The still small voice within. A guide to mastering your inner voice…

pexels-photo-164636.jpeg“The only tyrant I accept in the world
is the still small voice within me”
Mahatma Gandhi.

Maybe Gandhi “accepted” it because he realised that he had the power to change it…. Or perhaps he knew that he had the choice how much attention he actually paid to it?

So, what do we do with, if indeed we notice,  the still small voice within? Part of our development of EQ skills is to develop self awareness so, pay attention and notice your inner voice. Believe me, it is always with you!

Our inner dialogue or self-talk is hugely powerful and influences us in a powerful way, moment to moment. Our state in any moment is influenced hugely by what we are listening to and not just the words. The WAY we are talking to ourselves has more impact than the words we are listening to.

Years ago, when I was teaching communication skills to Health Care Professionals, I always emphasised the importance of tonality, pace, etc. as being crucial to the meaning of the message when communicating to another individual. When I began to run Corporate programmes about stress management and resilience, I did teach about self talk – and yet  I admit, initially, I focussed mainly on the what of what we are saying to ourselves. A little on the how, yet way too little.

It was, however, only when I sat in a room with several hundred others as an NLP Practitioner delegate, and learned from Richard Bandler about the power of submodalities, that the learning really took off for me!!

Those skill drills eliciting submodalities were so important. The exercises in changing them were truly lessons in driving the bus as Richard would say!

I am guessing that, at times, we can all identify with the tyrant concept that Ghandi referred to.

Sometimes that inner voice is anything BUT still and small. It can be downright loud, destructive, tyrannical even. It can certainly lead us to feelings of depression, guilt, anger, frustration, panic fear, anxiety and other states far removed from and overwhelmingly different from the happiness and freedom available within.

When we talk to ourselves in positive words matched with a positive tonality and get the pitch, volume and inner smile in the voice, boy does it feel different!

Much of my work with clients in and outside corporate land is around giving people tools with which to achieve more joy… one of those sets of tools is about managing their voice within!

Below is a summary of what they and I learn and practice!

Firstly to pay attention to and to notice how you are feeling and tune in to your inner voice as if tuning into a radio!!!

1. Notice the inner dialogue
2.  Pay attention to what it is saying
3.  Notice HOW you are hearing the voice, is it gentle soothing, encouraging and supportive or sarcastic, belittling, frightened or sad?
4.  Consider what that voice may be getting you to pay attention to and act upon? (Remember there will be a positive intention – tricky though it may be to discern!) .
5.  If the voice is useful and you are feeling great, keep going and do more of it! Ramp it up!
6.  If it isn’t getting you to feel the way you need to in the situation, take action.

After all, there isn’t really anyone there, just a set of neural pathways firing off – electrical activity represented as a voice.

For many clients, corporate and private, this image in itself is enough to get them to take control. They can picture a set off pathways and the electrical activity and imagine putting a block in, a “STOP” sign,  so that the pathway can’t fire off in the same way any more.

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Easy to visualise and very effective.

If the voice persists, there are several techniques which, if you are a practitioner of NLP you will be aware of.

Case study

I often tell the story of a client called “Ryan” who learned how to have better conversations in his head with fabulous results for his happiness and achievement.

Ryan was 10 years old when I worked with him.

His father called me and told me that Ryan had a promising tennis career and yet had “lost all of his confidence”. He had become anxious, increasingly worried, and had become fearful about playing matches. Whilst he was fine in training, he had lost every match in recent weeks. Could I help?

I wanted first to elicit whether I was talking to a father who had sights set on a Grand Slam Title and whether Ryan was keen or reluctant to climb up the tennis ladder. A quick chat to Ryan convinced me. The young man LOVED his tennis and wanted to enjoy his matches and to win again.

Ryan and I worked together once and kept in touch by phone.

This young man had developed a very critical, frustrated, irritated, superior and aggressive inner voice.

“You are useless at Tennis, the other boy will be better than you, you will miss all your shots, you may as well give up, you’re a useless failure”

Those were just a few of the hypnotic suggestions he was bathing in on a daily basis!

He wanted to enjoy his tennis, feel happy confident and motivated to win with a lovely mix of excitement and anticipation before and during his matches.

He wanted the feeling of winning, success and celebration back!!

Mastering his inner voice was the key to him achieving his desired change. We did other things too yet the major shift came when he changed his inner dialogue!

I gave him several tools with which to do this. The one he liked best and used the most was imagining he was listening to a track on his Ipod and simply changing tracks!! After all, why would he listen to something that was making him feel bad!?

I then asked him to imagine tuning to a different track, an audio book yet that didn’t seem to help.

We had been talking about favourite Tennis players, TV shows, movies, etc., so I seized an idea (the client will always provide the answer!!)

I asked him to create his own inner confidence coachand to imagine what that person would say to him about his tennis… I suggested his favourite player and many times Grand Slam Champion (mistake Bridget, too directive, remember the rules!) and he said, very cutely……

“Do I have to have a tennis player?”

“No” I said, it’s your brain – you can have whoever you like.”

“I know who I will have,” he said suddenly and, as he did so his whole physiology changed. He sat up tall, smiled and I knew the change we were waiting for had happened!!!

“Who will you have then?” I asked.

“Mr T” he said!!! (What a fabulous coach strong, solid, confident and BIG!!!)

“Fantastic” I said – “A fabulous coach! After all he’s on the A team.”

Ryan who was on a roll then said “Is it OK if I have two?”

“Who else have you got on your team now then”I asked.

“Rocky“ grinned Ryan!!! And he got even taller – if that was possible!

I got him to close his eyes and imagine walking in court with Mr T on one side and Rocky on the other, with Eye of the Tiger blaring through the speakers and – job done!

We did some great visualisations, more work on building great states and then, off he went, head held high – and brimming with confidence and a great big smile.

He started to win his matches again and, whilst he may or may not become a Grand Slam Champion, he now has an idea and a sense of what it could feel like!!

Inner Tyrant to Inspirational Inner Coach in a short session!

Ryan’s story has inspired many of my adult clients both private, and at CEO and Director level in corporate land. Whilst the tyrant may well pop up from time to time, it’s good to remember who is in charge.

Is your own inner dialogue always helpful? If not, use the techniques I taught to Ryan and notice the difference. Message me about your experiences and do get in touch is you would like to know more.

Until Next time.

Bridget

Mind your language – words matter!

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Language is fascinating!  We are born without language and quickly gain an understanding of words spoken to us and around us, comprehending much before we even begin to use words ourselves.

We learn from parents, siblings, peers and from TV, radio and the vast array of social media that we become exposed to from an early age. At school we learn more formally and at some point are enlightened that there are different types of words that have different functions in our native language, whatever that may be. There are verbs, nouns, adjectives and a host of others. Words to describe things, words for things and words that are about doing things. We soak this up, becoming proficient ( mostly) in using a whole variety of words to communicate our thoughts, wants, needs, ideas and opinions.

Somewhere along the way we get used to using certain words that are, in effect, wrong, out of context – perhaps this is laziness but that debate can take place elsewhere!

One such example of this is something I hear regularly in my coaching practice as well as in the wider world. We are in the habit of using nouns instead of verbs – a habit that often contributes to becoming or being “stuck” in a problem.

Let’s take the following statement as an example

“Communication is appalling in our team”.

I guess we will all have an interpretation as to what this may mean. The tricky part comes when the individual wants to move forward and change “something” to improve the situation. The following statement is a common one.

“We all need to work on communication, it’s time it improved”

Whilst we stick with a noun – “communication” we have a problem. Firstly, there is actually no such thing – the definition of a noun in the Oxford Dictionaries is as follows :-

Noun :- a word ( other than a pronoun) used to identify any of a class of people, places or things.

Now can you see the problem – communication is not a thing – we cannot see it, pick it up, buy it or improve it because, in truth, it doesn’t exist. The person using the word communication is talking about something abstract and as such, is powerless to improve “it” because, quite simply, “it” doesn’t exist!  The brain, doesn’t really know what to do with this statement and so it is easy to remain “stuck”.

In order to work on this, it is necessary to change it back into a verb – a doing word. This requires ownership, action; and once we do this, “to communicate” becomes an activity that we can do in the same way or differently in order to improve.

As soon as I consider how “I communicate” with you and with the other individuals in my team, I have a range of choices as do you. Moving from a noun to a verb, is empowering and helps me take responsibility for the way in which I communicate with others.

I can explore options and plan to communicate differently. I can ask you the best way to communicate with you and you can tell me. We can both now be accountable and our actions and behaviours can be shaped into a way of communicating with each other that works more effectively!

Another example that I hear often is :-

“I will work on my relationship with ……. ( client, manager, mentor, partner, child )” :- Spotted it? Another noun where a verb will be so much more useful.   There is no such thing as a “relationship”.  I can’t see one, hold one, pick one up etc!

I can pontificate about a relationship with someone else to my heart’s content but until I take accountability and change my language to an action word, it is very tricky to change.   What I need to reflect upon and adapt, is the way that I relate to the other person and the way that we relate to each other.  It is here where I can experiment with my behaviour and be flexible to create change.

So, next time you are stuck with a problem, check that you have the right keyword. Check that there is a verb in the right place and if not, consider altering the language. Take out the noun and get ready for action by using a verb!

Until next time

Bridget Clapham

Ten habits for getting the best from your 121’s at work … to improve fulfillment and productivity.

If your 121 meetings are productive, positive and play a crucial role in moving forward in happily achieving company vision than maybe you don’t need to read this.

If not, read on and see how helpful you find it!. Either way, do message me or comment to share your experiences whether they are of best practice, or of the more frustrating variety!

What’s the point of 121’s?

The weekly, fortnightly or monthly 121 between a manager and team member is a fabulous opportunity for celebration, problem solving, creating thinking, learning and development.

It’s a chance for a senior individual to meet with a junior individual to check progress in relation to projects, the day job and ultimately checking that all is well, people are confident and supported and that all activity is in line with achieving the team and company vision.

“What a great idea – a no brainer”……. I hear you say!

Why then do I hear so many people, in many different organisations saying “ It’s a waste of time” “ Don’t see the point of them” and “ Ah, yes, 121’s….well…..we always mean to have them but something always seems to get in the way” ?

What goes wrong?

Talking to many team members and managers across many businesses, it seems that very often,  the 121 meeting is a tick box affair with managers and staff, short of time and focused solely on checking progress and on correcting poor performance.   Closed and leading questions are common, such as “Now that new project, you’re all Ok with that aren’t you?” to which the team member is highly likely to say “Yes” even if this is far from the case!

These meetings, it would seem, when they do happen, are often squeezed in to a busy week and, for this and other reasons, neither participant is able to be fully present. Both parties often have their brains darting all over the place to past, present and future challenges and focus is thus affected.

Getting the best from the routine 121 meeting.

Having created space in your diary for a 121, how do you both get the most from the precious time that you are spending together?

Here are my ten recommendations for leaders, managers and individuals who are meeting for 121’s and want to make them worthwhile.

  1. Manage your Mindset. Take time before the meeting to breathe and create headspace. This will help you to park other thoughts, be more mindful, focus on the outcomes of the meeting and thus have a positive attitude and approach.
  2. Build your knowledge and awareness of EQ skills….and use them. Emotional Intelligence at Work. What’s it all about?
  3. Decide what you want to have achieved when you both leave the meeting and…. “begin with the end in mind” as Covey would advocate!
  4. Always agree upon two sets of outcomes when setting the agenda.
    1. A focus on WHAT is going on i.e. strategy, projects, progress and challenges.
    2. A focus on HOW the individual and manager are operating i.e. using great skills, identifying skills gaps, awareness of how much pressure the individual is under, and how they are feeling about workload and success levels. In this way you can identify skills objectives and how the individual can be supported to develop skills that are lacking.
  5. Work out a format for your meetings that works – this may be that you spend the first part of the meeting, however long with your attention on WHAT and the second part on HOW or…… cleverly combine the two using great coaching skills along the way.
  6. Be fully present for each other during the meeting – choose the right meeting space, put phones on silent, park other thoughts, boundary the time you will spend, focus and delve in!
  7. Celebrate successes since the last 121 and identify the skills that have used to achieve it. The individual may be able to mentor another team member who is looking to develop the same skills!  To praise or not to praise? That is the leadership question!
  8. Identify challenges and adopt a creative and problem solving approach to overcoming them. Remember that between you, you have many years of experience and a combined skill set that is phenomenal.
  9. When mistakes or errors have been made, adopt a case study approach so that you can reflect together, be creative and plan to incorporate learnings in the future.
  10. Leave the room with a SHARED understanding of what you have spoken about and agreed and of next steps. 

Suggested exercise for leaders and team members.

a) Talk through these 10 habits with your team member and benchmark yourselves against them.

b) Decide where you need to focus and go for it!  I have a feeling that the quality of your 121’s, your working relationship and your productivity will all benefit.

c) Reflect upon the changes you have made and adapt further if necessary.

Do let me know how you get on and please share this to others who may find it of value.

Until next time

Best wishes

Bridget Clapham. Executive Coach and Development Consultant

www.bridgetclapham.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

To praise or not to praise? That is the leadership question!

To praise or not to praise? I believe that the short answer is “praise”, but, if I leave it there, the blog post would be a tad short and probably not too useful, so, here are my further musings!

As those with a fundamental knowledge and understanding of human psychology know, what we human beings like, or rather need, is to be treated kindly, to feel valued, appreciated and loved. It is, quite simply, part of being the social creatures that we are!

When we get signals from others that this is the case such as when we are authentically treated kindly and  praised by someone, our amazing brains release fabulous hormones – chemicals such as serotonin and oxytocin. This gives us a feel-good hit and, quite simply, we feel good.

For those of you who are interested in the neurochemistry and neuroscience, serotonin is released when we feel proud or valued and oxytocin when people are kind to us and we feel liked or loved. N.B. Love, in a workplace and leadership as opposed to a romantic sense, is defined here as having a sense of appreciation for and closeness to others.

For a great explanation of the importance of these and other neurotransmitters read Simon Sinek “Leaders Eat Last” – link here to one of the many places where it is available :- http://www.amazon.com/Leaders-Eat-Last-Together-Others/dp/1591845327

 So why is praise important? When we feel proud, valued and appreciated, our brains are running on great neurochemistry and we are more likely to feel positive, motivated, learn quickly, be creative and perform well.

 Praise

So, as a leader and, in fact, as a human being, which of your behaviours will help your team or your peers or your own leaders to feel supported, proud and valued?

Lead in a way that cultivates a culture where praise and celebration at all levels,  are the hallmarks of your style as a team or organisation. Be strong and kind – they can blend well together!  Spread the praise around too….. after all, your peers and your own leaders have a right to their own great neurochemistry too. It can be lonely at the top – who praises the leaders?

Many leaders and managers wait for formal 121’s or even for appraisal time to deliver praise and positive feedback to employees. My question is – why wait?

As a manager,  you are with your team most days.  It follows therefore that most days there will be positive behaviours and minor or major successes that you can use to deliver authentic feedback to your staff. I believe that authentic, time relevant praise – that is specific to an individual, even better, specific to an individual’s action or behaviour is worth its weight in gold.

“What about the need to let people know about their mistakes and shortcomings?”  I hear some of you say…. Well, think about it. We do indeed all make mistakes and have development needs. I believe strongly that the development feedback, delivered kindly in the context of a culture of praise and success, will be more likely to generate change in the employee. In the following example, which employee is more likely to develop and thrive?

  1. The one who is told to improve and given feedback on all of the reasons why he or she is not making the grade and thus feels demoralised and undervalued?

Or

2. The one who gets praised when he or she does well, is supported to develop in areas where improvement is needed and can work on making further improvements from a foundation of confidence and self-worth?

As an emotionally intelligent leader, and one who is keen to further develop EQ, you can tailor praise and feedback to suit the individual styles of team members. One style does not fit all! Experiment and ask for feedback on your feedback – it’s always useful.

Want to know more about the importance and value of praise and of helping people to feel important and valued? Here is a link to a great article highlighting research that supports the ideas within this blog post. https://www.virgin.com/entrepreneur/praising-employees-leads-to-higher-productivity-research-finds

My recommendation, start to make praise and positive feedback part of everyday conversations and ……let me know what you notice.

Until next time

Bridget.

Part Two. Why do you do what you do? the importance of your “Why”.

What do you do? Where, how and when do you do it – and WHY?

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“People don’t buy what you do, they buy “why” you do it” as Simon Sinek so eloquently explains.

If this doesn’t yet make sense, it may be that you missed last week’s blog on the importance of WHY we do what we do. At the end,  I said that I would post my personal “why” in the next post and so  in Part Two, I will be doing just that.

Firstly, you may want to refresh your understanding of Sinek’s work, which will mean a trip back to last week’s post. Here’s a quick link:- https://reallyusefulstuff.me/2016/04/19/why-do-you-do-what-you-do-for-a-living-and-why-it-matters/

If you are up to speed, let’s keep going!

One of the key points that Sinek and others make is that we are biological, chemical beings with complex neurology and, that we are driven to a great extent by our emotions.

Think of your own decisions- how often do you “sense check” a decision, or change one because the first one just didn’t feel quite right?

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If, like me, the answer to those questions is “always and quite often ”, then what follows will make perfect sense to you!

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy “why” you do it”

To explain what you do, is fairly straightforward, most people can tell you that. When I work with leaders and team members, most can articulate clearly what they do both as an organisation and as an individual within it. Often ( if not engaged with their “why”, they will explain it as being quite dull!)

As Sinek explains, some people can also explain how they do what they do. This is a bit more interesting but still a fairly neutral narrative.( See Sinek’s Golden Circle as explained last week – worth exploring if you haven’t already!)

What my and actually every other human brain is actually looking for is to experience a chemical shift, a connection, an emotional response to what we are hearing.

This starts to happen when people talk about or indeed, from their “why”. This is when we are likely to connect with and truly “buy in” to what the other person is saying. It is our “why” – our authenticity to our values that gives clues as to who we really are and what really matters to us! This is what other human beings connect with.

Think about it, given the choice, which Dr would you connect with and want to be cared for by? :-

  1. a Dr who only went into Medicine because it is the family tradition and is competent but dreams of another career because she/he would actually rather have been a lawyer…..OR
  2. a Dr who is also competent AND whose practice is fully aligned with her or his true values of care, support, health, healing and wellbeing.

So, here is my offering , my attempt to communicate my “why”.

My Golden Circle

Why I do what I do:- I have a passion and total belief in EVERY person’s ability to learn, develop and achieve their own excellence in life, in a way that enables them to feel happy, well and fulfilled. I believe that it is possible for each person to enjoy the process of becoming the best they can be.

How I do what I do:- I apply  curiosity and a skilled and ever developing knowledge and understanding of people, human psychology, organisational psychology, behaviour, learning, education, coaching and neuroscience in my work with clients. I combine with a great toolkit of strategies and methodologies to enable my clients to work with me to achieve fabulous results.

What I do:- I coach people to be the best they can be (beautifully combining personal excellence, success and wellbeing as essential ingredients in the cocktail!)

Those who meet me, say that when I talk about “what” I do, I do it from my “why”.

Exercise :-

I highly recommend working out your personal Golden Circle and one for your organisation. It is an interesting process and is great for developing increased self awareness as well as sometimes revealing some unexpected insights!

There are some great resources to share the ideas about the Golden Circle here

https://gumroad.com/l/GoldenCircle#

Let me know how you get on!

Until next time.

Bridget

 

 

 

The birth of a blog! Really Useful Stuff!

Welcome to my blogging adventure, sharing really useful stuff to folks around the world!

Let me elaborate… In my work as a Coach, working with leaders and people at work, with private clients and with students I often send them stuff which relates to the coaching and which is intended to help them to live a happier, more successful and generally more positive life.

The “stuff” can take the form of my own thoughts and alleged wisdom relating to the coaching we have shared to video links, Ted talks, Images, quotes and articles to compliment the coaching. The usual response from my clients is to say:-

“Thanks Bridget, that stuff you sent was really useful.!”

Reflecting on this led me to think that over  the years I have amassed a wealth of resources, some ( lots actually!)  in my head and some in my PC! Why send stuff to just one person when it could be shared to a wider audience?

I will be honest with you folks. I haven’t a clue about how to make best use of the software resources designed to help me blog so I am on a steep learning curve. I invite you to join me and to support me as I build up an online resource of stuff. Who knows how really useful you will find it!

Until next time

Bridget Clapham. http://www.bridgetclapham.co.uk