Firstly please tell our lovely mamas about your coaching/ consulting practice?
I love using coaching to help people understand more about themselves and others, enabling them to be more effective and have smoother journeys toward their goals. I believe that everyone has more potential than they realise, and I work with them to unlock this.
Key success factors in my coaching include helping you develop:
- skills in viewing situations from different perspectives
- self-coaching and resilience.
A qualified executive coach with my own business, I’m also an experienced leader with 15+ years in management positions. Ten of which were in senior positions including heading national operations and an interim CEO post. This means that I understand the complexities, challenges and rewards of work.
As well as coaching, I design and facilitate sessions for leadership programmes in London and New York.
Now I’d love to dive in and ask your advice on three common questions that our mamas face…
In 10 days time, I’ve got to stand up in front of a room of 25 people to do a presentation, and I’m so nervous. Any tips for me on how to sound confident (even if I don’t feel it)?
Okay, here are my top ten tips:
1) Someone has asked you to deliver this presentation because they know you have something useful to say. Keep reminding yourself of this and if necessary, write it down somewhere you’ll keep seeing it. That way the positive message will help to crowd out negative voices in your head (A.K.A your inner critic).
2) Switch your thoughts from how you are feeling, to how you want the audience to feel. Think to yourself ‘how can I be of service to this audience?’ By focusing on what your audience needs, not only will you smash it in your presentation, you won’t be worried about how you feel, because you’ll be so focused on their needs.
3) Rehearse. If you’re like me, you feel really daft talking to a mirror to rehearse a presentation, but it really does help and thinking it’s okay to just wing it, is disrespectful to your audience. (If you are really pushed for time, at least make sure you rehearse the first few sentences of your presentation, as that is when most people feel nerves).
4) Think through the what-ifs. When preparing and rehearsing, think through all the what-ifs. What if the laptop doesn’t work? What if I start coughing? Then, work out what you would do in those situations. That way, whatever happens, you’ve got a plan.
5) Think of the stinkiest question. Let’s face it, we’ve all been in presentations where someone has asked a tricky question. Prepare for this by thinking of the stinkiest questions, ones that you’d hate to be asked. Then plan how you would answer them (you can ask colleagues/friends to help you with this).
You are unlikely to be asked so many stinkers but should ‘Paul from supply chain’ try and knock you off course with a curveball, (because you got a recent promotion and he didn’t!), you’ll be able to answer with poise and politeness.
6) A bit of fear is actually your friend. When I rehearse a presentation, it never has the same energy as when I actually deliver it. This is because there’s no fear when I’m sitting and talking to myself in my office. Yet, when I’m in front of fellow human beings, that bit of fear means adrenalin kicks in, making my presentations so much better than the run-throughs.
7) Learn some mindfulness strategies. (You’ll find lots just by Googling). They include simple calming techniques such as breathing and pausing to really feel how grounded your feet are on the floor. Sound a bit strange? Trust me, it really works.
8) Adopt a power pose. Watch Amy Cuddy’s TEDtalk below about body language and power poses. I’m not suggesting that you adopt them in front of a boardroom full of your colleagues, instead why not try the ‘Wonder Woman pose’ in the loos beforehand? It opens up your breathing and makes you feel stronger. If nothing else, it will probably give you a giggle, which is a great way to give fear the boot.
9) Step towards the audience. Nerves in front of an audience goes back to primitive times, where, if met by a group of mammals, we’d need to assess whether they were going to be friendly or gobble us up. This is very unlikely to happen during your presentation (unless Maureen from accounts has forgotten her lunch again). To show you aren’t scared of the other animals in the pack, walk towards them when you start talking, this will make you appear confident (rather than shrinking back and trying to make yourself look smaller).
10) Allow yourself to be human. If you forget something, it’s fine to assertively say, ‘Sorry the third point has totally slipped my mind, I’ll come back to it in a minute’. Or, if you feel you are rambling, just pause and regroup. The pause may feel like a lifetime to you, but it will only be a split second for the audience.
I’m really struggling to switch off from work when I’m at home (which is exhausting, and isn’t fair to my family). It doesn’t help that I’m continuously getting work emails on my phone. Any advice to help me switch off?
Before you leave work, or maybe on your commute home (if you aren’t driving!), write down your top 3 achievements from the day. We spend so much time looking at to-do lists that we don’t see how much we’ve actually done.
Sure, there will be more to do tomorrow, but celebrate what you’ve done today and reward yourself by spending time with your family.
This next tip may sound obvious…switch your work phone off! If you don’t feel ready for that yet, switch alerts off or put it on silent. Still struggling? Put your phone in a cupboard or bag so you don’t have that addictive urge to reach for it ‘just for a quick check of emails’.
Get your family to help you by creating a forfeit box. Each time you reach for the phone, you have to donate to a charity.
By constantly checking emails at home, you are essentially bringing your colleagues into your house each night. They may be lovely, but do you really want them squishing up on the sofa with you?
Perhaps your role requires you to be on call and you really can’t switch it off, fair enough. But this isn’t the case for the majority of us, we just convince ourselves that the world will stop if we don’t reply immediately. You don’t reply to emails in your sleep, so clearly the world keeps turning, just see your evening as part of this block of ‘no response time’.
If we don’t set our own boundaries, we get drawn into a silly game of who replies fastest, which just generates more emails. If you want to impress colleagues, have a fun evening with your family, let your brain rest and process the day, then wow everyone the next day with your energy and fresh brain power.
I need a confidence boost. At home I feel so strong and capable looking after my baby girl. But as soon as I get into work, it’s as if I’m a different person and I don’t believe I can do anything. Why do I feel this way, and can you help me?
Here’s an activity I use with my coaching clients when they need a confidence boost. Take a sheet of A4 paper and write/type at the top ‘I’m [insert your name] and I rock because…’ Then fill the two sides of A4 with all the things that are great about you.
Include all aspects of your life, if you make a mean pineapple upside-down cake, write that down, if you are great at writing advertising copy add that.
Don’t stop until both pages are full.
It’s amazing how many people struggle with this activity, yet if I asked them to write down everything they weren’t good at, they’d quickly fill reams of paper.
If you get stuck, ask friends, family and trusted colleagues what they would say about you.
Keep the document to hand and read it whenever you need a confidence boost.
In terms of why you are feeling less confident at work, that’s tough to answer without more information, enlisting the help of a coach can help you explore the causes. It may be your inner critic, or it could be that where you are working isn’t the right fit for you.
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Thanks so much Julie for taking part in our Expert Career Advice series for mums. If you’d like more information on Julie’s coaching services, plus her weekly email with more tips and something to make you giggle every Monday, please click here.
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