30 Aug

Is pretending to be ok robbing you of your life?

Is pretending to be ok robbing you of your life?

 An article written in conjunction with Davina Ho from E:SCAPE @luxuryescape.co

August 24, 2017

Davina Ho

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Pretending is the biggest lie we are telling ourselves and we do it everyday and don’t even know it…

We pretend that it’s ok when someone’s late for a meeting for the tenth time in a row. We even pretend it’s ok when the waitress gets our order wrong.  We make excuses that we don’t want to cause a fuss but what does it say about us? That we don’t care about what we want, what our needs are or what is important to us?

On a larger scale, we pretend it’s ok when we don’t get that job promotion, we don’t get that raise, or that our colleague stole our idea and got credit for it because we don’t want to rock the boat in the office. Maybe we didn’t get that promotion because our boss thinks we are not ready for it, or there maybe for some other valid reason. Maybe your boss doesn’t even know you are looking for a promotion! We don’t speak up about it despite being upset and eventually we are very likely to leave, feeling unappreciated.

What about in relationships, when our partner upsets us. Most of us are looking for an easy life; we let things go here and there so as not to upset the other person. However, you and your feelings matter, so is there a way to talk to them without coming across whiny and moany?

We say, ‘No it’s ok’ – as a matter of courtesy and politeness. For not wanting to look ‘difficult’ or coming across as ‘annoying’ but is getting what you want a selfish act? If you are paying for a meal and it’s wrong, is requesting for the thing you ordered being selfish? If your partner is always late or re-scheduling dates because of their job, is it not ok to feel frustrated with this instead of saying, ‘OK’?

What we find is that these minor infractions build up and are so automatic that we don’t even recognise our feelings when don’t want or get what we need. In fact we don’t even know what we want or need and always seem to be in search of something that’s missing – belonging, connection, meaning.

We search on Facebook and Instagram scrolling through hundreds of images of perfect lives feeling inadequate but do our best to portray the same feeling of ‘my life is perfect’ instead of having the hard conversations with the real people in our lives whom we should be trying to make more meaningful connections with.

Talking about your feelings these days is difficult and the last thing you want to do is look ungrateful or come across as annoying and difficult particularly in the workplace but also in your personal life.

So we asked Founder of RenOC and Executive Coach to Organisations and senior professionals, Karen Kwong, what we can do to stop pretending everything is ok all the time when it isn’t.


What do we have control over?

Here is a very common piece of advice that is often given in these scenarios.

’ You cannot control other people.  However, you can control your reactions to them’

At the height of stress and frustration, when you are feeling wholly and utterly wronged by someone it is very easy to want to lose your temper or throw something at them.  However, this reactive attitude comes across as you being difficult and annoying. Or the opposite reaction is you pretend it’s ok and it keeps happening until you lash out. Instead, take and deep breath, slowly count to 10, or 20, remove yourself if you have to for a few moments, keep breathing and think again about your reactions to their behaviour.  Then think hard about the following:

‘Stop asking why they keep doing it and ask yourself why you keep allowing them to keep doing it’

If you’re still feeling wronged and not quite buying into this, ask yourself this – if you see said person doing the same thing to a loved-one, would you allow this behaviour to continue?  Would you advise them to stay quiet and smile nicely?  Chances are, not.  So why would you put up with that for yourself?  Think about the message you are sending out to others about the level of respect for yourself.  What are your boundaries?  By saying nothing, you are actively permitting and encouraging such behaviours.  Remember that if you are feeling aggrieved, it is your responsibility to say so.  Other people are not mind readers.  If they continue to behave disrespectfully and unfairly after you have expressed yourself, then it is up to you to decide if and how you want to continue that relationship or give the restaurant your custom.

By not saying anything for fear of upsetting others, you are being considerate of others’ feelings – a wonderfully thoughtful trait.  However, if you are doing it at the expense of yourself – how considerate are you really being?  Especially as this frustration is likely to build and one day you will blow up and it is not going to be pretty…

If you are ready to have a conversation, in all cases, be it with a friend or partner, or even at work, I would suggest choosing the right time and place for having such conversations.

I would also ask you to think about the following before entering into any conversation:

  • What is going on here?  Why am I frustrated/angry/disappointed?

  • Is it me or is it something that X is doing?

  • Is my reaction reasonable?  Am I certain I am being reasonable? 

  • Do I know why they did what they did?  What is their perspective?  Am I listening to them?  Am I really listening to them?

  • What is the outcome I would like from this conversation?  How best do I convey my message?

  • Am I prepared to accept the outcome – good or bad?  (It’s amazing how many people even with a good outcome still feel aggrieved.  If you are still feeling aggrieved – what really is the problem?)

  • Think about some of the real facts that may have contribute to a fair and logical argument (not exaggerations or optional extras for effect).  They often help take away from the (your) emotion of the situation.

  • Where does my ego fit into all of this?

How should we phrase something to a friend or partner who does something that we dislike?

If it’s a minor infraction such as a pet hate of mine – wet towels on the bed, then I might politely ask them to please not do that again and here is where wet towels should go (yes, you really have to be that explicit).  It often helps those who require logical reasons in their minds to do something, to explain that a wet bed does not make for comfortable sleep.  For those who are more convinced by emotional reasoning, it might help to explain that it is annoying for you.


In the case of an un-emotive partner, it might be worth having a face-to-face conversation, casually but purposefully bringing up the subject.  It could be something along the lines of:

‘When you said ‘no worries’ when I had to cancel on you?  Were you really all right about it?  I ask because I was a little thrown by it.’ 

I would suggest opening the conversation with an objective but letting the person speak.  Be curious about their answers and see where they lead.  Once they have aired their views, you can better respond with your concerns.  So, if they genuinely meant that they were relaxed about your cancelling – it could be because they knew you had a busy week (ie considerate) or it could be because they don’t care.  You’ll know through their responses how to take the questioning further.  It is hard but try not to assume you know what they are going to say and once they have said something, before judging it, see if there is more by asking probing questions and rephrasing what they say as questions.  It’s amazing how much better the quality of the answers will be.  Additionally, in conversation, try and separate the person from their actions, such as ‘Your actions’ rather than ‘You’re a ****’ and above all, do avoid extremes like ‘You always…’

How should you approach your boss when it comes to something you are upset about?

Before you have this conversation, ask yourself what the objective is before speaking with your boss.  Although you want to stand up for yourself, bringing one’s boss into these matters can, depending on his/her perception of you, impact your work life, positively or negatively.  It may also be that for your work to be appropriately recognised, it may take more than just one discussion.  So, be smart about this.


It helps to outline the objective of the conversation and then once again to ask some pertinent questions.  Try and align the conversation to finding common ground between you and your boss.  Think about it from his/her perspective and what outcomes they’d like to see.  So in the case of someone taking credit for your work, introduce the subject of the project (common goal) and ask your boss what his/her thoughts are on its progress.  Depending on how that goes, it may say that you have some thoughts on the matter and highlight those.  You might then want to add your concerns here and say that although you are all about the team, you would like to better understand how individuals’ contributions to the project are being recognised, assessed and what the best way is to put forward ideas.  In doing so, you are making your boss responsible for managing his team appropriately and recognising individuals’ contributions where appropriate, not just through hearsay.  Additionally, you are taking the personal out of the conversation by ensuring that the benchmarks by which you are being measured are part of the process.  Well-founded facts, evidence and process always help discussions such as these.

What happens if the other person does not understand or continues to ignore your needs?

If the other person does not understand your needs, try and find out what it is that they don’t understand.  Attempt to use different examples or analogies to explain your needs.  As mentioned above, different reasoning methods work for different people.  So using an emotional reason on someone who bases all their decision making on logic,  is unlikely to work.  Sometimes, it is just as simple as saying,

‘It is important to me’. 

If they continue to ignore your needs, I ask you again to think about this,

‘Stop asking why they keep doing it and ask yourself why you keep allowing them to keep doing it.’

And start examining how important this relationship is to you and if you want to keep it.  If so, then how can you better manage your reactions to their behaviours?  And if you have done all that you can to manage those and you still can’t abide by their disrespecting you, then….?



How do you prepare for a conversation about how you feel?

Before embarking on any conversation, really have a think about what it is you’re trying to achieve and why you want to achieve it.  Think about it as a two-way conversation and not just you having a vent, no matter how frustrated you are.  Be prepared for the outcome – and honestly, it is often not as bad as you imagine it could be.

You have to know that you are in the right emotional and mental place to have a potentially difficult conversation.  This does not mean that you can’t still be upset, but if you are at peak belligerent boiling point, and you know that you are liable to blow up and have unreasonable reactions and outbursts (you do know what that point is), then I would suggest waiting a little bit, even 5 minutes, before having the conversation.  Also remember that there is no harm in starting a conversation, and if you’re feeling overwhelmed with very angry vitriol about to burst out, you can walk away and return to the conversation.  Remember that you manage your emotions and behaviours, and they manage theirs.

There is a reason why the wisdom of the  Serenity Prayer resonates so well for this very subject.  One doesn’t have to be religious to appreciate its sagacity.

‘God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change: courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference’           

R Niebuhr

Karen Kwong helps professionals consistently outperform in challenging business environments.  She is a highly experienced executive & business coach who has worked with large established corporates across a number of industries primarily in financial services, engineering, retail and media & communications through to start-ups and social enterprises. Karen spent almost twenty years working at a senior level within fund management.  She also has a Masters in Organisational Psychology. For more please see here or contact her at: info@renoc.co.uk

07 Aug

The Burden of Procrastination – or is it Art?

CC Image courtesy of Rachel Fisher @LadyDayDream on Flickr

CC Image courtesy of Rachel Fisher @LadyDayDream on Flickr


‘Procrastination is opportunity’s assassin’ Victor Kiam



As I sit this morning looking out of the window at a dark sky on this mid summer’s morning, I find myself asking the same question I have been asking for the last three weeks – how do I get out of this feeling of ‘meh’-ness and putting off certain important tasks? Don’t get me wrong, I am still working, performing and delivering, but in the back of my mind, my particular genre of ‘pizzazz’ and vim & vigour has lost its fire.


As an executive coach, clients often talk to me about the loss of motivation, the hesitation, the vacillation, the delaying tactics for actually delivering on something major. I fully sympathise.


There are many kinds of procrastinators, here are some of them:


  1. Perfectionists – the thought of doing something is tough because the whole endeavour is overwhelming and getting it right is nigh-on impossible. And even if one does start it, it has to be perfect, if not, why bother?
  2. Fantasists – this is SO exciting but so is that, and that and that – and quite frankly, reality isn’t quite as invigorating. But it is also scary…!
  3. Overwhelmed – when it is ALL. JUST. TOO. MUCH
  4. Imposters – when you think it’s not your place to do this because you’re not qualified or experienced enough to do the job well
  5. Crisis-Thrivers – performers under pressure who produce best work armed with adrenaline rushes, mainlining caffeine into the early hours of the morning
  6. The Rebel – who finds it all pointless, dull, parochial and zzzzzzzz………


And the list goes on.


For me, most of the items listed are pertinent and nearly all six examples resonate, and possibly more, at different times. So here are some things I asked myself in a quiet moment and I encourage you to do the same:


  • Are you worried about it? Should you be worried about it and why?
  • What is really going on?
  • Is there anything obvious creating a block? Can you do something about it?
  • Is there anything less obvious creating a block? Can you do something about it?
  • Do you want to do anything about it? Is it important to you?
  • Is this a short-term thing? Or has it been for awhile?
  • Is there anything you can think of or do to change your perception of the block or your objective, in order for you to move forward?
  • Do you just need some time out?


Perhaps as you think about your answers, don’t be too rash in answering them, and try not to judge your answers. Interestingly enough, the more you do so, the more your procrastination may last. The theory being that you’re putting ‘the fear’ and walls up before starting the task, so more walls won’t work. (I feel that last phrase should be aimed at a very senior leader over the pond… I digress).


As the eternal rebel without a cause, I sometimes prefer leaving things to the last minute. Additionally, I am currently very unsettled by a very real and new challenge that I have to undertake. A frightening prospect, for it’s in an area in which I am very definitely weak. As such, I have decided to make hay while I procrastinate. So, having procrastinated about writing a regular blog for many years, I am now writing said blog, as I continue to procrastinate about the new challenge. Although this may seem ridiculous, I’m genuinely really pleased to finally be writing and sharing my thoughts with you (thanks Mum & Dad – I’m glad you’re still the only ones reading my writing!!). In addition, the blog writing will help warm me up for my new challenge – so that’s two birds maimed with one stone.


The oft quoted expression about life giving you lemons and one making lemonade really does apply here. Think creatively about your dilemma and block and perhaps one will not only have lemonade but sorbet, tea, cake, limoncello, a chemical free household cleaner etc etc etc but definitely not that horrid lemon flavoured Coke (see how my mind works – it’s all about exciting possibilities and opportunities…!). So rather than beat yourself up with self-flagellating quotes like the one I opened with, perhaps think about these instead.


‘Imagination only comes when you privilege the subconscious, when you make delay and procrastination work for you’. Hilary Mantel


‘My life is a monument to procrastination, to the art of putting things off till later, or much later, or possibly never’. Craig Brown


Clearly not all procrastination can so easily be dealt with. This introductory blog on the topic is just that. I will continue to explore this theme and others as I continue my de-procrastination exercise. Off to make some lemon posset now….


I look forward to hearing your constructive comments, observations and feedback!


#executivecoaching #coaching #procrastination #mindfulness #selfawareness #stress #creativity #perfectionists #impostersyndrome #pressure #rebel #personalitytype #resilience #motivation #startups #leadership #strengths #management #performance


Karen Kwong is a highly experienced executive & business coach who has worked with start-ups and social enterprises through to large established corporates across a number of industries including financial services, engineering, retail and media & communications. 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


21 Mar

From Trader to Executive Coach, We Talk to Karen Kwong About Her Stress Management Workshops by Rosie Markwick

March 2017

From Trader to Executive Coach, We Talk to Karen Kwong About Her Stress Management Workshops

March 21, 2017


Rosie Markwick



We caught up with Karen Kwong, who’ll be leading our stress management workshops in Koh Samui this June. She will also be doing one on one coaching sessions with all guests with some pre-arrival work to make sure you get the most out of your session with her.

Having spent 15 years heading up a trading desk in London, she is now an executive and business coach, working with individuals and organisations to reach their full potential. She is the Founder and CEO of Ren Organisational Consulting.  Her clients include people and companies from all sectors but especially in financial services.  She also works with many start-ups and entrepreneurs, helping them grow and build resilient and flourishing businesses.        

We asked Karen some questions about her career change and what you can learn at her stress management workshops. 

Tell us a bit about your work and how you ended up doing what you do?

I suppose for the most part I am an executive and business coach but I am a ‘pluralist’ (which is the hot new lingo), therefore, have a portfolio career and so I do lots of different things.  I fully embrace this as opposed to having a job title, I like to think more about what my main goal is when it comes to my work. For me, this is to help people grow – mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually.

I realised in my last job as a trader that I loved the day to day diversity but by the end, I realised I wasn’t growing anymore. So I took a year out. Somewhere in there, I became really interested in the fact that people spend 65% of their lives working, and yet, many feel and accept that being stressed, unhappy, anxious and depressed in what they do is the norm. So I decided to do a Masters in Work Psychology to help guide people to make the best choices for themselves and to lead more fulfilling lives.

What is the best part of your job, what inspires you to get up and do this work?

The diversity of my clients, their jobs and all the different things I do each day. Really no day is the same and so certainly one of the best parts of my job is the freedom.  I manage my own time. In terms of what inspires me – it’s the people I work with and the positive energy I am privy to everyday. When I have a coaching session, for example, I am supporting them in creating a state of productive flow and when I am doing that, I also get to be part of that really positive experience. I am so grateful for that.

Tell us a bit about what you will be offering on the E:scape retreat?

Part of my Masters was based on the psychology of the working individual. Normally organisational psychology is very team focused but this section was based on the individual and their psychological health. I want to state quite clearly; anxiety and low-level depression happens to all of us. What I am addressing here is that most people don’t recognise it when this becomes chronic.  The workshop I will be offering is based on ACT (acceptance and commitment therapy). ACT is all about accepting what is and isn’t in your personal control, and committing to action that enhances and enriches your life.  It has been found to be very effective, as it promotes acknowledgement of the stress and anxiety that we all have and uses it to learn and to grow.  It has proven to work clinically all the way to performance at work.

With that in mind I will be offering two workshops during E:scape that deal with the physiology and mental part of what stress is and then changing the relationship you have with your anxiety and stress. Secondly, I will be offering one on one coaching for everyone on the retreat with some work beforehand to help you get the most out of the session. These sessions can be linked with the ACT work or they can just be an opportunity for you to talk to someone objective about whatever you want.

What advice would you give to an individual who was feeling really stressed out?

It sounds very cheesy but I would encourage the person to take a step back and breathe.  Notice the thoughts going through your head, and rather than get caught up in the emotions, notice what they are, wait a little longer, and then a little longer, until your thoughts and emotions are less fraught.  And if you need, take a little longer.  In essence, I am suggesting that you do not react in response to the stress, but to proactively respond to the situation.  Picture someone drowning.  They are flailing in the water, expending energy in a directionless way, often attacking the person trying to help them not drown!  By breathing (and therefore calming down), the drowning person is likely to be able to tread water on his/her own and is more able to receive the help needed.

Have you ever been on a retreat?

Yes I have been on a few! Most of them activity-based retreats such as hiking or yoga ones. Even if the process isn’t so fun or is hard work at times, I always come back feeling really energised and that is why I love them. The variety is great, you meet new people, explore new places.  What’s not to like?

What advice would you give to someone who was interested in starting their own company?

Be really sure that it’s what you want to do!

And then when you are sure, listen to the advice you will undoubtedly be given by a variety of experts, veterans etc but fundamentally if it doesn’t ring true to you, take what you can from it, but stay true to your course.

Also it takes a lot longer than you expect it to!  Be resolute in your objectives and your values but always be prepared to learn and adapt to that learning.  This will make your proposition more resilient.

What does your morning routine look like at the moment?

I am definitely not a morning person. However somehow, I am up at 5am each day and usually by 8am I will have done a run and a yoga class. The only reason I do it first thing is because I would not do it later in the day, and I would find any excuse to avoid doing it! So I do the things that I know will energise me first thing.

I do check my phone and technology early on, which I know can be controversial but something I learnt in trading was if you know you are busy do the boring stuff straight away and get it out of the way. Attack those things head on before you know that you will be distracted by the rest of the day.

Do you follow a wellness routine?

Apart from my morning routine, I always try and walk between meetings. Walking where possible is such a great way to make sure your body keeps moving. Yoga is new for me and it has helped so much with my injuries and calming the mind – which for me isn’t easy.

Where is your favourite place to travel to and what travel destinations are on your wish list for 2017?

There are so many I could say! For now Chile is certainly somewhere that I really loved – it is just so varied. Patagonia at one end and the Atacama desert at the other. And the food is amazing!

In terms of wish list destinations I’d like to go to Uruguay, Easter Island and to hike Bhutan. I have no idea if these will happen this year but those are constants at the top of an ever growing list.

And of course, Koh Samui!!!

What is something (in one sentence) that you would like everyone to know?

This is YOUR life, make it a story that you’re proud of and that makes you happy.

Join Karen and the rest of the team this June in Koh Samui!

Click here to contact Karen Kwong for more information.

06 Jan

A New Year and all that comes with it…

Happy New Year to you!

As you read this, for most of you, you will have nearly completed your first working week of the year.

The Christmas period and the new year is often a (good) time for review, reflection and possibly the setting of some personal and professional intentions – determining new goals, reestablishing and amending ongoing objectives. Whatever you decide upon and however you decide to proceed, here are some things to think about as you do them:

• Try not to just focus on a goal like, ‘I want to compete in a triathlon this year’ but base these on why you want to do this. Base them on your values, for as drivers, these will be more meaningful and better motivators, if your resolve starts to falter
• Within reason, whilst being resolute, also be prepared to be flexible and to tweak your goals and the process of getting there. After all, things can change, setbacks happen and hurdles do crop up – you want to be ready to for them all
• Speaking of hurdles, take some time to reflect on where you might not have achieved what you wanted previously – these should help how you tackle new challenges with a different mindset
• Think about your goals within the bigger picture and how it fits with where you are contextually. It will really help you plan for your objectives, increase your focus and encourage you with your plans
• Most of all, be kind to yourself, have fun and enjoy the whole process – from the planning through to the execution!

Wishing you all a very happy, healthy, successful, enjoyable and interesting 2017.

04 Nov

Coaching Corner part II – if you don’t have a coach, what 3 things would you recommend to help yourselves?

Welcome Back to part II of Coaching Corner

In part I of this series, we introduced the concept of coaching and some of the most common reasons for seeking a career coach (http://bit.ly/1MBElJq). However, we are very aware that not everyone has access to a professional coach s this week I asked Karen:

• If someone isn’t able to utilize the services of a career coach such as yourself, what would be three key things you would recommend an individual to do to help themselves?

Identify and articulate the issue
This may sound really obvious but it’s surprising how difficult it is to do. When things are not going well or according to plan, it is really easy to jump to conclusions about why something is or isn’t happening. It’s surprisingly easy to confuse the symptoms of an issue, especially if there are many contributing factors, and completely miss the cause. Identifying the issue can be very tough and is often not a simple task, but in doing so, you’ll have a better chance of solving it quickly and more effectively.

Several of my clients have approached me to help with their interviewing techniques saying that they cannot get past that final round. Clearly many factors come into play, but what I found was that many didn’t know why they were interviewing for those jobs. If you don’t know why you are interviewing for the role and why you deserve that position, why would the interviewer think otherwise? For example, being frustrated with your current job may seem like a good reason to leave, but if you’re interviewing elsewhere solely because you’re frustrated, then that’s all the interviewer will see. If it’s because you are seeking a new challenge in a place where your values are more aligned, that will create a better impact at your interview.

Take a step back
We’ve all been there – when you feel like you’re drowning in the problem. Continuously thinking about the issue will often exacerbate the worry and give it more significance than it really has. Take a break and do something different, preferably fun. That said, if it is really bothering you, it can be very hard to let it go, even temporarily. A possible solution is to give yourself permission to take a break by making a pact with yourself. ‘I know that I will worry about it all weekend but if I give myself permission to relax and to forget about it, I promise to return to worrying about it on Sunday afternoon.’ It sounds incredibly silly but try it! You’ll find yourself far more relaxed and able to approach your issue with greater objectivity and with more perspective, thereby reducing the worry. Practising mindfulness (yes I can see your eyes roll, I am also on that bandwagon…!), will allow you to create some distance between your thoughts and the reality of the situation. It may even feel less overwhelming.

Be creative in your solution finding
Following on from the two points above, if you are able to identify the issue and create some distance from it, this should allow you to be creative with your solution finding. People often think that problems are greater than they are because they assume that their options are binary. By seeking and being open to creative solutions, some of their issues can easily be solved, or at least partially. For example, many of my clients want to feel more fulfilled at work but feel stuck for various reasons. Perhaps offering to mentor someone whilst at work, or contributing to a work sponsored initiative such as a charitable arm may partially fulfil that need for variety and fulfilment. Alternatively, this could be the time to dust off your recorder or bongos and meet up with some bandmates once a month to belt out a few Rick Astley hits. There is a lot out there for you – it may be that you need to slightly adjust the perspective from which you view things.

A side note – it is perfectly normal and encouraged for you to talk to your close friends and family about some of the issues that you face. However, although these well-meaning confidantes are looking out for your best interests, they may not be as good at really listening to your concerns, and many will be very pleased to advise before fully understanding what your concerns truly are, and have some strong personal biases in their approach. Just remember that you can only think and do what feels and is right for you. After all, you’re the one living your life!

Any further questions or if you have suggestions for topics on Coaching Corner, please contact either one of us:
Karen –: info@renoc.co.uk
Josephine: jdefty@stevensonjames.com

Karen Kwong is an experienced business coach and consultant who has worked with start-ups and social enterprises through to large established corporates across a number of industries including financial services, engineering, retail, media & communications and also local Government agencies. Prior to this, she spent almost twenty years working at a senior level in fund management and she also has a Masters in Organisational Psychology. Please contact Karen at: info@renoc.co.uk

Josephine Defty is an experienced ex-IR professional turned head hunter following roles at a leading FOF, a boutique placement agent and a VC fund. She is focused on working with IR and fundraising professionals within the Private Equity sector – both in-house and within the placement industry. Please contact Josephine at jdefty@stevensonjames.com

22 Oct

Introducing the Coaching Corner – J Defty & K Kwong

Introducing the ‘Coaching Corner’ – Josephine Defty, Director at Stevenson James and Karen Kwong, Founder of RenOC

By definition, a fair proportion of a head hunter’s role is focused around identifying and working with talented individuals as they progress their careers. Alongside that however, people do tend to get in touch not necessarily when they are looking a new role but also when they just need a friendly ear to listen or someone to offer help and advice. These conversations can be about potential changes of career, career progression, challenges being faced at work or indeed simply a struggle to maintain a sensible work-life balance.

Given the above, I spent some time talking to Karen Kwong, CEO and Founder of Ren Organisational Consulting (RenOC) http://www.renoc.co.uk/. Karen established RenOC in 2013 following a successful career within the financial industry. Her prime motivation, and the driving force of the business, is the fundamental belief that “an organisation’s biggest assets are its people”. Utilizing a wide variety of techniques including coaching psychology and organisational development, alongside her business experience, Karen works with companies and individuals to enhance productivity and success and, importantly, workplace wellbeing (including stress management & resilience). I therefore wanted to capitalize on Karen’s experience both in order to hopefully help me be more effective with the people I meet, and also to learn some techniques and strategies that I could use both at and outside of work.

What is Coaching?

Although there are official and more formal definitions, to me, coaching is simply working with someone to help you be in a better place than where you are today, professionally or personally. The magic lies in the fact that the solutions come from within yourself rather than from someone telling you what to do. For each of my clients, their circumstances, motivations and personalities, amongst many other things are very different. Together we work through the facts and these variables to help themselves make better informed and more conscious choices. Sometimes, the changes required are miniscule, and others, far greater.

What would you say were the three most common reasons for someone to seek out a developmental career coach?

In my experience, the reasons to work with a career coach vary from simple objectives like finding a new job, or improving on specific skills; through to more complicated requirements such as trying to get a promotion, or dealing with underperformance at work. However, seemingly simple objectives like presentation skills training is often more about confidence than about speaking well. The examples and subsequent ‘diagnoses’ cited below illustrate that. Each client faces very individual and specific challenges, and therefore each coaching process and its possible solutions will be very unique.

‘Things are not always what they seem; the first appearance deceives many..’ Phaedrus

I. ‘Everything’s just fine….’
Your work is ‘fine’, your performance is more often than not ‘fine’, your life is ‘fine’ – and yet we all know (assuming you haven’t been living in a vacuum all these years), that ‘fine’ really doesn’t mean ‘fine’ at all. The most common reason that people come to see me is because they are feeling stuck, stale and often lost. There isn’t anything to complain about but neither are you happy, accomplishing as you’d like –at home or at work; nor are you passionate about anything. You’ve lost your drive and energy. Yet the very understandable allure of the regular salary and stability really affects the decisions that you make, and therefore your life. The frustration can be overwhelming.

Some possible work that we do includes reviewing your personal and professional lives, looking at them through a clearer, more objective and possibly totally different lens. This can be one of the hardest things for clients to do, and thereafter owning the decision to change and make healthier choices for yourself, whatever those may be.

II. ‘It’s time for my annual review but…’
How many times have you moaned about being overlooked for a promotion or a payrise? Are you looking for a promotion but you’re unsure how to prepare for it and unsure how to approach your manager about it? Sadly, subtle hints are not a proven method for achieving this goal (look at what lengths Jennifer Lawrence went to, to ask for equal pay in movies..!). Often, these coaching sessions include a mixture of practical planning eg skills development, as well as communicating better and navigating the murky waters of office politics.

III. ‘I’m trying my hardest but I don’t feel supported by my manager’
This is a very real phenomenon and one of the most commonly heard frustrations and it can be felt by people at all levels, even within boardrooms. Frequently, poor communication by both parties, such as a lack of clarity and understanding of agreed objectives (eg is Tracey Emin’s work considered good art?), is the reason for this exasperation. Often, individuals’ working preferences and motivators can affect both parties’ outlooks, leading to a feeling of underappreciation. Sometimes, your perfectionism can lead to feeling overwhelmed, and thereby causing a vicious circle of not delivering. In these scenarios, we often discuss the current situation and possible options, to arrive at possible strategies to move forward in a more productive way.

Most assume that coaching is deficit-based, ie it is only to be used when something’s wrong. To me, coaching is about, whatever the circumstances, making sure you are at the very best that you can be whilst navigating life’s choppy waters and actively embracing this constantly changing world in which we live. There’s the old saying about opportunities – turning lemons into lemonade, I’d add, and possibly having a side business of squirting someone in the eye with it too….

Any further questions, please contact me at: info@renoc.co.uk

Karen Kwong is an experienced business coach and consultant who has worked with start-ups and social enterprises through to large established corporates across a number of industries including financial services, engineering, retail, media & communications and also local Government agencies. Prior to this, she spent almost twenty years working at a senior level in fund management and she also has a Masters in Organisational Psychology. Please contact Karen at: info@renoc.co.uk

Josephine Defty is an experienced ex-IR professional turned head hunter following roles at a leading FOF, a boutique placement agent and a VC fund. She is focused on working with IR and fundraising professionals within the Private Equity sector – both in-house and within the placement industry. Please contact Josephine at jdefty@stevensonjames.com

12 Oct

What’s the Difference between Mentoring and Coaching?

The difference between coaching and mentoring

Mentoring and coaching are often used interchangeably and to a certain extent they share many similarities. Both are about the development of individuals to improve their knowledge, skills, abilities and performance. The disciplines from which they work are based on ‘questioning, listening, clarifying and reframing’ throughout their discussions. There are many different kinds of coaches and mentors, but very broadly speaking, the differences are described below.

Alongside the aforementioned contributions, mentors are more often than not, people who are more experienced individuals either within a business (preferably not direct managers) or with specific skills, knowledge and expertise in a particular area. The discussions between mentors and mentees are often advice- and direction- based and are less formal in structure. This relationship tends to last a lot longer and focuses on the long-term professional growth of individuals. Another benefit of having mentors is that they are often well connected within their particular field of expertise and as such may open doors.

Coaching is also focused on the performance, development and improvement of individuals but it tends to concentrate of specific skills and goals. Alongside these, coaches can work with individuals’ specific personal characteristics and traits to hone these further to help achieve specific objectives such as leadership development or particular performance objectives. Coaching tends to last for shorter periods of time (typical sessions are 6 x 2 hours).

18 May


This has been re-posted from an interview kindly conducted by Enterprise Nation https://www.enterprisenation.com/blog/posts/what-is-coaching-and-how-can-it-help-small-business


Following 15 years of working in the city, Karen Kwong took a new route in life and business to become a coach. We ask Karen what coaching is, why small business owners should consider coaching for themselves, and the results it delivers

Q: What is professional coaching and what is the role of the coach?

A: Coaching is a collaborative and results-orientated process in which the coach facilitates the enhancement of self-directed learning and personal and professional growth of the coachee.

Coaches work on the basis that their clients are the experts of their own personal and professional lives. Sometimes however, people may need some support and guidance to unlocking their potential. A coach works closely with the coachee to uncover, clarify and agree his/her objectives, as well as inspire self-discovery, whilst offering relevant tools and techniques.

This powerful collaboration should result in the client being the very best version of themselves.

Mentors often provide a similar service to those of coaches, but traditionally the difference is usually one where a mentor is a more experienced colleague or industry expert supporting the development of the individual with his or her knowledge and experience. Often, the relationship between the mentor and mentee lasts longer than that of a coach and coachee.

Q: How did you get into coaching?

A: I spent over fifteen years working in the City thriving in a fast-paced and dynamic environment. However, I realised that despite the day-to-day challenges, I wasn’t growing anymore. Whilst working with my coach, I embarked on an exciting and often scary journey of self-discovery. She helped me ‘unearth myself’ and in that time, I also learnt that I was ready to start a new adventure. I left my firm, went travelling for a year and then enrolled on a Masters in Organisational Psychology at City University.

I have always been interested in the power of people and how if they are properly nurtured, they and their organisations will evolve, flourish and succeed. Effective coaching can play a very powerful role for the growth of the individual and the organisation. I felt that my professional experience along with my new learnings combined perfectly to lead to a new career in professional coaching and business psychology & organisational consulting.

Q: Why do you think small business owners need a coach?

A: Being a small business owner is an exciting and highly motivating opportunity. But it can also be a lonely endeavour, even if there is a team behind you. The challenges that face small businesses are just as significant as those faced by larger enterprises yet, the support structure may not be as accessible. As coaching is about self-directed learning, it is perfectly poised for the entrepreneur, supporting them in realising their potential and that of their business.

Your business is personal to you and given that the business is yours, and coaching is about getting you to be the best that you can possibly be, why not lay down firm foundations and give yourself the best possible chance of succeeding? World-class athletes are always seeking to improve and they have coaches. Novak Djokovic, despite being world number 1, recently started working with Boris Becker to improve his already brilliant game.

‘With great power comes great responsibility’ says Spiderman’s Uncle Ben. The possibilities for your company are endless, but the responsibility lies with you to give it the best version of you.

Q: For how long should a small business owner see a coach before instilling practices into their own work and life, ie do you coach people to help themselves?

Coaching typically lasts for six months – with one session each month. Six sessions are enough for realistic learning, reflection and growth, without encouraging a dependent relationship.

Q: Can you give an indication as to how much a small business owner could expect to pay for coaching?

Small business owners could expect to pay around £600 per session for 90 -120 mins of one to one coaching (based on six sessions) or for Group coaching (min 2 & max 5 participants, based on eight sessions) £350 per person/per session for 120 mins.

Karen Kwong is Founder of Ren Organisational Coaching and an adviser on the Enterprise Nation marketplace.

18 May

Mind Your Language

This has been re-posted from an article kindly posted by The Bolton Remote http://blog.boltonremote.com/mind-your-language/

This is a guest post by Karen Kwong. Through Ren Organisational Consulting Ltd (RenOC), Karen has helped many business professionals and organizations improve their performance and attain success. We’re excited to share her expert insight with you.

Are you making yourself clear and does your team really understand you?

How many times have you been in an argument or observed one where someone says, ‘Fine!’ and the response is, ‘Fine!’ knowing full well that the two ‘Fines’ are clearly not fine? Have you asked someone to perform a task urgently, and then this task is done a week later, apparently in an ‘urgent’ manner?

English is the third most spoken first language in the world, after Mandarin and Spanish. It is the most widely used second language in international communications, especially in business. Most people who speak English, either as a first or second language, would argue that they speak it almost fluently and understand it well enough to perform competently at work. And yet, miscommunication and misunderstanding through vocabulary is often one of the key reasons for seemingly sub-standard or unfathomable work, plans going awry, or worse, endless conflict within an organization, amongst many other negative outcomes.

There are numerous articles, books and seminars on being an effective leader. Most agree upon a number of key attributes such as vision, passion, decision making, strategic, a team player etc. However, it can be argued that if a leader cannot communicate simply and clearly, all the vision and passion in the world is not going to keep his/her employees engaged and motivated, nor will the business’s clients effectively hear the company’s message.


Effective Communication

Active listening is required to truly engage and connect with the other parties. Unlike face-to-face meetings, remote working is not always able to include the usual social cues, such as facial expression, to guide those conversations better. Equally, when speaking to convey your message, much could be lost in translation, especially if the audience is not in the same room as you are, let alone on the same wavelength as you are. This could really adversely affect your team’s performance, as well as the productivity of your organization.



A is giving B feedback during a performance appraisal. Whilst discussing a particular item for feedback and forthcoming objectives:

A: I’d like you to show more flexibility in your approach to your work and team. To date, your work has been very good, but you tend the follow the same approaches each time. It would be helpful for you to exercise some flexibility.
B: What do you mean ‘be more flexible?’
A: Well, for example, you tend to leave work at the same time everyday, irrelevant of the requirements of the day and the demands of the client. It would be helpful for you to consider the general requirements of the team and/or work before choosing whichever path you feel most appropriate.

From then on, B left work 5 minutes later everyday. Nothing else changed in his work performance (although it was already at a high standard).

Good communication has to be simple, clear and direct. It may vary slightly in tone because of emotions, but it should never be confusing. In this scenario, A was being as direct as possible, and yet, A’s interpretation of ‘be more flexible’ was clearly not the same as B’s. A was being as clear as A thought was possible, and B thought they received A’s message clearly.


So what can you do to reduce miscommunication during significant conversations?

Use Simple and Plain Words

Use basic words that do not require interpretation or reinterpretation.If required, elaborate by giving more than one example, whilst keeping the language as simple and clear as possible. In addition, try not to use slang, expressions or jokes. You may think these may serve as an icebreaker, but they may merely end up confusing your colleagues. They may even leave thinking about your bad joke and not your message.

Additionally, plain and uncomplicated language will overcome a very long list of potential barriers to understanding, which include cultural, industry, ethnic, age, and gender influences. When an English person suggests that they were ‘rather disappointed’ in something, it usually means that they were very unhappy and hugely disappointed in that something!

Be Clear

Ensure that you are clear in your own mind with the message that you want to convey before entering into the conversation. If you are not crystal clear or convinced of your mission or objective, how can you hope to be able to convey that to others? Often, you may think that you have a clear objective, but assumptions, stress and irrelevant information frequently serve to muddy those waters.

Courtesy vs. Confusion

There is huge benefit on focusing on how a message is delivered. An Irish lady once asked me why a Chinese lady was shouting at me five minutes earlier. I was really confused for I did not recall anyone shouting at me (at least that day). Looking back, I worked out that the Chinese lady was merely telling me a story in Cantonese, but Cantonese, and most other Chinese dialects for that matter, can appear aggressive and abrupt in tone. The tone in which a message is communicated could really affect how and what the recipient takes away from the conversation.

Equally, if one is attempting to send a message of disappointment, it may be tempting to offer it up peppered with much ‘lovely’ language. This will merely confuse the recipient and worse still, present you as being disingenuous.

Be Present in the Conversation

It is very difficult to be part of a conversation without drawing previous interactions, others’ opinions, and seemingly relevant information into it.But by truly participating in the conversation through active listening, both parties will have a better sense of what they understand and require of each other. Additionally, don’t check your email or phone during these chats. Really try and resist the temptation, so you can come away with a much clearer and more constructive conversation.

To ensure that both parties fully understand each other at the end of the conversation, it is a worthwhile discipline, no matter how brief, to recap the conversation, going over discussed points. It will clarify the minds of both parties and raise any potential issues of misunderstanding.

Nobody said that it would be easy, and it is proven that poor communication remains one of the biggest causes of conflict, misunderstanding, and poor performance within organisations and with clients. However, with a little bit of self-awareness alongside much careful thought, planning, and discipline, things could look a lot brighter!

There is so much more to add to this subject, and I would really welcome any comments, thoughts and feedback for further discussion.

About the Author

Karen Kwong is the founder of Ren Organisational Consulting Ltd (RenOC) based in London. RenOC was founded in 2013 by Karen who, having spent 15 years at a senior level in the financial industry, decided to focus upon those aspects of her career that she found most rewarding – getting the best out of people. RenOC combines very real experience and knowledge together with psychology-based studies to help individuals take their performance to higher levels and for organisations to be a great success. Karen’s totally unique offering lies in combining her vast experience in dealing with very real high-level organisational and business issues. Her clients include individuals and organisations in financial services, engineering, project management and PR & communications. Karen is also on the Board of Trustees for the Shackleton Foundation, a seed funding type charity supporting early stage social enterpreneurs and charities focusing on youth.

Feel free to contact Karen at info@renoc.co.uk or tweet @renoc28. Visit her website atwww.renorganisationalconsulting.co.uk.