Skip navigation

My teenage daughter had a test at school and came home with this story – “I didn’t do well, I wasn’t good enough, and some people thought it was funny”.DSCN1287

She didn’t talk about what she got right – or what she had learned from the experience. Her “imperfection” made her & others think “she was just not good enough”.

I’ve seen this in my work in coaching leaders – the drive to be “perfect” still dominates our workplaces. Leaders avoid “admitting weakness” or “showing vulnerability”, and being openly “imperfect” is a scary option.

That said, recently I saw a construction site manager share his  “imperfections” as a leader, and ask his team to help him work on them. He showed that he WAS ordinary and WAS human, and it really helped the relationships with his team.

My daughter did the same, finally shaking off the “I’m not good enough tag” and embracing her “imperfections” as a source of power – not weakness – time to revise better and be bolder at answering questions – you are good enough ALREADY.

imp5I came across a song that was named in a book I was reading – the song was called Anthem, by Leonard Cohen – the key line is “Forget your perfect offering, there is a crack, a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in” 🙂

Enough said – we are not robots – we are human – and our imperfections are part of who are  – at our best..

CONSCIOUS CHOICE : Do you need to let go of trying to be “perfect”? How are you embracing you’re “imperfections”? How are you sharing your vulnerabilities and getting support for them? Are you being brilliant at being ordinary, by being your “imperfect” self ?

By Steve Holliday, Rugby, UK


This time of year creates a real sense of new possibilities.

So I have a question for you……………..”What’s calling YOU in 2013?”Sunrise-over-the-sea

Now look at the list you have. Which of them are REALLY calling YOU?

I was asked this by a colleague earlier in 2012 about some stuff I said I was really committed to.

They said “Steve, I want you to write 2 lists – one called “your rackets” and one called “your commitments”.

Your “rackets” are the things you SAY you really want and yet you never quite get to them – mind you they often stay on a long wish list.

Your “commitments” are also the things you SAY you want – though the energy you bring to them oozes from your every pore – you go out of your way to engage in them – you make it happen – every day !

Mmmm….I went away for 15 mins and came back – “I don’t have any rackets!” I said. He smiled and asked me to “look harder !” 🙂

Mmmm….another 15 mins later I was shocked. I had a few “rackets” that I just needed to drop. More importantly, I had a “racket” that I THOUGHT was a “really deep commitment” to something important to me.

commitment2Here I was telling myself I really wanted this particular thing to happen in my life, and yet what real action had I taken in recent days and weeks to even start to live it – very little. 😦

I’ve learned that its’ simple – it’s about the energy we bring to the things that really DO matter and are “calling to us” – the other stuff just doesn’t matter – end of.

I’m clear what’s REALLY calling me right now – are you?

CONSCIOUS CHOICE : What’s calling you in 2013? What are your rackets and when will you let them go? What are your real commitments and how are you oozing them from your every pore, every single day? Who’s help do you need to keep bringing your energy to them?

By Steve Holliday, Rugby, UK

This is a short story about how the way we choose to see people can influence how we engage them and how they respond to us – and how if we own the “lenses” we see people through, we can have very different conversations.

This is Cyril. He’s my Grandfather.

On a recent visit, I noticed I was stuck with a particular way of seeing him – “an old man” – forgetful, ageing, struggling to walk. I spent 15 minutes seeing all the evidence that he WAS “an old man”.

Then something changed in me. Cyril got up, grabbed his walking frame tightly and as I watched him battle his way across the carpet to pop to the bathroom and back, I now saw a man of strength and courage.

I saw just how large, well-defined and powerful his hands were – those he fought with as a soldier and boxer, worked with in a foundry and construction,  and often threatens us playfully with, whenever my brother and I try to kiss his bald head – once a fighter always a fighter.

In this moment I had a new lens to see him through. On return he told me a funny story about his new mobile phone, and the fun he had after ringing the wrong person so many times. Instead of seeing “Mr Forgetful”, I engaged and confessed that at 41 yrs old, I do it too ! We both laughed and said “what are we like!”.

I now saw a man full of humour, charisma and fun – a warm man who I love and respect dearly, still very much alive and being his best.

I can’t be sure that he behaved any differently as a result of me changing my “lens” – I certainly did though. We were back having the same sort of conversations – “good crack”, we always say.

We parted on the usual joke about his 2 halves of beer in the club on a Sunday lunchtime. “Don’t get too much” I said. “They haven’t brewed enough son” he replied with a smile.

This man was always there – I just wasn’t looking for him.

CONSCIOUS CHOICE : How are you choosing  to see others? What might it be like for you to choose a different way of seeing them, and seeing more of who they really are?

By Steve Holliday, Rugby, UK

Recently we’ve experienced the amazing efforts of our Olympic GB Team to deliver on their dreams.

We can learn from their conscious choices:-

Choice #1 – getting behind a deep personal belief in a future dream you have
Choice #2 – engaging people in your dream and asking really big things of them
Choice #3 – creating a powerful plan,  then stepping up to really do the work

We’ve also seen Olympians, like rower Alan Campbell, stare heartbreak square in the face after 4 years of effort – exhausted and crying – then standing tall and proud, learning from it, picking up their dream and carrying on.

Choice#4 – staying committed & active in living your dream – whatever the results today.

A friend of mine has a big dream for their work, and was recently told by a senior manager “you can’t change anything around here on your own” and “you’re really not senior enough to make something like that happen”.

Two things struck me initially – the manager saying this to my friend was stuck in this story of it “not being possible”, and then my friend was rocked onto the back foot by this right hook – pushed to reconsider their dream – time to give up or time to carry on?

In this moment they were just as inspiring as the Olympians, when they told me:-

* I still have that big dream, and remain committed, despite today
* I’m going to engage the right people and ask for some really big help
* I’m going to get clearer on the real work that needs doing – and go do it

CONSCIOUS CHOICE : What are your dreams today? Whose help are you really asking for right now? What is the real work that needs doing now? When others tell you it’s not possible today, how are you staying committed, standing tall and carrying on?

Steve Holliday, Leadership Coach & Consultant
Rugby, UK

A story from Mike Collins, a talented colleague and friend I’ve had the pleasure to meet in the last 2 years – a story about consciously choosing to “listen – really listen”.

We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak’ was one of my granddad’s favourite sayings when he wanted a little quiet time.

It came back to me after a recent coaching session where I had started to explore how intently I was/wasn’t listening to people around me.

The initial practice goal I set myself was to listen intently to the next 5 people I met and see what I could learn about them and what they were doing in their lives.

As my colleague Steve says I was ‘going to give someone a good listening to’.

As luck would have it the next day was my sister in laws wedding and looking round the group of characters sat in church I relished the thought of sitting next to a complete stranger and listening intently to them.

You’ve guessed it already; my sister in law in her wisdom seated me next to my mother in law, I can see the fun the happy couple had when creating table layouts.

Now, my wife was in on my goals and she sat across the table from me with tears of laughter in her eyes and a look that was saying ‘go on then, listen’ – so I did, quietly and intently for an hour and a half.

To my complete astonishment I discovered that I was indeed sitting next to a complete stranger. I realised much to my discomfort, that early in our relationship I’d made a snap decision about her and I’d stopped listening.

I learnt more in that 90 minutes than I had in the previous 28 years, about how she felt about me, my family, her role in our family and the fact that she wanted to be ‘friends’.

So go on give it a try, choose a number like I did and then listen intently – put aside your own agenda and discover a whole new exciting and interesting world that’s passing you by.

CONSCIOUS CHOICE – How are you giving those around you a “good listening to?” What will you find out about others if you choose to really listen? What might you find out about you when you do?

Mike Collins, Manchester, UK

A story from Neville Duncan, Sports Development Manager for Young People – and my best friend too – a story about consciously choosing to carry on, at the very moment you feel you can’t…………

I was attempting a coast to coast bike ride in one day – 134 miles on a mountain bike – on my 40thbirthday.

Waskerley Way

I’d done 72 miles and climbed 2000ft – just past half way. It was dark, cold and miserable, with a strong head wind, and big hills to come. I was emotionally low and lacking confidence.

I told myself:-

“6 months of training was going to be wasted – You’re going to let down your family – and yourself – Your legs have gone Duncan – you’re on a steep decline to exhaustion”

2 miles to go until my next stop – starting a climb of 1000ft to the highest point of my ride – “I won’t get up there”, I told myself. “You’re tired, hungry and broken”.

I got despondent and tearful, yet chose to carry on and somehow managed to get to the next stop.

I was met by my dad and son, who had been my brilliant support crew since we started at 4.40am. I didn’t tell them how I was feeling. I was embarrassed about the idea of giving up.

This tiny village had a bike shop – bizarre to say the least!  Somehow seeing my family and the bike shop, triggered something in me:-

“If I can get an energy drink, stuff my face with jelly babies and have a rest, I might be okay?”

After 10 minutes, a quick oil of my chain by the shop owner, and a sudden sugar rush, I was aware I WAS choosing to carry on – “I’m ready to go” – so off I went.

So did I finish? – you bet I did 🙂 – 12 and half hours after leaving Whitehaven, I was in Tynemouth! – I  had done 134 miles – my longest and greatest achievement yet on my mountain bike.

So how did I ever get to the shop AND then get up the 1000ft climb? I don’t know.

Maybe personal traits were shining through – stubbornness, courage, and pride. Maybe seeing my support network was enough – with some body fuel too !

Henry Ford said this – “Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal” – I agree – I’d somehow become dismayed by the overall aim, instead of the immediate goal.

I did consciously choose to just look at the next hill, before that shop – and after it – and if I could get up that, then it was downhill for a bit – suddenly it was doable again.

I think that in small bold steps – anything is possible – and it doesn’t feel as scary.

CONSCIOUS CHOICE – How are you consciously choosing to stay focussed on that immediate goal? Have you got a great support network and planned good rest and fuel stops too, for your adventures in life?

Neville Duncan, Newcastle, UK

…and in that moment, I had a conscious choice to make – as a parent – about the kind of dad I wanted to be.

My 15 year-old son was doing what 15 year-olds do – questioning everything, believing nothing, and brilliantly certain about his own views of the topic in hand.

..and I was sitting on the edge of an either / or moment as his dad – do I:-

a) argue, push back, and make clear MY assessment is the truth? Putting this 5 feet 11 inch boy in his place gives me power and control, and shuts down debate – and for a while I feel better – though he may not – as I make him wrong for holding onto an opinion I disagreed with.


b) stay calm and inquisitive about his opinion, learn something new, or even be wrong? This keeps US connected – ME connected – to this amazing young person – for a few seconds more – to share perspectives – even be changed by each other.

……and the subject of such heated discussion?………when should the words “ate” or “eaten” be used ? !

I caught myself thinking about the kind of dad I wanted to be and that he’d want me to be – during more serious debates to come too.

The choice was clear – EVENTUALLY 🙂 – option B – stay connected – not to win or avoid losing – to build with him and learn together.

The outcome? – we learned what it was like to “agree to disagree” and laugh about it.

CONSCIOUS CHOICE – What conscious choices will you make today, to give up the need to be right, to ensure you stay connected to others, so you could build something together that you never planned on – however trivial or important?

Steve Holliday

Myself & 5 fellow northern folk, all novice open water swimmers, recently decided to attempt to relay swim the English Channel in Summer 2014- a significant step beyond our usual open water river & lake adventures.

I’ve been reflecting on what it took “in me” to make this “conscious choice”. Was I really conscious in my choices? Was I really able to freely choose?

I believe I did have “conscious choice”, whatever the constraints I was and wasn’t aware of – but the key question for me was how I did it?

The first step was facing the reality of my current abilities, and accepting my own part in being the novice open water swimmer I am today – and being clear what I was good at too.

Then I could dare to believe how great I wanted to be, and explore some exciting and scary possibilities – including what doing something BIG might be like – with other fine folk – inside newly forming relationships.

Making the conscious choice and committing to do Channel Relay 2014 IS is a step into the unknown – scary and exciting all at the same time – and I know I’m responsible and accountable for making the choice to go for it.

It strikes me that when I work with leaders and teams, I encourage them to take exactly these same conscious commitments and choices about what THEY want to and CAN make happen – and step in and have a real go.

So what’s it like for you? How do you experience the challenge of making really “conscious choices”? – let me know your stories 🙂 Steve

%d bloggers like this: