Sport and Mental Health Awareness

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LEARNING SOMETHING NEW

We have all found changes in our lives during lockdown and many of us are finding time to slow down, think and consider things which might never have made it to the top of our ‘to-do’ list in normal times.

I have been enjoying connecting with coaches from a wide range of sports (away from my own area of equestrianism) and I’m learning lots and thinking more creatively.

One of the benefits has been access to new courses and as it is Mental Health Awareness Week 2020 (18th to 24th May) I thought I would take the course offered by UK Sport on Mental Health Awareness for Sport and Physical Activity.

As a coach in non-sport environments too, this is a subject which comes very close to my work at all times, so it has been valuable to gain a little more understanding.  One of my key learning points is that we can talk about mental health without being counsellors; just as in all my coaching work, it is a question of understanding where boundaries lie and where people can go for expert help when someone needs it.

 

A BIT ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH

Our minds can fall ill, just as our bodies can. The illness may be short or long term. It can vary in severity. It can have different causes and diverse symptoms. Importantly, it doesn’t define who we are, it’s just a small part of our identity or our history.

The World Health Organisation says: ‘ Mental Health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to contribute to her or his community’.

Mind’s (the Mental Health Charity) ‘5 ways to well-being’ are a set of actions that we can all take to improve our well-being:

  • Connect – talk to people, meet people
  • Be active – start or continue exercise
  • Learn – goal-setting can highlight achievements
  • Take notice – be mindful, notice all the good things or achievements, however small
  • Give – do things for others, it feels good

WHY ARE WE LINKING SPORT AND MENTAL HEALTH?

Mind believes that, ‘Sport and physical activity builds resilience, enables and supports mental health recovery and tackles stigma’.

Many of us who are already active will know that we feel better for a bit of ‘fresh air and exercise’. There are physical reasons for it though, it isn’t just some random idea. The biochemistry behind it is a longish story, but in brief, neuropeptides called endorphins are released from the pituitary gland and go to block pain signals in the nervous system. This indirectly causes the release of dopamine which is the neurotransmitter responsible for pleasure. (You can find more on Wikipedia or in the article cited below*).  So – exercise makes us feel good.

How can exercise help? Here are a few things to ponder:

  • Endorphins – our natural, intrinsic ‘opiates’, make us feel better
  • Self-esteem – think body image, goal achievement and improved resilience
  • Reducing the risk of depression – physical and psychological
  • Slowing the racing mind – body and mind become tired
  • Sleep patterns improve – serotonin levels are better after exercise. The reduction of ‘rapid eye movement or REM sleep has an anti-depressant effect.

A study by the Department of Health (2011) found that increasing from no exercise to just three times a week lead to the likelihood of depression falling by 30%.

And this is just the start!

TAKING ACTION, BEING ACTIVE

There is still a stigma around mental health and Mind describe a cycle to break the stigma which means that we need to learn about it, listen to people, be open to what they are saying and recognise the illness for what it is.

From a sports and coaching perspective, we also need to understand some of the possible barriers that exist to getting active.  The ‘Four Corners Model’ put together by the Football Association,  (http://www.thefa.com/learning/coaching/the-fas-4-corner-model) is a framework that can help us to look at how we develop our sports people.  In the context of mental health and physical activity, it can be used to create an understanding of barriers to exercise.   This could also be used in the preparation of specific programmes or sessions and helps us to see our clients from a holistic perspective.

  • Physical – travel, medication for example
  • Social – lack of self-esteem
  • Psychological – anxiety in new situation
  • Technical – not knowing the rules of the game or lacking skill or experience

It’s helpful to understand this and it underlines some of the things that we can do to help. I can think of examples in equestrianism, but also in other sports or forms of exercise. Sometimes the barriers are greater than others, sometimes they look bigger because facing them and dealing with them just seems insurmountable. It might be that small first step onto our own personal Everest ascent.

…AND SO?

“As coaches we are there to enable other people to achieve their goals”

It is all too easy to wrapped up in our way of working and of coaching, so the opportunity to think differently brings new ideas and new plans.  Having been unable to go out coaching since lockdown, it has been great to ‘meet’ coaches from sports as varied as football, squash, paddle and adventure sports, and many others.  The group coming together through UK Coaching has inspired me and reminded me that ‘coaching is coaching’, we are there to enable other people to achieve their goals.

Thank you all.

Here is the article that I mentioned:

Other useful links:

https://www.ukcoaching.org/

https://www.mind.org.uk/

https://dynamics-coaching.com/

Please follow us on Twitter – lots to mention but @alisonrpayne will get you started

 

Coaching conversations: Being Worried

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Leadership and Personal Coaching – topics from coaching conversations

After many hundreds of hours coaching, I see some repeating themes, so I’m hoping that this series of info sheets will add a little background to conversations that I’ve had, or will provide a start point if you are thinking about having coaching.

Circles of Concern and of Influence

We all worry about ‘stuff’. It’s a normal, human thing to do. The problem comes when it overtakes our lives. It is also a fact that some people worry more than others and some people are more proactive when it comes to dealing with the things that life is throwing at them.

We can look at this in a number of ways, but essentially it is about understanding how we perceive this ‘stuff’ and deal with it for ourselves.

One way to start unpicking this is to look at circles of concern and circles on influence as described by Stephen R. Covey (in his book, the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People).  Within the circle of concern are the things about which we have little emotional or mental connection and/or the things which we cannot control. Within the circle of influence lie the things that we can make a difference to and which we can affect by our own actions in some way.

Separating these two types of ‘stuff’ is a good start in understanding and then changing how we approach the things that cause us worry.

As an example, change is a big topic, but you’ll probably already know that being in control of change makes things feel more comfortable than when we are subject to changes made by others. Being proactive, rather than reactive, helps us to gain a better feeling of control and to feel more positive about what is happening with the ‘stuff’ around us.

We can make a start by identifying some of the things on our mind and then placing them into the ‘concern’ or ‘influence’ section. For example, we can’t change the weather, so this would go near the outside edge of the concern circle, but if we are considering what to have for tea, then that sits pretty well into the middle of the influence circle.

Let’s suppose that we are really worried about the big family picnic that we’ve organised for our Aunt’s 70th birthday. We’ll want it to go well, of course. Where does it sit in relation to our circles of concern and influence? That will depend very much on our own approach to ‘stuff’.   A reactive person might fret about the weather, but a proactive person will make a plan B. A reactive person might worry about the caterer getting the order right. A proactive person will check the order and communicate with the caterer to see how preparations are going.

In this way, the reactive person keeps all their concerns out there as concerns, but the proactive person is bringing elements into their own influence and effectively increasing the size of the inner circle. (And, at the same time reducing the size of the concern element by taking back some control over ‘stuff’).

There’s more to it than this, but it is one tool in our armoury and something which arises in coaching conversations from time to time and which might help to separate things out from a different perspective. I hope it’s useful.

ALISON

April 2020 in sunny South Wales

Virtual meetings, new social rules and coping with a new normal

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Moving from face to face to virtual meetings

My coach Supervisor laughs at the notes that I take in some of my coaching conversations because so many include drawings: What does this cat remind you of? Draw your day? Johari Windows and Freeze/thaw/freeze pictures and doodles which would only be comprehensible to me and the person being coached.

I have always been loathe to coach via a computer because I thought I’d miss out on the nuances of body language and the easy sharing of written ideas, thoughts and notes.

However, we are at a place where virtual meetings are becoming more normal and are likely to stay with us for far more than the occasional Skype conversation with distant family. (By the way, if you want to make those really good fun, then switch on the subtitles!). The whole idea is going to bring a new set of 21st Century social rules, so here are a few thoughts from my experiences so far.

Technology

As we all set out into our new virtual world, there is no doubt that the technology will be one of the big challenges (and we won’t all have a five year old to hand to sort it all out like the TV).  It (almost) goes without saying that you’ll need decent broadband speeds and a computer running modern Software.

a) Security.

There is a lot out there and much is free, but, as my Cyber Security expert friend reminds me, if the product is free then there is a strong chance that YOU are the product.  Be careful and watch out for updates, news and support around security, follow basic rules around cyber-safety and consider what you share very carefully.

b) What’s out there?

I’m no expert on the different pieces of software but have used GoTo meeting, Cisco’s Webex, Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp, Facetime.  There are others including MS Teams and, plenty more I’m sure.  Check out their websites for their plans, pricing and ways of working.  Talk to other people about ease of use, scope and what seems to work well for them.

c) Try out the different apps.

See what works well for you – for example things like the phone apps are OK for 1:1 conversations, but it is awful trying to have a serious conversation with someone when they keep wandering around and lose their audio or show you videos which give you the opportunity to examine their nostrils. (Ugh).  Zoom works well, but is very busy at present so bandwidth has been a challenge at times and their security in chats was questioned by National Newspapers recently. Skype is fairly straightforward to use, but the video quality is variable.  (I struggle to find all the settings easily on the mobile app).

d) Practice

Try your chosen system/systems in non-critical conversations with family, friends or close colleagues. Play with the settings and see what you can achieve.  It’s worth doing it pretty much daily while we all get more used to working like this.  Even complex job interviews are being carried out virtually so it is really important to be familiar with the technology so that you can focus on WHAT you are saying, not HOW you are saying it.  After all, we don’t have to think hard about talking in an interview, which means that we can focus on the content of our conversation.

Tips and wrinkles – setting up and getting started

I’ve had to do some thinking, researching and training so some of these tips have come from there, some from my own experience.

  1. Practice.  Make sure the software is loaded and you know how to access your meeting / call.
  2. Always have your mobile handy and share this with your meeting organiser so that if technology has a blip then you can text or call to sort things out.
  3. Make sure you are somewhere comfortable! Get a coffee or glass of water in case you need refreshing during the discussion.
  4. Set up your device to provide the best audio you can and video so that the light is coming from the right direction and doesn’t make you look like a being from a sci-fi movie. (Oddly, having light directly in front of you (i.e. behind the device) usually works well.
  5. Consider your background.  Some software allows you to blur the background or add a virtual one.
  6.  ‘Arrive’ in good time.  You can be sure that if you leave it until the last minute, you will have a software glitch or the laptop will want to update or run a security scan and gobble up time and memory.

Tips and wrinkles – social niceties

Some of our social rules won’t change, but for some reason seem to get ‘lost’ as people move to a virtual world.  We also have new ones that will make sure we can work collaboratively and effectively.

  1. Be presentable. There seems to be a more ‘heads than threads’ approach online, but it is just as important to create a good impression virtually as it would be in person.  In truth, it might be even more important as we might miss out on some of the smaller signals that we get about people when we meet face to face.
  2.  Be punctual.  You can’t creep into a virtual meeting like you do to a room full of people! If you do come late then it will be noticeable and can be disruptive.
  3. As host, make sure that introductions are made where appropriate and try to welcome people as they arrive.  This creates a positive feeling and also acts as a form of introduction.
  4. Make sure that there is a clear agenda.  One of the downsides of virtual meetings is that discussion has to be more clear cut and it isn’t always easy to spot who wants to say something.  In a room, there will be some form of ‘intention gesture’ that can be picked up on by the host – not always so easy in a virtual room.  A good agenda will help to focus everyone in the same direction and support input from those who need to give it.
  5.  Turn mobiles to silent once the meeting starts).
  6.  Shut children, pets and family out – they can be an unwanted distraction.  There are times when they might add a personal dimension to the discussion, but make sure it is for an appropriate audience.
  7.  Follow the host’s instructions on audio and video, but generally it is good practice to mute your microphone unless you are making a comment to the meeting.  (Failing to do this creates sometimes unbearable noise for everyone else).
  8.  Engage.  Your hosts might be fairly new to all this too.
  9.  As host, it might be useful to have a co-host who watches chat boxes to pick up on relevant input that needs to be shared.
  10.  Look at the camera – we are used to looking at the face of someone that we are talking to, but on a laptop this might mean that you are looking at your colleague over their shoulder.

A couple of other thoughts

Have a think about what might distract you in a virtual meeting and try to manage it so that you can focus on the conversation.  The kind of things which people report as distracting are:

What they look like, what their colleagues look like (how’s my hair looking three weeks into lockdown?!), are my bookshelves tidy? What is that on their wallpaper? Shall I just answer that incoming e mail?  Am I using the technology properly? And so on….

This is just a quick blog, so I’d love to hear your hints and tips for effective meetings over the internet!

 

 

Coaching conversations: Language

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I had the good fortune to be pointed in the direction of the UK Coaching Connected Coaches site and today we had a healthy conversation about language.

During lockdown, most of us outdoor coaches are really feeling the lack of contact as well as the lack of fresh air and our chosen sport (or sports).  In true positive fashion though, we are starting to look at how we can work effectively in a virtual social space and to explore the slightly elusive positives of this time.

It is great to be included with people from such a cross-section of sport and for me, it’s also fascinating to see the cross-over with the work that I do as a coach in education and business organisations.

I wasn’t alone in thinking that it might be a time for supporting our clients (sports people or other coaches) in really thinking carefully about what we do, and an esteemed colleague from athletics suggested that one thing that we could work on was being much more careful and specific in the language that we use.

Reflecting on our online conversation I am reminded of the number of times that I’ve gone down the line of ‘why?’.  Now,  Root Cause Analysis or ‘The 5 Whys’ are well known tools in leadership but neither of these quite get to what I am seeking to achieve in coaching.  Nonetheless I believe that they have a part in helping us to understand the value in delving deep into things that we might be just taking at face value, so as  little aside, let’s have a very quick look.

Root Cause Analysis does what it says on the tin and is valuable in itself because it heads for resolution of cause, not just overt symptoms, and is therefore often useful in an organisational environment as it considers:

  • What happened
  • How it happened
  • Why it happened and then
  • Actions for preventing reoccurrence

‘The 5 Whys’ tool is another from that massive Toyota Toolbox which also brought us ‘nemawashi’ – the idea that we need to walk the shop floor to fully understand what is happening (before we can then understand why).  It can get right into the possible causes of single or multiple problems by gaining an understanding of events at different levels in a chain of events or sections of a business process.

As a tool for coaching, I adapt it to vary the process, using carefully chosen open or closed questions to filter and define what is really happening, either in a physical process or in someone’s understanding of that process.  Quite often the initial answer that we get from a question is quick-fire.   For example, “How did that feel?” might well elicit the reply, “Good”.  Unfortunately this a) doesn’t give us any specific information on what was happening and b) hasn’t encouraged real reflection on the process.

It is in the further questioning that we really start to get to the bones of it all.  And this is, perhaps, where we can use the time and space (which sounds a bit sci-fi!) that we currently have to explore these things in the detail that they deserve, leading us to yet better results.  One element is the use of silence which is a well-accepted tool in the box of coaches, but it’s a tricky one to use well – especially in a possibly fast-moving physical environment.  (Time and space, time and space!!) Let’s use it now.

So, perhaps an example would help. (I’m sure all coaches could translate the following conversation into their chosen field – I’d love to know how your conversations go!)

I’m helping someone to ride the perfect (haha!) 20m trot circle.  I will give them some basic rules (handrails, if you like) and send them away to explore.  Let’s suppose that things are going well, so after a few minutes we’ll regroup and discuss what is going on, it might go something like this:

Me: ‘Tell me about that” (I am deliberately keeping this broad and creating an opportunity for any kind of answer).

Client: “Well, it was pretty good” (So, this is my opening for exploring what good really was.  I’m also doing a little internal dance because they haven’t said, ‘ugh, it was awful’!)

Me: “In what way was it good?” (Open question, which may well generate a moment’s silence and thought)

Client: “The rhythm was good, but it wasn’t quite a circle” (We need to keep our clients focussing on the good things, but we’ll return to dealing with the rest later)

Me: “What was good about the rhythm?”

Client: “It stayed the same”. (I’m pleased with this because it’s what we are after, however, I want my client to be able to go away and replicate it so that they can ‘self-coach’ when they away from their coaching session).

Me: “How did you know the rhythm was good?” (And it is at this point that I start to get rather blank looks, because they have given me a good answer – what else could I possibly expect??)

Client: “The hoofbeats were even one-two, one-two, all around the circle”.

Me: “Great. It looked like a super rhythm to me too. As well as hearing the hoofbeats, what could you feel that helped you to tell that the rhythm was good”.

Client: “Boris, ” (lets just call the horse Boris for now shall we?)…”didn’t rush off”.  (This is good too, because it means that Boris is finding some balance.  This gives me a clue, as coach, that there might be something else which will be significant).

Me: “That’s a good feeling then and it’ll make things easier, won’t it? What difference was there in the feel through the reins?

Client: “I didn’t feel him taking so much weight in my left hand”.

Me: “Brilliant. So when you are working on your own, how will you know what good is with reference to the rhythm?”

Client: “From the sound and feel of the hoofbeats and whether I’m taking a different contact through the reins”

So, we move from a simple word, to a definition of that word which is specific to that rider, in her context when she rides a 20m circle on Boris.  She has described it in her own words, so it should be meaningful and easily remembered.

In other coaching, it works well too and helping clients to consider the real meaning of words means that they can celebrate small things, or succeed in keeping things in perspective by understanding exactly what ‘happy’, or ‘good’ or ‘difficult’ really mean for them.

Language – let’s celebrate it and use it.

 

 

 

 

 

Little celebrations

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Being locked down gives us all far too much time to think, so I’m not going to philosophise ad infinitum, but I would like to share a couple of very small things which brought me an involuntary smile this morning.

I’m always encouraging people to celebrate their small wins, so here are some small things that I am celebrating.

Spring Joy

I just love daffodils.  They are my heralds of Spring and bring early brightness to unleafy hedgerows.

They are great in the sunshine as their colour is heightened, but in dull weather they bring light into a grey morning.

In the wind, they bend and sway, but stand up again when the breeze lessens.

 

Cosy chickens

I love my chickens.  They are all rescues and I’m happy just to see them in a good place.  They can free range, and are cheerful in their scratching around the field or the barn – looking for tiny specks of food that I don’t even see. After a horrid fox attack on the outdoor coop, we bought them a garden shed which lives inside the barn now. We put nest boxes and a stepped set of perches in and I get real pleasure from seeing them happy in their little home.  They chatter away while I work down there and get under my feet in the most unannoying fashion.

 

Egg in the nest

Another of the joys of having chickens as pets is that they lay eggs.  Even after years of keeping hens, I still smile when I find an egg. If it feels warm I love to feel it against my cheek.  A new gift from our feathery girls (and some had no feathers when they came to us) is always valuable.  They have perfect nest boxes on their ‘shed-home’, but far prefer to wander around the barn and find a cosy, dark place with soft hay.  They’ll sit there and throws bits of nest material over their backs and cosy up into their nest to lay.  The challenge for me is finding the latest nest.  (The queue of chickens can be a give away – they seem to like to sit in well-used nests!).

 

 

Early lettuce seedlings

A further thing that made me smile today was the sight of my lettuce seedlings just pushing up through the compost.  Yes, I expected them to grow, but the promise of homegrown salad again is a wonderful feeling: especially when it is still cold outside (even in the greenhouse).  These are brave little seedlings, daring to push out into a currently chilly place.

Small things, but lovely things.

Redefining ‘Coaching’

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Do you think of any of these if I say ‘coach’?

Understanding different perspectives
Most people have a clear idea of what a coach is, maybe even what a coach does. The difficulty is matching it with what we, as coaches think we are, and with what we actually do.  OK, so my pictures are a slightly extreme set of examples, but I have been wondering if it’s about time for a total re-brand.  The idea of ‘coach’ seems to be so ingrained in people’s minds, that it proves tricky to get people to fully understand what coaching is and what it can do for them.  What keeps me going, standing on my soapbox, is that people who have had (high quality) coaching are generally sold on the idea.  It’s just those who havent experienced it that we struggle to convince.

In some ways the challenge that needs unravelling is all about detail, semantics even, and being rather pedantic in our own use of the term.  I spent many hours discussing and writing assignments for my coaching qualifications on the subject of coaching versus mentoring. I’ve had similar conversations with my sporting colleagues – they used to be ‘instructors’, then ‘trainers’, and now… ‘coaches’.  The real problem is that people – and often our potential clients -no longer know what to expect.

Should we define coaching?

Maybe it is pointless to get hung up on the niceties of the language, because the key thing is to be able to communicate with people around us in a language that is meaningful to them.  If any of you have done battle with research papers and ended up almost screaming for clear, plain English, you might know what I mean.  Another common frustration might be the use of jargon (and most professions have it), which isn’t helpful when relaying information to a lay audience: it needs to be readable.  I have a friend who is a great research scholar, but she spends a significant amount of time re-writing her work for blogs so that they are accessible to people outside academe.  It isn’t dumbing down, it isn’t damaging our language, it is about communicating appropriately for our audience. So, for these reasons, we need to know what our potential clients think coaching is, rather than insisting on what we believe it to be.

Selling the idea

It really isn’t new – we need to provide what our clients need (if we can’t then they need signposting elsewhere).  Marketing our services isn’t about what we can do, it is about matching what our clients want with the strengths, skills or experience that we have.  If we turn the marketing equation around like this, it immediately makes more sense to look at the possible outcomes of coaching, rather than offering ‘coaching’.  Working in this direction also means that listening to what our clients want becomes central to the conversation and the plan.  It sounds obvious, but these basic tenets of business so often get lost in the moment.

So, what might coaching be?

I had a eureka moment last Spring whilst working with senior leaders in schools.  In education, there are clear set-ups for coaching which are roles that are supportive, informative, guiding and training.  In some words, then, closer to mentoring in my book.  This means that, mostly, if you are taking to educators about coaching, they will have this idea.  If you talk to someone in the caring professions, they may well jump to the other end of the continuum and start by imagining counselling (and that really isn’t coaching).

One day the Head Teacher was talking about a ‘coaching’ session that she had attended which had really got her thinking becasue it was novel. Her coach had used some great tools and practical exercises to create analogies for where she was and where her team were, what the barriers were and where they wanted to get to.  It was a new approach and challenged her view of coaching.  It helped clarify the terms for me, highlighting how differently people view coaching.

Describing coaching

In truth, coaching is made up of myriad elements and it is this that probably makes it so difficult to describe accurately. We might look at the way that a coach reaches their objectives, very often they’ll describe themselves through the tools that they use,  for example’I’m an NLP practitioner’, or, ‘I’m a mindfulness coach’. Alternatively they might look at the specific challenges that they’re going to address, ‘I’m a career coach’, ‘I’m a transition coach’, ‘I’m a performance coach’.

I’m making no value judgement here, but here is the question: how can we separate all these elements when home, health, career, lifestyle are all entwined in each of us? How can we know that a particular coaching tool will be a panacea?  Don’t we need to understand exactly what each of our coaches will need?

 

Talent

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TALENT

Let’s think about ‘Talent’.  Just what is talent?  It is a widely used word, but in sport coaching we are careful how we apply it and this got me thinking…

We might say that someone has a talent for sport or a talent for leading people or a creative talent.  Current thinking is that it is about the hours that we put in to make things work.  It is about the effort and commitment that we make which leads to successful outcomes. Do I hear you say ‘no, I could never do this/that/the other, of course there is such a thing as talent’?

One of the things that I love about my work as a coach is the transferability of coaching principles.

Let’s think about that.  If we start with sport, it helps to illustrate the point. Consider a Ladies netball team. Do they have physical attributes in common? How about great bowlers – do our best cricketers have anything in common? How about Gymnasts? Sport climbers who almost run up impossible-looking rock faces? Rowers?  Ask yourself, are they tall? Short? Well-built? Wiry?  Can you see a rugby prop doing gymnastics? For sure, we can all make a difference to our body shapes, but only to a degree.  We wouldn’t expect the best sport climbers to be powerful rowers. We wouldn’t expect our netball players to be gymnasts or ballerinas.  There is no judgement in this, it’s just the way we are.  We build on our physical attributes and learn the motor skills for our sport.  We develop patterns and neural pathways which mean we don’t have to think everything through from scratch.  

Although there may not be a direct comparison, it isn’t a huge leap to accept that we are born with a certain nature and then, as life goes on, we build on early interactions to develop ourselves into who we are today.  It means we are all different, we all have strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes.  We may have great ‘emotional intelligence’, we might have excellent practical skills, we might be very creative, we might love a challenge.  This is the fascination with people: we are not the same. And this is where the challenge comes in when we have to work with those different people….

I think that talent is maybe something rather more subtle than we first thought.  It is the intrinsic ‘wiring’ of our brain, or the shape of our body plus commitment and practice in what we want to do.  

It is all a question of degree, of our expectations.  Somehow we need to identify realistic expectations.  If we’re not built to be jockeys, then we must look to what we can do: if not flat race, then maybe a steeplechase jockey who can be taller.  If we are too broad to be a sport climber, then maybe a mountaineer.  For World Class athletes or for leaders of the World’s biggest companies, then we are likely to need a very specific body type or set of brain functions, but if we want to do well at a different level, then maybe there is nothing stopping us.  Just because we can’t run a country, we shouldn’t give up on helping at a community level.  Just because we aren’t brilliant with numbers, it doesn’t mean we can’t run a business.  If we are great with people, then perhaps we should look at jobs that need those skills, if we are practical and logical and risk averse, perhaps we should look at jobs that need that.  If we love numbers, then there are jobs that need those skills. We don’t all have to climb the same career tree, there are people in diverse roles who can all reach the top.  We can compete at a high level in sport or sports – there is no shortage of people succeeding in second sports because, given the right build, a huge part of success is mental.  It is the determination and single-mindedness to focus on a vey specific goal – at the highest level this is usually to the exclusion of just about everything else.  We need to pick our level, decide on the balance we want and then be sure that our expectations are realistic for the person that we are. 

Finally, then, next time you wonder what’s stopping you from reaching the top of your tree, perhaps the first question is, ‘Am I climbing the right tree?”

Responsiblity…What is it really?

By | Coaching and Mentoring, Leadership Toolbox | 2 Comments

I am just in the process of developing a workshop for a client who is hoping to help her team to become more proactive, leaving her to cover more strategic challenges.  One of my start points is to consider accountability and responsibility. Well – don’t ever type THAT into Google! No only are there myriad references, but also lots of differing opinions.  Ultimately, like all else, we need to make our own decisions on what we believe is right for our context and what is well-evidenced.  Anyway, accountability is one for another day because I found this neat little video (Thank you Active Nation) which describes responsibility pretty succinctly.

I hope you like it too.

Getting ‘STUFF’ done

By | Education, Leadership Toolbox | No Comments

There are a few recurring themes when I’m coaching people.  One of those is about ‘Time Management’.  We could get into discussions on the practicalities (lists, urgent vs important).  We could argue that time is not something that can be actively managed – it has to be about what we do within the confines of that dimension. We could get into philosophical conversations about the meaning of life, work and ultimate purpose.  Lets leave all that for another day.

I have been reading a neat little book by Andy Buck about leadership in education and he made mention of this video.  It’s only about 5 minutes, (so it is a good investment in time, and allows us one last shot at procrastinating!)

Enjoy it…

SPACE – Definitely not the final frontier for learning

By | Coaching and Mentoring, Education, Leadership Toolbox, Personal Development | No Comments

Space – (Definitely NOT the final frontier for learning!)

 

Yesterday I attended an interesting conference on Critical Leadership.  In just a short space of time we touched on many topics which challenge us as leaders.  One of the themes centred on how we keep formal learning going in our day-to-day jobs once we return from the buzz of workshops.  This is a topic very close to my heart.

Four points stick in my mind as crucial for continued learning:

–        We need to open spaces for conversation

–        We need to listen and empower

–        We need to foster constant curiosity

–        We need to enable conversations

If I could have created a word cloud from the speakers yesterday morning, I think that SPACE would have featured in the centre in huge letters.  It’s something that we just don’t really have in our busy lives, busy jobs and busy careers.  Yet how can we see what is happening if we don’t make a space to understand what is around us?  How can we start to get these four points into action if we don’t have ‘space’?

Another phrase which would have being pretty obvious in the word cloud would have been CRITICAL FRIEND. (And underneath that I would have posted ‘constructive challenge).

This is all great metaphorical chat, but what do I mean in practical terms?  OK, please stay with me on this…..

Creating a SPACE, means we can give valuable time to reflection.

Reflection is an increasingly well accepted and understood ‘tool’ for deep learning. Taking the time to really think about our experiences means that we can gain new and useful perspectives.  When we reflect, we can create some structure for our thought processes, use positive questioning to get deeper understanding and see the small but powerful changes that accumulate to lead to our success.

How often do you get to the end of a working day and feel that you have achieved nothing?  I think most of us have been there at some time, but even on those days, if you took just ten minutes out (sitting in the car before you drive home, walking the dog, cleaning the goldfish bowl – whatever…..) and identified the smallest thing, the tiniest positive achievement for the day, I am sure there would be something.  It might not be something that you would see as directly relevant to your role, but think again.  When you showed someone a quick move on the computer (that you do without even thinking about it) – that could have a lasting benefit.  When you made that difficult call, but still didn’t reach the right person – at least you have started climbing that fearsome rockface.  When you answered the door for someone, even if they should have done it, it gave you a moment to let the blood back into your legs after sitting for hours at the computer.  If you set up the template for a new spreadsheet, but didn’t enter any data – well, it’s one thing less for tomorrow.  In those mundane examples we’ve covered well-being, support and encouragement shared learning, and action just for a start!  Don’t dismiss the small stuff, it just might be valuable.

So, when I sit down with you as your coach (for want of a better label!), we create SPACE.

First we set some ground rules.  One of these is that we recognise that this time is your time to do with as you choose.  It will not be interrupted, cancelled, driven by me, scripted, or disrespected. It is golden time, a rare oasis away from hustle and bustle. I will guide our conversation and challenge your thinking when necessary. I will hold you to account for your planned actions but most important of all, I will be facilitating your reflection and helping you to embed esoteric learning into practical actions and tools.

Go on – find your SPACE.