What difference do you want to make in 2020?

I cannot believe another decade has gone! They do say as you get older time goes by faster. This morning I was looking at pictures of my boys, they are now wonderful young men, where did the time go?

That brings me to what difference I want to make in 2020. My kids are getting older, therefore I am getting older. As you will remember last month I discovered that I am pre-diabetic. This being down to a poor diet and lifestyle. Therefore in 2020 I need to lose a significant amount of weight to reverse this condition.

Now I could wait until New Year and set myself a goal of losing weight. If I did this I would fail. I would for 2 reasons. Firstly if I am waiting for an occasion to start my goal, I am saying this goal is not as important as leading my current life. It suggests that this change will be denying me of something I love (eating crisps and drinking beer mainly). If I start with the premise that this change in lifestyle will be a chore it will ultimately end in failure. It removes choice from the equation.

Secondly setting a goal of losing weight is an away from goal. Away from goals are often doomed to failure. Let me give you an example. When I was a smoker I was always making attempts to give up smoking. So my goal was always to give up smoking, to leave smoking behind. See the problem is when you set an away from goal , once you have moved away it is very difficult to keep the momentum up to continue not to smoke. Smoking forms a habit that you have re-frame and develop new more compelling habits so if all you do is give up as I did, the desire to continue not smoking weakened until the desire to have a cigarette was stronger. I eventually gave up smoking by setting myself a towards to goal. I wanted to improve my health to increase my chances of being healthy enough in old age to play an active part in my future grandchildren’s lives. This kept me motivated to be a non smoker. I was not giving anything up I was choosing to be healthy.

So if there is something in your life that you would like to make different, what is stopping you from starting to make a difference now? If there are barriers how could you possibly remove those barriers? How important is it to you that you make this change? When can you start? Is it today, this week or next week? What are your reasons for making the change? Are they away from or towards reasons? I you create a future with this change in it, you are much more likely to achieve this change.

I have decided like last time that I would choose to have a healthier life, this includes eating less, eating healthier and exercising. The side effect of this is that I will lose weight. But losing weight is not the driving force, increasing my chances of having a healthier older age is the driving force, the driving force for changing my lifestyle. I am not denying myself anything, I am enabling a positive future for myself. That simple reframe makes all the difference.

So if you have something in your life that requires attention, don’t resolve to give it attention at some future time, attend to it now. Be very clear what you want, is what you want worth the investment, so will it create something better than you have now.

Making a difference for next year starts this year. It sounds easy, but it is never as straightforward as it seems. If it doesn’t work out first time, look at what didn’t work, make an adjustment and start again. The key is to remain motivated and keep checking in with what you want to achieve.

I was in a shop the other week when I was hungry. Big mistake! The desire to buy some pop and something full of fat was really strong. I nearly broke, the reason I didn’t was that I paused and gave myself a choice. I can have the chocolate bar and can of fizzy pop if I wanted or I could hold onto my hunger until I got home and have my main meal and keep on track for my future. This does take practice as it is a habit, and don’t get me wrong I do still enjoy a beer and a few salty snacks, but less of them and less often. The desire to have a healthy old age is more important and more compelling than giving in. The important message is not to deny yourself anything, but to choose and alternative that keeps you on track with your goals.

To summarise if it is worth changing, then it is worth changing now, so why wait, and be clear on your reasons and desire to make a change.

If your change is big and you want support, drop me a line and we can discuss I how can help.

matt@mattycoach71.com

What matters to you?

Here is another blog I wrote for work. I have written about self-care before but I thought I would share this more widely. Times are difficult at the moment, it is really important to pay attention to ourselves on a daily basis, to make sure we don’t get lost in all that is going on.

Winter is with us, last weekend saw the start of meteorological winter. It is dark more than it is light, the wind is biting cold, everyone is coughing and sneezing, everyone seems to be in a rush to sort Christmas, and work is hard. Working in the NHS is always hard, but it always feels harder this time of year. 

So if you consider my previous blog about how our performance is variable even though we are all trying our best. Then it is not too much of a leap to assume that during this time of year quite a number of us will not be performing at our best.

It is dark when we go to work, it is dark when we go home, we are full of cold, we are worried about Christmas and we have the pressure of an increased workload. So it is important to pay attention to ourselves and each other, to ensure we able to perform effectively to continue to deliver the excellent care we do. 

The first thing we must do is pay attention to what makes us happy on a daily basis, and are we doing those things. This does not mean adding extra stuff into your day. But recognising what you already do that makes you happy, for instance I walk my dog everyday twice a day, that time with my dog makes me happy, I talk to my mum on the phone everyday. Remember there are things that you do at work that make you happy, that might be talking to relatives, providing cares to a patient, or completing a piece of work that really makes a difference. Take a few minutes each day at the end of the day before you go to sleep and do a little inventory of all the moments in your day that made you happy, no matter how small, or how silly they may seem, after all you are the only one who needs to know what made you happy today. Notice how that makes you feel. Normally we go to bed and ruminate over what was not good (which you will also do, it is after all our default position), just spend a few moments consciously taking stock of joy. If you do this everyday it will give you more balance, and allows the light sit along side the dark, giving them equal billing in your mind.

In the morning when you wake up, and maybe feel less than enthusiastic about coming to work, spend few moments whilst getting ready just connecting yourself back up with why you do what you do. What caused you to dedicate your life to caring for people? When I ask this question, I ask it of all of you that work in the NHS, because no matter how far removed you feel from patients, everything you do makes a difference to our patients.

What matters to you?

What core value do you use everyday, that gets you to work?

What values do you have, that when you live up to them fill you with joy? 

What values do you hold than when you witness them not being lived up to, by yourself or others make you sad?

Work is a large part of our lives, it is vital that we do a job that is in line with what we value (what matters). So knowing what matters to you and how that motivates you to do the job that you helps you dig deep when work is hard and everything feels like it is against you. 

Let people know what matters to you, and ask your colleagues what matters to them. Sharing your values strengthens them, and strengthens the connection within the team. As mentioned in my previous blog it is important that we are able to support each other and hold each other to account, and this is much easier when there are strong connections within a team.

When we start looking after ourselves we become much better at caring for others

Are you doing your best?

I wrote this blog today for my work page. It is so important though, that I decided to share it on here too. We have to start being generous towards ourselves and each other.

Do you try hard when you come to work everyday? Some days you know that you will be better at your job than over days. But everyday you are doing the best you can do that day. We all have full complicated lives that impact on our days. We get ill, our relatives get ill, so do our friends and colleagues, sometimes these illnesses are serious. We have bills to pay some of them expected others unexpected. We have relationships that are wonderful and fulfilling and difficult and diminishing, sometimes all in the same day. Good things and bad things come in and out of our lives on a constant basis, these all have an impact on our performance. Many of us love our jobs, some are indifferent to our jobs and some of us hate our jobs. This has an impact on our performance. This does not mean that we are not doing are best. It means that our performance is variable, it means we are human, infuriating, frustrating, incredible, brilliant, maddening, fantastic lovable human beings.

If we are all these things, if our lives are that full, then so are the people we work with, and the people in other teams that help us provide the care to our patients. Then so are our managers and their managers, and the managers in the Department of Health and the politicians and ministers that make our laws and set our budgets.

If this is the case, which I am pretty certain it is, then we are all doing our best, with the capacity we have that day. Some days that capacity is not as big as it might need to be. Some days we might need support and encouragement to make our best better. Some days we might need to support others to be better, because they are diminished for whatever reason that day. Sometimes people are trying their best but will never be able to do better because they do not enjoy what they do. Is it better to help them find joy in what they do and do better or condemn them for being lazy or rubbish. That joy might be understanding the value in their job or doing a different job.

Instead of making do with variable performance, we must try to address that variability by understanding and recognising the cause and through support and challenge help each other improve our performance.

It is vital that we offer support without judgement for our colleagues that are struggling without judgement and more importantly ask and accept support without judging ourselves when we are struggling.

Showing empathy and compassion to each other has a direct impact on our performance.

It is not just nice to do, it is vital to the success of your business.

If you want to know more email me on matt@mattycoach71

The importance of empathy in leadership

Yesterday I was reading an old article in Havard Business Review by Daniel Goleman on the importance of emotional intelligence in leadership. According to the article EI is more important than IQ and and technical skill, when it comes to the success of leaders. Goleman draws on research conducted on various companies and suggests there are 5 elements to emotional intelligence at work: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, social skill, and empathy.

All 5 elements are vitally important and create an important edge to leadership. I would suggest though that most leaders spend a lot of time working on 4 elements and gloss over one.

Yes, you guessed it empathy. Empathy is often overlooked in my opinion for 3 reasons. It is often confused for with other activities such as sympathy or pity, secondly for most people it does not come naturally and is difficult to achieve. Thirdly empathy is perceived as weakness and has no place in leadership. Many people believe that showing empathy means that nobody is held to account for their actions, or lack of actions, this is far from the truth when empathy is performed well.

Empathy assumes that the person in front of you has the capacity and will to work through their issues without you trying to solve it for them or judging them. Empathy is standing with someone, seeking to understand what is happening with them, without interfering and trying to create a solution for them.

When you listen and seek to understand what is happening you are in a better position to support them by holding them to account for their own solution, by asking them what their solution is and when they are going to start and finish. Empathy also creates the space where you can ask how you or others can support them to solve their problems.

Empathy creates trust and understanding between you as the leader and the people that work with you. Empathy creates a safe space where people can be vulnerable, and creative without fear of judgement. Empathy is a neutral position that sits with the person and will often help them find clarity.

It is really hard to do, as it can feel like a very passive activity where very little is said by the person showing empathy, it can often feel like you are doing very little. On many an occasion I have been thanked by someone for being so helpful and supportive, and I have thought to myself…”well I didn’t really do much….” That is the point really when you are being empathetic you sit with them, listening with fascination, and staying out of judgement, and confirming with them the emotion they are feeling. Being listened to when things are not going well is very powerful. Being able to articulate what is happening gives people the space to make sense of what is happening and find a solution to their issue, if there is one or reconcile their feelings about it if there isn’t one.

Showing empathy to people who work with you, shows them not only that you care about them, but that you believe in their capacity to do the job, it shows you have faith in them. Empathy is ultimately empowering for people, it encourages creativity. People feel secure if they work in an environment that is rich with empathy.

Showing empathy on a regular basis is a game changer, if you struggle with it, then start to rectify this, and start practicing empathy. The best thing is if you get it a bit wrong it is OK, you just try again, and the more you do it the better you will become.

If where you work has coaching, or leadership courses or programmes, make the most of them. If they don’t and you want to understand more about how you can show empathy on a regular basis, then get in touch.

Empathy is not just nice to have, it will make a real difference to your leadership and business/organisation.

What is the impact of our casual rudeness

This week as most weeks have been recently was very busy for me with lots of facilitation of learning.

Now the thing is when you facilitate others learning, if it goes well you end up learning as much (sometimes more) as the participants. This was definitely the case this week. One session in particular has had quite a profound impact on me and how I view my behaviour.

We have been exploring how inclusion and civility can impact on team performance, and how using a coaching approach can support a more inclusive, and civil work space.

Every aspect of inclusion and civility is uncomortable when we examine our own biases and behaviours. We are especially guilty of holding a single story for people that are different to us. We often fail to acknowledge the richness of their stories and experience and what value those differences can bring to our workplace. We naturally create groups or tribes of people that share similar experiences therefore we hold multiple stories of each other, as a result of our shared lived history. When someone with a different lived history arrives in our space, we often have a single story which is based on what we have heard through our stories and what we have made up. As a consequence we can either under estimate or over estimate their impact on the team. This made me think of all the single stories I hold about people, about people from other countries, people with disabilities, people from different professions, people from other cities, people who drive range rovers, people who support Leeds United. The list is endless. We are liable to hold single stories about people that sit outside of what ever group we happen to be in at that time. Using a coaching approach allows those single stories to be multiple stories. By being curious, and listening with fascination to understand the rich lives and stories they have will not only enhance the team but will enhance yourself. What if by listening to the single story you are missing out on untapped knowledge that could change how your team works.

The biggest impact of the week came when we were discussing civility and the impact mild rudeness can have on people’s ability to function. If you are the recipient of mild rudeness (unkind flippant comments, being dismissed, on the receiving end of mickey taking, being ignored) your ability to function cognitively reduces by 61%. 61%!!!! That is just terrifying. Your chances of making a mistake have gone through the roof. The chances of you now being rude to someone else has also gone up. Witnesses don’t get away with it either, your bandwidth is reduced by 20% and you are 50% more likely to refuse to help someone.

So lets just think about this.From my experience I am generally mildly rude to 2 groups of people. Those I have a lot of investment in (my family, hoping that levels of forgiveness are high), and those I have no desire to win over, those on the outside of my group, those I hold a single story about. This made me feel dreadful, that I could be causing people I love to be less. Let this sink in . When you are mildly rude to someone, you diminish them, you make them less. Now think of those people you hold a single story about that you dismiss, or ignore. You are not hostile to them but you might make fun of them or be quite short with them when they make a suggestion. Every time you do that you reduce there ability to function efficiently. You could be the reason they make a mistake through your casual rudeness. That casual rudeness could result in someone being physically harmed.

I am going to start to practice, pausing and recognising my emotions before I spill over into rudeness, when I am with my family. I am going to pay attention to those people I hold a single story about, and get closer to them to understand and appreciate their multiple stories, therefore creating a greater investment in them.

A week of highs and lows

Well that was an interesting week, with a lot of contrasting emotions. It started as many of my weeks do nowadays in a classroom preparing for a day delivering coaching training.

On Monday morning I was delivering our introduction to coaching study day, where I introduce the communication techniques used when having a coaching conversation. We call it introduction to coaching,but I think ‘how to have meaningful performance and development conversations’ is more descriptive if not a bit long winded. This is my comfortable space, sharing my insights into having purposeful conversations. However I had not done this day for a few months, and managed to get myself a little lost in the content, sending myself into a mild panic when I thought I had got to the end of the taught element an hour early. I had not, I had forgotten where a certain slide appeared in the sequence, so I was exactly where I was supposed to be. Over than that little blip it was a very satisfying day with very positive feedback. A great start to the week.

On Tuesday I was spending the morning working with my favourite lady Janis, supporting her on her communication course. I was going to be working with half of her cohort, playing out difficult conversations. It was clear from the off that my half of the group were struggling with role play and what they needed to do. So I spent the first hour re framing the instructions and creating a purpose that was meaningful. In many ways subtly playing out a difficult conversation in front of them with the difficult conversation being the one I was having with them explaining the importance of playing out conversations in a role play setting, with actual content. We got there in the end, I had a great deal of fun and there was definitely learning in the room. Again I was buzzing. The afternoon was supposed to be spent designing content, for next week, but i kept on getting distracted with various minor issues that I felt required attention. However I could feel my stress levels rising as the deadline for the content was looming. I managed to get a lot done however and complete some other tasks, so all in all a satisfying day.

Wednesday was another a content delivery rich day. I delivered 2 workshops on coaching at our Trust’s Health Care Professionals’ Conference at the University. I did a potted 1 hour version of how to have meaningful conversations, along with a demonstration of coaching in action by blind coaching the participants. Again it was well received, and I got to listen to Derek Redmond (Olympic Athlete) deliver his inspirational key not speech. In the back of my mind I had a few niggling thoughts, I needed to get the content finished for the next week, and I needed to get my blood results from the bloods I had taken 2 weeks ago now. It was late before I finished on Wednesday so I did not get chance to ring for my results.

Thursday was my first day in the office all week. A chance to get the content finished. However I had a series of meetings during the day. These were important meetings that needed to take place, but I could feel my irritation and frustration building up. I am certain this was evident to those around me. I was not as calm as I am normally. Firstly I was coming down from 3 days of delivery, which however enjoyable is physically and emotionally draining for someone who has a preference for introversion. Secondly I knew I needed to get this content written and I was rapidly running out of time. Thirdly I knew I had to ring the doctors to get my blood results. Which I managed to do eventually, the receptionist told me there was a minor abnormality and I needed to see the doctor. So that was it I took myself to another place where I had type 2 diabetes with a lifetime on medication and declining health (we all like to catastrophise). I went home eventually under a cloud of despair.

On Friday morning I went to the GP, and got my results. I am pre-diabetic (so it is reversible), that means I need to pay attention to my lifestyle. On Friday morning this was the straw that broke the camels back. Exactly what I needed. I had a very real emotional response on the bus relaying the news to Lisa. Crying on a bus is not ideal in fact I did have to hold it in a little. But I needed to have this emotional response. Yesterday morning on the 154 bus to Hull Royal Infirmary it all got just a bit too much. My colleague messaged me and said it is OK to have Hippo time. Too right I was having my hippo time on the bus. For the whole of the journey I wallowed. By the time I got off the bus I had just enough capacity to get my work done ready for next week. When I got in from work I needed to wallow some more, I needed to feel sorry for myself and accept that life is unfair.

This morning I got up, I wrote about what I was experiencing in my journal to help make sense and articulate my emotion. I was overwhelmed and will be again. But writing about it helped me understand what is going on, so I can plan for what I need to do to stay healthy and successful.

Is compassion weakness? We can create accountability and attend to each others emotions.

I have written and spoken many times about how I struggled as a manager within a culture that valued a command and control approach to leadership. A culture that sees empathy and compassion as weak. This is a stereotypical masculine paradigm, the one that says the expression of any emotion in a work setting is weak. Emotion has only one place and that is within a female paradigm in the domestic setting, when caring for children.

What is really depressing is that I was a nurse! And not just a nurse caring for adults but a children’s nurse! How can it be that a profession whose primary function is to care for the most vulnerable, did not value these very qualities in their managers. This view of kindness and compassion being weak was widespread throughout the hospital, I would even say throughout society.Now this was a decade ago, things have moved on, haven’t they?

There has been some progress with plenty of research showing that a compassionate leadership approach, creates a productive, efficient, and importantly a happy work environment. There is even research that shows that compassionate leadership has a direct impact on the care delivered to patients. Compassionate leadership creates safer healthcare! That is the bottom line.

The issue is the 4th word in the paragraph above. SOME! The thing is, listening to and paying attention to the emotions of the individuals in your team is not easy. It does not come naturally. We have been conditioned that management and leadership are masculine roles. When I asked future leaders to describe and even draw leaders, they will invariably default to masculine descriptors. Our culture defines masculinity as strong, aggressive and protective. Winning and dominating are paramount, nurturing and compassion, and empathy are feminine are weak and have little place outside of the domestic setting. They are fine for the nurses on the ward but not for the charge nurse/sister, and anyone above them. They have to operate in a masculine world and must therefore learn to not show weakness. If you want to succeed as a leader you have to be the best and beat those around you.

This is our default setting, this is the route that comes easily for many of us, even though, the results of this approach are at best patchy and at worst create a toxic environment. This command and control approach to leadership in any setting creates fear and stifles innovation. As mentioned previously all the research shows that a positive, optimistic approach improves productivity and engagement.

So how do we change our default setting. Like any change, you have to start with the desire, the motivation to change. You have to be clear what you want from your team in the future. This vision of the future must be compelling enough to bring you back to it when you falter and slip into your old ways.

That is the starting point, the next thing to do is to collect the tools that help you create a compassionate culture. There are plenty of books and courses that offer instruction and tool kits. The vast majority of them are very useful. 3 books that I would recommend to start with are Dare to Lead by Brene Brown, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, and SUMO by Paul McGee. Also look out for leadership courses. Many large organisations either run their own or outsource to training companies. The other option is to employ a coach who will support you through this transition period.

Once you have the tools, you have to master the approach, the only way to do that is practice, practice, practice. The only way you can adjust you default settings is to create new habits. the only way to create new habits is to practice. The more you practice the sooner you will create a new habit. This is why having a coach can be helpful. It is not easy to keep up the practice when you are busy, and you need to get things done. Having a coach gives you the time to reconnect with the reason why you a moving away from your old ways. Stick at it, you will reap the rewards.