posted by on Articles, Communication

“Behind a panted smile, my life’s a masquerade a world of lets pretend” – The Isley Brothers

Like in the song ‘Behind a Painted Smile’ do you feel you are masquerading and pretending to be someone that you are not? The festive season is upon us and the time for social gatherings, but sometimes parties and festive get togethers make us more fearful than joyful. Do you dread social gatherings at this time of the year? Then think ‘win win’ and seek to win more trusting relationships at work and at home. As much as we may look forward to seeing friends, relatives and or acquaintances at Christmas as any other time of the year, we may be anxious how we come across. Christmas with work colleagues, in-laws, relatives even close friends can be stressful.
According to the psychiatrist Carl Young extroverts get energy from being with others and for them the night is always young. Introverts may feel that too many people are present at a gathering and that crowds are lonely places. We all have varying degrees of extrovert and introvert within us. Therefore, even the most ardent party goer needs time to rest and those who normally like to retreat from the world may come out of their shells. Improve your networking in 5 steps this Christmas

Whether it’s a Christmas with old or new friends or acquaintances here are some tips to get you through the party season.

• The Power of Body language
Stand tall, relaxed but confident. Have a warm smile and open body language with arms unfolded is most approachable. Read between the lines of body language to see what people are really thinking. When you get in tune with the person that you are in conversation with your body language is also in tune and you mirror each other naturally.
• Build Rapport
Building rapport is about helping people that you meet to see some benefit of investing their time with you. You have approx. 15 seconds to make a great first impression – and first impressions stick. Find some common ground and make a connection, if you can find something that you both have a common interest in you will build rapport much quicker.
• Work the Room like a Pro
If we could watch social gatherings in slow motion we would see the natural connectors working the room with ease, moving from person to person and having a number of conversations with almost everyone in the room. They may only ask a few questions but they know how to milk it and they know the value of having many short conversations with many people. Have a few opening questions in your armoury e.g. ‘How do you know the host?’ and ‘do you know many people here?’ People are usually happy to give a potted history of how that they know the host or other people at the event.
• Create Presence
Your own personal space is an invisible energy field that you create around you and if others can sense it, it must more than just imagination. Some indicators of your ‘presence’ are your posture, energy, smile, voice, eye contact. But there are more indicators including, attitude, thoughts and imagination. Take some time to develop these in yourself and watch your ‘presence rating’ grow.
• Communicate with confidence
Active listening is one of the most important things you can do when communicating, as communication isn’t a one way street. Taking the time to actually listen to what someone is saying can really make a difference in building a meaningful relationship at home or at work.

These steps are not just for Christmas but can be used for the rest of the year in developing your social and business networks. Why not take one tip at a time and try it out the very next time that you are in a social or business gathering and see if you can make a difference to your networking skills. You no longer masquerade behind a painted smile. Take your social and business networking to a higher level with these simple steps.

Gillian Kitchen

posted by on Articles, Team work

The top team

“Interdependent people combine their own efforts with the efforts of others to achieve their greatest success”. Stephen Covey

Does your team communicate well? Does your team understand the culture? If the answer is ‘no’ to any of the above read on.

There are many activities, tools and techniques available to the team leader in order to develop a winning team, but what is right for you? A great deal of money is spent on team building programmes at work but do they really work? Building your team is not like building a house it is more like building a sustainable relationship. In the current economic climate, customer insecurity and keen competition has seen some companies go to the wall. Teams have become much leaner over the last few years and teams need to be ready to adapt and change to respond to the competitive field in which they operate. The steps outlined here can also be used to develop team work in your personal relationships at home with your family, friends and personal networks.

When thinking about developing your team there are two main issues to consider. The team culture and how the team communicates both internally and externally.

The team culture is often made up of the values, vision, philosophy and mission of the organisation. Once these areas are clear and everyone knows what they are supposed to be doing the way forward can be forged.

How key messages are communicated is a key factor to successful team working. Communication is one of the fundamental processes that is the basis for almost all activity in organisations. It is the process through which we conduct our lives and work.

A step by step plan to create your winning team

• 1-1 sessions with staff to understand individual perspective. What motivates people? Do people understand their roles and the expectations of the organisation?
• Conduct a team survey – what do the individuals say about themselves and what do others outside of the team say about them?
• Establish the teams identity, including identifying the teams values, vision, purpose and culture. This should be done together as a team not done to the team and given to them as a done deal.
• Develop a clear communication strategy to ensure cascade of key messages and develop interpersonal skills within the team. It is also important to work on how people interact as a team, developing listening skills, building rapport, reading body language, reflecting upon how the team works as a norm and giving and receiving feedback from team members.
• Develop a team action plan together so that everyone takes ownership and wants the team to be successful.

These steps are intended as a guide for developing teams and not a quick fix. Team development, like a relationship takes time to develop and with the right set of circumstances, a group of people can develop into a highly effective participative motivated team. However evidence suggests that the process can be accelerated if there is total commitment of the team leader and the overall decision maker.

The Change Agency can help identify what it is that you want to do to develop your team. We can help you to identify your team priorities and long term goals and work out how you are going to get to where you want to be.

The Change Agency
Gillian Kitchen

posted by on Articles, Know yourself

“Your habits become your thoughts your thoughts become your values, your values become your destiny” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

What is a value?
A value is a moral principle or accepted standard of a person or group, and a principle is the distinction between good and bad or right and wrong. These distinctions about right and wrong are made by us – the value and principle holders.
Your values define, to an extent, who you are, and how you will relate to the world around you and the people in it. Values are the part of your identity. Personal values are at the core of our being and we hold on to them tightly.
What are your values?
You can get a feel for your values by thinking about the things that always make you happy or angry, for example, bad manners, being late, honesty, hard work and so on. Think about a really great day that you experienced. What was it that made it so great for you? What do you want people to remember you for? Your generosity, your loyalty or whatever it is that’s important to you.
Here are a few examples of values that might be important to you. You can add your own values to this list. Variety, security, contentment, recognition, respect, freedom, stability, independence, honesty, sincerity, friendship, self -respect.
Knowing your values will help to:
• find your direction
• choose the right job, relationship
• make the right decisions
• find a sense of purpose
Check out your values
By finding out what is important to us we can discover our values. This may be helpful to you when looking for a new direction in life, a new relationship or a new job. For example,
if one of your values is social enterprise don’t become a banker. When looking for new jobs think about your values and how they fit with the values of the organisation, a poor fit may lead to tension.

List the values that are important to you. Add some values that you wish to have to your list as well as the ones that you already have. Think about the different areas of your life, including work and personal life. Ask yourself the following questions:
What’s important to have?
What’s nice to have?
What’s not important?
What’s important to avoid?
Once you have identified your values. Consider which are the top 3-5 most important to you. Now consider if these top values are being met at in each of the areas of your life. Values can change so it is worth reviewing values from time to time. If you want to change your life you will need to take some action.
Top tips
• When you have worked out your values make sure that your goals are aligned with your values
• Stand up for your values, live your life by your values. Next time you need to make a decision ask yourself how it will affect my core values
• Develop your action plan to achieve your goals

Gillian Kitchen

Goal Setting


posted by on Articles, Goals

I have a dream …….with a few small adjustments!

How did Team GB’s cycling teams manage to do so well this summer in the Paralympics, Olympics and the Tour de France? We have seen outstanding efforts and more gold medals than any other country in cycling this year. Where did it all start? Someone had a vision, the velodrome was built in Manchester for the commonwealth games in 2002 which gave the track cyclists somewhere to practice and a chance to show how good they are. The road team was put together and sponsorship found and TeamSky was formed. The coach said that within five years we will win the Tour de France. People thought that he was mad! No English man had ever won the Tour de France. But they had a goal and the rest is history.
So what can us mere mortals learn from this. These fantastic achievements happened because one man had a dream and by believing in that goal and working toward it without giving up he was able to achieve great things. Yes It has been hard work, but it has been done. When asked how this was achieved Team GB’s cycling team director of performance Dave Brailsford said “the aggregation of marginal gains” that is if we make small adjustments in many area’s it will make a huge difference to overall progression. Training schedules must have been punishing, adjustments were made to the bike specifications, helmets were tweaked, clothing streamlined. But most importantly how the athletes think about what they can achieve in their heads was addressed. Small changes were made that made a big difference to the overall performance of the team.
We too may have a dream of something that we want to achieve and work towards no matter how big or how small. If we want to achieve something by setting ourselves clear goals and working on achieving something small toward that goal every day is a step in the right direction. If we believe in our goal and don’t give up, we too will achieve our dreams. September is a good time of the year to review goals that may have been set at the beginning of the year. Returning from summer holidays and the beginning of the new school year is often a time to reflect on our achievements and perhaps time to make our own small adjustments.
At the Change Agency we can help identify what it is that you want to do. We can also help you to identify your priorities and long term goals and work out how you are going to get to where you want to be.

posted by on Articles, Time managment

There are still 24 hours in a day or did our days just get shorter? Why is it that we have more labour saving devices now than ever before and yet we yearn for more time? At this time of the year, we may harp back to our childhood and memories of long hot summers. As we grow older we may think that our time is not our own. You are in charge of you and you can reclaim your time if you want to. I find with my coaching clients that time is something that most of us want more of. But where does all our time go? What do we spend our days doing? Here are 7 tips for taking control and gaining your time back.

  • Keep a time diary for a week. Be honest with yourself, how much time do you really spend on facebook, twitter or watching the television when you really could be doing something else? Write down what you do and when you do it. Start from the time that you get up in a morning to the time that you go to bed. Log all your activities and note down how long that you spend on each task. It’s a bit like an old fashion time and motion study but on you.
  • Analyse your time diary to find out what you really spend your time doing. What does this tell you about yourself and how you manage your time? What or who are your time stealers? Do you spend your time endlessly checking your emails or are their certain people that take up your time? What is it that you do that takes up your precious time? Once you have established what it is that takes your time you can decide what you want to do about it. Sometimes it’s a case of a simple ‘no’ to someone who you always say ‘yes’ to or having a simple to do list each day.
  • Work out what your goals are and when you want to achieve them by. Know what it is that you want to achieve.
  • Develop an action plan based on your goals, identify your time scale for achieving your goals.
  • Writing a to do list can be a good idea and if you priorities your list with a simple 1, 2 or 3 with number 1 being the most important task that day, this will ensure that you always do what you want to do. It may be that you are not being realistic about how much that you can realistically fit into your day.
  •  Having a weekly plan can really help to get things done. This is in addition to your calendar and ‘to do’ list. It is a time table in which you not only write your task but when you are going to do them and allocate how much time you want to spend on each task.
  • Get a kitchen timer and use it to get your most important things done. Set the timer for 20 minutes or whatever amount of time you want to spend on a task. This is a good strategy for the things that we perhaps want to do and keep putting off e.g. the ironing or writing an article. See if you can beat the timer.  Set it for a period of time and see if you can do in that time.

So now that you have more time what are you going to do with it? Coaching with the Change Agency can help identify what it is that you want to do. It can also help you to identify your priorities and long term goals and work out how you are going to get to where you want to be.


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posted by on Articles, Communication


Communication – body language

Not all our communication involves words.  Most of our communication is non verbal and we are interpretating non verbal clues all the time, even if we don’t realise it. If a person looks closed, with their arms folded and their body pulled in, they usually are sending out the message that they don’t want to communicate. If a person looks open, giving you eye contact, facing you with a relaxed stance they usually want to communicative with you. Usually we look for grouping of actions rather than just a single action to tell us how responsive a person is to communication with us.

How to feel comfortable in your skin

  • Perform a body scan, start at the tip of your head and work down your body to your toes noticing where you are holding tension
  • Taking  a few deep breaths can help to centre you in your body
  • If you want to be open but feel tense, repeating the word ‘open’ in your head a few times can actually help to relax you
  • If having a bad day, smile and you will find yourself feeling better

Gillian Kitchen @ The Change Agency February 2012

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posted by on Articles, Know yourself, Procrastionation

“How soon “not now” become “never”.” – Martin Luther King Jr. 

What is Procrastination?

Procrastination is the action of putting off something or delaying an action. Procrastination can lead to problems such as stress, problems in relationships and for some it is a serious problem.

Why do we procrastinate?

For some of us there may have been no need to make decisions as others have done it for us or we may not have wanted to make the decisions for whatever reason.  We may be rebelling by not doing what we are told or leaving everything until the last minute. Last is built on the idea that some people leave everything until the very last minute. Some people like to appear laid back or drop out of things so they don’t have to successes or fail at anything?

When is it a bad thing?

Putting off today what might be done tomorrow may mean that some things will never get done at all. If we hate making decisions, think about what the reasons are that is making us indecisive. Usually we are getting something out of not making a decision. Either we imagine that we don’t have enough time that we are a perfectionist or it may be linked to fear in some way. But remember that we don’t have to do anything if we really don’t want to!

Is it ever a good thing?

We tend to think of procrastination as being a bad thing but it can also be a good thing. The procrastinator may not be able to decide to take that extra cream cake or make a decision about their work or business, might just make the right decision for them at that time.  Sometimes by putting off the small things we can achieve big things, the things that we really want to do. We may wish to write a book or develop our business and by avoiding errands to do real work we can get things done. After all at funerals nobody ever says ‘……was really good at cleaning the house or washing the car’ Good procrastination is about avoiding the small stuff to get the things that we really want to do done. Of course we might not have a relationship or any friends if we don’t do some of the small things like wash! Some errands do have to be done or they just get worse, like completing tax returns or cutting the lawn.

5 tips for dealing with Procrastination

  1. Why not change your perspective and do the thing that you’re putting off first.
  2. Time yourself on a task that you have been putting of. Put 20 minutes on a kitchen timer and you’ll be surprised what can be achieved when you try to beat the timer.
  3. If you have a big task to do – set yourself a goal and break it down into small achievable chunks
  4. Take account of the sort of person that you are. What are your values and expectations? Do they fit with the task in hand?
  5. Accept that there is no magic wand and just do it!

The truth is that we all procrastinate from time to time. Know yourself and choose how to procrastinate. Know what it is that works for you and not what others say you should do.

Gillian Kitchen

The Change Agency



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posted by on Articles, Creative thinking

Are you seeking innovative ideas to improve your business or practice and add value? Then “get creative”

Coaching is about finding more about you, what you want from life, who you are, what motivates you, what makes you happy, it’s time for you. It is support for you to make positive life changes. Coaching can involve more than one to one dialogue. Different insights can be gained from using creative methods of working together, in addition to talking. Getting in touch with our latent creativity and using practical techniques to assist our understanding are often quicker and provoke different insights than merely talking.

There are variety of creative methods including visualisation, drawing, pictures, metaphor, storytelling, mind mapping, image work using cards, free association and even listening to music.

When we think of creativity we often think of art, poetry, music or design. Creating something from nothing. Thinking creatively is something that we can all develop and can help us when we feel stuck on a particular issue in our work or personal life.

In order to be able to think creatively we should remove judgement and allow ourselves to be a little silly! Think the unthinkable! Allow silliness to help solve a problem or get the creative thinking flowing. Sometimes the best ideas come from the silliest of ideas in the first place all because someone has allowed themselves to think the unthinkable. In the America hit drama ‘Mad Men’ set in an American ad agency in the 1960’s the going gets really tough and the ad agency loses their most prestigious account ‘Lucky Strike’ cigarettes.  The main character really stands out from the crowd by daring to do the opposite to all their competitors by writing an open letter to a top newspaper informing New York of the health dangers of smoking. Now you might not think that is so different but in 1962 the dangers of smoking were not so well known, it was a radical, risky strategy.

Free association or brain storming is good for getting a number of ideas quickly, it is quick and helps to get the ideas flowing. It is also good as a warm up when not sure how to approach something. Allow your mind to run free sometimes, perhaps around a random idea, for example, thinking from the point of view of a colour or a pair of shoes can be a great place to start. If you can’t decide on where to go on a holiday you could pick a colour and free associate around that colour to come up with your next holiday! For example, take the colour ‘green’ you might think of Ireland or the green water of a river in France. Shoes might help you to think about a problem differently by thinking of shoes you might think ‘running shoes’ to run around the problem and look at it from another perspective  or ‘high heels’ to look down on the problem. But if none of these ideas’ appeal to you try looking at the issue from another perspective. Be open to influences and get others people view on the issues can be another helpful way to open up your thinking around a certain area and feedback from others can be really helpful. Try another perspective, how would someone else approach this issue? It could be a friend, someone you admire in your life or someone who you admire in your field or profession, circle of friends, in the media, real or imaginary.  Ask yourself how would they approach the problem? What would Homer Simpson or Alan Sugar do in this situation?

It helps if we can identify assumptions from the outset. What are you assuming about a situation? Try a ‘what if’ question and challenge your assumptions. Be mindful not to push yourself too hard, sometimes by turning off and just letting the issue simmer in your mind for a while allows your unconscious mind to find the most creative answers.

Finally, have fun with your ideas and creativity will follow

Gillian Kitchen @ The Change Agency



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