What influences how we communicate with different people?

This has been a subject on my mind this week. It came up when I was discussing with a group how I find it difficult talking to senior managers and members of the exec, something that happens more often now I have changed my role. It was also a subject I have been considering this morning for a chapter in my book. So what causes me to feel uncomfortable communicating with senior members of staff?

When we see someone new our limbic system (the chimp from the chimp paradox) is alerted to make a threat assessment. As we know the limbic system is not just concerned with life or limb, it is also concerned in preserving status in the group and the continuation of your species. So once the risk of physical threat has been assessed, then the chimp can move on to other matters, which is status in the group and potential mates (there is clearly a lot more nuance to this than I am describing, but you get the drift). Maintaining status quo or enhancing status in the group is a very strong driver. From a primitive perspective being rejected by the group was a potential life ending event. Remember our chimps is not very subtle so invokes the same feelings whether or not you are about to die.

So lets go back to my issue, when I am confronted by people I consider to have a high status, my chimp is activated as there is a potential threat to my status. My chimp then searches for more information to before acting or not. My chimp will search my memory banks for recalled memories that may help. Now I have some rather unhelpful memories of authority figures throughout my life and especially in my adult life (as a Charge Nurse), so the advice given by my chimp is always be careful, don’t say much and get away as soon as possible, the less they know about you the better. In fact if you have not met them yet, it would probably be better if you did not meet them at all.

Not great advice! I have to speak to them in my job. Thankfully I can improve this situation and train myself and my chimp to not have this unhelpful response. This response comes about from having little data/information about the people that currently hold these senior positions (they are not the same people that gave me those unhelpful memories). When we don’t have much information our mind makes stuff up based on previous experiences and memories to complete the story.

The answer is simple get to know people more, before you make decisions about how you will communicate with people. If these people are critical to your job or any other part of your life, increase the amount of information you have about them. Now with some of the senior managers this is starting to happen and my ability and desire to communicate effectively with them is increasing. I need to work on those people I know less about, I need to start changing the stories I have in my head about people that have more senior roles than me.

Start seeing people in the round if you want to communicate effectively with people. If your opinion on someone is based on assumptions, correct that but getting to know them better.

Where has the time gone

30 years ago this morning, I worked my first ever shift as a Student Nurse.

I started my Nurse training in the October, and I then spent the next 3 months in the class room with brief visits to the wards.

After a short break for Christmas I started my first placement on Ward 21 at Kingston General Hospital on 1st January 1990. I know, I can’t believe that 1990 was 30 years ago either. I was 18 and a little bit hung over (quite a lot actually), in fact I was a little bit late. I had foolishly decided to go to a New Years Eve party and thought I would be able to party on down and still manage to get up on time and feel well. The truth was I was half an hour late and felt quite poorly.

Ward 21 at Kingston General Hospital was a Medical Elderly Ward, so therefore was very busy. It wasn’t long before I was too busy to feel sorry for myself. The winter of 89/90 was a particularly bad flu season, and there was a lot of very poorly patients on the ward. My feet barely touched the floor. Now I was quite a sheltered 18 year old and had never done a hard days work in my life. My shift finished at 3:15pm and I walked a mile back to Hull Royal Infirmary, where my Nurses’ Residence was. That was a long walk I can tell you. I got into my room at about 4pm, my hangover had come back with a vengeance, so I decided to rest my head for a little while. The next thing I know I am waking up in the dark and my clock says 7:00. I say to myself no not again! I jump out of bed and start rushing round getting ready, I come out of my room with my uniform on heading to the bathroom and someone on the corridor asks what i am doing and am I not coming for a drink. It was 7pm! So yes I went for a drink, and I remembered I was on a late shift the next day anyway.

A lot has happened since then, as you would expect really in 30 years, unless my life had been extremely dull.

I am still in Hull, I still work for the NHS. I never made a conscious decision to stay in Hull, in just happened. By the time I qualified I had met Lisa, so it just felt right to stay, then we moved in together, I did my Sick Children’s Nurse training, then we got married and had the boys. I love living in Hull. I love Hull, I consider it my home, and I cannot contemplate living anywhere else. Then again I never imagined I would stop working as a Nurse (some of my colleagues my suggest I never started), but this year that is exactly what I did, so I suppose never say never, as you just don’t know what is coming next.

They say time flies when you are enjoying yourself, and I can definitely say I have had a lot of enjoyment over the past 30 years. Some sadness of course and some very difficult times, but on balance it got me exactly where I need to be right now.

Here’s to another 30!

Music that has made me smile/sometimes cry this year

As many of you will already know, music plays an important part in my life. You will also know that both my sons are musicians. Ben is in Vialetters (If you have never heard them, firstly why not? Secondly don’t worry they are on the playlist above) and Jack is in a band called SpeakEasy, they have not released anything yet but will be soon. SpeakEasy play their first gig on 26th January at The New Adelphi in Hull, feel free to pop along and support them.

Anyway music is my go to place when I am feeling emotional, and I will often make playlists to soundtrack my life. The playlist above is of songs, many of them new to 2019 that provoke emotion in me. Many of them will make me smile, some will make me sad. All of them take me away from myself for a few minutes.

This year has been an up and down year, and the songs on this playlist have been there for me throughout the year. They are all special in their own way, but none more than the songs my son plays on. They are by far my favourite songs of the year as they make me feel so proud. Next year (2020) I will have 2 bands that will make me feel this way. That makes me feel so blessed, that my sons make something that feels my heart with joy.

The best thing about music and the internet age is that I can share with you some wonderful tunes. If you don’t have spotify, look up the songs on you-tube you will be able to access them for free.

I hope are able to listen and get as much enjoyment out of this playlist as me.

Happy New Year to you all!

What are my plans for next year?

Over the past few blogs I have talked about how to create the right environment for change, and how to improve your chances of success. So I thought I would share with you what I am planning for the year ahead.

To be honest most of these plans I have started already, but I am planning on completing them or moving them on at a pace (some of them are more long term).

So here is my list for this year:

  • Continue to lose weight and reverse this pre-diabetic state
  • Complete the Strategic Coaching and Mentoring Diploma
  • Finish the Connected Living Book and start process of getting published
  • Write an internal coaching and mentoring course
  • Introduce myself to the world as a Coach, Facilitator and Motivational Speaker.

Continue to lose weight and reverse this pre-diabetic state

Well I started this journey in November and have lost about half a stone. My plan is to adjust my lifestyle and make a permanent change to how I live, rather than go on a strict diet to lose weight. As mentioned on many occasions having an away from goal such as losing weight is often doomed with failure. Having a towards to goal is much more likely to achieve success. Therefore my goal is to have a lifestyle that improves my chances of having a healthy old age and being able to enjoy being an active Grandparent for my future Grandchildren. This is a long term goal with a downward trend in weight to measure it along with 6 monthly blood tests to establish if I am reversing this pre-diabetic state. I want to hit my ideal weight of 12 stone by March 2021.

Complete the Strategic Coaching and Mentoring Course.

Again this is something that started in 2019 that will come to a conclusion in May 2020. I am just in the process of completing unit 4 of 7. There are 7 assignments all around 3500 words long, these assignments come every 6 weeks for 42 weeks, so the pace is sort of relentless. The pay off for this is that it will better place me to establish a robust coaching and mentoring culture within the organisation I work. It is giving me the insight and skills to develop a policy for coaching and mentoring and how to connect this with the strategic direction of the organisation. It will also support me with my private coaching practice, with regarding expanding my offer to more executive coaching and how executives can influence the culture of their organisation with a coaching and mentoring approach.

Finish the Connected Living book

This has been an ongoing project of my for a while now. I am over half way through the overview. So over the first half of the year I will be completing the overview, before editing and expanding the chapters for it to be ready as a finished product to share by the end of year. The next aspect then will be working out how to get it published. At the moment though I concentrating on being near finishing it before I put a lot of effort into thinking about publishing it. All I plan to do is finish writing it this year, and then getting it published in 2021. This is a labour of love, which outlines my philosophy when coaching and mentoring people, it is also a very useful guide to how to manage your life. So for all of you that have been supporting me with this, thank you and it is still a thing.

Write an internal coaching and mentoring course

This is something I will be starting from fresh in 2020. I have had some ideas and have been researching how to get it accredited (as this will inform structure and content). This will be a course for employees of the organisation I work for to support the development of the coaching and mentoring culture and ensure the ongoing growth of our coaching and mentoring network. It is going to be a tall order to get this completed and accredited in a year, however by the end of the year I plan to have a functioning and active course that is ready to be accredited. A lot of work but achievable, having a fully accredited course by the end of the year I feel is too much. But starting a pilot is very possible.

Introducing myself to the world as Coach/Facilitator/Public Speaker

This is a mindset shift for me. I am already a coach and a facilitator internally for the organisation I work for, I have also spoken at a conference internally. I am a coach externally but at a low key level. This year I want to raise my profile and reduce the hindering words I tell myself, that limit my ability to sell my skills to a wider public. I know I am a skilled communicator and have a lot of experience coaching a wide range of people. I am a highly skilled facilitator, creating a rich learning environment for the participants. The feedback I get on a consistent basis tells me this. I have also noticed my skills evolving and having had car crash sessions (both coaching and facilitating) I know what good and bad feel like. I can communicate my subject matter effectively so I know I can command an audience for a short time at a conference. Leadership, coaching, mentoring, human factors (risk management) and personal effectiveness are the areas I can speak on and facilitate with confidence. So over the next year you will be hearing a lot more from me, pushing my skills and offering my services via social media and on a one to one basis.

If you want to get in quick and hire me before I become to popular feel free to message me.

So that is my year. What are you going to be up to?

What has 2019 done for me?

2019 has been quite an eventful year. It would not be an exaggeration to say it has been an emotional roller-coaster.

My family throughout this have been my rock, in particular those 2 fine young men above, who have shown me how incredible and vital life is.

Earlier in the year (around April time) my mum became ill. Mum had never really had any serious illness before so this really shook us as a family. It made me realise how precious our time is together on this earth. To cut a long story short she is physically a lot better now, but has had to adjust her life and how she views it. Something that all of us, but more so my Mum is grappling with. I ring my her most days now, instead of once every now and then. It made me realise how important her love is to me (sorry if I made you cry Mum). Most of my spring and summer was spent travelling backwards and forwards to Mum’s. As a result spring and summer just flew by.

The summer saw Ben’s band playing two really important and big gigs. They played Hulls local festival in August and then played Bonus Arena supporting another local band (Bud Sugar). As you can suspect I cried on both occasions (tears of pride).

In September Ben left home, and moved to Manchester to start his journalism degree. That first week was so hard. What made it harder was that I realised that in another year we would be waving goodbye Jack who will be going off to University. The thought of this just feels so scary, our lives will then have changed forever. I am so proud of both my boys so Ben leaving home and Jack preparing to leave is a source of great celebration too. We have done a good job and they are an exceptional pair.

October was a double edged sword. I started my dream job as Coaching Lead and Senior Organisational Development Practitioner. This is the job that just fits my personality, I was so excited to start and then I got ill, not sure what it was, but it eventually showed that I have pre-diabetes and need to start looking after myself. So new job, and quite literally new lifestyle.

The end of October saw some happiness, as we celebrated a milestone birthday for Lisa by spending a couple of days in York, a much needed distraction and break.

That is the thing about this year and has been a year of change, especially the second half. Now don’t laugh at me, but when I was on a course the other week I had my cards read. That said I was at the beginning of a great change and all I had to do was embrace that change and start moving. Now I don’t normally pay attention to that kind of stuff but to be honest I am going with these, because that is what it feels like. This half of the year has been difficult, my mum’s illness, my illness, new job, Ben leaving home, and Jack leaving soon. My life is changing whether I like it or not my choice is to make a success of that change. Yes this year has been tough but essential, even inevitable, what I do next is vital. I could sit back and let stuff happen, or do as I have been doing and start writing my own story.

So come on 2020, what adventures shall we go on this year. I have got some ideas, lets have some fun and be remarkable.

What ever you are doing next, make it heartfelt, make sure you learn something new, make sure it is worthwhile, and if it doesn’t wok, take note make adjustments and start again. Most of all do it!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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.