The Best $1.67 You’ll Ever Spend

When I’m overwhelmed, I have this pervasive feeling of stress that I can’t let go of. It is like there is this weight on me, and even if I’m relaxing or doing something I enjoy, the weight is still there.

When I search for the cause of my stress, I can’t pinpoint the source. Sure, I’ve got a few things I’m worried about, and I may have many things that are going great…but I’m still overwhelmed.

When I feel this way, the one thing that always helps me is a technique I learned a few years back. It doesn’t take much time or much effort, but there is a cost. And the cost is $1.67.

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It Is Never the Rider, It’s the Elephant

When working with others, we often encounter people we find hard to understand. We try to connect with them, we try to influence them, and we try to understand why they do the things they do.

And yet, they remain a mystery. We can’t understand them, and if we can’t understand them we can’t communicate with them and support them, manage them, or influence them.

I’ve found a technique that has made me more effective as a coach and a leader. It is called, “The Elephant and the Rider”.

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Don’t be nice, be kind

I was going to write a post this week on what it means to be nice vs kind, based on the work of Liane Davey, then I found that she has a video on the subject which would have been better than my perspective anyway.

Based on her work, and the book The Good Fight, I took away this key concept.

(these might be direct quotes, or a synthesis of what I heard in this podcast…either way these are ideas I’m working to integrate into my coaching practice.

“Nice is easy, kind takes candor. Kind is willing to make yourself uncomfortable for the benefit of someone else.”

We need more kind people in our lives. And we need to be more kind to those around us.

My #1 Coaching Question: “How will you know?”

Most leaders who interact with a coach do so because they want something to be different. They may want to improve the performance of their team, or become less overwhelmed, or to prioritize more effectively, or to increase their impact as a leader. It could be one of a thousand things they want to be different.

Often the change they want seems so big or complex that neither the leader nor the coach know where to start.

My go-to approach is to take whatever they’d like to change and reformulate it as a question back to them:

  • If you team is performing better, how will you know?
  • If you become less overwhelmed, how will you know?
  • If you are better at prioritizing, how will you know?
  • If you have more impact as a leader, how will you know?

It is such a simple technique, yet it is incredibly effective. Let’s explore why it works.

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Quick Take: Turn Off Your Camera

When you’re on a video call, turn off your camera.

It is hard to focus while on a video call and having your camera on is a distraction. Turning it off will help you focus and be more attentive to the conversation.

But, wait. I’m saying that with your camera off you’ll be more likely to pay attention and less likely to get distracted? i find that when my camera is off, I can multitask without fear that people know I’m doing it?

I understand the confusion.

You need to keep your camera on for other people to see you. This helps you stay engaged and makes it easier for other people to read your body language.

But, you need to turn your camera off so that you can’t see yourself.

Turn off self-view.

We are easily distracted primates who are naturally drawn to images of ourselves. Self-view is helpful just like checking your appearance in the mirror before you leave for work is helpful.

But we don’t walk around all day with a mirror so that we can look at ourselves constantly. That would be a huge distraction.

If you wouldn’t bring a mirror to an in-person meeting so that you could look at yourself while you’re in the meeting, you shouldn’t have self-view turned on.

Turn off self-view and you will find your focus and attention increases.

Quick Take: One Measure of Coaching Impact

The impact of coaching is difficult to quantify and measure. And it is difficult if not impossible to define ahead of time exactly what actions you will take as a coach and exactly what result those actions will produce.

But there are indicators that you are having an impact as a coach. Here is one.

If you have time scheduled with a leader you are coaching and you find that your 30 minute session becomes 60 or 90 minutes because you get into a good topic and the leader doesn’t want to cut the conversation short…that is an indicator that your coaching is impactful for that leader.

Leaders and executives are very busy and it is likely that their calendars are full. At the same time, they are willing to rearrange their calendars as needed based on shifting priorities.

If you have coaching conversations with these leaders and executives and find that your 30 minute session doesn’t end after 30 minutes because they are seeing the value of what you are doing, that is an endorsement of the impact you are having.

One thing that I’ve started doing is ensuring that my calendar has flexibility for the 30-60 minutes after a coaching conversation with a key leader or executive. Because the last thing I want to do is feel that I need to cut an impactful conversation short because I have another commitment.

People show you their priorities by what they do, more than what they say. If they say they are open to coaching and that your coaching is valuable, that is one thing. If they are also willing to move other meetings to continue their conversation with you, that demonstrates the impact you are having.

There is No Such Thing as an Urgent Email

Once upon a time, a house caught fire. The occupants of the house were understandably concerned and sprung into action. They did what we’re all trained to do in a situation such as this.

They picked up a pen and paper and wrote a letter. “House on fire. Please send help!”

They placed the letter in an envelope and addressed it to the nearest fire station and mailed the letter. They then went back inside with the relief that comes from knowing help is on the way.

My guess is that you think it was irrational to mail a letter when they were in urgent need of help. I fully agree.

Then why do we do the equivalent of this every single day?

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I Never Attend Meetings

a busy calendar

I’ve come to the conclusion that there are too many meetings. My calendar is sliced into 30-60 minute pieces. All day I run from meeting to meeting, just hoping that I might get lucky today and have time to eat lunch or use the restroom. And it is only when the day is done (or in the small hours before the day begins) that I’m able to do my ‘real’ work.

At least, that’s how it used to be.

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Necessary is Better Than Sufficient

Sufficient means solved, necessary means better.

When we have an unmet need, our desire is to see that need met. When we have a project or task, we want to see it completed.

In order to meet a need or complete a project, there are usually several steps along the way. If there are 5 steps to a project, then each step is ‘necessary’, and all the steps, taken together, are ‘sufficient’ to complete the project.

For example, if I want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, the necessary components are:

  • Two slices of bread
  • Peanut butter
  • Jelly
  • Assembling them correctly

Collectively, those are sufficient to deliver a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

So why is ‘necessary’ better than ‘sufficient?

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