Archives for category: Daring Way

On Tuesday 28th June, we hosted our first ever conference – HeANDShe – with a diverse panel of speakers from the worlds of neuroscience, mental health campaigning, media and advertising.

Our intention was to discuss how to bring men along to the gender conversation, along with starting a debate about how men are also harmed by gender stereotypes.

The evening brought thought-provoking conversation about how and why the panel would tackle harmful gender stereotypes.

For those of you that couldn’t be there, here are some insights.

Dr Jack Lewis, neuroscientist, kicked off by stating that female and male brains are much more similar that dissimilar, and that nurture plays a huge role in shaping the brain differences between men and women. What this means is how we treat our girls and boys, which research tells us is different even before they are born if we know their gender, is what largely shapes the consequent differences in our brains. He suggested that the brain is more likely to remember narratives and stories, rather than facts. This may be why the idea that ‘men are from Mars, women are from Venus’ has gained so much traction, when in fact the similarities are much more pronounced than the differences.

Natasha Devon MBE, the Government’s former Mental Health ambassador for Schools and co-founder of the Self-Esteem Team,  explained the devastating impact that gender stereotypes can have on young men and boys, which is shown by the alarming high suicide rates and rise in mental health and self-esteem issues that young people suffer today. She suggested that having one emotion – whether that be happiness or anger – isn’t enough for any human being, and that men especially need to be able to have the space and opportunity to be able to open up and share how they’re feeling.

Harriet Minter, Women in Leadership editor for The Guardian, put forward the case that women need to do less and men need to do more, expect more and ask for more.  She shone a light on how hard it can be for men to choose a career that they are passionate about over providing for their family, how challenging it can be for men to have the space to care for their children, and how it might actually be tougher for men to ask for flexible working and extended parental leave than it is for women. Harriet argued that gender equality is still just a “nice to have” in our industry and we need to continue having this conversation if we are ever to affect real change within our organisations.

Paul Frampton, Group CEO of Havas Media Group UK & Ireland, went last and did a great job at landing these insights in the world of advertising and media.  He discussed leadership styles and how “leadership is changing… and emotions are the secret weapon of great leaders”.  This, in his view, provides a strong case for more gender diversity at a senior level and the emergence of a feminine leadership styleHe said, “We’re starting to see a world where vulnerability is valued in the workplace, especially for millennials” which is something that The Hobbs Consultancy has been championing for a long time.

Paul argued that “knock on change in the ad industry will have a knock on effect in wider culture”, and it is because of this that I think we all have a collective responsibility to affect change in our industry.

If you are interested in us bringing the HeANDShe conversation to your organization please get in touch.

Speak soon

(Marketing and Operations for The Hobbs Consultancy)


Self-compassion is one of the most important modules in The Daring Way™ intensives that I run, and also a theme that comes up time and time again in my coaching with female leaders.  Why is it that we sometimes speak to ourselves in a way that we wouldn’t dream of speaking to our friends, (let alone our enemies)?

At its simplest, self-compassion is about treating yourself in a way that you would treat a close friend. What do you do when a close friend is struggling?  You give them a hug maybe, let them know that you’re there for them, you might buy them a gift or show them some empathy.

Too often, with ourselves, we interrogate our thoughts looking for fault and blame.  We beat ourselves up for our failures and the “should” voices have a field day; ‘You should have tried harder’. ‘You shouldn’t have believed in that’. ‘You shouldn’t have trusted that person’.  I also have a tendency to isolate myself and shut myself off from the rest of the world.

Kirsten Neff is a professor at the University of Texas in Austin who has made self-compassion her career’s work.  I recently had the good fortune of attending an advanced workshop in Texas which she led.  I have to say, the work we did together blew my mind.

Often in my courses we discuss Kristen Neff and her work.  Up until now the response has been fairly ambiguous. Yes, everyone agrees that we beat ourselves up and speak to ourselves in terrible, terrible ways.  Yet everyone feels a little bit resigned to it, that it’s an impossible habit to break.  There is a limiting belief that to embrace self-compassion is to be a bit fluffy and ‘woo woo’.  To be frank, it feels a little flakey to be consciously saying ‘Oh you poor thing that must be really tough’ to ourselves, rather than ‘come on Rox snap the fuck out of it!’.  The other push back is that our own internal critic has been the driving force behind the success in our lives.

Kristen blew all of this out of the water.

Firstly, she came along with the science.  The physiological underpinnings of self-criticism is your body feeling threatened – which will produce cortisol and adrenalin.  You don’t need me to tell you quite how damaging these are in large quantities for our bodies.  The physiological response is trying to attack the problem but in actual fact these stress hormones are attacking ourselves because we make ourselves the problem.

In contrast, the physiological underpinnings of self-compassion are in the mammalian care giving system.  Physical warmth (giving a hug), gentle touch and soothing vocalisations all produce oxytocin and opiates in our system. Also when you are compassionate the reward centres of the brain light up.  Self-compassion literally gives our body the resources to be able to hold our own pain.

When we think about our success being driven by our own self-criticism and harshness, you cannot help but wonder at the cost of what.  Sure, we may be driving our external success via promotions, pay increases and getting that mortgage.  But what is the cost of that on our physical and mental health? And is it truly sustainable?  We know that women seem to be more sensitive to the stress hormone cortisol than men (as detailed in Arianna Huffington’s Thrive).  Surely it’s time for us all to start taking this a bit more seriously.


Take a self-compassion break (courtesy of Kristen Neff).
Every bone in my body resists putting this simple breathing exercise in the newsletter and also resists doing the breathing exercise.  Breathing and mindfulness are a continual struggle for me – and yet the science is showing me it isn’t fluffy, new age shit at all.  This is what we need to start to heal.

Close your eyes and breathe slowly in and out.  On the out breath, breathe out compassion for other people.  On the in breath, breathe in compassion for yourself.  Keep doing this for two minutes thinking about different and specific people to breathe out compassion to, and then extend the same loving kindness to yourself.

Kirsten’s website is also a wonderful resource for learning more about self-compassion.

Love Rox

I am enough (2)

Do you sometimes doubt your abilities and worry that you are not good enough?  Do you feel inadequate even though what you have achieved suggests otherwise?

If so then you could well be suffering from Imposter Syndrome.  It’s something that has probably always been around but it was given a label in the 1970s to describe the phenomenon in which successful people cannot internalise, or ‘own’, their successes.  It is experienced as a sense of inadequacy and ‘not enough’, even when information suggests this not to be true.  And, interestingly, it is more likely to be experienced by women.

First the good news – if you feel this is something you recognise in yourself then you are not alone.  In fact over 70% of people studied report having experienced it at one time or another in their lives.

And a long list of high achievers have all talked about experiencing these feelings too.  It would seem fame, success and prestigious accolades do not make you immune.

Imposter Syndrome is more than just doubting yourself and we have to unpick it further to be able to tackle it.  I would argue that Imposter Syndrome is a function of perfectionism and shame with these being two sides of the same coin.

Putting a spotlight on perfectionism makes sense – it’s a self destructive belief system in which we think that if we just do everything perfectly we can minimise difficult feelings of unworthiness and shame.  The cycle is addictive as perfect is an impossible standard to strive for.  And, when we get things wrong, or when people judge or blame us, we decide to strive even harder rather than acknowledging the impossible standards that have been set.

But, why shame?  Brené Brown defines shame as the intensely painful feeling that we are flawed and are therefore not worthy of love and belonging.  Maybe you’re surprised to see shame being discussed here.  It isn’t something that is often discussed but it is the driving emotion behind so many of our destructive behaviours in the workplace and, so, can’t be ignored.

I believe Imposter Syndrome is rife in the workplace, particularly for women, due to the masculine workplace culture.  If the workplace rewards ‘masculine’ traits of dominance, control, linear thinking and reason over ‘feminine’ ones such as group decision making, empathy, lateral thinking and intuition, then it’s no wonder women doubt their worthiness.

The lack of senior female roles models who ‘show up’ as themselves does not help.  In the past, and still today perhaps to a lesser extent, women felt that they have to take on masculine workplace characteristics to get ahead and therein lies the issue.  If women continue to bend to that idea that they have to be more ‘male’ to get ahead then that just undermines the value that women can, and should be encouraged to, bring to the workplace.

It’s easy to get caught in a vicious cycle – you don’t show up as yourself because what you bring isn’t valued, and because you’re not showing up as yourself you doubt yourself, and so it goes on.

Look out for our next newsletter in which we show you how to work through Imposter Syndrome.


Our two day Daring Way™ workshop is now on the 16th and 17th March and is specifically for entrepreneurs. Through the course we will examine what gets in the way of us truly going for it as entrepreneurs, where we hold back and where we hide.  We will look at creativity, innovation, trust and empathy – and what might get in the way. Finally we will work through tools and techniques to support you in truly showing up as a business leader.  This setting also provides you with a support network for living brave in your whole lives beyond the two day workshop. Click here for more information.

AIR-retreat (6)

Thank you for taking an interest in our work this year.  It really has been a phenomenal year for us as a team and also myself on an individual level.

I always encourage people to reflect on the year past before looking forward to the year ahead.

Our 2015 highlights

  • Assisting on Brené Brown’s School of Life workshop this weekend just gone was super exciting (and super tiring).  This was a key highlight along with getting trained in her new Rising Strong curriculum.
  • The Emerging Women conference in 2015 really expanded what’s possible in my mind and has created the inkling of lots of ideas for 2016.  Plus I’m about to book my tickets for next year!
  • Getting published in The Guardian – yay!
  • I’ve also had a great trip to the US, settled my eldest son in school, expanded my professional network and have taken on a number of associates for my business.

What do you want to celebrate about 2015?  Take some time to think about your key achievements and learnings…

Copy of AIR-retreat (4)

And what do you want to make a commitment to doing in 2016?

We have a Daring Way™ workshop at the beginning of the year to support you in making this your most courageous year ever.  Plus Rising Strong dates bringing the new curriculum to life…
Here’s to being grateful for the year that’s past, and excited about what’s to come in 2016.

Rising Strong 1

Rising Strong 2
With love, Rox


Recently I decided to have a couple of singing lessons.

Yeah, I know. It’s provoked quite a weird reaction in most people I’ve told.

Singing is something I’ve never been much good at and something I’ve always wished I could do.  One of my coaching clients is a singing teacher and I just felt that now was the time to have a go.  Moreover, it would be a great opportunity to do something that feels really vulnerable (cross ref The Daring Way™ which argues that vulnerability is the foundation of joy and connection).

It was so interesting to me being conscious of all my internal chatter in the run up to it.  Just booking the lesson brought up SO MUCH SHIT for me.

I vividly remembered the time at school being told that I wasn’t very good at being on the stage, and therefore stopping doing anything drama like.

I began thinking of all of the other things I had stopped doing in my life because I wasn’t very good at them, instead focusing on the things that I excelled in (mainly academia and hanging out in local car parks).  Sport is a great example – I was pretty average at running, hockey and netball and pretty rubbish at tennis (probably due to a recurring double vision issue I have!).  Weirdly I won my primary school badminton tournament but it didn’t turn out to be a premonition of great things for me.  Rather I remember trying again at University in an inter-hall tournament and literally conceded the game half way through when I realised how embarrassing the score was going to be.

I began to wonder why I couldn’t do these things just for the pure enjoyment of them, rather than having to excel at them.  And I felt really angry at myself for conceding the badminton game.

Then my husband started asking me about the “singing lesson” – it was almost as though he was making those annoying inverted comma things in the air.  He clearly thought I’d finally lost the plot – ‘aren’t you going to feel really, really embarrassed in there?’.  Well – yes – probably.  It was clear that he thought this was a mad idea, which then brought up further internal chatter for me.  ‘If people close to me don’t approve of this choice, maybe I shouldn’t do it’.

It ended up being a metaphor for so much.  For the things I had longed to do as a child and abandoned because of a fear of not being good enough. For going against the crowd and doing something that other people might think was odd. And then, finally, as I struggled to keep the appointment in my diary amongst other work and children pressures, its relevance became tied up with just how often I put my own ‘frivolous’ requirements at the very bottom of the pile.

The lesson was fine.  I enjoyed it despite it being hard.  Sue was very supportive and not at all judgemental.  We did lots of breathing exercises, posture and making of sounds rather than singing – perhaps because the teacher suspected by self-consciousness.  She asked about my objective for the lesson.  It suddenly became crystal clear.  I want to be able to sing loudly, and probably out of tune, in the car with my kids without being totally mortified.  But, more importantly, I don’t want to pass this avoidance of the mediocre on to the boys.  I want them to seize activities they love doing for the hell of it and not necessarily to need to be ‘good’ at them.  And I know enough to know that I can’t just tell them that – I need to role model it myself.

*Photo courtesy of

BB Quote

May 2015 will see us deliver a Daring Way™ intensive for female leaders. As someone who has worked at a senior level in the corporate world, and has been through this work, I thought it was worth sharing my experiences.

So what stops women from stepping in to their leadership?

Maternity really was a great opportunity for me to step back and reflect on what had been going on for me in the workplace the past 12 years. It was also a time – in 2011 – when women’s voices were gaining momentum and presence about the structures and processes that were holding them back at work. Or maybe I’d just been too busy to notice their voices until then.

What really struck me was the way in which I had unwittingly held myself back. I had self-sabotaged. I had to take responsibility for how I had shown up in the workplace.

Looking back at my career, I see a bit of a wobble getting used to being in the workplace after university followed by a rapid progression to middle management.  I worked out quickly that the key to getting ahead was to be liked and appreciated in the office.  And that meant being reliable, getting stuff done, fitting in with the culture, being easy to line manage and not making mistakes.  I moved around the country quite a bit as a child and consequently learnt how to adapt and fit in.  I worked out how to adapt and changed my behaviour accordingly in my new role.

The three years before maternity felt different. It felt like a struggle.  I was working really hard, putting in long hours, getting great feedback from my clients and, it felt to me, not really getting the internal recognition for it.  I was getting feedback from my seniors telling me that I needed to exhibit greater leadership, have a vision and be more consistent in my emotions.  What I didn’t get was any clues as to how to actually do this.

Things began to shift for me on maternity leave and then further whilst exploring The Daring Way™ (Brené Brown’s experiential curriculum).  The work helped me dig deeper in understanding where these behaviours came from and gave me tools and techniques to help overcome them.  I realised that fear was what was stopping me from stepping in to my leadership.

Fear that people wouldn’t like me
The people-pleasing gremlin inside of me (that, let’s be honest, comes from a fear of not being liked), got in the way of me sticking my neck out, speaking uncomfortable truths and expressing my own point of view.  Supporting and developing people in the workplace is a core value of mine and a great leadership trait.  And I have come to realise that this is different to the hustle for being liked, which is driven by fear.

Fear that my ideas would be ignored or rejected
I had become known as the ‘do-er’ and it was pretty hard to shift this behaviour or this brand image, partly because I hadn’t understood what was driving it.  It was fear.  Doing, completing tasks, staying in action felt safe.  People would accept and appreciate what I was offering.  I was unconsciously terrified that if I stopped doing that, and offered ideas and vision instead, my contribution (and therefore myself) would be rejected.

Fear that if I became too “powerful” I wouldn’t fit in 
This was a new learning from The Daring Way™ for me.  When I was growing up my Mother was the head teacher of the local school.  She was actually a brilliant role model for me for female independence and drive.  Ridiculously (and understandably), as a child, I felt self-conscious of her difference to the other Mums and felt we didn’t ‘belong’ in the community as a result.  It had taken me a long time to feel like I ‘belonged’ in London and the unconscious internal messaging was that I would lose that sense of belonging if I progressed to the top at work.

So it was fear that stopped me from stepping in to my leadership.  And I suspect that managing all of the above fears were what drove the ‘inconsistency of emotion’ that my managers noted.

I see women being given similar feedback to me regularly and not being given the development, tools and techniques to truly address what is holding them back.  I think part of the challenge is that the process runs deep and involves some soul searching. It isn’t something you can tick on a ‘to do’ list. I trained to deliver the Daring Way™ because I instinctively felt that it would provide the tools and techniques to support women in showing up and being seen in the workplace.

The outcomes of this Daring Way™ work for female leaders are:
– Increased confidence and self-belief in your own perspectives, beliefs and vision
– Greater resilience; being able to be with conflict and difficult situations
– Freedom from limiting beliefs about your offering and your creativity
– A process to support you in stepping in to your leadership and managing what holds you back.

Contact for more information and click here to sign up to the event

Image courtesy of khunaspix at

Image courtesy of khunaspix at

‘If you don’t learn from it, then it’s just wasted pain’ – Liz Gilbert

I was reminded of these words last week during a, thankfully short-lived, health scare. As is so often the case, just when I needed it most, the universe came and dumped in my lap a situation full of learning and insight. The health scare became my teacher about true vulnerability.

I am married with two small children and a dog. I coach women and run workshops about Vulnerability for a living. I thought I knew this stuff.

A routine appointment at the doctors ended with an urgent referral to the hospital. I had to wait to be contacted about the appointment.

Ten minutes later I found myself avoiding my pre-booked yoga class and heading home to be with my husband and children.

Brené Brown’s definitions of Vulnerability resonate the most with me, and are the ones that I explore with people in coaching and workshops. It is showing up when there are no guarantees. It is emotional exposure. It is risk.

And, as I arrived home, it struck me suddenly how vulnerable it felt to even show up and be with my family. I had anticipated it being a comfort. It was actually a kick in the stomach. Just being with them, laughing and singing, felt excruciating. The enormity of what there was to lose – for us all. The potential devastation to those I love so much. The responsibility.

And I became aware that Shame had gatecrashed the family time too – grumbling, ‘What kind of mother do you think you are? Why did you not go to the Doctor months ago about that health niggle? Who are you to think you have immunity to all this health stuff? That’s it, you’ve failed as a mother and a wife’.

And in all of this excruciating vulnerability and mind wiping shame, I stopped showing up with my own family. I shut down. I was there in person and body but my heart and soul were missing in action. The time when we probably could have done with our own brand of connection the most and I was not there.

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned to my supervisor how difficult I was finding understanding the concept of numbing. It turns out I’m pretty good at doing it without the props. And still, once the children were in bed each evening, I reached out for whatever I could find to numb myself further – red wine, box sets of The Good Wife, sugar, chocolate.

Joy became the most difficult emotion to be with. I went to the theatre and felt myself shrinking at the fun and vitality observed on the stage. ‘Don’t enjoy this; this is what you’ve got to lose’, the joy stealing gremlins whispered in my ear. Until a beautiful rendition of ‘Waterloo Sunset’ had tears streaming down my face in awe of the beauty of the music, the lyrics and the shared witnessing of a peak experience with everyone else in the theatre.

I found I couldn’t even share my deepest fears with my husband. The magnitude, the scale, the sheer weight of the altered awareness was overwhelming. Even now I am struggling to describe the experience as I didn’t truly let myself go there. Best surely to exist a few metres back from the cliff edge and pretend it’s not there?

Now I’ve been given the all clear and can truly just get on with things. Yet this glimpse of a life with no guarantees is worth sitting with for a while longer. Buddhism teaches that nothing is permanent. The only certainties are sickness, old age and death. Rather than being morbid, this is about an enlightened approach to living. Our choices and behaviours would be so different if we could grasp this concept, and yet we live as if we are indestructible.

I understand why. Showing up and being seen in a life recognised as impermanent is perhaps the most vulnerable arena of them all.

Twitter campaign Feb 2015 3

Towards the end of 2014 I started working with companies to help them with the diversity and inclusivity agenda.  This has been a big shift for me. My work supporting women through workplace challenges is super rewarding and really helps the individual women. And yet… I worried it sent the message that it’s the women that need fixing.

This isn’t the case.

Sustainable change needs to come from the top in organisations.  My own recent research and also voices in the media point to a huge motherhood penalty for women.

From a recent Guardian article;

“It was assumed my priorities lay elsewhere”

“Before I had a baby I would really have questioned whether such sexism even existed”

“My previous responsibilities were removed”

Companies need to rethink how they approach maternity and the introduction of new paternity laws in April provide an ideal timeframe.  I actually wonder whether it will be when men seize the opportunity to take extended paternity leave in significant numbers that change will start to happen.

And at the end of the day, this isn’t just about getting more women to the top of organisations.  This is about creating a workplace in which every body can bring their whole self in to the workplace and be valued for it.  Just focusing on gender is not a particularly inclusive way of approaching the issues. Instead I am getting a stronger handle on what gets in the way of everyone showing up and being truly seen in the workplace.

My hunch is that a more diverse boardroom, which embraces our differences, will lead to a more creative and innovative environment.  My work therefore focuses on helping individuals show up and be seen; whilst also advising companies of structural and cultural changes they can make.

What to expect from me in 2015:

One of my resolutions for the year ahead is to get my voice heard.  Expect to see articles from me championing the importance of diversity and inclusivity. I will continue to reach out to women encouraging them to stand up and be counted in the workplace.  Alongside this I will be giving strategic advice and offering training to organisations in how to create a more inclusive and diverse workplace.  My newsletters will encompass both angles and will appeal to anyone with an interest in inclusivity in its broadest sense.

I will be running The Daring Way™ workshops, based on the research of Dr. Brené Brown throughout the year to support everyone in living brave and being truly seen.

I will continue to coach and provide support for women in stepping in to their bravest and most authentic selves.


The Daring Way™ for leaders:  retreat in Brighton, March 26
Taking place at the boutique hotel – Artist Residence – in Brighton, this two day leadership event offers you the chance to step in to daring, authentic and vulnerable leadership. Learn how to create the support you need as a leader, how to build authentic and trusting relationships with colleagues, how to build resilience to the (inner and external) critic and how to continue to dare greatly as a leader. If you’re keen to take more risks, stand out as an innovative leader, build stronger relationships and access your creativity – this retreat is for you! Find out more here

The Back to Work MOT
Supporting women in returning to work with confidence and style, this is my new partnership with Sally from Queen Bee Styling. Find out more here

My guest blog for Driven Woman
in which I talk about Daring Greatly in 2015 click here to read