25 Oct

Who are You?

‘Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves’ – Carl Jung


Wham! Bam! Kapow@#@$!!*! That is NOT what anyone wants to hear especially if one is picturing that irritant who has poor hygiene and could possibly be in the running for ‘P.ervert of the Year’. In life, there are some who are just wrong ‘uns but on a more serious note, I am talking about aspects of people who irritate you and the question to ask yourself is ‘why’?


For me, one of those consistent irritations is when people overly fuss, are excessively pernickety & controlling and particular to the point of, well, being punchable, by me. A lady in my yoga class is just that. She’s just lucky it’s during yoga and I am mindful of my thoughts and I (attempt to) channel that zen. I have reflected on this and realize that I have the same reaction to people with whom I’ve worked who share the same traits.


So whilst holding up the mirror to myself, I have figured out that although I am very relaxed about most things, I categorically do not like being told what to do. I rarely feel the need to control others/a situation but the walls very quickly go up if others do it to me. It can cause me to react badly and have irrational thoughts (see above). I have learnt now that when I see others do so, I should let go of the fear that they are trying to dominate me (even if they are) and just erect healthy boundaries and stand up for myself. It’s OK to say, ‘No, we don’t need to check those documents for the 5th time’ or ‘While the ideas you have for our strategy are good, I think that we should consider other options too’. I also know that I enjoy working with others and collaborating, so this is definitely not about being right but about being controlled by very dominant, dogmatic and basically a.nal people. Yeah, no thanks.


So what is self-awareness?


‘These are people who are attuned to their inner signals, recognizing how their feelings affect them and their job performance. They integrate their guiding values into their work. They can deduce the best course of action. They see the big picture and they’re genuine’ – Daniel Goleman (guru of Emotional Intelligence)


This definition is within a work context but it applies to all equally, at home and at play. Above all, these are the traits that are required from all leaders.


So why is it important?


According to Goleman, self-awareness is the first of four tenets required for emotional intelligence. Without it, one can’t be truly emotionally intelligent. His research has shown the following:


85-90% of leadership success is linked to social and emotional intelligence


And the most important skill for 21st century success is learning. In this day and age of increased use of technology, even in areas that are not obviously vulnerable to it. It takes self-awareness to want to learn, as well as learning to be self-aware.


But here’s a scary statistic. The Journal of Clinical and Social Psychology says that


‘..only 10-15% of people are self-aware’


And that the higher up the ranks you go, ie leaders, the less self-aware they become!!


This is a dangerous thing for anyone. Without true self-awareness, how do you know how effective you truly are, what your strengths are, what you need to develop and your blindspots? Imagine having a leader who is not aware of these things, and is the person at your helm. Would you feel comfortable?


Being self-aware is something that everyone, especially leaders, should work on, if not for themselves, then for the sake of their business.


Blind to a Fault

I once led a leadership training event. The room was filled with ‘high potentials’ for this business. The participants were on this course for potential C-Suite status ie they were not new to leadership. What pleasantly surprised me was the number of individuals there who were not judgmental and showed a deep desire to learn from the course and from others. They were open to feedback and wanted to make the learning work for them back at work.


However what surprised me was the number of people who were very closed in their thinking, claiming self-awareness, offering pithy reasons for their lack of progress when talking about reasons for the lack of real cooperation from their teams aka they were defensive. (Side note – anectodally I would suggest that the more people say they are self-aware, the less likely I find them to be).


‘I am a perfectionist. I am doing this for the good of the project and the team by making sure that we don’t fail. If others are being idiots and derailing the project, of course I am going to have harsh words.’


Where do I start? Using perfectionism as an excuse? The selflessness of focusing on the project so the project doesn’t derail? Knowing that you are aggressive but it is apparently for ‘the greater good’?


Sure you’re aware that you have perfectionist tendencies and clearly this excuses all behaviours. But true self-awareness would suggest exploring ‘why’ the perfectionist tendencies and how it is driving your behaviours. In answering the ‘why’, one can have a more meaningful conversation and thereafter learn to be a better leader, as opposed to hiding behind the possible derailment of the project excuse.


‘Of all deceivers fear most yourself’ – Soren Kierkegaard


The Void


Today’s blog post is a mere drop in the vast ocean that is self-awareness. The thought I’d like to leave with you is, if you do not truly increase your self-awareness, how big is the void and how is this affecting your working and home life? Psychiatrist Prudy Gourguechon has the following to offer.


 “You don’t know your blind spots.”

 “You don’t know when and how your emotions are distorting your thinking.”

 “You don’t know what you know and what you don’t know, so you can’t count on yourself to seek necessary additional information.”

 “You can’t judge the effectiveness of your communications.”

 “You can’t develop as a leader because you don’t know where you need to go.”


Read more here on this subject.


Can you say with good conscience that this is the kind of unclear professional you want to be, or even more so, is this the kind of not-knowing leader that you want to be? Thought not….

‘The second you think that all your good fortune is a product of your virtue, you become highly judgmental, lacking empathy, totally without self-awareness, arrogant, stupid..’– Tucker Carlson



Karen Kwong is a highly experienced executive & business coach who has worked with start-ups and social enterprises through to large established corporates (including FTSE100 companies) across a number of industries including financial services, engineering, retail and media & communications. She also advises boards on their dynamics. Added to this, she spent almost twenty years working at a senior level in fund management. She also has a Masters in Organisational Psychology. For more please see here or contact her at: info@renoc.co.uk



#emotionalintelligence #organisationalculture #selfawareness #effectivecommunication #careergoals #jobsatisfaction #perseverance #grit #leadership #womeninbusiness #femaleboss #womeninleadership #diversity #startuplife #resilience #journal #psychology # #personaldevelopment #strengths #corporatecoaching #wellness #wellbeing #health #mindbodysoul #LondonLife #entrepreneurs #startups #thrivewithkaren #mindfulness #selfcare #empathy #fun #performance #culture #confidence #achievement #selfesteem #executivecoaching #selfconfidence #csuite #boards #boardevaluation


18 Oct

Your Values and You

What do I value? Let me see… A beautiful pair of shoes, comfortable seats on a plane, fast & uninterrupted broadband, Netflix, my comfy mattress, a hairdresser who gets me & my hair, when I say ‘no onions’ I mean it. The list goes on. On a more serious note…..


Values – a word bandied around a lot – be it in a glossy corporate website or brochure, or via idyllic images in sepia through TV advertisements of frolicking children and smiling communities. It’s hard to not be cynical when consistently confronted with talk of the ‘good ol days’ and how values are ‘old-fashioned’. But do we need to go back that far to have real values?


So here’s the thing – all of us have values and they are one of the most ever current and consistent things that you have within you.


Values are essentially what drive us – our thoughts, words and actions. They are our guiding principles in they way we live and work. Furthermore, they are also the benchmarks used to see if our life, at work and at home, is how and where we want it to be.


Goals vs Values      

In coaching, we talk a lot about setting goals. In fact, one of the most enduring coaching models is the GROW model: Goals-Reality-Options-Way Forward. Having goals is a fantastic way to get us from A to B, to create the change that is needed, with thought and care. Many set them as ways to drive them forward.


‘I want to be a partner by the age of 35’

‘When I earn enough money, I will buy a house in that area’

‘I want to lose 15kgs’


And attaining these goals can bring happiness and a strong sense of achievement. BUT, the thing about goals is that once they have been achieved and the initial euphoria has dissipated, one is often left with disappointment and a sense of emptiness. For others, those goals might not be achieved for a variety of realistic reasons, and this can led to some devastating sadness if not careful. Sometimes, goals are no longer relevant especially if they were set at a time when one had a very different set of circumstances or mindset.


There is nothing wrong with setting goals but one has to keep them realistic and more importantly, there is the ‘Why’. Here’s where values come in.


Your ‘Why’


Why is it important for you to be partner by the age of 35? If you say it’s because you value professional achievement – is this the only way to show that you value professional achievement? Surely good work is sufficient? What other ways can you show professional achievement? If you don’t get partnership till after 35, does that mean you have not achieved professionally? What happens when you make partnership, do you not need to achieve professionally thereafter? You’re just going to kick back and cruise while others bust their chops?


You want to lose 15kgs. Why? To look good? Why? Because you want to find a life partner? How will losing weight help you find a life partner? I’ll look more attractive. How will looking more attractive help you find a new partner? They’ll finally look at you rather than some fat person? Why will losing 15kgs transform you into another person? Wanting to lose weight as a goal isn’t in itself a bad thing – I could stand to lose some myself. However, if one imagines that sudden weight lose will bring about a complete 180 change, you’ll have another thing coming. In these cases, it’s usually more about self-esteem and confidence. Perhaps valuing self-worth has a greater impact on weight loss and self-image compared to an arbitrary 15kgs weight loss.


Being clear on your values will help guide your decision-making. In the first case, this client was killing herself trying to achieve partnership by 35 – not just physically but her relationships and her moral compass too – trampling without care on others to reach the top. In the second, he thought he’d have a personality transplant, all extroverted, funny and engaging with a 15kg weight loss. Not so much……


Values and the Moral High Ground

We know that our values and beliefs drive our thoughts and behaviours – serving as our guiding beacon. I have clients who believe so strongly in their own and company’s values that no decision is made without these in mind. A noble aspiration and practice.


Yet, I highlight this with a note of caution. Can this laser focus misguide and mislead you to pull the moral high ground and possibly end up with much blinkered judgment and even worse, unhealthy behaviours?


If one were to assume that one only held true to one or two values then that might be an inevitable result. I have a client who is zealous about his company values but to the point where he is actively doing his business a disservice. When we discussed this in coaching, the refrain was that he was making decisions based on his values. That is a fact and one to be applauded. However, when we talked about ALL his values not just the one, he started to understand that this focus on the one value made him run a very blinkered and almost dysfunctional business. He also realized that his overuse of that value compared with the others just came across as sanctimonious and almost unstable to his team and shareholders.


Another client believes in and values hard work. A worthy value.   However, it is to the point where anyone who does not work exactly the same way that she does, nor the same hours that she does, is a slacker. She is adamant that others are idle, not contributing and useless, riding on her coattails. As coaching goes, we are looking at other values that are important to her, and as well, trying to see if hard work in itself is the target, or is it the outcome that is important.


In both cases, there aren’t right or wrong answers. It’s just a case of being emotionally intelligent and self-aware enough to know when having values is a positive driver and when it is being used in overdrive, as an excuse for negative thinking and behaviours.


Values are Important because, amongst other things, they

  • Help you see who you are and knowing what they are will help with self-respect
  • Provide clarity on what you want
  • Aid in decision making
  • Contribute to how you live your life and how your enjoy it
  • Keep you focused, motivated, determined and on the right track for you


Hopefully this brief introduction into the subject will have stirred up some thinking with you. Having some clarity on what your values are will explain a lot to you – why you think the things that you think and how you go about your life. Do you use those values to guide you to where you want to go? If not, why not? What is holding you back? If yes, how do they guide you and keep you on track? How do they work with your interim goals? Do you values align with those at work, are they part of the reason you are thriving or not enjoying work? How do they fit with your relationships – at home and at work?


So many questions to ask – it’s like opening Pandora’s Box and this is just the beginning. If you would like to have a look at some values cards to narrow down your thoughts, let me know. You know where to find me!!






Karen Kwong is a highly experienced executive & business coach who has worked with start-ups and social enterprises through to large established corporates (including FTSE100 companies) across a number of industries including financial services, engineering, retail and media & communications. She also advises boards on their dynamics. Added to this, she spent almost twenty years working at a senior level in fund management. She also has a Masters in Organisational Psychology. For more please see here or contact her at: info@renoc.co.uk



#emotionalintelligence #corevalues #values #guidinglight #focus #motivator #organisationalculture #selfawareness #effectivecommunication #careergoals #jobsatisfaction #perseverance #grit #leadership #womeninbusiness #femaleboss #womeninleadership #diversity #startuplife #resilience #journal #psychology # #personaldevelopment #strengths #corporatecoaching #wellness #wellbeing #health #mindbodysoul #LondonLife #entrepreneurs #startups #thrivewithkaren #mindfulness #selfcare #empathy #fun #performance #culture #confidence #achievement #selfesteem #executivecoaching #selfconfidence

04 Oct

OutRAGEous!!!! Who wants to talk about Emotional Outbursts?

Hands up all those who have experienced rage – being consumed by the red mist, being overwhelmed by a torrent of bubbling anger about to erupt into something greater than Vesuvius?? Think about a time where you have let rip, thrown the toys out of the proverbial pram and stamped your feet? Or are you a simmering anger sort who has perfected the passive aggressive down to an art? On the one hand, a glorious feeling of freedom from the shackles of ‘playing nicely’ and saying something that has been on your mind for ages. On the other, the consequences of this outburst or silent treatment – what have you done?? More often than not, they don’t end there – the post mortem and domino effect of said outburst or cold shoulder will continue ad infinitum. And you can’t take any of it back. People will remember the outburst not the words used, no matter how much sense (or not) you’re making. This occurs just as frequently in board rooms as amongst team members, family and friends.


Emotions are a wonderful and powerful thing. They are what makes us human. Even those who rarely show emotion are affected by them. It isn’t that they don’t have emotions, it just these emotions are not shown as freely or easily as by others. Make no mistake, emotions pretty much drive all our decisions, even logical ones (Dimasio 2016).


Here’s one of many definitions of emotions

“An emotion is a complex psychological state that involves three distinct components: a subjective experience, a physiological response, and a behavioral or expressive response.”                                               D Hockenbury & S Hockenbury


To me, that definition is spot on. Whatever happens in a meeting, during a conversation, an experience – good or bad, it is always subjective. Your take on what is happening. A physiological response will occur, your pulse will start racing, your blood will start to soar towards the skin, the hairs on your body start rising… Be it in excitement, joy, anger or any thing else. And finally, the part where you get to show the world your behavioural or expressive response. This is that pivotal moment where your response could determine the outcome of how a meeting goes, what decision is made and what the subsequent impact will be. It can also determine how you perceive similar situations and the same people, based on your response. With the weight of all that responsibility of this third, it is worth thinking about how one can use this to its greatest effect.


Here is something you may relate to…

Recently, I observed a board meeting where the members were discussing strategy, during a crucial phase for the business. One had reverted to type and started to panic. In this state, he proceeded to issue dictatorial orders focusing solely on logic but not necessarily sense. This prompted an equal and opposite reaction in another who reverted to rebelling, eye-rolling and finally a wild outburst. It was clear that tensions were running high. Everyone in the room was committed to the same vision and yet…..


Typically, I would coach clients one on one, but in this scenario, I was invited to observe the board in action. I was not surprised by these reactions – it was a very pressure-packed and stress-filled meeting. Yet, I wonder if the meeting could have gone better if the individuals involved were really aware of what was happening in their minds?


Some immediate practical questions for high stress tense situations

  • What is really going on in this meeting? What is the real issue at hand?
  • What is the objective here?
  • Given there is common ground, where should the focus be and how can you get everyone realigned?

If you have to make a statement, ask yourself the following:

  • Would you like to count to 10 or 20 or 50 before speaking?
  • Why are you making this statement?
  • What do you want the outcome to be?
  • Is it important? Is that true?
  • Is this the right forum?
  • By speaking, will you be adding something constructive?
  • Is there another way?
  • Would you like to count to 10 or 20 or 50 again before speaking?


In the heat of the moment, it is very easy to react to the subjective experience and as a response to the physiological cues. ‘X is so controlling, I can feel my blood boil. I’ve had enough, I’m going to tell X what I really think’.




Away from the heated situation, it may be worth taking some time out to reflect on some of the below:

  • What happens to your body physiologically when under pressure and anxious?
  • Do you know what your triggers are?
  • What happens to you when you are under stress?
  • Do you react to situations (ie have emotional outbursts and/or act impulsively frequently) or do you purposefully act (ie consciously and actively choose to do or not do something?)

It is quite easy in an inflamed situation to blame others for your outburst or actions. When your rage consumes you with thoughts that involve inevitable jail sentences, ostracisation and dismissal, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by them. Remember though, that you own your actions. A thought is a thought and it does not need to be actioned, and hard as it may be to believe, it will pass. If you erupt, others will be focused on your explosion (the tantrum, the strop, the eye-rolling, the endless sighing- you get the drift) and not your words, no matter how true (or not) they are. Remember that if you are feeling your blood boiling over, just breathe and take a step back. There is no shame in saying that you need to think about this and to revert. Or sometimes, it is as simple as reaching out for a cereal bar or the family bag of M&Ms to help you when you’re feeling hangry…..


‘People who fly into a rage always make a bad landing.’ Will Rogers



By better managing your emotions, you will yourself be calmer, have better relationships and achieve a lot more with a lot less effort. Visits to the doctor for high blood pressure will also be a lot less frequent too!!







Karen Kwong is a highly experienced executive & business coach who has worked with start-ups and social enterprises through to large established corporates (including FTSE100 companies) across a number of industries including financial services, engineering, retail and media & communications. She also advises boards on their dynamics. Added to this, she spent almost twenty years working at a senior level in fund management. She also has a Masters in Organisational Psychology. For more please see here or contact her at: info@renoc.co.uk


#emotionalintelligence #expressingemotions #selfawareness #effectivecommunication #careergoals #jobsatisfaction #perseverance #grit #leadership #womeninbusiness #femaleboss #womeninleadership #diversity #startuplife #resilience #journal #psychology #personaldevelopment #strengths #corporatecoaching #wellness #wellbeing #health #mindbodysoul #LondonLife #entrepreneurs #startups #thrivewithkaren #mindfulness #selfcare #empathy #fun #performance #selfconfidence #achievement #overcomefears #confidence #executivecoaching #joy #sadness #anger #fear #trust #distrust #surprise #anticipation #actnotreact