it allows the flow of adrenaline, and prepares our 'fight or flight' response to allow us escape or face dangerous or scary situations. At a lower level, it is what makes us nervous in terms of anxiety, such as in advance of exams, or interviews for example. This can be positive, as in these situations - if we acknowledge, harness and channel this stress - we can actualy perform better. It can be enhancement to performance, and not an inhibitor. But we have to manage it appropriately.

However for too many people this is not the case. The stress - or more properly distress - they experience actually envelopes them, and causes a deterioration in performance. They freeze in the face of anxiety and the consequences are almost always negative.

One of the ways to manage stress is to think about it differently, and to move those things which cause you stress in your life into a separate space. Compartmentalise it, look at it from a distance, as if in a bubble. Is the situation and the stress managing you, or are you in control of it? We cannot control every situation, but we can control how we respond to them. That is our power.

We can all learn to recognise the signs of stress in ourselves, how they manifest themselves, and how we can manage them effeciently. Why not contact us at and see how we can assist you with simple, effective solutions you can apply daily, to make your life - and the lives of those around you - better.

Monday 30 April 2007

How we Know what we Know

We are probably all familiar with statements such as 'Knowledge is Power', or 'A little knowledge is a dangerous thing'. However, most of us never stop to consider how we acquire knowledge. For some people this involves hours of study, for others, it seems to be absobed without effort, almost like osmosis.

One of the most famous, or perhaps infamous pronouncements on the nature of knowledge came from Donald Rumsfeld, the then US Secretary of State for Defence. He baffled millions of people by offering the following at a Press Conference . . . . .

As we know, There are known knowns. There are things we know we know.
We also know there are known unknowns. That is to say, we know there are some things we do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns, The ones we don't know we don't know.
(Feb. 12, 2002, Department of Defense news briefing)

Confused? Most people are, at first reading. However, if you go back and read his statement slowly, line by line - and actually stop to think about it for a moment - the mist begins to clear a little. Perhaps it does make sense after all.

In fact, the basis for his statement has a solid foundation in Educational Theory about how we learn. The scientific approach to a learning cycle - especially to learning a skill - suggests that it involves the following stages:

Stage 1 Unconscious Incompetence
Essentially this is the 'things that we don't know, we don't know'. An example might be driving a car . . . as a child we are quite happy simply to be transported from A to B, we don't know (or care) that we are not able to do this ourselves

Stage 2 Conscious Incompetence
This is where we develop an awareness that there are things that we don't know, and would like to learn. Using the car driving analogy, this usually happens in teenage years, when we develop an interest in being able to master this skill independently

Stage 3 Conscious Competence
This applies when we are in the process of learning a new skill, and suddenly we 'know that we know' how to do something, even though the process may feel awkward, complex and difficult to master. We consciously concentrate on the discrete stages, and are acutely aware of each distinct element in the process (e.g. simultaneously pressing clutch & changing gears etc).

Stage 4 Unconscious Competence
This is the final stage in our learning transition, when we have mastered the skill to such a degree that we undertake it automatically, without conscious thought. Those of us who have learned to drive will be aware that, after a short time, our ability (or competence) reaches such a high level that we no longer need to concentrate on the elements - we carry them out unconsciously.

Friday 6 April 2007

Life's Obligations and Obstacles

Recently I came across an article by Life Coach Shalini Sinha, which struck a cord with me. In the article, she states some fundamental truths, some of which I have repeated (and added some personal thoughts to) below. Her fundamental message was that:-

There is nothing you have to do with your life. Absolutely nothing. There is no particular job you have to have. You don't have to earn loads of money. There is no right person you have to spend your time with. You don't have to get married or have children. There is nothing specific you have to eat. Nowhere in particular you have to go. There is nothing you have to do.
Sound like a cryptic riddle for the meaning of life? For most of us, it is. On any given morning, we face a list of things we have to do and things we should do. We are driven by obligation; driven by external pressures and demands. In this, what we really want has moved so far down the list it barely registers anymore.

Still, the secret to life is that there is genuinely no requirement. This is your life, and the most definite thing we know about it is that it can be as unique as you are. It needn't look like the examples you see around you. You have the freedom to do this differently. Most importantly, there is nothing you are supposed to do, no right or wrong answer, no prescription.

The ugly truth is that most of us don't feel this. We don't feel we have an inherent value - that our birth, our formation, in and of itself, was remarkable enough to give value to our lives. Not only do we make many key decisions based on a distorted sense of what we should be doing, but we also fill our days with mundane actions that reflect what we believe others (friends, family or community) expect of us. Worse again, we often ‘catastrophise’ and make a major fuss over things which are, on reflection, trivial and meaningless. Unfortunately, this can often only be seen with the benefit of hindsight and the perspective that the passing of time brings.

In an increasingly busy world, few of us feel in control of our lives. Instead, we are being driven somewhere that often neither makes sense nor nurtures our own confidence, imagination or values. And, we feel powerless to stop this. We feel too isolated to take risks and believe in our own vision for life. The only thing we have to do in life is express ourselves. Express our sense of joy, our values and our capabilities. But somehow we are fearful.

The words of Marianne Williamson – famously quoted by Nelson Mandela – have relevance here:-

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And 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.”

Often our upbringing and conditioning suffocates our sense of wonder, and suppresses our feelings of self worth. By the time we become teenagers, we are very insecure about ourselves. Many of us have gained deeply entrenched struggles of feeling invisible, unloved and invaluable, and we carry these into our adulthood. There is something we are doing wrong with each other if this is happening. Something we are doing wrong with ourselves. However we have to fight with conformity and retain our true sense of worth, of value, of self. We have to retain our sense of wonder.

Remember as Bob Moorehead reminds us . . . . Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the number of moments that take our breath away.

The Bigger Picture: Nothing to Do by Shalini Sinha. Irish Times Health Supplement – 3rd April 2007.

Return to Love – Reflections on the Principles of a Course in Miracles by Marianne Williamson (1992) Harper Collins

Dr Bob Moorehead -

Tuesday 6 March 2007

6 Steps to Success

To climb the career ladder you need a variety of skills and expertise. You also need to have the right attitude and mindset. People who achieve success in their chosen fields adhere to the laws of success. Irrespective of your current position, apply these six principles to climb the career ladder.

1. Know your result
Just as companies have end of year results, in twelve months time you will have results in terms of your career, finances, health and relationships. What do you want your results to be in 2007? If you don’t make a conscious effort to determine where you are going, in terms of career (and life) direction; where you are investing your time and energy, you will constantly be reacting to the demands of others. How will you know you are on the right track unless you know your destination?

2. Take Action
Knowledge is only potential power, goals and results are only achieved when you take action. There are two types of action, swift and persistent. Swift action generates momentum. Persistent action ensures steady progress.

3. Flexibility
Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result each time, is a humourous definition of madness. It is all too easy to get stuck in a rut, but if what you are doing is not getting you closer to where you would like to be, then common sense says try something different.

4. Continuous Learning
In a recent study of global high achievers carried out by Fortune Magazine, the main factor that distinguished people at the top of their game in a business and sports context are the ones that carried out what they labelled ‘disciplined practice.’ This means continuously assessing how you are performing and more importantly how you can take your performance to the next level. Just think of Tiger Woods!

5.Model Success

Who do you know that has achieved what you would like to achieve? What can you learn from them? From my experience people who have achieved what you would like to achieve, will be only too willing to share their experience with you, if you approach them in the right way.

6. Personal Excellence
Having the attitude of being and doing your best at whatever it is you undertake is an attitude that will get you noticed. From an employer’s perspective training will increase your competence, but the right attitude is either something you have or you don’t.

In terms of your career, change is automatic, but progress is not. Start living the above principles and you will be proactively shaping your future.

Every successful athlete & performer has a coach, so why should it be any different for individuals who want to excel in their careers

James Sweetman is the author of Graduate to Success and is a leading authority on Peak Performance.
If you are ready to step into your potential, visit

Thursday 1 March 2007

Edward de Bono & Six Thinking Hats

Edward de Bono has been a long time promoter of methodologies which support and encourage people to think more creatively. His early work on Lateral Thinking (1990) is internationally recognised, and revered. DeBono believed that humans utilise pre-determined processes and channels to process routine thought which, although effective , are often somewhat inhibitive, rigid and restrictive. He theorised that if we could utilise parallel channels to process information, this would provide an entirely different perspective on the issue under consideration, and allow us to identify more creative solutions to problems.

In particular De Bono developed the Six Thinking Hats approach, designed either for individual or group use, to explore a topic in a structured way from multiple perspectives. Each hat has a different colour, and associated attitudinal perspective which should be considered in turn. The Six Hats are:-

White Hat: This hat is neutral, and your are encouraged to examine the facts, data, trends etc in an emotional vacuum. How can they be explained?

Black Hat: provides a pessimistic perspective, where you try to identify problems, disadvantages and difficulties.

Yellow Hat: This encourages an optimistic approach, seeking to identify benefits amd plus factors, where you delight in defining the benefits of the topic.

Green Hat: This looks for a fresh perspective, and different new ways of approaching the topic not previously considered. How else might it be explored? Have all angles been considered?

Red Hat: This is the emotional hat, which seeks to captures gut feelings, emotional reactions, hunches etc. How do you feel about this issue? What is your heart telling you?

Blue Hat: This is the Summary Hat, often adopted by the Chairperson, seeking to pull all viewpoints together to form a coherent picture, to prioritise and evaluate identified options.

The basic premis of this approach is that, when considering an issue in some detail, each 'hat' should be worn in turn to consider the problem from markedly different perspectives. This approach at first glance appears fatuous, and can be uncomfortable initially. However, it has the capacity at worst to provide a balanced evaluation of available options in a highly structured way, and at best to provide a powerful tool to provide multiple perspectives.

Edward deBono's numerous books provides an interesting insight into how we can think more creatively. You might also have a look at for further information.

Thursday 15 February 2007

Theories & Models - Enneagram

The Enneagram measures human personality by 9 basic types. However, instead of measuring surface traits, it gets below these and into motivations. Motivations can often result in the same behaviours, which is why people of the same motivation may appear just like each other on the outside -- or not. The Enneagram is mainly a diagnostic tool of one's emotional outlook on life. It will not cure one's problems, but may help point out their underlying fixations. It is also useful as a guide to how other people see the world differently.

The Nine Basic Types

Type One - Reformer
Perfectionistic, orderly, hard-working, ethical, conscientious. They can be very rational and idealistic, but can also be judgemental and convinced they are always right. Motivation: To be right, ethical, perfect.

Type Two - Giver / Helper
Generous, friendly, prideful, seductive, reassuring. They can be very loving and dedicated, but also possessive and manipulative. Motivation: To be loved, thanked, important in others' lives.

Type Three - Achiever
Ambitious, goal-oriented, adaptable, deceiving, presentable. They can be exemplars of "all you can be", but also shallow and arrogant. Motivation: To be admired by others, successful, a winner.

Type Four - Individualist
Creative, depressive, romantic, shy, unique. They can be profound artists who express the inexpressable, but also self-hating and clinging. Motivation: To understand the self, be unique, express themselves.

Type Five - Investigator
Insightful, theoretical, detached, eccentric, intense. They can be extremely brilliant and inventive, but also nihilistic and alienated. Motivation: To understand the world, find safety from it, become skilled.

Type Six - Loyalist
Loyal, skeptical, complex, paranoid, dependable. They can be excellent team players but get lost in scapegoating and fear. Motivation: To find security, resolve their paranoia.

Type Seven - Enthusiast
Enthusiastic, worldy, optimistic, scattered, accomplished. They can truly love life like no one else, but can fall victim to hedonism and excess. Motivation: To experience life, be happy, not miss out.

Type Eight - Chief / Challenger
Powerful, leading, aggressive, cruel, protective. They can be magnamious leaders who get the job done, but can become violent and terrorizing. Motivation: To be in control, strong, independent.

Type Nine - Peacemaker
Peaceful, receptive, complacent, forgetting, gentle. They can be relaxed and terrific friends, but can become unaware of reality and problems. Motivation: To be at peace, be in harmony with the universe.

The 9 types can mix like colors on a palette. However, mixtures with numerically adjacent types are particularly frequent and striking, and are called "wings". Hence, a 5's wing will either be type 4, or type 6 (or occasionally both). A 9's wing will either be type 8 or 1. It is also possible for someone not to have a strong wing, or to have elements of both wings.

Advocates of the Enneagram system suggest that, whilst it is a more difficult (and complex) system than the Myers-Briggs, but ultimately more meaningful, descriptive, and enlightening.
Don Riso and Russ Hudson of The Enneagram Institute have produced several Enneagram-based personality tests for personal, group, and business use. Basic, free tests are available at Further, detailed information is also available at

Wednesday 7 February 2007

Personal Development Planning

A Personal Development Plan (PDP) is a framework - within an occupational context - for matching individual needs to organisational needs, in a mutually fulfilling manner. It is an approach that encourages individuals to take responsibility for managing their own learning and development goals, and aligning these to orgnisational objectives. The PDP sets out the actions people propose to take to learn, and develop themselves, with the support of the organisation and their line manager. They should also work with those around them (peers and direct reports) and consider obtaining a 360 degree review, to assist them identify training and development needs.

As a process Personal Development Planning involves the individual:-
- identifying their current situation,
- identifying where they would like to be in the future, and
- developing a plan outlining the learning & development required to get there.

PDPs can vary in focus, but generally include elements of:
- job related development to assist performance in current role and attainment of organisational objectives
- career development to align individual career planning & organisational 'succession' planning so that the optimal match of individual & organisation needs are achieved
- non-work related development focusing on non-work related skills to enhance personal effectiveness generally, which will often have a tangible occupational benefit
- holistic development - incorporating all of the above, emphasising the 'whole person' in all aspects of their life.

PDPs can be beneficial to individuals by giving them greater control over their destiny, achieving work-life balance, enhancing their employability and other less tangible benefits e.g. alignment of personal goals & values with emotional & intellectual committment to their work. From an organisational perspective, PDPs can facilitate the effective accomplishment of goals, san focus developments on job related needs, show that employees are valued, form a key component of learning organisation ethos, increase employee retention and provide a cost effective return on investment in training & staff development.

Theories & Models - Maslows Hierarchy of Needs

Each of us is motivated by needs. Our most basic needs are inborn, having evolved over tens of thousands of years. Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs helps to explain how these needs motivate us all.

Maslow's original Hierarchy of Needs model was developed between 1943-1954, and first widely published in Motivation and Personality in 1954. At this time the Hierarchy of Needs model comprised five needs. The original version remains for most people the definitive Hierarchy of Needs.

1. Biological and Physiological needs - air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep, etc.
2. Safety needs - protection from elements, security, order, law, limits, stability, etc.
3. Belongingness and Love needs - work group, family, affection, relationships, etc.
4. Esteem needs - self-esteem, achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, managerial responsibility, etc.
5. Self-Actualization needs - realising personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs states that we must satisfy each need in turn, starting with the first, which deals with the most obvious needs for survival itself. Only when the lower order needs of physical and emotional well-being are satisfied are we concerned with the higher order needs of influence and personal development. Conversely, if the things that satisfy our lower order needs are swept away, we are no longer concerned about the maintenance of our higher order needs.
These needs are generally organised / visualised as a pyramid, with Biological & Physical Needs forming the base, with subsequent needs built on top of this leading towards the apex at the top, which is self-actualisation.

Later models contain an additional element of Transcendence i.e. helping others to reach their potential – this is similar in many ways to Covey’s 8th Habit.

The Four Agreements – Don Miguel Ruiz

Don Miguel Ruiz's book, The Four Agreements was published in 1997. For many, The Four Agreements is a life-changing book, whose ideas come from the ancient Toltec wisdom of the native people of Southern Mexico. The Toltec were 'people of knowledge' - scientists and artists who created a society to explore and conserve the traditional spiritual knowledge and practices of their ancestors. The Toltec viewed science and spirit as part of the same entity, believing that all energy - material or ethereal - is derived from and governed by the universe.

Don Miguel Ruiz, born and raised in rural Mexico, was brought up to follow his family's Toltec ways by his mother, a Toltec faith healer, and grandfather, a Toltec 'nagual', a shaman. Despite this, Don Miguel decided to pursue a conventional education, which led him to qualify and practice for several years as a surgeon. Following a number of life changing events, he later returned to his ancestral beliefs and teachings.

Like many gurus and philosophical pioneers, Ruiz has to an extent packaged, promoted and commercialised his work. Nevertheless the simplicity and elegance of his thinking remains a source of great enlightenment and aspiration. The simple ideas of The Four Agreements provide an inspirational code for life; a personal development model, and a template for personal development, behaviour, communications and relationships.

Here is how Don Miguel Ruiz summarises 'The Four Agreements':

agreement 1
Be impeccable with your word - Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

agreement 2
Don’t take anything personally - Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

agreement 3
Don’t make assumptions - Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

agreement 4
Always do your best - Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.

Friday 26 January 2007

Theories & Models - Stephen Covey's Habits of Highly Effective People

First published in 1989, the '7 Habits of Highly Effective People' quickly became an international bestseller. The basis of the text is that our character is a composite of our habits, which Covey defines as the intersection of our skills, knowledge and desires. Habits exert a powerful and consistent influence over our lives and impact directly, and daily, on our personal effectiveness . . . or ineffectiveness.

According to Covey, the 7 Habits are designed to provide an incremental, sequential and highly integrated approach to the development of personal and interpersonal effectiveness. They represent a complete framework of universal, timeless principles of character, and human effectiveness. The habits exist on a continuum from
dependence (where we are directed, nurtured & sustained by others) through independence (where we develop physical, mental, emotional & financial self reliance) to interdependence (where individuals combine talents & abilities to create a sum greater than that of the individual parts).

In the text, this is also described as a transition from the paradigm of YOU (you take care of me; you made me do this) to the paradigm of I (I can do this) through to the paradigm of WE (we can co-operate).

The 7 Habits are cited as follows:

1 Be Proactive
2 Begin with the End in Mind
3 Put First things First
4 Think Win / Win
5 Speak first to Understand . . .then to be Understood
6 Synergise
7 Sharpen the Saw

The last habit surrounds the other habits & makes them possible, and invokes principles of balanced self-renewal.

More recently, in 2004 Covey revisited the concept and added 'The 8th Habit', subtitled 'From Effectiveness to Greatness'. Covey is at pains to point out that the 8th Habit is not about adding a previously overlooked principle to the original seven. Rather it is about seeing and harnessing a third dimension that meets the challenge of the new 'Knowledge Worker Age'.

The 8th Habit is:

8 Find your Voice, and Inspire others to Find Theirs

This is based on Covey's assertion that their is a deep, innate, almost irrepresible yearning within all of us to find our voice in life. This Voice resides at the nexus, or intersection of our Talent, Passion, Need & Conscience - it is in effect, our 'souls code'.

Theories & Models - Myers Briggs Personality Types

Psychological type is a theory of personality developed by Swiss psychiatrist Dr. Carl G. Jung to explain the normal differences between healthy people. Jung concluded that differences in behavior result from people’s inborn tendencies to use their minds in different ways. Jung’s type theory defines patterns of normal behaviour, or types, and gives an explanation of how types develop. The mother and daughter team of Myers & Briggs further developed Jung’s theory creating the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), a self-report questionnaire designed to make Jung’s theory of psychological types understandable and useful in everyday life. After more than 50 years of research and development, the MBTI is the most widely used & accepted instrument available.

Personality type training is used by organizations around the globe and has become an essential tool for assessing personality differences and using those differences to improve individual and team performance. It can also be used in personal relationships.

In short, the theory has four behavioural dimensions of how Energy is focused, how Information is gathered, how Decisions are made and how Action is taken. Within each behavioural dimension, are two opposite poles – preferences – for which everyone has a natural preference (inborn strength) for one of the two opposites in each of the four behavioural dimensions. These are ascribed a letter, as follows:-

Energy -- I for Introversion or E for Extroversion
Information -- S for Sensing, or N for iNtuition
Decisions -- T for Thinking or F for Feeling
Action -- J for Judging or P for Perceiving

Our psychological type is thus described by the combination of the above four choices e.g. ISFJ, ENTP etc. There are a total of 16 possible combinations, each which have discrete and definable characteristics, specific to that type. These can be further extrapolated into personal and professional characteristics, leadership styles, preferences for career type, communication styles etc. As we use our preferences, we develop what the research defines as our psychological type: an underlying personality pattern resulting from the dynamic interaction of our four preferences, environmental influences and our own choices. People tend to develop behaviours, skills, and attitudes associated with their type, and those with types that differ from yours, will likely be opposite you in many ways. Each type represents a valuable and reasonable way to be. Each type has its own potential strengths, as well as its likely blind spots.

This is a widely used, and well tested approach, which appears to have a high degree of validity and acceptance. Most people who undergo ‘testing’ generally agree with their identified type, and its predominant characteristics.

If you wish to undertake a basic assessment of your personality type, and see related information go to Articles on the application of the MBTI can be viewed at

Theories & Models - Neuro Linguistic Programming

Neuro Lingusitic Programming (or NLP) was developed in California in the mid 1970's by John Grinder & Richard Bandler. NLP is a systematic study of human communication, which analyses the relationships between thinking (neuro), language (lingusitic) and achievement, and then models best practice (programming) to make it available to others as a conduit for change. The underlying assumption is that there are defined patterns - or meta programmes - hardwired into the brain, which act as filters or channels for information. These influence and determine our individual perceptions, motivation, behavioural responses etc. Essentially, NLP is an approach centred on recognising, applying, developing and reproducing effective behaviours, thought processes and ways of communicating that contribute to success.

NLP is generally considered to have four main aspects:

1 An Attitude of Curiousity - how do people do what they do? How is it somedays we are better than others? Why is this, and how can we replicate 'best behaviour' regularly.

2 A Methodology of Modelling - exploring ideas and actions to establish how they operate. Using this information derived from effective habits of highly functioning individuals, models of best practice are devised.

3 A Vision - having access to the best possible methods

4 A Set of Tools - NLP has a basic set of tools which, when implemented, develop further approaches

Our meta programmes - of which there is accepted to be approx 120 'stabilised' sorting patterns - can be identified to some degree by our use of language. Basically, people are motivated in two directions, i.e. towards pleasure or away from pain. 'Those in Towards Pleasure' mode use positive phrasing and action words (such as gain, achieve, accomplish) and often fail to account for potential problems when considering goals or directions to set themselves. Those in 'Away from Pain' mode are opposite, often using negative phrases (prevent, avoid, unable) and are likely to point first to likely difficulties in any proposed plan. Their glass is generally half-empty, rather than half full, to use a common analogy.

The NLP approach is used extensively in Coaching, and by Sports Psychologists. It is also used effectively by populist exponents such as Paul McKenna, in their clinical psychotherapy work with clients, assisting them to stop smoking or lose weight.

More comprehensive information is available from books and websites, such as: and for example.

Theories & Models - Transactional Analysis

Transactional Analysis (TA) was first described as a coherent concept by Eric Berne in his 1964 book ‘Games People Play’. Berne outlined his theory of the person, which places interpersonal interactions, or transactions, at the centre. He defines a transaction as occurring when we respond to a stimulus signal (e.g. a question) from another person.

In responding to these stimuli, we are likely to adopt one of three mind states (i.e. child, adult or parent), which will intersect with the other persons mind state. The child state is based on feelings, the parent mind state is generally critical, whilst the adult mind state – which is the preferred mode – is rational. Thus transactions, or conversations can occur at a number of levels e.g. child – child, child – parent, adult – child etc. As you can imagine, adult to adult mind state interactions are best, as they will be rational and often co-operative, whilst parent – parent interactions may be overtly critical in nature, which if repeated may descend into conflict.

Berne hypothesises that, during difficult or stressful times and/or periods of insecurity, we may regress in a child mind state. In a healthcare setting, ‘difficult’ patients experiencing illness may be operating from their child state, and require positive reinforcement to build their ‘adult’ self. Hostile relatives may be operating from a judgemental, ‘parent’ state and thus require a response which is adult, and rational. This of course assumes that we are conscious at all times of our behaviour, and that of others, and the mind state being adopted by either party. Equally, it should be recognised that these mind states are dynamic, and may change frequently during the course of any interaction. Indeed, Berne argues that transactions assemble into ‘games’ which, when repeated / practised often enough during our lifetime condition us to respond semi-automatically to stimuli (like ‘scripts’). In this regard, being finely tuned to the positions being adopted – usually unconsciously – and developing insight is paramount.

The ultimate goal of Transactional Analysis is to build up our adult mind state through positive and productive interactions to be rational, caring and co-operative. TA offers a systematic approach to understanding ourselves and others, and its approaches are practical, insightful and readily communicated. This makes TA an ideal framework for teaching & learning ‘soft-skills’, as it aligns a reasonable explanation of both the conscious (behavioural) and unconscious (emotional) processes in people, with parallel principles for effective behaviour modification.

Theories & Models - Dale Carneige

First written in 1936, How to Win Friends, and Influence People is probably the seminal self-help text, and spawned a subsequent industry of personal development handbooks. The book was originally written to provide "training in the fine art of getting along with people, in everyday business and social contacts".

The book is divided into four parts, with a number of key principles underpinning each section, as follows:-

Part 1 - Fundamental Techniques in Handling People

- don't criticize, condemn or complain
- give honest and sincere appreciation
- arouse in the other person an eager want

Part 2 - Six Ways to Make People Like You

- become genuinely interested in other people
- smile
- remember that a person's name is, to that person, the sweetest & most important sound in any language
- be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
- talk in terms of the other persons interests
- make the other person feel important, and do it sincerely

Part 3 - How to Win People to Your Way of Thinking

- the only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it
- show respect to the other persons opinions. Never say 'You're Wrong'
- If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically
- Begin in a friendly way
- get the other person saying Yes immediately
- let the other person do a great deal of the talking
- let the other person feel the idea is his or hers
- try honestly to see things from the other persons point of view
- be sympathetic with the other person's ideas and desires
- appeal to their nobler motives
- dramatize your ideas
- throw down a challenge

4 Be a Leader: How to Change People without Giving Offence or Arousing Resentment

- begin with praise and honest appreciation

- call attention to peoples mistakes indirectly

- talk about your own mistakes before criticising the other person

- ask questions instead of giving direct orders

- let the other person save face

- praise the slightest improvement, and every improvement

- give the other person a fine reputation to live up to

- use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct

- make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest

In many respects, it can be argued that Carneige's approach is subservient and lacks assertiveness in the extreme. It is very people centred, and is predicated on protecting the other persons feelings. However, whilst much of the language, and many of the examples, used in the book are now dated, the core principles espoused over 70 years ago have provided the bedrock of many of the Personal Development approaches still being used today.


Thursday 25 January 2007

Theories & Models - Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence

Originally coined by two American psychologists Peter Salovey & John Meyer, the concept of Emotional Intelligence was popularised in the 1990's primarily by Daniel Goleman . This theory differentiates between the conventional Intelligence Quotient (IQ) – which is generally considered to be genetically determined and fixed – and Emotional Intelligence (EQ), which can be developed and enhanced. EQ suggests that the part of the brain that controls emotion receives external signals in advance of the intelligence functions, which implies that initial responses to events are often emotional, rather than rational.

In essence, Emotional Intelligence can be defined as a learned ability to perceive, understand and express our feelings accurately, and to control our emotions so that they work for, rather than against, us. The five core competencies of Emotional Intelligence are outlined below.

Self Awareness : knowing what you are feeling and how your emotions affect your performance. By insight into your strengths and weaknesses, you are better placed to gain self-confidence and certainty about your capabilities, values and goals
Self Regulation: ability to control your emotions and reduce stress by acting in a more positive and proactice way. The key benefits are the ability to retain composure and think more clearly under pressure, to modify your impulses and to exercise self-restraint
Motivation: persistence in overcoming discouragement, and enjoy challenge, stimulation and then strive for achievement towards your personal goals.
Empathy: ability to ‘read’ emotions in others, to understand others points of view and behave openly and honestly with others.
Social Skills: influencing & handling other peoples emotions and engaging in honing interpersonal skills such as communication, listening, negotiation and leadership amongst others

Goleman (2002) contends that ‘great leadership works through the emotions’ and that the key task of leaders is to create ‘resonance’ i.e. a reservoir of positivity that liberates people, to flourish and perform to the best of their ability.

Further general info available at and with and also work a look.

Sunday 14 January 2007

Resolutions - a review

The New Year is two weeks old, but how are your newly made, bright & shiny resolutions surviving? Are they looking a bit tarnished, battered & bruised, or have they been consigned to the bin until next Year . . .and another attempt.

If you are struggling, or want to get started again here's another approach that might be useful - the SMART approach.
The SMART acronym is widely used in Project Management, and stands for :

Specific:- make your goal specific. Rather than saying that "I want to lose weight", try restating this aim to 'I want to lose 1lb each week'

Measurable:- put an amount, or even a limit on your objective e.g. if you are cutting down on cigarettes rather than stopping, set yourself a goal of reducing by one/two/ten per day /week or month, as you decide. This will assist you benchmark your actual progress against your plans

Achievable:- set goals that are realistic, and within your capacity to attain. Be careful not to be too ambitious, or take too optimistic an approach. If for example you are planning to increase your activity levels, don't try and run 10 miles on the first day, or push yourself to 100% capacity.

Realistic:- Further to above, start small and achieve within your capacity. Its better to start with small successes, which build confidence. Give yourself some space and capacity to improve. Start by pushing yourself only to 60% - 70% of your limit, and know that you can - and will - do better tomorrow.

Time bound:- Put your goals and objectives into a defined timescale, e.g. losing 1lb per week, 4lbs by end of month etc but keep the time line fairly short. Aiming to lose x amount of weight before the summer holidays for example, may give you mental permission to lapse, as the goal (and ultimate reward) is too far into the future.

Before I finish, if you have managed to maintain your resolution and are sticking with it . . . WELL DONE!!! Take a little time out to pat yourself on the back, reflect on the changes you have made and use these improvements, and your positive feelings about your success to date, as a springboard to continued success.

Tuesday 2 January 2007

Reflections on Life 2

The following was sent to recently me by a friend:

People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. When
you know which one it is, you will know what to do for that person.

When someone is in your life for a REASON, it is usually to meet a need
you have expressed. They have come to assist you through a difficulty,
to provide you with guidance and support, to aid you physically,
emotionally or spiritually. They may seem like a godsend and they are.
They are there for the reason you need them to be. Then, without any
wrongdoing on your part or at an inconvenient time, this person will say
or do something to bring the relationship to an end.

Sometimes they die.

Sometimes they walk away.

Sometimes they act up and force you to take a stand. What we must
realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled, their work
is done. The prayer you sent up has been answered and now it is time to
move on.

Some people come into your life for a SEASON, because your turn has
come to share, grow or learn. They bring you an experience of peace or
make you laugh. They may teach you something you have never done. They
usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy. Believe it, it is real.
But only for a season!

LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons, things you must
build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation. Your job is to
accept the lesson, love the person and put what you have learned to use
in all other relationships and areas of your life. It is said that love
is blind but friendship is clairvoyant.

Thank you for being a part of my life, whether you were a reason, a
season or a lifetime.

Reflections on Life

The following piece was written by Dr Bob Moorehead, and not foul-mouthed American comedian George Carlin, to whom it is often attributed. It was given to me by Tom Kenny, a Belfast based Management Consultant. I suspect there are lessons for us all in the message:

A wonderful Message by George Carlin:

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers;
wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less; we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness. We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom. We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often. We've learned how to make a living, but not a life. We've added years to life not life to years. We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbour. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We've done larger things, but not better things. We've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We've conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We've learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less. These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete. Remember, spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever. Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side. Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn't cost a cent. Remember, to say, "I love you" to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you. Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again. Give time to love, give time to speak, and give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.

AND ALWAYS REMEMBER: Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

If you don't send this to at least 8 people.... who cares?