Creating space to help you grow

Dream weaving

Often when I talk to business owners there is a desire to do something that goes beyond the realms of the business. Sometimes it is related to what they currently do, many other times it seems that there is no connection at all. These ideas and desires for a future that currently seems to be of or in another wold, a parallel universe of ‘what-ifs’ are regularly laughed off by the individual as ‘silly’ or ‘just a dream’.

Who said that as we become entrepreneurs or business owners we had to give up all the other fun stuff in our heads? Why can’t I be a ski instructor too?

Either/or is neat and simple. It allows sense to be made of the school time table- science or art?, It allows sensible adult decisions to be made- joiner or racing driver? It fuels the 9-5 economy and ensures a ready made market of car-loan takers, holiday makers and TV entertainment package buyers are always there, looking for a little reconnection to their long let go of dream. How sad.

Let’s replace either and or with and. I want to run a business and live permanently in the south of France or I want to be a gardener and do a degree in Literature, or I want to be a joiner and race cars at the weekend.

The problem is that as soon as we verbalise things with ‘and’ our old, slightly dodgy, risk mitigation system that is our own thinking kicks in and tells us that we ‘can’t because’. We can listen to it or we can choose to live our life the way we really want to live it and a little underused tool called creativity will help us.

Imagine you are in that perfect life as a joiner that races cars or a recruitment consultant who is also a skiing instructor in winter. Look around you- what do you see? what do you hear? What are the conversations that you are having and with whom? What does it feel like? What are you looking forward to? Who and what surrounds you? Paint a rich picture using all of your senses continuing to give free rein to your creativity and imagination. If sensibility suggests that something isn’t possible or realistic, cast it to one side and continue. It doesn’t have to be realistic or possible at this point. Most worthwhile, innovative or adventurous things begin life labeled as mad ideas. Rarely do sensible well thought out and carefully- planned- from -the- beginning ideas create innovation or adventure.

To bring dream into reality all you have to do, from your wonderful future, is to tell me how you got there? As if giving me driving directions, tell me the big steps that you had to take in order to get to that future. Don’t worry about the detail, just the really big stuff. Right, got that? now return to the present moment and look at those big steps and ask yourself if doing those things would get you to that future or are there things missing? Continue to think backwards and forwards, weaving your dream into reality.

What’s up? Oh one of those things seems impossible? Place that in the future and ask if it were true what would it look like, feel like, sound like? Paint a rich picture and…you know the rest.

Happy weaving!

The Runaway Train- Read This First

The Runaway Train Or Business Owner Overwhelm

“The runaway train came over the hill and she blew” or so the song goes and its a familiar metaphor for the owner-run business. (Note: I use the term owner-run business because even if you are technically classed as a small business it might not feel small to you.) What started out as a wonderful, exciting journey full of new discoveries and opportunities can turn into a feeling of intense overwhelm. 

You first client undoubtedly gave you an absolute thrill. Doing something that you love, are good at and perhaps can do better at it than anyone else you know, is rewarding enough but when someone values that service enough to pay you it launches you into a new unknown world.

Chances are that as an owner-run business you are very, very good at what you do and have a desire to get up in the morning to go and do that thing, so much so that in the beginning you didn’t even know if you would be rewarded for doing that thing you just loved it so you just did it anyway. If you are good at something that few other people can do and deliver a fabulous service to your first client it is only a matter of time before you get another client or two or ten or sixty. At this point you are still excited and enthusiastic if a little un-nerved as to how you will meet all of this demand, never mind manage the background tasks of administration and book-keeping to name a couple. The train has started to run, you notice but it’s still ok. You decide take on or contract with people to support you and your growing business, you put more coal on the fire and let it rip.

Now you are on a runaway train, let me explain. Does any of the following sound like you?

Your coffee, by the time you drink it is always cold?

You have so many windows open on your computer it bewilders you as to how it still works?

Inevitably you need the loo but its been the case for the last two hours you just haven’t got around to it yet?

Once home you would love to tell your partner, family, cat about your day but you have lost the power of speech?

A 40 hour week is a wistful dream and not in the realms of reality?

People; employees, colleagues, clients, wife, husband, partner, family, contractors, delivery drivers are kicking off and it usually feels like it’s directed at you?

The big idea is still there but constantly appears clouded over by numerous issues so much so that you feel your focus and clear vision has been lost?

You are still in love with the destination but you are having some serious doubts about the state of your train?

It’s ok. That’s normal. In fact it’s a great sign that you are on the right track. You have recognised that something else is needed. You are an expert in your chosen field. The trouble is that now you are trying rapidly to become an expert in another field, the minefield of managing people. Managing people, their reactions and emotions towards things connected to you and your business can be the stuff of nightmares. By ’people’ I mean any human that is touched by or touches your business in any way. Everybody from suppliers to accountants, your family and friends as they can all be impacted by and impact your business. The thing is that, this little area of managing people with all of their own hopes, dreams and aspirations, is actually highly highly complex and requires an expert that’s really really good at it in order to get it right. Uh-oh, that’s not you right?

Never fear. Subscribe to our blog for weekly insights on the most prevalent problems of business owner overwhelm and solutions that you can use today, right now and certainly before your coffee goes cold.

Go, Go, Go, Slow

Frustrating isn’t it? You are flying along, everything is going fine and then, wham! Something happens that just knocks your world sideways. It might be your top technician just handed in their notice. It may be a change in industry legislation that is really going to impact how you work. Perhaps your boiler burst or your washing machine broke, the dog is sick or your kids are driving you nuts (trust me from 0-21years and beyond this never changes). Whatever is it you could certainly do without it and anyway why do these things always seem to happen to you?

Life happens and it’s easy to think that it only happens to us but in fact life happens to everyone. Simple -but no less frustrating or in fact agonising I hear you scream! Well, no however let’s consider what can be done about it.

Firstly allow yourself a little time to react, you will find some useful tips on managing your own and other peoples reaction in times of stress here:( Secondly imagine standing in the very centre with all the bits and pieces that make up your challenges. Spread these out in front of you we are going to organise them out of the chaos in which they currently exist.

Firstly, and most importantly work out which bits you have absolute control over. You don’t need anyones permission, help or collaboration to do something with this. Let’s call this the Inner Circle. Secondly, think about the things that you have a fair amount of control over, perhaps you need another person involved, a client, a supplier, your partner but you have some degree of say in what happens next. We will call this Middle Ground. Finally consider what is totally out of your control e.g industry regulations. No matter what you do from your current position you have absolutely no say on what happens. Let’s call this Out There.

Im going to give you three energy beans. They contain your time, effort, thinking, discussions, emotions and energy and you can spend them how ever you like. Now that your challenge is arranged into these three groupings it could be argued that you could spend an energy bean on each, divide them evenly. But look again, compare the Inner Circle and Out There and consider where your energy beans have most value?

Now that we are thinking about and talking about the right stuff think a little harder. Before you go rushing in to replace, fix or sort the thing look at the bigger long term picture. Hold this pesky thing up against your master plan and ask yourself if it may have just done you a favour? perhaps not but its worth pausing just for a moment to consider if the universe was just trying to lend us a helping hand to reach a bigger decision – it often does.

Why negative people are great for business

Negative people are often scorned, tip toed around or worse still, excluded. Their presence in a room can make eyes roll and heads slump into hands. Often, their reputation precedes them and they are the thing that newcomers will hear about first, their negativity having become part of the DNA of the business. In larger companies the naysayers are often those either very senior or kept well down on the ladder for what seems to be obvious reasons. Middle management is often filled with highly positive, enthusiastic, can-do people who, on a daily basis run the gauntlet of negativity. But, in an owner-run business, the individual with the reputation of ‘grumpy’ is usually up close and personal to a high percentage of people, not just those employed, but all of the people that the business interacts with on a daily basis and that means your clients!

My own take on legendary negativity came in for some realignment when I met with one individual who changed my mind forever. As I arrived at the fast growing renewables company, the CEO pulled me aside and apologised because Mark was going to be in the room that day and ‘Mark’ was verbosely negative and often left lesser mortals scurrying away seeking positive re-oxygenation. My task that day was to navigate a collaboration with another company, something that Mark was likely to react to.

He was indeed a formidable character but my memories of him these days are only good ones, warm and friendly remembering the person I said cheerio to many years ago and hoping that he is still a tornado-like personality in whatever company he works for. You see, it came to light that Mark wasn’t negative, he was just passionate. He was passionate about safety and with a wealth of experience in his head, he could see things down the line that others just couldn’t see. For many years he had been labelled ‘negative’, ‘impossible’ and on his worst days ‘obstructive’. In truth there was another side to Mark that few people could see. An immensely caring family man, he viewed every project through the eyes of a father and wondered how safe that project had to be before he would be happy letting one of his adult kids near it. His problem, if he had one, was the way he verbalised his insights into the complex challenges that faced the company; usually red-faced and ranting. Working at a senior level and in with the bricks, he was often given these labels to his face, it was in fact an in-company joke but as the accolades for negativity piled up, Mark could do nothing other than be what people expected of him, there was no way out.

Then we changed everything. We gave him a new label and worked with his thinking in a way where, as a team, we could mine the safety gold out of Marks head. The problem was keeping up. At one point three of us were taking notes as we discovered all the answers we needed to make the project a rapid and safe success were inside Mark’s head. Diamonds of thinking right there where nobody was looking. In fact they had been avoiding for years.

Months later I returned. Mark was indeed a changed man (but not too changed). He relished his job once more, still took stick from colleagues but was invited on to every new project team and was now running a far bigger team of his own.

Negative isn’t bad. Negative people are more often than not passionate about something. If you can get them pointing in the right direction they will often give you insights that no one else can see but it takes a brave and invested business owner to give them that opportunity.

Now if you really want to find the problem in a company, look for apathy, that will mess you up every time!

Although this is a true story ‘Mark’s’ name has been changed to protect his identity.

‘My Do It’ and other stories

Inspiration comes in all forms and this Easter break I was reminded of my (now) 18 year old son’s fiercely independent streak when he was a small child. We laughed as we reminisced at his total lack of fine motor skills and yet being completely intent on tying his own shoelaces, usually as I attempted to bundle he and his older brother out of the door at a time when we were already running late. As emotions mounted and I tried to intervene to help and to move the situation along in a timely manner, I was faced with “my do it” which translates into ‘I can do it, leave me alone’. ‘My do it’ was a frequent shout from my stubbornly independent toddler with sticky little hands pushing my hands out of his way. Now he is a little more savvy and can see that there is a time to learn and a time to ask for help.

In an owner run business there is a history of having nobody around to do anything other than yourself. From the concept of the business to the first invoice and everything in between, chances are the tasks have landed on only one or two pairs of shoulders in the early days. As a business grows it is incredibly difficult to know when to hand over a task, train someone else to do a task, ask for help in something you know very little about or just admit that you are exhausted and are about to have a meltdown through lack of rest or food or both. ‘My do it’ lives on although it’s not so easy to spot in fiercely independent business owners who have, in all likelihood, always thought for themselves, done things for themselves and are frankly a bunch of rebels in the best possible way.

There is a time to learn, practice and train and there is a time when experience and efficiency reign. As an owner run business that is growing rapidly a key focus should be sharing the workload, looking to grow people into their next role, taking on new talents. But that is likely only for those who join your ship. In the early years it is your innate talent and passion that drives the business forward. Keeping up to date with your industry, with one eye firmly on where you want to take your business and the other on your amazing team, you have little time to transform yourself into a graphic designer (Accountant, Film maker) over night, so don’t! Neither should you be dropping back into sending invoices if you have an amazingly competent team who have ‘got this’. Tell your ‘my do it’ to back off. Let expertise run the show.

On that note, the middle of a stormy sea is no time to hand your newest, naivest recruit the rudder and expect it to all be ok. Training in a storm is best to be avoided at all costs so plan training, changes, development for calmer times ahead. If your team lacks a competence it may be worth while looking to a valued external in the short term. I always think the most professional people are the ones who are also happy to up-skill others to create a seamless handover. So if you are in need of a graphic designer or film maker try to go for one who will be only too happy to show you how to tie your own shoe laces and yet will get the job done in a crisis.

Decisions, Decisions

We face them everyday but is there anyone who actually feels super confident in making them? The field of science that covers decision making is huge and complex. Unsurprisingly our emotions can really impact the quality of our decisions. You can read more about this side of things in this great article: However, at Monecosse, as always, it’s about the day to day and the people who are around you and your business.

First and foremost (and if you have been following my ramblings so far this won’t come as a huge surprise), decisions made whilst we are reacting to something have less chance of being good ones. Although it isn’t always possible to have breathing space between an event and making a decision, a ten second count noticing that we are in ‘Reaction’, can be enough to slow our tumbling mind and give a small spot of stability from which to make a decision on the hoof. So, to recap, stop, notice reaction, count to ten then make the urgent decision. That probably doesn’t include an impulse purchase of a zebra print sofa by the way!

Ideally, in a perfect world, we will have time and a calm state of mind when making our biggest life or business decisions (for the owner run business these are more often than not, heavily linked) and will have the knowledge to hand that we need. Good decisions can have bad outcomes and bad decisions can have good outcomes, what is for sure is that we all try to do our very best in the exact moment of making decisions but we cannot possibly predict the future. The variables involved in a decision as simple as where to go for lunch are immense. All we can hope to do is make the best decision at the time with the knowledge that we have and then to deal with the consequences (including the reaction of others) subsequently. One thing is for sure and that is making decisions in order to avoid someone else’s reaction is unlikely to be the right thing for you and your business. That is something that needs to be split back into the two separate issues that it consists of: 1. What is the decision? 2. Managing the reaction.

Finally, its worthwhile having a decision book, either a physical paper one or an electronic version. It’s a book only for decisions that feel somewhat weighty in our mind. The idea is to capture our thinking in the very moments of making a decision and why we chose a specific option. For example, ‘I am going to buy that zebra print sofa in the sale because I really love it, it makes me smile, I know that my partner won’t like it as much but I am totally prepared to deal with that reaction for the love of the sofa’. (yes I have chosen a trivial decision to make my point but it works)

Six months later you may be wondering what was going through your head when you made that decision. Now you have a record of your thinking and can see that at the time you could completely justify what you were doing, it felt right and you were all good with your decision. Just because six months on you are questioning your actions doesn’t mean your decision was a bad one, it just means that circumstances or your thinking, or both, have changed. Now you have the ability to look back at your own thought process and let yourself off the hook. More importantly you may begin to notice patterns and in doing so learn more about your own gut instincts, impulses and tendencies, and, it’s just for you. Nobody else ever needs to know about your impulse buy of 100000 paperclips in neon green.

The owner run business is a tough gig at the best of times and, from my experience, the owners are exceptionally good at beating themselves up over supposedly bad decisions. Through talking to them I discover that in fact, they made good decisions at the time but insist on beating themselves up with hindsight. It’s just one area where I think business owners can give themselves a smoother ride whilst constantly learning about themselves and the crazy, hurly, burly world in which they exist.

The Thinking Diet

It’s the last day of January and New Year’s resolutions, for most of us, fell foul a few weeks ago. Yet still the media machine will be serving us up platefuls of advice on what to eat, how to exercise, the right look, the right shape, the right clothes and and what is considered an acceptable, successful life (by whom Im not sure but that is another story). By now holiday marketing will be well underway and side by side the sale of the perfect beach body perhaps? Greedily we consume, rarely considering what we are placing in our minds and fragile thinking. Yet we buy organic, count calories and obsess about kale, what about our thinking diet? With our thoughts being at our very core, driving our emotions and behaviours, shouldn’t we be more mindful of what we comsume mentally as well as physically?

Have you ever watched a film and an image live with you for a long time, one that you cannot seem to shake out of your head no matter what? In one way it’s a sign of a fabulous film, in another it’s an example of consuming something into our thoughts in a state of relaxation. Like junk food it’s sense of immediate gratification passes quickly and we end up with a thought or image we would prefer not to have. Sometimes Its below our radar. We consume thoughts and ideas without even noticing. Interactions with social media for example can both inspire us or depress us, leaving us feeling unworthy somehow without ever knowing why. Isn’t it time we made a choice as to what social media diet we will follow? How much of it we will consume, when and where rather than allowing it to take hours of our life only to end up with negative thoughts and feelings about ourselves and others.

Others also play a part. We are all human but some humans are not good for each other. It’s not that they are necessarily bad people, just that somewhere one mind set clashes or overpowers another and that’s never a good thing. Some individuals are highly competitive even in conversation. Rather than feeling happy, inspired, supported or loved, when we leave them, we can part from a conversation feeling wholly inadequate. Is this really the food for thought that we want? If we consider who in our social life invariably makes us laugh, feel good, supported and loved who would that be? Shouldn’t they then make up the majority of our daily plate of social interactions? If not, can we control the conversations that we do have with less wholesome relationships so that we absorb only the best from it?

Books, magazines, TV and film all enter our thinking. Drama can be a wonderful bubblegum for the brain but too much at once is like eating a multipack of mars bars, nice at the time but do we really need a mindset fully charged on domestic upset, abuse, murder and desolation? Being mindful about what and how much we watch is surely what our thoughts deserve. Equally, supplementing ourselves with inspiring documentaries, informative films and historical stories can provide nutritious morsels to ponder and consider.

Our top tips for creating your best thinking diet are as follows:

A social media fast. How long – you decide but a week being off-line to break old habits seems about right. Not ready to go cold turkey, try cutting back to just 30 mins a day.

Death Eaters- (as in Harry Potter) Learn to spot which conversations seem to suck the life out of you and avoid them if you can. If this isn’t possible learn to control the conversation through being ready to lead it with questions.

Mindful Consumption: Choose your viewing material as you would your weekly shopping basket. Plenty of green leafiness with a peppering of trashy dramas! Switch to radio for half (or all) of your leisure time and discover worlds of thinking previously untouched (or unheard in this case).

News: At the risk of being controversial; very, very little news reported today is unbiased. Take an approach to find the alternative argument to what you read. Check the provenance of who has written or created it, question what is said and look for world balance not just western ideas. Anything written about celebrities isn’t news its just someone else’s life reportedly going really well or really badly (newspapers sell more with the latter) It is therefore empty calories, junk food, best left where it is.

If you are feeling down it is easy to flick through channels and surf media for hours. Get back to nature, 10 minutes fresh air and bird song is an elixir for the soul.

For our owner run businesses, consider making your place of work a clean thinking zone. Provide inspirational publications in your waiting room or staff chill out areas, have a policy on social media that reflects your values, consider walks in nature for 5-10 mins as valuable work!

For more information on how we support individuals and owner-run businesses to flourish get in touch with us to book a coffee (or green tea) powered zoom.

Curiosity Never Killed The Cat

It’s that time of year when New Years resolutions are made or pushed at us from all sides. As a business owner you are likely to be picking the reins back up and preparing for the inevitable rollercoaster ride that is exhilarating, yet at times overwhelming. Depending on your preferences you may have created a full blown business plan for the coming year, sketched some mighty goals on a white board or penciled into a spreadsheet a financial dream of a year. Whatever you have created, chances are it won’t turn out like that. Plans are great and have their place but are instantaneously out of date as soon as we create them. With so much disruption and uncertainty in our world how can you navigate, motivate and manage in this coming year?

Goals and aspirations are well defined by their very nature. They are about something and your relationship with that something. Yet there are so many variables that we cannot account for, things that are simply outwith our control. An example might be a goal to run 3 miles 4 times a week. It’s an admirable and worthy goal for body and mind wellbeing. There may be a charitable motivation connected to this or a future event, a 10k race for example. Week one you complete your plan and feel great. Week two a thick layer of ice descends upon the earth and whilst walking down the road looking like a penguin you realise that this week your plan is already lost. Urgh! That doesn’t feel good and at least makes motivation for the following week, or whenever the ice melts, a real challenge. We have basically placed ourselves within an impossible task sapping our own enthusiasm as we go.

But, what if we didn’t set these goals, aspirations and figures (yes I realise we might write some stuff down for professional reasons) but instead, what if we just got curious?

“I wonder how many miles I could clock up in 2023?” Ohh, look at the mind space you just created when thinking about things with curiosity! “I wonder how happy I could come across to others today?”, “I wonder just how disruptive I could be in my own pond?”, “I wonder if I could get a few more people like me thinking about business along side environmental issues?”

Wonder and curiosity don’t tie you down to one goal and a specific point on a graph, they blow the thing wide open and they don’t beat you up for failing to hit a target. There is no target, just a healthy curiosity about what could be possible. The scope is enormous and endless but a small achievement is equally as worthy and recognisable as progress.

Even on our darkest days we can use curiosity to turn things around. “I wonder how high I could raise the spirits of the people in the office from where they are right now?” Nothing in the business plan or the financial forecast made any mention of this and yet, and forgive me for preaching to the converted here, the vibe in your place of business means everything. It’s the heartbeat of what you are trying to do. If it is off colour or at a low ebb then you can wave as many targets around as you like chances are you have already failed.

Going back to our previous topic of ‘Reaction or the root of the world’s problems’, curiosity really helps. If we become curious about someone else’s behaviour rather than react to it then we are open to possibilities and, more importantly not reacting back to them thus preventing that rather disruptive cycle of reaction.

“I wonder why Simon is showing up like that today?” as opposed to “for goodness sake what’s wrong with him today? I only asked for the forecast and got my head chewed off. He better watch what he says to me for the rest of the day!” I’m sure as seasoned people managers I don’t need to explain the difference as to how each day would pan out simply by thinking a little differently about Simon’s surliness!

Remember, thinking drives emotions. If we are not thinking about it then we are not getting emotional about it. When I say ‘thinking’ I really mean that internal narrative that goes on in our heads, often fuelled by what we imagine might be the case rather than reality and it might go something like this: “She probably thinks that I haven’t done the forecast because I don’t know what Im doing and that’s why she is asking for it, just to catch me out. Well she can just wait. I was up at 3 am this morning with a sickly child and frankly the forecast can go and…” ( If you are interested in the phenomenon that is internal narrative try reading “Knots’ by R.D Laing, it will blow your mind!)

Finally, in a world that, at times seems to be in a not-so-good place, curiosity and wonder can not only make it bearable but can ignite a sizeable spark of hope. Whatever element of world events seems to be getting you down, get curious about it, permit yourself to wonder what tiny little thing you could do about it within your sphere of influence. Dedicate a single energy bean to it mindfully but within your own limits. Recognise when you have taken an action and know that others must be doing similar things. For example, if you find the war in Ukraine hard to stomach as many of us do, be a little curious. “How can I let a stranger in the Ukraine know that I am thinking about them?” Do it collectively over coffee with your people but setting limits and boundaries, knowing that unless you give up your business and work to become elected as an MP and all that that entails, you won’t be able to influence UN Russian sanctions to a great level! You may however decide amongst you to book a room through Air B and B in The Ukraine that you have no intention of using, sending a message to the proprietor of love and solidarity. I am sure your own curiosity will come up with better and more imaginative ways to deal with the world, I’d love to hear about them in the comments section below.

Curiosity won’t kill the cat, in fact it will keep him healthy, hopeful and happy. If you are enjoying our little thought ramblings please sign up and invite interested others to do the same. It really helps me to know that there are real people out there not just the daunting blank page!

Telepathic Tendencies

We have all been there, that situation where you are certain that you have told somebody something only for them to swear blind that you haven’t. Take my husband for example who was certain he had told me that he was travelling to Canada. I am quite certain he hadn’t and as such had arranged a couple of friends to pop round for supper that evening. Concerned as to his lateness I made a call and was surprised to hear the long drawn out ring tone of a phone abroad. What happened next did not break the relationship but strong words were had on both sides. What happened? Who was right?

This week’s ramble seems to be more about home life stuff than the actual business end of the owner-run business. However the same telepathic tendencies happen between all humans so feel free to pick this up and apply it anywhere you like. It’s one thing that makes Monecosse stand out; we see managing people as not just something that happens inside business walls, its everywhere and yet it all has the ability to impact you and what you are trying to achieve in your business, therefore it’s really, really important to get it right.

The thing is, we all have an endless internal narration going on inside of our head, every waking moment (unless we are meditating and even then we are usually screaming silently to our mind to shut up or are whisked along for a ride on it before realising that we are suppose to be meditating). We may pick up and roll the same thought around our mind many times without so much as a word about it leaving our mouth. We might put that thought down for a few days whilst something else shoots across our bow (See ‘Crackerjack’ Nov 2022) only to wonder “now where did I get to with this?” when we return to that original thought waiting for us patiently in the chest of drawers of prevailing thoughts.

This is the point where the seed that will likely set off fireworks at a later date is sown. That pesky little thought will seem so familiar to us, we have picked it up several times and had huge internal chatter about it that it is likely to feel like common knowledge, not just to us but in fact the whole world. How on earth could anyone have failed to hear that he was catching the 10.15 flight to Ontario on Thursday when he had been stressing about it for weeks?

At this point it’s quite easy to have some empathy with my husband. After all he was absolutely convinced he had told me, not just once but that in fact we had spoken about it several times. Thankfully it isn’t just him that suffers from this side effect of being human and yes I have ‘made up’ for it with my own slips in communication many times since. It is a very human thing to do and yet, it can cause utter chaos. Let’s leave some spice at home, the unexpected keeps relationships alive does it not? Perhaps we could just be a little more understanding when we are on the receiving end and, when caught out by our own lack of telepathic powers, be willing to accept that it is perfectly possible to land in this situation.

In business however it is as well to make things explicit. If its a really important thought marble running around our mind that could conceivably cause chaos for others, how about we write down our thought in our diary/phone/calendar/ gadget that I’ve never heard of, and put a question next to it: “Did I communicate this to everyone who needs to know this?” It’s then worth checking to make sure that at the time we communicated to them (business partner, colleague, wife, husband, partner, child, mother) that their own brain wasn’t swamped by something else (‘Reaction’: next blog and the cause of the world’s problems-no joke!) in which case they couldn’t possibly have heard the message anyway.

Oh the joy of human thinking! And you thought you just had to get on and run your business doing what you do best. Don’t worry, this is our bag and we can help you to get all of that human wibble wobble straightened out so that you can get on with the real job at hand.

Reaction-Or The Root Of The World’s Problems

No, Im not kidding, this week’s blog is universal in the widest possible sense. When Newton spoke about equal and opposite reactions he really was on to something. This is such a huge topic it’s difficult to know where to start but start we must and the easiest place to start is with oneself.

We all react to things at various levels many times a day. We wake up late (damn) we have no coffee (drat) and then we drop our toast on the floor and it lands, of course, butter side down (that’s it I’ve had enough I’m going back to bed). The reactions we have to these things would change if we had different thoughts about them. For example if it were a Sunday and we had absolutely nothing on and we woke up late compared to a Monday morning with a very important 8.30am meeting? Our thinking, therefore our emotions, therefore our reaction would be very, very different in each case. All this and we haven’t even left the house yet!

Reaction is very normal, it’s human and even if you are the coolest cucumber in the box you will still experience reaction, you just might not display it as clearly as the drama queen next door. The good thing about reaction is that eventually it comes to a natural end as normal service resumes we begin to think more clearly and start to work things out (Do I make another piece of toast or just run for the train?) We call this ‘reframe’ a state of thinking that is really useful when we are trying to get some clarity about something. We will get to this another time but for now its time to launch our reactive little human out into the world of billions of other reactive little humans and see what happens (looking for the gritted teeth emoji right now).

So when we hear something for the first time (our first client cancelled, we didn’t get the order or our co worker just right royally messed up on something important ) we react, and, as we now know our reaction depends upon how we think about that thing; what’s the real or imagined impact on us, how do we perceive our own and other peoples behaviour at the time, How do we feel about it all? And, when we react towards someone guess what, they react right back towards us. 

“How on earth did you manage to mess that up?”

“Well I had a lot on my mind and you weren’t around”

“But I thought you said you could handle it?”

“Well I did just not in the way you would have done it”

“The right way”

“The wrong way”

You get the idea. This interaction will either die out quite quickly or explode. The perfect position would be if we could get these people out of the cycle of reaction and all of the emotion that surrounds it and into ‘reframe’ but as long as they continue to pour fuel on each others fire the reaction just keeps on coming.

Now there is one thing that really doesn’t work. Never ever in the history of telling someone to “calm down” has anyone ever actually calmed down. In fact that phrase should only be sold with the licence that they sell fireworks with. Equally, telling someone “Im going to tell you something but I don’t want you to react” has and never will prevent reaction. These well known phrases exist because humans simply hate reaction in others. We find it icky, awkward or just downright terrifying, best to be avoided altogether. But, you need to manage your business, expectations and people right? How on earth do you make decisions, communicate your requirements, ask people to make changes and adjustments, give bad news, give good news and not have anyone react back at you? In short, you don’t. Reaction is part of being a human and even more obvious when you are required to manage the reaction of other humans because you run a business.

Now in order that I don’t completely ruin your Christmas let me give you a little gift. This gift will manage reaction perfectly and might just come in handy over the holidays.

If you find yourself in a situation where someone is reacting at you, ranting, frustrated, annoyed, upset or overwhelmed use this. Imaging you are holding a piece of card, facing you are the words “It is not about you” on the other side facing the reactive person it says “tell me more’. In a reactive situation take said imaginary card and point “tell me more” at the person, just keep asking them to tell you a little more, listen very carefully and then ask them to tell you a bit more. Whilst doing this remind yourself over and over that what they are saying and doing ‘is not about you’ it’s just reaction. It can ‘feel’ very personal but it isn’t, it’s just reaction. If you mine the reaction from someone rather than trying to put a stopper on it, or throw fuel on it (trying to fix their problem does this very well “may I suggest…” is pretty much a red rag to a bull) eventually there will be no more, it runs out. Like handkerchiefs from a magicians hat you get to the end eventually. At this point normal thinking service can resume. It’s very important to keep to the script here, no improvisation, no padding out your own part ok? You have three words to say, that’s it. Stick to the script!

So we made a start on the enormous topic of reaction. Next time I’ll talk a little bit about how people cannot hear a thing when they are reacting making it a highly effective political tool and what you do when the handkerchiefs stop coming? Look out for our posts about inspiring businesses or get in touch to tell us about yours!



According to psychologists the human mind can only work with 7 things (+ or – 2) at any one time. So when we say that we have a hundred things on our mind it just isn’t the case, in fact, that would be impossible even for Einstein. However, this may explain why we feel so overwhelmed at times as the mind battles to rearrange thoughts in order to manage space in its processing area (working memory). Some topics need to be let go off or put on the sidelines in order for thinking to happen but if we are constantly trying to remind ourself about taxing the car and the finance meeting at the same time as thinking through our next client interaction its going to feel a lot like a 1980’s children’s game show where prizes were piled into the arms of the contestants along with booby prizes of cabbages. The name of the game was not to drop any prizes but inevitably that is exactly what happened on most occasions. ‘Crackerjack’ was a personal favourite I was convinced that I could have held many prizes along with at least 5 cabbages at any one time.

Fast forwards 20 years and I am still juggling things with cabbages only now this takes place in my mind and I am not nearly as good at it as my 12 year old self would have me believe.  This muddle of things does a great job of clouding my thinking and I am in danger of focussing on the wrong thing and dedicating my precious 7 thinking spots to cabbages rather than prizes with the important stuff competing for a processing spot as soon as one becomes available.  

On days like these it is common to spend many moments feeling like we have forgotten something. Sometimes we have indeed forgotten something and the cold sweat ensues as we come to the realisation that it is in fact a birthday or an anniversary. Sometimes that feeling is just a feeling that doesn’t turn into a frenzied shopping drama but rather just haunts us throughout the day. In both cases these feelings can be linked to overwhelm which is never a good place to be if we want to remain calm with focused clear thinking.

In addition, research on the effects of stress on the mind and body are enough to send us all scurrying to the nearest meditation retreat. Mindfulness as a concept is growing rapidly, so much so that in places it is now being prescribed as a solution to stress by medical professionals. Thinking drives it all. If our thoughts are messy then our emotions will follow and that is simply a whole world of pain.

As a business owner however it is tough to get the time to calm our thoughts. Someone telling us to calm down is likely to have the opposite effect and the word ‘prioritise’ drives us nuts because it is all a priority, isn’t it? 

We have, as I say 7 spots + or – 2 to dedicate to things on our mind, thinking that requires processing. A noisy radio could easily occupy one and a car journey across a busy city will take up at least two at the same time. A frustrated mental wrangle with the economy or the political situation will steal resource from us and an unpaid parking fine and an upcoming school play will see us almost full to the point of overwhelm. That is all before we attempt to manage our business.

A habit that I find useful to adopt is to write down absolutely everything buzzing around my mind first thing in the morning. I really try not to leave anything out at all and then I consider which items on that list can wait until after 1pm that day. I cross these items out and write them up on another list which is then put in a drawer with a promise to myself to return to this list after 1pm. I usually find that there are only 4 or 5 things left that absolutely must have my attention. This has worked so well that in recent years, slightly by accident, I have kept 7 coffee beans on my desk. Its a reminder to myself that I only have so much thinking energy available to me and causes me to be mindful as to where I spend that energy each day.  

Energy beans are an important finite resource. Choose to spend them wisely each day and discover a mind free of pointless political argument and cabbages.

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