020 76393028
07946 044936

Catching Fireworks

Deborah Henry-Pollard: Creative Coaching

Blog

How My Big Red Coat Got Me a Client and Them a New Career

Posted on 11 April, 2019 at 8:15 Comments comments (0)


I am often asked about why it is important to have a vision for where you want to be or go in your life and creative career.    

 

I have talked about visioning before and I am a firm believer that if you know what you want, you will be surprised at how often seemingly inconsequential conversations can lead you to someone who can help you or point you in the right direction.   

 

For example, a few years ago, I was in a shop buying stationery. The charming sales assistant commented on my then winter coat, a full length scarlet job with gold buttons, and wondered where I got it. I confessed that the coat had been purchased from the costume department when I was working with English National Opera. (It was worn by the divine Susan Bullock in 'The Prince of Homburg'). She asked if I was a singer. (Definitely not, as much as I would love to be!) Through talking about arts, she told me she wanted to work in films and was writing and creating short videos. 


My vision was (and is) to work with creative people so they go off and fill the world with wonderful creativity; her vision was to become a filmmaker. We connected over the coat, I told her about my work and I offered to send her some links which might be useful to her. A few months later, she became a client. A few years on, she is now working as a freelance cameraperson and also making her own films.

 

However well you plan where to go and who to talk to, how many of us would write down, “find a coach/mentor out of the customers who come into the shop”   

 

You never know who you are talking to, or who they know.  Know what you want, get your message out there and you could be surprised at what turns up.

I'd Forgotten I'd Done That...

Posted on 28 March, 2019 at 11:10 Comments comments (0)



Can you remember all the things you have done in your professional career? 


I ask because in recent weeks, it is a common thread which has woven its way through client conversations. In the busyness of day to day professional life, we can forget some of the great work we have done in the past, or it has got lost as it was a small part of a bigger project. It could also be that we do not recognise the relevance of what we have done in the hurry of actually doing it. 


Every so often, it is worth sitting down with your CV, a blank piece of paper and a pen (or a computer if you prefer) and write down everything you did as part of a particular job / project. (This is relevant even if you are just starting out – look at any extra curricular projects you did at school / university which gave you new skills.) For example, a long time ago I had a post as an administrator with a charity and did all the usual administratory things you would expect. But along the way, under that great job description catchall of “and any other duties...”, I curated an exhibition of Shona sculpture at the Commonwealth Institute and managed large conferences.  


Once you have gone through your CV, add in anything you have done on a voluntary basis. Because we do this type of work out of a personal commitment, we often forget to acknowledge what we might have learned. (For example, in my voluntary life, I have developed very good group management skills through chairing boards.)  


Okay, we’ve done professional and voluntary lives, what about your life “outside” your professional practice everyday life? Think about all the skills and experience you have there.  

 

  • Have you planned a big birthday party for a friend? Event management. 
  • Have you arranged a holiday for yourself, your partner, your children? Multiple diary management. (Actually, parenthood is one of the best basic trainings for business skills you can get!) 
  • Do you play football?  Team building skills. 
  • Have you sat down with your bank statement and worked out how much money you have for food, going out, rent, etc., for the next month? Budgetting. 


Yes, okay, with some of these, you might need to develop the skills further, but you already have a good introduction.  


What is the point of doing all this work?  


If you want to move into another area of work and need to make an application for a job or project, seeing what you have already done can give you valuable evidence which you can add to your CV / covering letter / project brief, as well as giving you confidence that you have already had relevant experience.  


If you aren’t sure which direction you want to move into, it can give you a great overview of options, things you might not have immediately considered. For example, my running conferences could be a great opening for a new career in event management. 


Even if you think you don’t have particular experience, you can often find that skills you have are transferrable. For example, you may see a piece of work as successfully creating a piece of sculpture to be installed at a particular gallery on a particular date. In business skills terms, straight away we are looking at time management, logistics, client liaison, resource management, budgeting...   


Another important element to all this is that it gives you a chance to sit back and acknowledge exactly what you can do and have achieved to date. You would be surprised how many of us forget just how versatile and great we are on a day to day basis!  


Block yourself out half an hour, get a cup of your favourite beverage and do your own skills audit. At the end, read it through then say, “Yeah, that’s me and I’m great!” Then look how you can use all these newly recognised skills to move your practice forward.

Spring Clean Your Business

Posted on 21 March, 2019 at 5:55 Comments comments (0)


With Easter a few weeks away and the sun streaming through my office window, it looks like Spring has sprung!  


It's time to open the windows, get some fresh air through the place and spring clean your home. Why not harness the energy of the season and spring clean your professional life?   


Here are five tips on giving your career a Spring boost. 


1.  Take a fresh look at your vision. 


Do you know where you want to be in five years? Is your vision still pulling you forward? Remind yourself why this vision is important to you and how you will feel when you achieve it.  If your vision needs tweaking, this is a great time to do it so that it is challenging and exciting. If you don't have a vision, get out into the sun and give yourself time to let your mind create your future.   



2.  Spring clean your space.


Set aside time to go through all your files, drawers, cupboards, etc., in your workspace. It gives you a chance to throw out anything which is cluttering your space, redesign your space and it can also throw up ideas and opportunities.   


 

3.  Take a new look at things.


We can all get into a rut, doing things the same way because it is how you have always done it. During the course of a week, check out all the things you do regularly. For each thing, ask yourself "is this the best way to do this? Would another way be more stimulating or effective? Could I even get someone else to do it?" If you are happy with the way it is going, great!  If not, how could you change it?   


 

4.  Meet new people.


Find opportunities to mix with different people who can inspire and stimulate ideas. They could become clients, collaborators or friends or just spark new ways of seeing things.   


 

5.  Refresh your self belief.


Embrace your talents, your passions, your creativity, your drive and develop your positive attitude. If you believe you can do it, you will enrol others in your vision.

Mistakes

Posted on 7 March, 2019 at 4:15 Comments comments (0)


"You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don't try to forget the mistakes, but you don't dwell on it. You don't let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space."

Johnny Cash


I hate making mistakes, of looking 'bad', or like an idiot or of letting people down. Or rather I should say, I hate me making mistakes. If other people do it, I encourage them to see mistakes as life lessons. I always say that the only person who lives a mistake free life is the person who is doing nothing (although that could be their biggest mistake of all).

 

But when I think back on my many mistakes, I have gained a wealth of experience and learning. For example:


My four failed driving tests (devastating to my confidence at the time) meant I had to have more lessons and driving practice and by the time I passed my fifth test, threw away my L plates and finally hit the road, I was a reasonably accomplished driver.


When training as an Image Consultant, I sailed through the first few weeks getting every client right. The only problem was I had absolutely no idea how I was doing it. This was great for the ego but I knew that I had nothing to fall back on if my instinct let me down. Then one day, in front of all my fellow trainees and all the tutors, I got a client completely wrong. But as my errors were explained, my audience could almost hear the sound of the pennies dropping as I finally grasped what the process was all about. At that moment, I became more confident as a consultant.

 

Not making mistakes can also create a barrier between you and others. I was once a secretary to a quite high flying board, made up of CEOs and Senior Management of big blue chip companies. I would write up minutes and then before the next meeting, I would have to phone all these powerful people, chasing them up to make sure they had done their actions. Although individually these were nice chaps, I was intimidated by their positions and found phoning them a real discomfort. Then at a meeting reviewing the last minutes, I noticed I had made a huge, glaring mistake. I prayed no one had seen it. Alas, when we got to it, one of the CEOs pointed it out with great glee.  He was delighted to see that I was capable of making a complete dog's breakfast out of something. It seemed that whilst I was anxious about making the monthly calls to him, he was equally anxious about getting the calls, because he usually hadn't done what he was supposed to, and I, as far as he could see, was always perfect. I found out the rest of the board felt the same.  What for me seemed a horrendous mistake which would ruin my reputation FOREVER actually created a much better relationship between me and the board. Who'd have thought it?! 


We all make mistakes. That isn't a problem. The problem is if you let the mistakes define you, where you create the self image that mistakes = bad person, or hold yourself back in case it all goes horribly wrong. Embrace the mistakes, learn the lessons and move on, a more knowledgeable and experienced person.

 

And if all else fails, just remember what Fred Astaire said: "The higher up you go, the more mistakes you are allowed. Right at the top, if you make enough of them, it's considered to be your style."

 

How stylish will you be today?

Thinking

Posted on 28 February, 2019 at 4:40 Comments comments (0)



Thinking.


We do it all the time. That little voice is always chattering on in our heads: remember to buy milk; I need to phone that person back; I haven’t checked my Facebook for 20 minutes; I must get this done by the end of the day; yadda, yadda, yadda.


But how often do we give ourselves the chance to think, really think? Thinking as in giving yourself time to really develop a thought. I don’t know about you, but when I was working in a corporate environment, I felt I always had to be seen to be working, tapping away at a keyboard, reading articles, on the phone, doing, doing, doing, when what I really needed was to just stare into space and let my mind wander around a topic. Besides a feeling of needing to be seen to be busy, we have all the digital distractions which compel us to be always connected, terrified that we might be missing out on something.


It is fascinating to see how many of my Take Five contributors talk about going for a walk when they need to get through a creative block, to let their mind wander. Getting the physical and mental space to either follow a thread of thought, or to let lots of ideas come rushing in is very refreshing and stimulating. If walking doesn’t do it for you, or that seems too long a time to go without your digital fix (or you can’t get out of your office), you can use the time it takes to drink your coffee, or wash the dishes, to give yourself a little oasis of calm.


Giving yourself this time isn’t just for getting ideas, but also developing them. Sometimes, because we are busy and need a quick fix, we take the first option we think of. Most times, this is fine.  But if we have the time to let the thought wander, the idea can grow or deepen as we can gain insight. This is what we do in coaching sessions, giving you the space and time to find your own answers and find out what you really think, deep down, about a situation.  


What do you do to give yourself time to think?

Choose Your New Year

Posted on 2 January, 2019 at 5:55 Comments comments (0)



This is the time of year when people set their New Year’s Resolutions - getting fit, getting a new job, starting a new hobby, finding love…


A lot of people I have spoken with find New Year’s Resolutions a chore, things which most often fail, which we end up feeling bad about.


I was talking about this recently with a client and asking what they wanted for this next year. They were caught between two extremes. On the one hand, they had a goal which seemed to them too small - to be able to mediate for 5 minutes a day. At the other extreme, they want to write a novel, but they couldn’t see how they could do that alongside an existing and successful creative practice.


She had more or less decided to do neither meaning she would have got to the end of the year in more or less the position which she began it.


This particular client has been thinking about her book for a few years with notes written and a rough chapter outline. The only thing stopping her in this (and in her mediation practice) was her commitment, her choosing that this was something which was important to her.


With my support, she has reminded herself why these things are important to her, why she had wanted to do them in the first place, the changes they will make to her life and her well being. Out of that picture of a new future, she has begun to create a plan, a way of moving forward. She has blocked chunks of time into her diary when she can write, and put a reminder on her calendar to do one small thing a day towards her book.


She started ‘road testing’ some possible ways of working in December, to give her a head start on the year. We are only a little way in, but it is going well so far. She has changed her mindset from, “one day I will write a novel”, to “I am a novelist”. With her business as busy as it is, she possibly won’t have it finished or be ready to publish by December, but she will have it much further along the line that it is at present, a work in progress rather than, in her words, an “epic fail”. And her meditation programme will help to reinforce a mindset of calm and possibility.


How can you change your mindset to support you so that you can choose is important to you for the next 12 months, so that you can look back, on 31st December, having achieved your goals?

Making the most of December

Posted on 5 December, 2018 at 13:55 Comments comments (0)



December is a strange time for freelancers. On the one hand, you might be hectically trying to get work finished before the break or on the other, you are left waiting for work until the New Year as potential clients are winding down.


Whichever camp you find yourself in, December is a good time to be networking. Received wisdom will tell you that if you work alone, you won't have an office party. This doesn't mean you need to be sitting at home during the festive season like a Billy No-Mates.

 

If you have been busy during the year making contacts or going to events, it is surprising how many Christmas parties you will get invited to. They could be run by colleagues, collaborators, suppliers, venues, networking groups, professional bodies and of course, social groups. Whoever hosts them, they are great opportunities to touch base with existing contacts and make more.

 

Even for the most Scrooge like, it is worth getting involved with the seasonal jollity whether it is drinks at the pub or a sit down meal. If you have a product or service which can be packaged as a Christmas gift, you might get a chance to catch the last minute gift buyers. You can pick people's brains about their plans for the New Year so that you can be ready to get back in touch with them in January. As they look ahead, you may even start to sow seeds about ways they might need your work in the next 12 months. At the very worse, you will meet a bunch of great people to add to your network who may be very useful to know at some point in the future.


So, put on your party shoes, pack your business cards and get out there!

Trick or Treat?!

Posted on 30 October, 2018 at 17:35 Comments comments (0)



As Halloween approaches, it marks not only the night when we use “the power of humor and ridicule to confront the power of death” (Portaro, Sam: A Companion to the Lesser Feasts and Fasts. Cowley Publications) but also just 2 months until the end of the year.


So, what have been the tricks or mischiefs which have been played on your life, work or career during the year? The plans which haven’t worked so far; the ideas which have stalled in the starting blocks; the brick walls you have hit?


Perhaps this is a good time to reflect on what your plans were at the beginning of the year and where you are with them now. Are you still committed to achieving them? What can you do to move them forward? Where can you get support? How much do you want to get done by the end of December or will you regroup and start it again in January?


On the other side, what have been the treats of the year? So often, we concentrate on the negatives whilst the positives just pass us by, so look at the goals achieved; the unexpected opportunities which came up; the moments when you powered through a problem and came out the other side laughing; the new friends and contacts you have made? This is a brilliant time (actually, it’s always a brilliant time) to give yourself a treat and celebrate all the great stuff which has happened and that you have created in your life.

 

Every life has a mixture of tricks and treats. Learn from the tricks, seize the treats and start to build for next year on the back of all this great experience!


Happy Halloween!


Links:

Photo by Toni Cuenca from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/backlit-black-candle-candlelight-619420/

Dignity, Always Dignity!

Posted on 12 October, 2018 at 0:55 Comments comments (0)



Imagine the scene: Nunhead Station, 7.30am on a cold, misty Monday morning. I am wearing THE coat. This is double breasted, scarlet, ankle length and has earned me the nickname The General from more than one friend. To accessorize, I am wearing a red and brown velvet scarf and a brown angora pill box hat. I am Julie Christie in Dr Zhivago and I look the business.


The train arrives and the doors open on an already crowded carriage where people are studiously ignoring each other as well as they can given that they are close enough to count each others ribs. There is no space for me so I dash along to the next carriage. Here, I find just enough room for my feet. I clamber in and lean slightly forward, because I have to make sure that the doors can close behind me. The door mechanism starts to beep and the doors slide shut. I've done it! I am on the train so I do not have to wait 30 minutes for the next, equally crowded one. I don't have to hold on because it is so full that there is nowhere to fall and anyway, I can just lean back against the doors. Whoops, a bit shaky there, but no problem because something is holding me back.


It is at this point that I realise that my extravagant and deeply loved red coat is trapped in the doors behind me. And not just a rogue corner, but all the way from hip to hem. I have suddenly switched from Julie Christie to Buster Keaton. My mind starts racing. I know that these doors do not open at any point between here and up to and including my final destination at Blackfriars. I begin to tug discreetly at my coat, but because there is no room, I can't get any real leverage and so the coat sticks fast.  To my mind, I have three options:

1 wait until I get to Blackfriars, wait for people to leave and then tug like fury

2 go to Blackfriars, stay on the train which I know will return to Elephant and Castle where the doors will open on ‘my’ side of the carriage and I can leave, get onto the Tube and make my way to town or if all goes horribly wrong,

3 get to Blackfriars, wait for people to get off, get out of my coat and leave it hanging there.  (Obviously, this would cause a possible manhunt as they try to find the body to go with the coat, but this is a minor consideration.)


The eagle eyed amongst you will notice that there is not an option 4) ask for help. I want to be inconspicuous - well, as inconspicuous as someone dressed like an extra from War and Peace can look. Being seen as someone with an eccentric style of dress is one thing; being seen as someone who can't even board a train without making a complete hash of it is another thing altogether.


So, here I am, still on this train. Just in case drastic action is called for, I have transferred my gloves and tissues from my coat pocket into my handbag. We pull into Blackfriars Station and draw to a halt. People rush off the train and hurl themselves at the ticket barrier. I stand coolly aloof, as if elbowing my way through the hoi polloi is beneath me. When the coast is clear, (and against the clock – the train is due to go the other way any minute), I grab the back of my coat and pull. It moves about an inch, which is promising. I just need to get a bit more leverage, so I plant my feet about a foot apart, take a firm grip with both hands and give it a damn good yank. Voila! Like a hero from a boy’s action story, with one bound I am free. Or to be more exact, with a hefty tug, my coat releases from the doors and I catapult across the carriage and out of the train doors like a shot from cannon.


My tango training (I knew it would come in useful!) allows me to stop the momentum dead and as I do, the doors of the train close behind me, ready for its’ return journey. I take a deep breath and walk purposefully towards the barrier. Aside from a long dirty black mark on the back of my coat, I think I have pulled it off and the words of Gene Kelly in Singin’ in the Rain run through my head – “Dignity, always dignity”.


And the life lessons to take away from all this?

1 have several solutions, however silly, up your sleeve

2 always keep your cool - other people won't know how you are feeling

3 often, in fact most times, things never turn out as badly as you expect.

What Will You Do Today?

Posted on 31 May, 2018 at 10:35 Comments comments (0)



I am a great believer in visioning, goal setting and affirmations. These are all really important things when setting out where you want to go and reinforcing the mindset to get you there.


I know from my own experience that once you start putting your message and intention out into the world that things can line up in your favour. 


However, before you think that I only advocate 'think happy thoughts and all will come to you', you would be wrong.  Once you have your vision and goals in place, you then have to take action. 


Let me give you an example from my own background. 


Many years ago, I was working on the edges of theatre administration and decided that I wanted to get into theatre marketing.  I had no idea of the breadth of ‘theatre marketing’, what I needed to know, how I could learn or how I could get into the sector.  I also didn’t know anyone who worked in theatre marketing.  The only thing I had was a huge pile of programmes from all the shows I had seen in the previous 12 months. 


I went through every programme and made a list of all the people listed in the credits as being responsible for the marketing of each show.  I ended up with a list of 50 people, for who I found addresses. 


I wrote to every single one of them.  The letter was just a polite 'I would like to do what you do - do you have any advice?' type of letter.  I also sent them my very thin CV.  (A side advantage was that I learnt to type as that this was the days before computers - oh yes, they did exist - and so I had to produce 50 letters and 50 CVs on a manual typewriter.)  Oh, by the way, before you think I was an over eager extrovert, I wrote letters because I wasn’t brave enough to telephone. 


I sent the letters off and waited for what I expected might be 4 or 5 responses. 


I got 48. 


A few were very nice letters with great bits of advice, courses to go on, books to read, places to look for jobs.  Most were generous invitations to come in and see them for a chat. 


I spent a very happy couple of months using up my holiday entitlement in odd half days visiting little cramped offices at the top of old theatres to smart swanky suites, and everything in between.


I got to meet some really fabulous, inspiring people.  I heard their stories and listened to their advice.  I learnt so much about theatre and marketing and was able to make some informed decisions about defining my goal and what to do next.  I went to events and met more people. I built up a network.  It was also very good fun. 


After a couple of months, I got a phone call from one of the people to whom I had written inviting me to a job interview, resulting in a year long contract with Cameron Mackintosh, which in turn led to a contract with the Society of London Theatre.  Goal reached.


So, what action will you take today to move you towards your goal?


If you are not sure how to move forward, book a free exploratory call with me to see how we could work together.