Just Tell Me

You want me to ‘just be me’

I want to know the right answers

You want me to make mistakes

I want to get it right first time and avoid the embarrassment

You want me to think independently

I want to know how, and what, so I can do it right

Rather than amaze you and myself with my creativity

I want to observe and assess what the right behaviours are that I need to do, to be successful here, and to reach that goal

You want me to trust myself, and be kind to myself

I’m tired. Which one is more tiring?

I’m in a place where no-one is showing me how, and the role models aren’t there, and life is fuller and faster and better than it’s ever been

But I have no clue how to do it

Will you just tell me?

The Artificially Intelligent Coach

Thursday 13th June 2019 was Day 2 of the CIPD’s Festival of Work, during which I had the pleasure of attending a ‘masterclass’ presented by David Clutterbuck.

As I wrote in my pre-event-blog, I went to this session because just the title “The new AI Coach – explore how AI will help humans deliver better coaching” was adversarially evocative and my first thought was ‘it won’t’. Those usually end up being the best sessions and I wasn’t disappointed. Plus, I think Clutterbuck intended to provoke the audience and create a stir – like the best academics he’s open to and willing for criticality from all perspectives in the debate about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and coaching.

Before we get into that, the Festival of Work closed with a keynote from Neil Harbisson (the first human cyborg artist – watch his TED Talk here). Neil sees in greyscale, and now has a chip installed into his head to enhanced his perception of colour, turning it into sound. His sensory perception is wildly enhanced. He dresses in musical notes, and perceives faces and food in chord combinations. Once he could perceive 360 colours – the human capacity of seeing the colour wheel – Neil chose to extend his capacity beyond this, to perceive ultraviolet and infa-red, and he encourages us to become a cyborg and choose which sense we want extend and how far we want them to go. He suggested that Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) and now dated concepts and that we should be talking about Revealed Reality (RR). I’m not sure, as we’ve all got a different reality, but it does make a debate about AI and Coaching appear reductive and ignorant.

What’s more, my second favourite session this day was with Educationalist (and founder of Action for Happiness), Sir Anthony Seldon. With an obvious passion for the future of work for young people, Anthony asserted that until we understand the true spectrum, breadth, and depth of human intelligence, we risk flooding it with AI and mis-using the technology. Poorly used AI will undermine and further reduce our capacity for growing our human intelligences: including spiritual, social, cultural, physical and emotional.

On reflection, I’m glad that it’s Clutterbuck taking up this research challenge and exploring AI and coaching with his long commitment to this area of academia and the credibility that affords him. During his session his argument was broad, and neutral. I can’t tell what he really thinks or where he really stands… and, I think that’s ok. Better in-fact. I think his intent was to leave us thinking and deciding for ourselves – not taking a position but open to exploring and hungry to learn more. To be academic and critically take up a space in the debate about this craft we love.

He lead us through a series of questions, which he attempted to answer. Starting with an attempt to define what AI is, how it works and what it can do. Clutterbuck makes a differentiation from ‘coachbot’ to ‘super AI’ – the latter we’ve not got to, but which holds the best opportunity for true partnership with AI and coaching.

He shares some interesting findings so far, that make me wonder further:

  • AI can analyse micro-expressions, reading a person’s communication and state to support the coach to understand them. But can it interpret the meaning and narrative behind it, because surely this is what actually matters. Not our assessment, but theirs.
  • AI can assess a stress response. I think this is great data for the individual (bio-feedback) and their coach, but does it miss the extremity of the individual’s interpretive experience of that ‘response’ and the causality. Again, missing meaning,
  • In trauma research people prefer an AI therapist rather than a human one because they are less judgemental. I imagine also that AI won’t have any emotional reaction to manage – something that is a practice commitment for me. The AI-Coach will implicitly ‘matter because they don’t matter’ with great ease that I try hard to accomplish.
  • With AI you can combine multiple and different coaching approaches in one, including broad or detailed cultural differences, for example eastern and western concepts all understood.
  • And, algorithms of AI creations often reflect the biases of those who designed them – equally amazing and obvious. Seldon also spoke about the history of IQ test – reducing intelligence in children to one measure – providing high results for those people who were similar to the white, middle-class, educated, males who designed the testing.

Clutterbuck compared artificial and human intelligence, and cautioned that AI can over-simplify complex situations. Comparatively, humans have general intelligence: the ability to apply learned knowledge in multiple situations reflexively. AI has weak intelligence: the ability to do one thing really well. Creative breakthroughs come from unpredictability and breaking rules.

AI can:

Recognise emotions, but cannot feel them

Deduce emotion better than humans can, from analysis  of written or spoken words

Project empathy (even though it does not feel it) – but not compassion

Innovate (e.g. create a haiku) but only experiment with combinations – with no capability of imagination

Accomplish masterful manipulation (my addition)


This is revolutionary, right? The AI coach won’t get tired, or have a bad day, or… care. 


Arguably, the role of the coach and the coaching process is to accomplish insight. Clutterbuck questions whether AI can achieve Insight. Articulated as: different to normal problem solving in that is involves a strong emotional response, often a stuck feeling before the insight arrives, not necessarily a clear linear or conscious process to solving it, and often appears suddenly and with instant perception that it is ‘right’. (Referenced from The Aha! Moment, NY Times Blog, 2011 – apologies I couldn’t find the link). He questions whether AI can achieve such creativity, suggesting that creativity is a result of our consciousness and curiosity to understand what’s happening in other people’s minds. And our own? If we still don’t know the depth and capacity of our own thinking how do we generate AI that will reach it or enable us to reach it? As the creators of the AI we by default limit it’s capacity to that of ours. Is it arrogance that would motivate this?

But if Coaching is about the GROW model – which Clutterbuck calls “Get Rich On Waffle” the then coaching profession is at risk. Because the formulaic process of using a structured approached such as GROW can be performed better by AI than humans. AI can perform skills and basic performance coaching, especially at this low level (level 1).  It’s better for transactional, and fast knowledge transfer coaching and mentoring – and for some people that’s exactly what they want – or what they think they want, or what their manager wants them to have, or what’s being provided for them. Clutterbuck also proclaimed that a large amount of people branding themselves as ‘exec coaches’ aren’t skilled at the basic coaching conversations. There is no correlation between price, qualification, hours… and the quality and impact of coaching.

AI can’t perform the more delicate and complex level 2 coaching, working in the realms of untrue and limiting assumptions. It can’t employ wisdom – especially meta-wisdom that brings together multiple and shifting perspectives.

The conclusion was that AI is best served as a partnership approach. An example in research and practice is using Virtual Reality to support visualisation of issues and inner critical voice, e.g. this manifestation becomes a viewable external entity providing a dissociation for learning how to minimise and master it.  And I can’t decide if this is dark, or light? If it’s ultimately empowering or disabling the individual’s capacity to cope and master this stuff in their own mind?

If there’s a role for AI in Transformational coaching is becomes a 3rd entity. Does the coach then need to use the pauses to check the  AI-coach data before continuing the session, and/or is this a new dance and duet the would benefit the individual. There is a lot to learn and understand.

The loudest message that resonated around the Festival Of Work was that ‘the future of work is human’, and I got a sense that it was all about connection (although the shiny-newness didn’t always feel connecting). I’m partially with Neil Harbisson, in he’s call to action: that we choose which senses we want to extend and go beyond what we ever imagine we could do. I choose connection, and independent thinking. I need you for both.

Whilst I’ve not delved into this research area since, it stays with me that ‘facilitated communication’ approaches have significantly enabled children with autism to communicate and demonstrate their capacity for thinking and intelligence. For example, it’s only when another person places a hand on the arm or shoulder of the child they are able to communicate, and answer questions using eye patterns or typing – actions they do not accomplish without this support.

There is much more to understand and know about our human capacity for intelligence and independent thinking that we haven’t even scratched the surface of. And it’s here where I remain. As a ‘thinking environment’ coach, with the single purpose of encouraging independent thinking with a committed curiosity to ‘how far can they go?’ if I create the right conditions that are only possible from another human. With connection; that innate biological driver that we call have.

Festival of Work

On 12th and 13th June I’ll be joining a team of SoMe tweeters and bloggers to share insights from the Festival of Work – the CIPDs first event of it’s kind, blending what was the L+D Show with HR Software and Recruitment, with a side of ‘Future of Work’ … and wow! Just reading that combination sounds overwhelming. So I’m doing some thinking and planning of how to make the most of it during the two days, and reflecting on learning from the previous events spent in the ‘blogsquad’.

starting with… WHY?

what’s my why for going to the Festival of Work?

2019 has been the start of a new internal role for me, in an sector (retail) and world (commercial) that I’ve never worked in before – apart from when I used to be a bra fitter half my life ago. Our people and culture strategy is high on everyones agenda and is jam packed full of interesting pieces of work that I’m thoroughly enjoying getting immersed in. And it’s challenging. Whilst thoroughly revelling in doing the things I love (coaching, leadership development, talent programmes, inclusion, wellbeing + diversity) I’m definitely ready to step out for a couple of days; to look up and have a look around. I’ve been totally inward (in-org) focused and it’s an opportunity to re-calibrate, see what others are up to, and gain some fresh inspiration. When you do L+OD work you’re often working independently and/or working as a oner internally. Yes of course constant alignment with your business is essential, but often, it’s just you, doing your stuff. This is equally beneficial and isolating. My PLN (Personal Learning Network) have never been so important and I’m looking forward to meeting new people too.

So no pressure Festival of Work!


How am I going to get the best from me, and the festival?

1. Remember the essentials

Phone charger pack, tea flask, snacks, macbook… badge to get in!

2. Plan my ‘must see’ sessions

I’ve learnt the hard way as a live-blogger that trying to attend a full programme of workshops is not humanly possible.

3. Seek good conversations

I’ve met some quite frankly amazing people at L+OD events, and I’m keen to catch up with old faces and meet new ones.

4. Take good breaks

Oh yes – good coffee, a quite corner (rare at Olympia but there are some) and a pause.

5. Be social

It’s definitely a balance: learning – blogging – breaks – social… but sometimes the best part is the social in between. For example the fab people at Good Practice are hosting a live podcast recording – book your free ticket here.


What sessions do I want to attend? What are my ‘must see’?

1. David Clutterbuck is delivering a session on ‘The new AI Coach’. He’s an award-winning author and Special Ambassador for the EMCC. His website also says he’s an occasional comedian – let’s hope so, because just reading the blurb for this session gives me an adversarial physiological reaction. I’m intrigued and keen to learn more.

Day 2 – 9.30-10.30am – E4: Insight Masterclass

2. Moving into a commercial world (from health charity) means the ‘bottom line’ now matters more than it ever has. So I’m interested in joining this conversation:

I’m hoping the diversity of the organisations represented somewhat addresses the imbalance of an all white male panel. Here’s hoping the panel facilitates gets some other voices from the room too.

3. I’m currently working with leaders to reduce bias and practice inclusive leadership. So this session from Angela Peacock resonated: Inclusive Leadership – creating a measured approach that rescues bias and drives inclusion.

(Day 1: C5, 14:50 Insight: Expert Masterclass)

This: “facilitate change and make it happens within specific timeframes” is one of my forever challenges. This: “discover new ways to reduce bias in the employee lifecycle and hold leaders to account” also feels important. I’m keen to learn new ways, and stories about success with persistence of ‘ways’ that work with long-term commitment to change.

For a taster, watch Angela talk about unconscious bias here.

4. This panel looks good:

I’m a big fan of ‘communities of practice’ – another thing I’m hoping to embed in my current organisation to encourage continuous and self-directed learning. I’d like to hear what the panel has to say and join the discussion.

5. And… because I’m not really interested in analytics* but everyone else seems to be, I fancy going to G3 Insight: Expert Masterclass (Day 2, 12:10) with Luk Smeyers, Deloitte, and Richard Doherty, Workday.

*I am interested in data just not the leaping assumptions so often made about human behaviour.

I’ll be blogging and tweeting about these and other sessions throughout the 2 days of the Festival… maybe see you there!


This week is mental health awareness week – marked by national campaigns encouraging us to talk about mental health and think a little more about how we look after our own psychological wellbeing and practice some self-care.

So what are you thinking now? That doesn’t affect me because I’m OK…? That’s about people with a diagnosed illness like ‘Bob [insert any name] over there’…? Or, maybe you just haven’t got time to even read this blog, let alone think about mental health.

I hope you keep reading.

In the UK…

And I reckon that…

  • 100% of us have moods, and bad moments/days, and sometimes struggle
  • Loads of us find ways to feel well… most/some of the time

Mental health is not one state, it’s more of a spectrum, that we all live on. For example at one end of the spectrum is ‘positive psychological wellbeing’ and the other end is ‘diagnosed mental illness’.

Mental illness doesn’t discriminate by age, gender, socioeconomic status, employment, wealth, intelligence, what you ate for breakfast, or …. anything! None of us are immune to it, and there is no ‘us and them’.

And it’s likely that you know someone, somewhere, who sometimes, struggles. Mental Health matters to all of us, and it’s OK not to be OK. Resilience is not about walking round with a smile everyday; it’s more realistically about riding the waves.


Here’s a bunch of top resources for more information, to find support for you or others, or to just understand a little bit more:

The Mental Health Foundation (who launched mental health awareness week) have published a report on Body Image – the theme for this years awareness week. Read it here.

From Mind UK – some top tips on how to best to give friends and loved ones your support.

The Time to Change campaign is about ending the stigma of mental health, making it OK to not be OK.

The Samaritans are a 24 hour telephone line available for anyone to call, when they need to talk – especially about mental health.

Plus, Grocery Aid have a helpline available 24/7, 365 days a year on 08088 021 122 It’s free support for you and your family.


But more importantly, my ask is that you take a minute to think about you… to simply pause and think about what keeps you going and keeps you well.

Self-care is a priority, not a luxury.

It includes the things you do to keep yourself psychologically well. To keep your energy where you need to be. To be the best version of yourself, more often. Wellbeing is about ‘putting your own gas-mask on yourself first before helping someone else‘ – you’re not going to be the person you want to be in service to others around you, unless you make sure you’re OK first.

So what have you been doing today? And what will you do tomorrow? To pay attention to your own self-care. What works for you?

And Let’s Talk About Mental Health. Let’s talk about all of it. Let’s get rid of our own stigma and make sure our organisation is the kinda workplace where it’s OK not to be OK. Let’s hold each other accountable for self-care, and prioritise it.

Look out for Let’s Talk About Mental Health sessions coming soon!

What’s the right thing to say?

To all the men, and all the women I know.

Please read this… I would love and appreciate any response or thoughts, as to what I’m actually meant to say and do, in the following situations.

Last night I went to my local pub, for a drink, with my boyfriend.

Do you need me to tell you what I was drinking? I had a fruit juice with soda water (x 2) and 1 single rum (to celebrate a male friend’s birthday), and I hadn’t drunk any other alcohol in the day.

Within the 2 hours I was there, the following happened:

  • One man I know walked in, came to stand by us (we – 4 of us – we are on bar stools) and leant in saying “Ooo, who smells nice… is it you” and then leant in really close to sniff me. I know this man but we’re not close or friends. I tried a light response of pushing him away and saying “don’t do that, it’s not ok… this is my space, that’s yours”. It didn’t work. He did it at least twice more, and thought it was funny.
  • I accidentally elbowed a man stood very close behind me (the pub was very empty barring 10 ish people). I know him – he’s in the normal/safe category. He joked that I’d assaulted him. I explained I was trying to discreetly nudge the other man (above) to encourage him to move away a bit (my stool was against the wall by this point). He joked to my boyfriend “I get her attention now, because she assaulted me, but I’m going to forgive her because she’s beautiful”. I rolled my eyes and pulled a cringe face to him and turned away. After apologising for assaulting him.
  • 2 men arrived and one I have been previously intimidated by (or you might call it ‘chatted up’ at the bar by – despite disinterest) came over to my boyfriend and leant across me to hug and handshake him, he then put his hands on my shoulders and leant it and kissed my cheek. I don’t even know his name. A male friend noticed my discomfort and offered a reassuring cringe-face.
  • I leant and bent over behind my stool to pick up my coat, and man I know, standing behind us, made a noise and then said “that was nice, will you do it again”. Same man on leaving the bar, stood in front us looking at me and said to my boyfriend “she’s so hot isn’t she”.


Am I not meant to be in the pub, sitting on a bar stool, drinking a rum with 3 friends? Should I leave? be elsewhere?

There are numerous times things like this have happened and there are numerous times I have said “no thank you… go away… leave me alone please… I’m not interested”. I’ve also tried “please don’t do that you’re making me feel very uncomfortable” – but it’s not the right thing.

I’ve also experienced many aggressive responses to mine. Including sometimes physical grabbing, pushing, and once it hurt and I almost fell over. I’ve been shouted at in the street, and out of the window of a white van who proceeded to swerve close to my car because I ignored their group-heckling when we were sat at the traffic lights – after checking that my skirt or top wasn’t giving them a view of me. I’ve been groped whilst working and responded by shouting very loudly at the man, in-front of everyone (bar customers), and I had to leave because that wasn’t appropriate. And the holding of the hips whilst he brushes himself past… too. many. times. to recount.

So why still, as a confident and assertive adult, with super communication skills do I freeze and not know what to do or say? Why does this kind of behaviour reduce me, to feel instantly powerless and incapable.

Do you need to know what I was wearing yesterday? A dress with a med-high neck and length down to below the knee, with trainers.

I am not single. I am not available. Nor have I ever intimated or behaved in such a way with anyone of these people. I was with my partner.

Are people that clueless that they think I would actually like and enjoy that. Or even feel comfortable with it. Or be used to it.

No, I’m not going to appreciate the ‘compliments’ and ‘attention’ that I do not want.

What would you say? and do?

NB – To add a little more context, I have been inappropriately (and very much unwanted) touched by two other men in the same pub. Oh but they were very drunk on those nights. I told my partner and other friends. Two people spoke to one of the men (a friend of my boyfriend) – but it happened again. They were embarrassed, they didn’t mean it, they were too drunk and have stuff going on that they’re stressed about. I now move tables, or leave when they are there, and don’t make eye contact or engage in any conversation with them.


There is no rush

In fact, when you take your time, know that you will actually get there quicker

Take it, because it’s yours!

Soothe your fiery urgency;

Urgency to speak, to be heard, to tell your story

And know that you will be


And that what matters is that you, understand you; your beliefs, your assumptions, your feelings

It doesn’t matter when, or if, I understand them because despite your grasping, breathy, desperate attempts to make sure I validate your experience without judgement (or maybe with)…

You don’t need me to

Because I’ll consistently be,




I’ll matter because I don’t matter

And then you’ll know, and be, and think

Surrounded by easefulness.

My usefulness.

Dylan Dog

You are my favourite of all the animals.

I’ll go two by two, anywhere with you.

Your soft velvet ears, your pink nose with black splodges, and your thick white mane, that offers the softest place in the world to

Pause a little


Do you affect my heart rate, or do I soothe yours?

You still skip like a puppy making your ears flap, but you sleep like it’s your job

To bring peace and tranquility into my life,

especially when you notice that’s exactly what I need.

Where once you brought boundless energy that was rarely spent, and dreams that went on through the forrest.

In 11 years we’ve walked endless miles together, explored many moors, swam in many streams

We’ve picnicked over looking awesome vistas – reflected, contemplated,

We’ve climbed rocks, hills, and mountains – even when we weren’t outside

We know each other without words.

What beautiful simplicity.

I can just tell when you need to run, play and…


And you can just tell when I need your head buried in for a cuddle, or some time with my hands in the softest place in the world.

I’ve always loved watching you make choices when I ask something of you,

And now you’re 11 I can see you making those choices with a bit more rebellion… and yet when I whisper words I know you know, you always sit, wait, stay and

choose to walk by my side.