Category Archives: Leadership

Keep it light …

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Try specifics

You can’t let praise or criticism get to you. It’s a weakness to get caught up in either one. – John Wooden.

I love this quote from this very successful basketball coach. The most important thing he gave his players was unbiased, specific information about best practice. He didn’t get caught up in how well or badly they were playing. He just told them over and over how they could improve, specifically, clearly and without judgement. Awesome.

Try, try again

I’m in the process of leaving a project this week and my successor has been coming up with suggestions on how to improve as the team goes forwards. It’s tempting sometimes to say, “I tried that already and it didn’t work,” but I stop myself if I can.

I have to remind myself that the fact that I tried something and it wasn’t successful is not an indicator of potential failure if someone else tries something similar. The project has continued to develop, the participants have changed, maybe the approach is slightly different – who knows? Maybe this time the outcome will be better.

This is not to say we should mindlessly repeat ourselves, expecting a different result every time, but we can sometimes be tempted to squash other people’s ideas on the basis of our own experience.

Let’s not do that.

You just don’t know what the future will hold for any attempt at a leap forwards. It’s better for everyone to stay positive on possible outcomes and avoid letting our own experiences jeopardize someone else’s opportunity for success.

Great coaches

I’m always interested in working with great coaches and am lucky to have found a few along the way. How do I recognize them? How do you know if you’ve found one?

Great coaches know that most people can’t take in a long checklist of improvements. When someone gives me too much to think about, I spend all my time checking each move and I lose the flow of what I’m doing.

Great coaches focus on one area of performance at a time. They give you one or two things to think about or correct, and what they give you often has an impact far beyond the immediate.

I practiced karate for years and noticed time and again how a good instructor would get a student to make a small adjustment that made a big difference. They’d ask a student to adjust their hip position slightly and that would affect their foot position, their leg, shoulder, their arm – you’d see a person’s whole body change as a result of one small shift.

Look for people who give simple instructions that have great effect, and maybe you’ll have found a great coach. Think about the same approach for yourself – the world can always use more!

Be Gentle With Yourself

I used to do yoga with a friend of mine. She would watch me struggle into poses and struggle to hold them – I’m not really a yoga type – and after awhile she’d say,

“Be gentle with yourself.”

Have you ever done your best work when you’ve felt like you’re struggling? I haven’t. My best work flows. It feels good to do it and it makes me feel great.

There are lots of days we’re asked to “lean in” and work hard, but this doesn’t mean we have to be unkind and thoughtless about ourselves. Not a bad thing to remember from time to time.

More Difficult Than You Think

it was my birthday this week and I was reminded of another birthday, many years ago, during which I did a workshop about mastering the self and your own self-expression. I’m not always someone who enjoys public soul-searching but it proved to be one of the best workshops I’ve ever done. I left it feeling open and free and happy in my own skin.

The leaders created a very safe space in which to explore  but still, one task proved to be the most difficult for everyone. This was to write a love letter – to yourself – and then to read it aloud to the small groups we were working in.

Try it. I guarantee you will find it difficult to seriously address yourself and express positive, loving feelings. Then try reading it aloud. Every single person who did this at the workshop had tears in their eyes as they were speaking.

These days we’re all asked to do a lot – to do the best for our clients and our employer, to support our families and friends, to make money, to achieve, to do what sometimes feels like the impossible, to commit to what we love. How can you do those things, how can you commit, if you can’t love and support who you are?