What matters to you?

Here is another blog I wrote for work. I have written about self-care before but I thought I would share this more widely. Times are difficult at the moment, it is really important to pay attention to ourselves on a daily basis, to make sure we don’t get lost in all that is going on.

Winter is with us, last weekend saw the start of meteorological winter. It is dark more than it is light, the wind is biting cold, everyone is coughing and sneezing, everyone seems to be in a rush to sort Christmas, and work is hard. Working in the NHS is always hard, but it always feels harder this time of year. 

So if you consider my previous blog about how our performance is variable even though we are all trying our best. Then it is not too much of a leap to assume that during this time of year quite a number of us will not be performing at our best.

It is dark when we go to work, it is dark when we go home, we are full of cold, we are worried about Christmas and we have the pressure of an increased workload. So it is important to pay attention to ourselves and each other, to ensure we able to perform effectively to continue to deliver the excellent care we do. 

The first thing we must do is pay attention to what makes us happy on a daily basis, and are we doing those things. This does not mean adding extra stuff into your day. But recognising what you already do that makes you happy, for instance I walk my dog everyday twice a day, that time with my dog makes me happy, I talk to my mum on the phone everyday. Remember there are things that you do at work that make you happy, that might be talking to relatives, providing cares to a patient, or completing a piece of work that really makes a difference. Take a few minutes each day at the end of the day before you go to sleep and do a little inventory of all the moments in your day that made you happy, no matter how small, or how silly they may seem, after all you are the only one who needs to know what made you happy today. Notice how that makes you feel. Normally we go to bed and ruminate over what was not good (which you will also do, it is after all our default position), just spend a few moments consciously taking stock of joy. If you do this everyday it will give you more balance, and allows the light sit along side the dark, giving them equal billing in your mind.

In the morning when you wake up, and maybe feel less than enthusiastic about coming to work, spend few moments whilst getting ready just connecting yourself back up with why you do what you do. What caused you to dedicate your life to caring for people? When I ask this question, I ask it of all of you that work in the NHS, because no matter how far removed you feel from patients, everything you do makes a difference to our patients.

What matters to you?

What core value do you use everyday, that gets you to work?

What values do you have, that when you live up to them fill you with joy? 

What values do you hold than when you witness them not being lived up to, by yourself or others make you sad?

Work is a large part of our lives, it is vital that we do a job that is in line with what we value (what matters). So knowing what matters to you and how that motivates you to do the job that you helps you dig deep when work is hard and everything feels like it is against you. 

Let people know what matters to you, and ask your colleagues what matters to them. Sharing your values strengthens them, and strengthens the connection within the team. As mentioned in my previous blog it is important that we are able to support each other and hold each other to account, and this is much easier when there are strong connections within a team.

When we start looking after ourselves we become much better at caring for others

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.

Health, happiness and age

Well it has been an awfully long time since I have written a blog. My last blog was looking back on my Nursing career and looking forward to my new role in Organisational Development and Coaching.

Since that blog I have experienced some minor health issues. I say minor as that is what they appear to be turning out to be. However in the moment these issues were quite unpleasant and me being a dramatic soul felt far from minor. It all started with abdominal and loin pain. The pain woke me up in the early hours of the morning. I have never experienced pain like it. It felt like my insides were being squeezed and blown up at the same time. As I mentioned I am quite dramatic, and have a very limited experience of pain. So I am not ashamed to say I panicked a little, which no doubt made it a lot worse than it was. I spent spent two and a half hours sat on the toilet, sat on the floor hugging the toilet trying to be sick, pacing the living room lying face down on the sofa crying into a cushion. Lisa was fast asleep and gently snoring upstairs. I thought about waking her when it started but thought better of it. I can be difficult when I am in pain, and Lisa doesn’t react well to me when I am being hysterical, so I thought it best that I let it be until I need her to take me to hospital or ring an ambulance. Leaving her asleep allowed me to be in a bad mood with her about not being sensitive enough to notice how much pain I was in, in her sleep. These unrealistic expectations never play well when the accused are present.

Anyway the torture lasted for nearly 3 hours, I was just about to wake Lisa to take me to hospital, when the pain went away. It was a very strange night. The next day was when I started feel unwell, I felt out of sorts, my abdomen and back ached, I was having hot flushes and felt incredibly tired. This lasted intermittently with occasional severe pain for a month. My GP was getting a little fed up with me (I could tell by his exasperated look on his face). I was in his surgery weekly. I had 2 courses of antibiotics with no effect, and a CT scan which showed nothing. There was no infection in my wee. Then he tested my blood. When I went back to get the results, his opening question was…. “Matthew how much do you drink?” I replied “about 6 bottles a week.” Well he nearly fell of his chair. “Of what!!!!?” he asked. “Oh god no, I said not big bottles, small bottles of beer.”

It turns out the bloods indicate that my liver might be fatty and that I drink probably more than I should. Then he pointed out I was carrying a bit of weight, so he wanted to test for diabetes! I was crestfallen. I have become a fat middle aged man, with diabetes, and a fat liver. It was a sudden realisation that stuff doesn’t just happen to other people, and if you don’t pay attention to health, there will be consequences. Yes I know, I have talked about this before, but like most of us I suffer from the habit of separating myself from the reality of life and the marching of time. It has been a wake up call. I don’t know if I have diabetes (I am still waiting for the result), but that is irrelevant really. What is important, is that I start to look after all of me. Going for a little run and paying attention to my well-being are important, but as I get older I need to pay attention to other aspects of my lifestyle, (mainly what I eat and drink). This health scare has made it real.

All this happened in an incredibly busy month. I started my new role, whilst at the same time completing my commitment to Nurse Induction. I don’s think I did either of these things justice. It was a big ask in the first place, but being ill just made it all the more demanding. I just had too much going on. This has caused me some distress, I had finally secured my dream job, and I was struggling to cope. I was exhausted and in both physical and emotional pain. Don’t worry though I got through it. It was difficult and painful, but not a permanent situation. I kept focusing on the light at the end of the tunnel. I would get better, there will be a time when I can concentrate on one role without being pulled in other directions. Remembering why I do what I do really helped me.

I am feeling better now, and I have started a plan to pay attention to my physical health. This plan is firmly routed in my purpose and core value. If I need to be useful, I have to become healthier.

Last week was Lisa’s special birthday, (50th but don’t tell anyone). We have spent the week celebrating. On Monday we went to see a band out our now favourite venue, The Polar Bear (a regular of Vialetters). We then spent a couple of days in York, staying in the very fancy Grand, York, and taking in the sights of York and enjoying their food a drink. We ended the week having a meal with some old friends. Speaking for myself, this was exactly what I needed to recharge my batteries after a challenging month.

That was a long week!

I think it was the heat, but boy that was a long week! A lot of great stuff happened but I am knackered today,I am certain we had 2 Thursdays this week.

Monday started with some inspirational meetings,talking to some truly brilliant people. There are so many talented and committed people working in the NHS. The first meeting was to discuss the support I could offer to the development of unregistered staff. My next meeting was with the wonderful Louise who is going to support me with the back office functions of our coaching network. That meeting was so positive and was like having a weight lifted off my shoulders. To be honest I was shocked this all happened this week! I was certain this all happened about 2 weeks ago. Such a long week!

I spent Tuesday morning delivering a Insights Discovery workshop. I love delivering. I particularly enjoy challenging peoples perceptions, and helping them connect with themselves. I even managed to sign up a couple of coachees for our coaching network.

I spent the first part of the evening with a private coaching client. It was a great hour, shifting perceptions and introducing the idea of being truly present.

Straight after the coaching session we raced across the city to watch our eldest son’s band (Vialetters), play there first headline gig. They were majestic and truly did live up to their headline status. It was the perfect warm-up for their slot at Humber Street Sesh festival next weekend. for those of you going, they are playing the Strummerville Stage at 4:15. If you are going pop along to see them, you will not be disappointed.

Wednesday and Thursday were just hot a sweaty days, and were a struggle, so much so that I am certain we either repeated a day or time just slowed down. The highlight was going to the pub after work on Wednesday.

Friday at last was cooler. I spent the morning with the wonderful Janis and Sandra making plans and setting dates for Clinical Supervision training next year. We didn’t get chance to make work through our planned book on Clinical Supervision, we will get chance soon. In the afternoon I met and contracted with a new internal coachee,which is always a pleasure.

This morning I went for a refreshing run, helped Ben with his student s accommodation application, now writing this blog watching the Challenge Cup semi-final. A restful day.

It has been a long tiring week, but on reflection a really productive and enjoyable week. Yesterday I was feeling a little frazzled and was I think concentrating what was causing me frustration. This exercise today has helped me concentrate on what is positive, and productive in this week. There is an awful lot to be thankful for this week.

Perhaps we should just get on with it?

I know some of my friends will be spitting their coffee over their phones reading this, but stick with me and let me explain what I mean.

I have heard this phrase a lot over the years, often from the mouths of well meaning but exasperated friends and colleagues, it can often be replaced with buck up! Anyone that has suffered from depression of any level of severity has heard those terms and felt that helpless feeling, even self loathing, in response to our inability to just get on with it. But what if was possible to get on with it, that could protect many of us from becoming ill, or that helped us stay off the anti-depressants.

The thing is most of the people that say just get on with it, are being quite sincere, because that is just what they do, with out realising that this is something that does not come naturally to many of us. There are I suppose situations where we all know that we can just get on with it regardless and then other situations where just getting on with it are impossible.

Getting on with it or JFDI (just flippin do it) is reliant on how resilient you are feeling at the moment when that task is required. Now I am debating going for a run this morning, and to be honest I have been struggling to restart running. As we know my resilience has been a little bit low recently, so I wonder if my inability to JFDI is down to this lack of resilience.

That is my point really, to be able to JFDI of get on with it, we need to address our resilience and look after ourselves. I imagine those that do get on with it pay attention to their resilience albeit subconsciously.

So lets examine my inability to no just get on with going for a run, by looking at the three characteristics of resilience described by Coutu (this is just as much for me, as it is for you).

Realism: When I went for a run on Monday evening I had this ridiculous idea that I could run solidly for 15 minutes before walking (I have not really run since December). I lasted a minute, now I did this 7 more times with some spells of walking as per the app I was using, after the 8th run I felt like a wreck. I was terribly unrealistic about my level of fitness. The level of pain and how quickly I got out of breath took be by surprise and quick frankly embarrassed me. I would even go as far to say I was ashamed of myself. Now this is quite ridiculous, I am 48 and overweight and have not run for 3 months, what else should I expect. There we are I have appraised my realism and there is some work I need to do on what I should expect from my running at first. There is clearly a need to manage my level of expectations of what I am going to feel when I run, which is a certain amount of discomfort during the run, which is then replaced with an elation and high when I have finished the run.

Purpose: This I have examined a lot. In the short term I have signed up for a 10k in June. Now going back to my realism, I am convinced I will not be able to run all the way round. What I want to do is run for 15 minutes and walk for 5 minutes on repeat until I have finished. So that is one reason for starting to run again. The other is fitness. I feel unfit, I am nearing 50 and want to be healthy for as long as I can. This stems back to my core value of usefulness. The longer I am healthy for, the longer I can make a useful contribution. It also makes me feel incredible once I have finished. So purpose is not an issue for me. s

Resource: So I have trainers and shorts, somewhere to run and an app. So I have the physical resources to actually go for a run. However whilst I sit here I wonder about my physical and mental resource, in other words the energy and motivation. If I examine the physical resource, I can go back to realism and examine how long I will be running for today. I will only be running for 8 minutes, how much resource do I need to run for 8 minutes in one minute bursts. It will make me breathless and sweaty and my legs will hurt but only for about 20 minutes. If I examine the mental resource I need all I have to do is remember why I am doing it and is that more important than sitting listening to the radio. How useful will listening to the radio make me?

Well I seem to have talked myself into going for a run. I still however have to do it.

Paying attention to your resilience and what my be reducing it, in theory seems quite easy, actually putting it in to practice is a little harder. It requires you to be honest with yourself and maybe address things that may make you feel uncomfortable. Reflecting is not easy and as I say a lot takes practice. I am learning to be more and more reflective, and it is bloody hard work.

If you want to explore this further and are thinking about some one to one coaching get in touch.

I need a re-charge

What is really funny is that over the past couple of weeks I have been writing about and researching resilience, not noticing that I was becoming less and less resilient myself.

For the 2 or 3 weeks now I have been running around tending to others needs and delivering content. Now I get a lot out of both delivering teaching sessions and one to one sessions with people. However I was not noticing my own well-being and listening to my own advice. I was not giving myself time to recover (or sufficient time). I was underestimating how much all of this work takes from me, physically and mentally.

My preferred attitude is to be introverted. I find it very difficult to talk to people I do not know, or embark on new activities that involve speaking to strangers. For instance if I cannot find something in a shop I will walk out rather than asking a shop assistant. Given a choice I prefer to email or text people rather than talk on the phone.

Us humans are complicated so my introversion is not the full story. I also like to be recognised for doing a good job and I like to make a difference to people’s lives. I have learned to enjoy extroversion and I am now happy to stand in front of people to deliver content, and have coaching conversations with people. To get me to that point though requires quite a lot of energy.

This has been the problem recently, I have been coaching and teaching a lot, and I had not noticed how much this was taking from me. That is until this week. By Wednesday I could feel my resilience waning, and by Thursday night I was completely spent, getting up a going to work on Friday morning was so difficult. In fact how I felt on Friday morning reminded me of what I felt like when I was at my lowest and was unable to go to work. Yesterday I went to work. I had a plan.

I had a lovely walk in to work in the sunshine taking in the views and just being in the moment. When I got to work I talked about what was happening to me with people I trust. I could feel myself re-energising. After work I went for tea with my work colleagues. We drank we laughed, we laughed, we drunk some more, laughed some more and then went home.

I am tired this morning, a little hungover, but optimistic. I will when life gets busy, when I am required to be an extrovert, that I need to schedule in extra recovery time. Sometimes we just need to give ourselves permission to recover. Paying attention to yourself allows you to be the best person you can be.