Thursday, 30 August 2012

Each one, bring one

This week, I’d like to talk about the importance of supporting each other as women and three ways in which we can do that. I’d love to hear from you all, about other ways that women can support each other, so please leave a comment on the blog.

Firstly, I think women need to encourage each other.  The word ‘encourage’ means “to give support, confidence or hope [to someone].  I don’t know about you, but I could do with a bit more of that in my life, particularly from other women.  There’s just something about being supported by someone who understands what I’m going through, woman to woman.  As women, we need to end the competition and rivalry that can so often creep into our relationships.  There’s been a lie spread that there aren’t enough jobs, good men or opportunities to go round and so we have to connive and backstab other women, in order to get ahead.  I say it’s a lie, because if we sit down to think about it, we will soon recognise that we all have our own definitions of success and there is more than enough abundance to go around.

My next point is that women need to empower each other.  One of the meanings for this word is “to enable [someone] to do something.  This is probably the one that resonates most with me, because this is what I do as a coach.  My job isn’t to come as an expert, but rather to support my clients and enable them to come up with their own solutions. It is the solution that you come up with for yourself that you are most likely to stick with.  The beautiful thing is that being able to empower isn’t limited to just coaches.  As mothers we want to do this for our children, to help them develop the skills they need for life.  As working women, coaching, mentoring and developing other women is important, to make sure that women excel in the workplace. As friends, we want to do what we can, to empower our girlfriends to be the best that they can be.

Finally, in this sometimes tough and painful world, we need to comfort each other.  To comfort someone means to “soothe in grief or console”. Life happens.  We lose loved ones, we go through painful divorces, we lose jobs and sometimes we are challenged by disease and sickness. I know from personal experience, that when things have been tough it’s been the women who have stood with me, who have cried with me, who have prayed for me who have got me through.  Everyone needs someone, especially in life’s most challenging moments.  Someone who sees what we’re going through and comes alongside us to encourage us.  As women, we are fortunate to be a little more emotional than men and so we find it easier to connect on a heart level with each other.  When you’re going through a rough patch, you don’t necessarily want the rational or logical solutions first.  Sometimes, you just want someone to give you a hug and tell you it’s going to be okay.

As I end this week’s blog, I ask some questions of myself as well as you: who do I need to encourage? Who can I empower? Who needs my comfort? Or is it you who needs to be encouraged; empowered or comforted?

If you would like to find out more about how coaching could help you in all of these areas, please contact us through the website.

Until next week, go well.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

We've got the power...

A wonderful woman I met recently described my blogging personality as ‘waiting for something to happen to you, so you can tell someone about it!’  She’s absolutely right.  All my blogs are intensely personal because they are about things that I feel very strongly about.  This week’s blog has been brewing for a while and it’s about women and politics or more accurately political women.

Recently, I’ve been fortunate enough to connect with some absolutely fantastic women and our common interest is women.  What empowers us? What disempowers us? What diminishes us? What strengthens us? What silences us? What gives us a voice?  As you can imagine when a bunch of women get together to talk about these kinds of issues, there’s passionate debate and a whole host of theories on how to change things.  What all this has made me do, is re-think what it means to be political as a woman and what my own politics are at this moment in time.  One of the slogans from the early women’s liberation movement was “the personal is political”.  It’s the title of an essay written by Carol Hanisch and the central premise is that a lot of the problems faced by women are as a result of systematic gendered oppression.  I’m talking about sexism in the workplace.  I’m talking about domestic and sexual violence.  I’m talking about routine practices that have the effect of limiting women’s life chances.  What could be more personal than having all my external genitalia cut off in the name of culture and tradition? What could be more political than naming it for the mutilation that it is and fighting to protect the rights and bodies of the millions of girls at risk of female genital mutilation?

As women we need to understand that we have the power to make a change.  One of my favourite poems is called ‘no more smalling up of me’, by the Jamaican poet Jean Wilson and there’s a brilliant line that says “...even as I am speaking I am taking shape and form, harnessing my powers, like a gathering storm...”  As women, we have to start seeing ourselves as whole, strong and powerful.  We need to start taking responsibility for the change we want to see.  We need to understand that we don’t need anyone’s permission to fight for what is right.  When the women’s movement started in the UK in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, feminist activists were told to bring evidence of the domestic and sexual violence they were complaining about.  This led to unprecedented numbers of women going into academia and social policy work, so that they were in a position to evidence what they already knew to be the case about violence against women.  My generation of women are bright, intelligent, well educated and articulate women, but we have to step up, step out and exercise our political power.

Not many people I know wake up one morning and say “I’m bored I think I’ll start a social movement”.  Being involved in a social movement is hard.  It is frustrating.  Sometimes it feels like nothing is ever going to change.  But here’s the thing, ask anyone in it whether they would rather be doing something else and the answer is generally a resounding no! I’m a die-hard opponent of violence against women.  Is it going to make me rich? Probably not.  Will it make me famous? Probably not.  Do I feel fulfilled in the work that I do? Absolutely. 

Social movements are usually born out of people’s frustration at the status quo.  A status quo that is failing them.  The American Civil Rights movement, the worldwide women’s movements were all driven in my view, by a deep sense of injustice at how people were marginalised and mistreated because of their gender or ethnicity.  This week, I’m inviting you to think about the ways that you can exercise your political power, the ways that you can bring about change.

If you’d like to know more about violence against women and our training programme, please contact us through the website.

Until next week, go well.


Thursday, 16 August 2012

If you want to walk on water you've got to get out of the boat

This week’s blog takes its title from one of my favourite books from John Ortberg.  He’s talking about faith, but I think it works equally well, when  talking about fear.

So much has already been written on the subject of fear that I’m almost thinking "why bother?"  However, the purpose of my blog is to educate, inform, enlighten and empower my readers, so here’s my contribution.  I hope it does one or more of the above.  Even if all it does is remind you of what you already know, that’s okay too.

The first point I’d like to make is that fear is a perfectly natural human emotion. It acts as an alert system, to tell us that we are facing danger.  It warns us when we are about to get into a painful or threatening situation.  Without fear, some of us might find ourselves indulging in some very high risk behaviour.  In my view though, fear is less useful when it stops us from launching out into our dreams.  It’s wise to have a healthy regard for danger, but sometimes we allow fear to paralyse us and prevent us from moving forwards.  Starting a new business and abseiling off the top of a very tall building are both likely to generate feelings of fear.  However, one is about making progress and the other is just about dropping off of a tall building (I’ll let you decide which is which!)

Another thing about fear is that it is quite the chameleon.  Fear is often at the root of other emotions like anger, insecurity or jealousy. How many of us have memories of being out late as kids and receiving a good telling off (or worse) from our parents?  Underneath the anger at our disobedience is likely to be a strong feeling of fear about our safety. The reason why it’s important to be aware of this is so we can get to the root of challenging situations or conflicts with those around us.  A lot of individuals and men in particular have been taught to suppress a lot of their emotions, except for anger.   What happens then is that everything comes out as anger.  This can result in inappropriate and destructive behaviour in the home, workplace or in wider society.

The last thing I’d like to mention is that even change that we instigate ourselves can be scary.  The decision to make a change can evoke very strong opposing emotions and we can end up having very mixed feelings about the very change we sought out ourselves.  It’s a kind of a seesaw effect, we want the change but we don’t want the change.  In my practice, I’ve noticed people being very excited, almost euphoric about making the decision to have coaching. Yet when the time comes to make a commitment, I find that people can become very evasive, start procrastinating or act in some other way that lets me know that fear has kicked in.  My role as a coach in these situations is to understand that fear is likely to be at the root of the behaviour and support my potential clients with empathy and compassion.

So, how do we get over this fear? Truthfully, I’m not sure that we’re ever supposed to.  I think in the words of Susan Jeffers, were supposed to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’.  In my mind that means acknowledging the fear, working out what it's really about and moving through it quietly and powerfully.  Each time we do that, we get a little stronger for the next time.

Would you would like to find out how coaching could help you tackle your fears?  Contact us via the website for your ‘no obligation’, free, 30 minute empowerment session.

Until next week, go well.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

The leadership trilogy III

Imagine how you would feel in the following scenario.  You are off work, having been diagnosed with cancer.  You get a letter from your boss stating that you have exceeded the maximum number of sick days for the year.  As a result of that, if you don’t come back to work, you will be subject to disciplinary proceedings.  Most of us would be appalled to hear such a scenario, but it’s actually a true story.

This week’s post focuses on emotional intelligence.  I’ve chosen to write about it last, but I actually think it’s the number one attribute that leaders need to have.

The concept of emotional intelligence really came into its own in the 1990s, pioneered mainly by Daniel Goleman. It was big news because it offered an explanation for why people of average IQ outperform people with the highest IQ levels. It’s still a hugely popular area of research and writing.  When I googled it, it came back with 10,400,000 hits! 

There are 4 core emotional intelligence skills of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management and reams have been written on each one of them.  I like to think of emotional intelligence as the ability to calibrate one’s own emotions, being aware of other people’s emotions and managing your interactions with other people.  If charisma and integrity are the bread and butter of leadership, then emotional intelligence is definitely the filling.

Given the four core skills and my own very basic definition, some of you might be wondering ‘why do leaders need to be emotionally intelligent?’  In the workplace, we have long treasured the ‘masculine’ skills of logic, reason and facts and discounted the ‘feminine’ skills of emotion, intuition and a more collegiate approach.  However, I am sure we have all experienced leaders who were very good at what they did, but left us feeling battered and bruised in the process.  Bullying, name calling, belittling are all signs of a leader with low emotional intelligence. When challenged, these leaders usually feel genuinely surprised, because their thinking is that they’ve got the job done and that’s all that should matter.  Teams headed by these leaders are usually fractured and in due course underperform because they have been disempowered and demoralised.  The manager in the scenario above could definitely do with improving their emotional intelligence.

Conversely, if I were to ask for a description of your best boss, I’m sure I would hear phrases like ‘they made me feel valued’; ‘they really listened to me’ or ‘I felt really supported and so was confident enough to bring new ideas to the table’. Simply put, leaders with high levels of emotional intelligence are able to motivate their staff to a very significant degree. Technical skills are no longer enough.  In order to be a truly effective leader, you also need to be emotionally intelligent.  All of us are constantly interacting with other people and we need to be able to calibrate our own emotions and manage our interactions with others appropriately.

As I said in the first post, good leadership looks a lot like coaching.  As coaches we need to have some charisma, otherwise we’d struggle to build rapport with clients.  We need to have integrity, because coaching involves intimacy and clients need to be able to trust us as coaches.  Finally, coaches need to have high levels of emotional intelligence, because coaching involves walking alongside our clients with empathy and kindness but also a willingness to hold people to account.

I end with a quote: “leadership is action, not position”[1]. We all have spheres of influence where we might be called upon to demonstrate leadership qualities.  How well we do that depends on the qualities we bring.  You could do worse than to start with charisma, integrity and emotional intelligence in my view.

Are you wondering how coaching could help your leadership? Do you want to know more about coaching generally? Contact us through the website and book your free 30 minute consultation.

Until next week, go well.

[1] Gary R Collins, PhD: Christian Coaching

Thursday, 2 August 2012

The leadership trilogy (II)

I wish I could think of a snazzier title for this series.  It sounds like a lecture you’d rather not be at!

If you found a wallet full of money on an aeroplane you were cleaning, what would you do? Back in April a Nigerian cleaner found a wallet full of foreign exchange in his assigned cleaning area and he handed it in to the airline authorities. As you can imagine, the owner of the wallet was mightily relieved.  However, some of his colleagues were less than impressed!  This week the leadership quality I’m looking at is integrity.  A quality that seems to be the Achilles heel of many a leader, judging by the number of scandals in the papers.

As I listened to the news last week, with reports of oil marketers being prosecuted for fuel subsidy fraud, pension scams and the long running Farouk Lawan/Femi Otedola bribe scandal, one question kept coming to mind.  What’s happened to integrity?  I thought of ancient samurai warriors who would rather commit hara-kiri (Japanese ritual suicide) than live in shame.  I thought of the notion of ministerial responsibility, where a minister takes personal responsibility for wrongdoing within their department (although that’s becoming much rarer now too!)  If integrity in its most basic form is about people being able to trust you, why do so many of our leaders fall short?  I’d like to suggest 2 possible reasons:

The first reason I would like to put forward is greed.  It’s often said that money is the root of all evil.  When it comes to a breakdown of integrity, money and sex are right up there as 2 major causes.  The textbook example for me is Enron.  The authors of a book detailing the rise and fall of Enron describe the scandal as “having grown out of a steady accumulation of habits, values and actions that began years before and spiralled out of control”.  That quote is perfect in my view because it describes the slow, but steady decline of people’s integrity. It may start with a little ‘white lie’, which snowballs into something bigger as a result of trying to cover up the first lie. At the heart of the Enron scandal was their desire and determination to maintain their financial standing-with clients and Wall Street and with it, their own financial wealth.

My second reason is fear.  The “everyone’s doing it and I don’t want to stick out” approach.  All of us are guilty of this one to a lesser or greater degree.  How many times have you found yourself laughing at an offensive joke because you didn’t want to be accused of being a bit of a square?  How often have you colluded with perpetrators of harassment or bullying, by simply staying quiet, instead of challenging the behaviour? I understand that it can be scary to speak out in situations like this, but the alternative is even worse.  A society where racism, sexism and every other kind of discrimination flourish because other people don’t speak up.

Some of you may be asking what’s the big deal about integrity? For me, it’s all about the trust factor.  I want to know that I can trust that politician or lawyer or doctor or any other person in a leadership position.  I want to know that I can rely on them.  A person who seeks to lead without integrity may be tolerated for a little while, but has no real credibility and is unlikely to succeed in the long run.

I hope you’re enjoying the series so far.  Next week, I‘ll be concluding the series with a piece on emotional intelligence. 

Would you like to find out more about any of the issues raised in this blog or just more about coaching? Then please contact us through the website.

Until next week, go well.