Coaching Reflections – Working Smoother

Coaching helps you better understand how to connect with others in a way that feels smoother. This article contains my thoughts on how coaching provides you the opportunity to “do different, that which you do daily”.

“Work Smoothly; Lifetime Peace”. This was the little, golden card thrust into my hand by a street monk (Buddhist) during my week. It’s not the first time I have received one of Buddha’s business cards and I still have the original in a wallet somewhere. The card, and its proprietor, came at an opportune time during my work week as I left one coaching session on my way to another. It was opportune because I was connecting the pieces of thoughts from several coaching sessions that week, the theme being people exhausting their energy levels whilst completing their daily tasks.

More often than not I sit in front of a coaching counterpart who looks tired, exhausted or energy-spent. The ardour of getting to work, performing the job tasks and then making the trip home takes every last kilojoule. I then have to expend the reserve tank of their chemical energy making them stop and think about how they arrived in this state and what could be done better.  As a coach this is common but confronting practice, taking the counterpart who is asking for guidance but has no energy for focus, and giving them a valuable energy packet of inspiration. Done well, your packet of inspiration delivers a powerful charge to get them back in the right direction. Teaching them to recharge themselves is the goal of sustainable practice. Much like the monk thrusting the golden ticket in my hand.

So whilst wrestling with these thoughts and piecing this stream of consciousness together in my head, the little gold card told me something important. The delivery of the message needs to be sticky. I need to show how coaching builds the practice of less effort and retains more energy. This is not the only advantage of coaching but it’s a really good one for the leader in a “discharged energy state”. I want to provide three simple, sticky, tips for retaining energy and still driving momentum. Use questioning first, deflect the negativity, be appreciative. That’s it! Just these three ideas, nothing more, can help you work smoothly. Let’s explore and make them stickier.

Use questioning first. I have had many conversations with someone who has said to me that their intentions were completely overtaken by the impact of a conversation. They came to a conversation with a head full of chores and priorities and time vacuums and just jumped in to an outcomes-driven conversation without considering the other person. You will already know the end result here, conflict, the other person wasn’t listened to, their opinion received no air time and they shut down further talk by getting personal. Here’s what questions do, they create space in a conversation to be filled with the other persons point of view. They use almost NO energy because you only need listen and they allow your intention to build. Think about this, if you go into a room with a whole spiel worked up around an outcome you have spent minutes/hours/days getting it just right in your head. You enter the conversation and lay it all out in an elegant, logical diatribe. At the end you draw a deep breath and relax somewhat in your chair. Then the other party responds by saying “it’s not what I want”. That energy feels completely wasted and you start to burn twice the amount as you work on a rapid counterpoint. And so it goes. If you start with some inconspicuous questions like “how’s your day?”, or “did you get to lunch yet?” these will show the other person you are interested in them and you are gauging their level of interest in your needs. It also builds an open conversation around question and answer which can help you to formulate an approach that fits your outcome around their position.

Deflect the negativity. This is a big one right here, I see most people think they are superman, impervious, able to eat uranium and coated with Teflon (nothing sticks). When surrounded by a negative conversation or working in a negative workspace or using the last of your energy on a difficult problem your resistance lowers and that negativity drives straight through you. It could be that someone said you are wearing a horrible shirt, they don’t like your work, or your idea is stupid. These are very personal and you may think you need to defend yourself or your ground here. This is a huge energy drain! Even the best of us will expend lots of brain power and emotions on defence. Instead think of using the first tip, questioning, as a way of moving the negativity around and past you. This is an ancient concept used in most martial arts whereby you use the opponents energy/force/strength against them. If they drive a fist toward you, step to the side, grab the fist and keep pulling it past you in the same direction, thus pulling the opponent off balance and with less strength to make a counter move. Same thing for bad conversations or situations. Use the drive of the conversation to draw it around you. If someone says “your idea was stupid”, you might choose to step to the side by saying “OK” and then use the momentum to unbalance the negativity by saying perhaps “you seem to have a very strong  opinion, so let’s hear it” or even some a little more conciliatory like “you could be right here, perhaps I need more input from you to get it right”. Use the energy don’t try to stand in front of it and make it bounce off you.

Being appreciative helps builds energy. Come into a conversation with enough space in your ideas and opinions to collect others. You don’t have to agree but hear them out. Look for the bright spots in the conversation/situation and call it out. A casual for instance, you go to a movie with friends and after the movie you all discuss your impressions. Some really liked it, others liked parts of it, some found it boring, some were angry that they wasted money on it. Not everyone agreed that the whole of the movie was great but they agreed to hear each other’s opinions. Same goes at work, if you being to look for bright spots in ideas, conversations, work environments, work colleagues, etc you will notice the extra amount of energy you have left at the end of the day. You may be tired from a full day but you aren’t going home defeated and deflated. I want to dispel the idea of the “crap sandwich” approach to conversations .i.e. “hey you’re a great person but are really bad at your job, so if you can just change your behaviour to your work we will all like you a lot more than we do now, thanks”. Not helpful! It’s not appreciating the other person or the intention of the conversation. Perhaps this idea might work better? “Hi, we seem to have a good working relationship and I want to ask you some important questions which require me to be open with you. Can we talk in an open manner about your approach to your job? I want to ensure we are on the same page” It uses questions, it calls out a positive relationship and it deflects the issues into job not the person. How about this one? “Hi there, we haven’t met before and I was asked to discuss your performance at work. I am told you are open to feedback and you freely offer your opinions, seems like we can use these good traits to work on solutions for better performance”.

When I have discussed these ideas with my clients I watch them go through a few stages of understanding; first is more energy drain as they build up a defence to the idea, then I see the idea take root and the energy hits equilibrium, finally I watch them sit up, lose some tension and draw in some positivity, or atleast enough to try the tips. I do follow them up and see how it worked with the majority providing me good feedback and a desire to tell the story with some accomplishment.

Coaching can help you work smoother and with some guidance on how to approach your behaviour to work we can show a different way to do what you do daily.

About the author

Peter is the founder and Director of Holtmann Professional Services, a global provider of executive coaching, business excellence consulting and career path development. Peter has 20 years of experience in executive roles and has been the President and CEO of a global Non-profit. Peter has written for many journals and blogs, is a keynote speaker and is a champion of prosperity through excellence of leadership.

If you are interested in working with Peter, please reach out to enquiries@holtmann.com.au.