7 reasons to develop your creativity

It may be helpful firstly to define being creative.

One definition from the Collins English dictionary offers ‘ having the ability to create, characterized by originality of thought; having or showing imagination, characterized by sophisticated bending of the rules or conventions ‘

marseille 'mirror'

Everyone has the capacity to be creative, although not all in the same way.  I have written before about ways in which you develop your creativity and you can see these here . Everyone expresses creativity in their own way and so it is important to look for ways in which you can or do display your creativity.

What I want to do here is to offer some reasons why you would want to do this.

Re-ignite your passion. There are many ways in which you can develop creativity and by picking one of these and pursuing it you can enter into a new universe and find a new passion. For example I have never written a book and am now following a course on creative writing which is leading to me writing every day and starting to develop a short story or two!

Be creative in problem solving and you will find that your skill at solving problems develops immensely. Creative problem solving enables and encourages you to see the big picture and not to go down the same road each time you encounter a problem.

Open yourself up to new opportunities by developing your creativity. You will start to see the world from different perspectives which will open you up to all sorts of different opportunities

Do things differently.You will start to live your life differently, and enjoying doing things differently will impact on your whole life and create change.

Become more productive and effective at work as you challenge the old order in which you did things and search out new and better ways of doing them.

Creativity leads to innovation and this can open up many possibilities for you if your follow this course.

Finally being more creative will be less boring and you will have fun!

I am sure there are more reasons,  what would you add to this list?

Barbara is an executive coach, change and creativity facilitator. She offers facilitated workshops in creative problem solving. She has recently co-authored a book on creative problem solving with Tracy Stanley, called Creativity Cycling.  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Creativity-Cycling-complex-problems-creative/dp/0648189244/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1541428054&sr=8-1&keywords=creativity+cycling

The Imposter Syndrome and how to overcome it

What is the Imposter Syndrome?

Do you recognize this feeling? You are about to step into a networking meeting or planning a meeting with a potential client and you have this message popping into your head – ‘these people will realize I am not that good’ or ‘I can’t handle this, I am a fraud.’ Then you are not alone. For example, Liz Bingham, managing partner Ernst & Young , once thought to herself: “What are you dthe jokeroing here? What do you think you’re doing? You’re going to be found out.” Maya Angelou has been reported as saying “I have written 11 books, but each time I think, ‘Uh-oh, they’re going to find [me] out now.”

This is something that many people experience at some time and has been labelled the Imposter Syndrome by Clance and Imes (1978)  who believed that it was unique to women. There is some evidence to suggest that it is not unique to women, however it is believed to be less common in men.

Two US sociologists, Jessica Collett and Jade Avelis, researched the trend of women academics who were “downshifting”: ‘setting out towards a high-status tenured post, then switching to something less ambitious.’ The results of their survey of 460 doctoral students suggested that rather than this being about wanting a better work/life balance or having a more “family-friendly” lifestyle, ‘impostorism was to blame’. This was reported as often being exacerbated when these women were being mentored by a more powerful woman.

What causes the Imposter Syndrome?

The research suggests that some of the reasons for the imposter syndrome may be due to childhood influences and parenting. For example parents who repeat messages that you do not deserve this, or that they give praise when you kow it is not deserved.

However an interesting supposition is that those who experience the imposter syndrome tend to attribute their success to external factors rather than internal factors. That success is  somehow due to luck rather than their own ability. It was suggested by Clance and Imes that women have a greater tendency to do this and that this may be one of the reasons why women are more likely to fall into the category of the Imposter syndrome.

Societal pressures only adds to the problem. “In our society there’s a huge pressure to achieve,” Imes says. “There can be a lot of confusion between approval and love, and worthiness. Self-worth becomes contingent on achieving.”

It is also assumed that this syndrome is partially down to a sense of perfectionism which many people carry with them from their early days.

Overcoming the Imposter syndrome

Here are some suggestions for how to overcome the Imposter Syndrome

  • Keep a note of the positive feedback that you receive and re-read this when your confidence starts to diminish
  • Own your success, it is you who achieved this.
  • Talk to a mentor about your feelings; acknowledgement is the start to overcoming this.
  • Mentor less experienced or junior people to help you really feel your competence.
  • If you are mentoring more junior people and you have experienced the imposter syndrome then share this and talk about how to overcome it.
  • Accept that nobody knows everything and you do have a certain knowledge and expertise to offer the world. Make a note of what this is.
  • Stop comparing your self to others, you are unique. Acknowledge this!
  • Realize that no-one is perfect and good enough is already pretty good as an achievement, so celebrate this!

If you have experienced the Imposter Syndrome, and I certainly have, please share your comments.

Barbara is an executive coach, change and creativity facilitator and has launched RenewYou Personal Development workshops for women in France. These programmes are enabling and confidence boosting. For more information take a look here.

Working to our Strengths is energising

Focussing on improving or eliminating our weaknesses is the most important aspect of personal development, right? No wrong! When we focus on our weaknesses the messages we take on unconsciously is that we are not good at things.

This  tendency to focus on our weaknesses  is not helped by the constant corporate insistence on measurement against targets. I have worked with many leaders giving feedback on a 360 degree process and in the main the first focus is  what are their weaknesses and how does this effect their performance?

I wouldn’t want to dismiss weaknesses as having no effect uponIMG_20150902_102740our performance however I would argue that strengths have the greater effect.

Strengths can be defined as “Underlying qualities that energise us, contribute to our personal growth and lead to peak performance.” Brewerton and Brook, 2006

If we are not aware of what these strengths are then we are unable to capitalize on them. If we focus on our weaknesses we are led down a path of negativity. We come to believe that we are not good at our work or have issues that get in the way of good performance. On the other hand if we focus on our strengths then we can rise above the negativity and consider what we are capable of doing and build upon this.

There is a positive aspect for organisations as well as individuals in focussing on strengths, as research by Rath and Conchie (2008) has shown,  that by optimizing strengths there is on average an increase in  engagement in organisations by 73%.  A blogpost
I wrote about employee engagement in 2013 highlighted how important it is to have engaged employees as they are more motivated and committed to the organisation.

James Brooke of the organisation Strengths Partnership, asserts that focusing on strengths :

  • Ensure that employees get clarity on their natural strengths so they can realise their full potential
  • Heightens their positive energy and confidence, which is crucial for performance improvement
  • Provides people with an improved understanding of how to manage their weaker areas

One way in which working to understand ones strengths changes us is that it offers a different perspective. If we have always been focussing on what we can’t do and have built up barriers resulting in a lack of confidence then this is the lens we view our world through. If we could change this, re-frame our world and see things through a positive lens, recognizing what we do well, then the change can be amazing. As Brooke states above, positive energy is heightened when recognizing strengths.

Barbara is accredited in strengths assessment and uses this in her coaching. She is also facilitating Renewyou personal development workshops for women in France which takes  a strengths focussed approach to development.


‘It’s where he is now but it wasn’t what he planned.’ A personal experience of change

‘It’s where he is now but it wasn’t what he planned.’IMG_0916

These words had been going around my head for weeks since I heard the Damon Albarn song ‘Mr Tembo’.

Somehow it has particularly resonated as I was facing a not unexpected but nevertheless unsettling change in my career.

Change always has the potential to destabilize whether it is personal or professional. We get comfortable in our habits and our mind sets and any change creates a discomfort and even fear of what the future may hold.

Although Elisabeth Kubler-Ross  wrote about the experiences of the dying, her words have been taken to be a model for any change, and although this was not really intended there is a recognition that people facing change may move through certain stages of emotion.

  1. Shock and denial – what is happening and maybe it won’t happen to me!
  2. Anger and fear – why me and what will I do, how will I cope?
  3. Acceptance – this is where I am, even if it’s not what I planned
  4. Commitment to move forward

Even when change is anticipated, certain of these stages can be experienced as it is not always easy to accept change and move on. It is important to acknowledge that when change is happening a whole set of emotions will follow and this can be a messy and complex time.  We need to make sense of change and to allow ourselves to grieve for what has been before we can move on to what is to come.

Coming back to the lyrics of My Tembo,  what has helped me to move on is that this is where I am now even if it wasn’t what I planned, so it helped me to take a leap into the third stage, accept what is,  and move on to commitment to move forward.

What can help in moving through these stages?

My suggestions:

  • Talk it through with a partner, friend, coach, counselor to make sense of the change and how it impacts you.
  • Develop scenarios of what you can do when the change happens
  • Make positive plans for the future
  • Start to take action – baby steps are good at this stage
  • Have a support network to fall back on when the doubt and negativity arise

What would you add to this?

Barbara is an executive coach, change and creativity facilitator and is launching RenewYou Personal Development workshops for women in France. These programmes are enabling and confidence boosting. For more information take a look here .

What is really important in a change programme?

I recently came across a very interesting article about Kaizen methods
climbing steps together at Montmatreof change which led to me revisiting the concept of Kaizen and change. I have always understood Kaizen to be about facilitating change through small steps. In fact the original Kaizen approach, as declared by the Kaizen Institute , emphasizes that it is not just about small steps, rather it is about everyone being involved in change.

Some time ago as part of my MBA study I watched a video about kaizen being implemented in a small UK manufacturing organisation, Dutton engineering. What resonated with me and which I recall so well, was the pride that one of the shop floor workers took in an improvement he had made himself in his work processes. This resulted in a much higher level of engagement than is often normal for this type of industry. Having started my career in manufacturing industry my observation would be that processes are driven by management with little involvement of people using them.

So in revising  what is really important in facilitating a change programme, I have concluded that the following aspects are the most important

  1. Engagement

If people are not engaged in the change process, understand the need for change and can see what’s in it for them, then they will not support the change. For a discussion on engagement see this blog post here.

  1. Supportive leadership

I emphasise here the word leadership rather than leaders. Leadership is a concept that can be applied to anyone willing and being accepted to take on the role of facilitating change whatever their position in the hierarchy. Change requires leadership which is supportive, emotionally intelligent and resilient.

3. A compelling vision

This should probably be first however it is crucial that a compelling vision is created in order to inspire people. The best type of compelling vision is one that is co-created by engaging people in the process of change. I have written before about this in this blog post.

4 Commitment at the top level of the organisation to sustain the change.

So many organisations I have worked with have short terms plans which change from year to year. If change is to be successful it must have long term commitment and not be flavour of the month. Change does not happen quickly, however organisations try to make it so, and in doing this they fail to implement fully what is needed for the change to be sucessful. This becomes a self defeating cycle because next time a similar change is suggested people can say we tried this once and it didn’t work! So commitment to the long term is important.

5 Developing a flexible plan

In terms of sustaining the change, not only are vision, leadership, engagement and commitment needed but also a flexible plan. A plan or a map of the journey to the change is important and I would argue that this needs to have in built flexibility such as Mintzberg advocated.

What would you add to this list?

Barbara is an executive coach, change and creativity facilitator and is launching RenewYou Personal Development workshops for women in France. These programmes are enabling and confidence boosting. For more information take a look here .

5 ways to more effective brainstorming

Business colleagues brainstorming multicolored labels stuck on whiteboard in meeting

Sitting here staring at my keyboard and wondering what to write in this weeks blog led me to a favourite topic of mine : brainstorming.

Now we all know how to brainstorm don’t we? Well actually we don’t.

There is far more to the topic than most of us acknowledge. For example one of the best reference books I have come across on brainstorming, Techniques of Structured Problem Solving by Van Grundy, has a 120 page section on generating ideas, of which many fall into the brainstorming kind.

Brainstorming is used in most organisations and teams at some stage and for most of the time is is completely ineffective. So why is this?

Let me list some of the issues that are blocks to effective brainstorming.

1. Brainstorming usually takes place in a boardroom or seated around a table. 

Well actually this is the worst space in which to brainstorm. It  tends to lead to a complacency of thought and only logical rational ideas being generated.

Throw out the table, stand not sit, or even better walk outside, and see how ideas flow better!

2.  Brainstorming is done by getting people to shout out loud their ideas.

This can of course work, however it favours the extrovert and leaves the introvert out of the picture.

Try a period of silent brainstorming, or brainwriting as it is often called. In this everyone has a set of post-its or cards and writes one idea on each. They then get pinned up and sorted later.

3.  Brainstorming is done in 10 minutes or less.

This is not enough time to allow the unconscious to get to work.

Try for  periods of around 30 minutes or have intervals of different activities intertwined with brainstorming and change the format of the brainstorming.

4. Brainstorming is about a ‘free for all’.

Well yes and no. Ideas need to be allowed to be expressed freely, however a set of rules is required for the climate to be conducive to effective brainstorming:

  • Criticism is ruled out
  • Freewheeling is welcomed
  • Quantity of ideas is sought, the more the better
  • Combining ideas and building on others is good also.

5.  Brainstorming is about coming up with words to represent ideas.

However it can be stimulated by images, metaphor, sculpture, etc. The idea here is that a whole variety of stimuli can be used to seek out further ideas around the topic.

Here I have tried to offer some ways of improving brainstorming and have also introduced some different formats to aid brainstorming.

What are your favourite approaches to generating ideas through brainstorming?

Barbara is an executive coach, change and creativity facilitator and is launching RenewYou Personal Development workshops for women in France. These programmes are enabling and confidence boosting. For more information contact barbara here