Be Grateful

Our default setting is to look for the negative in our lives. This is for good reason, it is designed to keep us safe in a world of physical danger. However most of us occupy a world where most of our dangers are theoretical. For many of us though it is just easier to see what is wrong with our world. We end up being a bit of a self fulfilling prophecy. If all you do is look out for one thing, you will see it wherever you go. Like when you buy a new car, all of a sudden you see that same model of car every time you go out on the road.

Don’t worry there is nothing wrong with you. Our brains are wired this way to keep us safe. It is far easier to use the well worn path of this wiring, rather than changing it to look for an alternative more helpful view of the world. We have to make a conscious decision to look for what makes us grateful. This takes practice everyday to create a new worn path. The more we walk down that path the more automatic our grateful thoughts will become. We will still look for what might go wrong, that is just biology.

I have put a picture of my 2 boys in this blog. Ben my eldest is home this weekend, and it is wonderful to see them together, greeting each other with the finger and a broad smile, then chatting and laughing together. This week saw Jack’s band release their first single on all streaming platforms. A few weeks ago his band played the local venue (The New Adelphi, frequented back in the day by bands like Radiohead, Pulp, and Housemartins). Now both my sons are in bands that have music published online, and have played live gigs. That makes me so grateful and proud to have 2 wonderful young men as my sons.

Everyday I look at what I can be grateful for. I love my job and when I am teaching or coaching I feel so lucky that I do something that matches what I value. So even when I am doing something I enjoy less, such as writing a report or filling in spreadsheets, or attending meetings I know that soon I will be coaching someone or teaching a group of people. Going to work or taking the dog for a walk I see how beautiful the world we live in is. I am grateful to the people I work with now for inspiring me, and all the nurses I have ever worked with. But there are a few people in my world that have made a true difference to me and my life. My Mum, George and Sheila (friends of the family), Mr Bolton (my Primary School Teacher), Mrs Turner (my Sociology teacher), Stan (my Nursing Tutor), Michael and Jonathon (my school friends), Julian (my Best Man, and best friend), Mike (my friend), Louise and Dave (my brother and sister), my Dad, and last but not least Lisa (my wife). I know I could go on for ever listing who I am grateful for, and you know what I would love to. That little exercise has made me feel so happy. It has got me thinking how lucky I am and how blessed my life is.

We don’t have to put effort in to looking for what is wrong in our lives, so don’t put a lot of effort into it. We do have to make a decision to be grateful for our everyday lives, so do that. If you wake up in a bad mood (at least every other day for me) dig deep and look for what you can be grateful for. The more you do it the easier it will be. If you look for what is good in your life you will see it eventually, just keep looking.

If you want to do some work on your thinking and take action towards a new positive you, message me.

In the meantime, here is a playlist of my boys’ music.

It’s not everyone else!

As Jack Canfield said, it is not just the event that determines the outcome, you always have to factor in your response.

Some weeks all of my responses are based on emotion, I am irritated by the smallest things. I am spending too much time acting on my emotional response to situations. Sometimes that is perfectly appropriate. If something is truly upsetting of course I should get upset, but may be I shouldn’t get angry when the dog barks to go outside. So how do I get out of this emotional quagmire that just gets me into trouble and reduces my productivity.

Now the first thing to say is, is that you will not be able to get rid of that emotional response, but you will be able to manage it. I am still a miserable git that flies off the handle for stupid reasons and yes I still cry when watching something emotional on the TV. I am a work in progress, is how I would put it.

It is really easy to use the emotional centre of our brains, because as Steve Peters says in his wonderful and much quoted book ‘Chimp Paradox’ the chimp or limbic system is much stronger and faster than the rest of the brain. So why go to the effort of searching for a more reasonable response, when we have a perfectly functional knee jerk one. Well there are several good reasons for not doing that, most importantly is not being a dick to all of those around you. Perhaps the mistake or inconvenience that has just happened was not just their fault but was a combination of events, which you were just as much a part of as they were. Or even it really is not that important.

So we have established that it is important to think more before we respond. We have to exercise the rest of our brain more, so it is ready and willing to take over from our emotional centre once it realises it is not needed. How to do this is obvious and simple but does require practice and effort. Hence why I am a work in progress. What I am wanting to do is change my habits, those unhelpful habits that encourage me to only use one small part of my brain when responding to the world around me.

Practicing thinking critically is what exercises your brain and fills your memory banks with useful, helpful memories that can be used effectively to formulate a measured reasonable response to events. Stop taking everything at face value. The vast majority of us a brilliant at critical thinking, and utilise this skill during our working day (but not always). We will search for as much information as possible before even attempting to come to a conclusion. We will search for alternative viewpoints. We will look for potential assumptions we might be making. We will consider the implications of our response. We will explore and assess possible risks, and assess the reasonableness of our response. I can hear all your emotional responses as you read this, saying how the flip are we expected to do all that when some knobhead has cut in front of me at the roundabout. The simple answer is you wont. However once you have expressed your emotion by calling them a prick or a knobhead, you will then start to calm down and will not chase him/her down drag them out of the car and kick their head in, as you have already considered, the risks and implications of that particular action. But you will let the irritation and even anger effect you for the rest of the morning even day. This is where practicing a critical thinking approach will help.

Start practicing this with something less irritating and less critical. Start asking those questions when listening to the news or reading a story online or in the paper. Before you make an opinion on what is in front of you ask the following questions:

  • Always start by thinking about what emotion this is making me feel. Does it make me, happy, angry, sad, hopeful, helpless, or just indifferent?
  • Do I have enough information? Does this article or item give me all the information I need.
  • Is there an alternative viewpoint? What might I think if I was from another part of the world? What would be my friends, family members, colleagues, or customers response to this?
  • What assumptions am I making about this? What am I taking as read? Why is it done that way? Do we have to use it that way?
  • What are the risks and implications attached to the opinion I am making? What will be the result of my opinion, will it cement my emotions?
  • Is my response or opinion reasonable and measured?

Keep doing this everyday, and it will form a habit. It will help you calm your emotional response and think in a more reasonable way. Because it is not always everyone else problem, you always play a part.

If you want to work on your emotional response message me.

We can work together face to face, online or via the phone, whichever suits you.

All the middles, forgotten, lost and misunderstood

Are you a middle aged, middle class, middle England man, who is feeling a bit lost, and frankly misunderstood?

And no you don’t want to bloody talk about it! You know what, not being okay is not okay! Being okay is okay, not being okay is shit! Accepting things are shit is not where you want to be. Accepting life goes up and down is fine, but putting up with stuff is not fine.

And talking about feelings and sharing emotions can just make things worse for a lot of us. Not me, I am as my mum said a sensitive soul, who has grown to accept that, but I tell you every time I feel emotional in public I feel terrible shame. So what I am saying is that if the prospect of opening your heart to someone makes you feel terrible don’t do it, and don’t feel bad about it.

Men in our society are conditioned not to cry in public to be strong, to protect and to provide. Now we are told to be sensitive, to share emotions, to want to talk about emotions. But at the same time don’t be overly emotional, don’t show weakness and provide. So what do we do? We avoid stuff we try to suppress what we are feeling so we don’t have to do that sharing shit. We then feel worse, we get irritated, we have mood swings, we withdraw and start to lose interest in home and work. Time with our family and productivity at work suffer.

As we get older more and more challenges us, things happen that we don’t expect, failure at work, illness (ours and family members), kids growing up and getting into trouble, and so on. All this comes at us and knocks us sideways, creates those feelings of stress and anxiety. Add to that the feeling of is this it, how do I keep this up or what if it all goes wrong.

Is there any wonder that we struggle and end up being miserable old gits.

There is a way out of this though, without sharing feelings and having group hugs. It is remembering what is important to you. Not just the obvious stuff like family, work etc, but stuff that you have forgotten about, stuff you stopped paying attention to when life, like getting married and starting a family gets in the way. Think back to what you use to do maybe as a kid or a young adult, that added value to your life, stuff that made you happy, but was productive. It might be something that you did with your dad or grandad, or with friends. It might be gardening, woodwork, messing about with engines, even Stamp collecting. Can you start doing it now, can you make time for it? This brings you back to what is important to you, and gives you space to start working through what is affecting you.

This will start to help you start paying attention to yourself, whilst doing something productive. This is just the beginning of the journey.

If this strikes a chord with you message me to arrange a 20 minute call to discuss what I could offer

How often do you do engage in an activity that demands your full attention?

I spend a lot of my time either in the past or the future. Examining and ruminating over what has just happened, or dreaming and worrying about what is coming next. This is often the source of my anxiety, and lack of self-worth when I get caught up in the hindering, unhelpful cycle of thoughts.

Spending some time in the past and the future is immensely helpful, if you are there to learn and improve, and make plans for a compelling future. The problem is we can often get stuck there, and if we are not careful this two destinations can become hindering and prevent us from acting due to the fear of repeating past failures, or because we enjoy the memories of past comforts and future dream of a wonderful future. The past and the future are not supposed to be permanent places of residence. They are just reference points to create a better now, by informing your current actions. The only thing that is real after all is the here and now, not yesterday and not tomorrow.

To ease our anxieties and create a more action focus, mindfulness is often offered up as a solution, to concentrate on the what is happening to you right now. To focus on you and your immediate environment. So the sensation of standing on the floor or sitting down, how different parts of your body feel, noticing your heartbeat and your breath. During this process your mind will wander, when you notice thoughts creeping back in, which they will often, mindfulness encourages you to let go of the thought and concentrate again back on what is happening to your body, such as your breathing. This activity is incredibly liberating as each time a thought enters your head, you let that thought go and release yourself from it. As after all it is only a thought (a series of electrical impulses and chemical reactions) and is not real. Now I do practice mindfulness and I do find it really helpful to calm my thoughts, but I find it difficult to achieve everyday.

Being engaged however I find much easier to do, and again it gets me to focus on the here and now. For instance writing a blog takes my concentration fully. I am taking my thoughts and turning them into words on the computer screen. My thoughts are focused on what I am creating now, so inevitably keeps me out of the past and the future ,only temporarily delving in for terms of reference. Another engaging activity is coaching, I am in complete service of the person in front of me, so I have to keep check on my wandering mind and bring it back to listening to my client. Coaching is a great way for me to quieten my thoughts and centre myself, as the less thinking I do about me the more helpful I am to my client, therefore it creates a discipline for me to be mindful.

What do you do that engages you enough that you have to concentrate fully on the activity and keep check on your thoughts? If you find yourself caught in your thoughts and paralysed by fear of failure or even the comfort of past glories, look for activities you enjoy that take your full attention, something that brings you to the present, something that lets you release those thoughts that are hindering you.

If you want to explore this more, please get in touch to discuss how a coaching relationship would help you create more focus on what you want to achieve and ensuring you take action. As well face to face coaching I also offer online, email and skype coaching. Email me to find out more and for a free consultation.

Music to lift and create energy.

February seems to me to be the month of viruses and low mood. Well probably because I have just had a virus for the past couple of days, that I am starting to come out of. So that has been making me think about how I generate some energy within myself to shake off the last embers of this pesky virus. Music is a wonderful thing and I use it a lot to inspire and comfort me. So in an attempt to create some energy from within myself, I thought about the music that makes might heart swell, music that puffs out my chest and puts a spring in my step.

Well nothing does that more than a bit of funk and soul. So here is a playlist I have been listening to today, to create some much needed energy, to prepare me for work tomorrow.

So for your pleasure if you wish is my favourite funk and soul songs for your pleasure and to inspire you to action.

Be a Prestigious Leader

Over the last week I have been reading Rebel Ideas by Matthew Syed. I highly recommend it. I have not read it all yet, but the chapter I was reading yesterday struck a chord. It did not give me any new information, but what it did was give me another view point, and how we can connect the reduction of error/safety and project success directly to the behaviours of the leader and their followers. It takes (for me) collective accountability and leadership to a new place. The idea does though require us all to suppress the desire for a neat solution to a problem and someone to blame when it all goes wrong.

The suggestion is that how a team communicates is the key to whether their activities are more or less likely to end in failure or even failure. This all stems from our sociological view that being a dominant leader is a strong and successful leader, that having one strong voice in the room is a vital element of success. Now in some circumstances this is true. Having someone who is clearly in charge and has the capacity to make the final instruction is vital for a successful team. However that voice being the only voice throughout the activity is asking for disaster. Suppressing the other voices in room narrows the options available to the leader. It ignores the diversity of thought available to the leader. Hearing the voices in the room increases the leader’s situational awareness. Suppressing those voices reduces the productivity and creativity of the team.

Studies have been done that suggest that having a dominant senior leader in the room, creates an atmosphere where people are unwilling to speak up, without the leader doing anything. A study conducted by Aberdeen University in the 1970s on flight crews discovered that the crew would automatically defer to the Captain even if he was making a bad decision. In fact of the psychologists monitoring the responses commented that.. “Co-pilots would rather die than contradict a Captain.”

All these studies suggest that if you have a dominant style of leadership you are putting your teams’ activities at risk. If you work in a safety critical environment you could be putting lives at risk. This is not to say a dominant approach cannot be useful at times, but never in isolation.

There is an alternate approach to leadership. Something I know as compassionate leadership, but something that I learned yesterday has been described as prestigious leadership. This is a style of leader that was first described at the turn of the 20th Century by an anthropologist called Radcliffe-Brown. He described how certain individuals gained influence in the Andaman Islands. He notices that these people hd certain personal qualities; they were skilled hunters, kind and generous and free from bad temper. Other members from the community were willing to follow them and used their behaviours as role models . They were chosen as leaders because of their prestige, not dominance. We would also describe this approach as a transformational leader.

This prestigious approach to leadership encourages respect from the team and does not demand it. It allows the team to have a voice, with the confidence to know that someone will take onboard that point of view to make a decision that is informed. This style of leadership does not mean decisions are always collective and are debated. What it does do, is actively look for and identify potential blind spots and therefore reducing the risk of missing something vital.

Be a Prestigious leader it makes perfect sense. If you want to explore this more, get in touch and also buy Rebel Ideas by Matthew Syed.

PS the picture is of Maya Angelou one of the most prestigious leaders ever.

The Importance of Creating a Mission Statement

Yesterday I was working with a wonderful team, to develop their team mission statement. Firstly let me again say how amazing our NHS teams are, it was a pleasure working with them.

Now I am not going to talk about team mission statements (if you want to explore creating a team mission statement, you can book me to come in and work with your team). I am going to concentrate on developing personal mission statements.

I first wrote mine about 2 years ago now, and since then it has adapted as I have grown and shifted my viewpoint. If anything it has simplified. The simpler it is, the easier it is to remember it, and to make it operational.

The first thing to do is to consider what your core values are, and then consider how you use those values in your life. It is important to recognise when you have lived up to those values, what you were doing and how that made you feel. Also recognise when you have not lived up to those values, what you were doing and how that made you feel.

Once you have a couple of operational values (values that you live with everyday, not ones that you would like to have, or think you should have) then it is time to consider how you want to be remembered by your loved ones, friends and colleagues. This forms your version of success.

So now you have what you are going to do, and how you are going to measure it. The do is living within your core values. The measure is how you will be remembered, so does living within your values create that version of success.

It is also important to consider what will get in the way of you succeeding in your mission. What often gets in the way of us living up to our core values is the assumptions we make about the world around us. A useful way of exploring these emotions is to consider what we hold to be true. Now these are derived from folk stories that are passed down to us through family, school, work, media, friends etc. Now some of these truths might be true, however most are not, and can be unhelpful. For instance a common truth might be ‘what goes around comes around’. Spend some time considering what these assumptions are in you life and how they could impact you living up to your values. You truths might be assumptions you make about different people or situations.

Now you have nearly a complete mission statement:

  • You have what you are going to do
  • How you are going to measure this
  • What might get in the way
  • What you will do to recognise when stuff gets in the way
  • What you will do to make it right.

Once you have your mission statement, write it out neat, and share it with a few trusted people. Ask them if this is rings true for them. Does this mission statement represent you. This is important as a mission statement should represent you at your best, not a better version of you. This is not about changing, this statement is about maintaining you as near to your best as possible most of the time. If your statement becomes aspirational you run the risk of chasing behaviours that just are not you, and you will come across as inauthentic, you will become disheartened and abandon your mission statement very quickly.

It is also important to remember that your mission statement does not have to remain fixed as you grow to understand yourself and the world around you better, you will be able to adjust your statement to fit your view of the world and yourself. Overtime you will grow and therefore so should your mission statement.

So this exercise it will not make you better, it will however let you at your best be seen by more people more often.

If you want to spend some time perfecting you mission statement, get in touch, we can either do this online or face to face. You will not regret it, you will be far more satisfied with your life.

An Inspiring 2 days

I have spent the past 2 days facilitating a coaching skills for managers course to a group of inspiring and impressive leaders from the NHS.

Together we have explored how a coaching approach to leadership can transform the way we manage and motivate staff provide high quality care within a culture that can be both compassionate and efficient.

We have discussed that by trusting in peoples’ capacity to succeed breads success.

We have explored how difficult it can be to keep check of out righting reflex and not try to fix every problem for people, but to help them find it from within themselves. However we have also learnt that is ok when we do end trying to solve, as long as we notice it and learn to recognise the urge and think of a question to ask that would be more helpful, next time.

Most of all we have learned that sharing issues and spending some time thinking about what needs our attention is so valuable.

This is the 3rd time I have run this course and every time I enjoy it more and more. I am really looking forward to meeting up with everyone in 2 weeks for day 3.

Applying a coaching approach to leadership takes practice, but is so important in the complex world we live in.

If you want to learn more about coaching drop me an email, or send me a direct message via Twitter or Facebook.

I am now offering more online coaching

Life is busy and complicated, we have many demands on our time. We know we need time to do some thinking on issues that need our attention, but we struggle to find the time.

Coaching sounds like a good idea, but it can be time consuming and expensive. Online coaching can give you the flexibility to attend to those issues/problems that you need to do some thinking on. Whether that is improving your productivity at work, becoming more healthy, changing the way you think about and see you life, online coaching can give you the time and space to do that thinking at a time that is convenient to you.

I now offer subscriptions and one off sessions that can be tailored to your needs. I have outlined the subscriptions on my services page, these subscriptions are not fixed and can be adapted to what you need.

Coaching can help you make the decisions that are best for you. This flexible online approach allows you to get high quality coaching from an experienced qualified coach at a time and place that is convenient for you, at a price that suits your budget.

Email me or direct message me via Facebook or Twitter to arrange your first session.

Only 3 more assignments left before I complete my Level 7 Diploma

I spent most of yesterday working on the 5 assignment of the CMI Level 7 diploma in Strategic Coaching and Mentoring.

It was then I realised that I only have 2 more assignments once I have finished this one.

It has been much more enjoyable than I expected. I have also realised I knew much more about strategic performance management than I realised.

This is something I will be using in my practice, both internally within the Trust and in my private practice offering coaching in leadership development and aligning workforce to corporate objectives.

If you are interested in discussing what I could offer you from a leadership perspective, please drop me a line.

%d bloggers like this: