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Don’t forget you do have choices

Your choices can change everything

Choice is such an important part of life.  Most of us, are lucky enough to be able to make so many choices about how we behave, how we work and live.  We can chose how to react to others, to situations – we are not powerless.  This is often too easy to forget in the day to day busy-ness and stress of life.  It’s too easy to be passive and react to situations with frustration, anger or hopelessness, blaming circumstances or others for what happens.

Most people don’t realise / aren’t actually aware of how much power they do have when it comes to choice.  As with all change, the first step is to notice what’s happening.  Then, choose to do something about it.

Because there are always options.

An example

A colleague is driving you crazy with negative comments and a generally negative attitude.  Sometimes it borders on rudeness.  This is affecting your work, your attitude to your job and how you behave with others when they’re around.  They are taking more and more of your headspace and your usual positive demeanour is diminishing. They are having a big impact on you and this is getting you down.

OK, so what are your choices here?

Accept the status quo and do nothing – that is a choice, after all.

Choose to do something about it. You could speak to them, be honest, they may not realise the impact they’re having on you.  There are many ways to do this – you could, for example ask if all is OK with them.  Often this sort of behaviour is as a result of something they’re going through.  If they have always been like this, then they simply may not be aware of how their behaviour affects others. Choose an appropriate time and place to do this, where you can both speak like adults to each other and leave judgement and anger aside.  Try and see it as an interesting experience from which you can learn.  Some find it useful to imagine it as a chapter in a book or scene in a film and they are the protagonist.  It’s useful to remain curious as to the outcome.

If you can’t face approaching them or have tried and they were not responsive, then you have further choices.  You can choose to react differently. You can choose to ignore, to work on letting the frustration go, to focus on more positive things.

You could also find a way of re-framing the situation.  Instead of seeing it as them winding you up on purpose, you could re-frame it as them not being emotionally aware enough to understand and then adapt their behaviour.  This is not personal (things rarely are) and they are just being themselves in their full (and frustrating) glory.  

You can choose to let go of the effect they have and focus on doing a good job and spending as much time with people that do focus on the positive and make you feel good.  Imagine turning down their influence, like a dial on a radio, and giving yourself the power to live and work as you want, without their negativity. 

Write it down

If you’re faced with a difficult situation which is getting you down, write it down.  Then brainstorm all your options.  From the sensible and do-able to the far-fetched.  Have a laugh doing it! Do this alone or with a friend. Apart from feeling better from laughing, you will feel better when you see all the options open to you.

So remember, you don’t have to just take it, you have choices.  If you can’t change others, you can change your reaction to them.  You can change your perception, re-frame the situation, realise it’s not personal and choose to make the changes that will enable you to feel better and move on.

To find out how coaching can help you consider your choices, email me info@catrinmacdonnell.co.uk.

Learning from your story

What can you learn from your story?

Considering our own story is invaluable when considering our own life, work and development.  In a presentation on mentoring and narrative, Professor Bob Garvey, introduced the quote below from film maker Krzysztof Kieslowski and it got me thinking;

Coaching your story

 

It got me thinking about why I was there, in that room, listening to Bob Garvey, Professor of Coaching and Mentoring at Sheffield Hallam University alongside other experienced coaches and mentors. It encouraged me to consider my commitment to furthering my learning and professional development and my interest in coaching in general. It opened up a host of mini stories that brought me to sit in that chair, each one equally valid in how it has shaped who I am today. Suddenly, I felt like I could see clearly the path that had brought me here, as if a spotlight had been positioned onto my past.  Focus seemed to centre on the aspects of my past that I had enjoyed, found interesting, motivating and above all influential in putting me on this road. I realised the benefit of these and how I would like to do more. We can all feel frustrated or self critical when we consider our past decisions, but by seeing it as a story, that you might read in a book or watch in a film, a new perspective often opens up as we realise that each is a sum of what we are today.

Passive or proactive?

 

All that we do leads us to where we are

This quote helped me stop for a moment and reflect.  It helped me consider what drives me and realise that all that we do leads us to where we are. We can be passive in this and just find ourselves somewhere, or we can be more proactive and actively do things that will take us to our desired outcome. Being passive is always an option and can work well for many.  Being conscious and clear about outcomes brings more purpose and increases the chances or us finding ourselves doing something we enjoy and find stimulating.  This is relevant for our personal lives as well as at work and business.

What next? You can influence this.

Being aware of what has brought you this far can inform you of what you’d like to happen next.  It might be more of the same, some changes or a complete transformation.  It’s so important to realise that you really can shape your next steps, but being clear about what you want and putting a plan together of how you’ll get there. It can be scary to think that you can shape your future – it’s a big responsibility and you’ll be able to blame no-one but yourself. It’s worth asking yourself what the alternative is and whether or not you’re happy with that.

What if

 

What would be the right chair, who would be the right people?

What if considering this quote, you realise you’re in the wrong chair, with the wrong people? It’s not an easy realisation. It could help to ask yourself what makes it wrong? What aspects can you change? What can you do? Is it just a bad day? Or do you want to make some changes? Ask yourself what would be the right chair and who would the right people be? What first steps might you take?

This quote is a great catalyst for some thinking and questioning.  Take a moment to consider what thoughts come up for you. It’s essential that we all realise that we do have some say in shaping our own futures.

Ask yourself if the story that has brought you here, can help you shape what happens next.

To discuss coaching, please get in touch: info@catrinmacdonnell.co.uk or phone 07785 996917.

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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