Wisdom 2.0 Day 1 – key takeouts

Well where do I even start about my first “offical” day at Wisdom 2.0 Conference 2015.

I guess with honesty by claiming the world’s worst hangover this morning, as a result of some pretty awesome partying last night.  I had to laugh when I arrived at the conference and the first thing I saw was a quote that said “When you know better you do better” by Maya Angelou.  Well, clearly I have some way to go until this applies to me.

But seriously, a little bit of self care and I was up and running ready to go for the conference.  Thanks to Austin for his advice and generous spirit in this area 🙂

So, to the conference then.  Please also bear in mind that I’m bashing this out in 30 minutes so knock yourself out looking for typos and grammatical errors OK 🙂

The standout for the day was listening to Fred Kofman and Jeff Weiner of LinkedIn talking about the “Lessons in Conscious Business at LinkedIn”.

Key points that resonated with me:

  • most people talk about their jobs in terms of a small compartment e.g. “I sell this product to this market segment”. In short they are spending their energy on optimising their subsystem within their company. But when you do this you are not optimising the main system, in fact you may lead to its destruction.  In fact to optimise the system one must suboptimise the subsystems.  In other words, its not that you sell this product to this market segment, its that you work towards achieving a shared vision, and all focus on optimising the main system.  Love it.  To look at it another way is to look at a body with cancer, each bit of the body is trying to do the best for itself but without a shared consciousness, basically you’re screwed.
  • “the best way to do is to be”.  I liked this quote and it resonated with Jeff’s purpose behind starting LinkedIn which wasn’t to build a platform but to do good business – to get the intent right, the people right, the vision right, the purpose right, and then to see what came from that.  To be honest, I was a little skeptical at first but the more he spoke I came to believe that this was his intent, and it moved me just a little.  So if LinkedIn’s key vision is to deliver economic opportunity to every person in the global workforce – how would you use LinkedIn differently, if at all?
  • “Wisdom without compassion is ruthlessness; Compassion without wisdom is folly”.  This really summed up Fred and Jeff’s strong belief that compassionate leadership and management is the way of the future – and the best way to create an organisation of like minded professionals all fused in one shared vision.  Jeff talked about the difficulty of expressing compassion to people you don’t like, whose views you don’t respect, or who you have witnessed being mean to others; and the absolute strength and fortitude that takes.  There was a strong theme of mindfulness not as touchy feely and I felt this is a good example to give voice to that.
  • Leadership as inspiring others to follow you to achieve shared objectives.  They talked about this needing clarity of vision (which mountain to climb), the courage of your convictions in order to be able to overcome adversity, and to be able to effectively communicate this vision and conviction.  Fred talked about the analogy that he had of Jeff’s leadership – that was not him rowing a boat and getting everyone rowing in the same direction, but catching a huge maverick wave on a surfboard and inspiring others to want to do the same.  If you’ve got this vision, courage and resilience sorted, then just choose the right objective and make sure you surround yourself with the best talent.  Sorted 🙂
  • The idea of LinkedIn working for them instead of them working for LinkedIn.  This resonated with me because I strongly feel that an organisation doesn’t really exist in and of itself, it is made real by the people working in it.  I loved the notion of LinkedIn serving them and it worked in this example because there is such strong buy in from individuals to Jeff’s powerful vision.
  • The old data vs intuition argument.  Man, this is really taking up some headspace for me right now.  So Jeff says “CEOs tend to be data driven” and then in the next sentence “people just know it works because they see results in day to day practice”.  Before them Julia Hartz of Eventbrite said “we are a data driven organisation” and then later says “really I believe the qualitative more”.  I sense that right now we are in a very logical-dominated business arena and everything must be measured to ascertain value.  I also think that there will be a movement towards intuition taking more of a role at the decision making table.  I guess the challenge for me is to incorporate both, to look for more data to be the balance to my intuition.  I suspect for many people the challenge may be the direct opposite.
  • Being compassionate yet still demanding excellence.  On the subject of compassionate leadership, we talked a little about what to do when you were faced with a difficult situation.  If each of us have a circle of compassion then the solution is in extending that circle of compassion and refer it back to the vision.  An excellent analogy was given of the mediocre doctor that has a high casualty rate but is a really nice guy.  That is clearly not acceptable.  And neither is dropping your standards of excellence just to be compassionate.  Always refer back to your vision as your guiding light when dealing with these difficult situations compassionately as that is the shared truth to which you are aspiring.

In other news I also discovered that:

  • Jeff Weiner has an excellent karaoke voice and he passed on some karaoke tips – avoid your favourite songs from amazing artists (you’ll only sound shite), remember its all in the energy and not the quality of voice – so find something that others can sing along to (even if for no other reason than then they won’t be able to hear you)!
  • Sweet Caroline, Lean on Me, Sitting on the Dock of the Bay are great songs apparently for karaoke.
  • Gap has an amazing performance system “Performance for Life – Better You, Better Gap”.  Loved that sentiment.
  • Karen May from Google sees learning as the goal in and of itself; and takes a very holistic view.  i.e. maybe its learning on how to be a better parent, or contribute more to society and thats all something that Google will support

Final word

But the final word goes to Julia Hartz from her amazing talk about the experience of live events.  It seems that her and I share a common life philosophy, in particular about YOLO and FOMO!

  • “Say Yes.  Live more, do more, feel more”

Perhaps thats the reason I woke up this morning with a hangover?

’til tomorrow 🙂

Mel x

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Finding and claiming your gift

Another quick post from Wisdom Week.

Today I had the good fortune to attend Wisdom and Purpose in Work as part of Wisdom Week.  What a day.  It was a smallish group of people (I’d guess at about 40-50 people) which was great for small group work – a thread that was woven throughout the day.

As I don’t have much time to blog and I want to get today’s information out before tomorrow’s arrives – here is my quick download – more to come in time 🙂

The importance of listening

  • When you truly listen you are allowing a little fragile idea to take hold.  We were talking a lot about our gifts and what we can give in life.  This is pretty serious stuff, far from the usual water cooler conversation.  We talked about “fertile listening”, i.e. providing a space for someone’s little “seed” of an idea or little bit of courage to take root and grow.  Fertile listening includes deep listening, clarifying questions but no giving advice, etc.  This proved to be vital to provide the arena for people to start sharing what is actually quite personal stuff.

Giving and receiving

  • In short, to give is to receive; and to receive is to give.  Check out the idea of mudita, its cool.   I could really make sense of this in my own experience where people are giving me to so readily, sometimes without me asking and sometimes when I ask (which is pretty hard to do, lets face it).  In each of these cases when someone gives me something, I hope they receive something back by watching me take that extra step forward in my life.  Likewise when I give something, really I receive far more, seeing how it empowers that person towards success, whatever that looks like for them.
  • We asked ourselves the question in quite explicit terms, what do I have to give, what do I want to receive?  Its a great question to bust out now and again.  We did this in a circle of about eight people and it was very empowering and helped us all towards our goals.
  • Asking can be out of desperation or inspiration.  Deciding what space to ask from can change your outcomes.  Interesting.

Intuition

  • You may know that this is a big thing for me and something that is growing bigger by the day.  I connected over lunch with a lovely lady who was explaining her intuitive sense to mathematics and coding.  I talked to another lady in our group who explained that she was trying to find logical words to explain her intuition.  I have this growing momentum inside me to stop denying that intuition has a special, important and powerful place in business.  In particular the intuitive approach to coding is something that I have witnessed when watching Vaughan code and know to be true – I’m keen to start a conversation on this in the tech space.

The importance of claiming your gifts

  • Something I realised today that is that if I am not to claim my gifts (e.g. my intuition) then I make it OK for other people to not claim theirs.  This is something that scares the living daylights of me – to think that my girls could be in the workforce in 10-15 years time not claiming their strengths, gifts, not living their full selves.  Stuff that!  I feel a strong pull to help people claim their true selves in the work place for lots of reasons, and now I see that a powerful way to start is to start truly claiming my own self in all respects at work.  Watch out NZ!

Its all about the journey

  • What we have to offer in this world changes and shifts over time.  You never really get “there”, right!  Its all in the journey.  I loved this reframing.  When you look at it like this you can never get it wrong.  Sometimes also, you have no freakin’ idea what you’re supposed to be doing.  Well, it doesn’t really matter when you look at it through this lens – just ask “what are the things that can help me find my way when my path ahead is not really visible?”.  That’s a good start.

You never know what’s going to happen and thats OK.

  • So you have this future imagined for yourself and how you will step into and claim your passion in life, and it doesn’t work out that way – maybe you take another road, maybe something better comes along.  Well, thats OK too.  I have seen so many people as part of the Wisdom movement really making a difference but the reality is that they may have only been introduced to this in the last year or so.  When they were thinking about their future this may not have figured in it all, but they are making a difference, living their passion.  Its great to bear witness to.   Basically, go with the flow, watch out for the new unimagined opportunities.

So in all it was a great day, very inspiring.  It was a day of big ideas and simple gestures.  It was a day of connectedness.  Thanks to Nancy and Arturo for their loving and playful approach to facilitation of the day – you guys embody all that is good in the world and really helped the day unfold as it did.

Mel x

Compassion Research Day at Facebook

Yesterday I had the good fortune of attending the 5th Compassion Research Day at Facebook.

These, my friends, are my key takeaways, which of course have come from a People & Culture perspective.  Just a word of warning, having bashed out this blog post in all of 10 minutes (before I forget and my brain gets full from today’s information) there’s bound to be some typos.  Knock yourself out finding them – yahoo.

Importance of Language

Given that in an online platform like Facebook when you can’t see other people you’re interacting with, the role and effect of language is multiplied, as all you’re left with is words (and arguably emojis and stickers).  So Facebook spend A LOT OF TIME on studying how to construct sentences to get the intention right and to increase the chance of the receiver actually taking on board the message.  There were several examples of this, normally to do with asking someone to take something down that they found embarrassing or offensive.  So, if you want to increase the likelihood of your request being met use these in your comms:

  • use their name
  • say “please”
  • be indirect
  • use apology (e.g. sorry to ask you this)
  • be humble (not as important as other four).

The other thing that Facebook found is that if they take out their exemplar sentence from the message box (the system generates one for you when you want to ask someone to remove something) and leave just an empty box, the result is half as effective as when ANY exemplar sentence is included – e.g. Even, “I don’t like it, take it down” is more effective than nothing.  So is there anywhere in here this can be used in the workplace to help people trying to sort out a difficult situation – e.g. someone is chewing loudly next to you all the time or someone is bullying you.  I thought maybe if an organisation actually gave exemplar emails that someone could flick off we might see an increase in these situations being dealt with sooner – by equipping people with tools rather than just saying – “in the first instance try and work it out yourself with the person”.

Research on awe

There was quite a large discussion on “awe” defined as “being in the presence of something vast and not immediately understood”.  In their collaboration with Berkley and/or Yale (sorry I forget which one) they’ve found that experiencing awe leads to prosocial behaviour – specifically modesty increases, curiosity increases, people are willing to make sacrifices for the group, generosity increases and it seems it can even quiet the inflammation response in the body.  When I was thinking about this and the application to work I was thinking:

  • never EVER hold an offsite in a boring room, always have an awe-inspiring view out the window (I even anecdotally know that a few minutes spent staring at the clouds moving across the sky, waves breaking on the beach etc bring these moments of awe and reinvigorate me).
  • bring little bits of awe into work – I wonder if this is why dogs at work are so popular at Vend (not for the awe but for some connectedness to something greater than yourself that can leave you feeling refreshed and reinvigorated).

And in general I was thinking about the importance of just getting some awe every now and again – look into a baby’s eyes, stare at the stars, watch snow fall, even see a magnificent sunset.  So next time you have the chance, just go grab some of that awe OK.

Research on happiness

And my final takeaway from this in a P&C context was the importance of interactions on happiness.  It seems, shock horror, that regardless of whether you’re introvert or extrovert you will always be happier if you spend time interacting with people – and interacting with people in person is more effective than interacting with them online.  Interestingly, if you’re merely around people but not interacting that has no effect at all.  So grab a coffee with your workmates, spend some time talking about the weekend, go for a lunch time walk; you might as well increase your happiness whilst you have a captive audience of friends and coworkers everyday 🙂

That was it from me.

More soon.

The birth of a meetup

Last night I hosted my first meetup with Emma Kirkman, an all round good sort from Orion Health.  I’m still fizzing at the success of it all – 45 engaged people all sharing a common goal of doing our life’s best work.  Yeah.

What makes me even MORE excited (and I can get pretty excited, lets be honest) is how we managed to pull together such a successful event in a relatively short amount of time.  I took a lot of inspiration from the Vend value “Just Fucking Do It” and simply did what it took to make it a success.

But……what DID it take?  How did I actually create this mythical meetup?  Well, I have the good fortune of working with a bunch of incredibly smart, passionate people who know about this stuff, and they generously gave of their time and knowledge to help me do this, and in the spirit of giving, I want to pass that on to you.  Note, for all I know, there may be twenty other ways to organise a meetup, but hey! it worked for me 🙂

1. Come up with something you’re passionate about.  For me this is about the collision of living the life of your dreams, fulfilling your potential AND  organisational culture – not only because it feels good for organisations to support their people in living amazing lives, but also for the cold hard commercial reality that this makes for good business.

2. See what else is out there.  If there is someone down the road hosting a meetup in your space, better you find out about that now, than when no one turns up 🙂 A quick search on meetup.com and a bit of question asking will find this out pretty quick. If there is another meetup nearby, why not offer to help out!

3. Find a supporter. I love collaborating with people so when I met Emma and realised she was also keen on this mad idea of mine, I danced a little dance on the inside.  Quickly we formed an A team and found having another person to bounce ideas off made things a heap easier.  Not that you necessarily need a collaborator, but is there someone you know who hosts conferences, facilitates meetings, shares your passion; that you can call on as a bit of moral and practical support now and then?  Go find that person.

4. Spend some time on the why. This one I have to whole heartedly attribute to Emma who really drove this forward.  Ask yourself, “why would people be interested in my meetup?”  What is the kernel of truth in the middle of it all?  We spent about an hour throwing ideas and post it notes around – and now have our little description that helps us explain our meetup to others and helps us whilst navigating the first few months of its creation.

This is also a good time to coin a catchy name.

5. Come up with your first topic. Once you have step 4 nailed, this becomes easier.  Pick something that you feel super passionate about, something that you already know a bit about (you don’t want the first meetup to be too taxing), and something that you think others will be interested in.

Do you want another speaker?  If so, this is the time to start looking.  I was lucky enough to have the good fortune of meeting up again with Suzanne Hall of Be Intent and before that Living Nature about the time I was organising this meetup.  She was interested in adding her perspective to the topic of authenticity and graciously joined me as co-speaker.  Thanks Suzanne, you were amazing 🙂

6. Find a space and a way to pay for your meetup. Ahhh, the small detail of where to have the meetup?  I was super lucky as Vend’s amazing office has a great space built in for meetups.  Can you host it in your office? In someone else’s office? In a public space? Inside or outside? Also, are you going to feed and water people?  I had 45 people and it cost about NZ$300 for wine, cheese, crackers and glass hire.  Vend is very kindly sponsoring my meetup – can you get sponsorship, or will you charge a small fee?  Answer these questions now.

7. Register your meetup on Meetup.com.  Now that you have your meetup name, topic, location, etc; its time to get it out onto meetup.com.  I spent a while choosing the right tags but you can always go back and tweak them.  Just get it out there.  This step is THE MOST IMPORTANT.  If you don’t do this step it goes without saying that your meetup ain’t going to be all that successful 🙂

8. Promote your meetup.  A bit of shameless promotion never goes amiss.  I tweeted about my meetup two or three times, and directly asked a few people in my network who are very well connected to retweet it.  I facebooked it and did the same thing, asking for some shares.  I talked about it on LinkedIn.  I went through my email inbox and sent emails off to those people who I thought might be interested.  I asked Vend if they could make some noise on the Vend twitter and LinkedIn accounts.  I mentioned it to people in passing.  Basically I went all out on the PR, because it was important to me that we had a good turnout.  For me, the goal was 30 people.  When I only had about 10 one week out, that put the fire in my belly to take the small steps to ensure the momentum was building.  I suggest you set yourself a goal and then everyday do just one little thing to get yourself a step closer to achieving it.

9. Promote your meetup some more.  You’ve probably got the idea that I did a lot of promotion, when you think you’re finished, just do a little bit more 🙂

10. Draw up a run sheet.  Again, I’ll attribute this to Emma who is clearly a lot more organised than me!  The run sheet was pretty simple but gave us a bit of an idea about when we should start reorganising the furniture, when attendees would arrive, when speakers would start, etc.  It was invaluable on the night so we were both on the same page.

11. Time to get to the details.  On the day of the meetup, I was very busy.  I had to make a run to the supermarket (next time I’ll use internet shopping), I had to pick up the glasses after forgetting all about hiring them until the last minute, I had to enlist some helpers to reorganise furniture.  I had to get someone to man the door – letting people in, I had to ask someone to do name tags, had to get someone to organise the cheese and cracker platters, to set up the drinks and glasses, etc.  So in short leave a few hours for all of this, enlist some help in advance and make a checklist of everything you think you need to do.  Hopefully the list of stuff above helps.

12. Talk to people and make them feel welcome. Take an interest.  Make it a two-way affair.  To be honest, once people had started arriving, I was a bit exhausted thanks to steps 1-11 above, and it took me a few minutes to realise that this was the most important time of the whole journey.  So I quickly regained my mojo and took an interest in people – why had they come? what were they hoping to get out of it? what rocked their boat?  I’m a richer person for taking the time to fully engage with the attendees and I’m so pleased that I realised the importance of this at the start of the meetup.  It also helped me realise what might be good fodder for future topics and furthermore just inspired me with people’s amazing stories.  This is your time to step beyond the business and get into the moment of enjoying this little movement you’ve created.

13. Get feedback from attendees. Be prepared with a way of getting feedback.   There will be no better time to get feedback from your attendees than right at the meetup, so why not create a little feedback form and have it on hand.  We used one that simply asked the questions: “What would you start in the next meetup? What would you stop in the next meetup? What would you like to see less of? What would you like to see more of? What ideas do you have for future topics?”  Anything really will be fine.

14. Rinse and repeat.  Take some time out to enjoy having had your first meetup, and then get cracking on no. 2!

I hope this how to will be helpful for you if you’re contemplating starting a meetup.

The final word has to go however to the notion of just getting started – your meetup will amount to nought if it stays in your head – so take those first few actions today – get it listed on meetup.com, commit yourself, work hard and as we say at Vend “just fucking do it”.

Mel

Personality tests for organisations

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about leadership.  A lot of the research indicates the importance of first understanding where you are now – your strengths, abilities, characteristics that make up ‘you’ and therefore what to leverage to be a great leader.

I’m an exponent of the strength based leadership approach, i.e. leverage your strengths and really enhance those to get great leadership outcomes – not to say that to work on your challenges is time wasted – of course not.  But I see an opportunity to address those challenges through your strengths.  For example, one of my strengths is my ability to see things in unique ways and to see connections between things that others don’t easily see.  One of my challenges is time management.  Therefore I can leverage my strength to overcome my challenge – e.g. thinking about time management in new and unique ways to come up with a solution that suits me.

What’s become really apparent for me recently, through thinking about leadership and taking into account twenty odd years of Human Resources study and practice, is that whilst there are so many tools out there that you can use to help you describe yourself, they all have the severe limitation of strict parameters.  So its like each one is a jigsaw puzzle piece and its not until you have a couple of them together, and furthermore have spent some time thinking about what picture they are trying to present, that they are really helpful.

Over the last year I’ve had three or four assessments done to categorise me with regards to a set of parameters, often with a narrative detailing what this means for me.  The first two I found interesting but not all that useful.  It wasn’t until the fourth, that I was able to put it with the other pieces of the puzzle, and perhaps having had the time to mull over what it all means, make sense of it, in terms of how it relates to me personally and professionally.

I still feel though that regardless of how many of these assessments you take, they will never fully describe the real “you” – everyone is too unique for that, thank goodness!  I find its in self reflection (thoughts of motivators, challenges, lessons learnt, childhood influences, personal values) and the beautiful thought that comes through comparison and review of these multiple instruments coupled with that self reflection that enables you to finally finish the puzzle…..if you finish it at all.

I was talking to Vaughan today about how this fourth assessment I did totally resonated with me so he decided to do it too.  We had a totally surreal moment when we realised that we were both categorised as ENFPs on the MBTI.  ENFP stands for Extraversion, Intuition, Feeling, Perception.  This completely took me by surprise – I would have thought we were almost opposites.  Now that I’ve had time to reflect on the results, I can see that perhaps we are similar in some ways – this will be why we find it so hard to maintain a tidy house!  Whilst we are similar in this respect, remembering that this is just a little piece of the whole puzzle, helps me understand how we can be similar in some ways and opposite in others.

Then my mind went a bit further, and I thought if Vaughan and I are both ENFP and given that Vend is a manifestation to a large extent of us, what would the personality of Vend be?  One of our values is to make data driven decisions for example, but does Vend do that? And do the people in Vend do that?  To what extent does the personality of the company mirror the personality of its employees, leadership team, founder? And what of the customers? What do they perceive the personality of the company to be – is that effective to keep them happy and satisfied?

The upshot of this morning of thinking is a desire to run an experiment where everyone in Vend completes a personality test and then completes it on Vend as if Vend were a person.  This would give us two data points – i.e. the most dominant personality type of Vend employees, and how those people in the organisation would describe Vend’s personality (and possibly a third – how customers view Vend’s personality).  Whilst I’m still figuring out how to utilise the results for action or further thought I have no doubt that this information would give us another way of exploring organisational culture and values.

To come back to the jigsaw analogy, culture and values is one piece in the jigsaw puzzle. The challenge is what other ways can we use to describe our organisation, and in so doing realise or re-emphasise our strengths…..i.e. bring into focus other pieces of the puzzle, which we can then use to inform some fresh thinking, reflection, introspection to bring more fully into view a fuller picture of the organisation.

Not bad thinking for a lazy Sunday morning I thought.

Goals – my reflections on a visit to the gym.

Today I went to the gym.

I went to the gym to meet with a personal trainer – to get my measurements taken, set some goals and devise a new programme.  This is something the trainer must do several times if not more each day – its routine, practiced, habitual.

For me on the other hand, my visit to the gym today was the result of months of thinking, a few baby steps to get back into exercise, and the visit was loaded with a lifetime of beliefs and attitudes to fitness and wellbeing.

I really needed someone to sit with me and say “What made you come here today?” and listen.  I mean, really listen, to my hopes for myself, my insecurities about being there, and help me set some meaningful goals.  The fact that I got the step-by-step walk through the form did little to help my inspiration, however luckily it did inspire this blog post 🙂

I guess looking at this from a helicopter view, we were essentially there for completely different reasons.  For the PT I was just one more client.  For me it was a big deal.  Our expectations of those 15 minutes were completely out of whack.  This same phenomenon happens day after day in countless work places – one meeting, two radically different experiences and expectations.

In coaching we talk about this thing called “Coaching Presence”.  It can be characterised by being fully “there” in the moment with your coachee, trusting your gut that you will know the right thing to say / ask at the right time.  It comes from really deeply listening to what is being said, and not being said, and leaving your own agenda at the door.  In this case it could have been simply acknowledging that since I hadn’t been to the gym for ages, it must have taken a lot to decide to return…..

It struck me today that if each Personal Trainer was schooled in a coaching approach – both to setting goals and to being 100% present with their client – how different the sessions would go.  It would be less about measurements and more about motivations.  After all, I figure I’m not the only one, where the key to exercise lies not in the body but in finding the right motivation in the mind.  Why not ask me questions like:

– What made you come here today?

– What are you really hoping to achieve?

– When will you know when you’ve achieved it?

– What is likely to get in the way of you and exercise?

– Can I help you devise some strategies to be successful with your goals/ programme?

– What exists in your life to support you in your goals?  What exists to steer you off course?

For those interested in reading more about goal setting, here’s a great article:  http://www.adaringadventure.com/bestof/the-ultimate-goal-setting-post/

In terms of coaching presence, its actually a pretty easy thing to do, and can be of major benefit in any communication in life, ever.  Tips and tricks include:

– Shut down technology and avoid interruptions

– Do nothing but listen.  Don’t try to think three steps ahead.  Ask a question and then listen to their response with no judgment.

– Study them like you would study the Mona Lisa…..  Are their words and actions cognisant?  What isn’t being said.  You’re a human being adapted to reading between the lines so trust yourself to do that.

– Turn your body to them and have an open posture – no crossed arms here.  There’s no way to shut down a conversation like crossed arms 🙂

– Believe that they have the answers within them.  If you come at it from just believing they already have everything they need to solve their problem / answer their question / find their motivation, you’ll allow them to find that belief within themselves.

If you’ve read this far you might be interested in what my goals were.  In the end I decided on one smallish goal: to compete in a very mini triathlon in the new year; and one longer term goal: to work on measuring what I measured two years ago.

They’re not quite there yet, but hey! I made it to the gym right.  Now its onto the fun part of raising my fitness and watching those measurements change!!

Stop solving other people’s problems

I’m pretty sure its just in our nature to want to solve other people’s problems.  When I am listening to other people tell me about what’s going on in their lives its just too tempting to come up with sentences like:

“You should just…….”

“Why don’t you……”

“When that happened to me, I……..”

Its far more difficult but ultimately far more rewarding to realise that this is their problem to solve, not yours, and let them do their own thinking.

This week I had someone try to solve a problem for me.  It took me about four days to figure out this is what they were doing.  I got completely lost in a maze of thoughts, mostly unhelpful ones, not understanding why this person had said what they had.  Did they have an agenda? Were they trying to influence me to a way of thinking? Then it came to me in a blinding flash when I was in the snoozy half-waking state this morning – they didn’t mean any harm, they were simply trying to solve my problem.

The irony being is that I didn’t even really have a problem that needed solving :-).

If instead of taking a problem-solving approach this person had taken a coaching approach my week could have turned out very differently.  But how can you actually do this?  If you aren’t solving a person’s problem then how can you help them solve it themselves?

Taking some lessons from coaching, here are three good alternative approaches.

1.  Listen.  Simply listen.  Sometimes you don’t need to do anything other than be there with a listening ear, letting the other person know that you hear them.  No action is required.

2.  Ask them some coaching questions.  Here are a few good ones to get you started:

  • How much of a problem is this?
  • How long have you been thinking about it for?
  • Are you happy with your thinking?
  • What are you hoping to achieve once this is resolved?
  • What does resolution look like?
  • What steps do you need to take to get to where you want to be?
  • Whats the next smallest step?
  • Can I help you? and if so, how?
  • What do you want to get out of talking to me about it?

You can see by asking some simple questions like this you are helping them think about their own thinking, and in so doing, solve their own problems.

3.  If you have a serial problem solver in your life, next time you talk to them, make it clear you’re not sharing in the hope that they will solve your problem – that you just want them to listen.  You could even give them the above questions as a guide to the sort of helpful things they could ask.

There are a lot more great coaching questions you can ask in these situations.  For more information here is an informative link about coaching questions: http://www.metasysteme-coaching.eu/english/toolbox-ii-question-skills-in-coaching/