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Habit No.6 is about the importance of legacy building. Paying full respect to what has gone before that has nourished and brought us to our full power. To build a legacy that supports and empowers all who depend on us and those whom we chose to support, interact with and collaborate.

Personal reflection

I recently went to see the film ‘I Am Not your Negro’. It was a powerful reminder for me of some the people who have helped me, as a young adult, come to consciousness, who shaped my world view and helped me find my voice.
  • James Baldwin
  • Malcolm X
  • Martin Luther King

And others not featured in the film
  • Steve Beko
  • Maya Angelou
  • Alice Walker
  • Toni Morrison

And some more, that may surprise you
  • Lenin
  • Engels
  • Hegel
  • Trotsky
  • D H Lawrence
  • Jane Austin
  • Charlotte Bronte
  • Dostoyevsky
  • Chekhov
  • Tolstoy

The list could go on, and it's diverse, international, as well as being complex and contradictory.

But then that is what I am-- complex and contradictory. My inheritance reflects the same contradictory diversity which is the foundation of the legacy I am daily trying to build.

Family history and socio/political history intersect. While my list of influences reflects the choices I have made as a teenager and young adult there is also the legacy passed down to me through my bloodline.

My father died of prostate cancer in March 2014. The time I spent with him during his last months was a bittersweet delight. I had already felt the legacy of his work ethic throughout my life. But I also learned something of the long song of independence and fighting spirit handed down through the family from distant ancestors.

Of the many memories, he shared with me for the first time were recollections of his great grandfather who was a Jamaican Maroon. The Maroons were African slaves who escaped from slavery upon their arrival on the island, to establish refugee communities in the mountainous interior. They fought a historic battle against the British with whom a treaty was signed after their defeat of the British forces seeking to take them back into slavery. Since this victory in 1738, the Maroons have existed as a free nation, on the lands they were granted as compensation for their enslavement and forced transportation to Jamaica: a nation within a nation.

This story of legacy is further complicated by the fact that my father had a welsh name – Phillips. A name bequeathed by slave owners with the real likelihood that they passed on more than just a name. We know that children were born of the sexual abuse of slaves by their owners.
It has taken a lifetime to for me to reconcile these contradictory but mutually defining parts of myself. I was born into a name derived from a slave owner with the spirit of independence and rebellion carried forward from Maroons!

It inspires me to think of this spirit living on through me and my children. It reinforces for me the futility of racism and xenophobia. History and the movement of people have connected us in myriad, visible and invisible and sometimes terrible, ways. This is, for me, a cause for celebration.

In support of legacy building, then, as a daily habit:
  • I practice gratitude for this complexity.
  • I celebrate and collaborate with like-minded people.
  • I support causes the help people to believe in and accept themselves in all their rich contradictoriness and diversity. My business is also founded on this principle.
  • I support people to make the changes they aspire to in order to live more fully.
  • I strive to be a champion and role model for progressive change.

In this, I work to give legacy building its true power.

Self- Leadership Challenge
What is your daily contribution to legacy building? How do you celebrate the legacy that sustains you?


& habits of Hope based Self-Leadership. Habit No. 5
Habit Number 5 is about developing and nurturing a self – empowering narrative based on reality and accepting yourself as wholly human, fallible and resilient in turn.

Focus on your internal dialogue, if your internal dialogue is self-deprecating and negative no amount of positive strokes from others will change this- you have already become fused to a self-limiting story about yourself that only you can change.

Personal Reflection

My mindfulness journey has taught me this, as has my work with clients who have been tormented by their inner critic. The positive strokes of others are only accepted when you believe yourself worthy of them. Mostly we reject them. “He’s only just saying that to make me feel good.” That’s not true. You wouldn’t say that if you really do not know me.”

I have had to learn to have a more compassionate relationship with myself, to accept my vulnerabilities as well as my strengths, as a basis for developing a healthier relationship with my thoughts.

When I am feeling sad, I approach the emotion with curiosity, rather than by dismissing it as a sign of weakness. This empowers me, it does not mark me out as indulging in negativity.

It can be quite stressful trying to force myself to be positive all the time. Accepting that you are having a bad day enables you to manage it; you recognise the thoughts and emotions and decide how to relate to them. A much more useful state than denial!

Self-leadership Challenge

How is your 'story' holding you back? How can you re-frame it to be more self-nurturing?

Please do share and comment below...
& Habits of Hope based self-Leadership. habit No. 4.
Being the lone voice of dissent can be challenging and uncomfortable. Like the grain of dust that through friction produces the pearl it is essential to both respect it and be it, when the situation calls.

This habit, of listening to your own inner voice that registers discomfort with the status quo as well as respecting and holding a place for the lone dissenter in your team, family, community, group of friends is a hallmark of courageous self-leadership and leadership of others.

Where have you been the lone voice of dissent? Where do you suppress your inner dissenting voice; where can you hear the lone dissenting voices around you?

Personal reflection

I know the personal cost of suppression of that inner voice of dissent and the courage required to give it expression. At two different points in my career, I was called upon to make a choice- loyalty or dissent. In the first case, I chose loyalty which turned out to be misplaced in the second I chose to speak out and leave my job as a result.

You may be aware of that famous experiment carried out by psychologist Stanley Mingram in the early 1960s, following the horrors of the holocaust, which seemed to suggest that human beings have a natural tendency toward obedience i.e. are drawn toward compliance with those who are in positions of authority. The context of the experiment was a classroom in which teachers were instructed to administer an electric shock to learners if they failed to learn a list of words. The shock was fake but the teachers did not know this and followed the instruction even when the shocks were high enough to cause considerable pain. They were not under any external threat or duress either. The results caused a considerable shock at the time and remain controversial.

However, the most important conclusion from this research is that there are mental habits we can nurture in order to counteract this tendency.

4 Protective Habits
  • Question the authority's legitimacy. Just because someone has a role does not make them fit to be followed. The importance and power of ‘followship’ are being emphasised as the symbiotic other of leadership. One cannot exist without the other. Leaders only have impunity if we give it to them.
  • Follow your moral compass and act on it even when you appear to be in a minority. When given an instruction that makes you uncomfortable ask yourself "Is this something I would do on my own initiative?" The answer may well be "No," because, according to Milgram, moral considerations play a role in acts carried out under one's own steam, but not when they emanate from an authority's commands.
  • Don’t give in to even the smallest discomforts, letting small things go leads to bigger things getting through your moral threshold later. Acquiescence to the commands of an authority that are only mildly objectionable is often, as in Milgram's experiments, the beginning of a step-by-step, escalating process of entrapment. The farther one moves along the continuum of increasingly destructive acts, the harder it is to extract oneself from the commanding authority's grip because to do so is to confront the fact that the earlier acts of compliance were wrong.
  • Find allies: If you are part of a group that has been instructed to carry out actions you find go against your moral grain, find an ally in the group who shares your perceptions and is willing to join you in opposing the status quo.

It is tremendously difficult to be a lone dissenter, not only because of the strong human need to belong but also because via the process called pluralistic ignorance-the compliance of others makes the action seem acceptable and leads you to question your own negative judgment.

In one of Milgram's experiments, the subject was one of a 3-person teaching team. The other two were allies who refused to continue shocking the victim. Their defiance had a liberating influence on the subjects so that only 10% of them ended up giving the maximum shock.

Would love to hear your take on this.

7 habits of Hope Based Self-Leadership. Habit No. 3 The habit of making the small acts of courage that enable you to live your life with integrity are as important as the large movements of people or the achievements of visible and visionary individuals that shape history. You can be a leader in your family, relationship, friendships, community and at the head of a corporation or workplace but to lead others well one needs to learn self-leadership too. And the challenge can sometimes be to lead with integrity across the personal and professional domains.

I know that as a young teacher with children I was often frustrated by the way in which the patience and calm I was able to practice in the classroom seemed to desert me at home. I would get flustered with my own child or shout at my husband when similar acts at work would never cross my threshold of what would be considered acceptable. I was also an impassioned activist campaign for justice and equality in the social and political arena, and still the separation between how I lived in public and private troubled me.

Of course, there were mitigating circumstances: I worked long hours, teachers have to take work home with them, you can also take many of the issues that trouble your students or team members home with you. One has only so much emotional, mental, and physical energy. I was using all mine up at work leaving very little capacity for my family once I returned home. However, I did find the energy to carry on marking books, planning or doing admin after my children were in bed, or to go canvassing or campaigning at the weekends and attend or organise public meetings.
How was it possible for me to do all that and yet tolerate the discomfort I experienced between the quality of time I gave to home and the quality of time I gave elsewhere.

Self-Leadership Challenge

How do you lead yourself with greater consistency – be a more whole person living the same values seamlessly whether at home, or at work.
My answer to this question has come over time, as I have owned, in later life, the power I have over my own life. For most of my 20s, 30s, and 40s I was driven by a host of musts and shoulds that distorted my judgement. I was not a bad person. But I made some unhelpful choices. The most unhelpful choice I made was to equate my sense of self with what I did for a living, investing almost everything I had in this equation. The distance I have travelled is measured in these words I wrote while on a train last week going to meet a friend.

“When life purpose and work become fused our sense of self is distorted and fragile. When work is called into the service of our life purpose, rather than being synonymous with it, we can live with more balance and less fragility.”

Emulating others, no matter how great they are, is not a substitute for being true to who you are, your best self as your best self grows and emerges out of your learning and mistakes.


& Habits of Hope Based Leadership

Self-leadership challenge

Where does my vision or sense of purpose feel least certain? What is the ‘song’ that keeps me on my path?

Each of us, in our own way, is, ‘a thing with feathers’ when we show the determined perseverance not to abandon our ‘song’ which the bird shows by instinct. This wordless song is a statement of our existence, a call to others of our kind, a rallying call. Dickinson’s poem also alludes to a sense that the bird’s song is hopeful because, whatever the circumstances, rain or fall, snow or hail, that song persists. So, for me, it celebrates the reality that that while we may have our sights fixed on a particular goal we may not have certainty about how it will be attained, our only certainty is that we will not give up.

My challenge at the moment is the feeling of personal exhaustion that lies behind that truth. For me, since the new year, being out of my comfort zone almost all the time professionally is beginning to tell on me. Leaving my vocation of 29 years as a teacher and senior leader was an enormous step, a bereavement, I lost a tribe and my one true self as a professional. My dream now is to become a leader in my new field of development coaching: I am a toddler in that respect; feeling my growing strength, rushing at bright new enthralling ideas and approaches in the pursuit of developing my own distinct approach. But just like a toddler, after a burst of frantic sensation driven activity my energy suddenly crashes.
My first year went well in this transition into a business woman, the second year has started with this drain of energy.

So my inspiration right now is this bird that continues to sing its wordless song- I don’t know what this year will bring; I do know that my energy will return, I do know that I will persevere in the search for the one true self I can create through my new professional activity within a new tribe. So I will sing, hopefully, on!

What song will keep me on my path?

My song is made up of the two mantras:

“to lead others effectively, one must 1st learn to lead oneself”

“to lead change well, one must first be open to change in oneself”

The actions through which I am embodying my mantra:
  • This year I have a defined plan, rather than an intuitive groping around, the plan will take my intuitive groping to a higher level: that is my hope.
  • I will focus on developing a tribe to which I contribute and from which I draw strength; this is already underway.
  • Find more time to be in my comfort zone, leading with realised strengths (things I do often and well and find energising as well as growing into my unrealised strengths (things I do well and find energising but in the past have not practised frequently, or done at all).

I would love to read your own reflections on this self-leadership challenge.

Where does your vision or sense of purpose feel least certain? What is the ‘song’ that keeps you on the path?



Launched on #InternationalWomensDay

This is the first of a series of 7 weekly posts- stand by on Wednesdays at 4.30 pm for each subsequent edition.

The 7 Habits of Hope Based Leadership reflect my emerging thinking about how the presence of active, combative hopefulness can serve as a force for change and progress. Not all change is good, but we need to be resilient in the face of change no matter its complexion.

We all knowledge that hope is a critical factor in resilience. However, there are times when our instinct toward hopefulness is challenged by events, which may push us into retreat. Retreats can be affirmative, a time to reflect and enrich ourselves ahead of the triumphs to come; and no triumph comes without a struggle. That is how I am seeing it anyway.

Hope makes us active, combative, open-eyed and sure footed even over rough, unpredictable terrain. My hopes are for greater equality, diversity, removal of poverty, universal access to education, healthcare and asylum. Just to mention the basics!

My inspiration has been drawn from the work of Rebecca Solnit whose book 'Hope In the Dark' reignited my desire to engage in social activism.

These posts and the challenges are as much for me as for others who are moved by events to test their strength in the current battle for the best of humanity to be reflected in our daily actions, interactions and through our network of influence; personal, local and global. I want to become stronger in self-leadership in line with the mantras:

"To lead others effectively, first learn to lead yourself"

" To lead change effectively, first open up to change in yourself."

Hope Based Self-Leaders Habit No. 1

7 habits of Hope Based Leadership

Personal Reflection:

I am an impulsive creature and sometimes act without thinking through the cost or the consequences. My pledge to myself, in order to lead myself more effectively, is to test the ground more before leaping. Connect with the terrain in advance of committing myself to action. During the three decades stretch from the miners' strike to the break-up of the former Soviet Union I was a committed political activist. One of those who would have been described as being on the 'loony left'. I smile as I recall the demonstrations, vigils, public meetings I both attended and organised. I entered the 2000s disillusioned by politics, mainstream and fringe.

I am looking around now for a fresh way of becoming involved that will heal the disassociation I have experienced since leaving 'active service'. My passion for the cause of creating a 'better' society has not diminished but I am uncertain as to how and where to align myself with integrity. None of the political parties will answer to that.

Another area in which I feel the gap between my dreams and current reality is in relation to building my coaching practice as a viable business. How does one promote oneself with integrity, reach out for new clients without compromising one's values? Becoming a business women has created this discomfort for me, but writing and blogging, reaching out and sharing, helps to soothe much of that discomfort. I find like-minded people gravitate toward and want to work with me. I get positive reinforcement and affirmation. But where do I go for challenge and constructively critical engagement? There is real danger in being surrounded only by those who agree with you and reflect back to you the world as you see it.

So I continue to make my stand through the words I write, invite critical engagement through the relationships I form and check alignment with the ethics I live and work by. Something good will come of that! My hopes remain strong.

#HopeInAction2017 Self-Leadership Challenge No 1

What will you dare to reach for this year that you believe in and thirst for and which will challenge you to retain clarity of vision in the midst of complexity?

My invitation to you:
  • subscribe to receive all 7 posts in this series.
  • Add your own reflections on each of the 7 habits as they are published using the comment box below.
  • Want to write a guest blog on one of the 7 habits as it applies to you? -Get in touch using the comment box or message me.

Live your own #HopeInAction2017 pledge, follow the progress of mine!

What to do when life is giving you a bumpy ride_Charmaine's Blog Imagine riding through life on a cycle with wheels like the one in image above. A recent coaching session with an aspiring secondary school middle leader demonstrates just how central health and wellbeing is to feeling effective and confident at work.

My client, who will be designated as Ruby for this blog, described the perfect bicycle of self-sabotage. Imagine Ruby talking to you now, as she talked to me during our conversation around her Wheel of Life, she would be saying something like this:

“I do not lead my life a balanced way. When I am tired, overworked and neglecting myself I ignore the symptoms until I reach close to burnout. I believe that this makes me inconsistent at work, this inconsistency in turn undermines my confidence in my decision making and my relationships with others. I end with a head full of negative self-talk, part of this is what I think others must be thinking of as well as my own negative judgements about myself. I can pull myself out of it but I do not want to keep on being trapped in this cycle. I want to be proactive. I now recognise that regular self-care, catching myself earlier in the cycle of negativity, would help me to be more effective, efficient and consistent at work as well as happier in my personal life.”

These insights for Ruby came out of completing the Wheel of Life Reflection, Goal Setting and Action Planning Tool that you can download and use for yourself at the end of the blog post. The Wheel of Life is commonly used by coaches and mentors when working with individuals who are experiencing high levels of dissatisfaction with life.

And the visual impact of Ruby’s completed wheel just screams out at you.

Wheel of Life_Charmaine's Blog
What a bumpy Ride! Look at her health rating, just one step up from zero.

So, her priorities and action plan for becoming more effective at work is to have a more balanced life by ‘getting a life’- excuse the slang!

She is going to give more priority to exercise in a way that she enjoys and finds motivating, focus on developing friendships and leisure time.

In our next session, we will focus on her Negative Self-Talk using the Cognitive Behavioural Coaching Approach of Reframing.

Effective leaders model for others how to live a good life. One this is meaningful and centred on purpose, none of this is possible without self-compassion and self-care. When you give this to yourself, you are more able to give to others and create cultures that foster hope, optimism, and high aspirations.

If you would like to do some self-coaching using this model, then download the wheel of Life here.

Let me know if you use it and find it helpful.

Happy New Year Everyone! Share your own resolution with me and lets talk throughout the year about our journey! Use the #HopeInAction2017 to connect the conversation on twitter.


“Hope sees the invisible, feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible.”

Helen Keller

Hope enables us to achieve the impossible, it enables us to see what might otherwise become obscured when dark clouds gather.

And it is not pessimistic or fatalistic to acknowledge how chill we feel under the darkening cloud of Brexit and the imminent presidency of Trump. It’s realistic.

It’s a call to action.

Active hope demands that we live with courage, compassion and commitment to progress. Nurturing openness and connection creates space to breath. Embracing uncertainty while acting with optimism reveals infinite possibilities.

#HopeInAction2017 is the banner around which I will be active in pursuit of my aspiration and goals for the new year. To make a difference, to be guided by the activists of the past who fought to establish rights upon which I, my children and my grandchild stand with dignity and agency.

Join me @lifeflowbalance on twitter with #HopeInAction2017.
Merry Xmas!
Happy New Year!