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4D Leadership

4D Leadership – Competitive Advantage Through Vertical Leadership Development

Twenty years ago the accumulation of skills, knowledge and experience (‘horizontal development’) was sufficient for business success. Today, it’s not. 4D Leadership – Competitive Advantage Through Vertical Leadership Development, offers a new approach of ‘vertical development’.

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The org-chart is dead: bridges, bottlenecks and everything in between

ona dead big

“Well he’s supposed to connect across the departments, he is the Chief Innovation Officer!” Mark* said incredulously.


Mark is our sponsor at one of the world’s biggest global distribution system operators and he could not believe what he was seeing in the data. We were feeding back the results of our Organisational Network Analysis (ONA) assessment. Mark’s reaction has become a common experience for us in the ONA team. Leaders expect their organisations to be operating along the lines of their organisational structure (or org-chart) and are often surprised when we find evidence to the contrary.

A rise in interdependencies between business functions and recent decades of technological progress have converged to change the way organisations operate. Connectivity is no longer defined by reporting lines – employees connect up, down and across departmental boundaries for functional, social and strategic reasons. This interconnectivity is not reflected in the traditional organisation structure and, if anything, is hindered by it.

The connections between people constitute networks which are critical for the operational and strategic performance of the organisation. Networks drive collaboration and information flow within an organisation and are a source of energy and support for employees. Networks also cultivate agility and trust within the system and help employees stretch their thinking. Networks capture, in real time, how an organisation operates, and that is often different from the formal organisational structure.

These networks of connections go undetected when looking through the framework of organisational structure. Organisational Network Analysis allows us to map these networks and show how an organisation is operating in reality.

The reality of organisational structures and networks can be revelatory for many leaders and Mark was no exception. Mark discovered that the Chief Innovation Officer (CIO) of the business was operating in a silo and not providing stretch (inspiring ideas in others) to the rest of the organisation. We also identified for Mark two key people who were providing stretch across different parts of the organisation. These two hidden influencers were not part of the traditional organisational hierarchy and as such invisible to someone looking at the organisation through the traditional organisational structure. These hidden influencers derive their influence from their position in the organisational network. They act as bridges between different parts of the organisation, and as bridges they are responsible for information flow and building trust and support.

It’s not just at an organisational level that ONA can offer great insights, at departmental levels too, ONA reveals the real patterns of interaction between different divisions and departments. A formal organisation structure describes where connectivity should exist between the departments, but not where is really exists. We often find that departments either do not connect to each other at all or rely on just one individual (a bridge) for their connectivity.

Depending on the context, a single bridge may not be an issue, but there is always a risk of these bridges turning into bottlenecks as we found in the case of Mark’s organisation.  Mark was surprised to find that the Solutions and Customer Sales and Support teams relied on one individual in a key leadership position to connect with each other and there was almost no connectivity between the two departments at lower work levels. This is not sustainable as such excessive functional demand on one individual has the potential for negative consequences in terms of wellbeing and attrition.

ONA is not all about discovering low levels of connectivity between people and departments, in some organisations we also see strong levels of connectivity where we would not expect it, such as between Marketing and Research & Development. In the case of Mark’s organisation, the strong connectivity between Marketing and Research & Development was a reflection of their co-location but it can also be a result of other factors, such as leadership team initiatives to encourage closer co-operation. One key actionable insight from such cases of strong connectivity is to learn from the two teams and replicate their behaviour across the organisation.    

Modern organisations have transformed from being rigid organisational structures made up of departments and divisions to fluid networks of individuals and relationships. The key now is for leaders to understand and uncover the networks within their organisations so that they can leverage the power of these relationships and transform their business. ONA is an essential tool in understanding the modern organisation and thriving in an increasingly fast-paced and agile world.


Find out more about our Organisational Network Analysis offering here.



*names have been changed to maintain confidentiality




Body image and emotions: what’s the connection?




“Our views of our body image – what’s on the outside – are directly affected by our emotions on the inside.”


This year, Mental Health Awareness Week is focusing on body image. Let’s be honest, we’ve all been unhappy with some aspect of our appearance at some point in our lives, but that off-hand musing gets serious when it starts to impact our mental health.


Interestingly, our views of our body image – what’s on the outside – are directly affected by our emotions on the inside. Our feelings about our proportions, our hair, our flabby arms are all driven by an emotional response. And that emotional response is something we can choose to change – from a negative, critical voice, to a positive, inspiring one.


It’s not just about telling ourselves that we look beautiful, it’s about a fundamental emotional shift. But how can we achieve this shift? We teach our coachees a technique called the SHIFT skill to help them manage their emotional state. Read on to find out more about this skill and how you can use it to take control of your own emotions.


The SHIFT Skill


Most of the approaches people use to deal with negative moods or stress (e.g. exercise, relaxation, alcohol, commiserating with family or friends) cannot be done in the heat of the moment. The SHIFT skill is designed to enable you to change the way you feel at any moment of the day. When you change the way you feel, one of the consequences is that you will create a shift in your perceptual awareness.


This is the SHIFT process:

Stop and shift your attention to your

Heart, breathe through this area

Induce a positive emotion

Feel it in your body and allow it to

Turn the brain back on and notice your insights


The ability to change how you feel on demand, under any circumstance, is genuinely life-changing. You never have to feel anything you don’t want to feel ever again.


SHIFT is one of a number of techniques that Complete Coherence coaches teach their coachees. Get in touch to find out more about our coaching programmes and how these programmes offer demonstrable ROI for you and your business.


Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. The medical mental health information provided here is for general informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice.


If you’re experiencing a mental health problem or supporting someone else, the NHS has a list of mental health helplines you can call for immediate help.


The Samaritans helpline is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, for people who want to talk in confidence. Call 116 123 (free).


Podcast: Organisational Network Analysis and the future of HR

ONA Marketing (2)


“In a world where we need speed, hierarchies have to be challenged. Working collaboratively through networks is essential for the future.”


In this podcast from Changeboard, listen to Dr. Alan Watkins talk about Organisational Network Analysis in the context of the future of HR with Unilever’s Chief HR Officer, Leena Nair. They cover the biggest challenges facing businesses right now, the power of ONA to overcome these challenges, and how the HR function will look in the future.

The Organisational Network Analysis discussion starts at 13:10.

You can find out more about how the ONA could help your business here.



The robots are coming – AI anxiety: Why you’re not alone and what you can do about it


Brain AI

It’s no wonder people feel anxious. Faced with predictions that 20-50 percent of all jobs will disappear as a result of developments in artificial intelligence (AI) over the next 10-30 years, we would all be forgiven for being concerned about the future. When once we might have yearned for the days when we could be released from the drudgery of work, we are now scared by it. And it’s not just low-skilled jobs that could be affected, AI applications are already threatening to usurp professions like doctors, lawyers, bankers etc.

The headlines might be doom-laden, but I am much more optimistic, and here’s why …

It’s not happening as fast as you may think

While the future predictions of what an AI-world will look like are probably realistic, the timeline for change has been exaggerated. Ray Kurzweil, for example, predicted that we will hit singularity (the moment when the computing power of an average laptop will exceed the computing power of the entire human race) by 2035. In fact, AI experts now estimate that moment to come in around 2070. We’re not doubting that change will come, but it’s not happening as fast as you may think.

Computers aren’t going to have consciousness anytime soon

It’s important to distinguish between specific AI and general AI. Specific AI is algorithmically driven and accelerating very fast. It’s the kind of technology that enables machines to drive cars, to diagnose better than physicians, to organise the logistics of an entire trucking company across a country, win a game of chess, etc. General AI, on the other hand, is the ability of AI to mimic human thinking in a much more fluid way rather than just following algorithms and offering superfast search functionality. General AI is proceeding much more slowly. Admittedly, once we can code human consciousness into a machine, we will see a second explosion in the AI evolution, but that’s a considerable way off. If you’re interested in the broader ethical and moral challenges presented by General AI, look out for my forthcoming book “AI Immortality – Digital Revolution and Human Evolutions”. There we cover all this AI futurology and its implications for the human race.

AI can work with us, not against us

With AI, we have the opportunity to create a symbiotic relationship that accelerates human evolution. We are already using our mobile phones as extensions of ourselves. Gone are the days that we need to remember anyone’s phone number. The memory on our mobile phone takes care of that and many more bits of information such as addresses, where were we last week and even what we had for dinner. But as AI progresses it will increasingly become a learning and development aide. Not just because we access information that helps us ‘knowledge up’, but because smart apps can guide us to become a more able human being. The first and easiest way to achieve this is of course through fitness type apps that track our steps, our exercise regimes and, on our request, prompt us to do more. But this will be increasingly augmented by apps that do the same for our mental and emotional wellbeing, as well as our moral and social development. Such apps can drive us forward, help us evolve as a species and become much more sophisticated human beings.

However, and here’s my only word of warning, this positive prediction can only be realised if the people developing AI applications have ego maturity and sophistication themselves.

Reducing AI anxiety with the power of the mind

How AI develops and how well it helps us to develop ourselves really depends on the quality of our own thinking. Our thinking about ourselves, each other and AI. I am inspired by the quality of the human mind in general and some human minds in particular. We can, if we code our future apps well enough, accelerate our own ego maturity, emotional regulation and social capability. This increased sophistication will not only help us manage the fears presented by the doom-laden predictions, it will also help us build the critical thinking capabilities and emotional intelligence required to ensure AI is a force for good in the world.

As a first step, individuals can start to understand their current stages of development and what may lie ahead on their personal journey. For more details on this see 4D Leadership where I explain how relationships can evolve for the better and what the more advanced stages of human development are. AI can take such maps of human development and help us make faster progress in our relentless pursuit to become who we are all truly capable of becoming.

News: Dr Alan Watkins on anger management for BBC Radio Stoke

radio stoke

 Dr Alan Watkins on anger management for BBC Radio StokeDr Alan Watkins was invited to appear as a guest on BBC Radio Stoke with James Watt, answering listener’s questions about stress and anger management. The interview focused on:

James Watt asked listeners to get in touch with questions for Dr Alan, regarding times that they, or someone they knew had felt stressed or angry.

“Chances are you, or someone you know will have gone through a period where you have been stressed to the point, that it affects your day to day life. Life is complicated, there’s so many things you can’t control, so much going on, the pace of life seems so much quicker, it’s no wonder so many of us are stressed out. Stress is the main cause of time off work in the UK…”


Click below to listen to the full interview


Your heart-brain connection

Your heart brain connection

Your heart brain connection

The connection between our minds and bodies has always fascinated me, and I’m not alone. The theme is popular in movies – Limitless, Inception and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind to name a few – and the topic is increasingly common in conversation at work too.

Mindfulness is now more widely applied and accepted in corporate life. But, I believe the idea of a ‘mind-body connection’ can create the illusion that our minds are in total control of our bodies; that our brain, through the nervous system, is the CEO with complete jurisdiction over our body.

It’s true that we consciously experience our mind in the ‘driving seat’, but we can also feel the opposite: that time the answer was on the tip of our tongue, but we just couldn’t recall it; that time we blurted out something angrily, and wondered where it came from; and, that time we froze like a rabbit in headlights, and couldn’t do or say anything.

In reality the brain is one of many interdependent systems that are constantly exchanging physiological signals with each other.

In fact, the most powerful signal in the body is the heart beat – it has around fifty times the electrical power of the brain. It needs that power to co-ordinate the pulsing contractions of the heart. When the heart rate – the beats per minute – fluctuates wildly it generates a chaotic electrical signal that travels through the nervous system into the brain. This impairs frontal lobe function reducing our perceptiveness, clarity, creativity and inhibitions. Under extreme pressure the chaotic signal can cause complete brain shut down, as if we have given ourselves a lobotomy!

Brain ‘shutdown’ evolved as a useful survival mechanism to stop time-consuming thinking when we were under threat and limit us to a speedy reaction of either fight/flight or freeze/faint. The problem is we still react this way even though we’re not encountering sabre-tooth tigers any more.

The good news is that if the heart rate varies in a regular, even way, instead of erratically, we generate a coherent signal that switches the frontal lobes of the brain back on. You can create coherence in the heart’s signal by regular, even breathing. When we are coherent we can recall memories more easily, speed up reaction time and think more clearly to choose our response. Our heart-brain connection is often overlooked, but it has a powerful impact on our performance.


How I came to realise the importance of being over doing….

How I came to realise the importance of being over doing

How I came to realise the importance of being over doingWe’ve all been there, you’ve had a really busy couple of weeks at work, you’re exhausted and then someone says something that upsets you, frustrates you or just gets on your nerves.

You then spend the next 12 hours feeling really distracted and unable to focus on the task at hand – ‘the doing’. Your entire working day gets disrupted because you haven’t taken the time to manage yourself and your emotions properly.

While this can be incredibly frustrating and disheartening, for me it was a real eye opener. I was feeling the pressure at work. It was busy, I was tired and then one small decision didn’t go the way that I had expected. The decision wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t what I wanted to hear. It would create a significant amount of work and it took me by surprise. I felt my heart rate increase, my hands started to shake and I could feel the anxiety surging through my body. My breathing rate increased, it was erratic and my head went fuzzy. I could not concentrate on what was being said. My mind would not focus on the here and now, instead I sat there holding back the tears.

At that very moment, the way I was being was drastically affecting what I was doing!

I got through the meeting but I had no clue what anyone had said to me. I was completely distracted and my entire working day was disrupted. By the end of the day I was still sat there feeling sorry for myself and wasting valuable time.

The next day, over my morning coffee, everything changed. It was as if someone had flicked a switch in my brain and everything became clearer. I realised that I was actually in charge of how I was being and only I could change it.

I said to myself ‘let it go’. It didn’t take me long to shift from total chaos to complete coherence (forgive the pun). I took myself out of the situation physically and mentally. I sat still, closed my eyes and just let myself breathe. It felt as though a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I was able to focus and be productive.

Four or five months passed. I managed to complete the extra project alongside my usual workload, but more than that, my team and manager noticed the change in me. As a result, I was given more responsibility and bigger projects, but most importantly the piece of work that had caused this chaos in the first place became enjoyable and, in fact, turned out to be one of my greatest achievements.

Now, the way I am being, impacts my doing in a positive way!

Are you a Cookie Cutter leader? What authentic leadership really means

Are you a Cookie Cutter leader

Are you a Cookie Cutter leader

I once led a two-year development programme for ten high potential leaders at a major car company. To be accepted on to the programme at all was tough; a rigorous five stage selection process weeded out those who said they wanted to develop from those few who were committed to doing so. By the time we began the programme, the people on the course were talented, experienced and eager to develop.

I began the entire programme by asking the great Goffey and Jones question: Why should anyone be led by you?  Being such a talented lot they had their answers prepared: “I get the work done”; “I am a team player”; “I think long term”. And then the classic, “I am authentic”. Everyone nodded sagely as we agreed that being authentic was the base line of 21st Century leadership.

Then I asked, “But what are you being authentic to?”


One answered, “Me. I am being authentic to me…”

“So who are you? What is the point of you? What is your purpose?”


“Because if you don’t know who you are, what your purpose is, how can you be authentic to yourself?”

This was a significant moment for all of the people on the programme. As they found answers to this question, the high flyers truly began to develop rather than just acquire new skills.  They uncovered why they wanted to lead, what truly motivated them to make a difference to their teams and their organisation. They realised that they need not be ‘cookie-cutter’ versions of a management template but the best versions of themselves.          

The experience of this highflying crowd is not unusual. If we ask almost any leader to articulate their own specific purpose, or reason for existence, they will often respond by describing their job, their role in the business or say something about supporting their family. None of these are really purpose. Purpose is more to do with the guiding theme of one’s life. The benefits of discovering our purpose are many – from clarifying daily tasks to maintaining motivation, from giving meaning to commercial activity and prioritising activities.

But perhaps the most important benefit is that we can truly be an authentic leader … and avoid that cookie-cutter cliché. 

For more on leadership, check out Dr Alan Watkins’ book, 4D Leadership: Competitive advantage through vertical leadership development.

What is mindfulness and how does it help?

What is mindfulness and how does it help


What is mindfulness and how does it help

Today, more and more, it seems that mindfulness is being touted as the solution to every problem. 

As someone who has had a mindfulness practice for over 10 years, I’m always amazed by the lack of clarity around what mindfulness is and how it will help.  There always seems to be an air of mystery around it and how it works. 

To me, mindfulness is about being mindful. 

Whether we like it or not, we are programmed by our life experiences, whether it’s our attitude to friendships, relationships or money. We have so much subconscious programming and, for the most part, it’s running in the background without anyone questioning whether it’s even reliable or relevant. 

Mindfulness is really about bringing awareness to this subconscious programming – becoming more mindful of it. 

How does this happen?  By increasing our own self-awareness. 

The practice of mindfulness is about developing self-awareness, which we then apply in our everyday lives. 

So when we are on our yoga mat or meditation cushion, the practice is to be self-aware.  How active is the voice in our head and what is it saying?  Are we judging others or ourselves or feeling smug and self-satisfied?  Are we kind to ourselves or cruel? Do we hold ourselves up to impossible standards?  What are we feeling?

Creating this awareness is the first stage of a mindfulness program. 

The next stage is learning to concentrate on what we are doing so that we block out that voice in our heads. Eventually we learn to control it so that our mind becomes our servant, at our disposal when we need it, rather than living our lives like a puppet on a string.  When we can do this we are fully present. 

When we are fully present, life slows down. We are less distracted and more able to concentrate on what is happening around us. We take in more data, start to appreciate multiple perspectives and start to respond (consciously) rather than react (unconsciously) to what is going on in our life. 

Whether in our private life or in our work life, being able to respond rather than react is a skill that can change the manner of our interactions with others, improve the quality of our decision-making and increase our enjoyment of life. 

That is why mindfulness is the greatest gift we can give to ourselves and those around us and why it may just deserve to be touted as the solution to every problem. 

Get in touch to find out how to become more mindful in your life.

Why doing less can help you achieve more

doing less

doing lessAs a leader doing more with less is often the demand that is made of us isn’t it?

In my 20 years of corporate life and over 15 as a consultant I have attended lots of meetings. Many seemed to result in agreeing lists of new projects or initiatives and assigning numerous actions mostly to those present, and even sometimes to others who weren’t even in attendance!

Rarely was there any assessment of current workloads, or of the relative priority of the existing work versus any new tasks. In many cases the fear of being seen not to take action seemed to drive people to take action for action’s sake. I know that some of the demands put upon me in my corporate days, while well intentioned, often struck me as ‘make work’ initiatives. This work rarely appeared to add value and often diverted limited resources away from the immediate task at hand.

So, what should we do?

Step back and evaluate what is being asked of you in light of your purpose, ambition and strategy. Which activities currently on your ‘to do’ list are really helping move you forward?

This can be a very illuminating exercise. You might be surprised to discover just how many items you could transfer to a ‘stop do’ list! I have rarely heard leaders ask: “What will we not do to make space for these new actions?” However, it is an incredibly useful question to pose.

Stepping back and even stepping up to take a higher perspective can help executives see that a singular focus on ‘doing’ ignores two other really important dimensions. The world of ‘doing’ in which most executives live exclusively doesn’t make room for either ‘being’ or ‘relating’. These are two extremely important dimensions. While they may seem irrelevant to your world of ‘doing’, they are in fact super important for getting stuff done!

When we focus on our being we give ourselves a real opportunity to be at our best, to be really clear about our purpose, better placed to manage our energy and, most importantly, to think clearly as we make decisions.

Of course making space for ‘relating’ (the third dimension) has another benefit for leaders. Great relaters build high performing teams more quickly, influence others and engage them in helping drive results. They also have more meaningful discussions on difficult topics and are better informed.

So by stopping ‘doing’ or at least by doing less and by paying attention to ‘being’ and ‘relating’ we can find that we achieve more, in fact a lot more.

For more on the four dimensions of leadership, read Dr Alan Watkins’ latest book: 4D Leadership: Competitive Advantage Through Vertical Leadership Development

Harness the power of your emotions

Dr Alan Watkins has been interviewed by CityAM this morning, following his guest appearance at Changeboard’s Future of Talent Conference in London yesterday. For all of you that couldn’t make it Dr Alan Watkins wrote a piece on how to harness the power of your emotions in CityAM’s March paper.


Video: Dr Alan Watkins at Future Talent 2016



Have you ever considered how you ‘show up in the world’? alan

Dr Alan Watkins, CEO of Complete Coherence, brought a thought provoking session to the stage. He revealed the three dimensions of becoming a great leader, always considering: how you do things, who you are, and how you relate to other people, is just for starters – and once you have accomplished that you can take it to the next level, the fourth dimension. Watkins also referenced how the power of the human spirit, emotional intelligence and authenticity can give today’s leaders a competitive advantage too. Time to take your mind (and leadership skills) to a new dimension.



Watch: Dr Alan Watkins full presentation

Watch: Dr Alan Watkins exclusive Q&A

Stop blaming others and start owning the solution

Stop blaming others

Back in 2003, I was asked a question by my coach that changed the course of my career. 

The question:  What makes you think the organization is sexist?

With that question, and my inability to give a credible answer, something changed for me. I stopped attributing every slight, real or imagined, to sexist behavior in a male-dominated work place and instead started to reflect on how my own behaviors might be impacting on the outcomes I achieved. 

I observed myself and my colleagues more closely and realised that not only was I doing things that were limiting my impact within the organisation, I was failing to do things that would raise my profile and increase my credibility. 

Not attributing my failures to a sexist work environment changed my attitude and that change in attitude changed my behaviors, which in turn changed the impact I was able to have. 

So whenever we find ourselves attributing lack of recognition for our efforts to ageism, sexism, racism or any other “ism”, gather the evidence and review it. 

If there is clear, overwhelming evidence of bias, we should work out a plan to manage ourselves out of the situation we are in.  If the evidence is not clear or overwhelming, it’s time to be objective and honest about how our behaviour might be contributing to the outcomes we are achieving.  

From there, we can stop blaming others for our situation and instead take responsibility for our behaviour and for finding a solution.  

Check out our coaching and development services to find out how you can stop blaming others and start fixing things.

Are you “all there”?

Are you all there

If you are a James Bond fan you will be familiar with the character of Q. A geeky individual who comes up with some very clever stuff that helps Bond maintain his edge. Well, at Complete Coherence we are lucky enough to have our very own Q, or “O” as well call him (his name is Orowa Sikder). Having an “O” is an invaluable asset in any company especially when you’re using science to facilitate human development. O is one of the most brilliant people I have come across. O was crunching numbers the other day on our Leadership Values Profile (LVP), one of our developmental assessments built to measure the sophistication of an individual’s values. We´ve done a few thousand now which means that O has a lot of data to work with.

One thing the LVP can reveal is how different your values may be in your personal life compared to your values at work. O noticed a pattern that he brought to our attention. Specifically, the values of individuals in an organization often tend toward an organisational norm. In contrast the value systems the same individuals operate from at home are much more diverse. This suggests that many organisations are either creating a monoculture or that many people do not bring all of their uniqueness to work.

This may not be that surprising. After all, we know that our values are predominantly forged by our circumstances and inner development. But it does spark a couple of questions:

  1. What is happening in an organization to make people feel they can’t bring all of themselves to work? Is it costing them energy to ‘play the part’ when they show up?
  1. Are you, as a leader, inadvertently suppressing the diversity around the table to such an extent that you are killing meaningful debate and impairing the wisdom of the crowd?

Which brings us to the main point of my blog. Diversity in business is not just a matter of ethnicity, race, age, education or sexual orientation. The real power of diversity comes from people with different value systems which drive different view points, different ways they the see the world, offering multiple perspectives to generate more innovative answers.

In order to unlock the disruptive and innovative power of the crowd, we need to have more meaningful debates to generate better results and more sophisticated nuanced solutions. In a VUCA world we need teams and organizations with greater values diversity.

To understand how to unlock the power of diversity and develop your organization’s true competitive advantage you might find the blog by my colleague and CEO Dr. Alan Watkins helpful. Or even his recent book, 4D Leadership: Competitive Advantage Through Vertical Leadership Development.

My mum, coherence and me




At Complete Coherence we’ve have been looking into the effect that Heart Rate Variability (HRV) on business performance for over 18 years. It’s a matter very close to our hearts (sorry for the pun!). It’s also a fundamental part of our work with leaders as we help them improve their resilience and capacity.

Luckily for me, my family and friends are keen to hear about my work and the techniques we use in our coaching sessions, in particular how we coach people to maintain ‘coherence’.

So, when my Mum called me earlier this week to tell me about her most recent corporate medical exam I was concerned – why was she calling me to tell me about her medical exam? What was wrong? Panic struck! She explained that the session was one hour long and focused on all the usual tests; personal medical history, lifestyle questionnaire, height and weight measurements, body mass index (BMI) calculation etc. She then said: “When they had completed all the tests they said something very surprising…”
Oh no, I thought.

“The physician asked to test my coherence!” Wait? What?

My mum told me that after they measured her coherence (she scored a spectacular 85%) the Doctor explained that coherence underpins emotional regulation and as a result performance – I nearly fell off my chair! It’s exactly what we talk about all the time in our executive coaching work.

That medical organisation is now advising businesses that coherence is vitally important in performance. Furthermore, if the individual scores a low coherence percentage they are told that their capacity for mental focus could be improved. This message is completely aligned with what we teach our clients every day and most importantly how we try to live our own lives.

If you want to find out what coherence can really do for your performance why not watch Dr Alan Watkin’s TEDx Talk – Being Brilliant Every Single Day

Getting to the heart of performance

The Heart Rate Variability (HRV) white paper explains how HRV is crucial to effective decision making and therefore your performance. It describes how you can learn to take control of your HRV to become a truly authentic leader and be brilliant every day. 

Click the link below to download our HRV white paper.

HRV White Paper


Companies need people who can think high quality thoughts on a consistent basis. They need innovators, who are able to generate great ideas, spot opportunities and define the things that provide a competitive advantage. The way we really get ahead and stay ahead is to become smarter than everyone else. And that starts with physiology.

Believe it or not, your heart is not just a pump; it is directly relevant to business performance and results. We know that there is a proven connection between Heart Rate Variability (HRV) and performance. A 24-hour HRV assessment can reveal how much energy a leader has, whether that energy is being used efficiently or being drained unnecessarily, leaving them feeling exhausted, or whether they have enough energy in their tanks to get them moving and last the course. We can then use this data to know exactly what they need to do to improve. This can make the difference between a stellar and a mediocre career. The good news is that we gain more energy and think more clearly if we learn to influence our HRV.


Blog: The power of the team

The power of the team

The power of the team

We are in the midst of a summer of sporting success in the UK. At the Rio Olympics, so far Team GB have brought home a gold and 3 silvers in the pool, and a bronze in both the synchronised diving and shooting events. Earlier in the summer, Chris Froome became Britain’s first three-time winner of the Tour de France as part of Team Sky and Andy Murray became Wimbledon champion for the second time – crediting his relationship with coach Ivan Lendl as being key to his ongoing success.

In contrast to this, the England football team were knocked out of the early stages of Euro 2016 by Iceland, a tiny nation whose entire population is the size of a small English city. In the English Football Premier League, Leicester City made dreams come true, beating bigger and much better financed teams to take the winner’s trophy. Watching events unfold in the English Football Premier League and in the Euro 2016 competition in France, an interesting theme seemed to emerge about talent and teamwork. On paper, Leicester City, who took the Premiership title, should not have been in the running. The same seems to be true for Italy, Iceland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Pundits had very low expectations of these teams achieving any success, even in the group qualifying rounds. Yet, in the final we saw Portugal prevail over a powerful French team to win the European Cup. In both of these examples, neither Iceland or Leicester City had more money or more access to talent than their competition. So what was it that made the difference?

The expert commentators consistently expressed their view that a focus on teamwork and a well-understood system of play, had proved to be more important to success than the presence of supreme individual talent on the pitch.

This comes as no surprise to our practitioner team at Complete Coherence. For the best expression of our talents in business or in team sports, we need not only a competitive game plan (vision and strategy), but also collective cohesion and alignment to a way of playing (a system). Together with, clarity of roles and expectations, deeper bonds and mutual understanding of our personal qualities and high levels of trust is what drives success.

Developing the power of the team requires both attention to individual skills and the development of collective will. One without the other will lead to sub optimal performance. For a team to develop, leaders must engage their teams in developmentally focused discussions. These discussions answer fundamental questions, such as what is our purpose, what is our vision and ambition, and what is our strategy for success.

Teams must also establish high performing relationships and that can only be done through an examination of the way we play, the qualities we value, and the behaviours that evidence our progression to the next and higher levels of team performance.

 Click here For more information on how Complete Coherence approach team development.

News: Crowdocracy hits Los Angeles

LA 2

LAThe Icelandic Pirate Party, one of Europe’s most popular political groups has hit the headlines across the pond, featuring in an article in the Los Angeles Times. The Pirate Party continues the vogue to return power to the people and it this new vision for democracy that warrants a reference in the article to Complete Coherence’s Alan Watkins and Iman Stratenus’ latest book – “Crowdocracy”.

Pirate Party supporters conceive of a world without lobbyists, bureaucrats and career politicians and envisage major legislation – on subjects as varied as taxes, copyrights and foreign affairs – being proposed by ordinary people and voted on in a national referendum. This is a movement built on the idea that a new culture of technology can breed civic engagement and government accountability – and allow for a more direct form of democracy.

This links very closely to the critical ideas explored in “Crowdocracy” – who decides our future and how should we be governed? And a copy of the book sits ubiquitously on the coffee table of the Pirate Party headquarters.

“The old system is not totally going to blow up, but we can shift responsibility from the close-knit circle of the political elite to the people themselves,” said Finnur Gunnthorsson, a local Icelandic Pirate Party leader.

“Crowdocracy” offers a radical new way forward, one that allows all of us – not just some of us – to participate in how we are governed. Using technology and the insights of crowd wisdom, we can replace our elected officials and ultimately shape and govern our communities. The Icelandic pirates have focused on reforming the amorphously written and much criticized constitution, relaxing Internet copyright standards, increasing government transparency and accountability and remedying income inequality. In the process of doing all this, they could also provide a laboratory – and an inspiration – for Pirate Parties elsewhere. 

Click here to read the full article featured in the Los Angeles Times


News: Complete Coherence at the Olympics


Complete Coherence at the Olympics

Complete Coherence have been working closely with GB Rowing Team over the last four years and in particular in the run up to the Olympic Games in Rio. Like the rest of the nation we will be excitedly following the journey of the athletes through the games and we will keep you posted of their progress here.


The GB eights brought the Rio 2016 Olympic regatta to a glorious conclusion as they won gold and silver in the space of 30 minutes on another truly Super Saturday. The women’s eight produced a charge through the field in the second half of the race to go from last to second, claiming silver in a thrilling photo-finish.

It was another moment of rowing history on the Lagoa, being the first Olympic medal won by a British women’s eight, and helped to ensure that GB finished top of the Rio 2016 rowing medal table with three golds and two silvers.

It may have been a first Olympic medal for a women’s eight but it was a third silver for Frances Houghton who, like Katherine Grainger, was appearing at a record fifth Olympic Games for a British female rower.

“This fifth Olympics has been really great,” she said. “We’ve really tried to make sure we’ve had a good time. Even before the race we sat around and we were laughing and joking together. Sport can be so much pressure but at the same time, sport is supposed to be fun and a great experience. It’s something you do that you enjoy and you pursue because you like to be challenged.”

Jess Eddie, fifth with the eight in both 2008 and 2012, dedicated the success to the British women rowers who had been part of the programme during the past two decades.

“We’ve worked so hard to get here and it’s not just us, we did that for every single woman who has rowed in the eight for the past 20 years – you know who you are, you helped us get over this line.”

Sir David Tanner, Team GB Leader for Rowing, said: “With three outstanding golds and two superb silvers, our 26 rowing medallists have done TeamGB proud at these Olympics. 26 rowers will be returning home having achieved their dreams here in Rio. To be top of the rowing medal table for the third successive Olympics is something to be truly proud of.

“Well done to our rowers and the outstanding Coaching and Team Support staff, not only out here in Rio but those at home who backed us all the way.”


Helen and Heather, lived up to their billing as gold-medal favourites, dominating the final in the women’s pairs race. They successfully defended their Olympic title from 2012 and are now unbeaten in 39 races, a winning run that stretches back five years and became the first-ever British women to successfully defend an Olympic title as they repeated their heroics from Eton Dorney.

Glover said: “It’s really difficult to put this feeling into words. To defend your title is something very, very special. The first time we did it, it took a long time to realise we were Olympic champions and it was all new to us. This time round, we crossed the line and we were 2016 champions and we felt like that straight away.”


In the women’s pair Katherine Grainger and Vicky Thornley won a silver medal, showing their class to come through a turbulent season, and step up to row the race of their lives. They fought bravely, taking the tactic to go out hard and lead from the front. When they crossed the finish line, they not only won a silver of Goliathan proportions, but propelled Grainger into the all-time records books – Katherine Grainger is now GB’s most decorated female Olympian of all time.

Grainger said of the race and their early lead:  “I don’t think you ever feel like you are going to win but we were ahead and it felt good. It was certainly a dramatic race”.

Helen Glover and Heather Stanning were equally impressive in their semi-final today in the women’s pair, taking an early and substantial lead before going on to win comfortably. This was a marked step up in performance after a luke-warm first race in the early heats, not an easy task in the middle of an Olympic Regatta, but a challenge they were well prepared for going into the games. 


In the double sculls today, five-times Olympian Katherine Grainger and her partner, Vicky Thornley, produced a consummate semi-final to reach Thursday’s final in second place behind Poland in an event which saw the World Champions fall by the wayside in the opposing heat.

Thornley said: “It’s good to come through. Semis are always very tense. We are now looking forward to Thursday and we know that we can do more and better”. Grainger added: “We always said that we would take this regatta one race at a time and we have been doing that.”.

The weather and the water conditions are more settled than they were earlier in the week, and the stage is set for some exciting finals over the next few days – we can’t wait! 


The GB women’s eight paced their heat to perfection to break through a New Zealand lead in the final 500m to win and take a place in Sunday’s final. The win was revenge for their defeat to the Kiwis at the season’s final world cup event prior to the games. 

In the women’s lightweight double sculls Kat Copeland and Charlotte Taylor were fifth in their heat and now race a repechage.
Taylor remaining upbeat about their chances said: “I guess the disappointing thing is that we haven’t shown what we can do.  We need to deconstruct what we have just done and put it all back together again for tomorrow’s repechage”.

In the women’s pair hot favourites Helen Glover and Heather Stanning were pushed extremely close but came through a stiff Danish challenge to win their opening heat of the 2016 Olympic regatta in 7:05.05.
The Olympic, World and European Champions needed a powerful flourish at the end to secure the win.

Stanning said:  “The important thing today was to get into the semi-finals and we did that. It definitely wasn’t a bad row but it wasn’t an exceptional row either”.

Glover added: “On time and on margin that was a tough race but we have experienced having to dig deeper in other races and in training”.


Team GB’s rowers booked one quarter-final and three semi-final slots on the Lagoa de Freitas today despite tough racing conditions provoked by the wind.

In the women’s double sculls Vicky Thornley and Katherine Grainger produced a solid performance to come home second behind the 2013 World Champions from Lithuania and move into the semis of the open women’s doubles scull on Tuesday.

The GB boat led in the early part of the race before being overtaken in the final 250m. Grainger said:  “It was good to get it done today and get out of the heats but it’s going to be do or die from here.  Every crew will think they have what it takes to get into that final”.


Blog: If Summer is leaving you hot and bothered

If Summer is leaving you hot and bothered, cool off with these tips

If Summer is leaving you hot and bothered, cool off with these tips

Summer can leave us all feeling hot and bothered (yes, even in the UK). With additional worries such as arranging child care, holidays and of course trying to navigate the great British weather, we all need to take a bit of time to look after ourselves.

When we find ourselves feeling a little stressed, our natural inclination is to brush it off and say ‘I’m fine, I’m fine, I’ll deal with it later’. However, all that does is leave an unresolved tension niggling away in the background. That kind of background ‘noise’ can affect our performance or the quality of the time we spend with our families. Rather than put it off, deal with it now.

Try this to help: BREATHE, and no I don’t mean take a deep breath, I mean stop and focus on maintaining a fixed ratio of the “in” breath to “out” breaths. The exact ratio is less important than keeping the ratio fixed. You want to ensure there is even flow of air, in and out. Finally focus your attention on your heart or chest area, this will help to create a positive emotional state and move you away from the feeling of being hot and bothered.

Go on try it. See how you shift from a negative state to a positive one. You are now in a state where you can take on the world … or failing that, you’ll be in a much better position to deal with whatever got you all hot and bothered in the first place!

Remember BREATHEBreathe Rhythmically, Evenly and Through the Heart Everyday.



Blog: From having it all to integrating it all

Having it all

From having it all to integrating it all

“Having it all” – remember the term? As in “She has it all.  A great career, wonderful husband, perfect children, a lovely house, body of a 20 year old and permanently manicured nails.” It was the achievement bar that was high and essentially unachievable. The result? Many people suffered from a sense of shame and or felt they just weren’t good enough.

Think about the practicality of many of our day-to-day lives. Entering into a long-term relationship can be scary enough. Then having children takes the word commitment to an entirely new level. It’s not just the added sense of responsibility, it’s the practical management of our lives as parents – schooling, netball, swimming, rugby, athletics, parties, sleep overs, camps, parents evenings, sports days, carol concerts – not even mentioning the times when the kids get sick or break a leg. We’re often left with a feeling of overwhelm, with a strong under-current of immense love and compassion for your angels. Albeit a love and compassion that is frequently challenged by behavior that you hoped they might have grown out of.

So let’s stop trying to ‘have it all’ and integrate it all instead. Here are my top six tips for integrating it all:

  1. Work is part of life. I used to get my knickers in a very big twist over all of this. How could I possibly work and be perfect in all these areas? Of course the answer is – you can’t. But you can integrate such that you no longer see “work” and “life” as two separate departments. Instead ask yourself: How do I/we want life to be? What is my/our ideal day, week, month, year? How do I/we want to feel at the end of the week?
  1. Get help where you can. Take a look at what support you have around you or could get easy access to. Can a relative help or maybe you could get an au pair or your partner could structure their working hours differently?
  1. Good enough is the new perfect. It is extremely helpful if you don’t have a need to be perfect at everything. Try repositioning perfection as the enemy or at least make “good enough” your new perfect.
  1. Sleep is essential. An hour before sleep time, try to reduce stimulation from news programmes, email, phone or anything else that your brain will spend a long time analyzing. How much sleep is enough? You will know when you wake up refreshed and make it easily through the day.
  1. Discover your purpose. Our purpose drives our feelings, thoughts and actions. It enables us to get out of bed in the morning, do what we need to do, stay emotionally buoyant and gives us energy at the required times. There are many good books on finding your purpose or read my colleague, Alan Littlefield’s, blog on the subject.
  1. Be kind to yourself. I have found one of the most powerful ways to integrate all that is happening is by embodying kindness and compassion to self. For many people it is easier to be kind to others, but to genuinely feel this for yourself, you need to give yourself permission not to be perfect all the time and more importantly, to BE yourself. One way to do this is to create 10-15 minutes in the morning before other people in the house wake up and allow yourself to breathe – ideally rhythmically, smoothly and, if you can, imagine breathing through the heart. Allow that heart area to open and feel that “I am enough”. I may not be perfect but I am enough. Just observe the thoughts and feelings that float in and out of your awareness. Keep breathing. You can read my earlier blog on the BREATHE technique for more details on this.

So, stop trying to have it all, instead integrate.


Brexit is a rejection of politics

For more on crowdocracy and a new future for politics, read our book Crowdocracy – The End of Politics.

At least in theory a referendum is supposed to be a true example of democracy – a chance for the voice of the people to be heard. Unfortunately, a referendum in our current political structure becomes an opportunity for mob rule.

When David Cameron triumphantly took office, with an unexpected electoral mandate, who would have predicted that he would gamble so flagrantly with his own future, the future of his party, friends, colleagues and the future of the nation? And that within a year his gamble would cause him to resign? Such irresponsibility suggests that he was probably dealing with a problem so complex that he may have been ‘in over his head’ trying to manage forces beyond his ability to comprehend.

Underneath all of the noise about Brexit is a deep disenfranchisement with political elites, in fact elites in general. Those elites have been making decisions in their own interests and not in the interests of the people for years. And finally there has been a backlash on a massive scale. So rather than this referendum being a ringing endorsement of the democratic process, what it actually reveals is that our democracy is profoundly broken. We are so disenfranchised with political leaders (UK, US, Europe, in fact from almost anywhere in the world) that we mistrust their guidance and ability to serve our interests. We want our “independence day”. We want to be free from their self-serving nature. We want our power back. This is a global trend. The danger is that it manifests as a divisive, ethnocentric separatism. Let the crowd become a mob and unpleasant things can happen.  

The good news is that there is a way forward. A way that enables people to take back control from the political elite and come up with wiser answers – that way is crowdocracy. If the Brexit vote has shown anything, it’s that there is an overwhelming desire for the crowd to control its own destiny in every country in Europe. It’s difficult to do that with the current political architecture. There is an alternative; crowdocracy.

For more on crowdocracy and a new future for politics, read our book Crowdocracy – The End of Politics.

European ‘wickedness’ needs us to be wise not dumb

European ‘wickedness’ needs us to be wise not dumb



shutterstock_175682270Walking into work on Friday morning I saw people punching the air in triumphal excitement, while others sobbed. Depending on which way you voted, Brexit is either great news or terrible news.

The truth is far more complex.  The scale and complexity of this issue is so huge that no one can really tell you what the consequences will be. That’s why we’ve heard arguments at both ends of the spectrum: Brexit is good or bad for the economy, good or bad for immigration. The debate has clearly split the nation, divided families and been incredibly toxic with both sides claiming the same future. How is this even possible? It is because Europe is a ‘wicked’ issue.

Europe is not the only ‘wicked’ issue we face. In fact, we are generating an ever increasing list of such problems. We are now living in an ever increasingly unpredictable and uncertain world. Even the bookies, the ‘best’ predictors we have, got it wrong again. The emotional outpourings I saw on the streets this morning are a response to chaos, uncertainty and anxiety. So what must we all do now?

We have to manage our emotional response to the turbulence.


If we can learn to handle ourselves better in VUCA times then we develop the ability to chart a ‘wise’ way forward in the face of such wickedly complex problems.

Read more about my Wicked & Wise series of books, including the latest: Crowdocracy: The end of politics


Event: Praise at the Boyden World Conference


AW blog post

Dr Alan Watkins presented at the Boyden World Conference in the vibrant city of Copenhagen. His presentation on Being Brilliant Everyday got to the heart of many issues faced by us all in today’s complex and fast-paced world. As one delegate commented – “I was greatly impressed with your presentation and the content. It has given me insights that I was not previously aware of and was in need of”.

The conference brought together practitioners and experts in decision analysis across life sciences, oil and gas, high tech, fast-moving consumer goods, and other industry sectors. You can follow Dr Alan Watkins on twitter to hear more about upcoming talks and events.

Stop talking about CEO stress, start acting

Stop talking about CEO stress, start acting

Stop talking about CEO stress, start acting

Sadly, once again, we read headlines about the stresses facing CEOs – this time the suicide of a former chief executive of a major insurance firm. The pressures on such individuals can sometimes overwhelm. Surely, it’s now time to recognise this phenomenon and do something about it.


Doing something about it means getting over the macho preoccupation with such concepts as ‘the stiff upper lip, ‘working through the pain’ and ‘rationality not emotion’ in business. Instead, we need to understand our stress levels, develop emotional awareness and literacy and, most importantly, listen to our heart.


Download our white paper on Heart Rate Variability.


Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is a measure of the fluctuations or perpetual change in the interval between each individual heartbeat. It can predict illness and death, quantify energy levels and dynamism, and is intimately linked to brain function.


A simple, discrete 24-hour HRV assessment can give an incredibly powerful insight into stress and energy levels. It can highlight whether an executive is close to burnout or coping well. In my opinion, it should be a standard assessment for all senior leaders. We should not be waiting for more sad cases to hit the headlines, when there is proven science to spot the early warning signs and excellent methodologies to improve emotional well-being.


Get in touch to find out more about the Complete Coherence Leadership Energy Profile assessment, including a 24-hour Heart Rate Variability measure.


No Limits

No Limits Charity

There are No Limits when it comes to giving back!

Supporting others is an integral part of our business at Complete Coherence and integral to the way we live our lives. I consider myself very lucky to live a privileged life, surrounded by wonderful people and opportunities. But others, through no fault of their own have not been so blessed. To support those who have not been so fortunate I volunteer as a Trustee for No Limits. No Limits is an amazing charity that provides life changing support to vulnerable individuals, under the age of 26, living in Southampton.

No Limits CharityNo Limits runs a number of projects to support children and young adults in need, including: supporting the homeless by providing them with food, warmth and a safe place to go;  guiding people into education, a job and a home; helping individuals with substance, drug and alcohol abuse; supporting teenagers through pregnancy and providing invaluable care to those who have suffered sexual and physical abuse, as well as countless other projects and support.

No Limits has an open door policy allowing it to provide free and confidential information, advice, counselling, support and advocacy to all young people in need. Young adults may arrive at the centres desperate, alone and with nothing. No Limits is able to provide them with clothing, food, a safe place and most importantly a support network when they need it most. The charity helps young people explore issues, which are affecting their lives, and enables them to solve problems and make informed decisions about their future.

Many of the amazing staff at No Limits came to the charity when they  were experiencing difficulties with their own lives and are now living examples of the life changing services provided by this charity. It is truly remarkable to see how No Limits has changed so many lives and continues to support these individuals throughout their life journey.

My role as a Trustee involves sharing the business knowledge and skills I have gained over numerous years (far too many to mention! J).  The role allows me to give back to society in a very practical way and I know my skills are valuable in continuing the growth of No Limits. In addition to donating my time, knowledge and experience, I am able to provide resources from the wider team at Complete Coherence such as providing facilitators for key meetings.   

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is defined by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) as the continuing commitment by business to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as of the local community and society at large.  At Complete Coherence we do our utmost to adhere to this definition.  Certainly my work at No Limits is totally aligned with the latter two points. 

The reasons some CSR initiatives fail or you hear people talk about them as a box ticking exercise is that they are not seen as a by-product of doing business, but rather something that has to be complied with.  Just recycling batteries or paper or whatever it happens to be will have an impact, of course it will, however sustainable development that complies with the definition above is looking at CSR from multiple perspectives and taking action.  This is what we believe in at Complete Coherence; taking sustainable action in all areas of our day to day business lives. 

We fully support all our staff in contributing to the local community and society at large not just through the work we do on a daily basis but through all the extra-curricular activities they get involved in too.  This support is not always in monetary terms but by giving time and space during the working day to get involved in organisations like No Limits.  There is nothing more valuable you can give other than your time. 

Through my personal contribution at No Limits I have at times been shocked, heartbroken and devastated by the issues that surround young people in my beautiful hometown, but I have also been inspired, humbled and blessed to work with such resilient and humbling young people. To find out more about No Limits and how you can get involved visit their website.

Why you feel what you feel | Alan Watkins | TEDxOxford

Why you feel what you feel | Alan Watkins | TEDxOxford

Why the last question a CEO is ever asked could be the most important – how do you feel?

Why the last question a CEO is ever asked could be the most important

Read or watch any interview with a CEO and it will be all about performance of the business, profitability, growth, future plans, etc. Have you ever heard the interviewer, be that a journalist, stakeholder or chairman, ask how the CEO feels? No, neither have I. Yet the answer to that simple question could be the most revealing. In fact, it could be the best possible indicator of future performance. Here’s why …

A CEO’s ability to project a message with authority and be convincing is entirely dependent on what emotional state he or she is in. Unless they are a Shakespearean actor, they will not be able to disguise their true emotional state with strong words and confident gestures. A discerning journalist will know that something isn’t quite right. That could result in an editorial that questions the capability of the CEO, which in turn affects the share price and puts additional pressure on the leader. It’s clear that our emotional state is not something that can be ignored. It’s crucial that a CEO is able to legitimately get into the right emotional state when getting messages out to the market. 

Our emotional state is determined by our biology. Believe it or not, others can tell what’s going on inside bodies even if they aren’t equipped with x-ray vision. If you’re anxious, your heart will be racing. When your heart beats fast, that biological signal is actually radiated off the body. The journalist in our scenario may not have an ECG machine to know for sure, but they perceive an inconsistency between what the CEO is saying and the biological signals his or her body is emitting.                                                                                                    

Getting into the right emotional state means taking control of our biology. It’s something we talk about in more detail in the ‘I’ (being) dimension chapter of 4D Leadership. Only by getting down to the fundamental biological level can we genuinely get into the right emotional state. We appear confident and calm, when we feel that way from a biological level.

Far from emotions being something we factor out or ignore in business, they are actually central to a CEO’s ability to be convincing, persuasive and project confidence. The right kind of coaching can enable people to embody specific emotional states and that can have a direct impact on perceived authenticity, and ultimately performance.


54 miles towards four great causes – after the ride

L2B 4

We made it!

A huge thank you to everyone who sponsored us, we cycled the distance from London to Brighton in under 6 hours which we were both delighted with.

We also raised over £2,000 for our 4 nominated charities and would like to thank everyone for their support, we really couldn’t have done it without you all.

Many thanks

Leanne and Maryam

54 miles towards four great causes

Leanne and Maryam

At Complete Coherence we are really focused on giving back to the community and supporting those who have supported us at the lowest of times.

Nine months ago Carol’s daughter, Kelly, was severely injured when a horse kicked her in the head at her local stables. Kelly was treated at Southampton General Hospital on the Wessex Neuro Intensive Care Unit, where she was put into an induced coma for an agonising 22 days. At times the outcome looked bleak, but eventually, Kelly’s brain swelling reduced and she was taken out of the coma. Kelly demonstrated immeasurable determination and courage during six difficult months of rehabilitation. In fact she is so recovered that she has not only returned to riding, but is competing at the high standard she did prior to her accident.

We have been so inspired by Kelly’s courage and strength, we are taking on the huge challenge of cycling from London to Brighton on September 6th 2015, to raise money for the Wessex Neuro Intensive Care Unit. We aim to complete the 54 mile cycle in five or six hours; prior to this event neither of us had cycled more than eight miles!

We are real novices at cycling, but have used the skills that we have learnt from Complete Coherence to help us remain calm, and maintain our energy levels on those grueling 30 mile practice rides, in the pouring rain on a Sunday! 

It would really help us if you could support our efforts with a donation on our JustGiving page:

In addition to the Wessex Neuro Intensive Care Unit, our bike ride will also support three other fantastic charities that we feel close to:

  1. The Stubbington Ark in Portsmouth where animals can take refuge and heal until they are re-released or ready for rehoming. It costs £3,196 to keep the shelter running every day.
  2. Plan UK does a vast amount of work for children all around the world, having already helped 58 million girls. Plan’s ‘Because I am a girl’ campaign is working to end child marriage, free girls from violence, and provide them with an education.
  3. Heads up is a project that does some amazing work, providing support for students through a peer support network that allows individuals who have experienced, or are experiencing, a mental health condition to have a safe and comfortable environment to discuss their feelings. 

We’ll update you on our progress and would really appreciate your support.

Leanne and Maryam

TEDxPortsmouth – Dr. Alan Watkins – Being Brilliant Every Single Day (Part 1)

Being Brilliant Every Day
Part 1

TEDxPortsmouth – Dr. Alan Watkins – Being Brilliant Every Single Day (Part 2)

Being Brilliant Every Day
Part 2

TEDxPortsmouth – Dr. Alan Watkins – Being Brilliant Every Single Day (Part 3)

Future Talent Conference

Become a highly emotional and socially intelligent leader

Become a highly emotional and socially intelligent leader

Become a highly emotional and socially intelligent leader

We’ve explored the misunderstanding that you can take emotions out of business and indeed, explained how emotions are actually essential to decision-making. So, where do you start? What is the first step in changing yourself and becoming a highly emotionally and socially intelligent leader?

As we outlined in “Decision-making relies on emotions”, there are 10 critical emotional and social intelligence (ESQ) capabilities that leaders need to develop. Furthermore some of these capabilities can only be effectively cultivated when the previous level of capability is developed. This means that there is a sequence; you can’t access some of the higher levels until you’ve mastered the basic levels.

So, let’s start at the beginning. Given we know that emotions are composite biological signals, it’s not surprise that Level 1 relates to our bodies:

Level 1 Physiological Awareness: Become aware of your own biological data. A really good place to start is to become more aware of your heart rate variability (HRV) signal. Why this particular signal? Well it is probably one of the most important signals that your body generates. It can predict death[1], illness, energy reserves and brain function[2] . You can do this by tracking your HRV on our CardioSense Trainer which will reveal live how your HRV changes moment by moment, meeting by meeting. But even if you develop awareness of your HRV this awareness in and of itself can be counterproductive if you do not move to Level 2.

Level 2 Physiological Control: Develop the ability to control your HRV signal using rhythmic (not deep) breathing. Again you can use our biofeedback kit or App to make sure you are doing this correctly. It will give you rapid control of your own biology and enable you to completely avoid the ‘brain shut down under pressure’ that most people are susceptible to.

Level 3 Emotional awareness: Once you have stabilised your physiology you now need to move to the next level in the human system which is the whole emotional data set not just one specific signal. Again the first step is to develop awareness of your emotions. Most people when tested are only aware of a dozen or so emotions. There are actually 34,000!

Level 4 Emotional Literacy: Once you have noticed that there is an emotion occurring (and frankly there always is simply because our heart is always beating, our lungs are breathing, our gut is digesting etc.) then you need to develop the ability to discriminate one emotion from another. This is emotional literacy. If you are only aware of 12 out of 34,000 emotions your emotional palette is very poor. Thus you may be feeling negative, but can you identify that emotion as angry, disappointed, sad or helpless?

Being able to discriminate between different emotions is important because the antidote to anger is very different, for example, from the antidote to worthlessness. The purpose of an emotion is to promote action. Get the emotion wrong and you’ll promote the wrong action. If you can more accurately identify the emotion, then you can choose the right response.

So before we even get to level 5 we need to develop our emotional awareness and our emotional literacy. To rapidly accelerate your emotional awareness and literacy we have developed an App to help you.

Our Universe of Emotions app will enable you to begin your journey to great emotional awareness, literacy and set the stage for you to develop your:
• emotional mastery (level 5)
• emotional resilience (level 6)
• self-motivation (level 7)
• optimism (level 8)
• empathy (level 9)
• and finally social intelligence (level 10).


[1] Heart Rate Variability from Short Electrocardiographic Recordings Predicts Mortality from All Causes in Middle-aged and Elderly Men

Heart rate variability from short Electrocardopgraphic recordings predicts mortality

[2] A. Watkins (2013) Coherence: The Secret Science of Brilliant Leadership, Kogan Page, London


Decision making relies on emotion

Decision making relies on emotion

Decision making relies on emotion

In an earlier blog, I explored the misunderstanding that you can take emotions out of business. I now want to explain just how essential emotions are to decision-making. If it were possible to delete emotions from your system almost entirely (and there are some rare medical conditions that effectively cause this problem), then you would be completely unable to make a decision, life would lose meaning, you would never experience the exhilaration of achievement and you would never spot a competitive threat – in short you would fail big time as a leader and a human being.

So instead of trying to get rid of emotions in decision-making, we all need to become much more aware of our emotions and develop the ability to actually feel them. When Daniel Goleman first described emotional intelligence (EQ) he identified five different dimensions of EQ. More recent authors have added or taken away from that original list and today most commentators identify six different dimensions. We think there are 10 critical emotional and social intelligence (ESQ) capabilities that leaders need to develop. Furthermore some of these capabilities can only be effectively cultivated when the previous level of capability is developed. This means that there is a sequence; you can’t access some of the higher levels until you’ve mastered the basic levels.

Read more about the 10 critical levels of emotional and social intelligence.

Is business rational or emotional?

Is business rational or emotional

Is business rational or emotional

As misunderstandings go one of the most consistent and profound misunderstanding is the one about emotions. This misunderstanding is especially true amongst men and even truer in business. We often hear executives say things like: “Let’s take the emotion out of this”; or “there is no place for emotion in business”; or “We need to make a rational decision”. The implication in the last example being that rationality operates in the absence of emotion.

These comments show an almost complete lack of understanding of what emotions are, their purpose, how they work and specifically the role they play in decision-making. Go and speak to any decent neuroscientists and even the most hard bitten analytical reductionist will admit that rationality actually requires emotion. You can’t have rationality unless emotions are involved. They are not two completely separate systems they are intimately intertwined. Thus it is impossible to remove emotion from decision making even if you wanted to. Business is neither rational nor emotional; it is both rational and emotional.

Addressing this misunderstanding was one of the driving forces behind the creation of our new app – the Universe of Emotions. Bizarrely emotions are not that difficult to understand and not even that scary – so why men ‘run for the hills’ at the mere mention of the word is baffling. Emotions are just energy-in-motion. They are composite physiological signals made up of all the physiological data coming from all the different bodily systems – your heart, your lungs, your gut, your muscles, joints, liver kidney etc. Emotions are just data. Men normally like data so why dismiss this crucial biological data?

If we can detect the data (i.e. feel the energy-in-motion), correctly label the data and most importantly change the data, then we have developed emotional intelligence, emotional literacy and emotional self-regulation all in one go. The development of such capabilities confers a massive competitive advantage simply because most people (and by people I’m afraid I mean mainly men) are unable to change how they feel on demand. Most leaders lack control of their emotions, rather their emotions control them. If you develop the ability to change how you feel then you get the control back – you have the emotion rather than the emotion having you!

Download the Universe of Emotions app to begin your journey to emotional understanding and control.

Or read more about the role emotions play in decision-making.

Why Heart Rate Variability is Important

Dr Alan Watkins on BBC 2 radio – Bus standoff

Jeremy Vine

On Wednesday 7th of October Dr Alan Watkins was invited into the BBC 2 radio studios. The topic of this interview was between two drivers blocking off a road and neither would give way to one another. Dr Alan Watkins was the mediator and explains why both drivers feel the way they do. 

GB Paralympic Shooting Team


Watch a day in the life of Complete Coherence preparing the GB Paralympic shooting team for Rio 2016 

The recipe for a happy life

The recipe for a happy life

What’s your recipe for a happy life? If you’re like most people it will be something like … if I have enough money, I’ll be able to do want I want and then I’ll be happy.

I call it the ‘have, do, be’ recipe and I’m afraid to say that it hardly ever results in true happiness. The recipe that does bring happiness has the same ingredients, but in entirely the opposite order – ‘be, do, have’.

If you can learn to control how you are, then you will tend to do the right things and you will have what you need. What you do has to flow from who you are. It’s starts from the inside out.

Think about how this might transpire in a work context. If you get yourself in the right emotional state by carefully controlling your biology (be) and give (do) an inspiring presentation, you will succeed in convincing the financiers that you’re worthy of investment (have).

For more on how to develop a deeper understanding of yourself (the ‘I’ dimension) read 4D Leadership

Negotiation success is all about accessing another dimension of leadership

Negotiation success is all about accessing another dimension of leadership

Negotiation skills workshops have to be one of the most popular training courses in recent corporate history. Executives sign up hoping to acquire all sorts of skills and manoeuvres to get a great deal. They learn about going silent, being prepared to walk away, assertiveness and much more.

While the training may work in the short term, they almost invariably impair the chances of longer-term success. Just think about how you feel when someone has got one over on you. It might be a short-term victory for them, but you are fuelled by an increased motivation to return the favour. The situation sets up such a high degree of competitiveness that the next time the winner becomes the loser. Ultimately it’s a zero sum game – a lose-lose scenario.

In theory, we know that a win-win scenario is much more desirable. The trouble is that such scenarios are not easy to broker. One reason for this is that many people operate in the binary world of ‘either/or’. They create answers that are either ‘good’ or ‘bad’, ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. So either you’ve won the argument or I have. We can’t both win. Either my point of view is correct or yours is, we can’t both be correct at the same time. 

Such a binary view of the world is a sign of under development. Thus when you develop yourself and you become more vertically sophisticated, it’s possible to appreciate how to hold two apparently different contradictory points of view at the same time. To illustrate this point consider the story of the blind men and the elephant that originated in the Indian subcontinent. Four blind men were examining an elephant and arguing with each other about what they were feeling. Each was certain that their ‘view’ was correct. The person feeling the tusk believed he was examining a pipe; the person feeling the tail rejected this idea saying that what they were examining was a rope, etc. They all argued that their perspective was correct and they could not appreciate any other person’s points of view. Only when a sighted man came along was the full picture revealed.

So when we are negotiating we may be taking a partial and incomplete view. If, by contrast we are able to appreciate, in our negotiations, the complete picture and take a more inclusive frame, we may succeed. Basically we need to develop the ability to transcend our own point of view and include other perspectives. We may have a piece of the truth but so may the person we are in negotiation with. The ability to ‘transcend and include’ multiple perspectives is sign of vertical development. If we can do this, then we have unlocked the fourth dimension of leadership (4D Leadership). The more sophisticated you are, the more able you are to embrace different points of view. This ability to hold multiple points of view enables the best negotiators to be successful.

Read more about how 4D leadership development can enhance negotiation success in 4D Leadership.

Are you overwhelmed by the competing priorities of your job? The answer could lie in the fourth dimension

Are you overwhelmed by the competing priorities of your job

We know that we live in a world of rapid change. No sooner is one market established, than a new entrant comes in to disrupt the short-lived status quo and it’s making CEOs nervous[1] and overwhelming many leaders.   

When you feel overwhelmed, your biology is actually in turmoil – your palms sweat and you’re aware of your heart pounding. The problem is that all of that chaotic biology actually alters your brain function. The more chaotic your biology – especially your heart rate variability – the more your ability to think clearly and make good decisions is impaired.

Chaotic biology manifests itself in unregulated emotions. The fact that unregulated emotions impair our decision making is something neuroscientists have known for years[2]. We might like to think that rationality exists as a separate phenomenon, but even the most hard-bitten neuroscientists would concede that there is no such thing as rationality in the absence of emotions.

Our decision-making is affected by our emotions. Having made a decision, based on what we ‘feel’ is correct we then justify our decision by searching for data or logic to bolster our choice.

Given the criticality of emotions to decision-making, it is essential that we understand our feelings and emotions so that we can learn to control and manage them. It’s the mismanagement of emotion that scuppers our decision-making. SO the very idea that we need to “remove emotions from business or board rooms” is non-sense. We can’t and we shouldn’t. What we really need to remove is mismanaged emotions.

The good news is that we don’t need to feel overwhelmed by today’s VUCA[3] world. If we can control our emotional state and, instead of feeling overwhelmed feel empowered and in control, we can improve the quality of our decision-making.

This is where the two dimensions of ‘I’ and ‘IT’ come together – see 4D Leadership for more on these and the other dimensions of successful leadership. The more you understand and regulate your own emotions in the ‘I’ (being) dimension, the better your decision making capability in the ‘IT’ (doing) dimension.  




[3]Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous (VUCA)


Do you love your job, but hate the people you work with? You might be a one-dimensional leader

4D Featureed Image

A few years ago a colleague and I conducted some research [1] where we spoke to 200 CEOS about what they’re paying attention to. What they told us may not surprise you, CEOs spend 80 to 90% of their time focused on their job; the things that they need to do. When we’re so invested in what we need to do (the ‘IT’ dimension), we often don’t realise there are two other dimensions – the ‘I’ dimension and the ‘WE’ dimension.

You often hear leaders and managers say, “My job would be brilliant if I didn’t have to deal with the people”. To me this is a big indicator of a one-dimensional leader, a person who has so focused on the job (IT) that they have failed to pay attention to the relationships (WE) that drive the ‘IT’. Organisations are collections of human beings and the success of our business is grounded in our relationships with our customers. All business is about relationships – both internal and external. We might have the best strategy in the world, but if we have poor quality relationships then this alone can impair our culture and we will probably fail to deliver. As Peter Drucker said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. 

When people say they love everything about their job apart from the people, they have a complete misunderstanding about what work is. At least one third of your job is all about the people, or at least it should be. The best leaders realise there are three dimensions (I, WE and IT), with the fourth dimension (4D Leadership) being the level of sophistication in the I WE and IT dimensions. We need to recognise that people are our job and not something soft and fluffy to be abdicated to the HR department. Our relationships at work are central to the performance of the business.

If you truly love your job, you’ll love all of it. It’s definitely worth cultivating your ability in the WE dimension to improve the quality of your relationships. That means relationships with the people you manage so you can get the best out of them, with your stakeholders to secure their support and confidence and with your customers to sustain the long-term future of your business. 

Read 4D Leadership for more on how to develop the ‘WE’ dimension of leadership.



[1] Steve Tappin The Secrets of CEOs

Life lesson: A life education, a lesson on you

lightbulb brain

This life lesson first appeared on the Changeboard website on the 11th November 2015

Good leaders are plentiful, but remarkable ones are rare. We learn what life lessons you need to help you become a strong role model. In the first lesson, Dr Alan Watkins gives a life lesson on ‘you’.

A lesson on you

If you read the thousands of books written on leadership, they disagree about many things on becoming a ‘better’ leader. However, there is one thing every leadership book agrees on is… if you want to be a good leader you have to be yourself

lightbulb brain

“But who are you?”

Most leaders are trained in some kind of functional specialism, be it law, marketing or selling, but few are experts on themselves. They don’t have years of meditative practice contemplating their own ego. In fact, many don’t invest any time in understanding who they are.

Many organisations extol the value of ‘authentic leadership’ but how can you hope to be truly authentic if you don’t understand the structure of your own ego, the nature of identity or the anatomy of the self?

The good news is that if you do the work to find out who you really are, uncover your own personal purpose and control the quality of your own thinking and consciousness, then the evidence suggests that you can become a truly transformational force capable of step changing organisational results and profitability.

“Good leadership requires a detailed understanding of the multidimensional nature of the self”


Why do we need another leadership book?

4D Featureed Image

Having just written a leadership book I was delighted by this pretty provocative question that a colleague put to me recently. “There are so many leadership books around already, why add another to the list by writing 4D Leadership?” she asked.


Paradoxically my answer was “Because there are so many leadership books around.” Let me see if I can explain my statement. When no one knows how to fix the problem then more and more people come up with their own answers or ‘treatments’. Just look at medical history. When no one knew what was killing people with infectious diseases, everyone had a recommended treatment – blood-letting with leeches, burning incense, small doses of poisonous herbs, bringing the priest in, etc. The confusion around leadership is the modern equivalent of an untreated infectious disease – we know we are ‘ill’ and there is a ‘leadership problem’ in many walks of life, but we are confused about how to solve the problem there seems to be no definitive treatment … until now.


At the core of our collective failure is the fact that we have not taken a multi-dimensional approach to the problem of leadership. Rather, we have been taking an incomplete view of the situation. People talk about leadership behaviours, or authenticity, or servant leadership, but these are all just single dimensions of a multi-dimensional problem.


We will only start to make progress and understand the real cause of failed leadership when we take a more sophisticated multi-dimensional view and all the books that don’t follow this approach will fall away. It’s not that any of these other books are entirely wrong; they are just simply partial answers to one part of the problem.


Multi-dimensional leadership

So what is multi-dimensional leadership? Basically there are three dimensions to our lives: I, WE and IT. Or put another way Being, Relating and Doing. To avoid being stuck in one of those dimensions, we need to understand and be aware of all of them. Some problems can only be fixed in the dimension they arise. If someone’s relationship is failing (a ‘we’ dimension problem), you won’t solve that with the temporary ‘IT’ dimension fix of buying your partner some jewellery. This may serve as a distraction (and often a powerful one at that) but it doesn’t solve the underlying relationship issue – it can’t because the solution is in a different dimension to the problem.


Similarly, you can’t apply an exterior solution if the problem is interior. Think about the issue of security. When people feel scared, others might be tempted to install a safety and security system around their house to address that feeling. While such a move is helpful it doesn’t necessarily remove the feeling of being scared. Again it is, at best, a temporary fix. And once you are down that road you may end up spending more and more money on elaborate security measures, when it is likely to be much cheaper and more effective to address your feelings of insecurity. So to solve the problem of security you really need to implement interior as well as exterior solutions. Whatever problem you are facing whether it is a relationship, your home security or leadership we must take a multi-dimensional approach that includes all three dimensions – I, WE and IT – if we want to make real and sustainable progress.


Find out how to become a multi-dimensional leader and discover more about the critical fourth dimension of leadership in: 4D Leadership: Competitive advantage through vertical leadership development.

Wicked and wise

Wicked and Wise



Dr Alan’s first book Coherence 

Some problems are ‘well wicked’ … what can we do?

Wicked and wise quote

In short … we need to come up with wicked solutions.

Many of the problems we face in the world today are beyond complicated. It makes finding a solution a real challenge. In my new book, co-authored with writer, philosopher and thought leader, Ken Wilber, we suggest that wicked problems need wicked answers and this is the only wise way to approach such intractable issues.

Wicked problems aren’t new – Professor Horst W J Rittel first referred to them back in 1967 – but they are probably more widespread than ever before. The nightly news is a seemingly endless reminder of all the persistent wicked problems we currently face. The reasons we seem to make little progress is that our traditional problem solving tools and techniques are simply inadequate to deal with the scale and complexity of the issue.

In our book Wicked & Wise: How to Solve the World’s Toughest Problems, we suggest there are six key properties that must be understood before real progress can be made:

1. A wicked problem is multi-dimensional
2. A wicked problem has multiple stakeholders
3. A wicked problem has multiple causes
4. A wicked problem has multiple symptoms
5. A wicked problem has multiple solutions
6. A wicked problem is constantly evolving

Each aspect of the wicked problem must be addressed appropriately. For example, if the wicked problem involves multiple stakeholders, then the solution must involve and collaborate with all those multiple stakeholders.

The solution has to be complicated because the problem is complicated. There are no quick fix, simple solutions for complex issues such as climate change, poverty, education, governance, equality, terrorism etc. These are wicked problems that can’t even be explained easily, never mind solved easily. All too often we seem more interested in the sound bites about a problem, the headlines or the Tweet-able facts, than actually really unpacking the problem and getting to grips with it properly.

‘Integral Coherence’ defines a wise way forward that allows us to feel our way through the problem in a thorough and systematic way so we can discover new emergent ‘better’ solutions as we go. Of course implementing Integral Coherence requires complex judgement, high levels of intelligence and maturity so as to dynamically steer the evolving solution to the evolving problem and manage the issue in real time.

These wicked problems can be solved—and we need to start solving them and keep solving them today (and tomorrow and a hundred years from now).

Creating a happy place at the darkest of times


KellyI spent much of the end of 2014 in an intensive care unit. My 18-year old daughter was in a coma having been kicked in the head by a horse. It was, or it could have very easily been, the darkest of times. In fact, my daughter’s bed was known by nursing staff as ‘the happy bed’. I can remember one particular moment when a group of us – the nurses, doctors, a good friend and me – were all laughing, as my daughter lay, largely unresponsive, next to us. It may sound bizarre, but we were laughing because at that precise moment there was something to laugh about, even in a very stressful and sad scenario. It was a true living in the moment experience.

We were able to create a happy place, even a place of laughter, because of the way I chose to deal with the situation. Every opportunity I had, I looked for small moments of joy. It didn’t matter how small; the important thing was to focus on the positives and not the negatives.  It was truly the most emotional, terrifying, rotten situation. However, instead of focusing on that, I chose to focus on any positive – no matter how small.

The reason I was able to focus to the degree I did was all to down to the approach that Complete Coherence teaches.  The techniques I had learned over many years working with Complete Coherence enabled me to control my physiology and to choose my emotional responses. Having a deep understanding of your emotions means you can clearly articulate what you’re feeling and then know that you have a choice of what to do with those feelings – when to be accepting of them and when to shift them. I totally understand why people get angry and shout and scream at the medical staff in that kind of situation, but staying in the right emotional state enabled me to focus on the right outcome for my daughter.

I used the Breathe skill extensively. It really is that fundamental. With rhythmic, through the chest, breathing, I was able to get into a coherent state and avoid panic, negativity and brain ‘shutdown’.  I needed my brain ‘switched on’ to ask the right questions, listen carefully and get the information I needed.  It made a massive difference to how I felt. My coherent state helped me choose my emotional responses – and choose those positive emotions over negative ones.  I could even choose to be happy at the most darkest of times.


Coaching helped me defeat my greatest internal enemies

Doug Schmidt


Doug Schmidt

Doug Schmidt, CIO, CTO, Entrepreneur, and Advisor at Dentsu Aegis Network, shares his experience of coaching with Complete Coherence.

‘I’d had a coach before, but was looking to work with a new coach to maintain my focus on high performance. I was very aware of my energy levels and emotional state and I’d started to realise how brutally exhausted and tired I’d become. I was having a hard-time.

Complete Coherence’s coaching method was different from anything I’d known before because it is very data oriented. It is backed up by science using a 24-hour Heart Rate Variability (HRV) assessment. As a result of that, I found that I succumbed to the objectivity of the data. Having that reality check of the data was really important. I could not hide from what the numbers were telling me about my energy levels.

Once I had been made aware of the truth of my physiology, I could work with my coach to address things. I had an awesome Complete Coherence coach, who completely understood where I was coming from and helped me to drastically increase my energy levels and improve my performance.

The coaching process involved setting key milestones and I clearly remember that first milestone; with help from my coach I found a way to stop leaking energy. Once I had stopped bleeding so much energy, I could use it for myself. That was a huge breakthrough and I remember marking that as a KPI for myself. With more energy, I became increasingly aware of the leaks and could then dedicate the energy that I needed to focus on my performance.

The combination of the objective data and the effective coaching conversations allowed me to defeat my greatest internal enemies. I am now an ambassador for coaching and have started a movement in my organisation to spread the word. I believe that everyone should have a coach, it’s a gift and a phenomenal experience.’

Paws for thought!


We all know that our individual wellbeing is important, but it also matters to organisations. Unfortunately few business leaders pay as much attention to it as they should. However, there was an occasion recently at Complete Coherence that made us really stop and think about it. 

We have always welcomed dogs to the office but typically there would just be one or maybe two dogs in at any time. Just recently, several members of staff happened to bring their dogs into work on the same day and it was interesting to see the response. The first thing I noticed were the immediate smiles on the faces of employees, and visitors to the office, as they met our pets in the workplace. Another interesting observation was the way in which having the dogs in the workplace promoted teamwork. It was fantastic to see people getting together at break times to take the dogs out for a walk. Our office is probably no different to many in that it is sometimes difficult to get people away from their desks for five minutes let alone enough time to take a 30 to 60-minute walk during the day. Pets in the workplace definitely help with this challenge. Not only does it encourage staff interaction as people in different teams get together to take the dogs out, it also ensures people are getting their daily steps in away from the office out in the fresh air.

There is increasingly a large amount of research on the subject of pets in the workplace and it is fascinating to read about the positive difference having pets around makes to productivity. Our experience definitely backs this up. With so much emphasis on wellbeing in the workplace, we are definitely encouraging companies of all sizes to look at the kind of culture they are trying to create and identify what that means for the happiness and wellbeing of the staff. A great example of this is Nestle who have had a Pets at Work policy for about 10 years now and have probably led the way in promoting this activity in the work place. In fact, they take it so seriously they have an authorisation process that pets have to go through to be allowed in the work place. A bit like hiring staff, they are selected and then have a probationary period after which they are fully ‘pauthorised’ to be in the office!

At Complete Coherence we are really proud to be the sort of organisation that is supportive of any initiative that promotes happiness and positive emotions in the workplace. We welcome babies, almost as soon as they are born, into the workplace (in fact it’s mandatory!). And we welcome dogs, not only to put a smiles on our faces but also to increase our productivity and promote healthier living for employees. What’s not to smile about!

Promoting wellbeing in the workplace can take many forms. Do get in touch to find out how to improve wellbeing in your workplace.

Making graduate programmes fit for the future


Last year, University applications were down for the first time since 2012[1]. At the same time, apprenticeships have seen a dramatic increase[2]. It appears many young people are avoiding university debt and opting for apprenticeships instead. With the growing ‘gig’ economy and fewer ‘jobs for life’ [3], we’re left wondering whether degrees and graduate programmes are still relevant.

To help us answer that question, we invited nine leaders from different organisations to share their experiences and views of this rapidly changing topic. Here are the insights we gathered from the collective wisdom of the participants.

A job for life no longer exists

The leaders at our event said they saw the jobs market and worker expectations changing. Apparently, their workers rarely expect to stay in the same job, function, or even company for the whole of their career. Given this new flexible approach to careers, our leaders were concerned about investing significant amounts in graduate programmes for individuals who were very likely to leave and not deliver some of the longer-term benefits back to the organisation.  

Graduates or not, get everyone talking

The contributors said that with or without graduates there was a need to encourage interactions between people of differing ages and experience as much as possible. There was an acknowledgement that generations can learn a lot from each other and that more interactions might help to create more openness about expectations and boundaries. Reverse mentoring – which is an initiative where older executives are paired with and mentored by younger employees on topics such as technology, social media and current trends – was specifically suggested as a way for people to understand others’ motivations.

One participant shared an example of three younger direct reports reverse mentoring a more experienced manager on a regular basis, which improved communication and meant the younger direct reports felt valued and listened to.

Create a new way of working

The question about the relevance of graduates and graduate training expanded during the conversation and the participants wondered whether a new way of working would be needed for the future. The group challenged themselves to manage outcomes instead of people.

This approach was less about holding onto people as property but allowing them to come and go because the organisation has built a brand attractive enough to ensure that good talent will come back.

The discussion then moved to recruitment. How about we turn recruitment on its head? Imagine if companies did not ‘own’ their employees at all and instead we create an entirely flexible workforce.

These suggestions, combined with the fact that our participants saw their work places becoming a series of interdependent networks rather than traditional hierarchies, indicates that this graduate issue is much broader than we first thought. 

In short, the changing nature of graduate recruitment and the emergence of apprenticeships is just one symptom of a wider evolution in the world of work. We are all, graduates, non-graduates, millennials and baby boomers, knocking on the door of something much bigger.

We must conclude that traditional graduate programmes need a revamp. Modern organisations require more open, agile and dynamic ways of approaching the resourcing of their operations.

Please contact Ceri Stokes ( if you want to revamp your organisation’s graduate or early careers programme for today’s workplace.

[3] Skidelsky, W. (2017, April 21). A job for life: the ‘new economy’ and the rise of the artisan career. Financial Times

The biology of leadership

Untitled design

Untitled design


Leaders today need boundless supplies of energy if they want to shape their future, deliver on their ambition and realise their purpose.  Making the right strategic choices also requires them to be clear thinking and coherent.  The latter is more about the quality of their energy than the amount of energy available to them.

This is why we have been tracking the biology of leaders during a normal working day using heart rate variability (HRV) technology for more than 20 years.  By measuring a leader’s biology before and after a coaching intervention we can demonstrate objective improvements in a whole range of biological phenomena, many of which underpin a leader’s ability to deliver improved results.  We can quantify the amount of energy a leader has as well as the quality of that energy.

Our HRV white paper gives more details of this approach and summarises some of the scientific evidence for HRV, but some questions remain.  In this blog, we’ve provided answers to some of the commonest questions we receive from clients and students alike.


If you have a 24-hour HRV assessment on a really ‘bad’ day, are the results irrelevant to your normal day-to-day life?

Measuring an individual’s HRV for 24-hours is a little like taking a chest x-ray.  A lot of the data relates to what has been going on over the previous few months rather than the actual day on which the data is measured.  Thus a 24-hour HRV recording can reveal how coherent a leader is in the morning meeting versus the afternoon meeting.  Obviously, such insights are specific to that day, but the 24-hour recording can also reveal whether a leader has too much or too little adrenaline in their system.  Such a finding is independent of which day the heart rate monitor is worn.  Approximately 80% of the data we can generate from a 24-hour recording provides insights into the underlying patterns in a leader’s physiology and are therefore independent of the day on which the recording takes place.


How can you get so much information from just analysing a heartbeat? Can you really tell how long someone will live and how clearly they think?

HRV has become a much more widely studied parameter in medical and scientific circles over the last ten years because it is such a powerful metric.  In tracking the performance of a complex system, like a human being, the ideal metric is one that is sensitive to changes in your life. Not so sensitive that the tiniest fluctuation in life circumstances cause a massive convulsion in that metric and not so insensitive that it takes an earthquake to create a discernible change in the metric. Thus, skin conductance or ‘sweatiness’ is probably too variable and most hormonal measures are too invariable. Heart rate variability is just about perfect.  There are many research studies that correlate HRV with mortality and morbidity.  We can therefore use HRV to quantify your risk.  HRV will not tell you how clearly you think but we have seen over the last twenty years that someone who has a chaotic HRV pattern tends to be less perceptive, whereas someone who is more coherent often reports that they are more clear thinking and make better decisions.


How is HRV related to blood pressure?

The relationship between HRV and blood pressure is a complex one and varies significantly in different individuals so it is difficult to generalise.  Each individual’s cardiovascular control mechanisms vary.  For example, in some people breathing can significantly change heart rate.  In other people, breathing has less of an effect on heart rate and HRV.  Similarly, some people’s heart rate and HRV is closely coupled to changes in blood pressure, in others less so.  But there are many other variables also involved in this relationship such as blood volume, ejection fraction, cardiac motility, adrenaline levels and so on.  Having said all that, over the years we have noticed a relationship between Low Frequency (LF) and Very Low Frequency (VLF) changes in HRV and the evolution of high blood pressure.  In short, VLF often rises in the early stages of hypertension.  This is then followed by a drop in VLF and a consequent rise in LF. LF eventually falls as the hypertension progresses.  This observation is anecdotal and unpublished. It is not a formal research finding.


Is poor coherence a precursor to high blood pressure?

We are not aware of any published literature or evidence linking coherence and blood pressure.  However, we do believe there is a link between coherence and HRV, and HRV and blood pressure.  We often see low levels of coherence in people whose HRV deteriorates faster than would be expected.  And poor HRV has been repeatedly correlated with high blood pressure.  Encouragingly there is some research to suggest that high coherence can improve HRV.  Since it is possible to increase coherence and HRV through rhythmic breathing and rhythmic breathing has also been shown to improve blood pressure, coherence may be the mechanism through which breathing improves blood pressure.


How long will it take for my HRV data to improve (and for me to become more coherent) when I start working on the techniques you teach?

When we measure an individual’s HRV we normally do not retest their HRV again for three months.  This is because it takes at least six weeks to see a significant improvement in HRV.  After three months, any gains should be quantifiable.  The HRV whitepaper has shown that people can significantly improve their HRV and effectively ‘wind the clock back’, regaining the physiology they had eight to ten years earlier.  In some people, we have seen incredible improvements in HRV in six months.  If these techniques were a tablet it would make front page news!


We’d love to hear from you if you have any further questions or would like to find out about having your own 24-hour HRV assessment.

Impact of Coaching

The impact of coaching has been notoriously hard to quantify. While many executives ‘feel’ they have benefited from coaching, few studies have provided ‘hard’ evidence of a significant return on investment. This white paper suggests how it’s possible to quantify an increase in an executive’s objective energy levels and a reduction in their stress levels and relate this to potential financial benefits for the organisation.

Download our Impact of Coaching whitepaper.


Across all 12 measures, including the objective HRV measure, coaching subjects saw improvements in positive factors and reductions in negative factors. The biggest changes were observed in emotional management (37% improvement) and stress (54% reduction). Being able to manage your emotions is critical to gaining control over your life and having emotional intelligence when making decisions especially during inevitable stressful periods. Furthermore, the coaching subjects even seemed to buck the natural aging process, at least as far as HRV is concerned. Instead of a 3.5% expected decline in HRV over one year, the coachees experienced a 15% increase in HRV. This change is likely to have had significant effects on the coachees in terms of health, energy levels, dynamism and brain function (decision-making), as previous research9 has shown. In addition to the psychological benefit and the ability to objectively increase energy levels while reversing the aging process, one of the most compelling reasons for leaders to commit to developmental coaching is the financial benefits of doing so. We have shown a minimum ROI of £33k for an executive earning £100k. For a board member earning £1m per annum the ROI is at least £300k, and that is before you factor in the benefit of improved decision making or the avoidance of errors by the leader or their reports. In conclusion, there is now very compelling financial reasons why organisations should invest in quality developmental coaching.

Blog: The real impact of stress and how to combat it

blog pic impact of stress

blog pic impact of stress

Guest post by Sally Phillips

The Effects of Stress Later in Your Career 

Stress affects us all at some point in our lives, particularly as we get older and things start to change dramatically both at home and at work. Unfortunately, research shows that less than 25 percent of workers over the age of 55 feel valued by their company and 80 percent of these older employees have suffered work-related stress. So, what impact can this workplace stress have on the health of senior workers? What are the long-term repercussions?

Short Term Effects

Work related stress can have short-term mental and physical effects. Older adults may find it more difficult to cope with stress as heart fitness and the immune system are affected by the body’s natural ageing process. You may become ill more frequently when suffering from stress or you may suffer from stomach aches and digestive problems. Your ability to sleep may suffer and you may start to stay absent from work due to sickness.

Long Term Stress

How does long-term stress affect senior health? Some people may be working past the age of retirement which can be difficult if there are underlying health issues. Heart disease can be caused by stress due to the rise in blood pressure over time. Mental illness can be another long-term result, with anxiety and depression causing sick leave from work. When you are at a later stage of life, you may have fewer people around you, making it more difficult to seek support but you can find ways to cope.

How to Cope

Stress later on in your career is an unfortunate experience for anyone but being stressed in the later stages can cause many to take early retirement. Feelings of powerlessness may result as you can feel trapped in your job and unable to change careers at a late stage. Try to identify the source of your stress. Is it workload? Is it fear of retirement? Research shows many over 50s are afraid of the financial stresses of career retirement and may continue working as a result. Try to seek support from your employer as they may be able to make reasonable adjustments or flexible hours to help you cope with the changes associated with getting older and to help you adjust to future retirement.

You may want to try some methods to lessen your stress. Breathing exercises can help you to think more rationally while stressed. Although you may feel like strenuous exercise is not possible at this stage of your life, some walking or an exercise class can help lift your mood.

For more information on how breathing can help your stress management read our white paper.

Changeboard Future Talent 2017


Complete Coherence’s Dr Alan Watkins & Dame Carolyn McCall in conversation at Changeboard Future Talent on Thursday, 30 March 2017. Exploring the theme of trust, Carolyn discussed moving into the aviation business with no prior experience and the difficulty she faced in gaining the trust of her new employees.

Best bits at Changeboard Future Talent 2017


Complete Coherence’s Dr Alan Watkins & Dame Carolyn McCall in conversation at Changeboard Future Talent on Thursday, 30 March 2017. Dame Carolyn McCall explains how the world of work is changing and why whole person development is critical to success.

News: Crowdocracy gets House of Lords’ attention



In a remarkable debate on 19th January 2017 in the House of Lords, Lord Stone of Blackheath, brought the benefits of Crowdocracy to the attention of our political leaders.

Lord Stone highlighted the faults in our current democratic world: It is a system failure and it creates democratically elected authoritarians and dysfunctional coalitions.”

This failure make people feel disillusioned. As Lord Stone explained: “They feel that their voice no longer counts. Politics has become deeply polarised. The strong centre has evaporated. Both sides now tout their own version of us versus them; the left is often misperceived as anti-business, the right as xenophobic.”

The solution? Lord Stone said that we need, a better future system with a new political platform that actually establishes Abraham Lincoln’s ideal of, ‘government of the people, for the people and by the people’.”

And the solution is Crowdocracy. “The crowd can be wiser and make much better decisions than any single representative or group of elected officials.” Revealed Lord Stone. 

While Crowdocracy needs to be properly managed, Lord Stone believes this should not put us off, but instead “it should spur us to modernise more speedily and expertly and use this new technology … If we use this technology correctly and access diversity of knowledge and opinion, ensuring that people are in possession of accurate information, we would foster independence of thought and collaboration, decentralise power, and integrate the collective input into coherent crowd-sourced solutions. We could harness the wisdom of the crowd for the good of the many, not just the few.”

I was delighted to hear this endorsement of a philosophy that has become something of a passion of mine. I wholeheartedly agreed with Lord Stone, when he said: “We have a historic opportunity to transform ourselves from cynical and suspicious spectators and to all become genuine participants and actors in the governance of our community and of society at large.”

To understand more about Crowodocracy and how it could transform society, read my book: Crowdocracy – The end of politics?

Expectant employee? Celebrate, don’t commiserate


Alan and Anya

Baby Anya was a wonderful new arrival for the Complete Coherence family – her mum is our office manager. Here she is with our CEO. Anya is the inspiration for this blog about how we view pregnancy as employers.  

Sharing the news that you’re expecting a baby with family and friends is almost always exciting and joyous. It can be a very different experience when you tell your employer. I’ve heard many women talk about how much they were dreading telling their boss. They were anticipating, with some justification, a negative reaction. It might have been coated in a smile and polite words of congratulations, but fundamentally the exciting news was viewed by the employer as a problem they really didn’t need. 

The truth is it doesn’t have to be that way. As an employer, you can choose how you respond to the news that your employee is expecting a baby. Many employers choose to think only of the negative – it will disrupt the business, we don’t know if she’ll come back, we’re a small business and we can’t cope with the loss of a key member of staff. It’s all about the hassle, aggravation and disruption.

Instead, why not choose to take a different perspective; a broader and more positive view? First, consider the employee and how great the experience of becoming a parent is for that person’s development. More than that, the business can benefit too. When Anya’s mum was expecting, we took the opportunity to think about what the business needed. We could use the opportunity to make some changes that would set the business up for the future.

Rebecca was in the role of PA to our CEO when she announced her pregnancy. Together we explored what her new working arrangements might be on her return to work and also what changes the organisation needed. We were, and continue to be, a growing organisation that is constantly reviewing the business requirements and it was during these conversations that we developed a new role of Office Manager. This role enabled Rebecca to bring her extensive experience of Complete Coherence and all its systems and processes back to the workplace and maximised her skillset while fulfilling her need for a more flexible way of working that a PA role didn’t allow.  A win-win situation all round.

So, the next time a member of staff approaches with the wonderful news that they are to be parents, just stop and take time to think about the positive changes you can make as a result of this news.

On a personal level, it’s lovely to see someone we care about so happy. From a business perspective, it has provided us with a great opportunity to make enhancements.   

I hope these musings give other organisations the impetus to think more positively about maternity leave. It really can be a force for good. We’re a richer organisation for having taken a positive approach – not only emotionally, but also financially, when you consider the costs of finding new talent that we will have saved by keeping our employee happy and retained.  It all comes down to how you choose to respond.

Complete Coherence @ Changeboard Future Talent Conference

changeboard awv2

changeboard awv2We thoroughly enjoyed this year’s Changeboard Future Talent Conference. It was a day full of thought provoking conversations and a lot of laughs, not least thanks to the amazing Lenny Henry!

In the afternoon, Alan Watkins, Complete Coherence’s CEO, ran an interactive session with Alastair Campbell and Geoff McDonald about the importance of mental health, and what businesses can do to help break the stigma.

Here are our key take-aways from the session.

Stand up v2Mental Health affects us all

The session began with Alan candidly sharing how mental health has affected his life, and then addressing the room. Everyone was asked to stand up, and then remain standing if they have personally been affected by mental health, either their own or a loved one’s. Most of the room remained standing. It was wonderful to be in the company of so many people who understand how important it is to talk about mental health.


Not a breakdown but a breakthrough

Geoff McDonald interestingly encouraged us to rethink a breakdown as a breakthrough. Using the term breakdown evokes negative feelings, but Geoff and Alastair explained that they see the moment their mental ill health was at its worst, as a breakthrough and something they were proud of. Their key point was that if we re-frame the way we think and talk about mental ill health, then we can reframe the way society views it.

Energy is your greatest resource

In our day to day lives we all think about the resources available to us. These are normally time and money. It’s not often people think about their energy, even though energy is the greatest resource you have and by managing energy you can manage your mental health.

A lot of us with high pressured roles feel exhausted at the end of a day even though our roles require minimum physical energy. In fact, we are continually using emotional energy to sustain ourselves and when that runs out, mental health can suffer. And it’s not just about our working lives, Alan pointed out that we need to start early and teach children about energy management, through emotional development and resilience.

There’s no need to whisper

It was so fantastic to see three people on stage openly discussing how mental health has impacted their lives. The stigma around mental health was not in the room with us, but unfortunately it does still exist, especially in the workplace. All of the speakers said that it is time to stop labelling people with mental health issues and remove the associated stigma. As Alastair pointed out, having dealt with mental health makes you stronger and more resilient, and that’s the kind of person we all want in the workplace.

Health and Safety – all the money’s gone to Safety!

Healthy and safety initiatives are a standard part of every workplace, but the speakers challenged us to ask why safety has had all the focus, whereas health had to make do with a few bananas in the canteen! The focus needs to swing to move our attention back to health – more specifically mental health.

All of this aligned perfectly with our focus at Complete Coherence. We run and design programmes that give people the skills needed to increase emotional resilience, and manage energy. If you’re on the lookout for a wellbeing programme to ensure mental health is a key agenda for your business, get in touch.


Why Wellbeing Initiatives Fail … And What You Can Do About It


Organisational spend on wellbeing continues to rise1, but despite pouring more cash into the issue and a massive increase in the profile of mental health in particular, the problem if anything appears to be worse2. For example, according to a CIPD study, the number of people who experience anxiety, stress and depression at work has risen from a quarter to a third over the past five years3. So, despite the dream combination of greater awareness and more spend we are going backwards. Recently, Complete Coherence convened a roundtable of 30 corporations to explore the problem and start to provide some answers …

Much of the morbidity has been presented as ‘mental health’ and this has attracted royal sponsorship, for obvious reason. The stats on mental health make sobering reading. In 2017, female suicide rates were at their highest in decades4 and a quarter of young men said they had intentionally harmed themselves5. Clearly, mental health is not just a work issue, but organisations have both a moral and a legal responsibility to protect employees from stress6. Not only that, but mentally healthy employees perform better at work and have fewer days off sick7.

The financial impact of poor health and low levels of wellbeing as well as the moral and legal implications mean that wellbeing is now an organisational imperative.


Move From Doing To Being

Fortunately, most organisations now accept wellbeing is a commercial imperative. Certainly, the organisations at our round table could not be accused of a lack of effort, with 34 separate wellbeing initiatives going on. However, the research very clearly shows that despite their best intentions and this multitude of activity very few, if any, are making a real difference to the wellbeing of their employees. So, the question remains – why not?

To answer this question, we asked our participants to categorise their wellbeing initiatives into one of four quadrants (see Figure 1): upper left was the area of individual action, upper right was organisational actions. Lower right captured effort that was being made on relationships and cultural change and lower left was for inner personal change. In short, the upper quadrants captured observable activity in the dimension of “IT” or “doing”, lower right was the “WE” dimension or “relating” and lower left was the “I” dimension or “being”.


Figure 1. Categorisation of wellbeing initiatives

Capture 4

It was immediately clear when we mapped the current wellbeing initiatives that one quadrant was receiving hardly any attention. Almost everyone was completely blind to individual interior change.

The incredible irony and shock of this was not lost on the roundtable participants. Wellbeing is ultimately about how people feel and think, which is essentially a lower left quadrant activity. This completely landed the point about why so little impact has been made – we have simply ignored the key area that we should have been focused on. Wellbeing is all about our interior landscape.

The problem became even more obvious when we started to explore the links between the various quadrants and the implications for some existing wellbeing initiatives. Take the idea of putting a gym into the office as one example. That would seem like a very worthwhile thing to do. And often it is. But virtually no organisations ever bother to ask how their employees feel about that gym?

Say you have 100 employees at that office or site and only 10 use the gym. The other 90 just don’t have time and, worse than that, they feel guilty for not going to the gym. For a few who use the gym, it’s probably beneficial, for the rest it’s potentially a health disaster as they painfully watch a few colleagues wandering round in gym kit. This serves as a daily reminder of how unfit they are, how ill-disciplined they are and how obese, stressed, overwhelmed (insert your favourite ‘beat myself up’ thought here) they are that they can’t take an hour out to use the gym that the company has spent all the money on providing.

This means that the ROI of a gym may actually be negative. The consequence of the gym, albeit unintended, is a deterioration in the health of the majority and maybe the improved health of a minority. Overall the average wellbeing may decline, guilt rockets and the health data get worse – which is exactly what we are seeing.

Unfortunately, this pattern is repeated for many organisational initiatives. Gyms, the provision of water coolers, fresh fruit, yoga classes, a massage at your desk, an EAP scheme; these are not bad ideas in themselves, but if they haven’t moved the dial on wellbeing for the vast majority of employees in your organisation, something needs to change.

If we are really serious about improving wellbeing then it is high time that we admit to ourselves that despite all our efforts health outcomes are not improving. That doesn’t mean that our existing “IT” initiatives should be abandoned. But let’s not pretend that such activity is delivering an ROI without at the very least measuring their actual impact on wellbeing in a robust and meaningful way, i.e. have our efforts actually changed health outcomes, and changed whether people cope better or are more resilient – biologically?

The roundtable attendees concluded that organisations do need to overhaul their approach to wellbeing. They agreed that organisations must think again because it’s not about what is done, it’s how what is done makes employees feel. We must change health inside out. If we don’t we will continue to see escalating levels of ill-health at work.


Being In Control Of Our Inner Wellbeing

Tackling health from the inside out is not as simple as installing water coolers, but it’s perfectly possible and it’s the only way we’re ever going to move the dial on the growing challenges of mental health in our society. Here’s where to start:

  1. Acknowledge explicitly that wellbeing is driven by how people feel on the inside
  2. Measure people’s inner state by objectively quantifying the energy levels of employees (this can be done relatively easily using heart rate variability (HRV) technology) plus measuring the emotional literacy and emotional set point of the workforce
  3. Develop your employee’s ability to self-regulate their inner state

Once the round table attendees were prepared to acknowledge that wellbeing was an inside out issue we moved onto how to measure people’s emotional literacy. We started by asking the room of 30 senior executives to identify what emotions they had felt in the last week (see Figure 2). The attendees identified 84 emotions, but many were duplicates and in fact there was only 37 separate emotions identified by the 30 people. The commonest emotion was “frustration” which was twice as common as “happy”.

Figure 2. Emotions identified by executives

Capture 5

Given that it is possible to experience 34,000 separate emotions and we identified only 37 (less than 0.001% of the total) it become clear that the room was emotionally illiterate!

We have done this exercise many times over the years and most people struggle to identify more than a tiny number of possible emotional states that are available to them. Most people can’t accurately identify how they feel and are very poor at distinguishing between two different emotions (when you ask people “how are you?” they are guessing -they don’t really know). Being able to differentiate emotional states is not just some fluffy HR nicety. It is commercially critical. After all, if you don’t know the difference between feeling anxious or exhilarated, you won’t know whether you’re in the right emotional state for your next meeting. And if you are not in the right state, your meeting may go disastrously wrong and could even cost you millions.

Given that we pay so little attention to our internal state and we have such incredibly low levels of emotional literacy it really shouldn’t be surprising that mental and emotional ill health is getting worse. Unfortunately, despite years of well-intentioned efforts, we haven’t moved the dial on employee wellbeing.

Being able to measure our energy levels and our emotional state is critical to developing the ability to regulate our emotional state and finally changing the data on wellbeing.

Apps like our Universe of Emotions can help you increase your emotional literacy. It can help you quickly recognise when you’re feeling frustrated allowing you to then take steps to move to a different emotional state like delighted or whatever will benefit your next meeting. The ability to change how you feel is a skill that we all need to develop and with diligent practice we can develop the ability to completely control our inner world.

Achieving an emotional shift in the heat of the moment starts with changing your energy. This can be done with music, simply moving around, chatting with a friend, getting some fresh air, or focusing on something else. But the important thing about all these options is you ensure that your energy shifts positively as a result. Going for a walk could be counter-productive if you step in a puddle for example. Ultimately, with consistent practice, you don’t need any of these ‘external stimuli’ at all you can change how you feel anytime anyplace anywhere – literally, in the middle of a meeting.


Organisational Support For Inner Wellbeing

Some organisations have started to realise that wellbeing is an inside out game and are now putting in place what it takes to change the outcomes for the first time ever.

At our roundtable event, a chief risk officer shared his experiences of just such a programme created and delivered by Complete Coherence for and with Royal London Insurance. He told the room the results have been incredibly impressive. Engagement scores have massively improved. Even people, who were initially incredibly sceptical that this different focus on internal states would help, have reported feeling much more productive and energetic. In general, attendees on this programme have moved from a victim state to owning how they feel and not blaming their boss, colleagues, customers, markets or anyone else. In other words, through controlling their energy and emotions they are now able to choose how they respond in a meeting. They have become response-able human beings.

Twenty years of bowls of fruit in the office or EAP schemes have not made a difference to our mental and emotional health and our wellbeing at work. In fact, things have got worse. Now is the time to change the outcome. We need to focus on the two things that will make all the difference: ENERGY AND EMOTIONS.


For more on how Complete Coherence could support your organisation’s wellbeing initiatives and improve the mental health of your workers, contact:



2 Deloitte (2017) At a tipping point? Workplace mental health and wellbeing. Available at:





Politics, Profits and Paradox

Well what a week in Westminster. Not so much a partridge in a pear tree more like four kingdoms un-united, three parties fighting, two divisive views and a premiership gone pear-shaped.

The Christmas spirit of peace and good will to all people is hard to find, let alone the three wise men. We are witnessing a toxic polarisation and some very deep divisions within parties, between parties, between generations and within the nation itself, not to mention the split between the UK and our neighbours in Europe. People are trying to force their views on each other with little understanding that such a move can only make things worse. It is difficult to escape the conclusion that politics is broken, possibly irretrievably. It has descended into a very ugly power battle and politicians seem unable to come up with any wise answers to the mess that they themselves have created.

It’s not just the UK political landscape that’s in a mess. Many other nation states are split in two with “us and them” thinking running rampant in the USA, Brazil, Italy, France, Spain, Poland and the Ukraine to name just a few.

If political leadership is broken and democracy is past its sell by date1 , we may need to turn to democracy’s commercial cousin, capitalism, for leadership. Perhaps business leaders can provide some wisdom, insight and hope for the future?

Unfortunately, since the global financial crisis of 2008, many business leaders are waking up to the realisation that there is also something profoundly wrong with our corporate model. While capitalism, like its cousin democracy, has delivered immense benefits to society over the last hundred years it too is struggling to cope with the immense changes most modern societies are facing.

In 2008 the flaws in capitalism were clearly exposed and the conversation in many corporations suddenly changed. Serious organisations started to talk of ‘Triple Bottom Lines2’, ‘Conscious Capitalism3’ and ‘Conscious Business4 ’. The academic community got involved and we saw a rash of books exploring ‘Post Capitalism5 ’, ‘Full Spectrum Economics6 ; ‘Sacred Economics7’, ‘Caring Economics8’ and the ‘Circular Economy9’. Some authors went further to describe what happens ’When the Money Runs Out10 ’ and how this may exacerbate the current drift towards greater ethnocentricity in ‘Every Nation for Itself’11. The basic realisation was that there are significant problems with the idea that business solely exists to generate profit and shareholder value12. Not least because it can foster greed13, and the pursuit of money can lead to fiscal irresponsibility and massive debt. America has been held up as the poster child for such short-termism and the corporate obsession with cash, to the exclusion of all else14.

The conclusion that is beginning to emerge in many corporations around the world is that a new model of leadership is required15. The command and control autocratic approach of the heroic CEO and even the meritocratic debate of a pragmatic leadership team simple can’t handle the accelerating pace of change sweeping through the commercial world.

We are now in unchartered waters. We are in the era of Paradox16. We are struggling to cope with the pace of change while simultaneously wrestling with ‘wicked’ problems that seem intractable17. We are experiencing political and economic divisions that are driving a deep wedge into our relationships while we are also engaging in much higher levels of social connectivity with each other. Many commentators have observed that if we don’t take more radical steps on climate change in the next thirty years we will face an extinction of humanity. There is a leadership emergency at the same time as the emergence of more enlightened leadership.

Whether we kill ourselves or cure our collective ills now hangs in the balance. If enough of us wake up to the emergency and wise up we can move beyond the ‘us and them thinking’ we are currently stuck with. And there’s no better time than Christmas to sit around the table and find ways to resolve our differences! If we embrace the spirit of the season we can find our North star which can illuminate a brighter future, together.




1 Watkins AD & Stratenus I, Crowdocracy: the end of politics. Urbane Press 2016:

2 Savitz AW (2014) The Triple Bottom Line Jossey-Bass, London

3 Mackey J, Sisodia R (2012) Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business Harvard Business School Publishing,

4 Kofman F (2014) Conscious Business: How to Build Value Through Value Sounds True, Boulder

5 Mason P (2016) PostCapitalism: A Guide to Our Future Penguin, London

6 Arnsperger C (2010) Full-Spectrum Economics: Toward an Inclusive and Emancipatory Social Science Routledge, London

7 Eisenstein C (2011) Sacred Economics: Money, Gift, and Society in the Age of Transition Evolver editions, Berkeley

8 Singer T (Ed), Ricard M (Ed) (2015) Caring Economics: Conversations on Altruism and Compassion, Between Scientists,
Economists, and the Dalai Lama St Martins Press, New York

9 Webster K, MacArthur E (2016) The Circular Economy: The Wealth of Flows Ellen MacArthur Foundation Publishing; 2 Edition

10 King SD (2018) When the Money Runs Out: The End of Western Affluence Yale University Press, New Haven and London

11 Bremmer I (2013) Every Nation for Itself: Winners and Losers in a G-Zero World Portfolio Penguin, London

12 We must rethink the purpose of corporations by Martin Wolf. MyFT DXec 11th 2018:

13 Rowland W (2005) Greed, Inc.: Why Corporations Rule Our World and How We Let It Happen Thomas Allen Publishers,

14 Wiggin A Incontrera K (2008) I.O.U.S.A.: One Nation. Under Stress. John Wiley & Sons, New York

15 Watkins AD. 4D Leadership: Competitive advantage through vertical leadership development. Kogan Page 2015:

16 Watkins AD & Dalton N. HR (r)Evolution: Change the workplace to change the world. Kogan Page 2019. In press.

17 Watkins AD & Wilber K. Wicked and Wise: How to solve the world’s toughest problems. Urbane Press 2014.


Coaching for better decision-making


1023535_Sue-G-J-BOCv2Sue Graham Johnston
, former head of RBU UK / Ireland / Africa at the Linde Group shares her experiences of coaching with Complete Coherence

‘When I arrived as a new leader to Linde, it was an organisation that really didn’t have any other examples of people who had come in from the outside. Not only was I from ‘the outside’, I was also a foreign woman who had not worked in the industry before. Furthermore, I was appointed to replace an MD who had been abruptly removed. The situation was not great from an entry perspective and there were multiple opportunities for failure.

This situation prompted me to get a coach. The intention was to get some support as I navigated my way through the cultural differences and some of differences in approach, so I could achieve some positive results with the team. I had not had any individual coaching for around 15 years. That experience was a more traditional approach looking at 360 feedback and behaviours.

The coaching with Complete Coherence is quite different and much more beneficial. Complete Coherence coaching gets to a more fundamental physiological level – as the daughter of a doctor this approach resonated well with me. It was very insightful for me to see my biological patterns and understand how they might influence my behaviour either positively or negatively. I now know that if, for example, I have a small amount of sleep I need to be more mindful of my reactions to certain situations. That awareness enables me to change how I might react to ensure a more positive outcome. Instead of reacting with less productive behaviour, I am now able to be on the opposite side of an argument without trying to win or convince others of my perspective. Focusing instead on what I value or appreciate about others in the discussion puts me in a more receptive frame of mind, that has helped defuse quite emotional topics where we weren’t making progress. The coaching has had a direct impact on my ability to achieve better agreement on decisions and make important progress on activities that were previously stalling.’

Brilliance without burnout?

successful person

successful person brillianceBurning the candle at both ends to keep up with the increasing pressures, expectations and pace of modern life is a familiar tale. When you feel like your to-do list is multiplying, more than likely your answer is to put more hours in. You tell yourself: ‘I’ll just work this one weekend until the project is finished’ or ‘I’ll just skip that lunch break to save time’.

Like the metaphorical swan, you’re frantically paddling beneath the surface to appear as if you’re effortlessly gliding on the lake. Unfortunately, that frantic paddling is not as hidden as you might imagine. To your colleagues, family and friends, you are becoming more and more stressed, more and more disconnected, and your performance and health starts to falter as a result.

And you’re not alone, remember Lloyds’ boss António Horta Osório, who in 2011 had to check into a clinic due to severe stress and burnout. His desire to push himself further and further in the name of success led to what he called a ‘personal crisis’, and a huge drop in share price for his organisation.

Why do we start to sacrifice work-life balance and health? It may be a fear of failure, the intense desire to be successful or a sense that we want to be the ‘hero’ at work. We may even have idolized the leader who somehow survives on two hours sleep, runs marathons, parties hard, and yet seems to be the last person to leave the office at night.

Here are our three top tips for achieving brilliance without burnout:

  1. Change your physiology

It all starts with your physiology. If you panic, you directly affect your heart rate which sends chaotic signals throughout your body, making you less able to deal with the panic. Getting regular breathing exercises into your routine will help you deal with stress and panic before it can impede your performance.

  1. Be aware of your emotions

A lot of us do not use our bodies to make a living, so why do we come home feeling so tired? It’s not physical assertion that’s tiring us, it’s mental or more accurately it’s emotional. By letting feelings such as worry or attachment manifest themselves as negative emotions in our body, we are allowing external circumstances to take complete control of our lives. Instead if we sense an emotion taking over us, we could SHIFT focus to a positive emotion or a more neutral one. We can then stop ourselves from leaking energy.

  1. Stop leaking energy

This is very closely linked to the previous two tips – being aware of our emotions and being able to control our physiology. A practical solution to help with all these skills is to start creating an energy-bank throughout each day.  What are your deposits i.e. what gives you energy each day? What are your withdrawals i.e. what drains your energy each day? Once you have done this a few times you will probably start to notice patterns. If nothing in your working life gives you energy, are you in the right job? If the project you just handed over gives you the most energy, should you take it back and hand over something else?

To find out more tips and tricks contact us or follow our Linkedin page.


Coaching creates lasting change

Personal development image v2

Personal development image v2‘My job is actually two big jobs – one relates to the industry and the other an internal role. This constant juggling of two, quite conflicting and certainly competing demands, with numerous important stakeholders who needed to be proactively managed across the country, has been a significant challenge. All of that was tough enough as it was but then I had a serious horse riding accident and came very close to having my left arm amputated. I was dealing with the physical side of things pretty well but I hadn’t taken into account the mental impact of such a potentially life-changing event. In fact, I started to unravel quite badly. My work ethic is incredibly strong and I tried to keep on working while recuperating from my accident, (probably to my detriment), and it hit me just how crazy the job situation was. My relationship with my chief executive had also suffered during the time that I had been forced to stay away from the office and I knew I couldn’t carry on muddling through. That was my turnaround point. With my coach’s help, I took complete control of the situation and negotiated myself a plan to move on that works for all parties.

The coaching has been very practical, but it’s the emotional impact that has been so dramatic. I am so relaxed, calm, positive and genuinely excited about my future. Even though I’m the main breadwinner, I’m not panicking about anything because I feel so confident in my own capabilities – I honestly feel very positive.

My coach knew that we had to resolve my self-esteem issues once and for all, otherwise those self-doubts would keep creeping back in during the tougher times that one inevitably faces. This is not about just being told by your coach to think more positively, I’ve had a fundamental emotional shift that is genuine. It’s not possible to fake it, as that’s not genuine and it has to be real, you have to believe it from within. I know that because I’ve had the benefit of coaching, and even counselling, before that has not managed to create such a fundamental emotional shift. I’m now operating at a new level of emotional awareness and control, which is not something that I could have achieved on my own and it’s made a huge difference to my entire life.’

Genuine and long lasting change


1023535_Sue-G-J-BOCv2Alongside some personal coaching, Sue Graham Johnston established a two-year Complete Coherence team journey programme with her senior leadership team at Linde. She admits that in the beginning, there was some concern about such a lengthy engagement: ‘We were making a significant time investment as a team in something that didn’t have an obvious P&L linkage. Now that we are more than a year into the engagement, the team has come to really value that time together. In fact, we came to realise that it takes that much effort and work to fundamentally change patterns of behaviour and achieve a truly high performing team. Things won’t be magically different with a single two-day off-site meeting.This is about genuine and long lasting change.

The first team journey workshop focused on contracting and was seminal in how my relationship with the team moved forward. The Complete Coherence facilitators created an environment that fostered an honest and truthful discussion about both our expectations. Emotions did run high, but the facilitators got us to a level of collective trust that had been missing to that point.

The programme then moved on to look at how we could work more effectively as a team. Crucially, it provided us with the vocabulary to be able to work better together and understand where people are coming from and why they might respond in the way they do. This has made the team much more receptive to new members. In the last two years, we’ve integrated several new people from both inside and outside the company and they’ve established a level of trust and strength of relationship with their peers that would not have existed save for the work on the team journey. This deep focus on team behaviour is a new experience for those joining our leadership team as well. The investment ensures that new members can be effective in a very short period.

The team journey experience has also enabled me to be more strategic about what skills and approaches to bring in. We were extremely strong on execution, but quite individualistic in our general mode of thinking. Our team’s work with Complete Coherence made me realise that we needed to enhance our team with others that had more collectivist approaches. In recruiting a new finance director, the Head of HR and I assessed candidates for that collectivist approach to ensure a better balance of perspectives on the team.

One particular skill taught and practised on the team journey programme was a breathing exercise. This exercise enables people to achieve a more coherent state of being which in turn enables better control of emotions. I expected some scepticism about this activity from my team: I have a lot of engineers on my team and a breathing exercise could have been a colossal failure – I am from California after all. However, everyone was willing to give it a try. It worked much better than I expected and people are finding real value in it.’

During the team journey programme, one critical revelation for Sue Graham Johnston concerned decision making. ‘In a challenging session with our facilitator, I realised that our team had not been reaching agreement. When I had thought we had all agreed on a decision, the team was in a different place. It was a tough realisation, but at the end of the day we came out of it really aligned around our messaging and strategy. I don’t think we ever would have got there but for what the facilitator brought. That experience showed me that, as a leader, I was taking silence as assent. I needed to do things differently to get over that. Part of the solution is me having patience with team members who take longer to process information and be ready to agree. We’re now able to achieve genuine agreement. It’s an area we’re still working on, but we’re making great progress.

Another great outcome from the team journey has been the way we do our team check-ins. Our facilitator helped us find a very efficient way to do that team check-in. It’s not only changed the time it takes – what took an hour, now it takes 10 minutes – it’s also changed the level of participation in the whole meeting. Because everyone gets invited into the conversation in the first few minutes, everyone is given the moment to talk. When we weren’t doing that, a lot of people would sit silent.  The new check-in has changed how the team interacts and it’s a great chance to calibrate and get a good sense of where everyone is coming from.’

Although the team journey is not yet complete, the Linde senior team is already seeing the benefits: ‘Everyone on the team has been able to move into the second person – consider other perspectives. When I first came in two years ago, there were a lot of strong personalities who wanted to be heard. What we know now is that‘s not necessarily the best way to move the organisation forward. Individuals on the team have put this perspective-taking into practice and have been able to navigate successfully some very difficult change. Seeing team members exhibit new leadership capacity has been incredibly rewarding for me personally, and beneficial to the organisation as well.’

Blog: Why leaders stop developing and why they must not

Why leaders stop developing

Why leaders stop developing

Business leaders are under enormous pressure to deliver results. Often the sheer enormity and complexity of the challenge they face is overwhelming.

In the recent past leaders responded by distilling the complexity into simplicity and leading from the front giving clear direction, often individually drawing on their own historical functional expertise.

In today’s markets this is an increasingly risky approach as leaders cannot be the singular source of thought leadership. Ambiguity, complexity and disruption reign supreme in today’s business world, and these phenomena will not go away. It is simply not possible for one individual to be across all the factors that might need to be considered by looking at challenges through one lens.

Noticing and understanding the interrelationships of all the systems at play and developing agile and differentiated strategies requires collective and highly collaborative ways of working. It also requires access to new ways of thinking, including the ability to sense and respond to emerging trends with speed and accuracy whilst delivering results short term. Such an ability requires the sensitive integration of multiple partial perspectives.

Unfortunately, these abilities may not come easily. Many organisations today are led by leadership cadres that have thrived and been rewarded by individualistic approaches. In fact, far from being diverse many senior level communities can be characterised as mono cultures. They are often insular and in the worst cases act like a self-referencing echo chamber. Group think abounds!

Furthermore, many leaders have developed and are strongly wedded to their own personal formula for getting results. These formulae, anchored in the past, are becoming less relevant to today’s complex multi-dimensional challenges.

These habitual patterns are hard to break. Changing them requires specialist professional intervention. Leaders need to develop the humility and acceptance that better answers might well be available elsewhere and that we might be better placed by listening to, assimilating and integrating more diverse perspectives. To do this requires leaders to have developed a level of maturity and sophistication and be willing to flex and develop a wider range of skills and behaviours than they may have needed up to now. In turn, this requires leaders to have an appetite for their own personal development.

Herein lies the problem. Leaders are restricted by the belief that they are what they are, a finished article, and have nothing more to learn. They are deluded by their echo chamber of like-minded leaders that maintain the view that their current modus operandi is right and fit for purpose.

To step up and be open to development takes enormous courage. Letting go of tried and tested formulae can feel very uncomfortable and risky, but let go we must. Moving on and up requires specific and carefully sequenced development interventions. It also requires an investment of time.

To persuade leaders to take the plunge requires a compelling description of what lies beyond. Developmental frameworks that describe clear levels of attainment are very helpful. Moreover, these frameworks must describe, in concrete and contextually relevant terms, what will be different because of the leader’s investment in their own development.

How will leaders develop genuine hunger and thirst for their own development and see this as commercially and personally relevant?

The first step is to help leaders see the limitations of their current ways of working and the commercial consequence of not changing. The second step is to excite leaders about how things could be different and better. And not just for their business, but for them personally too.  Generating this excitement can be challenging because it is not always easy to see and understand what the next level offers you when you’re at the level below. One way to help is to quantify the benefits and measure the value in terms that resonate with the level at which they currently operate.

Moving up through the levels of development is something that we, at Complete Coherence, have been pioneering. We call it ‘vertical development’ and we have created a range of assessments that measure your current developmental level as a leader and tools to help you learn how to move up and realise the benefits of a higher level of development.

Given the need for more collaborative ways of working, cross functional alignment and integration of diverse perspectives, team development also needs to be high on the agenda.

This is often seen as a luxury, a discretionary investment best postponed to less pressured times. This is a dangerous view, most teams operate sub-optimally, and many are dysfunctional. To unlock the talent, realise the full potential and increase the speed with which leadership teams can positively impact sustainable business performance requires focused and regular attention. For businesses to develop competitive advantage, leadership teams must also develop vertically.

To learn more about our unique philosophy and approach please  click here



Blog: Transforming lives

transforming lives

transforming lives

We know many people who have found great benefits in our approach to discovering who they are and using our developmental skills to unlock new levels of capability.  We see this most directly in our work with corporate clients.  But sometimes we hear from someone we’ve never even met, who has simply read our books or watched some of our videos. We love this kind of feedback because we are on a mission to reach as many people as we can, and that goes way beyond the corporate sector.

With that in mind I’d like to share the following story I received recently via our Facebook page. I found it truly inspiring and I hope you do too. Here’s the story:

“I am a 20-year-old originally from Bulgaria. I moved to the USA when I was 14 and was pretty much cut off from most if not all social life. I spent the first couple of years in my room playing video games and being detached from reality on a pretty high level. Thus, over time, I began to experience very intense panic attacks and detachment from myself and the world around me.

“Over five years (from age of 15 to age 20) I went through various medications which did nothing to improve my well-being, but did affect my wallet. I found I was unable to control my own thinking, feelings, emotions and physiology. This led me to experience even worse anxiety, depression, panic attacks and detachment from completely everything to the point that I had a hard time understanding things, and even felt like I was forgetting things as simple as my own name.

“Then I came across a video on YouTube called “How to hack your biology and be in the zone every single day”. I watched the entire video and at that moment everything that had been wrong with me made sense.

“I immediately started practicing the methods you explained and felt physical changes in my body and my brain, as well as my mood and my attitude. Over those years I believe that my breathing as well as my heart signals had become so imbalanced that I came to feel as if I had a heart condition. My exhaustion and lack of structured thinking and coherence now all made sense. I began to think with my body rather than my mind, and my mind understood what my body was trying to tell me. This stopped me overthinking everything as much. Overthinking had been a big cause of my panic attacks.

“I am sorry for making this so long, but one video really changed my life. I am truly happy that people like you exist who devote their lives to figuring things out.”

Do share your own stories of how coherence or any of our work has helped you. And I hope this story from Bulgaria inspires you as much as it has me.

Dr Alan Watkins

Feature: Train your heartbeat to help the brain cope with stress

Financial Times logo

train your heartbeat to help the brain cope with stress

Why rhythmic breathing is good for coping with anxiety

by Charles Wallace, Financial Times

Most people engaged in competitive sports such as golf and tennis have experienced soundly beating an opponent with apparent ease, only to be crushed by the same foe on a later date. They are left wondering: what did I do differently?

According to Alan Watkins, a British medical doctor who also has degrees in psychology and immunology, it is all about the signals your heart is sending to your brain. Dr Watkins has developed a speciality in teaching athletes and business leaders about the science of heart rate coherence to help them achieve more consistent performance.

What is coherence? I’ve written before about heart rate variability, which reflects the fact that your heart beats at different rates over time. The interval between heartbeats is your HRV and measuring this can help you determine when your body is fully rested.

When the HRV falls within a relatively tight pattern, it is said to be more coherent. There is a growing body of research that says this coherence can have a profound impact on your mental and physical state.

Dr Watkins likens the body to an orchestra, with different organs representing the sections. If the string section is the heart, HRV is the lead violin, with the ability to influence the tempo of the entire orchestra. The key takeaway, says Dr Watkins, is that it is possible to train the HRV to be more coherent using slow, rhythmic breaths. It is then easier to achieve what psychologists call “flow,” a mental state often described as runner’s high.

We have all had the experience of drawing a mental blank in high-stress situations such as a job interview or a big sporting event. According to the HRV theory, anxiety causes the heart to beat erratically, which sends powerful electrical signals to the brain that effectively shut down the normal reasoning portions.

His company, Complete Coherence, has developed smartphone apps and computer software to help control the heart’s chaotic signals. While measuring coherence in the past cost hundreds of dollars, it is now possible with a £5 app and a heart rate strap.

The system uses a pattern of deep, rhythmic breaths slowed to about 10 seconds each. This breathing pattern eventually entrains the heartbeat and helps athletes and executives alike achieve greater control. Dr Watkins says practising the breathing three times a day for five-minute sessions can achieve coherence in a relatively short time. He does this in a Ted Talk with a volunteer in just minutes.

Golfers who use the system perform smoother strokes on difficult shots, he says. He coaches Olympic rowers and says they overcome race anxiety using his technique.

Often athletes try to psych themselves up before an event by using mantras or other self-hypnosis techniques. Dr Watkins says these have mixed success because they remain on the conscious level of cognition and do not address underlying emotions.

“Coherence makes performance less hit and miss,” he says. “We get below cognition to the three levels of feelings, emotions and biology to help you get your A-game every single time you step out on the pitch or court.”

Buy a Coherence Heart Trainer here

News: Dr Alan Watkins on BBC Radio 2

radio 2 interview

Click on the video above to hear Dr Alan Watkins talking to Jeremy Vine on BBC Radio 2 about how mismanaged emotions can lead to aggressive behaviour. Alan explains how when someone feels threatened their biology goes into chaos, their frontal lobes shut down and they are unable to access their innate intelligence; which can lead to unprofessional conduct and behaviour they later regret.  

Alan was asked to appear on the show, to weigh-in with his expert opinion on the debate, in light of the unconfirmed scuffle between two UKIP MEP’s at the European Parliament yesterday. 

Conference: Be the change, lead the change

iaps logo

iaps 2

Speaking from his background as a physician and neuroscientist, Complete Coherence’s Dr Alan Watkins gave over 300 head teachers an unexpected biology lesson at the 2016 IAPS conference in London. The head teachers were taken back to school, with his presentation on how maintaining coherent heart rate variability can significantly increase your impact and influence as a leader.

Drawing on ground breaking research into adult development and bringing the latest approaches from neuroscience, physiology and systems theory, Alan spoke about how to develop a more responsive and rewarding strategy, drive change and become a truly rounded and four-dimensional leader.


Alan with British Politician, Ann Widdecombe who was also speaking at the event

News: Crowdocracy at the House of Lords


“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”  

crowd v2On Wednesday 21st September approximately 50 people from nine different Kent stakeholder groups met at the Archbishop’s Room in the House of Lords, Westminster, London to explore how to improve the system that manages unaccompanied asylum seeking children arriving in the UK. The meeting was kindly hosted by Lord Andrew Stone, convened by Dr Ana Draper and facilitated by Complete Coherence’s Dr Alan Watkins and Iman Stratenus of The Crowd Foundation

Hundreds of unaccompanied children arrive in the UK, traumatised from the horrors of war in their country and also by their perilous journey to the UK. They are then left to navigate the complex asylum seeker legal process, with limited support and disconnected services. The event brought together stakeholders from across the issue, assembled to discuss cross-agency solutions to the crisis.

Alan Watkins facilitated the event and offered a framework for how the participants could interact to optimise the chances of achieving an outcome that could take the crowd beyond a simple sharing of views. He introduced how ‘Crowdocracy’ works as a process to serve the interests of the crowd and facilitate the emergence of wisdom. All too often when a crowd of stakeholders get together the conversation degrades into a polarised standoff, or the answers generated are unenlightened or what emerges is a consensual average that fails to improve the system for any of the stakeholders.

Using the process of Crowdocracy, in just a few hours the main questions of the issue were identified and the community will now use an online tech platform to move this issue forward and allow the community to take ownership of the process.

This event is part of the wider outreach work we do outside our corporate business, in line with our mission to create cultural and social change for the benefit of all.


Event: Dr Alan Watkins to speak at Compassionate Mind International Conference

Dr Alan Watkins to speak at Compassionate Mind International Conference

The Compassionate Mind Foundation International Conference

Dr Watkins has been invited to present at The Compassionate Mind Foundation’s 5th International Conference on Thursday 20th October 2016 at the Mercure Piccadilly Hotel in Manchester. The theme of the conference is Compassion: Integrating Body, Mind and Culture and Alan will be speaking about connecting biology to emotional motivation and proactive behaviour.

Click here to book your ticket and for more details about the event 

Session details

Date: Thursday 20th October 2016

Time: 11:30 – 12:00

Location: Mercure Manchester Piccadilly Hotel, Portland Street, Manchester, M1 4PH

Session title: Connecting biology to emotional motivation and proactive behaviour

Blog: The trouble with experts

The trouble with experts

The trouble with experts

As the world gets more confusing and complicated, who do we turn to for answers?

We tend to trust an expert – an economist, a scientist, an ‘ologist (as comedian Maureen Lipman called them). The trouble with experts is that they tend to have a very narrow approach to an issue, and this makes them ill-equipped to advise on some of the complex problems we face.

And even when we do turn to the experts we often ignore their counsel. Take the Brexit vote. The media wheeled out quite a few ‘expert’ economists who warned us that there would be severe financial consequences if we voted to leave the EU. It made no difference. We not only ignored the advice of these economic experts, we also ignored the advice of all political experts, including every ex-Prime Minister still alive from both political parties; the US president and every Head of State in Europe. Despite all of these ‘experts’ telling us to remain we still voted to leave.

So why do we turn to experts and then refuse to believe them? The answer is partly to do with the experts themselves. An expert is usually deeply trained to have a clear and singular perspective on an issue. Therein lies the problem. They may have very deep knowledge on the topic in question but, almost by definition, they lack the breadth and experience to be able to see beyond their own area of expertise. Such a narrow focus means they are poorly equipped to integrate multiple perspectives or see the issue from an unrelated stand point.

Such narrowness explains why researchers found that if you put a team of ten experts up against a team of seven experts and three ill-informed people, the latter group will come up with better answers . Why? Because wisdom is driven by diversity.

So what to do about this expert problem?

The answer is in the ‘rise of the wise’. We need to avoid seeking answers from experts with narrow perspectives and we need to find the wise people; the polymaths who know a lot about a lot of things in seemingly unrelated fields. I don’t mean the generalists who know a little about several things. Rather those very rare individuals who have a depth of understanding in a number of disparate areas. They are often mature, not necessarily old, just mature in terms of wisdom, with no axe to grind. Wise individuals are often very skillful at connecting and integrating different ideas rather than privileging a single point of view.

We must stop dumbing things down to binary choices, which exacerbates the problem. We must start involving wise people in the complex problems we face and explore issues in a much more productive, open and integrated way. Only then will we start to make real progress in finding answers and generating better quality decisions.

Let’s move away from our addiction to experts and bring on the wise!

For more on this, see Dr Alan Watkins’ book Crowdocracy: The Future of Government & Governance

Blog: What’s the key ingredient for a successful team?

What’s the key ingredient for a successful team?

What’s the key ingredient for a successful team?

It has been an Olympic fiesta like never before for Britain: their best medal haul in 108 years, second in the medal table, the only host nation to go on to win more medals at the next Olympics. Liz Nicholl, CEO of UK Sport, has declared that Britain is now a “sporting superpower”. But what is the key ingredient for a successful team?

Competing at the Olympics is the ultimate achievement for any athlete, it requires dedication, focus and discipline. All of this combined with a world class team of physio’s, nutritionists and coaching professionals, but on the day it comes down to how you perform as an individual. So how do you deal with that, when you are a part of a team and one team members mistake can cost you everything you have ever dreamed of?

The key ingredient to any successful partnership and team is trust, we saw the perfect example of this in the Olympic diving pool with Jack Laugher and Chris Mears. Never before has Britain won a diving gold. Not only do these guys train together six days a week, they also live together, share a mortgage and kept an empty photo frame above the mantelpiece in anticipation of their Olympic podium photo together.

We all talk about trust being important, but we rarely share what trust is to us with our family, friends, team mates and colleagues.

We all have a different trust recipe, but at Complete Coherence we believe that trust consists of four key ingredients:

How important each ingredient is to you will be vary from person to person. For example, track record might be very important to you, but personal connection may hold a lower weighting.

Finally, are you a trust giver or a trust earner? Do you give people your trust straightaway until they prove you otherwise, or do they need to earn your trust over a period of time?

Sharing you ‘trust’ recipe with your team will strengthen your relationships. This will propel the team forward, helping them to operate in a more effective way. If you trust your team, you only need to focus on your performance and vice versa.

Jack Laugher and Chris Mears were successful because they had complete trust in each other.

This is the big one. To do it alongside my best friend it is beyond worth it. It is my absolute dream.”

Jack and Chris are a brilliant example of how Taking Responsibility for Understanding Someone Else’s Traits can produce spectacular results.


Event: Are you ‘doing’ yourself to death


aug changeboard

Do you find yourself bogged down in everyday tasks at work, unable to find time to strategise or build relationships? For Dr Alan Watkins, CEO of Complete Coherence and host of June Future Talent Forum breakfast roundtable, it’s all about developing extra dimensions to your leadership.

“The problem is that we have become one-dimensional as leaders, only looking at what we do, rather than what we think or feel,” Watkins told participants.

According to Watkins, too many leaders approach everything as a series of tasks or goals, when the real competitive advantage lies in developing our abilities in the dimensions of ‘being’ (thought) and ‘relating’ (communicating).

Solving problems – both personal and business issues – can only be successful if we employ all three dimensions. We need to think about what we are doing, find out how it affects and relates to other things, and then act on the task at hand.

For Watkins, good leadership is about unlocking new thought and ideas through shifting mindsets.

“Coaching and leadership shouldn’t be about making someone more skilful, it’s about creating a step change in personality and thinking by developing new dimensions,” he said.

Interested in joining the Changeboard Future Talent Forum?


Feature: How to find a job you love

how to find a job you love

how to find a job you love

Dr Alan Watkins features in the latest edition of Changeboard magazine in an article asking experts to say, in less than 100 words their advice on ‘How to find a job you love’.

Here’s what Dr Alan had to say:

“The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.The latter is the day you discover your purpose – your reason for existence. If you can uncover this (this is not easy and usually requires skillful guidance from someone who knows how to uncover purpose) you can then find a job that has purpose and meaning for you, personally. If you know what sort of job aligns with your purpose, then you will love what you do. Good luck.”

Alan Watkins, neuroscientist and CEO of Complete Coherence

Click here for the full article

Blog: What to do when you feel overwhelmed

What to Do When You Feel Overwhelmed

Dr Alan Watkins features in Success Magazine on ‘What to do when you feel overwhelmed’.

What to Do When You Feel Overwhelmed

“Did you wake up with a sinking feeling this morning? Maybe your to-do list got longer. Maybe you’re frustrated by lack of time. Maybe you’re tired because you didn’t get to bed early. Whatever it is, you’re overwhelmed. When you feel overwhelmed, you feel powerless to change anything and often look for someone else to blame. It’s your boss putting too much pressure on us, your colleagues not pulling their weight, clients being too demanding…”

Click below to read the full blog post

Success Magazine article – what to do when you feel overwhelmed

Blog: The media – balanced or baloney?

media balanced or baloney

media balanced or baloney

Faced with a complicated news story to present, many media producers seek out so-called experts to explain to us, ill-informed listeners or viewers, what is really going on. In an attempt to disguise the fact that few people really understand complex issues, producers will try to find two experts with seemingly opposing points of view. The idea is to offer a balanced view with both sides having their say.

This would make sense if all complex issues had only two sides, both of which could be clearly articulated. But this is obviously not the case. So a ‘balanced view’ is rarely what is delivered. In practice what normally gets broadcast is a phony polarized stand-off between two people who flat out contradict each other. Such conflict and jeopardy may be entertaining but it is rarely illuminating.

What is worse is many producers slavishly stick to the artificial principle of balance regardless of how many experts hold one point of view and how few hold another. So even when 95% of all expert opinion supports one idea, we still get both sides of the argument presented as though there were a 50/50 split. This is baloney not balanced. The news has sold its soul and is now operating as entertainment. It gets us no closer to a real understanding of an issue. In fact, it moves us further away from the answers we desperately need.

“The news has sold its soul and is now operating as entertainment. It gets us no closer to a real understanding of an issue. In fact, it moves us further away from the answers we desperately need.”

Many of the problems the world faces today are incredibly complex. Think about affordable healthcare, climate change or poverty. Even topics seemingly closer to home like Brexit and mass migration are highly complex with many interconnected parts. Not only are these problems intrinsically complex, the media’s approach to covering them is not helping. Thus the media reinforces the belief that such problems are intractable because they massively over simplify the issues and suggest that one or two answers would solve them They then roll out two experts to disagree thereby falsely reinforcing the idea that such problems are unsolvable.

So, instead of exacerbating the issues, how could the media help us find the answers? Firstly, we need to ditch experts and get in wise people. Rather than field two experts who have been chosen specifically for their narrow and opposing perspectives, we need wise people who can integrate multiple views and who can genuinely suggest a way of reconciling the complexities. 

Experts debating the point is largely pointless and ultimately causes the viewer or listener to disengage. We need media outlets that make us think, uncover the wisdom in ourselves and identify the wisdom in others. We need wise opinion rather than pointless polemics.


More on this topic: The trouble with experts

News: Facilitating political peace talks



political peace talksOn Thursday 13th October, Complete Coherence’s Dr Alan Watkins was referenced in the House of Lords Hansard by Lord Andrew Stone, in regards to his recent work facilitating political peace talks.

The exert from the House of Lords Hansard, 13 October 2016, Volume 774, column 2098 read;

“Two States One Homeland is a group of Palestinians and Israelis who concluded that the endless repetitive, divisive negotiations for the current two-state solution will not work. They realise that the two nations, each separately, hold deep convictions that all the land is their own sacred homeland. As the noble Lord, Lord Trimble, said, it is emotional. They now recognise the deep-felt narrative of the other side and are dealing with them as neighbours. They offer two states, each with their own separate constitutional settlement, but in one homeland in the form of a confederation, with a separate jointly agreed constitutional arrangement that allows for freedom of movement, distinguishes between “residency” and “citizenship”, and will manage the co-ordination of education, health, welfare, policing, security, economics and ecology.

The complex conversations they are holding on the ground, people to people, require great sensitivity and expertise, which we have here in the UK. The Crowd Foundation here, led by Alan Watkins, has been helping with this facilitation. A UK Government-funded extended visit of their team to the region to manage meetings with all concerned would greatly help to move things forward.”       

The wider out-reach work Alan carries out as co-author of Crowdocracy alongside Iman Stratenus, founder of the Crowd Foundation, is part of our mission to develop leaders across the globe and enable them to reduce the suffering of humanity by making much better decisions. 

Outside of the political space, we work with teams from a variety of industries, through feedback from our clients we are confident we can help the teams we work with to:

Click here for further information on developing teams.


Book Review: 4D Leadership

Irish Times


4D leadership, competitive advantage through vertical leadership development by Dr Alan Watkins

Book review by Frank Dillon, Irish Times

Mon, Jan 18, 2016

The need for authentic leadership has been a recurring theme of management books lately. Powerful authentic leaders, it is now widely accepted, bring a wider sense of themselves to the workplace and can inspire those around them.

This book suggests taking this to a higher level. Author Dr Alan Watkins is founder and chief executive of Complete Coherence, a consultancy that combines the latest approaches in neuroscience, physiology and systems theory to the challenges faced by business leaders.

Watkins works from a model developed by philosopher Ken Wilber, which organises the entire human experience into three dimensions: the objective, the subjective and the interpersonal.

Watkins describes various personality types including one-dimensional managers who focus on a purely functional task-orientated role as well as those who choose to immense themselves in the service of others, overdoing it to the point where they become ill. Then there are spiritual types who have cultivated a quiet tranquil mind and who are capable of piercing insight into the human condition.

Exceptional leaders understand and move between all three dimensions, developing vertically in each, becoming the “4D leaders” of the book’s title. Unfortunately very few people develop their intellectual capabilities beyond the level of where they were as teenagers.

This, the author says, is why we see so many power battles at the top of companies, “toys out of the pram” episodes, tantrums, bullying and all manner of activities that are more suitable to the playground than the corporate boardroom.

Vertical development of the leadership cadre is the single biggest determinant of success; if ignored, the single biggest obstacle to growth and research quoted here suggests that the more sophisticated a leader, the greater their ability to drive organisational transformation.

When leaders develop vertically to become 4D leaders, they unlock whole new levels of capability that can transform performance.

They often have significantly increased energy levels, are much more resilient and are less easily exhausted. Their leadership presence increases and they are more cognitively sophisticated to the point where they can understand multiple layers of complexity and polarity.


The good news, according to the author, is that we are all capable of developing. It requires a focus on upgrading our operating system, not just on adding on “more apps” in the form of skills and experience. The book explores this in detail across what it calls the eight “most commercially relevant lines of development” for most businesses. These lines are: physical, emotional, cognitive, ego, values, behaviour, connection and impact.

Multiple tools are described in the main body of the text. Deep network analysis is one example that can help managers understand how their business works in reality as opposed to in theory. It can help us pinpoint who to bring into negotiations, who is developing strategy and who is important in respect of employee engagement.

A business that is suffering from poor employee engagement, for example, can use network analysis to identify the people in the network who are highly emotionally connected. These are the individuals who energise those around them, so investing in them could significantly affect engagement without having to put everyone through a programme.

Network analysis allows us to identify who needs what development, so the development can be tailored to the needs of individuals.

By contrast, dunking everyone in the team-building course or in sales training is a colossal waste of time and money and deeply demoralising for most.

Watkins says relationships are increasingly important at the senior levels of business. It’s as if the rules of the game that elevated leaders up the corporate ladder, ie high technical skills and low people focus, have become inverted on entry to the C-suite. It can come as a nasty shock to many to realise that they are not equipped for the demands of people leadership

Practical as well as interesting, the book contains summarised action points throughout and should be of interest to leaders, aspiring leaders and human resources practitioners.

Buy the Book

Blog: Make a new year resolution to have more energy

Make a new years resolution to have more energy

Make a new years resolution to have more energy

You made it!  You got through Christmas, but you may be feeling pretty exhausted. The gift shopping, house decorating and party planning have taken their toll, and that’s without the end of year work projects you had to rush to get done. It’s no wonder we often start the New Year with a lack of energy. This year, make your New Year resolution to have more energy, all year.

Key to increasing your energy levels is to train your biology, and more specifically your Heart Rate Variability (HRV).

How to hack your biology:

Your HRV offers an amazing insight into your energy levels and controlling your HRV is the key to having more energy. HRV can be best improved via regulating your breathing. A rhythmic breathing pattern is the key, not deep breathing.

Although we take breathing for granted because we don’t have to think about it, research shows that to be most coherent and energy-giving, three aspects of breathing are most important. In order, they are:

To help you to achieve increased energy levels, we created the Coherence Heart Trainer. This simple app (used with an ear clip heart monitor) uses live bio feedback to help improve your energy and enter a more coherent state. You use an earpiece plugged into your phone/computer. Essentially, it works like a traffic light system. When red lights up – internally you are in a chaotic state. When it’s green, you are in a coherent state. If you do this 10 mins in morning and 10 mins at night, within a few weeks, you’ll start to notice the positive changes in clarity of thinking, and most importantly, at this time of year, energy.

Download the Coherence Heart Trainer app for Apple devices

Download the Coherence Heart Trainer app for Android devices

Buy the ear clip to use with the Coherence Heart Trainer

News: We are “turning Japanese”


We are pleased to announce that the Japanese translation of 4D Leadership is due to be released on the 10th of January 2017. 4D Leadership is the second in a series of books by Dr Alan Watkins, Founder and CEO of Complete Coherence. 



Below is a sneak preview of the three key steps to becoming a four dimensional leader

1) Recognise you are a human being not a human doing.  Too many of us are obsessed with what we’re doing – ticking things off our to do list, getting the chores done – we’re living in the world of doing (IT) and ignoring the critical dimensions of being (I) and also relating (WE). Unless we pay attention to all three dimensions we will never realise our full potential.  


2) Wake Up, Grow Up, Own Up and Show Up. The perceptive amongst you will have realised that in the first point above we talk about three dimensions: being, relating and doing, yet the book is called 4D leadership.  Step two is all about realising there is a fourth dimension – that of increasing sophistication in the other three dimensions of I, WE and IT. So we must wake up to that fact. Then we must grow up, meaning increase our maturity, particularly in the I dimension. This requires us to own up to those aspects of ourselves that we would rather ignore. If we do all that then we will show up in a completely different way; more authentic, more compassionate and more fulfilled.


3) Explore your fourth dimension and reap the rewards. There are widely agreed upon levels of sophistication in the three dimensions of I, WE and IT. Academics have written about these separately, but this book is the first time they have been brought together and put in the context of work and business.


In 4D Leadership, Dr Watkins pulls together the most important lessons that can help you increase your altitude in all three dimensions. When you become more mature in the I dimension and increase the sophistication and subtlety of your relationships in the WE dimension then you are so much more capable in the IT dimension and what you are able to do in the world becomes more powerful, more nuanced and more impactful.

Find out how to become a multi-dimensional leader and discover more about the critical fourth dimension of leadership in: 4D Leadership: Competitive advantage through vertical leadership development.

Blog: The future of development is vertical

The future of development is vertical

The future of development is vertical

Achieving emotional mastery is the biggest game-changer in your ability as a leader. Dr Alan Watkins, CEO of Complete Coherence, explains this and other facets of vertical development.

The competition ‘game’

If your business enjoys a competitive advantage, beware – the ‘game’ is changing so quickly it might be lost in just a few months. Conversely, if your business is struggling to compete, take heart – you could leapfrog the competition within a year. In both scenarios, the only thing likely to protect or enable your success is vertical development.

Upgrade your operating system

Vertical development is not about acquiring skills that enable you to be slightly more proficient – that is learning. It’s about unlocking higher levels of capability and upgrading your operating system to step change performance.

Picture a six-year-old child looking at a page of algebra. Their frontal cortex has not yet developed to enable them to think in an abstract way, so they aren’t able to work it out. A 12-year-old child, meanwhile, is at the next developmental level – their brain has sped up and they are able to think in the abstract. Their ability to understand the algebra has come ‘online’.

The older child has a level of capability that did not exist when they were younger – they have made a quantum leap forward. Vertical development offers this for leaders.

There is no reason that the kind of development we see in children cannot continue into adulthood to enable us to thrive in today’s complex world.

Unfortunately, very few leaders ever ‘upgrade their own personal operating system’ – because they don’t know how.

Power battles and immaturity

Most 14-year-olds can function pretty well in an adult world. Introduce them to your friends at a dinner party and they can hold their own in a conversation. After reaching this level of coping, there is no imperative for a 14-year-old to develop, so while they continue to learn they don’t actually develop much.

Similarly, many executives are extremely knowledgeable about all manner of commercial activity. They may have experienced all kinds of market cycles, cultural challenges and geographic postings – but this is all learning, not development. So many leaders remain 50 years old on the outside and 14 on the inside. This is why we see many power battles at the top of companies: ‘toys out of the pram’ episodes in the boardroom, tantrums and bullying.

This lack of development is at the very heart of business success and failure. Recent research suggests that the more sophisticated a leader is, the greater their ability to drive organisational transformation.

Assessing your vertical development

Vertical development is objectively quantifiable through assessments that can help you jump to the next level. Of the different ‘lines of development’ that can be measured in a human being, there are only eight that really matter in most businesses: physical, cognitive, emotional, ego, values, behaviour, connection and impact.

Leadership lines graph

A common start point is to look at the ‘physical line’, which defines how much raw energy we have and the quality of that energy. As a leader today, you need an endless supply of energy to drive your business forward. If your biology is in chaos, your brain can shut down and derail your leadership performance.

Your energy can be quantified by measuring your 24-hour heart rate variability (HRV). Developing more energy can start by learning to regulate your HRV through rhythmic breathing techniques and then learning to control your emotional state.

Next in need of attention is usually the emotional line because a lack of emotional and social intelligence will often derail development in all other lines.

Step changing capability in the emotional line is not simply about increased awareness, which is a ‘level two’ capability – it is also about cultivating increased emotional literacy (level four), emotional self-regulation (level five), emotional resilience (level six), self-motivation (level seven), optimism (level eight), empathy (level nine) and the ability to sustain positive relationships with people you don’t necessarily like – a level 10 skill that reveals you are truly socially intelligent.

Emotional mastery and ‘response-ability’

The upgrade with the most dramatic effect is the jump from level four to level five. This upward transition in social intelligence is associated with the ability to master your own emotional state.

Most people believe that their emotional state is the result of other people’s actions – the thought that “you made me feel bad – you did it to me”. When you reach level five, you realise that no one is ‘doing it to you’, you do it to yourself. Your emotional state is down to you and you alone.

This shift is truly game-changing – you move from a position of ‘victimhood’ to a position of ‘response-ability’, so titled because in this state of being you find yourself ‘able’ to control your own ‘response’.

The ability to change how you feel on demand, under any circumstance, is genuinely life-changing. You never have to feel anything you don’t want to feel ever again.

It takes time and practice – and high-quality guidance from a brilliant coach – to reach level five in the emotional line of development, but it will probably make more difference to your career than anything else you ever.

What a vertically developed leader looks like

When you develop vertically you might have higher energy levels, more resilience and tire less easily. Your leadership presence increases. Cognitively, you are very sophisticated and able to understand multiple layers of complexity. You are a systems thinker who can appreciate interdependencies inside and outside your organisation.

Your high degree of self-awareness means you are often more receptive to input and understand that your views may be partial. As a result you are often inquisitive, particularly in relation to your own development.

Fundamentally, as a vertically developed leader you behave as an adult. You might have a strong point of view, but you are less attached to it and can surrender your point of view or flex if it’s appropriate.

Feature: Is resilience hard wired into your people?

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Dr Alan Watkins, CEO of Complete Coherence, Karen Rivoire, Hot Topics Contributing Editor and former Kantar Millward Brown CHRO explore the way in which resilience is hard wired into your people. 

Each organization is susceptible to uncontrolled external events, some of which have the potential to bring a business to its knees. When faced with such adversity, it isn’t just about getting through them; a truly resilient organization has two other important capabilities –the foresight and situational awareness to prevent potential crises emerging, and an ability to turn crises into a source of strategic opportunity.


This is a recording of the live stream originally posted on Hot Topics; the voice of the world’s boardrooms.


Feature: Harness your emotions for peak performance


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“If you are unaware of your feelings, they will derail you and impair your decision-making ability”

Dr Alan Watkins, Neuroscientist and Complete Coherence CEO features in this month’s CMGA Magazine about how he is helping leading executives and international athletes to gain more control of their emotional state. CGMA aim to boost the career prospects of management accountants across the world and their magazine posts in-depth articles and videos highlighting global trends, challenges and opportunities.

CMGA have featured Alan explaining what you can gain by learning how to take control of your emotions and the article includes the ’10 stages to gaining control and becoming more coherent’ and an exercise in ‘How to switch on your confidence’.

Read the full article online on the CMGA Magazine website.  

News: Why is road rage so prevalent?

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In an extreme case of “road rage” a driver reversed into a lorry and smashed the windscreen with a spade in a ferocious M62 attack. Dr Alan Watkins, Neuroscientist and CEO of Complete Coherence was asked by Jeremy Vine on BBC Radio 2 to explain what is happening inside our brains and bodies when we react in such bizarre and unpredictable ways. 

This is serious example of how we react when our biology goes into chaos, but at less extreme levels we may all at some point find ourselves reacting and behaving in ways which are not helping us to perform at our best.

If we commit to controlling our biology then we can create a shift within ourselves that is proven to lead to more energy, more clarity and increased productivity and revenue. As FTSE 250 CEO and Complete Coherence client Alan Brown said;

“The biggest change for me has been that I can now operate much more consistently throughout the day and the week. My attention span is much greater. I have always been able to work long hours, but the quality of that work was not consistently high. Today, the quality of my concentration has improved significantly.”




Blog: Success is about the value of your network



Society is becoming increasingly interconnected and we connect with each other in ways that would have seemed alien even 10 years ago – we connect with our colleagues on LinkedIn, our friends on Facebook, people share their homes with strangers on Airbnb and internet dating has become the norm. It seems that it’s all about networks – social networks, personal networks, corporate networks – we are bombarded with the term networks. But what are networks and why are they important in business?

Your network drives your organisation

The definition of networks is simple: they are a map of how people connect to one another. But this definition does little to convey the huge potential impact of networks in the business world. Leaders achieve success by connecting with, learning from, and effectively influencing the people around them – directly and indirectly. Networks provide the maps needed to best achieve this.

When we are able to create these maps, we enable businesses to make sense of the hidden social dynamics within their organisation, unlocking the potential of their people.

A thorough network analysis of an organisation has the capacity to find out crucial information.

With the hidden social dynamics revealed, we can make visible the invisible maps, and begin to make the system work to its full potential. A network analysis considers all these questions and more – shedding light on your organisation’s efficiency, talent and integration.



A network analysis of an organisation’s efficiency, talent and integration


What can I do?

On an individual level, a network analysis can show what you need to do become more influential within your network. Are you under or over-connected? How can you be more strategic and discerning? In what way can you bring more of yourself to work, create more impact and be more successful?

Think about who you go to for support, guidance and collaboration, and consider the following questions:

Trying to diversify and strategically manage your networks will not only improve your performance and free up your time, but will open up new opportunities for your career.


But why are networks important in business?

Networks are an increasingly bigger part of our life, and we have the ability to look at these networks at an individual, team and organisational level to create seismic shifts in how well we function. By analysing and understanding the depth and quality of our networks, we can make our systems as efficient as possible, maximise the potential of our people and optimise how well different teams work together. A network analysis allows us to make data driven decisions, and predict the effects of our actions on the bottom line of our business, and our people.


News: Can we inhibit our impulses and urges?

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Dr Alan Watkins, CEO and Founder of Complete Coherence and also qualified psychologist and neuroscientist was asked by Radio 4 to offer up his expert view to caller’s questions.

The show centres around a misunderstanding of why we do the things we do, and how to deal with compulsive behaviours, that may make no sense to our adult sensibilities. Dr Watkins explains that how we behave is driven by how our minds were conditioned right back in our early childhoods. Our early memories create deeply embedded programmes, which can be triggered and cause impulses much later on in life.

We like to think that we are completely in control of our behaviour, but often past implicit memories affect us far more than we realise, and we would all benefit from understanding a little more about how our mind works.


Event: Dr Alan Watkins, to feature on international Conscious Business webinar


Dr Alan Watkins to speak at Conscious Business InitiativeToday’s Business leaders need to change radically to meet the challenge of complex organizations and dramatically shifting business landscapes. Humanity’s Team will be hosting a series of six webinars featuring world-renowned visionaries and leaders: Ken Wilber, Elisabet Sahtouris, Rev. Michael Beckwith, Andrew Harvey and Complete Coherence’s CEO, Dr Alan Watkins.

Alan will be speaking alongside Humanity’s Team, Steve Farell and John Thomas on Saturday 10th September 2016, to discuss how business can thrive during times of rapid change.

On Thursday 15th September 2016, in the sixth and final webinar of the series, Alan will be part of a live interactive panel also featuring Ken Wilber and Elisabet Sahtouris, who will be taking live questions from the audience.


Webinar details

Date: Saturday 10th September 2016

Time: 16:00 – 17:30 GMT (9:00 – 10:30 Pacific Standard Time)

Webinar Title: Conscious Business – The Radical New Imperative


Date: Thursday 15th September 2016

Time: 20:00 – 21:30 GMT (12:00 – 13:30 Pacific Standard Time)

Webinar Title: Live Q&A – Now is the time for conscious business change agents


For further details about the full webinar series click here 


Changeboard conference- Tech driven human development

Changeboard conference

 Dr Alan Watkins gave the first public demonstration of the new Complete Coherence app – Universe of Emotions – at the Changeboard Future Talent Conference 2015.

Alan talked about the difference between horizontal and vertical development and showed how the app could help develop increased emotional awareness and control.



Axelle Saada


Axelle coordinates our management information. She brings her analytical skills to the role, acquired through her Master in Economic Analysis which she completed in Belgium, her home country. She also smooths the information flow between our practitioners and the office by being sensitive to everyone’s needs and constraints.

She is an arts lover and a strong environmentalist. She brings her passion for doing the right thing to Complete Coherence.


Danish Mishra



Danish Mishra holds a PhD in Mechanical Engineering and Management from University of Bath. Danish’s background is in engineering, network analysis, knowledge management, and innovation.

In his research career, he worked with Formula 1 to help understand how networks amongst engineering teams drove innovation and competitive success across the industry.

He is interested in how social networks, tacit knowledge, and innovation interact and can be leveraged for innovation, knowledge transfer, and leadership. In his role as Senior Scientist for Data, Network, and Organizations, he works with our People Analytics team to develop cutting edge tools for organisational network analysis and leadership development.


View Danish’s profile on Linkedin: 

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Orowa Sikder

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Orowa Sikder attended Oxford University on a full scholarship, graduating with a first class honours in Philosophy, Politics and Economics.

Orowa Sikder holds a first class honours in Economics from Oxford University and is currently completing a part-time PhD in Psychology and Computer Science at University College London. With a strong background in both academia and business, Orowa runs the Assessment department of Complete Coherence, and excels in providing our clients with the most cutting edge and world leading data-led consultancy. With his ability to quickly conceptualize and solve technical matters, as well as easily and intuitively communicate solutions, he is a key asset for our wide range of data-led client events.


View Orowa’s profile on Linkedin

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Ceri Stokes

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Ceri Stokes is dedicated to helping her clients define what makes the greatest difference in the shortest time frame, to deliver their commercial objectives. Ceri has a first class degree in Human Biology and began her career at a Sunday Times Fast track 100 company. Since joining Complete Coherence she has developed into a coach and facilitator, working with clients in academy, team and individual settings. Her understanding of the commercial dynamics of a business, knowledge of human biology and ability to see different perspectives means she is perfectly placed to help executives develop themselves, despite the pressure at play in the accelerating world. Ceri is a thoughtful and caring individual she is a clear communicator, builds strong relationships and is very focused on tuning into other’s needs and really understanding them. She brings a real determination to helping clients move their business thinking to a new level and develop high performing networks and teams. 


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Fast-track team performance


We had a group of individuals who were working in silos, they were blaming each other. There was a low level of trust, everyone was really tired and no one could see the wood for the trees. I had to start with the top team, which was not working well.

preview-warwick-brady09-150x150-2Alan helped us to open up to each other, work better together and to make decisions as a team. It wasn’t an easy process. We had some knotty issues to sort out, conflicts were brought to a head, but if we hadn’t gone through that pain, those issues would still be festering today.

It worked. Within six months, we had stabilised the operation. Within 12 months we had not only fixed the problem with on time performance (OTP), we had became number one in the industry. We had fixed the core. 

Today my top team is predominantly made up of the same people as it was back in the dark days. We went from being the worst performing airline to being the best. Now the team is well respected and operating like a well-oiled machine. All of this was down to the singular focus on OTP and our teamwork. We spend lots of time together as a team. We come together as a team for planning, thinking and working together. It’s been a remarkable journey for everyone. There are no functional silos, we have genuine multi-functional working and our big handlers and partners have even become part of that culture.

Everyone rallied around the single focus on OTP. We created a structure that fixed the problem. We continue that focus today and it starts from first thing in the morning.

We come together every day of the year to review how the day has started and to review any other issues from the day before. We also have weekly, monthly and quarterly cycles of meetings. In those quarterly meetings, Alan coaches us to ensure that the team is working as efficiently and effectively as it possibly can.

In my experience, it normally takes around five years for teams to operate at the level of trust and co-operation we have reached, with Alan we did it in six months. We had a burning platform and we fast tracked the team problem. Within two days, we had gained a year. We stopped avoiding conflicts and brought them to a head. I now have a team that we are all proud of that is delivering stellar performance.”

Gestur Palmason


Gestur Palmason has in a short period of time become an established and recognised coach in Iceland. He has coached individuals in various sectors including sports, politics, business, healthcare, media, and government agencies, mostly focusing on performance and decision making in stressful situations. He has spoken at conferences, on radio and been quoted in the media on a variety of topics related to human performance and leadership. His calm and steady approach comes from his many years experience working for the Police Department, Police Special Units and Coast Guard agency in Iceland. He is fluent in Icelandic, Dutch, and English.


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Iman Stratenus


Iman Stratenus has a wealth of international commercial experience having been CEO of TNT Express in China running their complex cross-border logistics business. He consolidated that business and led a large scale cultural change programme which also transformed the level of trust within TNT Express. He published a book on his experiences called In China, We Trust. He started his professional life as a corporate lawyer, has worked in the healthcare sector as the Regional General Manager at International SOS in North Asia. He had full P&L responsibility, managing more than 30 clinics across China, Mongolia and Eastern Russia and employed over 200 Doctors. He also worked for a year as the Managing Director of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development in Geneva. 


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When it all comes down to one minute of perfect performance… 

When it all comes down to one minute

In the fast changing modern business and sporting worlds, the margins between success and failure are often very small. The difference between Gold and no medal at all in the 5,000m at the Olympics in 2012 was just 1.33 seconds. Years and years of training, you’ve been running around the track for more than 13 minutes and it all comes down to 1.33 seconds. That’s less than 0.1% of the time the athlete has been running in that Olympic final.

Athletes train for four years to compete at the Olympics and the actual moment of competition may be incredibly brief. In business too, people work for years to get to the C-suite and their ability to stay there may hang on their interactions with other senior players in just two or three meetings per year. In both cases the cost of anything less than perfect performance can be high.

The question is: How do you make sure you deliver your absolute best effort even when the moment of critical performance may only last a few seconds?

The key thing is that we need to think about performance in a slightly different way. While those moments of intense pressure are critical to performance they are just the tip of a much bigger iceberg. If we give excessive focus to those critical moments, we increase the likelihood of failure. Carl Lewis once said: “It’s all about the journey, not the outcome.”

What we really need to do is see such critical moments as the outcome of building a system that really works.   Rather than making those moments ‘the prize’, they are simply the consequence of building a system properly. Focus on all the different things you need to put in place in order to become world class rather than those pinnacle moments of three strategic meetings or a 5,000m final. You are much more likely to succeed if you focus on building the system. Rather than Roy Hodgson focus on the three matches that England have in the World Cup – he focuses on building the system of England football and the way they pass, play and train. If he gets that ‘journey’ right, then the results will be more likely to follow.

It’s the same in business. Focus on the different aspects of the system; day-to-day performance, what will differentiate your business in the future, how to transform the capability and culture of your people and how every member of your team can become brilliant every day. If you work on all of those dimensions and understand how they interrelate, then you will build a system that can succeed.

I’m not saying it’s easy to address all of these aspects of the system. Understandably, most business or sporting leaders take a partial or incomplete view of the system. For example, they either focus on people OR the short term results. In fact very few coaches or leaders have the capability to not only address all aspects of the system, but also understand how the aspects of the system interact. The handful of coaches that understand all dimensions of the system and how they interact really are world class. The good news is that if you do take a much more systemic view, you’re much more likely to succeed. The principles of brilliant performance are true whether it’s a squad of athletes or a cadre of leaders.

So, don’t focus on the minute, focus on the system. Brilliance in that one minute is built by paying attention to the million other minutes. It is the hours and hours of work on a multitude of things that make you brilliant on the day.

Pip Clarke

Philippa Clarke

Pip Clarke is a senior commercial executive with a passion for sales, human development and commercial differentiation. She has a real sense for how to create a winning strategy and develop commercial value for clients through understanding their markets, commercial priorities and being how to engage people behind the key challenges. The return on people investment is a specific focus. She has a background as a political journalist and worked as a national TV political correspondent during which time she interviewed many senior political figures, including Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair and Nelson Mandela.


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Rachel Woolf

Rachel Woolf

Rachel Woolf is a highly experienced international coach and facilitator who specialises in leadership, strategy and top team development. She has extensive managerial experience and has also been a GB Rowing medallist at numerous world championships. Rachel has lived and worked in New York, Osaka and London and has driven global leadership and talent development programmes which have rolled out on a large scale across multiple continents and spanned several years delivering value to over 45,000 employees and including significant uplifts in employee engagement.


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Oliver Dolloway

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Oliver Dolloway specialises in understanding client issues through his experience with psychological theory, data analysis and commercial experience.

He uses cutting-edge data-visualisation tools to help organisations better understand their people and how to best improve their operational functionality. With a Master of Science degree in Research Methods and Statistics, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from the University of Southampton, Oliver joined Complete Coherence as part of our world-leading analytics team.


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Oliver Dawes

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Oliver Dawes (Ollie) brings his relentless optimism and energetic drive to all situations. Ollie joined the team as part of the Assessments Department where he used his background in Neuroscience (BSc 2:1 Cardiff University) to further develop our world-leading psychometric assessments and data analytics tools. Whilst in the role, he discovered his passion for product development and saw how his energy could be used to invigorate CC’s digital offering. Ollie now heads up the Digital arm of Complete Coherence, where his focus is creating digital interventions that help clients to understand more about themselves, their teams and their wider organisations. If you’re in need of cheering up, Ollie will always have a story that will make you laugh; often centred around his love of travelling, yoga and food.


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Lucy Garrard-Abrahams


Lucy has a passion for creating brand and marketing experiences that positively impact individuals. With a first class master’s degree in Marketing Innovation, marketing experience in both private and public sectors and originally trained as a classical pianist, Lucy brings a fresh perspective and creative approach to the role.


Lucy also has a keen interest in nutrition for health and can often be found experimenting with recipes in the kitchen.


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Denise Quan

Denise Quan

Denise Quan qualified as a chartered accountant in South Africa and specialises in taxation. She has broad experience of a number of market sectors with a specialism in international transactions.

Denise is core to the finance function of Complete Coherence and brings an analytical approach to presenting management information. She is totally solution focussed and uses this approach with both internal and external clients. She also holds several voluntary positions in which she uses her accounting skills to review budgets, analyse accounts and report to stakeholders.

Louise Raisbeck

Louise Raisbeck

Louise has more than 20 years experience of working with global multinational companies providing marketing expertise across multiple sectors and disciplines. Previously a director of a top 10 PR consultancy she now works with companies such as Complete Coherence helping to implement communications, marketing and PR strategy. She is a member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations.

Rebecca Warcup


Rebecca Warcup is Complete Coherence’s office manager. She is supremely efficient at managing our back office team with a focused eye on accuracy to help the team operate with excellence at all times. Rebecca is also responsible for our infrastructure, facilities and the overall smooth running of our Admin office. She carries out this task with close attention to commercial viability.

Rebecca enjoys the arts, keeping fit, softball and embracing motherhood. Previously a dancer, she brings a natural flair and passion to her work. 


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Isabelle Ogland


Isabelle studied Law at Exeter University, and graduated from St Andrews with a MSc in Psychology. She is interested in using cutting edge research in the people development sphere to positively transform individuals and their organisations. Her curious, focused, pragmatic and compassionate outlook, enables her to provide the high quality client centric service required for her role as a practitioner. 

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Leanne Oakley

Leanne Gillard

Leanne Oakley has a wealth of experience in event coordination through her work with local charities.  She spent five years as senior cabin crew during which time she became adept at making fast, accurate decisions whilst ensuring an exceptional level of customer service.

Leanne studied Business and Communications at Peter Symonds College in Winchester. This knowledge is applied in a calm, controlled manner to all the events she manages.


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How to land great ideas every day

Landing great ideas on demand

You’re sat at your desk and the pressure is on. Market conditions are tough but your boss and the business needs an idea, an innovation that will help you stay ahead of the competition. You’ve been racking your brains for almost two hours and absolutely nothing new is occurring to you.

Then you have a flash of inspiration and a great idea just comes into your head. Fantastic, but have you every stopped to wonder how that happened? Why did the idea come to you then? Why not an hour and 50 minutes earlier? And have you ever wondered where that idea was just 30 seconds before it occurred to you? For most people how such breakthrough thinking works and why it occurs is a complete mystery. 

But, there is no real mystery. What’s clear from the neuroscientific research, beautifully paraphrased by Einstein, is that you can’t solve problems with the same level of thinking that created them. You can’t just think your way into better thinking.

The truth is that thoughts don’t occur in vacuums, they occur in the context of our biology and our emotional state. That means that if we can change the environment in which our thoughts occur, different thoughts will come to us.

Thirty seconds before that idea landed it was already in your mind. The problem wasn’t that the idea wasn’t there; the problem was that you couldn’t land it. A great idea is a lot like a 747 circling above a runway. The 747 is there, just like the idea is there, but unless the conditions change – you remove other aircraft, the fog lifts, etc. – the 747, and the idea, is not able to land. If you change your internal conditions, then great ideas can start to land. You need to open up the landing slots for your 747 ideas.

Coherence: The Secret Science of Brilliant Leadership can help you open up your landing slots. It all starts with controlling your physiology and your emotional state. You control your physiology through rhythmic, even breathing – that’s not deep breathing, but breathing rhythmically and evenly through the centre of your chest. Once you have your breathing under control you then need to control your emotional state and create the right emotional conditions to land your ideas.

If you are stuck in a negative emotional state with chaotic or unhelpful physiology your ideas just won’t be able to land and you’ll spend weeks trying to come up with that critical new idea. Change your ‘internal weather’, create a coherent state and you’ll find yourself having to hold the planes (ideas) back as they’ll be landing every two minutes. You may start to divert planes to other ‘airports’, happy to give away ideas to others, confident in the knowledge that now you know how to create the right conditions, you can land great ideas every day on demand.

Yvonne Rowland

YN feature

Yvonne Rowland is personal assistant to our CEO. She has experience keeping calm under pressure having previously worked as a rapid response telephone call handler. She is quite often the first port of call for our clients and approaches every situation practically and logically. Yvonne has a totally customer focused approach and enjoys building relationships with our clients.

Ruth Walczak

RuW featured image

Ruth worked with us as a client before joining the team. Before becoming a Practitioner she was a professional athlete in the GB Rowing Team for over a decade, her career highlights include a silver in the lightweight quad and bronze in the lightweight single at the World Championships, bronze in the lightweight double at the European Championships and a silver in the lightweight single at the World Cup.

Ruth’s approach is to help people deepen their understanding of themselves and their team, and she uses Complete Coherence’s integral framework to help leaders accelerate their development and unlock the potential of their team. This enables leaders to thrive, by enhancing their ability to handle increasing complexity, be more responsive and take responsibility to drive change. 

Her style is optimistic and relatable, she is pragmatic and performance driven. She believes that there’s always more to learn and actively encourages people to question all she offers and make it their own. She has a genuine desire to guide people in their continuous development, and it comes from her own motivation to keep developing too.

Ruth works with clients across a range of industries including consumer goods, insurance and with international sports teams and high performance athletes. 

She also gives her time to facilitate workshops in leadership, developing female leaders and thriving in a high performance environment to non-profit organisations including the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust, National Citizenship Service and Great Britain Disability Shooting.

Besides working Ruth enjoys being outdoors, coastal rowing and practicing yoga.

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Peter Dawson


Peter Dawson is an experienced executive who has spent over 15 years working in board level positions including being CEO of a FTSE 250 property company.

Having led multiple corporate transactions including acquisitions and disposals and many real estate investments and developments, Peter has a deep understanding of financial markets and corporate funding. He is a Chartered Surveyor and is certified as an Integral Associate Coach by Integral Coaching Canada and a member of the International Coach Federation


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Katie Ledger


Katie Ledger is a former TV news presenter with specialist skills in helping clients communicate with impact.

Katie Ledger is an coach, team facilitator, communications consultant, and conference host. She is equally comfortable coaching, guiding teams or hosting large scale international conferences. Katie spent 12 years working as a journalist and TV news presenter for the BBC, ITN and Channel 5 News and TVB in Hong Kong. She has worked extensively with senior executives and innovators in media and technology sectors and has facilitated discussions with high profile leaders such as David Cameron, Steve Ballmer, Gordon Brown (ex-British PM) and Ursula Burns (Xerox CEO) – travelling with some around the world. Katie has co-written a book on how to create a portfolio career and succeed in multi market sectors called And What Do You Do?


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Narcissistic Boss – Immune to Change?

Narcissistic boss

There was a compelling piece in the FT recently by Naomi Shragai detailing the challenges of dealing with a narcissistic CEO or boss. Most senior executives are all too familiar with the charismatic, colourful charmer who is aggressive, controlling, status conscious, self-obsessed and volatile. However, their passion, ambition and intensity serve them well and many make it to top table of our multi-nationals.

My problem is labelling such individuals as ‘narcissists’. Narcissism is seen as a personality trait and thus it is believed to be highly resistant to change. And therein lies the problem.

In fact the article quotes experts from New York to Leicester to support the idea of the intransigence of the ‘narcissist’ to change. Our experience disputes this notion. We believe such CEOs can change, particularly if they are not labelled as narcissists. Labelling or describing certain aspects of a leader’s personality is entertaining, often very interesting but ultimately unhelpful for the very reason that it is ‘descriptive’ rather than ‘developmental’.

It is of course possible to describe leaders in millions of different ways but in our view the tendency to describe a leader along any of the personality dimensions can block any potential for change. We believe it is much more helpful to measure their level of vertical development along the key lines of development that are known to impact business performance.

The leaders that Shragai is describing come with a set of clearly defined values, have reached a specific stage of ego maturity and operate with a certain levels of emotional and social intelligence. All of these qualities are amenable to development. Such individuals are often extremely effective at driving a business forward and delivering the profits demanded by shareholders. However, like anyone, not just ‘narcissists’, their negative characteristics can become a liability. For example, ‘narcissists’ tend to bet big and be resistant to guidance on the big points.

It’s important to acknowledge that while change is possible for all leaders, not all leaders are equally amenable to development. Classically those at the ‘expert’ level of ego maturity, and who also operating from the red ‘power’ value system (in spiral dynamics terms), with little tendency for self-reflection are the most resistant to change. For example, I remember one extremely well known CEO telling me “I don’t really want to understand why I am so brilliant, because if I did I might lose it”. In fact, I have lost count of the number of ‘power-expert’ CEOs and senior leaders who have resisted or flatly refused help after I suggested they would fail if they did not open up to some quality coaching. And then I watched them, within weeks of this conversation, derail and get fired, despite their apparent brilliance.

You could characterise the outliers in this ‘power-expert’ population as ‘narcissists’ but as we have said this blocks change rather than helps it.

Developing leaders out of the ‘power-expert’ level is certainly not easy and it is often beyond the capability of all but the most brilliant coaches. Part of the problem is such leaders believe their expertise extends to all areas. These leaders are normally extremely technically skilled in one or two area of competence, be it finance, marketing, the law or operations but such is their self-belief that they think they can do it all.

Coaching the development of ‘power-expert’ leaders is extremely tricky. The traditional coaching approach, which focuses on their commercial goals, key metrics or strategy, simply reinforces the problem. Even trying to raise their awareness of how their unhelpful behaviours can derail them is insufficient. Such coaching input is autopoetic and often just reinforces their ‘stuckness’.

What the leaders actually require is high quality development not more knowledge or skills training. But since most coaches, executives or HR professionals don’t differentiate mainstream coaching from developmental coaching their attempts to change these ‘narcissistic’ CEOs often fail. This reinforces the view that this population are ‘uncoachable’.

Quality developmental coaching requires an understanding of the stages of adult development. Leaders described as ‘narcissists’ are simply at a certain stage of development in their values, maturity, emotional intelligence and cognitive sophistication. Being able to accurately diagnose exactly which stage they are at, which is what we have been doing with leaders for the last ten years, is the first step in being able to help them realise their true potential.

What is really required is to harness their excellent qualities such as ambition, focus determination and passion and then ‘upgrade their internal operating system’ by developing them as people. Such development unlocks a whole range of new capabilities. With these new capabilities these CEOs and leaders start to make much more effective decisions that benefit the many not just themselves, building longer-term sustainable performance. In short they cease to be ‘narcissists’ and start to achieve their real potential as leaders and as human beings.



Get Psyched or Calm Down?

Personal Performance- psych up or calm down

As a communications coach I often get asked “should I psyche myself up for this big presentation/ pitch or should I calm myself down?”

My answer is “Neither. Become coherent ie, controlled and clear.

Simply put, Coherence is a physiological (internal) state where your brain is receiving strong, clear, stable signals from your body. The good news is that you can learn to create this signal. Because the heart is 50 times more powerful than any other organ, it’s there that we start. By breathing rhythmically, evenly and with attention, you can ‘control’ your e-motions (energy in motion) which affects the way you think, behave and ultimately what results you achieve.

Rather than an outer to inner approach, this is a vastly more effective inner to outer approach. There are many ways to achieve this, including different types of meditation and mind training. One approach that I have found to be very helpful (particularly in a business setting) is using the acronym BREATHE. This stands for:





Through the

Heart area


Although we take breathing for granted because we don’t have to think about it, research shows that to be most coherent, three aspects of breathing are most important. In order they are:

Rhythm – a fixed ratio of in to out breaths. So you may breath in for a count of 4 and breath out for a count of 6. It doesn’t matter what your heart rate is, just make sure the ratio stays the same.

Even – simply breathe in and out smoothly – no stutters or stopping half way through a breath.

Through the heart area – this refers to your attention or focus. 3 thoughts:

  1. By focussing attention on the heart area, this practice helps to control the ‘monkey’ mind – where your ‘chattering’ mind gets pulled in many different directions, usually at the whim of external stimuli. This helps the mind to be alert and relaxed at the same time. 
  2. The practice is to gently keep bringing back your wandering attention by using thoughts of self kindness and care for self. Self compassion doesn’t mean you have to think you are great – it can mean just giving yourself a break and reassuring yourself that it’s ok not be perfect. Accepting yourself as you are right now.
  3. The heart is traditionally linked with emotions but in some eastern philosophies the word for heart is also the word for mind – they are inseparable. So what we are doing here is strengthening the “heart-mind” connection.

Many different devices are avail to help you breathe rhythmically and evenly but in addition there are apps that do this, while also monitoring the positive state of coherence. The Cardio Sense Trainer is a phone app or computer software that uses live bio feedback to help you FEEL when you are in this most coherent state. You use an earpiece plugged into your phone/computer. Essentially, it works like a traffic light system. When red lights up – internally you are in a chaotic state. When it’s green, you are in a coherent state. If you do this 10 mins in morning and 10 mins at night, within a few weeks, you’ll start to notice the positive changes in clarity, energy and self control.

The ability to take yourself into this coherent state is what great performances are made of. Just remember to BREATHE.

An Inspirational Encounter

Ken Wilber and Dr Alan Watkins

Recently, I had the great good fortune to meet a truly exceptional person. In fact, it’s a man who has provided much of the inspiration for the work I do with business leaders. Ken Wilber.

Working with true greats is a privilege and an inspiration. It’s happened to me a few times in my life. First, in 1986 when I qualified as a physician, I worked and had a close relationship with the leading cardiologist of the time, Peter Nixon. More recently, I met and collaborated on some research (soon to be published) with one of the inner circle of Dalai Lama, a man called Mattieu Ricard. I also spent some time with Gempo Roshi one of the leading Zen masters in America.

Now, just the other week I met the man who has been called the modern day Freud, Ken Wilber.

Ken is probably the one of the biggest of all the outliers. Some people think he’s an alien – and they’re only slightly joking. There are very few people alive on the planet who have spawned a whole new field of academic endeavour across multiple disciplines. 

One of the interesting things about meeting people like Ken is their level of humility, openness and the warmth of their heart. You might expect them to bit a little aloof or standoffish, but they’re really not. Instead they embody, at a very deep level, the things they talk about. Their ability to deeply embody the things they talk about is a mark of their exceptional nature.

Ten minutes into my first conversation with Mattieu, we were sharing stories like drinking buddies, exchanging witticisms and making each other laugh. There was a kind of ordinariness to our exchange that meant very quickly we were completely comfortable in each other’s presence. There is no positioning or game playing that can be characteristic of interactions of most people of power and influence.

Ken has provided a map of the human experience. It’s a map that has gone on to influence numerous other maps in philosophy, psychology, religion, architecture, healthcare and many more. Ken’s work provides the ultimate frame that enables us to understand what it is to be human. Ken’s book, A brief History of Everything, is a fantastic sweep across the nature of human experience and all phenomena.

Wilber provides the knowledge of where you are and where everyone else is on the map and how you might navigate that. 

That map informs fields as different as architecture and nursing. 

I’m looking forward to ongoing conversations about the importance of coherence in navigating an integral world.  As is mentioned in my book (Coherence: The Secret Science of Brilliant Leadership) the whole idea of lines and levels of development is Ken’s model. He has inspired so much of my work – I, we it – all Ken’s frame.

Emotion Mastery

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Relationships Complexity

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Coaching the coaches to avoid the Pardew ‘kiss’

Pardew kiss

As Alan Pardew awaits the date of his personal hearing to discuss the FA misconduct charge for his apparent ‘Glasgow kiss’ on Hull City’s David Meyler, I wonder why we’re still talking about punishment rather than prevention.

We hear very little debate about some of the underlying pressures and causes of behaviour such as Pardew’s, and his is not an isolated case. The media scrutiny and pressure on premiership managers is so intense that it’s not surprising that some of them are at the point of explosion on many occasions. 

The average life expectancy in post for a premiership manager is 12-18 months. I struggle to think of any other job in the world with such a short life expectancy on entry, where every single action and comment is scrutinised on a daily basis and where any loose phrases or statements are immediately seized upon and splashed all over the back pages. Furthermore, there are even fewer jobs where the head person receives a much lower salary than some of his charges and every week the results of your efforts are broadcast to over 600 million people in over 200 countries around the world.

The degree of pressure felt by premiership managers is truly intense, but very few of them receive any personal support. They may be coaches to the first team, but they receive no coaching for themselves on how to cope. They are just expected to deal with the pressure. Consider CEOs in similar positions of pressure. At least half of FTSE CEOs have external support in the form of coaches or mentors. In football, such support is practically non-existent and in fact is often ridiculed. Just recently Roy Hodgson’s appointment of a team psychiatrist has been somewhat derided as odd or weird by commentators, or even equated to Glen Hoddle bringing in faith healer Eileen Drewery as an advisor to the England squad in the late 90s.

When you consider the widespread acceptance of psychological support in other sports, football has some way to go. This was not the first outburst from Pardew and the fact that these issues are commented on but no help is offered is symptomatic of the lack of recognition that premiership managerial pressure as a serious issue.

We need to wake up and recognise that any organisation (sporting or business) that is serious about the performance of its senior executives should offer them quality coaching support, if for no other reason than to reduce the risk of managerial failure.

The same goes for players too. One momentary loss of temper or outburst can trigger a red card, leading a player to be banned for three days (minimum) with the subsequent potential loss of points for the team. On occasion such a loss in points could result in relegation and you’re then talking about a potential multi-million pound loss in revenue.  

It is extraordinary given the degree of financial risk from such outbursts that psychological support for players and coaching staff is so derided. Without high quality support, inappropriate solutions are suggested – Pardew suggests he manages from the stands rather than the touchline in future. Such a suggestion is a classic example of not addressing the real problem.  

The truth is that these risks can be much better managed. Players and managers can learn to regulate themselves to a much higher degree, despite the pressures they face. Football needs to take proper professional and appropriate action to support its managers. The FA has a large role to play in getting such interventions in place and accepted as a way forward in football as it is in most other modern sports.

HR Review: Don’t be a victim of stress, be response-able


Dr Alan Watkins article featured in December 2013 HR Review

Forbes article on coherence book


Article in Forbes Magazine December 2013 about Dr Alan Watkins new book Coherence: The Secret Science of Brilliant Leadership.

The fog is clearing and the clock is ticking


Every few weeks there is a media flurry over the issue of climate change. Is the planet really heating up and are we to blame? The way these stories are reported it is often, for the average citizen who is not an expert in these complicated matters, hard to know what the truth is. But thankfully this is beginning to change for two reasons. First there are many more well-informed people commenting on the debate and translating the complex science into something comprehensible and secondly social media outlets can bypass the confusing spin that such an issue can attract in the mainstream media.

The result is we are becoming much more informed about what is really happening with climate change. For example, recently an open letter from 70 fund managers and investors was sent to 45 leading fossil fuel companies and simultaneously published on the internet. These hedge fund managers supervise six trillion dollars’ worth of assets, so they are a significant financial force in the global investment community. Their letter expressed a concern about the fact that the planet is moving away from fossil fuels and asked what the companies in that sector are doing about risk management of their potentially ‘stranded assets’. Their argument was that we have enough oil reserves for next 10-15 years. With advances in wind, solar and nuclear energy provision, we may not need fossil fuels beyond that time. We could continue to dig oil out, at great expense, but there won’t be a market for it – hence ‘stranded assets’. Such was the scale of this risk for the fund managers, that they wrote this open letter to the fossil fuel companies to say that they, the fund managers, might not be able to buy stakes in energy companies who had not managed this risk. They claimed the impact of such mismanagement could be a catastrophic loss in the value of the fossil fuel companies triggering a crisis of a similar scale to the banking crisis. As yet there has been no response from the fossil fuel companies

The flow of information today is such that many more people know what’s going on. This is especially true of the climate debate. There is a strong consensus among academics that some players are deliberately obfuscating the reality of climate change because it serves them to do so. The book, Merchants of Doubt by Naome Oreskes and Erik Conway, provides a fascinating insight into how a just a handful of scientists can obfuscate the truth; in particular they look at tobacco and oil. In the climate change debate, we see the same kind of phenomena – people are deliberately trying to confuse the debate. Scientists are underestimating the risks of climate change because it could be carer limiting to be too negative. In the bonus chapter of my book (available free from:, when you buy the book) I quote David Wasdell who suggests that the trajectory we’re on is worse than most mainstream scientists are admitting. The planet is heating up 300 times faster than at any other time in the history of our planet.

These voices are starting to be heard – the hedge fund managers have clearly heard them. The United Nations will shortly publish its paper on climate change and what they think the planet’s position is. The obfuscators are ready for this UN paper. One source of disinformation is planning to release its own report prior to the UN report – evidently trying to obfuscate the truth.

The thing is that the days when corporations could pull the wool of the public’s eyes and vested interests could distort the agenda are gone. It took 50 years to prove the case against tobacco industry that smoking causes cancer, but it won’t take 50 years for the truth about climate change to come out.

In fact, really smart companies are already changing their behaviour based on the truth about climate change and other world issues and they are looking at something called ‘triple bottom lining’. The triple bottom line takes into account costs that aren’t currently being measured, such as environmental impact or social costs. Currently most businesses are not looking at the real costs of labour; they are just going to places they can get people cheaply. At some point there will be a green tax for all companies and there may also be some kind of social tax – triple bottom lining will come in at some point.

In fact Bloomberg is already training analysts into how to look at these triple bottom-line stats – they know it will come at some point soon. The issue is that big business is, at present, still largely ignoring this agenda. But it will become increasingly important, especially to the reputation of big business. In the same way as tax avoidance has become a reputational issue climate change and social impact will become an increasingly important issue. The clock is ticking and the public are watching.

The importance of culture when planning a project

Transforming and understanding culture

I’ve been heavily involved in the production of Alan Watkins’ new book – Coherence: The Secret Science of Brilliant Leadership. My revelation from this project has been that even a project that appears to be a solo project is actually a huge team effort. It has certainly made me more appreciative of books in general. Instead of picking up a book and thinking ‘oh, this is written by so and so’ , I now think about how many people have been involved and I also think about the process they used for the production of the book.

There have been a multitude of people involved in our project – obviously Alan as the author, but also an editor, a marketing professional, the publisher, the copy editor, proof reader, production editor, graphics designer, the team at Complete Coherence, etc. Look at the book and you’d be forgiven for thinking this was purely the author’s work with perhaps a nod to the publisher – this couldn’t be further from the truth.

If I had recognised at the very inception of this project just how many people would be involved, I would have approached things a little differently. We would have created a much more inclusive environment from the start so that everyone involved had a sense of the vision and the progress being made. I would have allowed more time for decisions that required the input of a number of different people. A decision made by one person can be taken much quicker than a collaborative decision. So in an organisation like ours that works very collaboratively the management of the time line of any project is paramount.

Our collaborative style of decision-making means that virtually all projects, even one like writing a book, are team projects. This style of working also reflects the culture of our organisation that is incredibly inclusive. A deep understanding of your culture and values as well as your decision making style can remove many of the frustrations that arise in your organisation.

For example, if the publisher sent me a sample graphic and wanted a response within two hours, I knew that both our team approach and our collaborative culture would make that deadline hard to meet. Much better to warn the publisher in advance that we would need an appropriate amount of time to respond with comments to something like a nuanced graphic.

It’s not always easy to allow that extra time. We all work in incredibly fast-paced environments. There is an urgency to make quick decision, but if you don’t allow that space for collaboration and for emotions to be expressed, you can create frustrations, and ultimately that can lead to a less than perfect decision. Fast made but sub-optimal decisions will ultimately slow the organisation down as those decision may get unpicked at a later date.

The good news for us is that the end result of this ‘team effort’ has been an amazing book. You can find out more here.

However, next time Alan writes a book, I’ll make sure that I factor in an allowance for the culture of our organisation into schedules and deadlines so we can leverage the collaborative wisdom without creating tension with the time frames we set ourselves.

Alan Littlefield

Alan Littlefield

Alan Littlefield has spent more than fifteen years of his career in HR and leadership development. He is an accomplished coach with professional membership, who enjoys guiding leaders from all walks of life to evolve their capacity to self-manage and deliver performance. Alan also has extensive experience facilitating team development across a broad range of clients, sectors and geographies.  He leads the development of the practitioner team at Complete Coherence and works across clients focusing on building long-term relationships and bespoke leadership programmes.


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Chris Parry

Chris Parry

Chris Parry is an entrepreneur and in her early career in financial services she became the youngest women to reach senior management level in NatWest. She subsequently set up and was the CEO of her own highly successful leadership development firm which she grew to 250 people, with offices in London and New York. She sold this four years ago and it has recently been acquired by IBM. As well as being a successful entrepreneur and business leader herself, Chris is an experienced coach and team facilitator and has worked with literally hundreds of senior executives around the world helping them achieve their true leadership potential.


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Insularity a predictor of failure?

Insularity predictor of failure

Prior to the London 2012 Olympics I had the great good fortune of being invited to work with the GB Rowing squad. They were attempting to beat their best ever result in the Beijing games of six medals. Rowing was my sport and London my home Olympics so as a request for help it doesn’t get much better than this.

I went to speak to all 15 GB Rowing squad coaches and outlined what I could do to support their preparation in the three month run in to the Games. Seven of the coaches stepped forward and worked with me and eight coaches felt that their crews were already well enough supported.

Of the seven crews I worked with six won medals compared to only three of the eight crews I did not work with. Now I am not claiming that this was down to me, although I’d like to think I helped a bit. Rather I think it suggests that world-class performers are always receptive. In fact I would go so far as to say that openness to input is one of the defining characteristics of world class athletes or executives. People who are truly world class normally have the humility to realise that they do not know everything and they realise that there is always another level of brilliance they have yet to achieve. As a consequence they are curious and perpetually on the lookout for things inside and outside their area of expertise that could give them an additional competitive edge.

Take football, where insularity to input is commonplace. Remember the rejection of Sir Clive Woodward’s offer to help Southampton FC a few years ago? Sir Clive was a world cup winner. He had guided a group of young male athletes in a ball sport to the pinnacle of global success. But the prevailing view was that he was not a football man so what could he possibly know?

This season’s premiership football campaign has been marked by two things. Firstly the incredible managerial churn with some teams being relegated despite, or perhaps because of, their inability to stick by their manager. Secondly the continued insularity of football to accept input from anyone who has not played the beautiful game at professional level. Football remains far behind in terms of people development and cutting edge coaching practice compared to other GB sports.

Such insularity is also very common in business, where it is often associated with underperformance or failure. We have seen numerous CEOs and C-suite leaders who have pressed on, head down, refusing help, believing that they are doing well enough. Only to discover within the year that they have been removed from post usually for under performance. In fact we have seen this phenomena so often we have started to keep a “watch list” of executives who have been resistant to input. At the moment there are seven or eight names on the list. They either refused an offer of help or said ‘not just yet’ and within a year they were sacked, sometimes in a very public or humiliating fashion. The list remains live with a few high profile names, who are still in post, who we believe are likely to fail within a year as a result of their insularity.

But why are so many leaders closed to input? Is it hubris as Lord Owen suggests? Or is it that they see the acceptance of coaching guidance as a sign of weakness? In fairness some business leaders have tried to open up to input but unfortunately they were on the receiving end of such poor quality coaching that they mistakenly assumed that all corporate coaching and leadership development programmes were a waste of time.

It could be argued that a good Chairman or the non-Executive Directors (NEDs) should provide this sort of guidance for the CEO or C-suite leaders in a business. Sometimes they do. But in our experience running a large multi-national business today is now so complicated and pressurised that it is very difficult for most leaders to manage the multiple layers and levels of complexity across so many different dimensions. Robert Kegan, the Harvard Professor, has suggested that most leaders are “in over their heads”. For these reasons it is imperative that leaders find a really high quality experienced coach independent of the business who can provide the requisite challenge to thinking and who also have the skill to actually drive that leader’s development.

The problem is that finding a coach that can do this is much easier said than done. Coaching qualifications from the organisations that have set themselves us as the “professional bodies” in corporate coaching are no guide to quality. A coach’s track record can help sort good coaches from poor ones. Breadth of coaching experience is also a good indicator. Level of seniority of experience can also help, as there is no doubt that more senior leaders are often more demanding.

The main point is that if leaders want to be able to sustain their success and last longer than your average premiership football manager they need to become less insular. If anyone or any organisation thinks they know it all, then they are very likely to fail. If we become too obsessed with ourselves and too enamoured with our own brand, we fail to be open to feedback. We believe we know it all and start to think we are invincible.

The irony of this insularity is that we are all defined by relationships, whether we like it or not. Relationships require us to interact. When we disconnect from the world, from others and their feedback, we begin to know less. Every company is defined by its relationship with customers and each human being is defined by his or her relationships with the people around them. It is only when we meet other people that we realise we might not be the genius we think we are.

Leaders need to become much more curious about their own development and hunt down a high quality corporate coach with the skill and capability to really development them and the leaders within their business. Such a person is rare and should be seen as a critical resource for any organisation. Insularity is a recipe for disaster.

Avoiding the Christmas Lobotomy

Blog- Avoiding the christmas lobotomy copy 1007x671

What on earth made you think your wife wanted that?

Christmas can be a time of terror and panic for many men. I hate to stereotype, but it appears that few male executives have either the time or the inclination for Christmas shopping. Many don’t have any real insight into what their wife really wants as their special Christmas gift. Some even delegate the task to their PAs. It is not uncommon for hordes of men to find themselves in a lingerie shop at 4:45pm on Christmas Eve.

Faced with the desperate need to get something, anything, for their significant other, they dash into that little shop of horrors – the lingerie shop. The horror is not because of the beautiful products that such shops sell but because of the experience that awaits them. As they stare at the racks realising that the better gifts have gone, unbeknownst to them, their biology has kicked in and not in the way that you might think. At a biological level, they are in chaos. More specifically their heart rate is fluctuating erratically between 60-80bpm. It’s rather akin to the needle on seismometer during an earthquake. These chaotic physiological messages travel from the heart to the brain via the vagus nerve causing a shutdown of the front of the brain. This is known in the trade a cortical inhibition or if you prefer a DIY lobotomy.

As the male executive gets closer to closing time on Christmas Eve, the loss of frontal lobe function becomes more profound and the likelihood of buying something wildly inappropriate increases. As many women will testify, opening the package on Xmas morning to discover some inappropriate item of lingerie is bad enough. Then discovering it’s not even in the right size begs the question – who does my husband think he’s been married to all these years?

The best way to avoid the Christmas lobotomy is be aware of the likelihood of brain shutdown under pressure far enough in advance to avoid the problem entirely. Sadly, if you leave things too late you will almost inevitably lobotomise yourself. As a result, at best your wife will open something that needs to be taken back and at worse it may cause a full-blown row.  

My advice? Two strategies:

  1. Long term planning is the best way to avoid the brain doesn’t shut down after last minute pressure. Ask your wife much earlier in the year the kind of things she likes. You could even ask your wife’s friends for tips and guidance so you don’t fall foul of a disastrous Christmas lobotomy.

  2. If you haven’t had the forethought to plan ahead and you find yourself in the lingerie department at 4:45pm Christmas Eve, remember this:

    1. Breathe rhythmically and evenly to ensure the signal between your heart and your brain is coherent and keeps your frontal lobs on. This can prevent you from descending into panic.
    2. Ensure your emotional state is positive not negative. We can all learn to control our own emotional state. Make sure you are ‘response-able’, harnessing a positive emotional state and able to respond rather than reacting to the stress of the situation in front of you.

If you do these things you’ll have a fighting chance of your brain working. In that physiological and emotional state, there is a chance that the realisation will come to you that there is a second lingerie store just around the corner that might be more appropriate to your wife’s needs.

That’s my Christmas gift to all you male executives. And it’s a gift that keeps on giving – if you keep practising.

Wake up, own up, grow up, show up: The four steps towards brilliant performance

Wake up

Step one: Wake up

I first woke up to the idea that I might be in charge of my own mind way back in the late 80s early 90s. Whilst leading a significant business turnaround in a really tough climate I had sought the support of a coach. During the coaching sessions I realised that the personality I had developed was a function of the experiences I had had. More than that, I understood for the first time that my personality might be fit for purpose or it might not be, but either way I could take responsibility for owning it and changing it. Whilst I was exploring this in the context of my work as a leader and change agent, it was clear that the learning and connections I was making applied across all aspects of my life and has significant impact on my life experience and my ability to have impact.

That may have been my initial ‘awakening’, and in becoming awake I took more responsibility for myself and my leadership of others, however the next real breakthrough came some twenty years later. A number of experiences came together to drive the change in me; I met Alan Watkins a neuroscientist and Diane Musho Hamilton, a Zen master. With them I went through the ‘Big Mind experience’ which is an amazing high speed developmental experience; I completed the Complete Coherence LEP and LVP assessment and coaching programmes and I read Matthieu Ricard’s book Happiness. Through these experiences, I came to understand that the whole notion of “self” is just a collection of thoughts, concepts and feelings created by us. The key distinction being that these thoughts and feelings are not us, they are not who we really are or the self we become accustomed to accepting unquestioningly as “me”. Just having this understanding and coming to recognise that I could be an observer of myself and specifically my thoughts and feelings was a transformative moment for me.

Before that revelation, I had been quite reactionary at the mercy of outside stimulus. Now, I am able to take a step back and observe myself. When I do this a particular phrase pops into my head. I find myself thinking ‘look at me’[1]. It’s often accompanied by a description of my emotion at the time, for example ‘look at me getting all irritated’ or ‘look at me getting angry’. The fascinating thing is that the simple observation of that feeling and the emotion enables you to control the emotion. As soon as you observe it, you can’t feel irritated or angry. Observing yourself stops your emotions running riot and so you’re able to stay in the emotional state you want to be in for longer.

Just that tiny degree of shift has had a massive impact on my life and step changed my awareness. Not only at work, but at home; my family has experienced a better side of me with fewer irritated explosions and less negative energy. If I’m doing ‘look at me’, I’m giving myself scope to think about how I can be the best I can be.

‘Look at me’ has given me new space in which to observe myself. It has bought me that moment of awareness so I don’t just react. It may just be a Nano second of extra space, but it leads to more thoughtful responses. Two particular emotions that I have learned to invoke have helped me enormously. The first is curiosity and the second appreciation. These two have helped me to create the space for reflection examination and multiple perspectives. These in combination are helping me to better inform my behaviour choices and actions.

In future blogs, I’ll explore the three stages beyond ‘wake up’. Owning up is about accepting the whole of who you are – the good, bad and the ugly. Having embraced and accepted all of who you are, growing up focuses on what you want to do about it, where you want to take it. Finally, showing up, is about taking back control of your life and being the person you want to be. It’s about being brilliant every single day.

[1] The notion of ‘look at me’ came to me from a lecture by Sister Jayanti, director of Brahma Kumaris

Carol Evans

Carol Evans

Carol Evans has held senior board level positions since 1988 when she co-founded 2GL Computer Services Group.  As a result Carol has a sound understanding of the demands of all aspects of business development. She is experienced in HR strategy, process, talent management and building business solutions for the HR challenges faced by businesses today.

Carol is passionate about making a difference and ensuring that Complete Coherence has the best practitioners to meet our clients needs.


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Sarah Watkins

Sarah Watkins

Sarah Watkins is a co-founder of Complete Coherence and has been involved in the development of the business over the last 15 years. Sarah has a medical background which gives her a unique understanding of the content, products and tools we use. This enables Sarah to offer a depth of experience and guidance to our practitioners to ensure the best possible solutions for our clients. She also oversees many of the financial and administrative aspects of the business.


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Dr Alan Watkins

Alan Watkins

Dr Alan Watkins is recognised as an international expert on leadership and human performance.

Alan Watkins is recognised as an international expert on leadership and human performance. He has a broad mix of commercial, academic, scientific and technological abilities. Over the past 18 years he has been a coach to many of Europe’s top business leaders and has helped companies treble share price, enter the FTSE 100, salvage difficult turnarounds and establish market leadership in their industry. He has written five books and is currently writing three. He advised the GB Olympic squad prior to London 2012 and Rio 2016. He has a three degrees and is a neuroscientist by background.


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“I get out of bed every day to help leaders across the globe make better decisions. In my view, there is an urgent need to develop more enlightened leadership in organisations. I am very optimistic about the potential of human beings and what is possible, 4D Leadership is a guide to realising that potential.”

How to take your first step towards coherence


I was chatting to someone the other day who had read my book. They were being very complementary, but then she asked me: where do I start? If I want to change my life for the better, what’s the first step? I thought I’d share with you my answer.

There is a tendency to think that the problems of the world are all ‘out there’ – if only other people or those companies or those governments would do something. When you believe that the cause of the problem is ‘out there’ then you start to feel helpless that there is nothing you can do. 

Well there is something that you can do and the first step is to stop looking ‘out there’ and to start looking inside yourself. When you ask yourself: What can I do? The answer is to start with the only thing you can do, which is to change yourself. You don’t have control over those other things; you haven’t got control over climate or fossil fuels or the banks, but you do have control over how you think, how you feel and how you behave. If you want to change the world these are only three levers you can pull.

The first step to changing the planet or making your own life better or making others’ lives better in any way is to change how you think, how you feel or how you behave. As long as you continue to feel ‘helpless’, then you’re in victim mode and you’ll never make a difference. You need to change that feeling of helplessness before you do anything. It always starts with you.

The second step to changing the world or your life is to cultivate your awareness. When you’re looking out there, you’re not looking at yourself. Once you realise the change starts with you, the second step is to understand what’s going on with you. How are you thinking? What are you thinking? Why are you thinking that? What do you really feel about that? What are you actually doing? These kinds of questions cultivate self-awareness, but awareness raising on its own is not always helpful. In fact in isolation it can actually be counter productive if you don’t take the third step. The third step is to do something with the new awareness. What’s the point of knowing you feel bad, if you don’t change that feeling.

Step three is moving from awareness to action. If you’re in charge of a business and one manufacturing site is losing money – you do something about it. Awareness of the problem demands action. Awareness without action is dangerous, but it happens all the time. Think about a news report about massive flooding in Bangladesh. It raises your awareness, but leaves you asking ‘what do I do about that?’ Should I send money, should I fly over there and offer help? You are aware but you are left with a feeling of helplessness. So now you are worse off than before you heard the news report. So if you don’t want to be worse off you must take action.

It is true that there is no change without awareness, but awareness has to lead to action – that’s the point of awareness.

The action is to change what you feel, what you think and what you do. For more about that, read the book Coherence: The Secret Science of Brilliant Leadership

Feature: In the press

daily mail logo

gregorian chantingGregorian chanting ‘can reduce blood pressure and stress’

2nd May 2008

Excerpt from the Daily Mail Science, click here for the online article. 

Stress levels could be reduced simply by participating in some Gregorian chanting, researchers claimed today.

Dr Alan Watkins, a senior lecturer in neuroscience at Imperial College London, revealed that teaching people to control their breathing and applying the musical structure of chanting can help their emotional state.

He said: “We have recently carried out research that demonstrates that the regular breathing and musical structure of chanting can have a significant and positive physiological impact.”

The research involved five monks having their heart rate and blood pressure measured throughout a 24-hour period.

Results showed their heart rate and blood pressure dipped to its lowest point in the day when they were chanting.

Dr Watkins pointed to previous studies that also demonstrated such practices have been shown to lower blood pressure, increase performance hormone levels as well as reduce anxiety and depression.

The lecturer also runs Complete Coherence Ltd, a company that helps executives perform under stressful conditions.

He said: “The control of the breathing, the feelings of wellbeing that communal singing bring, and the simplicity of the melodies, seem to have a powerful effect on reducing blood pressure and therefore stress.”

“We have found that teaching individuals to control their breathing, generate more positive emotional states and connect better with those around them – all key aspects of Gregorian chanting – can significantly improve their mental state, reduce tension, and increase their efficiency in the workplace.”

Record company Universal recently chose the monks of Stift Heiligenkreuz, Vienna to make an album after responding to a public interest in the genre. The company also believes the Halo computer game series, available on PCs and Xbox consoles, sparked a resurgence in the music traditionally sung in male church choirs, as Gregorian chant-like melodies form the main soundtrack of the games.

Event: What planet are you on?


Future Talent conference 2015: Alan Watkins’ presentation

This post was originally shownChangeboard website on 


What planet are you on? – Tech driven human development

Did you know that there are 2,000 emotions in the universe? Dr Alan Watkins started his session asking the audience to tweet a specific emotion in relation to the day, using the all important hashtag (i.e. #happy #excited).

Watkins then walked his audience through the development process of a human, determining that every stage of a young child is of vital importance when taking control of emotion. Watkins reckons we don’t develop much further than a 14 year old inside, we just adapt to life more.

The purpose of this ‘self’ timeline is to determine ultimately what emotional planet you are on. An app that was devised by Complete Coherence was used throughout the day, monitoring the delegates ‘hashtagged’ emotions used on twitter. This tool is something that is meant to help you take control of your emotional planet.

“You move from victim, to taking control,” summarised Watkins.

The evolving answer to the question: why am I here?


A vital aspect of an individual’s vertical development is to understand and live their ‘personal purpose’. It’s the answer to the existential question: Why am I here?  If you ask someone to consider this question, most respond by describing their job, their role at work or say something about supporting their family. None of these are really purpose. Purpose is the unique guiding principle of your life. It is present even if you are unaware of it.

Our personal purpose is especially visible when we’re not sure what to do. We might intuitively feel what the right answer is and that feeling is probably coming from a fundamental feature of our lives. For example, you might get two job offers and you just know that one is right. It just ‘feels’ better than the other. The reason is it’s closer to the ‘true north’ of your internal compass – the personal purpose that steers your life.

I do a lot of work with clients to help them identify and live truer to personal purpose, and it’s also been an aspect of my development that has given me tremendous value. One feature I’ve noticed about personal purpose is that it is not static; it evolves throughout your life as you move up to the next level of development. Developing vertically means you transform on the inside and your sense of ‘self’ changes. The natural consequence of this is that your purpose evolves too. When this happens, you don’t abandon what came before; you transcend and include it to become a more mature version of yourself.

Let me share my experience of a shifting personal purpose, it may just resonate with you… 


My shifting personal purpose

Until October last year, my personal purpose was: ‘I discover ideas’. I am driven by an intense curiosity about the world, how it works and what makes people tick. This shows up in my work as a coach helping other people discover ideas about themselves. It also shows up in my love of science-fiction and my bookcase housing a wide range of non-fiction titles that all feed my love of ideas. My personal purpose is evident in all parts of my life.

During 2013, I increasingly felt that my existing personal purpose no longer explained why I am here – there was now more to it. My new personal purpose evolved through personal reflection, conversations with colleagues and eventually crystallised during a meditation exercise in October 2013, when I was in a particularly open and receptive state.

My personal purpose is now: ‘I catalyse evolution’. It is still rooted in the need to discover ideas, but wrapped around that is a desire to use the conceptual frame to make a noticeable difference in the world. This has lifted my coaching to another level where I can be far more catalytic in my clients’ personal development. And my love of science-fiction has evolved into writing a story myself with the intention of provoking a new perspective in the reader.

In my work with clients are further examples of personal purpose evolving to a more sophisticated version. One client shifted from ‘I provide’ to ‘I care’, which allowed him to relax the need to provide for everyone and focus more on how what he provided expressed his care for others. Another’s purpose was ‘I build solutions’ and became ‘I design systems’, enabling her to step back and empower others to solve problems within a framework.


Articulating your personal purpose

Take a moment now to consider your personal purpose. Look at your life and think about those ‘crossroad’ moments of key decisions – how did you know what was ‘right’? Also consider the peak experiences in your life, when you were totally absorbed and felt at your best. In those moments your purpose is often most fully lived.

Imagine the timeline of your life. Looking back, what have been the significant turning points that fundamentally changed you? What does that imply about previous versions of your purpose? How have they transcended and included each other? Moving to the present and looking forward, how are you developing now? What are the implications for your purpose? How is it evolving and what might the next version be?

Very few people ever articulate their personal purpose. If you do, the benefits are greater clarity about what matters and where to apply your energy. It will massively augment your motivation and focus your prioritisation. When you live purposefully, everything has more meaning, is more enjoyable and creates more energy. When your internal compass is strongly magnetised to your ‘true north’, life becomes easier.

Momentum – lap of the gods or in your own hands?

Momentum wide

Momentum is a bit of a buzzword of the moment. Commentators and coaches talked of almost nothing else at the recent European Ryder Cup victory. The phenomenon of momentum not only appears in golf but in many other sports – teams are said to have hit a ‘rich vein of form’, they ‘get on a roll’. Momentum also occurs in most businesses. Ask any good sales person and they’ll tell you that if they close two or three deals in a row, they’ll very soon close a few more. Conversely, once they’ve lost one or two bids, they’ll report losing five or six.

For many people this phenomenon is a mystery. It is reflected in sayings such as ‘things come in threes’ and the gambler who reveals they’re on a ‘winning or losing streak’. For many people, such things are just simply ‘in the hands of the gods’.

Whilst Ryder Cup Captain, Paul McGinley, may have waxed lyrical about momentum. Could he have really told you what it was – or how the team could get it back if they’d lost it at a critical moment?

Looking at the academic research in the sports world, you’d have to conclude that momentum does not exist. Stephen Dubner, of Freakonomics fame, quotes a paper from several years ago “arguing that a “hot streak” is really just a random sequence that we misperceive to be more meaningful than it is.”[1]

So it’s really more to do with the perception of momentum than actual momentum. If you feel you’ve turned a corner and things are starting to go for you that may be just as important as the objective evidence that you are performing better. Many a premiership football manager will talk about the “positives” they can take out of a game they just lost. They’re not naïve, but they are alluding to a sense of progress. The exact same phenomenon occurs in business; like for like sales figures may be poor, but even before there is objective evidence of a turnaround we start to sense a direction, that a certain momentum is there. Business has its own set of metaphors for such scenarios – “we’ve turned a corner”; “the green shoots of recovery”. Politics may be the ultimate area where it is often vital to create the perception of momentum to win a vote.

The statement that “the tide is turning” gives us a clue about what momentum really is – or at least where it’s coming from. It is rarely coming from the results themselves, it is happening inside of us. It is to do with our self-belief, confidence and desire. These are all key e-motions, or energy-in-motion. They have their own specific physiological signature. All these e-motions have inherent momentum. Such feelings can be created by you from a standing start and are completely within your own control. You don’t need to wait for something outside to trigger them, you can choose to create such momentum for yourself unconstrained by a fear of failure or performance anxiety.

As you learn to control your own emotional state and change how you feel you can start to feel a bit more confident even before the results would give you justification for doing so. Those feelings of confidence have a direct biological effect. Your cortisol (stress hormone) levels start to drop and your DHEA (the performance hormone) levels start to rise. If you can shift the cortisol DHEA ratio and alter the see saw balance between the two, you can tilt the scales in your favour and create your own momentum. That can happen in advance of any objective improvement in results – closing that deal or sinking that 5ft putt. The critical step is you being able to tilt the scales in your favour and that is an internal shift before anything is objectively visible externally.

It’s important to realise that this doesn’t mean we’ve entered the realm of the ‘happy clappy’ or delusional ‘positive thinking’ or the emptiness of ‘positive mental attitude’. We’re not talking about a pretence of brilliance in the face of evidence to the contrary. What we are suggesting is that you actually experience the emotion, not the thinking, of confidence and self-belief with its attending physiological signature. We know that with the right amount of optimism you’re much more likely to be clear thinking. When you’re in a state of self-judgment, self-criticism, hubristic self-promotion or even the hyperbolic state of ‘I’m awesome’ then your biology will actually derail your momentum.

Momentum really isn’t within the ‘lap of the gods’, it’s in your own lap or, more accurately, within your own physiology. It can be created within each of us on demand to optimise our chances of success. Once you change your physiology and emotional state to create the momentum you seek it can be infectious. What starts as an internal game becomes a genuine outcome in the real world of business or sport.

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The biological basis of flow

Biological basis of flow

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi first drew our attention to the idea of a flow state in the early 90s and since then the concept has caught on. Most people have observed sports teams in a state of flow.

A state in which a team suddenly achieves a level of brilliance and fluidity that is noticeably different from a ‘normal’ level of sporting function. You see it in a basketball team who, in a sudden flurry score 20 points and don’t seem to be able to miss the hoop. There appears to be an almost psychic connection between the players. They seem to know what each other is thinking and don’t even look where they are throwing the ball. While many of us have observed the flow state phenomenon in sport, it also exists in the world of business.

Like many complex ideas, flow is much talked about but poorly understood. With my colleagues, I’ve been studying and researching the physiology of the flow state for the last 15-20 years. Our research suggests that coherence may be the underlying biological basis of the flow state.

Coherence is a property that can emerge in any complex system and, when present, it enables that system to perform at a higher level. Coherence means there is a consistent repeating dynamic pattern. It can occur at a molecular level or at the level of the human heart, the brain or there can be coherence within the whole body.

Coherence in the whole human system requires synchronisation between the heart and the brain. Such coherence enables the system to function at a much higher level. Such synchronisation can also occur between individuals not just within one individual. When an executive team starts to pull together and function coherently it produces much better results. So whether we’re working at the molecular, the heart, the individual, the team level or even at the level of society, coherence is an operating principal that underpins higher performance at every level.

Paradoxically when you’re in a state of coherence it feels effortless, even though you may be applying a lot of physical effort. When we train athletes to achieve a coherent state they are able to apply more power, but interestingly it doesn’t feel like it to the athlete. The coherent state is often associated with a sense of complete absorption with the activity and a sort of pleasurable timelessness and selflessness.

The good news is you can cultivate a state of coherence within your self and significantly step change your performance. You can find the details on how in my new book (Coherence- The Secret Science of Brilliant Leadership). If you are interested in a more detailed account of the mathematics behind coherence then check out Professor Stephen Strogatz book Sync from Cornell University.

If you’re facilitating or coaching other people, the more coherent you are the more you are able to help the people you are coaching to achieve a state of coherence themselves. Ultimately coherence, like any other biological state, can be infectious and the more powerfully coherent you are as an individual, the more powerful the effect on others. After all people are moved by emotion, not rationality.

If you are interested in learning more about flex, flow and how to develop greater levels of coherence, please see my book Coherence: The Secret Science of Brilliant Leadership



A new approach to conflict


I usually take one of two approaches to conflict – accommodation or avoidance.  Those are the approaches with which I feel most comfortable. But a recent experience (and some helpful coaching) enabled me to put into practice a new approach to conflict management – an assertive approach.

Someone was behaving aggressively towards me. Instead of avoiding or accommodating the situation, I decided to step forward and match his energy. Admittedly, when I did that, it didn’t really feel like me so I didn’t exactly enjoy it. It put me outside of my comfort zone, but as time has gone on the experience has made me feel more empowered. When step back from the experience and view things with some clarity, I can see that I was right to take a stand on this issue and not to avoid confrontation.

The right way to take an assertive approach to conflict management is to be firm in your response and not allow yourself to be bullied.  It is not about shouting back at the person shouting at you, but being calmly firm.

What enabled me to take this new approach to conflict management was not just understanding the different theory of the different approaches to conflict, it was about learning to manage my own emotional state in that moment of deciding to respond in a different way.  Without emotional control I couldn’t have taken a different approach. I would either have given in or been as aggressive as he was.

I’ll admit that before I engaged with this aggressor, I did shout around the office for a bit – I got rid of the energy that had come from his aggression towards me. After that, I was able to get my breathing under control and choose a more controlled response and that felt good.  It’s not about responding in the heat of the moment, but achieving coherence and then choosing how you want to deal with the confrontation.

What is your approach to dealing with conflict? Please submit a comment below.

Dr Alan Watkins to present at CIPD Annual Conference

Alan Watkins

Dr Watkins takes vertical development and coherence to a HR audience later this year at the CIPD Annual Conference in Manchester, on 5th November 2014.

His session covers key topics such as:

Limited spaces are available for this seminar session, so book your place now!

Session details:

Date: Wednesday 5th November
Time: 11:40-12:40
Location: CIPD Annual Conference, Manchester Central Convention Complex, M2 3GX
Session number: A1
Session title: Being Brilliant Everyday: Developing high performance in leaders

Bosses behaving like children

Bosses behaving like children

Sometimes when I’m observing boards or executive teams and the way they interact, I get flashbacks … to the school playground.

Many people believe that when we reach adulthood we have matured. My experience of boards and executive teams would suggest otherwise. Anyone that has children or has interacted with children knows very well that children pass through very well defined stages of maturation. These stages in babies and children are very obvious and well researched. In contrast very few people realise that there are also a whole series of adult development stages. In fact in most companies I have ever worked with there is no real notion of developing adult maturity.

In a simple, stable world this lack of awareness of the stages of adult maturity isn’t really a problem; you can function pretty well with the maturity level of an average 14 year old. In fact, this lack of adult maturity is exactly what I observe in many boardrooms. People are squabbling, stamping their feet, shouting and putting people down. It’s bullying behaviour and it’s indicative of a lack of maturity. Just because you’ve progressed well up the career ladder and have aged does not mean that you have matured.

The playground antics and boardroom battles you see in many organisations suggests that many companies are stuck in an early stage of adult maturity.

Unfortunately, we no longer live in a simple and stable world. As things become ever more complex, leaders who do not develop their adult maturity will find it increasing more difficult to function, lead or turn a profit. Adult maturity bears no relation to seniority. When very good people leave, it can often be because they are more mature than their bosses and they have simply become bored with the lack of leadership maturity.

In Alan’s book (Coherence: The Secret Science of Brilliant Leadership) you can find out more about the levels of adult emotional maturity that are required to survive and thrive in today’s volatile and complex world. You can also see where you are on the levels of adult maturity.


Buckaroo management

Buckaroo management

Does this scene sound familiar? You’ve got a number of projects running at the same time. As soon as someone comes up with another idea, you add another project to your list. You’re just adding more and more to your workload. You decide you need a project manager to manage all these projects. All the projects are perfectly justifiable; they’re all good ideas, but, before you know it, you have a few hundred projects on the go. At that point, you are at serious risk of buckaroo management – just one more spade or a bucket and the horse buckaroos and everything collapses.

We’ve been called in on a number of occasions recently to help people break through the enormous to do lists they’ve created for themselves. What’s interesting is that most organisations have lost sight of performance management 101.

Performance management 101 concerns an understanding of the relationship between the amount of pressure you put on a system and how well the system will perform. It’s the Yerkes-Dodson law[1] – the linear relationship between pressure and performance. You keep on doubling the pressure and eventually you reach peak performance. But once you’re flat out, you can’t up your performance. All that happen is that as you increase pressure beyond the peak of performance, you start to move along the down slope of performance.

In the early days of that down slope, you won’t realise you‘re doing less than you were before. When your performance starts to decline by around 10-20%, then you start to notice. Then you panic and you start to worry. That just adds to the pressure. Performance worsens and you slip further down the down slope. Fundamentally, poor performance is either due to too little pressure or, more commonly, too much pressure.

This relationship between pressure and performance has been known about for more than 100 years. It was first demonstrated in mice and now we see it in the workplace. It happens in any kind of complex system. Apply too much pressure and you reach point of crisis. It’s true of mice, of men and of machines as well.

One of the most critical responsibilities of leadership is to get the pressure in the system right. When you’re loading more tasks on to the system, ask yourself: “Am I actually impairing the functioning of the team, the individual or the organisation?” 

One very straightforward thing you can do to reduce the risk of buckaroo management is to simplify and clarify. Sometimes just that is enough. I encourage leaders to create a ‘stop do list’. It’s not a ‘to do’ list. You’re moving things off your ‘to do’ list. You might decide to delay a project to the following year. You decide that it’s not enough of a priority and is not adding enough value, so you just push it back.

In addition to generating a ‘STOP DO’ list I can also help them to review their priorities in a ‘head to head’ fashion. Put two priorities next to each other and ask yourself if you could only do one this year, or if you only have an hour left in the day which of the two priorities would you focus on? This head to head approach can sort your ‘TO DO’ list quickly into a ranked order of what adds the most value

Ultimately you’ve got to draw a line. If you have more than 20 projects on your list, that horse will more than likely buckaroo and you’ll fail to deliver on any of them.


What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger

This is an old adage but is it really true? Well yes and no. On the yes side for example, in every doctors’ surgery all over the UK, parents will be comforting their babies after a routine vaccination. It’s a momentary upset for a potential lifetime of protection. In a baby’s body, a small amount of the disease triggers the production of antibodies that can ultimately protect that baby from the full force of the disease as he or she grows up.

The analogy of the vaccine can be applied to many areas of our life. We need the challenge of an unwanted disease or a negative experience to inoculate us against future challenges. This can really help us grow and develop our ‘immunity’, making us stronger.

But has our instinct to protect our children caused us to become over-protective? Do we molly coddle our children so much these days that they actually face very little in the way of negative experience or challenge?

To be resilient a system needs to be challenged, at least to a healthy degree. A little bit of stress is good for us. This insight has been seen time and again in multiple research fields. More than a century ago, Yerkes & Dodson[1] showed that applying stress (in the form of heating up the wire cage) to mice that were required to perform a task increased the performance up to a point, but too much stress (heat) caused the performance of the mice to drop off. The bell-shaped curve of performance for those ‘dancing mice’ shows that we need some pressure in the system to perform. This is true of mice and men (and women). Very often the most successful business leaders have had early life challenges that they have had to overcome. Those challenges have made them tough and resilient. 

Performance may require challenge and stimulation, but when does more pressure enhance resilience and when can it impair performance. How much is too much? When do we tip onto the ‘no’ side of the curve when what doesn’t kill us is actually impairing our ability? Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules. How much pressure your ‘system’ can handle is very particular to the individual. It is not about an absolute number of tasks you have to complete, it is about your capability to cope with those tasks. The question you have to answer is: How much is too much for you?

Pressure and the associated experience of failure are critical elements of development. They are our vaccine. If we make everything too easy, if no one fails – consider the sports day when all the children are told they are winners – then we can become immobilised by the fear of failure. Children should be taught to embrace failure. Anyone who has not learnt how to deal with failure will struggle to get on in life. Importantly, they will lack ‘bounce-back ability’ or resilience.

A generation of children growing up without the experience of failure could present significant challenges for leaders in the future. With fewer and fewer people who have experienced failure and built resilience, we are likely to see fewer leaders who are willing to take on the risks and pressures of a place at the top table. To avoid this scenario, our children need a little bit of what they may not like (a dose of pressure and the experience of failure) to build resilience and higher levels of performance in the future.

 [1] Yerkes RM, Dodson JD. The relation of strength of stimulus to rapidity of habit-formation. J.Comp.Neurol.Psychol. 1908;18:459–482.

The Mismeasurement of Talent

Mismeasurement of talent

Recently reading Stephen Jay Gould’s masterful tome, The Mismeasure of Man, I was struck by how often people who measure aspects of personality or human functioning, can get it so completely wrong. Such mismeasurement can have devastating consequences, as Gould chronicles. His book brilliantly details how, when the fundamental assumption about what is being measured is wrong, all sorts of problems occur downstream. Gould majors on the mismeasurment of intelligence and uses the widely used IQ test as an example.

For me, the measurement of managerial and leadership capability has been similarly misunderstood. Measuring talent is a critical issue in business. Talent assessments or assessment centres that mismeasure, can often encourage a business to hire the wrong person or promote a person beyond their ability. Such a mistake can be incredibly expensive for a business.

There is a rapidly expanding industry devoted to the measurement or possibly mismeasurement of talent. Much of this focuses on measuring aspects of your personality, identifying your strengths, your preferences or your type. These approaches characterise different dimensions of the human condition:

  1. Typologies – The simplest typology is masculine or feminine. Such descriptions may be true but are they really that helpful in developing your business? You may be familiar with two of the most widely used typologies in industry – the Belbin Team Profiles or Myers Briggs Typology Indicator (MBTI). These assessments can accurately describe what type of person you are and illuminate some of the characteristics of your type such as introversion (you get your energy from the inside) or extroversion, which doesn’t mean you are an extrovert, rather that you get your energy from interacting with others. Such characteristics may even predict how you will behave in the future. But such descriptions don’t necessarily give you an insight into how you could develop as a leader.
  2. Strengths – many leadership assessments will identify your ‘strengths’ in the mistaken belief that there is a certain set of strengths critical to leadership. If there is one thing that is true of the thousands of books on leadership, it is that there is no one set of strengths that is appropriate for leadership. Each leader leads in their own way. Of course it can be helpful to know your strengths and play to them, but again, such assessments do not necessarily help you develop as a leader. They also run the risk of creating self-justification. The sort of “well that’s the way I am made” argument. In reality most leaders are much more nuanced than a set of strengths would have you believe.
  3. Personality – many assessments define where you are on the ‘Big Five’ personality traits (Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism) as these are thought to drive behaviour. But again such descriptions often just box people as more or less inclined to a specific trait. They provide little insight into how a leader may show up under specific market or cultural conditions.

So most modern management and leadership assessments fail because they don’t help you develop your capability as a leader; they just pigeon hole you. They imply that you can’t develop into something else. They tend to fix you as one ‘type’, one set of ‘strengths’, some personality ‘traits’ and a few behavioural ‘preferences’. We believe that there is a much richer and more useful way to assess talent.

If leaders want to truly raise their game and the performance of those around them then a more developmental approach is needed. We advocate an approach that uses a completely different methodology to the assessment of people – a more coherent talent assessment.

There are four rules of coherent talent assessment. We believe that each coherent assessment instrument has to be:

  1. Commercially relevant – there are at least 200 lines of human development that could be measured, but you need to select the ones that are relevant to your business. For example, there is no point in measuring your level of sophistication as a chef if you run an IT company. Fortunately there are 12 lines that are pretty critical in all companies. Five of these developmental lines are internal: physical, cognitive, emotional and social, values and ego maturity.
  2. Research based – many assessments are not grounded in a proper academic literature. The Hogan or Myers Briggs both evolved out of sound research literature but there are lots of instruments out there that have absolutely no validation in research. They have been invented by someone who is a smart marketeer. Without a solid research base you run a high risk of mismeasurement.
  3. Differentiated – It is vital to measure each line of development separately. Many assessments, in a bid to reduce length or complexity, mash together different phenomena in the same test. A bit like having a blood test and an X-ray in the same test. Without clarity around what is actually being measured, outputs become confused and ultimately unhelpful.
  4. Developmental – finally, the assessment instrument must be able to drive development – they cannot be purely descriptive. A good assessment should quantify not only what level of development you are at right now, along any one line, but what the next stage of your development will be. 

Poor assessment, founded on confused thinking and inaccurate or untested assumptions, needs to stop. It’s not only wrong, it can be incredibly costly. The cost of hiring the wrong person for a job can be up to three times the salary for that job.[1] Today we understand so much more about what really does help develop our leaders, that there really is no excuse for the mismeasurement of talent.

[1] Corporate Leadership Council, Literature Review, “Employee Selection Tests”, Catalogue No. 070-198-213, Washington DC, Mar 1998, p. 2

Christmas … make it a time of goodwill and appreciation

Blue Ocean illumination

As we trim the tree, pimp the presents and truss the turkey, Christmas carols remind us of the need for ‘good will toward men’ – acknowledging of course that men really means people.  But are we truly living that good will?  Police claim that there are “a third more incidents of domestic assault on Christmas Day compared to the daily average.”[1] Hardly living proof of the concept of goodwill.

Having goodwill requires us to feel a degree of appreciation towards other people in our lives.  Appreciation is one of the most unassuming and yet most powerful emotional states we can experience and Christmas is the ideal time to spend a moment focusing on that particular emotion, recognising its benefits and putting it into action.

Appreciation as a specific emotional state, while simple, is not widely practiced. How often do we actually say thank you? How often do we express our appreciation for the help and support of those around us? Even if we are grateful, do we just acknowledge it to ourselves or do we proactively say something to others?  Think about what you’ve been doing over the last few days of this supposed period of goodwill, can you remember seeing people making statements of appreciation for the efforts of others around them? It is very strange, given the fact that as a motivational technique appreciation is incredibly powerful, that you hardly ever hear anyone giving a colleague some specific appreciation in relation to a task or how they may have shown up.

This is especially true among men. One man offering appreciation to another man at work has been considered ‘soft’ or inappropriate in a business context. I’ve only come across a few leaders who appear to have recognised that appreciation is hugely motivational. For example, some have developed the habit of sending personal hand written notes when a colleague has done something above and beyond the call of duty. I know of some executives who were so touched by such gestures of sincere appreciation that they kept the notes for years, but that kind of appreciation is, sadly, very rare. It’s just not a habit that we have cultivated – despite its extremely positive impact. 

If you want to develop the art of appreciation it might help for you to start with yourself. We are often very critical of ourselves and will often judge our performance very harshly and beat ourselves up for days or weeks for our own failings. So if we want to become good at appreciating others, we need to give ourselves some appreciation first. One way of starting to do this is to write down all the things you sincerely appreciate about yourself. When doing this consider the following six areas of your life: mental, emotional, physical, professional, social and spiritual. Specifically those aspects of yourself that you can appreciate in these areas. Since it is only you that will ever see this list be completely honest and avoid being aspirational. Keep the list in your wallet and look at it every day. Each time you look at it, deliberately cultivate that inner glow of appreciation. And remember the primary beneficiary of this practice is you. You get to feel better about yourself more of the time, not in a false “happy clappy” sort of way, but in a more quiet, unassuming way filled with warmth. 

The more you learn to appreciate, the more your life will become imbued with this positive emotion of goodwill. If you can then start to generalise this emotion from yourself to others you will genuinely start to feel that “goodwill to all men”, and women – and this is not just for Christmas, but throughout the year. Let’s consistently appreciate the efforts of those around us and extend the goodwill to all.

For more on techniques for developing appreciation, see chapter 5 of Coherence: The Secret Science of Brilliant Leadership.



Event: Dr Alan Watkins at TEDx Oxford


Dr Alan Watkins

Dr Alan Watkins presents at TEDx Oxford on 18 January 2015.


Dr Alan Watkins talked about the importance of coherence and emotional literacy at last weekend’s TEDx event in Oxford (January 2015).  

With 1,800 people in attendance, Alan took to the stage to give the audience a special preview of the Universe of Emotions app that is currently in development.

Vertical Development

Leadership Vertical Development- Complete Coherence

What is vertical development?

What most organisations think of as development is actually learning. It is the acquisition of skills, knowledge and experience. While, this ’horizontal’ learning is still very important, it is not the same as ‘vertical’ development. Vertical development changes the game. It creates new capability and capacity.

Think of a six year old child trying to do algebra. The frontal lobes in their brain are simply not yet fast enough to be able to abstract think in the way that is required to do algebra. Contrast that with a 12 year old who has faster frontal lobes and can now solve algebraic problems. In the move from six to 12 years, the child has jumped up a level of development – they have developed vertically. Vertical development does not have to stop when we reach adulthood. It is possible to step change what a leaders perceives and understands through developmental coaching, and this is absolutely crucial in the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world in which we live.

Rather than just ‘adding software’ into a leader’s existing ‘operating system’, vertical development is an inside-out transformation that ‘upgrades their operating system’ itself. As we upgrade, we develop vertically and expand our capacity for understanding ourselves and the challenges we face – we are able to see a much more complete picture of the world.

Research at Harvard and other academic centres has identified vertical development as the number one leadership trend for the next ten years.

Find out how we apply vertical development

World Class Leadership Model

4 quad


The most brilliant leaders in the world realise that there are four main areas that they need to focus on in order to deliver outstanding results. Unfortunately most leaders spend 80-95% of their time focused solely on commercial performance in the top left hand quadrant and do not build a system around themselves that frees themselves up of the tyranny of the day to day. They never make the transition from “manager” (top left) to “leader” (all four quadrants). Our approach is to help individual, teams and organisations to become brilliant in all four quadrants.

Lines and Levels

Differentiated assessments


Assessment of different lines of development uncover different leadership assets and capabilities. The video above explains what these critical lines of development are. The first 5 lines of development Dr Watkins talks about are internal, therefore to help you achieve success they need to be manifested externally through your behaviour, your networks and your impact.

The internal lines of development are:

Physical: this quantifies a leader’s physical energy, vitality, health risk, immunity, flexibility, coherence and a number of other specific physiological patterns

Emotion: this quantifies a leader’s emotional and social intelligence including their self-awareness, ability to change emotional states and their empathic skills

Cognition: this assesses a number of aspects of a leader’s thinking capability such as reasoning skills, problem solving ability and their ability to view different perspectives

Maturity: this assess a leader’s ego maturity, which underpins their ability to drive organisational transformation and handle complexity.

Values: this explores a leader’s commercial and personal value systems. It also identifies the type of people a leader tends to engage with and who they move away from

The external lines of development are:

Your behaviour

Your networks

Your impact 

Map Skill


Talent Management



How do you decide who to promote? Get it wrong and it can massively slow down a team and organisation. The easy part is looking at their performance to date, knowing what they have done, however, a promotion as to be forward looking. You have to try to assess the potential of a leader to step into the new role. So what do you measure to actually know you can promote them 1 or 2 levels and they will succeed.

Cultural Confusion

Vertical Development

What is vertical development?

What most organisations think of as development is actually learning. It is the acquisition of skills, knowledge and experience. While, this ’horizontal’ learning is still very important, it is not the same as ‘vertical’ development. Vertical development changes the game. It creates new capability and capacity.

Think of a six year old child trying to do algebra. The frontal lobes in their brain are simply not yet fast enough to be able to abstract think in the way that is required to do algebra. Contrast that with a 12 year old who has faster frontal lobes and can now solve algebraic problems. In the move from six to 12 years, the child has jumped up a level of development – they have developed vertically. Vertical development does not have to stop when we reach adulthood. It is possible to step change what a leaders perceives and understands through developmental coaching, and this is absolutely crucial in the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world in which we live.

Rather than just ‘adding software’ into a leader’s existing ‘operating system’, vertical development is an inside-out transformation that ‘upgrades their operating system’ itself. As we upgrade, we develop vertically and expand our capacity for understanding ourselves and the challenges we face – we are able to see a much more complete picture of the world.

Research at Harvard and other academic centres has identified vertical development as the number one leadership trend for the next ten years.

Find out what we do

Leadership Network Analysis

Leadership Network Analysis- complete Coherence Leadership Development


Software Demo


LNA Report

Keynote presentation from Dr Alan Watkins at IEBC, Dublin (23 October 2014)

Alan Watkins

Hear Dr Alan Watkins in person at the IEBC Annual HR Leadership Summit in Dublin, Ireland on 23 October 2014.

Dr Watkins’ session entitled ‘Your brilliance every day: the biological basis of leadership’ promises to reveal the the science behind leadership. He will explain how the best leaders in the world think about leadership and show you how you can step change ability, take control of biology and regain energy levels equivalent to the levels you had 10 years ago!

Be prepared to be surprised by how good human beings (and you!) can be. Find out more about the IEBC Annual HR Leadership Summit.

Future of Talent Interview with Dr Alan watkins


Dr Alan Watkins interview after keynoting at Future of Talent Conference hosted by Changeboard (August 2014). 



Unleashing the potential of teams

Unleashing the potential of teams

I’ve been asked a few times about a quote on the cover of my book. Warwick Brady, the COO at easyJet, is quoted on how working with me has sped up the development of his team’s performance – cutting the team building process from five or six years down to just six months. This blog will give you an insight into the team development stages that helped this easyJet team.

As managers progress in their careers, they get increasing responsibility for others. There is a clear expectation in this progression that leaders will be effective team builders and yet, very few receive any kind of formal training in human dynamics or psychology. They are simply not trained in tuning in to other people, nor in how to gel a team. We just expect them to be able to do it, almost by default. They are technically competent in their field – law, finance, marketing etc. – so it is assumed that they will be bright enough to figure out how to make a team work. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Getting a team to work well is a lot more complicated than being trained in technical competence. Human beings are incredibly complex and relationships are not easy to get right – at work or at home. In the UK we have the highest divorce rate in Europe. The divorce rate for second marriages is even higher – it appears we get worse with increasing experience in relationships. It’s clear that it is actually very difficult to get two people to relate to each other in a deep and meaningful way.

Now consider our relationships at work. A team is more complex than a marriage because there are more than two people involved and if we can’t get our marriages right, what hope is there for our teams?

I believe effective teams are the biggest untapped potential in our organisations. One of the first things we do with teams is to explore the seven stages of team development.

Very few execs have even thought about the development or the maturation of their teams, let alone how you would quantify the stages of team development. At the most they will know if a team is working or not, but they pay very little attention to why this is. They may attribute team issues to difficult personalities but there is very rarely, if ever, any considered thought about interpersonal dynamics and the team’s level of maturity.

Our model, that helped Warwick Brady’s team among many others, outlines seven stages of team development.

  1. A collection of talented individuals – people are operating in the same team but they have no common purpose. The team is comprised of people who are there because together they offer managerial span, but the only commonality is likely to be a degree of financial resources or people. There is no real common purpose and therefore no real team at this stage.
  2. Battling experts – at this stage, there is a common purpose, but that’s as far as it goes. Members see a reason for them to come together to decide things collectively, but they fight for hierarchical control of the agenda. The team is dysfunctional with lots of infighting, positioning and manoeuvring – one day the commercial director might win the argument, the next day the ops director scores points. It’s a constant battle. Some leaders like to run teams this way; they like to play one side off against the other, in the mistaken belief this gives you a sharp competitive edge. The truth is you never really unlock potential by inside fighting. You should be focused on beating the external rather than the internal competition.
  3. Dependent experts – this is the first stage of genuine team functionality. The vast bulk of exec teams we see are at this stage of development. You have highly competent individuals, who are dependent on the leader to bring cohesion to the team. You often see the leader of this team acting as a parent; having to adjudicate the squabbles of the children. The leader has to intervene and issues are perpetually escalated to the leader. That’s not to say that the team can’t affect results, but those results are dependent on the leader. If the leader leaves the team flounders. When the leader is absent the team battles over who takes charge. Once again, some leaders like to run things this way as it can inflate their ego. After all, this leader feels important if the team can’t function without them. However, this leader is failing to unlock the potential of the team and everyone is still very isolated in their thinking. No one aside from the leader takes the team perspective and this results in massive pressure on the leader. The move from stage three to stage four of team development requires quality guidance.
  4. Independent achievers – this stage is characterised by proactive team development and the silos begin to break down. There is a huge step change in philosophy as members think about their role and accountability. Team events stop being just about silo reporting. At level three, most team members think team events are largely a waste of time as they have to listen to content they don’t consider relevant. At stage four they realise that these things are useful because they need to know what others are doing. They also start to become less dependent on the leader; the team as a whole can look at how it can achieve business goals that are beyond their own silo. The team starts to glimpse something that is important beyond their silo and they start to work together independently of their leader.
  5. Interdependent pluralists – stage five is another big step up for team development. It’s the first stage of development at which you start to feel the excitement and energy of the team. People proactively look forward to the next team event. They are inspired and energised by each other. Silos are massively broken down. Team members not only realise their dependencies, but they are seeking out interdependencies. They are looking to iron out the creases in the functioning of their team; asking themselves how individual actions help and hinder others. This prompts conversations between team members about how they can collectively make the boat go faster. The team engages in practices that builds stronger alignments and quickens decision making. A stage five team really starts to feel like it’s humming. Unfortunately, you come across very few teams at this stage of development, but the quality of commercial effectiveness of a team at this stage is dramatically different from a team at, for example, stage three.
  6. Integrated pluralists – at stage six the team goes beyond interdependencies and begins to see ways to work in a much more integrated fashion. Team members proactively seek out diversity and alternative viewpoints – the more viewpoints the team can integrate the more sophisticated and nuanced their answers are. They start to engage in practices that promote greater levels of harmony in the team. This would include techniques we teach such as integrative decision-making. Everyone genuinely aligns behind a decision and there is true integration of diverse perspectives. At this stage you have an extremely high performing team.
  7. Executive fellowship – a stage seven team is world class and these are very rare indeed. A world-class team has gone beyond high performance. The team starts to function in an almost semi-permanent flow state. The level of trust is exceptional and the level of interpersonal understanding is deep. Decision-making is very fast, partly because it’s almost as if one executive knows what the others would have said if they had been there. Such is the level of intimacy at this stage. Individuals involved are often highly developed with very little ego; they’re much more focused on the purpose of the organisation and what they’re there to do rather than their own agenda. In all my years of coaching and consulting with executive teams, I have yet to find a team operating at this level.

To move your team to a higher stage of development, you first need a team coach who understands these different levels of development. This team coaching is not the same as facilitating a team, which will just increase effectiveness within a stage. Away days and experiences do enable executives to learn some skills but without the right kind of team coaching, they can’t jump up a developmental level. To significantly improve team performance, you need to develop vertically. Left to their own devices very few teams develop through the levels. If they have a very smart leader, they might be able to move to level four, but they aren’t able to unlock the potential beyond that.

For more on the vertical development of teams, see chapter X of Alan’s book: Coherence: The Secret Science of Brilliant Leadership

Leadership Behavioural Profile™

Leadership Behavioural Profile


Behaviours have long been an important element in modern assessments. The Leadership Behavioural Profile (LBP) builds on this tradition, but is a more transformational assessment with clear identification of development.

The LBP consists of 360 feedback from peers, often coupled with observation or interviews conducted by expert behavioural consultants. Results are precise, informative and presented through an intuitive model. As with all Complete Coherence assessments, developmental progress and potential pathways are made clear so as to maximise the practical application for both the individual and their organisation.


In complex, dynamic, competitive environments the LBP assesses whether leaders have the performance-driving behaviours to:

Scientific basis

Harry Schroder’s behaviour model as validated by other researchers.


Online questionnaire, 96 questions, ~30 mins to complete.

Contact us for more information

The most elusive leadership behaviours

Developing the most elusive leadership behaviours

I’ve assessed, developed and coached senior leaders for many years and also had the pleasure of being involved in the research behind one of the most widely used leadership behaviour models in the world, but there is one thing that has always really frustrated me. Of the twelve leadership behaviours that we identified as being critical, in dynamic complex environments, to driving performance there are three rare behaviours that you don’t see very often and that are incredibly hard to develop; they are:

  1. The ability to think flexibly
  2. The ability to be empathic and
  3. The ability to create coherence within a team

Dealing with all the challenges going on in the world demands high levels of these very behaviours; they are critical. We need to collaborate better, develop much higher levels of cross functional alignment and team working, plus build much deeper, more trusting relationships. We know these behaviours are important, we also know leaders struggle with them and we know they are hard to develop. But why? That question has been vexing me for years … now I have the answer. In fact I had a revelation.

I met Dr Alan Watkins two years ago and he revealed to me how behaviour is just the ‘tip of the iceberg’. Everything people say and do – our behaviour – is profoundly affected by what’s going on ‘below the water line’. Our behaviour is affected by our feelings and our emotions, which in turn is affected by our physiology. It really is that fundamental and the reason that I had been finding it so difficult to help leaders develop these elusive behaviours was that I had not gone deep enough.

For example, if you think about empathic leadership behaviour it’s very difficult to create an empathic connection if you’re not aware of your own emotional state. How can you put yourself in someone else’s shoes, if you don’t even understand how you’re feeling in your own shoes?

My revelation has revitalised my passion for developing leaders. Finally, I can see exactly why so much leadership development fails to deliver on its promises. Now that we can see what’s below the water line, we need to develop those fundamentals of emotional mastery and coherence. Only then will we realise our full potential; enabling our leaders to thrive in the face of the challenges of our complex world.

Clarity of purpose


Mike IddonOne of the discussions I had with Alan was around my own unique attributes and skill set and what I bring to the team. Working with him has helped me ‘play in position’.

He really challenged me about what it is that I do. Initially I talked about five year plans, identifying good returns and market share ambitions, but Alan kept pushing me for something more. In the end we got to my core purpose – I figure it out.

Understanding that core purpose gave the whole finance team and me a new perspective.  Before then I was defined by my outputs and my team’s outputs. It was all about the fundamental bedrock of good financial control, reporting and planning, but that didn’t really explain why we all turn up at work each day. This new perspective helped us define ourselves by the contribution we were making rather than simply the number of reports we were creating.

The whole process has been very motivating for team. When Tesco itself announced its new purpose in October 2012 (we make what matters better together) we saw our contribution very clearly. We know we can ‘figure out’ exactly what it is that ‘matters’; is it sales, margins, market share, or a combination of those things?  We’re able to align our team much more closely to the business.

Beyond the clarity around our purpose, Alan has also introduced me to the various levels of consciousness and an understanding of how individuals interact. Being able to look at things from very different perspectives was very eye opening.  It opens your mind to different alternatives. In a big corporation like Tesco you can get very internalised in your thinking – you get ‘group think’. This meant that we’d become quite conventional in our way of thinking about things. Working with Alan on techniques to consider multiple perspectives helped my team think differently.  Now, just before I’m about to present my own view, I pause and think about what is shaping that view. It could be something I’ve read or been told, but whatever it is being aware of that influence gives a new perspective.

I’ve started to make much more effort to communicate and help others understand the wider context in our weekly trading meetings. At those meetings, I give a 30-minute overview of trade in the previous week to the 14 people there – both members of the UK board and senior commercial and operations directors. Our targets are very tough so, inevitably, we’re not hitting them all the time. In such situations, it’s easy to focus on the negatives, but that doesn’t help others ‘figure out’ what the results mean. I began to ‘reframe’ my briefing to put the numbers in context and to talk about growth areas as well as targets missed. You’re not glossing over the bad news; it’s just a far more balanced way of looking at it.

Without the reframing, delivering bad news creates a drop in energy levels. I felt it too. I was almost taking the blame for any missed figures myself.  With the new framing, we delivered a more positive contribution and could start to figure out why the numbers were as they were. This has an effect on both the energy levels in the team, but it also changed the belief structure. People had previously lived with a ‘not enough’ mind set; their emotional state was very much aligned with the day-to-day performance of the business. A change in this perspective us helped us towards a goal of more self-belief.

Combining the new framing with clarity around our purpose helped us spot what I call the ‘golden nuggets’. Out of data comes information, from information comes insight, and out of insight come golden nuggets. When you have a UK business that turns over almost £1bn each week and you’ve got 30 minutes to share key financial data, you need to bring forward the ‘golden nuggets’ that no one else can see.  They might be obvious to you, but they won’t be to everyone else.

Others may not have the access to all the data you have, they won’t have the same lens through which to view the data and they’re unlikely to have the same experience to frame things.  That understanding gave our team a lot of confidence and self-belief – our role is more clearly defined, as is our voice at the table.

One final word about energy; Alan talks quite a lot about the energy bank. There are things in your life that make deposits and other things that make withdrawals. Over a period of time, you need to ensure there are more deposits than withdrawals. It’s a really helpful technique for thinking about your whole life, including work and home. Alan encouraged me to keep an energy bank of my deposits and withdrawals. It drives you to do more things that lead to deposits. You beat yourself over things that go wrong, but you rarely give yourself or your team credit when things go right. The e-bank helps to redress that and it certainly helped me think differently.

I never have conversations with Alan when I don’t start to think differently about things. He leaves me with a much deeper understanding of myself, as well as an insight into the more theoretical side of models, techniques and new ways of looking at things.

Emotional engagement


158d624.jpg-150x150In my first three years as an international HR director, I focused on performance management, linking performance and reward, performance levels and executive development.

When I moved into the Group role, I realised that although our employee opinion survey was showing lots of progress in areas such as clarity of business direction and links to performance, the one thing that hadn’t moved was emotional attachment or emotional engagement with the business.  To address that we put in place development interventions aimed at the front line and middle managers in 30 countries.

We also recognised that we needed to develop the executive team in the same way and that’s where Alan helped. We were coming out of a turnaround situation where a directive approach had been necessary and beneficial, but we needed to begin the shift to a less directive and more inclusive style of leadership.

That intervention started with work on our vision – what we were trying to do, what we wanted to be and what that all meant. The business had operated effectively, but we needed to understand the next phase of the journey. We needed to continue with our organic growth strategy, but we also had bigger ambitions and we needed to look at what was required to achieve them. That involved looking at how we worked as a team and how we led the rest of the business.

Some great work was done and Alan helped crystallise that what we needed was a more overt growth and customer oriented strategy. Working with Alan opened up the opportunity to have a different strategy and what that meant for the next phase of the business.

One of big things that Alan pushes is the need to be a team, which is a struggle for many top teams. In theory we worked together, but our old way of operating had been all about driving individual performance. That was how our performance management and people management processes were set up.  But to think bigger you need to have more collaboration and innovation and that requires different ways or working. Alan talks about fellowship and while I don’t think we ever quite reached that level, we certainly became much better working as a team which enabled us to drive the growth through innovation and collaboration.

Individually, for members of the executive team, it was very much about being open. We needed to stop the sense that you have to have all the answers just because you’re in a senior position. That means being open to including more people in decision-making. In a turnaround situation that kind of approach would cause instability, but the time was now right for that approach. Moving our leadership style on in that way was very important.

The new strategy set the new direction and then a regeneration of the executive team took place.  We moved to a more human and engaging leadership style that supported the organic growth phase and teed up opportunities for us to think differently about how ambitious our strategy could be. All of this happened over a nine-year period and the outcome has been that the organisation moved from failing to being well respected on the FTSE. Not only that, but the organisation has seen benefits in terms of significant levels of organic growth despite a difficult economic environment, world class levels of employee engagement (as measured by Gallup) and it achieved sixth place in The Sunday Times Best 100 Big Companies to work for scheme in 2012.

Event: Dr Alan Watkins keynotes at Changeboard Future of Talent


Dr Alan Watkins’ keynote presentation at this Changeboard event on 9th July 2014 was entitled ‘How to be wired for successful futures’. In the session, Alan shared insights into the importance of vertical development to higher levels of performance. He also used a live demonstration of a Heart Rate Variability (HRV) assessment to demonstrate how our physiology affects our performance.

Round-the-world yacht racing


Mike Golding is one of Britain’s greatest sailors and Complete Coherence is helping him achieve the perfect state for one of his toughest assignments to date.

Round-the-world yacht racingWith no one else on watch, a full night’s sleep in a solo round the world race is out of the question, instead, Mike has to train his body to sleep in 20-minute cycles. The question was, how could we make so little sleep as beneficial as possible? By tracking Mike’s physical state in an Atlantic crossing, we were able to identify what he could do to get into and then out of the most effective ‘stage four’ deep sleep really fast.

But having the energy to undertake such a feat is not just about the race itself, you also need to build up your reserves of energy in advance. Complete Coherence also worked with Mike to maintain his motivation in the run up to the race during all those potentially energy-sapping meetings with sponsors, race organisers and other ‘landlubbers’.

GB Rowing

helen and heather 2

In elite rowing the margin for error is tiny: Sir Stephen Redgrave won his fifth gold medal by just two feet. With all competitors at the height of their physical and technical prowess, what makes the difference to winning a gold medal or losing it is having the right mindset and the right emotional state.

Image result for gb rowing teamComplete Coherence coached the coaches and worked with some of the athletes of the GB rowing squad to help them increase their awareness of and ability to practice the emotional state needed to win gold at London 2012. With coaching support from Complete Coherence, the athletes became more aware of and then in control of their emotional state. This input is critical because being unable to control your nervous tension impacts your performance by at least 5 percent, and when race day came, that made all the difference between medal positions.

Consistent high performance

Alan Brown 2

Over the last three years I have made a lot of changes in my life. I was frustrated by significant dips in my energy levels through the day that made it difficult to perform consistently in my work and I was unsettled at home.

So there was undoubtedly a ‘burning platform’ for change, even though outwardly it might have appeared that I was relatively successful with a demanding and fulfilling career.

Around that time Alan Watkins came to talk to me about coaching. He was different – very different – and I was intrigued by what Alan said about energy management. He claimed that this was something I could control, rather than my energy levels controlling me. So we embarked on a coaching odyssey. Alan talked, I listened, made notes, experimented and learnt – so far as my energy levels allowed.



Eighteen months on, quite a lot has stuck, in particular:

The biggest change for me has been that I can now operate much more consistently throughout the day and the week. My attention span is much greater. I have always been able to work long hours, but the quality of that work was not consistently high. Today, the quality of my concentration has improved significantly.

Although I’ve made great improvements, I am always learning. I’m thinking about Spiral Dynamics and the Graves model of values and Holocratic governance. They are not easy to put into practice but at the very least they offer insights that can help us as individuals, partners and bosses.

For me, a lot of things came together over a short period of time to make my life fundamentally more rewarding, physically and in particular emotionally but there is still much more to learn.

Stretched thinking

Carolyn McCall

When I joined easyJet in July 2010, one of the things that stood me in good stead was that I’d come from running a media group (Guardian Media Group with newspapers and digital, radio, regional papers and magazines) where there was lots of complexity in terms of relationships.

I created an executive leadership team forum almost as soon as I arrived, where the top 50 leaders in easyJet meet every month so we can debate, discuss and shape the strategy before it goes to the plc board and also it is where we discuss the key issues we face.

After establishing that forum, we then created a very effective management conference twice a year with around 150 people in easyJet. They are our leaders that have the most to do with managing our people. We’ve done that for two years now. They really buy in because they feel they’ve been involved in all the key areas. They are very motivated by the strategy and our cause, which Alan helped us develop. Our cause is to make travel easy and affordable.

I spend lots of time in the bases. We have 23 bases across Europe where we base aircraft and people. In the beginning, I went out and spoke to people around the airline, particularly the crew and found out what was wrong. There were loads of issues and problems, but we are now turning things around. For the first six months I was here, I didn’t get a single positive customer email – it was all complaints. Now I get 10 positive emails to one negative. Our head of ground ops has a board where she puts up all the positive customer feedback. It’s her greatest aim to catch up with the cabin crew in terms of the number of compliments.

I continue to get out into the business. I talk to lots of customers and I fly the network all the time. I work on the plane and listen to the crew. I really enjoy working with the teams – I will floor walk, go on the ramp. It means I can really understand how they work.

Our staff like to be able share their views and I want to listen. A big shift that I wanted to make is that I want our people to be open and to tell me the good and bad. I want them to challenge us. If there is a complaint about something, I will always reply.  By being out around the business as much as I am, they see my face, we chat informally and I answer questions. They can see that I’m a human being, that I really care. I think the majority of our people would say that I really mean what I say and work hard to deliver what I promise.

I also started up a weekly call in the second month I was here. When I go to a base, I only ever see about 10 per cent of the people who work there; many are either up in the air or on rest days. I wondered how I could connect with those people I wasn’t seeing.  So I record a call every week, wherever I am – even if I’m on holiday. We also put a transcript of the call on our intranet and people can access the call on any device. I talk about the things that are important in my week, about where we’re at with punctuality, whether we’ve won an award. I also talk about some of the problems we’re facing and I ask if they have a view to let me know. The whole point of the call for me was letting everyone know what was going on at the airline at the big picture level, but also to enable people to hear my voice and be comfortable about interacting with me.

In terms of the wider culture, a lot of people are shifting, but openness comes with time. Cultural change is very difficult to achieve. We’ve made really good progress, but it takes a long time to rebuild trust with people, you just have to keep going.

Alan is very intuitive about people. I like to be able to discuss the team and the team dynamics with him. He’s a great facilitator. He’s a bold facilitator. He can facilitate some very knotty discussions. He helps a lot in that way. Alan brings strength and objectivity. He helps us get to an end and is quite challenging, but we always come up with an outcome at the end. That’s very useful.

Leadership Network Analysis™

Leadership Network Analysis


Leaders achieve success through connecting and influencing others. However, the quality and depth of the connections between senior leaders and within executive teams is rarely examined. In recent years sophisticated analytical techniques have been developed to study the type and strength of such relationships in organisations. Our Leadership Network Analysis™ (LNA) draws on this research to help visualise the connections between leaders, executive teams and employees.

The LNA allows leaders to make sense of the hidden social dynamics within their business and unlock the potential of their people. It takes the view that behaviour, beliefs and feelings are driven as much by patterns of relationships, as they are by the character of individuals themselves. The LNA generates powerful actionable insights.

Data from the LNA is presented in our proprietary interactive Network Analysis Tool. This sophisticated software clearly presents the connectivity and strength of relationships within departments, cross functionally, between layers of management or trans-nationally.

Reports can be generated at team and individual level, providing insights personal networks and collective strength. Organisation-wide reports reveal deep actionable insights that can help guide or track organisational transformation and inform a target for people development spend.


Network analysis can be used to generate powerful and commercially useful insights that have far-reaching implications for a wide variety of different organisational processes, such as:

Scientific basis

Rich academic literature on social networking and complex systems from contributors such as Dr Robert Cross, Dr Matthew Jackson and Dr David Krackhardt.


Online questionnaire, 7 questions, ~7 mins to complete

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Team Energy Grid™

Team Energy Grid


Even the most talented and developed groups of individuals struggle to deliver if they cannot gel and work together effectively. Efficient teams accelerate and energise one another, whereas inefficient or mismatched teams drain their members and hinder output.

The Team Energy Grid (TEG) quantifies this energy and provides objective, anonymous data to allow the team to identify and overcome the issues inhibiting performance. Members of the team are provided with individual reports to identify their own developmental levels and understand and overcome particular issues they may be facing.


Scientific basis

Professor James Henry on the biology of behaviour.


Online questionnaire, ~20 mins to complete.

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The tears of a clown

Tears of a clown

The sad passing of Robin Williams reminds us of the paradox that is true of far too many comedians; those that make us happy are often the saddest of all.

For me, this paradox hints at a deeper issue with the way we see mental health. In fact, the problem isn’t ‘mental’ at all. In most cases there is nothing wrong with the ‘mentation’ of these people. The problem is an emotional one.

Too many human beings simply don’t know how to make themselves feel happy. Even if they are supremely talented, they are often consumed by feelings of inadequacy, deficiency, guilt and shame. These feelings frequently lead to drug and alcohol problems, but those problems are just a symptom of the underlying emotional cause. The fundamental issue is our inability to regulate our emotions, to make ourselves feel worthy. Robin Williams was clearly loved by so many people and he made so many others happy, but that didn’t help him. He was aware of it, but in the end it didn’t make any difference.

The fact that other people think you’re wonderful doesn’t help. It counts for zero. It’s how we feel about ourselves that matters. Comedians are often drawn to their profession because they feel the need for the approval of others. But it fails to solve the deeper emotional problem. The problem is internal and can’t be solved by the others’ approval. The audience’s laughter at your set may make you feel temporarily great, but it makes no difference to those internal feelings.

The real saviour is not that audience, nor our colleagues or bosses, but ourselves. We have to recognise that depression is an internal emotional issue and not ‘mental’ illness. Once we understand that, then it’s clear that the real focus should be on learning to change how we feel.

It’s important that as a society we understand the true nature of the problem. Too many great ‘clowns’ have been taken too early, not just as a result of suicide, but also as a result of drug and alcohol abuse.

Comedians should be the happiest of all. This is not an unrealistic ambition. With internal emotional regulation, they not only have the ability to bring joy to others, but also to themselves.

Stop playing catch up and start getting ahead

Stop playing catch up and start getting ahead

Most people would recognise the ever-increasing pace of work. We need to bring products to market more quickly, make decisions faster, make sense of much more information, and cut through increasing complexity. We’re running faster and faster, but struggling to catch up with the pace of change.

So, how do you cope?

The traditional view is that the strong survive through adaptation and the rest go to the wall. It’s all about the survival of the fastest and the fittest; that view no longer applies. Things are moving so fast and are so complicated that simply running faster isn’t enough. Adding more skills to your repertoire and increasing your knowledge is no longer the answer. We now need to upgrade our operating systems; we need a Pentium dual core processor. Many of us are operating with the equivalent of a ZX Spectrum with 3.5 megahertz processing power. What we need is the Intel 3.9 gigahertz processor – that’s more than 1,000 times the processing power.

What does that shift in processing power look like for a human being? It’s vertical development. It’s all about increasing maturation and sophistication. Most of what goes on in the leadership development space is learning – the acquisition of skills. People often called that development, but it’s not. Acquiring skills and knowledge is important, but it’s not development and it isn’t going to increase our processing power. In 15 years of talking and working with multinationals, I’ve never once been asked by any leader, or HR professional, to explain aspects of adult vertical development. That is despite the fact that the Center for Creative Leadership recently identified it as the number one leadership trend in the next five years and, furthermore, it’s critical to success over the next 10 years.

What is adult vertical development?

Most people will understand that children go through stages of development – you cannot run before you can walk. The stages of development can be physical, emotional, intellectual, or moral. We all recognise how true that is for children. Very few people realise that there are also well-defined levels for adult development. In fact, these levels are not only well defined they can be measured.

Some of the tensions we see today in organisations, are simply a result of technically minded and knowledgeable individuals struggling to cope with the fast pace and complexity they face. They have not developed vertically. You sometimes see behaviour in the boardroom that would be more normal in a high school playground. This lack of vertical development is why bullying is not an uncommon phenomena in business today.

The challenge we face is getting adult vertical development implemented in modern organisations, but it’s vital this starts to happen if we’re going to rise to meet the commercial demands we face.

The levels of vertical development

Around eight academics have written extensively on the subject of vertical development. The most precise of all these models is that developed by my colleague Terri O’Fallon, at Pacific Integral in the USA. Terri has outlined 12 well-defined levels of adult vertical development that can be distinguished. The three most common levels at which you see people operating are: experts, achievers, and individualists. Around 85%of the people operating in multinationals are operating at the level of achiever or below. Less than 15% are operating at the individualist level or above (there are five more levels above the individualist level).

Experts and achievers are in the conventional logic area of vertical development. The individualist level is the first level of post-conventional logic, which represents a big transformation. The reason this is important is that post-conventional leaders are capable of much more. For example, in a recent HBR article, Bill Torbert, (reference) revealed that post-conventional leaders are much more able to drive organisational transformation.

Simply being able to identify what level of maturity a leader operates from is important, but if you’re able to develop or coach someone up one or two levels, then you have real competitive advantage. Left to their own devices, most leaders are unlikely to move up a level. They need careful guidance, which is not available from the vast majority of coaches. This is because most coaches are not trained in vertical development, they can increase a leader’s knowledge and skills but they can’t help them actually develop. Very few coaches anywhere in the world are capable of guiding vertical development, but this is the breakthrough that leaders need from their coaches in order to be able to thrive in the Volatile, Uncertain Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) world they are now battling in.

From mega data to life-changing insight

Mega data to insight

Watching Dara Ó Briain’s BBC TV programme, Science Club, the other evening with the family, I was fascinated by a story about how an Australian business woman who was a “Big Data” expert in industry had been able to cut through the mountains of physiological data gathered from a premature baby and got to the nugget that could save a life.

The piece talked about the huge amounts of data gathered every millisecond from a tiny premature baby – data about heart rate, oxygen saturation, blood pressure, respiration etc. This woman had good cause to wonder about how well all this data was being used as she watched her own baby lying in an incubator. She realised that despite all the data that was being collected on the babies that very little of it was being properly collected and analysed. The data was being gathered live but no one seemed to be exploring whether something more productive could be done with it. 

Her curiosity caused her to take action. She got all the data and created some software to analyse which piece of information was the most useful in predicting the survival of these premature babies. She discovered that the real ‘nugget’ of data they needed to look at was Heart Rate Variability (HRV). This was presented as a breakthrough but it really should not have been a revelation, given the fact that a study in 1965 discovered that a loss of HRV predicted infant mortality in labour. For some reason, in the fog created by masses of data, the doctors had missed the fact that HRV is known to be a good predictor of risk and survival. This ‘nugget’ had been lost in the noise of the system.  

Such fog is something many of us face in our working lives everyday. We’re overwhelmed with so much information that we sometimes struggle to find the genuine insight in that data. Perhaps that impairs our decision-making, in a healthcare scenario it can make the difference between life and death. Once you know heart rate variability is reduced in a foetus, you know the prognosis is poor, so you can intervene.   The same can apply in our everyday lives – an analysis of our HRV gives a detailed insight into our performance levels and how we’re dealing with the stresses of work and home.

HRV is a critical piece of data we use in our work helping leaders develop and become brilliant. Interestingly, learning to manage your HRV can lead to greater clarity of thought. The clarity of thought that flows from a better quality HRV signal can help you cut through the data clutter and find the ‘nugget’ you need to focus on to make a real difference – which ironically in this case was HRV!

Leadership Energy Profile™



Leaders need energy. At Complete Coherence, years of research and experience have enabled us to develop sophisticated tools to accurately measure and therefore accelerate a leader’s mastery of his or her energy.

The Leadership Energy Profile is the first step towards this mastery. It is based around our unique and objective 24-hour assessment of an individual’s physiological and emotional regulation during a normal working day, using non-invasive heart monitoring technology, salivary hormonal profiling and completion of an online emotional and social questionnaire. This completely confidential monitoring, reviewed by hospitals and medical professionals, enables us to accurately quantify a number of aspects of a leader’s physiology, energy and performance, all within the context of a live business or performance environment.

Feedback from the Leadership Energy Profile is highly specific and identifies barriers to a leader achieving outstanding performance. Following assessment, Complete Coherence provides leader with pragmatic skills that can enhance the physiological system.

The Leadership Energy Profile combines multiple assessments, including:

Heart_Rate_Variability_Analysis_ICON   Salivary_Hormonal_Analysis_ICON


Objectively quantifies a leader’s energy levels.

  • Provides objective evidence of motivation, endurance, efficiency and recuperation.
  • Can provide insights into leadership style and flexibility.
  • Reveals meeting effectiveness and situations that impair performance.
  • Provides data on sleep quality and any impact of jet lag or body clock impairment.
  • Provides an assessment of the potential for ill-health and/or burn out.


Objectively quantifies:

  • Stress hormone levels (cortisol)
  • Performance hormone levels (testosterone)
  • Immune hormone levels (s-IgA).


Scientific basis

Significant academic body of research about HRV and its implications for health, energy and clarity of thinking.


Scientific basis

Known effects of key hormones on stress, performance and immune response.


Using a heart monitor worn for 24 hours during a normal working day.



Measurement, five salivary samples to be recorded throughout the day

Contact us for more information

The new leadership style ripple

Leadership ripple

I trained as a nurse but left the profession following my degree and a few years in practice, because I felt so disillusioned. Just last week I had an experience that gave me hope that the ripple effect from my professional education has started to create genuine change.

I went to a reunion for the nurses who graduated with me some 30 years ago. At the event, the head of health studies at Southampton University, Professor Jessica Corner, spoke about her vision for the department. She revealed that the course had grown from just 10, when I started, to around 450 graduates every year. Jessica’s vision is to create healthcare professionals who are good leaders in their field – whatever that field is – nursing, physiotherapy, podiatry, etc. She’s trying to create leaders who think for themselves much more than before.

This may not sound significant, but it’s a huge shift for the world of healthcare. As a graduate nurse, I was frustrated because I didn’t feel I could make a difference. The strong hierarchy in the healthcare system means that you do as you’re told and you don’t think. With just a handful of other nurses in my situation, 30 years ago, it was a hierarchy I just couldn’t change, but it’s really encouraging to see how things have moved on.

The hierarchy meant that there was no room for me to grow as an individual. Nowadays nurses don’t feel as constrained. While things aren’t perfect, the hierarchy, command and control mentality is definitely shifting. Nurses are working at the forefront of research; they are using stronger academic abilities to look at best practice and make sure that patients receive the best care.

This experience is a great reminder that while change can take time, it can start and grow from a very small group of people. In fact, it can start from just one person. For me the change in the hierarchy in the healthcare system is largely down to just one person; our tutor. It was her determination to raise the academic standards and research rigour of nurses that really made what has happened since possible. She was a great teacher who was prepared to step out of the flow, and the way things had always been done, to move towards a vision that will ultimately make a difference.

Change really can start with one person, maybe that person is you.

Integrated Assessment System

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E-development Academy

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Leadership Maturity Profile™ (LMP)



Our ability to lead effectively in a rapidly changing commercial world is hugely influenced by our level of maturity. If we can only see the world from one, ego-centric vantage point then we may be able to drive things forward rapidly in an autocratic way but we may struggle to take others with us. This can result in ‘organisational treacle’ as others passively or actively resist what we are trying to achieve.

Mature leaders are much more adept at integrating multiple perspectives, keeping others on board and aligning teams at speed. The good news is that is is possible to quantify a leader’s level of ego maturity. This can be extremely useful in predicting their potential and whether they will succeed if promoted.

Quantifying ego maturity

Our Leadership Maturity Profile (LMP) draws on over 40 years of rigorous academic research and can determine the an individual’s level of maturity. This is done through a questionnaire that asks individuals to respond to a series of sentence stems. Advanced computational mathematics then identifies which of the 12 levels of ego maturity a leader is operating at and what their next level of development would be.

The LMP clearly reveals what capability and performance could be unlocked by development  to the next level. It also identifies exactly why a leader may struggle with certain commercial situations or market challenges. 

The LMP is particularly powerful when used in conjunction with our Leadership Values Profile (LVP) and our Leadership Network Analysis (LNA) in building a robust talent management process.


Leaders who develop greater maturity:

Scientific basis

The LMP is based on years of research into ego maturity by Jane Loevinger, Ken Wilber, Susan Cook-Greuter, Bill Torbert, Terri O’Fallon and several other academics.


Online questionnaire, 36 questions, ~45 mins to complete,  individually hand scored and written report.

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Leadership Values Profile™

Leadership Values Profile


Many businesses now accept that culture is a critical driver of organisational success. As a result executive boards often decide to drive a cultural transformation by rolling out a new set of company values across the business. Such top down approaches rarely work because they fail to acknowledge the current value systems at play. Similarly many team tensions are mistakenly thought to be due to personality clashes when in reality they are a result of  differences in value systems.

It is essential to understand the value systems that already exist if we want to transform either organisational or team performance. The Complete Coherence Leadership Values Profile (LVP) precisely defines the value systems within an individual leader, team, division or organisation. 

Academic research over the last 40 years has confirmed there are only really eight value systems on the planet each one evolving from the previous one in an increasingly sophisticated level of development. Every value system has its upside and its downside. While no one value system is any better than any other the more sophisticated value systems provide the potential for individual leaders, teams and organizations to be much more successful.

Our Leadership Values Profile (LVP) reveals an individual’s current value system and identifies how to leverage their capabilities into measurable progress for themselves, their team and their organisation.


Scientific basis

The LVP is based on 40 years of research from multiple academics such as Geert Hofstede and Shalom Schwartz. It leans most heavily of the work of Professor Clare Graves and his Spiral Dynamics model.


Online questionnaire, 42 questions, ~20 mins to complete.

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Understanding someone else is transformational

Understanding someone else is transformational

I’ve served on three executive boards in my career and if I look back on the most challenging times, I am sure that if I had had a better understanding of everyone on that board, we would have been much more effective.

When you’re dealing with a group of senior executives, by the very nature of where they’ve got to, they are all pretty strong characters. That is great, but without an understanding of their value system, you can come up against all sorts of challenges. As a HR director one of the key parts of the role, on each of the boards, was to ensure the effectiveness of the executive team.

The Leadership Values Profile (LVP) is an assessment that provides a deep insight into how people understand and view the world. If I had had that kind of insight, without a doubt, we would have made decisions in a more informed way. Not only that, but we would probably have made quicker decisions and even, in some cases, we would have made different decisions. 

I remember one, more recent, occasion when I was trying to get a particular point across to another senior colleague and for some reason I just couldn’t get him to understand; I felt as if I were speaking to him in a foreign language. I simply couldn’t help him understand my point. I looked up their LVP and realised they were an extreme example of a particular value system which, by way of short-hand, we call ‘uber’ orange. The different levels of value system evolution, within the LVP, are designated different colours. Orange represents someone who understands the world from a commercial perspective and would want things explained in that way. Once I’d understood their perspective, I changed the language I was using to get my point across. I didn’t change the message, but just changing the language made the difference and we were suddenly on the same page. That experience was really powerful.

If I’d understood where other people were coming from earlier in my career, I would have handled some people very differently. Seeing the results of someone’s LVP totally helps you understand where the other person is coming from. As a HR director that’s especially important; understanding your execs and the way they view things is incredibly powerful.

In all my years as a HR director, I haven’t seen any other assessment that gives you such a deep insight into individuals, the way the LVP does. I think a lot of assessments are very interesting and in the moment they tell you something about yourself, but I’m not so sure they’re all useful from a developmental perspective. The LVP is useful because you gain an understanding of yourself and others. Not only that, you can use it developmentally for yourself, which you can’t do with a lot of other assessments. It’s not static and it looks at the whole of your life, not just how you show up at work.

If I’d had the LVP in my leadership toolkit when I first started out, it would have made my working life a lot easier!