Friday 30 July 2010

Why Can't I Coach Myself?

Hello Jane,

Your question:

why can't I [coach] myself?

- is an interesting one.

I invite you to look in at your life and ask if things are the way you want, and if not - why not?

The chances are that you struggle to stay focussed on any one issue long enough to make change happen, you're distracted, your motivation goes up and down, you fight off pessimism and fear, and you may simply not have the tools to understand some situations or to develop solutions. Those are crippling factors which I can help you with.

The remaining huge issue is HIDDEN BELIEFS.

Most of us think our intellects decide our behaviour - but that's simply untrue.

Think about obesity. It's not hard for our intellects to decide how to fix it - you eat less and you exercise more. But that's not what obese folks do.

It's the same story for people who live in unhappy marriages, in dismal jobs, and miserable lives. What drives behaviour is BELIEFS and astonishingly - even though our beliefs drive our behaviour, we may not not about many of the beliefs we hold inside us. When we're not aware of them, we cannot remove them and their power over our actions. We square this circle - we avoid seeing the huge gap in our thinking - by inventing secondary reasons for our actions.

Here's a real-life illustration.

I worked with a very smart, successful lady in her forties. She came to me to "sort out her life", as she put it. Because she was proud and smart, and to protect her self-image, her mind would not allow her to see things straight on - instead she had constructed distorted versions of reality. I worked very carefully with her to gently help her see these layers of falseness. With a few layers gone, we both saw that she was lonely, and wanted a life partner. That in itself was a big step to take. She felt naked but she was seeing more clearly, but there were still more layers to remove.

She told me, honestly, that it was virtually impossible to meet Mr. Right in her area because it was a run-down area of a Northern city. She believed this, and this distorted belief allowed her to avoid looking for Mr Right - with all of the frightening images of embarrassment, exposure and abject failure which a search might uncover. She was safe. Not her fault. Hah! I'm still worthy! But - she was still alone with no plan to fix it.

I asked her if she liked driving. She did. I asked her what the population of her city was - she said she didn't know but eventually we agreed that it was in excess of 100,000 people. I asked her about the role of location on intellect and class, and on why she lived where she did. Perhaps you can see where this is going. Without me needing to say it directly, I helped this lady to see the lie she was telling herself. The idea that Mr. Right could not possibly live within 30 minutes of her front door was clearly preposterous.

Now she was seeing clearly. She was not only lonely, but she was afraid. That self-image didn't sit well her the successful, wealthy lady she was, which is why her mind chose not to see it. THIS is what we humans do. We hide from the truth and we don't know we're doing it. And THIS is why we often cannot help ourselves.

From then on it's just work, but still a coach can help with maintaining motivation, positivity, stamina, injecting some humour, reminding the client why she's putting herself through all this, and so on.

Well, I hope that helps you out, Jane.

Wednesday 21 July 2010

Psychoanalysis, Hypnosis, NLP & Cliques at Work

Hello Jan,

To answer your questions, psychoanalysis is a kind of therapy associated with Freud, NLP is an umbrella term coined by Dr. Bandler for a set of ideas he developed on how minds work and some useful techniques emerge from that understanding, hypnosis is a way to help people to focus their minds and access more of them.

Different coaches use different techniques and any one coach may use different techniques for different clients and client issues.

Psychoanalysis and counselling are generally about understanding yourself or past events in order to find relief from mental anguish, whereas coaching is more focused on the present and the future and is for people who are broadly mentally healthy, but who are fed up with what they have and want something different.

My kind of coaching is primarily CBT - Cognitive Behavioural Therapy - in other words, we use our intellects through a phone conversation, to explore client situations and emotions, and the insights arising give us strategies for making positive changes. Central to my coaching is the role of hidden beliefs in the shaping of human lives. I sometimes use NLP techniques and you can see articles in my website on things like re-framing and dichotomic (black and white) thinking, Swish moves, and so on. I also use a raft of techniques I have acquired, learned and refined in my years of coaching practice.

Now let's look at your CHANGE ONE THING item - not belonging to a cliquey group and being undervalued at work. I call it "the playground mentality". In the playground right and wrong are trumped by popular and unpopular, and it's a shame because those school years are some of the most formative of our lives. As adults we should not need to endure such nonsense and a healthy culture at work would eliminate it, but it often doesn't, and cowardly managers are at the root of that.

How you tackle it depends as much on who you are and how far you're prepared to go as anything else. Usually there's a ring-leader; someone who is louder and more scary. People give them space and respect in order to avoid being attacked. Other group members support this "leader" to gain points and a kind of security, and so the dictatorship is self-sustaining.
Here are some ideas you might consider:
  • Confront them
  • Analyse the ring leader intellectually, and see what insights you can find to help you
  • Leave the company
  • Transfer within the company
  • Involve your boss or HR
  • Build alternative alliances
  • Befriend them - show them a better way to succeed
  • Shine and take a pride in not being a part of the clique
  • Ignore them
The problem is many of these require internal resources you may not currently have, because of the way things are. I can't re-build those for you in an email of course, but it's part of what I do for some clients.

Tuesday 20 July 2010

Willpower is Doomed - but Who Need It?

For a website customer:

Carrying some extra pounds has become the national hobby, and it's getting worse.
It's not difficult to see why - sedentary lifestyles and cheaper convenience foods - but it's rather more difficult to solve it.

In a sense it's easy - eat less, eat better, exercise more - but of course, that's offensively simplistic, because finding the motivation to do those things for a sustained period - or permanently - can be very difficult - or even impossible.

If there's one thing I've learned most clearly in all my years of coaching, (and you'll see it a lot in my writing) it's that "trying harder" doesn't generally work long-term, so we need new tools in the box to tackle this. And one of those is the "structural change" - which I'll briefly share with you.

Rather than doing something you hate because it's good for you - like going to the gym - find something you love to do, which - as a side effect - happens to be great exercise. I like to dance salsa, for example, and work on my allotment. I go because I like to go - not because I need the exercise (which of course, I do).

These tactics are immune to the "sod this - I'm done" syndrome - you'll carry on from selfish glee - not from super-human willpower, which - it turns out - is in short supply.

So one challenge for you is to find ONE THING which you can do to exercise more. It needs to get your heart rate and breathing up for at least 20 minutes - ideally 3 times a week.
Think radically - think NEW - if Linda is going to get change, then Linda needs to - well - change - and that involves a shift of mindset which can feel un-settling or even plain wrong.

Coaching helps with that, but if you can manage it, adopting this simple strategy can bring about major positive changes in your life.

Remember, the difference between success and failure is often as tiny as the difference between knowing and doing (which, it turns out - is usually huge!), so...

Give this a go!

Monday 19 July 2010

I Always wanted to be Someone, but I Should Have Been More Specific

Often when clients tell me the one thing they'd like to change - they say something like:
I'd like to be living life to the full

- entirely normal, but coaches know that it's not useful to formulate goals that way. I'm reminded of my favourite quote:
I always wanted to be someone,
but I should have been more specific
Also - there's:
a plan without date is just a dream

If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail
Same idea. Most of us have dreams which never materialise, and one big reason is our lack of specificity.

So the insight for you is to spell out what "living life to the full" means for you. It's very different for different people. I encourgae you to invest some time in doing that.

Here are the emotional obstacles you may find:

1. People don't take themselves seriously and so are reluctant to invest time or money in it
2. They may be pessimistic about how realistic their dreams are, and this will make them give up easily and lack confidence
3. They may be afraid of trying in case they fail - or in case they don't
4. Their lives are already full of stuff, leaving them drained and bewildered
5. They may lack the skills and the tools to make things happen

Filling those gaps for clients is what good professional coaches do.

I encourage you to take the first step, and get really specific about what you want from your life. There's a detailed article about that here.

Friday 16 July 2010

How Do You Eat an Elephant?

The answer is (all together now):

One Bite At A Time!

But what's that got to do with anything?

Well, sometimes people look at their lives and conclude that every aspect of it seems horrible. Being human, we tend to feel despondent and defeated, which of course, can make things worse.

So how do you set about changing that? Where do you start?

A key first step is to look at each element of your situation, and assess it for good and bad, and give it a score out of 10.

Areas might be:
  • health
  • family
  • social life
  • work
  • partner
  • environment
  • spiritual life
Then ask yourself:
"if I could fix ONE of these areas, thinking about how they relate to eachother, which one would bring the best positive change to my life?"
There are big benefits to this approach:
  1. It gets the miseries out of your worrying mind, and on to paper, where they can be scrutinised for accuracy, revised and improved over time.
  2. Once their "out there" you'll feel like you got relieved of a burden and the beginnings of control returning.
  3. By choosing one area - one bite at a time - it's more manageable - you can get enough traqction to make a difference.
If you're too emotionally low, with little energy and lots of pessimism, then you may struggle to take even these steps. In that case, coaching would really help you; our calls are filled with positive energy, a little humour when appropriate, no pressure and lots of creativity.

But if you can summon up enough energy to do this, then really good things can emerge.

Good Luck!

Monday 12 July 2010

Who Needs Perfection?

My ol' mum had a hard life, but, with a special strength of character, she learned to make the best of the little she had.

In the first house I can remember living in, the internal walls were not plastered - you could see the brickwork behind thick dark green paint. She couldn't afford to plaster, but she stuck layers of newspaper over the green paint, then painted it - poor man's plaster - not perfect, but better.

Some years later, we reached the dizzy heights of affluence with our first fridge. It was very rusty, but - mum's solution? She wallpapered it! Not perfect, certainly not permanent, and II can't really award any style points either, really - but it was better.

Decades on, when her grown-up children would come to visit her, we used to joke that we'd better keep moving - if you stood still long enough. mum might wallpaper you.

Unfortunately, in childhood, I acquired the opposite tendency - moving towards dichotomic or "black-and-white" thinking. If a thing wasn't perfect, it was useless. I cut off vast swathes of opportunity, thinking in that mode, and it took me a long time to get rid of that style of thinking.

In my earlier management career, and now as a consultant and coach, I see it in my clients. In the middle of a difficult, complex situation, people cast about for a solution, but they reject most or all because they can be faulted - they are not perfect. That's a shame because in real life, perfection is seldom an option. So the name of the game is making things better, not making things perfect.

So the tip is pretty straightforward (most good ideas are) but the secret it to go beyond nodding sagely, and apply it in your own life - often.

Don't sit waiting for perfect - if you see better, go for it.

This is almost universally applicable. You may not have met Mr Right, but why not risk a meal with Mr. Pretty Good? Maybe you can't find the ideal house in your area at a price you can afford, but is it worth upgrading anyway - to something that's better, sooner? Are you waiting to throw that dinner party until you've lost weight? Do it now. Embracing fully what's available is likely to be far more rewarding than sitting where you are lamenting what's not.

Go forth and compromise!

Friday 2 July 2010

How can I improve self confidence when I am ugly?

How can I improve self confidence when I am ugly? I am balding and fat?

I am fat and bald and I can't get a girl, whats more I am a nice guy so my chances go right out the windown cause i hear chicks like the vad boy, they like guys who treat them like $hit. My mum didnt raise me to be like that to women.
My Answer:
Bald is IN! You don't say how fat you are, but (a) you can fix it and (b) it needn't be a big turn-off. Remember that women are different animals to men; they are not looking for perfect complexions, delicate features and good symmetry. The whole "UGLY" thing is a self-fulfilling prophecy; if you think you're ugly, you'll behave in reclusive ways (no eye contact, hanging back, being sombre) which will make women ignore you. This will re-enforce your notion that you're ugly - but it's your behaviour, not your appearance which is probably to blame.

I've written a lot more about that on my website - see the source below.

Good Luck!



Thursday 1 July 2010

Getting it Wrong

 One of the things I learned in my corporate life was that you can't manage what you can't measure, and so measuring (or "metrics") are an important management tool, especially where providing a service is concerned.

That's why I always send out a survey when I've delivered a service. If you've been reading my newsletters for a while, you'll get a survey. If you've been coached my me, you'll get a survey, and so on.

We all enjoy hearing the nice things about us, but really, they're an indication to keep doing what you're doing. The really powerful feedback is the negative stuff, because it tells you how you can change for the better. If you can get over the personal left hook (or even not see it in those terms) then this stuff is gold dust.

Here's a recent survey return from a lady I coached. She has given me her permission to use it.
Hi Chris,

I'm fine, thanks...

Please see [my survey] responses below in blue.

1. How do you rate this service - marks out of 10 - 10 being excellent?


2. How could I improve this service for you?
Each occasion felt a bit rushed.  Not necessarily because of anything said.  Somehow, having just 45 minutes to do the work needed, means that there's immediate pressure to achieve results.    Suggest offering a whole hour - that extra 15 minutes could make an important psychological difference.  Maybe reduce the content of newsletters (I do appreciate them, but don't always read everything) and pass the time saved on to clients.

3. What other services would you use if I made them available (indicate price where appropriate)?

I know coaching effectively relies on the coachee being focused and pro active in thier own sessions (leading sessions in their own way as they are paying for your services), however, I wonder if everyone who wants coaching is completely ready from the start.  For myself (looking back) - it could have been helpful to feel relaxed enough to explore & address those feelings of urgency a bit more.  Since this (counselling) is a job which requires a different, but just as technical, skill - price would need to be about the same.

4. What other comments do you have?

I am not sure that my 3 sessions have been as effective as expected.  Certainly, doing the work on values was very useful, but apart from that, I don't feel that I have a much clearer view of where I want to be looking for a different path.  I left our sessions with a some direction - to scan different career/new job paths and to get back in touch if I felt I needed to.  So far, I have not had the ureka moment I had hoped for, and don't feel I can justify the cost of more coaching.  I'm wondering if coaching was the right thing for me at the time I embarked on it.

Hope that's helpful....Elisabeth


Here's the dialogue which followed:

Hi Elizabeth,

Thanks for your time in completing the survey. I'd like to respond to give you my take on things and demonstrate that I'm paying attention, to show you what I've done to make things better and sometimes to invite further dialogue.

On the hurrying issue, I was very aware of this and I recall that we spoke about it. It crops up now and then, and usually a comment or two from me will fix it. But I currently have a client who I am struggling with in the same way. He won't get the hint. On the one hand, I want to give you what you want from the sessions, but I also want to give you value for money and in this connection, I note your later comment about not really getting much, which I'll come back to.

I've given this a lot of thought. I have added a note to the coaching agreement as follows:

12. A NOTE ABOUT TALKING: Your session is for you. You’ve paid for it, and you can use it as you choose. If you want to vent about your situation or roam freely through ideas then you’re welcome to, and it’s sometimes very useful. People often feel they are helping when they give me a complete background – a total brain dump. But please understand that when you do this, you have taken control of the session and disabled my coaching. If I try to interject to bring us back on track, people can take offence or feel rushed, which can and break rapport. You are paying more than a pound per minute; coaching works best when you listen to the questions and answer them with appropriate length. When you have answered the question – stop! If I need more I can ask for it.

On your suggestion of hour-long sessions. Firstly, I don't think it would solve the problem; people tend to overrun whatever boundaries they are given. Secondly, it would mean I could no longer schedule on-the-hour appointments - the chat about homework and next appointment would overflow to maybe 10 past the next hour. The main newsletters are all already written and in a database, so there is no ongoing effort for me in sending them out. I do voluntarily overrun sometimes - if I think we need to reach a point we haven't and there are no operational reasons to preclude the overrun.

I'm not sure I understand your second comment fully. I think you are proposing that I move into counselling mode if it becomes clear the client wants to speak reflectively at length. I am not a councillor, but perhaps the coaching agreement clause above might help. I can allude to it and tactfully and give the choice to the client.

On your third comment, I'm sorry you didn't find as much value as you had hoped. This is the cleft stick I'm in! I also wanted more progress for you, but I knew my "re-focusing" was seen as unwelcome hurrying, so I felt I had to let large chunks of our sessions go by whilst you spoke at length on things which I felt would not take us anywhere helpful.

Well, my solution (the agreement clause) is far from perfect. I'd welcome other ideas if you have them. IN the meantime I would be happy to give you a free session to try to get you some more progress if you like.

I would like to post this dialogue to my testimonials page, Elizabeth. (seems only fair - I post the good stuff!). Would you be OK with that? I'd change your name.

Best Wishes,
What you say makes sense - and confirms my thought that I sought coaching too soon.
I was looking for that moment when everything would just slot into place and I would just know what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.
The truth is that my situation is still too 'crowded' with emotion and my life remains 'on hold' for the present.  In my case, coaching was difficult for me because I had a need to talk through stuff and (I sense) frustrating (in respect of your genuine desire to help me find my solutions) for you.
Counselling - the completely opposite discipline to life coaching - whilst also client led, is concerned wholly with giving time and space to explore feelings.  The first things one learns about counselling are to keep quiet and not lead the client on to a subject they are not ready to discuss.
This is what I now know I need.
Your new note for your coaching agreement expresses exactly what it needs to.  I might not have used the term 'brain dump', and favoured something more like 'off loading'.
I'm a great believer in offering feedback when it is requested (and sometimes when it is not !), so I am glad if this helps others come to a decision about their readiness to have coaching.  Accordingly, I'm very happy for you to use this on your testimonials page - and don't mind if you use my real name (it is quite common after all) - unless it's your company's policy not to.
As for your kind offer of a free session - thank you very much, but can we take a rain check on it ? 
Can we agree, that if I haven't contacted you by the end of this year - we can assume that I won't need it or have procrastinated so often that my time will be 'up' ?  Either way, you can then be 'released' from your commitment to offer of a free session.
Every experience can be looked at in a positive way, and I continue my life's journey with some good stuff from being coached.
Best regards
So, this is a good illustration of how negative feedback is a really great thing - it's one of the dominant mechanisms for making things better - which is also known as growth. I also wanted to give you more insights into what really happens in coaching.

I invite you to ask for feedback often, and to take what you hear as the truth, and as the gold dust it really is.