I got fired – (and what I learned)

I’ve been fired twice.

Once from a seasonal job in Switzerland – for insubordination. (If you know me, that won’t surprise you at all – and in my defence, I was very young). And a year or so later for not ‘looking the part’ (my ‘just out of student life’ gear didn’t work in the hallowed world of posh interior design).

That taught me I wanted to work in a ‘less traditional’ environment – over the next ten years my travel industry job took me to Spain, France, Australia, Thailand, Israel, Greece, Egypt, Cyprus, Hawaii (someone had to do it). My bosses were a plane journey away and I worked with some great people who became lifelong friends. (That taught me the value of true friendship – and freedom)

And then… The Big Senior Role – oh, how seductive that sounded. A proper, grown up job with an assistant and everything. New laptop, new car, new Amex card – well, get me. (That taught me that things are not always what they seem.)

Loved the people, hated the corporate BS, some of the slightly unethical (IMO) practices, the cavernous open-plan office, the one-upmanship and ‘presenteeism’. I floundered like a fish for a very long time (far too long, actually) until I finally ‘got’ what I was there to do.) (That taught me the absolute joy of finding your ‘thing’.)

And once I’d found my ‘thing’ I knew I had to get way, way better at it. (That taught me the value of asking for help, guidance and support from someone with no agenda and a clear-sightedness that I didn’t always have. I’ve worked with many people like this over the years to help me in all aspects of my life, business and work – and continue to do so.)

If you want to be a confident, inspiring ‘comfortable in your own skin’ boss who gets the right things done, is surrounded by talented, happy and motivated people, goes home at night without feeling exhausted or overwhelmed then congratulations.

Not quite there yet? That’s where I can help. That’s my thing.

And BTW I can get you started in less time than it takes to watch an episode of House of Cards – GUARANTEED)

Intrigued? Contact pat@lynnscottcoaching and let’s talk.

Corporate values are meaningless unless….

I have to say I am sometimes a bit cynical about corporate values (there, I said it!). Not because they are not good things to have – in theory they are – but because so often they are words created to sound good, written by the senior team, a ‘project group’ or a bunch of consultants who then think ‘job done’. But everyone else thinks they are being ‘done to’.

No-one in the business really understands them or remembers them and even if they do, they don’t necessarily see those values being lived or breathed on a daily basis.

And we all know that actions speak louder than words.

There’s also the belief that some values can be seen as unhelpful to organisational performance or a way of avoiding doing ‘the tough stuff.’ (Years ago I worked with a CEO who wanted everyone to be ‘happy’ – he shut down any conversation whatsoever that wasn’t about ‘happy’ – you can imagine how that worked out……)

And here are two examples I’ve heard more recently:

‘How can I tell that person he’s not pulling his weight when we have the values of ‘respect and caring?’ (Interpretation of value: ‘Don’t say anything that’s ‘not nice.’)

Or ‘I’m so annoyed with her behaviour in the meeting but I can’t say anything because we have a value of mutual respect.’ (Interpretation of value: ‘Put up and shut up rather than give honest feedback’).

Part of the problem is in the interpretation of the value (SOLUTION: we need to do what Judith Glaser in her work on Conversational Intelligence calls ‘double clicking’ to really understand what those value words mean and how we live them on a daily basis).

The second part of the problem is we get into either/or thinking. ‘I can either be respectful and caring OR I can give tough feedback’. SOLUTION: The better question is ‘how can I be respectful and caring AND give tough feedback?’

And the ultimate proof of whether your values have any teeth? If I followed you around for a week would I see those values in action every day?

Best read of the year

As always I’m taking a break from writing new blogs in August to recharge my batteries (I try to practise what I preach) so over this month I will be sharing four of this year’s most popular blog posts with you. If you haven’t read them yet….here’s your chance!

This week:

I recommended this book just before Christmas last year. It’s a must read.

21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari

So if you’re off on your holidays, put it on your reading list.

Compelling, frightening, illuminating and completely mind boggling.

Small talk can change your life (for the better)

A couple of years ago, I gave one of my clients an experiment to practise ‘small talk’ with a variety of people in and outside work. In the supermarket, on the many flights he took for work, with colleagues and so on.

There was a solid business case and reason for this as well as a deeply personal one which was about building trust, being genuinely interested in others and getting to know people as ‘human beings’ not just roles and titles. In essence it was about helping him to CONNECT with his work colleagues.  He’d struggled to do this using the belief that ‘private stuff has no place at work’ and it was having a detrimental effect on his work relationships – people described him as ‘secretive’ and ‘closed’ when of course he simply saw the world in a different way from his peers .

He really wanted to change this (whilst remaining true to what he described as ‘my inner introvert’!)  and so he started those experiments. He found it hard at first. He thought that talking about the weather, or the queues or last night’s match was ‘trivia’.

Then he found that as he focused on the other person and asked questions (we drew up a ‘good questions’ list to help him get off the starting blocks!) and genuinely listened…. his relationships at work started to improve.

People came to him more often, they asked HIM more questions and the connections were strengthened. He became more quietly confident and assured. He felt happier.  People asked him to contribute more. Win-Win.

Now, I don’t believe any of us should try to be something we’re not. That’s the opposite of authentic. But with a ‘bit of tweaking’ and a measure of courage and willingness to experiment we can all find ways to grow, develop and enhance our lives and the lives of others.

 

 

5 Ways to Avoid Time-wasting Meetings (without ruining relationships)

One of the biggest time wasters in organisations is meetings. So much of them are simply collective procrastination with people pretending that stuff is actually getting done.

When it isn’t.

Who are we kidding here?

I often lay down a challenge for my coaching clients to slash their meeting times by half over the next three months (and to STOP the back to back meeting hell that means you’re always late, never ‘present’ and often on the back foot).

Here’s how you can do this too:

Firstly, ask: ‘How important is this meeting to achieving my personal and organisational goals?’ If it isn’t then find a way to say ‘no’ to the meeting without offending. The ‘without offending’ bit is key. Here’s how to nail this:

  • Offer to attend part of the meeting. ‘I’m on a deadline with project x but I can join you for half an hour between 10 and 10.30.’
  • Schedule a phone call instead – ‘I can’t make the meeting but I’d love to catch up with you afterwards/before to answer any questions you may have/follow up.’
  • Ask for an agenda and then offer to attend the parts of the meeting where you can offer or give most value.
  • Ask for the meeting to be pushed back to a later date ‘to enable us to have more data on xyz.’

Remember, that every time you say ‘yes’ to a meeting you are in effect saying ‘no’ to something else – possibly something more important?

10 Ways to Influence with Integrity

Many people in corporate life tell me they would like to have a stronger influence – particularly at a more senior level. This is one of my ‘most read’ blogs of all time so if you haven’t seen it before, enjoy!
 
Influence is something we all have – to influence positively is something most of us can develop or get better at. Here are my top ten tips for making a start!
 
1. Be interested more than ‘interesting’. ‘Receive’ more than you ‘transmit’. Listening is the most under-rated communication skill and yet the most powerful skill we possess if we want to influence other people. How to get better at it? Practise, practise, practise. There’s no magic bullet. And a clutter-free mind helps.
 
2. It is said that emotion (and story-telling) drives many of the decisions we make. So however much ‘logic’ you might present, I might not be influenced. If you work on the first skill above, you’ll be much clearer on whether I’m being influenced by emotion or logic – or both!
 
3. Do I want all the detail or just the headlines? Find out. Don’t assume!
 
4. Ask me questions. And REALLY listen to the answers. What’s important to me? What keeps me awake at night? What do I dream of? If I think you ‘get’ me, I’m much more likely to be persuaded. Understand my fears, hopes, challenges and opportunities. Then ask how you can help me.
 
5. Get feedback on your influencing skills. Keep it simple. ‘What can I do to improve my influence in the meeting/the presentation?’ and so on. We’ve all got blind spots and we can only improve if we know about them!
 
6. Look the part. Show your authority (without being authoritarian) and dress like you mean business (and that is contextual).
 
7. We can all learn to improve our gravitas. Think about the first impression you make when you walk into a room. Does it create the impression you want to create? Do you scuttle in like a frightened rabbit, avoid eye contact and shrink into your chair? Or do you march in, take over and dominate? Neither leads to positive influence.
 
8. Genuinely care for people – remember, people will ALWAYS remember how you made them feel.
 
9. Forget ‘networking’. Build relationships instead. These take time.
 
10. People are influenced by people they know, like and trust. Are you that person?

5 ways to get your voice heard (for all the right reasons)

It saddens me that so many people with really valuable and useful things to say don’t get heard. And yet their colleagues speak up and speak out with no problem at all – sometimes eloquently and succinctly, at other times…. well you know the rest!

It saddens me because when I first became a senior leader, I struggled to get my voice heard too. I had that ‘not good enough’ feeling way too often. Plus I was brought up to believe that it is ‘rude to interrupt’ (is it? Always?) and that made it really hard to find a way in to the conversation.

Here are 5 possible reasons your voice is not being heard – and what to do about it:

1. Problem: You’re not speaking in meetings! So many talented people tell me they don’t want to speak up ‘for fear of looking stupid’ or something similar. Solution: Find a way to say something – just one thing to start with. How about: ‘This is new ground for me, so I’d like to understand this a bit more’; or ‘I’ll be able to give a more well-thought out response when I’ve done xyz’ or ‘I’d love to know a bit more about that’ and so on. Once you’ve opened your mouth once, it’s easier to do it another time.

2. Problem: You’re waffling on – many of us waffle when we are nervous – but it’s hard for others to listen so they switch off and our valuable input is lost. Being concise and succinct is something we can all learn. Solution: Practise breathing in and out slowly. I find it helps to say one sentence and then pause, take a sip of water and then continue. Rinse and repeat.

3. Problem: Other people are not ‘letting you in’. Solution: Interrupt with elegance: ‘I’d like to come in here’ or ‘there’s something really important to add here’.

4. Body language. Problem: Shrinking in your seat shows that you think you are not important and people will treat you accordingly (remember, we teach people how to treat us). Solution: Stand or sit tall, project your voice to the back of the room and make your point succinctly.

5. Problem: You’re running a no-longer-useful script or story in your head that you need to change – or your ‘Impostor’ is getting in the way. Solution: Take a look at my short video on the Impostor syndrome.

 

Shut up and Listen!

Sorry if that sounds rude but one of the mistakes we sometimes make when going into a conversation is to think we should have all the answers – slick, smart, clever answers.

Because, as a leader or manager that’s what you’re paid to do, right?

Wrong.

The best managers I know have mastered the art of asking great questions (and listening REALLY well) in order to get to the best answers.

And let me be clear. This is NOT a set of questions that you can learn by rote and pull out randomly. Oh no.

Now, there are some great questions that can serve many purposes because it’s always good to have a starting point. But we can do so much more than that if we want to get to mastery.

My wonderful coach mentor recently described a really great question as ‘one you would only ever use once’.

Because it only means something to that particular person. You’re using their words as part of your question.

That is really powerful.

It means really listening to the other person’s words rather than paraphrasing, interpreting, assuming, ‘leading’ or avoiding – because we are then seeing the world from what Chris Argyris describes as our ‘ladder of inference’; our own reality, our own map of the world.

I remember my early coach-training days – struggling to think of my next question and missing swathes of information, nuances, patterns in the conversation. Because I was so focused on my own performance at the expense of really listening. And I know today that when I have a busy mind, or I’m not fully focused, or I’m rushing, trying too hard, anxious, tired…. I’m probably not asking the right questions.

That old cliché about having two ears and one mouth is so true!

How to get better? Practice (like most things). Even a gap of five seconds before responding can make a huge difference – you can then reply thoughtfully because you’ve taken time to hear and digest what the other person has said.

4 ways to throw off the safety blanket of Busyness

Last week I wrote about the safety blanket of Busy-ness.
 
This week I want to share with you four key things to help you or your teams throw off that safety blanket! I wrote the article for Strategic HR Review a while back and thought it was worth a re-share! I do have permission to share it with you! (The article starts on page 2.)