New possibilities in mouldy lemons

© and courtesy the artist

They are found festering way in the dark corners of the refrigerator – mine at least. Nothing says  neglect, rotten and useless more than mouldy lemons. Kathleen Ryan made these beautiful larger-than-life pieces in 2020 and 2021 [1]  She used a range of precious stones to show the vibrant creep of the mould and captured the vivid, textured changing surfaces. Not so much useless as full of possibility.

To me, the work provides a great analogy for new perspectives. Perhaps we are revisiting the old adage “if life serves you lemons, make lemonade”. Only this time going further to a place where lemonade is no longer possible and the  change are not in our control.

The message becomes: if it looks useless, observe and think again. The lemon is no longer there for us to make lemonade metaphorical or otherwise. It  is dead and decaying and useless to us.  And yet in that moment it is a place of new life, change and possibility.  Mould and fungus takes to work creating new textures, colours and new habitats.

A creative artist has seen there opportunities for observation, beauty and the creation of new objects. How many opportunities are we all missing as we too quickly dismiss things as useless?

[1] Featured in this years ROYAL ACADEMY SUMMER EXHIBITION 2022

Reflections on 2021

Reflections on 2021 – How did we do?

Our purpose:

Tophat Coaching and Associates coaches individuals and teams facing uncertainty and change.  With sustainability at the heart of our work, we intend to make your life and work more effective for yourself and the world in which you live. So reflecting with client feedback oin 2021, how did we do?

2021 Highlights

Feedback from clients in 2021:

Our Clients: 60%Female, 40%Male

Age-range: 20-60

Number of hours coaching 6-20 hours. Average 9 hours

Reasons for coaching:

  • Support my business
  • Support my career
  • Make life changes
  • Change my profession
  • Strengthen team effectiveness
  • Other:

The main purpose was to support the business and to keep the big picture in view but we also looked at my work-life balance which I find challenging to get right. Over the coaching period it has definitely improved

This wasn’t an intended purpose at the outset but Harriet helped me enormously to deal with stress caused by a family situation. Her advice and guidance has enabled me to react to this situation in a more productive way,”

While the coaching was meant to support my career, it shifted into making life changes.


60% strongly agree  and 40% agree that coaching has had a positive impact on those beyond the client. They list their teams, family, friends, colleagues and business customers

“… my team has been positively affected by coaching through additional gratitude and patience, as well as decreased stress and frustration… Privately, my fiancé has been positively affected due to a reduced amount of negativity that I would otherwise have carried around resulting from my work”

there is a halo effect with this [team coaching] work – we all get better”

Who would you not recommend for coaching?

Perhaps I would not recommend coaching to someone who is not open to conversations that require a good amount of self-reflection. Some people are not in a place in life where they see value in this.

Get in touch to make a step towards what matters


Coaching for business continuity

Getting in control of business continuity in times of crisis

Headless Chickens, Denial and the Mothers of Invention!

Chickens with heads in tact

No this is not the name of  Nick Cave’s new band. Rather I am talking about how coaching can help as you think about business continuity.

In the face of the rapid rise of Covid 19 you maybe feeling like a proverbial headless chicken, or rather frustrated by the panic and in denial that there’s anything to worry about. You may even feel that we have more to fear from the fear itself. 

All are common and unsurprising.  Whichever it is, we must agree that these are unprecedented times. They will affect both you, your family, and your teams and their families. It is likely to that your suppliers and customers will need to change their behaviour and this in turn will have an impact on the work you do. 

Managing your work through the current health crisis will be a significant test of your skills. As a leader it will challenge you to find invention in response to necessity.  Hopefully in the coming months you will steer your organisation without loss of life and you will emerge stronger and wiser. As a leader you have a significant role in that outcome. Coaching has a key role to play in supporting your management of business continuity.

Hasty reaction or planned response?

At these times of uncertainty your mettle will be tested.  Even for seasoned leaders, there is a strong temptation to react as events unfold rather than plan and prioritise. Too often businesses communicate hastily rather than effectively.  

Some quick questions to consider:

  1. Do your staff feel supported and informed of how you see the need to respond and their role in it in the coming 4-6months?
  2. Are you able to manage your own health and well being in and outside of work just now?
  3. Do you have an understanding of how your business may be affected in the short to medium term with a plan you are able to review as the situation unfolds? 

How can coaching help?

Well thought through and authentic risk management reviewed and applied for a crisis can serve to find the best course of action for you, your teams and your business. However leadership is a lonely place and time to pause reflect and think through your options can be hard to find.  

Coaching provides a fresh pair of non-judgemental eyes and questions that enable your reflection and support improved planning. 

From denial to the Nile

Drawing on the understanding of years of work in high risk contexts, my coaching can help you think through the range of issues affecting your decision-making as your remain true to yourself and your organisation’s mission. I will help you find confidence by identifying strengths and opportunities you have to hand even as you consider the risks you, your colleagues and your organisation faces.

Let’s work together as you use coaching for business continuity. Take action before its a last resort.  Get in touch for a 15 minute consultation to get started today.


The Uncomfortable Networker Unleashed

Top tips for the uncomfortable networker!

It is said that over 70%  of jobs and business comes from networking.  These great top tips to unleash the uncomfortable networker come from an excellent Coaching Academy CPD Event yesterday with Rasheed Ogunlaru.

I consider myself outgoing. Even so, the thought of working a room of strangers  authentically and effectively is uncomfortable. It’s funny how alternative ways to spend the time present themselves. So here are some top tips for the uncomfortable networker!

  • Arrive early. Counter intuitive right? But this way you are in the position of greeting and not breaking into groups already formed
  • Have something to say – in fewer than 10 words who you are and what you do, thats interesting. Write it down before you go and say it to your trusting mirror or even a friend
  • Make eye contact – some-people dont want to be tapped on the back!
  • Get the greeting right.  The handshake if you use it should be firm but not bone crunching.  If its a multi-cultural group handshaking might not be the thing.
  • Sm-eyes (pronounced schmize)! Deliver your greeting with a smile that reaches your eyes and isn’t looking over the shoulder to the next best person
  • Numbers. Set yourself a target of people
  • Move on graciously – if you’re getting stuck with someone telling you about model trains or the inclement weather (no offence to afionados of either discipline) say thanks and move on!
  • Celebrate. A successful networking event is part of your work and needs celebrating with new contacts and recognising new opportunities

Have fun and please share how you get on! Of course, Get in touch to discuss your coaching needs

Is coaching what I want?

What is coaching? Is it what I want? Will it work?

Here you will find answers to your questions: what is coaching, is it what I want and will it work for me? Read and reflect then  contact me for more information!

What is it?

Coaching is a professional service where coach and client work together in partnership in a thought-provoking and creative process of exploration. The coach is like a mirror that listens, talks and observes. Noticing your habits or reactions, a coach’s presence can inspire you to self-assess and take action using your personal and professional potential.

Successful coaching is when a client learns more about themselves and takes steps forward of their own choosing from which they learn and grow. Our coaching will explore with you your choices and their impact on others.

Is coaching what I want?

As you think about what you want, these commonly raised questions may help. Read them and consider if any apply to you:

    • Do you feel dissatisfied or stuck or that you aren’t reaching your full potential?
    • Are there unspoken fears or worries at work or home that influence behaviours you want to change?
    • Is there a gap of where you are now to where you want to be?
    • Do you sometimes feel you don’t have the skills, resources or confidence to do what you want?
    • Are you so busy that you have forgotten what you really want?
    • Do you sometimes feel stuck and put off making decisions or fail to stick to those resolutions you have made?
    • Is it time your answers were questioned?
    • Do you need a thoroughly good listening to?

If the answer is yes to any of these question, then coaching might be very helpful for you.

Will it work?

The coach provides a safe, confidential space. Their training and experience provides the framework of the process where intense listening and questions come.  Like a mirror with excellent lighting or microphone that picks up all the noise, coaching can be uncomfortable.  Clients who get the most from coaching are ready to reflect with the coach and entertain new and fresh ideas of their own making. They come to sessions with things they want to work on and are ready to try things out even if it may be uncomfortable. The coach is your partner safe and non-judgemental. She is not a prop!  These client testimonies are real and give you an idea of what ‘works’.

What happens?

Our coaching takes place over a number of pre-arranged structured confidential sessions. Our first session may be exploratory as we think together and you lay out your “map”.  Subsequent sessions you will build on this thinking as you move forward towards what matters. The process and framework is held by your coach who may challenge you to look behind the agenda to what really matters and where new challenges lie.

During coaching sessions you will make plans to take action. You will be responsible for the decisions you take.

Coaching complies  to the Coaching Code of Conduct which you can find here

A session usually last between 45mins and 1 hour

What coaching is not

Coaching is not an advisory, training or therapy service. Of course, there may be some tough questions but our coaching service will not judge, diagnose or assess you.

How to get the best from coaching – top tips

To get the greatest benefit from the investment you make for coaching:

    • Come to the session prepared having reflected on recent experience-make notes
    • Have an idea of a change you want to make or an area of life or work that is bothering you
    • Be honest with yourself
    • Trust yourself
    • Be ready to make a commitment to take action

I think I want to start coaching now. What do I do?

Your first step is to CONTACT ME!

We will talk over your understanding of this service and what you are hoping to get out of it. We will look at a package that best fit your needs now.

Let’s make it worth it! Make a resolution to stick to!

Seasons Greetings from TopHat Coaching

Seasons Greetings from TopHat Coaching! 


Season’s greetings from TopHat Coaching to you and your family. Thank you for being part of TopHat Coaching in 2019.

If, like Troy (pictured)  you are intending to feast with friends next week why not try the game in Knowing Me Week 7?  you may uncover truths you never knew!  Of course with one too many mouthfuls, relaxing and thinking about the future might be a more attractive option.

I look forward to being part of your resolutions in 2020. Let the coaching begin!



Knowing Me Week 4: Patterns in our thinking

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 have new choices. We can live with them or change them! 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!




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: it 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. Lastly but not least, 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.

Whether 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

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!