What’s your Calling?

Would you describe what you do as a job, a career or a calling?  I guess many might say that… “it’s all about the paycheck!!”,  and may go on to say, “….if only I had the luxury to think about what I do as anything other than just a job.”   For many people, finding a job, any job, that will pay the bills is all they are after.  Some might see what they do as a part of a career. One stage in a long-term plan.  For these people, while the paycheck is clearly important, it is not the only motivation for them doing what they do. Promotion, status, power, amongst other expectations, also serve to drive people’s ambitions.  So, what is a calling?  It is tempting to think about ‘a calling’ in spiritual terms, perhaps conjuring images of people who devote their life to serving God, or perhaps a scientist, who believes passionately in a particular theory, and commits her life to proving its validity.

thehappyproject.com

thehappyproject.com

Experiencing what you do as ‘a calling’ need not be so extreme however.  Martin Seligman in his superb book, “Authentic Happiness” (2003), examines the scientific evidence pertaining to this area, and the conditions necessary to create meaningful and fulfilled lives regardless of the type of work one does. One of the key studies discussed in Seligman’s book relates to hospital cleaners. Some within the group describe their ‘job’ simply as ‘cleaning up rooms’, while others defined the work more in terms of a ‘calling’ by making it meaningful.  They viewed what they do as “critical in helping patients to heal”, they time their work to be maximally efficient, and try to anticipate the needs of doctors and nurses to allow them to spend more time with the patients.  In extreme cases, some even ‘added tasks’ to what was expected of them, for example, by brightening up patients’ rooms with cheerful pictures and prints.

Living a ‘meaningful life’ is one of the core pillars underpinning Positive Psychology and which is closely linked to happiness and mental health. Despite real income in the western world having risen dramatically (at least in the most prosperous nations) in the last 50 years or so, wealth has a low correlation with happiness. So too does job promotion or good job prospects. Physical attractiveness and physical health also fail to pass any positive correlation test. Other ‘seemingly happy’ factors such as age (youth), education level and climate also fail to predict greater happiness or sense of well-being.So, what is the secret?  The answer is not simple (if only it were!), but the concept of Flow  (I recommend the excellent and seminal work on this topic by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi)  provides an excellent model to help us start to understand the conditions necessary to achieve a meaningful life.  When people describe experiencing ‘flow’, they report total absorption in the task at hand, a feeling akin to a suspension of consciousness.  It feels like time has stopped. Many of us have experienced this extreme Continue reading

Advertisements

Coaching by nudges

A recent post on this blog about “what coaching is“, as usual prompted further questions and requests for more information on what coaching entails.  Clearly there remain misunderstandings about the role of coaching within businesses and organisations, with some people still associating it with a form of remedial ‘treatment’. Having said that, I do see far greater awareness and understanding today, than even a few short years ago. Not so long ago, you might have heard a reaction from a colleague that went something like this.

“Oh you are getting ‘coaching’.  Why?  What’s wrong?  Did your annual appraisal go badly?”

The implication (and misunderstanding) of course being that coaching was being used as a tool to ‘fix’ something that had clearly gone wrong.  Perhaps to raise someone’s poor performance to a more acceptable level.

Now, I find you are much more likely to hear something like the following.

“Oh you are getting ‘coaching’. Amazing!! They must think a lot of you and see massive potential.  I wish I could get coaching through my company.”

This shift in mindset, also reflects a much more accurate understanding of what coaching is; an approach that helps people fulfil their potential.  Not a tool for rehabilitation or rectification, but a vehicle that allows people to explore their values and beliefs, their vision and their purpose. It is much more sought after, and is now seen as one of the ‘perks’ of the job. Career changers, especially those in middle management and executive positions, are more and more looking for coaching as an incentive, and benefit provision, when choosing between companies, reflecting the increasing value being placed upon it.

Coaching enables people to gain greater self-awareness and insight, allowing them to make informed choices and decisions, to be more conscious of how they react in given situations, and to develop life-strategies that will serve them more effectively.  Coaching, quite simply, helps people get more of what they want, be more fulfilled, and enable more success.

One of the dilemmas Continue reading

Resist the temptation to be clever

I have often been asked by people who are unfamiliar with coaching, “How can you coach people in areas that you have no experience or knowledge of?”

I sometimes use this as an opportunity to help people obtain a clearer understanding of what coaching actually is.  I spend time explaining that coaching is not the same as mentoring. That it is not about specific knowledge or skills transfer. In fact, it can actually be an advantage to ‘not know’, as it makes it easier for the coach to ask totally naive questions with no pre-judgement.

source: events.stanford.edu

source: events.stanford.edu

To emphasise this point, I will often allude to the possible dangers that can emerge when you are too close to an area. When the coach is carrying their own ‘baggage’ around, they can slip into expressing their own views, or ask questions loaded with judgement. This can be one of the biggest challenges facing the internal coach. I worked as a coach within a corporate environment for a number of years. It was hugely rewarding, and offered a tremendous opportunity to be part of great change within the organisation. However, I know from personal experience, that when certain issues arose during coaching sessions, where I as the coach had specific knowledge about something, it presented me with a dilemma. I could, and sometimes did, inject a piece of knowledge that would help clarify some confusion, and help move the client past a particular obstacle.  Indeed, it would be wrong (and could be argued as unethical) not to. However, it is important to recognise that when you are doing that, you are no longer being a coach, and it is very important to tell the client that, so as to avoid any confusion about your role as a coach.

There is a real danger however, particularly for a new coach (as I found to my cost on occasions), that you may slip in and out of your coach role too many times, or for too long. The relationship may even morph into one that is no longer ‘coaching’, and into something else entirely. You may find yourself Continue reading

‘Fly on the Wall’ consultancy

I thought I’d share with you this week one of the most effective, yet simplest, consultancy techniques I have seen used.  It does not involve great expense, or even take a great deal of time. It does not involve reading lengthy consultancy reports or attending turgid feedback sessions.  In fact, it uses the resources and brains you already have at your disposal in your teams today.

fly-on-wallGather together a good cross-section of people  (but no more than about 8-10), from up and down the organisation,  ideally with different perspectives of your business, from both an internal and external facing focus.  Invite the ‘owner’ of the business problem or issue that requires ‘consultancy’ to spend 5-10mins (no more) outlining the issue. No prolonged explanations about why things won’t work, or haven’t worked. Just a simple, easy to understand, explanation of the facts, what is trying to be achieved, and what the business benefits will be once realised.

The collected group then have 5 mins to Continue reading

Coaching with emotion

We can’t stop ourselves having emotions. Indeed, why would we want to?  So, how do coaches coach from a place that ensures their emotions do not hi-jack their approach and derail the effectiveness of their engagements with clients?  What happens if you feel sorry for a client?  What if you get an overpowering desire to tell someone what they need to do?  What if something they say upsets you, or makes you angry?

Masterful coaches recognise that they can’t (and shouldn’t) block their own emotions, but rather, that they use these emotions to help them be a better coach.  By raising awareness of their own reactions and emotions, coaches can channel their coaching skills into better listening, richer rapport and deeper presence.

source: graciexela.blogspot.co.uk

source: graciexela.blogspot.co.uk

If your emotions leak into your questions, then they will lose impact, and judgements you are making will be transparent. If you are focusing on how you feel, you will not be listening fully to the client, and presence in the moment will suffer. Much better to be open and honest about emotions that are showing up for you. Sharing with a client that, “….this is making me feel uncomfortable right now, how is it making you feel?”, is fine. In fact, role-modelling the sharing of emotions in this way, may well help elicit a deeper exploration and sharing of emotion by the client.

It is when coaching reaches this emotional level that great things often start to happen, and progress and movement becomes possible.

The importance of engaging on an emotional level was discussed in a previous post called the The Upstairs & Downstairs Brain.

**************************

If you feel that you (or members of your team) would benefit from exploring ways to make substantial improvements to personal and collective effectiveness and productivity, please get in touch. Tailored learning programmes are available that have delivered proven benefits, whether your current focus is on:

  • a need to engage your workforce in a positive and compelling way through a transformation
  • how to ensure you get the best out of your investment in talent 
  • ensuring your senior teams, team leaders & middle managers are equipped to handle the conversations that are needed to ensure your organisation is operating as effectively and productively as it could be. 

Simply submit your contact details on the Contact Us page and I will be delighted to get in touch with you for an informal initial chat.

 

From Curiosity to Attention

“You had my curiosity. But now you have my attention.”                                              as spoken by Leonardo DiCaprio’s character (Calvin Candie) in the move ‘Django Unchained’

“Be curious” is a very popular term used widely within the coaching fraternity.  It is of course great advice, as it encourages people to ‘simply notice’, without judgement, and with an open questioning mind. Being curious helps raise self-awareness. It also encourages one to consider and reflect on things that may otherwise go unnoticed. However, merely ‘being curious’, in itself, is unlikely to create the sufficient mental conditions for significant learning and change to occur. To achieve this, generalised curiosity needs to be cranked up to a state of sharply focused ‘attention’.

Being curious is the equivalent to being a casual ‘observer’ of the game. Having focused attention requires you become completely ‘immersed’ in the game.

source ackowledgement: crit365.com

source acknowledgement: crit365.com

I have touched on this subject many times in the past, most notably in Slow Down, you Move too Fast.  Before getting to agreements that something needs done about a problem, and long before specific actions are decided upon, it is vital that high levels of attention are shone on the issue. People simply do not agree to take action on situations unless they first of all recognise that it is important enough to do so, and that there are high enough stakes at play to make it worthwhile. Continue reading