Collaboration is a much used term these days, some say over used ? So what does it really mean ? I like to have my own clear definition, which is the unconditional sharing of information or giving / receiving help or support for the mutual benefit of all parties. The key word here is unconditional, because this is both authentic, and it means that the giver is not expecting anything in return. Giving without expectation is a way more powerful experience,  and will harvest way better long term returns, whether it be in a personal relationship or business. Fortunately for me I was able to grasp this on my journey to self-awareness and had the chance to practice it. I try to do this now as much as I can, and can say it has reaped benefits unconditionally, with a way richer experience. So when you get the opportunity please try.

I mentioned in an earlier post that is important fro me to “dig deep”, as I start my new business. I have found that this is a rewarding experience. When you dig internally to different levels you have not experienced before, you discover qualities that you thought you did not have.  These newer found qualities of patience and resilience should help me go forward, and increase my confidence. As a corollary, my energy levels have gone up. I remember from my coaching diploma that “Energy attracts Like Energy” so I am looking forward to some energetic business engagements and relationships.

Just starting “Week One” of my new totally independent career. it is a mixture of all emotions from minor fear to total excitement. Leaving a  secure job was a bold move, but I believe the right one for me. I will have to dig deep and rely on my coaching skills, self awareness to stay focused and true. I have had some great notes of support from all quarters. One recurring theme was that everyone has been asking what is it like now. There are of course many differences, but for me the most noticeable one for me, is that I don’t feel the need to be connected to my phone or laptop continuously for fear of missing that vital note or message. I am sure it will get more lonely and I will thus get more anxious in the short term, as I wait for work to build up, but the feeling is definitely good.

I happened to be in London the other week, and I was walking back from a meeting at the end of the day towards Piccadilly Circus Tube Station. I find the heart of London a magical place at this time of year, particularly before Christmas and as it goes dusk. I had a moment before my train, so I walked into my beloved Lotus Shop on Regent Street to get another energy shot. I was lucky enough to own a Lotus Sports Car a few years back, and I still yearn for another when I have enough money. I love the original ethos of Lotus, and that of Colin Chapman, its founder, and what they espoused in 60’s , 70’s, 80’s and beyond. The idea, that small could be great, the unthinkable could be done, and the challenge of unconventional thinking still resonates with me.

I was approached by a lovely sales assistant, and I was able to explain that I was not position to buy anything, but was just looking and enjoying the moment. She was interested to hear some of my stories with racing, the conversation quickly moved on to the ethos of Lotus, and being open minded. As it was the end of the day, and before closure the shop was empty. A couple of the other assistants, who had just completed some studies joined the conversation. We moved onto careers and personal development and the need to keep moving and adapting. We had a fantastic and edifying conversation, and it was an excellent way to round the day. It left a really good feeling with all of us, and after talking about careers, I had a sense that they had “Hope” . I guess my point is that I had a choice, I could have walked out having seen what I wanted to see. Talking is good, and you never know how a conversation will develop, and generally it ends up in a positive place.

 

Times of significant organisational change can be very challenging for most. Leaders will have to make some significant and challenging decisions. This will be exactly the time when leaders will need a strong coach. It is incumbent on any coach in this situation, to stay strong, focussed on shifting energy and helping the client move quickly. The coach needs to show sensitivity, but not get stuck or embroiled in the client’s trials and tribulations. This is when excellent coaches can add considerable value that won’t be forgotten.

A great quote from Dr. Patrizia Collard on Mindfulness, “By reconnecting with these simple moments in life, by truly living moment by moment, it is possible to rediscover a sense of peace and enjoyment.”

This really resonates with me, and I am constantly looking for positive touch points at every moment, even at times of great stress and change. It is amazing how these “micro-moments” can give you a short term energy boost. The word synergy is used extensively these days, almost to the point that its meaning has become a bit blurred. I like the definition whereby the whole is bigger or stronger than the sum of the constituent parts. To me, this implies there is something special or additive going on based on the relationship between the constituents. When I look at this in the context of these micro moments or touch points, then these are definitely synergistic. At the end of a day when I have many of these then I am energised, and the “whole” is definitely bigger than the parts. Furthermore, I feel more energised to look for more the following day.

I read an intersting article in The Times yesterday. Baroness Joan Bakewell the veteran campaigner for women’s rights, and general campaigner had been talking at the Cheltenham Literary Festival about the negative effects of extreme feminism and obsessive political views.  I have read a number of recent articles around the rise in “extreme views” particularly as a means of controlling who or who not should speak at university meetings and debates. In the developed world people cherish “Free Speech” correctly as a fundamental principle.  Irrespective of your political views, controlling speech implies a level of judgement aimed at the speaking party. Non judgement is also a principle of effective coaching. Baroness Joan also cited a situation, where she wanted to raise the issue of “Domestic Violence” and it’s potential rise being linked to more extreme feminism. She was guided not to speak the unspoken. Irresespective of your views on this matter, we should never be in a situation, where we feel we can’t speak for fear of judgement.

It costs nothing to be pleasant but the rewards are great, and can trigger finge benefits.

A small anecdote. I am after insurance on a new car, and I have received online quotes. I have to admit  I struggle to get energised about trawling for quotations, but know that I need a reasonable price, if not the best as it needs to be cost effective. I remembered the days, when I just use to ring my insurance broker and he would find me the best quotation that fitted my needs.. I was never dissatisfied. I spoke to my wife, and she reminded me that there are still some high street brokers around. I got in my car and drove through the East Anglian sunshine to  a local town I don’t visit often where there was a branch.  I was attended to by a lady who was charming. She took my details, and came up with some quotations. She could not have been more charming and helpful, and although the quotations are not finalised yet, I know that I will do business with her. A smile goes a long way.  I also had the added benefit of visiting a town, which is truly multi-cultural. I enjoyed walking down the high street listening to all the different languages, dialects, and people with happy faces.

I could have stayed at home, searched the internet, and that would have been a big mistake for so many reasons.

 

So what does staying ahead mean ? It does not necessarily mean staying ahead of your perceived competition all the time. My interpretation of this is around keeping yourself mentally and physically fit to do what you need to do. I see this as being prepared for every eventuality in the new reality which is the VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous) environment. One key element of being mentally and physically fit, is being conscious and self-aware. Only if you are conscious, will you be able to be agile enough to keep your mind in a positive state. With positivity, your mind will be in a state to deal with the challenges that are coming, whether they be mental or physical.

Coaching and mindful techniques can help with this. Some people meditate, which can work for a proportion of the population, but not everyone. I have to admit, I have tried meditation, but it does not work for me. At the time it was a great disappointment, as I almost felt obliged to be able to meditate as a professional coach. However I have found other ways to become more conscious using some of the techniques used in NLP. I use these to self-trigger consciousness when I need to. This can be done at the start of the day, or when preparing for a critical meeting or presentation. There are many techniques such as, “anchoring”, use of “metaphors” or the “circle of excellence”. I would guide you to use one or two that works for you, practice them and use them.

Metaphors have been used in coaching for a long time, but quite often we forget the benefits they can unleash. Making mental connections are so powerful. Like a lot of people I have struggled with weight gain / loss over the years. I have lost significant weight in the past with intensive programmes of exercise and reduced calorie intake. I have even held it for a couple of years , but never properly sustained it. I know I have to do something for all the right reasons but what ? I had an aha moment earlier in the week, and drew on my professional coaching experience. I have a life long interest in cars and racing and have raced myself. How could I use this as a metaphor. Then it hit me. What if I was the race car and mechanic. I need to maintain myself to ensure longevity and peak performance. Here is my opportunity to make sustainable shift, and get my head in the right place.

I will start today, so wish me luck.

That is all. Great Olympic opening ceremony, and fabulous to see it can be done on a budget and have great resonance.

A very interesting article on exhaustion from the BBC. Some interesting data and perspectives from doctors and psychologists. I think it is important for people to understand, and there is hope. The more we know, the more we understand and the better placed we are to deal with potential burnout and exhaustion. This very prevelent in the modern fast track world. Being self aware will help enormously in being able to handle potential exhaustion. I am a great believer in the expression “Forewarned is forearmed”.

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20160721-the-reasons-why-exhaustion-and-burnout-are-so-common

I am currently involved in some big pitches. Preparation is always important, but it is quite easy to reach the law of diminishing returns. Recognising this is key, and at this point you quickly realise, you need to trust your knowledge, skills and be authentic. Showing some confident humility always helps.

More than ever in the times of rapid change, we need to be self aware, and avoid a situation which could lead us to be passive aggressive. Most of us can recognise it in others, but can we recognise it in ourselves ?

It does not have to be directly manipulative or overtly aggressive, it can be as simple as deliberately associating with a strong group view , knowing that somebody you are “competing” with holds an opposing view, when in fact you don’t hold that view. I have seen this on numerous occasions. Some may see this as taking a fair competitive advantage, but this approach is flawed for a number of reasons. Firstly behaving like this on a regular basis, takes time and energy, and ultimately will have a negative effect on your focus and performance. Secondly the recipient will know what is happening to them. Business and social relationships twist and turn all the time. You never know when you may need that person to help you. Collaboration an non judgement are always the best strategy.

With all the current global political turmoil, we need to be very measured with our debates. This does not mean that we hang back with our opinions that support our beliefs or principles, but think of the others around you.