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?

If you would like to find out more about coaching and how this differs from other approaches, check out our latest FREE Introduction to Coaching webinars. 

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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. 

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 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. 

Bringing your team back into the fold? Try Huddling!

Bringing your team back into the fold?  Try Huddling!

By Karen Amos

Through all the uncertainty, there’s a prevailing need to get teams back on track.  Whether your teams are working remotely, back in-house or a mixture of the two – no matter, you will need to take considered action to address the current and future challenges.  Teams rarely perform well by default.

I’ve written extensively about the benefits of Team Coaching as a powerful, effective tool to address team issues and performance. (Check out my blog Team Coaching - What is it and how can it help?)  Whilst this can bring excellent organisational outcomes, it works best over a course of several weeks/months to bring long-lasting change and progress.

So what about Huddles?

Huddles (similar to Scrums in Agile working) are very short, frequent team meetings.  The purpose and format can be as flexible as you need it to be, which makes it a perfect tool to bring together geographically dispersed, or new/re-forming teams.

In a previous management role, I was responsible for a diverse and predominantly part-time workforce.  The consequence was that some people had no idea what was going on in the organisation on a day-to-day basis, how other projects were progressing and what the implications were on their own work.  We set up daily, very time-limited huddles to update everyone, with the intention that people would attend on their working days.  It was paperwork-light and people/solution-focused.

Here's our quick guide to Huddling…

What’s the purpose?

'Whatever you need', is the short answer.  The general purpose is to have a relatively structured check-in/update for the team on a regular basis.  These shouldn’t be confused with team meetings.  It’s important to have a clear purpose for your Huddle, or it will just become a ‘talking shop’ or ‘moan-fest’.

Examples could be to:

  • Have a regular general progress update
  • Share successes
  • Identify bumps in the road and seek solutions
  • Share project critical updates

What are the benefits of Huddling?

Many managers are reporting that they are struggling to find the right amount of contact with their teams.  During lockdown, they had contact several times a week with their staff, checking on wellbeing as much as workload and progress.  Over time however, many staff are saying they’re fine and don’t need so much contact.  This runs the risk of some members becoming isolated.

Here are a few ways Huddles can help:

  • Help part-timers and staff working from home to be updated and included in what’s going on
  • Replace the impromptu 'watercooler' conversations that are missing with homeworking
  • Allow sharing of more subjective information and updates within the team that may not normally be included in more formal communications
  • Generate team support and understanding – it’s easier to be understanding if you’re dealing with people face-to-face on a regular basis, even if that’s on video calls
  • Up to date progress reports help shape more responsive actions and build motivation and accountability
  • Opportunity to share wins as well as challenges

Are there any pitfalls and challenges to Huddles?

Absolutely! As mentioned above, Huddles should not turn into just another talking shop or protracted team meeting.  Good facilitation and commitment is needed to ensure consistent attendance, time management and that everyone sticks to the agreed purposes.

In the case of large teams, you may choose to split these to keep the Huddles short.  The split could be per project, working days, or just with a diverse mix of staff.  Whatever works for you.

We all know that person who hogs the limelight right?  If you have someone who regularly takes over,  I’d suggest this is objective evidence for a manager to give some constructive feedback in their next one-to-one.  This allows opportunity for some coaching on improving communication skills and relationships with the wider team.

There’s also a need for continued commitment from all team members.  There are likely to be some people who claim they don’t see the point, but again, this is an opportunity to build a more inclusive and supportive organisational culture. I’d suggest a coaching conversation about what they do need, but also how they can support other people in their team.

Hopefully this has given you a positive tool to bring your staff teams back into the fold.  Click HERE if you’d like to find out more about Huddles and some practical ways to implement them.

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 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.