Getting Unstuck

“I’m Julie Kay and I’m a recovering perfectionist,” I also know from my work as a coach that I am not alone in that. I work with many committed, hard-working people who are driven by providing the best service or the best product possible for their clients, colleagues or customers. At the same time, a large number fail to meet their own and their customers’ expectations because they miss deadlines, run out of time and deliver something of poor quality or don’t deliver at all because they don’t get past the planning stage and therefore deny their customers access to themselves and the outcomes they can potentially deliver.

The poet Rabindranth Tagore describes this beautifully:

“I have spent my days stringing and unstringing my instrument, while the song I came to sing remains unsung.”

Procrastination and perfectionism often go hand in hand. Perfectionists hold themselves back, telling themselves they need more time, more skills, more information, or more certainty, before they can produce high quality results.

Not all procrastination is down to being a perfectionist though. Sometimes it is related to feeling overwhelmed, getting caught up in the detail, being fearful or just plain bored. For example, when I find myself doing the housework it’s a strong signal that I am avoiding something even more unappealing!

Whatever the reason, these suggestions may be helpful in getting you un-stuck and into action.

  • Remember that a perfect product that never materialises is doing your customers a dis-service. Find the balance between quality and timeliness.
  • When you are procrastinating, re-connect with why you are doing it. As the saying goes, “when the why is big enough the how will take care of itself.”
  • When you are feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of the project, break it down into the smallest possible steps that you can take easily every day.
  • Celebrate your successes and make sure you acknowledge actions taken as well as outcomes.
  • Build in accountability. Find ways to hold yourself accountable, find an accountability partner that will check in with you, challenge you and be interested in your progress and results.

I would love to hear what you do to stop procrastinating and start producing the goods.

Julie Kay helps you improve individual and team performance by building the strong trusting relationships you rely on for your success. If you are genuinely interested in boosting performance, productivity and profits the answer is just a click away. For more information, just click here

A Little Question with a Big Impact

When I’m delivering my “Coaching for Results” programmes, I’m often asked about my most effective or favourite coaching questions. I could roll out a string of quite long and impressive questions such as…

  • “If you had that in the way you wanted it, what would that do for you?”
  • “If fear wasn’t in your vocabulary what action would you take?”
    Or even the old
  • “If you went to sleep tonight and a miracle happened that resolved your issue or made your dream came true, how would you know it had happened?”

But my favourite questions aren’t big and they aren’t clever, and they really get below the surface and lead clients to dig deeper and get to the real nuggets. They are the questions that many people fail to ask at all, or don’t ask consistently and persistently enough to be effective.

Drum roll please…

I am now going to share a secret with you. The secret is that one of my favourite and most effective coaching questions is…wait for it…”What else?”

Okay, hands up if you feel let down or disappointed? Don’t be. Just try it.

  • When you are exploring how someone will feel when they achieve their goals, ask what else? And what else? And what else?
  • When you are considering the impact of not addressing a difficult issue ask what else? And what else?
  • When you are brainstorming options, or when you are considering all the things that could get in the way, ask what else?

You get the idea. At first it will feel uncomfortable and you may feel you can’t ask it again when you have already asked it twice in quick succession. Well that’s the time to ask just once more. I guarantee you, and more importantly the person you are coaching, will discover some hidden gems of insights, ideas, and solutions.

Next time I might introduce you to it’s cousins… “Because?…” and “Which means?…”

What are your favourite questions?

Why Leaders Become Derailed

Much research (for example by Daniel Goleman and Lombardo and Eichinger) has been carried out as to why leaders end up seriously underperforming or being fired and it’s rarely down to lack of business acumen or technical expertise.

The reasons leaders become derailed include:

Overused strengths. When a strength is overused it becomes a weakness. Imagine someone who is really driven to perform but is so competitive that he steps on everyone to get where he wants to go.

Over Confidence. When confidence becomes complacency or even arrogance it can cause problems. Great leaders are also great learners. Once the learning stops, leaders, their people and their businesses stop growing and developing. Who can afford to stagnate in this day and age?

Lack of self management. This links back to my previous post about knowing yourself and showing yourself, with skill. While direct reports want to know their leaders on a personal level in order to build trust, they do not feel safe and secure coping with tears or tantrums.

Poor relationship skills. Outstanding leaders don’t become outstanding on their own. They rely on building strong, productive relationships with the people around them.

Not knowing their impact on others. We learn most, not from books or courses but from our bosses. Both good bosses and bad bosses. Great leaders can see themselves through the eyes of those they interact with. They also realise that they are communicating all the time, not just through their words but even more so through their actions. Knowing this helps them chose what they are communicating, consciously and carefully.

My questions to you are:

  • Which of these elements is most likely to derail you?
  • What can you do to prevent this?

Be Yourself – Everyone Else is Taken

In their book “Why Should Anyone Be Led By You?” Robert Goffee and Gareth Jones point out that in spite of the huge demand for more effective leaders, they remain in short supply.

This is partly due to the fact that organisations across all sectors still encourage people to conform or become inauthentic role players, rather than being clear about who they are and what they stand for. This of course leads to cynical, de-motivated and disengaged followers. Another reason for the lack of good leadership is the limited knowledge across the board about what leadership is and how it can be developed. I have written here before about how leadership is a dynamic relationship that is situational. So, something that works for one leader in one context won’t work for another leader or in another context. Therefore, focusing on the characteristics of leaders or attempting to imitate great leaders just doesn’t work.  As Oscar Wilde says, “be yourself everyone else is taken!”

Robert Goffee and Gareth Jones argue that those people who aspire to be effective leaders don’t need to be fully self-aware but they do need to know enough about themselves to recognise their own personal leadership assets and how these can be deployed to best effect.

Leaders need to be able to:

  • Show their weaknesses with care
  • Tap into their intuition to judge timing and courses of action
  • Manage people with “tough empathy”
  • Reveal their differences with skill

My questions to you are:

  • Which personal weaknesses do you reveal?
  • How do you use your intuition?
  • How are you different and how can that help you?

“Happy learning!”

Effective Coaching…

If coaching is so effective why don’t managers do more of it?

When I run coaching programmes for managers they often arrive “bought in” to the idea of coaching. These days they don’t need convincing of the benefits, they are increasingly likely to have experienced being coached themselves, having read about it, or having received some training.

However, when it comes to the part in the programme where we consider what is going to get in the way of fully transferring and implementing their coaching skills these are some of the barriers that frequently arise:

  • Lack of time
  • Fear of seeming contrived e.g. “Oh I can tell you’ve just been on a course”
  • Lack of confidence in skills
  • Lack of organisational support  i.e. organisation rewards results over time spent developing staff
  • Feeling expertise/status under threat. Due to asking questions rather than giving answers
  • Fear that team members won’t accept coaching
  • Lack of opportunity to coach, especially in geographically dispersed teams

If you are aware of similar issues slowing you down or standing in the way of coaching your staff more often this may help.

Many of the barriers, e.g. lack of time, lack of opportunity, lack of confidence, stem from a belief that coaching is only really coaching when it is formal, structured, diarised and lasts an hour. That just isn’t the case. Every interaction is a coaching opportunity and a chance to develop your skills and confidence.

This approach also deals with the fears about people rejecting the coaching approach or feeling it is “being done to them” as a result of your attendance on a course.  You can choose to take a quiet, incremental approach to implementing coaching. For example, setting yourself a target to practice active listening in situations you know you find difficult for one week. You might follow this by focusing on asking effective questions where you would normally issue instructions, for a week. These small action steps taken consciously and consistently would effectively develop and sustain your skills and be unlikely to lead to objections from your team members. Who would object to being listened to well and asked for their thoughts, ideas and suggestions?

So, while other blocks to implementation may be more complex, if you consciously choose to look at each conversation as an opportunity for coaching, keep it front of mind, and recognise that 3 minutes of quality listening can be far more effective than a longer period of on/off listening you will overcome these barriers, and develop and sustain the coaching approach that you already know is such an effective part of your management toolkit.

I would love to hear more about what might be getting in the way of coaching your staff and what strategies you have found that work well for you.