What sets your soul on fire?

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What is it about being a coach that sets my souls on fire? In hindsight, I have been coaching for over 15 years throughout my career but yet never officially stated 'I am a coach'. I have had direct reports that I coached and mentored throughout my career and if I look further than my career - I have three younger siblings that I coach, I coach my young child and so far through one of the toughest period of our lives. I also coach my step-child and before this, I coached younger peers in high school, when I was a senior taking care of new starters in their first year of high school. I also found people would often tell me things in confidence and I would keep that confidence - in school, work or life in general. 

I decided I wanted to be a qualified Life Coach about 4-5 years ago. I only told one person as I felt it was something that would be laughed at. That person said to me that she could see me as a coach, it gave me encouragement to pursue it. She was a direct report I had coached and is now a good friend. Due to things that happened during the course of my life, I never got to enrol in a course until this year. I believe timing needs to be right and I feel that this was the right time. Everything seemed to fall into place and continue to do so. It has been and is an invigorating journey.

Personally, I have been on a self-discovery journey for the last 6 years or more. I have been reading voraciously about the human brain, neuroscience, psychology, learning and mindfulness. I find the human brain fascinating and continue to read books on these topics. These topics were also part of the Life Coaching course so it re-affirms everything I believe and currently do in my own life - there is a congruence with what I was learning and how I live my life. It has been a series of small steps that have led me to the bigger journey that I am on now.

When I speak about the course and content, I become so invigorated and energised. I become energised while coaching my clients, it lights a fire inside me and makes me feel alive. When I spoke to my friend about how I felt about the course, she said to me that she thought I would always go into coaching. Maybe she knew something I didn't? My confidence grew as I completed the course and when coaching others, it feels right - like this is what I am meant to do.

Upon completion of the Life Coaching course, I became accredited by the International coaching Federation (ICF). The classes were twice a week and even though the late nights were a killer - I really looked forward to them every week and thoroughly enjoyed them! The connections I made with the other participants in the class feel more valuable than the actual content. Even so, the content and discussion generated was stuff that set my soul on fire, so being connected with like-minded souls was a real treat! It was bittersweet when the course completed - it was great to have my time back each week and get some sleep but the energy and support from the group was definitely going to be missed.

Since completing the course, we have set up a What'sApp group where we celebrate each other's wins, be each other's cheerleaders, support and encourage each other. The energy the group exudes is amazing to say the least. The practical application during the course only grew our confidence as coaches and the sharing that occurred made our connections much stronger. Some topics generating discussion were around honesty, empathy, authenticity and a strong desire to help others. 

My passion is learning and seeing the people I coach go onto bigger and better things - knowing I was a part of their journey is an amazing feeling! Even if I plant the seed and it is watered by others, it's such a great feeling to impact people's lives in a positive way. My why is to enable others to Laugh.Love.Live! This is what sets my soul on fire, I feel I am doing what I am meant to be doing and am ever grateful to be able to have found my passion. In saying that, have you thought about what sets your soul on fire?

 

Feedback

In recent conversations with colleagues, discussed centred on the topic of feedback - particularly the importance of the way feedback is delivered. Discussions led to the mutual agreement that feedback is usually provided in the way it has been previously provided and most times, feedback had been poorly provided. Conversation then led to the importance of providing coaching and training in order to provide positive and constructive feedback. 

A few points that assist in providing positive feedback involve:

Timeliness - feedback provided is best provided in a timely manner when the issue(s) is recent in the recipient's memory. This applies to positive and constructive feedback - think about how much more effective it is to provide feedback for a job well done as it arises, rather than wait for the half-yearly performance discussion due in 6 months. The same applies for constructive feedback - this enables any correction and/ or remedial action to be put in place immediately rather than later when it may offer little or no effect. Recency of the feedback contributes to the management of any issues as awareness is still at it's peak.

Relevance - this assists in the delivery and discussion of the issue(s). It is helpful information that the recipient can use to either adjust or improve current and future actions/ behaviours. It also enables expectations to be stated clearly and what is required to achieve those expectations. It is an effective way to avoid misunderstanding and confusion while encouraging positive changes.

Unbiased - objective, factual information is best provided without subjectivity/ personal opinion - facts that are impossible or difficult to dispute.  Logic and facts rather than personal preference is usually much more difficult for someone to dispute. Objective feedback is motivated by the desire to encourage improvement. Objective criticism does not include personal attacks or overly negative language - it seeks to use the expression of unbiased thoughts and reason rather than the expression of emotions and personal preference. The focus should be on changing the behaviour, rather than the person. 

Overall, discussion led to the agreement that feedback provides continuous learning and enables improvement. Constructive feedback enables improvement, learning and creating action plans to implement positive change.  Overall, feedback enables an organisation to:

  • remain aligned to goals,
  • create strategies,
  • develop products and/ or service improvements,
  • improve and maintain relationships, and much more. 

 

Mindfulness

 

Mindfulness is defined as is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you're mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience (www.psychologytoday.com).

I have read the book called "The Plastic Mind" by Sharon Begley. This book explores the theory, that for decades neuroscience stated the brain was hardwired by the time we reach adulthood - there was no room for any new neurons/ connections to occur. There is much discussion and research in this book to disprove that theory ie. "that you can't teach an old dog new tricks!" One of the research methodologies applied was Mindfulness, which is used in Buddhist meditation. There were many dialogues with the Dalai Lama as he has a personal interest in science and the mind - he even volunteered his monks to be part of the research. As a result, the Mind and Life institute was born. Another contributing factor was that some scientists previously practiced as Buddhist monks (a couple with the Dalai Lama) and pondered the effects of meditation on the mind and applications in science.

Mindfulness was used as part of the research in neuroplasticity which revealed the brain is capable not only of altering its structure but also of generating new neurons, even into old age. The research shows that the brain can adapt, heal, renew itself after trauma and compensate for disability.

The book documents how this fundamental paradigm shift is transforming both our understanding of the human mind and our approach to deep-seated emotional, cognitive and behavioural problems. The book details these breakthroughs showing that it is possible to:

  • reset our happiness meter,
  • regain the use of limbs disabled by stroke,
  • train the mind to break cycles of depression and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and
  • reverse age-related changes in the brain.

It becomes paramount then, by applying mindfulness ie. focusing on the present moment -  enables us to learn and apply new information, skills and experience more effectively. It seems if you are in a state of active, open attention on the present then it enables more effective learning and retention. Being in the present moment increases learning effectiveness, aids in acquiring the new skill, information or strengthening your experience. Without judgement, your mind is opened to many possibilities and learning something new creates new neurons, forging new connections in your plastic mind. It gives more weight to the saying "Learning something new keeps you young!"

 

The only constant in life is change

"If one understands that change is the only constant in life then one will more easily recognise what Heraclitus is saying in his 'obscure' writings when he claims such things as, “The way up and the way down are one and the same. Living and dead, waking and sleeping, young and old, are the same.” Heraclitus of Ephesus, Greek Philosopher

Change is something that many people dislike. I have a good friend who tells me that she hates change, yet that is something that we deal with on a daily basis. Think about all the changes in life that we deal with eg. as a child - changing ages, height, clothes, shoes and as you get older - changing schools, friends, houses, cars, jobs, getting married, having children, etc.

Most people do not like change because the change is usually something they may not have chosen for themselves. These changes have required adjustments, even if they were outside their control or decision(s) they had not made. However, the many changes that life may throw your way, often have not been your choice and yet most times, you have adjusted to the change. There are two main factors that assist in coping with change, these are:

  1. Acknowledgement
  2. Acceptance

Acknowledgment

Acknowledgment of the new or different makes change tangible and real. It feels uncomfortable at first and because of the discomfort, people tend to associate it with being wrong. It is just different. Often, people tend to find the easiest way to feel comfortable again, which is to go back to the way things were. The feeling of comfort makes it 'feel' right. Acknowledgment that the change feels different and uncomfortable, makes the change real. It enables our minds to become used to something different. This may lead to being able to accept the change.

Acceptance

As people acknowledge change and incorporate change into their everyday lives, it enables acceptance of change. When people are involved in implementing and providing feedback, it helps to empower and assist in the acceptance of change. In this way, the impact and positive effects of the change can be felt, realised and incorporated into their 'everyday'. This assists in making the change to become routine and provide 'comfort' once again. 

Overall, it helps to keep an open mind and view the change as a challenge and opportunity. Applying a positive mindset enables you to embrace change rather than resist it. Remember;

"Change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end" Robin Sharma

 

 

 

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!

During my work on various business transformation projects involving learning and change, I found the following factors contribute to successful communication:

  1. Consistency
  2. Timeliness
  3. Concise message
  4. Accuracy

Consistency

When messages are consistent, the communication provides clarity - the communication should provide the same message - similar sets of ideas ie, what the message is, set up a time-frame for when the communication will occur (eg Fortnightly, weekly, etc) and have a clear purpose/ reason for the communication. Consideration should be given as to which delivery medium best suits the purpose. For example;

  1. Face to Face - it is easier to communicate your passion and how you feel via open meetings. Using this forum, they will not only hear what you are saying, they will also see and feel it. This approach still remains one of the best approaches to communicate effectively with a team.
  2. Email - Be able to provide information to a large number of people without taking them away from their day-to-day activities.

There is a fine balance to how often the communication should be provided. When there is too little information, this can result in disengagement, 'Chinese whispers' causing speculation and assumption rather than logic and facts. When change is involved, there is usually some resistance to change because the change is usually not one that has been chosen en masse, rather, it is change that is being driven upon the recipients. It is important to engage participants and bring them on a journey with communication reinforcing the change, utilising existing communication channels to help embed it into the 'new way' of doing things. This helps bring your recipients towards acceptance. It is important to have key people demonstrating positive behaviour towards the change as champions across the organisation. It is also imperative to provide feedback channels so that any concerns can be raised and addressed.

Timeliness

The communication should also be delivered at the right time to assist in preventing misunderstanding and assumptions occurring. It helps to address any issues as they occur. The communication should be timed to overcome any challenges and to preempt any issues so they can be addressed sooner rather than later or not at all. If there is too much communication, it becomes information overload resulting in recipients being bombarded with information which may make it difficult to know what is important and what they need to pay attention to. This may result in future communication being ignored or confusion regarding messages being sent.

Concise Message

Keeping messages concise is important - especially when there is frequent communication as most people don't have time to read long emails or pay attention when the duration for face-to-face communication exceeds 20 minutes. Ensure communication includes only the necessary information that is best suited for the medium chosen delivering the communication.

Accuracy

To avoid confusion, having correct and accurate information is important to ensure the first three factors discussed above, contributes to effective communication. when communication is inaccurate, it reduces the credibility of any future communication - this may contribute to it being more difficult to push for the required change or deliver projects successfully.

Key Factors for Learning Success

There are three factors that contribute to learning success:

  1. Clarity
  2. Know your Audience
  3. Preparation

Clarity

There needs to be clear expectations and outcomes which provide your measures of success. Clarity helps ensure the learning needs are met and delivers the right message. This leaves no room for misinterpretation or ambiguity. It ensures the right training content is prepared and delivered using a suitable delivery method, whilst aimed at the right audience. 

Know your audience

It is beneficial to know your audience - who they are, what their expectations are and understanding their needs. An audience analysis will assist you to ensure the right learning outcomes and content are covered in the learning solution. It also helps to use language and provide applications of the learning that are familiar to your audience. The more understanding that you have of the audience, the greater the credibility for your learning solution. Whether it be in the form of a facilitated workshop, eLearning course, and/ or learning resources. Ask questions, remain curious - what would your audience like to obtain from their learning?

Preparation

"By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail" Benjamin Franklin

Preparation is fundamental for all learning. Preparation is the key to yours and your participants' success. Research that can be done prior to and as part of designing learning content, ensures questions can be answered, location of relevant information or reference to learning resources. Preparation enables the facilitator to project confidence when facilitating the learning and utilise theirs and the learners' prior experience. Although there may be situations where even though preparation has taken place - may result in lack of awareness, but acknowledging this and following things up further (sometimes at a later time) may help eg. using Parking Bays.