The Sound of Silence

“Quietly, wisely, silence makes a case for dumbing the din of modern life and learning to listen again” Robert Macfarlane

I used to find silence disconcerting. It was a void that I needed to fill with noise – chattering or radio or – well, anything really. I could not go running unless I had my earphones firmly plugged in, delivering sounds that distracted or directed my thoughts. However, since I discovered the beauty of silence and the benefits it can bring, I run now without the earphones, especially early in the day or in remote places, where silence affords me the space to appreciate what is around me. There, silence is my welcome companion, refuelling my mind while I observe and appreciate the world as it is, undistracted by a superimposed layer of sound.

Explorer, Erling Kagge calls this to ‘listen to the great nothing’ and has recently written a fascinating book – Silence, In The Age of Noise – in which he explains the experience of shutting out the world. It opens up your thoughts and lets you see the world more clearly – ‘trying to love your life’. He quotes an old Norwegian saying ‘it is not how you are but what you make of things’.

Of course, you don’t have to be a runner to benefit from the sound of silence. At home, for example, before and after a busy noisy day, you can create some calm by being silent – shunning the radio, TV and the internet for a while – to create quiet space for your mind to rest and recharge.

And for those that want to take it a step further check out a clip from Nicolas Provost’s silent film Exodus.

Is silence your friend? I’d suggest it is a powerful friend and ally and well worth courting.

Here’s to our new BF – silence.

NB in contrast, next month’s blog will be all about when not to be silent.



Rachel is a business & educational psychologist. After working for many years in and advising SMEs her current work relates to issues of communication, personal development, team building and motivation. Over the past seven years Rachel has extended her work into the educational field.

Doing The Right Things

We are all busy, right? Too much to do and too little time? It certainly feels that way, but sometimes we are so busy heroically scaling the proverbial ladder that we fail to notice that it is lent against the wrong wall. As Andy Pausch said “it’s not doing things right, but doing the right things”, but how do we know if we are doing the right things?

Thankfully Franklin Covey came up with a smart little tool, which helps us to conceptualise what we are doing



How to use Franklin Covey’s Time Matrix

All of our tasks can be plotted on this 2 x 2 matrix according to how important and urgent they are. What is important/urgent for me may not be so for you, (and vice versa), so make judgments based on your own priorities. (Priorities will be difficult to define if you don’t know your major goals, this is a whole separate subject, which I will tackle in a subsequent blog). Look at your agenda – which of these boxes does each task sit:

  • Q1 Urgent & Important – these are crises/big issues that need to be dealt with right now.
  • Q2 Not Urgent & Important – essentially this is planning, which we can put off and generally do off.
  • Q3 Urgent & Not Important – these are the sort of things you should think about delegating, (if they aren’t important to you, why are you doing them?)
  • Q4 – Not Urgent & Not Important

Be honest with yourself – this is for your eyes, no need to share.

NB Relationship-building activity belongs in Q2  – a common mistake is to assume that this is a Q4 activity – wrong! Relationships and the maintenance of them are essential – we are social animals relying on one another both for motivation and cooperation; relationships are important, make time for them.

The critical factor is to spend time in Q2; this automatically shrinks Q1 and Q3 – while planning is not fool-proof, it does mean that we raise our heads and think about why the boat is sinking, rather than endlessly baling out.

Use the Planning Tool from last month’s blog to check your balance by assigning Q1 – 4 to each activity. If you are spending less than 50% of your time in Q2 you are probably not leading effectively.

If you struggle to understand where your time is going, I will address this in next month’s blog, (drop me a line if you would like to be signed up to receive it).



About the Author: Fran McArthur is a coach, trainer, action learning facilitator, and no-executive director with more than 30 years of business experience. She typically works with executives, who lead organisations of £1 – 10m turnover and who wish to effect positive change, particularly those making a positive impact on the environment . She collaborates to help them to achieve their goals using her practical, common-sense approach

Your can contact her at

enquiries  or 07789 520205

Positive Feedback – Praise More

“With no feedback, no coaching, there’s just no way to improve.”

Bill Gates

I have worked in businesses where there was no feedback and in others where feedback came only when things went wrong: they were run on confusion and fear. They were going nowhere fast and their people were neither happy nor successful. Yet the power of feedback to improve performance is demonstrable.

Researcher Ayelet Fishbach suggests that positive feedback increases people’s confidence, gives them belief that they can achieve their goals and encourages them to pursue them with more motivation. Even more, a positive feedback loop* can develop, whereby feedback leads to success in one’s goals, which, in turn, feeds satisfaction, leading to higher goal-setting and heightened motivation to achieve more – and so on. The reverse can occur, however, if a person receives only negative feedback.

But there is a potential feedback trap, as Carol Dweck explains fully in her recently updated book Mindset. Feedback should not be about praising a person’s innate intelligence or ability, as this does not foster self-belief; on the contrary, it can lead to complacency and aversion to risk-taking. Consequently, full potential is neither striven for nor achieved. It is, therefore, “curious that we spend more time congratulating people who have succeeded than encouraging people who have not”. (Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and author). Positive feedback is essential to encourage those who are not succeeding and it can take the form of praising determination and/or appropriate procedure. In failure, this is a very encouraging and constructive form of feedback: praising effort and process leads to a lifelong love of learning, builds resilience and enables greater accomplishments in all areas.

This YouTube clip is a short and effective way to illustrate this positive praise approach –“growth mindset” – Carol Dweck – A Study on Praise and Mindsets.

With so much negativity surrounding us, looking for the positive and celebrating it will help us all be more motivated, more resilient and more productive. So let’s seek out every opportunity to see the good and praise it, in our students, in our staff and in our colleagues – wherever it occurs. Make it about energy, exertion, struggle, progression, development and method. And as a regular accompaniment thank you goes down well too.

Thank you.


*(Ellen Winner 1996).


Rachel is a business & educational psychologist. After working for many years in and advising SMEs her current work relates to issues of communication, personal development, team building and motivation. Over the past seven years Rachel has extended her work into the educational field.