Personal Development

Sometimes you just need to listen to what you are telling yourself.

Recently I worked with a client who had tried for years to grow her business without success. The aim for the business was to reach a point where she could either sell it or employ staff to run it for her, however the business revenue had remained at a constant level for some time.

She knew what she needed to achieve and why she needed to achieve it, but it just wasn't happening. The client came to coaching because she hoped that it would help her to develop some new ideas that she hadn't previously thought of.

As soon as we started our work together, ideas and actions just came pouring out. The client could list out in great detail the steps she needed to take to reach the targets she had set for the business.

The client had been stuck for so long, but it became clear very quickly that this was nothing to do with a shortage of ideas or business acumen. We honed in on two things:

  1. Her heart just wasn't in it at that point. The way that she was currently operating in her leadership role within the business left her feeling bored and lacking in fulfilment. So she was avoiding doing what she knew needed to be done.
  2. She lacked confidence in herself to drive the business forward and feared 'failure'. There was comfort and safety in coasting along, including a great work-life balance and a stable dynamic with her business partner. So pushing herself to do more with the business, and herself, was proving to be a challenge.

Our work helped the client to first and foremost listen to what she knew already: that it was her current mindset that was holding her back from growing the business and not that she didn't have the business know-how.

With this new awareness she could stop feeling frustrated and start moving forward. We worked on:

  • Expanding the client's leadership presence in the business. For example, by taking greater ownership for monitoring business performance, taking more time to engage personally with staff and publicly making leadership decisions without unnecessarily deferring to her business partner.
  • Redefining the structure of her business day so that she could concentrate on what needed to be done at times when she felt at her most productive.
  • Utilising her motivators. We identified that focussing on the lifestyle benefits of achieving the business goals made her put the hours in, even when some of the tasks weren't inspiring her. We clearly defined both the payoff of achieving her business goals and the consequences of not doing so, regularly revisiting these throughout our work together.

The end result was that the client experienced a step change in her enthusiasm for leading the business, and this showed in the business performance. She admitted to 'loving' her job again and action bred more action. The business, in her words, was 'booming' and she was on track to achieving her revenue targets within the year.

What struck me about this example is that when we are feeling stuck, some or all of the answer is already within us. We just need to listen to what we are telling ourselves, even when we are saying something that we don't really want to hear.

If we can do this, then we are in a better position to decide on the best way forward for us that aligns with our personal values, drivers and context, which ultimately leads to greater success and fulfilment in our careers.

What are you telling yourself that you really need to listen to?


Are you facing similar challenges?

If reading this article has resonated with a personal challenge, then you may benefit from working with an executive coach.  I offer a FREE complimentary coaching session to potential clients to try out coaching and help them decide if they would like to work with me.  Please get in touch to book your free session.


Sihem Bounoua is an Executive Coach and Founder of Rhapsody Leadership Development (, supporting medical leaders and other senior professionals to enhance their leadership impact, so that they can advance their career and achieve greater professional fulfilment.

Test the waters with a *complimentary* first coaching session

Have you been wondering about leadership coaching for a while, but you haven't been quite sure where to start in finding a coach? 

Or perhaps you haven't come across coaching before, but you know that you need some kind of additional support to enhance your leadership impact and move forward in your leadership career?

Hiring a coach to support you in making a personal change is a commitment.  It takes time, focus and resources from client and coach to deliver results through coaching, and you will want to know upfront that your investment is worthwhile.

Evidence shows that the relationship between the client and coach is the number one factor for success in coaching, however it can be a real challenge in finding someone that is right for you.  That's why I now offer a complimentary, no obligation first coaching session to help you to decide if you would like to partner with me as your coach in achieving your leadership goals and aspirations.

Typically in this first session we will delve into your current situation and then help you to define your personal development goals and measures of success.  So that whatever you decide by the end of the session, you will have a clear focus for your development as a leader and some practical next steps to take PLUS you will have experienced coaching with me.

If as a result we do decide to partner in achieving your leadership goals, then I'll have all the information that I need as your coach to create a personalised coaching programme that will best support you.

To book your complimentary coaching session, please get in touch.

To find out more about coaching with Rhapsody:

#executivecoaching #medicalleadership #doctors #leadership #personaldevelopment

5 Steps to changing your life in 2019

As we begin 2019, many of us will be reflecting on our successes and disappointments of 2018, and on what we want to achieve or do differently this year. Better work/life balance perhaps? Greater personal fulfilment? More self belief?

As an executive coach, clients come to me looking for support to change something about their life, which inevitably spans all elements of their life, professional and personal. If you want to make some kind of life change this year, here are five steps and some useful exercises to help you in developing a life changing plan for 2019 and beyond.

Step 1: Why do I want to change?

Being clear on your 'why' allows you to focus your actions and decisions on making the right change for the right reasons. Before you do anything else, write down one sentence that sums up what you want to change about your life and why. For example: 'I want to change my work life balance because I want to have more energy to spend quality time with my family'. Or: 'I want to change my career direction to feel that my work is worthwhile and aligned with my values'.

Next write down at least one thing that you will gain in your life (i.e. the ultimate payoff), if you are able to achieve this change. For example: 'I will be healthy and live longer', or:'I will have a better relationship with my partner and/or children'.

Keep this in mind as you go through the following steps.

Step 2: Where am I starting from?

Gain greater awareness of yourself and your situation so that you can take the right action to achieve your life change:

  • List your top five core values and rate each one against the extent to which you are living these in your life (1= not at all, 10 = completely). Reflect on the reasons for your scores.

  • Complete a wheel of life to evaluate your satisfaction with all parts of your life. Reflect on the reasons for your scores.

  • Do a personal SWOT analysis (Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats).

  • Identify where you are holding yourself back. Over a week, write down the negative thoughts and limiting beliefs that frequently come up for you. For example, 'I'm not as good as other people', 'I'm a fraud', 'People will think I'm a failure', 'I must work late to be successful'' plus any other 'I must...' or 'I should...' thoughts that come up. For each belief or thought, reflect on what the payoff has been for you in having this thought or belief (e.g. keeping you safe from criticism), and also what the consequence has been for your life (e.g. preventing you showing your real self at work).

  • Reflect: From completing these exercises, what have you learnt about yourself and the life change that you want to make?

Step 3: Where do I want to be?

Now it's time to dream big. Don't limit yourself. You need to feel inspired, enthusiastic and motivated to achieve your life change:

  • What would it mean to be living each of my core values to the full in my life? Note down your thoughts next to each value. For example: 'I would volunteer regularly for a cause that I believe in', or 'I would spend more time outside the business'.

  • Where do I get my energy from? Over the course of a week, reflect on the times in your life (including childhood) when you have felt completely 'in flow', energised and motivated by what you were doing. What activity were you doing? Where were you? Who were you with? Then take note of the times when you have felt the opposite. What does this tell you about what you really want from life?

  • Visualise the future. What do you want your life to be like in x months' or years' time? Close your eyes and take a few minutes to imagine that you are living this vision. What are you seeing, doing, saying, feeling and thinking? Create this vision in a way that you can refer back to it and refine it later. Use whatever format works best for you: a list, a mind map, drawings, cut & pasted images, post it notes etc. Imprint this in your mind. Post your vision somewhere that you'll see it regularly.

  • Define three personal change goals that will enable you to achieve your life vision. For each goal, define at least one measure of success, i.e. how you will know that you have achieved this.

  • Reflect: How committed am I to achieving my life goals on a scale of 1-10? (1 = not committed, 10 = fully committed). What do I need to do to get closer to a 10?

Step 4: How will I get there?

Next, spend some time getting clear on how you will achieve your life change so that you can start to take action, one step at a time:

  • Options. List all the things that you could try to achieve your goals. What are the risks and benefits of each of these? Which options are you most committed to progressing?

  • Knowledge. What and who do you know already that could help you to achieve your goals? Where are your knowledge gaps and how could you fill these?

  • Positive thinking. Where you have identified limiting beliefs and negative thoughts previously, take one and notice when it pops up in your mind over a week. When it does, practice exchanging it for a more useful belief or thought that you want to tell yourself instead. Keep practicing this and notice the difference to how you feel and behave over time.

  • Doing and being. Make a list of the things that you will be doing, and another list of the ways that you will be 'being' each day that will achieve your life change. For example, 'doing' might be not checking your emails at a weekend. Being' might be having a positive, relaxed or calm energy. Remind yourself of these regularly.

  • Plan. Write down what actions you commit to taking to achieve your life change, with timeframes that you can use to hold yourself to account. If your goals seems too difficult to achieve at this point, focus instead on the actions that you could take to make even a few baby steps in the right direction.

  • Relationships. Who do you need to engage in your life change? What do you need from them? What do they need from you? Which relationships will serve you in making this change, and which won't?

  • Reflect: What are my next steps? How confident do I feel in implementing my plan on a scale of 1-10? (1 = not confident, 10 = fully confident). What would get me closer to a 10?

Step 5: How am I doing?

Once you have started to make changes in your life, regularly reflect on your progress to recognise your achievements, build greater self awareness and adapt your approach as needed:

  • Redo your wheel of life and notice any changes in your scores and the reasons for these.

  • Revisit your values and periodically score the extent to which you are living these, noticing any changes.

  • Reflect: What have I achieved? What have I learnt? What do I want to stop / start or keeping doing?


Here we've explored five steps and some example exercises that will help you to create a plan to change any element of your life as you embark on 2019. When used in a coaching relationship, these exercises are played in over time with clients, not always sequentially (there's lots of jumping backwards and forwards) and only where relevant, so take the same approach with your own life change.

Keep your 'why', your vision and your goals in mind at all times. Don't worry if you don't have a plan that is mapped out to the letter, or if your life change feels unachievable at this point. Focus each day on making baby steps towards where you want to be, reflecting regularly on how you are doing and you'll be amazed at how your life will gradually start to move in the direction that you want it to.

What life changes do you want to make in 2019, and why?


Sihem Bounoua is an Executive Coach and Founder of Rhapsody Senior Professionals ( and Rhapsody Medical Leadership Development (

10 ways to get a new perspective on a personal challenge

Are you, a direct report or a colleague feeling stuck in dealing with a challenge? Here are some ideas to get you, or them, unstuck. #problemsolving #coaching #personaldevelopment

No matter how experienced we are, we can all come up against challenges that feel difficult, if not impossible, to overcome for us personally. Situations where there is a responsibility for us to take some action, but for whatever reason this is proving difficult. This may include managing dysfunctions in our team, delivering on a tough business objective, resolving conflict with a colleague or adapting our personal style to get the results that we want.

I've spent 14 years working with individuals and teams to address their organisational and professional challenges. A first step to addressing a challenge that you feel stuck with is to delve deeper into it, to gain fresh insights. So, here are ten approaches that you, or a direct report, could try to gain new perspectives on a personal challenge.

  1. What really is 'the challenge'? The goal here is to get specific and draw out everything that you know (or think that you know) about the challenge to help you to take the right action. Try explaining it to someone else who will truly listen, to expand on your understanding. Take on board their insights too. Perhaps draw or represent the details of the challenge on paper to show the various constituent elements to be addressed. Try using a simple tool that you can adapt for your situation, like 'SWOT' (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats) or De Bono's 'Six Thinking Hats' to explore the different facets. As a coach, and someone who has been coached throughout my career, I've also used metaphors and visualisations as a way of representing the features and qualities of a situation so that it can be understood in new ways. What do these new insights give you in addressing the challenge?

  2. What is causing this to be a challenge for me? And why is that a challenge? And why is this a challenge? Keep asking these questions and drilling down until you get past the symptoms of a problem to the root cause of the challenge in question. If you're visual, you could also use a tool like a 'fishbone diagram', adapted for your situation, to represent this analysis on paper. The root cause is the level at which you need to understand the challenge to take effective action. There may be several root causes to address at once. For example, you may be finding it difficult to get started on a project and ask yourself: 'Why am I finding it difficult to get started.' You may then answer: 'Because I can't seem to get motivated to take action'. 'But why aren't I feeling motivated?' 'Because I don't really believe that I can make a success of this.’ 'Why?' 'Because we don’t have the resources in place and because I'm scared of being seen as a failure.' You may drill down further, but you get the idea. Action may therefore be to produce a costed resource plan to agree with the project sponsor alongside working on addressing limiting beliefs and negative thinking.

  3. What assumptions am I making here? What evidence is there to support these assumptions? What counter evidence is there? Try to extrapolate what you know to be real about this challenge and separate this from what may not be real. We all have our own ways of viewing and understanding the world. Our brains have developed to learn from experience and use this to process stimuli accordingly to protect our survival. However, these assumptions may not always be helpful. For example, if you are assuming that your great idea won't be approved by the leadership team because your last idea wasn't, you could be holding off taking action unnecessarily. To address this, you may instead choose to have an informal conversation with the decision maker to determine the chances of your idea being approved and/or work out how best to present your idea so that it's seriously considered. Perhaps it's a limiting belief or negative thought that is stopping you from putting forward your idea (e.g. I'm not good enough, I'm a fraud, I'll look stupid) in which case the work may be on mindset to exchange a limiting belief for a more useful one.

  4. What is within my control? What is outside of my control? Once this is clear, you can invest your energy in the areas that are within your control, rather than in the areas that are not. Try drawing a simple circle to represent your sphere of control, with those elements of the challenge written inside the circle being within your control, those outside the circle being out of your control and those on the border of the circle being possible areas to influence. What does this tell you about where to take action?

  5. What is my responsibility here? We may not be able to move forwards when we blame others, or conversely when we bear more responsibility than we realistically have in relation to a situation. Both can create additional stress and sap our energy to act. Focus on what you can personally take responsibility for and try and let go of the rest.

  6. What progress has already been made? Recognise if there are steps that have been taken to address the challenge already, celebrate any achievements to date and see if this gives a different perspective on the scale of the challenge or how to address it.

  7. What values may be at play here? Our values are core to who we are and what is important to us. They guide how we view others and the wider world. Often a source of conflict in interpersonal relationships can be attributed to one or more of our values being different to those around us. Our values may also affect how motivated or positive we feel about a situation. The first step in understanding this is to make sure that we understand what our core values really are. Then we are in a better position to identify where our values are causing conflict, for example, in how we are interacting with others or in relation to the expectations of our role.

  8. What other perspectives could I take? If you are experiencing an interpersonal conflict with another person, consider using a tool like 'Perpetual Positioning' to explore other possible perspectives and gain new insights . Typical positions to 'try on' are: 1) our own, 2) that of a named person involved in the situation, 3) that of an unknown observer who offers useful advice and 4) that of an unknown distant observer who is looking in on humanity in general. If you can, create four physical positions and move yourself to each in turn as you aim to take on the energy and perspectives of each. Say what needs to be said from each position and then return back to your own position to see what you've learned about the situation. In addition to new insights, sometimes we may even conclude from this exercise that the challenge isn't as significant as we first thought.

  9. How committed am I to addressing this challenge? Rate commitment on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being not at all committed and 10 being totally committed). If the score is 8 or less, ask why this is and what would need to happen to make it a 10. Sometimes our lack of commitment can reveal important information about what is important to us or what is really holding us back.

  10. How can I take a step back? Sometimes we can focus so much on addressing a challenge that we can lose our ability to see a way through it. There's a reason for this. When we're focussed on a specific goal our brain concentrates activity in the prefrontal cortex. When we relax (for example when we take a walk, have a shower or do something fun) our brain activates a more creative state, accessing networks across the brain to create new insights. Try doing something totally unrelated to your challenge that makes you feel relaxed, and then come back to exploring the challenge later. How do you view the challenge now?

There are many, many more approaches that can be deployed to perceive a personal challenge differently, ultimately with a view to helping you or someone else to take positive action. Some ideas have been explored here to give you some inspiration which are based on my own experience as a change leadership consultant and coach.

Bear in mind that we each process information differently, so some approaches may work for some and not for others. Play around with different approaches (invent your own even!) and please do share what you know and learn that may be useful to others.