How to get the most out of Executive Coaching


If you are considering Executive Coaching, or if you have just signed up to a programme of business coaching you are potentially embarking on a life-changing experience. But the success of your coaching programme depends on some basic but essential actions on your part. Take these five steps and you will get more out of your coaching, enjoy the experience and reap the benefits of this important investment.


Choose a coach who has relevant experience in business (not just in coaching!) and make sure you feel comfortable with this person. A pre-meeting with them before committing to coaching is essential – have some questions for them about their approach and their other clients. Can they give you testimonials? Can you speak to one of their clients?


Be clear about what you want to change. The more specific you can be about your coaching ‘goal’ the more effective your coaching will be. It can be anything from “I want to be able to deliver powerful presentations with confidence” to “I want to implement a new strategy with the team within 6 months”. A good coach will help you refine your goal and assess your starting posision so that you can monitor and review progress on a regular basis.


Prepare for each session by reviewing what has happened since you last met your coach. What has gone well? What has not worked well? Has a specific issue arisen that you would like to discuss with your coach (ideally this will be related to your overall coaching goal but not necessarily)?


Make sure that each session ends with a summary of what has been discussed and what actions you are going to take. A good coach will do this. Agreed actions allow you to put into practice some of the good ideas or options you have discussed at the session. The knowledge that you will meet your coach again in a month or so is a powerful incentive to getting those actions done!


Be prepared to challenge yourself and your ways of working. Be open to new ideas and to trying new things. Coaching provides you with a safe environment in which to be honest and open about what is happening at work and what needs to change. If you are not completely open you will not realise the full benefit of coaching – it will be a missed opportunity.

Coaching is challenging and can be exhausting. But the benefits of sitting down on a regular basis with a trusted professional to analyse what is going on for you at work cannot be underestimated. Follow these steps for a better coaching experience. If you do you will be more likely to achieve noticeable, positive and long-lasting change.

For more information about JPA’s Executive Coaching Programmes contact:

What work teams can learn from Natalia Cohen



Do your colleagues sometimes rub you up the wrong way? Do you despair of team members who don’t pull their weight and get in the way of progress? Then spare a thought for the four woman team of rowers who have become the first female crew to cross the Pacific Ocean.

The crew spent 257 days together rowing for 24 hours straight in two-hour shifts. Their 29-foot boat contained a cabin the size of a two-person tent where the women washed and slept. Mind-boggling isn’t it? Such conditions are surely a recipe for tension, conflict, bickering and fall outs. But when interviewed, crew member Natalia Cohen said that the team (who did not know each other before the trip) got on extremely well and managed to work effectively as a team throughout – without any major arguments. How come?

Well, there’s something about being united to achieve a common goal that helps a team pull together against all odds. But that in itself is not enough. The crew did a lot of preparatory work with a sports psychologist which involved the use of psychometric tests and other activities to increase the team’s understanding of their individual styles, preferences and differences. This, said Natalia, was key to the team’s success. Their deep understanding of each other and the dynamics at work in a diverse group helped to manage potential conflicts and avoid what Natalia called the ‘hot buttons’ that tend to trigger arguments.

In business coaching and training we often use psychometric tests as a way of helping people to understand themselves first and then the people they work with. The results of these tests always lead to valuable learning. I have heard many ‘Ah-ha!’ moments when a team member might say “now I realise why Jim and I can’t get along” or “I now see that my approach really would upset Jill”. These test are not abstract exercises leading to little more than some interesting insights. They are scientifically sound and can provide the basis for practical strategies to improve team performance.

Conflict at work is all too common. And team conflict is draining, time-consuming and de-motivating. What’s more poor team performance can have a negative and damaging impact on the business.

If your team is not working consider what practical steps you can take to improve the situation – and be thankful that you are not spending 24 hours together for the next 257 days!

For more details about Executive Coaching and Team Coaching contact Jeanette Purcell Associates at

Five steps to choosing the right Executive Coach


For many in business, the start of a new year means setting new goals. These might be strategic or specific to your business. But they could be more personal, connected with your career or professional development. Whatever your goal for the year, you could well be considering working with an Executive Coach to help keep you on track, give you support and to improve your chances of success. Good move! But how do you choose the best coach for you? Here are my top 5 tips to help you ensure you make the best possible investment.

Tip #1

Be clear about what you want to achieve through coaching. Are you able to articulate what you need help with or what outcomes you want to see as a result of your coaching? The more specific you are, the more successful your coaching will be. And, if you have a goal, you can seek out the Executive Coach who has the skills and experience to help you achieve it.

Tip #2

Ask around amongst friends and colleagues to see if they have worked with a coach and if there is someone they can recommend to you. A recommendation from someone you know and trust is always better than a Google search!

Tip #3

Look carefully at the profile of the person you are considering as an Executive Coach. Do they have relevant experience? How much practical experience do they have of business? How likely are they to understand your situation and the issues you are facing? An experienced coach is one thing, an experienced coach who has worked at the coal face is even better!

Tip #4

Look carefully at client testimonials. How recent are they?   Are they specific about how they benefited from coaching and what they particularly valued about their Coach’s approach.

Tip #4

When you think you have found an Executive Coach who fits the bill, ask for a meeting with them before you commit. Successful Executive Coaching depends on being comfortable with your coach and on there being a strong relationship of trust and respect between you. You will only know if the relationship will work by meeting them face-to-face.


Good luck!   If you are considering Executive Coaching you can contact Jeanette Purcell on 07946 385178 or

Three essential questions to kick start 2016



A number of my clients start the new year by setting aside a few hours to do some thinking and planning for the year ahead. While the temptation might be to get stuck into the millions of jobs that need doing after the break, these clients create some space to think about their goals for the year and the critical actions they need to take to achieve these goals. That planning time is definitely time well spent – it will help you to remain focused and to work effectively, avoiding stress and maintaining your work/life balance. To help you with your planning here are three essential questions to ask yourself at the start of the year:

Question 1: What went well last year and what have a learnt?

Before launching yourself into your plan for the year take a moment to reflect on the year just gone. What worked particularly well and why? What didn’t work so well and what lessons have you learnt as a result? Your answer to these questions will inform your planning for the year ahead. Your aim should be to capitalise on what went well (can you do more?) and to know how to avoid the pitfalls that got in the way of progress in the previous year.

Question 2: What are your goals for 2016?

A good way of thinking about this question is to fast-forward to the end of 2016 and imagine yourself twelve months from now. In an ideal world what will you have achieved? What will you be doing? How will you be feeling?   Now use this picture of yourself to help you articulate your specific goals. There may only be one (e.g. grow my business by 10%), the goal might be personal (e.g. achieve promotion or a new job), and it might be very specific (move into new offices, or take on an assistant).   Once you know your goals you can work out the actions you must take to achieve those goals.

Question 3: What support do I need?

You probably can’t do it all on your own! What about your own self-development? Where will you get your support and motivation from? How will you keep yourself on track when there are so many other distractions that might send you off course? What new skills do you need to improve your effectiveness? A business coach could be the answer here. With a coach you will be able to monitor your progress, talk through issues as they arise, tease out problems and find solutions for them. A good coach will give you direction, help you to develop new skills and provide you with the opportunity to monitor and review your progress on a regular basis – we so rarely do this on our own! Investing in a coach could be the most important investment you make in 2016 – why not give yourself this gift to help kick start your year!

Call Jeanette on 07946 385178 or email her on for details of JPA’s Executive Coaching Programmes.

What networking is not


What do you think of when you hear the word ‘business networking’? A crowded reception room full of anonymous faces? Grappling with drinks and canapés while trying to make small talk? People frantically ‘working the room’ and exchanging business cards? It’s not a positive image is it? But the truth is this image continues to discourage people who know they should network but somehow never get round to it. The trouble is, our assumptions about networking misrepresent the reality. So let’s correct those negative thoughts right now!

Networking is not about:
• Attending numerous receptions and events in the hope of making a few tentative connections;
• Arrogance, self-promotion or pretending to be someone you’re not;
• Collecting business cards, connections on LinkedIn, followers on Twitter or friends on facebook.
And believe it or not, networking is not all about YOU!

I once attended a business lecture about ‘Effective Networking’ held in the Middle East. The presenter was the owner of a business club and was clearly there to promote his club as a place to network and do business. I was so dismayed by his views on the subject of networking that I wrote down what he said, word for word.

“When you are networking, do keep your face in everyone else’s and make sure everyone in the room knows who you are and what you do by the end of the night.”

Would you really like to meet someone who behaved like this at an event you were attending? Perhaps you have experience of people who take this approach to networking. Take my word for it; this sort of behaviour does not work! Of course it’s useful to attend networking events if they are relevant, and exchanging business cards on these occasions is customary practice. There are also times when it’s important to do a bit of self promotion when networking. But in my view none of these activities help to define the concept of networking.

What networking is

This is my preferred definition:

Networking is about building reciprocal relationships with people you like, admire and trust.

If you can exchange your negative perception of networking with my new improved definition then, I promise you, the whole idea will become much more appealing and manageable.

Does this description of networking really apply in all situations? Some might argue that you can’t adopt this attitude in a hard-nosed sales environment where the sole object is to get business regardless of the personalities and without any intention of building a long term relationship with customers. Well, I concede that there are some occasions in certain business contexts where we have to do business with people we don’t like. I also accept that, in some sales environments, there is no requirement or even opportunity to build lasting business relationships with clients. However, I would argue that these situations are increasingly rare. And I maintain that the general aim in networking should always be to build relationships with people you like admire and trust. If you do, you are likely to be a more successful networker in the long term.

When I look at my networks and consider the business relationships that have been most valuable to me over time, I realise that my (often subconscious) decision to put effort into building a relationship with another person is influenced by at least one of six factors.

1. I like the other person.
2. I am interested in or respect them.
3. I think I could learn from them.
4. I think they could help me.
5. I want to help them.
6. I trust them.

So think about these six factors when you network and be open to forging new relationships with a wide spectrum of interesting people.  You can be a great and effective networker without ever having to attend another drinks reception!

This is an excerpt from Jeanette’s book “No Nonsense Networking” – click here for a free download.

5 reasons why networking matters

children networking

There are many reasons why you should aim to be an effective networker. It’s good for you, it’s good for your career and it’s good for your business. What’s more, if you approach networking with the right attitude you will enjoy the activity and want to do it more. Here are my top five reasons why you should aim to be a great networker:

Reason #1 – We do business with people we like and trust

It’s popular to believe that buying has become a depersonalised activity and that the hiring of staff is based purely on an objective assessment of a candidate’s skills. But the evidence is that, even today, most transactions in business are about relationships. We do business with people we like and trust. You can achieve a certain amount through marketing and advertising campaigns and it is possible for selling to be a completely anonymous business, but at some stage your customer, client or prospective employer is likely to come face to face with YOU. Their decision to buy or hire will be influenced by a range of factors which, at some level, will almost certainly include how much they like and trust you. Relationships are at the heart of any successful business. And so it is important to invest time in making connections, building relationships and maintaining those connections over time.

Reason #2 – Word of mouth marketing really works

I have been running a business for several years and ALL of my clients have come to me through word of mouth. Now, that’s not unusual for my type of business but all companies, regardless of size or industry, rely to some extent on word-of-mouth marketing.

Surveys into the impact of online marketing show that peer recommendation is the most trusted form or advertising, whereas online search, banner advertising and other ads are among the least trusted (NIELSEN – Global Online Consumer Survey – July 2009). Even with the explosion of online review applications (eg, Yelp, Google, Urbanspoon), research clearly demonstrates that word of mouth—product recommendations made by family, friends, work colleagues, or neighbours —is still the most effective way to win new customers. (The Harris Poll #74, June 3, 2010). At the same time, many people fail to recognise the value of customer referrals and the power of networking as a form of word-of-mouth marketing.

Reason #3 – Being good at your job is not enough

Like it or not life is not a meritocracy. The truth is that your skills, qualities and experience are likely to go unnoticed unless you are prepared to promote yourself. This means seeking opportunities to communicate what you have to offer and your career aspirations. I’m not talking about trotting out a sales pitch to everyone you meet, but I am suggesting that a more proactive approach to advancing your career is required. And this involves building a useful supportive network.

Reason #4 – Well connected people are ‘in the know’

The surest way to pick up on a new opportunity – whether it’s a new client, new job or changes in your market – is to be well connected. How many times have you heard about a job vacancy or a potential new project through a friend or work colleague? The grapevine is a wonderful and powerful communication channel and you should use it. By developing your networks you not only stand a better chance of knowing what’s going on but you are also more likely to be remembered when one of your connections wants something that you offer. Networks are vital as a means of sharing knowledge and information. What’s more, a good networker who enjoys meeting and learning about other people will broaden their outlook and develop a useful body of skills and knowledge, making them an interesting person to know.

Reason #5 – Networks are a valuable source of support

Networking is not just about finding opportunities and advancing your own interests. A good network is one that is based on give and take, trust and respect. There are people in my network who I know I can ask for help when I am thinking through a new idea or dealing with a particularly difficult problem. And they know I will do the same for them in return. If you build your network in the right way, you will find that it can be a valuable source of support and advice.

This is an excerpt from Jeanette Purcell’s “No-Nonsense Networking” – 6 steps to raising your profile.

How to be a versatile leader


What are leaders required to do? We could argue that it depends on the circumstances but most people would probably agree that leaders are required to get results.

And what are the activities leaders engage in to get those results? When I talk to leaders I divide the key activities into three categories. Leaders need to:

  • Articulate their vision – identify a compelling goal and have a well thought out strategy to achieve the goal. (Strategise)
  • Communicate their vision – raise awareness and understanding with all stakeholders. And this means communicating regularly and consistently. (Communicate and engage)
  • Achieve their vision – plan, implement, recruit and develop others, manage performance, monitor and review. (Plan and Manage)

But the really difficult question is HOW can leaders do all those things? These activities require quite different styles of leadership. Setting and communicating your vision involves creativity, the ability to give clear direction, compelling others to follow your dream. Communicating and engaging with others requires good listening skills and the ability to bring people together, creating harmony and encouraging collaboration. And when implementing their strategy, leaders have to give attention to developing their people as well as managing performance which often involves taking tough and unpopular decisions. Is it really possible for one leader to do all of these things?

According to Daniel Goleman (“Leadership that gets results”, Harvard Business Review,2000) truly effective leaders are those who are capable of adapting their leadership style when necessary. Successful leaders are versatile in their approach and have a number of different styles in their repertoire. Not only that, they have sufficient empathy and emotional intelligence to understand what style to use in which situation. Goleman argues that aspiring leaders can acquire this versatility by taking the following steps:

–    Have a personal vision of the sort of leader you aspire to be. Visualise your ‘ideal self’ as a leader. Many people struggle with the idea of having a personal vision but we know that, without a vision, it is difficult to find the motivation to change and to work out a plan for improvement.

–   Carry out an inventory of what skills, attributes and qualities you already have at your disposal (these are your strengths) and work out where the gaps are between your self now and your ideal self. This requires a high level of self awareness. Think about where you can get good information (feedback from others, psychometric tests, coaching perhaps) to ensure that you have a clear picture of your real self.

–    Draw up a ‘personal plan for development’ that helps you to build on your strengths and addresses the gaps between your self now and your ideal self.

–    Practice. The only way to achieve versatility and develop new styles of leadership is to practice different behaviours. Challenge yourself to try out new approaches, resisting the temptation to rely on your default style. We are talking about changing habits here and that takes a lot of practice over time. Sufficient practice will mean that eventually the leadership style you aspire to will become natural – a new habit.

-    Build trusting relationships. While you are following your plan for development you will need people to talk to, to share your successes and setbacks with, to spur you on and to give you feedback. Find people who you trust and respect and tell them what you are trying to achieve. Check in with these people regularly.
Being a versatile leader is not easy. But there is no longer ‘one right way’ to lead. What is needed is the ability to understand people and situations and to adopt different leadership styles in response. In other words, successful leaders do the right things at the right time in the right way with the right person.

Top 3 tips for improving your time management skills

white rabbit

While working with a team of sales managers recently I asked them what part of their jobs they found most difficult.  The answer came back loud and clear – ‘time management!’  These guys (yes, they were all men) were working long hours and were expected to meet challenging sales targets.  Some of them were responsible for managing other people and all of them had various additional duties such as managing budgets, running meetings, attending exhibitions etc.  It struck me that, no matter how experienced we are, or how familiar we are with the basic principles of good time management, we tend to forget everything we have been taught when the going gets tough.  We go into fire-fighting mode, we abandon our plans, we stop communicating with others and we neglect our own well-being.  Even the most experienced business leaders need regular reminders to encourage them to plan well, manage themselves and prioritise effectively.  Here are my three top tips for ensuring that, even when under pressure, your time is managed wisely and effectively.

Time management tip #1 – Plan!

Most people don’t plan well, and yet good planning is at the heart of effective time management.  Start with your overall goal – maybe your goal for the year.  Is it to grow your business? Launch a new product? Enter a new market?  Goals give you something to commit to and they will guide your decision-making.  Make sure your goal is SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timed.   The key question to ask yourself is what will your world look like in a year’s time when you have achieved your goal?  How many new customers will you have? What level of financial improvement will you see?  These outcomes will be the measures of your success and progress towards these measures should be regularly monitored.

When you have described your overall goal work out what specific steps you must take to achieve your goal.  Make these steps as specific and practical as possible and put them in a time-frame.  For instance, “Hire a PA by end January” or “Design new page for website by April”.  Work out who you need to involve in these activities and communicate your intentions to them.

Write your plan down and keep the document as a key point of reference to monitor progress.  Some people are reluctant to write an action plan but if it is written well, and if you keep it under review and update it, it will help to keep you focussed.

Time management tip #2 – Prioritise

President Eisenhower said ‘Most things which are urgent are not important, and most things which are important are not urgent’.  If you have set your goals and written your action plan you should have a clear idea of what is important.  However, stuff always gets in the way of the best laid plans, demanding your time and attention and distracting you from essential tasks.  In these situations you need to be ruthless about prioritising, by identifying what you must do and what you can ignore or leave for another time.  Ask yourself:

  • Is this really urgent?  If it absolutely must be done this week, without fail, then go ahead and get it done.  If it can wait for a week allocate some time to get it done – put it in your planner or diary and then move on – it’s dealt with, don’t think about it anymore.
  • Is it really important?  What are the consequences of not getting this done?  If they are truly serious then the task is important and you should do it now or allocate a time to get it done.

Urgent tasks which are not important are often imposed on you by someone else with their own  priorities  – meetings, phone calls  and emails come into this category.   In such cases you need to decide how important the activity, or the relationship with the person driving it, is to you.  If you conclude that it is not so important then consider whether the task can be delegated to someone else.

Tasks which are not urgent but important  are the ones that should be given time and attention.  Such tasks might involve planning, preparation, getting some exercise, relationship-building.  All these activities will help you to get control over your time.  If you don’t plan for these activities and build them into your schedule they will at best become urgent at a later date, or at worst result in a crisis or failure.

Time management tip #3 – Delegate

Even if you work on your own or in an isolated role there are always opportunities to delegate.  If it is managed properly delegation can bring so many rewards – more time for you to spend on important stuff, greater efficiencies and staff who are motivated by acquiring new skills.  If you are doing things that other people could be doing just as well then you are not using your time effectively.

Here are the basic steps to take when delegating:

  • Make a list of tasks that could be delegated.
  • Consider who could possibly do the job – this might be someone who has the potential to develop or someone who has some free time (if you’re self-employed you could consider outsourcing)
  • Be prepared to brief the person thoroughly.  Explain to them exactly why you are delegating the task and put the task in context so that the person understands the big picture and the overall objective.
  • Set the parameters.  How much authority do they have?  When would you like them to report back or check in with you? What are the timescales?
  • Monitor.  This doesn’t mean interfering or constantly checking and correcting.  Just keep an eye on progress – you can set up regular review meetings depending on the size and nature of the task.

Delegation gives you more time but we often shy away from it as we think it’s easier simply to do it ourselves.  But if you are prepared to invest time in briefing others who have the skills or the motivation to help you the payback is significant.  However, don’t use delegation as a means of dumping all the unpleasant jobs that you don’t want to do – you won’t get the support you need if that’s your attitude!

Effective time management requires a lot of discipline, a high awareness of those things that waste your time and some persistence.  You have to be motivated to achieve your goals, but if you start with a good plan, know the difference between urgent and important, and delegate wherever you can you will achieve your goals more quickly – without burnout!

Lessons in responsible leadership

Developments in the phone hacking inquiry raise more questions about the moral responsibility of leaders.  In fact this news item, coming after a succession of scandals involving financial institutions and corrupt MPs,  will ensure that the debate around business ethics and corporate responsibility will continue for some time.

I am intrigued by Rebekah Brooks’ statement that she had “no knowledge” of the phone hacking taking place at the News of the World when she was in charge of the paper.   It might be argued that leaders of large complex organisations can’t be expected to know everything.  Max Clifford, probably the UK’s best known publicist and now in jail, came to the defence of Ms Brooks saying she may not have known every detail about day to day goings on in the company.   To some extent this is true.  We all know of disastrous bosses who attempt to micro manage, not trusting managers to get on with the job and attempting to control everything.   Such an approach to leadership just doesn’t work.  As a boss you can’t know and do it all – without effective delegation and trust the business simply won’t move forward.  Furthermore, staff working for a control freak will quickly lose any commitment or motivation to do a good job.

So where do you draw the line?   How can leaders make it their business to know what’s going on in their organisation while at the same time allowing others the right amount of discretion and autonomy?     Well, there are many ways of keeping your ear to the ground so that you don’t lose touch with the day to day: regular meetings and chats with staff (formal and informal);  asking questions now and again, especially when something doesn’t ‘feel right’;  being quite clear with others about what you do and don’t need to know;  effective communication processes; and so on.

But a more fundamental solution lies in the articulation and communication of values and then firmly embedding these in the organisation.   Responsible management involves a commitment to transparency and honesty.   Leaders should be clear about their own values, their expectations of others and preferred ways of working.   I have worked with businesses where staff are actively involved in the identification and communication of values – it’s not always possible but it’s the best way of getting ‘buy in’ and real commitment.  Once established, these values become central to everything the business does, from the way customers are treated to the recruitment and promotion of staff.    Clear values help to inform decision-making.   Where risky or controversial decisions are concerned, reference to values can often help identify the ‘right’ solution.

I don’t know whether Rebekah Brooks or News Corporation have ever given a thought to their values or moral code.  Somehow I doubt it.  If they had, they wouldn’t be in such a mess now.  More importantly many people, including Milly Dowler’s family, might have been saved so much unnecessary distress.

Do we really need appraisals?

smith and jones

I spoke to a Chief Executive recently who was leaving the position they had held for over ten years to embark on a portfolio career.  “I will miss many things about my job” he told me “but I won’t miss appraisals.”  Now, every good Chief Executive is expected to support and embrace the performance appraisal process.  We are told that appraisals are an essential part of performance management.  They provide an opportunity to evaluate an individual’s performance and also to consider their development and training needs.   The existence of a comprehensive appraisal system is normally thought to reflect well on employers, indicating their commitment to developing their staff and their compliance with best practice in performance management.   Why then did this Chief Executive hold such a negative view about something that is universally considered to be a ‘good thing’?   

I too have experience of performance appraisals in a range of organisations and, although I appreciate the rationale for appraisals, I too have some reservations about their value. 

Appraisals are often considered to be a time-consuming chore by both the line manager and the person being appraised.  A great deal of form filling is normally required both before and after the appraisal and the meeting itself can take more than two hours.  For one line manager with ten or more staff the amount of time involved to complete the process can easily exceed thirty hours.    And what is the return on this considerable investment of time?

Line managers often lack the skills required to conduct an appraisal.  The process requires them to listen, ask relevant questions, provide clear feedback, address performance problems, and so on.  All these skills need to be learnt and practised – not all line managers have that opportunity.  And it is not easy for a manager to both give encouragement and raise performance issues at the same meeting.  Yet most appraisals require managers to adopt these apparently contradictory attitudes –  is it any wonder  that the person being appraised often leaves the meeting not knowing whether they’ve been praised or admonished?

The mistake that companies often make is to assume that the implementation of a performance appraisal process represents good performance management.  This is not the case.  Good performance management requires regular and consistent communication with employees (at the corporate and individual level) about what is expected from them, how their performance will be assessed and how well they are doing against those measures.  Line managers should recognise their responsibility for giving clear direction to employees.   They should be communicating with their staff every day, encouraging and a two-way dialogue so that employees are able to raise concerns, put forward suggestions and ask for support.  I often think that, if line managers were better at leading, motivating and managing the performance of their staff, the annual appraisal meeting would be irrelevant and unnecessary. 

“If we stopped doing appraisals I wonder if anything would change” mused my CEO friend.  I wonder.

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