During a recent three-way conversation with my client, John’s manager said that John had the potential to become the CFO of a PLC in the future. During our next coaching session, I asked John how he intended to achieve that goal and when he wished to achieve it. His answer did not surprise me. He has a young family, and his life is terribly busy, so currently, he needs flexibility and work/life balance. So, I asked him what his life may look like in five years’ time, and he agreed that he would probably be a lot less busy. But what action is he taking now to set him up for success later?
Besides discussing his fears and assumptions that a bigger role would take him away from his family and his commitments, we also discussed how putting his career ‘on hold’ may not be beneficial to him when he is ready for that next big move. A few actions that he took away from our discussion were:
Find a job description of a role that he would like to have in 3-5 years.
Map the job description to the one that he has now, i.e., what would he need to learn to be taken into consideration for that aspirational CFO’s role?
Find mentors, courses, or programmes to fill any learning gaps and plan what he will learn and when he will complete it.
Create a personal development plan to hold himself accountable.
If you put your career on hold because you are busy at home, you may not be ready for that dream role when your life allows you to apply for it. Get career ready!
Today, using Boris Johnson as an example and French and Raven’s 5 forms of power, as a model, 14 senior leaders and I discussed the power that leaders have to influence others.
As a prime minister, Boris Johnson has ‘power related to his position’, i.e ‘legitimate, coercive and reward’ power. Legitimate power is linked to his title and stature, and in this role, we’ve seen Boris reward people with roles that they did not deserve, and use coercive power to punish others, by sacking them.
Leaders also have ‘personal power’, i.e expert and referent power. This power moves with you no matter what your job title is, and should allow you to have influence, albeit that people don’t report to you.
Expert power is when you have the knowledge and skills to understand a situation. Your opinions have value and others will look to you for leadership in that area.
Referent power comes from one’s likability and the respect that comes with that. Someone who is likeable but who lacks integrity may rise to power and gain an advantage however, it’s not a good strategy for any leader that wants longevity and respect. It should be combined with expert power to be successful.
When Boris Johnson started out as PM he was likeable (referent power) and many believed that he had the expertise required to run the country (expert power).
In his role, however, he has lacked integrity, honesty, and transparency, so he has not only lost the power related to his position today, as he steps down as PM but he has also lost his personal power i.e his likability, as fewer and fewer people trust him.
Needless to say, it was an interesting debate about leadership and what not to do.
As children, we quickly learn that our actions will receive either a positive or negative response from our parents. Since the brain is built for reward, we learn to avoid the reprimands from our parents and aim for praise and recognition.
With that in mind, let’s look at some advice that you may have received from your parents that may affect your performance today:
Don’t be selfish . As children we are taught to share our toys and not to be selfish.
As adults however, this advice may play out as caring for everyone in the team, before caring for yourself, so you risk burning out.
You may need to reframe the word ‘selfish’ as ‘self-care’. I advise managers to put their own oxygen masks on first, before helping others in their team. If you don’t care for yourself first, you may not have enough energy to care for your team. The healthier and happier you are, the more you can help others.
If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say it. We are taught to be kind and nice to our friends and family.
As adults however, we may not be able to give critical feedback to our team members as we don’t want to offend anyone. We want to be nice.
Reframe giving any form of critical feedback as that of giving a gift. Feedback can be given kindly, yet firmly, and quite frankly, without it your team members are unable to grow and learn new ways of working, that will help them develop in the long run.
Respect your elders . As children we are told to respect our parents, grandparents, older siblings and extended family.
As an adult you may respect hierarchy and find yourself silently sitting in the boardroom. You may believe that the other, more senior people in the room need to be respected, leaving you with little or nothing to add. The way you act and react in situations today, is often the result of years of hardwiring and affects your performance.
A client related how powerless she felt to voice her opinion to senior peers, even though she was the project lead and had to offer her advice and guidance. She didn’t want to speak her mind because she didn’t want to seem disrespectful. As a child, her mother had told her she should hold her superiors in high regard.
My client was hardwired ‘not to challenge’ and to ‘act respectfully around her superiors’, albeit that she disagreed with them and knew her advice was sound.
Irrespective whether you are the youngest or least experienced person in the room, you must remember that you have been invited to the meeting for a reason. Withholding good advice can be more harmful than saying nothing at all.
A good place to start understanding why you may act and react in the way that you do is to:
Become aware of where your emotions, thoughts and feelings stem from, and challenge them.
Ask yourself ‘How does this behaviour reward me?’ Remember that there is reward in all of your behaviour, albeit that you may find it less useful today.
Reframe your old ideas into positive actions that reward you today.
When you start to understand where your natural responses stem from, you can begin to change your reactions in the moment and improve your performance.
On 24th March 2020, a number of restrictions, like we had never experienced before in the U.K., were enforced on us. Need I remind you, that we were queuing to be allowed into supermarkets where certain products were rationed, ‘non-essential’ shops and venues were closed, and the amount of time spent out of our homes, whilst wearing surgical masks, was monitored. This was a life that we quickly became accustomed to, albeit that many of us did not accept it. Wearing masks, keeping our distance, and working from home became our new normal.
Many restrictions in the UK and across Europe have been lifted, and many of us are already enjoying time with family and friends, the ability to travel and getting out and about more freely.
For many others, however, this ‘return to what we once knew as normality’ has brought with it only anxiety and dread. Many people are scared. They are scared of; returning to the office, travelling on overcrowded public transport, visiting busy hairdressers and supermarkets and that people have ditched mask wearing for open gestures of affection. People are scared of what they can, and of what they can’t see.
It took us many months to find a rhythm during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and it may take some people many, many more months to return to their old ways. The pandemic has been hard and even positive change can lead to anxiety, as it takes time to readjust to things we have not done for a while. Feelings of anxiety are likely to pass with time as we get used to the “new normal” but it’s important to do what we can to take care of our mental health.
A recognised NHS therapy website, Every mind matters, offers the following 11 tips to manage feelings of anxiety and make it easier to adjust:
1. Go at your own pace
2. Do not avoid things entirely
3. Get your information from the right sources
4. Discuss any changes with others
5. Make time to relax
6. Challenge unhelpful thoughts
7. Tell someone how you feel
8. Plan social occasions
9. Find routine where you can
10. Write down your thoughts
11. Focus on the present
You may not be feeling anxious yourself, but I would encourage you to #BeKind, to empathise and be patient with others who may be experiencing life quite differently than you are.
Reflection is one of the most underestimated, yet powerful activities that we can gift ourselves. It’s a brilliant way to become aware of what drives you, what and who triggers you, and what your standard responses and ‘bad habits’ may be. It can help you on your way to self-awareness and eventually self-care.
Today I’m sharing my own approach to Reflection, AURA.
By learning to slow down, and reflecting with the AURA approach, you start to understand where your natural responses take you. Ask yourself ‘what happened in a situation and ‘what you could have done differently? Get in touch with your feelings. How did the situation make you feel? Does a specific person ‘bring out the worst in you?
You will need to apply what you have learned, so the next time you’re in a similar situation, you will have a different response to hand, to try out. Don’t however get frustrated. Change is not easy and your brain will want to take the road most traveled and you may fall into old habits.
Without change, you stay stuck in old patterns and you will get the same result. However, understanding where your ‘programmed responses’ stem from, can help you to take a more emotionally intelligent stance in your next encounter.
Are there individuals that drain you of energy? You may feel exhausted after interacting with them. Certain people may make you feel extremely uncomfortable, and you may not understand why. Whilst your feelings and interpersonal relationships should not be confused with intuition, what is your sixth sense or gut feeling telling you about a situation?
As a coach, I have the benefit of choosing not to coach someone based on a lack of ‘rapport’. If I believe I cannot feel positive towards someone, there may be little that I can do for them, and it is probably best for them, and for me, that coaching does not commence. In situations like these, I also learn a lot about myself. Is it because they remind of someone, who I have experienced negatively? In cases like these, I may be transferring my own past negative energy to this new situation. We must be careful not to ‘muddy the water’ and confuse emotions with our feelings and intuition. https://counseling.online.wfu.edu/blog/difference-feelings-emotions/
When I immigrated 9000 km to another part of the world, my father told me that nothing would really change in my life.
How could that be true? I would be living in a different country, I would need to learn a new language, traditions and culture so how could it be possible that nothing would change?
My father was not referring to the excitement and changes of living in another country. He was advising me that how I lived my life, the choices I made and the natural rhythm of my day-to-day comings and goings would not change.
My father was right. Nothing changed.
Every weekday I woke up, had breakfast, went to gym and to work, came home, had dinner and spent time with my husband, watched tv, read a book and went to bed.
Whether it’s weight gain, weight loss, showing up differently at work, going to bed earlier, becoming more confident, managing emotions, becoming less defensive, exercising……. What constitutes your rhythm and what stands in your way of changing?
Our brains are built for speed, so many of our decisions and choices are based on our past experiences and the (positive) outcomes that we have had. If there’s a quick decision to be made we often choose the path of least resistance to get things done, and quickly.
Change feels uncomfortable. It slows us down and takes us through stages of ‘unconscious incompetence’ or what I refer to as, ‘ignorance is bliss’. It is blissful not knowing that you need to change but, once you know what needs to change, there’s no ignoring it and no going back.
The next stage we reach is ‘conscious incompetence’ i.e. having to make a conscious effort to make any changes. This is where many people give up, as their natural rhythm of life and ‘bad’ habits get in their way of change. You may start asking yourself ‘Why do I need to change? It can’t be all bad as I’ve gotten to where I am today, doing what I’ve always done!’
When we reach the stage of ‘conscious competence’, we’re starting to make good headway. We are slowing down, reflecting and making new choices without feeling that we are compromising.
Through self-awareness, being aware of what needs to be unlearned and constantly and consistently choosing the new path, we finally reach the stage of ‘unconscious competence’. At this stage our brain is rewiring itself and creating new neural pathways so that our new choices can be supported and we can once again act as speedily as before.
To encourage change, you may need to consider your current rhythm and how you mentally reward yourself e.g. if you say yes to many activities at work, yet feel overwhelmed and overworked, you may ask yourself how you benefit from saying yes? Old habits’ may ‘die hard’ but when we start listening to what’s really good for us we can change to ensure that ‘old dogs learn new tricks’.
We are measured on what we get done but how hard is it to succeed when other people, agendas and strategies get in your way?
Success is not linear. It’s erratic and may have periods of no progress. If you’re measuring your success by the things you get done, you may become disheartened and give up, when you’re not achieving your goals.
This photo reminded me of a tool, used by Marshall Goldsmith. On a scale of 10, did I do my best today to achieve …’fill in your goal here’.
In 2018, I used this simple tool to keep coachees on track to achieve their goals during a 3-month experiment, to find out how quickly people can change, given the speed at which companies need to change. 70.5% achieved their goals. Their success was a blend of:
Understanding where and how they were spending their time.
We only have 24 hours every day. Next time something ‘more important’ is about to take the place of an activity you’ve planned, you may want to rank how important the new task is compared to what you are willing to trade it for.
Having confidence in their own ability
Some days we’re just not at our best. Life gets in our way or we may be consumed by self-doubt. Mindset matters and recalling a time that you were extremely successful and how this made you feel can help boost your confidence. Mindset matters.
Being guided by someone
Whether it’s a family member, friend, manager or coach, find people who can guide and mentor you, challenge your assumptions, and offer you the tools necessary to succeed, hold you accountable and keep you on track of your goals.
The knowledge gained on their journey, was just as important as the result.
Some days even though you’ve done your best to achieve your goals, you will still feel like you’ve achieved nothing. Be aware when your desire to be excellent gets in the way of learning to be better.
‘Next time you want to beat yourself up for not doing something, be kind to yourself and ask, ‘Did I do my best today to do it’. It may be more helpful to measure how much you have tried, rather that how well you got done.
Last Saturday, my father passed away after suffering from cancer for over 2 years.
My initial response was to tell everyone I was ‘fine’ and to think about how I would juggle business commitments around funeral arrangements.
We all process grief and loss in quite different ways. For me, whether it’s the loss of a loved one, dealing with change, or being made redundant at work, my logical brain kicks in and, ‘I just want to get on with it’.
My stoicism is how my logical brain protects me from any state of overwhelm or feeling that I am on an uncontrollable and emotional roller coaster.
However, putting on a brave face for the world means I don’t give myself any time to grieve and I have been guilty of ‘knee-jerk’ decisions, based on how I was feeling at the time.
This time however, I took the ‘out of character’ decision to slow down, reflect, accept and enjoy tearful moments and understand that the world keeps on turning whether I am fully present, or not.
As a coach, I often use the Kubler-Ross ‘5 stages of grief’ or the ‘change curve model’ to discuss change and loss, which are:
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross developed this model to offer insights into how people cope with illness and dying. The stages however are not a linear and predictable progression, as some may believe, and are not a reflection of how people grieve. I have felt tiredness, exhaustion and acceptance this week but, not necessarily in that order.
This week, I am learning more about myself by being mindful, embracing my emotions, rather than searching for facts and logic. This process feels uncomfortable because ‘old habits die hard’ and unlearning is much harder than learning anything new.
Whether you have lost a loved one, are dealing with redundancy, or are managing massive change in your life:
give yourself the space and time to reflect and grieve.
talk to friends and family about how you’re feeling and, where necessary, seek professional help.
try to get sleep and rest.
accept that you may feel many emotions before you can learn to accept the situation and move on at your own pace.
be kind to yourself.
‘Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.’
Enjoy your health, time with your family, vacations, friends, etc, today. Enjoy life!
The company my husband worked for stopped paying salaries for 9-months.
It went into administration leaving him without a job.
We had to move from our rented home.
This has been the story of many individuals over the past year and still continues to cause many individuals and families distress.
If anything, this pandemic has taught me a thing or two about resiliency. It has also highlighted just how lucky I am.
We have a home in France that we could move to.
I have a job, I love, which paid our expenses and Corndel showed enormous compassion and support throughout.
My husband was offered a new role recently.
We are moving back to the U.K.
For many that don’t ‘know us’, it sounded quite glamorous; fleeing covid-rife London to live the ‘high life’ in France. In their eyes, ‘we were living the dream’.
But, why do we quickly jump to conclusions, assuming how ‘good’ people have it; envying their ‘fabulous’ lifestyles and becoming empathetically numb, due to our preconceived notions of what they have, that we don’t?
Be curious, ask people how they are doing and how they ‘really’ are, because a picture doesn’t necessarily paint a thousand words.
PS. We are grateful and we are rich in more ways than money will ever be able to buy.