Challenge or opportunity? You decide...

Challenge or opportunity? You decide...

By Karen Amos

As a small business owner, I don’t always have the luxury of lots of spare capacity or fall-backs when things quickly change.  Such a thing happened recently when one of my support team decided to take up a new job opportunity.  Whilst I’m gutted to be losing a key support, I do understand their reasons for moving on and wish them every success.  Inevitably though, this still caused pressures within my business.

After my initial OMG moment, feeling like I should be a model for a Munch painting, I remembered what I did for a living, gave myself a shake and put my coaching hat on.  This helped me to re-frame the situation and ask myself:

Is there another way to see this? 

It was hard not to focus solely on the multitude of upcoming challenges - our brains are wired to concentrate on perceived dangers, so that's our default setting.  Once I'd named what was going on, there were also many positive opportunities for my business that I might otherwise not considered.  These included building future capacity, re-prioritising my offer to clients, revisiting my pricing policy and many others.  It’s easy to just go with the flow, particularly when things are going well, rather than giving things a bit of a shake up.  Let’s face it, who doesn’t like a bit of comfort zone now and again - again, we can thank our brain for this - keeping us out of danger and seeking safety.

It's so easy for businesses and organisations to just grow organically in response to our market or circumstances, in good times and bad, but now and again we need a good reason to go back to the drawing board.

I would just like to add this isn’t about being all Pollyanna about things.  As a slightly grumpy, middle-aged Yorkshire woman, Pollyanna isn’t my default setting I can assure you!  As good old Tony Robbins says, ‘There’s no point standing in the garden chanting “There are no weeds, there are no weeds” when you’re surrounded by freaking weeds!  The only thing that will help is to roll up your sleeves and pull them up!’

So let’s start to see the challenges as practical opportunities for change and getting out of our comfort zone and make the most of things!

If you’re struggling with a challenge or change, ask yourself the following coaching questions:

  • What are the opportunities, or positives in this challenge?
  • Is there a way to slow things down a little to create some thinking space?
  • If so, what are the priority things and what can I put down?
  • If I was starting from scratch here, what would I choose to do?

Have you turned a challenge into an opportunity recently?  Let’s share the positive mindset!

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

Check out our website:

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. 


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

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. 


Overwhelm - taking those first steps out of the swamp...

Overwhelm - taking those first steps out of the swamp...

By Karen Amos

The problem with overwhelm is... well, it's overwhelming!

Yes, I realise that's pretty obvious, but if it's really that obvious, why don't we easily sort it out and feel more in control?

Because... yes, that's right - it's overwhelming.  The Cambridge dictionary describes overwhelm as 'to be too much to deal with'. (1.)  So there you have it - how can you deal with something, which by definition leaves you feeling as if you can't?

Overwhelm sucks us down and dulls our responses and behaviours, sapping your energy and confidence.  It's a swamp land for your productivity and wellbeing.

So here's how to deal with the stuff that feels like it's too much to deal with...!

1.  Accept there is no 'one-step, easy answer' to overwhelm

Overwhelm means different things to different people, at different times.  There are often several contributing factors, each of which compound the other.  This is why we can't often find a way through - and why we often don't even know where to start.  Acknowledging what's going on for you - and importantly, making a conscious decision to change things for the better is a great start though.

2.  If you don't know where to start, start in the easiest place

Because overwhelm then leaves us powerless in its grip, we often do nothing.  We don't know what the 'best' thing to do is, or what the solution is.  So we do the rabbit in the headlights routine.  Often though, just taking one small step can start to lift us out of the swamp.  And each step out, increases our capacity to gain control, energy and impetus.  So don't wait for the whole solution, just take the one small, easy step you know will lead you in the right direction.

3.  Overcome the fear of switching off

Whilst we know we would benefit from taking proper time out, this can actually feel pretty scary when you're under pressure.  The problem is that trying to plough through is often counter-productive, leaving us even more exhausted, but the bogeyman of letting go can really hold us in its grip.  Rationalising how you will benefit from even a short amount of time out will help you make that decision.  Remind yourself for example, how much more productive you will be the next day if you turn off your smart phone and have an early night, or even just finish work at a normal time for once, to go do something nice with your loved ones.

4.  Break tasks and activities down

If we see a large, complex or long-term problem, it's hard to know where to even start - and the positive feelings of achievement aren't so easily found as we try to plough our way through.  Instead, break your goals/outcomes down into smaller steps that you can tick off frequently.  That way you can see your progress and more importantly gain the feelings of satisfaction and control that come with this.  This is even true of smaller, personal habits - e.g. saying you're going to do physical exercise/training 3 times a week can seem too much and mean you don't even start.  However, saying you'll go to spin class on Monday evening, do a 30 minute run on Wednesday and a long walk at the weekend can much more easily be planned in - and ticked off each day.

5.  Get your priorities right

When we feel so overwhelmed with our workload, there's a danger that we end up working on completely the wrong things.  These often swing between the jobs (or people) who shout the loudest, or the things that are easiest and least risky.  Neither of these necessarily are the right thing though.  (And if you think this isn't you, just remind yourself about the times you've ended up doing the dusting rather than tackle a gnarly task!  Yeah, of course, we'd all choose dusting as our new favourite hobby right?!)  Instead, take a few minutes to check through everything that's going on and ask yourself:

  • What could and should be dropped off my to-do list (or even completely off my radar) at this point in time?
  • Are there any quick wins here, that will buy me more time and energy moving forwards?
  • What's the most important thing here?
  • What are the things that no-one would really notice if I didn't do?
  • If I assume I don't have time or energy to do everything that's expected of me, what will I have to put down first?
  • Where's the 'noise' coming from?  Is this legitimately something I should be listening to?  If not, how do I tune it out?

If you were only going to do one thing right now, I'd recommend taking a few minutes away to ask yourself some of these questions.  Then take one step - just one - that will start to take you in the right direction and lead you out of the overwhelm swamp.


  1. OVERWHELM | meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary

If you would like to find out more about how you and your teams can improve their time management and productivity, whilst minimising stress and overwhelm, check out our new Positive and Productive online programme.  

For schools

For Business and VCSE organisations

For an informal, no-obligation chat about how we can help you, call us on 07714 855757, or email

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

Dealing with the Curse of Perfectionism - and the Cure of Good Enough

The Curse of Perfectionism - and the cure of Good Enough

by Karen Amos

In my line of work, I have the privilege of meeting many people from all walks of life, albeit virtually nowadays.  In doing so, it’s easy to pick up themes.  Here’s one – January was tough.

The end of January is always a difficult time.  It’s towards the end of the winter when we get the fatigue. When the long nights go on forever and we’re starved of sunlight and to compound it all, we’ve been locked in.

I work with schools and I know many parents of school-aged children.  There have been numerous fractious exchanges between these two groups, which is almost inevitable when you consider the pressure everyone is under.  And that's the key to it – it’s about the pressure.  When we feel under pressure, we naturally go into self-preservation mode.

There has been huge pressure on teachers, who are not only dealing with uncertainty, but also trying to juggle online and face-to-face learning with concerns and follow-ups of children in their care, not to mention the politics, with a large and small 'P'.

In the meantime, parents have suddenly had the pressure of trying to hold down jobs whilst working from home and managing the almost impossible expectations of home-schooling.

I’ve posted about the philosophy of Stoicism since the new year.  Here’s the thing – everyone just wants to do a good job.  Sometimes though, we have to accept that ‘least worst’ is the best on offer.  In doing so, we have to simply accept what is.  That’s not defeatist by any stretch - it’s pragmatic and allows you to give yourself permission to just do what’s ‘Good Enough’.  By good enough, I mean good enough in the context of the circumstances in which you find yourself.

The concept of ‘Good Enough’ has its roots in child development and parenting and latterly in social work, then also in software and systems design.  But there’s a message for all of us in there…

‘Perfection is the enemy of action.’

Magnifying shortcomings and failures, just leads to disappointment and grows, resulting in guilt, anger and blaming.  ‘This isn’t right, ergo someone must be at fault.’

Whilst being Good Enough Parents to our children, how about being Good Enough Parents to ourselves?  Let’s set out reasonable expectations in advance and not expect more of ourselves than we would of others – or indeed, not expecting more of others than is reasonable.

Here are some helpful coaching questions to take a stoical, 'Good Enough' approach to life:

  • What could I achieve today in order to think, 'Yes, that was good enough'?
  • What would I tell my friend was good enough if they were in my position?
  • What are the consequences if I do this to a good enough, rather than perfect standard?
    • What will I gain?
    • What will this cost me?
  • What's the most important thing to achieve today?

Above all, Good Enough is about being kind - to yourself and others.  After all, there are always plenty of challenges in life, so why make things any harder?

If you'd like support for you or your team to reduce stress and build resilience and effectiveness at work, check out our online Positive and Productive training programme for BUSINESS & VCSE orgs or SCHOOLS.

For an informal, no-obligation chat call us on 07714 855757, or email visit our NEW training pages HERE 

Karen Amos is an executive coach and founder of BrightBird Coaching & Training. She supports under-pressure business owners and managers 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. 


What to do when positive thinking isn't enough...

What to do when positive thinking isn't enough...

By Karen Amos

I can’t think of anyone who’s not been challenged in one way or another by the pandemic over this last 9 months.  Whilst this has certainly tested many of us in the extreme, this is just one of many challenges life will send our way.

As a result, I’ve been spending a lot of time researching the frequently misunderstood philosophy of Stoicism, which is often misinterpreted as the British ‘stiff upper-lip’, ‘putting up with misfortune’ view of life.  In reality, stoicism teaches us a very practical lesson – that in life, circumstances will continue to challenge us, but it is within our gift to decide how we will respond to them.

Here’s a quote by Epicticus:

‘When something happens, the only thing in your power is your attitude towards it. It is not the things that disturb us, but our interpretation of their significance. Things and people are not what we wish them to be nor are they what they seem to be. They are what they are.’

Often coaching is seen as a bit ‘Pollyanna – all in the garden is rosy’, which is why many people (with some justification) cite ‘toxic positivity’ at the relentless ‘just think positive’ messages.  In fact coaching at it’s best is nothing of the sort.  Tony Robbins has a great approach to this.  I paraphrase:

Just relying on a positive thinking alone is like going into your garden and chanting ‘there are no weeds, there are no weeds’, when your garden’s clearly full of weeds.  You need to get in there and pull them out!

We need to accept that life is frequently challenging and bad stuff happens.  Rather than passively accepting that, drowning in self-misery, or railing against the universe, we need to roll up our sleeves and deal with it.  We need to take action that will serve us well.

Here are a few coaching questions to get you started:

  • What’s my main challenge here?
  • Is there a small, practical action I can take that will serve me better right now?
  • What are the costs and benefits of my current approach/attitude?  What can I do differently that will move me forward and have a positive effect?

Remember, we’re all human and it’s important to acknowledge our feelings.  If something bad happens it’s perfectly natural and healthy to feel down, upset or angry.  The problem is that simply dwelling on these feelings and responses will not serve us well, or help our situation.  It’s therefore in your gift and best interests to start to coach yourself to a better way forward that will.

If you'd like support for you or your team to reduce stress and build resilience and effectiveness at work, get in touch for an informal, no-obligation chat.  Watch out for our NEW Positive & Productive Programme - launching January 2021! Contact us for more details or click HERE.

We offer one-to-one and team coaching and in-house training programmes.

Call us on 07714 855757, or email visit our NEW training pages HERE 

Karen Amos is an executive coach and founder of BrightBird Coaching & Training. She supports under-pressure business owners and managers 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. 


Positive & Productive - News about our NEW beta programme!


We're delighted to announce our new Positive & Productive online programme - due to commence January 2021!

This programme will bring you all the aspects and content from our existing popular training workshops, including:

  • Time Management & Work-Life Balance
  • Managing Stress & Building Personal Resilience
  • Building Confidence

The programme will consist of a combination of:

  • Short recorded webinars
  • Workbooks and training resources for each session
  • Live, online Q&A's on a variety of subjects
  • An online community to share ideas, progress and support

Check out our course leaflet for more information:



We're bringing this at a special discounted price of £49 per person, so grab your place whilst they're still available.

We are able to offer significant discounts for group bookings - get in touch for a no-obligation quote!

If you'd like to find out more via a no-obligation chat, you can contact us on 07714 855757 or email

To make a booking, complete our booking form HERE


Solving the Christmas Shopping Dilemma...

By Karen Amos

Well, it’s that ‘Time of Year’ again!  I was in town last week and was struck by how stressed and unhappy all the shoppers looked.  We’re sold a dream of a joyous Christmas, but in reality, there just seems to be lots of pain for everyone.

I’ve had a bit of an epiphany over the last couple of years regarding gift-giving.  I could see I was just accumulating more ‘stuff’ and as time goes on (not that I’m getting old mind!), I’m all for decluttering and down-sizing.  I think this stems from developing a sense of my own personal values and knowing what’s really important to me.  Let’s face it, few of us would own up to personal values of greed, avarice and ownership of as many unused things as possible, yet that seems to be the mission so many people go on every year in December.

My husband and I changed our approach last year and asked everyone not to buy us any gifts, as we had everything we needed.  For our family, we gave what they valued most – our time.  We gave a ‘gift voucher’ for a ‘Grand Day Out’, with Malcolm, the Chauffeur (aka my better half) and Karen, the Tour Guide.  We had a super day in the Lake District, taking our parents out to places they wouldn’t normally have gone.  And guess what?  They asked for this again for their present this Christmas and have also asked if they can do the same for us.  Yes!!

So before launching into the next buying frenzy, why not take a few moments to ask what you and others would really choose for Christmas – rather than what the large retailers would like you to buy.  The answer could be more enjoyable than you thought…

Karen Amos is the owner of BrightBird Coaching & Training.  She is a qualified Executive and Professional Development coach and trainer.

If you’d like to know more about BrightBird’s professional development services and how we can help you and your business, school or organisation, please check out our website at, or email