22 Nov

Relationships? Who needs them?

‘91% of employees say communication issues drag executives down.. a striking lack of emotional intelligence among business leaders.’      Forbes – Interact/Harris Poll


This week, we have briefly introduced the fourth facet of what contributes to emotional intelligence – Relationship Management. We can be very self-aware and manage our emotions well. We can even have great empathy for others but if we don’t motivate or persuade, encourage others, effect change, handle discord or collaborate well, then it can all be for not a lot. Unless you’re the last person left standing on earth, you will have to encounter others and have relationships with them. Humans are meant to be social beings and as such, you’ll inevitably have some kind of relations with them. Ensuring that those connections are healthy ones will make all the difference in the world.


When coaching clients, this aspect of emotional intelligence is often the one found to be in the greatest need of development. Most people have good intentions. Once they are aware of what needs work or how others might be interpreting certain situations or behaviours, they are keen to effect change. The reality though is that many think that they have good relationships – that they communicate clearly and well, that they inspire others and are generally good at encouraging others. However, when we properly examine some of those relationships through the coaching process, we learn that things are not what they seem or what the coachees assume.


Recently I spoke at an event on the topic of ‘Harnessing Curiosity to drive your Career’ at the CFA Institute. As an experiment, I said the word ‘green’ and went round the room to ask what people’s interpretation was of the word. Some were literal in the colour (but what shade?), one thought about money, another envisaged the environment and another pictured trees. The point here being that we may think we are on the same page, but we may not be. This is true for so many of my coaching clients, whether they are working on being better leaders, looking for a promotion or managing their teams to greater efficiency and performance. All this requires effective emotional intelligence and relationship management.


‘85-90% of leadership success is linked to social and emotional intelligence’ Korn Ferry


Case Study

Client E has been a leader for a long time and has a great relationship with her team of senior leaders. They like her and respect her work ethic. She communicates well with them and they trust her enough to come to her with issues when they encounter them. Sounds wonderful!


Problem is that this is the perception that E has. However, when we asked her team members, they said that yes, they liked her and admired her work ethic. They trusted her to look after them. However, they did not feel they understood her vision, if she had one at all. They also felt that she didn’t really understand them. Although she was articulate, not many seemed to really comprehend her objectives and as such, there was a lot of confusion and duplication of work. This resulted in her micro managing her team and undermining them, however unintentional. Due to some members of her team ‘getting’ her better whilst others did not, it resulted in some in-fighting and conflict amongst team members which further reduced productivity. E’s workload increased because she had to get her team’s ‘subpar’ work done, thereby not delivering on her own objectives. The irony of it all.


The work we did was extensive but a large part of it was focused on her emotional intelligence. As we are discussing managing relationships today, I’ll break it down below with reference to E.


What is Relationship Management?


  • Inspiration – having an explicit and compelling vision that resounds with others bringing about confidence, imagination and drive. Often it’s about leading by example.

In E’s case, she thought she was leading by example by working hard alongside her team. However this only works if you’re setting the right example.

  • Influence – being able to persuade and interest others through respect that has been earned

E did have some of their respect but not wholly. As she was unclear with her vision and only had partial respect, she encountered more resistance to her plans than expected.

  • Develop Others – showing true interest in others. Listening, encouraging & helping them learn and grow to further themselves

E had every intention of doing this and thought she was by having frequent one-on-one catchups. However, one has to actively listen to understand how to help develop these individuals. It may take time but the outcome has far more solid foundations for the future.

  • Change Catalyst – people who incentivize change when needed tend to have earned the respect of those they lead.   They are able to make compelling arguments, have a clear vision, take feedback and act in collaboration with others to ensure no parties are left disenfranchised.

E wanted to enact change for her team but was unable to put forward a compelling enough argument to take everyone forward with her.

  • Conflict Management – the ability to manage difficult situations without further inciting unhealthy emotions and behaviours. Conflict, if healthy, is a positive, constructive and necessary part of growth.

However managing that was hard for E because she was too busy doing others’ work and micromanaging their work, as opposed to managing her team. Simple conversations snowballed into emotional outbursts and tantrums.

  • Teamwork and Collaboration – leaders should model respect, helpfulness and cooperation in this domain, which in turn inspires effective, exuberant engagement to the mutual effort. It’s also about recognizing others’ talents and contributions and helping them use those for the greater good.

E had all the best of intentions to work with her team and to a certain extent, it worked well. However, through a less effective outcome from the above points, active and enthusiastic engagement from the team was low.


A lot of hard work…


came from E and she finally saw light at the end of the tunnel after much work by her. A lot of her disappointment came from the fact that it looked like she didn’t care for and believe in the team. The opposite was true but it takes objectivity, a large dose of self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy and relationship management to ensure that team turns into the high-performing executive function that it can be.


With E, we went through all six points carefully, observed, reviewed and analysed what was working and what wasn’t. It took several iterations and a lot of time & effort to achieve the results that she did. It required a lot of undoing of established thinking and actual habits. However, the endeavour was worth it. Her executive team has gone from strength to strength, and so has she.


Hopefully this very brief introduction to emotional intelligence and the 4 facets that make it up have offered you some food for thought. I cannot stress how important it is to you, your wellbeing and your relationship with others. All you have to do is listen to others talk about how p.issed off they are at work with a boss/colleague/employee/client, or how they’ve had an unhealthy row with someone at home – you’ll find that EQ (or rather a lack of) will feature very highly there.


Good luck! Go forth and be more emotionally intelligent. You’ll have a much happier, more fruitful and productive life!!!





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 #relationshipmanagement #communication #empathy #selfmanagement #inspire #influence #collaboration #change #developothers #conflictmanagement #teamworkd #selfawareness #effectivecommunication #perseverance #grit #leadership #womeninbusiness #femaleboss #womeninleadership #diversity #startuplife #resilience #journal #psychology # #personaldevelopment #strengths #corporatecoaching #wellness #wellbeing #health #mindbodysoul #LondonLife #entrepreneurs #startups #thrivewithkaren #mindfulness #performance #culture #achievement #executivecoaching #csuite #boards #boardevaluation

15 Nov

Shake Them Haters Off

29% of people interviewed in a survey said that they had been victims of bullying (YouGov) – ie nearly 3 in every 10 people. As a number that adds up to 9m people – larger than the combined populations of Scotland and Wales.


60% of people admitted to either being bullied or witnessing others being bullied in the workplace (Unison).


And the true figures are likely to be more and on the rise.


What does bullying at the workplace look like?


We’ve seen it in the playground and sometimes even by parents at the school gates. At work, they can come in different forms and I will list some below. It is important to remember that this abuse can come in the form of physical and more likely at work, mental & emotional anguish. Its effects can be devastating.


Loosely put, bullying is considered a persistent and intentional series of actions that work to break down the self-esteem of an individual. While this might traditionally happen face-to-face, the increasing accessibility to technology means that modern day communication channels can also be used to domineer colleagues.

Types of workplace bullying include:

  • Exclusion
  • Unwelcome sexual advances
  • Verbal insults (direct and indirect)
  • Rumour spreading
  • Purposely preventing career advancement
  • Threats in relation to job security
  • Humiliation
  • Being overly critical



There are some grey areas whereby person A might perceive particular behaviours to be bullying but observers and/or perpetrators might not. Either way, A should be given the room and respect to speak up and perpetrators should be willing to listen and adjust behaviours even if it does not make immediate sense. This is about respect for others.


Additionally, certain behaviours might seem innocuous. The odd jibe which is laughed off as a ‘joke’ and it is implied that the person hasn’t a sense of humour. However these jibes add up and if there is a constant attacking of a person, then this constitutes as bullying.


So what? Who cares about these whiners?


Well, as a business, this will impact you via

  • Increased absenteeism and presenteeism
  • Higher staff turnover resulting in productivity and recruitment & training costs
  • Generally lower productivity and performance issues
  • Low employee engagement and staff morale
  • Lack of trust and respect for management
  • Poor relations between employer-employee
  • A bad reputation which will ultimately impact sales


And for employees

  • Increased stress
  • Poor mental health
  • Ill physical health
  • Sub standard performance and productivity
  • Lower employee engagement and motivation


Costing UK businesses c£18bn per year, likely more. 91% of employees do not think that bullying is handled at all appropriately in the UK.


Case Study

R works at a boutique firm. He was asked to join for his work ethic, network connections and his drive. For about 6 months, he was encouraged to do his job well and left to his own devices. Then the tide turned and suddenly his every move was monitored, picked apart, questioned and destroyed. If he hit his sales targets, the targets were moved. If he went out to see clients, he was told that he should be at the desk. If he was at his desk, they asked him why he was not out there generating more business. His colleagues frequently spoke in their native tongue in front of him and about him. The relentless nature of the attacking lasted 4 years and it severely affected his physical and mental health. By the time I saw him, he was a shell of his former self. Lacking in confidence, nervous, angry, bitter and sad.


From the conversations, it transpired that his immediate line manager had a beef with R. R’s numbers infinitely outnumbered the manager’s and the manager clearly saw R as a threat, instead of seeing R as an asset and one to be encouraged. Surely if R performs, the team wins and therefore the firm wins and line manager can look like a hero for hiring and nurturing R. No such luck. The behaviour got worse as the bullying spread throughout the firm. Culturally, people felt insecure and there wasn’t a strong team environment. Every man for himself and all that. So R had nowhere to go even when he raised these issues firstly with his line manager and HR. In fact, HR went so far as to reprimand him for daring to speak out, as well as raising it with the CEO who then gave R an earful. What a great and healthy company to work for – can’t wait to send my application form in…. In this case, there was clear evidence of bullying by an individual but also one within a particular culture. Not surprisingly, R resigned and is now a much happier person.


What to do if you’re being bullied


Theoretically, the law is on your side but bullying is very hard to prove.


  • Speak to the person who is bullying you. There is every chance he/she has no idea that you are being bullied by them. A chance needs to be given to them to change. And incidentally, it might take awhile to observe any meaningful changes, especially if they didn’t realize they were ‘bullying’ you in the first place
  • Raise it with HR and get them to help you come up with a plan for tackling the issue. Be mindful of the fact that HR is there to represent the firm. This is not to say they are taking sides but that they will not automatically believe your story just because you say so. Their priority is to ensure that procedures have been followed and that your accusation is treated fairly. They will investigate and depending on the questions they ask, as well as the manner in which the enquiry is being made, you might find yourself happy with the conclusions found, or sorely disappointed. Do ensure that appropriate actions points on recommended changes have been followed after the investigation. Even if they find no fault on the part of the alleged perpetrator, there is nothing wrong with you asking for some changes in behaviour.
  • Raise it with someone senior and get them to help you raise the issue
  • Gather evidence. Sadly with bullying it is very hard to prove especially if it is done through subtly. Eg it is difficult to prove that you were genuinely overlooked for that promotion if someone else was apparently better qualified. However if your case is true, you can prove it through other means as well eg persistent bullying. Emails, witnesses, descriptions of incidents all help.


If you are a witness, do something about it, like support the person being bullied. Take notes down as evidence which helps. Don’t be a coward and pretend you haven’t observed such toxic behaviour.


Sadly sometimes it is untenable for the person being bullied to stay. They may or may not have won the battle but to continue working with the perpetrator may prove too difficult. Do work as much as you can with the organization to try and find a suitable solution for you and your career. However, sometimes, you might be better off leaving a toxic environment. Only you can decide that for yourself.



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



#bullying #workplacebullying #kindness #resilience #emotionalintelligence #relationshipmanagement #communication #empathy #conflictmanagement #perseverance #grit #leadership #womeninbusiness #femaleboss #womeninleadership #diversity #startuplife #journal #psychology # #personaldevelopment #strengths #corporatecoaching #wellness #wellbeing #health #mindbodysoul #LondonLife #entrepreneurs #startups #thrivewithkaren #mindfulness #performance #culture #achievement #executivecoaching #csuite #boards #boardevaluation

01 Nov

‘You take my self, you take my self control’

Emotional self-regulation – part 2 of the Emotional Intelligence series. What on earth is this woman on about now? It all sounds way too much to take on board. Last week, we talked about self-awareness and the importance of knowing oneself. Now, we have to regulate ourselves too? Isn’t there too much regulation out there already, let alone having to police myself???


Well, here it is. It’s all well and good embarking on the journey of self-awareness and getting to know oneself better through time. Most of the things you learn about yourself, I imagine you like. It’s good to know those things about yourself, when you are in flow, when you’re not. For those who have worked with me, you’ll know I focus a lot on strengths, as well as what derails you. And yet, just because you know yourself well, it does not mean that you manage yourself well. It’s like you’re a well-honed vehicle. Each one has its strengths and weaknesses. Do you bring an Aston Martin to plough a field? This may seem like a stupid analogy but you’ll be surprised how often people don’t self regulate and therefore make themselves redundant. By not self-managing, it will inevitably cause upset in oneself and anyone else in your vicinity.


So what might it look like if we don’t self-regulate?


Case Study 1

Client A has a very promising career and is on track for yet another promotion. The quality of his work is outstanding and the organization wants to keep him. He has already been highlighted as ‘One to Watch’ on the talent management scheme. The problem is that the organization is a little stuck. Although A’s work is superior, as is his enthusiasm; his general attitude towards others, especially towards those who disagree with his ideas, are treated with disdain and contempt. It doesn’t take much for A to lose his temper if things do not progress as he expects. Neither does A take kindly to individuals from other departments pushing for different outcomes or slightly differing perspectives on joint projects.


A is insistent that the aggression is noted but he ‘owns it’. To him, it means getting things done for the sake of the project and the business. ‘If people are too slow or stupid then I don’t want them on my team’. So he’s self aware(ish). However, it is clear that knowing such information isn’t helping him at all. There is little to no effort to self-regulate the aggression. In fact, the converse. A thinks it is a good thing to let rip and tell people they’re idiots and not worthy contributors.


The result being that A has not only lost the respect of his co-workers and peers, he has been viewed by seniors as having project but not leadership potential. Even then, the assumptions A makes are that the project only has one method of process (A’s) and that he is the only person qualified to measure the factors and variables relevant to each project. He doesn’t think he has to explain his thought process to others and if he does deign to listen to others, he is also judge and jury.


Not only has A not considered that there are other perspectives which may or may not improve the quality of the project, he has also lost the goodwill factor and loyalty that may allow people to be supporters of his, if he were to become a leader. He knows he is aggressive and that he does not listen to or play well with others. He doesn’t care. The fact is, this aggression and egoistical way of working has emphatically delayed, possibly permanently, his journey into the executive level. Additionally, some projects have not been as successful as initially thought – due to fast and efficient delivery but not necessarily sustainable solutions.


Case Study 2

Client B is a self-professed considered, well-mannered and thoughtful lady. She has had much success in her career and is doing well professionally. However, her relationships at work are strained and those have resulted in her having a lot of conflict at work.


Interesting, for a supposed considered, well-mannered and thoughtful lady. On the surface, this seems to be the case. However, when one scratches the surface as we review the conversations she has with others, they are filled with muttered comments, eye-rolling, patronizing insults and barbs. In B’s eyes though, if they are said politely, then that is OK. She is being helpful to them after all, by giving them feedback to help them along. However, if the tables are turned and feedback is given to her, she holds on to the rage and resentment like me clutching those PB&J doughnuts. She won’t let go (and neither will I!).


For her, she is being thoughtful by giving others feedback. Whether or not it is warranted. Additionally, when playing back the conversations, the tone is condescending and directive, as opposed to coaching and supportive. In that sense, I ask, how do the words ‘thoughtful’ and ‘considered’ fit in here? What is ‘well-mannered’ about giving feedback when not requested nor required? How self-aware is she and what might the outcome look like if she were to manage her emotions better?


So what does self-regulation look like?


Mindful and Transparent

These are people who are present, aware of their emotions, what is happening at the time and are focused on themselves, others, their work and their circumstances, mindfully. Those with emotional self-control can manage their inner turmoil well, even in high-stress situations – be they internal or external factors. They are leaders who don’t succumb to their inner impulses or chaotic emotions. They self-manage and channel that energy into something constructive. They act, not react.


Resilient and Optimistic

People who recover from setbacks, take lessons from whatever happened and they move forward. They do not carry baggage from earlier disappointments. They don’t hold grudges. They tend to be thoughtfully optimistic and err towards constructive vs negative behaviours.



Individuals who look at people, situations and challenges with an open and curious mind. They are not unhealthily wedded to ideas or rigid processes for the sake of it. They adapt to change and are comfortable with ambiguity.



They tend to take charge of their own destiny and know they have a sense of control over their fate. They keep moving forward and find ways to make things happen.


Responsible Accountability

They accept responsibility for what they can control and will not do so for what they cannot, ie they have a healthy relationship with accountability.



Looking at the two case studies, you will see that neither A or B tick any of the boxes above for self-management. Perhaps a little initiative, and even then its not over oneself and one’s emotions but a case of deflection. Both cases were really interesting ones. With a little bit of coaching, they started to learn to self-manage their emotions, first from being mindful and aware of them in the first instance.


Emotional self-regulation is one of the hardest to manage, especially if brimming and overflowing with emotions and impulses. With some practice, lots of mindfulness and a will to adopt new habits, this should become a lot easier!


Good luck!




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 #selfregulation #transparency #resilience #flexibility #initiative #optimism #accountability #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




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


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

27 Sep

Get back inside your box!

Recently I wrote a short article for the My Labels series for the @metroUK @metro.co.uk newspaper on being Asian. I was exceedingly flattered to be asked but wow, what a difficult piece to write. Although I have many attributes that would slot me nicely into that category, I would also say that to leave me there would not have captured me well at all. I started feeling claustrophobic at just having that one designation.


Earlier this week, I posted (a little gleefully, I will confess) an article about women being better traders and investors for they are not prone to panic unlike their male counterparts. Women together unite and cheer, especially those who have been derided ceaselessly by anxiety-stricken men. For me, the main reason for celebrating this article is that women are reputed to be ‘overly emotional’, ‘drama queens’, ‘hysterical’ (see @serenawilliams), ‘nervous ninnies’, ‘hormonal’ – you get the picture, and yet this article proves the reverse. Although I did not particularly experience this in my place of work, I did hear this about others, and who knows what was said about me behind my back? These descriptions take even more significance in male-dominated industries where testosterone-like behaviours are the norm and anything resembling ‘typical’ feminine traits is pooh-poohed.


This article isn’t intended to be a male-bashing one, in fact to the contrary. I’m here today to highlight stereotypes, the danger of succumbing to them with little evidence and thought and the opportunity cost of not looking beyond that stereotype.


My experience of working in the City was remarkably, mostly free of bias and discrimination. My bosses, peers and colleagues were for the most part respectful, intelligent and appreciative of my contribution. Sure, I encountered a few p.erverts and lecherous octopuses (tentacles/hands everywhere) but I’d suggest those exist in all industries and walks of life, male and female. In equal measure, my amazing team members were all male, and to varying degrees, more ‘feelings’ focused than others. Some were hot-headed, others level-headed. We had a nervous fund manager would change his mind about the direction of a trade as soon as the order was given.


The point is that none of these people fit any stereotype and they bring a lot more to the party than the stereotype. And yet, we live in a world where people are so keen to judge and put people in boxes. Psychologically, it is a known phenomenon whereby it helps people sort and process masses of information quickly and efficiently. The former is certainly true but sadly, the latter can lead to some very unhealthy conclusions drawn. In fact, I would just call it downright lazy if one’s opinions are drawn solely from shallow stereotypes and nothing else.


What is a Stereotype?


A widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing’            OED


I have been known to remark that ‘stereotypes exist for a reason’. However, I would like to add that, the reason may not be all that good and the stereotype will have failed to take the whole picture into consideration.


Case Study I

I have a lot of clients who will have performed the same role for a long time. As such they get pigeon-holed into stereotypical traits that someone in that position would have. This stereotype is often reinforced by the client himself who starts believing in this proverbial press. Client X is a sales trader and has been doing it for over two decades and is pretty successful in this role. He wants to move on and do something else – hopefully equally as challenging and rewarding but in a different guise. Ideally, it would be in a more senior role either internally or external to his current company. However, he doesn’t know how to go about working out what that new role is and how to prove that he is ready for this new challenge. He has stereotyped himself into believing and assuming that all he has to offer is the ability to buy and sell shares and understand how the markets work. Speaking with headhunters, many only saw him in the same way – someone with all the extroverted and slippery traits of Gordon Gecko ie an implausible offering for management, and nothing else.


Case Study II

Client Y was looking to improve the perception that her fellow board members had of her. She noted that she was proud of the fact that she had been invited to join the board but she felt that her presence was not particularly desired nor respected. Off the mark comments like ‘We were going to ask you to head up this new venture but because we know family is important to you, we didn’t think you’d want this extra responsibility’. How on earth does one not get up and punch the lights out of someone?? Every time she spoke, she was ‘mansplained’ to or interrupted. It was just assumed that as she was a female, she would not understand what was being discussed at board level but they needed a token representative. Irrelevant was the fact that she was the highest performer in her division, she had a PhD in the subject matter of the business and that she had previous leadership roles under her belt. She was deemed a ‘bit of fluff’ to appease the box-tickers.


Some tips:

  • Think about the stereotypes about you. Where are they correct and how & when do they work for you? Knowing this will help you relate better to how people might perceive you and perhaps you will have better empathy in facilitating improved conversations
  • Think about what there is about you that isn’t the stereotype and which of those are transferable. In Case Study I, sales traders use a lot of other skills such as negotiation; building and managing long-term relationships with clients; understanding clients needs and delivering; the ability to think and act with thought & care but quickly; the capacity to juggle and manage multiple conversations & tasks at the same time whilst still performing a role with focus, care and dexterity; being able to coordinate and collaborate with clients, various internal and external departments for a successful outcome – the list is endless
  • Stand up for yourself and dispel the myths through careful and considered words and action. Prove that you are more than just your stereotype. It will be a very satisfying moment when you show your detractors just how capable you are
  • Constructively and actively challenge the critics. Call them out on their bull sh*t. Try and understand why they think what they do. Engage with them to see if you can help change their viewpoints and perhaps you will be able to do the same for them too
  • There is every chance that the stereotypers and their subsequent behaviours don’t even know they are doing it. It’s that concept of unconscious bias. Help them learn to be less ignorant

Ultimately if you don’t like being stuck in the box that was chosen for you, think about how you would like to be seen and walk the walk!


This article will have barely scratched the surface on the topic of stereotypes but I am hoping that it will have given you something to think about. Stereotypes are not easy and they certainly dumb humanity down a lot if it generalizes people to the extent of sheer stupidity, ignorance and possibly bigotry and hatred. If smart, people will use the similarities and diverse strengths in equal measure that we all have to offer. The world would be a much happier, productive and successful place. You are greater than the sum of all your parts. Get out of your box and thrive!!!!!






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


#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 #impostersyndrome #selfconfidence #achievement #overcomefears #confidence #executivecoaching #stereotypes #unconsciousbias #mansplaining #prejudice #bias #ignorance #stupidity #bigotry














20 Sep

You’re a Fraud!!!


‘So, we’d like to offer you this position as head of this division and of the newly merged teams.’



‘Yeah right. Ha, thanks. It’s too early for your jokes. I need to get back and hand out these coffees, teas and breakfasts before they get cold.’



‘Err no. Please can you sit down? I’m being serious. We would very much like for you to take on this role. I know it’s totally unexpected for you but we think you are more than capable of doing it.’


This is a true story and it happened to me. Was I genuinely surprised by the offer of a promotion? Sure I was – one minute, I was the desk junior getting teas & coffees. Next minute, my world was upended and I was given a role that I hadn’t even thought about wanting, let alone getting. The thoughts running through my head aside from ‘F**k!! WTF!! JHC!! Seriously!’ and a few more expletives were along the lines of ‘OMG, I am now in charge of people’s livelihoods’, ‘What do I know about this? Nothing!’ ‘People are not going to take me seriously’, ‘I don’t even know how to decide what to wear in the morning, how on earth can I do this?’. Drama much?? After my internal freakout and a long walk, I pulled myself together and started to put a plan in action. First and foremost, business as usual. Next, clarify and articulate my vision, get the newly merged team on the same page with said vision, talk about the strategy and execute. Market this new plan to clients old and new and garner support from key stakeholders. I ran that team for over twelve years.


Did I feel like a fraud a lot of the time? Absolutely. I seriously thought I had no idea what I was doing. It didn’t help that lots of people decided I was fresh new prey and decided to turn my head to their political agenda. Accusations of sleeping my way to the top weren’t even subtle, implying that I did not deserve the job. Additionally, I wasn’t even gunning for the job so I was wholly unprepared. But guess what? I managed and I managed well. We were the only department to continue to deliver with little to no politics during the merger. We continued to deliver to the highest of standards on our mandate and yet, we managed to each give ourselves a new challenge whilst still having a foothold in the old world. It really helped that I had a very supportive manager and a fabulous team.


What is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter Syndrome is a very real thing that many experience. So what is it? It has been defined ‘as a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.’ Wikipedia



My Key Lessons

Looking back at that story, and seeing a similar phenomenon arise again when I launched my coaching business, I learnt two things.


  • One, I am perfectly capable, smart and agile enough to make the most of situations, and to succeed. In fact, much as I hate to admit it, I do thrive when challenged.


  • Secondly, if you believe you’re an imposter, then so will others. It seems like an obvious observation to make and yet, it’s amazing how impactful this belief in oneself (or lack of) can be. I asked for lots of advice when I started. To me, it was just a process of gathering information, in order to make informed decisions. For the advisors, they saw this as an incompetent young fool turning to the wise old man for the answers. Offers of help turned out to be a wish to puppeteer. Although naïve, I wasn’t a complete idiot and I put a stop to this soon enough.


Some further illustrations

Through coaching my clients, I have seen Imposter Syndrome occur more frequently than I care to admit. Here are two. These clients came to me to learn presentation skills.


X had been working for her firm for over twenty years. She climbed up the ranks from an administrative assistant to a fund manager. She worked very hard to get there, overcoming many preconceived assumptions about her abilities and she now runs her own fund. She successfully markets her fund as she has to and has a great rapport with many of her clients. Unfortunately, when she had to present to clients in front of senior management, she went into panic mode and reverted to being a quiet mouse, afraid of her own shadow. She was unable to articulate herself in front of the audience and she did not voice her opinions. Soon, she was relegated to pouring beverages and was asked to take notes. When we talked about this during sessions, she was clearly frustrated with senior management and for treating her like she was insignificant. However, as our sessions continued, we discovered that she was never fully able to shirk off the administrative assistant coat that was shrouding and suffocating her – in her own mind and that of senior management. By behaving like she did not deserve a voice, she got what she asked for.


Y was looking for a promotion and was told that he had a very good chance at getting an executive directorship. However, he needed to up his game and be more present with people in different divisions etc. He decided to volunteer to speak at a weekly meeting to present his and his team’s views. Sadly this process terrified him. Although naturally loud-voiced and gregarious, Y spoke with little conviction when opining and with little gravitas at these presentations. To him, he didn’t think anyone would want to listen to someone who did not have an MBA and had not travelled the world like some. This is despite the fact that Y was an expert in his area and had climbed the ranks swiftly and without hesitation to his current position. Suffice to say, his standing amongst his peers and colleagues did not initially improve when he first started with the weekly presentations.



As you can see, neither client was really there about learning how to present. Their sense of worth and confidence within their roles and companies were very much influencing how they were perceived at work, thereby affecting their presentation skills.


Some tips

  • Remember why you deserve to be there. If you need to, list your achievements, strengths and look at your experience. Why are you where you are? How did you get here? How do you contribute?
  • If you’re not sure, seek out help from trusted internal and external sources. Get a coach (blatant plug here…) to help you think through your thoughts and your strategy
  • It’s alright not to know everything. In fact, learning should be a continuous process and it will give you an edge over everyone else
  • Do seek out mentors and advisors but be clear on your objectives and healthy boundaries. Advice is just advice, you don’t have to take it
  • Have a vision and be clear about it. The advice you seek will come from learning how to navigate your way into delivering on that vision
  • Be careful what you share and with whom you confide – some might use your insecurities against you
  • Behave like you deserve the role – it’s the biggest draw
  • You’re in charge of your life, not someone else, so don’t let others decide who and what you need to be. If you know you deserve that job, then prove your internal dialogue and the detractors wrong


There is the expression ‘Fake it till you make it’. At times I really dislike it but the gist of it makes sense. For me, it’s about the message you’re sending people when you interact with them. Would you ask someone to manage your money if they said ‘Yeah well, maybe I’ll do a good job. I should OK. I have the qualifications and experience but you know… Hmmmm…’??!!? I’m not in any way suggesting adopting overbearingly arrogant behaviour but you know what you’re capable of. Be bold, be fierce, be strong. You can do it!!




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



#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 #impostersyndrome #selfconfidence #achievement #overcomefears #confidence #executivecoaching