The Inner Coach

I thought I would write a blog post that shares my ideas on being your own coach. By writing about how I have overcome my inner fear of public speaking and become more comfortable with sharing my writing.

I have been reading ‘Lean In’ by Sheryl Sandberg.

If you haven’t heard of her before, Sheryl is the chief operating officer for Facebook and the founder of ; the mission statement of is to “empower women to achieve their ambitions“.

I would usually get through this sort of book quickly, making notes about key ideas that I want to try or explore. But I have to say that I have struggled with it. I am still only part way through it. I am finding it hard to read and I think that is because there is so much good content. I am persevering with it, because it does have some good advice. Perhaps it needs a new version to be written with a summary of key points to follow up at the end of each chapter.

One chapter that has really captured my attention is her advice about mentoring and sponsorship. In her opinion mentorship and sponsorship are crucial for career progression.

Interestingly she makes the observation that arrangements often form between individuals who have common interests; or when the more junior person reminds the more senior person of themselves. I would agree that’s true. I think back to where my mentoring or coaching has been most effective and it has been better when I have got on with that person well. It probably comes from liking the person and wanting to see them succeed.

I came across a great graphic on Pinterest that described what modern mentoring looked like: fluid, flexible, dynamic, cross-functional, diverse, broad, reciprocal, personal, contextual, collaborative, innovative and transformational.

The model that Sheryl shares from Deloitte’s sounded brilliant, it included assigning sponsors, shadowing executives and working on global assignments. I also liked the idea that peers can mentor and sponsor one another, because they understand the problems and opportunities.. sometimes problems are generated by seniors. This really resonated with me from a business managers point of view. The group of SBMs that I collaborate with through Twitter have been a brilliant source of mentoring and coaching; because they have a better understanding of the problems and challenges than many colleagues would.

There is a brilliant article that was published by the Guardian called “The accidental mentor: why we should all help other women climb the ladder” by Penny Haslam, published June 2015

The article makes the distinctions between a mentor and a sponsor:

There’s a distinction to be made here: a mentor encourages and supports someone in their existing role, whereas a sponsor bigs them up to others.”

When I recognise that I can be better at something, I am pretty determined about making sure I achieve my goal. It comes from being competitive with myself and ambitious.

You are successful if you add more to the world than the world gives to you.

I often hear and read that having a mentor or sponsor can be essential for career progression and development.

I wouldn’t say that I have had one mentor who has supported me in developing my career. I would say that I have had lots of mentors and coaches. Some won’t even know that I see them that way, but they have made a difference to my progression.

Having a mentor doesn’t have to be a formal arrangement. I believe that you can be part of coaching yourself by seeking support, feedback and challenge from a whole range of people. For example: your line manager through performance management and 1:1 conversations (formal/informal); your peers/similar professionals through local network groups; other professionals that you come in to contact with i.e. suppliers, teaching and learning colleagues; your family and friends.. and combine this with seeking CPD opportunities to learn and develop. Ensuring that your own CPD is needs led and completely tailored.

I believe that success at work comes from hundreds of small steps. Instead of trying to find reasons why you can’t, try and find reasons why you can.

I wanted to understand more about me and my team. I like to think that I am good at reading people and understanding them, but I wanted something more tangible to use. My Headteacher introduced me and the rest of the SLT to a product called Packtypes.

Following on from Working SBM’s blog post: about starting to promote suppliers and products this is a little mention and endorsement for a product I have used for self-evaluation, to understand my team and also as a recruitment tool… a donation to my school would be very welcome for this mention 🙂

Packtypes a kit currently costs £24.99 (Jul 17). If you buy one and like it, I would be very grateful if you would tweet and mention me @ShropshireSBM

Public Speaking

If I went back to 6 years ago when I first moved in to working in a school, I was terrified of public speaking. Outwardly you probably wouldn’t notice, but I could feel my nerves overwhelming me. I found it so frustrating because I new it was holding me back from progressing to more senior roles. I have kept working at it (with support and encouragement) and I now feel like a confident speaker and I have strategies to keep the nerves at bay which work for me.

I started with lots of practice, as the old saying goes practice makes perfect. My Headteacher came up with a great way to help me with this, he suggested that I do the staff briefing every day. The staff briefing involves running through the itinerary for the day and sharing information with a group of 60 staff every morning.

I then moved on to practising with different size groups and audiences which has also helped. Each year I now do a whole school assembly, usually the assembly for National Space Week (a subject I enjoy).. my first time doing an assembly I used fruit to show the relative sizes of the planets – using some pupils to help was a good way to distract the attention away from me!! They loved it because I had them guessing bigger or smaller.

An ex-colleague helped me by using an NLP technique, I wont give away what they do, but it is about focusing and preparing yourself.

Breathing. Remembering to breath is always useful!! Try to maintain a normal breathing pattern. If I start to feel a bit anxious, I always take a couple of minutes to do a couple of deep breaths.

A great way that I have developed my own public speaking style is through observing others and picking up tips and ideas.

Next time you are at a conference watch a speaker closely and think about… What did you like about what they said? How they said it? How was the pace? What tone did they use? Did they use pauses or silence to effect? Did they use visual prompts? Did they use open questions?

Listen and learn.

Sharing My Writing

I was nervous about sharing my writing. I write to share what I know and what I have learned. I use it to reflect and download what I am thinking.

The reason I was nervous is because I would never want to come across as a know it all. I have been asked to write articles in the past, but it was down to someone else to decide if it was good enough to publish.

When it came to starting my blog it felt different. It felt like I was promoting me. My writing is personal. Writing is something that I have always loved, when I was little I would make books. Books were my prized possessions. The complete opposite of my sister who wanted to be outside playing. At secondary school I was even the school librarian.

I have written posts and then deleted them.

I have written posts, then put the link on Twitter really late at night, convincing myself that I was sharing it but realistically who was going to be reading blog posts at midnight.

It probably seems a little bit irrational, but it was a big step for me to make, to become comfortable with sharing what I had written.

What has really helped me with overcoming this is listening to the feedback from other business managers. A little bit of positive feedback goes along way.

To read messages from other SBMs to say now that I am inspiring them I find a hard to believe. We are our own hardest critic.

Turn that inner voice from a critic into your own coach.

If you see, read or hear something great from another business manager, then share it and celebrate it.

If you have something that you love to do, what is stopping you from pursuing it? Overcome your fears.