How are you right now? 

I invite you to take two minutes to observe yourself in the following ways and make a note of what your notice:

  • What’s happening for you in language?
      • That is, what are you thinking, what are you saying to yourself, what’s on your mind?
  • What moods and/or emotions are you in?
      • What names or labels would you give them?
  • What is happening in your body?
      • What sensations can you notice?
      • What about muscle tension – where are you tense and where are you relaxed?
      • What do you notice about your posture?
      • What do you notice about your breathing?

Did you take 2 minutes?  Of course it’s up to you, but the rest of this post will make more sense if you have undertaken this activity.

What was it like to do that just now?

Everything we do, we do from the way of being we have while we are doing what we do. Doing in this context includes, speaking, listening and thinking, as much as it includes doings that involve more obvious physical action that another can easily observe. Our way of being in the moment might or might not be the most resourceful or useful for what we want to be doing.

 

A case study – moving from anxiety to curiosity in conducting performance reviews.

Some years ago when my software company was growing and I had 15 staff I could no longer focus solely on the technical aspects of the business. I realised I needed to learn to talk to and “manage people”. I did the rational thing and brought in a consultant to design a good performance management system (we chose the balanced-scorecard model) and to train senior staff in things like conducting performance reviews.  I worked hard at learning about performance management and I knew how to run a performance review meeting with a staff member.  I knew that I needed to develop good rapport, I knew I needed to put staff at ease, and  I knew the sorts of questions to ask.  The only problem was that I got really nervous before these meetings and got doubly nervous in them. As a consequence the meetings were awkward and unproductive. They probably did more harm than good to morale and productivity.  So much for knowing what to do.

I sought out a coach because I needed, and the company needed, me and my staff to be highly productive and motivated. I “knew” what to do but I didn’t know how to do what I knew I needed to do – if that make sense.

In conversation with my coach I realised that I was in a mood of anxiety when thinking about or conducting these meetings. I got anxious and I seriously doubted my ability – not just my ability to conduct a performance review but my ability to make a success of the company.

The coaching conversation led to me realise that if I were not anxious then I would be able to be a real contribution to each individual I worked with and to the success of the company.  I was very inspired by the possibility of being a contribution to people. Come the next performance review meeting while I was still a bit excited-nervous my dominant mood was of curiosity.

The questions flowed.  What’s working, what’s not?  What do you need? How can I help? What feedback do you have for me? What changes do you think we need to make? How might you address this concern of your colleagues? What can we improve? Etc etc … The discussion flowed and actions for change and improvement were identified.  The meetings became enjoyable and productive.  I started to look forward to performance reviews and began to engage in on-going conversations for feedback and improvement.

At the personal level work became far less stressful and much more satisfying.  I had taken an important step on my journey from being a highly competent fisheries acoustician to being a manager and leader who could be confident in my interactions with people.

Is the way of being that you have right now the most useful or resourceful for what you want to be doing?  If not how might you change it?

In this example I shifted my way of being. The shift was initiated with the mood shift from anxiety to curiosity when I got in touch with what was most important to me – being a contribution.  I have no doubt that my words, my posture and my tone of voice all changed with my mood and contributed to the success of the performance reviews.  Interestingly the change happened without needing any new knowledge about performance management.  The quality of the conversations changed with the change in my way of being.

Let's experiment and make this practical

Think about an aspect your work (of if you prefer another area of your life that is important to you) that is not flowing or working as well as you would like it to.  Think about what’s missing in your current way of being (language, moods and physiology) that if it were there would have that area of life flow and work as you would like it to.  What are some (perhaps quite small) changes you could make in your way of being?  Think of this is an experiment – now put the (small) changes into action and see what new results you generate.

Please share this post with your friends and colleagues if you found it useful.

 

Acknowledgements: I give deep thanks: to the original developers of Ontological Coaching including Fernando Flores and Rafael Echeverria; to the lineage of thinkers and philosophers who informed them and to Alan Sieler (with whom I studied coaching) who has extended and documented these ideas and practices.