It Is OK To Be Assertive

Artists deserve to be paid too (c) R Dennison July 2013

Artists deserve to be paid too (c) R Dennison July 2013

As a coach (and an individual) I have come across the limitations caused by self-belief issues quite a few times, in professional and personal contexts.

For instance, there is something powerfully inhibiting in the self-belief that one is not entitled to ask for one’s needs to be met.  Wherever that belief comes from (perhaps instilled by family, school or culture) it is a damaging notion to hold onto.

I believe that notion is lurking in the background to a query raised in the Guardian newspaper recently.  The query comes from a commercial artist, who is having difficulty getting a long-term client to pay for services rendered.   The artist is asking if readers have ‘a foolproof strategy to – nicely – get people to pay up?’

To my mind the giveaway is the artist’s suggestion they need to ask nicely to get what they want.  The coach in me wants to ask a couple of questions immediately: first, what does a ‘nice’ request sound like? ; second, how would you phrase the request assertively?

Actually there is a third question hanging in the air: what more might you gain by acting like someone who truly deserves to express their needs?

See what you think about the issues by visiting the link below.  You might also want to consider this question: how would you benefit from being more assertive the next time you have to ask for what you want?

Each One Teach One

Plan B aka Ben Drew

Plan B aka Ben Drew (Photo credit: Beacon Radio)

If you achieve your life’s ambition (through hard work) you might choose to sit back and enjoy the trappings of success, once you earn them.  Kudos to Ben Drew (aka the musician / film maker Plan B) for choosing to do more than count his cash but to support others, so they too can become successful.

His charitable trust Each One Teach One – – has developed out of an idea previously explored in a TED presentation.   It has two stated aims, to:

  • Fund inspiring projects to help young  people to build their skills and in turn improve their lives.
  • Link up youth provision to strengthen the sector and help the journey make more sense to young people.

The coverage in the Guardian newspaper explains the trust will operate in East London initially and aims to provide disadvantaged 14 to 25 year olds with a ‘University of alternative learning’.  It will also provide the support, mentoring and counselling that they may have missed out on due to their family, community, or academic situations.

I think this is an inspiring idea.  There are plenty of young people who are motivated to do something with their lives, but who have not enough confidence to articulate their goals or make life plans.  The EOTO model could provide the extra support they need to answer the 3 basic goal setting questions:

  1. What is it that I want to achieve in my life?
  2. When do I want this experience this achievement?
  3. What is my first step to start heading in that direction?

Will this model solve all of the problems of disadvantaged youths in society?  Is Mr Drew right on all counts?  Probably not, but an effort like EOTO could make a significant difference to those motivated to engage with it and keep pushing forward.

Those who scoff at efforts to change will still be wasting their time hanging around in their communities – or getting into trouble and caught up in the criminal justice system.  Who knows, even those youths may come to realise they too can set goals and change their situation, if they want to.



Strictly In Confidence


JLS (Photo credit: Beacon Radio)

I came across an interesting interview with Brian Tracy recently on the theme of building self-confidence.

To Brian’s way of thinking there are four keys to having self-confidence and being perceived in that way, to paraphrase:

First, focus on the goal you want

Second, maintain yourself in positive thinking state

Third, look for the good in situations

Fourth, look for the valuable lesson from situations

There are seemingly people in the public arena who are developing their self-confidence as well as those who appear more confident.  I wondered how applicable confidence-based perspectives would be to some trending news topics.

First, would Liverpool FC’s Luis Suarez find anger management even more helpful if he focused confidently on being the best striker he can be, without acting aggressively when challenged?

Secondly, would Jan Moir be a more celebrated Daily Mail columnist if she thought more positively about others’ efforts?

Thirdly, could looking forward to the next phase in their lives be any sweeter for the members of successful singing group JLS, once their final tour is complete?

Finally, could a discussion featured in the Guardian newspaper, about the nature and importance of good quality public services be more timely?

Older And Wiser

The Age UK logo

The Age UK logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Without a great fanfare Dame Joan Bakewell has celebrated her 80th birthday.  She has been a mainstay of the brodcast world since the 1960s and shows no sign of taking it easy now.   It is a long way from the BBC’sThat Was The Week That Was‘ programme with David Frost, to Sky Arts 2013 portraiture competition, capturing the essence of Hilary Mantel.  The Guardian newspaper has a modest editorial on that subject, which I found interesting. was thinking of the impact of people living longer and enjoying good health when I came across some research from Age UK, the chariy for older people, concerning ‘Improving Later Life’.   Apparently one of the key issues for those in their mid to late 80s is continuing to have social interaction, to counter the trend to loneliness and isolation which might other wise set in.

Both of these points are important.  Remaining active and engaged with the world, whilst combatting isolation, help individuals sustain their health, well-being and confidence.  There is also a tremendous opportunity for self-discovery as there is more time in which people can indulge in some life long learning and further spiritual growth.  That’s a win for older people, their families and the community at large.

A Few Words About Office Politics


Scooby-Doo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I like Oliver James’s analysis in his book ‘They F*** You Up’, a look at surviving family life and better understanding how growing up in your family made you who you are today.


I have read the Guardian’s review of his latest offering ‘Office Politics’ and I am unsure what to make of it.


It seems the book’s thesis is that, ‘where blame can be spread and credit stolen, and the bonus pool depends on staying in the boss’s good graces, you need to know how to hustle’.  Hustling in this context seems to involve looking out for number one without being full-on nasty about it.


It is probably unfair to critique the book without having read it (the review can only give an impression of the whole) yet I found myself thinking: what about fostering an organisational culture which helps staff be their authentic selves in the workplace?


It seems to me the energy involved in developing and deploying a work-persona is considerable.  Wouldn’t it be a lot easier to put that energy into being authentic?  In that way there is no need to hustle, take others’ credit or keep in the boss’s good graces.


In addition what about the value of building a positive organisational culture, so there would be no need to look for some colleague, stakeholder or customer on whom to heap blame?


There is something quite small and petty about the idea of keeping a list of those to blame / identify as the enemy / seek retribution against.  Don’t misunderstand, mapping stakeholders who support what you are trying to achieve in a project makes sense.  Identifying those who will always oppose any change, your project will deliver makes sense.  Keeping a list of those you point to as, ‘always at fault’, seems like something out of Scooby Doo, (‘I would have got away with it too, if it wasn’t for you pesky kids!’).  It certainly feels unseemly and makes an organisation seem less than self-confident.


The BBC coverage of the National Rifle Association’s newly-discovered list seems to fall into this category .  I would certainly feel a bit nervous being in that organisation’s bad books.