Coaching acts as a catalyst, as an accelerator, which bring a focus to what’s important.  It is not easy to be clear about what is needed and coaching gives you the spaces to work out what you and your business / organisation needs.

You are surrounded by opinions and criticism and working with a coach provides a place where you can explore ideas without criticism, without judgement. There is not pressure to perform.  You can challenge any limiting beliefs which hold you back from being your best and your happiest.

Coaching helps you identify what is needed and put a concrete plan in place, with a clear timescale and milestones, so that you increase your chances of success.

Working with a coach is motivating and inspiring, where you can really feel like you’re moving forward, making the changes you want to gain the insight you need.  Through consideration of coaching models and strategies from positive psychology, resilience studies, creativity etc you can increase your chances of finding success.

Coaching can be face to face or via Skype.

Say yes to everything? You should seriously stop.

Why we need to thank people for saying NO as well as YES

At certain times in your career, saying yes can be advantageous.  It can expose you to new experience, open new doors. But saying yes to everything can also be hugely disadvantageous.

Too many people I work with find themselves saying yes to things that mean that they become unfocused, overwhelmed, unproductive and resentful. So often the culture of many work places means that it is a given that you will take on too much and that those who protect their boundaries and say no to certain tasks or undertakings, are seen as negative and unreliable.  More generally, British society expects us to say yes if we want to be liked and saying no risks offending and upsetting. 

Do you find yourself saying yes to taking on extra work or helping others out with their work when you really want to say no?

It’s not easy saying no.  There are a host of reasons why we struggle.

You might not like to let people down.

You might like to please or impress people.

Your line manager or boss may be difficult to say no to.

You may worry about who is going to do the work if you don’t – your colleagues or team are already overworked.

Saying no to clients, even if it’s extra work or unreasonable, can risk upsetting them.

Sometimes it’s easier to say yes and do the work than say no and delegate.

Saying no feels like a rejection to many and none of us like to feel rejected. 

I’m clearly not suggesting you say no to everything.  So how will you know if saying no is appropriate?

  • Consider your role and the responsibilities you have.  Yes, sometimes you need to do things outside of this, as there needs to be some goodwill. However, if you find that you are frequently working outside of your job role and trying to do your job too, you will become overwhelmed.  You will not be able to successful achieve what you need to.  You will probably become pretty distracted and not be able to.
  • Ask yourself if doing this will move you closer to achieving your goals.
  • Ask yourself why you are saying yes. Are you doing it because it will move your work on, contribute to the general aim, add value and because no-one else can, or are you doing it because you feel bad about letting people down, or think it’s quicker for you to do it than someone else and the work will be better?
  • Ask why you can’t say no. Are you concerned about upsetting or disappointing the person asking? Are you worried about their reaction if you say no? Do you think it will be quicker to just say yes and do it than face the potential negative atmosphere if you say no?
  • Are you just saying yes because that’s what you do and it has become a habit and you are seen as the person who never turns anything down?
  • Instead of asking yourself “can I do this?”, ask yourself “should I do this?”
  • Are you saying yes because it’s within your comfort zone and feels easier to do than some of the things you perhaps should be doing in your position?
  • Are you doing this because you always take the role of rescuer? If so, consider the impact of this on you and others.

The benefits to saying no?

Again, I am not suggesting you become someone who says no to everything.  There has to be a balance. Once you challenge yourself to say no to certain requests, you will start noticing the benefits.

  • Many people will respect your ability to say no and will appreciate the fact that you are setting an example, especially in a workplace where saying no is not encouraged.
  • You will find you have more time to do the things that you are meant to be doing eg more strategic planning if you are in a senior position.
  • Your team will thank you as you delegate more, demonstrating trust in their abilities and helping them develop professionally.
  • You will feel more in control, less put upon and clearer about what you really should be doing.
  • You will become more confident in your role and see yourself develop professionally.

Is there another way of saying no?

Not many people enjoy saying or hearing the word no.  So are there other ways of saying it?

If you’re being asked to take on an extra project at work which you know you realistically don’t have time to do or that really someone else should be doing it, try explaining why.  Words like “I’m not able to do that now because I already am feeling stretched and worry I won’t be able to do the work to a sufficiently high standard” or if you do have some capacity but not enough, you could say that you won’t be able to do the whole project, but that you are able to take on some aspects. 

If a client is asking for a meeting this week when you already have one scheduled for the following week (let’s face it, some people love meetings) and you know that time would be better spent working on the project, it is ok to say something like “I really want to focus on getting the work right, would you be happy for me to bring this to our meeting next week?”.  So you’re not hitting anyone with the no word, but you are being clear to them about your boundaries and what you can and can’t do.

If you are a people pleaser, it will be a big change for you and may take a fair amount of effort to start reducing your use of the word yes. It can help to set yourself goals and take it step by step.  For example, decide that when someone asks you to do something, take a few moments to consider whether this is an opportunity to practise saying no.  This may be all you can do for a few times.  Next would be to set yourself a rule around saying no,  There may be someone in particular who often makes you feel overwhelmed.  You could try pushing back with them and see how it feels.  

Slowly you will start feeling pretty liberated!

I challenge you to give it a go and start noticing the difference.

Worried about what people think?

Last week, I went to see Alain de Botton speak about his new book “School of Life”. The School of Life offers online and in person courses on a variety of topics, but the general aim seems to be to help people live as purposeful, anxiety-free lives as possible. It’s all about being “good enough” and not striving for the dangerous, relentless aim of perfection. He mentioned paediatrician and psychoalanylst, Donald Winnicott who is best known for his ideas on the ‘good enough’ parent and encouraged the audience to strive to be ‘good enough’ and not ‘the best’ or ‘perfect’.

As part of his talk, he asked us to turn to a stranger in the audience and complete the sentence “If I were more selfish, I would…..”. After some discomfort amongst those seated around me, a man turned round and completed the sentence to me. He said “If I were more selfish, I would work part time instead of full time.” I asked him what was getting in the way of this happening. He said “the judgment of my family, my partner and her family”. As he said this, he looked concerned. By saying it out loud to someone, he had realised that the judgment of others, real or imagined, was holding him back from doing something that he wanted to do.

Being a coach, I wanted to keep asking questions to help him explore this, but Alain had us turn back to the front and he continued his talk.

This short conversation with a stranger highlighted what has been on my mind for a while and comes up again and again in coaching sessions. Most people make decisions, often that shape their lives, hold themselves back, prevent them from being completely themselves, because of a fear of what others might think.

And how do we know what others think?

We don’t! So we allow the possible or imagined thoughts of others to shape our decision and behaviour. Often with no evidence whatsoever. We assume what they will think and continue accordingly.

And even if we found out what they thought, should we allow the judgment of others to colour our actions? That’s a difficult one. There are some people who have an agenda, who may be jealous or negative and who are not going to give you a fair response. You know the type – and they are best avoided. However, there will be trusted friends or colleagues who genuinely want you to succeed. When you need help making a decision, it’s best to ask them.

In general, for day to day actions, it’s helpful if you can challenge thoughts of “what will they think?” by asking yourself, firstly, “who are they?” followed by “does it matter?”

It can take some doing, challenging the “what will they think” gremlins, as we are programmed from an early age to care. From wanting to please parents or teachers, to fitting in at school and at work, many of us are hard wired to do what we think will gain us the most praise (and the least criticism) possible.

But you can change your thinking and it can change the way you live your life.

Making things happen

It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.

Leonardo da Vinci

Sometimes things don’t progress as you’d like. You might not be getting the attention or support you need for your project or business. You may be frustrated at work and dreaming of promotion or another job. You might just be a bit bored with life even.

The wonderful thing is, that we can choose what to do next. We can choose to sit back and watch things happen to others, wondering why it’s not happening to us. There’s a variety of reasons for doing this and very often it’s to do with either lack of clarity about what exactly you could do or a fear of sticking your next out and getting it wrong. If you’re feeling a bit stuck or frustrated, ask yourself what the reason is for not doing something about it. This is a very good place to start. Even better if you can sit down with a friend or someone you trust as just running through it in your mind can mean you’ll let yourself off the hook as you’ll possibly convince yourself there’s no point.

I do love the quote from Leonardo da Vince. Every time I choose to do something as opposed to nothing, I notice that things happen.

It might mean reaching out to someone that inspires you or could help you. You might challenge yourself to arrange to meet someone who could move your project forward, or speak at an event where your ideal client will hear you. You might start a conversation with someone at an event and tell them about what you’re doing. The more you do this, the more likely others will approach you for your services or think of you when they are looking to promote.

It does take a bit of courage as not all of us like or feel comfortable doing these things. We might be consumed by a fear of failure, all too often a fear when challenged makes little sense. Even doing something small, like emailing a potential client or two can start the ball rolling. Stepping out of the familiar, out of the comfort zone can be scary, but it is definitely where things start happening.

Ask yourself what it is you want and what you can do to get there. Choose what you’re going to do about it and go out and ‘happen to things‘.

Why Inclusive Leadership?

And how to be an inclusive leader.

Relatively few managers will be unaware of the fact that the workforce has now changed. To lead a successful team or business, they must be aware that there will be a diverse range of cultural backgrounds, beliefs and behaviours amongst their people and that speaking in one way, targeting one type of person is no longer enough to get their message across. It is important to practise inclusive leadership.

There are some leaders and managers who struggle with this concept and wish all would return to the ‘good old days’.  They continue to speak to everyone in the same way.  This means they are speaking to an increasing minority of their team. So what happens to the rest of the team? Most would be pretty clear that this sort of (possibly unconscious) strategy is going to at best disengage and at worst alienate many, creating a fractured team which is unlikely to be productive and effective.

If that isn’t enough reason to be more inclusive in leadership styles, let’s look at some other benefits of being an inclusive leader.

According to Deloitte Insights , organisations with inclusive cultures are :

twice as likely to meet or exceed financial targets

three times as likely to be high performing

six times more likely to be innovative and agile

eight times more likely to achieve better business outcomes

Hard to argue with that. The first step of making changes is to recognise that change is needed.  You realise that your leadership style is not as including as it could be and that you are missing out on the benefits of such leadership.  The next step is to do something about it.  It helps to work out what inclusive leadership looks like.

According to a very helpful article in the Harvard Business Review “Why Inclusive leaders are good for organisations and how to become one” , https://hbr.org/2019/03/why-inclusive-leaders-are-good-for-organizations-and-how-to-become-one , there are six “traits” that inclusive leaders will have.

These are:

“Visible commitment” – the desire to make a difference, promote diversity, speak out and make the changes necessary to promote a diverse and inclusive workplace.

“Humility” – able to be vulnerable, admit mistakes, capable of and open to  learning from others.

“Awareness of bias” – again, the importance of being aware of the need to make changes to how they are behaving, recognising that they are not perfect and may be flawed in the way they approach diversity.

“Curiosity” – an openness to learn about others, being curious about differences in culture and ways of working and being willing to learn from them.

“Cultural intelligence” – being open about and willing to learn about other cultures and ways of living and working.

“Effective collaboration” – able to appreciate the power of collaboration and how bringing together a diverse team brings a host of benefits, from idea generation to productivity and creativity.

These traits can be learned and developed with time and sufficient desire and once learnt, it is important to ensure that leadership behaviour is consistent.  Occasionally demonstrating curiosity is not enough.  It is something that must become second nature.  By enlisting your team’s help, and asking them to call you out when they notice you are less inclusive, you can find a way of changing your behaviour for good.  It may seem scary, as few of us appreciate such feedback, but with so many advantages it is definitely worth the effort.

Coaching can be useful to support leaders and managers to become more aware of their leadership style and to develop ways of becoming more inclusive as it can be challenging for many to embark on such a project.  Aspects of inclusive behaviour can be identified and tried out in between coaching sessions so that you can feedback how it worked and what can be done differently next time.

If you’re interested in leadership or management coaching to develop a more inclusive style, please get in touch to have a chat about what you’re looking for.  Email catrinmac@gmail.com or call 07785 996917.

 

 

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What’s really going on for them?

Finding out what’s behind the words

We make so many assumptions when it comes to communicating with others.  We have to, as we generally don’t have time to read between the lines.  This leads to snap decisions and judgements.  Much of the time, this is OK and no harm is done.  However, if we make a snap decision that someone doesn’t like us, or is moody or ungrateful , or whatever… it is very unlikely that we will change our minds on this.

On good days. we might give people the benefit of the doubt and won’t come to such a decision, but at stressful times (like Christmas!), we are so much more likely to jump to conclusions and misinterpret the words and behaviour of others, making assumptions quickly that may be detrimental to relationships (and our enjoyment).

Stressful situations don’t help….

Stress doesn’t bring out the best in us and if time is against us, we are loathe to find out what’s really going on for others. Too often, misunderstandings happen and nobody stops to find out the reasons behind a person’s behaviour. If someone is behaving badly, this is all that we see.  This is the story that we have about them. It happens far too often in the workplace. Someone might be behaving badly – their attitude, time keeping, performance etc and this might get as far as a disciplinary or actually being asked to leave. In some cases, fortunately, someone sits down and asks them what’s going on, only to find out that they’re experiencing some difficult circumstances at home that are causing them to behave like this.  Once support is offered and put in place, the behaviour changes.

Taking people at face value means that we only get to know a tiny part of them.  Have a look at the cartoon below and consider what’s going on.

coaching people

Two people are speaking to each other.  If they are moderately good listeners, they will hear what the other is saying.  Each will interpret the words in their own way (usually according to their own personal way of interpreting the world – see this article on “we see the world as we are not as it is”).  What they don’t hear is what is behind the other person’s words (illustrated in the large orange bubbles).  All their experience, thought processes, their own interpretation of the world and events, what happened to them that morning, what’s going on in their family, what drives them, what they value etc). If we can access this information, or just a small part of it, we would have a better understanding of what the other person is saying and would be in a better position to make fewer assumptions.

So what can we do?

  • Firstly, notice that you’re making assumptions about the other person. What effect is this having on your relationship?
  • Take a step back and consider what might be going on for them – here it’s difficult not to make assumptions, but imagine you are an innocent bystander, watching the conversation. Picture the cartoon and remember we only see a fraction of what is really going on.
  • Ask them some open questions to find out what’s behind the words.  Let go of your judgement (this can be easier said than done!).

Hopefully you will gain some insight into what is behind their words. At the very least, this new perspective will help you understand them a bit better and you might feel a better connection as you learn more about them and they see that you are genuinely interested.

This is a strategy that works well for many of the people I coach. It is definitely worth giving a go and I’d love to hear what you think.

 

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Listen better to improve relationships

As an executive and business coach, I work with a broad range of clients, be they part of a large organisation or agile, ambitious start up, and everything in between. I constantly reflect on what value I might add. I realise now that one of the most valued services I offer is that of genuine listening and hearing what clients say. It seems simple and perhaps even obvious, but the more people I come across, the more I realise how few people there are that do genuinely listen and hear what you say. This lack of attentiveness creates a host of misunderstandings, lack of engagement and breakdown in relationships even, that could, I believe be avoided if we all learned to better listen and hear what is being said.

Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.  Stephen R Covey

When you genuinely listen to what someone has to say as opposed to waiting for a gap in conversation to get your point or response across, you will find that not only do you gain an insight into how they think, what drives them and what they want, but you will find that you can achieve a deeper level of communication and trust.

It is wiser to find out than to suppose.   Mark Twain

We make so many assumptions that can be damaging to business and relationships. So often, if we changed the way we communicate and listened to people in order to genuinely learn from them, we would make fewer assumptions and actually find out what is really going on. Imagine how much time this would save and how misunderstandings and conflict could be minimised.

Genuine listening builds better relationships

By not listening properly, we miss out on a great deal. We miss out on information to start with. We miss out on all sorts such as how people are feeling, what their mood is like, what their attitude is towards us, the business, others. These factors all enhance our knowledge of others and how we can better work and interact with them. By really listening, we can promote engagement and others feel that their words are worth something.

Make people feel valued

If we allow our own thoughts to elevate as others speak, we shouldn’t fool ourselves that they won’t pick up on this. Humans are very sensitive to how others behave and we all know what it’s like to speak to someone who is physically present but not hearing anything. Think of a time when this has happened to you. How did that make you feel? Perhaps you felt the other person showed a lack of respect, you may not have felt valued. It is highly likely that you went away thinking “well that was a waste of time, I’ll avoid approaching them again”. This sort of behaviour builds negativity and resentment which could potentially have been avoided.

What is your default when it comes to listening?

All behaviour change starts with actually realising where you are now. Then you can work out where you want to get to and how. What do you tend to do when in conversation?

Are you a broadcaster?You have an agenda, something to say and you want to get it out there and get on with it. How does the other person feel? Try considering things from their perspective and the benefits of a two way conversation.

Are you a mind racer?

Your focus is internal rather on the person speaking. How do they feel? What are you missing out on by not being present? How can you tame your thoughts and bring your attention to the speaker?

Are you a jumper to conclusions?

Do you listen to the first few sentences and then make up your mind regardless of what comes next? What sort of pattern will this create for you and your business? How can you let go of your assumptions?

Are you easily distracted?Whatever else is going on in the room or outside the window, that’s where your focus is. You might have your phone or laptop at hand and be glancing over at them. You leave conversations thinking you’ve heard it all, but will have missed so much. Ask yourself what you can do about this? Putting the device away would be a good start!

What can you do now?

Most of us can relate to some if not all of the above. Ask yourself what small change can you make to improve your listening. There will be something, no matter how small. None of us are perfect listeners all of the time. There are so many benefits to getting good at listening, why not start today and notice the positive changes that take place.

Did you know I run workshops on better listening? Get in touch to find out more.

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Training as a Resilience Practitioner

Resilience is something that can be learnt

Learning how to be resilient is so important.  Whether at work or at home, we face all sorts of challenges that can get us down and make picking ourselves up again difficult.  The more techniques we have, the better chance we stand of being able to strengthen ourselves and face the world again.Coaching and training in resilience techniques

Stress, conflict, illness, lack of control. Factors that when we’re feeling resilient, don’t cause too much damage.  However, if we’re feeling less than, these factors can mean that we start missing work, getting down, losing direction.  Being able to call on techniques to build resilience mean that we can take the knocks and get back up again.

So many workplaces face problems with absenteeism and stress as we get so busy. Increasing numbers find it a challenge to manage the everyday knocks.  We start getting upset at the little things, experience difficulty with relationships and start feeling that we just can’t cope.  By spending some time learning about resilience techniques, we can find the inner strength to not let the small things get at us, and find ways of handling the bigger things with a healthier perspective.

I studied resilience techniques with the College of Wellbeing and am now a certified Resilience Practitioner. I have designed courses on resilience as well as included resilience techniques in my Managing Mantra course for confident managers. Everyone I work with as a coach and trainer, find that learning resilience techniques, and then putting them in to practise, is one of the most valuable aspects of coaching.  Once they are able to put these techniques into practise regularly, they find they can go on and share with colleagues, so that working together becomes so much more pleasurable and productive.

If you’d like to chat about coaching and training in resilience techniques, please get in touch.

 

 

 

Fear

Are you afraid of something?

“Not that I can immediately think of” many people will respond.  Yes, there are some that are afraid of spiders, birds, heights etc, but I’m thinking of a less obvious type of fear, that many of us suffer from and don’t realise it. Or if we realise it, we make sure we brush it swiftly under the carpet and get back to work.

I’m talking about fear of what people will think.  This fear is not just about big changes like changing job but something a bit more subtle.  It’s about making changes that challenge the status quo and might just elicit some response from others. This is the fear that really stops so many of us from doing so many things.  From losing weight to trying a new hobby in our spare time. At work we are fearful of the reaction of others if, as a normally quiet person, we speak out in meetings or if we change direction for our business and try out something different.

Ask yourself

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

By doing so, it can transform the way you think. Write down three things that you would do and challenge yourself to do them. How about doing it now?