Articles on what is coaching, and areas we discuss include interview coaching, sales coaching, executive coaching, career coaching. We cover coaching teams, career change, motivating staff and how to use coaching in work.

Dealing with Difficult People

5 Steps to Handling Difficult Situations or Difficult People

A Coach’s Perspective

 I am sure you can think of plenty of times when you ran into challenging situations and people and didn’t like the experience or how the story played itself out. Working with difficult people or challenges in your organisation is definitely one place to test this out. So how do you help yourself manage these kind of experiences when they show up?

I often run this process in a coaching scenario when people are finding it difficult to handle situations or people at work. It gives them the tools to begin to take charge of the situation internally, with a view to becoming more self-aware and resilient over time.

We cannot totally avoid difficult situations or people, but the best tool to manage this is explore how we process the experience in our minds and use self-awareness to get a handle on it. The more we notice, the more self-aware we are.  Self-awareness can be reduced to how good you are at observing you, your reactions or responses to events or words of others and then how you manage your state of mind and that experience. The end game is to build your resilience personal effectiveness.

When situations or other people challenge you

 

Start by noticing what is going on for you, what is the event or situation and how are you responding to it. Is there one particular theme, when you hit these situations. A good example : other people are wrong, you were treated unfairly, it shouldn’t have happened, people should do things differently. We can all relate to the story we have told ourselves about a person or an event. The most important thing is to find a way to get back to happier and more contented states rapidly, when you encounter challenges, particularly when you have to work with difficult people.

Working with your response is the only thing you have

 

You respond to what you perceive, and as you perceive, so you behave. This tells us that what you are experiencing is your response, not the event itself.  And other people’s perceptions are indications of their behaviour too. Your response is mili-seconds behind the event.  Your response is your own spin on the story, based on your own default thinking patterns. So what if you were to catch that response and notice everything your mind does with external events?  So here’s the thing, what your mind does with an event is the only thing you have to deal with. It may be a tall order when you are incensed, furious, agitated by some injustice “created” by an external event or person.

If you want to feel better, just work on your response and how you talk to yourself about any experience you don’t particularly like. Your response is the ONLY piece you have to work with it in responding to all future similar situations. Everything outside is irrelevant.

What you can do in 5 Steps

Here are 5 steps to help you manage and change your response to what’s going on.  It’s practice that will definitely make dealing with others easier. The only thing we know we can change is ourselves and not others. Think of a challenging situation or person you have to deal with right now. Run it through these 5 steps.

1. Notice the Movie running in Your Mind

We all have the ability to notice, because, if we didn’t we couldn’t interpret anything in life. We have to find a meaning, and fill in the details. That is our innate ability to be self-reflexive or think about what we think about”.

Ask yourself What do I need to believe here to create this response? What am I noticing in my mind when I run the replay of the event? How am I talking to myself about the event? What movie am I running in my head? What is the quality of it? What emotions are running around inside me? And how real are they? If I were to stand back and just get the theme of this movie, how would I describe it? A tragedy, a comedy, a crime, injustice, a learning?

Notice the texture so that you can detect how your brain is interpreting this event. That is the beginning of creating an experience you want to have and managing your own state of mind.

2. Find the Trigger

When you have a heightened response to somebody or some event, it is usually because it reminds you of something that you possibly have an aversion to, usually found in your mental database from the past. So just go find the trigger by asking yourself, what it reminds you of and name it. When you name it, you are on the way to clarity.

So if the situation reminds you of something from the past, notice what your brain did with it, it probably went into a self-talk about it and stepped into the “flight or flight mode”, just like the event it reminded you of. When you know what it’s triggering, you can train yourself to spot the old trigger running. Is it time to update you trigger event to a more positive trigger? This may be the trigger to choose a more favourable and helpful pro-active response.

3. Articulate the Meaning

The meanings you give to anything are what is making you respond the way you do. If you have a meaning and a value-system operating that people and events should operate in a certain way, according to your perceptions, you will feel at odds with yourself, when you run into an event you don’t like.

So ask yourself What meaning am I giving to this and how is it affecting me, when I give it that meaning?” Then put a time questions on it  “Will this matter in 1 year, 2 years, 5 years or 20 years?” What else could it mean and if you can find a positive meaning, that will certainly help you move from this? eg. This is teaching me how much I value X, or care about” Find 3-5 new meanings beyond the orginal meaning. This will help you tap into your creative brain and rewire the meaning so you can learn from it and handle it differently the next time.

4. Find the Reflection

If you are only perceiving, then your response is only mirroring to you, how you have run this experience through your mind. If your response is angry, then how aware are you of how easy it is to anger you. I always think it’s useful to reflect on what happened and how you were in that situation.

If  it activates emotions of fear, anger or resentment, then this is the reflection piece on your own perceptions. What is this reflecting to me about myself and my need for certainty? And how would you like to feel in a similar situation?

If you can do this, you will begin to find new ways of working with similar situations. E.g. if somebody is offensive in your eyes, a way to reframe it is “ I respect myself enough here to voice my concerns in a constructive way” This person may or may not be aware of what they are doing, and they are looking for some result here that you cannot give them. What if I asked them exactly wha they need right now so that we can move on from this”? That way your brain goes into solution mode instead of problem state.

5. Change the Movie

Watching the same movie over and over again is really not the most uplifting thing, unless it is an experience you loved. Replaying and event I have learned only deepens the negative meanings, so to ensure your find a way to improve your chances of having more positive experiences, is to change the movie and change the script.

By changing the colour and sounds in your movie you can change everything. If you watch it like a cartoon of human craziness and tell yourself, “next time I am just going to be a Zen master when this happens, knowing that I am self-aware, then it’s going to very different.” You’d never go to see a bad movie, twice, yet people replay their past experiences and events over and over and figure some how  they are going to find happiness there.

Like every habit, 30 days of using this tool, will increase your self-awareness and give you a tool to handle the challenges in your life. It is never the event, but your response and replay of the event that is your greatest challenge to overcome. It is an on-going practice even for the Zen masters of the world.

 Summary of 5 Steps:

  1. Notice the mental movie you are running
  2. Find the trigger for running the mental movie this way
  3. Articulate the meaning that’s true for you
  4. Find the reflection for learning
  5. Change the movie and how you see it

Building Self Confidence

The Most Popular Topic in Coaching

The start of any coaching conversation starts with a question. This is followed by more questions. It becomes an exploration. It is about getting to the heart of what somebody desires in their life, their work, their career, business and their relationships with others. I often say to people ‘A coach will ask you questions you don’t often ask yourself.’

It often takes you down avenues you never thought possible. That is the beauty of this type of conversation. So many things can be uncovered and explored in the safety of sacred, safe conversations. Anything is possible when you commit to growing in a coaching conversation.

Where the journey starts

People often decided they want to work with coach. They look to get someone outside, impartial, who has some skills that can help them get clear on some area of their life.  The list varies from a career change, going for a job interview, starting a business, being better at public speaking, a better sales person, a better manager and even a better parent. There is no subject that doesn’t show up for discussion. The reason is simple; you are not just your job, your career or your business. Your life and who you are shows up when you choose to work with a professional. They are just expressions of you. So the questions asked can often be about how you operate in life and it can end up as a conversation about your life.

Why does confidence as a topic show up so much?

As a person who loves noticing patterns and how they shape people’s lives, jobs and self-concept, I started of course to notice a pattern. The single theme that seems to come up over and over is this idea of having more self-confidence to take a risk and do something different. People will say things like “I’d like to have more confidence in myself to do or be X.” Indeed, when you read this question, I am sure you have an area where you’d like a way of building confidence. So let’s look at what that means.

The interesting thing is, people start with a challenge or a desire to change. Once the conversation begins, they begin to get insights into themselves and get to the place of realising that the challenge was a symptom of something else they were seeking, deeper inside themselves.  This can be expressed in many ways; such as feeling more at ease or having the guts to do something they’ve always wanted to do.

Everybody thrives on confidence

“So why can’t I just have confidence?” you might ask. You can! You just have to know how to “do” confidence. Confidence has structure to it. Confidence has reference points to what you have done before. They can be positive or negative. One black-and-white way to look at it is this; you will never try something again because you think you failed the first time.  Or, you will give it a shot and see how it goes, because you learned from it and can improve, if you try it again. There is truth in the ‘fake it until you make it’ idea. The risk-takers and people who look at the options will always give it one more shot. These are the people are more likely to build and expand their confidence. It them becomes the place they function from. And from there, they develop the skill of knowing how to build confidence.

Where does a lack of confidence come from?

Confidence is a multi-layered state, is how I can best describe it.  It’s a combination of knowing enough and believing enough that you can do or be something.  So why does a ‘perceived’ lack of confidence show up in coaching so often and how can you build confidence in yourself? Here are a few things to help you explore your own confidence in areas of your life and why we often find it hard to do confidence. Here are the key things I have noticed.

Using the past as a reference

This is where we did something once. It didn’t go well. We decided we would never do it again. If this is true for you, think of times where you did something similar and felt well-able to do it. An example I have is, a client I was coaching around his leadership skills, which he needed to demonstrate in a second-round group interview. He had completely missed the fact that he had been team captain on the sports pitch for years. He didn’t make the connection unti we had the conversation. Once we captured all he did well there, we translated it across to the group interview, which secured him the job. He was looking in the wrong places and not mapping across his skills to lead a team of men to sporting victories of which there were many.

Using other people’s points of view

This is a big one. What will other people think? Many times we don’t take the risk because we are pleasing some invisible “authority figure” from the past, present or further. This I describe as the judgement of ourselves through the imagined negative judgements of others. I hear this often said to me in a coaching session “you probably think it’s crazy, but…” I don’t, in fact, because I am too busy listening and hearing what you are saying.

What if you dared greatly and tried something new?  At least you gave it a shot. What if you did what other people wouldn’t dare to do? It builds a stock of experiences to create your own reference points of view. An example I give to people when preparing presentations for public speaking is to practice reading aloud to get used to the sound of your own voice. If you have children, even better! You have no excuse then, to at least create your own internal point of view to build that confidence you need in this situation.

Using the fear of failure or losing face

Failure is an interesting concept preceded by the question and conclusion, ‘but what if I fail? I don’t want to fail.’ So question to that is. ‘What if you never try at all? What if you are missing out on a great experience or a new way of being because you were afraid of failure?’  Failure can mean that you didn’t have the skills or resources you needed at them time to make things work. Losing face is rooted in an expectation and functions from a place of perfection. It is about seeking to meet the unrealistic expectations you want others to have of you. A great example is the perfect social media profile; nobody sees the faux pas, the mistakes and the bad days we all have every now and again.

How much more human we would be without these judgements? So the question now is, ‘do you have the confidence to try something and learn that there must be a better way to do it?’ Just like Thomas Edison’s answer to the 10,000 light bulbs experiments. Instead of seeing it as a failure, he learned 9,999 ways ‘not to make a light bulb’. This is a great example of a reframed point of view. If you can reframe failure, your confidence will certainly grow. Do it often and you will be building that confidence-muscle.

Using an outdated perception of yourself

I often ask clients where they got their idea of themselves as not able to do something and who they bought it from. Within reason or course. If you don’t have the right vocal chords to be an opera singer, no amount of confidence is going to change that! We spend our formative years and early working years being given lots of points of view of ourselves. We start to believe them as fixed and immutable.

Everybody can change and does change over the years. So next time you decide that you can’t do something, think about how old that idea of yourself is. Did you get it from a school teacher, a parent, a school friend? People carry fixed ideas of about you and what were like in the past. Are you buying them as being locked into a one-time event or a time in your life when you didn’t have the experiences you have now?  Having the confidence to update who you are and let people see that you have indeed grown and changed is one way to keep recreating a new version of you every day. We all need an upgrade. Ask any software company! This is another way to give yourself more confidence. You have infinite possibilities to change and become more than you are today and next week. You have to keep asking better questions.

Confidence is built over time, but you can tap into it by asking yourself quality questions.

So here are four to consider next time you have that nagging doubt that you don’t have the confidence to take a risk.

  1. What time in my life am I stuck in that stopping me from trying this?
  2. Whose version of success or failure am I functioning from?
  3. What if I took steps to build a pathway for others and show them a way?
  4. What story am I telling myself about not being able to do this?

 

Want to learn more on about subject? Read this article What does a coach do?

Talk to A Coach

Management and When Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast

Why Strategy often gets lost in Company Culture

 

When a business executive team sets its eyes in a new direction, with a vision on a new business strategy, how often do they look to see how strong their culture is to execute and succeed with their business plans?

Peter Drucker put it eloquently when he talked about how “culture eats strategy for breakfast every time”. What could he mean by this? Essentially, your strategy will only be as good as the level of  training and the behaviours operating inside your organisation  as you seek to enact the change or get the team behind the strategy.

As a coach, I have seen companies with great strategies take time to get their strategy off the ground, and once they began to work and pay attention to getting the internal behaviours and actions right, higher quality results begin to manifest. A wise business manager once said to me, “it take a totally different set of behaviours to take a company from $20 to $60 million.” So what does a management team need to be aware of if they are developing a key business strategy and seeking to grow their business or change direction. Three things;  awareness of the existing behaviour and culture, a change in behaviour and a willingness to ask better questions of its people.

Behaviour is what makes up a Culture

Culture in a company is really the collective behaviours, beliefs and values operating within a group of people. They can be healthy and productive or quite the opposite. When there is pull and push actions going in with a team, you know it is time to start asking what is really going on. Looking at what shows up in organisations, there will always be a scale of behaviours that we can deem constructive or counter-productive. People may not always be aware of what exactly is going on. Here are a few aspects to think about:

Counter-productive behaviours come from viewing the world in a certain way. It can often be noticed in a levels of inflexibility, seeing the world through the ‘self’ point of view, working from all or nothing thinking, staying stuck in the detail rather than seeing the big picture, discounting ideas and people’s contributions, and following what you have always done instead of trying some new options.  Ask the question, “are we doing any of these behaviours that will stop us from making this strategy a reality?”

Constructive, quality behaviours come from a high level of awareness in the team on the right behaviours that will get the results, behavioural flexibility, seeing options and future possibilities, multiple view points, focussing on the bigger picture and the detail equally, while considering all ideas and contributions offered within a group or team. Ask the question “is our thinking expansive and high-level enough to deliver the strategy we are looking for?” These are all styles of thinking and perception. Creating a culture of behavioural awareness can be that difference that makes all the difference to developing a healthy, productive culture.

Culture has a structure, find out how it is built

What makes up the culture is a collection of individual behaviours, thinking styles and frames of mind; it is important to explore what collective values and beliefs are operating in your company and how they are aligned with the culture needed to make the strategy a success. When looking to change elements of the existing culture, it is important to find a structure that allows you to stand back and examine it in a way that takes the personal elements out of it.

With the companies I have worked with, we work systematically in looking at the culture through different filters. We ask penetrating questions about how the individuals are thinking about the strategy, their team and their customers and how healthy and productive they are. Key to this is to create a model of what the right culture would look like; then it’s about getting the behaviours to support it and the mind-set to execute the strategy. Critical to this is identifying key performance indicators that you can measure and the tangible behaviours needed to make things happen. A key question to ask is, “how can we benchmark and map tangible behaviours that will give us the results we want?”  An example is operating from solutions-mind set, where a problem is articulated with a potential solution, rather than just honing in on why the problem is a problem. Then it’s about tracking who and what behaviours contributed to getting to the solution that’s working.

Coach Your Organisation and Ask Quality Questions

The quality of your questions will determine how well you can adapt the culture and make the strategy come to fruition. Take a hard look at your culture and ask some key questions around the impact of how people think and behave and how it plays itself out in the organisation. Everything we do and think has some effect; because as we think, we then give meaning to our experience and then we take action or no action.

If we have productive, healthy and constructive ways of thinking about our organisations where the common good of others is considered, we will make progress. When we ask questions of ourselves and others without judgement, we open the doorway to higher insight and to that higher performance we are looking for to get the strategy working. The questioning mind-set is probably the most powerful mind-set you can bring to an organisation to explore the culture, its facets and its impact on your business strategy. Here are some questions to ask to take a look at your culture.

  1.  What are we not seeing in our culture that is taking from our business success?
  2. What part are we playing, as individuals, that is creating the collective culture?
  3. What won’t happen if we don’t change and let go of the old ways of doing things?
  4. Is what we are doing working for our clients, our business and our people?
  5. Is our culture  keeping up with the pace of change?
  6. Is our culture adaptable enough to the demands of our business?

As you think about your organisation, are you asking enough of the right questions to make your business strategy successful? Bring the power of coaching to your team and see what happens. A final closing question for you, what is your existing culture costing your business?

 

If you would like some information on our Management Training Course, view the course outline here.

 

Coaching – What does a coach actually do?

Working as a coach in Dublin for over 10 years, I am fully aware of how people create their own perceptions and maps of how the world is and what it means to them. Their perceptions are just that, subjective perceptions of external events, people and experiences. This holds true for coaching as for anything else.

I have often met some clients whose starting point is a perception that coaching can be, well slightly “fluffy.” If anything, entering a coaching programme can really challenge how you perceive yourself and your world around you. One of the creators of NLP , Richard Bandler often challenged his students to the ‘wheelbarrow test.’ If you cannot put something into a wheelbarrow it is not an object, it’s a nominalization. Let’s simplify this; it’s not the coaching that is “fluffy”, but the way in which a coach uses the tools and skills they apply when working with a client can be the challenge. So here are a few points to understand what working with a coach can do for you you.

What is coaching?

Many coaches specialize in a particular area of business or life, believing that this will allow them to apply their expertise to their client base. You will find life coaches, relationship coaches, executive coaches, business coaches, financial coaches, and the list goes on and on. The question I asked myself at one point in my coaching was.“ With expertise in one area, does it preclude a discussion of other areas because a coach is not an expert in that particular area?” The answer is ‘No.’

 

A coach is an expert in the skill of asking questions that change how you think about you

A coach is not always an expert in the content or subject  you have in mind, but may have extensive knowledge of business, finance or the area you want to be coached in. This is where I make the distinction between coaching and consulting. You can find a business consultant who may have limited skills as a coach, but knows plenty about how a business operates and what should be done to improve it. They can tell you how to make it work, but not necessarily how it will work for your style of thinking or modus operandus, when they are not around to support you. You may find a coach who has limited knowledge of the subject matter, but their skill in coaching can more than help you explore those areas extensively in a way a business consultant or subject matter expert cannot.

After some time, working as a coach in Ireland, I realised that you don’t have to be an expert in the subject matter to coach someone really well. The person being coached is already their own expert in their business and personal life. That doesn’t mean a coach should work without an appreciation for subject matters being discussed, whether you are talking about business plans, career change, business development or relationships.

Coaching is a Conversation

So now to demystify what a coach can actually do for you! Coaching is really about a conversation that gets to the heart of what’s going on inside you in at a contextual level. A coach should work in a very systematic way to help you get to a desired outcome. It is a conversation that explores and probes. It is not always about “goal-setting” and achieving per se. It can be, but it is always about a result and an outcome, whatever you decide it is that supports the goals you have set yourself. A great coach can get right into the heart of a conversation and unpack your thinking styles and reflect it to you in a way that gives you a better insight into yourself to generate the change you are looking for.

Coaching is about getting into your higher level of thinking, where you store your meanings and values. It is is about helping you explore how you think about what you think about, what motivates you, why you don’t do what you want, how you could do it and the action that can be taken to achieve it. It can also be about behaviour change, perception change or changing how you operate in the world. The possibilities are endless.

Coaching is about many different types of conversations

There seems to be a typical pattern to the type of conversation that can emerge as you work with a coaching, according to Michael Hall, a gifted trainer in the field. One of the most obvious ones is the clarity conversation. This is about getting clear on aspects of yourself that you were previously unaware of or needed more understanding on. There is the decision conversation, where you explore an aspect of your life or business and make a decision from the coaching session. There is the planning conversation which could be about career change following the clarity conversation about what really motivates you. There is the experiencing conversation, where you may wish to try out and practice internal resources needed to reach your goal, for example, confidence, conviction or assertiveness. Then there is the change conversation, where you want to work on changing aspects of your thinking to become a higher performer or to improve your social and emotional awareness of what is going on inside you. And for those who love a challenge, there is the confrontation conversation, where you can be coached on your blind spots and resistance to move forward.

Coaching is systematic and VERY structured

A quality coach should be able to track the many layers and patterns of your thinking and raise it to a whole new level of awareness about ‘how you think about what you focus on.’ A coach is an expert in the process of coaching to an outcome, using a range of quality tools. I happen to use a range of tools to uncover thinking styles and perceptions of experience, values and meanings. They help me to uncover the motivation to change, explore levels of performance operating and the blocks to higher performance. It is highly-systematic and when combined with a flexible style of coaching it can really transform how people perceive external events and behaviours.

Coaching is about asking questions that you don’t ask yourself

The greatest skill a coach needs is the ability to ask quality questions like nobody else. A quality coach should be able to ask you multiple-layered questions within one question, to activate you unconscious thinking. When done elegantly it can create moments of insight that wake you up to a new way of thinking and perceiving. At the heart of the questioning, a coach is helping you navigate your thinking, showing you how you think about what you think about and tracking your thinking and reflecting it back to you. A question asked in the right way can change a person’s perception for ever. I was coaching a client on career change when I asked them “What if the job you want hasn’t been invented yet?” That question cracked open their thinking to a whole new set of possibilities where they were not limited to the job out there, but could create the job from the inside out. Questions are powerful and even more powerful when somebody else asks you them.

Coaching is a process of reflection followed by action

Coaching is always about thinking things out in a way that makes progress and where you take action on what you have discussed with your coach. I have coached people on career change, business decisions, overcoming challenging experiences in their lives. I have helped them explore how they can improve their relationships with people, their business, their career, themselves, money or whatever is presented. I have coached them on changing self-belief and building confidence across many areas from work relationships to presentation skills and communication skills with those around them. It is always about exploring the inner game you play and you attend to that on the outside.

The coaching is the process. The subject matter may be life, business or relationships. They are all interconnected and cannot be coached in isolation, because they are all aspects of who you are. They may or may not emerge during a coaching conversation.

As you can see, there are many layers and aspects to doing this work. If you decide to hire a coach, you will discover much about yourself; your way of thinking, how your inner game plays itself out in the external world and how you can adjust it if you want a different picture.

Coaches are not experts in your life, business or relationships. Being human, of course they have experience and awareness of many areas of life. At the heart of coaching, the coach is an expert in the process of the conversation and can offer many levels of coaching, be it life coaching, business coaching, career coaching or executive coaching. For you, it’s about getting a quality outcome from a conversation that allows you to make change and get better results in your life. It’s about the coach facilitating a healthy exploration of the subject in the conversations and then probing the gap that exists between where you are and where you would like to be. This is a complex and highly-rewarding experience, and with the right coach, it can be the most enlightening, enjoyable conversation you will ever have about yourself.

 

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