Control: it’s a tricky balancing act, isn’t it? As a parent, I’m aware that when I’m with my grown-up children, I have to bite my tongue these days over all kinds of things they say and do, because it wouldn’t be fair for me to interfere. But every so often, I slip back into default “Mummy mode” and write reminder notes such as, “Don’t forget to make yourself some lunch to take with you, before you go out” and say things like, “Don’t you think you should take a jacket with you? It’s really cold today!” I tell myself that these things I say are for their own good, and because I love and care for them, and of course that is the case. But is there more to it? If I’m honest, there’s a teeny-weeny bit of control-freakery there, lurking in the recesses of parenting days of old, when it was essential that I was in control of what they did, because they couldn’t do things for themselves. Sometimes, it’s hard to let go of that control; it’s learnt behaviour and maybe I think that if I lose it, I’ll lose them.
Good parenting is very similar to good management. You have a team. You bring them together. You nurture them, mentor them, instruct them, reprimand them occasionally if necessary, encourage them and grow them to the point where you trust them to be self-sufficient, creative, resourceful, co-operative, happy individuals, who know their own minds and can make balanced, sensible decisions independently. At this point, you can let go: or can you?
Effective parenting, or management is about trust. It’s trusting yourself enough to believe that your nurturing has been enough to let go and let your team stand on its own two feet. It’s also about trusting your team to have taken on board your nurturing so that they can be independent. Every child, like every team, is different, and so the nurturing you do will be different. The level of support you give will be different, but eventually you have to trust enough to let go.
Now for the advantages of parenting/management. Given quality input, the great thing is that the well brought-up team will teach you things you never knew, both during their learning journey, and beyond. Take advantage of the opportunity to learn too! They will develop further in their own right, with your strong support in place, and build on their own knowledge. You will have a team to depend on and to be proud of. This is where you do two things: give yourself a pat on the back for your quality of leadership, both in the early days and whenever it’s still needed, and be a little bit humble; your team may now develop expertise which is beyond yours. Take their advice when you need to, together with a sigh of relief: you don’t have to know everything any more!
Nominative determinism – now there’s an adjective-noun pairing to excite my copywriting colleagues and other wordy friends! For those of you who were, like me, in ignorance of this wonderful term, it’s a rather posh reference to people whose names match their jobs. The phrase was coined by writers in the New Scientist, who were exploring a theory that certain names might actually lead the owners of those names to choose a certain career path. This was a tongue-in-cheek study, of course, but the inventors of this creative term certainly had great fun uncovering some very amusing and appropriate names for doctors, my own personal favourite being the urologists, Dr Splatt and Dr Weedon!
Yes, you’ve guessed it. This week, your Creative Coach has come over delightfully frivolous, and I’ve decided that it’s about time to take a short break from some of the serious stuff to encourage you all to have some fun and games, and maybe share some of your own gems. My thought was this: what kind of name might lead you to become a coach, or to choose one? Please indulge me, and yourselves in this short romp through some amusing musings. Only sport intended here, and absolutely no offence meant, I assure you.
If you are already a coach, would you consider a new name? Hugh Feelgood, perhaps? How about Anita Life? There must be coaches out there called M. Power or N. Visage! And who would imagine that there’s actually a site out there on the worldwide web that suggests names for your yet-to-be-born baby that you might choose if you want them to become a life coach? Honestly, there is one! In case you’re curious, the alphabetical list starts with Aldous and Adele and ends with Zane and Susannah! Watch out for those names in 30 years’ or so time. Is Venture Catalyst good, or just too weird? Then, what name would attract you to engage with a coach? How about Zen? Perhaps that would give you confidence? (There is someone out there, I’ve checked!) Or Peace? (didn’t check that one). Online, it seems that most people are trying very hard to find a good name for their business, but maybe not giving as much thought to their own names. A question: if you went to Google, and searched for a coach, and found a funky business name that appealed to you, would you then be put off because the coach’s name was De’Ath or Payne?
To pre-empt a chorus of outrage, of course you are all far more sensible than to make the important choice of a coach on the basis of name alone, but first impressions are sometimes all we have to go on at the outset. I’d say there’s nothing wrong at all with utilising the element of humour, surprise, ingenuity, call it what you will, to attract attention. So, this week, I shall be mostly introducing myself as Anna Lytical. I’m waiting for your phone call……..!
Consider your dash. I refer to Linda Ellis’ poem, The Dash, in which she describes a eulogy read at a funeral, where attention is drawn to the dash that separates the year of birth from the year of death, and suggests that everyone might consider how they would like to spend that period of time.
The dash can represent many concepts: seize the day; consider what’s really important to you; do what you want to do; make a difference; feel the fear and do it anyway; do something that surprises you….the list is endless really. One thing is clear: we don’t know when the time on the right hand side of our dash will be up, so it’s very much worth considering lifestyle, ambitions, goals and plans sooner rather than later. This is not gloom and doom, but rather future-focused thinking, and very much in the spirit of The Dash, which encourages us to consider how we would like to be living our lives, and how we would like to be remembered. A small word of warning about the message though: I’d suggest that if we live our lives only so that others will think well of us, we may not be being entirely true to ourselves. It’s always good to receive positive affirmations from others, but some choices and decisions are ours, and ours alone. We can certainly learn lessons from the past, and use these to help us in the future, but dwelling on what has come and gone can hold us back, make us fearful and cloud our perceptions.
So, how would you like to live your dash? I think it comes down to 3 key elements:
Look after yourself and those around you
You’re the one living your life, so take responsibility for ensuring that you’re able to do so with enthusiasm, positivity and a twinkle in your eye! Pay attention to your health: both physical and mental. If you’re in a good place, you’ll be better able to support and enjoy being with the ones with whom you’re close. Make a difference to them.
Do something that fulfils you
For many of us this means work: the day job. Whether this is paid work, or voluntary work, it doesn’t matter. If what you do for the majority of your day does not fulfil you, change it and do something different, or extra.
Connect and communicate positively with others
Whatever you do, keep the lines of communication open and connect with people. Meeting and talking to others, both in person and through social media opens our minds to different outlooks, different possibilities, different cultures; it’s an enriching experience. Communication is so important; we’re all social beings, and thrive when making connections with others.
What would be the most useful way for you to spend your dash? Ready for a change? Go for it, and don’t forget to let me know what you’ll be changing, or get in touch if you’d like some help….
Coaches encourage clients to develop reflective habits and we also benefit from practising what we preach! Effective reflection is cyclical. The process entails thinking about, or describing something that happened and how you felt about it; evaluating what went well; what could have gone better; researching and analysing methods to create synergy for future events; and action-planning for what you would do in a similar situation in the future. Reflection is a valuable tool in the learning process box and a good way to start our reflective practice is by thinking about what we’ve learnt on a daily basis.
Sometimes, the more challenging our lives are, the more we learn from events. When I listed some of the many things that I learnt during a particularly challenging week, I thought that it was helpful coaching advice to myself, and was also likely to apply generally to those of you out there reading my blog. So, I decided to share my list, and here it is,roughly in the order in which I learnt (or re-learnt).
This week, I have learnt……
- that it’s fun to start the week off by doing something small yet inspiring, or tackling a task differently to encourage creativity.
- that it is a good idea to revisit your beliefs and values regularly. This helps you to retain the courage of your convictions.
- that it’s liberating to take part in something completely unrelated to work every week to inspire you, make you laugh, challenge you and interest you. It’s good to widen your perspective by connecting with different types of activity and people.
- that if you can’t sleep, it’s best to get up and use the time productively. Talk yourself out of dwelling on how little sleep you’ve had – that’s just counterproductive.
- that it works to try some gentle (or more physical) exercise at the end of the day to boost your “feel-good” factor.
- that it’s fine to allow yourself the odd moment of panic, provided you then get over it and carry on. Don’t let it dominate or take over; take a breath, blow it away and be brilliant.
- that it’s best to detach yourself from others’ difficult behaviour. You are not responsible for how they come across, neither do you need to let their behaviour affect you, or feel that it is somehow your fault.
- that you can always learn from others – take something good from each opportunity you have to watch someone else in action!
- that even when you’ve put a lot of work into something, and you have a sneaky feeling it may not work out, you have not failed – you will learn from the experience if you are reflective, and use that reflection to be better at it the next time you do it – and there must be a next time!
- that it’s worthwhile to plan what you might say in advance of a difficult conversation and then to be prepared to amend your plan if necessary.
- that everyone can enjoy procrastinating: buy yourself some time for clear thinking.
- that it’s ok to listen to negative comments, and also ok to reject them if they are unreasonable or unhelpful to you.
- that people are delightfully unpredictable.
- that supporting someone doesn’t necessarily mean taking their side.
- that it’s vital to make time for your nearest and dearest – they are precious and take priority over everything.
What useful things have you learnt this week?
How do you rate your tolerance levels? What will you tolerate, and what will you not tolerate? When does it get to the stage where you say (with a nod to my grammatically-correct upbringing), “Up with this I will not put!”
Tolerance, as a behaviour, is something we can choose. It’s very interesting to observe others’ levels of tolerance, which, by and large, will be influenced by their individual beliefs and values system; by what is important to them. This begs the question: do your levels of tolerance define you as a person? In addition, is your tolerance level different in the workplace to what it is in other social situations?
In the workplace, our behaviour tends to be governed by the social structure and culture there. If you are in a management position, part of your job may be to motivate your team and ensure that they deliver a quality service, whatever that happens to be. You lead by example, and this may require high levels of tolerance from you in terms of how you respond to demands from others and to their behaviour. But surely, there are behaviours which cannot be tolerated anywhere? Extreme behaviour from someone in the workplace tends to be tolerated if it is rare, but someone whose behaviour is consistently volatile, or, alternatively, who exhibits poor focus, attendance, or lack of commitment, can be very disruptive to a workplace. It then tends to fall to the manager to set the tolerance level, and address the issue. But what if your tolerance levels are higher, or lower than the rest of the team? And, if you do not have management responsibility, does that mean your tolerance level is dictated by the lowest, or highest common denominator within your team?
The noun tolerance is linked to a large group of very positive and constructive attitudes: compassion, sensitivity, respect, patience, equality. If we practise tolerance when relating to others, even when confronting situations we ourselves find challenging, the outcome is much more likely to be a favourable one. Part of a manager’s responsibility is to set the tone within the team, and to be a role model. When applied to the person exhibiting that behaviour, tolerance is fortitude, resilience, stamina and strength, which are all desirable qualities for a manager. Being tolerant does not mean tolerating situations which compromise others’ well-being: that’s apathy. There are also situations which require zero tolerance, and that’s a discussion for another platform. To practise tolerance in the workplace means to be aware of both your own, and your team members’ strengths and to be able to understand behaviour in order to manage relationships to get the best out of everyone, yourself included.
What do you do when you’ve had enough of doing what you do? Do you have a dream; something you’ve always wanted to do, but never quite dared to take the plunge? A variety of articles written recently describe what drives people to decide to give up a particular lifestyle to follow their dreams. Executives, and others in senior management posts, and similarly demanding, highly-paid jobs, suddenly have that light-bulb moment when they realise that they have lost sight of what’s important to them, and that they have to make a change, and re-align themselves with their beliefs and values. This sometimes involves taking a huge leap of faith to pursue a dream, and to do something completely different, something that makes them really happy. We’re talking here about true happiness from within, rather than from external events that happen to you, although the latter may follow the former. I know several people who have taken that leap of faith, and, for them the results have been extraordinary.
Maybe you’re stuck somewhere (not literally, hopefully!); you want something different, but are not sure what that is; you know exactly what you want, but aren’t quite sure how to get it, or you don’t like where you are and want to be doing something else. A dream is a great thing to have, to talk about, but without a plan behind it, it will always remain a dream. Ask yourself: when did I last feel really happy? What was I doing then? This may give you a starting point from which to work towards realising your dream. So what do you need to make it real? You need the courage of your convictions, support from people who believe in you, patience, and a clear idea of what you want and the steps you will need to take to get there, and a good coach to be your guide and sounding board.
Why should you follow your dream? Because the journey will be a learning journey, and no learning is ever wasted. Because it’s great proving the doubters wrong. Because you will have fun on the way, and have lots to share with other people, and it’s good to share. Because you will be scared, and facing the fear will make you stronger. Because if you don’t, you will always wonder what would have happened if you had, and life’s too short to live with regrets. Because you will discover things about yourself, and reflection is a valuable skill to develop. Because you are the only one who knows what you want, and it’s up to you to go out and get it.