What we've been thinking about and working on lately...

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So none of us really enjoy being the new person – it can be pretty daunting.  However, we don’t often look at it from the other direction. 

 

Having a new person start in your team can also be daunting - will they fit in?  How long will it take to get them up to speed? Will they be as good or better than their predecessor?

 

Recently I’ve been working with several new and different people on various projects.  I guess I’ve been lucky – they are all great!  What has been most amazing is the energy and enthusiasm they have brought to the projects. New ideas, fresh energy, some much needed inspiration.

 

It’s easy to get stuck doing the same things in the same way.  Fresh blood can shake things up a bit, shed some new light and make it exciting for all of us all over again.

 

That’s me – feeling inspired just by having some new friends/colleagues to play with!!

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Any of you who have/care for/know children of exam age will be coming towards the end of a relatively stressful and intense period for the teen and possibly you too. At that age, weeks of revision and exams does seem like an impossible task  (“How will I ever remember all of this?”) and messing up a question in an exam can feel like the end of the world (“There’s no way I’ll be able to do what I wanted now!”).

 

Fortunately we develop coping strategies for difficult situations over our life time by filing and categorising information in our brains so we can respond quickly to a variety of situations. The problem is that these categories are often over simplified and our resulting habits and interpretations can stop us finding new perspectives and ways to respond when we are stuck in a rut.

 

According to Srini Pillay MD - founder and CEO of NeuroBusiness Group and a pioneer in brain-based executive coaching - by giving your brain a break your subconscious will work harder at finding a solution for you. Research also suggests that focusing on the negatives effective frazzles your brain and makes it less effective at doing its job ( a colleague and I call this “whizzy head”) – whereas focusing on positives releases opiates that stimulates your brain to work for you – all while you think about something else!

 

These simple techniques might help you to put things in perspective, see things differently and break out of that rut. At the very least they will improve your mood.

 

  • Park your worries – write down the things that are bothering you and stopping you from finding a solution or taking positive action. Put the paper in a sealed envelope and move on to something else. When you read them at a later date make a note of what actually happened to start storing making new neural connections for future reference
  • Change your physical state– go for a walk, stretch, phone a friend, play a game, listen to music – all these things will positively change your mental state
  • Count your blessings – make a note of anything that you appreciate, makes you happy, is going well in your life – then read it before you go back to tackling the current issue or situation
  • Believe it is possible – even if you don’t know how you will change something, do something, believe something – tell yourself that it is possible and your brain will work to make it so

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How’s your energy management system? No, not the one in your car which figures out how much fuel you’re using depending on the conditions, speed and gear , I’m talking about your own personal energy management system, which does basically the same thing......but for you.

How often do you choose your gear? It’s clearly not practical, sustainable or indeed, safe, to corner in 6th neither is it efficient or good for your car to do 70mph on a motorway in 3rd, but how often do you choose your gear, for you, personally?

Let’s face it there will be periods of high intensity, requiring laser sharp focus and all grey matter to the helm, that’s just life sometimes anyone who tells you otherwise is either lying or on drugs. But in those periods when you can change gear, cruise even, catch your breath and recharge, do you allow yourself to do so or do you tell yourself that you have to be seen to be busy....or even like the attention which it brings!

When your energy management system flashes up (you’re tired, you’re fed up and you want to weep into your Starbucks on the tube) and tells you to change gear , do you listen to it or is the seduction of just putting your foot to the floor worth the risk of the engine eventually seizing up?

So, choose your gear wisely it might just mean you have a bit more gas in the tank.

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In my experience any request to ‘do a psychometric profile’ seems to cause an increase in anxiety levels and a slight feeling of unease. I rarely get people calling me to express their delight at having to complete one.

Part of the nervousness usually stems from some unknowns around ‘what are they looking for?’ and ‘what if it reveals I’m no good’.

Psychometrics can be really useful to give us a perspective and vocabulary around personality, habits, patterns and behaviours. However, what’s really important is to understand what the focus is and what to do with the output. Here’s my attempt to untangle some of the more commonly used types.

Intelligence Quotient (IQ) tests: these measure our ability to learn, not to be confused with the amount of knowledge we have. It’s thought that our IQ is fairly stable in adulthood.

IQ tests tend to be used as part of recruitment processes to get a sense of our ability to process and sort information. There’s a school of thought that says we can increase our IQ by finding mental tricks and tools to sort information.

Trait or Personality tests: these look at how we like to do things and what’s important to us in a situation. Do we focus on people or task first? What does success look like to us; getting the problem completed quickly or coming up with a new way to approach a challenge.

Trait tends to be fairly static, it would, quite frankly, be odd if you suddenly woke up with a new personality! The power of these tests is being able to recognise your own habits and patterns and being aware that we’re not all the same. You don’t need to be fluent in other trait types but being able to speak a few words of your opposites language can be really useful. Commonly used trait tests include Myers-Briggs (MBTI) and Insights Discovery.

Emotional Intelligence (EQi) tests: these look our level of awareness and ability to deal with emotions in ourselves and those around us in a positive way. Essentially ‘do I know what I/others are feeling and how do I feel about that’.

EQi is determined by habituated thought patterns and useful to think of it like a piece of elastic. Left alone it’ll stay as it is, but put some energy and work into forming new patterns and awareness and you’ll change it. Logic will get you so far but if you want to be able to deal with the complexities of situations which are charged with emotion (which, let’s face it, many work situations are) having a high level of emotional intelligence can be extremely powerful.

We’re usually the harshest critics of the results which these tests generate, even when we’ve provided the input ourselves. We encourage clients to look at them as a starter for 10 to help other people understand how to help you be at your best. As one client said to me ‘I’ve just given this to my wife of 2 weeks and told her that this is basically my user manual!’

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I wouldn’t say the highlight of my year so far has been breaking my leg (Bike + ice = A&E), but I have learned a lot about how to heal quickly and oddly it has been a remarkably positive experience. To the extent that 5 weeks on I am crutch free, swimming and walking for several hours at a time.

 

My first fear of course was how am I going to cope, given that I am very active and the idea of being confined to a sofa for 6 – 8 weeks was my personal idea of hell. However, deciding to be positive and use the time in a different way meant that time flew and I actually quite enjoyed it.

 

And if you are finding it hard to be positive after a setback, then I looked at some research on positivity and well being, and here are some compelling facts. Positive people:

-          live 7.5 years longer than others

-          have a 77% lower risk of heart desease then pessimists

-          experience 50% less symptoms and pain for the same illness

 

In my own experience, what helped me was:

-          Focussing on what you can do, not what you can’t do. As a weird spin-off I now find I own and can play a Ukelele

-          Use the time to re-energise and set future goals for the year

-          Enjoy the “now”. All too ofter I’m looking for the next thing, rather than enjoying what I have right now.

 

I hope you don’t become ill, but if you do, enjoy confounding the experts with your positive mindset...............

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I had a conversation with a friend the other day about some career choices
he was facing. He was wondering how to make the right choice to guarantee
his future success. Whether to stick with the type of role he knows and has
been successful in - or to take a risk and try something new. It's bothering
him to the extent that he's not enjoying his current success - or the fact
that he is lucky enough to have choices.

This conversation coincided with the sad news about David Bowie's death. A
man and artist  who tried it all, constantly took risks both professionally
and personally, deliberately stepped away from some of his most successful
creations and constantly experimented with who he was and what he did. Some
experiments were more successful than others - at least from an outsiders
perspective - but I imagine he probably lived by his own set of rules - so
who is to judge?

I always resist making new year's resolutions, but I don't mind a bit of
gentle new year reflection, so both of these things have made me wonder

* Do I stop, enjoy and live in the moment often enough?
* Which of my rules do I need to rethink?
* What would happen if I released my inner "Ziggy"?

I know the answer to the first two questions - but the third is going to
take a bit more thought..........   

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So I’ve just joined a new team – nothing to do with work – it’s a netball team.  I haven’t played in 25 years but I fancied a new challenge.

It’s very strange being the new girl!

I thought I knew the rules but perhaps unsurprisingly after 25 years a few had slipped my mind which may explain the penalties given away!  I have since googled the rulebook!

Next was my assumption that as a fairly athletic person I’d handle this no problem.  However, watching the other players who’ve been playing for years you see that so much of the game is instinct and an in depth understanding of your team mates – where they are going to be, where they expect you to be.  I was floundering.

So having had my mindset altered somewhat – I’m now loving the training.  Learning new skills is fun, getting to know the team is better.  Not getting told off by the Ref for a whole game is the aim!!

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As coaches we often find ourselves in discussion with clients about why people under perform, or behave in particular ways - and we find ourselves asking questions along the lines of 

  • How many people go to work in the morning with the intention of failing? and
  • When did you last get up in the morning and think “I’m going to do my best to screw up today”?

I have sometimes noticed people rolling their eyes as we share our belief that few people deliberately go out of their way to get things wrong, mess things up, or irritate their colleagues. I can almost hear them thinking “aha – well you’ve not met x”

I’ve had to take some of my own medicine recently. Working on a charity event, I found myself on the receiving end of some behaviour that immediately had my hackles up as I planned my revenge. I was particularly outraged because the offending behaviour was documented in email form – which somehow seemed to make it even more tangible and impossible to ignore.

After wasting a reasonable amount of time discussing and complaining about the situation  with a couple of my colleagues, I suddenly stopped and asked myself how helpful this response was either to me or to getting the job done. Of course the answer was “not at all”. I was wasting time, draining my own energy and increasing my levels of stress.

By this stage I was back in coaching mode and able to respond more rationally. The person in question had given up their own time to help – I really don’t believe that their intention was to upset or anger other people in the process. They were probably in a rush when they wrote the email etc.

So when you find yourself in a similar situation I would encourage you to do two things

1: Ask yourself what you think the other person’s intention is/was

2: And probably even more important – ask yourself whether your own response is helpful

And then decide if and how to respond.

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We had the pleasure of working with leading sport psychologist Bill Beswick this week as he shared some of his stories and tips with a group of young leaders at a leadership development programme we are running. Bill is unique in having England/Great Britain international experience across three major team sports -basketball, football and rugby. He has also worked with the British Swimming team and with English Premier football clubs including Manchester United, Middlesbrough, Sunderland and Derby County FC.

Bill clearly derives a huge amount of satisfaction from helping people manage and change their mind set in order to overcome obstacles and achieve their goals. Everything he talks about from his experience in elite sports is equally applicable to anyone seeking to be, and perform, at their best in any arena. Amongst other things Bill talked about the importance of...

  • Adopting a positive attitude - demonstrating a “fighter” rather than a “victim” mind set
  • Methodical preparation – exceptional performance rarely happens by accident and preparation is a key factor in building confidence
  • Never giving up – focusing on what you can control i.e. your own performance, because you don’t know (and can’t control) what will happen around you

He also talks about the importance of asking for help from people we trust. He refers to himself as a “thought partner” offering challenge and support to people who need him. Unfortunately only a few people are lucky enough to have Bill as their thought partner – but we all need them. Have you found yours?

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A sports psychologist (Bill) recently shared with us some great insights into winning sportsmen/women, and how their mindset affects their performance. Now we all know this right? But what I found really refreshing were the simple ‘How to’s.......’, so I thought I’d share 2 very practical ideas that I have successfully applied during a painful bike ride (!).

1. “If you don’t like the current story, then change it”. There are always many ways to look at any situation eg) from a point of view of confidence, or defeatism, or uncertainty, or annoyance etc. When you change your own story, then you change what becomes possible. So my story of “I’ve still got 25 miles to go, into a headwind, and my legs aren’t feeling good, so I can stop” became, instead, “I’ll make it back, it’ll just take longer than you thought and won’t be as easy as you planned. But then what is! And this extra work will really pay off on your next ride” So my 2nd version of the story really perked me up. Bill shared many examples of where people refused to accept the role of being a loser in the race, and instead changed the story to being a winner and not knowing how to lose.

2. “Whichever dog you feed will win the fight” So it turns out we all have 2 dogs : our fighter dog and our victim dog. We feed them both from time to time : the victim dog loving a bit of self pity, or doubt, or annoyance, whereas the fight dog loves a morsel or two of belief, confidence, ownership, acceptance and determination. So in any given challenge, pay attention to which ‘dog’ you are feeding because the biggest and well-fed one will win. So on my bike ride I realised I was feeding tasty scraps to the victim dog (“well, I’ve gone a long way already....”, “it doesn’t matter if I stop”) and so I started to feed the fighter dog (“you’ve done much harder things than this before”.......”imagine how you’ll feel if you do stop”). It works!

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‘Yes’ opens up new possibilities, builds on ideas and drives a conversation forward to new horizons. When we hear ‘yes’ we engage, we commit, we see new opportunities. When we hear ‘no’ we disconnect, we shut down, we comply. 

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t about ceding to another person’s needs, wants and ideas this is about that spark that ignites new ideas and the human energy and commitment to make it happen.    

It goes like this; 

  • “Let’s write a blog every week for our website”
  • “Yes, and we could take it in turns” 
  • “Yes, and we could have a rota so we can be thinking about it in advance” 
  • “Yes, and we could invite other people to be guest bloggers” 
  • “Yes, and we could also send the links out on twitter” 
  • “Yes, and we could put it on our other social media platforms like facebook and linkedin”    

Another version of the conversation could have been; 

  • “Let’s write a blog every week for our website”
  • “We’re all really busy and I’m not sure anyone would read it. I’m not sure it’s worth the effort” (essentially ‘no’).    

And because we write a blog every week we have all sorts of interesting people contact us via various social media platforms, none of that would have happened without our ‘yes’ a few years ago.    

So, on this bright sunny June day, if you’re looking for something new and exciting, I implore you to say ‘yes’.  

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