Archive for the ‘Topic – Self-belief’ Category

Scare Yourself Today!

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

I have finally got around to tidying up the three vlogs I recorded in Glacier National Park, Montana US earlier this year. I did really scare myself with this first one – I came face to face with a grizzly bear and her cub! But we can learn by scaring ourselves – but it needs to be managed! This will show you how!

Clear Focus, New Heights – #4

Sunday, August 23rd, 2015

Toxicity of Trying

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

Are these really Andy Murray’s motivational notes? I really do hope they are not – but there has been no denial and they appear to have been written on the back of a letter to him.

Why do I hope they are not? Well, to me they appear toxic. Toxic to a top sports person seeking to be the best they can be (in other words winning every match).

As with all top sports people, I’m sure that Andy and his team pore over huge amounts of performance data to analyse what he is doing, how he is doing it, when he is doing it, etc.  So let’s undertake a little analyse of these motivational notes:

  • There are 61 words on the page
  • These are divided into 10 points
  • There are 4 words – which are either verbs or words with 3 or more letters – that appear three or more times – ‘be’ (4), ‘your’ (4), ‘the’ (3) and ‘try’ (3).

Of that analysis, the last point is the most striking and concerning for me.

Murray is going to ‘try’ to do something.

And almost of a third of the 10 points he is going to ‘try’ to achieve.

The word ‘try’ is one of the most unhelpful – perhaps even toxic – words that can be used in relation to performance management and improvement.

How many organisations publish goals that say they are going to ‘try’ to do something?

In your personal or professional life, what do you mean when you say you are going to ‘try’ to do something? Just say it to yourself now …

It usually means one of two things. Firstly, it could mean that you might have a go, but you’re not convinced that you will be able to achieve it – because of your personal abilities, your belief or your other time constraints. Secondly, it could mean that you have no intention of doing or will to do it, but you add the word ‘try’ in to avoid the discussion around the fact you will not be doing it.

It isn’t even a word that needs replacing – it just needs taking out.

“Try to be the one dictating”, becomes “Be the one dictating”.

“Try to keep him at the baseline make him move”, becomes “Keep him at the baseline make him move”.

How different do those sentences sound and feel without the word ‘try’?

I have worked with a number of people who have struggled to pass exams – I work with them on their personal approach and exam techniques. I am proud of my success in that every person who I have worked with – all who have previously failed the nominated exam – have all passed (or even gained Distinctions) with the work we have undertaken together.

One of the foundations of this approach is that I will not permit the use of the word ‘try’. As I have mentioned previously in one of my blogs, Yoda understand this.

In the Star Wars film, “The Empire Strikes Back”. Yoda, the small and strange looking Jedi Master is training Luke Skywalker. Yoda sets him numerous challenges and tests to help mould the youth into a Jedi. When Luke is given one particularly challenging task, he responds to Yoda that he will ‘try’.  “No,” Yoda retorts, “Do, or do not. There is no try.”

As Murray’s team continues to mould him into the best tennis player he can be, they need to address the ‘try’ – “Do or do not. There is no try.”

Incidentally, Murray lost the match.

You might not be a tennis player, or taking an exam – but the principle is the same – so when do you use the word ‘try’ and what impact can it have for you if you were to drop it?

Paul

Manage your performance – then manage others’

Sunday, December 1st, 2013

In my last post I explored the concept of the importance of managing ourselves when managing a potentially challenging performance conversation.

Here are the tips I promised to help if you are one of those people who think they could do with a little more positive belief!

Breathe – “take a deep breath”, people sometimes say when about to undertake a new or challenging situation … this is because breathing is at the core of effective performance. As soon as we lose our usual breathing pattern, it has a negative influence on our physiology, our posture, our feelings, our ability to perform. If you feel you are losing it, take a deep breath!

Count to 10 – And then they say, “Count to 10”. This can help if you are experiencing unhelpful emotions – anger or frustration for example. Concentrating on a cognitive task can help re-focus your thoughts and regain composure.

Smile more – when I coach people for job interviews, one of the behaviours I ask them to experiment with is smiling – from an hour before the interview. Smiling activates different emotions to frowning, and so will make a person feel more positive. Do you have a (clean!) pen or pencil nearby? If so, put it horizontally between your lips. Now do the same with it between your teeth. What is the difference? French researchers found that when people watched comedies with pencils between their teeth they found them funnier than when people watched them with pencils between their lips – the former making them smile, the latter giving them a sadder expression. Simple facial movements, but they can have a huge effect on the rest of you.

Take control of your self-talk – don’t tell yourself something is going to go wrong – tell yourself it will go right!.  And do you use the word “try” when you tell yourself you are about to do something? If so, you are possibly going to stop yourself before you start.  When Yoda, the small and strange Jedi Master in ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, is training the young Luke Skywalker, he sets Luke numerous challenges and tests to help build the boy into a Jedi. When Luke is given one particularly challenging task, he responds to Yoda that he will ‘try’.  ”No,” Yoda retorts, “Do, or do not. There is no try.” Tell yourself you will do it – as opposed to telling yourself you will try to do it. Create your own history with positive self-fulfilling prophecies, and in order to do this …

Visualise yourself succeeding – you need more than talk. Picture yourself and hear yourself performing well in the situation you face. Experience the positive feelings this generates. Practice this and relatively quickly a person can turn a situation they are concerned about into a situation where they see themselves performing exceptionally well – and then they stay synchronised and carry it through on the day. If you would like more details on this technique, please let me know.

But a word of warning – these techniques take a little time to perfect. Don’t practice them for the first time at the workshop, practice them beforehand. Find out what works for you. Develop them to meet your own needs.

Manage your own performance – and then manage the performance of the other person.

Do you have any other techniques that work? If so, please let me know.

Paul

 

Managing your Performance – what do you believe?

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

I have recently been delivering some Performance Management Workshops. They have been designed to help managers address difficult conversations more effectively, and to equip managers with more skills to improve staff performance.

Delegates have been directed to some excellent models, theories and reading materials prior to attending the workshops.

What I have noticed, however, is that the majority of such theories and models address how to deal with the other person – and pay little or no attention to how the manager manages their own needs. From my experience, managers often know these theories, but are not as effective as they could be in implementing them due to their own levels of confidence.

This happens to a lot of people in such situations – and in similar ones such as job interviews and presenting to audiences. But it doesn’t need to be like that. If you are such a person, these two posts will help you.

Take yourself back to the last time you dealt with a potentially challenging performance management issue (or job interview, or presentation, etc), what were you thinking to yourself immediately beforehand? Perhaps it was one of the following:

  • I have to do this
  • I think this isn’t going to go well
  • I need to do this
  • I want to have a go at doing this
  • I will try and do this
  • I am going to do this effectively

Often our beliefs will become ‘self-fulfilling prophecies’ – we talk ourselves into a belief and that’s what happens … and then we say to ourselves, “there, see, I knew that is how it would turn out”. You need to approach such situations truly believing the last statement – you are going to deal with the situation effectively.

This is what top sports people do – they visualise themselves winning, or scoring the penalty; they convince themselves they will achieve what they need to.

What they say to themselves immediately before performing will relate to the final one of the six statements. And this is where you need to be.

The boxer Muhammed Ali was one of the greatest exponents of this. He would undertake research on his opponents, discuss the information with his team, plan how he wanted the boxing match to go, and ultimately predict his winning round. Not only did he convince himself of this, he would also tell the press and his opponents what round he would win in. He would put his predictions into poems, which made them more memorable – for both him and his opponents – and more newsworthy for the journalists. Many of his opponents were unable to disregard this information – the result being that more often than not Ali won in the round he predicted.  He wrote his own script. And you can write your own scripts.

What Ali did was to gather information, analyse it and make predictions based on this (using his IQ) and then make those predictions a reality using his Emotional Intelligence (EI) or Emotional Quota (EQ). Effective managers understand the need for and ability to use their Emotional Intelligence.

Ali was also obviously attempting to negatively influence his opponents – you will not have opponents in your situation, so it may be that a Winston Churchill quote works for you – “Do something about the things you can do something about – and then go to sleep”. What that quote does is capture where your energies should be when addressing what could be a challenging situation with a work colleague. Too many people think (and worry) about what the person we are due to meet may say, think or do. This is often unhelpful as all they end up doing is thinking about the worst case scenarios – and in turn work themselves up even more! Concentrate on what you can do something about.

There are 4 key aspects of Emotional Intelligence:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-management
  • Social awareness
  • Relationship management

– and whilst all are important, the key requirement for many people when dealing with a challenging situation is the aspect of Self-management.

Within the Emotional Intelligence Quick Book by Bradberry and Greaves, Self-management is summarised as:

  • The ability to use your awareness of your emotions to stay flexible, and direct your behaviour positively
  • The ability to tolerate an exploration of your emotions, understand the breadth of your feelings and allow the best course of action to show itself

Without effective Self-management, a person is unlikely to function effectively – and this will impact on all the other aspects of EI.

How do you manage yourself in such situations? What techniques do you use?

In my next post, I will give you some tips on how you can be more positive in such situations – and so improve your performance and effectiveness.

Paul

 

Perez Needed Positive Messages

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

I have huge respect for racing drivers. They demonstrate a level of focus that can be found in few other sports people. A Formula 1 driver drives each corner almost inch perfect, time after time, and their speed has to be absolutely on the button. One mistake and they are finished for that race. This is so different from almost every other sport – in team sports, there is time to rectify errors – the game doesn’t end as the first point is scored or goal is registered.  In individual sports, the tennis player can serve again or play another point, and the golfer has 18 holes (sometimes 72) if they mess one up.

And so I was watching the Malaysian Grand Prix last weekend – which was made more eventful by rain. As it drew to its conclusion, the Mexican Sergio “Checo” Perez driving for Sauber – usually one of the less competitive teams – was in second position, and appeared to have the chance to win the race. He gradually reduced the distance between himself and Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari. Finally, he was within a second of it with half a dozen laps to go. The chance was there.

Then he received a message over his radio from his pit crew. “Checo be careful, we need this position, be careful”. They needed the position because points bring in cash in Formula 1, and perhaps because this was the nearest that Peter Sauber, the team principal, had been to victory in almost 20 years of Formula 1. But ‘be careful’? And twice in the same sentence?  Checo had contended with torrential rain whilst driving at 150mph and with visibility down to a few yards for the first part of the race. Now with a relatively clear track and dry conditions he is told to “be careful”!

Almost as soon as he had received the message, he ran wide off the track, lost several seconds and that was the end of his challenge for first place. He did manage to regain control, and so finished in second place, but what could have been?

And more importantly, was the loss of control the result of being told to “be careful”?

This focussing of people’s minds on the potential pitfalls rather than on their achievements is something I come across on an almost daily basis in workplaces. I saw a sign recently on some stairs which read, “Do not spill your drink – this causes a slip hazard”. I wondered which members of staff in particular attempted or wanted to spill their drinks on the stairs. And when a drink is spilt, it appears that you don’t need to clean it up! Perhaps a better sign could have been “If you spill liquids, clean up to avoid slips – thanks” – same amount of words, but perhaps a different focus for the message – and a different message?

I also hear it a lot where children are involved – and this is the most concerning issue for me. “Don’t spill your drink”, “Be careful with your plate”, “Don’t fall over”, “Make sure you don’t fall off the climbing frame”, and so they go on. The vast majority of children have no intention of doing any of these things – they are probably already concentrating on achieving (or perhaps not failing) before hearing these ‘words of wisdom’, so what help are they? Or what hindrance are they?

“Well done for carrying that full cup”, “You carried that plate beautifully”, and “You’ve done really well getting to the top of that climbing frame” could be so much more effective. The child will grow up looking at the world in a more positive way, and they will have more self-belief.

And as they move into the work environment, perhaps we would then see fewer notices like the one above – and Checo and Peter Sauber may have won their first Grand Prix.

Paul

No sting in the tale

Monday, October 10th, 2011

It happened again last week. Twice in fact. It’s not something I enjoy doing particularly in one respect, but I am aware that many people are impressed, or sometimes fascinated by it.

I can kill wasps by waiting for the wasp to fly in front of me and I then clap my hands together and squash it between the palms of my hands. My ‘skill’ was called into action as we were having a barbeque, the conservatory door was open, it was a warm late summer afternoon and this was a heady mix for some of our local wasps. We also had a guest, Georgia, and the first wasp was taking a liking to Georgia – or her food.

I have had this skill for about 20 or 30 years now. I often get asked how I developed the skill – which seems a reasonable question. It just happened that someone was getting very, very scared by the proximity of a wasp, I had nothing else to use to attack it and so clapped my hands with the wasp between them. End of.  The other question I am often asked is whether I have ever been stung whilst doing this. The answer is no – and I must have done it a couple of hundred times before.

We spent a holiday on a boat with another family in the beautiful Croatia about 10 years ago. Croatia has a lot of wasps and so I ended up using my skill on a number of occasions. Stuart, a member of the other family, was relatively impressed with the skill and having seen me do it quite a number of times decided that it obviously wasn’t too difficult and so he would have a go. He asked for some instruction on how I did it, which I happily gave, and off he went. He only did it once – he got stung! And I can still remember the way he looked at me – as if to say, “You knew that was going to happen”. But I didn’t. He is the only other person I have ever seen attempt it. Is my skill so unique?

I was asked again in some detail last week as to how I do it. Other than to say I wait until the wasp is about 18 inches in front on me and at about chest height, and then I clap my hands together quickly with the wasp between them, I don’t really know what else to add. Do you try to get it with the palms of your hands or the part between the palm indent and the bottom of the fingers I was asked? I don’t really know. As soon as I do it, I know I always remove the wasp as quickly as possible in case there is still a sting in the tale [sic].

The one aspect that is more difficult to help someone learn is my belief in reaching a successful outcome. It is one of the few things I can do (which few other people can do) where I have complete and absolute belief in my ability to achieve it. Stuart didn’t have that belief – I could see he approached it with trepidation, nervous of being stung. He worried about it happening, and it did – he generated a self-fulfilling prophecy. And belief is, I know, the key ingredient of my success.

And as the skill comes so effortlessly to me, I’m possibly the worst person to explain to someone else how to do it. You may have heard the phrase, “Those that can’t do it, teach it”. And I think there is a lot of sense in that saying. If you can’t do something, and have tried all sorts of different ways to be able to do something, you may well be the best person to teach others. In the same way, for example, that the world’s top tennis players are coached by ex-players who were not as good at tennis themselves.

As I look at the wind and rain outside this morning, I expect I will not be using my skill again until next year. But when I do, I know exactly what the result will be.

Is it pointless trying (except in rugby)?

Sunday, July 3rd, 2011

How often do you use the word ‘Try’ when you are telling yourself or others that you are going to do something? And just as importantly, what are you really saying? For such a small word, it can have hugely debilitating effects.

The use of the word comes up in many coaching sessions I undertake – and that’s because managers and leaders have a propensity to use it. Think of the last time you used it, and then think about what you were really saying.

Sometimes when people use it, and they say that they are going to ‘try’ and do something, they are really sharing that they don’t really have the confidence or belief that they can achieve whatever it is. They are already giving themselves a way out, telling themselves that it’s alright if they don’t achieve whatever it is they are going to ‘try’ to do.

On other occasions it can be used more dishonestly – and sadly I have to admit to using it in this way myself.  For example, if my wife asks me to do something, and I know there is little possibility of me doing it due to other – as far as I am concerned – more pressing or important activities, I will respond that I will ‘try’ to do it (I’m hoping and assuming that this is not too much of a revelation for her, but I also know I’m reasonably safe as she doesn’t read my blogs … well, I don’t think she does …). And guess what – it usually doesn’t get done.

The common denominator between the two examples is that the task or activity we are considering will probably not be achieved. As a rule of thumb or a default position, I find that the more a person uses the word ‘try’, the less they will accomplish.

There was some American research undertaken a number of years ago that supports my rule of thumb. It found that where a manager says that they are going to ‘try’ to undertake something, they are approximately 50% less likely to achieve it than when they leave out the word ‘try’. Unfortunately, I can’t re-find the source (but if anyone has it please let me know!).

You have probably heard the proverb, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again”. According to Gregory Titelman’s book, “The Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings”, it has been traced back to a book called ‘Teacher’s Manual’ by the American educator Thomas H. Palmer, and it was designed to motivate American children to do their homework. Palmer (1782-1861) wrote in his ‘Teacher’s Manual’: ‘Tis a lesson you should heed, try, try again. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.’ I wonder whether it had the desired effect?

A more positive quote, or way of looking at matters, can be found in the Star Wars film, “The Empire Strikes Back”. Yoda, the small and strange looking Jedi Master is training Luke Skywalker. Yoda sets him numerous challenges and tests to help build the boy into a Jedi. When Luke is given one particularly challenging task, he responds to Yoda that he will ‘try’.  ”No,” Yoda retorts, “Do, or do not. There is no try.”

And Yoda is right. There really is no try. We do something or we don’t do something. And so many thousands, possibly millions, more goals would be achieved every day if we stopped talking to ourselves and others in terms of ‘trying’.

There is, however, one situation where a ‘try’ is an achievement. This is in rugby. A ‘try’ is scored when a player touches the ball down behind the opponent’s goal line. Why was that word used? Well, a ‘try’ originally didn’t get any points. When it was first introduced, the only way to score points was by kicking a goal – and the ‘try’ simply gave the team the opportunity to kick for goal and for points. The game has moved on since then, but the terminology has not.

But do you need to move on with your terminology? How often do you ‘try’? Does it add to your successes or stop you from achieving? Listen out for the next time you say it. Reflect on it. If necessary, plan to use a different phrase in future and evaluate how it impacts on your performance.

Paul

Belief is Madness

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

As many other people do around this time of year, I have started reflecting on the past twelve months.  One of my areas of reflection has been around, “What has happened that has most surprised me?” Within a work perspective this has been, without doubt,  the evidence of the power of belief. I have worked with many people this year – both on a one to one basis and in groups – who have demonstrated what can be achieved through believing in themselves.

I have known this to be the case for a long time, but I haven’t previously witnessed so many powerful achievements that have quite obviously meant so much to the people concerned. And I have had so much joy in being able to share their huge senses of achievement.

What is sad, perhaps, is that for some of these people they have had to wait until their 40’s to have that belief – or should I say regain that belief?

When we are born we are surely positive. As we grow up, we constantly try out new things, learn what we can do and what we cannot (yet) do. And then we are influenced by people who we think know best – those people who impact on us in our childhoods. And that’s where children can go in different directions.

This is evident from the UK reality TV shows I was discussing in my last post.  Rebecca from the X Factor has a wonderful voice, but she didn’t believe that 6 months ago. Over the duration of the Programme as she has constantly been told how and why her voice is so good, viewers have witnessed her grow in belief and personal stature. As a consequence, her performances have improved.

If we then turn our attention to The Apprentice, we have a group of contestants who generally have huge belief in their capabilities – so much so that when they are ‘Fired’ they often believe that Lord Sugar has made a significant mistake! There was a great moment a couple of weeks ago when one contestant – Stuart – thought that he was going to be fired, and so he made an impassioned plea. Within it, he said how great he was, what he could for Lord Sugar and how much money he would make for him – but there was no evidence. What made it particularly powerful was how easily a hardened business person like Sugar was ‘taken in’ – evidenced by his personal  anger the following week at having been ‘taken in’. But it was a great demonstration of what can be achieved through the power of belief in yourself.

Finally, another TV programme in the listings caught my eye. This was, “Believe – the Eddie Izzard Story”. This turned out to be a very touching and intimate portrait of the comedian’s life so far. It detailed how he kept being told he wasn’t good enough by various people and the constant knocks he had received until his late 20’s, and the self-belief and determination he displayed.

At one point he reflected on his approach. “It’s what I call the madness. If you think you can perform and the whole world is saying that you can’t perform, then you’re obviously mad. If you hold on to that madness, and you hold on to it, and you hold on to it, and you hold on to it, for years and later it comes good and you can actually perform it proves that you weren’t mad. You just have to surround that little bit of belief and hold on to it for as long as it takes”. And later he added, “If fear gets in the way, you just push fear back”.

What do you want to achieve next year, and do you believe you can achieve it? And if you haven’t yet got the requisite self-belief, how are you going to re-discover it?

Paul

Self belief in the palms of your hands

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

One of the few quotes that I can remember (and still think of in certain situations) from studying English Literature at school is from “The Rivals” by R. B. Sheridan. From my hazy recollection, it occurs in the run up to a duel and Acres, the farm hand, says, “My valour is certainly going! – it is sneaking off! I feel it oozing out as it were at the palms of my hands!” Quite brilliant. I can smile now as I recall having on such occasions actually looked at my hands to see if I can see it oozing out! But if you don’t have that self belief, can you ever feel it deserting you?

I received a lovely email from a person a couple of days ago.  I happened to see a post from her on the CIPD website and she seemed to be struggling in preparing for an exam. I offered to help, she accepted, and we had a number of telephone coaching sessions – on a no payment basis – leading up to her exam. I have never met her before and it may well be that we don’t communicate again.

She wrote, “I really wanted to thank you again for all your help. I don’t find very often in life that people are prepared to give up so much time and effort to help a stranger, and I really appreciate it. As I said before I believe it made a vital difference in allowing me to believe in myself a bit, and even if I don’t pass the exam, I at least feel that I did everything I could at that point.”

Two reasons for sharing this. Firstly, it is a great example of what I was trying to explain I wanted this blog to be all about in my last post – this will possibly make it clearer to you! The second aspect relates to confidence. It never ceases to amaze me just how many very capable people need that little bit of support and encouragement to start believing in themselves. And once they do, things just seem to start happening for them …

I was out coaching a person yesterday, and the person I was with also falls into this category. Someone who gets very little praise at work yet who has so many positive qualities. Working very hard, but no one is encouraging her development. Her company is not getting the best out of her. She is not as motivated as she could be.

There is a great site at http://www.businessballs.com that has all sort of tools and ideas for so many different development situations. If you think you could benefit from believing in yourself a little more, or if you are just interested in different ideas, have a look at what it has to offer at http://www.businessballs.com/selfbelief.htm .

Paul