Wave Goodbye

By Dr Phil Renshaw and Jenny Robinson
Continuing our series of “sack your mentor”, “sack your coach”, in this blog we set out to persuade you that three habits are holding you back and it’s time to wave them goodbye.

Before we get started, we invite you to try a simple and revolutionary mindfulness practice:

Pick one thing you will do today and approach it as if for the last time. It doesn’t matter what you choose for this thought experiment, it simply matters that you do this fully. It may be personal or professional, but take enough time now, before reading further, to really soak on the exquisite details of one single thing.

And, now with the lens of doing it for the last time, let that help you notice how habitually you usually embark on this endeavour.

Of course, we are leading you here. We use this idea of the last time, to bring to awareness to our habits. Seeing our habits is often difficult, because they have become habits so that we can be more efficient, using our routine processing to continue 'without us' while we get on with other things.

Under conditions of stress - and Covid-19 must qualify in this respect - those routines that are continuing without us are a problem, because with the addition of stress all our lazy, bad, unhelpful tendencies are exacerbated. Here are three that we bring your attention to and encourage you to re-boot with a little bit of mindful leadership.


Habit One - Fixing it yourself

All the leadership groups we’ve worked with consistently give us this feedback. They are self-starters, high-flyers, problem-solving individuals. When there are things to be fixed, they set right to it. The difficulty with this, is that when we have stress hormones in our body, our mind is affected too. We have less capacity to take in a wide range of data, or to fight our confirmation bias so our fixes can be hasty, inappropriate and plain wrong.

Remedy. Next time you find yourself rushing to fix, take a Pause Point (much like you did above) and consider: is it really that urgent? Who else can help?


Habit Two - Fixing others

Not unsurprisingly and related to our first habit. The next is that we take on the problems of others. Again, as the pace of work increases and the problems and issues pile up, unwittingly we can end up telling people what to do. Usually, it is more sophisticated than that, because we make suggestions, we re-frame things, we break huge issues into smaller pieces. But notice. This is us doing the lion’s share of the mental and emotional work.

Remedy. Coach more. The art of coaching is to keep the mental and emotional labour with the other person. Not so you abdicate your responsibilities as a leader, but instead so that they find their own conclusions and actions. One of the best leaders we know who uses a coaching style of leading, says he feels lazy every time he asks someone else to think it through. But honestly, he has learnt that the more they do the work, the faster the transformation.


Habit Three - Forgetting to learn

It is so counter intuitive when life is busy, and the pressures have just maxed out at 1,000%! Isn’t that stretch enough? Actually, learning can refresh in ways that are incredibly helpful, we just have to remember to do it.

Remedy. Remember to keep learning. Even when you are pressured and becoming focused on just getting through the day. Lift up your head and use one of the small interstitial spaces in the day to expand your thinking. A podcast; a page of a book - opened at random to simply be provocative; a new source of news - check out another country’s public broadcaster for example; organise a vidcall with someone who consistently sees things from another perspective. Learning can be small, simple and direct. Consider it a powerful antidote to busy-ness.

In closing we remind you and ourselves too:

Teaming (not doing it alone) +

Coaching (bringing out the best in others) +

Learning (enhancing our own well being) =

The ability to survive and thrive in all circumstances.


About the Authors

Dr Phil Renshaw and Jenny Robinson are academics, entrepreneurs, teachers, and both have extensive private coaching businesses. Both deliver workshops for Cranfield Executive Development and Cranfield School of Management. Phil and Jenny met on the first day of their PhDs and immediately realised that they shared a depth of business experience from around the world that, combined with coaching, provided a unique perspective on leaders and their leadership. They are the authors of Coaching on the Go (Pearson, 2019), which offers a unique perspective on coaching skills for leaders and the power of coaching by focusing on everyday life situations. To learn more and to respond to their views please contact them at

Tags: leadership, article