5 Tips to Help You Switch Off From Work

5 Tips to Help You Switch Off From Work

By Karen Amos

I see a lot of posts on social media about people who find they can't switch off during the holidays.  Is this you?  Whether you're going away somewhere or having a break at home, the feeling that your long awaited holiday is finally here, but your mind's whirring like a machine and all you can think about is how many jobs there are to do when you get back - if not before!

As a note of reassurance here, you're not alone.  The pace of the working week can seem relentless.  For some the 'end of the (working) day' never really comes, particularly with the advent of home-working.  This means we're living in an 'Always On' state of high arousal levels and stress.

In simple terms, this means rather than your adrenaline response shutting off, allowing your stress to ebb and flow naturally, your brain has its foot on the gas pedal and keeps it there.  This response is supposed to be fleeting - just long enough for you to get yourself out of imminent danger.  In the case of workplace stress, it can remain in place.  For months sometimes.  This leaves your body and brain unable to simply flick the switch to turn off the response, even though it's not needed any more.

So what to do?  Here are a few tips and coaching questions to help train your brain to lift its foot off your stress gas pedal, so you can work and rest productively.  Remember, the aim isn't to solve all of these in one go.  No point ending up more stressed out by trying to fix your stress levels!  Instead, pick one area and take one small action at a time...

Tip #1:

See time off as an investment - Explore and clarify to yourself how you will be more productive if you take time off to rest, whether that's for an evening, a weekend or a holiday.  Set out clearly what you would gain - naming it makes all the difference, then you know what you're aiming for.

Tip #2:

Make a list of everything that needs to be done - Include everything, big or small.  This allows you to stop worrying that you’ve forgotten something and allows you to stop spinning those mental plates.  Remind yourself you can add any jobs, when they come into your head as you go along.

Tip #3:

Prioritise what needs to be done – Do a reality check and ask yourself - Is this thing possible? – is it essential? – Also ask yourself what would happen if this wasn’t completed before the end of the month, or if you were off sick?  Chances are most of these tasks will be less 'urgent' and 'important' than you feel they are right now.  Where you can, block out things into a basic timescale or planner.

Tip #4:

Switch off your media – This means no checking in on emails and social media.   Give yourself a digital detox and if you find this makes you anxious or you have such strong ingrained habits to pick up your phone, put your phone or laptop out of reach at least for a short while.

Tip #5:

Find something practical to do – If you engage in a practical activity, you're more likely to be distracted from the anxious feelings, at least for a while.  Get outdoors for some exercise.  Not only is this a great stress-buster, it will also help you to sleep.  Whether it's indoors or outdoors, book activities in that you enjoy and revel in that restorative distraction.  Why not catch up with friends and family too?  Having a laugh and talking with others is a great distraction.  Just stick to those positive people in your life and avoid the 'joy stealers'!

Hopefully, these will help you set some positive habits and ensure you have some quality time off so you're well-rested and on top of your game when you return to work.  In the meantime, here's wishing everyone a positive and productive month, no matter what you have planned!

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Karen Amos is an executive coach and founder of BrightBird Coaching & Training. She supports business owners and managers who are feeling the pressure, to get the best out of themselves and their teams. She brings a practical, down-to-earth approach to improving working lives through better leadership, communication and working relationships. 


Introducing coaching at work when you don't have time

Introducing coaching at work when you don't have time

By Karen Amos

‘Coaching’s great, but I don’t have time to coach my teams’.  This is a statement I frequently encounter when introducing coaching as a management and leadership approach. I would argue that in the long run, utilising coaching will actually save time, reducing the amount of frequent, small questions to be fielded and building a culture of personal responsibility.

Let’s be clear, we aren’t talking about managers and leaders being coaches in the same way I work as a professional development coach.  There are many reasons why managers can’t just sit down for a dedicated 1-to-1 session with someone, time being just one of these.  What we are talking about is managers and teams taking a Coaching Approach to their interactions with each other.

Here are a few quick tips to help you begin to develop your coaching approach:

  • Listen and show understanding – How often do we interrupt someone, or merely wait for them to take a breath, so we can astound everyone with our superior knowledge? I’m sure it’s something we’re all guilty of at some point.  The first stage in being an effective coaching leader is to listen – I mean really listen.

Tip - One way of checking you’ve understood correctly and demonstrating this to the other person is to paraphrase at the end of their explanation.  Try something like, ‘So what you’re saying is…’  If you get it right, they’ll feel understood.  If you get it wrong, they’ll correct you.  Win-Win!

  • Begin with the end in mind – Good old Stephen Covey embedded this concept in his 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, and with good reason. Whilst coaching can be and is reflective, its main focus is on what we want to achieve.  Focusing on the solution, rather than the problem.

Tip – Ask, ‘What do I want to achieve here,’ or, ‘What would a good outcome look like,’ to avoid getting caught up in the details of what’s going wrong and indulging in yet another moan-fest.

  • Ask not tell – This is a key factor in coaching – Asking powerful questions. This is not giving advice – e.g. ‘why don’t you do xyz instead?’, or telling people what to do.  This approach is all about asking meaningful, open questions that move the person on to look at the options open to them so they can make a constructive decision.

Tip – There are an endless supply of questions that can be used in coaching.  A few examples would be things like:

o   What’s really going on for you right now?

o   What are the main barriers that are in your way?

o   If you could do anything you wanted, what action would you take?

o   What would your wisest friend do in this situation?

  • Foster personal responsibility – Don’t ‘fix’ – Following on from asking powerful questions, an effective coaching manager will ensure they allow their staff space to work out and try their own solutions. This can be scary initially, particularly when someone wants to resolve things in a way you wouldn’t choose.  Of course, you’ve got to weigh up the risks here – this certainly doesn’t mean you throw caution to the wind if someone is proposing to embark on some highly risky endeavour.  Allowing people to choose their own course of action is extremely motivating though and will result in them taking more autonomy and personal responsibility for finding their own solutions.

Tip – If you find yourself wanting to ‘fix’ someone, stop and consciously ask them what they think they should do.  Questions like, ‘What are the main sticking points for you here?’ and ‘What do you think you can do about this?’ are great ways to hand responsibility back to the person.

Hopefully you’ll find these useful on your journey to embedding coaching in your day to day interactions.  One final tip is not to try all of these at once.  Identify one area you could improve and set out some conscious intentions to work on this in your interactions with a member of your team.  That way you’ll start to get into the coaching habit!

Check out the links below to find out more about our latest coaching-based training courses and programmes.  We also offer individual and team coaching on leadership, interpersonal, communication and performance matters.  

For schools and education settings

For business and organisations

Or call us: 07714 855757

or click HERE to book in a short, no-obligation chat


Karen Amos is an executive coach and founder of BrightBird Coaching & Training. She supports leaders and managers to get the best out of themselves and their teams. She brings a down-to-earth, practical approach to improving working lives through better leadership, communication and working relationships. 

3 Reasons Everyone Needs a Coach

3 Reasons Everyone Needs a Coach

By Karen Amos

As Bill Gates said… ‘Everyone needs a coach.’  And who am I to argue?  I mean, the lad’s done OK for himself hasn’t he?

As a coach, I’m often asked, ‘Do you have a coach?’  The answer is, ‘Yes, I have several coaches.’

I have coaches for various aspects of my life and work, depending on what I need.  For example, I have a long-standing coach supervisor who supports and challenges me to improve my own practice as a coach.  I’ve also had business and personal coaches at critical points.

I’m writing this blog, as I had a realisation this morning I needed more coaching.  This time it’s for physical fitness.  Some of you may know I had a hip replacement in the spring.  It was successful and I’m now getting my life and mental wellbeing back, being able to walk up my beloved mountains and get the space, peace and exercise I so need.  (Even though I do spend a disproportionate amount of time asking myself what on earth I was thinking, when finding myself on a steep slope in the pouring rain!)

So back to my fitness coaching.  Most people understandably assume that as a coach myself I’m hyper-motivated all the time and know all the nifty coaching techniques to successfully coach myself to whatever goal I choose.  Which is kind of true, but here’s the problem – I’m only human.

That being human means that sometimes I can be a bit defeatist and even, dare I say it, a bit lazy.  Yep, let’s face it, we all have our excuses ready from time to time don’t we?

To quote another famous sleb, ‘You can have what you want, or you can have your excuses.’  That one’s from good old Arnie and again, he seems to have done OK for himself too!


So, with all that in mind, I’ve called my gym coach to discuss returning to paying her to allow me to complain, swear and turn into a sweaty mess for a couple of hours a week – otherwise known as gym classes.

Now, I have all the equipment at home and knowledge of training routines to crack on and get my fitness up to scratch again, so why don’t I just do that?  Well, the same reasons I would recommend a coach for anyone at work, applies to me too.

1. Challenge

Your coach, whether that’s a leadership, fitness, business or any other type of coach, will push you out of your comfort zone.  That ‘un-comfort’ zone is where the change that needs to happen, does happen.

Let’s stick with fitness as an example – you start off with great intentions, but within a very short space of time, you revert back to what’s comfortable.  That’s just human nature – it’s how we’re wired – but to get meaningful change we have to enlist someone who’s going to challenge us.  This is vital, whether that’s to do that extra set of reps with the weights, or to make that scary decision we’ve been putting off.

The important thing about challenge in coaching is that it’s done with positive intentions and to serve the agenda and goals of the coachee.  This isn’t about the coach getting off on how uncomfortable they can make their clients.  Any old dictator can do that!

2. Mindset

This goes along with the challenge.  A good coach will help you envisage a step-up bigger than you would normally take yourself.  They don’t take ‘no’ for an answer and will help you build a positive, can-do, growth mindset, not based on wishful thinking, but on affirmative, tangible action and results.

In short, a good coach helps you get out of your own way.

3. Accountability

Commitment makes or breaks success.  Doing something once, however well will not bring you lasting success (even if that one thing is buying a winning lottery ticket.  With the wrong mindset, you’ll have blown it in no time).  As the US coach Tony Robbins describes, we need to take small, consistent steps to maintain lasting change.

Working with another person is a fantastic way to help build personal accountability.  This is particularly true if you’re a senior leader or business owner, or even if you’re doing something for you, such as starting a new fitness programme.

The fact is, stating an intention out loud, particularly to someone whom you respect, means you are much more likely to follow through on your actions.  Let’s face it, none of us like to be proved wrong, or wanting do we?

Additionally, paying for this means we feel we have personally invested something.  We have skin in the game.  It’s an uncomfortable fact, but this is why ‘free’ programmes often fail and have much fewer participants at the end.  There’s just not enough investment personally from the participants.  Not enough to lose.  This way, we’re much more likely to dig deeper – if you’re a born and bred Yorkshire woman like me, you’ll always want to get your money’s worth!  This inevitably means better results.

So the question is, how and from whom can you get the right level of challenge, positive mindset and accountability?

Hopefully that’s given you some insights into why all good coaches have coaching.  Why not give it a go?  After all, think of how much you could gain…

Check out the links below to find out more about our latest coaching-based training courses and programmes.  We also offer individual and team coaching on leadership and performance matters.  

For schools and education settings

For business and organisations

Or call us: 07714 855757

or click HERE to book in a short, no-obligation chat



Karen Amos is an executive coach and founder of BrightBird Coaching & Training. She supports leaders and managers to get the best out of themselves and their teams. She brings a down-to-earth, practical approach to improving working lives through better leadership, communication and working relationships. 

3 Reasons Everyone Needs A Coach

Oppressed by the tyranny of opinion? There is an alternative...

By Karen Amos

Wow - Social Media!  Never failing to find an opinion on something!  I'd like to offer an alternative and seemingly quite unpopular, certainly underused phrase to help us though the unrelentingly bonkers times we live though...  

It's the art of saying, 'I don't know...'

Radical eh?!  You'd certainly think so, looking at the news and views out there!  Let's face it, so many people will never let lack of information get in the way of a good opinion! 

Whilst I make light of this, there is a much more serious point at stake.  This is the tendency of so many people, to be polarised in their views.  Perhaps this is perpetuated and encouraged by social media, but it appears that everyone MUST have an opinion and MUST choose whether any individual is a ‘demon’ or an ‘angel’, or risk incurring the wrath of those who have nailed their colours to a certain mast.

Thinking rationally, most of us know this isn’t true.  None of us are ‘angels’, we all make mistakes and sometimes do things we are even ashamed of.  Whilst it's vital we identify and live true to our values, this inevitably means we will also come into conflict with those who don't share them.  There are some obvious outliers here, with whom I would hope no-one would share values with, but the fact is they do.  I'm interested in politics and hold some strong opinions in some areas, but people are often surprised to hear I have friends and acquaintances right across the political spectrum.  Whilst we often agree to disagree, or even not discuss some issues at all, one thing I'm sure of is that they are not 'BAD PEOPLE' just because I disagree with them.

Perhaps it's time we stepped up to the challenge and stepped out of our echo chambers...

Bill George advocated developing our own sense of self-awareness and the ability to genuinely consider other viewpoints if we were to be effective and authentic leaders.  Daniel Goleman also cites the need for ‘self-regulation’, which includes being comfortable with ambiguity and a willingness to ‘see the bigger picture’ and change your viewpoint where appropriate.

This will always be a work in progress, but with reflection, we can all become a better version of ourselves.  Perhaps enough to pause, reflect and admit, ‘This is a really complex situation with many facets and I don’t have a clear opinion on this.’  Perhaps the world would be a better place if we all did this a little more?

For more reading check out:

Bill George. (2004). Authentic Leadership - Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value.  Wiley & Sons.

Daniel Goleman. (1996). Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ. Bloomsbury.

If you would like to develop your leadership skills, check out our Effective People Management Programme.  We will show you how to build skills and confidence to get the best out of yourself and your teams.  Practical and down-to-earth, with NO HOMEWORK, our training will help you find the authentic leader in yourself.

Click HERE to find out more and book your place now.

Tel: 07714 855757 or email: karen@bright-bird.co.uk

Karen Amos is an executive coach and Director and founder of BrightBird Coaching & Training. She supports business owners and managers to get the best out of themselves and their teams. She brings a down-to-earth approach to improving working lives through better leadership, communication and working relationships. 

Wrestling the shark - getting to grips with the unknown...

Wrestling the shark – coaching questions to help you get to grips with the unknown…

By Karen Amos

I’ve just been reading an article about Great White Sharks in Scotland (Spoiler – there are some, but not many, so you’re more likely to die of hypothermia!).  As it does, my mind went on a little meander, taking me back to watching the film Jaws for the first time as a kid.  I wasn’t old enough to watch it at the cinema, but later watched when it aired on TV in 1981.  The rest of my family was out and I remember my Mum asking if I really wanted to watch it on my own.  She knew I wasn’t a fan of scary stuff, having been traumatised by the daleks and a pantomime of Beauty and the Beast years before.  (I know, it’s not exactly the exorcist, but I’m a horror lightweight OK!)

The article vividly brought back the suspense in the lead up of the film. The tension, anxiety and fear.  The glimpses, the terror of the characters and of course, the music.  This was going to be horrific – should I be watching it alone?

Then we finally had the reveal and saw the shark in all its terrifying monstrousness… erm, no… I remember laughing out loud.  Special effects weren’t exactly enhanced in those days and Steven Spielberg definitely got the hang of it later, but the sight of the obviously latex shark just took the scariness out of everything.  From that point on I just buckled in for the ride and enjoyed the rest of the film as a bit of a comedy adventure.

This lead me on another little meander to think about how I use this technique in my coaching to help clients with change.  No, I don’t make them swim with great whites (although perhaps there’s a business opportunity in there somewhere…), but the process is the same.  Simply, that

We fear what we can’t see.

Fear is disabling.  We’re all familiar with the ‘fight or flight’ adrenaline response to danger, but there’s actually another, less well-quoted response that’s equally as powerful.  That’s Freeze.

For this response, think rabbit in the headlights.  The rabbit knows the danger is coming and even though it’s naturally built to flee, it just can’t get its muscles to move.  We often have the same response in life and the causes and effects can be quite insidious.  Usually the cause is nothing so obvious as a shark attack, or a car about to run us over – it’s the stuff lurking in our subconscious.  It’s there, we’re largely unaware of it – but it’s controlling our every action, thought, emotion and decision.

This stuff includes fear – particularly fear of failure, or of being judged.  Other things can be good old imposter syndrome, or a past negative experience that we subconsciously don’t want to repeat.  The problem is that we’re often completely unaware on a conscious level of what’s actually going on and berate ourselves for not driving forward in the way we would like.

My wonderful coach supervisor has a phrase to sum this up perfectly…

‘Let’s identify it – let’s name it – then we can control it.’

If you find yourself procrastinating, or tinkering around the edges of a task or project, this could be the root cause.  The fact is that once we name the thing that’s causing the problem, we find, just like with the latex shark, that it no longer has a hold over us.  It’s common for my clients, once they’ve named the issue, to quickly and metaphorically roll up their sleeves and crack on with the task at hand as if there never was a problem.

So as usual, here are some coaching questions to break out of the freeze mode and identify and name what’s really going on.

  • What is it about this task/issue that I find so difficult?
  • What’s the part I really don’t want to do?
  • What am I worried may happen if I do this?
  • What are the risks for me here? (NB: risks can be personal/emotional as well as physical or financial)
  • Can I relate this situation to something that’s happened to me before?
  • What would I be embarrassed to admit about my approach to this?
  • What’s ‘unseen’ or uncertain here?
  • If there was one thing holding me back, what would it be?

It’s a fact that whilst coaching has a focus on action and goals, often the biggest part of the work is around the reality check of ‘What’s REALLY going on here’.  The fears, anxieties and general horrible imaginings that hold us back from getting what we really want.  Do remember that these are also questions you can use to help someone else who seems ‘stuck’ too, whether you’re a manager, a colleague, or just a friend.

If you’d like to find out how our 1-to-1 coaching programmes can help you get ‘unstuck’ and move forward this year..

Call us: 07714 855757

or click HERE to book in a short, no-obligation chat



Karen Amos is an executive coach and founder of BrightBird Coaching & Training. She supports leaders and managers to get the best out of themselves and their teams. She brings a down-to-earth, practical approach to improving working lives through better leadership, communication and working relationships. 

Wrestling the shark - getting to grips with the unknown

Overwhelmed with work? Treat your to-do list as if you were going on holiday...

Overwhelmed with work?  Treat your to-do list as if you were going on holiday...

By Karen Amos

Is your workload stressing you out right now?

If so, I’d say you’re in good company.  So many people are saying they’ve too much to do and not enough time to do it in.  On top of this, there’s the added pressure of the summer holidays.  Of course, this is doubly significant for those working in education with end of term looming – but it also applies to anyone who has a break booked, but doubts whether they’ll make it in one piece due to the amount tasks they’re facing.

So before we look at what we can do to manage this, let’s do a quick reality check (Magic wands and wishful thinking are very nice, but some things are just fact – albeit slightly uncomfortable ones!).

FACT #1 – There will always be too much work and too many things to do in any given day, week, month, eternity…

FACT #2 – No matter how motivated, or how good your intentions are, you only have a finite amount of energy.  (Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you are not a robot!)

FACT #3 – Much of the pressure we feel is artificially created.  It comes from other people, or worse still ‘systems’ and cultures, that we leave unquestioned.

FACT #4 – The more tired and stressed you get, the more ineffective and unproductive you become.

OK, so that’s all the doom and gloom stuff, but does that mean we’re all destined for a life of unproductivity and angst?  Absolutely not!  And the good news is that so much more is in your control than you may believe.

This is why I believe we should take the ‘One week to my holidays’ approach to managing our workload…

So here’s how it usually goes over your last 5 working days:

Day 5 – You’re full of good intentions about how you will clear all those pesky jobs that have lurked on your to-do list all year.  That way you can go on holiday with a clear conscience, self-congratulating at all the amazing work you’ve smashed this week…

Day 4 – You’ve tripled the length of said to-do list, but haven’t actually done a single thing, other than fire-fighting more tasks that weren’t even on there.

Day 3 – You realise that half of these tasks will take at least a week each, so decide to put them off until after your holidays (or even next year!).

Day 2 – You’ve ditched 80% of your original tasks and are now prioritising the the things that will cause disaster/mayhem/get you the sack if you don’t do them…

Final working day – You’re ditching tasks from that list with abandon (many of which will never find their way back onto it, even though you were convinced were non-negotiables three days ago).  You’re becoming slightly delirious and demob-happy and start doing the bare bones of what’s needed and seem to have forgotten about your perfectionist tendencies after all…

Sound familiar?  I know it well!

So if those tasks were so important in the first place, why do some become more negotiable/optional the more time-pressures exert themselves?

Usually it’s because they actually weren’t so important.  They were wishes, they were unplanned and they were good intentions (and we all know what the road to hell is paved with…).

That’s why we should be grateful for that last-minute panic before our holidays.  It helps us shine a light on what’s really important and also what our day is actually filled with.

Here are some coaching questions to help you see your workload in a new light:

1. Realistically, how long will these tasks take me with no distractions?

2. What would I advise the people I line manage if they presented me with this to-do list?

3. What needs to change in order to achieve the more strategic stuff, or the things that will make a difference?

4. What 3 things can I put in place quickly and easily to cut out distractions and fire-fighting?

5. Who are the key people around me who can help me with this?

Hopefully, you’re now able to give yourself permission to take a fresh view of that never-ending to-do list and have a wonderful, restorative holiday!

If you’d like to find out more about our training courses and programmes on time-management, work-life balance and wellbeing please get in touch.  We also offer individual and team coaching on leadership and performance matters.  

Call us: 07714 855757

or click HERE to book in a short, no-obligation chat



Karen Amos is an executive coach and founder of BrightBird Coaching & Training. She supports leaders and managers to get the best out of themselves and their teams. She brings a down-to-earth, practical approach to improving working lives through better leadership, communication and working relationships. 

Your Christmas Coaching Survival Guide...

Your Christmas Coaching Survival Guide…

By Karen Amos

So here it is – my coaching guide to surviving Christmas!

When I say ‘Christmas’, I’m talking about the general Christmas celebrations we have in the UK, not the religious festival.  I do feel these are two markedly different things.

So how did it all get so out of control?

There are reports of Christmas being commercialised since the late 1800’s and perhaps even before, so it’s not necessarily a ‘new’ thing.  Santa had been illustrated as dressed in red in the mid 1800’s, but Coca Cola famously linked Santa to its brand colours.  The reason?  It was difficult to sell fizzy drinks in winter!  We’re now in the situation where parents take their children to see the Coca Cola truck and ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ at the spectacle.  Well that clearly worked didn’t it?

The 1947 film Miracle on 34th St is basically about the over-commecialisation of Christmas in a store.  Did you know that even Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer was invented in 1939 by another department store to sell merchandise?

So, this retail extravaganza really isn’t that new – along with the stress that we associate with the build up.

The evergreen Christmas stress is tough enough without all the financial concerns people are now having.  So, if the thought of Christmas is causing you more stress than pleasure, this is the perfect opportunity to do something different and have the Christmas you really want.

I say this as someone who took charge of their Christmas years ago.  I got tired of the retail-obsessed, drink-and-eat-all-you-can-fest, so started my own tradition of going to the Cairngorms for Christmas.  My husband and I have one low-key ‘Christmas do’ with our family before departing to the Highlands in our campervan.  We walk in the snow on Cairngorm summit on Christmas morning, before having an expensive bottle of wine and tapas and other nibbles for Christmas ‘dinner’.

Lots of people say they are jealous of us being able to do this, but they could just as easily do this themselves if they chose.   It’s completely in anyone’s gift to change.

But it’s not that easy?

My advice is to think about your absolute ‘must have’s’ for Christmas – what’s really important?  It’s unlikely to be a cuddly toy vegetable from a discount supermarket, or a huge credit card bill and a 7-day hangover!

Here’s a great coaching question to take a step out of your usual mindset:

‘If I could do anything I wanted at Christmas – what would I be doing?’

Your ‘dream’ Christmas may not be possible, but often it’s nearer than you think.

Once you’ve answered this question, pick out the elements that make Christmas special for you, what’s given you joy in the past – and also which bits would you gladly bin!

Then work out all the ways, including seemingly impossible ones, to make this happen.

It often helps to do this with someone else, so they can help you find the solutions and work-arounds.

A big fear is that family and friends will be upset or offended if you’re not doing what they want, so remember:

#1 – You can’t control other people – just yourselves.

#2 – There may be ways you can spend time with family and friends, but in a way that still meets your needs.

#3 – Even if some people are disappointed, they’ll get over it!  Let’s face it, by new year, Christmas is already a distant memory for most people.

#4 – Stick to your guns if you’re doing something radically different.  Once you’ve made the change, it’s much easier in future to continue with this.

This was definitely the case on our first year going to the Cairngorms, but now everyone expects us to do this and it’s no big deal.

If you’re worried about what other people will think, or have some ‘shoulds’ or ‘oughts’, ask yourself ‘who says?’

And what will actually happen if you don’t do it everyone else’s way?  The answer is usually ‘not much’.

Another idea for changing things is to give your Christmas a theme – for example, you could hold an ‘eco Christmas’ where you waste as little as possible, or a ‘sharing Christmas’ where everyone pitches in, or even a ‘charity donation Christmas’.

Think about ways you can make this transition:

  • Buffees instead of huge meals
  • Everyone brings something
  • Everyone brings their own glasses
  • A Secret Santa where you just buy one present for each member of the family
  • Going out for a walk instead of a huge drinking session
  • ‘Buying’ a grand day out to be used later in the year, instead of shop-bought gifts – we found our elderly parents would much prefer a special day out, than yet more ‘stuff’ they don’t need!

Just remember – the constant messages we see and hear are designed for one thing – to help businesses part you from your cash.

I have a business too – I get it – and there’s nothing wrong with buying a nice gift for someone.  Let’s just do it in a way that makes everyone happy.

What are your top tips for a stress-free Christmas?

Check out our Positive and Productive Wellbeing programme for schools.  We offer many more coaching tips and approaches to help you manage your time and stress and build a positive mindset.  CLICK HERE to check out our web page for more info, or to book.

Or call us for a no-obligation chat on: 07714 855757

or email: info@bright-bird.co.uk



Karen Amos is an executive coach and founder of BrightBird Coaching & Training. She supports leaders and managers to get the best out of themselves and their teams. She brings a down-to-earth, practical approach to improving working lives through better leadership, communication and working relationships. 

Your Christmas Coaching Survival Guide...

Do you walk the walk, or are you just talk?

Do you walk the walk, or are you just talk?

By Karen Amos

I’ve been feeling challenged recently.  What’s new you may ask?  The world feels like it’s going to hell in a hand cart and to be honest, it’s hard to know where to direct your outrage.

I guess I’ve been challenged around my values.  My ethics.  What I stand for.  And mainly that many people who say they stand for a certain thing, do nothing of the kind in practice.  In fact, they overtly and cynically do just the opposite.

So yes, I’m talking about the current government (I won’t expand, as I don’t even know where to start), but also leadership around the world.  Saying one thing – doing another.

But let’s stop a minute in our righteous indignation and look a little closer to home too.  Let’s look at hype, at marketing and advertising.  Then let’s look at our own and other’s behaviour around us, including in the workplace.

This reminded me of a phrase a work colleague, Ursula Wood of Wellbeing Umbrella used to say:

‘Just because someone says it, does not make it so…’


Talk is cheap and all to frequently nowadays, not challenged either.  The fact is we can say anything we like, it’s a free country after all.  So I can say I’m actually 21 again.  There.  Yippee!  But I’m not, I’m 54 and no amount of saying it (or wishing for a bit more youthful vitality!) will make me so.

But this is where it all goes wrong.  People say they’re ethical, honest, authentic (heaven save us from authentic!), caring, compassionate… of course they do.  Who would ever proudly admit to being unethical, dishonest, a liar, a fraud?

The fact is though that unless we consistently back our words up with action – what we do – we are just that, frauds!

It’s an uneasy truth to bear.  There are times when I have been that cowardly person, when I’ve been ‘economical with the truth’.  Often because I was afraid of the consequences, but that’s by the by; these are the times I reflect upon and am most ashamed of myself.  So if we are to be our best selves and leaders, the people we tell everyone we are, and judge others against, we must face up to these realities.

Funnily enough, my inspiration for this post comes not from disingenuous politicians (although they’re not exactly a rare breed, judging by current events), but from the amount of ‘coaching’ purported everywhere and by everyone at the moment.  It’s trendy, it’s the thing to have, it’s a requirement and applauded in many sectors, including education.

As a coach, that really should be making my heart sing!  So why not?

The problem is that everything appears to be named ‘coaching’ nowadays.

So, instructing, mentoring, advising, teaching, training and plain old directing… all become ‘coaching’ – but they’re not.

They’re also not ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’. 

All these approaches have merit in the right situation.  I use them all in my own practice.  That’s how I give my clients most value.

It is however, vitally important that as a leader for example, if you say you take a coaching approach, you have a good look inwards.  Do you actually coach, or are you just directing with a very loaded question?  The former hands the control to the person being coached, the latter is a leader who hangs onto the control, but denies or disguises this as something else entirely.

As an example of coaching, here are a few coaching questions to get you started:

  • What words would I use to describe myself and my values and against which I judge others?
  • What evidence do I have that I practice these consistently?
  • Would other people around me agree?
  • Are there times my values become less ‘mandatory’ to me?

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Karen Amos is an executive coach and founder of BrightBird Coaching & Training. She supports business owners and managers to get the best out of themselves and their teams. She brings a down-to-earth, practical approach to improving working lives through better leadership, communication and working relationships. 

Does your wellbeing strategy add to your stress?

Does your wellbeing strategy add to your stress?

By Karen Amos

Are you working in education?  Are you feeling under pressure, stressed, or that your general wellbeing just isn't that great?  You probably already know this, but I'll say it anyway - you're not alone.  BUT WAIT!  Whatever happened to the Education Staff Wellbeing Charter?  After all, it was only launched in Autumn 2021 and who doesn't love a new initiative...?

Thinking back to my time in leadership roles in the public sector, the NHS in particular, I can remember that sinking feeling when yet another ‘initiative’ landed on my desk.  Not that they were always bad (although to be fair, some were shockers), but I recall that feeling of overwhelm, wondering where and how I could find the resources and time to actually implement this, without dropping another plate.

I’m not going to tell anyone working in education that they have a tough job.  That’s like telling a sheep it’s woolly.  There’s a degree of acceptance of an education professional's lot in working life – and by this I’m meaning everyone working in education, not just teachers - and to corrupt a song, 'a teacher's lot is not a happy one'.  The fact is the statistics make grim reading.

I don’t believe there’s anything to gain in playing misery ‘top trumps’ with other jobs and sectors.  This doesn’t get anyone anywhere.  Many sectors have huge issues with stress and burnout, each with its own particular issues and education is no exception.  The fact is however, that education does rank in the top 4 most stressful occupations in the UK. ¹

So here are some numbers:

  • 72% of education professionals described themselves as being ‘stressed’ in 2021 (84% of senior leaders)2
  • Unsurprisingly, this was up from an already high 64% in June 20202
  • 70% of Education staff (80% of senior leaders) who considered leaving the profession did so due to workload2
  • 54% considered leaving due to personal mental health and wellbeing2

I believe this is the tip of the iceberg and that the issue is significantly under-reported for many reasons.  If you have time, do check out the links below for more information.  (Short pause for you to laugh derisively at the word ‘time’…)

From a leadership view, I see there are two issues with wellbeing in the workplace. 

Firstly, there’s an ethical issue.  No-one should come to work and be made ill or unhappy.  That’s my mantra.  I have personal (negative) experience in this area.  We can all have a rubbish day from time to time, but if we’re accepting this as the norm, then something’s seriously broken.

Secondly, there’s the financial issue - and let’s face it, this is often the deal-breaker.  Few would argue against the ethics of having a healthier workplace and workforce.  The difficulty lies in implementing this – either though lack of time and resources, or simply the financial pressures of balancing already stretched budgets.

NB: Whilst there’s also a legal/compliance issue with wellbeing, I’d suggest this comes from a combination of ethical and financial (i.e. costs to the state) issues.

So, if the finances are the clincher, here are a few more stats:

  • 50% of all working days lost in the UK in 2020/21 were due to work-related ill health1
  • Education is one of the top 3 most stressful sectors in the UK 1
  • Poor mental health amongst employees costs £42–45 bn in the UK each year - This includes the costs of absence/presenteeism and turnover3
  • The cost of poor mental health to the UK education sector (and public purse) is estimated to be £1.1 – 1.5 bn per year3
  • This equates to £1203 - £1585 per education employee per year3

So what to do?

Whilst there’s lots everyone can do to improve wellbeing in education, it’s obvious there is no quick fix and I’ll be writing more extensively on this in future articles.  In the meantime however, we should take note of the Education Staff Wellbeing Charter4 , where it states that there are no expectations that ‘managers [will] provide professional wellbeing support for which they have no professional training.'  In short - you can't be all things to all people.

Instead, I suggest we should take a holistic view, rather than the traditional sticking-plaster approach.  This will take time and starts with building a wellbeing culture.  To do that we need to throw away any badges of honour that go with working ridiculous, impossible hours and begin meaningful conversations with those around us.  This means we have to be prepared to hear uncomfortable truths.  Additionally, it’s now time to check our own personal story - from one that talks about ‘overworked education professionals', to one that says ‘This is not acceptable’ and ‘I deserve more’.

  1. HSE – Work related stress, anxiety or depression statistics in Great Britain - 2021
  2. Education Support – Teacher Wellbeing Index - 2021
  3. Deliotte – Mental Health and Employers – Refreshing the case for investment – Jan 2020
  4. The Education Staff Wellbeing Charter

If you would like to find out more about BrightBird's online Positive & Productive Wellbeing Programme, click HERE.

Down-to-earth, straight-talking support for you and your team to manage stress, build resilience and time management skills and develop a positive mindset.  Delivered at a time and pace to suit you.

For an informal, no-obligation chat about how we can help you, call us on 07714 855757, or email info@bright-bird.co.uk.

Karen Amos is an executive coach and founder of BrightBird Coaching & Training. She supports education leaders and managers who are feeling the pressure, to get the best out of themselves and their teams. She brings a practical, down-to-earth approach to improving working lives through better leadership, communication and wellbeing. 


So you're a coach? That's like a football coach, right?

You’re a coach? That’s like a football coach, right?

By Karen Amos

‘You’re a coach?  What, like a football coach?’  This is a regular response when people find out what I do for a living – and to be honest, it’s not a million miles off the mark.

So here’s my latest attempt to de-mystify coaching…

Like a football coach? – Erm, yes, in that a football coach is there to maximise the performance of the players to build a successful team and win matches.  A good coach will help players maximise their strengths and recognise and overcome their weak areas.

So not like a football coach? – Well no – in that I don’t shout at people from the edge of a field in the cold and rain!  I also rarely wear a tracksuit for my work - Oh, and my knowledge of football is limited to knowing who Kevin Keegan is and that Gary Lineker likes crisps!

Actually the main distinction is that good coaching is all about supporting people to work it out for themselves.  This moves us from TELL – to – ASK.

Why not just give people the answer if they don’t know what to do?

Imagine you’re stuck – there’s a problem at work, maybe with a member of your team, or your work-life balance is going down the drain.  You meet up with your friend after work and they ask how you are.  ‘Terrible,’ you say, ‘The team aren’t meeting their goals and my boss is breathing down my neck and I’m shattered, but nowhere near getting to the bottom of my to-do list.’

‘Ah, you know what you need to do,’ says your friend in their best Harry Enfield impersonation, ‘You need to leave.  Give them your notice tomorrow and tell them you’re not putting up with it any more.’

I’m guessing most of us have been on the receiving end of that kind of conversation at some time.  Now think about what you feel like receiving this kind of ‘advice’.  Listened to and understood?  I doubt it.  Likely to follow the advice?  Usually not – I tend to find myself thinking, ‘what do you know about it?’ or variations on that theme and pull down my mental shutters ready to revel in a bit more self-imposed misery.

So let’s look at the coaching alternative.  We don’t tell, we ask.  Coaches dig down to what’s really going on – finding the root cause of the issue.  Let’s face it, without getting that right, everything else is a sticking plaster solution.  We then find out what the person actually does want.  When we’re experiencing a painful situation, we’re all really clear on what we don’t want, but often less clear on what we do want.  With a clear goal, the person is then able to set out clear actions to achieve that goal.

So in essence, a coach brings a safe space, where people can be heard, in confidence and without judgement, and be supported to find their own way out of any difficulties and build up their own skills and personal resources.

Coaches work with individuals and teams to identify the blocks that are preventing them from moving forward and set out new, positive goals and a vision for the future. They then give support to set out actions to make this a reality.

I’ll post some more soon on techniques I use as a coach and problems coaching can help resolve.  In the meantime, next time you’re tempted to just tell someone what to do – why not pause for a moment, listen to them and ask them what they’d like to do instead?

If you would like to find out how BrightBird can help you build your performance and support your teams to remain positive and productive, get in touch for a chat or click HERE to book your no-obligation FREE Discovery coaching session.  

We offer online video 1-to-1 coaching support from senior leadership to front-line staff and also team/group coaching. 

Tel: 07714 855757 or email: karen@bright-bird.co.uk

Karen Amos is an executive coach and founder of BrightBird Coaching & Training. She supports business owners and managers to get the best out of themselves and their teams. She brings a down-to-earth, practical approach to improving working lives through better leadership, communication and working relationships.