All posts by Brenda Ratcliff

Train People to Treat you Well

Here is a coaching story I tell lovely participants who come on the Polished Leadership Workshop who want to boost their personal power, and also I tell it coaching clients who have set a goal to be more assertive. It’s a metaphor and I am sure you will get it.

Here’s the story

“Once upon a time, a few years ago, Brenda hired a skip to clear the rubbish from her section.  The skip was booked for a week, and she had a happy day filling it all up, and feeling all satisfied with how tidy her garden and home were looking.

The next morning, when she went out to continue the most massive de-cluttering ever, she found a big bag of rubbish in the skip.  Hmm, she thought.  It’s probably okay, it’s only one, and not taking up too much room.  Over the next week, every morning when Brenda went out of the house, there were more and more bags of rubbish in the skip that weren’t hers. She didn’t do anything about it, because she didn’t know what to do.  Invent ‘Skip Cam’ to somehow catch people in the act?  And so every day the skip got fuller and fuller of rubbish that wasn’t Brenda’s rubbish.

Until one day Brenda went out there and there was a giant black bag perching on top of the skip, just bursting and oozing with horrid stinky rubbish, like old eggshells.  Bleuggh! She had had enough.  She jumped into the skip and went through all the new rubbish to find an envelope or some means of identification so that she could return it all to it’s owners. [Brenda wore rubber gloves and full Hazmat outfit.]

Random passers-by saw her doing this, and probably thought she had lost it.

Until finally, she realised she was looking through other people’s rubbish.  In public. And really, what would she do if she found an egg-smeared envelope with someone’s name on it?  Return it all to sender?

So Brenda calmly, and with as much dignity as possible, got out of the skip, bathed in a gallon of hand sanitiser, and rang the company to take the skip away early.  And ever since then, whenever she cleans her garden, she finishes it in one go and removes the rubbish immediately.”

Lesson – don’t invite people to treat you badly and put their stuff onto you. You have enough of your own to keep on top of.

Christmas Coaching Tips – how to be more Zen at Christmas

This is the blog I wrote as guest Christmas Blogger for the Leadership Development Centre.  I wrote this back in November to help bring a sense of the spirit of Christmas to the feelings of pressure and looming deadlines.  Hurrah!  These tips worked for me as now I really feel I have got my Christmas Groove on.

Well here we are. The Summer Holidays and Christmas are almost upon us (unless you live in Wellington, then it feels the other way around).

Coaching clients have brought the impending holidays to my attention with comments such as; “how will we fit everything in and get all our projects done by the time they go on holiday?”. Friends have been saying “we must catch-up before Christmas”, and me thinking, with everything that is going on, that short conversation actually was the catch up!

So far my Christmas related thoughts have been:

  • This month, on which days will I do the 5:2 diet? (Answer – At this rate, not till after Christmas!)
  • When I try to work out my values so I can get into the spirit of Christmas, why do my top values at this time of year seem to be work and food?

Now it has got to the point when someone asks me what I am doing for Christmas, I am tempted to say airily “Oh just going to our family bach (we have no bach). Or upsize my response with a 2015 glamour holiday of, “Oh just going skiing in Japan (not doing that either).

Clearly it is time to activate self-coaching tips for keeping buoyant and fabulous during the Festive Season. Continue reading

What’s in the Present Box?


This is one question I hear from my family regularly throughout the year, and even more frequently during December.

This week I started my Christmas shopping

Normally I don’t leave it this late, but the Christmas cheer really only struck me this week. So far (spoiler alert), I have purchased one hot water bottle with a yin/yang symbol on it and one ornamental box of matches. They are labelled and in my Present Box. I am 98 % sure the recipients will love these gifts.

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Staying well – with thanks to my high school English Teacher

Lately I seem to have been surrounded by snot.  Almost everyone I know has been making close friends with a tissue, either discreetly wiping their nose, or doing the full gluggy evacuation.  Recent bus trips have been particularly unpleasant.

I therefore thought it was time to use everything I know to help me stay well.  So I did the usuals of eating lots of veges, getting more sleep and over-using the hand-sanitiser.  Then I realised there was one tool I needed to use more – and that is paying attention to how I talk about colds. Continue reading

What’s hot and what’s not in coaching tools right now

This blog was written as the May guest blog for the Leadership Development Centre.

What’s hot

  • Making yourself a product in your own business − if you are in the communications business, try doing a communications plan for yourself.
  • Learning journeys − looking at a completely different industry to compare with your current industry.
  • Making coaching fun and interesting, walking coaching to stimulate the brain, creating ‘Mind Maps’ and collages during sessions, and using coaching cards to ask provocative questions.

What’s not

  • Sitting on your butt in a meeting room hoping your colleagues can’t see you while you talk to your coach about what is wrong in your life.

This blog looks at one tool that’s hot right now, and that’s the ‘Learning journey’. Continue reading

Finding your next role in times of change

How coaching can help you tap into your inner wisdom for empowering career choices

The traditional approach to finding your next role

When people think about their next career move, they often look for roles which they know they can do, and will provide a step along an existing career path.  They go through job agencies or look at existing advertised roles, decide to apply, and then enter the formal recruitment process.  This is a perfectly valid approach, and is an important part of job-seeking.  It can be greatly beneficial when you connect with many expert recruiters we have in New Zealand.  However there are drawbacks if you use only this approach to find your next role.  The drawbacks are:

  • It is passive – a person waits for an advertised role, and allows other people to reject or accept them.  This creates feelings of ‘stuckness’ and even powerlessness in some people.
  • It is competitive, which adds an extra element of stress during times of change.
  • It takes people down a path they are already on, which reduces opportunities to grow and maximise skills – without realising it, people get more of the same, which includes both the things they liked and didn’t like about their past roles.
  • It reinforces the artificial separation of work/life.
  • It creates confusion in people who are good at many things, as it means they can perform a wide variety of roles.  This can put them out of touch with what they truly want as part of a fulfilling career.

In short, it is old fashioned to just wait and apply for roles. It disadvantages you. There is so much more you can do to get the job and life you want, while you are waiting for those roles to come up.  This is where support from a coach can help you. Continue reading

Are you a List Nerd?

Ooo I do love a good list! But what happens when you get list fatigue?  Christmas is a time for lists.  Actually weddings are too. And wedding season is coming so what happens when two lists collide? Overwhelm, that’s what.

Often we experience the tyranny of list-making. Have you ever gone to the super market with your list and then forgot to buy the very thing you mean to get?

[Actually, I love lists so much I am even reading a book about lists. It’s called the Next Thing on my list by Jill Smolinksi (2007), and is a ripping yarn about a woman who completes someones else’s bucket list. It’s a positive, transforming and uplifting story about how our protagonist moves from a passive responder to creator in her own life. Highly recommended for List Nerds like myself.]

Lists are every where, especially on blogs, where we have The Top 5 ‘This and That’s’ all the time. The topic of this blog post is how to make lists work for you. If you are the kind of person who puts things on your to do list that you have already done in order for you to have the pleasure of ticking them of, then this post is for you.

I will also reveal a few of my favourite lists, and some photos from my favourite photo list. Continue reading

Are you an approval junkie? Five fast things you can do to curb your approval cravings

Losing your need for approval is one of the biggest things you can do to become more authentic and to live your life on purpose.  As I write this, my cat Winston, is keeping me company, and is a continuing source of feline inspiration.  When I look at my cat, I can see he totally doesn’t care what others think of him.  He knows he is perfect just as he is – clearly.


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Notes from a recovering perfectionist

Those of you who know me and have witnessed my atrocious spelling in emails, may laugh when I claim to be any kind of perfectionist.  But in my heart, I know I have a craven desire to do everything perfectly the first time.  And when I stuff up, I stop trying.  Or even worse, fear stuffing up, so I don’t even try at all.  If I were to list the worst casualty to my need for perfectionism it would be the loss of enjoying myself and not being in the moment.  Examples spring to mind, such as there is no such thing as Bad Karaoke.  Just a fun night out with friends involving singing.

Louise Hay on her CD How to Love Yourself, calls it ‘The Curse of Perfectionism, where we don’t even try anything new because we are afraid of failing the very first time.  She goes on to say that Number Three on her top ten steps you can take to love yourself is to be gentle and kind with yourself – that it is OK to make mistakes when you are learning. [By the way, numbers one and two on how to love yourself more are “Stop all Criticism of (yourself) and Don’t Scare Yourself with your thoughts of impending doom and disaster.] Continue reading

The Relationship between Leadership, Charisma, Power and Integrity


Rodin sculpture at Stanford University, California

In 2006 I journeyed to Stanford University as part of a fellowship to study the relationship between leadership and power.  I say ‘journeyed’ because that is what the experience felt like – by the end of it I felt like a weary traveller who had battled many monsters and looked into the abyss.  However, like many hero’s journeys, I came back with treasure, namely, what are the behaviours that can be learned that will help us become more powerful?  And the central truth from my travels was that we become more powerful by making others more powerful.  So how could I do that, in a way that enriches the greater good?

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