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.

We all have a choice

I read a tweet this morning by Paul McGee (@TheSumoGuy) that invited us to make a choice today. We could choose to be grumpy about whatever was irritating us or getting in the way of our life, or choose to be grateful for what we have and what is around us.

I was out walking the dog when I read this tweet and it made me think of my surroundings and look around at the beauty of where I live. I took this picture.

Now to you, you might be thinking, that is nothing special, but to me it sums up a walk through my village on a Sunday morning in the summer, and how lucky I am to live here. 2 minutes earlier I had been irritated by someone saying something annoying on Facebook and by my dogs insistence on sniffing every blade of grass. This tweet reminded me to not forget the reasons to be grateful.

I and I am sure most of you find it easy to focus on the negative, to expect the worst, look for what is going wrong, expect that people cannot be bothered to do a good job. This is our default setting, this was how we were taught to think. These neural pathways have been trodden on for years. So seeing life through an alternative lense is not easy, new pathways need to be formed. Also it would not be helpful at all to have a wholly positive outlook in life, for one you will seriously piss off your friends and family and two it is just dangerous, you have to keep your threat sensors on. The world is tough so you must be aware of dangers around you.

What is important is to have a choice, of an appropriate response and give equal air time to the negative and the positive.

There is a lot in my life right now that makes me feel sad and grumpy, and so it should because it is horrible, so I have been practicing everyday to give it air time, to appreciate the emotion, but not to stay there for too long. I have been trying to look for what there is right now to be grateful for, and boy there is an awful lot to be grateful for, in fact a lot more than there is to make me grumpy or sad.

The stuff that makes me really sad is important and big but is out of my control, so all I can do is articulate what I am feeling and give it the attention it deserves, amazingly that gives me the space, and energy to appreciate all the wonderfulness I have in my life. So in a way I am grateful for the bad stuff, as it has made me really examine what matters to me, I wish it hadn’t happened but it has and therefore I need to accept what it is, and move on. So I have chosen to be grateful, but only when I have chance to be grumpy. Being grumpy takes me to the place where I can see what I am grateful for.

Thank you @thesumoguy for your inspiration.

Doing what I love

This week a calm seems to have fallen over me. As you will no doubt know life for the past few months has been challenging and is likely to be challenging for some time to come. As I mentioned last week I am learning to roll with the punches and keeping picking myself up when I get knocked down. This and last week I have been talking a lot about purpose and how important that is to being resilient. For me this gives me the strength to carry on. I generally know if I am talking a lot about a subject it is because I am wrestling with it. I am trying to fully understand it, to devise personal meaning of it. Over the past couple of weeks I have been grappling with what is important to me, I have been examining what I value and connecting back up with my purpose. In fact as I have said before actually writing this blog helps me articulate and understand what is swirling around in my brain.

As I am writing this, I am noticing my feelings about my core value. My core value as you may remember was being useful. My sense of usefulness has been sorely challenged over recent weeks. There has been things going on in my life that I have been unable to control, unable to make better. With regards to these subjects I have felt useless. I have felt like an impotent bystander, watching something awful unfold that I have no influence over. I felt that I was not living up to my core value, and letting myself and my family down. This is the story I have been telling myself. As Brene Brown would put it, this is my first shitty draft of my story about what is happening to me. I can tell you, now I have articulated that this draft certainly is shitty and is completely inaccurate. Now I think about it, this week I have been demonstrating to myself where I am useful, what I do that makes a difference. When I apply my usefulness to what I have been doing as a family member over the past few months, I have been useful, where I could influence things, however there are a lot of situations in life that I can not influence and I need to let them go, and stop trying to wrestle them to submission.

My usefulness comes from doing what I love. I love listening and talking to people, I love showing people the wonder of gentle communication. I love sharing the magic of curiosity and the incredible power of empathy. When I do this overtly I am on cloud 9. That is what hooked me to nursing, then clinical supervision, and now coaching. I do have ever practice empathy and listening with fascination all the time which obviously has less of an impact on me and I can and clearly do not pay as much attention of it’s worth to my resilience. I derive my sense of purpose from helping people feel connected, care for and listened to, which in turn satisfies my core value of usefulness. For weeks now I have been fighting and losing with uncertainty. Trying to accept uncertainty is really hard, but paying attention to what you are winning at seems to diminish the impact uncertainty is having on me.

So this week I have delivered clinical supervision training for 2 days, coached and delivered a careers session to school children. This has most certainly restored me and connected me back up with my core value, and at the same time reminded me of what my purpose is.

Having a purpose gives you somewhere to go to recharge your batteries when life gets tough and keeps knocking you back.

Are you clear about why you do what you do?

Morning Rise

I found this poem in the back of my notebook. I cannot remember writing it. I did but I don’t know when. I know it is about foggy. It is a positive poem. If your foggy is troubling you, take heart you can rise.

Morning Rise

When the noise gets too much I rise,

When the poking and prodding gets too much I rise,

When the darkness gets to much I rise,

I rise,

I rise,

To escape his judgement,

I rise,

To escape his sneering,

I rise,

To escape his laughter,

I RISE!

Ugly Crying

The other day I made the mistake of watching Toy Story 3 alone. Oh god it was carnage. Now I enjoy this film and I also know being a sensitive soul I generally shed a tear at the end. Normally however there are members of my family around me, namely my sons who will have a laugh at me for crying at a cartoon. In fact Jack points out to me that I cry watching almost anything, including X-Factor (well I love to see people trying hard). Anyway none of these filters were present.

In hindsight I should have thought on and given the film a wide birth. But no, I thought I would be alright. I had things to do on the computer I said to myself, so I would not get completely drawn in and it would provide a pleasant backdrop to my work. That worked fine until the final 2 scenes. The scene where Andy is preparing to leave, and he walks into his bedroom with his Mum. She looks around the now empty and bare room. A room us as viewer of all 3 films recognise as a place of fun and adventure for Andy and his favorite toys, that is now is just an empty shell. All his toys and pictures packed away. Well the look on her face grabbed me, and it started. It started deep down in my heart and rose up to my mouth, I let out a little sob then the tears started and just did not stop for the next 10 minutes, accompanied by increasingly louder sobs and the obligatory snot bubble. my face was all contorted and I could not help rocking. If anyone had looked in through the window they would have assumed I had just been told some terrible news, and not watching a kids film.

As you all know, I have 2 boys. They are my world and I am so proud of them. They are 16 and 18 years old and over the next 2 years will be leaving home. Ben will no doubt leave next September. I want them to leave, and I want them to be successful and independent. Like every parent I want the best for my Children, but I would also quite like for them to stay young and need me, the way I am used to them needing me.

I have been starting to prepare myself for Ben leaving home for a while now. Many of his friends left home in September, so it has been on my mind since then. I think just watching Toy Story 3 brought those feeling to the surface. I realise now post sob that this is all part of the process of change that we are experiencing as a family and what I am experiencing as a parent.

There is nothing like a good ugly cry to let out all of those unhelpful emotions. It then gives you some space to create clarity in you thoughts. I felt so much better after it. I wish we all could feel more comfortable with full on sobbing, instead of repressing it. If we don’t let these feelings out, they just muddle our thought processes, and we end up being much more unhappy. In fact I was coaching someone recently that had a good old cry, we just sat there for a couple of minutes whilst they just cried. Once they had finished we had such a productive conversation, once the blocking emotions had been expressed. I did notice that they kept on apologising for crying, and I realised that was something I do. There is no need to apologise for doing something that is so useful. From now on I am going to practice not apologising for crying, I am also going to allow myself to have a good ugly cry and not repress it. I am going to appreciate the snot bubble. In fact I think that should be my mantra for the New Year.

APPRECIATE THE SNOT BUBBLE!

Have a lovely Christmas and New Year, and if you feel the need have a good old cry, you will feel so much better.

PERMA and That Hour of Happiness

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The past week has been a little turbulent. It has been a week of feeling vulnerable, after sharing my feelings on here and sharing a little of myself in the support of others. In fact sharing in support of others Is suppose has triggered this blog.

I had no plans to write a blog today. I thought I was spent after sharing my parenting pains yesterday. However when I was out on a run this morning I started thinking about what I had said to a group of new registrants and the end of their first year as Registered Nurses. I was talking to them about the daily stress they encounter in their everyday job as part of a talk I do to Nurses about compassionate reflective practice. The premise of the talk is that to be truly compassionate to others, you have to show compassion to yourself. Part of that compassion is looking after and maintaining your capacity for stress.  Our lives are stressful, that is normal, life has always been stressful and always will be. If didn’t have stress and discomfort we would not have great innovation and creativity. Learning and development come from a place of discomfort. However if not checked and managed that discomfort can turn into distress. Innovation and creativity die in a place of distress. So at this point in the talk (if you ever attend this talk or the day I do on human factors and error management, look interested and intrigued as if you have never heard it before) I drew a bucket and invited them to imagine that the bucket was their capacity for stress. Now every time you experience stress it sits in your bucket. If you don’t pay attention to your bucket it can overflow and that is when you become distressed. I suggested to them that the way to manage their bucket is to attach a tap to the bottom of it, and they can do this by setting aside an hour everyday that is dedicated to their happiness, something that is just for them, or something that just makes them smile or feel good inside. I suggested to them that they may already be taking part in some of these activities but do not label them as part of their hour of happiness. This is quite a powerful proposition and is a way of appreciated, yourself, people around you and your environment.

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This got me thinking about Martin Seligman’s PERMA. In his book Flourish (if you are a Psychologist or a student of Psychology please forgive my clumsiness) and no doubt in earlier publications he suggests that people who mentally healthy have the following characteristics.

Positive Emotion

Engagement

Relationships (supportive/positive)

Meaning

Accomplishment

I suppose that hour of happiness in many ways is doing an inventory and just checking in with your PERMA on a daily basis.

So I invite you to pay attention to your stress bucket, by allocating an hour of happiness in your life. It can be anything that pays attention to your PERMA.

So far today I have gone for a run for 30 minutes, that has given me sense of accomplishment, which in turn has given me a positive emotion at the end of it. I have been writing this blog for about 40 minutes now which has been engaging and will give me a sense of accomplishment, it will also create connections with some of you readers, some of whom I know, so therefore builds our relationship further. Already I am over my hour, however I am not finished with my happiness today (it is Sunday I suppose). I have had 2 short 5 minute conversations with my sons one on the state of modern drama and it’s over reliance on the crime drama, with him stating that nothing useful or original has been said in that genre for the past decade. That made me smile and made me love him that little bit more. I then had a conversation with my youngest and his girlfriend about the programme they were watching, which was a comedy by all accounts, although there appeared to be no laughter in the room. The usual banter occurred as always does ending me gently making fun of his stubble and him telling me I need to grow up. This again made me smile and even laugh out loud and I loved him that little bit more. Thinking about those conversations also makes me feel proud of the young men they have become, so I suppose to 3 minute conversations have shown to me that my PERMA is safely intact and it is not even lunch time.

Even just taking stock of what makes you happy during the day can turn that tap on at the bottom of your bucket. We cannot escape from the stress of our lives, and nor should we. Stress and discomfort are vital for a successful life if managed, and only become a problem if we neglect ourselves and don’t pay attention to how we feel.

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My invitation to you is find and embrace your hour of happiness everyday, you well-being and resilience depends on it.

This forms the first part of my connected living program, if you would like to know more about managing your stress how you can better connect with yourself and others get in touch.

matt@mattycoach71.com