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Coaches Diary: Once a Brownie…


In the first of her new diary column, Olivia Stefanino learns to appreciate her Brownie Guide training.

“Be prepared” – that was the motto firmly instilled into us as children in the Brownies and Boy Scouts – and it was a creed that stood me in good stead this week.

In my diary were two speaking engagements – and as one of them had been there for more than six months it had assumed an importance in my mind that was becoming increasingly more stressful as the date drew closer.

The talks were set for Wednesday and Thursday. The first event was to be a small affair – or so I thought – with around 20 delegates. Nearly two hundred tickets had been sold for the second “motivational” engagement – and I was experiencing a curious blend of anticipation, excitement and nerves at the beginning of the week.

If I am honest, I had a lot of emotional attachment to the success of both events – but particularly to the second as I was being paid a handsome fee. My ego and need for perfection were coming to the fore as I really didn’t want to let anyone down, or equally importantly, make a fool of myself.

It's interesting that as a coach, it is often easier to signpost the way for others than it is to see the path for oneself. So I allowed myself to get caught into the trap of worrying about doing myself justice – rather than concentrating on the job in hand.

As I was driving to the first appointment, I was actually focussed on what was going to happen the following day – and which exercises I would use to really get my audience going.

In truth, I hadn’t paid too much attention to the content of the first event – relying instead on my ability to invite the audience to steer the talk in whatever direction they chose in order to fulfil their aims and objectives. It is a style that I often adopt and it works really well with small audiences.

However, when I found myself being escorted to a large auditorium – complete with 200 fixed theatre-style chairs – I began to question why anyone would put on such a small event in such a large place. The response to the same question quickly brought illumination. There had been a “typo” in the original written request to me – and the number of invited guests was actually 200 and not 20!

After taking in a couple of deep breaths, I decided that the best policy would be to borrow the next day’s talk and use it as a “dress rehearsal”. Relieved that I knew my subject well – and that I had a “Plan B”, I got on with the task in hand and smiled to myself when it was all over!

After a fretful night’s sleep, the day of the “big” event dawned. As I prepared myself that evening to “wow” the audience, the adrenaline started pumping – this was going to be both fun and slightly scary.

I arrived at the venue – and saw that everything was laid out just as I had requested. As the time drew closer to my going on stage, I learned that there had been several accidents on the motorway, which had caused extensive traffic jams. Hopefully, this – combined with the cold, wet weather - would explain why only 20 people had turned up! Smiling at the absurdity of life, I decided to revert to “Plan A” for the previous day’s event – and yet again, everyone went home happy...

I guess the lesson I learned was this: Be prepared for all eventualities, forget the worries of your ego and deal with what “is” rather than what you fear “might be”!

* Olivia Stefanino is a leadership development consultant and executive coach. For more information on Olivia's work and to download your free e-booklet “128 ways to harness your personal power”, visit


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