You’re Coaching Whom?

Here’s how it started…

With March being Women’s History Month, at the beginning of the month I was chatting with a colleague and we thought about how amazing it would be to have had the chance to coach a famous woman from history. What an experience it could be to understand what drove them, understand their thinking behind their major decisions, and more importantly, to help guide them to be even more impactful and see how a coaching relationship might have informed how they chose to lead. How might it have accelerated or expanded their trajectory?

The more we played with this idea, I found it difficult to choose someone – because I would want to be sure the facts were accurate, that I didn’t miss key events in their life that informed who they were as a leader, and that I didn’t offend anyone! Then we explored the idea of choosing a fictional character, and suddenly it felt easier – much more license to play.  So, this is how we landed on Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series…

What if Hermione Granger had an executive coach? How might that have impacted her trajectory and the way she chose to lead and make a difference in her world?

Here are some caveats…

The purpose of this blog is to have fun reading the imagined coaching conversation, and to provide a setting for you to reflect on the same questions that I pose to Hermione. While you are enjoying the story, please take the time to think through the questions for yourself.  Hopefully, you will gain new insights about yourself as a leader and discover new perspectives that can help propel you forward to discover your path to bold and extraordinary leadership.

Here’s some context…

Hermione is a Muggle-born witch – that is, unlike most of her witch and wizard peers, she did not grow up with magical parents, but rather two human (or Muggle) ones. She did not learn she was a witch until she was accepted into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry at age eleven. However, despite Hermione discovering her magic later than the average wizard, she is known as one of the most capable and intelligent witches of her year. She was often bullied at school and faced many microaggressions; some derogatorily called her a ‘mudblood’ because of her non-magical heritage, others called her a ‘know-it-all’ as a result of her intellect and status as the best academically.  Hermione often showed up believing she knew best and wanted to control the situation, but after befriending Harry and Ron in her first year and developing a fierce loyalty to them as the years went on, we see her ‘controlling style’ begin to loosen as she realises that sometimes rules can be bent and broken when they are unjust. As we navigate her coaching engagement, we will begin to see a theme of standing up for those who are unable to stand up for themselves as a key motivator in Hermione’s actions.

The following is my first (imagined) session with a young, twenty-something Hermione, fresh out of Hogwarts, just starting her career at the Ministry of Magic and still with an exciting journey ahead of her. I have done my best (with the help of some Potterheads) to capture what I believe Hermione would think and feel during this time in her life, but as a disclaimer, this is fictional! More avid Potter fans may think she would respond differently. I welcome your feedback!

Let’s get started!…

For expediency, assume we have covered the coaching goals, expectations, and confidentiality conversation.


Hermione, how are you today? I’m honoured to partner with you on this journey and begin our coaching relationship.


Thank you, I’m excited too. Although I must say I’m a little bit nervous. I don’t quite know what to expect.


Thank you for letting me know, Hermione. Don’t worry, we’re in this together, and this is your time.  This is an opportunity for you to better understand who you are as a leader, what motivates you, how you process information and make decisions, and how others see you.

Over the course of our engagement, we will work together to help you discover the conditions that you need in order to thrive, how you get in your own way to achieve your goals, how you communicate effectively or not, how you’re most comfortable engaging with people, and how you can be more proactive to own your unique talents and gifts to express them in the most effective way and deliver the impact that you want to see. 

I also want you to get a clearer understanding on what you really want to do and how you want to go about achieving it.

I know this is a lot. We will take our time and layer the process to build upon your insights and discoveries about yourself. I am confident that you are up for the challenge. Does this make sense?


This sounds really exciting. I’m eager to get started.


Fantastic! So, I’m going to start by asking you a couple of reflection questions. I don’t want you to overthink them, just tell me what comes to mind, there’s no judgment. If I were to ask your classmates, colleagues, and friends to describe you and what they value most about you, what do you think that they would share with me?


Right, okay. So, they would say that I am smart, and that I can think quickly under pressure. That I’m very loyal, too, hopefully. And when I see something that doesn’t seem fair to me, they would say that I latch on to it to figure out ways to make it better.


That’s great. And what else do you think they might share?


Well, they would probably say sometimes I can be annoying because I’m so smart, but they would also feel like they could ask me anything because I will likely have an answer. They would also say that I have a really good heart and care for people, and that I am quite determined once I set my mind to something that I care about.


Is there anything that you wish that they would say about you that they may not think of?


Well, I suppose I wish people would not misinterpret me having the answers as me trying to be better than them. I’m just trying to help solve problems and keep us all safe. I can admit that when I was first starting out at Hogwarts, I did feel the need to prove myself. But I just wanted to be seen as an equal, and I thought that making sure I knew all my classes back to front would mean I would fit in, but it seemed to have the opposite effect. I was bullied in my younger years at school, for being a ‘know-it-all’ and a ‘goody-two-shoes’. It wasn’t too severe, and I always tried to brush it off and act like I didn’t care, but of course I did. I remember crying in the bathroom when I was in my first year because I overheard Ron, of all people, calling me a ‘nightmare’. I can laugh about it now, but at the time it really upset me. It made me feel very alone. But even when Ron and Harry made fun of me, they were the ones that saved me when I was attacked by the troll. Funny how my lowest point also became the moment the three of us would become real friends.

But yes, sorry, I got a bit off track there. The point is I just didn’t want to be judged for my background as a Muggle-born. I just wanted to be recognised for who I was. I don’t think the boys ever noticed how hard it was for me to keep a brave and strong front so that they could continue to rely on me.


I think that’s very insightful, Hermione. Thank you for sharing. Let me ask you, thinking about what is most important to you, what do you love to improve and have input in?


I care about my friends. They may have thought I was a nightmare at first, but they still didn’t hesitate to save me from a troll. I care about finding ways to help people that can’t help themselves, and I want them to know that they can count on me. I get very frustrated when I see things that I think are unjust or when people are being treated unfairly. I want to help make it better, to protect them and lift them up.


These are wonderful attributes. Let’s talk a bit more about when you say, “help people that can’t help themselves”. What is happening that causes you to get frustrated?  What do you see or what is going on that signals this reaction? How does it make you feel?

Try to think of some examples about how you approach these situations. Also, while you are thinking about examples, I would like you to reflect on when this happens, is this based on your own assessment, or is it based on information that you’ve gotten from whoever you think is being treated unfairly?

Take your time to think through these questions. Maybe as you share some examples with me, more insight will emerge for you, and we can explore this with a bit more granularity.


Yes, okay. Let me think…the first time I tried to improve something I was just fourteen. I discovered that Hogwarts had house-elves working in their kitchens, being forced to work without any pay, and just generally were treated like slaves. I hated how unfair it was, and hated the fact that so many wizards believed that house-elves were happy to do their bidding. They had never known anything else, never been offered any sense of freedom, and I wanted to help show them that they could have more, and that they deserved more than just a life of servitude.

So, I put together the Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare (SPEW), but I could never get any support behind it. I still would like to lead this. I think I have always wanted to be able to make a difference in my world, and I believe I can do that if I knew how to get the support that I need to help make things happen. I haven’t had many instances of formally leading people, but that’s part of the reason why I wanted to come here and work with you. I think I could have what it takes to be a good leader, I’m just not sure how to start taking those steps. I will say, from that first attempt, I believed so much in what I was saying that I think I forgot I needed others to believe in me and my cause too.


You have good insight here. And as a leader one of the most important skills is to communicate to others in a way that sets a clear vision, that articulates a clear ‘why’, and is conveyed in a way that resonates for them. We will focus on effective communication and engaging key stakeholders when we build your Impact Plan. Another attribute you mentioned earlier was that you care about finding ways to help people and knowing that they can count on you. Can you tell me more about this? 


I quite like being relied on to be the thinker of the group, and I believe that Harry and Ron rely on me to be prepared for all possibilities, even if they don’t realise they are doing it.

I think it’s about knowing that I have a part to play, that my role in those situations is making a difference for others. I suppose you could say I like seeing the difference I make, it’s quite a rewarding feeling. I suppose my deciding to leave Hogwarts in my final year to help Harry find the Horcruxes is an example of this.


Can you tell me more about that?


After we discovered that You-Know-Who had split his soul up and hid them in different objects as Horcruxes, I insisted on helping Harry to locate and destroy them. So did Ron, of course. But this meant having to leave school. Even though I loved learning, I knew Harry needed me, even if he never asked directly. And I believed that I needed to be there. I think things might have gone differently if I never decided to go. 

And, as I think about this, I realise that as I’ve gotten older, I feel more confident in myself and my abilities. When I made the bold decision to leave school for the year, I knew it was a risk, but it really taught me a lot about myself and how I enjoy being someone people can rely on, which is what inspired me to go back to school, complete my studies, and apply to work in the Ministry of Magic. I knew that if I ever wanted to make real and lasting change, it would be by doing it at a legislative level.


You were very brave to step away from your studies to help Harry in his quest. I would like to ask, before we close our first session, you spoke about your job at the Ministry and wanting to make change.  

What are the most important changes that you want to be a part of? Once we are clear on this, we can explore the most effective ways that you, with your preferred style and your talents, can make the most impact. 


What’s most important right now is my work on my SPEW campaign to get better treatment for house-elves. I learnt a lot from that experience back when I was 14 and it is helping me now. I haven’t dived in all by myself or tried to start before I am able to handle the responsibility. I did that with my first attempt and didn’t quite realise all the leadership skills needed to lead such a change. I need to work on rallying people behind a cause, and I also need to take the time to work with the house-elves to make sure they have a voice in the campaign. As much as I want their betterment, it’s ultimately about what they want, too.

Even though right now my job ranking is low, I know it is a path to make an impact. And I know I could do more if given the chance. One of the reasons I came to the Ministry is that I believe that the wizarding world can be a better place, and I want to be a part of making that happen. In some sense, I think my academic aptitude would be helpful here. Transferable, even. The Ministry employs some of the best and brightest witches and wizards. They have been alive a lot longer than me, but so much has changed since they first came around. I want to bring a fresh perspective. 


I think the fact that you are able to look back on your previous attempts and begin to see the areas that need improving is going to make our coaching sessions that much more effective, so, well done.  

Hermione, we covered a lot of ground today. What I would like you to do until we meet again next time, is to reflect on all that we talked about. Write down your answers to the questions we discussed today in more detail and see if you begin to identify any patterns or themes. Then when we meet next, we will dig more deeply into your responses. It is important that we take the time to build a solid understanding of who you are as a leader, what motivates you, and how you respond and interact in different situations. This will help us identify your strengths to lean into, as well as where you might want to focus your development. We want you to strengthen and refine the leader that you want to be so you can achieve your goals and aspirations, not what others want you to be. How does that sound? Do you have any questions?


No questions. If I’m honest it has been a bit overwhelming, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I’m excited to continue working together. I feel like I am already learning a lot about myself.


That’s great to hear, and I appreciate your deep thinking today, and for being so willing to dive right in. We can probably attribute that to your determination and your love of learning! I will send you the key questions we discussed to help provide a structure for your reflection. Thank you and have a fun and wonderful week.


Thank you!

Keep an eye out for Part Two of our series where we re-unite with Hermione in her second coaching session and begin to gain a better understanding of the crucible moments in Hermione’s life which shaped who she is as a leader.

And, in the meantime, click here to download a copy of the key coaching questions she was asked. Reflect on them and answer them for yourself!

If you would like to discuss the coaching we offer in more detail, please get in touch with me at or reach out through our website.

The HR is focused on managing every aspect of an organization’s ‘human’ capital.

As the importance of this historically under-optimized resource has been realized, however, we have seen the role of HR grow exponentially, especially as the scope of diversity, equity, and inclusion continues to expand alongside the almost perpetual introduction of new and emerging technologies.

It’s no surprise, therefore, that a fifth (22%) of HR directors are feeling ‘very stressed’, and almost three in ten (28%) feel there are too many demands on their time. The survey by Barnett Waddingham went on to reveal that 17% were unable to keep up with the pace of change at work.

And this raises an age-old question for HR professionals: when we start to burn out, who is our HR?

The answer can differ depending on what type of HR professional you actually are.

For those in-house corporate HR leaders, there are likely going to be internal support networks at the company they work for which they will have access to. Just as they will assist in implementing strategies to help reduce burnout amongst employees, these same strategies can be used to help alleviate their own stresses. Additionally, those that are members of the CIPD have access to a 24/7 helpline for any support they need (and for those HR professionals over in the US, SHMR members are offered a similar service!).

What can also be extremely helpful for those working in corporate HR is the recalibration of their role expectations. The world of HR is always expanding, and so as new considerations begin to come under HR’s scope of operation, it is important for these professionals to re-evaluate their job role with their employer and determine whether the increased workload needs to be distributed differently.

However, managing burnout when you are an independent HR consultant can be slightly trickier.

HR consultancy continues to gain popularity as a way of working for HR professionals (76% of organizations currently outsource one or more major HR function) which is why I founded the Leap Into HR Consulting programmes back in 2019 …to help senior HR professionals make that transition from corporate to consulting life (much like I did!).

A key part of the support we offer is understanding what you can do to alleviate stress and ward off those feelings of burnout that can come creeping in.

For one thing, being a consultant can often be perceived to be isolating. You do not have a team of head office functions behind you – so everything falls to you.

Juggling these many roles can be overwhelming, and what I have found to be truly effective in mitigating this sense of isolation is joining a community of consultants (either online or in person).

Having a sense of kinship can do wonders for your mental health, and it is so important to upkeep this when working in a consulting position.

Which leads me nicely onto my next point – you need to be in tune with yourself.

Understanding your needs and what makes you feel happy, healthy, and stimulated are going to be imperative tools for when you do feel a sense of burnout incoming. Be honest with your capabilities and set appropriate boundaries around your work to ensure that a work-life balance is being maintained that prioritizes your health and mental wellbeing. And considering that independent consultants have the additional worry of client retention and their own financial wellbeing on top of the burgeoning responsibilities that now fall to HR, it is imperative to have a wellbeing strategy in place for yourself.

If you would like to discuss HR wellbeing in greater detail and what services myself and OrgShakers can offer you, please get in touch with us.

Sarah Hamilton Gill Headshot

Sarah Hamilton-Gill FCIPD

Managing Director

Globus HR Consulting Ltd

Sarah-Hamilton Gill is the Founder and Managing Director of Globus HR Consulting Ltd. With over 29 years of experience in HR consulting, Sarah is widely regarded as an expert in the field of coaching HR professionals who are taking the leap into the HR Consulting world.

With the average turnover rate for leadership roles at an unprecedented 18%, now is the time when these new leaders should briefly step back from thinking about where they are going next and, instead, take a moment to consider what they will be leaving behind.

What leadership impression will you be leaving in your wake? Are you creating policies, practices, and a work environment that will persevere … or will your time as leader be a flash in the pan that moves the organization from A to B rather than A to Z?

Think of it as leaving a footprint. Is your goal to leave a footprint set in stone, that will remain long after you have left … or do you plan to leave a footprint in the sand that will wash away with the tide to make way for a new leader?

It may sound strange to advise a leader who has just started in their role to be preparing for when they exit. However, if you have a good understanding of what you want to achieve and what legacy you would like to leave behind, you can significantly increase your chances of success by being intentional from day one.

So it’s important to ask yourself: How do I want to be remembered?

Inspirational and effective leaders create a roadmap of what they would like to achieve and what they plan to leave behind. You don’t have to know when you might leave, but by adopting this mindset you can consistently work towards a set of goals that guide you in achieving the intended results. 

This awareness also influences your leadership style. Leaders who can understand and forward-think enough to craft the impression they leave often harness highly effective people management skills. For example, being intentionally vulnerable and honest with your team, where appropriate, minimizes miscommunication and encourages teammates to work together.

Think back to the last time you had an off day (as we all do!). First, assume you did not communicate this to your team; your reactions could send ripples through the company, derailing the efforts you already made to build a well-functioning team. You could be remembered for your temper, abrasive style, or withdrawal from the team. Then imagine an off day where you clued-in your colleagues and direct reports. They knew from the beginning that if you were acting somewhat out of character, it was you and not them. They were not to blame for your behavior, and your honest vulnerability could instantly minimize the risk of negative ripples through the team and company. In this scenario, you could be remembered for your integrity, teamwork, and courage when under pressure.

The bottom line is that it is your decision how you want to be perceived and remembered. One effective way to start is to imagine how you would perceive yourself if you were an employee reporting to you – would you be happy with yourself as a leader? What would you remember about your leadership style?

In every leadership class I have facilitated, participating leaders turn the conversation to a discussion about ineffective or toxic bosses. A significant disruptive force of turnover comes from a leader who leaves a cracked or broken team in their wake. Leaders can avoid this outcome and, instead, be remembered for something beneficial or inspirational by being intentional from the get-go.

If you would like to discuss the coaching we offer to help you plan your legacy roadmap from day one, please get in touch with me at

When we hear the word ‘bullying’, we tend to associate this with our school days. However, the sad truth is that more than one in ten people are bullied in their workplace.

Bullying behavior can be extremely damaging, whether this be through mental damage done to the employee suffering, or the knock-on effects this behavior has on the wider business (a toxic culture, lack of cohesion, drop in engagement levels).

However, how leader and HR professionals respond to bullying is so important in managing these ripple effects. Therefore, knowing the signs of this behavior is vital to mitigating the effects that it will have.

But firstly, what is bullying at work? The Workplace Bullying Institute defines bullying as “repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators that takes one or more of the following forms: verbal abuse, offensive conduct/behaviors (including nonverbal) which are threatening, humiliating, or intimidating; or work interference – sabotage – which prevents work from getting done.”

There are two things to note from this; the first is knowing the difference between someone who is generally not nice and someone who is a bully. Bullying is targeted (so towards the same person, or same group of people i.e. women, a certain ethnic group) and repeated, whereas if a manager is found to be mean to anyone and everyone and it isn’t targeted, then this is simply seen as a manager having an attitude problem. The second thing to note is that bullying can look different depending on the context it is happening in, which is why it’s important for leaders to know all the signs and different forms that bullying can take in order to intervene quickly and efficiently.

So, what are the signs?

Overt signs of bullying will look like a person being aggressive through yelling, shouting, or hitting objects. It can be punishing a specific employee undeservingly, belittling or embarrassing someone, or even threatening them with unwarranted punishment and/or termination. Additionally, actively blocking someone’s learning and development opportunities and campaigning against them to remove them from the organization all constitute as openly bullying an employee.

There are also more subtle, covert signs of bullying that leaders have to be aware of too. This can take the shape of shaming/guilting someone, pitting employees against each other, isolating/excluding someone on purpose, ignoring them, and deceiving them to get one’s way.

There is a tendency for bullying to come from managers and higher-ups to their direct reports. I have previously worked with a leader who was consistently angry and frequently yelled, and would lie to HR about the performance of a member of staff to get action taken to remove them from the company. HR, upon investigating, discovered that the leader was purposefully gatekeeping information from the employee that they needed to perform their job, which was yielding these subpar results, as well as scheduling meetings surreptitiously so that the individual would miss out on key exchanges.

In a case like this, or any instance of workplace bullying, HR must handle it as if handling any other employee relations issue – by conducting a thorough internal investigation and taking direct action upon the conclusion of this investigation, whether that be coaching, punishment, or even termination.

But employers can also go one step further, and instead of being reactive to bullying, they can be proactive in preventing it in the first place. This can be done through:

  • Developing a training program for middle managers and leadership on appropriate conduct and inclusivity.
  • Building processes into the fabric of the business on an organizational design level which interrupt biases and make the recruiting process more inclusive.
  • Ensuring that the yearly harassment training is incorporating specific training around how to recognise, respond to and mitigate bullying in the workplace in all its forms.
  • Having a thorough investigative process for investigating toxic leaders and/or employees.

Employers who are working towards creating a harmonious and inclusive workplace are the ones that are going to get the best out of their people – after all, happy employees are productive employees!

If you would like to discuss the anti-bullying training and workshops we offer, please get in touch with me at

After recently gaining my Prism Certification from SurePeople, I was struck by this thought: how do leaders who are particularly motivated by external validation bring their best?

Being recognized for one’s efforts is something that a lot of us enjoy, regardless of our position in a company. Not only is it nice to be validated, but when someone recognizes and rewards our efforts, our brains actually release dopamine which makes us feel happiness and satisfaction.

When a leader thrives from external affirmation, however, recognition can become a bit trickier. As a society, we expect leaders to offer recognition and rewards to their team rather than receive them. Leadership is often lonely, and for those leaders who are extrinsically motivated, this can be an even harder challenge to face. The natural energy derived from recognition may no longer be available.

This begs the question, is being an externally motivated leader a good thing? Let’s take a quick look at some of the pros and cons of this leadership aspect:


  • When a leader is validated by the team’s success, they are likely to focus on unique retention strategies to maintain the team they have. Being externally validated could mean they will make the effort to know their team members on an individual level, which can be a positive cycle that improves retention rates.
  • When a leader is motivated extrinsically, it could mean they will constantly strive to achieve things that allow them to continue receiving praise in their desired form (whether this be materially or socially). This mindset can promote consistent innovation and productivity and could become hardwired into teams so they constantly push the limits of creativity.


  • When a leader seeks validation through the team’s approval, this can result in imbalanced decision making. There may be times where the leader makes a decision based on what they believe the team wants the outcome to be rather than the interests of the organization. While this approach can supply immediate validation and motivation, it can also have negative knock-on effects later down the line.
  • A leader who is always striving to do more, achieve more, and be better is a great thing, but there is a balance to be struck. Pushing themselves and their team too hard to satisfy these extrinsic motivational needs can result in burnout and plummeting employee morale and productivity levels.
  • External affirmation can sometimes be transactional. For example, a leader may put more effort into employees who offer affirmation and validation. This can lead to some staff members perceiving the leader has favorites, potentially fracturing team relationships.

It’s a fine line to walk. On the one hand, if you are a leader who is motivated by affirmation, you may be a driver for innovation and have fantastic interpersonal relationships with your team. There are organic boundaries, however, that must exist between leaders and their direct reports to maintain an effective level of professionalism and ensure all members of the team feel evenly valued and included. Sometimes, needing this affirmation can blind a leader and result in some of the drawbacks outlined above.

If you feel that you are a leader who is extrinsically motivated, I think the most important strategy to enhance effectiveness is to establish balance. There are plenty of ways to feel validated and recognised for your contributions – whether this be through your team excelling, through getting your name published externally, or receiving recognition from stakeholders – but as a leader, you also need to have a sense of self-affirmation.

Working with a coach is a great way to find this balance. They can help identify what energizes you and how to effectively “recharge.” This allows you to maintain healthy boundaries with your team while still being approachable and considerate.

If you would like to discover your motivators and discuss how to best leverage them to improve your effectiveness as a leader, please get in touch with me at

For those who might not be familiar, something wonderful happened on Twitter this year (a sentence not heard all that often). After an ordeal where an HBO Max intern accidently sent out a test email to thousands of the streaming service’s subscribers, the company took to Twitter to explain the mistake and highlighted how they were supporting their intern through the mishap.

This subsequently sparked the #DearIntern trend to circulate, which saw thousands of users taking to the social media app and sharing their accounts of silly mistakes they had made in their careers. This show of unification brought a certain warmth to the world of Twitter, and highlights an important fact for HR: mistakes are always going to be made, especially when you’re just starting out, but it’s how we respond to them that truly matters.

In light of this, I asked my fellow OrgShakers some reflective advice that they would give their younger selves as they just started out in their careers, and here are their responses:

David Fairhurst: I’ve learned that done is better than perfect – find the balance of knowing when some things are just good enough and move on.

Anya Clitheroe: Don’t be afraid to ask questions! When you first start work, and someone sets you a task, it’s okay not to know how to do it. Ask, “What does good look like? Where will I find the information I need to do this? Who is the best person for me to turn to when I have a question or need support?”. We grow up thinking that we need to prove that we are the best and we are not used to allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. No one knows how to ride a bicycle without being shown, why would a work task be any different?

Ken Merritt: I would tell 21-year-old Ken: “Build your network and value that network as much as you value any other professional asset.”

Brittany Burton: Attend as many University career fairs and networking events as you can. At 21, I had no idea a career like Human Resources existed. I had a very black-and-white view of my career path and when I tried it and didn’t like it, I was lost at what other career paths were in the world. Luckily, I landed in this profession which aligns perfectly with my skillset and how I want to serve, but it wasn’t without a lot of time, energy, and effort exploring what was beyond my original career path when I decided it wasn’t a fit.

Victoria Sprenger: I received this advice in my early 20s from a mentor – Grow Where You’re Planted. Use your early career opportunities to learn and grow, even if the opportunity is not exactly what you set out to do.

Marty Belle: After graduating from university, the words of my Mom and Grandmother were reverberating in my ears, “Get a job, work hard, and you will make something out of yourself”. Those words shaped the path that I pursued, which involved joining one corporate organization after another and constantly trying to adapt my style to open the doors to success that I saw in front of me. Today, I would stress to my 21-year-old self, “be comfortable with who you have been created to be and pursue the dreams that may require you to make a new door.”

Stephanie Rodriguez: Hmm…some advice I’d give my former self would be to not hold on too tight to whatever plan you think you have career wise and enjoy the journey. Yes, having a plan and goals is great, but keeping an open mind and staying flexible can lead to some amazing opportunities you’d never have imagined. The journey might not play out the way you thought it would, and that’s perfectly okay!

Sayid Hussein: I would emphasize the importance of continuous learning and staying adaptable in the ever-evolving world of technology. Embrace challenges and take calculated risks to grow both personally and professionally. Don’t shy away from seeking mentors or collaborating with others to expand your knowledge and skills. Also, remember to strike a healthy work-life balance to prevent burnout and maintain overall well-being. Finally, trust your instincts, stay true to your values, and always be open to new opportunities that align with your passion and goals.

Lauren Kincaid: “Show up to improve yourself, not prove yourself” – as someone who was very often the youngest person in the room, I felt the need to prove I deserved to be there. I wish I had had the confidence to spend less time fearing failure and overpreparing and more time saying, “I don’t know” and asking others, “what do you think?”.  

Michael Lawson: “Forget the mistake, remember the lesson it taught you” – When I was first starting out at my first company, I oversaw all of the HR Employee Files on the network. One day, I accidentally hit the “delete” key on my keyboard which deleted a whole folder’s worth of data (several files). I went into panic mode trying to get them back before going to my boss. Little did I know that I could call I.T. and with one click of a button, it could be restored. My boss looked at me and said, “everyone makes mistakes, and most can be corrected, the lesson here is being precise within your work to get things done correctly.” To this day, I can still hear those words.

Amanda Holland: As the only shy introvert in a family of extroverts, from a young age I struggled to meet the social expectations of my parents and siblings. This carried over to my first “real” job at the age of 14. It was so much easier to focus on technical excellence and book learning than to face the uncomfortable world of people. One time, I came home after a full day of school and work, irritated and unhappy because even though I’d done all my tasks correctly at work, my boss had told me I needed to lighten up. My mom listened to my frustration and then shared this pearl of wisdom, “It doesn’t matter how smart or talented you are at a job if you can’t get along with people.” From that moment on, I have spent as much energy on learning how to communicate and interact effectively with people as I have on mastering the tools of my trade. Connecting with others can be a reward beyond measure.

Andy Parsley: “Don’t trust your memory!” At the start of every new job you will be at the receiving end of a tsunami of information, meetings, tasks, and deadlines. Equip yourself with a good, old-fashioned notebook and take notes in every meeting (including when it took place and who was there). Use the back of the same notebook to create a to-do list (what you need to do, and when it needs to be done by). There’s nothing worse than waking up in the middle of the night worrying that you’ve forgotten to do something – or failing to remember what was agreed at last week’s important meeting. By committing everything to paper, you’ll know just where to find everything you need to remember when you need to.

Workplace friendships can be joyous, enduring relationships contributing to personal and professional success. It’s how we manage them that matter.

Regularly spending time with the same people is likely to result in platonic relationships forming. Such friendships can foster innovation and psychological safety, as well as encourage collaboration, adaptability, vulnerability, healthy competition, and humility – skills that businesses should seek to optimise.

In fact, a study confirms that 76.13% of employees have at least one close friend at work and many organisational psychologists recognise the benefits of social-emotional connections at work.

So, what role does friendship play in the workplace? Is it crucial to have a close team inside and outside of the office? Is there a balance to be struck?

Of course, there are potential drawbacks from having interpersonal relationships. Personal lives can impact the workplace, and the line between colleague and friend can sometimes blur the distinction between professional and private life. Dynamics change as reporting lines do and suddenly a friendship becomes strained, and leadership becomes more challenging.

The most successful and high-performing teams I’ve worked with had respect for each other, clear accountabilities, enjoyed a similar humour and had a focus on communication and collaboration. They had an alignment of values that bound them.

Employers can and should strive to create cohesion. Workplace friendships can be a positive force, but also potentially a disruptive one. Friendships will form organically but careful consideration may be given regarding recruitment and the culture companies are creating. Value alignment is particularly powerful as employers want their people to have some common ground, enough to build trust, honesty with each other and the ability to both challenge and support. This foundation creates a positive environment to engage, innovate and communicate effectively.

The key in workplace friendships is the skill of setting and working with boundaries to maintain both professionalism and friendship. You can coach your employees to feel confident in this. With boundaries in place, you can mitigate the risk of personal problems making their way into the office.

While friendship at work isn’t necessarily an important thing for all, nurturing an environment where friendship is possible in a professional context can reap rewards. What blossoms into friendship beyond work is a plus, but more critical is a focus on recruiting people with diverse perspectives but similar values. This can foster innovation and productive teams who can support and challenge each other to create a positive place to work.

Think of your own group of friends. You’re not all carbon copies of each other, right?

If you would like to discuss how we can help you find this balance in your hiring practices, workplace culture, and team and individual coaching, please get in touch with me at

Hybrid and remote work have been the talk of the town the last few years. This highly successful alternative work style is a fantastic demonstration of corporate perseverance, resilience, and adaptability.

And yet, while many businesses have been operating like this since 2020, a recent study from Microsoft found 85% of leaders said the shift to hybrid work has made it hard to be confident that employees are being productive. Even though 87% of workers report performing better at home, only 12% of employers have full confidence their team is being productive.  

Subsequently dubbed ‘productivity paranoia’, it’s clear a large proportion of leaders may be struggling (even though employee satisfaction for hybrid work is extremely high, and from an economic perspective businesses have become arguably more profitable).

Why are some employers plagued by this paranoia, and how can they begin to mitigate their concerns?

It’s not uncommon for managers to encounter paranoia in one form or another during their career.  Important to note is that while hybrid and remote work has proven effective, the way it came to be was not traditional. Companies felt pressured to adopt this way of life due to COVID-19. When change feels forced it can be much more difficult to work through any accompanying negative feelings. For example, a person’s supervisory routine might be intensely disrupted, and suddenly they must learn what it means to supervise a group of people who are no longer physically around them.

It can be challenging to modify engrained work habits, especially when the need to address them comes as an urgent surprise. In addition, the concept of presenteeism has been rooted in corporate culture for decades, which makes it a hard habit to change even though we now know it is inherently flawed: being able to physically see someone does not guarantee they are more productive than when they can’t be seen.   

For leaders who are experiencing productivity concerns related to hybrid or remote work options, it may be time to step back, dig deep, and honestly explore what truly disturbs them about this situation. The answer could reveal a lack of trust in the team, reluctance to embrace change, or singular focus on the performance of one team member.

To help identify the root cause of why a leader or manager might push back on hybrid or remote work solutions, HR professionals can suggest they complete a Johari Window, or an Immunity Map Worksheet. These steps can help managers focus their thoughts and address specific concerns.

It is also key for HR to determine whether this is a potential coaching or organizational culture matter. For example, managers may develop productivity paranoia based on the inequitable nature of remote work within a company. Companies frequently have a variety of positions, some of which are able to work remotely and others that cannot. This may lead to divisiveness in the workplace and a manager may be resistant not because of the remote work itself, but rather the rising contention and its echoing effects on the harmony of the company.

HR plays a key role in helping employers manage productivity paranoia. Whether it be from a leader optimization or a culture cohesion perspective, we are integral to helping leaders unlock the people power in their organizations.

To discuss how OrgShakers can help you do this, please get in touch with me at

There are over 16 million Veterans in the US, as well as almost 2 million in the UK, and while many of them are of working age, the transition from special forces to the world of work can be a gaping and daunting one.

For those who are coming out of service, finding, applying, securing and doing a ‘regular’ nine-to-five job can be an arduous process – but with the right support, this group of people have an abundance of technical skills and power skills to offer to the corporate world that are productive, innovative, and profitable.

There is existing stigma around the recruitment of ex-military personnel – one survey found that almost a third (31%) of recruiters said they felt reluctant to employ someone who had previously served as they were more likely to struggle with mental health problems. However, if Veterans are properly supported in this transition, then the skills and experience they have to offer can be utilized and optimized by employers.

So, what can HR professionals be doing to offer support?

Firstly, helping with decision making. A noticeable leap from military to corporate is the fluidity and choice that one suddenly has. Veterans are used to having very rigid job descriptions and are offered set roles which remain consistent. Because of these set roles and guidelines, Veterans often struggle to connect and translate their service experience to other jobs on the civilian side (outside of contracting or law enforcement, for example). And upon leaving the forces, suddenly they are faced with having to actively seek out work, and this requires knowing where to look, how to look, and what to be looking for. In enabling Veterans to understand their skills from their past careers and translate them into a marketable corporate structure, we can help prepare them for their next mission. So in this sense, we would coach Veterans on how to approach this challenge, how to look at their experience in a different light, and aid in finding the right career for them.

This then brings us onto CVs. CVs can sometimes be a tricky thing for ex-military to grapple, as a military CV is vastly different from a corporate one, yet are the first thing an employer will base their opinion on. Veterans will be conditioned to having to write out in great detail all of their experience in the forces, and so resumes end up being pages and pages long. But in the working world, a CV has to be concise, distilled and to-the-point to even be considered. So, having support crafting a CV can be so beneficial, especially for those who have served for most of their lives and may not have a traditional education. Helping to identify and translate their leadership skills, their strengths, and polishing success stories from their time in the service in a “proper” civilian CV will concisely highlight what they can be offering to an employer.

Lastly, helping Veterans understand and follow ‘business etiquette’. For those of us who have worked everyday jobs, it is common knowledge that there are norms and values of most workplaces that most of us just come to know as we progress in our careers. But for those who have just emerged from the military, their norms are going to be wildly different. For example, in the forces there is less room for error, but more error is likely to occur, and so it is much more normalized and less reprimanded. Whereas in the world of work, repercussions for mistakes are instantaneous, and if they are recurring then you are more likely to lose your job.

But this is a great example of a mindset that employers can learn from, as making conscious room for error also creates space for learning and innovation. Those ex-military will already be wired into this mindset, they just need to be coached to have their skills translated to be applicable to a business setting. Each Veteran’s transition journey varies and can be both exciting and a little scary at first from not knowing what to expect. We hope by coaching through those unknowns, Veterans will be able to confidently enter the civilian working world in their next chapter.

It is no secret that the military are skilled organizers and project managers, and these are all transferrable into the workplace (not to mention greatly sought after by most employers). With the right support, those leaving the forces can make a fantastic impact on the world of work, and prove to be some of our best innovators and most productive workers. That’s why OrgShakers are very proud to soon be partnering with a specialized charity to help support and coach Veterans into the world of work. If you would like to discuss the details of this further, please get in contact with us.


Leaders play a pivotal role in any organization, and can be the difference between a company that thrives and a company that falters.

It is worrying to see that 43% of workers have left a job at some point in their career because of their manager. And more than half of workers (53%) who are currently considering leaving their jobs said they were looking to change roles because of their manager.  

Are managers also leaders, you may ask? While there are distinct differences between leadership and management, managers who are also effective leaders have a significant advantage when it comes to engaging and retaining employees.

So, what does a leader that employees want to work for actually look like? Consider:

Core Skills:

  • A blend of business-savvy and people strategist – when you have a truly effective manager, they integrate the needs of the organization with the needs of the workforce. This means aligning individual developmental goals with the bottom line.
  • Knowing how to make each position meaningful to the individual doing it and to the success of the organization:
    • For the individual, this means they have the opportunity to be engaged, to understand why what they are doing matters, to feel supported and competent in what they need to do, and to be able to take reasonable risks without fear of retaliation.
    • For the organization, this means creating a learning culture where people can continuously learn, grow, and create, with this culture tied directly to the goals and values of the company.
  • Not being afraid of change, but also not changing for change’s sake. Making space for trial and error as a leader can allow your team to be innovative, and will pave a path that allows both your employees and your business to develop and evolve.
  • Having the ability to see and communicate your vision of the ‘bigger picture’, and then being able to connect what your employees are doing to this picture.


  • Authentic and honest – an effective leader isn’t afraid to be vulnerable with their team, and this perpetuates a culture of openness in which your employees are more likely to reciprocate honesty, loyalty, and respect.
  • Approachable – approachability is always important when in a leadership role, but it is also crucial that you find the ideal balance. You don’t have to be ‘best friends’ with all your staff members, as you still have to make the hard decisions at the end of the day, but it is important to be personable.
  • Show that you care about your team as much as you care about the success of the business – this can be demonstrated every day through small activities (water-cooler conversations, casual feedback, socializing with staff). A single grand gesture on an annual basis can seem tokenistic and make the workforce feel disconnected from you – people should want to interact with you on a daily basis and feel that they can.
  • Remain humble – it is important to know when to take and when to give credit. Recognition is key for retention, with one report finding that employees were 56% less likely to be looking for a new job if they felt they were being properly recognized for their contributions.


There is no such thing as ‘perfect’, as perfect can look different to everyone. When it comes to being the best leader you can be, however, there are proven power skills, hard skills and characteristics that can help you become a leader your team will want to stay with. If you would like to discuss how OrgShakers can help coach you to become this leader, please get in touch with me at

If you have ever worked with Maister, Green & Galford’s Trust Equation, you’ll know that perceived self-orientation (i.e. someone who comes across as focused on their own agenda) is the quickest way to undermine a relationship of trust.

Generally, we have come to associate the word ‘ego’ with this idea of being self-centered, but actually, an ego is not always as bad as its initial connotations. While leaders being egotistical can lead to retention problems (especially with more than two in five employees having left a job because of a bad manager), they can also be a force for good. However, it is important to get the balance right – leaders need to develop and utilize a ‘healthy ego’ in order to optimize their leadership abilities.

So, what does a ‘healthy ego’ look like?

Well, one way to think about this is by considering the airplane safety briefing. When the cabin crew are doing the safety demonstration just before take-off, they remind everyone that in the event of needing oxygen masks, it is imperative that you put your own mask on first before attending to those of children or others around you. This is a great analogy for a healthy ego!

The fact is, nothing is going to unsettle an organization more than employees lacking faith in their leader. Staff want to know that their higher-ups know what they are doing, are good at what they do, and have confidence in the future of the company. There is some level of ego that every leader must have in order to believe that they are the right person for the job and have the ability to make the hard decisions and delegate where need be.

I believe the key to balancing this out and making this ego healthy is inclusivity – even though a leader benefits from being confident and having credible experience, they need to also have a growth mindset and be willing to listen and incorporate other opinions and use this when making a decision.

As well as this, if a leader is making their intentions clear by being transparent and communicative with their teams, then they do not risk this display of ‘ego’ being misconstrued as vanity or self-orientation.

If you would like to discuss how to find that perfect balance to create healthy egos in leaders, please get in touch with me at

I’m sure that it would be no surprise to hear that many of us do not grow up to be working in the career we had dreamed of as a child. In fact, only one in ten Americans say they are working their ‘dream job’.

And so, naturally, employees may indulge in a ‘what if…’ moment. What if I’d stuck with that hobby? What if I’d studied that degree? What if I chose that path instead of this one? The list goes on. Employers may not think that this happens often, but a recent study actually found that only 6% of participants reported never or almost never thinking about other paths they could have taken – that leaves a whopping 94% of employees wondering about those ‘what ifs’.

That same study also discovered that 21% of workers reported thinking about these questions often or almost always. Those who were somewhat ‘stuck in the past’ were more likely to be distracted or daydream, took more breaks and days off, were less engaged, and were more likely to search for other jobs.

It is easy to fall victim to this spiral of thoughts, as nowadays most of us are constantly being confronted with choices. A recent survey found that there had been a significant rise in the ‘apply anyway’ trend, with three quarters (73%) of recruiters citing a lack of qualified applicants for roles as the biggest challenge in the hiring process. This highlights that employees have such ease and accessibility to new job choices – LinkedIn’s Easy Apply option is a great example of this – that it’s no wonder they find themselves wondering about paths untaken.

This can all have an effect on engagement levels, and so it is important for employers to know what they can be doing to challenge these feelings of ‘what if’ and help employees turn them into creative and innovative output:

  • Recognition – recognizing employee contributions goes a long way when trying to boost engagement. Quantum Workplace conducted research which discovered that when employees believe management will recognize their efforts, they are 2.7 times more likely to be highly engaged. Reminding employees of their value to the company, and making it clear how what they do for the business directly lends to the prosperity of it, is a great way of reaffirming that the job they do matters, and the choices that lead them there were for a reason.
  • Role Flexibility – employers creating the opportunity for ‘job crafting’ where they can is a great way of lessening feelings of ‘what if’. This allows workers to be more innovative with their role and bring some of their personal passions into their job in order to help promote feelings of fulfilment. Managers should try to learn about these talents and passions and look to find creative ways to help employees embrace these parts of themselves at work. This can be a fantastic way of helping an employee feel that their identity aligns with their work and re-spark that fire of engagement.
  • Internal Locus of Control – in psychology, having a high internal locus of control means that someone perceives themselves as having a lot of control over their behavior, and see’s things that happen to them as being a result of their own actions rather than outside of their control. Coaching staff to have this locus leads them to being more likely to respond productively to feelings of doubt associated with ‘what if’ thinking.

It‘s natural to wonder from time to time about what could have been. And while harmless reflection is always a nice thing, those who find themselves getting stuck in the past may need a helping hand getting unstuck. If you would like to discuss how we can help improve your employee engagement levels by optimizing the wonderment of ‘what if’, please get in touch with us.

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