How often do you get the chance to speak out loud without fear of interruption?

How often do you get the chance to speak out loud without fear of interruption?

Our guest blogger Caroline Morris is a Data geek turned Leadership Coach who founded.  Having spent 20 years building databases, analyzing customer behaviour and leading teams of data scientists, programmers and analysts, she turned her love of “helping people to be the best they can be” into her new career, coaching business leaders and their teams. Caroline ran two Thinking Environment sessions with a lucky group of women from WTHub and has written about it for us. If you want to know more about joining one of Caroline’s workshops after reading this then do get in touch:

The Power of Thinking

It has been a wonderful experience working with some of you and sharing the Thinking Environment.  I am passionate about the power of Nancy’ Kline’s Time to Think on our ability to think and the impact it can have of on our interactions both personally and professionally.   The Thinking Environment is premised on the “The quality of our attention determines other people’s quality of thinking”.

How often do you get the chance to speak out loud without fear of interruption?

We spend a lot of time competing for air time, in a competitive dialogue trying to get our point across.  The Thinking Environment allows you the space and time to think without the fear of being interrupted.  It gives practical approaches and techniques to allow teams and groups to work more effectively together.  And I believe allows internal and external thinkers alike the opportunity to express themselves.  As one of the group shared:

“I think I will use thinking environment in my professional and personal life by listening more, and also remember to take my turn to be listened to.”

Our workshop took place over two days in May and July.  The first session we had in the board room, at first seemed like a great space very open and good views!  One of the key tenets of the Thinking Environment is the power of the Place.  Tess’s great feedback on how the Tree room was so much more informal and led to a more relaxed session was a brilliant reflection.

Time and space to think

The process gives us time and space to think, rather than having thoughts going around in our head.  I have always been amazed when coaching people how when given the attention and time they can often solve their own problems and issues.  Still, it is often an alien concept and I have become used to people not feeling comfortable with the opportunity to speaking without interruption, this feedback from a member of the group summed it up brilliantly:

“I enjoyed hearing people say, “I don’t really have much to say” and then speak for 5-10 minutes without a problem, it shows that they have so much more inside them (ideas, words, thoughts) than they have realised.”

When taken in to the workplace the Thinking Environment can be used in so many situations.  As a group, we posed ourselves the question: How could the Thinking Environment be used to solve problems?  I loved that one pair came at it from the perspective of trying to find a problem it couldn’t overcome and concluded it could be used in just about every situation.    The outcome was summed up by this wonderful reflection:

“On a professional setting, I think I could use the thinking environment as part of my web design workshops, a stage in which I involve my clients in the process of creating mockups of their websites. This will help communication in a respectful way, with no interruptions and everyone will have the opportunity to contribute (which aligns with the way I like to work).”

For further reading I recommend Nancy Kline’s More Time to Think; it was the book that got me on the road to my new career!

Caroline Morris


How to Be Present as a Leader

How to Be Present as a Leader

Present Empathetic Listening
Being Present


As a leader it is important that we are present.  We need to avoid seeming distracted.  We need to give them our full attention.  If we don’t do this they may feel unheard or not listened to.

I noticed when I was a leader that sometimes a team member would come and ask for my advice.  They would the share the problem with me and then go onto solve their problem. They would then thank me for the help.  I thought “I’ve not done anything” . But I realize what I did, was to give them the space to think through the problem giving them my full attention.  This was a powerful lesson for me.  I was being present.


Empathetic Leaders

When I work with leaders who are not engaging well with their direct reports, it is often that the Leader has become very transactional. They have become focused on the tasks rather than the bigger picture.  When I probe further, they start to acknowledge that actually they have stopped engaging with their teams.  They no longer ask them questions.  When their team  do engage with them, they can often be distracted or worse still, hurry them along to get to the point.

This means that they are not getting the best from each other.  They may start to withhold information or not seek support that they require.  The leader loses this vital contact with the team.  They may start to get involved in the detail to gain the answers they would normally get from their team members.  As a by product the leader then starts to neglect their strategic role.

This transactional relationship, leaves the team member feeling like they do not have a voice.  This will start to impact their sense of empowerment.  As this happens, they make seek more validation or ask questions, as their confidence has been knocked.  This becomes self-fulfilling.  The leader might start to believe the person isn’t up to the job, and this exacerbates their sense of need to be in the detail. This vicious circle could be avoided by the leader connecting with the team member.


My 3 thoughts to becoming a more present leader are:


  1. Avoid distractions: close the lid of your laptop, turn over your phone and keep your eyes on the person speaking
  2. Give full attention: clear your mind, feel easeful and relaxed and avoid hurrying them along with fast nodding or hand gestures
  3. Be absent:  If you are not able to do the above, recognize that you are not in the right frame of mind or have something you need to do, then schedule the session in for a more appropriate time.



By doing this we will both enhance our and our team’s experience.  Great leaders are present for their team and understand the impact that they have on others.

The Power of Connecting with People

The Power of Connecting with People

Empathetic Leaders
Connecting with People

Why do we sometimes find that we are not believed to be as empathetic as we feel we are?  I think there are a number of causes, which are: not knowing what empathy really means, not being interested in developing the skills or choosing to only do it with some people.

I recently worked with a client who did not enjoy managing up, they did not feel it was genuine.  Their senior management were quite different and so it seemed easier for themto avoid them.  This was a mistake.  It is essential that you are able to connect with your senior management, and peers as well as your team.  We worked out what was holding them back.  As they were so good at connecting with other people, it was possible to apply what he was already good at to the job of connecting with Senior Management.

This is not an unusual situation.


People like People like them

Typically we are comfortable with people who are like us.  Connecting with people who share our motivations and values is easier than working with people who have a different perspectives.  If you want to be a great leader you need to embrace diversity.  You need to be able to connect with people at all levels, with different perspectives and experiences.  This is what separates a great leader from an average leader.

I have 3 thoughts that can have a big impact on your ability to connect with anyone:

Suspend judgment:

Avoid judging people who are different, don’t label them or create stories about who they are or what they do.  This may mean that you assume they won’t be able to or interested in doing something.  You may then adapt the way you work with them. This is likely to be something you do unconsciously and it can seriously impact your ability to connect with the person.  Find out who they are. Ask them: what motivates them? What gets them excited?

Don’t make assumptions:

Don’t make assumption about someone’s behaviour.  The reason someone might appear to be lacking in motivation might not be directly related to the work.  Ask questions, find out what is happening with them, what can you do to help?

Be Curious:

Really try to understand where someone is.  It is an essential part of empathy.  What are they saying, don’t listen intending to reply, listen with deep attention and curiosity.


When I coach leaders or hold leadership workshops, the transformation begins once the leader acknowledges their part in the problem. We then explore the “cost” to them and what it would take to change their behaviours.  I often find that this is not about new behaviours or skills, but a reminder to my client to consciously use skills that they have gained but lose when pressure of the job takes over.


As a leader you need to develop your self-awareness. so that your understand your impact, spend time with your colleagues, be present and in the moment. 

Why EQ is More Important Than IQ…

Why EQ is More Important Than IQ…

EQ (Emotional Quotient) is one of the many focus areas for leaders today and it is widely believed that EQ far outstrips IQ as a measure of a leaders’ success.  This is particularly the perspective of the RocheMartin organisation and their Emotional Capital Report (ECR), that I am accredited to run with my clients.  Working in the IT sector, I often come across people who are technically brilliant and some who are also very good with people, but the latter is often lacking or not even a consideration for the individual.  Despite aspiring to be charismatic and highly empathic leaders they still do not see the value in themselves acquiring or working their emotional Intelligence muscles.

Often the term Emotional Intelligence becomes synonymous with empathy and the ability to build rapport with people.  It does, however, also include self-awareness, self-knowledge, self-control, resilience and optimism, which all, in equal measure, are essential skills for today’s leader.  As we move from Leader to facilitator who engages with their team to create the strategy together, it is essential that the leader develop skills that are not just related to their expertise.  I have seen far more success in the execution of a vision, when the team feel they part of the creation of it, they are able to connect better with the words and therefore engage in the process of making it happen. Amy Brann, Neuroscientist and Coach, in her book Engaged states if you engage a team, the motivation and management, that we have spent so much time in the past delivering, are self generating.

Roche Martin’s ( 10 competencies draw from Goleman’s view of Emotional Intelligence and include:

  1. Self-knowing
  2. Self-confidence
  3. Self-reliance
  4. Self-actualization
  5. Straightforwardness
  6. Adaptability
  7. Relationship skills
  8. Empathy
  9. Self-control
  10. Optimism

These competencies work together, if for instance, someone is very straightforward but has low empathy there is a risk that they are blunt and upset people, likely unwittingly.  If they have low Self-knowing and high Self-control they may well be unaware that there Self-control is preventing them to connect with colleagues, and often their colleagues will sense that they are holding something back.  By being prepared to assess your EQ and acknowledge the gaps, you can start to build up awareness and gain the support required to develop these skills.

So, whether you are a CEO of a start-up wishing to grow into a more mature organisation, who needs to inspire a team, engage with suppliers, partners and shareholders or a leader of a small team of analyst then absolutely it is a must.   If you are a leader in a large organisation where relationship building and empathy skills are key, then again it is a must.  Which organisation is not crying out for people, often women, who can develop collaborative teams, inspire talent and optimistically take an organisation forward?   For any organisation, even if these are not skills of the leader it is essential that at least someone on the board has these skills.  I would argue, however, if you want to gain followers then the CEO, as the head honcho, is the obvious choice…