How might your past affect your future?

Could the things your parents once told you be standing in your way of success today?

If you can’t find your voice during meetings, find it difficult to delegate, or give feedback, your discomfort may be rooted in your upbringing and the things your parents once told you.

By changing and reframing your inner narrative, you can achieve a different result.

‘Respect your elders’ and ‘Only speak when you are spoken to’, may be standing in your way of sharing your opinions.
** Reframe this narrative: You have been invited to that meeting for a reason and your advice is valued! Could withholding your opinion do more harm than good?

If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say it at all’, may stand in your way of giving feedback.
** Reframe this narrative: Giving constructive feedback is like giving a gift of knowledge and development.

Don’t be selfish’, and ‘Think of others before yourself’ may stop you delegating because everyone is so busy.
** Reframe this narrative: By delegating you are giving someone the opportunity to grow and stretch and you can focus on the activities that will add more value for your organisation.

The next time you are in a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable, you may wish to consider if your past is getting in the way of your here and now and what you can change?

Managing grief and loss

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:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

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!

RIP Dad – 22.10.1939 to 29.05.2021

What got you here, won’t get you there!

There’s a reason why we say ‘old habits die hard’; we don’t really want to change…..Well we do, but our brain doesn’t!

Change is uncomfortable and it slows down your brain’s response rate, and since your brain is built for speed, it will resist any form of change.

My analogy to describe change is that your natural responses (neurones) are like sports cars, travelling at 200 miles an hour on an empty 10-lane highway in your brain. Any change, is like seeing a deer, jump onto the highway in front of your beautiful car. You need to brake and avoid crashing into the deer, and take your sports car off the highway, onto rough terrain, which is bumpy and very uncomfortable.

Each time you recognise yourself falling into old habits or response patterns, you will see that deer on the highway and you will need to slow down and veer off-road. The bumpy, grassy, path eventually does become smoother, the more you drive on it, but it will never be as smooth as driving on the highway.

Without change, you stay stuck in old patterns and you will get the same result, but how willing are you to embrace change.

Learn to slow down and reflect, so that you can 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 may find it really interesting to understand where your ‘programmed responses’ stem from and how you can take a more emotionally intelligent stance to your next encounter.

Good luck and let me know if I can support you!

The pros and cons of intergenerational teams

An article about the advantages of developing an intergenerational workplace, prompted me to share this personal story.

My aunt was a prominent figure in the Insurance sector and had a traditional, yet successful career. Nearing retirement, (at 59 years old) she was approached by a forward-thinking, new firm in the market, offering her ‘many times her annual salary’, (in permanent employment) to grow their business and to share her knowledge and coach the younger generation in their firm.

Ten years later, the same insurance company became an active shareholder in my aunt’s first commercial venture, whereby they still received ongoing advice from her (as a consultant) and she had the financial backing she needed to take a step, she had never thought possible.

According to Birkman’s paper, ‘How Generational Differences Impact Organizations & Teams’, Baby Boomers tend to be optimistic, ambitious, competitive, and focus on their personal accomplishments. However, nobody’s perfect and the paper deals with the many issues that organisations can experience with inter generational teams. ‘The good news is that common ground exists among members of different generations. Differences exist on all teams regardless of generation and can be successfully addressed through training, and coaching. Other differences, such as work and communication styles, are an outcome of changes in the workforce that can be addressed in a variety of ways.’

Whilst knowledge may be perceived to some as power, sharing that knowledge is worth its weight in gold. It’s how organisations use the knowledge of individuals in their ‘golden years’, re-training these individuals to advise, mentor, coach and train, that makes these organisations more successful than those that choose to make these ‘senior citizens’ redundant.

Companies who want advice may also wish to read:

Helen Martin is a leadership coach and can be contacted for more information.

Redundancy: learning from the biggest taboo

“I understand what being made redundant feels like. I’ve been there. I knew change was on its way, but I never actually believed that it would affect me and when it did, my world stopped revolving. I felt angry, I felt sad, I felt happy, and then I felt angry all over again. I was surrounded by incompetent people, so why was I being made redundant?  I went through all the emotions on the change curve; one’s that I had learned as a manager; and I was gobsmacked that I was feeling the way that most text books described. I felt embarrassed by my predicament and having to explain my new situation to anyone was excruciating.

For me, talking to others, brought healing. My anger subsided, I felt less sorry for myself and I began to realise that while I was not entirely at fault, there may have been things that I could have done differently while I was employed. Talking to friends and family helped me to accept my situation. I became more self-aware and I explored new opportunities. It also helped me to articulate my story with a little more ease and taught me that showing this new vulnerable side of myself wasn’t as negative as I had led myself to believe. Redundancy is not a dirty word!” Published with permission from the author.

What can be learned from redundancy on the short term:

  • Talk about it. Talking is often a good way to soothe painful emotions. Talking to a friend, family member, health professional or coach can help the healing process.
  • Allow yourself to feel sad. It’s a healthy part of the ‘grieving’ process.
  • Keep up your routine. Keeping up simple things, like going for a run or walking the dog can help.
  • Sleep. Emotional strain can make you very tired. If you’re having trouble sleeping, please consult your GP.
  • Eat healthily. A healthy, well-balanced diet may help you cope better.
  • Avoid things that “numb” the pain, such as alcohol. It will make you feel worse once the numbness wears off.
  • Speak to a coach or counsellor – Only you will know if this is right for you.

What can be learned on the longer term:

  • Use the time to become more self-aware. No new organisation would go to market without a business plan and a strategy, so reflect on what you have learned from your situation, think about your own personal brand, what you are good at, what you love doing and create your own game plan. You may also want to read one of my latest blogs: How to accelerate your career.
  • Stop using the word ‘redundant’. There are many reasons why companies make employees redundant. For a prospective employer, hearing that a company has restructured, downsized or moved to another location and how any one of these changes affected your position, will make sense.
  • Update your CV.
  • Reach out to your network. By the time you do this, you should be able to articulate your story as positively as possible. Know what you want, and while I wouldn’t suggest that you ask everyone in your network for a job, you may ask them to consider you, if they hear of something.
  • Approach recruiters.

People who lose their jobs through redundancy don’t own this space. Similar feelings and emotions are described by people when they experience any massive change e.g. losing a loved one, going through a divorce, losing your home, becoming insolvent, moving to the other side of the world for work or study and leaving family and/or friends behind, etc. It’s often hard to look on the bright side and it’s almost impossible to learn from the experience while you’re in it. The future however, can be bright.

Helen Martin is a qualified coach and trainer and lives in London. She is a member of the Association for Coaching and coaches individuals through change. Helen coaches 2 people per month at no charge. She can be contacted here.

Managing yourself through Change

Some of my friends tell me that I am brave because I am not afraid of change, while others think I am crazy and that I take unnecessary risks; I would like to challenge them all.

Change is not comfortable; in fact it’s scary! But what’s scarier: Having the carpet pulled out from underneath you because you would rather ignore change; or, having your own plan in place, irrespective of what the world throws at you?

As a leadership coach, I have met many people who have become paralysed by change, even if they knew it was coming: from, company reorganisations in which they have been made redundant, divorce, to promotions, etc. Change paralyses! Or does it? What if you always had a plan?

Acting like the victim in ‘Karpman’s drama triangle‘, blaming the establishment, government, schools, your partner, your family, your manager, etc. for all of your woes, won’t make your problems go away. When you point your index finger at the world, there are three fingers on your hand pointing right back at YOU. Is there something YOU could have done to avoid a situation? And more importantly, how do you ensure that you take control in future?

Are you happy with your job? Is your organisation happy with you? Where do you see yourself in a few years? How would you need to develop yourself to get there? What are you doing to remain true to yourself? How can you ensure that you are always one step ahead? What’s your Plan B?

Don’t wait to be unpleasantly surprised and for change to happen to you. Be part of the change. But before you start, ask yourself how committed you are. If you want to lose weight: how committed are you to going to the gym, eating less and moving more? Work towards your own ideal future and towards your own goal, irrespective of what other people expect you to do.

I hope I’ve given you some food for thought and quiet reflection. Change need not be scary if you are following your own plan. I will close with a few words from someone much wiser than I am, “We, but mirror the world. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.” – Mahatma Gandhi. Life changes are inevitable but when we initiate personal change, we rise to the challenge, ensuring a more positive result.

Helen Martin is a coach and trainer and is based in London.

Investing in your network

Eleven years ago I felt that my career had reached a stalemate. It seemed like everyone around me was making promotion and I couldn’t quite understand why I wasn’t. I followed a friend’s advice and I found a coach.

The coaching sessions were tough. Who really wants to garner 360 degree feedback, only to hear what you thought you were good at, you’re not? With the ‘bad’, also came the good and I was pleasantly surprised by some of the replies that I wasn’t expecting. I learned to separate what I loved doing, with what I thought I was good at. There’s often no relationship between what you excel at and what you actually enjoy; but perhaps more importantly, my coach taught me to build my network and to keep in regular contact with my friends and business acquaintances. She taught me to invest in my network and to help people as much as I could, whether there was a direct benefit for me or not.

I was reminded about this advice when the company that I work for, recently announced a major change in its strategy. Whilst I am unaffected by this change, many people that I have met over the past months are. It seems that the only constant in business is change, so what can you do in a situation like this?

1) Allow yourself to go through the emotional curve. Shock, anger, sadness and, where relevant, mourn your loss.
2) Reach out to your colleagues. It’s not all about you and you may be able to help one another.
3) Talk to your manager to determine the short and long term priorities for you and your team.
4) Take stock. Get that 360 degree feedback. Understand what you’re good at and how you are perceived by others.
5) Update your CV; also online.
6) Let family, friends and business acquaintances know about your situation. This is not a time to be proud! And, they may be able to help you.

Once you’ve determined what you would like your next step to be, let people know. Talking about your dreams and aspirations, helps you visualise them and this will help you to determine what you need to do, to make your dreams become a reality.

I’m a firm believer that we don’t meet people by accident. They are meant to cross our path for a reason. Combining this knowledge with the age old saying, ‘you reap what you sow’ is extremely powerful. A network is only as strong as you make it yourself. Invest in the people you know and they are sure to invest in you when you need them.

Pride comes before a fall

Last year I blogged about change and how it’s often the most difficult thing for human beings to go through and late last year I wrote about changing my life and the many things I had changed on the way.

Following ideas with a passion may seem so easy when you start out on your journey, but what do you do when you realise you’re not on the right track, you’ve made some unwise decisions, that you may very well be wrong and the ideas you so passionately embraced are unsustainable. You say you’re wrong of course, or do you? The problem for many is that the second most difficult thing to do, is admitting defeat.

Last week I had the pleasure of meeting with a charity I love and supported whilst living in Europe. A charity with a successful concept, great success in Europe and one which they have already rolled out in Hong Kong. The question that the Hong Kong-based arm of the charity had, was why their European success story was not working as successfully in Asia?

After spending an hour walking through business plans, target audience, added value, profitability, etc, we realised a couple of things were different. The charity had not built the network in Asia that they had in Europe and they had become so focused on doing good in the community, that they’d forgotten how to run a profitable business. The charity is now taking some relatively easy steps to ensure a sustainable business model. The first step however was admitting that something was ‘broken’.

What do we do when the passion we had for ideas, people, places or things, wanes? It’s what we do with this knowledge that’s so important. Do we continue arrogantly, holding onto our old ideals, or do we swallow our pride, knowing that ultimately ‘Pride comes before a fall’. Whilst on the surface, it seems that pride doesn’t necessarily hinder success, I maintain that pride is every bit as destructive to anyone’s welfare as the the ancient proverb forewarns.

A change is as good as a holiday

As soon as you start living your dream, your dreams evolve.
Summer in Europe sees droves of people flocking to warmer climes. Absolutely anywhere is better than the country that they live in. They need a change of environment, a change of culture, a change of language and preferably a major change in temperature. People around me choose hotels and resorts off the web, generally taking total stranger’s word for it that their destination will be just what they want to it be….. Heaven on earth. And if they are lucky and everything has panned out the way they planned, they return after two to three weeks, relaxed, tanned and happy.

This need for change in Summer has always amused me. Not because I’m not in favour of change but, because this need for change generally only occurs around vacation time. At any other time of the year try shouting out the words reorganisation, change management or new strategic vision and the announced change is not embraced in quite the same way. There’s change and there’s ‘change’, if you know what I mean.

Am I the only person that loves change?

My most recent change was to ‘celebrate life’ on my birthday. I’d just not been seeing the necessity of celebrating my birthday. I mean, this phenomenon of becoming a year older sounds as bad to me, as any major company reshuffle does to my colleagues.

The next change was to celebrate life, on the actual day of my birthday, with family, friends, acquaintances and a total stranger. Yes, you read it correctly……..a total stranger.

And, the final change, was to ensure that no one would bring me presents. Any ‘presents’ would be donated to charity.

I had a fantastic time and I know my guests did too, as they are still talking about the ‘life celebration’ amongst themselves. The total stranger I invited presented her company to us; Love, Peace and Chocolate. A company driven to satisfy the sweet tooth of its clients’ whilst supporting SOS Children’s Villages. A deliciously charitable initiative, and, one to make any choc-o-holic smile! 50% of my generous ‘present’ was donated to Pink Ribbon. Did you know that one in eight of the women that you know may develop breast cancer? Therefore, a more than worthy initiative? And the other 50% was donated to my personal favourite, Hope Village.

So, if celebrating yet another birthday sounds as good to you as root canal treatment or a company merger, try arranging a ‘celebration of life’. I can assure you, “a change is as good as a holiday”.