Maternity, not Eternity

An interview with Rachel Morris on Maternity Coaching

I recently had the chance to catch up with Rachel and ask her a few questions about the work she’s doing at the moment on maternity coaching.  As a mother of two young boys herself, and a highly esteemed coach, I know this work has been of particular interest to her…maternity 4

HR: So, how are you finding the maternity coaching that you’re doing at the moment?

RM: I’m absolutely loving it!  Having the chance to help women as they try to juggle pregnancy, work and the looming prospect of an addition to the family strikes a real chord with me.  It’s a challenge I’ve experienced first-hand, and to be able to support others is really special.

HR: Tell me a bit about the people you are supporting?

RM: As you might guess, I’m working with women in a range of roles, typically involving management, who are about to go off on maternity leave.  I support them over a series of 6 conversations, but it’s really flexible in terms of when they want these sessions. Typically we will have a few in the months leading up to the maternity leave. Then again as they are preparing to come back and the first few months as they are back in work.

It’s a huge challenge for women in this situation.  Everything that they have known is ‘changing’ – home, work, and even their identity that’s associated with these places. It affects confidence and typically challenges the individual’s perception of what matters, what’s important, what goals now look like to name just a few things. It’s not difficult to see that some focused coaching at this time can be really beneficial to help them see the wood from the trees.

In my experience, women feel all sorts of conflicting emotions during this period; they don’t want to leave their jobs, they have the concern of handing it over to someone else, concern about how they will be viewed when they return. Their confidence is often challenged as indeed it is during times of transition, and they will find themselves working out how to ‘juggle’ some extremely important things; partner, work, career, family, own identity… They leave the workplace with one ‘life’ and return to it with a very different one. And their workplace will most likely have changed drastically during the time they are away too.

And on top of that they have the challenge that the workplace may view them differently too.

HR: Why do you think maternity coaching is so important for organisations?

RM: There are all sorts of reasons maternity coaching can benefit organisations.  A lot of talent is lost when maternity leavers don’t return, so any organisation looking to retain their talent should undoubtedly think of this option. Experience is showing me that often even those who ‘return’ feel displaced, and therefore immediately question whether it remains the right place for them. They question lots, including whether they are still ‘entitled’ to try for upcoming promotions having been out for a period of time; whether they are fully contributing if they have to leave at a fixed time… The list of questions is really quite long.

At the same time organisations are recognising their duty of care for the employees, and supporting and promoting the wellbeing of employees is a business responsibility.

I’ve seen first-hand the positive impact of offering maternity coaching.  When organisations demonstrate that they care, and show that they value individuals, those individuals are willing to work even harder for the organisation on their return.

HR: What do you cover during the sessions?

RM: As with all my coaching, the sessions are led by the individual.  However, common areas that we might look at include:

  • Letting go, even if only temporarily
  • Handing over to your maternity cover
  • Retaining your confidence – recognising that you might be different, but still as good, if not better than you ever were
  • Balancing your new work-life priorities – juggling better than you’ve every juggled before
  • Dealing with other’s reactions to your new approach
  • Controlling your own mind and the space it requires
  • Communicating your mid and long terms goals and aspirations

Overall the sessions are about supporting the individual, and giving them the chance to face their workload and working environment with confidence and reassurance.

HR: Does your approach differ from your normal coaching methods?

RM: Not much.  I still start by being completely open, honest and non-judgemental.  We also take an outcome focused approach, agreeing the “road map” – where we’re heading, the areas we want to cover along the way, and what the coachee wants to get out of the process.  Then we keep this in mind every session.  I’m happy to share my own experiences when they’re relevant, but it’s always about the coachee.

 If you’d like to know more about maternity coaching, or would be interested in discussing coaching for you or your organisation, please contact Rachel on, 07833 184364


An evening with Martin Seligman

Martin Seligman, the “father of positive psychology”, was in London last night, sharing his views on happiness with over 900 people in a packed venue, where at least 60% of the audience, according to Martin, were engaged in the topic!  The other 40% were too busy indulging in sexual fantasies, apparently…IMG_5148

Over the course of 90 minutes, the conversation ranged from homo prospectus’ focus on the future, how we can aspire to happiness and teach ourselves and others to achieve it, and the fact that all we’ve learnt, about learnt helplessness, is wrong!

Here’s a toe in the water of the areas Seligman covered, with a plea for additions, corrections, and thoughts.

Homo Sapiens v Homo Prospectus

We started with something “none of us would know”, which if nothing else was a leveller.  It turned out to be an introduction to Seligman’s recent work, which is encapsulated in his latest book, Homo Prospectus, which explores the idea that we are not so much homo sapiens, that is, distinguished by knowledge, as homo prospectus, that is, distinguished by the ability to imagine far into the future.

Seligman argues that the science shows us that we are constantly generating simulations and mental images of our possible futures.  As he pointed out, as he was speaking, we as the audience were thinking about what we would be doing with his words, in the future.  Personally, I was beginning to create sentences for this very piece, so he was making sense to me… Continue reading ‘An evening with Martin Seligman’

Working Out Loud – Part 1

An initial reading and response to John Stepper’s inspiring book

WOL Pool

I’ve just finished my first reading of John Stepper’s inspiring book Working Out Loud, and I’m strongly motivated to write about it.

My initial reaction had been to write a “review”; to give you a succinct account of the key points of the book, to talk about the structure and content, and to try and summarise its impact upon me and my resultant learning.

However, immediately there are some problems with this approach:

  1. I’m not the best book reviewer, and I wouldn’t be the first to review this book. If you want to know about the book there’s plenty of information already out there (see below), and so my contribution in that format would add little, and not be taken up by many.  It would be a one off account, which would appear, disappear and do next to nothing for me or anyone else.
  2. A review seems to me against the spirit and intention of the book. John didn’t write it to get great reviews, he wrote it to get people to take steps towards a more fulfilling career and life.
  3. Because of the above, I’d be putting my energy in the wrong place, and one amongst many of my personal challenges is to focus my energy in the right direction.

So I’m going to attempt something different.  I’m going to share my experiences of applying my understanding and learning from this great book.

Continue reading ‘Working Out Loud – Part 1’

Motion Learning Fact Sheet – Mentoring

What is mentoring?

There are many definitions available for mentoring, some of which stress the importance of the mentor’s experience and seniority.

Our view at Motion Learning is broader, and for us mentoring is a relationship in which experiences are shared and questions asked and answered for mutual benefit and growth.

We believe this encompasses the various types of mentoring relationships we are seeing in the workplace.

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 17.27.37However we recognise that this might lead one to see mentoring and coaching as similar activities, and in fact they can be.

Often coaching skills are used in mentoring relationships, but there can are typically some key differences, which the CIPD picks up on in the grid to the right:

What are the benefits of mentoring?

Research demonstrates that mentoring, whether formally organised and managed by an organisation, or informally conducted, can deliver a wide range of benefits. Here are just a few:

Continue reading ‘Motion Learning Fact Sheet – Mentoring’

Why Mentor?

TreeAlthough the concept of the Mentor has been around since the time of Homer, it seems very much of the moment.  But why should anyone become a mentor?  And what does it involve?

The idea of mentoring seems to be having its moment in the sun, with both commercial and public sector organisations investing much time, energy and resources into mentoring programmes.  Charities exist simply to enable individuals to mentor others, and organisations like the CIPD enable their members to volunteer their time for mentoring activities.

So it seems sensible to understand what mentoring is, what is required of a mentor, and why an individual might want to become one… Continue reading ‘Why Mentor?’

The Developing Manager Series – Feedback

personal-leadership2The Developing Manager series – providing information and support to leaders and managers of all levels.

Our aim is to share ideas and experience around a different monthly theme, in the process starting a conversation about what it means to be a leader and manager in the 21st century.

2: Feedback

For some, the word feedback always has a mild death knoll sound attached to it. ‘I’d like to offer you some feedback….’ automatically heightens many peoples’ adrenalin levels, raises their hackles and puts them on edge. The very idea of being required to ‘give’ feedback to someone can make leaders at all levels take an extra deep breath.

Despite many years of being ‘fed back’ to (and trying really really hard to become open and receptive to the idea) it still conjures up notions of judgement, opinion, deconstruction and post-mortem for me. And from a very large stack of conversations with people in the workplace, I know I’m not alone.

I’ve had so many interesting and insightful discussions with leaders in the workplace over the years around this subject. I’ve poured over the principles of ‘giving effective feedback’ and tried out frameworks endlessly. I’ve even tested them out at home, which doesn’t always go down so well… Continue reading ‘The Developing Manager Series – Feedback’

The Developing Manager Series – Leadership

personal-leadership2The Developing Manager series – providing information and support to leaders and managers of all levels.

Our aim is to share ideas and experience around a different monthly theme, in the process starting a conversation about what it means to be a leader and manager in the 21st century.

1: Leadership

There can’t be many subjects which have had more books written about them, more talks delivered, than leadership. And yet leadership is as challenging and elusive as ever.

We know great leaders when we come into contact with them, but what makes a leader great? And how can we as Developing Managers act in a way which provides leadership to others? Continue reading ‘The Developing Manager Series – Leadership’

Does your organisation make the most of workplace coaching?

Line Manager Coaching Word Cloud

Complete our online questionnaire to find out

At Motion Learning we spend a significant amount of time with our clients looking at ways to help them maximise the impact of formal and structured learning back in their workplaces.

Because we recognise that a huge amount of development really happens through experiential and social learning. In other words either ‘on the job’ or ‘near the job’.

Over the last 10 years, it has become apparent to us that there is an obvious – but frequently overlooked – skill area which is woefully under-developed and under-utilised; that of line manager coaching. Continue reading ‘Does your organisation make the most of workplace coaching?’

My Mindful Battle!

‘There’s always a first time…’ my doctor said kindly and gently when informing me that I’d just had my first migraine attack.

‘Are you finding things unusually busy or stressful at the moment?’ he went on to ask.

Explaining my home and work life antics he just as gently replied ‘that will most likely be the reason then…..’

I left the emergency department at Moorfields eye hospital, armed with a new found focus on drinking more water, breathing more regularly, taking 5 minutes to sit down and do nothing (!), and ironically a strong commitment to do anything that would avoid a second migraine experience.

Logically I know what to do, but in the real world even these simple things I find difficult.

Inevitably along came migraine number 2… Ouch!

So – in search of mental ‘me time’ for both my health and my sanity I returned to a world I had briefly entered a few months ago. The world of ‘Mindfulness’.

“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose,

in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally”

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Paying attention quietly and peacefully to the present moment… sounds lovely… right up my alley. Crikey it’s difficult though!

A few months ago I spent some time with a group of brilliant senior HR colleagues. Forward thinking, energetic and engaging people. We discussed Mindfulness.

In preparation for our meeting I had undertaken an online Mindfulness course, and spent a sunny Sunday in a basement with some Buddhist monks learning the basics of meditation. This alongside reading and researching the core principles.

We shared our experiences. The core principles surrounding Mindfulness made sense to us all and we agreed any reduction in stress, anxiety and increase in focus and present moment thinking would be of huge benefit (commercial and personal) for all concerned.

We all supported the focus on personal wellbeing and its’ direct impact on workplace happiness and effectiveness.

So the principles all have a big, bright, green light…

My battle remains with the ‘reality’.

I’ve been reflecting on what gets in the way. It’s not the time, as I can find the time to practise some Mindful activity should I choose to. So what is it?

Habit, Skill, Will, Capability, Capacity?

In search of a little ‘present moment’ free thinking time, I’ve found myself with another item on my ‘to do’ list. Must practise being Mindful…

Hmmn. Now that really makes my head hurt!

Any thoughts, ideas, tips, comments, observations very welcome!

Social Media, HR and Learning and Development

So, can social media be of real use to HR and L&D professionals, or is it all a timewasting distraction?

This question was at the heart of a lively and amusing discussion held last week at Motion with a group of senior HR and Marketing professionals.

In amongst the laughter caused by the knowledge check of the different brands in social media (after all, how many of you know what all of the following really do: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Yammer, Pinterest, G+, Pinstagram, Foursquare…) was a serious discussion about the value, but also the challenges that social media offer the HR and L&D fields.

Some conclusions were as follows:

  • As a means of communicating the brand to the outside world, and particularly to prospective employees, tools like Twitter and Facebook can be of real value
  • As a way of communicating internally, again Facebook, along with Yammer can add a new dimension, whether to general communication, or for particular groups such as participants on a training programme
  • Tools like Pinterest and Shelfari might offer opportunities to share information in energising and interesting ways

As innovation is at the heart of Motion Learning, we’re doing our best to explore these options and introduce them where relevant to the learning and development activities we offer.  We’ll keep you posted on our progress.

Follow Our Mind in Motion on

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Rachel’s Thoughts

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.

Howard’s Thoughts

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.