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Catching Fireworks

Deborah Henry-Pollard: Creative Coaching


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The Goal or the Journey?

Posted on 17 October, 2019 at 5:50 Comments comments (0)

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

As a coach, I am often asked how many of my clients reach the goals. It is an obvious question because it is a useful measure of success for the client, for me and for people thinking of working with me.

But it isn’t always that simple. Yes, some of my clients have reached their goals. Others have far exceeded what they set out to do.

When we first begin the process, we do look at setting a goal, what the client wants to achieve. There is often a bit of a stretch in it, pulling the client gently out of their comfort zone. The goal is set from what the client believes is possible from where they are at that moment.

As we work together, with the goal as our guide, we uncover all kinds of marvellous things. We look at where where the client is, what they want to do, what is in place, where they might need to develop, things which are stopping them. People remember and recognise past achievements which they had forgotten about and which give them confidence, inspiration and motivation.

As they grow in confidence, see new opportunities and possibilities, sometimes the original goal can seem too small, not as appropriate or just “different”.

So why set a goal in the first place, if it is going to change?

Because having a goal, any goal, gives clarity, focus and purpose. It creates motivation and pulls us into action. Each achievement along the way, however big or small, can be celebrated, motivating us further. Reaching for a goal can bring out the best in ourselves and also gives us the impetus and confidence to stretch that little bit more. It keeps us concentrating on the possible and the positive.

So in answer to the question, do my clients reach their goals? Many of them do - and most leave their original goals far behind as they really get in touch with what is possible.

Can I just ask????

Posted on 10 October, 2019 at 6:00 Comments comments (0)

Photo by Camylla Battani on Unsplash


Have you ever been at a meeting or conference where someone has asked a really simple, basic, obvious question?


And that really simple, basic, obvious question has been the one on everyone’s mind? So much so that you can almost hear the sighs of relief from the rest of the audiences.

So often, it isn’t us that asks that question, even if it is the one nagging away in our mind. We don’t want to look foolish, stupid, ignorant, uncool - fill in your own reason for keeping quiet.

Not asking questions can be a major barrier to not getting what we want. This can lead to miscommunication from lack of information and unclarity; false assumptions; unfulfilled expectations; frustrations.

This can come in part from thinking that if there is a question, there must be a “right” answer, or an either/or answer. Or that everyone else knows the answer and we are the only ones who didn’t get the memo.

(In fact, it can often be because other people just assume that everyone else knows what they are talking about. I was always saying to people that I couldn't meet them because I was going to a PV, until someone actually called me out and asked what a PV was. It is Private View, which I write as PV in my diary and is how I always think of them.)

But a question is just a tool, an invitation to discussion, to discovering answers together. A question can always be prefaced with, “I know this might seem a silly/cheeky/improbable question, but go with me on this one…”, “Sorry, I might have missed something - can I just check…”

And you might just find that the people around you breathe a sigh of relief and say, “I’m so glad you asked that!”.


(One of the comments which often comes up from clients during coaching sessions is “no-one has ever asked me that before”. It can be the beginning of the clarity they have been looking for. If you would like to engage with questions for clarity, apply for a coaching space.)

What to Take From Compliments

Posted on 3 October, 2019 at 3:50 Comments comments (0)

Photo by Morvanic Lee on Unsplash


I have written previously about compliments and how we can be bad at accepting them, even though they are gifts.

Building on that, compliments are not just lovely things to receive. They are also very useful indicators of how people perceive us. We are often so full of chatter in our heads of what we think others are saying about us, that we miss the real messages. Or we disregard the compliment with our own negative thoughts. How often have you said to yourself," oh they are only saying that because...". Never mind the ”because”, just stay with "they are saying".

What are the attributes and skills people compliment you on most? Make a list and see what threads emerge. And if these are things people like most about you (otherwise why would they comment?), how can you make the most of them?

For example:

- If people always comment on the way you dress, can you use that to build your visual brand?

- If it is the loveliness of your voice, is your best method of contacting people by phone, podcast or public speaking?

- If it is your timekeeping, be at the person they know can always be relied on.

- If it is your sense of humour, can your website reflects that to engage people?

- If it is your energy, how can you use that to engage people in your goals?

Your examples maybe different and your imagination better at coming up with answers.

In the meantime, jot down every compliment you get, big or small. For professional and personal development, this information is a goldmine of possibility.

Thank you!

Posted on 26 September, 2019 at 9:05 Comments comments (0)

Imagine this: you buy a lovely gift and take time to wrap it up beautifully. When you give it to the recipient, they throw it back into your face. Doesn't feel very nice, does it? Makes you think that next time, you won't bother.

That is also how it can feel when you try to give someone a compliment, some generous words about an accomplishment, an attitude, a piece of work, and they say, "oh, it was nothing", "really? I thought I botched it", "oh, you did all the work", or they go into a long winded, highly detailed explanation of all the difficulties they had to go through, whilst our once genuine smile fixes into a rictus.

Or how it can feel tothem when you say the same things to someone who is trying to compliment you.

Many of us are terrible at taking compliments, especially the British! We bluster, self deprecate and either genuinely hate receiving praise, or think we should at least pretend to hate it otherwise we will look arrogant. So we run out stock phrases to bat away the awkwardness and embarrassment, but we do a great disservice to the giver. We insult them. By dissing their gift, we can be seen as questioning their intelligence or opinion. We sound insincere, lacking in self- esteem, or even worse, like we are trying to get further compliments ("oh, I thought I did a terrible job?", "No, no, it was great, honestly").

No-one needs to give you a compliment. It is a gift from them to you. And what do you say when someone gives you a gift? Smile and say, "Thank you." A neutral, polite, non-arrogant, non self- effacing, gracious, "Thank you".

You don't have to struggle with what to say and the giver goes away feeling happy. Win-win all round.

And as you learn how to accept compliments with good grace, you may even grow to accept your skills and virtues.

Take Five with Nicolas Laborie

Posted on 19 September, 2019 at 4:50 Comments comments (0)


Nicolas Laborie is a London based Wet Plate Collodion artist and commercial photographer/videographer.

His fine art photographic work is based on social commentary, human condition and gender equality using the Wet Plate Collodion process, mixing an 19th century photographic process and technique with a contemporary subject.

Nicolas' beautiful and thought provoking work has been recognised in competition, including as Winner of the British Journal of Photography PORTRAIT OF BRITAIN 2017; finalist for the LensCulture Portrait international Awards 2017; finalist for the 10th Passion for Freedom Art awards 2018 for Josephine, from the series The Suffragette: Millennial rebel; and shortlisted artist for the Ashurst Emerging Artist Prize 2019. 


Nicolas' latest show is SENTIMENTS DÉSHABILLÉS at The Muse Gallery & Studio in London from 10th October 2019 to 27th October 2019. It is a wet plate collodion series featuring nude figures and botanical studies about the language of flowers and plants linked to the human condition. 

In your professional life, what is the single best thing about what you do?

 The ability to create and raise awareness is a blessing.

Do you have a creative hero / heroine and if so, why?

Always one artist spring to mind: Armando Alemdar Ara, painter and art historian, who’s work and philosophy brings so much to its surrounding in term of movement, wisdom and spiritual energy. He is such an inspiration to me both as an artist and as the man with an undeniable presence.

What piece of advice do you wish you had been given at the beginning of your career?

 I`m lucky because I had other lives before that taught me a lot and Art is just a reflection of life. My only piece of advice I would give is to be generous to others. Its a small world and no matter how successful you are, never forget those who helped you get there.


If you hit a creative block, what is your top tip for getting through it? 

If I`m tired, I have a rest but I never give up. Sometimes a shower, a long walk by the river, in a park or forest… I meditate on the moment without any expectations or judgements and let myself go…I write notes that comes in my mind, some are full sentences and others just words. Once I manage to cypher these coded messages, I know that it comes from deep within myself and I see it as a sign to explore it further. If its meaningful then its always worth pursuing it.

And finally, for fun, if you were a shoe, what type of shoe would you be and why? 

I would be barefoot. Pure freedom and to get myself closer to the ground, to feel every vibration, sensation nature has to offer. But it doesn’t stop me admiring the craftsmanship of other's shoes and their uniqueness and designs.







Posted on 12 September, 2019 at 4:25 Comments comments (0)

Are you one of those people who feel you are brilliant at solving other peoples’ problems, but useless at solving your own?

It is often the case that we can see other peoples’ situations in a much clearer light than our own, clouded as they can be by our imposter syndrome, Inner Critics, self imposed limitations and fears.

It is at moments like this that a volleyball could come in handy.

Any of you who have seen the film Castaway will know that in order to stave off isolation and create a companion of sorts, Tom Hanks’ character paints a face on a volleyball, calls it Wilson and has conversations with it. Sounds a great idea in an extreme situation, but it’s not something you would do in everyday life. Is it?

Well, you may not get yourself a volleyball, but what if you imagined a friend and you gave them the siutation/issue that you are dealing with at the moment. Imagine them coming up with all the “ifs”, “buts”, “oughts”, “shoulds” which you have been thinking about. What advice would you give them? Which questions would you ask them to get clarity? What actions would they take to get unstuck?

It might sound an odd thing to do, but I have used this exercise occasionally in coaching sessions. I am always amazed at the way people embrace it and the bright, inventive, fast solutions and insights they come up with. It is just a simple displacement activity but it can take the pressure off and open up the mind to possibility.

So, how is that volleyball looking now?


Posted on 5 September, 2019 at 5:40 Comments comments (0)

What makes you unique?


According to smartphone technology and over 100 years of crime detection, there are your fingerprints for starters. But that is just the (finger)tip of what singles each of us from the herd.  

Some people are very obviously unique because of a specific skill, a certain charisma, a particular experience. We sometimes glorify these people, making them famous and role models. This is fine, but along the way we should also be honouring the uniqueness in each of us.  


Because we may dress in the same style as our friends and peers, join the same sort of groups, go to the same types of places, watch the same programmes, have the same interests, we can often view ourselves and others as ‘just’ part of a group (and indeed, feeling part of a community or tribe can be a valuable thing).


But when you think about it however much you run with the crowd we are all still individual. In simple terms, how many times have you been at an event with a friend and your individual experiences of it have been wildly at variance? This is because we all see, process, react to experiences through our own distinct filters, born out of our ethics, attitudes, beliefs, world view, aspirations, relationships, habits, upbringing, education, personal history, etc.


No-one else can be exactly the same combination of life experience as you. Your insights and instincts are as distinct as your fingerprints. This is why your decisions about how you live your life can only be down to you. And as this individuality and uniqueness is what guides our own lives, it is also a contribution to all of us. We need your perception to help us all to see the world in a different way.


One dictionary definition of ‘unique’ is ‘being the only one of its kind’, which is a great thing for any of us to be. Recognise and revel in your uniqueness.

Creatives Blocks - They Happen to Us All

Posted on 29 August, 2019 at 10:35 Comments comments (0)

Image by Steve Johnson from Pixabay

Sometimes you know it just isn't going to happen.


You have the quiet space (the British Library), the tools (iPad) and the time (a couple of hours between meetings) - everything you need to write your weekly blog.

One important thing is missing.


Actually, that isn't entirely true, because one or two ideas do spring to mind, but when I check back through my list of completed blogs, I've already written about them.

After my umpteenth heavy sigh of frustration, a woman next to me says, "As bad as that, eh?!" 

We get into a discussion about what we both do and I tell her my lack of inspiration.

"Why don't you write about that? After all, you talk about creative blocks - your clients might be quite pleased to know that you get them as well."

But that is a bit scary. As a coach, shouldn't I know it all? Shouldn't I have all the tools to hand to get me through moments like this? Indeed, as a coach, should I even be having moments like these in the first place?

But surely that is all part and parcel of the creative process. Even when you know your stuff, inspiration can go out of the window and no amount of pleading will bring it back. I've had evenings in dance class when, even after years of dancing the Argentine tango, I can barely hear a beat or keep my balance. Or times when I would have done better to leave the lens cap on my camera and done something completely different instead.

And the bottom line is that whilst it is frustrating, it isn't wrong. It is just part of the cycle of creation, when the mind has to be left alone to percolate ideas without any intrusion of the shoulds and oughts.

Take a deep breath and just trust that how it is at this moment is okay.

(And if you want some inspiration to help you get through creatives blocks, check out my free ebook in Resources.)


Posted on 22 August, 2019 at 5:20 Comments comments (0)

Photo by Robert Baker on Unsplash

Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.

Albert Schweitzer

I was standing at the bus stop and it started to rain. Not heavily, but enough to be unpleasant. I was all dressed up for a business meeting and didn't want to turn up looking damp so was rummaging in my handbag for my umbrella. Then I noticed that another woman in the queue had moved next to me so that she could share her umbrella with me.


I was given a binding machine so that I could present my reports professionally. Someone else asked me how I was going to get it home, as it was heavy and bulky. I was planning on struggling onto the bus with it. However, as they lived near to me, they would be happy to deliver it if I didn't need it immediately.

I was at a coworking group and had my head down as I had an important document to finish. As I ploughed through the work, a cup of tea suddenly appeared at my elbow, made unbidden by one of my freelance colleagues.

None of these acts was life changing. 

None of them cost anything much to the doer in time, effort or money. 

But they all made my day and enhanced my experience of life.

Kindness is defined as "the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate". Surely that is a quality we can all easily attain and share. And in sharing our kindness with others makes us feel better as well.

And along the way, don't forget to be kind to yourselves.


Posted on 15 August, 2019 at 6:15 Comments comments (0)

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

Follow effective action with quiet reflection.

From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.

Peter Drucker

When was the last time you were truly quiet?

Most of us will probably not remember the last time we were 'actively' quiet. By that, I don't mean the time just before we go to sleep when we are still thinking about the last email we looked at 2 seconds ago on our phone, or worrying about waking up in time for a breakfast meeting tomorrow.

We are in the constant hullabaloo of actual and virtual noise, being pulled by other people's agendas or impossible to complete to do lists. There is a constant call on our attention from emails, phone calls, podcasts, social media. Even if you aren't tied to your own mobile devices, you are assailed in the street by other people's music and phone calls, plus traffic noise and all the visual clutter such as adverts and shop windows.

We can let ourselves be carried on this tide of frenetic activity for many reasons. Perhaps it comes from mistaking activity of any kind for constructive work; but being busy isn't always being productive. I know for myself that when I went freelance after decades in 9 to 5 employment, I felt I wasn't working unless I was busy typing away at my computer. This came out of an expectation from previous employers who thought that if I was staring out of the window, I was obviously wasting company time rather than taking a moment to refocus and gather my thoughts. (As my own boss now, I know that many of my best ideas come after staring out of the window and letting thoughts drift.)

It can be because we feel that in order to prove we exist, we have to be connected to the rest of the world at all times via the umbilical cord of wifi, ready to answer that phone call, retweet that article, update our status. (This is a major problem for most of us in this technological age and one which is insightfully written about by Frances Booth in her excellent book, The Distraction Trap.)

Looking back over the Take Five blogs which have been written by my great guests, something which features strongly is the number of times people say that when they hit a creative block, they go for a walk to get away from all the distractions. Other people meditate to get back in balance (check out the Business Yogi for some good guided meditations). Some go fishing. For me, even though I often work at full speed, I am also very good at just sitting doing nothing in a park.

How and where you find your little piece of quietness isn't important. All that matters is that you find a way to turn off from the world on a regular basis. Not only will it relax and help de-stress you, you could also find a wealth of creativity bursting forth.