The 5 whys of why everybody needs a coach

“The 5 whys” is a simple but effective questioning technique that can help to deep dive into an issue quickly. It simply involves asking ‘why’ five times, each time shifting the focusto the underlying issue. It is used widely in many different contexts ranging from root cause analysis in business, to problem solving in coaching and leadership, to driving your parents insane (as anyone with a three year old will understand… “But why Daddy?”).So, in the interest of eating my own cooking (far more sensible than eating my own dog food, as so many people seem to do???) I thought I would apply it to a question which I am passionate about… why everybody needs a coach.

Why does everybody need a coach?

Because the one thing nobody is good at on their own, is seeing themselves as other people see them.

Why does everybody need to see themselves as other people see them?

Because everybody needs that perspective in order to have positive relationships with themselves, others and the world around them.

Why does everybody need positive relationships?

Because relationships are for the mind and soul, like air is for the body. Positive relationships are like clean, fresh air… invigorating, uplifting, energising. Negative relationships are like dirty, polluted, smog… suffocating, draining, confusing.

Why does everybody need invigorating, uplifting, energising?

Because if they are not part of the solution, they are part of the problem. Life is hard and it’s getting harder. As individuals, we have never been more connected, nor more isolated. Our organisations have never been bigger, nor more dysfunctional. Society has never been more diverse, nor more conflicted. Our world has never been more globalised, nor more polarised. As human beings, we simply aren’t built to handle this much complexity. We need to help ourselves to help each other.

Why does everybody need to be part of the solution?

Because if not everybody, then who? Our leaders? Our politicians? Our corporate executives? Our parents? We no longer live in a top down world, where what is good for one is good for the next. We need to rehumanise peer-to-peer relationships at every level. From the inside, out. We all need to find Something Great in ourselves, by helping those around us find Something Great in them. Whether it be relationships with colleagues, friends, families or followers, the ripple effect of coaching is undeniable and the return on investment is exponential.


Do I need a coach or a mentor?

A question that comes up a lot in discussions about personal and professional development is the difference (or not) between a coach and a mentor. I personally believe there are a number of distinctions, but there is certainly no universal agreement on this. Ultimately, it’s just semantics… as long as you know what you want and you find the right person to help, who cares what you call it?

Two questions to consider, however:

Do I have a specific goal or goals in mind that I would like help to achieve?

The goal could be as simple as making more sales or as ambitious as starting a new career. Either way, coaching tends to be more goal oriented, focussed on getting you from where you are now to where you want to be. By contrast, mentoring is usually less concerned with specific goals and more concerned with general advice and guidance. For this reason mentoring partnerships typically have a longer duration than coaching, although coaching may be helpful many times through an individual’s life, with the same or different coaches.

Do I want to work with someone with specific knowledge of my situation or someone independent?

Mentoring partnerships are typically based around a more experienced individual providing advice and guidance to a less experienced individual. This is often based on their own knowledge and experience of the same organisation or industry. Coaching does not require specific industry or organisational experience and uses questioning to help the individual find their own solutions rather than offering opinion or direction.
Whether you need a coach or a mentor however, finding the right person to help is equally critical. I do not subscribe to the view that it is less important for a coach to make a strong connection with their client than a mentor. Trust is the foundation of all great partnerships so make this your key criteria in deciding whether the relationship is the right one for you.

Rehumanising my social networks

Something’s been troubling me recently as I’ve searched my soul (and my networks) to find ‘the answer’ to my future. Immersing myself in all things digital in preparation for launching an internet startup there’s a question I keep coming back to. In our quest to get more connected online, are we overlooking perhaps the internet’s greatest potential – to help us find more meaningful connections?

I thought I was pretty well connected with my 1200+ LinkedIn “Connections” and hundreds of Facebook “Friends”. I don’t yet have Twitter “Followers” but in reality that is probably a more accurate description of many of the people in my network. We have at some point crossed paths and agreed to ‘follow’ each others’ online activities but it is very hard to quantify how meaningful those relationships actually are. So what constitutes a meaningful positive relationship and is it possible to have one online?

Martin Seligman, father of positive pyschology and author of Flourish counts relationships as one of the five motivations of free human beings, abbreviated as PERMA. P is positive emotion, E is engagement, R is relationships, M is meaning and A is accomplishment. He further defines a positive relationship as being authentically connected to others. I know I am lucky to have many authentic relationships, but certainly not with everyone in my network as defined by my number of LinkedIn Connections and Facebook Friends.

So how many of my relationships can I expect to be meaningful? Well, 150 according to Dunbar’s number (Robin Dunbar), a suggested cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. This (according to Wikipedia) is the number of people my brain can handle where I know who each person is and how each person relates to every other person. But I thought that was what Facebook and LinkedIn were for?

Anyway, the upshot is that I’ve been picking up the phone and getting out and meeting with people. Its so oldskool but so far, I haven’t found a website that can tell me how meaningful or positive my relationships are. I’m sure there are many in development or perhaps I will come up with one, but for now I’m really enjoying the conversations and seeing where they take me!


How to have an outcome-ful day

“How was your day?” Four words that echo through virtually every household in theindustrialised world and signal the transition from ‘work’ to ‘home’. And the two most common answers? Both one word? For kids and teenagers that word is ‘good’ and I suspect most parents will agree,its hard to get much more out of them. Forgrown-ups that word is ‘busy’ and depending on the day it will likely be followed by either a two-hour download (not recommended) or simply “and I’m too tired to talk about it” (better, but far from ideal).I’m not sure exactly when my life went from good to busy but one thing is for sure, it happened without me realising it.So now I’m in StartupLand and a funny thing has happened… I’ve reverted to using the word good again. Partly because I am really enjoying the change of priorities, spending more time with the kids, new challenges etc. But also because using the word busy now just doesn’t seem fair. How can I be busy? I have no clients, no employees, no meetings (that I don’t want), no emails (that I don’t choose to subscribe to). In fact, I have none of the things that used to make me busy. I no longer have the excuse of being busy, so I can’t justify saying it.So if I’m not busy, what the *#!$ am I doing all day? Well, every day is different of course but I’ve found that since I can’t use the word busy any more I have to be more creative. Like many things in StartupLand its forced me to dig deeper and I’ve found a much more rewarding way to reflect on each day. I’ve started thinking of my days as outcome-ful instead of busy. Sure I made that word up but I realised that busy days are often not very satisfying because typically, busy is measured in inputs rather than outcomes. A busy day is measured by number of emails, meetings and phonecalls and as a result it is all too easy to have a busy day that felt like you achieved nothing. An outcome-ful day on the other hand, helps you to see the outcomes or achievements (however small) more clearly because you are focusing on the change that occurred rather than what you did to make it happen (the inputs).

I find the outcomes can mostly be separated into three buckets and as far as I’m concerned, three positive outcomes is an outcome-ful day and one well-lived:

1. Give something HELPful

What did I do today that helped someone? How did I make a positive difference in someone else’s life? For example, I shared a piece of information with a customer or sold them a product that helped them in some way. Or simply, I helped my kids with their homework.

2. Take something USEful

What did I do today that was useful to me? For example, what did I learn from something I read or someone I spoke with? What knowledge or skill have I acquired today that is useful to me or is likely to be useful to me in the future?

3. Participate in something MEANINGful

What did I do today that aligns with my purpose or progressed me towards finding my purpose? What was I a part of that made a difference in the world today? For example, I participated in a meeting and contributed to change, or I attended an event and demonstrated support for a cause.

Importantly, in an outcome-ful day, you don’t have to separate work and life. You just need to accept that you only have one life which is made up of a limited number of days (inputs) but an unlimited number of possibilities (outcomes). Some days you will have more outcomes at work, some days more at home. The goal is not to balance them but to integrate them so that everyday is an outcome-ful day and one that you are glad you had.


Why culture change is so hard (but not impossible)

I attended an event last night in Melbourne, hosted by Conscious Capitalism Australia. It was my first introduction to the Conscious Capitalism philosophy and while it was very INFORMATIVE, what I liked best about it was that it was genuinely TRANSFORMATIVE. I was impressed by how quickly I got into meaningful discussion with my peers and there was a real feeling that change was occurring. Not just with the individuals in the room, but within their wider networks. You could tell that this was a group of people who could make stuff happen.

We were introduced to the Four Tenets of a Conscious Business (being Higher Purpose, Stakeholder Orientation, Conscious Leadership and Conscious Culture) and my group elected to deep-dive on culture. What struck me as the conversation unfolded was that a culture had been created within the group and it exemplified the Conscious Business acronym TACTILE: Trust, Authenticity, Caring, Transparency, Integrity, Learning and Empowerment. Largely due, I am sure, to the expert facilitator (and highlighting the value of having them in every business) but also, I believe, to the clarity of purpose each individual had in being there.

There was far too much ‘fresh thinking’ for me to capture it all here, but the discussion helped me to clarify a view that I have held for a while, and that is that culture change cannot and should not be approached en masse. It’s a sad reality that large scale transformation programs that seek to change whole organisational cultures, frequently fail, or at the very least turn out to be a lot more protracted and expensive than they should be. Irrespective of how clear the purpose, how good the stakeholder engagement, how conscious the leadership. The reason is simple. By looking at the problem as a business problem, rather than a human one, we dehumanise it, thereby removing any and all accountability for change. As individuals we all want to change, but collectively no one can see how and crucially no one thinks they are the one that needs to change.

The solution, I believe, lies in the power of peer-to-peer relationships and the ability of one person to make a difference in the life of another (and then another and another and so on). None of the participants in the room last night had the power to change a whole organisation. Not even the CEOs in the room. But we all recognised we had the power to change someone, and that this would be enough. We all knew that we could change ourselves, in that moment and thereafter and that by doing so, we would change others.

That is what I call Conscious Leadership and that is how Conscious Businesses will be created.


#byopurpose – v FRANKLy

“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.” ― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Last week I posted about work-life balance being dead and that the future was “bring your own purpose”. Ironically I didn’t get to finish the post because I had to pick the kids up from school. Welcome to my new life, making it all fit together!

On a personal note

I’m no pyschologist but I do know a bit about my own mind and what a force for good and bad it has been in my life. Like many people I never really gave much thought to my thoughts until they turned bad. Fortunately for me I understood the dangers of mental health and depression well enough to spot the signs and seek help and I was able to turn things around. But that was about making a bad thing good. In recent months I’ve been more interested in making a good thing better which led me to the field of positive pyschology.

So why am I so fixated about purpose all of a sudden? I’m not a religious person although I am definitely becoming more spiritual (there is a difference) and I am all the better for it. I should also be honest about the fact that I have not yet worked out my own ‘purpose’ so some might say its a bit premature to be spruiking the benefits. But that’s the beauty of it… to get the benefits of purpose you don’t actually have to have worked it out yet, you just have to be open to finding it. To accept that you have one and that everything you do is an opportunity to get closer to finding it.

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” ― Mark Twain

The alarming increase in mental health problems and the changing nature of work and indeed society are inextricably linked in my mind. We find ourselves increasingly struggling to reconcile the demands on the ‘faceless employee’ with the needs of the ‘individual person’. Those who are successfully bridging the gap are doing so with a very clear sense of purpose.

The independent worker needs to know their ‘why’ as well as their ‘what’

By 2020 more than half the US workforce will be independent contractors or freelancers according to research by MBO Partners. Unsurprisingly Australia is on a similar trajectory with a recent survey by Elance-odesk suggesting a third of Australia’s workforce already undertake some form of freelance work. The implications for ‘non-employees’ and by assimilation their traditional employee co-workers, is that the nature of their relationship with their ’employer’ is changing. They are trading security and structure for freedom and flexibility. They no longer rely on an organisation to provide many of the traditional employee benefits associated with work such as annual leave, sick leave, superannuation or pension plans and even tools of trade. We are increasingly making independent choices about how, when and where we work. And so too ‘why’ we work.

From byodevice to byopurpose

Ten years ago, even five years ago, it would have been unthinkable for employees to supply their own tools of trade such as laptops and mobiles. It was expected that your employer would provide you with what you needed to do your job and you would use whatever their IT or procurement department issued you on your first day. But the increasingly independent workforce combined with the rapid advancement of consumer technology driven by tech visionaries such as Apple and Google, has fuelled a ‘byodevice revolution’. People would rather forgo the ‘benefit’ of employer-issued technology to have the freedom to choose and bring their own device to work. If we no longer leave our technology choices to our employer, then we certainly should not trust them to provide us with such an important asset as our purpose.

The #byopurpose revolution has begun and is enabling changemakers, intrapreneurs, social employees, in fact any of us to find more meaning in our work and so integrate it more effectively with the rest of our lives.



Work-life balance is dead! The future is ‘bring your own purpose’. You can’t outsource your purpose… to your employer, your partner, your parents, even your cause. Only when you ‘bring your own purpose’ to everything you do can you truly integrate them into the full life you desire.

The more I hear it the more uncomfortable I become with the concept of ‘work-life balance’. It implies that work is something you do outside of life and vice versa. Perhaps its a generational thing, or maybe the 24×7 connected world is responsible, but in my 13-year working life I don’t think I’ve ever experienced ‘balance’.

Given my recent seismic life-shift I’ve had a few conversations on this topic recently. Some with experts such as coaches and pyschologists, and others with ordinary folks like me who just want to make it all fit somehow. Generally, most acknowledge that there is a problem with the word balance specifically, and that perhaps by continuing to use the term, we are in fact setting ourselves and each other, unrealistic expectations. If we strive for balance when in fact it is unattainable, do we not create more stress and anxiety for ourselves, and feelings of failure in both work and life if we are not ‘balanced’?

So what does this have to do with purpose? Well, more on that to follow… but I have to pick the kids up from school :-)


Game, set, (perfect) MATCH

It’s Australian Open time again and although I’ve never been much of a tennis fan, it’s hard not to get caught up in the hype when you live in Melbourne, Australia. As with most sports, I enjoy the backstory much more than the game itself; the people, the personalities, the off-court antics. The public flirting between Australia’s Nick Kyrgios and two-time women’s champion Victoria Azarenka has been amusing to follow on Twitter but there’s another male-female relationship that has really caught my attention this year. The coaching partnership between British number one Andy Murray and former world number one Amélie Mauresmo.

Perhaps I’m just naive but until it came up on a post-match interview with Murray, I had not appreciated that this was only the second time a woman had coached a men’s top 10 player. Apparently the “courageous decision” (as it has been dubbed for both of them) attracted a lot of criticism and sadly a brief Google confirms it to be true. Many folks feel that a man can only be coached by a man. Interestingly it seems perfectly acceptable (and has been for a long time) for a woman to be coached by a man or a woman which completely destroys the theory that only coaches of the same gender can effectively coach.

I’m pretty sure that none of my readers need an education on why this is a narrow-minded and archaic view so I won’t dwell on the point. Far more interesting to me is the question of what DOES make the “perfect match” in a coaching partnership? I can’t be sure that Andy Murray considered these in his decision but from my research and discussions with coaches and clients alike, the following five factors stand out and should serve as a useful guide for anyone considering entering into a coaching partnership.


Like many markets, coaching has the potential to be opened up considerably by technology. Whereas previously, an individual’s choice of coach was limited by geography (who they could meet within a reasonable proximity to their home or workplace) the internet now means that technically anyone can be coached anywhere they have an internet connection by anyone else who has an internet connection. The upside is many more coaches to choose from and hence a better chance of finding the right coach for you. The caveat is that now modality becomes a decision criteria in matching coaches and clients. Some clients will have a learning style that enables or even preferences online video or text based coaching and similarly some coaches will work better with these newer mediums. For others, physical proximity will be a deal-breaker so understanding the modal preferences of both the client and coach is a key requirement.


Like any partnership, a coaching relationship can only be effective if both the client and coach are heading in the same direction. Goal setting is often (but not always) a feature of coaching, which helps to focus both client and coach on the same outcomes. Setting expectations up front and having a formal process for ‘checking in’ along the way helps to ensure alignment is established at the outset and maintained for the duration.


Perhaps the most important element of a successful coaching partnership is the trust that is established and continues to develop between client and coach. Given many clients are seeking independence and impartiality from their coach it is quite likely they will prefer to engage someone who is not already known to them, either personally or professionally. They must therefore find other ways to quickly establish trust such as references (evidence that the coach has helped others with similar needs) and credentials (do they have relevant qualifications and experience). Gut feel is also helpful here and as the saying goes, ‘trust your instincts’. If it feels right, it probably is. If it doesn’t, it probably isn’t!


Having worked as a procurement professional in big corporates for over a decade, I am personally very well versed in the importance of having clearly defined requirements in any buying or investment decision. Coaching is no different and the success of a match will be heavily influenced by how clear both the client and the coach are on what they bring to the relationship. For clients, how well do they understand (and how well can they articulate) their objectives? Do they even know why they want a coach and what sort of coaching they are looking for? For coaches, how well do they understand their value proposition? Do they know specifically for what sort of clients and under what circumstances they can get their best results? Clients and coaches who have done their homework on themselves can expect significantly better outcomes from their coaching partnerships.


OK, so I made that word up but the point is this. A successful coaching partnership must be based on a very real human connection. That doesn’t mean physical proximity… you can have a human connection with someone online and even someone you’ve never met or spoken to. The key to humanicity is responsiveness. Does it feel like client and coach ‘get’ each other or might they just as well be reading from a book (or blog?) There is plenty of best practice advice and training out there on every subject imaginable… from tennis, to leadership to neology. And its available typically for a lot less of an investment in both time and money than coaching. The value that great coaching adds is humanicity. The ability to listen, interpret and contextualise, providing advice and guidance that is relevant to an individual’s circumstances. If the humanicity isn’t there, it’s not a good match for either the coach or the client.