Amanda’s comment on my last post “it’s easy to become so self consumed in negativity when you fail to turn it around on the spot” got me thinking about the voices we all hear giving us a commentary on how we are doing. No you’re not crazy, it’s part of our nature.
“Who do you think you are, thinking you could be a Partner in this firm”
“What an idiot you are – you got that wrong again”
“It’s no good applying for that job because there will be hundreds of people better qualified than me”
Where do they come from? often from people who admonished us in our early life – some even hear the actual voices of those people, for others it’s a voice of their own invention.
So what can you do?
- Remember that it takes 28 days to change a habit – that’s good news! it’s not going to take forever to change the habit of a lifetime – just 28 days of conscious focus and effort to develop a new habit of saying positive things to yourself. For example: “OK, so I got it wrong today – next time I’ll be better able to catch myself quicker”, “I am worthy of this success”, “I’ll give it a go – because even if I don’t get it right this time I’ll have learn something and I’ll be more successful next time”
- Believe that ‘There is no failure, only feedback’. A coachee of mine, when he realises in retrospect he’s made a duff decision, comes up with a better solution and says to himself, “OK, I’ve had an idea about how we can do this better”. I’m not saying never admit to making a mistake, but do think about what new possibilities there now are. Believe also that ‘we all make the best decision at the time based on the information available to us’. These are what’s known in NLP as ‘beliefs of excellence’
- Remember you’re in good company: Thomas Edison said “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”. “Many of life’s failures are men who did not realise how close they were to success when they gave up.”
How have you changed the voices in your head for the better? Do post your ideas below.
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The thing about sabotage of course is that it’s secret and stealthy, which means you don’t know it’s happening. The same applies whether someone else is doing it to you or whether you are doing it to yourself! sounds bizarre? why would anyone sabotage themselves you may ask? well that is the difference I suppose, that at least it’s done with purpose if it’s done to someone or something else. When you do it to yourself it’s accidental and you don’t even realise – until a helpful coach draws your attention to it that is!
Here are a few self-sabotaging techniques I’ve seen work really well:
- self-deprecating humour which tells everyone “I’m a joke” – then wonder why no one takes you seriously or listens to your words of wisdom
- starting presentations by apologising, for instance for how boring the subject is or how little time you’ve had to prepare – ie inviting your audience be bored by you or look for mistakes or anything that’s not quite as polished as it might be
- focusing on what you don’t want to happen – like when you ride a bike and think “I mustn’t hit that kerb” – what do you do….? Henry Ford, of Ford Motors fame, said “whether you think you can or you think you can’t – you’re right” (Not sure if that was before or after he said “you can have any colour you like as long as it’s black” :)) In other words if you think you can do something you’ll find a way, if you think you can’t do it you’ll also find ways to fail (consciously or unconsciously!)
- failing to ‘Begin with the end in mind’ or to set yourself some BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) – a manager said to me only a few days ago that he needed to think through the steps before envisioning the outcome – but how can you plan what you’re going to do if you don’t know where you want to end up?!
I know these work, I’ve tried them myself!
So how to set yourself up for success rather than failure? here are some tips taking the examples above – and I know these work too, because I use them myself:
- examine your sense of humour – it’s wonderful to have a GSOH but what DO you make jokes and quips about? if it’s about yourself and not complimentary listen to what others are witty about and see what you can learn – you don’t want to lose your sense of humour, just refocus it
- at presentations focus on your audience rather than on yourself – what are they going to gain from listening to you, how can you make it great for them?
- focus your attention on what you want and what you are capable of, not the things that can go wrong or what you don’t want to happen
- think about what you really want and envision it
More on envisioning for your success next time as this is such a powerful technique for achieving what you want.
In the meantime – how do you sabotage yourself? – or how have you stopped sabotaging yourself? do post your thoughts below and let’s share our collective wisdom. (What’s the worst that can happen?) I really look forward to hearing from you.
 Stephen Covey: The Seven Habits of Highly Successful people
 James C Collins and Jerry I Porras: Built to Last
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Like many of us maybe you know that you are different with some people or in certain situations and that they can bring out either the best or the worst in you – and quite likely you don’t really know why. Or maybe you’ve not really noticed? One manager I worked with was told by their boss that they were best with their team when they were relaxed – and was consequently instructed to ‘be relaxed’! – ever tried to be relaxed to order? anything that makes you more tense than being told to relax or more stressed or angry than when to told to keep calm! The intention was good but the effect not as intended! so we set out to find that ‘relaxed self’……….
This is again something you can do on your own although it’s a lot easier to do with a coach or a trusted confidante – here are some tips/steps:
- think about when and with whom you are at your best – it may be at your best overall or maybe a particular quality or behaviour that you want to find, as mentioned above. To help you decide this think about when you FEEL your best and when you get the best response from others, or you can ask your confidante
- then do the same with a situation/people you are not comfortable with
- talk out loud about these situations – what’s the environment, who’s there, what are they like, what are you doing and saying, how are you interacting, what thoughts and feelings are triggered when you describe all this? what do these people have in common with you – what’s important to them and you?
- from this what conclusions can you draw about when you are and are not at your best – for instance, you may be fine working with people you regard as being of lower or similar status/position/education and overawed or intimidated by those you regard as higher; many women find they are uncomfortable working with alpha males (not to mention many men as well!) but thrive with other women or less competitive/aggressive men.
- that’s the easy bit – now what do you do about it? well it really depends what you have discovered but here are a few ideas that I know work:
- in the case of the manager mentioned above, although they were a very senior manager they felt they were ‘just Joe from the village’ and nothing special – I told them about ‘Imposter Syndrome’ http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/05/health/05mind.html and then they WERE able to relax knowing that they were not alone in feeling a fraud and afraid of being ‘found out’
- or visualise yourself being successful in the relationship or situation – really imagine what you want to be like when you’ve finished the meeting or whatever – this has worked brilliantly for me, for instance when I had to run a second meeting with a group of managers where the first had been a disaster! rather than running over and over what had gone wrong and worrying that it would do so again I focused on what I wanted it to be like. A few meetings later they actually gave me a round of applause at the end!
- or you can ‘map across’ ie analyse what you think, feel, do and say in your successful situations and aim to replicate those in other situations eg if you are good at presentations to peers but not to senior managers, what do you do in those successful scenarios?
So what are your tips for finding your best self? what’s worked for you? when are you at your best and worst? what would you like help/tips on?
Following on from the imposter syndrome – next time: how do you sabotage yourself?
Picture: © JJ – Fotolia.com
So what’s it like working for you? how would you like to work for you? Great questions to ask yourself …..and answer honestly!
There was a real light bulb moment for a manager I was working with a little while ago – they were learning to use a coaching (rather than telling) approach and while practicing the skills – sitting back, asking questions and actively listening – they had a huge revelation.
Their normal style was to rush around the office, picking up issues, providing solutions to any and every problem that floated in front of them, believing that they alone were responsible for resolving every difficulty – they suddenly realised that their rushing around was infecting all of their team with the same anxiety and stress and putting everyone on edge. The insight immediately gave them a choice about the impact they were having and they were also developing the skills to enable them to have quite a different effect – to create an atmosphere of joint problem solving and calm thinking space, of creative energy and inspiration!
It’s amazing how many managers who, for one reason or another, know very clearly how they are performing against their targets and objectives but don’t realise the effect they are having on their team and whether they are really helping or hindering them in doing their jobs to the best of their ability. So if you haven’t thought about it for a while, or maybe at all, now could be a good time to ask yourself those 2 questions at the start and then think how you would like to infect your team – if the two don’t match up you can then start to work out what you need to do to be more like the leader you ideally want to be.
Next time: how do you make that a reality?
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There’s a huge clamour; people talking over each other or a succession of people making their points, arguing their case. Or maybe it’s one long monologue after another. Talk, talk, talk and not much listening but everyone thinks they’re doing a great job at this meeting because they have said a lot. And there’s nothing that makes sense of it all and moves it towards a conclusion and decision. Until…… there’s a calm and confident voice that hasn’t been heard so far that makes a few really pertinent points and brings everything together – the hubbub subsides, there’s space for everyone to take stock and everything is refocused on the aim of the meeting. This voice is the one that has authority and is soon recognised as such by the whole team.
How do I know? one of my coachees wanted to have more impact at meetings so I asked him who had the most authority at meetings he attended. After a few moments thought he realised that it was the person who habitually said least but came in at a critical point with something that made a real difference. By changing his behaviour he has now become recognised as the person who gets things done at meetings, increasing his authority and status both in meetings and in the leadership team as a whole.
So how do you do that? In short:
- sit back quietly and really listen
- identify patterns and themes, points of common ground and difference and how your view fits
- jot down key ideas
- summarise, make your points succinctly and propose a way forward which takes account of all views expressed, not just your own
And of course always use this power with positive intentions!
What’s your top tip for making meetings fruitful and using them to enhance your influence and impact? please add your ideas to the comments below.
Next time: how are you infecting your team?
Over many years working with professional people (eg lawyers, chartered surveyors, software developers, engineers, HR specialists) I have found that the biggest challenge they face is to adapt to their new role and identity when they reach a leadership role, either in direct management or leading a virtual team such as a project team. This blog is a resource for you as a successful professional or as an HR manager, L&D specialist or coach supporting such professionals – it’s here to help make the leadership transition less painful.
Why is that important for professionals in leadership? Does this sound familiar? Just when you reach a pinnacle in your professional development, you find that the things which made you successful are no longer enough. You are no longer just ‘doing’ the job (in fact you have largely to stop doing the job), you have to start ‘being’ a leader or manager. Your whole self image has to change and your level of confidence and competence can plummet. And even after that initial shock and your ‘soft skills’ increase there is always more to learn about leadership – just as you focus on your Continuing Professional Development in your chosen field you also need dedication to your CPD in leadership and management.
That is what this blog is for. It will give you easy to digest ideas and tips that have really worked with leaders I have worked with, coached, mentored and trained. It’s also a forum for you to discuss and share ideas about the challenges, opportunities, stresses and joys of leading, motivating and developing other professionals – you are not alone!
What are the main challenges you are facing right now? Frequently mentioned to me are: how to influence when you don’t have formal authority, sheer pressure of time and how to prioritise. Please post your thoughts below so I can include issues of most concern to you.
My next post: the one thing you should do to have most influence and impact at meetings.
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