Me and Foggy

My old friends will remember Foggy. For the uninitiated Foggy is my negative self speak, my dark cloud, my black dog.  He is my depression to put it simply, the dark part of my brain that likes to suck away my hope, my joy, and my enthusiasm.

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Maybe I am being a little bit unkind to Foggy. To be fair to Foggy it is not completely his fault. Foggy is just my self speak with no boundaries. If I do battle with Foggy or don’t pay attention to my self-worth, then Foggy lets rip and stomps all over my aspirations and dreams. He doesn’t just create self-doubt he takes a sledgehammer to my self-esteem and creates a feeling of self hate.

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Well he used to. I don’t let him do that to me anymore. I smother him with love and appreciation. I practice shining a light on the dark corners of my mind where he does his worst. These practices have become most successful in the past couple of months. I was starting to feel better after being open about how I feel, and sharing my feelings with you lot. However since reading the work of Brene Brown and Stephen Covey and can now make sense of what I was doing and refine it. I realise Foggy was formed way back in my childhood. Can I say now I had a lovely childhood I was kept safe, and most of all loved by loving Mum and Dad, and Brother and Sister. My mum largely brought me up alone as my Dad was away at sea in the Navy when I was young and then when I was a teenager they got divorced. Again this is not unusual, so I do not consider this a problem. Foggy did however form at this time and got stronger and stronger through my late teens and early adulthood, where he was finally strong enough to run amok. Now after reading Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly (this book has changed my life completely) I realise Foggy was fed by shame. Even writing that word makes me feel emotional.

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As I am writing this BBC Breakfast is doing a peace on suicide amongst men. Depression and suicide amongst men is the a terrible legacy of modern society. I am convinced that this comes from shame. None of us what to feel judged. Being vulnerable, emotional and caring are considered weaknesses. Just as I said yesterday in my blog about compassionate leadership.

I remember being a teenager and feeling ashamed for being kind and caring, for feeling emotional. Feeling ashamed that I didn’t understand or interested in playing football. I felt like I didn’t belong, I didn’t fit into the male stereotype. I now realise that most of my friends felt this to a greater or lesser extent, but were too afraid to say anything because we felt ashamed. I remember telling a female friend that I thought I must be gay, because I wanted to be a nurse, because I enjoyed talking to people about their feelings. As I did not feel masculine enough I must have been gay and being gay was a negative thing and another source of shame. Society puts us in a box and provides a set of values and behaviours we have to live up to (women and men). Most of these behaviours are impossible for us to live up to.  This shame got bigger and bigger as I got older. I have to be good at everything, I have to be successful, I have to provide for my family. I couldn’t in my mind live up to the ideals I felt society had enforced on me. Eventually to cut a long story short I disengaged with life. I did this a number of times through my adult life.

Now we don’t have to live in shame. Shame is a lie. If you do something wrong or make a mistake or you live your life differently to everyone else, you are not a bad person. There is a difference between guilt and shame. It is fine to feel guilty for your actions when they effect others. Guilt does not define you, you can make amends and redeem yourself. Shame assumes that you are flawed and unable to change. Shame implies you are less worthy. Not fitting into the male or female paradigm set by our society does not make you or me flawed. Talking about what makes you feel shame actually diminishes your shame. For me it was a bit like turning my bedroom light on when I was a child and realising the monster by the door was just my dressing gown on the back of my bedroom door. Talking about your shame turns your bedroom light on, and turns your demons into what they really are, just the furniture of your life.

So now in my post Brene life I talk about my shame openly, including crying when wonderful things happen, or when someone tells me a sad story. Foggy is now just my self talk, and that is all. I can now have a debate with myself about whether or not I should do something. He will still try to make me feel ashamed, sometimes he will succeed. But I know where that light switch is.

I find sharing some of my shame through a blog useful. Other times I will be selective who I share with. Be mindful when sharing that the person you are about to share with is ready to receive this. Sharing your darkest secrets on a first date may be ill advised.

Sharing shame and vulnerability makes you more empathetic and compassionate, therefore making you better equipped to connect meaningfully with the people around you.

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If you want to know more about connecting with yourself and others email me

matt@mattycoach71.com

 

What is Compassion?

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I was reading Daring Greatly by Brene Brown yesterday (I finished it yesterday and started on Braving the Wilderness last night). As you may  have realised I am a little bit obsessed with this lady. I have completely connected with what she says. It makes complete sense to me. I keep kicking myself that it has taken me so long to notice her.

Anyway I was reading the chapter on Parenting (I cried twice, I know I always do, but this time I was on the bus on both occasions) and I came across this quote on compassion. it is not by Brene but by Pema Chodron and it made me stop in my tracks.

“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognise our shared humanity.”

So lets get connected with ourselves and then connect with others.

It’s OK to Lead with Compassion

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When I started as a Student Nurse 29 years ago, my warmth, compassion and empathy were applauded, even considered a strength.

I was not the most technically capable student, my written work was not the best, and I often just did enough. My interpersonal skills however were my strength. I naturally put myself alongside my patients and colleagues. I was always looking for how I could support people, to understand their viewpoint and their experience. Rather than making a judgement on people and their behaviours, my default position is always to see good in people and there is always a reason why people do things. I am not saying I never judge or put nails in peoples coffins. I do everyday as following my default position can be exhausting. It is far easier to follow the path frequently followed, rather than the path less travelled. My preference though is to understand.

This is my point really. the majority of the time warmth, compassion and empathy are not widely valued behaviours in our society especially when shown by men. If you express these behaviours outside of the patient/carer (health professionals) relationship they are seen as a weakness. You are seen as a pushover, weak, lacking toughness, thin skinned, girly. As a teenager and young adult, when I was turned down by a girl or dumped they would always say I was too nice. TOO NICE!!!! That still pisses me off! I never realised that being unpleasant was an attribute to be proud of.

As I said at the beginning my people skills were applauded and encouraged as Student Nurse and a Staff Nurse. I am certain a lot of these attributes contributed to me eventually being promoted to Charge Nurse and given the opportunity to manage my own ward.

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That was when it all changed. My strengths were now weaknesses, as they would be in wider world. I was sent on leadership courses that encouraged my to be transformational in my leadership, to blend organisational goals with the interests of the staff. To win them over with compassion, but to have accountability. I clearly embraced this approach. However the NHS at that time was not quite ready for this wholesale cultural change. The prevailing culture was still command and control. The I say jump, you say how high culture. I was young and naïve and knew my way of seeing the world was right and everyone would applaud me and thank me for bringing this enlightened leadership to my ward. How wrong I was. I was considered weak for listening to staff and encouraging them to follow their interest. I made quite a few mistakes as all new managers do and that was not the problem, the problem was the under current, the belief that I was a push over and my leadership was not strong enough. People would say that I needed to toughen up, I needed to punish more than I praised and then I would get the respect of my staff. I was constantly made to feel ashamed of my ability as a leader. As a result I started to disengage with my role as ward manager. I could not be that manager, I just could not adapt to being a hard manager. I could not make examples of people. My values would not let be that manager. Therefore I became ineffective, deeply unhappy and eventually mentally unwell. I was just unable to adapt to a way of interacting with people that was the direct opposite of my core values. I was a ward manager for a decade, for the majority of that time I felt deeply unhappy and disengaged with leadership and management. It appeared to me that the NHS as a whole extolled an inclusive, compassionate approach to leadership and management, but actually practiced an adversarial, confrontational approach. I just could not reconcile that gap.

Now don’t get me wrong I do not blame the NHS or the people who practiced this approach, this was and is in some cases the culture they have grown up and live in. This is their paradigm it is difficult and sometimes impossible for them to see the world differently.

Thankfully I had some very supportive people around me that could see what my strengths were and were prepared to help me save my career, and helped me change direction and take up the roles I now have in the organisation, where my behaviours are again considered a strength.

Thankfully the culture not only in the NHS but across society is shifting towards a compassionate, empathetic approach to leadership and management and even living. We now recognise that we need to look after each others mental health in an increasingly complex world. Researchers like Brene Brown and psychologists like Martin Selligman and Stephen Covey highlight how compassion, empathy and happiness have a positive effect on our work and home life. If we lead with compassion your team will be more effective.

If you are a leader that struggles with a command and control approach to management. Getting alongside your staff, finding out who they really are and what motivates them. Listen to what they want and help them succeed in your team. You will reap the rewards. You will have to be brave, accept that you will make mistakes, and learn openly from them.

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If you want to learn more about connecting with your staff and leading with compassion get in touch.

matt@mattycoach71.com

Connected Organisation

Inspirational coaching quotes (2)

Yesterday I told you about my new coaching program, Connected Living. The concept of Connected living came from an idea I had a few months ago entitled The Connected Organisation. Essentially the concept is the same, you first start with the individual and once the individual (the leader) is able to connect with themselves, then they can then start connecting with their team members. The idea being that teams then become, resilient, agile and interdependent internally and with their stakeholders.

The origins of the concept comes from a number of conversations I have had with colleagues and friends about new leadership development programs that we have encountered over the years that have greeted with enthusiasm only to fall by the wayside, once the novelty has worn off. When times get hard we all tend to revert back to comfortable well rehearsed behaviour patterns (habits). Now there is plenty of research based programs and self-help books that teach us how to change our habits, and if you are invested in them they do work. I have definitely changed some of my habits using, books by Steve Peters and Stephen Covey. The knack then is to create a compelling reason to change collective habits that are holding organisations back.

Therefore The Connected Organisation along with Connected Living are not reinventing the wheel, it’s about working with key individuals who then connect with key individuals.

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So when working with individuals in an organisation there is an element of instruction and coaching to enable those individuals to cascade and coach for connection within their teams. The instruction is simply some coaching concepts, practice and support. The rest of the time is spent coaching the individual to connect with themselves and then connecting with the team.

Connecting with the team explores the history and the culture of the team, what the leader sees as the purpose of the team. What the leader sees as the strengths and weaknesses of the team. What are the team values, and are they congruent with the values of the wider organisation. Is there a perceived gap between the teams values and the teams actions. zen-2040340__340

Once they have started to create a connection with the team as a whole, then the leader is able to start to connect with the individuals in the team using the coaching skills and knowledge they have learned within this program. To ensure the coaching the leaders is giving is useful the leader needs to connect with other leaders for supervision and support on a regular basis, to prevent the shift back to old habits.

I am still adding the detail to The Connected Organisation before it is ready to be rolled out. If you are interested in exploring this approach further, please get in touch.

matt@mattycoach71.com

 

Connected Living

Connected Living

Over the past month I have been working on a new program of coaching. Looking at all the research about effectiveness (both personal and team) it seems that trust, connection and empathy appear to be vital.  Therefore I started to put together a program that brought together these ideas from, drawing on the work of Brene Brown, Martin Seligman, Steve Peters, Stephen Covey, Myles Downey, and John Whitmore.

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Connected Self

The first part of the program explores how you connect with yourself. This looks at what drives our wellbeing and provides a quick wellbeing health check using Martin Seligman’s PERMA framework. We then look at what makes you feel vulnerable and what drives that. Next we will explore your beliefs, and values and you will be invited to start to work on your personal mission statement, based on your values and what you what to impact you want to make on yours and others lives. Now you have explored your beliefs and values we can then return to your vulnerabilities and understand what triggers these vulnerabilities and drives you to think more emotionally than rationally, allowing you recognise when you are thinking with your emotions. We will then discuss your behaviour preferences, so where you get your energy from and whether you prefer to think things through using data, or whether you prefer to react on what feels right for you and others, or whether you can switch dependant on the context of what is going on. Once you start to understand how and why you do things, or not do things, you will then start to appreciate and understand your whole self. When you are self-aware you are much more likely to be able to connect more effectively with others.

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Connected to Others

Once  you have started to connect with yourself you can then start to explore how you connect with others. Firstly we will look at how you manage your current relationships by asking questions based on Brene Brown’s BRAVING framework. This can provide you data for setting your goals and action planning. We will then explore how much of a coaching approach do use when communicating with people around you, do you like to explore what they want and help them find the way to do achieve it that suites them best or are you someone who prefers to tell them how to do it, based on your experience so they can avoid all the mistakes that you made on the way. Based on your beliefs and values we will discuss what you value in the groups and teams you populate and what causes you discomfort. Now you have collected your data we can now explore and set your goals for improving your connections or creating new ones. I will then support you through action planning and reviewing progression.

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Loss and New Beginnings

Once you are connecting more effectively you will be in a much better position to manage change within your personal or work life. Drawing on some of the work of William Bridges we can explore how you manage your transition from the old way of doing things towards your new beginnings. We will look at the feelings that emerge during this transition and the effect that has on you and your connections. Again we will set goals for you to achieve to realise your new beginnings

If you are interested in connected with yourself and others email me matt@mattycoach71.com

Further Reading

Brene Brown: Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead. London Penguin Life 2012

Stephen R. Covey: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. London, Simon & Schuster 1999

Prof Steve Peters: The Chimp Paradox; The Mind Management Programme for Confidence, Success and Happiness. London, Vermilion 2012

Myles Downey: Effective Coaching. London, Texere 2002

William Bridges; Managing Transitions; Making the Most of Change. London, Nicolas Brealey 2008

Martin Seligman: Flourish. London, Nicholas Brealey 2012