Take a look through someone else’s eyes: the power of perspective

Have you ever been in this situation?

You look across the office to see a colleague looking angry or distressed. ‘What’s wrong?‘ you ask.

Look at this email I’ve had – unbelievable!‘ comes the reply.

You go over to read the email and you can’t quite see what’s got your colleague so riled up.

Or how about this?

You’re having lunch a friend, the waiter brings over your sandwiches and is – to your mind – a bit brusque in his manner. As he walks away, you ask your friend, ‘what’s his problem?‘ and she frowns quizzically as she wonders what you’re talking about.

It seems that our mood can affect the way we interpret situations.

Imagine you’re having a great day, getting through loads of work and are just waiting for one final figure to be confirmed before you finish your report and send it off. Your email pings and you read this:

‘46% increase year on year

Nothing else. Just that. How do you react?

‘Brilliant! Just what I need,’ you think as you cut and paste that into your report and send it off.

It’s all good.

Now imagine that your day’s not going quite so well, you’re stressed about the report and you just wish your frustrating colleague would finally reply to your request for that information. You read this:

‘46% increase year on year’

Nothing else. Just that. How do you react?

Charming! Rude so-and-so. Kept me waiting all that time and can’t even apologise for the delay. Wait until he needs something from me. I’ll show him.’

hakawati stories perspective alameddine

We don’t always see things the same way as others – remember the blue and black dress that looked white and gold?

My coaching clients and I often talk about how to shift perspective and re-frame situations. Here are some of the questions we ask ourselves:

If I’d got the same response from a close friend, how would I feel?

At my best, how would I respond to this?

What might be going on for the other person here?

What’s another way of interpreting their response?

(If you’d like some other helpful questions, do check out another of my posts – Try a new frame.)

Today’s pebble for your consideration: will you take a look at a difficult situation from a different perspective?

Michelle

Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.

If you’d like a coach to help you take a look from a different perspective and make the most of your potential,
why not email me to see how we can work together?

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Want to get stuff done?

Whoever we are, whatever our employment status, we’re all subject to deadlines.

What do we do with deadlines?

Maybe you put them in your online calendar, write them in paper diary, add them to a wall planner. Then what happens?

You see them on your phone or on your wall. You think to yourself ‘oh, my tax return’s not due until 31 January. That’s ages away.’ Perhaps you’ve noted down your nephew’s birthday – that’s three weeks away. Plenty of time to get a gift.

What happens next?

A colleague mentions that January seems to have gone on forever but at least it’s February in a couple of days – wait, what? Two days until February! Suddenly you’re hurrying home to log on and fill in your tax return.

Your sister calls and reminds you that it’s Ben’s party on Saturday as his birthday’s on a school day and all of a sudden you realise there’s no longer time to order that personalised gift you’d thought of and you have to go with something you can find in your lunch hour.

For those of my coaching clients with time management issues, those two examples are only too recognisable.

priorities schedule Covey watches time

How can we make deadlines less deadly?

Rather than making a note of the ‘due date’, I encourage my clients to schedule a ‘do date’. Choose a day when you will gather all of the information for your tax return and complete it. Look at the date of Ben’s birthday and work out when you’d need to buy and post his gift.

This isn’t just useful on a weekly or monthly basis: you can use it for your daily routines too. Rather than set yourself a deadline for when you need to leave in order to catch your train and hoping that you get everything done, work out how long your morning routine takes and allocate that time to ‘do’ leaving the house. One of my clients did this and actually moved some tasks to the night before in order to streamline his mornings.

With just over two weeks to go until Christmas, many of my friends and family have very hectic schedules: perhaps you do too. With that in mind …

Today’s pebble for your consideration: can you set a ‘do date’ instead of a ‘due date’?

Michelle

Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.

If you’d like a coach to help you succeed and make the most of your potential,
why not email me to see how we can work together?

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Can collaboration create more success than competition?

We’re told it’s a ‘dog eat dog’ world but does it have to be?

A client of mine – let’s call him Matt – is a solo entrepreneur in competitive marketplace. He was feeling frustrated that someone in the same field had ‘borrowed’ some of his content from his website. ‘If he’d just got in touch with me and asked if he could use it, I’d have been fine with that. I’d rather collaborate than compete.

How can we build collaboration with others?

Matt’s comment led us on to an interesting discussion about how we can start to collaborate with others and here are some of the ideas generated:

Sign up:

Subscribe to their newsletter; follow them on Twitter – whatever options are open to you. Show that you’re interested and supportive.

Say thanks:

We all like to be appreciated! If you read something written by your new connection online that you like, post a comment to thank them.

Share:

It’s always great to see your work shared and appropriately credited so why not return the favour? Whether it’s through your website, your newsletter, or LinkedIn, you can share interesting and inspiring work by your ‘competitors’ and maybe turn them into collaborators.

Make introductions:

In my coaching work, I connect with people from all walks of life. Sometimes a need arises and I know just the person to fulfil it – with the appropriate permission from both parties, I can introduce and recommend them to each other. Matt is in a similar position and is going to look for opportunities to facilitate introductions to other suppliers and clients.

Ask for help:

This one can be a challenge for some – isn’t it a bit vulnerable to say we don’t know how to do something? Maybe so but better to ask and learn than stay silent and struggle. If this is a one-to-one request, you have the opportunity to thank the helper publicly. If you seek and receive advice through social media, you could be helping so many other people.

And of course, the flip side of this one is …

Offer help:

Notice a request for a recommendation or help with an issue online? How can you help? If you don’t have the skill set or experience, do you know someone who does?

Meet up:

Are the networking events in your locality too generic? Can you set up a more focussed group? Meeting with other coaches and therapists helps me to continually hone and develop my skills and hear about new ideas. Is there space for an online community where you can bring contribution-minded people together? A friend recently created a fantastic community for female photographers called She Clicks and it’s wonderful to see how that’s grown to over 1700 members in just a few months. I introduced Matt to the concept of John Stepper’s Working Out Loud circles and he’s working towards creating one early next year.

Those are just seven ways of building collaboration: I’m sure there are many more.

Today’s pebble for you to ponder: will you seek to collaborate rather than compete?

Michelle

Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.

If you’d like a coach to help you succeed and make the most of your potential,
why not email me to see how we can work together?

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Three words to build better relationships

In an average day, how many times do you say ‘hello‘ (or its equivalent)?

How many times do you ask ‘how are you?‘?

How many times do you answer ‘fine‘ without really thinking about it? How many times do you hear the answer ‘fine‘ and just accept it without digging any deeper?

As an introvert, I’m not a fan of small talk – I prefer to get down to the ‘big talk’ – but I recognise that all relationships start somewhere.

What if we could greet one another in a way which showed the other person that we are completely engaged with them, that we’re not distracted by our gadgets or our activity, and that our only intent is to be right there with them in that moment?

Earlier this year, one of my clients  – let’s call him Nick – took on a new employee, a young woman brought up in South Africa. At a social occasion, she told Nick about how she and her friends used to greet one another.

They would say ‘sawubona‘. It doesn’t translate as ‘hello‘ or ‘greetings‘. It translates as ‘I see you.

She explained that there are several possible responses. Her favourite is ‘ngikhona‘ – ‘I am here.

I see you – I am here

When Nick told me about this, I was struck by the power of these words. We are often so busy that we fail to fully acknowledge or recognise others. We fail to engage and be mindful in our interactions. We mention to another friend that we bumped into so-and-so at lunchtime and then when asked how they were, we realise that we don’t actually know because neither party went beyond a hurried phatic expression.

As an experiment, Nick’s team have started to greet one another with ‘I see you‘ and ‘I am here‘ – he said it had started off as a bit of fun but actually after a few weeks, they were all noticing that relationships were strengthening within the team.

Today’s pebble for you to ponder: are you really seeing the people you greet each day? 

Michelle

Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.

If you’d like a coach to help you succeed and make the most of your potential,
why not email me to see how we can work together?

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It’s not just the Millennials who have an issue with technology

There’s a clip on YouTube of Simon Sinek talking to Tom Bilyeu about millennials in the workplace which has been viewed over 9 million times. If you haven’t seen it before, here it is – and it’s well worth watching:

(You can also read a transcript here if you’d prefer that)

The talk is about why millennials aren’t happy at work and Sinek talks about the missing piece – or the missing four pieces – that he sees:

  1. Parenting
  2. Technology
  3. Parenting
  4. Environment

It was his words on technology which particularly struck me – here are a few key sentences:

‘An entire generation now has access to an addictive, numbing chemical called dopamine, through cell phones and social media, while they are going through the high stress of adolescence.’ 

‘…because we are allowing unfettered access to these devices and media, basically it is becoming hard-wired and what we are seeing is that they grow older, too many kids don’t know how to form deep, meaningful relationships.’

‘Deep meaningful relationships are not there because they never practiced the skill set and worse, they don’t have the coping mechanisms to deal with stress. So when significant stress begins to show up in their lives, they’re not turning to a person, they’re turning to a device, they’re turning to social media, they’re turning to these things which offer temporary relief.’

‘These things balanced, are not bad. Alcohol is not bad, too much alcohol is bad. Gambling is fun, too much gambling is dangerous. There is nothing wrong with social media and cell phones, it’s the imbalance.’

As I watched it and thought about the conversations I have with my coaching clients, I realised that Sinek’s comments don’t just apply to millennials. My client list ranges from those in their twenties to those in their fifties and that imbalanced place of technology in our lives comes up time and time again. Sure, the older clients may be digital immigrants rather than digital natives but the lure of the screen can be just as strong.

Just before the recent UK half-term school break, a client – let’s call her Megan – and I came up with a list of actions order to help her step away from her devices and step towards more face-to-face interactions.

Be pragmatic

Megan’s phone has a ‘screen time’ feature which tells her how much time she spends doing what on her various devices: that made sobering reading! However, going ‘cold turkey’ and locking away all her devices wasn’t going to work for Megan. For a start, she no longer owns a stand alone camera and she didn’t want to miss out on taking photos of her family on holiday.

Megan decided that she didn’t need access to her laptop or her tablet at all for a week so she would leave them in a drawer at home.

We then went through her phone and reviewed her apps. Megan decided to temporarily deactivate most of her social media accounts. On reflection, she decided to permanently delete Twitter on the basis that it seemed to lead her into having – or ‘listening in on’ – unhelpful conversations with strangers: conversations she’d never have had in real life.

Rather than temporarily remove her work email app from her phone, Megan decided to allocate 15 minutes each morning and evening to review and if necessary reply to any messages. She decided to have her phone set to ‘do not disturb’ using the feature which would allow calls from selected individuals to come through.

Having realised from her screen time analysis that she was going to have about 90 minutes extra free each day over the week, she asked her family how she should spend that time. Board games, cooking dinner together, playing outside, watching a film together, making a kite, and going window-shopping all went on the activity list. Megan also asked her children to be in charge of taking photos with her phone and at the end of the day, they reviewed the photos together and selected one photo to post on her social media account.

As the holiday is now over, I asked Megan how it went. She admitted that she’d gone over her 15 minute limit a couple of times with work emails but apart from that it had been a success. ‘The first couple of days were quite hard – I kept reaching for my phone whilst watching the children play – but then I made a conscious effort to put the phone down and go and play with them. My husband and I have decided that we’re going to start putting our phones away on Saturday nights and not picking them up again until Monday morning. We’ve had to go and buy an alarm clock though!’

Simon Sinek would be very happy to hear that.

Today’s pebble for your thoughts: is it time for you to audit your use of technology and make some changes?

I’m not immune to the lure of technology either so I’ve decided to take a step back for a fortnight: I’ll be back on the blog on 23 November.

Michelle

Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.

If you’d like a coach to help you succeed and make the most of your potential,
why not email me to see how we can work together?

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Want a different outcome? Choose how you respond

Last week, one of my clients – let’s call him Paul – was telling me about how frustrated he becomes when certain things happen.

‘What really irritates me is that the end result is always the same. I’m annoyed, stressed and distracted. I can’t snap out of it. It’s like an equation: this particular event always equals annoyance, stress and distraction.’

When he said ‘equation’, I had a lightbulb moment where I remembered something I’d read by Jack Canfield.

‘What if we could change that equation by adding another element?’

‘Sure – can we subtract something so it all just goes away?’ Paul laughed.

‘Not this time – we’re going to add something,’ I said as I grabbed a pen and wrote out this equation:

E + R = O

in full, Event plus Response equals Outcome.

Canfield shows us that the event doesn’t always have to produce the same outcome. In other words, Paul can change the outcome of an event by adding in a response.

You’re probably asking the same question Paul did – how do I do that?

Someone* wrote ‘between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

*Often attributed to Viktor Frankl, the origin of this quote is uncertain.

So the key to changing the outcome of a particular event is to use the space to choose a response rather than going with an automatic or conditioned response.

Step one

Recognise that we have the capability to choose our response. The fact that we reacted a certain way in the past doesn’t mean we always have to react like that.

Step two 

Make sure there is a space! We need to give ourselves time to formulate a better response. The time you need may be dependent on the nature of the event: the response to being interrupted by a colleague in a meeting will take less time than choosing how to respond to the fact that someone’s just driven into the back of your car.

Step three

In that space, step back from the situation and look at it objectively. I took Paul through the emotional body scan technique which he will use to help him clarify his feelings. A third-person perspective can also be helpful. Once we can see what’s going on in our minds, we’re ready for the final stage.

Step four

What’s the outcome you’d like to see? Whilst we cannot control events, we can influence outcomes by choosing a response that will lead to that outcome.

Paul is now equipped with more understanding about the fact that he has the power to choose his response and some techniques to help him do so.

Today’s pebble for you to ponder: will you use E +R = O to help you create a better outcome? 

Michelle

Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.

If you’d like a coach to help you succeed and make the most of your potential,
why not email me to see how we can work together?

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Do you ever talk yourself out of opportunities?

When I was a child, I used to get myself quite worked up before going to events. I was shy and felt awkward walking into a classroom, a birthday party or a family celebration. What’s interesting about this is that it happened even when it was something I really wanted to do. However much I’d been looking forward to it, I’d tend to make excuses as to why I shouldn’t or couldn’t go.

Thankfully, my mum knew exactly what to say to me: ‘you’ll be alright when you get there.’ She said it to me so frequently that it became a bit of a joke and before she even said anything, I’d say to her ‘I know, I know, I’ll be alright when I get there.

In the interests of full disclosure, I still feel like that sometimes. Whenever I find myself talking myself out of something and making excuses for myself, I say to myself ‘I’ll be alright when I get there.

In coaching sessions, clients sometimes tell me about instances where they talk themselves out of things. They say things like:

  • it’s not practical
  • it’s not realistic
  • it’s too expensive
  • I’m too old
  • they’ll laugh at me
  • it’s not thoroughly justified
  • I’m not ready
  • it’s too risky
  • I’m not good enough
  • I’m too young

Frequently, these limiting beliefs are excuses based on fear and they stop us doing things we’d like to do. We can dispel these limiting beliefs by asking ourselves ‘is this a fact or is it an assumption?

What might happen if we pushed through those excuses and did them anyway? We know what my mum would say. Author of ‘How to win friends and influence people’, Dale Carnegie said:

‘Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage.

If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.’

dale carnegie fear confidence courage

Every time we are presented with an opportunity, we can make a choice. We can choose to believe our excuses and stay at home or we can get out of our own way and get out there. I see my clients practise this with small decisions so that they are ready to take on bigger decisions, decisions based on fact and not on assumptions, and decisions that will allow them to do what it is they truly want to do.

It’ll be alright when you get there.

Today’s pebble for your thoughts: is it time for you to take action in order to breed confidence and courage?

Michelle

Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.

If you’d like a coach to help you succeed and make the most of your potential,
why not email me to see how we can work together?

 

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