Tips to Turn a Coaching Approach into your Leadership Superpower

Tips to Turn a Coaching Approach into your Leadership Superpower

by Karen Amos

I’ve just finished facilitating BrightBird’s latest Effective People Management programme.  As with the previous programmes, participants bring along concerns, anxieties and ‘Is it me…?’ feelings around the challenges of managing people.

Interestingly, there are always common themes.  Most people come with a sense of frustration of how they can’t just, ‘Get on with the job,’ and a feeling of, ‘Why is this always so difficult?

This is usually accompanied by some sense of one step forward and two steps back, or feeling that managing people is like trying to nail jelly to a tree.

As a consequence, I find many managers of all levels feel they end up playing a role, rather than being themselves.  And it’s not a role they enjoy.  It’s often the role of ‘bad guy’ and whilst they’re prepared to step up and do this, it’s not one most of us would choose given an alternative.

My view is that no-one needs to ‘play’ anything.  The ‘bad guy’ scenario inevitably leads us down a one-way street, with all concerned doubling down into increasingly entrenched positions.  This is difficult if not impossible to step away from and often results in demotivated teams, or even a brain drain from your organisation.

I genuinely don’t believe working life needs to be so difficult – for managers and employees alike.

That’s why I’m on a mission to improve the quality of working life for everyone.

The problem is, most people in my experience, embark on a management career because they’re great at what they do.  I mean, who seriously sets out in their career thinking, ‘I know, I’d love to be the line manager of tons of awkward people!’  Probably the same ones who look up ‘How to herd cats’ on google.

No, the fact is that we usually gain promotion because we’re the expert in our field.  The best sales-person, the best teacher, etc., etc.  The problem is, no-one told us how to be managers.  Very few people are born with an innate ability to lead other people.  But it can be learned.

And this is where a coaching approach becomes a bit of a superpower in my experience.  I’ve used this approach personally and seen my clients implement this with fantastic results.  It’s definitely an approach that sees compound benefits, with exponential growth in performance over a relatively short period of time.  On the surface, it’s counterintuitive.  Management is about putting the right people in the right place isn’t it?  Well, yes… and no.  How about seeing successful management as having your people put themselves in the right place?

So where to start?  Here are a few tips to improve your coaching leadership style, along with some questions to help build insight into what’s going on for you.

1.  ListenI mean really listen. Listening isn’t about waiting for your turn to speak, or jumping in to close down the other person half way through a sentence.

Ask yourself – How would my peers and team members rate me as a listener?

2.  UnderstandOnly when we’ve listened will we understand the other person’s viewpoint. The challenge is to show them we understand – even when we don’t agree with them!

Ask yourself – How often do I find myself or the other person saying some variation of, ‘Yeah, but…’ in my conversations?  (This is a classic sign of a lack of understanding being demonstrated.)

3.  CollaborateIt’s not your responsibility as a manager to solve everything on your own. That’s why you have a team and why it’s important to know who is responsible and accountable for what.

Ask yourself – Do I feel I’m carrying a burden of responsibility that other people don’t share in my team and how can I share this more equally?

4.  ChallengeThere are many types of challenge, but I like to call a coaching approach ‘challenge with a small ‘c’’. This doesn’t mean going out of your way to make people uncomfortable, or being on some kind of power trip.  Instead, it means not accepting everything at face value and using coaching questions to explore and promote personal responsibility and accountability.

Ask yourself – Do I feel that members of your team are tying me in knots, or I come out of conversations wondering what just happened?  If so, how can I be more enquiring in my conversations to find out more?

5.  Problem solveCoaching at its heart, is a problem-solving approach. You want something better and have a plan on how to get there.  This is a gift for any effective manager to get the right results.

Ask yourself – Do my team get bogged down in problems and look to me to solve them, or do they naturally seek solutions themselves?  If it’s the former, what can I do to enable them to problem-solve naturally?

Hopefully, you’ve now a few pointers to begin to develop your coaching leadership style.

If you’d like to learn more about how to take a coaching approach to Managing Difficult Conversations and people management, we’ve just launched our Summer 2024 public courses. 

Click on the link below to find out more:

For Schools and Education

For Business and Charities

Or why not EMAIL US, or book in an informal chat using the button below.  We’ll find out about the support you need and provide you with a no-obligation quote.

 

Karen Amos is an executive coach and Director and Founder of BrightBird Coaching & Training. She supports business owners, managers and education leaders to get the best out of themselves and their teams. She brings a down-to-earth approach to improving working lives through better leadership, communication and working relationships. 

Tel: 07714 855757 or email: karen@bright-bird.co.uk


Two words that say you have an accountability and responsibility problem – and how to solve it…

Two words that say you have an accountability and responsibility problem – and how to solve it…

by Karen Amos

As I coach, I am trained to listen.  I mean REALLY listen.  Not just to the narrative, but to those key words from my clients that pop up without thinking, but that tell me so much.

There are two words I hear so often from managers at all levels and when I do, my little coach radar pings into action. (It’s like ‘spidey-sense’ without the cool outfit and wall climbing!)

The two words?

SHOULD and OUGHT

I’m sure you’ve said this – I certainly have and when I’ve done so it’s usually with a sense of exasperation at someone – and invariably due to something they haven’t done right, or at all.

You know how it goes…

‘They’ve been here a year.  They OUGHT to be able to do this by now…’

‘This SHOULD be just a simple task – why is it becoming so difficult?’

These sentences are often accompanied by other words such as…

 ‘It’s obvious…’

‘It’s common sense…’

My late and much-missed friend and mentor used to say, ‘The problem with common sense is it’s not that common!’

What all these phrases tell me as a coach is:

  1. There are some assumptions being made
  2. There is a gap between desired and actual performance
  3. There’s a lack of communication somewhere

So before you descend into full tearing your hair out stage (or your preferred method of manifesting stress and frustration), why not take a coaching approach to find out what’s REALLY going on?

At first glance, this is a counterintuitive approach.  Someone is doing something they shouldn’t, so we’re not going to tell them what to do, we’re going to ask questions instead.  Huh?  Isn't that just letting them off the hook?  Just the opposite actually...

Here are a few coaching questions to start you off…

  • Am I sure the other person knows what is expected of them?
  • How do I know this – what’s my evidence?
  • Have I spoken to the person about this?  (NB: Dropping in vague or sarcastic hints in the hope they will ‘get it’ and suddenly change their behaviour does not constitute ‘speaking to’ someone.)
  • Are there clear and consistent standards regarding processes and work across the whole organisation?
  • Do you know the reason or cause of the problem?

By putting aside our assumptions, we can build on the answers to these questions to set out a clear plan of action moving forward.  And the best bit?  You can’t lose with this approach.  You work with the person to find the solution and if it works, well the job’s a good ‘un as they say round these parts.

And if it doesn’t work?  Well you now have evidence to commence formal capability or performance management measures should you need to.  At the very least you’ve clearly set out expectations and standards in your own organisation or team.

If you’d like to help yourself or your managers to build accountability and responsibility in your teams, we offer down-to-earth, practical support from online and face-to-face training sessions, to 1-to-1 and team coaching sessions.  Check out our training pages using the links below for more information.

For Schools and Education

For Business and Charities

Or why not EMAIL US, or book in an informal chat using the button below.  We'll find out about the support you need and provide you with a no-obligation quote.

If you’d like to learn more about how to take a coaching approach to Managing Difficult Conversations and people management, we’ve just launched our Summer 2024 public courses. 

Click on the link below to find out more:

For Schools and Education

For Business and Charities

Karen Amos is an executive coach and Director and Founder of BrightBird Coaching & Training. She supports business owners, managers and education leaders to get the best out of themselves and their teams. She brings a down-to-earth approach to improving working lives through better leadership, communication and working relationships. 

Tel: 07714 855757 or email: karen@bright-bird.co.uk


Why it's not normal to be happy - and what you should do instead...

Why it's not normal to be happy - and what you should do instead...

by Karen Amos

I’ve been doing a lot of reading recently – around happiness.  Actually, that’s not exactly true – I’ve been reading about how so many of us have drunk the ‘happiness Kool Aid’ and ironically, find ourselves miserable that we’re failing at happiness.  As an occasionally grumpy, middle-aged Yorkshire woman, I find this fascinating.

Recent publications, such as Bad Therapy, The Antidote and The Anxious Generation are showing that for many of us, modern living standards have never been better, yet increasing numbers of young people and adults find themselves so unhappy they resort to therapy, including medication.  The question surely is, if this is such an effective cure, why are people still unhappy?

Many years ago I was a student nurse.  There are many stand outs from my training, good and bad, but one that changed my life was a sentence uttered by a lecturer on Mental Health…

‘The most you can expect is to be reasonably content most of the time.’

That’s it.  And it profoundly changed the way I viewed my world and my expectations.  To the extent that I am – reasonably content most of the time.  So to that lecturer, wherever you are – thank you.

This may seem a bit lack-lustre for a coach, I admit.  After all, aren’t we meant to be uber positive and seeking Nirvana-like states of happiness and success?  Well some are I guess, but not me.  I’m about doing.

Don’t get me wrong, I do believe there is a right time to seek therapy.  I refer clients to specialist therapists if I find we’re addressing something that’s out of my area of expertise.  In fact, I have sought counselling on occasions at certain points in my life and regularly use psychoanalytical models with my clients to help them make sense of their world.

But there is a danger in rumination.  We won’t make ourselves or others resilient to the pressures of life by constantly going over the past and looking inwards.

So what is the answer?

I believe the answer lies in a stoical approach to coaching.  This isn’t the ‘British stiff upper lip’ version, but the true version of Stoicism that says…

In life, circumstances will continue to challenge us, but it is within our gift to decide how we will respond to them.

Often coaching is seen as a bit ‘Pollyanna – all in the garden is rosy’, which is why many people (justifiably) call out, ‘toxic positivity’ at the relentless ‘just think positive’ messages.  In fact coaching at its best is nothing of the sort.  Tony Robbins has a great approach to this.  I paraphrase:

Just relying on positive thinking alone is like going into your garden and chanting ‘there are no weeds, there are no weeds’, when your garden’s clearly full of weeds.  You need to get in there and pull them out!

We need to accept that life is frequently challenging and bad stuff happens.  Rather than passively accepting that, drowning in self-misery, or railing against the universe, we need to roll up our sleeves and deal with it.  We need to take action that will serve us well.

My clients know I’m always going to come around to some version of this question…

‘So what are you going to do about it?’

That’s it – you want something to change – go change it!  And if it’s not in your control to change it?  Then work out what you’ll do to deal with that.

Here are a few coaching questions to get you started:

  • What’s my main challenge here?
  • What small, practical action I can take right now that will serve me well?
  • Is trying to fix this, worth the energy and time?
  • Is there anything I need to accept isn’t in my control?  And what will I do to focus my energies elsewhere?

Remember, we’re all human and it’s important to acknowledge our feelings.  If something bad happens, it’s perfectly natural and healthy to feel down, upset or angry.  The problem is that simply dwelling on these feelings and responses will not serve us well, or help our situation.  It’s therefore in your gift and best interests to start to coach yourself to a better way forward that will.

If you’d like to learn more about how to take a coaching approach to Managing Difficult Conversations and people management, we’ve just launched our Summer 2024 public courses. 

Click on the link below to find out more:

For Schools and Education

For Business and Charities

If you would like to find out more about BrightBird’s 1-to-1 and team coaching, check out our web pages using the links below:

For Business

For Education

For Charities

Or why not EMAIL US, or book in an informal chat using the button below.  We'll find out about the support you need and provide you with a no-obligation quote.

Further reading:

Bad Therapy: Why the Kids Aren't Growing Up - By Abigail Shrier.  Publisher: Sentinel

The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood Is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness - By Jonathon Haidt.  Publisher: ‎Allen Lane

The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking - By Oliver Burkeman.  Publisher: Vintage

Happy: Why More or Less Everything Is Absolutely Fine - By Derren Brown.  Publisher: Corgi

Karen Amos is an executive coach and Director and Founder of BrightBird Coaching & Training. She supports business owners, managers and education leaders to get the best out of themselves and their teams. She brings a down-to-earth approach to improving working lives through better leadership, communication and working relationships. 

Tel: 07714 855757 or email: karen@bright-bird.co.uk


Difficult Conversations: Why you should ditch the praise sandwich...

Why you should ditch the praise sandwich – And what you should do instead…

by Karen Amos

Every time I run a Managing Difficult Conversations training course, I have at least one delegate who advocates using the ‘Praise Sandwich’ as a structure for their conversation or feedback.  I can understand why and I’ll come onto that in a moment, but first a quick explanation of what this is for those who have never heard of it.

The praise sandwich is an approach to giving feedback that starts with something positive, then adds the negative feedback, followed up by something positive to close.  There is another school of thought that calls this a **** sandwich, for obvious reasons, but let's stick with the 'praise' version to save our sensibilities!

So let's look at why we use it - then we can look at why we shouldn't in a moment.

There are several reasons why the praise sandwich seems attractive to the feedback-giver.  One of the main ones though, is that that we erroneously see this as ‘kind’.  I mean, think about it – of course it’s kind.  We’re saving the person’s feelings by telling them all the great stuff they do and leaving them on a high – fully motivated to go back to work.  And we can breath a sigh of relief and tell ourselves, 'That went well...'.

Except…

OK, rather an extreme example, but the effect is the same – the message will be either lost, or misinterpreted.  You’ll come across as either dishonest and manipulative, or you won’t get the change you wanted in the first place.

Years ago I had a manager who used this approach all the time.  I had no idea whether I was doing a great job, or whether I was on the verge of being sacked!

So what should we do instead?

Surely, if we don’t fluff up the message at the end with something positive, we’ve a demotivated, or even irate member of staff on our hands?

Actually, I don’t believe that needs to be the case.  We just need to say what we need to say - but the key is to say it well.

I like to call this the 4 C's:

  1. Courage - Having the backbone to deal with situations instead of burying our head in the sand and hoping it will go away
  2. Clarity - Saying what you have to say, getting to the point and not fluffing up the message
  3. Compassion - In our haste to deliver the message, it's sometimes easy to forget there's another person on the other end of this conversation, so let's treat people as we would like to be treated ourselves
  4. Collaboration - Working 'with' rather than doing 'to'.  This coaching approach is a sure fire way to build commitment and achieve positive outcomes

So hopefully you can see that by using a coaching approach to give feedback and have those ‘difficult conversations’ we build commitment, accountability and personal responsibility.  It’s supportive, but definitely not 'fluffy bunny'.

So here’s a quick coaching question to finish off…

  • What are you most worried about when having a ‘difficult conversation’ with your team and what effect does this have on your approach?

If you’re interested in learning tips, tools and how to take a coaching approach for better ‘difficult conversations’, check out our latest live, interactive online training workshops.

Click on the link below to find out more:

For Schools and Education

For Business and Charities

Or why not EMAIL US, or book in an informal chat using the button below.  We'll find out about the support you need and provide you with a no-obligation quote.

Karen Amos is an executive coach and Director and Founder of BrightBird Coaching & Training. She supports business owners, managers and education leaders to get the best out of themselves and their teams. She brings a down-to-earth approach to improving working lives through better leadership, communication and working relationships. 

Tel: 07714 855757 or email: karen@bright-bird.co.uk


5 Questions to Find the Silver Bullet to Great Leadership...

5 Questions to Find the Silver Bullet to Great Leadership...

by Karen Amos

I bring you leadership bad news and good news... and 5 coaching questions to help you find the silver bullet to great leadership.

I had an interesting conversation with a client recently about people’s expectations of leadership.  She said many upcoming and existing leaders in her teams are looking for that ‘Silver Bullet’ that solves all their leadership problems. Funnily enough, this cropped up again a few days later with another business contact.

The fact is, anyone who is interested in personal and professional development will find themselves inundated with book suggestions and social media posts on how ‘this one thing’ will ‘transform’ your professional life/leadership style/financial situation… blah, blah, blah…

Do I sound a bit cynical?  Well I am.  I don’t want to throw shade on other people’s work and indeed I am an avid collector and reader of said books and posts.  I love learning.  But here’s the kicker – learning isn’t doing.

And how easy is it to collect these books and blogs and not only never read them, but certainly not put them into practice?  I had a friend who had every self-help book known to woman-kind on her shelves. Yet, she couldn’t understand why she had so many, but wasn’t rich/thin/motivated/calm [delete as appropriate].

The reason was simple.  She’d read the first chapter on each one, found she actually had to change something for this to work and moved onto the next new thing.

So let’s get the bad news over with… There is no single ‘Silver Bullet’ to good leadership.

There.  Wasn’t so bad was it?  Perhaps a little disappointing, but I’m sure you knew already that any small hopes you had of any easy fix weren’t rooted in reality, didn’t you?

The fact is, leadership and people management in particular, is tough.  It’s messy, gnarly, emotive and I think (please tell me this isn’t just me), all the more fascinating for it.

So what’s the good news?  After all, I did promise some…

Well here it is...

You already have everything you need to be an amazing leader of people.

You don’t need a silver bullet because you have YOU! 

You just need the courage and some small skills and techniques to put that into place.  No gimmicks, no quick fixes, just good, honest person-centredness, a sound ethical base and an eye on what’s really important.

That’s why I love Bill George’s Authentic Leadership approach.  It’s about being yourself, not some parody of a top ‘business guru’, ending up being a caricature like The Office’s David Brent.

So where to start?  How do you cut through all the information out there and know what you don’t know?

Here are five coaching questions to get you started…

  1. What kind of leader or manager do I aspire to be?
  2. Which people in my past would I like to emulate? What was so great about them?
  3. What am I most afraid of when it comes to managing people and leadership? (Be honest here – this exercise is for your eyes only.)
  4. Who do I know who deals with this issue well? What do they do that I can put into place?
  5. What one step can I take right now that will help me overcome this barrier?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and remember, you can contact us any time for an informal chat, even if it’s just for a listening ear!

If you’d like to learn more about how to take a coaching approach to Managing Difficult Conversations and people management, we’ve just launched our Summer 2024 public courses. 

Click on the link below to find out more:

For Schools and Education

For Business and Charities

Or why not EMAIL US, or book in an informal chat using the button below.  We'll find out about the support you need and provide you with a no-obligation quote.

Karen Amos is an executive coach and Director and Founder of BrightBird Coaching & Training. She supports business owners, managers and education leaders to get the best out of themselves and their teams. She brings a down-to-earth approach to improving working lives through better leadership, communication and working relationships. 

Tel: 07714 855757 or email: karen@bright-bird.co.uk


How courageous is your leadership?

We have never needed courageous leaders more...

by Karen Amos

Leadership is all over the news.  Firstly there's the Post Office scandal.  Much of this will be new to many people, but the fact is, this is far from a new issue.  I was first aware of it around 2010, as an acquaintance was one of the Post Masters in question.  He ended up taking out a huge loan to patch up a financial hole, not of his making, or risk prosecution and lose the family business.  The impact was devastating on his physical, mental and financial wellbeing. The situation was picked up and consistently reported on by media outlets such as Private Eye, Radio 4 and Panorama, but still no meaningful movement from either the Post Office, or indeed the government, despite them being well aware of this.  People jailed, made bankrupt, family breakups and suicides. Still no-one stepped forward.  Finally, a mainstream broadcaster ITV, created prime-time drama series and the government eventually commits to action.

Same with the ongoing situation with Ofsted inspections.  It wasn't until the tragic death of Ruth Perry following her school's downgrading following an Ofsted inspection that a light was cast on what teachers, leadership teams and particularly Head Teachers have known for years - the process isn't fit for purpose.  Untold stress and suffering within schools in the name of raising standards.  Teachers and Heads reconciling themselves with feeling sick every week as an inspection was imminent and careers being wrecked, not to mention the toll on mental health.  As with the Post Office scandal, this isn't 'just' the ruining of lives and livelihoods - people died.

So what's the cause of the problem?  Tech?  Comms?  Process?

No, the cause lies with with leadership - specifically, cowardly, dishonest, unethical and self-serving leadership, which in truth is no leadership at all.

There are the leaders who focus on process, making sure everything can be monitored and that systems are in place. Those setting out the ‘business as usual’ mantra, when life is anything but.  The leaders that force the perpetual direction of travel that involves people being asked to do more and more with fewer and fewer resources until those people break.  Those priding themselves on being ‘decisive’, whilst never once pausing to look back and check where everyone else is on this journey. And if anyone’s lagging behind? - well, they need to get their backside in gear and quick.  And finally, those leaders and business owners who seek to exploit the system, state, or people in order to make a quick buck.

Then there are inspirational leaders out there who ‘do the right thing’ by looking after their teams, clients and communities. These are the people who 'bend’ the rules where need be, provide reassurance and are understanding and empathetic to the needs of others.  The leaders who understand the impact on those going through huge daily challenges such as the cost of living crisis and balancing home and work with pressures on childcare for example.

I believe we need strong, ethical leadership now more than ever and Authentic Leadership sets out the blueprint for this. The need for courage, vision, compassion and a strong set of ethical values. Above all, the ability to put these into positive action. As I’ve said before, Authentic Leadership isn’t, ‘Take me as you find me – warts and all.’ Anyone trying to lead a team with that attitude is, quite rightly, destined for failure.  And it's certainly not 'fluffy bunny'. No, Authentic Leadership is the toughest thing you will ever do.  It means having the courage to do what’s needed and the heart to do what’s right.

Here are a few coaching questions to get you started on checking how courageous your leadership style is...

  1. What do I stand for as a leader?  What are my 'lines in the sand' I will never cross?
  2. Am I ever guilty of not following my own principles and ethics - and what causes this?
  3. How will I know when I'm 'doing the right thing'?
  4. What are the signs I may not be acting courageously as a leader - seen in myself and others?  What impact does this have on me?
  5. What one thing could I put into place today that would ensure I was doing the right thing by others?

If you’d like to learn more about how to take a coaching approach to Managing Difficult Conversations and Effective People Management, we’ve just launched our Summer 2024 public courses. 

Click on the link below to find out more:

For Schools and Education

For Business and Charities

Or why not EMAIL US, or book in an informal chat using the button below.  We'll find out about the support you need and provide you with a no-obligation quote.

Karen Amos is an executive coach and Director and Founder of BrightBird Coaching & Training. She supports business owners, managers and education leaders to get the best out of themselves and their teams. She brings a down-to-earth approach to improving working lives through better leadership, communication and working relationships. 

Tel: 07714 855757 or email: karen@bright-bird.co.uk


Do you walk the walk, or are you just talk?

Do you walk the walk, or are you just talk?

By Karen Amos

I’ve been feeling challenged recently.  What’s new you may ask?  The world feels like it’s going to hell in a hand cart and to be honest, it’s hard to know where to direct your outrage.

I guess I’ve been challenged around my values.  My ethics.  What I stand for.  And mainly that many people who say they stand for a certain thing, do nothing of the kind in practice.  In fact, they overtly and cynically do just the opposite.

So yes, I’m talking about the current government (I won’t expand, as I don’t even know where to start), but also leadership around the world.  Saying one thing – doing another.

But let’s stop a minute in our righteous indignation and look a little closer to home too.  Let’s look at hype, at marketing and advertising.  Then let’s look at our own and other’s behaviour around us, including in the workplace.

This reminded me of a phrase a work colleague, Ursula Wood of Wellbeing Umbrella used to say:

‘Just because someone says it, does not make it so…’

Indeed.

Talk is cheap and all to frequently nowadays, not challenged either.  The fact is we can say anything we like, it’s a free country after all.  So I can say I’m actually 21 again.  There.  Yippee!  But I’m not, I’m 54 and no amount of saying it (or wishing for a bit more youthful vitality!) will make me so.

But this is where it all goes wrong.  People say they’re ethical, honest, authentic (heaven save us from authentic!), caring, compassionate… of course they do.  Who would ever proudly admit to being unethical, dishonest, a liar, a fraud?

The fact is though that unless we consistently back our words up with action – what we do – we are just that, frauds!

It’s an uneasy truth to bear.  There are times when I have been that cowardly person, when I’ve been ‘economical with the truth’.  Often because I was afraid of the consequences, but that’s by the by; these are the times I reflect upon and am most ashamed of myself.  So if we are to be our best selves and leaders, the people we tell everyone we are, and judge others against, we must face up to these realities.

Funnily enough, my inspiration for this post comes not from disingenuous politicians (although they’re not exactly a rare breed, judging by current events), but from the amount of ‘coaching’ purported everywhere and by everyone at the moment.  It’s trendy, it’s the thing to have, it’s a requirement and applauded in many sectors, including education.

As a coach, that really should be making my heart sing!  So why not?

The problem is that everything appears to be named ‘coaching’ nowadays.

So, instructing, mentoring, advising, teaching, training and plain old directing… all become ‘coaching’ – but they’re not.

They’re also not ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’. 

All these approaches have merit in the right situation.  I use them all in my own practice.  That’s how I give my clients most value.

It is however, vitally important that as a leader for example, if you say you take a coaching approach, you have a good look inwards.  Do you actually coach, or are you just directing with a very loaded question?  The former hands the control to the person being coached, the latter is a leader who hangs onto the control, but denies or disguises this as something else entirely.

As an example of coaching, here are a few coaching questions to get you started:

  • What words would I use to describe myself and my values and against which I judge others?
  • What evidence do I have that I practice these consistently?
  • Would other people around me agree?
  • Are there times my values become less ‘mandatory’ to me?

If you would like to find out more about coaching and how this differs from other approaches, check out our latest FREE Introduction to Coaching webinars. 

For schools and education

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Or our new Coaching Skills for Managers mini-programme:

For business

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Get in touch for a no-obligation chat if you'd like to find out more:

Tel: 07714 855757 or email: karen@bright-bird.co.uk

 

Karen Amos is an executive coach and founder of BrightBird Coaching & Training. She supports business owners and managers to get the best out of themselves and their teams. She brings a down-to-earth, practical approach to improving working lives through better leadership, communication and working relationships. 


So you're a coach? That's like a football coach, right?

You’re a coach? That’s like a football coach, right?

By Karen Amos

‘You’re a coach?  What, like a football coach?’  This is a regular response when people find out what I do for a living – and to be honest, it’s not a million miles off the mark.

So here’s my latest attempt to de-mystify coaching…

Like a football coach? – Erm, yes, in that a football coach is there to maximise the performance of the players to build a successful team and win matches.  A good coach will help players maximise their strengths and recognise and overcome their weak areas.

So not like a football coach? – Well no – in that I don’t shout at people from the edge of a field in the cold and rain!  I also rarely wear a tracksuit for my work - Oh, and my knowledge of football is limited to knowing who Kevin Keegan is and that Gary Lineker likes crisps!

Actually the main distinction is that good coaching is all about supporting people to work it out for themselves.  This moves us from TELL – to – ASK.

Why not just give people the answer if they don’t know what to do?

Imagine you’re stuck – there’s a problem at work, maybe with a member of your team, or your work-life balance is going down the drain.  You meet up with your friend after work and they ask how you are.  ‘Terrible,’ you say, ‘The team aren’t meeting their goals and my boss is breathing down my neck and I’m shattered, but nowhere near getting to the bottom of my to-do list.’

‘Ah, you know what you need to do,’ says your friend in their best Harry Enfield impersonation, ‘You need to leave.  Give them your notice tomorrow and tell them you’re not putting up with it any more.’

I’m guessing most of us have been on the receiving end of that kind of conversation at some time.  Now think about what you feel like receiving this kind of ‘advice’.  Listened to and understood?  I doubt it.  Likely to follow the advice?  Usually not – I tend to find myself thinking, ‘what do you know about it?’ or variations on that theme and pull down my mental shutters ready to revel in a bit more self-imposed misery.

So let’s look at the coaching alternative.  We don’t tell, we ask.  Coaches dig down to what’s really going on – finding the root cause of the issue.  Let’s face it, without getting that right, everything else is a sticking plaster solution.  We then find out what the person actually does want.  When we’re experiencing a painful situation, we’re all really clear on what we don’t want, but often less clear on what we do want.  With a clear goal, the person is then able to set out clear actions to achieve that goal.

So in essence, a coach brings a safe space, where people can be heard, in confidence and without judgement, and be supported to find their own way out of any difficulties and build up their own skills and personal resources.

Coaches work with individuals and teams to identify the blocks that are preventing them from moving forward and set out new, positive goals and a vision for the future. They then give support to set out actions to make this a reality.

I’ll post some more soon on techniques I use as a coach and problems coaching can help resolve.  In the meantime, next time you’re tempted to just tell someone what to do – why not pause for a moment, listen to them and ask them what they’d like to do instead?

If you would like to find out how BrightBird can help you build your performance and support your teams to remain positive and productive, get in touch for a chat or click HERE to book your no-obligation FREE Discovery coaching session.  

We offer online video 1-to-1 coaching support from senior leadership to front-line staff and also team/group coaching. 

Tel: 07714 855757 or email: karen@bright-bird.co.uk

Karen Amos is an executive coach and founder of BrightBird Coaching & Training. She supports business owners and managers to get the best out of themselves and their teams. She brings a down-to-earth, practical approach to improving working lives through better leadership, communication and working relationships. 


Overwhelm - taking those first steps out of the swamp...

Overwhelm - taking those first steps out of the swamp...

By Karen Amos

The problem with overwhelm is... well, it's overwhelming!

Yes, I realise that's pretty obvious, but if it's really that obvious, why don't we easily sort it out and feel more in control?

Because... yes, that's right - it's overwhelming.  The Cambridge dictionary describes overwhelm as 'to be too much to deal with'. (1.)  So there you have it - how can you deal with something, which by definition leaves you feeling as if you can't?

Overwhelm sucks us down and dulls our responses and behaviours, sapping your energy and confidence.  It's a swamp land for your productivity and wellbeing.

So here's how to deal with the stuff that feels like it's too much to deal with...!

1.  Accept there is no 'one-step, easy answer' to overwhelm

Overwhelm means different things to different people, at different times.  There are often several contributing factors, each of which compound the other.  This is why we can't often find a way through - and why we often don't even know where to start.  Acknowledging what's going on for you - and importantly, making a conscious decision to change things for the better is a great start though.

2.  If you don't know where to start, start in the easiest place

Because overwhelm then leaves us powerless in its grip, we often do nothing.  We don't know what the 'best' thing to do is, or what the solution is.  So we do the rabbit in the headlights routine.  Often though, just taking one small step can start to lift us out of the swamp.  And each step out, increases our capacity to gain control, energy and impetus.  So don't wait for the whole solution, just take the one small, easy step you know will lead you in the right direction.

3.  Overcome the fear of switching off

Whilst we know we would benefit from taking proper time out, this can actually feel pretty scary when you're under pressure.  The problem is that trying to plough through is often counter-productive, leaving us even more exhausted, but the bogeyman of letting go can really hold us in its grip.  Rationalising how you will benefit from even a short amount of time out will help you make that decision.  Remind yourself for example, how much more productive you will be the next day if you turn off your smart phone and have an early night, or even just finish work at a normal time for once, to go do something nice with your loved ones.

4.  Break tasks and activities down

If we see a large, complex or long-term problem, it's hard to know where to even start - and the positive feelings of achievement aren't so easily found as we try to plough our way through.  Instead, break your goals/outcomes down into smaller steps that you can tick off frequently.  That way you can see your progress and more importantly gain the feelings of satisfaction and control that come with this.  This is even true of smaller, personal habits - e.g. saying you're going to do physical exercise/training 3 times a week can seem too much and mean you don't even start.  However, saying you'll go to spin class on Monday evening, do a 30 minute run on Wednesday and a long walk at the weekend can much more easily be planned in - and ticked off each day.

5.  Get your priorities right

When we feel so overwhelmed with our workload, there's a danger that we end up working on completely the wrong things.  These often swing between the jobs (or people) who shout the loudest, or the things that are easiest and least risky.  Neither of these necessarily are the right thing though.  (And if you think this isn't you, just remind yourself about the times you've ended up doing the dusting rather than tackle a gnarly task!  Yeah, of course, we'd all choose dusting as our new favourite hobby right?!)  Instead, take a few minutes to check through everything that's going on and ask yourself:

  • What could and should be dropped off my to-do list (or even completely off my radar) at this point in time?
  • Are there any quick wins here, that will buy me more time and energy moving forwards?
  • What's the most important thing here?
  • What are the things that no-one would really notice if I didn't do?
  • If I assume I don't have time or energy to do everything that's expected of me, what will I have to put down first?
  • Where's the 'noise' coming from?  Is this legitimately something I should be listening to?  If not, how do I tune it out?

If you were only going to do one thing right now, I'd recommend taking a few minutes away to ask yourself some of these questions.  Then take one step - just one - that will start to take you in the right direction and lead you out of the overwhelm swamp.

References:

  1. OVERWHELM | meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary

If you would like to find out more about how you and your teams can improve their time management and productivity, whilst minimising stress and overwhelm, check out our new Positive and Productive online programme.  

For schools

For Business and VCSE organisations

For an informal, no-obligation chat about how we can help you, call us on 07714 855757, or email info@bright-bird.co.uk.

Karen Amos is an executive coach and founder of BrightBird Coaching & Training. She supports under-pressure leaders and managers  to get the best out of themselves and their teams. She brings a practical, down-to-earth approach to improving working lives through better wellbeing, leadership, communication and working relationships. 


Workload – Is this the next Emperor’s new clothes?

Workload – Is this the next Emperor’s new clothes?

By Karen Amos

Exhausted.  Overwhelmed.  Inundated.  This is what I’m hearing and seeing around me, from clients, associates and on social media.

There’s too much work to do and too little time to do it in.  And yes, there are so many things going on right now, resulting in endless firefighting and over which we have very little control.  Vast swathes of staff teams going off sick with various illnesses, of which covid is only one, as an easy example.

I get the feeling of helplessness that goes with this, but can’t help but think there are also many things we CAN do something about, but often don’t.

As we come up to the festive season, this is never more needed.  What should for many be a time of holiday and celebration, becomes a source of stress, anxiety and overwhelm.

This is where our mindset comes in.

Working out what we can control or influence and not expending mental and emotional energy on the things we can’t, will ensure we expend our energy in the right way.  The good old Stoics and latterly Stephen Covey hit this on the nail.

That’s only part of the story though and I’m on a mission to call this out.  I’m going to be the little boy to the Emperor’s New Clothes of workload…

Here are the basic facts of the modern work-life as I see it:

1.  We will NEVER complete all of our workload

2.  We only have a finite amount of time and energy available to us

So let’s unpick this:

1.  We will never complete all of our workload.

We don’t want to think we’re failing, so we try to fool ourselves that one day… one day… we will have ticked all the tasks off on our to-do lists.  The fact is that there will always be more that could or should be done.   We can always do more, make things better, build on the last job… on it goes.

2.  We only have a finite amount of time and energy available to us.

Despite our best efforts there are only 24 hours in a day and you will never have the energy to consistently work huge proportions of this – not if you want to stay well that is!  Even if you had 36 hour days, you’d only have a certain amount of energy you could expend.

So this is why I liken workload to the Emperor’s New Clothes.  No-one is calling this out.  So I am.

If we accept these 2 facts as accurate, we’re left with 2 choices:

1.  Accept the inevitable frustration, despair, meltdown and ill health

2.  Make a mindshift in how we think about and approach our work

Doesn’t seem possible?  Then check out this example:

It’s the Monday, a week before your much needed holidays.  All you can think of is getting away and forgetting about work for a week or so.  So you have great intentions and have made a list of all the things you’re going to achieve from your to-do list before you go.

By the end of day one, you’ve made very little inroad.  In fact, you’ve actually added to your list.

By mid-week, you’re feeling the pressure.  You’re nowhere near getting those big chunky pieces of work out of the way and it really doesn’t look like you’ve time to do them before Friday.

By Thursday, you’re starting to cross off some things that ‘can wait’.

By Friday, you’re crossing off most things, deciding they’re probably not that vital and guess what?  For many of them, you’ll never even add them back onto your list when you return!

Which just goes to prove that much of the issue isn’t about WHAT we’ve got to do, it’s WHAT OUR ATTITUDE IS to what we’ve got to do.

Of course, there are many tools and techniques we can effectively use to manage our time and workload.  I teach many of these in my training programmes, but the fact is, these alone will not solve your workload issues.

For example, I’d always advocate that people use lists to help lighten your cognitive load amongst other things.  The problem is that if we don’t approach what we put on our lists with the right mindset, we’ll find ourselves writing them on kitchen rolls they’ll be that long.

Let’s face it, none of us are going to be on our death bed saying, ‘At least I got to the end of my to-do list!’

The solution to this I believe, lies in having better quality conversations – with ourselves, our managers and our teams.  A conversation that says, ‘OK, this work has just landed and I’m already at or over capacity with my workload.’

  • What do I need to do myself?
  • What do I need to be saying to others?

Here are some coaching questions to get you started:

  • If I accept it’s impossible to get to the bottom of my to-do list – what needs to happen to ensure I can still do a good job and stay well?
  • What if my wellbeing was as important as getting my jobs done?
  • How can I work more collaboratively with others in a way that helps everyone?
  • How can I work more efficiently?
  • What happens when I prioritise my work better?
  • What should my response be if someone comes to me with more work?

One of the things we can say could be to our managers, at what ever level.  Easier said than done in some cases I admit, but what if we were to say, ‘I’m already at capacity.  Can you help me work out what I can do and when?’

I’m not saying this is always the case, but I confess that on occasions in the past, I have been that manager.  The one who was so overwhelmed that when another tranche of work came in, I did a ‘dump and run’ on my team.

The result?  An over-worked and disgruntled team and myself, feeling like I’d sold my values down the river.

The thing is that the solution doesn’t necessarily mean appointing more staff – although how can we ever present a valid business case if we don’t acknowledge what’s there?  Often though, more staff aren’t needed, just the right support, training and advice and some better communication.

In order to truly change things for the better we need to own up.  To shout out if our workload isn’t possible, as there will never be a positive change if we don’t.

If you would like to find out more about how you and your teams can improve their time management and productivity, whilst minimising stress and overwhelm, check out our new Positive and Productive online programme.  

For schools

For Business and VCSE organisations

For an informal, no-obligation chat about how we can help you, call us on 07714 855757, or email info@bright-bird.co.uk.

Karen Amos is an executive coach and founder of BrightBird Coaching & Training. She supports business owners and managers who are feeling the pressure, to get the best out of themselves and their teams. She brings a practical, down-to-earth approach to improving working lives through better leadership, communication and working relationships.