Lightbulb Coaching

Getting your New Year resolutions back on track.

Sarah Smith, Founder of, February 2022

It’s February and how many of us are annoyed at ourselves for falling off the bandwagon, our New Year resolutions have already been forgotten?  The plan was to have a dry month with no alcohol, lose the Christmas pounds, find a new job or spend more time reading.  Whatever the resolution was, it was never to our detriment.  The resolutions were designed to benefit us, right?

Yet, we let them lapse, we allow something else to become priority or we tell ourselves to give up, it’s easier.  All too often our own needs are relegated, not by others, but by ourselves.  Do we value our own needs?



Commonly, we set ourselves wild and exaggerated goals, or quite simply a reasonable self-request, “I will lose 12lbs in 3 months”, this isn’t impossible, it’s losing 1lb a week.  It’s by all accounts, a healthy target.

So, the first week you might lose 2 lbs, the motivation is reinforced, and the healthy eating plan continues.  The second week you lose half a pound, and you feel a little deflated but it’s still a loss.  The third week you don’t lose anything and the voice in your head starts to justify why you should give up.  You become disengaged, fed up and quickly replace that two and a half pounds, plus another one for luck.

“Create a plan alongside your intentions and watch the magic happen”

What if we put a little detail around that resolution, prepare for how we will reach that goal?

Your resolution/goal/dream/target is the result, that’s the bit when you get to celebrate and congratulate yourself.  But what happens before then?

Here are some questions to ask yourself to help you get planning:

  • Firstly, be specific about what that end result looks like.  What will it feel like, what will you look like?  What will the benefits of reaching your goal have?  Who will benefit?
  • What difference will achieving the goal make to you?  What are the consequences of not reaching your goal?
  • Think about what makes this goal so important to you?
  • Spending some time visualising the end goal and understanding what it means to you, adds purpose and intention.  Write it down, draw it, create a vision board, tell someone what your plan is, whatever you prefer.
  • Then think about what you need to help you reach your goal.  Do you need help or support from specific people?  Do you need equipment, money, resources?  How can you get what you need? Having a support system and the resources ready helps to firm up the intention.
  • Secondly, think about what you have tried already.  Have you have tried to reach this goal in the past?  What went well, what went not so well?  Try to recognise the triggers for letting something get in the way of achieving your goal.

This might seem like a lot of work for a resolution but without this preparation, are you just setting yourself up to fail?

  • Thirdly, think about the barriers you may need to overcome, what might derail your plan?  What strategies can you put in place to stop yourself being derailed?
  • How committed are you to this goal and how will you hold yourself accountable?  If you don’t feel overly committed, is it the right goal for you?  Do you care enough about achieving it? Who or what will help you stay on track?

Finally, think about your goal as little goals or steppingstones to where you want to be.  Take each step at a time.  Set mini goals that are milestones to signify your progress.   You may veer off towards another stone or fall off.  That’s OK, pay attention to the reasons and jump back on.  You’ve already started the journey, might as well keep going.

Don’t forget to congratulate yourself on the small wins as well as the big.

Preparation is key.  Without a plan your goals are empty statements.  Create a plan alongside your intentions and watch the magic happen.

The Interns are coming! Quick get organised.

Interns are your potential future workforce, and your new business ambassadors.

Employing interns is a great way to bring new perspective to your business. Yes, they are time consuming, but it takes more work and energy when you’re not prepared for them.


Whether it’s one or one hundred interns, they all expect you to be ready.

Having dedicated line managers/buddies/supervisors are vital to the success of the intern experience. It is a daunting time for any early careerist so having a clear line manager provides comfort, and therefore some confidence.

A predetermined successful outcome helps shape the expectations of the intern. Finding “jobs to do” during the internship won’t allow a measurement for success.

  • Have a clear view of what the intern is expected to achieve.
  • Explain the purpose of the work at hand and what impact it will have on the business.
  • Set goals to achieve over the period.
  • Be clear on how success will be measured.

Feedback doesn’t have to be difficult

It is also important to set a mid-point review (at the very least), this allows time for issues to be resolved and any unwanted behaviours to be called out.  The intern has a chance to alter their actions and work towards the goals.  Often this will be their first role, they will make mistakes so be honest with them and provide feedback.  Giving feedback doesn’t have to be a difficult conversation.

  • Provide a progress report on achieving goals
  • Give observations of behaviour. This is why it is important to have a dedicated person managing the intern.
  • Give examples of quality work and areas for improvement
  • Ask how you can help them improve skills and behaviours
  • Ask for feedback from the intern on how the experience is shaping up for them

Observing behaviour and measuring outcomes provides evidence to back up your feedback. If you don’t have an example, it is a less meaningful conversation.

The measure of your early talent programmes is in the future success of your business.

You may not be willing or able to offer your intern(s) a permanent role but they may apply for a job again in the future. The individual will be talking about your business. They will tell their family, friends, peers, future employer all about you. Interns are brand ambassadors whether you like it or not. If the experience isn’t positive, you can be sure they’ll tell more people about it. Interns provide a fresh perspective when they enter a business, make sure you utilise this extra resource fully.


We’ve moved on from asking interns to fetch coffee and run errands, interns today won’t put up with it. Planning and measuring is key to understanding the benefits of building a quality intern programme. Building a talent pipeline requires investment but the returns will be measured by the future success of your business. specialises in providing coaching and development for people.  Creating a bright future for our future workforce is our purpose.  We aim to make coaching mainstream for young people and provide the tools and the guidance for businesses to do the same.  Get in touch at if we can help you set up the right environment for you future people.  We offer coaching and training services too to fit your needs.


Applying for jobs can be a full-time job, get prepared.

There are lots of new ways to apply for a role.  For graduates and school leavers it is just the first hurdle to climb across in the search for the perfect role.

The good old CV

Send your CV with a covering letter seems simple enough.  Then come the questions:


  • Can the CV be more than one page?
  • Is there a “right” format?
  • Should I include a personal statement?
  • What if I have no work experience?

As an entry level applicant, it should be pretty easy to get everything you need to say into one page.

  • Don’t be tempted to use a massive font to fill up the page.
  • Go with an Ariel font 10.5/11.
  • The CV should be easy to read, bullet points help and be to the point.
  • Most people view a CV online, so scrolling isn’t quite the same as page turning.

If you have a personal statement, make sure the statement is backed up in the cv content.  Example, “I am an effective team player with leadership qualities”, what does this actually mean?  Your CV should evidence team activities and a role you played at a leadership level.  Same goes for the interview. Any statement you make about your abilities should be followed with an example of how you can evidence that statement.

Your qualifications/grades should be included, they speak for themselves so no need to add a pile of fluff around which topics you enjoyed most.  List in chronological order, the most recent at the top.

If you don’t have any work experience, list out activities you have taken part in at school/university, perhaps you played on a sports team, school band, school council, faculty society…. etc.  These activities demonstrate your willingness to get involved, learn new skills and network.  They also provide opportunities to give examples of putting your skills into action and say more about your character.

Online applications are a time sponge

You will spend hours competing these forms so make sure its worthwhile.  Only apply for roles that you really want and can fit into.  The scatter gun approach of applying for everything doesn’t work.

Online applications are designed to filter out the unqualified applicants so that the reviewer doesn’t have to look at 800 CV’s, only the 200 appropriate ones.


  • Pay attention to the words used in the job description, in the company values and vision/mission statement.
  • Apply these words in your responses, these are “killer words”. The algorithms are set up to pick up on certain words.
  • The free text boxes are there for you to elaborate on a point, so add enough content to get your message across.
  • One-line answers don’t cut it and be careful copying and pasting from other applications as it’s easy to leave in the wrong company name or role title.

Proof read and spell check before you hit send!

Video applications are becoming more popular but are not common.

If you decide to post a video application, think about your audience.  What will they expect to see?  Probably not you in your pyjamas in front of the bombsite you call your bedroom.  Blank walls offer no distractions to the viewer.

  • Present yourself the way you want to be perceived.
  • Speak clearly and adding subtitles is a nice touch.
  • com and offer this for free and really easy to use (no payment for this endorsement was made).
  • Get a trusted friend to help you get the job done, not the friend that will easily distract you into creating a YouTube Channel.

In Summary

Applying for your first role can be stressful and time consuming.  Don’t leave it to the last minute, treat it as part of your role.  You need to get this part done to move onto the next step.

If you get rejected, ask for feedback.  You may be lucky to receive some, so use it wisely.

You are offering your experience, your skills and knowledge to an organisation in exchange for money/sense of purpose/the benefits (whichever applies to you).  Like any transaction, we want value for money.  Be of value.

Some additional resources:

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I was a mediocre student at best and survived

I see pupils and students struggling on a regular basis to get through their school years. The pressure to achieve is unbearable to watch, let alone be part of. Many are without the best chance of survival as they don’t understand the tools that are available to them. And when I say tools, I mean their inner strengths.
I have no problem admitting that I was a mediocre (at best) student at school. I worked hard to be in the middle ranks, often in the lowest when it came to maths and science.
My school years were not the best and looking back they weren’t the worst. I did spend time studying, I would have all the books out in front of me and read the text and try and re-write what I had learned. This became a challenge of my memory more than my understanding of the content.
There is nothing fundamentally wrong with my memory since I can recall the words to songs from previous decades but studying was an issue. I didn’t have a long attention span and I would day dream while reading and then have to re-read and re-forget everything.
University was always the end goal. I still don’t understand fully why. None of my family before me had gone and I didn’t have anything to prove. At this point I had no idea what I was planning on studying, I had no driving ambition to be a doctor or accountant. Actually, I wanted to be a make-up artist on film sets and create zombie faces and bleeding lips, but I was advised early that I couldn’t draw so I wouldn’t be able to do that. I accepted this without question and carried on giving my family black eyes in my own time (using make-up!).
I did manage to scrape my way into a few Higher subjects then failed them miserably. A “D” back then was a fail.
I spent the following summer in an access programme in the attempt to get into University. It was the best 10 weeks of my life. I found independence staying in the Halls of Residence, I got a taste for warm beer in plastic cups and made good friends. My study technique remained the same, read, re-write, forget. But with a lot of perseverance, I managed to pass, just.
I was in.
At this point I had no idea what I was planning to study.
I decided to study Countryside and Environmental Management, I had a friend who had signed up for this and I cared about the environment so blindly I enrolled too. I didn’t investigate the topics, I didn’t find out what jobs were available at the end. I was clueless. I failed the first year as I had no real interest or clue what was going on. I dropped the Countryside and Environmental bit and went back to the start and studied Management Studies. Aside from the Economics and Finance subjects, I didn’t do too badly. I figured out that I was comfortable presenting and could speak in public quite easily. This gave me scope to earn more marks. I enjoyed the topics on entrepreneurship and understanding the inner workings of a business. My essays were all borderline passes but passes none-the-less. I failed economics and finance and had to repeat a term. With the help of a tutor I finally made it to the end. I graduated with the most basic degree and was proud as punch to wear the gown at graduation.
So, with a mountain of debt I ventured out into the world of work. I have enjoyed a 20-year career in Finance spanning across Operations and Talent Management and am now a Coach and Talent Consultant and a business owner. My business focuses on making coaching mainstream for young people. I now spend a great deal of time at the same university, colleges, schools and businesses helping people overcome their own obstacles and build on their own strengths so they can see a brighter future.
We all need to experience failure; these experiences help us grow and flourish. How we handle and recover from the hard times is what is important.
There are, however, ways that I could have had an easier journey:

An understanding of how I learn best – it wasn’t until I started working in Learning and Development that I understood that I learn best through visual aid and experimentation. Using pictures and colour to memorise facts has been proven to be very effective. Drawing mind maps, graphs and imagery can help aid memory and learning. This link demonstrates some examples.

Had a trusted advisor – I didn’t seek out someone for advice on my options or was offered any useful advice. Today, our children ask the web or their friends for information. I should have been asked what my plan B was. I should have been asked why I was failing so badly. Get your facts in order, research what you want to do, what are the opportunities and what do you need to achieve success. Seek out the people that can give you the right information, ask for help and always have a plan B!

An early indication of my strengths – It wasn’t until late in my school years that I discovered an ability to rally a group, to speak in public and get up on a stage. At University, a tutor said, “if only you could talk through your exams”, I volunteered for presentations and was able to contribute in class. These small steps gave me confidence and a realisation of a strength I had. I have carved a career out of speaking and building relationships. I work to my strengths and strive to be better.

Self-Belief – I didn’t look at whether I needed a qualification in art to be a make-up artist. If I was told I wasn’t good at something, I believed it. We look to fill in the gaps, but what about focusing on the strengths so that instead of being “good” at something, that we become “great” instead. Confidence and self-esteem come from getting out of your comfort zone, do something you don’t fancy doing. Understand what you enjoy doing and why and do more of it.

Our greatest struggles can build our greatest strengths. If you have been able to stick with this story to the end, I thank you and ask you to think about your own strengths and how you use them? Are you bringing them out in others? How do you learn best? In others, seek to identify and help them amplify their strengths.
We are lifetime learners, it is never to late to make these discoveries.

Turning a difficult conversation into a meaningful conversation

The blogs are written to be useful, I hope that in the coming series you will pick up learnings and useful tools in personal development. I have so much to talk about! The coming series will focus on building confidence, the lack of employability skills in schools, treating early careerists like the next CEO, taking charge of accidental managers, the list goes on. These are just some future blogs for you to look out for. The one constant topic that I work with clients on is having difficult conversations, a.k.a awkward conversations, performance conversations, developmental conversations……. conversations!

Call it whatever you like, it’s a conversation! But for some, certain conversations cause differing degrees of anxiety and for some, even a lack of sleep. I have witnessed a manager watching issues unfold through their fingers only to have one almighty problem in the future.
Common reasons for feeling anxious about the pending conversation are:

  • What if I stumble over the words and can’t get my point across?
  • They won’t let me get a word in and will argue with every point I make.
  • What if they cry?
  • What if they get angry?
  • What if they leave?
  • Nothing will change it’s a pointless exercise

Let me share an example.

Fay was highly technical, she was considered an expert within her area and had been in the organisation for 5 years. Her level of knowledge gave her team the edge and performance were high. She was asked to mentor an intern for 3 months but the feedback from the intern was damning. She didn’t spend any time with him, she gave him menial tasks and sent him to shadow other teams. When the intern spoke to the rest of the team about it, they advised not to complain as she was just really busy and would get mad and give him even more menial tasks to do.
It was a miserable 3 months for the intern and the rest of the team had started to feel like they were being treated in the same way. They didn’t report to her, yet she delegated tasks, was volatile in her moods and she talked down to them.

People in the team started to leave. They had spoken to Fay’s Manager about how she was behaving but no action was taken. Fay’s reputation for being an expert was being overshadowed by her reputation for being hot headed and difficult to work with.

When Fay’s Manager was asked why he hadn’t raised concerns with Fay he said that he didn’t know how she would react. He hadn’t been witness to some of the behaviours so what would he say? She was still getting the job done.

When probed further, Fay’s Manager admitted that he didn’t know how to deal with it. He had been promoted to Manager without training and wasn’t confident with the process. He didn’t want to go down an official HR route but didn’t know how to approach Fay. He didn’t want to be blamed for her leaving.

With some help, Fay and her Manger sat down to discuss what had been happening. Fay was feeling overwhelmed and hadn’t been coping well with her workload. As the department “expert” she was given more work to do and is expected to be able to manage. She didn’t like refusing the work so was working at home very late and was tired and grumpy most days. Fay’s Manager wasn’t aware of the strain Fay was feeling.

Fay wasn’t fully aware of how her behaviour was affecting the others. The Intern had made a few mistakes early on and Fay didn’t trust him to take on more responsibility and didn’t have the time to spend on his development, so she gave him easier tasks to do.

Had Fay’s Manager had a conversation with Fay early he would have been able to alert Fay to her behaviour and how it was affecting others.
She would have had an opportunity to talk about her workload and how she was feeling.

It is very common for individuals to be promoted without making sure their level of competence is right for the role. As humans, we sometimes don’t like to admit what we are lacking in terms of skills and abilities.

We need to act fast. Having regular one-to-ones with your staff builds rapport, trust and provides a forum for honest conversations.
It is easy for bad behaviour to become the norm and over time will form part of the culture. Calling out these behaviours early sends a positive message, but you need to have a suitable working environment, a place of work where no-one is exempt from having their bad behaviours called out. I will be talking about culture and behaviours in the series.

In my experience, preparation is key for having meaningful conversations. Here are some ideas to take the difficult out of your difficult conversation:

  • Have your facts in order. Whether you are asking for a pay rise of giving constructive feedback to the scariest member of your team, know what your message is.
  • Evidence is key. Have back-up for the positive and constructive points you want to make. The first thing you will hear in retort to your first statement is “give me an example”
  • Prepare your opening statement, make it 30 seconds max and practice saying out loud. Once you’ve said it, your brain and mouth will remember the words, you are less likely to stumble over your words. This will give you confidence to get your words out.
  • State what needs to change or be done and by when.
  • Take some of the responsibility, be part of the solution. Ask what you can do to help the individual succeed.
  • Ask questions, put yourself in the other persons shoes.
  • Let the person react with whichever emotion comes up for them. You should always remove yourself from danger but in my experience, it is never as bad as you have imagined it.
  • Give yourself plenty of time, don’t book a room for 15 minutes, always over estimate the time it will take so you both have freedom to talk without being interrupted too early.
  • Consider the space, don’t have a meaningful conversation in the kitchen or open plan office, consider the content might be confidential.
  • Return to the conversation if required, don’t leave it too long.

Seeing a difficult conversation as a meaningful conversation is the first positive step to turning a problem into a solution. We can all be too busy to see what is going on around us but if we lift our heads up and take the time to talk to the people we work with, it can make the world of difference. Our actions (or lack of) have impact so we must take responsibility for them.

Feeling Stuck? Consider Coaching

As a professional Coach, I regularly see people nodding when they ask what I do for a living, they understand “yes, I do that, I coach as a manager, I give my team advice all the time”. Inside I’m screaming “that’s not what a coach does, you are mentoring your team, not coaching!!” I don’t want to be rude, so I say “oh, like mentoring? Coaching is about asking the right questions rather than giving the answers”. The conversation quickly moves on and I’ve lost the moment.

I do have a personal mission to make coaching mainstream for young people. Often senior executives and CEO’s are assigned a coach. Expectations are high so a coach will enhance performance and help create the best version of that person. For some, being assigned a coach carries an acknowledgement that you are being invested in. For some, it’s a secret as they see a coach as being a fixer or a counsellor, they must be doing something wrong, right?

I am here to set the record straight.

Coaching is a conversation with purpose. It is about the here and now and where you want to go.

Imagine the conversation:
“Mummy, I’m sad, I still can’t get to the top of the climbing frame and all my other friends can, I just can’t do it”

Mentor – “I saw you trying, and you keep missing the 3rd rung of the ladder to the platform, you need to get that bit right and you’ll make it. I’ll come and help you up”.

Counsellor – “Does this have anything to do with the time you fell off the climbing frame and your friends laughed at you?”

Coach – “Why do you think you can’t do it, what could you try differently next time?”

Now, this is a simplistic example purely to help illustrate the point. You have to decide what help you need first, all of these methods and many more have a place, not one is better than another.

In any home, school, organisation there is a time for telling. When a major incident is happening in A&E there is no time for questions “What is the best course of action here?”, someone is charged with getting patients where they need to be fast, they have the answer. The questions are likely to come in review, “what could have worked better today, what went well, what went less well?”

We don’t do our children’s homework for them, we let our teenagers make (some) of their own mistakes. Why? Because it’s the best way for them to grow and learn. We build a self-awareness and a resilience by trying it out for ourselves. Coaching is ultimately helping you figure it out for yourself in a safe, confidential and non-judgemental way.

Some typical coaching topics:

To perform better at work Expanded career opportunities Higher self-esteem
More confidence in myself A clearer understanding of my strengths and weaknessess New strategies for managing my business
Better work/life balance To maximise my potential  

This handy quiz helps to define what sort of help you need:

Feeling Stuck – Please click to download.

Get in touch if you think Coaching could shine a light on your future –