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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.

Building Resilience Skills

 Resilience = the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties

When we face difficult situations, whether at home or at work, it’s useful to have a toolbox of strategies that we can turn to.  Resilience is something that we can get good at with practise, and by ensuring we use these tools regularly, we will notice that we can cope better when life throws a curveball.

Resilience skills are vital for building a sustainable workforce and business and  by learning tools to support you and your team, you can make an enormous difference.

Something for the  resilience toolbox

Reframing – how to do it.

Consider the problem or difficulty that you’re facing.

Put it into words – you might find it helps to write it down.

Imagine it as a picture with a frame around it.  The frame your have currently is one of problems, negativity, discomfort, worry even.

Now think about what other sort of frame it could have.

Can this problem be seen as an opportunity to learn? What will you learn as a result? If you feel this is a possibility, then you can change the frame to one of learning, opportunity, interest.  Now what does the problem look like?

Or perhaps the problem or difficulty could be seen from a different perspective. How might someone you rate or respect look at it? What would they say? Now you can imagine a new frame with their perspective around it.

What about replacing the negative frame with a positive one? How would that be? What would a positive you see in the picture?

By just shifting the way you look at or see a problem or challenge, you can transform your attitude.  As you get good at this, you will find that each problem becomes more manageable and you will find your resilience grows.

As a coach and trainer, I work with people to develop better resilience skills. I am a trained resilience practitionerGet in touch if you’d like to know more.

 

Case study: stress and impostor syndrome

Coaching a director exhausted by stress and anxiety

A high achieving director in a global business, Thomas had reached director level quickly and at a  young age. Often given additional responsibilities, sometimes transferred from other directors who weren’t coping well. He gave the impression that he was in control, able to take whatever was thrown at him and being up for a challenge. Speaking to others in the business, he was liked and seen as a bit of a ‘golden boy’. As part of a senior level coaching and training programme, Thomas was to take part in 6 coaching sessions.

To begin with, he was a little perplexed at the idea of coaching. “I don’t really need it”, he said. Thomas was interested in the concept, and so took part with enthusiasm. He immediately identified the fact that he was attempting to take on tasks that his teams and senior colleagues couldn’t or didn’t want to do, simply because he could, and that he often felt he would do it better. Soon he realised a need to spend more time on strategic planning for the longer term instead of short term reactive activities. He admitted to working 5 or 6 days a week until 10pm.

Impostor Syndrome

Thomas soon became aware of the fact that he was taking on far too many tasks for the fear of being thought of as ‘not coping’ or not being ‘up’ to his role.  He felt ashamed of not having formal high-level qualifications and thought that by behaving in this way, no-one would question his ability. The impact was increasing stress levels and anxiety.

I constantly feel that I will be ‘found out’ or thought to be a fraud. They might think I’m not capable or up to the job.

Although evidence suggested otherwise, Thomas felt he had to over deliver to win approval. I asked him if he had heard of Impostor Syndrome.  I briefly gave him some background. He was so relieved to hear that others suffered from similar feelings of being an ‘impostor’ and needing to overcompensate. He realised that he was not alone in feeling and behaving like this and was able quickly to convince himself that these thoughts were not useful to him or his employer. He felt more confident in his abilities and took on board strategies for changing his thought patterns so that he could carry out his job without the previous levels of anxiety. He delegated more (something which was welcomed by his team) and gave himself permission to be himself at senior meetings, speaking more freely now that the fear of being found out had largely disappeared. He focused more on strategic planning and found his region was able to reach more ambitious targets as a result. He was able to give himself a break and found he didn’t actually need to be working such long hours.

Conclusion of the coaching programme

This is clearly a very brief description of what was covered with Thomas to give you an idea of how debilitating our thought patterns can be.  I work with so many people who identify with Impostor Syndrome and once they learn about it, they feel they can notice and challenge these unhelpful thoughts. It is hugely liberating and whilst not always easy to rid oneself of self criticism entirely, just by beginning to notice the pattern, we can start to think more constructively and clearly.

Names and certain details are changed to respect anonymity.

To read more about Impostor Syndrome, please click here.

Thomas is not the client’s real name.

To discuss a coaching programme, please email me.

Is being emotionally aware wearing you out?

Can being too emotionally aware paralyse decision making?

Psychology Today describes emotional awareness as “including the ability to identify your own emotions and those of others”. Basically, if you want to be a great manager or leader, you will be advised to be an expert in self awareness. Read more

Guilt – get rid of it!

Guilt – you can reduce feelings of guilt with a little practice!

The Oxford dictionary’s definition of guilt is as “a feeling of having committed wrong or failed in an obligation”.  Most people suffer from this to varying degrees. Some may say it can be a good thing as it means we are behaving in a sensitive way, in a way which considers other people’s feelings.  They may have a point when the guilt doesn’t impact their thoughts and behaviour negatively. However, too many clients I work with suffer from guilt which prevents them from doing so many things that would ultimately benefit them and make them happier, less guilt-ridden people. Read more

Self-Confidence and coaching

How do we transform ourselves into confident individuals?

In my work as a development coach, be it with senior executives, managers, company directors or sole traders, no matter how successful they are, 9/10  lack self-confidence.

Outwardly, these people often seem self-assured, but as soon as they sit down , they tell me about their doubts and anxieties. They worry about what others think and many confide in me that they are “just waiting to be found out”. What exactly does this mean?  Many successful people are concerned that someone will find out that they are faking it. They fret about being exposed as someone who doesn’t know anything and should never have been given the job! Read more

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