The Live Blog



Howard O'Donnell


Interested in boosting your productivity?

Have you ever heard of the Pomodoro Technique?

It's a simple time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s and uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks.

The idea came when Francesco was struggling to focus on his studies and complete assignments. Feeling overwhelmed, he asked himself to commit to just 10 minutes of focused study time. Encouraged by the challenge, he found a tomato (pomodoro in Italian) shaped kitchen timer, and the Pomodoro technique was born!

The idea behind the technique is that the timer instills a sense of urgency. Rather than feeling like you have endless time in the workday to get things done and then ultimately squandering those precious work hours on distractions, you know you only have 25 minutes to make as much progress on a task as possible.

Additionally, the forced breaks help to cure that burnt-out feeling most of us experience toward the end of the day. It’s impossible to spend hours in front of your computer without even realizing it, as that ticking timer reminds you to get up and take a breather.

Though Cirillo went on to write a 130-page book about the method, its biggest strength is its simplicity.

Before you give it a try ensure you prepare your day, identify your tasks for the session and anticipate + manage those annoying distractions.

1. Get a to-do list and a timer. (preferably not on a phone for obvious reasons)

2. Set your timer for 25 minutes, and focus on a single task until the timer rings.

3. When your session ends, mark off one pomodoro and record what you completed.

4. Then enjoy a five-minute break.

5. After four pomodoros, take a longer, more restorative 15-30 minute break.

Like interval training in sport it really does boost performance and maximise your time. I'd love to hear your feedback on how it works for you.



Howard O'Donnell


Time To Think

We believe the most valuable thing we can offer ourselves and others is the framework in which To Think.

Here is our new animation that illustrates an important message. We hope you enjoy it!




Howard O'Donnell


Vous avez la tĂȘte dans le guidon ?

In our fast-moving, online, 24-7, super-dooper-charged working world, we can sometimes lose track of where we are and what we should be doing. Everybody’s working flat out to stay ahead of the game and the competition.


I've always loved the French expression 'avoir la tête dans le guidon' ( translated literally as to have your head in the handlebars) or as we say in th UK “to have your nose to the grindstone”. The image of someone pedalling furiously with their head tucked into their handlebars while they fly past oppportunities and the emerging options of life is definitely a metaphor that a lot of our clients can relate to. 

It means being so busy and focused on a task that we can loose sight of what's really important. 

But what if being busy isn’t always the best thing to be doing?

What if you’re so busy, you don’t notice the warning signs?

What if you’re so busy being busy that you miss the chance to change direction?

The most valuable thing we can offer ourselves and others is the framework in which 'To Think’.


We provide this precious space in the form of coaching, insightful training and experiential team sessions so you can pause, explore and decide on the right solutions that are energised by new learning for you and your team.


Get in touch with Howard O'Donnell for a chat to see how we can help.



Howard O'Donnell


Think You're Communicating Enough? Think Again !

Good communication is non negotiable to making an important change take hold in any company, especially in complex enterprises. Most managers and leaders are aware of this, but it can be difficult to put into practice. Gaining an understanding of and commitment to a new direction is a challenging emotional and intellectual task.


People get nervous, and as a result, they often under communicate and send inconsistent messages about the change, both of which lead directly to limited transformation efforts. 

According to John Cotter, most companies under communicate their visions for change by at least a factor of 10. A single memo announcing a big new change is never enough, nor is even a series of speeches by the CEO and the executive team.


To understand how a change vision can easily get lost in the clutter, consider this research by John Cotter:

The total amount of communication going to an employee in three months: 2.3 million words or numbers.

Typical communication about the change over a period of three months (the equivalent of one 30-minute speech, an hour-long meeting, one 600 word article in the company’s internal newsletter, and one 2,000 word memo) = 13,400 words or numbers.

13,400/2,300,000 = .0058, which means the change vision has captured only 0.58 percent of the communication market share.


How to avoid this?


First and most importantly, leaders in the organization – usually the CEO and senior level executives – need to “walk the talk” and become living examples of the new corporate culture that the vision aspires to. Nothing undermines a communication program more quickly than inconsistent actions by leadership, and nothing speaks as powerfully as someone who is backing up their words with behavior. 

Finally, keep these communication tips in mind :

- Keep your messages simple and jargon-free

- Use metaphors and analogies to paint a vivid picture for employees

- Repeat, repeat, repeat – ideas only sink in after they’re heard many times

- Explain seeming inconsistencies – if you don’t, it undermines credibility

- Allow for constant feedback


What are your tips for effective communication? What resonates with you?



Howard O'Donnell


All things must pass - dealing with the current reality.

I've been busy coaching leaders over the last few days that are all trying to come to terms with the Covid-19 reality and trying to develop strategies to work with and lead their teams. This is really tough for everyone as we face an unprecedented moment when strategic headspace and expoloring possibilities has never been so crucial.

This morning I was listening to one of my favourite George Harrison songs and it got me thinking about a story I heard a while back.


Have you ever heard of the Stockdale Paradox?

I came across this story for the first time back in 2009 when I was doing my ICF coach training and it was introduced as a lesson in why confronting reality, while mainitaining a healthy sense of optimism, is vital to success. In today's VUCA world this is more relevant than ever. Admiral Stockdale was an American pilot in the Vietnam war. He was captured and made into a POW. He spent 8 gruesome years in a war camp in Vietnam (dubbed the 'Hanoi Hilton') while being tortured almost daily. Stockdale was held in solitary confinement and suffered horrific torture the including having lights in his small cell kept on 24 hours a day and being forced to sleep in shackles.

How did Stockdale make it?

After he was able to escape, he explained how he survived and why both optimists and pessimists were the first ones to die in the camp.  


The paradox goes like this:

You must retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties.

AND at the same time…

You must confront the brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.


The first part of the paradox and it covers the optimistic side of life. It explains that in order to survive any challenging period  in life, you need to have absolute faith that you will manage to conquer it. This goes to serve not only the people in war camps but also those who face any difficulties. This part of 'keeping the faith' can be applied to any part of your life. whether it’s about losing a job, a traumatic experience, going broke or at the end of a relationship you need to have strong faith.

“It too shall pass” or, as George Harrison said in one of my favourite songs in the world "All things must pass".


If you don't know this song yet - look it up, turn it up and take a break.



Howard O'Donnell


Our latest video



Howard O'Donnell


Credible Communication and Leadership

It turns out that when we evaluate someone's personality, we focus on two main criterea : "strength" and "warmth". Pepole make lasting impressions of others in just a few seconds and recent Harvard Business School research shows that this is based these two factors. It may come of a suprise to you that over 80% of first impressions relate to warmth and strength.

This means that when we meet someone we are not simply making a single first impression but in fact we are really forming two. Evidence shows that in those vital few seconds we are judging how warm and trustworthy the person is, and that's trying to answer the question: "What are this person's intentions toward me?" We are also asking ourselves: "How strong and competent is this person?"


People that successfully project strength and warmth impress us as knowing what they are doing and having our best interests at heart. Strength and warmth are the principal criterea on which we base all of our social judgments and the fundemental response to that incredibly relevant leadership question : "Why should I led be you?" - They in fact come across as willing (warm) and capable (strong) to guide us toward the future. We look to them for leadership  and feel comfortable knowing they are in charge.


The ability to master these two factors, that are by nature in direct tension with each other, is rare - so rare in fact that we can probably count the number of people we have encountered that manage it well on one hand. The ancient Greeks called it "the devine gift" from which we get the word charisma. Today we use different words to describe it depending on context. At work we might say "leadership potential", maybe "cool" in a social environment or simply as "IT" in the showbiz and entertainment world, as in "He has got IT".

Leadrship today should begin with warmth before strength. Research by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman drives this point home: In a study of 51,836 leaders, only 27 of them were rated in the bottom quartile in terms of likeability and in the top quartile in terms of overall leadership effectiveness—in other words, the chances that a manager who is strongly disliked will be considered a good leader are only about one in 2,000 !


Your answer to the question Niccolò Machiavelli's pondered over 500 years ago is key to your success - "Is it better to be feared or loved?" 

“It may be answered that one should wish to be both,” he acknowledged, “but because it is difficult to unite them in one person, it is much safer to be feared than loved.”

We'd love to support you to become more engaging and boost your potential  Let's connect



Howard O'Donnell




Have you ever heard of this before? 

At Live Learning, many of our coaching clients are grappling with self-motivation and the answer to the holy grail of happiness question. "What will get me out of bed in the morning?" Without a good reason to do this, you tend to not do so well.


I was at a café the other day meeting a new client and as we only had a minute before his next appointment, I thought it would be the ideal opportunity to try out Richard Leider's Napkin test. If you don't know it already, here you go.

Did you know that a sense of purpose has a magic formula?  G + P + V = C


  1. G is for gifts: The things you are naturally good at. Think of these as your enjoyed talents. 
  2. P is for passions: What you really care and are curious about. When you combine your gifts and the passions that you really care about. When this happens, you will bring your 'whole self' to work.
  3. V is for values: Where you do what you do? Are you in a culture that values you? Do you want to go there and make a difference?
  4. C is for calling: This is more than a job that pays the bills or a career with a ladder to climb. It's about using your gifts, passions and values which will bring you greater happiness, health and productivity.


So why not reach out and grab a napkin yourself and have a go at answering your magic formula

G + P + V = C.


Enjoy !




Howard O'Donnell


Leadership lessons from a bus conductor

Catching the contagious bus

I used to live in South London and in the mornings, if I was lucky, I caught  the iconic N° 159 Routemaster London bus into the city. I remember one very special conductor that was capable of creating something highly contagious amongst the dreary morning commuters.

If you were really lucky, at around 8 am, you might just step onto this cheerful bus and marvel at the emotional impact that this man would single handedly bring to a routine journey to work. 

 The shift would begin at the bus stop. People don’t generally talk to each other and engage much in the mornings as they finish breakfast, sip on take-away coffees, connect Ipods or scour the paper for interesting news. As the iconic bus came into view people would look up from their distraction and try to see if it was THE right bus. Was today going to be one of those feel good days? The positive behavioural change could even be observed at the bus stop as visual confirmation of the 'super' conductor was made and that he would be taking us to work with a smile!

 I loved to observe how faces became brighter with the conductor’s charm, upbeat conversation and kindness. You could literally see people starting to smile, put down their papers and start to converse with strangers as the journey made its way towards the capital. With every stop new people would get on with a smile as they were greeted by his infectious and playful demenour. Newcomers to this legendary N° 159  experience discovered his positivity and unique way of engaging the sleepy city folk and I'm sure, on occasions,  some were convinced that there was a hidden camera somewhere for one of those prank TV shows.

As the disembarking commuters stepped off the bus with a bounce in their step, I used to wonder how long the impact of such a happy feeling would last into their working day. Would it go on like a ‘ripple effect’ throughout the morning as people would ‘catch’ the cheerful vibe and pass it on again? Would it last beyond the walk to the office, down into the tube station or into their place of work on the 5th floor?

Positive emotions and attitudes like feeling happy, hopeful, friendly and alive are highly contagious and that bus conductor was living proof of such contagion is both possible and powerful. Of course, the opposite is unfortunately true with negativity and disengagement representing an increasing problem in working cultures and beyond.

What culture do you want to create on your 'bus'?

How do you want people to feel when they step off their journey with you?

What kind of a 'conductor' do you want to known as?

 Remember - people leave their jobs more often because of their boss than the job itself. Is it time for you to become a more positive and contagious leader?


Learn about coaching



Ursula G. Leitzmann
Coach & Consultant


Finding the right balance: rust-out can be as painful as burn-out


A while ago, one of my coaching clients had been in the same job for many years and frankly, she found it dead boring. To make things worse, her performance had dropped in the recent past and things were not going well. It turned out that the work that was assigned to her was not enough and not challenging enough. However, because she did not want others to think that she was “under worked”, she stretched the work out artificially to look busy to her peers and her boss. After a while she started showing signs of fatigue and lack of concentration, which led to making mistakes and an overall drop in performance. This, in turn, exacerbated the situation.

Over the course of several coaching sessions, she gained the insight that she had long outgrown her job and was ready for the next developmental step. She talked to her manager who added new responsibilities to her current job. There she could further grow and develop and feel more useful and valued.

The symptoms my client had experienced were those of rust-out. Many suffer from burnout. Little is heard or known about a condition that is on the opposite site of the spectrum: rust out, when people are bored and underwhelmed in their jobs. Interestingly, the body responds similar to both burnout and rust-out as the latter one can be equally stressful. The person may feel restless, unhappy, stuck, and these sentiments often accompanied by fatigue and a lack of concentration.

When you realize that your job is more draining than energy-giving over a longer period of time, listen to the alarm system of your body. Temporarily, we can deal with being over- or underwhelmed. However, in the long run it is important to have a job that generates a level of positive energy that is sustaining you.