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Tools for resilience – the pearl and the oyster

Resilience: The pearl and the oyster analogy

During my time training as a resilience practitioner, I learnt many useful resilience techniques.  Learning that through adopting these, we can develop and become good at resilience was hugely inspiring as previously I don’t think I completely understood how much influence we have over our own reaction to challenge. It was made clear that resilience is not something we are, but something we do and that with practice, we can all find ways of dealing with or managing difficulties.  There is no magic pill to take away the difficulty or challenge and we must recognise our initial reaction / disappointment / shock, whatever it may be. However the next steps can move us towards a place of calm, perspective and acceptance as opposed to fear or a sense of defeat.

As a coach, I absolutely love sharing these techniques and encouraging clients to try them out and report back.  We can all, at different stages of our life or career benefit from resilience strategies and it is something that comes up frequently in coaching. As we are all so different in our reaction to situations, I find it fascinating to hear how things went when a client takes away a technique, what worked and what didn’t.  Some clients like a more philosophical approach, a new way of thinking or seeing things, others like a more concrete, step by step guide that they can practise until it becomes second nature.

Many clients love a story or analogy and often, when I’ve shared the pearl and the oyster analogy with them, come back some time later, saying they still hold this in their minds when they are facing a challenge.

The analogy is as follows:

An oyster is a type of mollusc and when a bit of grit or sand floats into its shell, it begins to coat the intruder with layer upon layer of nacre, which is what makes up the oyster’s inner shell, what we would recognise as mother of pearl. These many layers, create the beautiful, sought after pearl.  So from a situation of discomfort and irritation, comes this iridescent gem.

The thinking follows that similarly, from discomfort or irritation, we can derive something useful.  It may be that we learn from the experience, or that it leads to something better that we may not have imagined could happen at the outset.

This simple analogy can bring perspective, it encourages us to realise that the difficulty is a moment in time and that we will move through it.

If you’re interested in hearing more about coaching or training and resilience, get in touch on 07785 996917 or email info@catrinmacdonnell.co.uk.

Case study – planning for further, more focused business growth

Coaching for the next steps in business growth

Already the owner of an extremely successful business, client S now wanted to take a step back and consolidate before moving forward again.  He had grown the business to an extremely healthy level of turnover and profitability and had 50+ people working for him. He  had reached a moment in time where he felt that the business had reached a turning point with little strategy or planning and wanted to get some plans in place to ensure the next phase was more strategic.

His natural talents for seizing opportunities, disrupting the market, being committed to customer service and quality offering had got him this far, but felt that ‘winging it’ would be a risky strategy to carry on with.  He was clear that he wanted to continue with a strong level of growth but realised there were a number of changes that could be made to improve profitability and a restructure could be necessary to enhance productivity. There were some issues around work / life balance also which he wanted to address.

S chose to work with a coach as he felt he had a lot of the information and knowledge already but wanted to clarify how he wanted the business to be, with clear milestones and a plan for growth. He wanted to consider his own role in the business and whether an exit in the near future was something he wanted. He knew that an impartial view from the outside would benefit him and his business.

Take an outside view of the business

As a coach, I ask questions that an outsider might ask, which gets business owner thinking about a different perspective on how things are done. We started with the story so far and what had and hadn’t worked.  This provided invaluable learning and enabled us to spend some time looking at the strengths and weaknesses of the business.  A plan to address any weaknesses was put together as well as a plan for how to spotlight and further enhance strengths.

Marketing plan

One weakness identified was a somewhat scattergun approach to marketing.  There was no marketing plan, so S decided to bring in a marketing consultant to advise on a more cohesive marketing approach for the team.  Internal communications were sporadic and with staff levels growing, he realised this needed to change. There is now a comprehensive marketing plan with measurable targets that fits in with his overall plans and targets for the next stages of business growth. On the subject of marketing, we worked on a customer journey and a snapshot of how the customer might experience buying from their business.  This provided a great deal of useful insight into changes that needed to be made.

How profitable?

A large turnover is not enough to maintain business success.  Profit is vital and this had not been a priority.  We worked on a plan for increasing profitability and very soon, the results were seen, which was extremely satisfying.

Once an overall strategy for growth was put in place, S chose to continue with the coaching on a monthly basis, to ensure that there is accountability and a space for discussing any further challenges as they arise.  A level of business flexibility is required and S finds the coaching meetings valuable for decision making on a variety of issues which perhaps can’t be shared with others within the business.

This is a very short summary of the business growth coaching work with S, but hopefully will give you a flavour of the impact coaching can have on a business.

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