I’m not sure about you but I’m better at giving advice than receiving
it. My privilege as a trainer and performance coach is to be able to fall back
on “do as I say, not as I do”. This is not something I’m particularly proud of
and nor is it something I want to admit to those I work with. I console myself,
professionally at least, with the fact that my diagnostic skills lie in helping
others and not myself. It also can’t be very helpful for anyone with the unenviable
task of being my coach.
Recently, however, I was offered some advice and in spite of
my habit, I took it. Surprisingly, to me anyway, the shift in awareness it
provoked has rippled through my whole life. My own coach is a mindfulness expert
and while we don’t spend too much time on this topic she set me a related task.
I was to take an everyday activity and be fully in it as I perform it, noticing
the sensations provoked by the experience.
Now, I’m not good at doing what I’m told. I will find ingenious ways not to do the homework I’ve been set (the French “devoir” always seemed a much more appropriate name). But over the Christmas break I had little excuse not to do one of the two very simple requests made of me.
I am a proud Panamanian. We are happy people that generally like to have a good time. We usually tend to disconnect from our reality by partying over the weekend. We are in essence, positive by nature. Recently, Panama qualified for their first FIFA World Cup. Our performance during this tournament was more than disappointing, but we were the happiest fans in Russia! Other countries lost in the semi-finals and it was considered a national tragedy. This Panamanian way will definitely make our lives more enjoyable but won’t create radical changes needed to take us out of a third world mindset and stop the corruption cycle that has been the trademark of our governments going back decades.
To you as a leader it’s Business Transformation. To people at the sharp end of the business it means Change. And many people don’t like the thought of forthcoming change – in fact they fear it, or put another way are change resistant. And many times when the change arrives they suffer a feeling of deep loss – like mourning. So what is the role of the Leadership Coach in a period of business transformation and change?
This week is a big week for me. We are moving house, have said goodbye to builders who have been preparing our new place and are expecting our second child in less than two weeks. All the things you’re told not to do together, we’re doing them.
This has led me to reflect on resilience and leadership. With a heavily pregnant wife much of the heavy lifting (literal and metaphoric) has fallen to me. At times I haven’t held up as robustly as I would like to think I would be able to.
Are you a “Yes-all the time-round the clock-person”? , Do you feel bad when you say No, so you immediately go to a “but” that opens a lines of real or unrealistics reasons to eventually say Yes?, Do you know why do you do it? Want to experience the “FREEDOM” that saying “NO” can bring to your life?, then let me share what I did to stop feeling guilty by really wanting to say no, and always ended up saying yes to everyone.
There are books, poems and articles that stay with you throughout your adult life. In my case I can cite one of each and recall the person – in all cases A family member – who originally brought them to my attention. When I look back I realise these were the people that influenced me in my early years. They set me on a path in pursuit of happiness and success.
A Book. As far as books go for me it has been ‘How to Win Friends & Influence People’ by Dale Carnegie that set me on my path. I have a 1977 paperback edition. The subtitle on the front cover says: ‘The phenomenal bestseller that is helping millions find success and happiness’. It’s well used, marked up with pencil and has post-it notes sticking out to draw me back to things I must have thought were important to me in the 1970s and beyond. I was introduced to this book by my late father-in-law Ken Smith. What’s even more exciting for me is that I now have Ken’s 1936 hardback imprint of the same book. And it has his pencil marks ups, which give me a great insight to what was important to him in the 1940s and 50s as he started out on his path to happiness and success in his life and in his career. The inside front cover of Ken’s book quotes Carnegie’s ‘Twelve things this book will help you achieve‘.
A Poem. The poem that influenced me was ‘If‘ by Rudyard Kipling which my mother Peggy sent me in 1968 when I had left home to go to University. I believe at that time she was offering me a pattern for my future life.
An Article. We have to wait until the new millennium for the article that has influenced both my wife and I ever since that time. It was my father-in-law Ken again who sent us a clipping from The Sunday Times of 30 January 2000 entitled ‘How to be Happy’. It was an article by Gyles Brandreth in which he interviewed the eminent Irish psychiatrist Dr Anthony Clare who offered his seven point plan for happiness. We have followed Dr Clare’s prescription ever since. And just last month my wife Sue introduced me to a new article in the Independent about a ten year research programme by ‘Happiness Expert’ Eric Barker. In the article the Indy’s lifestyle writer Kashmira Gander summarises “Eric Barker has spent almost a decade uncovering why some people seem more happy and successful than others, but his findings don’t always make for comfortable reading“.
There is a surprising fourth source of inspiration from a family member – a Document of State – but more of that later!
What can we learn about the Pursuit of Happiness and Successfrom these publications?
Having spent a fair amount of time over the last couple of weeks in the air I’d like to ask you a question: how many times when you fly on a plane do you ask yourself, “might this be my last flight?” I know for me it’s at least four. Not including turbulence. Now I’d like you ask yourself how many times you ask the same question when you get behind the wheel of your car, or for those of you who don’t drive, when you sit alongside someone who is? Virtually never?
I drive a car far more than I fly, and while I know the statistics say that I’m far more likely to die in the car than the plane, logic and rational thought make no difference. No matter how many times I fly I still have the thought, this might be it. It’s illogical, it’s pointless and yet I can’t help it.
The recognised wisdom about organisational change is that we do not change people – they choose to change for their own reasons. This means the unit of change in this process is ONE. It is not about one-way briefings or team sessions – it is about the individual. This means the ‘real’ dialogue about change is about ‘What’s in it for me’ (WIIFM) and takes place in private in short structured sessions between a colleague and his/her Leader. In 2013 I interviewed Morten Mortensen, APALOC Head of Contract Management for Maersk Singapore, about how he was coaching for change leadership and checking the temperature of employee response to change.