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Coaching for change

Time to change the script?

What script am I talking about?

You know, the script that runs inside your head.  Sometimes it’s quiet and in the background, sometimes it gets really loud and makes it hard to think straight.  We all have it.  Many don’t realise it’s there, don’t hear it, others notice and some manage to challenge it and make changes.

What’s it made up of?

It’s made up of all our experiences, particularly early ones.  Things parents or carers said, something a teacher said, words from friends or playground enemies even.  Perhaps what the teacher said wasn’t meant in a negative way, but we may have interpreted it as such. 

We see the world as we are, not as it is.  Anais Nin.

“We see the world as we are, not as it is” said Anais Nin and this is so true. We run all that we experience through our own special filter and may take it as a negative even if the speaker didn’t mean it like that. Often they didn’t and were dealing with their own “stuff” but that’s another story.

So back to the script.  It’s basically our commentary, some rules, thoughts on what’s going on around us, maybe the voice of someone else who has been influential. That all sounds very innocent, doesn’t it?

Our internal script can actually be quite an unfriendly narrative that stops us doing so many things we’d like to or could be good at as it can be critical and obstructive. 

For example:

Telling people you’re good at something is bad” – makes job interviews a bit of a challenge.

Expecting others to do things for you is lazy” – not so easy delegating

If you want something done do it yourself” – hard to relinquish control

If it’s not perfect, there’s not point doing it” – how can everything always be perfect?

It’s rude to argue” – hard to ever disagree or have an opinion

You are not creative, you’re more academic” – is this really true?

Get the idea?

These may be exaggerated for some, but many people I work with have even harsher, stricter scripts that mean they find it difficult to speak up, look after themselves and their wellbeing, celebrate achievements. It can mean we don’t try new things, are afraid to take on new responsibilities, dare to ask for something and criticise ourselves constantly so that most things we do turn out to be a bit stressful, if we dare to do them.  The script can get louder when we’re tired or stressed and it all becomes a vicious cycle that is hard to get out of.

What can we do to change the script?

First we need to actually NOTICE what the script says.  Identify what’s useful and helpful and what’s not.  Some of it might be very useful. Welcome that.  The bits that hold us back, make us feel bad, give us a hard time, well, it’s time to CHALLENGE these.

Once we have awareness and are managing to challenge the unhelpful script, we can start forming new scripts.  Ones that support, nourish, inspire, motivate us.  It is quite wonderful designing your own scripts. Once you find some more helpful scripts, it’s a matter of finding ways to make them the new go to script and avoid falling back onto the previous unhelpful ones, ones which we have had many years to perfect and adhere to.

It might help writing some of them down or telling someone else about them.  This is good for realising how ridiculous and illogical they can be.  They may live happily inside our thoughts, but once put on paper or mentioned to another person, we see them for what they are. Unhelpful scripts that stop us enjoying life and trying new stuff.

Forming new scripts and getting rid of the old, unhelpful ones can be so liberating!

If you’d like to talk about how coaching could help, get in touch for a chat.

coaching for business owners

What it’s like working with a coach

Working with a coach can be transformative – but it’s hard to decide to go ahead if you don’t know what it involves. I thought my own experience of working with a coach might help. About 15 years ago, I was working in and running Papadeli in Bristol with my husband Simon. I had been to the US on an entrepreneurial/ business growth training course at Babson College, sponsored by the UK government and was offered business coaching when I returned. I knew nothing about coaching. I was busy with Papadeli and 2 very small sons. I didn’t really have time to look into coaching and find a coach, let along give up the time to actually meet with one regularly. I dismissed the idea at first, but something kept on telling me I needed to look into it. The US course had really opened my eyes to the potential and possibilities of business and personal development and I’d found it all so inspiring that I kept on coming back to the idea of working with a coach. I wasn’t entirely clear about how a coach might help, or where exactly I needed help, but I sort of couldn’t shake the idea.

I finally decided to find a coach

I didn’t want to work with a counsellor

What I wasn’t keen on was seeing a counsellor. Not because I don’t see the value in counselling, I certainly do.  I wanted business focused advice and was very keen to look at strategic planning and different ways of working. I had little time on my hands to just talk.  I needed focus and clarity around direction.

Finally I bit the bullet and contacted one. At our fist meeting, just talking out loud about my ideas and plans, challenges and frustrations, with a non judgmental person sitting there, asking open questions that got me really thinking, opened up so many possibilities and made me feel immediately lighter and more optimistic. She kept it very business focused and of course some aspects of my values and beliefs came out as she asked about obstacles to business success and what might be getting in the way of me doing certain things.

Having a coach that supported my ideas, challenged me on any negative beliefs and held me accountable to any action I committed to change my attitude to work and life pretty quickly. Things I’d been putting off because of lack of time, fear, lack of confidence, whatever, started to get done. Ideas I’d had started to be researched. Any obstacles I’d allowed to get in the way and become an excuse for inactivity, were challenged and I put a plan together to address them. Having someone holding me accountable, celebrating my wins, helping me really put plans together and breaking them down into clear actions made the difference between staying the same and really moving forward. Coaching really did help me feel better about so many things and feel a lot clearer about what I wanted and how to motivate those around me.

Initially a sceptic, any misgivings I had about working with a coach soon disappeared and I realised that if anyone is serious about making things happen, be it creating a balanced life, a successful business, being happy at work, achieving one’s potential, they’re many times more likely to make it happen when working with a good coach. Days and months speed by and I realise how vital it is to be clear about what you want to achieve, so that you don’t look back and regret or wonder ‘what if’.

And then…

I realised that I was not playing to my strengths working in the deli at Papadeli. Yes, I was managing it, but my strengths are more strategic and creative. I realised that this frustration along with working with my husband was not what I wanted. I loved business, people, communication and personal development. I had worked in marketing and media before and felt I could really help with clarity of communication as well as business insights. So I trained as an Executive coach at Bristol Business School / Human Technics and set up as a coach. It’s not been an easy path to choose as being a self employed coach has many challenges, but I’m still here ten years later, absolutely loving working with all sorts of people and organisations of all sizes and types and helping other coaches with their business too.

Find a coach

I can’t recommend it enough. I still work with my own coaches and still get so much out of it. Find a coach that you trust and get to work 🙂

You can read some testimonials from people I’ve coached here.

If you’ve got any questions about coaching, email me or phone 07785 996917.

coaching options and choices

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.

The pearl and oyster analogy

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.

coach bristolbusiness coach

Would you like to increase your impact?

Creating an impact and developing gravitas

It’s probably true that we could all do with some work on our presentation style.  I’m not particularly talking about standing up in front of an audience and delivering a speech, but more about the day to day dealings with others at work.

Our own awareness of how others perceive us is probably fairly minimal.  When did you last ask yourself

how am I coming across?

Most of us are usually too busy, getting stuff done, to stop and ask this question.

However, I do often hear others saying “why don’t people listen to what I have to say?” or “why do people not take me seriously?”  If you really want to communicate with others in an effective, impactful way (and wouldn’t we all?), then start by asking this excellent and essential question.

how am I coming across?

Have you changed your style?

Over the years, you may have changed little in our communication style.  From first job to wherever you are now, there will be aspects of how you come across that will need to have changed. For some, it happens naturally as they gain knowledge and experience. For others, it is not so easy. But with some attention, this can be worked on.

Gravitas

If you are in a senior position, where others look to you for expertise, then coming across with some gravitas, would, I think most will agree, a good thing.  By gravitas, I mean a good dose of dignity, measure, impact.  Saying something with gravitas would mean that others want to hear it and will respect your words.

When someone behaves and speaks with gravitas, others listen. They are more likely to be believed, their opinions have more weight and others are more likely to agree with them.  Someone with gravitas is someone that, generally speaking, others want to follow.

The question is then, how do we come across with gravitas, how do we create the desired impact?

Here are some straightforward tips that can be adopted by most, to help you increase your impact and gravitas.

Don’t

  • remain quiet thinking others will have already thought of your point (they probably won’t, and if they have, they may be thinking the same as you.)
  • speak quietly and look down – this may seem obvious, but few of us are that self aware.
  • forget to breath! (seems obvious, but in important meetings, this can happen!)
  • apologise “I’m sorry to interrupt” “I’m sorry to disagree”.
  • ask if you’re making sense – many very capable people I have worked with will make a good point or present a great idea and then ask “does that make sense?” The effect is that the listeners are left with doubt.
  • make self depreciating jokes or put yourself down “I’m not very good at this, but” “It may sound stupid but…”
  • avoid silence – silence can be good and there is no need to fill it with mutterings, distractions etc
  • avoid eye contact – looking people in the eye builds trust, helps connect.
  • feel you have to instantly respond to questions or demands.  Take your time to consider.

Do

  • stand tall. Even before you speak, you will exude confidence.
  • relax.  People with gravitas are relaxed and have a quiet confidence.
  • smile! People like people who smile.
  • speak with a clear voice, don’t rush.  No need to explain the effect mumbling has.
  • give yourself some positive self talk.  If you are in the right mindset, this will come across.
  • use the right language. See the ‘dont’s’.
  • believe you are worth listening to.  If you don’t, this will most likely come across.
  • assume others want to listen to you. Most people will.
  • make a statement then wait. Don’t fill the silence with explanations, apologies, whatever just out of nervousness, or dislike for silence.  It will dilute your message.
  • take time to always be clear about what your opinion is.  You will come across much better!
  • be yourself.  It’s far too much effort trying to be someone else, and people will see through you.

Start doing something differently

If you have always behaved in a way that might come across as hesitant, apologetic, a little under confident, then that is how people will have come to expect you to behave.  By tweaking some behaviours, you will quickly create more impact as you will be behaving in an unexpected way, which will instantly make people notice that something is different, albeit unconsciously.  Choose to make a couple of small changes to your behaviour and notice if / how people react differently and how you feel different.  It can be useful to keep a diary on this if you really want to change the way you come across.

Imitation

If you work with or know someone who comes across with gravitas, observe how they do it.  What aspects of their personality and behaviour mean that they create impact when communicating.  Make a conscious effort to copy some of these aspect. It may feel strange to start with, but will become second nature after a while.

Everybody deserves to be listened to, but we don’t always choose behaviours that communicate that we want to be listened to.  We sabotage ourselves with body language, choice of words, general behaviour.  And remember that not everyone is good at listening, so we may have to work a little harder with them. But in short, by adapting language and behaviour, we can all increase our impact on others and develop a healthy dose of gravitas.

 

coaching people

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.

 

Coaching case studies: Entrepreneur loses confidence on buyout

Entrepreneur loses confidence as business is bought

Steve has enormous entrepreneurial talent and grew his first business quickly and successfully. His company was approached by a larger business who wanted to buy, and wanted him to stay on to run that part of the business.  As an entrepreneur, this was a whole different ball game.  Used to putting plans in action quickly, he found the structure of the larger firm stymied his creativity and he became frustrated.  He believed that he would be sidelined and would lose control.  He was aware that his way of communicating didn’t fit in with the new, larger organisation’s expectations. He contacted me and explained that he wanted to become regional managing director and not find his way out of a job, as he feared might happen.

The group CEO said that his people skills were lacking.  Steve is a strong analyst and quite an introvert, gaining people’s trust through delivering what he promises. He was given feedback from his senior management that he didn’t perform as they’d like in meetings and wasn’t an inspirational leader.  This all meant that Steve started to question his own ability and whether he had “lost his touch”. He became quiet and withdrawn in meetings as a result, feeling all eyes were on him, expecting him to be outgoing and charismatic, character traits that simply didn’t sit well with him.

During coaching, we discussed whether leaders had to be charismatic, extrovert performers to gain their team’s trust. If this was the case, then Steve felt he could not be authentic, could not be himself and would have to leave. As an entrepreneur, he realised he had many strengths that perhaps others lacked, and he decided to focus on these. He soon realised that there are many ways of leading and gaining trust, and that an introvert who communicated confidently but without the great performance, can also win over others.

It became clear that confidence is not necessarily being able to perform like an Oscar winning actor, but that it’s something that comes from within, a belief that what you stand for is genuine and valid, and that you will provide clarity and strategy quietly and calmly.

This took a little practise as his confidence has been knocked, but each time he used the techniques we discussed in our sessions, he took another step forward.  Even though the business has gone through some difficult times for various reasons, he has won his team over and is seeing his strategy play out as he wanted it to. He was made Managing Director and feels he has the influence he wants on how his business is shaped. He is confident that he has the right skills and self awareness now to manage his staff and communicate successfully with the board. The insights he has developed over the coaching sessions mean that he can gain a different perspective on why people do things, which enables him to feel less stressed and clearer about what he wants for the business.

Steve began with weekly coaching sessions two years ago, and now returns periodically when he has a big meeting or issue to resolve.

Any names or details that might identify clients are changed.

Self help books – Feel the Fear…and Beyond

In my journey through the charity shop self help books, I came across Susan Jeffers’ follow up to her successful “worldwide bestseller” Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway.  I had read this and can’t remember that much about it to be honest.  But, I do like the title and it sort of captures the essence of the book pretty much – that instead of shying away from uncomfortable, ‘out of our comfort zone’ situations, we need to just go for it.  The sense of achievement afterwards is usually huge and that particular situation becomes just a little less fearful. Read more