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Coaching Reflections

READY TO CHANGE YOUR MIND?

How much thought do you give to the way you think ?  Have you always thought the same way, or has your thinking changed as you have changed ?

I coach a large number of leaders; a lot of them are what I call ‘new’ leaders : people who are new to a leadership position, new to a business, new to a country, or new to a department within an existing organisation.

They often come to coaching with some fear. They’re not 100% confident in their skills, they know they need to cement vital relationships quickly, they need to achieve some ‘quick wins’ and vitally, they may not yet have learnt the difference between the skill sets of managing and leading.

Which brings me back to thinking about the way we think …

You see leaders and managers need different thinking styles. Now, neither role is ‘better’, and both roles can be successfully coached, but managers tend to need meaning-based coaching which results in optimal performance (because the role is about the ‘doing’) and leaders perform at their peak when they experience transformational coaching. Because a lot of leadership is about Being.

And when leaders are being genuine, creative, collaborative, fair, and congruent, there is every possibility that people will follow them.

What distinguishes a leader from a manager is the ability to envision a new future and empower those around them to turn it into reality. I worked for a boss like that over 15 years ago. She empowered an entire team of women to believe in themselves and their ability, and rewarded us handsomely when we lived up to her expectations. She did her job so well that we ran her company for her. She set the vision, communicated it to us. And we did the rest. She empowered us so well that she was my last boss. Brava !

 

Leadership is the ability to do big picture thinking. It’s necessary to be able to delve into the detail when you are managing a project, but when you need to conceive a project, the skill you need is vision and creativity. Leaders break new ground because they have developed the ability to think globally; to go places no one has been before. They do not follow established procedures but look for new ways of doing things. Visionaries ‘envision’ a different way. That’s an important word for leaders – difference. It’s about looking for the gaps, not the similarities that will give them a competitive advantage.

Great leaders have developed the skill of reflection. They do not necessarily plunge straight into action but will think about the challenge, trying on different angles, different solutions until they know which way they want to proceed.

 

And they’re ok to be wrong. They listen to their inner voice and trust it because they trust themselves. If they are wrong, they use the feedback to correct the course. – without taking it personally. They do not need permission or buy-in from anyone to know what is right for them. Leaders understand that there is only one way of winning, and that is to control their own mind and the way they think and act. They know that they certainly cannot control anyone or anything else.

So what does all of this have to do with coaching ? Simple. A great coach can help you develop flexibility of thought. He or she can help you change the way you think.

I recently coached a senior executive who believed she had to prove her worth by constantly being busy, running (yes running !) around the office, and generally growing impatient with those that weren’t ‘up to her speed’. Empowering ? Absolutely not. She was initially given feedback that she was ‘tough’ which she took as a compliment, but in effect she was scared. So scared that she did more and more and made her staff feel like what they did counted less and less. Through coaching she realized that her job was no longer ‘to do the technical work’, but to BE a leader. The result is a calm, more productive team who feel like their leader is on their side and no longer in competition with them, but is there to support them.

And in turn, she has the breathing space to reflect, relook, envision, strategise and empower. And as a result, revenue is up 30% this quarter. Not bad in these times, and all because she decided to change her mind.

Let me know when YOU are ready – janine.daniels@lead.com.co

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RELOCATION 101 – LESSONS SO FAR…

The last 5 months of my life have been hell. Sheer, unadulterated, out of control, control-freak, anal-person hell. They’ve also been the reason I haven’t posted a blog for so long.

So, this is what happened … 2010 was a year of reaping rewards. My coaching practice had grown to a large enough size to be challenging time-wise, my husband James’ work was going along swimmingly, and our sons were in a phenomenal school. Like us they had awesome friends, they were active; busy with sport and social activities  …. And then the universe remembered us saying at some stage in the past, that ‘… we’d like an adventure …’

So in September 2010 we got back from a breathtakingly beautiful and peaceful barging holiday in France only for my husband to receive an invitation to look at a potential job offer in Singapore. He resigned in October. We sold our house in November. We moved to Singapore in the first week of January. The boys have been at school for 3 weeks. No blog ???  Hell no bloody time to take a breath !!!

Ok, so the objective of this blog has never been to tell my life story, but is, from a coach’s perspective, to reflect on lessons I witness and observe. So what have I learnt through this process ?

  • I’ve learnt personally, and observed objectively, that no matter how sorted you think you are, there are times you are going to need help. Ask for it.
  • People have opened their arms and homes to us, welcomed us in and helped us become part of a social structure – we’ve learnt to embrace that and be so grateful for it. I wonder how often that could have happened at ‘home’ but we never saw it because we had an established network and support group. Our eyes have become open to hands of friendship.
  • If we hadn’t all learnt this one already – here’s a repeat (and one that I’m currently battling with).  Trying to control it all makes you ill !!
  • You will get what you set your mind to if it’s really meaningful and important to you. (We’re not talking half-baked flights of fancy here). If it’s really important, you will respond to those opportunities that make your dreams your new reality.
  • Finally, and for me this is the over-riding observation because it relates to our thinking patterns.  Your experience is shaped by your filters – see the good in people, the situation or the experience – and that’s how it will be for you. Look for the negative, how it’s (bad) different, how it’s not the same. And you’ll end up yearning.

So am I yearning ?

No.

Am I missing my parents and treasured friends?  OMG.  More than words can say. But we speak regularly and I know it’s only a matter of time before we hold each other again.

But are we having an adventure?  You betcha, and it’s only just begun ….

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THOSE WHO DO…

Over the last 6 months, I’ve facilitated a large number of group coaching sessions which have allowed me to see a common thinking pattern resulting in an insight, which whilst simple, is one that lies at the heart of coaching and self actualisation.

Group coaching, as opposed to individual coaching is when a number of individuals are coached together. It is a cost- and time effective option for companies who want to offer coaching to a large number of employees, but the company does not have the luxury of offering individual coaching programmes to everyone. It differs from team coaching in that the object of group coaching is not to develop a common sense of purpose amongst the group members (although this does happen naturally), and often combines members of different business units / departments to create a safe space for honesty and growth knowing that one’s colleagues will not be party to the information that is shared.

The coaching process is also slightly different in that coaching happens at both an individual level (as each member gets coached on their own, whilst in the group) and at a group level. I find it fascinating to track how each individual whilst working on their own challenge, helps to inform an overall pattern or challenge that the group faces.

Last week I coached 3 groups from the same company, and have been intrigued by what was presented. The majority of the individuals are working on increasing their motivation and organisation, and underpinning all of the detail around procrastination and not being organised, was a sense of not believing in themselves 100%. As a result, being disorganised, not planning and procrastinating was the tool they used to sabotage their success.

This pattern is mirrored by my Clients who come for individual coaching. It is my experience that when their sense of self worth or belief is not solid, they will find reasons ‘not’ to do something eg. being disorganised means ‘there’s no time’ to exercise/study/plan/have family time etc.

Recognise any of this in yourself or those whom you lead ? All of this is underpinned by our meaning of self – which translates into how we perform. Answer the following questions honestly, and your answers may be the tool which unlocks your genius and your fullest potential.

–        Who are you?

–        How do you feel about yourself – are you ok, average, nothing special, disappointing or magnificent ?

–        On a scale of 1 – 10, how awesome are you ?

–        How different would your life be if you could rate yourself as a 10?

And it’s that simple – what separates ‘those who do’ from ‘those who don’t’ is a solid belief in themselves. We don’t have to prove anything to be magnificent. We just are. Our humanity and our being here is awesome and miraculous. We are full of potential – now how would your life change if you started believing that ? And how differently would your employees perform if you believed in them ?

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BARGING 101

This blog entry is not about coaching. It contains no deep insights, lessons or things to ponder. It’s simply fun, playful and humorous, because I am that too.

Our boys had not been to Europe and we figured 11 old year boys can only go to so many museums / monuments / attractions before they disintegrate into squabbling, mewling messes. So, we decided to go barging …

After walking our feet off in London, we headed for France. I speak French. Well, un peu. James, Liam and Kyle spoke none. Rural French people speak no English. My French got better, the boys got the hang of the language and soon started asking for what they wanted in French and by the time we left had a vocab of about 60 words. James still speaks no French, but cracks us up with his whacky words and very odd pronunciations.

Yes, it was beautiful. Burgundy in summer is pretty. Bland word I know, but that’s what it is. Pretty, pretty, pretty. The locks and lockhouses were festooned with flowers, the air was crisp and clean. The footpaths were beautifully maintained, the countryside manicured – and the houses, well, I reckon I could’ve blown a small nation’s GDP on a daily basis.

And yes, we really did moor wherever we wanted to at night. We really did get off the boat and cycle into the villages to buy provisions, we really did buy fresh pain au chocolat for breakfast, and yes, my hips were really 4kg heavier when we got home.

The wine … OMG it’s Burgundy !! The wine was practically free (try €4 – €6 for a good bottle of wine), and the food … well, you either love cheese and chocolate or you don’t.

Ok so we’ve established that you’re not going to starve, but are you going to come back in one piece? Well, that depends on how well you steer the barge, and how many accidents you have. They come equipped with big bumpers on the side – think bump-a-cars but on a boat. And you need them. I reckon we hit about 6 lock walls on our first day, and we almost capsized the barge on our second lock. I still have the bruise on my shin to prove it. Basically, the theory is that the bumpers are there so you don’t scrape the sides of the boat on the lock, but if the bumper gets caught on the edge of the lock whilst it is emptying – well, you’ll topple over.

But we laughed, because it was funny. Thank goodness we had insurance. And then we laughed some more because Kyle just could not get the hang of the toilet. Flush it out first – then, pump the water in. Or it WILL flood. And we laughed, because we were free. And we laughed because I rode a bike for the first time in 13 years. On Day 2 I literally levitated off the bike when I realised that I was so stiff it felt like I’d been on honeymoon with King Kong.

And we ate. And we rode. And we sailed. And we really talked to each other. And we bonded. We made new friends, and missed old friends. We missed having a proper shower or bath. We didn’t miss anything else.

Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. This time, I won’t go for a manicure before I leave home. No, not even a faint pearly pink. Barging involves a bit of work. Like washing your own dishes, and keeping the barge clean princesses. Like working with ropes, and if you really have to, washing a few clothes. I’d also make sure we take full insurance again – nice not having to worry about the odd scratch. I’d take more shorts and T-shirts (bikinis do not work on a bicycle or in a lock with 3 other boats watching your French-fed ass).

And next time, we’d like to go with friends, because we’ve had the luxury and pleasure of having had it all to ourselves first time round. Let me know if you’re keen …..

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A 28 HOUR DAY?

Listening to a Client this morning who recounted how she checks her mail every night before she goes to sleep, I was struck yet again by how we have extended our working days.

Whilst the advent of the iphone, BlackBerry, Twitter and Facebook means we can always stay in touch, most of us know on some level that this intrudes on family time, which is acknowledged as not being optimal. But what about down-time ? When do you switch off ?

I know I often have moments of clarity when I’m in the shower, and a fellow coach pointed out to me that this may be because (apart from when we’re sleeping) it’s the only time that we’re truly ‘off call’. Even in the bath or on the loo, you can choose to have your little lifeline to the world with you. Living in South-Africa, a country notorious for it’s citizens not complying with the law, we send text messages and check our e-mail in traffic – and believe that we’re being productive by doing so.

I’d like to challenge this notion. Just because we can be contactable 24/7, doesn’t mean we should be. The Client this morning, a successful entrepreneur, is faced with the prospect of a divorce. Whilst she has attained enormous financial success, the meaning she has attributed to being available for work means that she is never truly present with her family. She is with them in body, but certainly not in soul.

So where does this drive to ‘be on top of things’ come from. For some, it stems from a frame that downtime is not as important as productive time. That being productive is all that counts. The obvious question is how much more productive would you be if you could give yourself permission to really enjoy your downtime. To switch off your phone and your laptop during non-working hours. How often have you delayed doing an activity for yourself, say like going to gym, or calling a friend to say hi – because you have to finish a work-related activity ?

Work-related activities fill the available time, so if you stretch that time, you’ll simply work harder.  And working harder today means feeling a bit drained tomorrow, and exhausted by the end of the week. And possibly feeling resentful thereof. Maybe it’s time we work smarter – not by implementing new systems or time-management techniques, but by elevating downtime to be as important as work. After all, if you are not looking after yourself and resting – how on earth are going to be able to give of yourself to work or anyone else ?

People who have my mobile number generally use it to get hold of me for work. People who have my landline number are people that love me, and who want to connect. I challenge you to switch off your mobile phone at night, and use the time instead to connect with those whom you love. Including yourself. And watch how much more productive you become as you refresh your energy levels and start living your life, not just doing your work.

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WHAT LIES BEHIND YOUR NOT-KNOWING?

How often have you answered a question with the words “I don’t know?”

It’s often a stock answer to a question that you find challenging, or it may be that question has taken you into an area you’d rather not enter. Maybe you’d have to show vulnerability, or own up to the fact that you really don’t have any information on the subject that’s being discussed.

It may be that you have too much information and don’t know where to start, so your answer reflects your confusion. Or it may be that the subject is off limits or is a ‘taboo’, one that you feel uncomfortable discussing.

If you were to work with a coach, one of the things that coach would do would be to have you discover why you ‘do not know’. Whilst the reason for your not knowing may point you to discover ways that you process information, it is even more important that you figure out for yourself why you ‘do not know’ as that will lead you to finding out what it is that it is blocking you from accessing your own answers.

Let’s use a practical example. In a recent coaching session, a senior Executive whom I was coaching was unable to answer the question “What do your employees think about your leadership style?” Whilst he answered that he did not know, in effect what he was saying is that he did not want to know because that information may place him in an unfavourable light.  His answer was based on fear. He had shrugged off comments from his team that he didn’t really seem to listen and that he had a dictatorial style, so rather than exposing that information or what may be perceived as a weakness, he simply gave the standard “I don’t know”.

Now, if you’re really serious about self development and growth – about being all you can be, then surely answering this question would be a valuable step in your growth. It may shed light on what it really is that you need to be dealing with. Even if it is hard. Especially if it is hard. Because that will stretch you to uncover a part of yourself that you may not have discovered yet.

Imagine a child. If you gave your child the answer every time they did not know, would you really be contributing to their growth? Sure they may have to exert a bit more brain power working out why they did not know, and if it truly is due to a lack of information – fantastic. Then you can help them find that information. But they would own the journey, and their learning.

So it is with us – when someone else gives us the answers, they stop our growth. So rather than choose the road which blocks your learning, how about challenging yourself to try identify what lies behind the reason for your not knowing. Whether it is ignorance, fear, confusion, incompetence, a taboo, confused priorities or vulnerability, identifying what it is may be the next step you need along your path to being more.

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CHANGE YOUR LENS, CHANGE YOUR WORLD

As a coach I am privileged to understand the power of thinking patterns and how they influence the way we process information.

The one most people are familiar with is the optimist/pessimist pattern. Used with reference to the half full / half empty glass, the content within the glass is exactly the same, but a person’s perception will differ depending on which thinking pattern they prefer. The same is true for whether we foreground those things we do well, and what is right with us, or whether we prefer to foreground what we do wrong, or what is not right in our world. We don’t change and neither does the world around us, but the way we look at it changes. It’s literally that simple.

 And what’s amazing is that we can change these thinking patterns. Once you become aware of some of your thinking patterns, you have the choice about what to do with them. I’ve mentioned three of these patterns so far – in Meta-Coaching we track 61 of them in our coaching conversations.

Here’s another one for you to try on … Where is your locus of control? Is it internal – are you the authority about what’s right for you? Or is it external – do you ask everyone around you what you should be doing, thinking, believing ?? Consider for a moment how someone else would actually know what’s right for you. Have they lived your life? Learnt your lessons? Do they know your story ? Of course not. They know what’s right for them, but how does that empower you ?

I’ve recently completed an incredible research project linking thinking patterns to specific disease. And it’s amazing how strong the correlations are. More about the findings some other time ….

All I ask you to do today is think about the way you think. Can you see the shades of gray, or are things black and white – right or wrong? Can you make choices from opportunity, or do you make them from necessity. Are you able to be, and thus do – or do you need to do so that you can be ?

Think about your lenses, and maybe try on some new ones. And watch in amazement as your world changes. Mail me if you want to know more. I’ll share this info with pleasure – and of course will write more in due course about how your thinking affects your health.

To the life you can create !!

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TAKE OFF THAT CAPE!

Let me state upfront that I am a woman. I am also a wife, a mother, a business owner, a student, a friend, a daughter, a sister-in-law, a daughter-in-law ….

And whilst I work really hard on optimizing each of these roles and my performance of each, sometimes it gets a bit overwhelming. Feel familiar ?

 Well, this morning I had the honour of coaching a similar woman who whilst dog-tired was considering attending a 4 day training course this week, knowing that she had to prepare for a skills assessment presentation next week. Talk about stress, pressure and feeling overwhelmed !

 As a result of her session, she realized that the frame of thinking that precipitated ‘taking on more’ was a fear that she would ‘miss out’ if she didn’t do it all. On further investigation, she became conscious of the fact by taking it all on, she was actually missing out on more. The quality of her focus and engagement weakened as she tried to do it all.  And her performance in each of those separate areas may well have been compromised.

 The phenomenon of doing two tasks simultaneously, both of which require conscious thought is known as dual-task interference. As explained in the book “Your Brain at Work” (Rock, 2009) a scientist by the name of Harold Pashler showed that ‘when people do two cognitive tasks at once, … their cognitive capacity can drop from that of a Harvard MBA to that of an eight-year old.’

 And the result of splitting your focus is constant and intense physical and mental exhaustion, not to mention that your functioning and level of operation decrease.

 So, using the wise words my husband often utters “take off that (superhero) cape”, and remember that in order to do a great job, it’s better to do one thing at a time. Not only will your performance improve, but you’ll be less tired and overwhelmed too.

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WHAT DID YOU LEARN TODAY?

So there I was, quietly working in my study, when my 11 year old sons came in, proudly bearing a breakfast tray for me. They had been away on camp for a week, and as my friends will tell you, I had missed them terribly whilst they were away. And clearly, whilst they were at said camp, they had learnt how to make omelettes. There on my tray, was a perfectly cooked omelette filled with mushrooms and cheese, and a glass of delicious fruit juice all beautifully presented.

While my sons were learning those fundamental cooking skills, I was busy doing my own learning. For years, I have been fascinated by the brain, and have studied it as extensively as I can. This interest has served me well in my coaching career as I help people to fulfil their potential by understanding how the human brain functions. And I learnt last week that new learning results in the secretion of the neurotransmitters dopamine (involved in newness, pleasure, performance) and oxytocin (bonding and safe connectivity). This explains why learning new information or skills is so stimulating and why group learning is so connecting.

A landmark study reported on in the Journal of Neuroscience (Jan 24 issue) reveals that learning slows cognitive decline, and keeps our brains functioning at a level associated with a younger chronological age. And a younger brain means a younger body.

Which I have to say is the best argument I’ve ever heard for lifelong learning.

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ARE YOU PUTTING OFF SUCCESS?

I often find that a common theme seems to emerge in my coaching sessions from week to week.

Over the last week I have had the privilege of coaching (amongst others), three incredible women. They differ in age, race and career stage. What they all have in common is that they are well respected in their professional circles, and yet, they all suffer from that old saboteur – procrastination. 

Sure, the reasons for procrastination are cloaked in different words, and I’d like to share the words of one of these beautiful women with you today because I think the theme is a universal one.

During our session it emerged that this young lady (let’s call her Jackie), delayed doing things that stretched her because when she did something, it had to be perfect. Perfect ?!?  Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t think we attain perfection. Excellence ? Yes.  Mastery ? Most certainly, even if it takes 10 000 hours.  But Perfection – when will it ever  be perfect ?

Through the coaching session, Jackie came to the realisation that she procrastinated due to a fear of failure which was fueled by a need to do something perfectly.

As Jackie stated so clearly “I tend to procrastinate when I have to do something big, something that will help me to make strides in my life, especially around my career and future growth. The reason for this was because I was fearful of failing. I have always believed that when I do something I must do it right and it must be perfect the first time.  So because of that I am always scared to start because it is never perfect.”

How many projects have you been too scared to start because something is not perfect. Will it ever be perfect ?  Instead of aiming for something unattainable, how about striving for realism and discovering the magnificence of your excellence ?

And what if you try and you don’t succeed ? Fantastic ! Now you’ve got feedback as to what to do differently next time. How to tweak your performance so that the results improve.

In Jackie’s words “So I have now realized that it will never be perfect, but I can allow myself to start, fail and learn as I go. That there is no failure, but only feedback, and this allows me to learn and do it better the second time.”

 To your magnificence, and continued success.

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