Interesting research from: GRETCHEN GAVETT associate editor at the Harvard Business Review. Follow her on Twitter @gretchenmarg.
So you're sat at your computer again, wondering about how tired and lethargic you feel, how you eyes ache and how you can't sleep at night!
As Coaches, we try to look at a holistic approach to the client's well-being. This takes a number of different forms but can loosely be summarised as Mind, Spirit and Body.
We all know that learning doesn't end at school or university, it's an ongoing process throughout our lives even when we don't think much about it. Watching a documentary on tv that teaches you something is a good example of what I like to call "Unconscious learning" but when did you last consciously study? Was it for work? How did you study and what lessons did you learn about how you prefer to learn?
If you are going to learn, it is often worth trying to understand how you best learn. At school you probably had a teacher at the front of a class with a board they wrote on and some books to read (or maybe a laptop/pc to study at if you are under about 25). That doesn't mean that you need that format to learn now though. Many people like reading but remember far more they hear and vice versa. Have you tried an audio book or watching video clips of the subject to see if you retain more using one method than another?
Achieving spiritual happiness is often seen as the pinnacle of human life and in some theories is at the top of the tree in terms of our requirements (see our page on motivation). Spirituality does not have to mean religion (though for many it does). As a coach I prefer to think of it as finding that state within yourself where you are at peace with who and what you are. This may mean understanding the principles and motivations that drive you as well as the things that have the opposite effect. Self questioning is always a good place to start trying to understand what aspects of your life are leading you to be less effective and why! Only when you have identified some areas to work on should you think about WHAT to do to make the changes that you desire.
This is often the forgotten element and one that maybe should be the first we address since it impacts so much on your mental well-being and spiritual health.
Rather than paraphrase work that has been done by many many others into this field, here is an article that seems to us to sum up nicely along with some basic suggestions as to how to go about making physical change in your life.
As always, comments are very welcome.
I found this an interesting article for anyone considering changing their job/career.
Often we make big changes in our lives without getting the help we need.
I would be interested to know what you think about this article and any similar reasons you may have chosen to change career. What was your experience?
Like many other people I recently watched the Champions League final (Football/Soccer) between Chelsea FC and Bayern Munich FC.
In summary, despite being outplayed for much of the game and falling a goal behind late in the game, Chelsea managed to score an equaliser with only a few minutes remaining. This led to and extra period of play where they also had a penalty awarded against them which their goalkeeper saved, leading to the game being settled by penalties. Bayern led these but then ultimately they let their lead slip and Chelsea scored theirs to win the game.
This got me thinking, what is it that stops us performing to our maximum? All of those players were/are capable of putting the ball exactly where they want it, so why did some miss their penalties and is this relevant in other jobs.
At first sight, there appear to be two factors that influenced the penalty taker.
The first is simply physical, they are tired: most had just played for two hours at a speed and technical level most of us will never achieve.
Second, pressure told: the goalkeeper has less pressure as he is not expected to save the attempt, so if he does he is a hero - the only way is up. Conversely, the penalty taker is expected to score so for him the only way is down.
Pressure is a strange thing as it seems to affect some more than others. A psychologist told me once that pressure is created internally by ourselves and not by external factors, which may explain why some can perform when others cannot when external factors are the same. In the game, there is the influence the crowd try to bring to bear as well as the knowledge of many millions of people watching. I would however, argue that the external factors act as a catalyst and fuel for the pressure even if it is ultimately built up within ourselves.
To me though there are two more factors at play, knowledge and luck!
The goalkeeper may have been advised that players tend to aim at the same side of the goal. This knowledge may give him a better chance of making a save, by playing the percentages.
Luck also becomes relevant as the keeper may go the correct way, make a save but the ball ricochets off a post and in or off a post and away to safety. The penalty taker may slip etc.
Are any or all of these factors relevant in the business world?
Physically, we all have days when we feel out of sorts and even the simplest of tasks seem to require extra effort. Days like this often separate the successful from the unsuccessful as tasks or activities get put to one side leading to delay or failure. Physically we all have a limit where our bodies will tell us to stop doing a task, the key is asking yourself WHY your body is telling you this. If you are tired, hungry etc, you will obviously not perform as well as when fresh and well fed.
Of course, illness and injury also play a part in our ability to perform to a high standard (or at all) and depending on the extent and severity of the malady, there may be very little we can do to achieve the goal or task we have set ourselves and it may be better to not even attempt it.
The key here is make sure you are physically prepared to take on the task. Staggering into work after little rest and no breakfast is likely to result in only one level of performance - LOW!
Mental strength is often key to achieving goals and terms like "Positive Mental Attitude" are bandied around as a general panacea. It is certainly true that believing you can achieve a goal or task will make you more likely to succeed than not believing. I have seen this when coaching many times, especially when coaching fencing. A fencer I know was always able to complete a particular action when practicing but without fail couldn't replicate the move when actually fighting. We analysed this over and over and tried to examine what mental block seemed to be preventing this action. Eventually NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) work helped eliminate the block which was primarily caused by fear of being struck by his opponent while executing the move.
In the business world, mental belief is especially relevant when attempting to "sell" something whether a physical product or an idea. If mentally you are at low point, try reminding yourself of successes you have had and focus on the first and most immediate step you must take. If the first step is plucking up courage to approach someone with an idea then focus on achieving that because once we start something we are more likely to continue!
Knowledge is also a key factor in business performance. Without the correct knowledge you are relying on luck to influence your business performance. Simply, the key is to ensure you have the relevant, up to date knowledge and have anticipated the requirements of your customer so you are best prepared. NB: no one is ever fully prepared as there is always the possibility of a question you could never anticipate.
Where possible try to find out as much about clients as possible so you can target you knowledge requirements. If you need specialist knowledge then surround yourself with people who have this knowledge and if necessary delegate tasks to them. You don't have to be an expert yourself, just have access to one!
Luck! Does luck play a part in business performance? Well in my opinion it does. The chance conversation overheard, meeting a person that helps or hinders your performance, The transport delay that leads to a missed meeting etc etc.
Can we beat bad luck? Well, we may not be able to stop something happening but we can look for an opportunity to turn it to our advantage. Partly this is around planning for "bad luck" but also not just blaming circumstance and giving up. Develop an attitude of looking for alternatives, whether they be suppliers, customers, solutions, staff etc. The more you do this, the more adaptable you will be.
As always, these are just my thoughts and are not intended as a definitive treatise, so feel free to discuss, agree, disagree etc.
I don't know how many times I have been talking with a client and they have said something like 'Oh I'd never be able to do that.' or 'I can't do that it's too difficult.'
My usual response is to ask them why they think they can't do whatever it is and their answers are usually quite enlightening.
'Well I could never learn that', 'I tried that once and couldn't get the hang of it', 'I was rubbish at remembering stuff at school', etc. etc.
WHY do we say this stuff?
Well, there are any number of possible reason why people feel that they 'Can't do' something. Maybe they have tried and been told the results were not good enough. Maybe they don't want to try because they feel someone else is better than them. Possibly they have tried to learn in a way that didn't suit them or someone has tried to teach them by their preferred learning method instead of the learners.
The simple fact is that if you think you can't do something, you won't be able to do it and may never try!
Part of the coaches role is to help coachees understand that the greatest barriers and also the greatest aid to their learning is their own self belief. We can do this by teasing out of the coachee their reasons for the belief and then helping them understand how we can shift that to a more positive level. We need to shift their thinking to a 'Can do' rather than 'Can't do'.
Some techniques within NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) focus on this by providing positive imagery and sounds to the coachee. It is important that the environmental factors surrounding the coachees learning are as conducive to learning as possible. Trying to learn a language while listening to pumping rock music is probably not going to help most people (there are always exceptions though).
Another factor is to identify and then focus on some small positive steps. Teaching someone to learn a language does not start with complex phrases and colloquialisms but with individual words and simple sentences. It is also imperative to have an idea of WHAT you want to learn and some sort of FRAMEWORK for getting there including a way of measuring progress. Goal setting is essential!
So, you have helped the coachee to realise that they CAN learn, try a new activity, they have identified what they want/need to learn and they have set some goals to allow progress to be measured. Now what?
Remembering stuff, the way the brain works!
All our brains basically work in the same way. Information is absorbed via our senses and the brain creates or expands neural pathways with this new information. Studies show that when we already have a start to the pathway, expanding it seems to be easier than creating new ones, so a technique that has been developed is to link whatever it is you're trying to remember with something you already know. I remember doing a memory exercise once where we had to remember 50 random items then recount them all after 20 minutes. The way we did this was to create a story about the items so for example:
Pen, sword, t-shirt, headphones, paper, photo
could be remembered in the following way:
Today I saw a man listening to music through some headphones.
He was wearing a t-shirt which had "The Pen is Mightier than the Sword" written on it.
I wanted to remember it but couldn't write it down or take a photo as I had no paper or a camera.
Another technique is to use as many senses as possible. Say you want to learn Japanese. Learning by seeing images, listening to sounds, tasting and smelling Japanese food and even touching items you need to remember are all more effective than just reading a list of words in a book!
We all have preferences in the way we learn, so if something isn't working, it probably is just the method that is not right for you rather than the subject being 'unlearnable'!
As always, please comment, esp with any experiences you have.
We've all felt like it. You know, that time when you have that job to do and you just can't face it, so you decide to do something else instead. End result, the job you had to do doesn't get done and there are repercussions!
This is a common scenario for 99.999% of people, whether in work life or personal life and the end result can vary hugely, from no consequence, to literally devastating. Imagine: you are at home and decide that you need to empty your rubbish (garbage) bin. Well, let's say you leave it 'til tomorrow, probably the worst that will happen is that it may smell a bit or you may miss a collection by the refuse collectors. Now let's say, you are in the armed forces and about to take your turn on watch in a hostile area but, you decide to grab five more minutes rest. Possible result is a whole different scenario!
So what does this tell us?
Well, first, we all like to procrastinate, even the most driven of people have times when they just don't feel like doing their tasks.
Second, with procrastination comes consequences, so you have to ask yourself 'What happens if I don't do this now?' This is important as it helps you to put some perspective to the task and when you are coaching others is probably your key question to get them to ask themselves.
So, the effect of procrastination can be huge or insignificant yet we still do it, why?
Well, I'm not a psychologist but in my experience, it boils down to a few key factors.
1. Fear: the task is something we are scared of doing so we keep delaying e.g. you have a bad toothache but you're scared of the dentist so you don't go. I don't need to spell out the possible end result here.
2. Incompetence: We don't know how to carry out a task and we feel stupid/inadequate etc. asking for help so we just don't do it. I remember a colleague in an office where I once worked, who was found to have not done many items of work but he/she faked the office records to show they had been completed. End result was complaints, lost business and re-work by technical specialists to complete work where deadlines had passed.
This situation would probably have not come to light when it did, except the department had an 'amnesty day' where work that had not been completed on time could be turned in without fear of sackings. Why did they have this day? because complaints about work that appeared to have not been carried out were increasing.
3. Laziness: we all feel lazy at times but some people just seem to be more prone to this than others. I don't intend to try to discuss genetics and the whole nature versus nurture debate but as a coach you need to be aware that people are not all the same and some people will naturally (or are used to) work harder than others.
DON'T try to apply your own standards onto a coachee, rather, look for what the organisation expects and strive to help them achieve that. I knew a manager who was one of those 'driven' individuals that could be in the office for 12 hours every day, party every night, host dinner parties for the boss and play golf with business contacts at the weekend and STILL look like they had 8 hours sleep a night. The only problem was, they couldn't understand why the people in their department weren't all willing to stay at work until 10pm or arrive at 7.00am. Remember, the organisation will have a cultural standard and this is what you have to try to ensure is being achieved by your coachees. Fine, if they want to do more work, that's great but this blog is about procrastination, so I'm going to guess that working too hard is not the issue you're looking for information on!
4. Distractions: There you are working away and the phone rings, what do you do? Simple, 2 questions give you the answer: 1. How urgent is the work you're doing? 2. How urgent is the phone call?
Before starting your days work, have an idea of priorities and factor in phone calls, requests for help, people 'popping by' and the boss arriving with 'work that had to be done yesterday'. I always tried to take a half hour at the start of the day to do my highest priority work first and ask a team member to cover the phone for me.
Other distractions may be as simple as being hungry (simple answer to that as well), having a radio or tv in the office (tv's are fatal distractions unless you have an absolute business need for them).
A key tip here is try to never handle the same piece of paper twice, in other words, work on an item until it's completed!
As the Coach, what do I do to help avoid procrastination?
There are many actions you can take (and apply to yourself if needed) to deal with procrastination.
Set a standard by your own example that conforms with the organisations cultural norm.
Ensure that coachees have goals and understand their work priorities.
Ensure the coachee understands the consequences of their (lack of) action by asking them to describe what happens if the work is not completed.
Where a coachee is procrastinating, seek to understand their reasoning (mindset) rather than judge and condem.
Remove distractions but be aware of actions that may destroy morale.
Carry out regular performance and task reviews with procrastinators.
Ensure adequate training is in place so incompetence cannot be a factor.
Look for ways to reward improvement, even if it's only an 'Employee if the month' award or similar.
Ultimately be prepared to use your organisations disciplinary process where the coachee WILL not change. NB: This is different to CANNOT change in which case training or a realistic evaluation of what jobs they can do may be needed.
Comments and experiences as ever are welcome
I've been working in training and development for more than twenty years now including eighteen coaching.