When Discomfort is actually more of your Comfort

Confort zone

You have probably heard about the value and importance of getting out of one’s comfort zone in order to grow and create success. Discomfort was one of my word for 2019, I got really uncomfortable at times and one day as I was running (I often get insights as I run…), I realized that there are 2 types of discomfort. And one of them is actually still in the comfort zone. Let me illustrate that.

I can get really uncomfortable by pushing myself physically, doing some High Intensity Intervals or racing in running or swimming, sometimes just hiking hard in the mountains, or biking up hills. It is hard, it hurts, and it might look like getting out of my comfort zone. But it is not. I know how to do that. I swam at national level in my high school years practicing twice a day, 6 days a week, I have always found fulfillment in pushing myself physically. So, doing High Intensity Intervals, pushing myself physically is actually just more of what I know and am comfortable with, even when it doesn’t feel pleasant. If you are someone already very structured, reliable to deliver, to be accountable and very committed, preparing more, delivering more, committing to more, although it can seem like getting out of your comfort zone because it requires more work and feels like pushing yourself more, is actually still in your comfort zone. Not that it’s wrong and can’t be useful, but it just has a limited impact on your growth and on what you are creating.

On the other hand, doing some Facebook videos (live or not) during the first part of the year was really out of my comfort zone. You see, I had never been on Facebook until I wanted to share my coaching journey, and my first posts were very challenging to put out there in the world. These videos were a much bigger leap. It was not so much during the video that it was uncomfortable but rather before and after, with all the self-doubts and fear of the judgment of others. Although at that point I didn’t do it for marketing purpose and I didn’t intend to make it “professional”, but just to practice pushing myself in this discomfort while adding value to those watching, I had to be with the feeling of not being good enough, feeling vulnerable, feeling shame, feeling judged. This was real discomfort for me. And this is where transformation happens, where you learn to feel what you are usually avoiding and that is holding you back, this is how you unblock some limiting beliefs or shift your way to operate in the world in order to create the life you really want.

I haven’t arrived (I actually will never because it is a never-ending process), but I am now more comfortable with imperfection, I am more comfortable with improvising, not being fully prepared. I recently joined a toastmaster group (to practice public speaking) and I was surprised how little scared I was for my first speeches, even during one I had to improvise because we were running out of speakers. And I am now ready to do more professional videos when I decide to.

Where are you deceiving yourself by thinking you are playing out of your comfort zone but are actually just doing more of what you know and are comfortable with?

Where do you need to get REALLY uncomfortable?

Take care,

What Skydiving taught me

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It’s been a busy last month, full of traveling (to Washington DC) to provide some coaching/training to a client company in partnership with other coaches and with also new local adventures, and this took me away from writing. It’s time to get back to it, and today I want to take you up in the air.

At the end of the summer/beginning of the fall, I decided to skydive again after a 14 years break. I had done more than 50 jumps when I was between 21 and 28 years old. I had always been attracted to this, to the sensation of flying and had followed through with this dream in my young adult life. Then I stopped and had not really considered jumping again. Until last year. I started to feel a strong desire to go back up there, and to experience these sensations again. It started without really being too serious about it, but then the idea made its way and I got more and more determined to go for it, despite the fear. Because indeed, after 14 years, I had a lot of fear.

The way we show up somewhere in life is usually representative of the way we show up everywhere, and due to the intensity of the moment, which amplified everything, it got me present to some very insightful things that I want to share with you. And if you just want to enjoy the jumps without the insights That’s Here (these were the 3rd and 4th recovery jumps, from a bigger plane than the 1st and 2nd jumps which I mention here below).

  • The more you do something scary, the less scary it becomes.

    And the less you do it, the scarier it becomes again. This is obvious, but worth remembering though. My first 2 jumps after 14 years, I was super nervous and scared. And progressively, I got more confidence, my skills came back pretty quickly, my awareness during the fall increased (I could even see my neighborhood in the distance 😊) and I could really enjoy the last 2 jumps in October. Whatever it is that you want to do but are scared of doing, do it, again, and again, and again and the fear will fade away (although it won’t completely disappear and it’ OK).

  • Trust and Commitment:

    As I often tell the athletes I coach, once you have prepared and have done all you need, you have to trust and commit (and go have fun).

  • Trust others: I had to trust the person who had packed my parachute, I had to trust my instructor, I had to trust the pilot of the plane. It’s the same for you: in any adventure, project or work, at some point you have to trust your colleagues, your partners, your friends, etc…And it’s not easy specially when you like to be in control. Trusting others is a practice.
  • Trust ourselves: I had to trust that I knew what to do and how to do it despite the stress, trust that I had listened carefully, trust that in case of malfunctions, I would know how to react, etc…  And it’s not the easiest thing to do either.
  • Commit: commitment is the fuel that helps move forward through the fear and challenges. How much are you committed to whatever you are moving toward?

     In skydiving, all this comes to one singular instant, when you lose contact with the plane. This is the point of No Return, which can be the worst or the best moment depending on your perspective. In that particular moment (which is such an intense feeling), Trust and Commitment are at their peak. I like to think it’s the same in life: the moment you click to send an important email, the moment you start a difficult conversation (before that you still have a way out but once you have said the first words, you’re all in), the moment you go on stage to speak, the moment the gun goes off in a race. I invite you to bring trust and commitment to those key moments and see how that changes your experience.

  • The importance to have someone by your side

     When jumping from a small plane, the worst part (or best part once you are used to it) is when you make your way onto the footboard of the small plane, holding to the wing, 12000 feet (4000m) above the ground, with the wind pressing on your whole body…When I was on that footboard, ready to go for my first recovery jump, I gave a look at my instructor. I can still remember the eye contact, and seeing his reassuring face, smiling and confident. In that particular instant, I measured the importance of having the support of someone in the face of fear, adversity, challenge. My “Hercules” syndrome which I talked about in a previous post usually tends to take over and make me think that I don’t need support, but in this moment, I was able to see that I actually needed him to be here for me. And in some way, that’s what a coach does with his clients: be there for them, with an unconditional support, in the face of fear, adversity and challenge.

  • Take a deep breath, Relax, Smile and have fun!

     That’s what my instructor told me to do right before my first jump, and as I was on the small footboard, ready to let go of holding the wing, that really helped me go and enjoy (plus if you want to be stable in the air, you have to be relaxed). And I highly invite you to do the same whenever you do anything scary or stressful: a competition in sport, a presentation at work, any new thing that scares you. Seriously, do this: Take a deep breath, Relax, Smile and have fun!

  • “If you are willing to feel everything, you can do anything” (Peter Bregman in Leading with Emotional Courage)

     Part of my coaching journey has been to develop my ability to feel (and invite my clients to feel too) because what often gets in our way is our avoiding some feelings. And I must admit that skydiving is a great way to feel: the fear of course, the excitement, the shame/guilt of doing something dangerous, the joy when the parachutes opens properly, the feeling of being intensely alive…. And beyond the Fear, the feeling of Bliss and Freedom of flying.

  • Take responsibility, YOU are in charge

     The instructor made it clear when going through the course. He could teach, recommend, be close at the beginning of the fall, but in the end, it’s the skydiver’s responsibility to pull the handle and then fly the canopy. Once you leave the plane, you are by yourself. You are the only one in charge And some decisions were not obvious, like if the canopy opens and have a small hole but you can fly and control the canopy. You might want to leave it this way because it’s flying, or you might want to cut away and open the back-up parachute because you are not sure how the hole is going to evolve. The instructor shared what he would do, and that it was our decision. And I don’t like that… I prefer to be told that “this is the way you have to do”.During this process, I got really present to my usual tendency to try and find a way out of taking responsibility, maybe someone or something to blame if things don’t work out the way I planned, find excuses and reasons why it didn’t work, etc… I think it is related to not willing/accepting to fail. But in this case, it was clear that there was no way out. I had to take full responsibility; I was in charge of pulling the handle, I was in charge of flying the canopy and I was in charge of making the decisions in case of malfunctions. Period. That’s probably my biggest take away. It was both challenging/scary AND very empowering. I believe if we are willing to take the risk and feel the fear of owning who we are as a whole and take full responsibility for our actions and decisions, that will not only improve our experience but also improve our leadership.

  • A world of possibility

    Eventually, a big part of the coaching process is inviting us to live in a world of possibility. Instead of letting our usual thinking and rational analyzing kill any possibility as soon as we don’t see the exact path to our dream/most important objectives, we learn to leave that possibility open and take tiny steps toward it. A part of my brain still doesn’t believe we can jump out of an airplane and fall with only a small backpack with a piece of fabric that will almost magically unfold and hold you in the air. So skydiving, in a way, illustrates perfectly what a world of possibility is. If I can jump out of an airplane with only a backpack, what could get in the way of my achieving my dreams if I am really committed to them.

And you, what possibilities should you keep alive?

Take care,

Personality assessments as a starting point, not an ending point

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Personality Assessments are everywhere, from the usual DISC or Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) to less known assessments like Highlands, CVI, Kolbe, Birkman, 12 motivators, HBDI, Strong Interest Assessment, and many more.

These assessments can give us indications on our tendencies, our values, our ways to operate in the world and put the light on some aspects of our personality we didn’t really see. They can help us understand others a little better, maybe adapt our communication style and ways to interact with them.

But there is a downside to these assessments, at least if we are not careful.

  • First, they give some indications based on the answers given in the test. That’s it. And as so, they shouldn’t be seen as the ultimate truth about ourselves, just the interpretation of a set of answers, at a certain time.
  • They tend to put us in a box and reinforce our self-image, our sense of being X or Y and if we are not careful, they might reinforce a fixed mindset (we are born with some traits and can’t evolve, we are good at this and bad at that, etc…) as opposed to a growth mindset (we can evolve). And whatever it is we believe to be true, we will create that as our reality.
  • We are more complexes than that. I personally have a hard time fulfilling these tests, especially now that I have transitioned from an engineering/project management job to a coaching career, as a business owner and engaging into a personal development journey that makes me pause, reflect, be more present to some of my core values, realize the way I operate in the world and choose differently. The answers to some  assessment questions, and therefore the results, might depend on whether I think of a situation in my past career or a present situation.
  • They also give us way out to not confront what is scary. We may use this to justify why we don’t do what we are afraid of. And they limit our ability to expand our range. As an example, my default mode is to overthink, plan, create a strategy, and this is great. But I would miss so much by not expanding my range, which I have done in the last couple of years. Practicing stepping in the unknown without any clear plan, instead of justifying that I couldn’t do something because I didn’t have any data to make a decision, has significantly moved me forward. It has not become my default mode and natural tendency but I can now tap into that way to operate when necessary.
  • Eventually, these assessments might decrease our curiosity, which is actually an alternative tool better than an assessment. As Peter Bregman writes it in “Leading with emotional courage”, a book I highly recommend to leaders of any sort:
    • Personality assessments simplify complexity. They offer the illusion of understanding at the coast of truth and freedom.
    • As soon as we label something, our curiosity about that thing diminishes. Once we know something, we are no longer curious.
    • But it’s hard to let go of the comfort that comes from thinking you’ve figured someone out.
    • Even more than a skill, curiosity is a way of being in the world. Curiosity asks us to stay, often longer than is comfortable, in the place of not knowing.

As one of my mentor coaches who use assessments say: it’s not about the wand (the assessment), it’s about the wizard (the coach/consultant). What you’ll get from an assessment depends on the reflection you will have rather than the results themselves. If you do an assessment, reflect on what surprised you, what you think makes sense, what doesn’t seem true, what you liked about the results, what you didn’t like, what are the benefits, what are the costs, what you want to do with this, etc…

As a conclusion, personality assessment are useful tools that should not be considered as the absolute truth, an ending point with a fixed conclusion about ourselves or others, but rather as a starting point leading to further reflection, further curiosity, further personal and professional growth.

Questions to ask yourself to achieve your greatest potential

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Note: this post is focused on sport/athletes but also applies to any business person or anyone with ambitious and challenging projects.

Becoming a top athlete, achieving great performance, playing/racing to one’s full potential requires a lot. And it starts with readiness and commitment. Readiness to do what it takes, and commitment to follow through no matter what happens, no matter the obstacles. Here are a few questions to help you gage your level of readiness and commitment to your sport. Note that there is no right or wrong answer here. Just be honest and see what new awareness comes out of it. Then make a choice to adjust things according to your goals.

  1. Your VISION: What Vision do you have for yourself as an athlete? What is the strength of this vision? How much do you want this? How badly do you want it? How much desire do you have to be good or great?

  1. Your WHY: Why do you want to do your sport? List your internal and external reasons. Do you want this to outdo yourself and push your limits, do you want this to have a strong experience of friendships and adventure, do you want this to be well-known, or to get some recognition and be respected, maybe so you can help others, or to get a scholarship, or to make money, or maybe to travel, or to make a career of it? Whatever it is, you need to know, WHY you do what you do on a daily basis? This will get clearer non your goals and fuel your motivation.

  1. Your WHAT: What do you need to do on an annual/monthly/weekly/daily basis that will move you toward your ultimate goal? And, even more difficult, what are you willing to sacrifice? Saying YES to high level training and competing means saying NO to other things like going out to parties, watching a movie, staying up late at night, etc… Many athletes or high achievers say they want to play professionally or get a college scholarship. However, do you know what it takes now for you to get there? To be a great at anything takes a lot of dedication. \Which areas of your life are you willing to focus on, or cut back on? How much time do you put into practicing? How much time do you put into refining your technique and mental training so that you can master your sport? Be honest with yourself. Are you ready to invest the effort and time necessary to be the best at what you do? There is no substitute for hard work and smart work.

  1. Your COMMITMENT: How committed are you to make it happen? How committed are you to continue to practice, to give your best, even when the results won’t be there, even when you might be on the bench, when the doubts and negative self-talks will try to convince you that you are not god enough? It takes time to be great at anything and it requires to be able to “survive” negative periods. It’s easy to be motivated when things go well, much harder when things are not going as expected. Commitment is what will keep you going when times get tough.

  1. Your CARE: Do you truly love what you do? Is this your deepest desire? Your passion is what is going to drive you. Caring will help you keep your commitment. Things will not always be easy. There will be many obstacles, and if you do not love what you are doing, it will be hard to overcome them. It’s important to love what you to do to pursue it with excellence. And when you really care for your sport, how can you bring more of fun and passion to it?

 

Commitment vs Attachment / Resignation

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Photo by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 ImageCreator

Attachment

Often when we set a goal for ourselves (get a certain number of clients or a certain income, achieve a certain performance, take a project to completion on time and on budget), we become very attached to achieving it. Some people don’t even set goals out of fear of not achieving them which is an extreme version of attachment (you are so attached that you don’t even want to take the risk to not achieve it). We then start to take action toward achieving this goal, we are excited, motivated, inspired. Then, at some point, we start to doubt that we will achieve it. Progress is not as good as we had expected, obstacles show up on our way, we start to run out of time, etc…

Resignation

That’s when we start to fall onto the other extreme, Resignation. We start to be resigned to not achieving our goal, which translates into less energy, less motivation, feeling bad, feeling like a looser and we give up.

Then we will set a new goal, with some doubts about our ability to achieve it already from the start, we will get inspired, motivated again to take action, and then fall back into resignation as soon as we will see signs that our goal might be out of reach in the timeframe we set. And we’ll start again, with a new goal and even less confidence in our ability to achieve it.

Globally, most of us oscillate on this Attachment / Resignation line and that is, at least for me, not very pleasant nor empowering.

Commitment

Rather than oscillate on the Attachment/Resignation line, I would like to invite you to come from a different place. It might be tempting to aim at the middle of the line, not too attached, not completely resigned. But what I am talking about is not even on that line, but rather outside of this line: Commitment.

What are you committed to in life?  The thing is, most of the time, our goals, at least our outcome goals, depend on external circumstances and although we would like to control everything, we can’t. Your commitment depends on you and only you.

I see commitment as threefold:

Commitment to your bigger goal/vision/purpose: a six figures business, going to the Olympics, creating/growing a nonprofit, making the organization you run the best place to work, creating an extraordinary life whatever that means to you, etc…

Commitment to your daily “blue collar” work: do the things you have to do on daily basis, even the unpleasant ones, no matter how you feel: give X number of calls, write, do your personal routine, train hard, serve people, etc…. Setting up a routine might be hard at first, just like when you start to pedal on a bike and start moving, the resistance is high. But then, as you keep going, you gain speed and momentum, and it becomes easier and easier. It is during that first part of setting a routine, when it is hard, that commitment can really help. Commit and don’t let any other option open. That’s how I started to meditate 4.5 years ago now and never stopped since.

Commitment to your thing in the moment: Set a strong intention to be 100% present to what you are doing and to give your best: with a potential client, instead of being attached to get that person as a client (or resigned when she doesn’t seem to want to become a client), stay committed to serving her the best you can. When you coach, lead or manage, rather than being attached to “perform” or have an answer for everything, be 100% present to what’s going on, connected to the other person. In a race, before the gun goes off, instead of being attached to winning/qualifying/doing a PR, simply commit to give it all, to push through when it is going to hurt, because if you are not clear on this, as soon as the pain will arrive or things don’t go as expected, you’ll be tempted to fall into resignation, which limits your ability to perform.

It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t set goals and aim at them, just that you might get benefit from identifying what the bigger purpose behind this goal is, what the actions you want to take on a regular basis are and what it means to be 100% focused on your thing, and then committing to those and coming back to that commitment when you catch yourself falling into resignation. This will help you move forward and be in a much better place in the end than just being attached/resigned. This might also show you that those things are more important than your goal itself, that if you stick to your commitment, you will grow and become a different, better person no matter what happens. In the end, it might well improve you whole experience of goal setting and goal getting.

Take care,

Over Confidence vs Ultra Confidence

Thermometer - Confidence Level

Photo by VIC on Flickr

Do you have the right type of confidence? This applies to sport (primary focus of this post) but to any other area in life.

Confidence is a key factor in sport and when competing (and in life in general). One of the most common mental roadblocks I see in athletes (and in business) is a lack of confidence. I personally lacked confidence when I was a teenage swimmer. I was doubting that I belonged, I had negative thoughts about how I would swim poorly once again, and so on. And it really got in my way to perform at my full potential on a regular basis.

Developing a realistic healthy self-image is key in your ability to perform at your best. The good news is confidence is a learned skill that you can improve with regular work. Confidence and Self-esteem give you the ability to create and sustain an optimal performance regardless of the external conditions.
Some say that confidence comes first, other that confidence is a result. I believe it’s both.

  • You can build your confidence with some techniques I often speak about like positive affirmations or mental imagery (which send to your brain the message that you are confident and good no matter what happens or has happened), journaling your victories, remembering where you come from, etc… This builds a part of your confidence
  • Then, as soon as you achieve one important thing that you consider a success, your confidence skyrockets because that’s the proof your brain has been looking for.

Then you will forget about it, focused on the next goal, next obstacles. That’s when you want to bring back your past achievements as proof that you have been successful and that there is no reason why you couldn’t be successful again and use mental techniques again.

Now, there is a distinction I want to draw your attention on today, which is Over confidence vs Ultra confidence.

Over confidence is believing that you WILL succeed (win, score, etc…) NO MATTER WHAT you do and may be followed by disengagement and lack of focus. Over confidence looks like arrogance. Over confidence has you attached to a successful outcome and makes you forget about the important tasks. That happens a lot when you face a weaker opponent, whether in an individual sport or a team sport.

Ultra confidence on the other hand is a strong belief that you CAN succeed (even when it doesn’t look obvious) IF you give it all and perform to your full potential, and is followed by intention and strong focus. Ultra confidence is independent of external circumstances, even independent from the outcome (you are willing to accept to be defeated, or fail).

Tennis player Stan Wawrinka is a great example of Ultra confidence.  He is one of the rare players who tend to be better against the best players in the world during the most important matches (in grand Slam) than against weaker player in less important tournaments. And he defeated Djokovic in the last US Open. “In my generation, a lot of players, when they play Novak (Djokovic), Roger (Federer) or Rafa (Nadal), already have 10% less chances to win”, did he say. “I have seen a lot of matches like that. Mentally, I arrived to a point where, there are days I know that, when going onto the court, I won’t let the match go. I’m not saying that in an arrogant way, like “I’m going to win”, but mentally, I know I will be stable and that I will produce a very good tennis. Then, you may still lose, but because the other has been better.”
That’s exactly what I am talking about: knowing you can do it, based on YOUR ability, not in an arrogant way, just present to your full potential, and be OK with losing.

Develop your confidence, aim for an Ultra confidence that external circumstances won’t be able to shake, and pay attention to not fall into Over confidence.

“How do you find those good employees and keep them?”

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A few weeks ago, I saw the following question in a business connection platform:

I seem to have the issue of getting good employees, it is a struggle. I go through hundreds of applications a week and when I think I found the right one they do stuff like show up late, not do the job correctly which ends up me having to refund the client and giving them free products to make up for it. How do you find those good employees and keep them?

There were already a lot of valuable comments already on the forum and I felt like adding the following ones, which I wanted to share with you today.

– Values: identify your company main values and vision. It can take some time. And then hire someone who fits with these values and vision. I have seen companies hiring less qualified people who would better fit with the company’s values because they knew they could train them to catch-up with the required skills and they knew these employees would be more likely to do the extra mile for the company.

– Co-creation: when people are part of the process to create something, they are much more likely to follow through than when they are just told being what to do. Co-creating is a really powerful way to get people on board and motivate people. That may include asking them how they see themselves doing the job, what would inspire and motivate them. For instance, one of my clients significantly decreased the turn over by being more curious about what each employee independently would expect/appreciate for meeting or exceeding goals instead of trying to figure it all out herself and with a one size fits all solution. It doesn’t mean you have to say yes to anything they ask of course, but it gives you a way to learn things and find options you couldn’t see.

– Expectations vs Agreement. We live in a world of expectations (we expect people to act a certain way, most of the time our way) but we never make sure they know it, understand it and more importantly agree with it. So, my invitation would be to clearly state what you expect them to do and who you expect them to be (we often overlook the way people be) and have them agree with it thereafter you can come back to that agreement to discuss any conflict. If they don’t agree, you can either let them go or co-create an agreement that would be acceptable for you and the company.

– Commitment: there is such power in commitment. Are they committed to do what it takes to make this work, which includes of course doing the work (see agreement), being open to constructive feedback to improve, bringing up frustration when they have some, or having any difficult conversation when necessary to find a constructive way to make the company and the people grow at the same time.

 Looking at oneself and being a model: the last part is often completely bypassed. It is to take a look at yourself and at your own role in this situation. What are your areas of improvement in leadership, in communication, what is your way of being, what are your blind spots, what are your fears? When we keep complaining and blaming others for something, it means we don’t see our responsibility in the process. And to be frank, it is hard to do without the support of someone external. Can you own your own humanity, vulnerability and weaknesses and then take responsibility and model great leadership by working on your own areas of improvement?

Take care,

The second part of the equation

Photo by Antoine Dautry on Unsplash

As I recently shared in a workshop, in my past career, I worked in the aerospace and rocket industry for 8 years, as engineer and project manager. I can tell you that rockets are complexes. Turbo pumps spinning at hundreds of rounds per second, with temperature as cold as -250 Celsius with liquid hydrogen on one side and more than a thousand Celsius with hot gas on the other side, very detailed computer programming to send the rocket on a precise trajectory and put a satellite on orbit at tens of thousands of km from the earth in less than an hour.

But I can also tell you that human beings are even more complexes. It takes our brain less than 0.1s to get a first impression, 0.1s to make judgment and about 1s to make conclusions. Tens of thousands of thoughts are generated every day. Conversations trigger emotions and neurochemical reactions in our brain that will help bond with another person or will have us act from fear and distrust, and overreact, hold back or shut down.

We are very good at analyzing technical data, improving products performance or creating new services, but we are generally poor at doing the same with ourselves: analyzing the way we operate in the world , exploring new ways, developing and improving ourselves. Since we are the ones designing products, offering services, developing businesses, creating new projects, working only on these products, businesses, projects, is only one part of the equation. What we don’t clearly see is that we are, ourselves, another big part of the equation. Working on this other part of the equation will not only make us better persons, more self-aware, conscious and inspired, but will also greatly impact these products, services, businesses, projects that we are putting into the world. It’s totally fine to not work on this part of the equation, but in this case, you are leaving a great deal of potential aside. That’s not what I choose.

As Norman Vincent Peal says, “We are all capable of greater things than we realize”. For some it might be clear where there is room for improvement, whether in creating more results, in better communication, more powerful leadership, a more bonded and efficient team, , in having a better work-life balance or a more fulfilled life etc… But for others, it might not be so clear. For instance, successful people might think that they know how to thrive in life. And in a way they are right. But what they don’t see if that there is much more, there is another unexplored part on the spectrum of their way of being, of approaching their business/work and their life in general. What got them here won’t get them there. Keeping doing more of what you can already do very well will have a limited and predictable impact. On the other hand, exploring yourself and expanding your range will have an exponential impact, where things you don’t even think of start to happen.

But to do this, you have to let go of the idea that you know everything, have it all figured out and don’t need help (I know this one very well). And working on this second part of the equation, yourself, doesn’t mean to get more knowledge or learn more skills although that might be very interesting and necessary in some cases. It means to pause and reflect on yourself, on the way you operate in the world, its benefits and its costs, have someone help you see what you can’t see on your own, confront the parts you don’t like in yourself, face your fears, get challenged and unconditionally supported in order to transform new Awareness into Action.

You won’t be surprised that I recommend anyone who is inspired to improve his/her performance and / or improving his/her fulfillment to work with a (skilled and professional) coach. But I also know that making the 1st move can be intimidating. There can be doubts and fears to invest into working with a coach. This is why I created a virtual (zoom calls) group coaching program for 5 people maximum, at lower fees than individual coaching, which offers the possibility to get supported with individual challenges while benefiting from the coaching and experience of other like-minded people. If that sounds appealing to you and you’d like to know more, this is HERE.

So, are you willing to work on the second part of the equation, yourself? How are you going to do it?

Take care,

Can conversations impact the productivity and the bottom line?

Photo by Icons8 team on Unsplash

 

Judith E. Glaser, whom I had the privileged to be trained by, said “To get to the next level of greatness depends on the quality of the culture, which depends on the quality of relationships, which depends on the quality of conversations…”

Most of human beings get that conversations may not be easy, impact the way they interact with others and their relationships. However, I’m not sure that they realize how this is impacting their performance and their organization’s bottom line, which is probably why a very few works on this.

So, what can we say about this?

  • In this very intesresting study from MIT, The New Science of Building Great Teams, researchers equipped all the members of some teams with electronic badges that collected data on their individual communication behavior—tone of voice, body language, whom they talked to and how much, and more. With remarkable consistency, the data confirmed patterns of communication were the most important predictor of a team’s success. Not only that, but they are as significant as all the other factors—individual intelligence, personality, skill, and the substance of discussions—combined.

Patterns of communication, for example, explained why performance varied so widely among the seemingly identical teams in a bank’s call center. The best predictors of productivity were a team’s energy and engagement outside formal meetings. Together those two factors explained one-third of the variations in dollar productivity among groups. Drawing on that insight, the center’s manager revised the employees’ coffee break schedule so that everyone on a team took a break at the same time. That would allow people more time to socialize with their teammates, away from their workstations. Though the suggestion flew in the face of standard efficiency practices, the manager was baffled and desperate, so he tried it. And it worked: AHT (Average Handle Time) fell by more than 20% among lower-performing teams and decreased by 8% overall at the call center. Then the manager changed the break schedule at all 10 of the bank’s call centers (which employ a total of 25,000 people) and was forecasting $15 million a year in productivity increases. He has also seen employee satisfaction at call centers rise, sometimes by more than 10%.

Note: it’s not only about team building and creating a pleasant work atmosphere as it might seem from this example, it’s also about having difficult conversations (more on that in a future post).

  • In another study, when the University of Michigan Health System experimented giving explanations and apologies after medical malpractice with full disclosure, existing claims and lawsuits dropped from 262 in 2001 to 83 in 2007. This is another example of how a certain type of conversation (being transparent and empathetic rather than defensive and unapologetic) can have a direct impact on the bottom line.

Some of this seem obvious doesn’t it? We just have to build healthy relationships, talk in constructive ways, respect each other, understand others position, etc… But the thing is it is not that easy:

  1. Because we don’t see our own impact. We have blind spots. And we more easily tend to blame others, or the organization, or the system than to take a look at ourselves.
  2. Because even when we are aware of it, it’s hard to control our emotions and reactions. The primitive brain has been developed for thousands of years to enable you to survive, triggering a fight, flight or freeze reaction as soon as there is distrust or even just uncertainty (If you work with other human beings, you probably know what it feels to be triggered by someone and then to react, to be protective and to defend your position, your work or your decision, trying to prove the other wrong, or to shut down).
  3. Because it requires efforts, time and energy to pause, learn, reflect and practice things that don’t seem directly related to the end result we are trying to achieve. This is where realizing that these conversations have an quantitative impact on our performance as individuals, teams and organizations is important.

Learning about how conversations impact our brain and consequently the outcome we are trying to achieve when interacting with others can help in many ways:

  • It enables to understand ourselves and others better and brings science where we usually put judgment
  • It gives teams and organizations a common language to express what’s going on and to address the conversations which are most important but avoided
  • It gives tools to practice to develop bonds, trust and transparency within leadership teams and at any level of businesses and organizations, with an end result of more focus, more productivity, a greater success and an increased bottom line.

By the way, this also applies to other areas in life: sport, personal relationships, etc…

So, as a first step, I’m inviting you to just pay attention to the conversations you and people in your organization are having every day, and notice how they impact, in a positive or negative way your job or your organization and your experience of your job or organization, your life and your experience of your life.

And if you live in the Grand Rapids area, I am inviting you to join me with Good For Michigan at the “Mind your Business” workshop on August 21st 8.30am (more details Here). We’ll focus on the neuroscience of conversations and how that can help you create a more trustful environment and a more focused and productive organization leading to an increased bottom line.

The Power of acknowledgment

Photo by Joshua Ness on Unsplash

I’m eventually back after a month spent in France, working and then taking some time off, visiting family, friends and our beautiful country. And while this time was awesome, I’m really excited to start again my projects where I left them. And this includes my bi-weekly insights. So, let’s start today with a post on acknowledgment.

2 months ago, I attended a coaching intensive in Victoria, BC, Canada and as I was reflecting on my biggest takeaways, I was really present to the beauty and the power of acknowledgment. At the end of the intensive, everyone had to acknowledge someone and got to be acknowledged. And this practice felt really good on both side of the acknowledgment. Acknowledging is a core skill in coaching and I am used to it but it was the first time I witnessed it in a collective way.

Here are a few distinctions to help get the sense of what I mean by acknowledgment:

  • A flattery is usually defined as un insincere or excessive praise, with often an interest, expecting something in return.

 

  • A compliment is an expression of esteem, respect, affection, or admiration and is generally a form a politeness.

 

  • An acknowledgment is just the recognition and expression of the existence or truth of something. The coaching version defines acknowledging as the process of bringing out the best of someone by connecting him or her with their own source of energy and power by reminding them of who they are. When acknowledging someone, you let them know the best that you truly see in them. Not to be polite, but to help them see what they can’t see, or what they already know but forgot, to help them see the impact they have on you, to help them see their greatness underneath it all.

Like any other skill, acknowledging can be learned and must be practiced. At first it may feel awkward when we are not used to it. It may sound insincere or like sugar coating, but the more you practice, the more natural, the more profound and the more impactful it becomes.

Here is how it may sound:

  • Mathew, I want acknowledge you for all that you are doing but also for who you are being in this process. I want to acknowledge you for the passion and determination you put in what you are creating. I totally get that it matters to you, I know how difficult it is for you and I acknowledge you for the courage you demonstrate by not holding back and playing full out. I acknowledge you for your leadership and your presence, combined with an authentic vulnerability and openness. I am really thankful for the opportunity to partner with you and really excited to see what happens next.

Acknowledging is great both ways:

  • When you practice acknowledging, you practice seeing the best in people, their essence, that is often hidden behind protective mechanisms. It helps go beyond your judgment. It doesn’t mean you have to like or agree with the other person. It only means you make room for that part of them too. And in the end, it helps you better deal with potential conflict or difficult situations because you can see their humanity beyond everything else.
  • When you receive an acknowledgement, it reinforces some things you may know but tend to forget about yourself, it may help you discover new things about you. You are not aware of your impact in the world and on others, and so it feels really good to raise that awareness by hearing from others what they see in you. It also empowers you, and it is a catalyst for action. Sometimes, it might be hard to receive an acknowledgment (you might be tempted to not believe it, to dismiss it, or you might feel uncomfortable when hearing it) so it is good to practice receiving it, without interfering, commenting, just by listening and letting it sink in.

My invitation for you is therefore:

  • to practice acknowledging people: your partner, your friends/family, your colleagues. Don’t’ try to find something nice to say about the other person, don’t try to say the “right” thing, just take the time to check in what you see and feel from that person. You can do it informally, when you feel like it. Or you can set up a structure to do it regularly. If you are a manager, you can, once in a while, end meetings by having everyone acknowledge one person and be acknowledged once. I promise the impact is really powerful, providing the practice is built with trust and authenticity.
  • to ask to be acknowledged for, especially when you are in a down period. Ask someone to remind you of your greatness (yes you are great!), of what they see in you.
  • And to acknowledge yourself, great practice 😊

So, let’s end with some acknowledgments here: I want to acknowledge myself for sending these emails and sharing my coaching journey every other week, despite the discomfort, despite not knowing who is reading and not knowing what people think about them. I want to acknowledge myself for my commitment to grow and become a master coach rather than just a good enough coach.

And I want to acknowledge you, for taking some minutes of your precious time to read this post, for your willingness to learn, to grow, or maybe just for your curiosity, or for whatever you have in mind that this post may help you with and for being a wonderful human being, because you are !

Take care,