How are you doing? I hope you’re feeling a little happier and more comfortable this week. I’m based in the UK and last week was a scorcher here in Cardiff. Everything is a few degrees cooler, a little welcome rain is helping the veg garden – and the weeds – flourish so, in general, all is right with the world.
This month I’ve started a couple of new coaching clients and that’s always an exciting time for me. Building new relationships. Understanding their challenges and helping them find solutions. Often there are some nice big wins in the first sessions and that’s always worth celebrating.
I realised this week that I’d fallen into a trap. Just a few weeks in and I’d put my foot in it. Damn!! I thought I was better than that.
With hindsight I can see what happened.
A client with a professional background that has many similarities to my own – you might not know that before I became a coach I was a researcher. My area of interest was molecular virology and I loved nothing better than trying to figure out how a virus with a few as 12 genes could kill something as big as me.
Anyway, my client brought me a problem… Of course I can’t say what but it was different, it was interesting. And I fell for it. Hook, line and sinker!
No. Rest assured. Nothing bad happened between me and my client. We ended our session on an amazing high note with them getting a moment of insight that put a whole new perspective onto their challenge.
The problem was after the session I fell completely back into researcher mode. I’d go so far as to say my Researcher sub-personality part thought “Wow, this is an opportunity, let’s go!”. And so I did. Google became my new friend as I did the research to understand, analyse and to solve the problem.
Except of course, that’s not what a coach should do.
Of course as a diligent coach I do need to be informed but it is not in my job description to become an expert in my client’s problem or challenge. I just couldn’t see it so I didn’t resist it.
It was easy because it was familiar – and fun. “Old habits die hard” so they say and I’d add “are easily resurrected”!
Has something like that ever happened to you?
In coaching terms I often use these very same ideas with my clients. I encourage them to do some “trigger tracking”, to look for situations where particular events or external cues, trigger a particular set of, often unhelpful, behaviours.
At it’s most simple this can be seen in terms of the type of conditioning we see in Pavlov’s dogs. A simple trigger for a familiar behaviour. A juicy problem presents and my Researcher jumps in to analyse and fix it.
There are many times when I know I’ve been hijacked:
A simple work-related situation: it’s busy, there’s a looming deadline, multiple balls to juggle and something goes wrong – someone in my team drops a ball. As team manager I see this and groan. “Give it to me. I’ll sort it!” and without a moment’s ado I’ve ripped the task away and added it to the very top of my to-do list. Did I need the extra work? Nope. Did I think this through before I did it? Nope. Before I even knew it, Superwoman stepped in and saved the day… except she didn’t, she stole it. Without my intending it, my team-member is left feeling shamed and vulnerable, I’ve effectively told her I don’t trust her and of course, others are watching and wondering… I’ve modelled how not to do delegation, workload planning and prioritisation in a crisis. Great.
Or at home maybe:
I’m working at home, on my own being quietly productive and proud of that. Unexpectedly my sister returns home early with her Personal Assistant – the music class was cancelled as the tutor was told to self-isolate (pingdemic!) and after a short walk round the park they decided to come home. Hearing the keys in the door I get up to let them in. I stop to listen to the story – sympathetic and angry in equal measure while thinking – this isn’t what I planned for my day! I catch my shortness of temper so decide to hide that with an outbreak of Mega-Mother: “Would you like a drink, some tea? Can I put the TV on for you? What would you like to watch? Do put your feet up. Oh, and here’s your tea…”. With hindsight I realise that I’ve spent the best part of 30 minutes faffing and fussing. I’ve broken my state of productive “flow” and I don’t find that level of focus again. I know I’ve blown it.
So three times I can see I was hijacked: Researcher, Superwoman, Mega-Mother. None of the behaviours were inherently bad but they were not the most helpful behaviours in those situations. There were, I know there were much more effective ways I could have behaved that would have created a better outcome.
When I’m aware enough to be aware of the hijack I can readily stop it and get back on track.
My strategy is a sort of “Pause, Pose, Perform” routine.
PAUSE: just pause, stop, notice when you have a behaviour change. What is happening? What is going on? What are you doing? What are you feeling? This sounds like a full-on personal survey but it only takes seconds. I typically stop, close my eyes (if it’s safe), take a deep breath and on the exhale do an internal review.
POSE: what we do on the outside affects what we experience on the inside. Our body, physically primes us to feel or to act in particular ways. So what way do I want to feel or behave? I typically stand straight, release tension in my shoulders and elsewhere, consciously ground myself…
PERFORM: Now, feeling both softer and stronger, I take action. What is most helpful in this situation?
– Instead of becoming Mega-Mother, perhaps I could check-in that nothing was wrong, then reassure my sister’s PA that she’s in charge, give permission to make yourself comfortable as I’m working next door.
– Rather than Superwoman taking over the task and making everyone else look wrong in the process, perhaps I should spend a few minutes checking what actually happened, negotiating a “Plan B” and empowering my colleague to actually fix the situation that she’d brought to me.
– Rather than becoming the Researcher, what is the best way I can support my client as a coach? What questions do I need to ask my client to allow them to find a solution that works for them? Maybe they need to find their own “Pause, Pose, Perform” routine?!
So, back to being the best coach I can be…
Maybe this can help you deal with unhelpful hijacks in your own life. If you’ve any questions on how you might apply it, just ask… I’d love to hear from you! Why not arrange a time for a free, 30 minute conversation to explore how you can apply this simple process to your own challenges.
Bye for now,
PS: I have three spaces for new coaching clients. You might want a simple summer reset or to plan how to achieve your goals for the year as suddenly 7 months have flown by! Perhaps you’re even considering my Developing the Confident Leader programme (click for details). If you’re interested, let’s talk.