Feeling overwhelmed? Try Eating a Frog 🐸

🤡 Plate spinning

🤹‍♂️ Juggling balls

🐹 Hamster wheel...

You’d be forgiven for thinking I work in the circus, but these are the phrases that I hear over and over to describe the relentlessness of leading a school. As an ex-procrastinator with restless and pleaser saboteurs, I know how overwhelming the never ending to do lists can feel. My work as a wellbeing coach involves helping people to find the strategies that work for them, to improve their sense of self and control. In this blog, I want to introduce the ‘Eat the Frog’ methodology, a simple yet powerful approach to productivity, even if you’re a pro procrastinator! This technique provides tools to tackle the least appealing tasks with confidence, helping you navigate the never-ending to-do list and drastically reduce anxiety and overwhelm.

Below, I’ve broken the method down into actionable steps, specifically with your wellbeing in mind:

Step 1: Identify and Prepare to Eat Your Frog

The "frog" represents your most daunting and important task of the day. This is the task that, if completed, will have the most significant impact on your wellbeing and outcomes at work. As a leader, it could be a crucial strategic decision, a difficult conversation with a team member, or writing a response to a particularly challenging parent. It is nearly always something you don’t want to do!

When to identify the frog?

At the end of each workday, spend a few minutes identifying your frog for the next day. A frog is always an ‘important-urgent’ task and will often have serious consequences if it’s not completed. Consider your levels of anxiety and overwhelm a serious consequence! If you know you’ll alleviate those feelings by completing the task, then the task is a frog. You might think, "but everything is an important-urgent task!" While this might feel true, prioritise your frogs, as this helps bring perspective. Frogs can’t wait (there’s an immediate consequence), whereas other tasks (tadpoles) can.

Outline the steps required to tackle your frog. Break it down into manageable chunks if it feels overwhelming and set up your workspace the night before. Consider setting boundaries (e.g., an out-of-office message, a sign on your door, or informing your SBM that you’re not available between x and y) to reduce in-person and digital distractions. Consider what resources you need to complete the tasks and get them ready.

Step 2: Eating the Frog

Morning is the ideal time to address your most important task because you are typically more focused and have higher energy levels. Make sure you’ve fuelled yourself with breakfast (and coffee if you’re like me!)

Begin working on your frog as soon as you start your workday. Avoid checking emails or social media until you've made significant progress—using the Pomodoro method may help if, like me, you find yourself checking emails/WhatsApp without realising you’ve come off task. Eliminate distractions: turn off notifications, hide your phone, close unnecessary tabs, and let your team know you need some uninterrupted time.

If you need a break from eating your frog, that’s okay—frogs are meaty tasks! Allow yourself to get out of the office, change the scene, get some fresh air, or if that’s not possible, stretch, breathe, and meditate until you feel ready to return to the frog (remember how satisfied you’ll feel when it’s done).

Step 3: Be Mindful of Tadpoles

Tadpoles are ‘should do’ tasks, unlike frogs which are ‘must do’. Tadpole tasks often have mild consequences—someone might be inconvenienced or unhappy, but they are not as critical as a frog. Don’t be distracted by tadpoles until you’ve eaten your frog. Your saboteurs will lure you into dealing with them because they are less challenging and you’ll convince yourself you’ve been productive. But until that frog is eaten, you won't feel entirely emotionally satisfied.

Step 4: Reflect and Adjust

At the end of the day, reflect on your progress and adjust your approach as needed. Remember, a frog can’t always be eaten in one day—the realities of working in a school and your responsibilities mean that you need to be reactive and operational. It’s not realistic to chain yourself to a desk, and that’s not what eating the frog is about. It’s about persevering with a task until it’s done. Maybe you dealt with a few tadpoles in-between to give yourself a break—fine! But remember, being strategic is also part of your job and not an add on that should be tackled in your own time.

Before you leave work, evaluate what worked/didn’t work. Did you successfully eat your frog? If not, what were the obstacles? Too many distractions? Didn’t have all the data you needed? Too hungry to concentrate? Identify the next day’s frog (and this could be eating the same frog) and repeat the process. Consistency is key to making this methodology a habit. If you’re wondering how to get through your tadpoles if you only eat frogs, remember, eating the frog helps to free up headspace and time to complete some of the less urgent-important tasks.

Feel free to share your experiences and tips on how you integrate this methodology into your daily routine. Reach out if you’d like me to introduce this, and other supportive wellbeing and productivity strategies, to you and your team at a staff workshop or INSET day.

 

 


Building Connections: What is a LEGO® Serious Play Workshop?

In 2023 I became a LEGO® Serious Play facilitator and it transformed the way I facilitate group coaching and team workshops.

In the bustling landscape of modern workplaces, fostering a sense of connection and inclusion among team members is paramount. Enter LEGO Serious Play, a dynamic methodology that transcends traditional brainstorming techniques, offering a unique avenue for teams to collaborate, innovate, and find solutions together. At its core, LEGO Serious Play harnesses the power of play and creativity to unlock the full potential of every participant, ensuring that each voice is heard and valued.

So, what exactly is LEGO Serious Play? Developed by the LEGO Group in the late 1990s, this innovative approach is far more than just building with LEGO bricks. It's a facilitated process where participants use LEGO elements to construct metaphorical models that represent their thoughts, ideas, and experiences related to a given topic or challenge. These models serve as tangible expressions of individual and collective insights, sparking meaningful discussions and driving collaborative problem-solving. As a facilitator and coach, I have the privilege of being able to hold this space for others.

One of the most profound aspects of LEGO Serious Play is its ability to give everyone a voice. In a traditional meeting setting, certain individuals may dominate the conversation, while others may hesitate to speak up. However, when participants engage in hands-on building activities, barriers to communication are lowered, and individuals of all personality types and communication styles are encouraged to contribute. Whether you're an introvert (like me) who prefers expressing ideas through tactile experiences or an extrovert who thrives on verbal dialogue, LEGO Serious Play provides a level playing field for all.

At its essence, LEGO Serious Play is about more than just building models; it's about building connections. By actively engaging with one another through a medium that is both familiar and engaging, teams strengthen their bonds and develop a deeper understanding of their colleagues' strengths, experiences, and perspectives. In a world where feeling connected and valued is more important than ever, LEGO Serious Play offers a powerful tool for building inclusive, cohesive teams that thrive on collaboration and creativity.

In conclusion, LEGO Serious Play is a transformative methodology that empowers teams to harness the power of play, creativity, and collaboration to tackle challenges and drive innovation. By giving everyone a voice, a chance to be creative, and an opportunity to contribute to shared solutions, LEGO Serious Play fosters a culture of inclusivity, connection, and belonging. So, whether you're looking to strengthen team dynamics, work on leadership develop, or create a new curriculum, consider giving LEGO Serious Play a try—you might just be surprised by the outcomes. Check out the video below from my recent LSP Workshop with LYFTA.

 

https://youtu.be/35LHx01kOA0


Changing Environments for Inner Balance

A changing environment revitalises our sense of wellbeing. It offers opportunities to gain new perspectives, clarity, and experience the magic of different sensory stimulation. When we're exposed to diverse environments, our minds are challenged to adapt and learn, leading to expanded perspectives and increased mental and physical creativity. The variety of sensory experiences in different environments can stimulate our senses, invigorate our minds, and enhance our overall sense of vitality and presence in the world. This is why, when I can, I get away. Working from home is a gift, but in order to feel alive, I need to travel.

I visited Marrakesh for the first time in April, with the idea of researching a selection of the riads and rooftop restaurants for a future retreat for my community. The narrow, labyrinthine streets of the medina, adorned with colourful textiles, intricate tile work, and every kind and colour of spice, offered a stark contrast to the familiar landscapes of my countryside home. Getting lost in the maze-like alleys became a thrilling adventure in itself, a metaphor for embracing the unknown and relinquishing control (but thank God for Google Maps or I’d still be there!)

Beyond the sensory overload and the allure of the exotic, it was the spiritual nature of Marrakesh that truly resonated with me. Amidst the hustle and bustle of the city, there existed an undeniable sense of tranquility and serenity. I found solace in the quiet corners of the city's many riads, where the sound of trickling fountains and the scent of orange blossom oil filled the air.

In Marrakesh, I found a delicate balance between the tranquility of the traditional Moroccan houses and the vibrant energy of the medina's streets. Each offered its own unique experience, and I came to appreciate the need for both in my life. The peaceful refuge of the riads provided a sanctuary for introspection and reflection, allowing me to recharge and find inner harmony amidst the chaos of the city. Conversely, the bustling streets of the medina ignited my sense of adventure and curiosity, pushing me out of my comfort zone and encouraging exploration. Despite being an introvert, the change of environment excites and rejuvenates me. A typical Libra, I need the balance of both in my life. 

If you're seeking guidance in navigating your own journey of self-discovery and personal growth, consider transitional life coaching. Consider changing your environment. Seek the moments where you can find peace amongst the chaos.

 


The Farmer & The Stallion

The story of The Farmer and the Stallion is an example of one of my many coaching strategies that draws on ancient wisdom. The story serves as a powerful metaphor which helps you to reflect on acceptance, resilience and how you can face challenging situations with equanimity. It’s one of my favourite tools to use to help the people I work with to find some peace in any situation…

In a tranquil village, there lived a wise farmer known for his philosophical outlook on life. One day, the farmer's prized stallion escaped from its stable, leaving the villagers to express their sympathy. They gathered around him, sharing their condolences for what seemed to be a misfortune.

Remaining composed, the farmer replied, "Who knows what is good, and what is bad." The villagers were puzzled by his response. Days later, the escaped stallion returned, accompanied by a group of wild horses. The villagers, now delighted for the farmer's apparent good fortune, congratulated him on his newfound wealth.

Once again, the farmer calmly responded, "Who knows what is good, and what is bad." As his son attempted to tame the wild horses, he was thrown off and broke his leg. The villagers, returning to offer their sympathy, spoke of the unfortunate turn of events. The farmer, however, retained his composure, repeating, "Who knows what is good, and what is bad."

Soon after, the village found itself in the midst of war, and all able-bodied young men were conscripted. Due to his broken leg, the farmer's son was spared from the harsh realities of the battlefield. The villagers, now understanding the profound wisdom in the farmer's words, recognised that life's twists and turns are not always as they seem.

The story of the farmer and the stallion teaches us about the uncertainty of labelling challenges as strictly positive or negative. It underscores the idea that our initial judgments may not accurately capture the ultimate nature and outcomes of a situation. Here are key lessons:

1. Unpredictability of Outcomes:
The story highlights that what may initially seem like a setback or misfortune can lead to unexpected positive outcomes, and vice versa. It encourages us to be cautious about making definitive judgments about the nature of challenges.

How can you suspend immediate judgments about a current challenge, allowing space for unexpected positive outcomes to emerge over time?

2. Long-Term Perspective:
By repeating the phrase "Who knows what is good, and what is bad," the story prompts us to consider the long-term consequences and benefits of a situation. It discourages hasty labeling and encourages patience in waiting to see how events unfold.

What steps can you take to adopt a more patient and long-term perspective when faced with challenges, resisting the urge to make hasty judgments?

3. Avoiding Assumptions:
The farmer's attitude challenges the assumption that we can accurately predict the future impact of a challenge. It urges us to approach difficulties with an open mind, avoiding rigid assumptions about their inherent positivity or negativity.

In what ways can you challenge assumptions about the inherent positivity or negativity of a situation, fostering a more open-minded approach to understanding its complexities?

4. Mindset of Acceptance:
The story promotes a mindset of acceptance, urging us to acknowledge the uncertainty inherent in life. Instead of resisting challenges or immediately categorising them, it encourages a more open and accepting approach to the ebb and flow of circumstances.

How might incorporating a mindset of acceptance influence your ability to navigate challenges, allowing you to approach them with greater equanimity?

5. Resisting Dualistic Thinking:
The story discourages dualistic thinking where situations are categorized as purely good or bad. It invites us to embrace complexity and recognize that the true nature of events often transcends simplistic binary labels.

What practices can you implement to avoid dualistic thinking and embrace the complexity of situations, recognizing that they often exist on a spectrum rather than in black-and-white terms?

6. Cultivating Equanimity*:
Through the farmer's calm demeanour in the face of both perceived good and bad events, the story teaches us the value of cultivating equanimity – a balanced and composed mindset that doesn't get swayed by the immediate emotional impact of a situation.

What strategies can you employ to cultivate a sense of equanimity, remaining composed and balanced regardless of whether a situation is initially perceived as positive or negative?

* equanimity

/ˌiːkwəˈnɪmɪti,ˌɛkwəˈnɪmɪti/
noun
calmness and composure, especially in a difficult situation.
"she accepted both the good and the bad with equanimity"

 


3 Japanese Concepts to influence your Headship

As many of you know, I'm an avid traveler, as well as a dedicated advocate for intentional well-being. In my coaching circles, I frequently stress the significance of changing your environment (and booking holidays!) to enhance well-being. Currently, I'm eagerly researching a future trip to Japan. You might be familiar with my discussions on Ikigai, the Japanese concept of 'core purpose,' promoting fulfilment and purposeful living. Its popularity in the West aligns with the pursuit of work-life balance and well-being, mirroring growing self-help trends. Beyond Ikigai, there are other Japanese philosophies worth exploring for enhancing leadership values and personal well-being. Here are three lesser known Japanese concepts to delve into further, which I think are particularly helpful for navigating a values -led headship:

1. Wabi-Sabi 侘び寂び
Wabi-Sabi, a Japanese concept, celebrates imperfection, impermanence, and simplicity's beauty. Integrating it into well-being practices promotes self-acceptance and appreciating the present moment. In headship, embracing Wabi-Sabi involves recognizing unique strengths and imperfections within a team, fostering an environment aligned with the school’s core values for acceptance and growth.

2. Kaizen カイゼン
Rooted in continuous improvement, Kaizen emphasises making small, incremental changes for improvement, or a preferable term, ‘betterment’. Applied to well-being, it encourages consistent, positive habits for long-term improvement. In leadership, Kaizen supports a culture of continuous learning. For school leaders, incorporating Kaizen means nurturing an environment where small, positive changes align with the school’s vision and values, promoting sustained growth and the well-being of the team, including happy teachers!

3. Omotenashi おもてなし
Omotenashi, translated as 'hospitality,' goes beyond mere service, involving anticipating needs and providing heartfelt care. Integrating it into leadership emphasises empathy; genuine concern for team members, and creating an inclusive, supportive work environment. Embracing Omotenashi fosters a culture where hospitality extends to authentically understanding and meeting unique needs, promoting a sense of belonging and well-being among team members, much like our own ideal of inclusive and equitable education.

I hope that sharing these concepts from the Far East will prompt positive reflections on how they can influence your perspective and values-led leadership.


Identifying your Saboteurs

We are all familiar with the concept of Imposter Syndrome. Saboteurs and imposter syndrome share a deep connection as both involve negative thought patterns and self-limiting beliefs. Saboteurs can intensify imposter syndrome by reinforcing feelings of inadequacy and fear of being exposed as a fraud, perpetuating a cycle of self-doubt and anxiety. Sound familiar?!

The impact of the saboteurs on professional and personal growth can be significant. In the professional realm, they can undermine confidence, stifle creativity and lead to missed opportunities and unfulfilled potential. In your personal life, they can affect relationships, diminish self-esteem, and limit your ability to pursue meaningful goals and experiences. None of this is great if you’re pursuing a fulfilling and meaningful lifestyle. 

Identifying the saboteurs is crucial for releasing self-limiting beliefs and thriving, in work and in life! By recognising your inner critics, you can raise self-awareness and understand how these thought patterns have been holding you back. Through coaching and intentional personal development, you can challenge these saboteurs, reframe negative thoughts, and cultivate a more positive and empowering mindset. This process allows you to build resilience, embrace your strengths, foster self-compassion and enable you to overcome imposter syndrome and other self-limiting beliefs.

We identify and discuss strategies for slaying these saboteurs in The Life Story Coaching Programme and in the Slay your Saboteurs Programme Slay your Saboteurs Programme. These strategies and techniques help you empower you to ‘slay the saboteurs’ by reframing negative thoughts, embracing self-compassion and applying particular techniques to particular circumstances; whether that’s the dilemmas you’re facing at work, challenges with your self-esteem, or struggles in relationships.

Developing your own toolkit of these strategies enhances your mental resilience, supports personal and professional growth, and helps you to thrive in the face of whatever life throws at you! Whatever comes your way, you’ll know which saboteurs is at play and which strategy to implement to slay it.

You can read more about each saboteur below and take the assessment to discover your own dominant saboteurs here. Each saboteur possesses its distinct charm, tempting us with promises of protection and control, but beneath their allure lies a web of self-limiting beliefs, woven intricately to hold us back from unleashing our true potential….

The Hyper-Achiever Saboteur, driven by relentless ambition, can ensnare us in the shackles of perfectionism and the fear of failure. Its alluring facade of success blinds us to the beauty of imperfection and stifles our creativity, suffocating self-esteem under the weight of unattainable standards. The Hyper-Achiever saboteur instills a fear of failure and an insatiable need for success, leading individuals to doubt their abilities and relentlessly pursue perfection.

The Pleaser Saboteur persuades us that our worth is tied to the approval of others. In its clutches, we surrender our authenticity, tiptoeing around truth, and suppressing our genuine desires to keep the peace, losing ourselves in the process. Suppressing our authentic selves and fostering a constant need for external validation becomes exhausting and we loose a sense of self. 

The Hyper-Rational Saboteur, wearing the guise of logic, seeks to sever us from the depths of our emotions. Its denies us the richness of emotional connections and self-compassion. The Hyper-Rational saboteur denies the significance of emotions, often leading to emotional detachment and a sense of disconnection.

The Restless Saboteur beckons us to an unquenchable pursuit of more, leaving us parched with perpetual dissatisfaction. It whispers illusions of fulfilment through external achievements, blinding us to the oasis of contentment. Always seeking more, The Restless saboteur leaves you feeling perpetually unsatisfied and unable to appreciate the present moment.

The Controller Saboteur, with its iron grip, convinces us that control is the only path to security. It tightens its hold with the fear of uncertainty, stunting our ability to embrace the unknown and robbing us of the thrill of life's unpredictable adventures. The Controller saboteur demands absolute control over almost every situation, stifling adaptability and impeding personal growth.

The Avoider Saboteur, a master of evasion, artfully dodges challenges, shielding us from discomfort and growth. Its deceptive promises of temporary relief often blind us to procrastination, leaving our potential untapped and dreams unrealised. The Avoider saboteur traps us in a cycle of avoidance and missed opportunities.

The Victim Saboteur engulfs us in a sea of self-pity and learned helplessness. Its convincing narrative of powerlessness keeps us trapped in the depths of despair, preventing us from seizing control of our lives and owning our own narrative. The Victim saboteur fosters feelings of helplessness and prevents us from taking charge of our lives.

Lastly, the Hyper-Vigilant Saboteur, an ever-watchful sentinel, feeds us a constant stream of anxiety, forecasting doom at every turn. Its incessant worry and anticipation of negative outcomes cripple our confidence and rob us of the peace we deserve.

 


Introverted Leadership

 

What do you think of these dictionary definitions of what it means to be introverted? Finding a sufficiently reasonable definition for what introversion is a challenge in itself. No wonder there is a stigma  around being introverted with all these negative and demeaning definitions!

 

In many societies, there is a very narrow view of this personality type. This leads to assumptions about what introverts are capable of; these limiting definitions can encourage negative perceptions about an introvert’s competence and confidence as a leader, particularly in a world which is more often geared up towards more extroverted personality types. 

 

Often, there’s an emphasis on ‘overcoming’ introversion and the need to learn skills to be more extroverted in order to survive in a forward-facing environment. I strongly disagree with this, and am fascinated by the research around introversion and on the narratives of those who, like me, own their introversion and are able to thrive authentically in leadership roles. 

 

Unlike the definitions above, which focus on personality traits (shy, quiet etc) I believe that whether you're an introvert or an extrovert all depends on how you process and interact in the world around you; where you naturally derive your energy from and where you prefer to spend your energy.

 

We know that the brains of the two personality types, introverts and extroverts, work a little differently from each other. Introvert brains react differently to dopamine than extrovert brains do. (Dopamine is a chemical that turns on the reward- and pleasure-seeking part of your brain.) Introverts and extroverts have the same amount of the chemical, but extrovert brains get an excited buzz from their reward center. Introverts, on the other hand, tend to just feel run-down by it. 

 

Also, introverts have a longer neural pathway for processing stimuli. In other words, it’s more complicated for introverts to process interactions and events, as we attending to personal thoughts and feelings at the same time.Introverts process everything in their surroundings and pay attention to all the sensory details in the environment, not just the people. This can mean that introverts are more easily over-stimulated.

 

 

As well as being introverted, I’m also what’s classed as a hyper sensitive person, which means that strong smells, bright lights, loud sounds can affect (ok, irritate) me in a way that most other people wouldn’t even notice. Not all introverts are sensitive in this way, but it’s worth noting that many are!

 

So, what does this tell us?

 

It’s likely that introverts may become energetically depleted from some of the more forward-facing aspects of being a leader, for example, conferences, public speaking and networking.

 

Now, this isn’t to say that introverts aren’t good at these aspects of leadership. Not at all. It’s telling us that introverts may need alternative environments to thrive in, and that there needs to be carefully planned prep and decompression time in their working day in order to process, lead well, feel well and generally work to the best of their ability. A consideration for the working environment, frequency of outward facing events, and levels of noise and interaction with others should come into consideration. 

 

I thrive on the more intimate side of leadership; the relationships, the quality of the processes, products and interactions, the connection, the community communication. That’s not to say I’m not good at the forward-facing stuff though, because I am! I deliver workshops, peer support and even keynotes. I’m increasingly more confident with public speaking and I’m rooted in being my authentic self when I do. I don’t pretend to be someone else who is more extroverted (a common strategy employed by many introverts - becoming an alter-ego in order to appear more confident). Being introverted doesn’t hold me back, but it does mean I need to have a high level of self-awareness, awareness of my environment and the confidence to articulate any boundaries, expectations and sometimes support which I need in order to thrive, as opposed to just surviving the events. 



Here are three questions to consider if you are an introverted leader, or are working with introverted leaders. 



How can we ensure introverted leaders thrive?

 

Consider alternative ways to collate thoughts and ideas from introverts. Give them time to process. Don’t rush them, put them on the spot, or expect them to answer immediately if you want meaningful responses.

 

Don’t expect introverts to thrive if you’re asking them to pitch and present when there are alternative ways of communicating. Expecting people to perform in a way that doesn’t suit them or allow them to thrive isn’t going to get the best of out of them

 

How can we show up as authentic, introverted leaders?

 

Recognise your strengths in leadership. Consider how you can best utilise those skills and abilities to serve others/your community. Don’t feel pressured: own your authenticity. 

 

Plan in prep time and down-time leading up to and following energy depleting events. Ensure the time is scheduled into your diary.

 

Be confident in articulating what it is that you need to the people that you’re working with. If it doesn’t work for you, say so, and work to find an alternative. 

 

Are the systems and environments that we work in inclusive for introverted leaders?

 

Processing additional sensory stimuli can deplete your energy levels rapidly. If you have an open plan office where you can constantly hear your colleagues, ensure you take regular breaks.

 

Consider wearing noise reducing ear plugs to help with focus (I highly recommend Loops.)

 

If you have an open door culture, ensure you have boundaries in place to ensure that you are not constantly interrupted when you’re in the flow of working. 

 


Wellbeing Series: Switching Off

You need to learn to switch off!

Great advice right! And if it was that easy, we’d just flick a switch off in our minds every time we walked out of the office at the end of the day.

The reality is, its really bloody hard to ‘just switch off.’ Our minds are full of unfinished business; to do lists, conversations, actions arising form meetings etc and before the day is done, we are already thinking about what we need to tackle the next day.

Often, we underestimate the emotional impact of our work on our life outside of work.

Here’s a beautiful activity to help you begin to release your mind from your working day so that you can be more intentional about letting go of of what’s been and being more present in your evenings. Give it a try, you’ll only need a pen, paper and a timer on your mobile phone.

Gift yourself with 15 minutes before you intend to leave your workplace. Ensure you’re somewhere where you won’t be interrupted.

Sit with your pen and paper and set your phone timer for ten minutes.

Use a simple sentence starter for your writing such as ‘I am’ or ‘I feel’.

Start writing… get out everything that is going round and round in your mind and weighing heavy on your heart.. Don’t stop writing.. let it come.. let it flow … with no concern for spelling, grammar, handwriting… just keep going. And going. It doesn’t matter what comes out, this is for your eyes only. Let is be emotional, venting, angry, sweary…. Whatever it needs to be. Keep going until the timer stops.

Now, take a deep breath. And another, and another.

Set your timer for a further 5 minutes.

Re-read your writing with a rational brain now. What have you written that is of real concern? What can you let go of? What can wait? Can you label any sentences with the emotions attached to them?

Writing a stream of consciousness allows us to free up more space in our mind, and be more intentional about letting go and switching off each day. By getting those thoughts out of your head and onto paper, you’re doing something intentional and tangible to release and process the emotional baggage (any guilt, fear, resentment, anxiety, inner criticism) built up during the day, to help you switch off and bring you more peace.

Better still, try screwing up the paper and binning it before you leave work. It’s done, dusted, and left behind.


Wellbeing Series: Energetic boundaries

Here’s a reframe for you. Start thinking of tasks and experiences in terms of energy instead of time. If you think about the tasks you do and the interactions you have in terms of energy, you start to think more realistically about what you’ve got to give to that situation. The weight of the emotional energy you carry building up to, and coming down from a challenging task needs to be considered.

Here’s an example. If you think about the time that it takes to hold a transparent conversation with a team member (and note, I‘ve used the term transparent conversation as opposed to difficult/fierce - intentional vocabulary) you may be fooled into thinking about the length of time that conversation will take to hold. But the truth is, you’ll spend a lot of your energy before hand thinking about that conversation; imagining it, making assumptions about it, worrying about it, practicing it… whatever it is that you do in the lead up to that conversation. And what about the energy you spend after the conversation? Analysing it, overthinking it, actions that may arise from it, retelling it to others… We don’t always allow ourselves time for that, but it does take up time. It takes up energy.

When you think in terms of energy, you realise the real cost of the task and you can be more intentional about how you prepare and recover from it.

In every interaction you have, you commit yourself to an energetic exchange with another person and you open yourself up to the unknown consequences of those interactions.

If you’re aware of this commitment, you can consider whether you have the energy and capacity for the connection. Sometimes we do. And sometimes, we need to recognise that we may be depleted with little to offer. Knowing your own energetic boundaries and upholding them will serve you well.


Soulful Leadership

What do Soulful Leaders look like?

Soulful Leaders shine! These are the leaders whose presence and energy is felt, even when they aren’t in the room with you. They not only have a compelling and values-driven mission, they have an abundance of self awareness and the power to nourish themselves, and others, to be the best that they can be.

Soulful Leaders have the ability to harness their own wisdom and internal resources, including their emotional and spiritual intelligence, to navigate challenging contexts without losing themselves, their values and their authenticity in the process. Soulful Leaders know not only the power of being vulnerable, but they have the experience and the emotional intelligence to know when, and with who to be vulnerable with. A Soulful Leader, therefore, has a values aligned network around them, they are not an island.

What do Soulful Leaders do?

Soulful Leaders have a captivating leadership presence; their behaviours and actions support their own belief systems and values. They aren’t afraid to fight for what’s right, consistently evaluating their motives to ensure they align with their ethical code. They trust their inner compass. Soulful Leaders are at peace with the decisions they make because they are creative decision makers who carve out time to reflect on their experiences, evaluating them robustly so that they are always moving their teams forwards. They rest their heads on their pillows at night knowing they did their best and that what they did was right, not what was easy or expected. They have learned not to be afraid of change, because they know that change leads to new beginnings. You’ll find Soulful Leaders doing the inner work; reflecting, being intentional about their own wellbeing and eliminating distractions and negativity so that they can nourish themselves and nurture their teams and communities too.

What has been your experience of Soulful Leadership?

I strived to be a Soulful Leader in my role as a Headteacher and now as a network leader and coach. Integrity, self awareness, connection and authenticity are the core values underpinning my ethical leadership and soul mission. Part of my journey has been to work on my own Ikigai; my core purpose. This beautiful journey began after transitioning from Headship and into freelance coaching and consultancy in 2020. I continue to work on my ‘raison d’etre’, by recognising what it is that I am good at, what brings me joy, and what my community and clients need. After all, leadership is about taking people on a journey to a better place. This is no mean feat when you work in a particularly tumultuous and challenging system like the UK education system. There have been many times when I’ve felt my own values have been challenged or compromised, but being a soulful leader, I am deeply ambitious about being able to bring my authentic self to the table; my whole self with all the courage and vulnerability I can harness! With that comes the gracious ability to admit when things haven’t worked out or when I was out-right wrong! In essence, I believe Soulful Leadership is about developing our inner authority as a leader through raising awareness levels of ourselves holistically, and in others.

How relevant is it to be a Soulful leader today?

Entirely relevant and completely essential! The education sector in particular needs leaders, not managers, who can unify a community and lead with integrity, without becoming compliant and disconnected. Teams and communities thrive when there is harmony, and Soulful Leaders strive to provide the conditions where everyone, including themselves, can thrive and belong. As leaders, we have a responsibility to consider the social, emotional and environmental impact of our leadership on others and our environment. Soulful Leaders do this organically because of their strong moral compass and ethical values.