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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.

Delegation – what gets in the way

What is it about delegation?

 


Delegation has so many benefits and is a vital part of effective working, so why do we have such trouble doing it?

I guess as humans we generally don’t like change. As your role or business changes, are you slow to adapt what you do? If your business has grown or you have been promoted, your role will become more strategic. You will be looking at planning for the future and working out how you will get there, as opposed to dealing with the day to day. But if you’re entrenched in the day to day, you will have little opportunity to stop and consider the future. The busier you get dealing with managing others and doing the day to day, the more difficult it will become to clearly set your direction. Work life balance goes out the window and it’s likely stress levels will mount. This is not the only disadvantage with failing to delegate. You might find it difficult to focus and productivity could fall.

Few people would think that this is a good way to work, so why do so many of us do it?

Why do we fail to delegate?

From coaching business leaders and senior people in organisations, the root of so many challenges is failure to delegate. But why don’t we delegate when the benefits are so clear?

Guilt

About asking others to do the things you are no longer doing. You want to be seen doing the day to day tasks so that the team feel you too get stuck in. But hang on, think back to when you had a manager – did you expect your manager to do everything? Or did it frustrate you when they didn’t delegate and insisted on getting involved in everything?

Fear of abandoning the team

“But if I don’t work with them, they will feel I have abandoned them.” So often the reasons why we do things is down to belief.  When I hear a statement like this, I ask if this statement is based on any evidence.  Most of the time, there is no reason to believe this.  If your team feels properly trained and supported, it is unlikely they will feel abandoned.

Fear of losing control

If you delegate, you won’t know exactly what’s going in every area of the business. It’s worth asking yourself  how much control you will have over the bigger picture and strategic aspects of the business if you don’t take time to focus. Which is more important for you to get involved in?

Belief it’s easier to do it yourself

In the short term, perhaps. It takes time to explain, to train, to ensure they’ve understood. But what happens in the longer term? Taking time in the short term to delegate will bring rewards in the longer term.

Lack of trust

Others wont do as good a job or won’t do it “like you do”. Ask yourself if this is true all the time? It is true that no-one else will do it exactly as you do.  But you may not actually be doing it effectively. Others may have better ideas of how to approach a task. Be open to how others work and see that you too can learn from them. It’s also important to ask yourself how it might feel for a team member to have a controlling boss? Will they feel trusted? If not, what sort of impact could this have?

Bad experience in the past

One difficult experience with a team member/ employee shapes all else. Have there been good experiences as well as bad? We tend to hold negative experiences in our minds for longer than good ones.  Try and shift the focus to the good experience. It might be helpful to ask yourself what you can learn from the bad experience and how you can move on.

Fear of not being needed

What will happen when you’ve delegated much of your work? Will you be a spare part? Will you go too far and delegate yourself out of a job? What is the true likelihood of this happening? Or is it more realistic to see that you will take on different responsibilities that are vital for your business or career development (as well as your sanity)?

Example

I was recently coaching the CEO of a charity. He was overwhelmed with work and stress. We started looking at why. He operated an “open door “ policy for staff which meant staff were free to walk into his office whenever they had a query or problem, or just for a chat. He did this because he wanted to be seen to be part of the team and be up for getting stuck in just like them.

I find it impossible to focus on the bigger more strategic tasks as I just don’t have the time and am constantly being interrupted.

He considered how he might reduce the interruptions.

I don’t want to discourage staff from sharing their problems with me, I want them to feel supported.

On further discussion, he came to realise that he feared not knowing every little detail of what was going on. There was a certain amount of fear of losing control.

To cut a long story short, he realised that this way of supporting others and getting so involved was affecting his work. He decided to speak to his staff and explain that he wanted to support them, but that he would make himself available for certain times of the day. He also discussed how some of the more experienced members of the team could be first points of contact if there were problems. He trialled this and found that staff were very happy to discuss problems with other members of the team before coming to him if something couldn’t be resolved (which was rare). The more experienced members of the team were actually pleased with the increased levels of trust he had shown in them. He found he was approached less frequently with queries and could focus on his own work, which reduced the stress levels considerably. He felt like his work was having more impact and this in turn helped him enjoy the work more.

Could you delegate more?

Ask yourself if you could delegate more? If the answer is yes, what can you start doing now that will set you in the right direction?

If you’d like to discuss coaching or delegation, please email me info@catrinmacdonnell.co.uk

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

How would things be different without fear?

If you woke up tomorrow morning and no longer experienced fear, what would your life be like?

This isn’t about getting rid of the fears that protect us, like those that fear pain if we jump from a high wall and other fears that are in place to protect us.  I’m talking about those unreasonable fears that hold us back from doing all sorts of things in life and at work.

We all experience these fears in different ways and to a different extent. Some people are fearful of any type of change to the status quo, others happily take risks in business but fear addressing certain challenges due to a fear of confrontation.

Most would agree that many of our fears are not very helpful and life could be better and easier if we managed to successfully address them.

What would you do?

Here’s a simple technique for addressing fears that might be holding you back.

Write down a list of things that come to mind when you ask yourself this.

It might be “ask for a pay rise”,”negotiate better hours”, “change jobs”, “start a business”, “go travelling” etc.

Let’s take “ask for a pay rise” as an example.

  • Ask yourself “why don’t I ask for a pay rise?”
  • List the reasons.
  • Next to each reason, write what your biggest supporter would say. Eg, next to “I hate asking for money”, your biggest supporter might say “you have been working hard and taking on additional responsibilities, if you don’t ask, they may not consider a pay rise.  It’s worth asking”.
  • It’s likely one of the reasons will be “I’m afraid they’ll say no“. What might your biggest supporter say to this? It could be that they would say “and what if they say no?”
  • What would your response be to that? You will have your own personal reaction to this, but it could be “I will feel humiliated” (ask yourself why?), “It will be embarrassing” (why?), “they will think I’m money grabbing” (really?).
  • Keep asking the questions until you find that the idea of being afraid of asking for a pay rise seems like a distant memory and your thinking has changed to thinking it’s something that is worth doing, even with the potential risks involved (feeling embarrassed, humiliated etc).

So often we avoid doing things as we fear rejection or failure. We just accept it as part of life.  What I’d like you to realise is that each fear can be challenged, and often many of these fears are not founded on anything more than beliefs developed over time.

Why not try this out? What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

 

 

“We do not see things as they are….

….we see them as we are”

So much of my work as a coach comes back to this.  When clients struggle to understand the reaction of others, why relationships are difficult, why there might be disagreement at meetings, in teams. It’s so often because we are all seeings things differently.

The assumption that we all interpret things in a similar way is so mistaken.  Everything we hear, see, feel is affected by our thoughts, beliefs and values, which in turn have been created over many years of experience.  From childhood, learning from peers, adults, parents and teachers to adulthood where we surround ourselves much of the time by people who have similar beliefs, values and opinions to us.  We develop a view of the world which is very different to others’.

Our interpretation of events and conversations are so coloured by our own prejudices and bias that we very often will disregard hard facts if they don’t fit in with our own ideas and stories that we unconsciously tell ourselves.  Many studies have been carried out proving this; Claudia Cohen showed people a video of a woman speaking to her husband about her day at work.  Some were told she was a librarian, others were told she was a waitress.  Those who believed she was a waitress remembered facts consistent with her day job, and disregarded those facts that were inconsistent. The same happened for those that understood she was a librarian.  This shows us that we choose information that fits in with our expectations and assumptions, to the detriment of other facts that could perhaps be useful in giving us a clearer picture.

If we choose to do something, we can also choose to do something else. We can choose to question our tendency to see things as we are, and start looking a little further.

Through coaching, our perception of the world and of others can be challenged and we can find ways of being more open minded, which in turn opens the door to more opportunity and the possibility of doing things differently.  Giving people we might not have previously chosen an opportunity, overcoming our previous prejudice or beliefs has multiple benefits.  It is good for you, your work, those around you and the business.

 

For more information about coaching, email info@catrinmacdonnell.co.uk.

Be more resilient

Many people could benefit from working on their resilience…..

Many successful people, be they business owners or CEOs have something in common – a healthy dose of resilience.

They manage to pick themselves up when things go wrong and start all over again. The classic glass half full analogy seems to work for them – they see opportunities where others may see obstacles or challenges. Read more

Life coaching & business mentoring

Time to reflect on your business with life coaching.

Whatever your job title or situation in life, you can find yourself  feeling stuck and wondering how to find your way out of the current situation.  It is always possible to find a way, but sometimes it takes someone else to work with you. As a coach and mentor, I can bring my experience listening and guiding people, without judging, to help you work out where you want to go and which steps to take.

Being in business or at the top of your game can be lonely.  Achieving perspective is vital if you are to continue in your success. A view from the outside makes an enormous difference.

Coaching is an opportunity to reflect actively on the quality of your judgement & bring clarity to your decision making. Read more