Most have us have known that feeling when we’ve got a lot on our plates; challenging targets, multiple demands (often a combination of work and home) and tight deadlines.
Yet sometimes this just helps us focus; makes us resourceful, creative, efficient. We’re resilient in the face of pressure.
Sometimes it does the opposite. We feel stuck; as if we’re going to fail at something (possibly lots of things). The pressure overwhelms us.
The impact of Control, Choices and Competence – or lack of it
I held an interactive webinar for the Time to Think group on Facebook to find out what caused them stress and how they dealt with it. Reflecting on the experiences and wisdom, I asked myself what they all had in common.
This is when those three Cs seemed significant. Pressure is a form of stimulation, which we can use to help us, just as long as we think we have at least one (preferably two) of those elements.
I think that unconsciously we ask ourselves:
Do I feel as if I’m control?
Do I think I have choices?
Do I believe I have the skills to complete the multiple demands being thrown at me?
Notice the role of our emotions, thoughts and beliefs
I always worry when HR departments seize on a fashionable idea as the panacea that may not cure all ills but will certainly tick this year’s boxes.
Andy Puddicombe, the co-founder of a terrific mindfulness app called Headspace, wrote a great article on LinkedIn criticising the vogue for “Mindfulness at Work,” given that this slightly misses the point of mindfulness. As Andy says:
“Mindfulness simply means to be present, undistracted, no matter where we are or what we are doing at the time.”
Or like being barefoot, instead of wearing our comfiest footwear
Going barefoot – especially outside – brings instant awareness of our relationship to our surroundings. It uses more muscles and strengthens our ankles but it also makes us think just a little bit more about where we are treading.
Mindfulness is a practice that you never perfect
There are many ways to become more mindful; more focused, attentive and present. One of the best ways to build this ability in an increasingly distracting world is through meditation. There is a ton of evidence emerging to show the wide-range of physical and emotional benefits of regular mindfulness-meditation.
It’s not a quick fix
Indeed it’s not a fix at all, because we can never say we’ve mastered mindfulness.
If you want to know how to get started with mindfulness-meditation, this is a great little video. Instead of repeating those tips, I’d like to focus on eight simple things that I think really help to introduce more mindful moments into our everyday lives.
Although there is science to back many of them up, I’ve chosen them because they work for me.
If I asked you the question “How much are you worth?” what would you take into consideration?
Would you think about how much you earn or how much you own? Would you think about what’s in the bank, or how much you owe the bank?
Or would you dwell on what other people might think you’re worth?
How long did it take you before you valued yourself?
Not just in this exercise above, but in your life?
The trouble with external valuations – like everything in a market – is the value can rise or fall without really having anything to do with you.
We’ve been judged and labelled all our lives
Sporty, smart, arty, eccentric, funny, beautiful, introvert, extrovert, people person, shy, bossy, go-getting. These (e)valuations are set by other people, or agreed by us in some kind of unconscious negotiation with other people.
Being an “X kind of person” makes sure that we limit ourselves before someone else does. It’s a bulwark against rejection.
It’s why I think psychometric tests are such comfort blankets for corporations; they’re grown-up labels where it’s ok to put people in boxes. The focus is on a fixed point. Nowhere are we considering our value; what we’re offering or what we have in common.
In simple terms, we can usually divide our careers into two parts. Before we managed people and after.
The first part of our career is usually spent building and honing our skills. We may start off as generalists, but gradually as we get recognised and rewarded for what we do well, we focus on our strengths. Perhaps without realising it, we become an “expert” in a particular area.
After a time, if we do this well enough we usually get given people to manage.
Promotion and progress are linked to managing others
Without knowing it, we’ve arrived at the Promotion Precipice. It’s a place of great opportunity, but also one of great unknown and potential risk.
Because in the eighteen years I’ve been coaching leaders and their teams, I’ve met only a handful of people who received any form of training BEFORE they were given people to manage.
Yet everything has fundamentally changed
From now on a manager cannot just focus on developing skills related to their task – the WHAT. Now they have to focus on the HOW, on building the skills of others.
Of course our Before Management career has involved people skills, but it’s different. Let’s take the example of an orchestra.
Before management you played the trumpet. You needed to be good at playing the trumpet, but also mindful of how you kept time and tune with the rest of the brass section. You also had to pay attention to what the rest of the orchestra were doing.
You keep your place by being a good solo contributor and by fitting in with the rest of the team.
Management requires you put the trumpet down and move to conducting the orchestra.
Once you’re a manager you’re responsible for co-ordinating multiple relationships – down, across and up the organisation. In fact, getting things done requires that you increasingly look up; that you develop a bigger picture view.
Without training or coaching new management can feel precarious
What happens when you experience conflict at home or at work?
If you’re directly involved, do you feel helpless and put upon; pretty certain that there’s nothing you can do? Or do you feel angry; blaming the other side for everything that has happened?
Perhaps you’re slightly outside the direct conflict – a concerned friend, family member or manager. Do you jump at the chance to help solve the problem? This might mean taking sides or taking responsibility for coming up with a solution that seems right to you.
If any of these sound familiar, welcome to the Drama Triangle
Conflict is something that very few of us feel comfortable with. Our emotions – whether we acknowledge them or not – are heightened. Dr Stephen Karpman, a psychologist as well as an amateur actor, observed in his research that people in emotionally charged situations often feel they have only three positions open to them.
Karpman called the framework that emerged from his research the Drama Triangle, when it might well also be called the Conflict Triangle.
We choose an approach that feels instinctive but is learnt
Karpman’s research showed that when we feel under pressure we step into the triangle, rather as an actor steps onto the stage. We play a role.
We may be entirely unaware it’s a role that we are choosing, because it’s a role that we feel strongly attached to. It’s hard to recognised the choice we have because we’ve likely been responding to challenging situations in similar ways since we were very young.
Victims believe they are not in charge of the speed or direction of their own choices. They feel oppressed, helpless, hopeless, powerless and ashamed. They seem unable to make decisions, solve problems or achieve insight. They are stuck.
Significantly, if Victims are not being persecuted, they will seek out a Persecutor and a Rescuer who can save the day. This serves to preserve the Victims’ negative feelings and give them some kind of unconscious reward for staying stuck. read more…
Yesterday was a big day for our family. My twenty-year old son moved into a flat. With his girlfriend.
He’s studying Economics and Finance at university and his third year is a placement in industry. Tomorrow he starts work in the Finance department of an international car manufacturer, whilst his girlfriend looks for work in a new town, knowing no-one. They’ve yet to get a broadband connection or work out which utility companies they want to use or even where they will shop for groceries.
That’s a lot of change
Yet, as we spent the day unloading boxes I noticed how easily all of this seemed to sit with them. This is when I was reminded of the work of Dr William Bridges who makes a key distinction between change and transition:
These two twenty year olds had already made that psychological transition, before they’d even packed a box, let alone unpacked it.
When we at Mackie Consulting listen to people in organisations through our Clarity Survey, and through our coaching work with teams and individuals, people tell us that they are not having the conversations they should be having. What we hear supports the Ken Blanchard Leadership company’s research that shows the extent to which conversations are avoided:
81% say their boss doesn’t listen to them
82% say their leaders don’t provide appropriate feedback
28% say they rarely or never discuss their future goals with their boss
only 34% meet with their boss once per week
While people talk a lot, they have lost the habit of having meaningful, quality conversations
In all too many organisations, meetings are long and formulaic. People come to meetings either to transmit information or receive it. Dialogue seems to have been substituted by the “let-s-read-this-presentation-together” practice.
Meaningful conversations are frequently avoided, and the more challenging conversations are saved up for those zinging e-mails or vented to the wrong person at the coffee shop or water cooler.
“It’s as if we’re teenage boys who want to ask a girl for a dance. There are no guarantees she’ll say “yes” but we won’t know unless we try…”
So began our check in on Week Two in my Working Out Loud Circle.
It seems that we might not have been teens at the school disco this past couple of weeks, but we’ve certainly been dancing with our inner critic to the tunes of vulnerability and risk.
For those of you who are not familiar with the concept, a Working Out Loud Circle is a guided, structured process developed by John Stepper. It’s a peer support group of four or five people which meets for an hour a week for 12 weeks to address these questions:
What am I trying to do?
Who is related to my goal?
How can I contribute to them to deepen our relationships?
“Working out loud should be directed to some end. Working out loud cannot be a random broadcast of activity. We share our work visibly and narrate our work so that others can benefit, whether through a greater understanding of our work, through opportunities to collaborate or have input or through learning about the process we take when we work.
Working out loud challenges us to think of the role these networks play in our work and the role that we play in our networks….[it] does not demand that we engage the whole world all day. Working Out Loud asks that we share with those in our networks for whom our work matters in a meaningful way.”
The power of structured purposeful discovery
I felt that three people I trusted and respected in my network – Lisa, Joy and Abigail – would all enjoy the process of being connected together and that we could all do with a structured way of thinking about our networks, our role in them and what we had to contribute. So last month I asked them to create a circle with me.
Let’s meet the dancers (in Berlin, London and Kuala Lumpur)
First there’s me. It’s not as if I haven’t been making my work visible or practising generosity. I’ve been writing blog posts on leadership and coaching for two and a half years and sharing my thoughts and those of others across LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Although I felt awkward and self-conscious at first, I soon grew to enjoy the acts of Liking, Sharing and Commenting. And connecting other people. I love connecting other people.
There’s Lisa and Abigail, with long successful track records in HR in banking and law respectively. Both took the big step to leave the safety of corporate life for the riskier path of being independent change agents. They’re looking for new ways to use their energy and experience to change the way organisations think about change, business development, innovation and leadership development.
Then there’s Joy who like Lisa, Abigail and me believes in making organisations meaningful, humane places. He works at the Global University of Islamic Finance, which wants to make its own particular dent in the universe. He has a way with words and ideas and is looking for other ways to share what he is passionate about.
We all believed in this stuff; it was going to be fun!
Coaching can be a powerful catalyst for personal and professional growth. The challenge is that there are so many people calling themselves coaches, and probably as many definitions of coaching as there are coaches.
That’s what vulnerability feels like according to Brené Brown. She also says:
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of connection and the path to the feeling of worthiness….The intention and outcome of vulnerability is trust, intimacy and connection.”
The problem is we all have our naked in public memories
This is mine:
When I was at junior school I loved to spend school break times on the climbing frames in the playground. I grew up in Zimbabwe and my memories are that climbing trees and building forts were equal opportunities activities – we weren’t locked in a pink ghetto back then.
However, being a girl did present some challenges. This was the seventies and school uniform was a very short blue and white checked dress. The answer was that we all also wore school issue matching “knickers” to preserve our dignity, if not our sense of style. This allowed me to indulge my eight year old passion for hanging upside down or swinging round and round on high parallel bars.
Except one day, as I flung my legs over the bar and let myself fall upside down, I realised something felt different.read more…
I confess that choosing a name for my blog was harder than naming my children. By settling on Coach with a Green Hat, I was inspired by Edward De Bono, often described as the “father of lateral thinking and creativity”.
De Bono says the Green Hat represents fresh perspectives, creativity and change.
I feel that Green Hat thinking is intrinsically “coaching thinking.” The Green Hat is also about allowing time to think, searching for alternatives, going beyond the obvious and provoking others to think differently.
I hope you’ll find this a place to think, reflect, laugh and learn.