Knowing Me Week 4: Patterns in our thinking

Welcome back to our Knowing Me zone where you can get to know yourself better in the privacy of your own home!  This week, we will explore patterns in the way we think and behave and the words we typically use. Noticing them can help us understand our working or living relations with others. Once we know them, we can choose to live with them or change them! Grab a cuppa, find a quiet space with a pen and paper and join me.

If you are here for the first time and wonder what its all about, you can find out here. You can follow the exercises of being a blob, meeting your future self in a dream, considered your role models and now its time for meta programmes! What? Read on..

So which is it? Half Full or Half Empty? Of course, it depends on you!

Researchers Bandler and Grinder identified patterns of thought. These describe the ways in we are instinctively pay attention or filter out information. They are usually in opposition, for instance the TOWARDS/AWAY FROM pattern.    The patterns are called Meta-Programmes. Meta means at a higher sub-conscious level and programmes because they can occur routinely. As you will see from the table below our typical behaviours, the words we use and our emotions reveal these patterns.

Although there are many such patterns, in this week’s exercise we will consider only four.  You can have fun exploring more by looking for Meta Programmes here.

So, are your seatbelts, fastened? Here we go…

First – Take a quick look at the table below. In it, you will see a column listing Patterns. In the two other columns are listed the behaviours and words that are typical of people with a preference for one or the other side of the pattern.   

Second – Choose a context (e.g Workplace, Home, Community). Write it down and think about yourself in that context. Take a long breath in as you create a mental picture of it noticing what you see, hear and feel in your interactions with people and activities there.

Third – Using the table below ask yourself two questions, making a note of your answer: 

    • Which of these describes your responses and the words you might use?
    • How might these habits affect your relationships in the context you have chosen?



You like goals and achieving them

Words you typically use: get, attain, target, have

Away from

You solve or avoid problems

Words you typically use: avoid, get away from, prevent, solve



Internal – You like to set own standards and decide for yourself

Words you typically use: I’m satisfied; only you can decide; I’ve nailed it

External – You want to use external standards

Words you typically use:  I need feedback; so and so thinks; others say; lets check



Options – You enjoy possibilities to try a different way; make and break rules; you start new projects not always finishing them Procedures: You like to follow set ways; believes in a right way; finishes what you start; you stick to rules


Sameness – you look for mutual interest and links

Words you typically use:  basically the same; we have this in common

Difference – you emphasise change and newness;

Words you typically use: fresh approach; new concept; innovative

Fourth – do the exercise in a different context. Was your selection different? 

Thinking ahead. These are patterns that can change if you choose to recognise them, notice the behaviour and work to adjust it.  

Have fun on this exploration! Nothing is right or wrong, better or worse –  although we may feel it to be so. A key part of becoming self-aware is to think about how you respond in certain contexts. Consider others you work or live with, notice their language and behaviours. Does it shed light on why you might find some people difficult?

If this or other exercises have provoked some questions. To find out more about coaching CONTACT ME and we can discuss your ideas.

Please let me know how you got on or improvements you would make. See you next week!




Knowing Me Week 3: My Models

Thanks for joining me again for 10 minutes as we continue with small pauses to get to know ourselves better.  Today we are thinking about your formative role models

If you are here for the first time and wonder what its all about, you can find out here

By now you’ve been a blob , met your future self in a dream and now its time for models!


Grab a cuppa, find a quiet space with a pen and paper and join me.

For 5 minutes or so, give yourself permission to pause.  Think of someone, who was not your primary carer and whom you trusted and loved being with when you were younger. (Perhaps a relative, a friend, a friend of your parents, etc)

Spend a moment remembering your time with that person, visualize your interactions, listen again in your head to your exchanges and how you felt when you were with that person.

Answer the following two questions, thinking as you do about their behaviours, and attitudes:

What did they do that you likes so much?

How did you feel?

Once you have your lists ask yourself: 

  • Who are the people in my life who need to trust and rely on me in some way?
  • How much do I mirror the behaviours you have valued in your interactions with others?

This exercise is taken from John Whitmore, Coaching for Performance. In his own studies he notes that most commonly listed words were:

The person: Listened to me; Believed in me; Challenged me; Trusted me; Respected me; Gave me time and attention; Treated me as an equal

I felt: Special; Value;  Confident; Safe/Cared for; Supported; Able; Fun/enthusiasm; Supported

Are yours similar?

Knowing Me! Week 2 Your Future Self

Welcome to Knowing Me! More private thought provoking fun to explore yourself in the Knowing Me! project as you meet your future self! Notice what you notice and choose your direction! 

Its Week 2 my friends and its all for free! For more about this journey read the intro and check out Week One

Last week you were looking at blobs and wondering which one might be you. This time we have something that my clients have called more challenging, but fun.  So grab a pen and paper on and let’s get started! You can read the instructions below. I have recorded the exercise because then you can spend the time thinking instead. I close with one key question at the end of the post!

Visualising Your future self…

Read through these instructions to get yourself set up and to enable you to run the exercise quietly and thoughtfully. Note DONT WORRY if you don’t have strong visions, let your imagination work in whatever way you like. This is meant to be fun! 

FIRST Get comfortable in a place where for 10 minutes or so you will have no interruptions! Switch off your phone if it might disturb you. Sit comfortably with your feet on the floor. Notice how the ground feels. Roll your shoulders deeply to feel relaxed and ready to explore. Take three or four nice long deep breaths and as you breath in imagine you are breathing in FRESH AIR & CLARITY. Lift the corners of your mouth. You might want to close your eyes.

NOW…Imagine you are walking down a road. It is a sunny, warm day. Look around you and notice what the place looks like and how it feels to be walking along. In a moment you are going to meet someone coming towards you. This person will be you in the future: your future self. Your future self is living their dream, achieving their best doing what they want. Watch them come towards you from a distance. Allow yourself to really look at them carefully, what do you notice?

Your future self reaches you and greets you. How do they greet you? How do they behave? What do you notice. Do you have a question for your future self? Ask it and listen for the answer.

Thank this person and say goodbye. Thank them for coming to meet you. Breath deeply as you return to the present. Be aware of how you are sitting. Wriggle your toes and fingers. Open your eyes

Write down anything you wish to remember from the encounter. What did you see? What did you notice? What did you hear? What did you feel?

In what way has meeting your future self made you think about your present self?

Thanks for this exercise go to “Coaching For Performance”, Sir John Whitmore 2002 from which it was taken

If this or last weeks exercise has provoked some questions. To find out more about coaching CONTACT ME and we can discuss your ideas.

Please let me know how you got on or improvements you would make. See you next week!



Knowing Me! Week 1

Welcome to Knowing Me!  Week 1

As promised in the intro, I am offering you some private, thought-provoking FREE fun.  

So my friends, get a pen and paper, follow your nose and let’s get started!…

First, look at the Blob Tree picture and take a moment to think about the different characters and what they might represent for you. What do the positions in the tree say to you? What are the expressions of the blobs?

Now you’re in the mood, think some more. Consider where your life happens: maybe its home, or the workplace, school or in social gatherings.  Choose one of these  and ask which one of these blobs reminds me of me?

(Helpful hint: You might want to make notes as you answer these questions. If you find it hard to answer for yourself, trying thinking of a colleague or a friend first, before answering for yourself)

Which blob would you most like to be? Is there a difference?

What would have to change to get there? 

Are you always the same blob? If not, what makes the difference?

Now consider different parts of your life, and ask the same questions again….and breath!

Mmm so in this first week of self discovery you have thought about blobs in trees! What did you notice? Were you surprised? Was your mind open or closed? Did you make assumptions about the tree and the grass and the other blobs?

Credit and thanks go the amazing: Pip Wilson and Ian Strong at Blob Tree (

Feel free to play this with friends, kids in school or colleagues in teams. Printing and numbering the blobs can help. It can be printed and coloured in. Please note, he may look interested but your cat will only pretend to be joining in.

To find out more about coaching CONTACT ME and we can discuss your needs.

Please let me know how you got on or improvements you would make. See you next week!


Knowing Me, I mean You! – 12 weeks of discovery

Knowing Me, I mean You! is 12 weeks of short exercises where you can ask yourself questions and have some fun answering them.

Pack the virtual food and something to drink. Don’t forget your TopHat. There’s no need for a map, you will be using your own.

This adventure is about exploring and getting to know yourself better in the comfort and privacy of your own home. Feel free to invite your friends, but there’s no need. Each week I will add another:

Week One; Week Two; Week Three

Each week I will offer a 10 minute game or exercise that will need some thought.  Some will jog your memory of your past, others will prompt you to imagine the future. I hope some of them make you laugh as well as think afresh about who you are and what you want. I hope they throw up more questions than answers!

At TopHat coaching, I work with clients to achieve their best. We work to turn dreams into plans and to confront barriers that affect success. Being aware of yourself and managing how you react is at the heart of emotional intelligence and paves the road to success. It is a lifelong project that can serve us well at home and in the workplace.  Self-exploration and reflection is key to deciding on the sustained changes, you want to make.

Where I have borrowed and adapted I will provide links and references for you to pursue more. If you find them useful or know of improvements please add to the comments below. I hope you will enjoy them and make comments on their usefulness and ways to improve them. Goes without saying, but to find out more about coaching CONTACT ME and we can discuss your needs.

Knowing me! I mean you! starts tomorrow. Have fun and share with others if you enjoy them!





My Plastic-Free Month that might have worked out for an Orang Utan

Inspired by the news around plastic pollution I answered the rallying cry of the Story of Stuff to forego plastic this July.

Not all my friends agreed with the decision. There are the Whats-The-Point crew who argue the simplicity of arguments are misleading. Their views are echoed here. The Go-For-It crew however say that everything is worth trying. Encouraged by their enthusiasm, I went for it.  As its 31st July, I thought I might reflect and share  how I got on.

As a starting point, I bought milk in glass bottles. This is pleasing, but no easy matter. In my case it involved buying a lot of vegetables – all delicious – from Farm Drop.  I got very excited reading that Waitrose had organic jersey milk in bottles. After an exuberant cycle over to a shop I found the bottle was plastic! What???

Farm Drop calls itself the greenest supermarket. I’m not sure. Most of the veg comes plastic free with some mad exceptions, like baking potatoes! I was disappointed to discover that meat is all plastic wrapped so after a first attempt I decided not to buy it. Apparently the issue is regulation re health and safety. So we will all drown in the dying earth, but at least we won’t have food poisoning which is a comfort. The service is great and prices OK given the small producers and  provided you take advantage of special offers.  And yes, before you comment, I know dairy is a questionable industry but I am not there yet.

I am fortunate in Clapham Junction having two great plastic free shops nearby: Hetu is small, friendly and well stocked and even has “alternative” milk in glass bottles; The Source is part of a larger group and feels like it. This has meant for pasta, flour, pulses and oils everything is easy and its amazing how all those cloth bags that are now the rage as freebies come in handy for purchase and storage.  On a recent trip to France I was surprised at how much more widespread plastic free shopping seems to be.

It is easy to wash and clean the house without plastic. Soap Nuts are generally miraculous, plastic-free shampoo bars and homemade cleaning  products are pretty straightforward.

Overall I have thrown away significantly less trash – I haven’t yet filled a bin this month, and only a very small proportion has been plastic. I have also realised how much plastic there is on things when you are thinking about it. Supposedly this is keeping our food fresher, but, while a cucumber might last for two weeks in plastic, does this makes us so much less likely to waste it that the plastic is justified?

And what about the Orang Utan? I hear you ask. Half way through the month  I was talking about plastic free and bemoaning the loss of cracker biscuits, as a result of having to avoid the wrapping. A kind companion pointed out that these should be out of bounds anyway as they contain palm-oil. This led to further research that showed: first, that this oil – or rather its cultivation and harvesting – is probably speeding us towards our doom faster than plastic and is in everything. It often masquerades as “vegetable oil”.  You can also download a PalmOilScan App to help you check.  This conversation led to the marvellous discovery that cracker biscuits take less time to make than to go and buy. Who knew? This  is fast becoming a favourite recipe with a full range of mad flavours possible. Hard not to eat them in one go right out of the oven.

So the upshot of the month? I have cooked more from scratch and enjoyed this. I am not a telly person so cooking bread, biscuits, all those veggies, and  other delights is done with the radio or a spotify selection.  A glass of wine helps too. Making enough to last several meals gets around the extra time and serves my need to fill pans. I have challenged myself to find things to do with the very last veg in the fridge even though it was begging for freedom. I will continue.

And of course as I consider beauty products I have to remember the palm oil: because the Orang Utan is worth it.

Credit: The picture is from Cartoon Brew, produced by Amid Amidi for Greenpeace



Is a team improved without a leader?

Does a team always have to have a leader? I asked this question at recent team coaching workshop. The reaction from fellow participants was thoughtful if generally negative. Some said that the team would be rudderless. Others said all groups need leaders, how else would you get anything done?

This interesting article from the Drucker Foundation 2001 explores the impact when an orchestra – the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra – chose not to have a conductor.  Obviously in a team the conductor is the equivalent of the usual business leader, carrying the responsibility for output and performance on his or her broad shoulders so the experiment excited the interest of greats like Drucker. In the article, members of the orchestra observed that the results were surprising. Far from losing direction, turn over, engagement and performance all remained good in spite of the absence of the leadership role.

Further, in 2007  Wiki notes: March 2007, [that] Orpheus became one of the first winners of the Worldwide Award for the Most Democratic Workplaces sponsored by WorldBlu, Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based organization specializing in organizational democracy.

Now in 2019 the leaderless orchestra is still going strong. Some argue that their music is better for not being beholden to the over-ruling decision-making of the conductor’s interpretation. You can make your own mind up with some of these clips of their performances on the BBC.

Would your team be better if it were a bit less led?


Could your team be even better?

Do you ever wonder if your team is high performing?  If you are sure it is not, do you know why?

Being in a high performing team can be an exhilarating and memorable working experience. It’s output is more interesting and effective than the individuals can produce alone. The collective voice of a team enables diverse views and multiple talents to support performance. Organisations know that strategic impact and efficiencies result to outweigh the additional time and costs associated with that teamwork.

Given their accepted role in business performance, it is curious that time spent in a team so often looks and feels ineffective and costly. Have you ever been pulled reluctantly from what you have felt was your productive work to go to a team meeting that you couldn’t really see the point of?

There are four key areas that high performing teams do well.  When they do, the experience of working together is meaningful and effective. In no particular order: a high performing team has a clear and consistent view of its purpose in relation to business to be delivered;  individual members  have a good understanding of their roles and how they each fit in relation to the purpose of the team; each member knows what others are doing and they support and challenge each other constructively; and, finally the team  communicates well to other teams and stakeholders building understanding and trust.

What does this mean in more detail?

1.  A  clear and consistent view of its purpose in relation to the business.

Wether the team has been convened for a short-term project or is one that is part of an established structure, it must have a clearly expressed purpose and measures of success. Together they should understand who requires their work to be done and why. If this purpose can be articulated in one clearly understood sentence, so much the better.

Once the purpose is clear, it is more straightforward to create a workable description of what the team must do and the skills it needs to do it. It may even be clearer what it shouldn’t be doing.

Once the purpose has been recorded, it can be routinely checked for relevance. This is of course the “common vision for high performance” argument put forward and defended by several management authors. In my experience, it’s remarkable how seldom teams actually revisit the question of who they are. As work continues, changing circumstances such as external business challenges and turn over within the team may affect the team.   They may learn that the purpose wasn’t as well defined as they had thought. When teams forget to review their purpose together and with others, unspoken assumptions can develop regarding priorities and accountabilities. Without review, a team can miss an emerging need for a new skills, lose sight of their own changing role and miss opportunities for improvement and success.

2.   A good understanding of their roles and how they fit in relation to the purpose of the team.

At the outset, each role needs to be clearly defined and described in relation to the purpose of the team. Each team member – including the leader – will know what s/he is doing and for what they are to be held to account. In addition, different members may have specific roles with the team that cut across their technical areas. These are typically the personality traits identified by Belbin and similar exercises. The team leader and each team member must be clear about what good performance looks in their specific role and how they will measure it.

If you are a member of a team, are you clear about your role and the measure of your own contribution in making the team successful? If you lead a team have you recently reflected on what that role is intending to do? What would the team be justified in being disappointed with in your performance? What aspect of your personal role-preference is used in this team?

3.  Individual members understand well the roles of others and can support and challenge one another for mutual and collective benefit.

Individual roles are understood by sharing, discussing, constructively challenging and supporting each other’s work, including the leader’s, in relation to team purpose and deliverables. This requires active curiosity and communication in relation to the roles of others.  Internal trust and performance is developed through genuine interest and the space to ask questions and support solution-building.  This exercise  may also highlight missing skills and perspectives or identify when there is unnecessary duplication.  With time and practice, the quality of debate improves and time is better spent.

In my experience, and I admit that I have been guilty of this as a team leader, job roles are often poorly explained and even less well understood.  Team members are seldom required to engage fully with what others are doing – and not doing. Team size is sometimes too big and sometimes incomplete.

How well do you understand the roles of others in your team? Ask each of your team colleagues  to write down their understanding of everyone else’s role and the way their own role can help others in the team succeed: the outcome can be fascinating!

4.     Everyone outside the team who needs to know understands the work of the team and trusts it to perform effectively. 

The quality of communication from the team to other teams and those beyond its boundaries is critical for its own success.  If its purpose is clear and coherent internally, communicating this successfully and with consistency to outsiders becomes more likely.  With clearly worded statements, narratives become be still more consistent.  In turn, with clarity comes greater engagement in the work of the team from those outside.  Everyone wins.

I once worked with a CEO whose organisation listed accountability as one of its core values. I asked him if the staff knew what the Executive Team were doing. Transparency was assured, he told me, as all un-redacted meeting notes were on the organisation intranet. Big deal. Low staff engagement scores and productivity suggested that the intranet wasn’t working its magic. Even if you could find the notes and had the hour to spent wading through them, I suspected that few were any the wiser in relation to the purpose and accountability of that team. More importantly  they were unable to see how the work of the team might be relevant to their own work or contribute to its discussions.

The attributes of an effective team are pretty much the attributes of successful individual leaders too. Because a team is more than one person it needs a little more deliberation to get it right and keep it on track.

May your memories of teams be of great collective performance, not endless meetings with too little to show for it!

First draft published on Linked-in 10th June 2019 H.Dodd

Open a conversation with this team tester

The high performance of teams is an art not a science. That said, like good art, teams combine elements that when done well can enable performance (see this post). Because teams are at the heart of every excellent business they have been studied, measured considered and explored. The following 14 points are a summary of many such investigations and may support the analysis of your team:

  • Clear vision and purpose
  • Identity as a team
  • Composed of the right balance of roles to get the job done
  • Made of skilled and effective individuals clear about their roles
  • Constructive and harmonious relationships within the team
  • Effective leadership
  • Individual learning and development of team members
  • Sound processes
  • Open to change and creative
  • Completion- seeing it through
  • Recognition for success
  • Good internal communications
  • Effective communication to other teams and stakeholders
  • Regular review of performance

How are you doing from 0-20 in each area?

Use the following grid mark with an X where you believe your team sits in each area. This can provide a great opening for a conversation about what GOOD or EVEN BETTER could look like!  Once you’re done ask: Could it be better?  Get in touch to discuss your ideas!

0-4 5-9 10-14 15-20
Unclear Clear vision
No identity Identity
Unbalanced role Balance of roles
Skills shortage Skilled
Disharmony Harmony
Ineffective leadership Effective leadership
Low L&D High L&D
Poor processes Sound processes
Closed to ideas Open and creative
Nothing gets finished On time completion
Un-recognised Recognised for success
Poor internal comms Effective internal comms
No-one knows what you do The work is understood outside the team
Never review/reflect Regularly review


So, about ski jumping…

I know its the time of cricket and tennis, but you may have read in the earlier blog that I sometimes wonder about ski jumping and stretching yourself for high performance.

You see it on Winter Olympics: a young, brightly smiling, deeply concentrating sportsperson in slim lycra and sub-zero temperatures waves from the top of a high structure. They launch themselves with little apparent concern for life or limb and hurtle down a slope in a tight squat, before being launched into the air. Most land a few moments later with delicacy and skill and come to a graceful halt with their skies in a v shape, turning to wave to the crowd and see their scores. I momentarily feel for their parents and then console myself that the parents probably encouraged them. Performance for them is a matter of life and death. Once launched, there can be no doubt.

My questions are these: How do you come to know you can do a thing that for most of us would be certain death? At what point do you realise that this is the sport for you? Are there piles of dead and or broken would be ski-jumpers offering grim lessons to all trainees? Of course, part of the answer will be in training and skills development, related fitness and interest. In addition, I imagine you start with small jumps and build upwards.

All that said and done, I am guessing, a jump would have to be high enough to enable the flight and landing that keeps it safe. At this point it becomes a leap of faith that you must really really want to take! The beauty of the jump, the smiles on the faces of those that do it and even those that don’t win is testimony to how rewarding it can be.

Is this what is meant by The Stretch Zone? While we might not all aspire to the risk and splendour of ski-jumping, all of us have things we want to do that seem out of reach or make us nervous at the thought. Can we take a leaf from the books of the ski-jumpers who have the skills and have the training and know their stuff and then do it inspite of the risk!

Have you done such a thing? Please share your experiences below!