The Secret of Sustained Motivation

My job is to help clients build motivation to take positive action towards their goals and objectives. It is tremendously satisfying to see someone you work with move forwards with genuine enthusiasm. I recently had the great pleasure of receiving this lovely endorsement from a client:

“Six months ago, I was a bit stuck, unenthusiastic about my job and unsure what might be next. Matz, through gentle but important provocations, helped me examine my strengths, weaknesses, values and interests. As a result, I’ve increased accountability to myself, overcoming a few future-fears by taking firm action. Now, re-invigorated and ready for life’s next chapters I’m even more focused and committed to prioritising work I am passionate about. So much so, that I’m seriously considering establishing a new social enterprise.”

Motivation is the force or energy that initiates goal-directed behaviour. Motivated individuals are more likely to care about success. They are prepared to go the extra mile when the going gets tough to increase output and elevate quality of results. Motivated people find more satisfaction from work and generally achieve greater fulfilment in life. Motivation can be initiated by a variety of factors; some examples may be:                

1.     Intrinsic Motivation: Comes from within an individual. You are intrinsically motivated when you engage in an activity because you find it personally rewarding, enjoyable, or interesting.

2.     Extrinsic Motivation: Driven by external sources and involves engaging in an activity to receive a reward or avoid punishment. For example, working to earn money or studying to avoid a bad grade.

3.     Biological Motivation: Driven by basic biological needs for survival and wellbeing, such as food, water, sleep, and sex.

4.     Achievement Motivation: Is related to a strong desire to overcoming obstacles. People with high achievement motivation often set challenging goals for themselves.

5.     Social Motivation: Such as the desire for acceptance, approval, or belonging, play a significant role in motivating behaviour. Social connections and relationships can be powerful motivators.

6.     Cognitive Motivation: Driven by intellectually stimulating activities. Curiosity and the pursuit of knowledge can be powerful motivators.

7.     Creative Motivation: Driven by a strong desire to create and innovate, not surprisingly a type of motivation shared by many artists.

Understanding and harnessing motivation is crucial for all kinds of personal development, but the challenge is to turn these theoretical constructs mentioned above into a tangible positive force that makes a material difference to our lives. Motivation may be the engine that drives action, but this engine does not run on its own. Rather, it relies on the support of three crucial pillars: clear direction, unwavering commitment, and healthy resilience.  Together they form a symbiotic relationship that sustains and amplifies motivational momentum. Understanding the profound connection between these three qualities will make easier for you to maintain momentum in any kind of personal development you aspire to, making a successful outcome much more likely.

Clear Direction as the Leading Light:

Motivation finds its true potential when it is aligned with a clear sense of direction. Without a defined path or purpose, motivation can become scattered, dissipating energy in various directions without making meaningful progress. Clarity of direction acts as the Leading Light, providing guidance and purpose to the journey.

While motivation may stem from a desire for success, it is the clarity of direction that turns vague aspirations into actionable steps. A clear plan outlines the necessary skills to acquire, milestones to achieve, and the overall trajectory toward success. Clear direction transforms motivation from a fleeting spark into a sustained flame, as individuals can see the tangible steps they need to take to reach their destination.

Commitment as the Steadfast Anchor:

Motivation, though powerful, can be fickle. It waxes and wanes with external influences and internal fluctuations. Commitment acts as the steadfast anchor that prevents motivation from drifting away during challenging times. Commitment involves a deep dedication to the chosen path, a promise to oneself to persevere despite obstacles.

Commitment means staying true to your plan even when faced with setbacks. Whether it’s a rejection, a period of stagnation, or the lure of easier alternatives, commitment reminds the individual of their initial resolve. It involves a conscious decision to stay on course, even when the journey becomes arduous.

The relationship between motivation and commitment is reciprocal. Motivation fuels the desire to achieve goals, and commitment ensures that this desire transforms into consistent action. Commitment, therefore, acts as a stabilizing force that prevents motivation from being a fleeting emotion, turning it into a lasting trait.

Resilience as the Shield Against Setbacks:

No journey toward a goal is without challenges. Life, by its very nature, is filled with uncertainties, setbacks, and unexpected hurdles. This is where resilience, the ability to bounce back from adversity, becomes paramount.

Resilience is the shield that protects motivation from the arrows of disappointment, failure, and frustration. In pursuit of a dancing career setbacks can take various forms – failure of a project, rejection at an audition, or sustaining an injury. Without resilience, these setbacks can be demoralizing enough to extinguish the flame of motivation. Resilience, however, transforms setbacks into opportunities for growth. It fosters the mindset that failures are not endpoints but rather stepping stones toward success.

The connection between motivation and resilience is evident in their shared focus on overcoming obstacles. Motivation propels individuals forward, and resilience ensures that they don’t crumble in the face of challenges. The ability to view setbacks as temporary roadblocks rather than insurmountable barriers is the essence of resilience, making it an

indispensable companion to motivation.

The Interplay of Clear Direction, Commitment, and Resilience:

The interplay between these three elements is the heartbeat of sustained motivation. Clear direction without commitment may lead to inertia – a well-defined plan with no action. Commitment without resilience may result in burnout – relentless action with no capacity to rebound from setbacks. Resilience without clear direction may become misdirected effort – bouncing back from setbacks without a clear plan may lead to repeated mistakes.

In the intricate dance of sustained motivation – direction, commitment and resilience are not isolated entities but interwoven threads, each playing a vital role in the journey towards success. Understanding and nurturing this triad is essential for individuals seeking enduring satisfaction in their personal and professional pursuits. In this synergy lies the formula for achieving and building a purposeful life, where motivation is the driving force, commitment and resilience are the pillars of strength, with clarity of direction as the unwavering guide. In this delicate balance motivation blossoms into a powerful force capable of propelling anyone toward their loftiest goals.


Five Essential Elements of a High Performance Environment

35% people working across all creative sectors are self-employed, compared with 15% across the workforce as whole. In the arts the percentage of freelancers is a lot higher at almost 70% of the total work force.

So, what does it take to be a freelancer, often working in isolation from other people in your sector. Under those circumstances it can be damn hard to maintain standards and keep up motivation. Part of the answer may lie in understanding these five elements:

  1. Strong leadership and a principal sense of purpose.
  2. Access to appropriate infrastructure, equipment and resources.
  3. Knowledge of industry best practice, up-to-date information and robust strategies for development.
  4. A culture of collaboration, shared with a peer group that provides balanced perspective on achievements, normalising results.
  5. Formal accountability for clarity and focus, together with clearly defined key performance indicators.

Your environment dictates your performance

An environment that supports a high-achieving individual or organisation is contingent on these five essential elements.

This is easier to maintain in larger organisations that have ample resources and a well-established infrastructure, but it need not to be the exclusive prerogative of big businesses.

It is possible to build a personal high achieving environment, even when working alone in isolation as a freelancer. Because what can be achieved on a big organisational level can also be done by applying these five key concepts on a personal and individual level.

Leadership and a sense of purpose: A sense of purpose speaks for itself. It’s when you are passionate about what you do because it has true meaning for you. Leadership when working in isolation is trickier. But being a leader need not include being in charge of others—or being controlled by someone else. However, it does mean being responsible for and in control of oneself, able to express and act on one’s values and beliefs, and proactively taking action when action is called for.

If you do not have good leadership provided you have to provide this for yourself. With a true sense of purpose effective leadership of oneself becomes infinitely more possible, because a clear purpose and strong leadership go hand-in-hand.

Infrastructure, equipment and resources: Major arts and sports organisations are able to provide this for their people; warm studios with good dance floors for dancers, rehearsal and recording facilities for musicians, and appropriate practice environments for athletes and sports teams.

For a freelancer, however, it can be difficult to locate and access the right facilities and equipment, so resourcefulness, adaptability and creativity becomes key factors in solving these challenges for the lone practitioner. But then these are the personal qualities that often distinguishes a creative freelances from employed businesspeople, so make the most out the creative tools you already have in your professional “toll box”.

Industry best practice and strategies for development: Well-funded, established organisations will pay good money for skilled experts to lead training and provide professional development. When you are working alone without the benefit of highly qualified and experienced coaches, teachers and trainers it is necessary to find alternative ways to maintain standards and keep abreast of technical developments in your area of achievement.

The solution is to actively seek out professional relationships and striking up partnerships with other practitioners in your field. People with whom you have reciprocal arrangements for exchange of ideas, knowledge and services. To quote what I believe is an African proverb: If you want to go fast—go alone. If you want to go far—go together.

A peer group providing a balanced perspective, normalising results: This follows on from the point above about building a strong network of professional connections and partners. It’s no good being surrounded by fawning supporters telling you that everything you do is wonderful. To grow and develop you need likeminded people around you, with similar technical standards and shared aspirations for improvements, people who has a balanced and realistic outlook on the quality of your work.

That is not to say that positive reinforcement is not good, but it needs to come from a genuine appreciation of professional excellence. Collaboration with people who are encouraging but also able to tell you the truth about your work is essential.

Accountability and key performance indicators: The ultimate moment of accountability for the performing artist is the performance, for the athlete it is the competition. If you have had the benefit of working with an established organisation you will have been held accountable for ongoing development along the way in rehearsals and practice sessions by directors, coaches, teachers, and probably also by a high performing peer group.

For the sole operator it is harder to do this alone. Especially since you are not only responsible for your own personal development, but perhaps also for the successful management of an entire project. It comes down to smart project planning with clear objectives and sensible goal setting.

It’s tough to do all this when you’re on your own but with the right support it is possible. I work with my clients to help them explore value driven leadership of self, finding the right circumstances and equipment, discover relevant knowledge and information, connect with likeminded professionals, and establish goals and objectives that will keep them on track.

Together we create a bespoke working environment that is right for them, enabling them to maximise their personal potential so they can get to where they want to be.

It’s not easy.

If it was easy everybody would do it.

So don’t wish for it to be easier.

Wish to become better at it.

Have courage - beat imposter syndrome

4 good ways to feel better about yourself


Are you nervous about taking on new challenges because you are worried about your ability to stay motivated enough to complete them? If this sounds familiar read on.
Simply stated, motivation is what drives you onwards; to get stuff done. Genuine motivation is intrinsic in nature because it is linked to your values and believes. It arises from an enjoyment in the task itself because you know that completing it will improve your situation.
The bad news is that most tasks that will make a truly positive difference to your life may not, at a first glance, appear very motivating. They might even look downright boring.
The good news is that you can turn even the seemingly least motivating, boring task into a satisfying challenge by discovering how it will positively contribute to the three basic cornerstones of motivation, which are three universal and fundamental human needs we all share.
A desire for AUTONOMY: having the right to direct your own life, be independent, make decisions and able to choose your own destiny.
A strive for MASTERY: improve your competence and become better at something that truly matters to you; be it social skills, athletic ability, or developing your intellectual faculties.
A search for PURPOSE: engaging with something that is worthwhile for you, something greater than yourself; love, family, community, art, religion – whatever it is that is important to you.
By identifying how a task will contribute to these three important life-enhancing benefits it becomes possible to access your intrinsically motivated drivers, making completing it much easier.
With each small victory of action over inaction you will become increasingly able to maintain motivation and take charge of your life; knowing that successfully finishing even the seemingly most boring task will give you more freedom, more competence and make a meaningful contribution to something you truly care for. 


We all make bad decisions from time to time. That’s just being human. It’s all too easy however, to allow a sense of failure to linger on indefinitely by continuing to ruminate about what’s happened.
To move on from bad decisions and mistakes you need to let go of what has gone before so you can move towards what can be. To this end you need to forgive yourself for what has already passed and cannot be changed.
Here’s how.
Recall all the mistakes you’d like to move on from. Quickly write them down on a piece of paper. Don’t waste time beating yourself up for being an awful person, just confirm that the mistakes happened. Once on the page reflect on what you have written and acknowledge what you did.
Then for each separate mistake say to yourself:
I forgive myself – and I’m grateful for what I learned.
Do not rush through this part. Take time to really think about your learning and most importantly truly forgive yourself. 
By writing down your mistakes, moving them from your head onto the paper, you turn vague feelings of failure into conscious thoughts, which will help you chose to feel differently. Because whilst you cannot change what has already happened, you can change how you feel about what happened
This is not about making a confession and seek penance for your sins. Don’t indulge in self-pity and do it as a form of chastisement for past misdemeanours, but as a cathartic cleansing of your mind. It might surprise you how effective this exercise might be.


Spending a couple of minutes power posing will boost your mood and/or confidence levels. It’s a strategy that has been proven to work and that is based on the theory that how we hold our body influences how we feel and behave.

So what exactly is power posing?

Power posing is a technique in which you adopt poses that are associated with achievement, confidence, and power.

Think Mo Farah doing a lap of honour with his arms stretched out wide after winning an Olympic medal, or Wonder Woman who famously stands with her chest out, legs shoulder-width apart, and hands on her hips.

Amongst many other benefits studies have found that people who adopted a power pose before a test perform better in a mock interview and become more comfortable with risk taking.

Preparing for a meeting by power posing will help you appear more confident, passionate, enthusiastic, authentic and comfortable.

I do this occasionally in the privacy of my bedroom. Initially it made me feel rather silly I must confess. However, it has proved to work so I continue doing it (when no one is watching).

Try it. It really works!


Do you sometimes wish you were more confident, and do you sometimes wonder what you need to do to become more confident?

Gaining in confidence is simple although not easy, because confidence is not a pre-requisite for doing more, it is the PRODUCT of what you do and the actions you take.

A definition of courage is to know the risk, feel the fear, but do it anyway.

To gain in confidence be courageous to do more, stretch yourself a little, regularly perform small acts of courage that in time will make you more confident.

Pushing beyond your comfort zone is the only way to keep growing. So, have courage to take a few risks.

To get ahead in life and business you will need: 

  • COURAGE to have a clear and bold vision of what you want to achieve,
  • COURAGE to have self-belief and be proud of your achievements, and of who you are,
  • COURAGE to be resilient and able to pick yourself up when you fall, and
  • COURAGE to take responsibility for what happens to you—both your successes and your failures.

Do you have COURAGE to take a serious look at what’s next for you, and find out what you need to do to get there?

Fail gracefully, succeed with humility, but don’t get stuck in bland mediocrity

How to be a success

How to gain resilience – a powerful mindset

Stickability, staying power, perseverance, persistence, rolling with the punches – call it what you will but they all add up to the same, good old-fashioned resilience. If you are looking to be successful, this is the number one personal quality you need to cultivate. It’s more important than knowledge and skill, and it’s far more important than talent. The dictionary definition of resilience is:

  • The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
  • The ability of a substance to spring back into shape; elasticity.

Knowledge means you have information–skill means you have the right tools—talent means you have potential. Resilience, however, is what enables you to maximise and merge those three qualities in a meaningful way. It’s what gives you a sporting chance for success.

Resilience is your ability to stay on course and cope—even in the face of adversity and stress. It is your ability to carry on when there is seemingly no light at the end of the tunnel. Resilience is your capacity to recover quickly from setbacks – and there will be plenty of those if you are pursuing a challenging and worthwhile objective. I am sure you can think of someone in your environment who has that amazing toughness that allows them to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever.

Nothing in this world can take the place of genuine persistence and determination—in other words resilience. Talent will not, nothing is more common than people with failed potential who went from ‘could become’ to ‘could have been’ in no time at all. Genius will not, un-recognized geniuses are a dime to the dozen. Education will not, the world is full of highly educated, highly un-successful people who can’t figure out where they went wrong.

Sometimes a naïf pseudo sense of resilience comes from a blind faith in success. This, however, is a fragile foundation for staying power, as it is likely to crumble at the first sign of failure. True resilience is hard earned and acquired through conscious choice and determined actions. It comes from working through difficult problems. To be truly resilient means understanding that you’re not entitled to success, and that to achieve anything in life of real value is difficult and it is hard work. Because the secret to success without hard work… remains a secret. And anyway – you don’t want your business to be too easy, because if it were everybody would be doing it. So don’t wish it were easier; wish you were better, and don’t wish for fewer challenges; wish for more resilience.

As with many things we do and feel being resilient is a choice. You cannot always control what happens to you, but you can control what you do with what happens to you, and how you want to feel about what happens to you. It is your reaction to adversity, not adversity itself, that will determine how your life turns out. By adopting good habits and being disciplined you can strengthen your resilience. Psychologists have identified some of the factors that makes up resilience and among them are:

  • A positive attitude—and an optimistic outlook on life,
  • the ability to regulate your emotions—this is important,
  • the ability to see failure as a form of helpful feedback, and
  • the ability to adapt to change, even under difficult circumstances

Here is an example of extraordinary resilience. Albert Woodfox is the longest serving isolated prisoner in the US. He was kept almost continuously in a tiny cell measuring 2×3 metres, for 23 hours a day for an astonishing 43 years, for a crime he did not commit. When he was finally released in 2016, he said: “If I dwelled on the pain I have endured and stopped to think about how 40 years locked in a cage 23 hours a day has affected me, it would give insanity the victory it has sought for 40 years.” How many of us would be able to express that sentiment at the end of such an ordeal.

So, when things change for the worst resilience is accepting the new reality – even though the new reality is less good than the one you had before. You can try to fight it if you wish, you can yell and stamp your feet and cry over what you have lost, or you can accept it and build something new out of the ruins around you.

But resilience of spirit is not only about charging ahead ceaselessly, like an unrelenting Phoenix who rise out of the ashes whatever happens. It is also about the courage to step back, sometimes admit defeat; even failure, and on occasion humbly to say goodbye. Because often we need to close one door before we can open the next one.

This poem from 1911, by the Greek Egyptian poet Constantine Cavafy, has stayed with me for many years as a reminder that facing change requires humility, a strong mind and a resilient spirit. At a first reading this poem may appear to be about defeat but in my interpretation it is about courage and resilience, and as I read it again I cast my mind back to Albert Woodfox.


When suddenly at the midnight hour

an invisible company is heard going past

with exquisite music, with sounds of voices –

your fate that’s giving in now, your deeds

that failed, your life’s plans that proved to be

all illusions, do not lament without avail.

As one long prepared, as one courageous,

bid farewell to the Alexandria that’s leaving.

Above all, don’t be misled, don’t say it was

a dream, that your ears deceived you,

don’t deign to foster such vain hopes.

As one long since prepared, as one courageous,

as befits you who were worthy of such a city,

move with steady steps toward the window

and listen with deepest feeling – yet not

with a coward’s entreaties and complaints –

listen as an ultimate delight to the sounds,

to the exquisite instruments of the mystical company,

and bid farewell to the Alexandria you are losing.

Lessons for Life and Success

Hindsight is 20:20 – Lessons For Life and Success

A short time ago I was asked to speak to a group of graduating students about what I know now regards the working world that I wish I had known when starting out – and offer advice to someone on the brink of entering professional life. My first thought was of course: Had I only known then what I know now…, but as we cannot know what we don’t know it’s a pointless thought.

My personal development took place in the creative and changeable world of performing arts, but along the way I learned many useful lessons that are universal and applicable to all walks of life. Some I learned sooner and some I learned later. Useful abilities that in retrospect I wish I had acquired sooner include good financial acumen and an entrepreneurial mindset. But as a ballet dancer, in full employment from the time I was 16 years old, the idea of acquiring such worldly skills did not cross my mind. However, a dancer’s career is short and as I sit here fifty years later, I gently kick myself for not being a little more practically astute early on in life.

At my age and with the benefit of hindsight I have learned that any kind of success is mostly the result of combining ordinary, and fairly mundane, personal attributes in a sensible and consistent way. So, in reply to the question of what advice I would offer I decided to reflect on skills that I have been important to me because they are about who you are and not about what you do.

UNDERSTANDING LEADERSHIP – I have come to understand that leadership skills are an important quality for everyone to cultivate, not necessarily in the sense of being in charge, being a leader need not include responsibility for managing and controlling others, but it does mean being in control of oneself, able to express and act on one’s values and beliefs, being proactive and willing to take responsibility, capable of leading oneself as well as managing personal relationships with friends and colleagues in a sensible way.

In management manuals it is said that leadership comes in five flavours: authoritarian, participative, delegative, transactional and transformational, and the popular image of the archetypical leader is that he is (it’s usually a ‘he’) tall, dark, handsome and an extrovert. As a vertically challenged introvert, not in possession of all those fine qualities, I never saw myself as a leader in the traditional sense of the word – even when my job was to be a leader – but as a collaborator. The view I have arrived at is that good leadership is to actively facilitate other people’s success. I am not saying this because I have an especially altruistic personality but because I have learned this is the most effectively way to reach good results – for all concerned.

Effective collaboration involves both leading and being led, so an aspect of good leadership is willingness to compromise. Compromise is not a sign of weakness but of strength, as it requires tolerance and empathy, and an appreciation of the ‘bigger picture’. It means you can work effectively with others towards a common goal, where the total might turn out greater than the sum of its parts. I have seen supposedly experienced and highly accomplished professionals waste money and ruin projects because they were too self-absorbed and unable, or unwilling, to accommodate the greater good of an organisation.

SELF MANAGEMENT – Important for an emerging professional is being able to stand on his or her own two feet in a very practical sense, to be self-reliant and able to take care of day-to-day realities of life. A difficult adjustment to make for young graduates fresh out of college is making the transition from student mind-set to the independent mind-set of a professional. Because during many years as a student they (or their parents) have in effect been paying for a service – to receive schooling, training and personal attention. Once they enter the job market they become service providers, no longer automatically entitled to the support they may have got used to. This can be a dramatic shift of paradigm, difficult to make for some.

Good self-management is also about being resilient when coping with the demands and stress of complex professional situations. Resilience is more important than knowledge and skill, and it’s far more important than talent. Knowledge means you have information – skill means you have the right tools—talent means you have potential. Resilience, however, is what enables you to maximise and merge those three qualities in a meaningful way.

Nothing can take the place of genuine persistence and determination. Talent will not replace resilience; nothing is more common than people with failed potential who went from ‘could become’ to ‘could have been’ in no time at all. Genius will not replace resilience; un-recognized geniuses are a dime to the dozen. Education will not replace resilience; the world is full of highly educated but decidedly un-successful people who can’t figure out where they went wrong. To be truly resilient means understanding that you’re not entitled to success, but that it takes patience and perseverance – because the secret to success without hard work… remains a secret.

COMMUNICATION – Presenting yourself and your work eloquently and succinctly to an interviewing panel, or as a freelancer to convince both funders and punters of the value of what you do is key to success. However, skill in communication is not only about what you say, but also about awareness of how you come across when you are not talking. Body language through posture, facial expression and general demeanour is possibly more powerful than words – however clever your message. And it has been said that in any interaction with people you can never not communicate, which is worth keeping in mind. Because first impressions made in the blink of an eye, often based on a person’s physical appearance and general attitude, are very, very important and if you send the wrong signals in the first place it can be very difficult to fix it afterwards.

Being pleasant and likeable matters. In an employment interview likeability can be more decisive to an outcome than academic achievements and work experience. Much has been written on this topic and it has been demonstrated that an interviewing panel is often prone to appoint someone they like over someone who might be more qualified but less likeable.

A vital aspect of skilful communication is listening skills – being willing to listen and able to hear what other people mean when it is their turn to speak. The linguistic root of the word communication is commune, which relates to sharing a common interest, as in communism for instance. The point being communication is a shared two-way activity not only a one-way distribution of information. So, when you do have something of value to say; stand up, speak up – then shut up.

SOCIAL SKILLS – When I was a young man an older colleague and mentor advised me to always say good morning to everyone and anyone I met each day – and to never use the word NO. (Not the same as always saying yes, I must hasten to add.) In retrospect I wish I had followed this advice more diligently, as many more opportunities might then have come my way. Effective communication and well-developed social skills are very important because attitude trumps aptitude, and good old-fashioned manners will stand you in good stead. And the people you pass on your climb to the top may be the same ones you meet on the way down.

COPING WITH CHANGE – My working environment changed throughout my career, beyond what I could ever have imagined when I was a graduate, and I too have changed along the way. What initially looked as a mostly straightforward career path turned in to a much more circuitous route than I had anticipated. In my case not only did my working life evolve as I progressed through life, but I ended up living in a different country, speaking a different language, and adapting to a different culture than the one I grew up with. Even though I am happy and comfortable in my new environment, and the experience of embracing a new culture has enriched me as a person, it is not what I had anticipated as a young man. 

But even without moving countries and learning a new language societal change for all of us is gathering momentum at an exponential rate. Anyone entering the job market today must be a nimble operator, willing and able to change as and when necessary. In fact, most jobs people will be doing twenty years from now have not even been invented yet. And globalisation both virtual and physical means work might take anyone anywhere in the world, at any time.

So, looking back I wish I had taken more notice of the changes I experienced – both in work and in life. Because change is a fact of life, which can be enjoyed when it is fully experienced. I guess what it adds up to is; know that change is inevitable and have the courage to embrace it when it happens – as it most certainly will.

The above is by no means an exhaustive list of insights but it covers a few points to be aware of – and as challenges they are equally relevant to senior executives as they are to college graduates. In my case they continue to be works in progress, which is why I feel confident in sharing these thoughts with you. Incidentally they are also frequently topics of conversation I have with coaching clients. So, if you are dealing with change and transition, or want to improve your leadership skills, or become more self-reliant and communicate better and more deliberately in life and business get in touch. I’d be pleased to help.

Be creative in art and business

The unique importance of Creativity in Arts and Business

Looking to the future we can see change and development in so many ways both in life and at work. And as I was contemplating this, I reflected on how a creative mind-set will play an important role in dealing with what is happening. So I would like to share a few thoughts about the importance of creativity in business.

Creativity is normally associated with the arts, as something playful and nice to have, and usually not linked with good business practices.  However, creativity is needed in all walks of life, I would say now more than ever. Not only because of the changes Covid has imposed on us by moving the goalposts about how we work, but because of changes everywhere in society as a whole: Changes in technology, just to mention the most obvious, but also changes in values, priorities and beliefs about diversity and equality, especially in a younger generation. On top of this we have climate change that is rapidly gathering momentum. The only way we will have a sporting chance of keeping up with this exponential pace of change is through finding creative solutions to new problems – many which are not yet even recognised as being problems.

Most businesses are becoming more mindful of the need for gender and cultural diversity in management and around the board table. But to be truly successful cognitive diversity needs to be in the mix too. Organisations tend to engage experts to solve difficult issues. But the problem with experts is that they have a lot of knowledge of a small number of solutions, where perhaps a more creative approach, unencumbered by predetermined ideas of perfect outcomes, might produce hitherto untested but ultimately more effective results.

Creativity can be messy but perhaps corporate organisations need to elevate the importance of creative skills within the management team, to the same level as sales management or accounts management, and invite people with true creative ability to design strategies for solving what has previously only been considered ‘business’ problems.

A valuable lesson to be learned from the arts is that on a conceptual level the artistic creative process is about courage to do something that has never been done before; to constructively deal with the unknown. I believe creativity is no longer a ‘nice to have’ in an organisation, but an imperative element in solving current problems, and in providing the imaginative powers to identify and anticipate future challenges.

In the world of art and entertainment we are used to seeing the term creative director or creative producer in connections with new work. Perhaps, in addition to the CEO and the CFO, the corporate world needs to adopt a similar practice and create the position of CCO: Creative Chief Officer.

#leadership #professionaldevelopment #creativity

Ghandhi quote on change

Discover your inner leader – Everyone can be one.

We all have a pretty clear picture of what a leader looks like in the context of a business environment and an organisations management structure: A person in charge, that is able to motivate others to act toward achieving a common goal, with the analytical skills to know the best way to use the resources at an organization’s disposal, and with ability to direct workers and colleagues according to a strategy that meet the company’s needs. It sounds worthy but dry, and quite frankly a little boring. What about leadership in the broader context of life and relationships between people. I believe there is a leader within each one of us, waiting to get out and make a difference in the world.

I often have conversations with clients about leadership, and these conversations usually start by the person saying, “I’m not a leader”, as they associate leadership with management, authority and being in control of other people. It is true that many great leaders have such responsibilities, so it is understandable that many may not automatically see themselves in such a light, especially someone of a more quiet and introverted disposition. But even more confident and extroverted people may fail to appreciate their leadership potential if they perceive themselves as occupying the lower rungs of an established hierarchical structure.

There are many reasons why people shy away from leadership; sometimes it is because of feelings of unworthiness that has to do with limiting beliefs and lack of confidence, a complex subject and a topic worthy of proper attention another time, but often it is a misunderstanding of what makes a leader and a belief that leadership is something “other people do”. However, leadership is not a privilege only afforded to those of a higher status on the ladder, authorising a relationship from the top down towards those below themselves. Genuine leadership defines a person’s relationships in all directions; both up and down as well as sideways. It is my view that adopting a leadership role is a choice available to anyone, regardless of where they may be on the career ladder, or wherever they may be on the social and professional spectrum. I would go as far as saying it is everyone’s civil responsibility to shoulder the responsibility of leadership when an opportunity to make a positive contribution presents itself.

It is important to understand the difference between being in charge and being a leader. Being in charge is about power and control. Being a leader need not include responsibility for managing and controlling others, but it does mean being responsible for and in control of oneself, able to express and act on ones values and beliefs. You can probably think of someone in your environment who has that ability, totally comfortable in their own skin, who without exercising power or control manage to have a natural influence over most situations they are involved with.

Reflecting on my time as Artistic Director of two national ballet companies, The Royal New Zealand Ballet and English National Ballet, I wish I had at that time been more aware of this distinction between leadership and being in charge. My natural leadership style is collaborative as opposed to coercive or authoritative, which is why I am now a coach, but as a director there were definitely occasions when my belief it was necessary to exercise control compromised my ability to lead effectively. I don’t look back on that time with any kind of regret, I am proud of my achievements as an Artistic Director and the many successes I was instrumental in creating, but as the old adage goes; if-I-had-known-then-what-I-know-now I might have done some things differently.

What I have learned is that effective leadership comes in different forms. A skilled business leader will understand that leadership is situational and use appropriate tools and techniques for each occasion. However, sometimes a single, spontaneous act of leadership can alter the course of history. Rosa Parks exercised quiet but powerful leadership when in 1955 she refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. In 1987 Princess Diana shook the hand of a dying AIDS patient, an act of leadership that altered worldwide attitudes towards AIDS sufferers. During protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989 an unknown student placed himself in front of a tank, a courageous act of leadership that brought Chinese political oppression to the attention of millions of people around the globe. In 1947, after years of campaigning, Mahatma Gandhi’s legendary quiet leadership style put an end to two centuries of British imperial rule in India. In 2012 Malala Yousafzai, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen for having the courage to speak up for the right of girls to be educated, she was 15 years old at the time. In recent years Greata Tunberg, another teenager, has emerged as an international leader for the environmental movement to save the planet from global warming and mindless human destruction.

“We need to be the change we wish to see in the world.” – Gandhi

Your ambition may not be to alter the course of history, nor may you wish to be a leader of business, but below are 20 leadership qualities that will enrich your relationships and strengthen your standing with friends and colleagues and allow you too to make a positive contribution to the world around you. Why 20 you may ask. I could have listed 30, 50 or 100 but I believe these 20 illustrate my point.

Leadership is to be a servant first.

Leadership is to see strengths in others.

Leadership is to show respect and be tactful.

Leadership is being able to say no.

Leadership is having the courage to say yes.

Leadership is the ability to state one’s opinions without belittling others.

Leadership is being clear on one’s values and beliefs.

Leadership is knowing when to speak.

Leadership is knowing when to be quiet.

Leadership is having the humility to admit failure.

Leadership is acknowledging the contributions of others.

Leadership is saying thank you.

Leadership is being loyal to your people.

Leadership is asking – not telling.

Leadership is listening to hear – not waiting to speak.

Leadership is to guide – not direct.

Leadership is to have a vision.

Leadership is to show empathy.

Leadership is to take risks.

Leadership is to create more leaders.

People will follow a leader not because they are in charge of people in their care, but because they care about people in their charge. You may not be looking for followers, but you will receive respect if you have the resolution and integrity to live by your own standards, together with the humility and generosity to reciprocate to your people in equal measure. You can lead from the front or from the back, whatever suites your personality style, but when you are called upon have the courage to step up to the mark and lead.

“As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.”

 – Bill Gates

Do it Messy - An alternative to perfection

An excellent alternative to perfection

Do you sometimes procrastinate because you can’t bear the thought of not being seen to be good? Do you often feel anxious because you have impossible expectations of yourself? If this sounds like you it is possible you’re suffering from a touch of perfectionism.

“But isn’t striving for perfection a good thing?” Not really – in fact struggling to be perfect might actually be standing in the way of being good. This may seem like an odd statement so let me explain.

Perfection is a unique and subjective view by an individual person, and as everyone sees the world through his or her unique filters a commonly accepted view of perfection cannot exist. Furthermore, as we continue to develop our skills and evolve our understanding of the world, each time we think we are approaching a “perfect” outcome we inevitably discover another step beyond that, and then another step beyond that step and so on. Perfection will therefore forever elude us and remain tantalizingly out of our reach. And herein lies the danger of perfectionism, because this feeling of consistently falling short of the mark will make you feel inadequate.

But let’s say, for the sake of argument, that a universally accepted standard of perfection did exist; perfection would then be a static end-goal beyond which it would be impossible to move; as per definition, perfection cannot be improved upon. In my view this would be a rather sad state of affairs, as the perfect outcome of every human endeavor would be pre-defined, and once attained stifle further development and creativity.

Awareness of the difference between a healthy wish to better oneself and perfectionism is critical for maintaining a balanced perspective on life. High standards of achievement are good but expecting to attain perfection is not only doomed to fail; it is a dangerous pursuit. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it is often the cause of depression, anxiety and feelings of powerlessness.

However, ceasing to strive for perfection does not mean stopping to better oneself; there exists an alternative, a different and more powerful standard to aspire to, which is both achievable and more creative, and that is excellence.

To be excellent has as much to do with who you are, as it has to do with what you do. It is a way of being, the sum total of all you choices. It is not simply a measurement of success but also an expression of personal integrity and attitude. Excellence as a measure of quality is dynamic and can be accomplished at every level of achievement and stage of development, from the smallest to the largest of human endeavors. Excellence, therefore, is not only attainable; it will ultimately transcend perfection

So take courage in the fact that once you discover and acknowledge what is uniquely right for you, you can stop the impossible struggle to be perfect and enjoy the positive, creative and ongoing process of being excellent.


How to have a good day

An Alternative To New Years Resolutions

We’ve all tried and we’ve all failed, because studies show that approximately 80% of New Year’s resolutions will be abandoned within a few weeks. Perhaps yours have already flopped by the time you read this, in which case this article is for you. If by chance you belong to the 20% that do manage to stick to your resolutions then well done… but you should still read on.

Instead of setting goals around doing things differently to become healthy, wealthy and wise, a better alternative is to create your intentions around being different because you are a human being, not a human doing. So rather than making lofty promises about eating and drinking less, exercising more and calling your mother regularly, how about discovering a more enjoyable way to create a sense of fulfillment and happiness. (Which, by the way, does not exclude calling your mother more often.)

What I recommend is simple. I suggest you spend an extra five minutes in bed each morning, thinking of three things that bring joy to your life. (See, my method looks good already.) I’m not talking about fantasizing about unlimited wealth, eternal life and peace on Earth for all mankind, but things that are within the realms of reality for you to experience: anything you truly enjoy doing and that makes you genuinely happy. It’s built on the proven premise that deliberately thinking positive thoughts will produce a more confident and productive state of mind. It is the mental equivalent of standing up straight, with a so-called power posture, to help you speak with more confidence and authority.

For this to work well you have to vividly imagine whatever you are thinking about, making it as real as possible in your mind. The brain does not distinguish between reality and imagination. It will simply react chemically as it would to the real experience, stimulating your serotonin levels, which creates a sense of wellbeing. However, it should not only be mind game to make you feel better. For this method to bring genuine reward you must also give yourself time each day to really do at least one of the things that bring you joy.

You may already know this technique by the name the gratitude attitude, but in my opinion the name implies that you somehow owe your happiness to an outside force. Whilst gratitude is a fine sentiment that should be expressed whenever appropriate, the objective here is to take charge of your life and be able to decide for yourself what you feel good about. I have therefore given it the name positive positioning, which I feel more accurately expresses its purpose.

The things that dominate our thoughts most strongly influence our actions, but we often cruise through our busy days on autopilot, lurching from one task to another, without pausing to stop and reflect on why we’re doing what we’re doing. By spending time in the morning, pre-programming your mind with positive thoughts and feelings that will subconsciously direct your actions, you will greatly increase your chances of having a more productive and enjoyable day than if you had just rolled out of bed without any thoughts or intentions.

If you want to make this exercise really effective spend another five minutes writing your three items of joy in your diary. By doing this they become even more firmly fixed in your mind; you create intentionality and therefore they become part of your subconscious priorities. What you focus on is what you get, what you think about is what you do. It might be interesting to see over a period of time what thoughts occur more frequently. If there’s one thing that dominates your choices, that constantly stands out as more joyful, then perhaps this is what you should be focusing on more than anything else – maybe even dedicate your life to.

The problem with giving up on New Years resolutions is that when you drop them you feel like a failure, which will damage your self-esteem and confidence. So committing to resolutions you cannot fulfill might actually harm your chance for success rather than encourage you to persevere. Instead you now have an alternative; a morning ritual that is both pleasant and very simple to apply to your life, which will actually produce results and support you throughout the year. In fact by applying yourself to this method maybe those pesky New Year’s resolutions will come into effect after all: eating and drinking less, exercising more – and why don’t you call your mother right now?

Frustrated man sitting in chair awaiting coachingFrustrated man sitting in chair awaiting coaching

How to beat the effects of Impostor Syndrome

Today’s topic is Impostor Syndrome, which is an issue troubling a surprising number of people. It’s been my personal experience that the higher I climbed on the career ladder the less confident did I feel of my competence regardless of my success. Reflecting on this prompted me to write this short article, which I hope you will find both interesting and encouraging.

Have you ever felt that you don’t belong, or that you’re not as competent and accomplished as other people? Do you sometimes feel you don’t deserve your successes and that people are going to find out that you are out of your depth? If so you’re in good company along with approximately 70% of the population that experience those same feelings at some point in their lives. This is one of our more common social afflictions known as Impostor Syndrome.

Some research indicates Impostor Syndrome may be more common amongst women than men. This is probably because of gender inequality and societal attitudes where women are made to feel less worthy than their male counterparts. But Impostor Syndrome will affect anyone who is not able to internalise and own his or her achievements. Certain personality types are more likely than others to feel unworthy of recognition.

Perfectionists” set impossibly high expectations for themselves, and even the smallest mistake will make them question their own competence.

Experts” feel inadequate unless they know every fact and figure in their field of knowledge.

Natural geniuses”, whose skill comes easy, might feel less worthy because they think they should be working harder at being good at what they do.

Soloists” will feel they have to accomplish everything alone, and may think that asking for help is a sign of failure.

Supermen” or “superwomen” have it particularly tough. They feel the need to push themselves harder than everyone else to prove they’re not impostors and may become anxious if they fall even slightly short of the mark.

There’s no single answer as to why people experience Impostor Syndrome. It can be triggered by outside factors such as being in an environment of institutionalised stereotypes around competence. More often it stems from childhood, such as memories of a demanding parent or successful sibling that made you feel less than adequate. As a toddler you were likely to think that anyone older (and bigger) than you was more capable, which was probably true at the time. But as you grow up this is not necessarily true any longer. However, the feeling of being less capable than others remains with you into adulthood.

Impostor Syndrome is to some degree a failure of imagination. It springs from a skewed vision of yourself and of the people around you. We see ourselves from the inside, whilst we see other people from the outside only. We only see the facade they care to show, not the emotions they are experiencing. Therefore we simply cannot imagine they have the same feelings as we do. The fact is everybody has a similarly limited perspective when comparing themselves to others, and your view of yourself is highly subjective and probably less than generous.

But here’s the thing. Feeling slightly out of your depth is not always a bad thing. A light touch of Impostor Syndrome may just mean that you are pushing beyond your comfort zone, and as we know, it’s outside of that comfort zone where all learning and personal development takes place. So perhaps the challenge is not in getting rid of Impostor Syndrome altogether, but in getting better at dealing with it and becoming comfortable with being [slightly] uncomfortable.

Most people experience moments of doubt, that’s normal. What’s important is not to let that doubt stand in your way. You can have impostor moments without living an impostor life. But confidence in yourself will not magically appear; it’s the product of optimism and of doing stuff. So what you need more than anything is courage – courage to make a leap of faith and trust that you are worthy of your achievements and realise that other people are equally vulnerable, experiencing the same insecurities, fears and foibles that you and I are suffering.


PLUS… whenever you are ready to talk and reflect on business, life and your specific challenges I’m here for you. I will provide the challenge, encouragement, and support you need to be successful. With me you’ll find a safe space for the conversations you are normally too busy to have, knowing you will not be judged, and go further than you thought possible.

· If you are stuck: You will become inspired and able to move forwards.

· If you are uncertain of what’s next in work and life: You’ll find clarity and purpose.

· If you are lacking confidence and doubt yourself: You will re-discover your mojo and get back into the driver’s seat of life.

To book a no-obligation, free strategy session drop me a line at: