Do you consider yourself a leader?

Are you a leader?

I bet there are a lot of you that would either say no or have to think hard about your answer?

Do you take responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes, and do you have the courage to develop that potential?

If you answered yes to that question, then in Brene Brown’s eyes (and mine) you are a leader, and if you are a leader then you really should get Dare to Lead.

 

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In fact I would suggest you go along to her website brenebrown.com and absorb as much of her work as you can. It could transform the way you lead if you start to practice what she suggests.

This is not waffy fairy dust advice she is serving up, it is all hard evidence and difficult conversations. If you are prepared to feel uncomfortable and tackle some difficult subjects you really could transform the way you lead.

Her work has made a massive impact on me and how I see my world, I am sure it will do the same for you if you let it.

The comfort of a good moan

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I love a good moan. Moaning is comfortable, its comfortable because it is easy. All you have to do is sit in judgement with no responsibility, and ultimately don’t take action.

We all love it, but we really do need to limit its use to being the precursor to problem solving, to move away from the thing that irritates us. After all that is the function of moaning.

I am not saying that we should spend all our time action planning and trying to solve all the ills of our world (unless you really like doing it of course). However we do need (myself included) to examine how many times we moan about a certain subject.

If you find yourself repeating a moan about the same subject, try asking yourself the following questions:

How much discomfort or inconvenience does this irritation cause?

Would my life improve if the irritation was no longer there?

Do I have the ability to change the thing that annoys me?

If the answer is yes, do I have the will to change?

If the answer is no, what can I do to adjust my feelings towards it?

Can I adjust my view of the world to make me more tolerant of this irritant?

If you cannot be bothered to ask these questions of yourself, then at least consider the impact you are having on others when you moan about this subject. Are you becoming the topic of someone else’s moan.

When we moan, it generally is at the expense of someone else, therefore it gets in the way of connecting with each other. We end up concentrating on what makes us different and not what connects us. We may momentarily connect with someone who shares our moan, however this is a relationship based on being unkind, and judgemental. When you walk away from that person they may wonder what you say about them when you are with other friends. That in my book is not the basis of a positive relationship.

If you want to keep your moaning to one-off occurences, so you don’t have to ask yourself a series of questions examining how much of a moaning Minnie you are then may be adopt my favourite Brene Brown checklist BRAVING (you didn’t really think I could go a whole blog without mentioning my favourite researcher). BRAVING will help you view your world and those who inhabit it differently and reduce the frequency of your moaning. It is important to be irritated by things and people, however it really isn’t okay to moan without doing something about it. That is just unkind. BRAVING will help you confront those irritations and solve the issues that cause them.

Boundaries: Be comfortable with letting people know where your boundaries are. What you are happy to accept and what is not acceptable to you. If people don’t know where your boundaries are, how do they know how far to go? If other people’s boundaries are not clear, then ask them.

Reliability: Make sure it is the same you that turns up every time. When you set your boundaries, stick with them. If you say you are going to do something, do it. If people don’t know which version of you they are getting, are you just setting them up to irritate you.

Vault: People need to know that if they share something privately you that you will keep their confidence. They also need to know that you are not going to share others secrets that are not yours to share, including moaning about others actions or behaviour along with potential reasons. This erodes trust and encourages a gossiping, moaning culture, which in turn drives more disconnection.

Integrity: Choose what is right over what is comfortable or convenient. Have a conversation with the person that you want to moan about. Get to know them, maybe learn why they did the thing they did. Talk to them about how you feel. Telling each other stories about yourselves creates trust, creates a space for empathy to live. Lean in to the discomfort.

Non-Judgement: Be prepared to offer help without judgement, rather than criticise or moan about them. Will to accept help without judging myself.

Generosity: Have the most generous view of the people around you as possible. Have a generous view of their intentions. We cannot read people’s minds but when we start a conversation with someone to make a connection it is important that we view them in a positive light, rather than the source of our problem. Our starting point needs to be positive. We then give them an opportunity to live up to our view than live down to our negative view. After all we are talking to create a connection. If they do not live up to it, that is fine, we can decide not to connect. If we don’t connect it is important to accept that we don’t connect and not to dwell on it. We cannot get on with everybody, and that is fine. We should not fill our lives with that person, just to give us someone to moan about. Remember positive relationships is vital to good mental health.

If you want to explore this further and get yourself out of your cycle of moaning drop me a line.

matt@mattycoach71.com

 

Reflective Compassionate Practice

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A few months ago I was asked to design and deliver a workshop on professionalism to a group of nurses. When I was thinking about what to talk about I was thinking about the challenges faced by nurses in an increasingly complex workplace. On the face of it, our workplaces do feel more stressful than they used to be. In reality the actual physical workload does not seem to have changed dramatically. What has changed though is the vast amount of data nurses receive and are expected to produce, during their working day. So on top of caring for patients, nurses now have to process data from a variety of sources, analyse this data to decipher what is useful and what is not. So there is no wonder they get make mistakes, miss things, get stressed, and in some cases burn out.

This is an issue that is high on the agenda of people who work in health care, and across the world healthcare professionals are finally looking at how we can look after each others well-being as much as we care for our patients. The emphasis very much is on how the resilience of healthcare professionals.

With that in mind I felt that a workshop on professionalism, must centre on the nurse’s responsibility to pay attention to their own well-being to the benefit of their patients. If you are going to pay attention to your well-being you need to reflect on your behaviours, actions, feelings. Showing compassion and empathy are the cornerstones of nursing, but are practically impossible to show if you are not compassionate to yourself. Therefore that is why I called the workshop Reflective Compassionate Practice with the aim of the workshop being, to encourage participants to reflect on why they react and think the way they do, and how that impacts on themselves and others, then to appreciate their uniqueness, and accept their perceived failures. The premise is that non-judgmental raising of self-awareness increases your ability to problem solve, increases your ability to show compassion and empathy as you are more willing to accept what causes you distress and pain, therefore it is easier to connect with others that are experiencing distress and pain.

So the workshop invites the participants to practice critical thinking at work and outside of work. Critical thinking takes practice, so therefore I introduce some simple concepts of testing the information they are given and not just taking it at face value. So encouraging them to delve beneath the surface of what they are being told:

Have I got all the information in need?

What assumptions am I making about what I am hearing?

What are the implications of this information?

Is it true, or factual? How will I test its accuracy?

Is the information consistent with what you already know?

Is there an alternative point of view?

Is my judgement of the information reasonable?

Now there is a lot more to critical thinking than these simple questions, however I want to encourage the participants to be curious and have a desire to get accurate information, to increase the chances of them making the right decision based on accurate correct information. We all know that often the real truth often sits just beneath the surface of the initial statement.

I then invite them to consider how they react to stressful situations, using the work of Professor Steve Peters and the chimp paradox. So we discuss that unpleasant memories can have an effect on how we react to situations, that we perceive to be stressful. On many occasions these memories are not ours but are folk stories that develop within the culture of teams. For instance during the winter hospitals are extremely busy. There is often more patients than there are beds available. This can create tensions between teams and between bed managers and teams. Despite all involved having the same goal in mind (caring for the right patients in the right place) things can get quite tense. Often this is because the nurses and managers are already prepared for a confrontation before it happens as their brains have told them that the people they are going to talk to will be difficult and will not want to do what they believe is required. So there is no surprise that arguments start. If their brains referred to memories that were generous to the intentions of those other teams and managers, then perhaps then row would de-escalate to a constructive discussion that is resolved in a more timely manner, allowing everyone to get on with caring for the patients. Steve Peters would call it turning your gremlins into autopilots, or making unhelpful memories, helpful memories. Again this takes practice so I encourage the participants to carry out this practice in all aspects of their life.

We then do a short exercise to determine how they prefer to behave and think. Whether they prefer get their energy from working with others or working by themselves. Generally most nurses are comfortable doing one or the other. Also whether they prefer to think things through and then act or whether they prefer to start to solve the problem straight away. So using Jungian theory I invite them to consider how they will show up at work and why people who show up with different behaviours might react towards you in a certain way. This is by no means meant to be an accurate psychometric test but, just to help the participants examine why they might behave the way they do and why they react to different people in different ways and how they can adapt how they connect with each other.

The participants are now beginning to get a picture of themselves and some tools that they can use to increase their self-awareness.

We now examine stress and why we all experience it at different times and what can trigger feelings of stress. We looks, examine, fatigue, hunger, and perception as they can all have an impact our stress levels. We then discuss strategies to manage our stress levels. For instance, taking breaks at work, taking on fluids and eating. I will invite them to suggest strategies to they use to manage workloads, such as list writing, briefings and debriefing.  I also introduce them to an hour of happiness. I invite the group to come up with activities they do regularly that are just for them and make them feel happy. I then challenge them to make a commitment to allocate themselves at least one hour of happiness a day.

At the end of the session we discuss the importance of setting goals to create a sense of optimism and create a solution focus rather than concentrating on the problems they see. I introduce them to Miles Hilton-Barber who decided to become an explorer and adventurer when he was in his 50s. Miles had gone blind as a young adult, after 30 years of being limited by his circumstances he decided to concentrate on achieving his dreams. Miles is now in his 60s and has flown from London to Sydney, run across the Gobi Desert,  and climbed Mont Blanc, to name but a few. There are a number of his talks on YouTube and I encourage you to seek them out. Basically his message is, start with your dream and not your circumstances. If you start with your circumstances you will never do anything.

I then invite them to write a commitment of what they are going to do over the next month with a deadline to encourage them to start thinking in terms of goal setting and being resourceful.

To be an effective Professional it is vital to self-aware and show yourself the compassion you show your patients.

HARD Goals

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Today I was delivering Clinical Supervision training with the wonderful Janis Hostad. So yes it was a good day full of fun and challenge (I love co-delivering with Janis).

Anyway that is not the reason for this blog, although one day I might do a blog on working with Janis, as it is so much fun. Back to the reason for the blog.

So we were discussing goal setting and the use of SMART goals, whilst using the TGROW model. Janis suggested that there is a place for another M when encouraging teams to set their goal, with M being their motivation to deliver the goal. So what drives the team to keep them striving to achieve the goal once the initial excitement dies down.

That got me thinking about another acronym that I had read about and I think even blogged about somewhere that got the client to set HARD goals. Now when I was describing it I got the A and the R wrong mixing them up with those used in a SMART goal.  When I got home this evening I looked up HARD goals and found the correct use of A and R.

When we set goals it is easy just to go through the motions and play lip service to SMART, because it’s comfortable and never really gets you to examine your commitment to the goal. As a coach I generaly avoid SMART, other than pinning the client down to a time frame. Re-examining HARD has made me think, that is more what I do in a clunky, kind of roundabout way. It makes you examine what you want to achieve, why you want to achieve it and what is required from you to get there. Below I outline what a HARD goal is. See what you think, give it a go and consider if it makes a difference to your commitment to achieving your goal.

Heartfelt: write down at least 3 reasons why you want to achieve your goal.

Animated: When you describe your goal does it come to life? Do you find it easy to go into great detail about what you goal is, what it looks like, feels like, sound like, even smell like? Does your heart beat faster?

Required: what is required for you to achieve the goal? What needs to be achieved for you to say you have reached your goal?

Difficult: What new skills will you need to acquire to be able to achieve your goal?

Even when I write it out, it excites me, and start thinking about the goals I have, and I started thinking about what I need to do, I then get excited thinking about what it will be like achieving, and before that how exciting my journey is on my way to my goals.

Make you goals HARD goals, they are so much better than those boring stale SMART goals.

Mind The Gap

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Below is a blog I wrote this morning for my coaching network blog at work. I have adjusted it slightly to make it more generic and accessible for people who work outside the NHS. I liked so I thought a slightly wider audience might like it too.

This week I have been preparing for an interview, for the Coaching Lead role. During this preparation I starting thinking about my values and those of the hospital. This got me thinking about how often I really examine the hospital’s values. When I do an appraisal I look at the values and talk to the member of staff about how their work reflects the hospital’s values, but I rarely examine what they mean to me and whether or not I really live up to these values on a daily basis. That then got me thinking about times where I have seen a gap between these values and the behaviours I see around the hospital, from all grades of staff, including myself. If you take account and think about it yourself, do you show Care, Honesty and Accountability everyday at work, or do you get caught up in the busyness, complexity, and stress of work. That drive to get things done within a timeframe to a certain standard, can often get in the way of these values, and we ignore them to enable us to get the job done. So we don’t always show care towards each other, we can let our mood show, we do not always own up to mistakes for fear that people want show us care and won’t blame us, we can blame others for shortcomings. It is sort of vicious cycle, that if left unchecked we can rapidly get sucked into. Our intentions are honourable, we want to get the job done and do our best, but our methods are not as effective as they should be.

Before you fall into a pit of despair, all is not lost. We are all still good, kind, caring people. Where ever we work we want to make a difference. We just need to pay attention to our values and challenge ourselves to live up to them. We have to ‘Mind The Gap’.

Recently I have discovered the work of Brene Brown, she is an American Researcher, with a background in social care. She specialises in personal, social and organisational leadership, through compassion and empathy. So for anyone who knows me, she is right up my street. Through her research Brene developed a checklist that you can use to check yourself against when you are working with others, whether they be staff that you manage, your colleagues or your patients. She calls it BRAVING

Boundaries; Have you set you own boundaries and made them clear to all those around you? This is what you accept and what you will not accept. Do you respect other’s boundaries

Reliability; Do you do what you say you are going to do? Do you turn up when you say you will?

Accountability; When things go wrong do you own up to your part in it? Do you look for ways to correct it? Do you take credit for when your actions work?

Vault; Do you keep confidences? Do you not engage in gossip, that highlights others failures or shortcomings

Integrity; Do you choose courage over comfort? Do you choose to do what is right over what is fun? Do you practice your values rather than just profess them?

Non-Judgement; Can you ask for what you need, and listen to what others need?  Can you sit down and talk with them about what you think and feel without judgement?

Generosity; Do you extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words and actions of others?

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I invite you to copy this checklist and periodically, check yourself against it.

It is normal to not live up to our values when we are under pressure, it is however our responsibility that we attempt to keep ourselves in check and ensure we do not widen the gap between our common values and our behaviours.

If you are a manager, it is more important than ever to ‘Mind The Gap’. In addition to BRAVING I urge you all to seek out a coach to help you narrow the gap.

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

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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