Tag Archive for: Steve Riddle

Discovering Ikigai: The Art of Finding Joy and Purpose in Every Day

In the picturesque landscapes of Okinawa, Japan, a profound philosophy known as Ikigai has its roots. Ikigai, translating to “a reason for being,” is a concept that encapsulates the essence of living a fulfilled and balanced life.

It’s the secret behind the joy and longevity of the Okinawans, offering a blueprint for anyone seeking purpose, happiness, and a sense of accomplishment in their daily lives.

The Essence of Ikigai

At its core, Ikigai is about finding the sweet spot where your passions, skills, societal needs, and economic opportunities converge. It encourages a holistic approach to life, blending the personal with the professional and the spiritual with the practical. The concept revolves around four pivotal questions: What do you love? What does the world need? What are you good at? And, what can you be paid for? The intersection of these aspects reveals your Ikigai, guiding you towards a life of satisfaction and meaning.

Journeying Towards Your Ikigai

Finding your Ikigai isn’t an overnight affair; it’s a journey of self-exploration and experimentation. It starts with introspection—taking a deep dive into your interests, skills, and desires. It’s about asking yourself what brings you joy, what talents you possess, how you can contribute to the world, and how you can sustainably support yourself through your passions.

Exploring different avenues, embracing new experiences, and being open to change are crucial steps in discovering your Ikigai. It’s equally important to practice mindfulness and gratitude, cherishing the process as much as the outcomes. Building connections and engaging with your community can also provide invaluable insights and encouragement along the way.

Living with Ikigai

Understanding your Ikigai is one thing; integrating it into your daily life is another. It entails making deliberate choices that align with your purpose and values, possibly leading to changes in career, hobbies, or lifestyle. Setting clear, actionable goals and seeking a balance in all aspects of life are vital strategies for living in accordance with your Ikigai. Moreover, embracing continuous learning and seeking ways to give back to the community can enhance your journey and deepen your sense of fulfillment.

The Path Forward

Ikigai is more than just finding what makes you happy or what you’re good at; it’s about achieving a harmonious balance that nurtures your well-being while contributing to the world. It’s a dynamic, ongoing process of growth and discovery. By pursuing your Ikigai, you embark on a rewarding path that not only enriches your own life but also positively impacts those around you.

In essence, Ikigai offers a transformative approach to living, blending joy, purpose, and balance into every day. It’s a philosophy that encourages us to live intentionally, with a clear sense of direction and a heart full of gratitude. Whether you’re searching for meaning, seeking to change your life’s course, or simply wishing to deepen your understanding of yourself, Ikigai provides a timeless framework for a life well-lived.


Read more and explore the concept of Ikigai further:

Ikigai – The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life

 


 

Different industries require subtle differences in style and how leaders impact their teams and results. As part of our occasional series chatting with industry leaders, we recently spoke with engineer and senior leader, Wes Davis. His story is an interesting one, with Wes focusing much of his time and development on the topic of leadership within engineering, rather than simply learning and applying the technical aspects.

In today’s fast-paced business world, effective prioritisation and time management skills are crucial for success. One area where these skills play a significant role is email management. With the sheer volume of emails we receive daily, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and lose precious time. The good news is that there are many things you can do to write effective emails.

Do you fear that you will eventually be discovered as a fraud and you might get found out at any minute? Then you are experiencing something often referred to as imposter syndrome which stems from a sense of inadequacy, despite objectively being competent. You may never fully overcome these feelings, however, there are opportunities to better balance your thinking and self-perception.

Starting a new job can be an exciting and nerve-wracking experience.

You want to make a good impression and set yourself up for success in your new role.

 

There are many unknowns and even fears leading up to your first day. Your success and satisfaction depends on numerous factors, many of which you can influence and control.

Does onboarding and early support really matter?

 

Let’s delve into a few key points proving that it does and find out what you can do to minimise the risks and maximise the opportunities.

 

 

Photo Source: Clay Banks, Unsplash


It is critical to understand the importance of an effective onboarding and induction process. This is often misunderstood and poorly implemented, with significant risks for employee retention, engagement and business success as a result.

Let’s firstly look at the environment and culture you are about to step into, including the induction process. According to a study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), effective onboarding can increase employee retention by 25% and improve productivity by up to 50%.  The study also states that Research and conventional wisdom both suggest that employees get about 90 days to prove themselves in a new job. The faster new hires feel welcome and prepared for their jobs, the faster they will be able to successfully contribute to the firm’s mission.

In addition, a Glassdoor survey found that a positive onboarding experience can lead to employees being 69% more likely to stay with a company for three years or more. BambooHR found that the most important factors for successful onboarding include:

  • Setting clear expectations (96% of respondents rated this as important)
  • Providing access to necessary tools and information (93%)
  • Providing access to mentors, buddies, or coaches (87%)
  • Making introductions to colleagues (87%)
  • Having a formal onboarding program (85%)

In terms of the length of onboarding programs, the same BambooHR research found that employees who participated in onboarding programs that lasted longer than one month were more than twice as likely to stay with the company for three years or more, compared to employees who had a shorter onboarding program.

 

On the other hand, 62% of HR managers said that a successful onboarding process can improve the employee experience, and 54% said it can improve employee retention.

 

What about the individual? There is plenty you can do to own your role and provide greater likelihood of successful integration. To help you navigate this transition, we’ve put together a list of things you should do and look for when starting a new job.

  1. Research the company: Before your first day, take some time to research the company. Review their website, social media accounts, and any news articles or press releases about the company. This will give you a better understanding of the company’s culture, values and goals. You should also learn about the industry the company operates in and the competitors they face.
  1. Understand your job responsibilities: Make sure you fully understand your job responsibilities before you start. This includes the tasks you will be responsible for, any goals or targets you are expected to meet, and who you report to. If you are unsure about anything, don’t be afraid to ask your manager or HR representative for clarification.
  1. Be prepared for your first day: Make sure you are prepared for your first day on the job. This includes knowing what time you need to arrive, where you need to go, and what to wear. You should also bring a notebook and pen to take notes, as well as any other materials you were instructed to bring.
  1. Build relationships with your colleagues: Getting to know your colleagues is an important part of starting a new job. Make an effort to introduce yourself to your co-workers and ask them about their roles and responsibilities. Take part in team-building activities or social events to help build relationships and learn more about your colleagues.
  1. Understand the company culture: Understanding the company culture is important for fitting in and feeling comfortable in your new role. Observe how your colleagues interact with each other and the company’s values and behaviors. If you are unsure about anything, ask your manager or HR representative for guidance.
  1. Learn the company’s technology and systems: Many companies use specialised software or systems to manage their operations. Make sure you learn how to use any technology or systems that are essential to your role. If you are having trouble, ask your colleagues or IT department for assistance.
  1. Seek feedback: Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback from your manager or colleagues. This will help you identify areas where you are doing well and areas where you need to improve. Feedback can also help you adjust to the company’s expectations and culture.
  1. Set goals for yourself: Setting goals for yourself can help you stay motivated and focused in your new role. Talk to your manager about what goals you should be working towards, both short-term and long-term. Make sure your goals are specific, measurable, and achievable.
  1. Find a mentor or coach: Having a mentor or coach can be a great way to learn more about the company and industry, as well as get guidance and support in your role. Ask your manager or HR representative if there is a formal support and development program, or seek out a coach or mentor on your own.
  1. Take care of yourself: Starting a new job can be stressful, so it is important to take care of yourself both physically and mentally. Make sure you are getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, and taking breaks throughout the day. Don’t be afraid to talk to your manager or HR representative if you are feeling overwhelmed or need additional support.

The opportunities presented when changing jobs can be both challenging and exciting. It is this excitement and the unknowns that should form part of the reason for the change in the first place.

Don’t leave your success to ‘fate’ or luck. Own your role and seek assistance to make the most of the opportunity. Through genuine thought and reflection and having a plan to follow during your first few month, you can set yourself up for success and greater enjoyment in your new role.

 


Many people at all levels of seniority and across industries find that external support and coaching is of benefit, particularly during the challenging time of starting a new job.

If you, one of your team or someone else you know are currently changing jobs, it is worthwhile investigating our CoachStation Role Integration Coaching (RIC) Program.


We have created a very useful and effective coaching and support resource to assist people at all levels as they transition into a new job. It is as effective for internal movements as external. Many of the points listed in this blog are explored and expanded on to ensure the best opportunity for a successful integration.

The RIC program provides many benefits. Primarily, there is the opportunity to transition and onboard into the new role with additional support from an external resource and coach. This is designed to work in conjunction with the recruiting organisation and their induction process, enhancing the opportunity for both the employee and new employer.

Coachees participate in two online coaching and mentoring sessions across an 8-week period. The first session is scheduled 1 – 2 weeks prior to starting your role, whilst the second session is scheduled to occur around 4 weeks after. Commonly, this might involve identifying a 30-60-90 day plan; specific skill development; developing greater self-awareness and Emotional Intelligence; leadership capability; or similar themes.

The 1:1 coaching is reinforced through access to our custom eLearning platform and its resources, tools and content. Specifically your RIC Program includes:

  • Two Coaching and Mentoring sessions, facilitated online by experienced and effective CoachStation coaches.
  • Opportunity to ask questions via email-based Q&A coaching throughout the program.
  • Access to learning videos providing insight into how best to integrate into your new role; tactics to maximise your first few months; observations and strategies to apply during this phase.
  • Supporting tools and resources to be applied during the program and designed to be of benefit for many months and years after.
  • Candidates will be provided with an Ebook providing insights, tools and material consolidating the learning.
If you would like to discuss RIC further or book a place on the program, email or call CoachStation today.

 

In the last few years we’ve recognised that we probably haven’t had the opportunity to feel the benefit of many of the things that we take joy from. Covid has really challenged our opportunity to find joy in our life.

We’re really talking about those things that are present in our life already…and the opportunities exist. But, if we’re not actively looking for them, and we’re not seeking them, sometimes they can pass us by.

 

I was recently asked to speak at an Aged Care Forum on the topic of ‘Joy and its Link to Self-Care’. This is a great theme. One that we don’t speak enough about, so it was a lovely opportunity to discuss a topic that is important, yet not commonly sought out in business circles.

Listen to my thoughts below about how joy can be found anywhere and our need to actively seek it. It is not passive. Joy does not occur through blind hope. It can be discovered and created, if you take the time to be mindful of the many joyful moments that occur every day…even the small things.


Read my related blog: Your Roles, Your Time, Your Choices

Themes such as understanding the difference between an internal and external locus of control. Delving into how important socialisation, being with others and relationships are for all of us. I also discuss how perspective relates to joy. These themes and others are covered with the intention that there may be opportunity for the discovery of more joy.

The invitation to expand on and share my thoughts with such a large group of attendees was appreciated. The possibility that one or more participants might apply some of their learning in practice is exciting. You may also find value in the key points highlighted. This may lead to more joy for you and others…and that’s never a bad thing.

 


Additional Resources:

Brett Ledbetter: Finding Your Inner Coach, Ted Talk

10 Keys To Happier Living

 

Engagement at work matters. Employee discretionary effort and focus are being challenged for many reasons, including the labour market and working from home.

People are finding it easy to find jobs and unemployment is at a record low. It won’t always be like this, however.

Developing the skills to engage team members is important. Maybe, no more so than right now. In years to come, when equilibrium between employers and employees normalises, the investment in these skills now will be returned in spades.

 

The risk of not getting leadership and culture ‘right’ are significant. Where we work has rarely provided more options. What we do at work and how we do it is changing. We spend 81,396 hours of our lives working, on average.

The question begs to be asked and answered then: If we spend so much of life at work, how is life at work going?

 

According to the world’s workers, not well. Gallup finds 60% of people are emotionally detached at work and 19% are miserable. (1) The levels of engagement continue to be alarming for Executive Leaders…or at least, they should be. Yet, these results have barely shifted in many years. Why are people not engaged and can something be done about it?

 

As a leader you are obligated to develop your skills to influence and support each and every team member. Your goal must be to ensure your team members are regularly performing work that they are good at and care about.

 

Every employee has to own their development and situation too. Choice and effort influence engagement. This blog addresses 4 key skills and areas to focus on that contribute to employee engagement. One of the most exciting aspects of developing these skills further, is that you the leader, will also see a significant uplift in your own engagement as a result of being more effective in your role.

It’s about understanding how important leadership and engagement are.

 

None of these points are theories. Yet, too often managers see them as negotiable. It is firstly important to recognise that we all have choices. We can choose to work somewhere or not. The feeling of being ‘stuck’ is one of the most crippling feelings. You have options. We all do.

Gallup estimates that managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement across business units. When Gallup asked managers why they thought their company hired them for their current role, managers commonly said the organisation promoted them because of their success in a previous non-managerial role, or cited their tenure in their company or field. Unfortunately, these criteria miss a crucial element: the right talent to succeed as a manager and leader.

 

Gallup research shows that only about one in 10 people naturally possess high talent to manage, and organisations name the wrong person as manager about 80% of the time.

 

We’ve also learned that one in two employees have left a job to get away from a manager and improve their overall life at some point in their career. At CoachStation, we believe this figure to be much higher, in fact, more like 2 in 3 employees. Given the troubling state of employee engagement in companies worldwide, it follows that most managers aren’t creating environments in which employees feel engaged — or involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace.

We have seen little evidence that the situation is any different or better in Australia, until very recently. In fact, the focus on themes such as strengths, personal values and coaching have been occurring in the U.S for a longer period. This has provided a solid platform for personal and professional development that is still relatively new in Australia. Thankfully, this attitude and openness to leadership and personal growth is improving. The fact that you are taking the time to read this blog is a positive example.

What’s more, companies that fail to engage their employees are missing out on the powerful results that come from engagement. Gallup’s latest employee engagement meta-analysis shows that business units in the top quartile are 17% more productive, experience 70% fewer safety incidents, experience 41% less absenteeism, have 10% better customer ratings and are 21% more profitable compared with business units in the bottom quartile. (5)

 

Business units with engaged workers have 23% higher profit compared with business units with miserable workers.

 

Additionally, teams with thriving workers also see higher customer loyalty. The point is: Wellbeing at work isn’t at odds with anyone’s agenda. Executives everywhere should want the world’s workers to thrive. And helping the world’s workers thrive starts with listening to them.

Before we go any further it’s worth making sure we all understand the definitions of employee engagement. The Gallup organisation provides an excellent summary: Employee engagement reflects the involvement and enthusiasm of employees in their work and workplace. Gallup categorises an organisation’s employees as engaged, not engaged or actively disengaged.

 

Employees become engaged when their basic needs are met and when they have a chance to contribute, a sense of belonging, and opportunities to learn and grow.

 

Engaged employees are highly involved in and enthusiastic about their work and workplace. They are psychological “owners,” drive performance and innovation, and move the organisation forward.

Not engaged employees are psychologically unattached to their work and company. Because their engagement needs are not being fully met, they’re putting time — but not energy or passion — into their work.

Actively disengaged employees aren’t just unhappy at work — they are resentful that their needs aren’t being met and are acting out their unhappiness.

 

Every day, these workers potentially undermine what their engaged co-workers accomplish.

 

In one of the largest studies of burnout, Gallup found the biggest source was “unfair treatment at work.” That was followed by an unmanageable workload, unclear communication from managers, lack of manager support and unreasonable time pressure. Those five causes have one thing in common: your boss. Get a bad one and you are almost guaranteed to hate your job. A bad boss will ignore you, disrespect you and never support you. Environments like that can make anyone miserable.

 

A manager’s effect on a workplace is so significant that Gallup can predict 70% of the variance in team engagement just by getting to know the boss. (1)

 

The McKinsey group recently published an excellent resource regarding attrition and the reasons why people leave organisations. This data is current and it is real, being consistent with what many of my clients are telling me. To navigate this new playing field successfully, hiring managers can look beyond the current imbalance in labor supply and demand and consider what different segments of workers want and how best to engage them. To do this, employers should understand the common themes that reveal what people most value, or most dislike, about a job.

 

For instance, it cannot be overstated just how influential a bad boss can be in causing people to leave.

 

And while in the past an attractive salary could keep people in a job despite a bad boss, that is much less true now than it was before the pandemic. Our survey shows that uncaring and uninspiring leaders are a big part of why people left their jobs, along with a lack of career development. Flexibility, on the other hand, is a top motivator and reason for staying. (2)

Exiting workers told us that relationships in their workplace were sources of tension and that they didn’t feel that their organisations and managers cared about them.

 

In this latest round, respondents again cited uncaring leaders (35 percent listed it as one of their top three reasons for leaving), but they added a new range of top motivators, including inadequate compensation, a lack of career advancement, and the absence of meaningful work.

In other words, plenty of employees say that they see no room for professional or personal growth, believe that there is better money to be made elsewhere, and think that leaders don’t care enough about them. Tried-and-true reasons for disgruntlement, to be sure, but ones that are now being acted upon broadly. (2) The data provided in the graphic below is compelling. 

 

There is no room for complacency. In the recently published State of the Global Workplace report, 45% of employees said now is a good time to find a job.

 

This is up slightly from last year, but less than the record 55% in 2019. The regional outlier for this item is the United States and Canada, which leads the world at 71%, up 44 percentage points from the previous year. The next closest regions are Australia and New Zealand at 59% and South Asia at 50%. (1) Reading the language and results in the McKinsey graphic highlights a few key themes.

 

Namely, that the top reasons for quitting closely align to fulffilling work; engagement; and relationships.

 

Engagement and wellbeing interact with each other in powerful ways. We often think of engagement as something that happens at work and wellbeing as something that happens outside of work, but Gallup’s analysis suggests that’s a false dichotomy.

  • How people experience work influences their lives outside of work. Employees who consistently experience high levels of burnout at work say their job makes it difficult to fulfill their family responsibilities. They are also 23% more likely to visit the emergency room.
  • Overall wellbeing influences life at work. Employees who are engaged at work but not thriving have a 61% higher likelihood of ongoing burnout than those who are engaged and thriving.

When leaders take responsibility for the wellbeing of their workers, the result is not only productive organisations, but thriving individuals, families and communities. (1)


The majority of the coaching and mentoring themes that I employ relate to communication to some degree.

 

It is a common gap in skills and capability for many and has a direct influence on engagement levels. Organisations often assume that these skills exist in their managers, yet rarely meaningfully focus on developing newer leaders to build on this capability.

 

Let’s be honest, it’s not like all senior managers regularly role model these behaviours and provide effective communication either.

 

I recognise this is a generalised statement. Yet, I am confident that many people reading this blog, no matter what level they work at, would genuinely question how effectively their immediate manager communicates with them and their team mates.

It appears that communication at all levels could be improved. The great news; these are skills that can be developed by most people – if they put in the effort! A study of managers by Interact Studio and Harris Poll revealed that communicating is not only an employee issue.

 

This study showed that 69% of managers are just as afraid of communication as their team members.

 

CoachStation: Why managers are uncomfortable giving feedback

 

If both sides are afraid to have tough conversations, these conversations will be avoided. Managers must have the courage and confidence to communicate with their team, no matter what the message is. Comfort and skills can be improved if there is a focus on communication.

In recent years I have developed a tool regarding communication effectiveness. It highlights the need for depth in conversation. To verbally communicate well provides meaning and purpose. It allows for understanding and often, clarity and context. Purpose influences action and improvement.

 

Unfortunately, many managers do not develop this skill to the level required.

 

Essentially, we can communicate at various levels of depth. However, most business communication (and that at home too!) often occurs at a moderate and superficial level, at best. I would describe this as a level 1 or 2 type of communication.

 

CoachStation_Levels of Effective Communication and Leadership

 

The goal is to develop your communication skills to at least Level 3. The diagram above extends this concept. The 5 levels of effective communication highlighted are described in further detail in the following blog: Communicate Effectively to Influence and Lead

Outside of company all-hands meetings and occasional corporate-wide memos, a manager is an employee’s strongest connection to company leadership day in and day out. Their communication (or lack thereof) is what keeps an employee feeling connected to the purpose of their work, and in the loop on what they need to know.

When communication breaks down somewhere in the leadership hierarchy, everyone suffers. This is when people feel out of the loop. It’s also when they get frustrated by putting their efforts into work that doesn’t matter.

It’s the job of every manager to help with the flow of information up and down the organisation. When people express frustration with leadership, it’s usually due to a failure in that flow.

 


Developing trusted relationships; establishing clear expectations; and, making accountability a cultural norm in the team all influence engagement levels.

 

One of the biggest challenges for managers who are learning to lead is developing the ability to set expectations and standards. Accountability is the outcome of holding your employees to these standards and expectations. It is also about the employees accountability to themselves.

 

Understanding the benefits and why to apply a model such as our REOWM model can make a real difference. However, application, consistency and follow-through can be a challenge for many. The 5 stages of the model create a structured process for leading and coaching your team members, focused mostly on clarity, context and accountability. I have found that resources such as these can help leaders to understand not only what needs to be developed, but importantly, also how to do so.

CoachStation: REOWM Coaching, Leadership and Accountability Model

 

Often leaders are wary of providing their own view as it is seen as subjective. Don’t be frightened to seek and provide this detail as (particularly when respect and trust exist) a simple acknowledgement or recognition of progress can be the difference between an engaged and disengaged employee.

The opportunity to provide greater context and clarity for people is one that I regularly see could be improved in most organisations. Depth and substance in coaching and 1:1 sessions is critical and a tool such as this can make a real and sustained difference when applied. Each step is important and has its own need. Practice the art and science of effective leadership by using tools such as this.

The REOWM model is described in further detail in the following page of the CoachStation website: Accountability and Expectations – REOWM Model

 


Leaders are under pressure. Behaviours and integrity can be challenged in these environments. I am aware of various situations at the moment where managers are avoiding managing a toxic employee through fear of them leaving the organisation. In a few cases I am hearing the message, “I can’t afford to manage them and risk attrition. We are a team of 9 and I am already 2 staff down. We have been looking to replace them for 10 months, with no success and I can’t afford to lose anyone else”. 

I would argue, it depends on how you measure success! I understand the concern, the final statement about losing team members and managing workloads.

 

But, here’s the thing. The damage this toxic employee is bringing to the table is almost certainly greater than the impact of them leaving.

 

And, it is almost certainly negatively impacting engagement levels within the whole team. A recent Lighthouse blog highlighted a report from Harvard Business School, where Michael Housman and Dylan Minor broke down the real cost of toxic employees.

 

“In comparing the two costs, even if a firm could replace an average worker with one who performs in the top 1%; it would still be better off by replacing a toxic worker with an average worker by more than two-to-one.”

 

Toxic employees don’t just underperform compared to a great employee in the long run, they bring the entire team down with them. A good employee sees this and feels it first-hand. After a while, they can’t take it anymore. Seeing that you apparently don’t mind having an asshole around, they may decide to leave. Get rid of those toxic team members – don’t try to make these ones work.

 

Even if the employee is high-performing, they have to go, because of the negative impact they have on the rest of the team.

 

Unfortunately, even if their numbers seem great, they’re still a net negative in terms of the impact they have on the rest of your team. They have to either reform their ways, or leave. When they leave, the performance of everyone on the team will improve by their absence, so there’s really only one thing to do: let them go and reap the benefits. Don’t let a toxic team member be why good employees quit your team. (3)

As highlighted extensively in this blog, one of the key contributors to engagement is the employee’s immediate manager. This can either be a negative or positive influence. Both the manager and employee have a responsibility to own engagement. The skills and capability can be learned.

The real challenge is whether the time and effort to focus on developing these skills is a priority. If not, the results are inevitable. What environment and culture would you prefer to spend over a quarter of your life in?

 

References and Resources:

(1) State of the Global Workplace – 2022 Report: Gallup

(2) Five personas: A new way to target the employee value proposition: McKinsey

(3) 14 Reasons Why Great Employees Quit Your Team (and How to Keep a Good Employee from Quitting): GetLighthouse

(4) Why People Leave Managers not Companies (and 5 things you can do about it): Get Lighthouse

(5) Strengths-Based Employee Development: The Business Results, Bruno Zadeh, LinkedIn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We all have multiple roles, responsibilities and relationships, both in and out of the workplace. Understanding how your various roles interact and affect each other can make a genuine difference in your life.

 

“It’s all about the levers”, I said. My client looked at me like I had gone barmy. “Maybe you are feeling an imbalance and that you are having to compromise your core values and some of the things that matter most to you”, I suggested. I knew this would require a little more explanation and detail. Once we discussed the topic further, however, it became clearer I was hitting the mark with my coachee.

Since this discussion some years ago, it is now even more evident how important this concept is to almost all of us. Attitude, prioritisation and self-awareness are always critical attributes and skills, even more so at the moment. This blog will explain the concept of choice, time and our various and many roles. A concept that has resonated and contributed to many of my client’s satisfaction, sense of control and comfort as it may for you.

We all have levers in our lives. What does this actually mean?

 


Roles and Choices: CoachStation
                                 Photo by Max Rovensky on Unsplash

There is logic to the concept of levers. Each of your roles can be thought of as a separate, yet interconnected lever. Each role could be as a parent, employee, boss, friend, hobby or member of the local sports team as examples. In fact, it could be any aspect of your life that is important to you and you dedicate time to. Consider each role as being represented by a single lever.

Each lever can be adjusted, as required, aligned to how much time, effort and mental energy you dedicate to it.

 

Each adjustment is also reflective of how much importance you place on the role at that particular point in time. These focus tweaks are often in response to a perceived or real need to better balance your life or respond to some other stimulus. This can be either extrinsic (i.e. originating externally) or intrinsic (i.e. driven from within). The tweak may be required because of the needs of others. Maybe someone close to you expresses frustration or disappointment that you are not spending enough time with them. Or, you may recognise this need for change yourself.

Possibly you are spending too much time at work. Maybe you feel this yourself or there is pressure from your spouse and family to be home more or earlier. Or, you have stopped going to the gym, or taking regular walks and your fitness and mental well-being are negatively impacted. Is it that you recognise that your friends are being neglected? The triggers can arise from anywhere and are generally feeling-based. They can also be managed and influenced.

No matter the trigger, it often feels like something is missing or there is an imbalance in your life.

 

We all have the same amount of time to spend or allocate to our many roles. However, this time is finite – it has limits. The choices about where to spend this time and allocate to your many roles has a direct and ongoing influence on your overall satisfaction and contentment. It also impacts those you care about the most.

At this point, it is worth looking at where you are prioritising your time and whether this balance works for or against you. Referencing the great work of Stew Friedman, this 4-Way Views assessment will give you clarity regarding where you spend your time and satisfaction as a result.

Let’s extend the concept. I mentioned earlier that each of your roles can be thought of as a separate lever, yet are interconnected. This is true, however every time you adjust a lever or aspect of your life, all your other levers or roles are also impacted. Each lever is connected via an imaginary cable. It is often a small adjustment of maybe 5-10%. Deciding to spend more time at home, for example, will have a natural and direct impact on all of your other levers or roles. To add time and energy to one role, there is a reduction of focus and time in one or more of your other roles. Remember, your time is finite. That’s why your choices and what you prioritise are so important. There are 2 key elements to consider.

Firstly, it is important that you have enough levers.

 

I have seen many examples where a person has only 2 or 3 roles. These may be work and home, for example. This is a challenge when work or home is not providing positive input or going well. Devastating when both are not going well. Additional roles (maybe 7-8) provide alternatives and options to fulfill your life when one or more roles are not as positive as you would like. I am not suggesting that there is an ‘ideal’ specific number of roles. We are all different and have a variety of needs, capacities and preferences. However, like most things in life, too few or too many are extremes and offer more challenge than your individual, optimum number of roles.

Challenges and difficulties in life are common. How you react and respond to these challenges is critical.

 

No one lives the perfect life where all of their roles are being fulfilled at the same time. Having enough roles and different levers to adjust and provide a sense of balance is one of the keys. Not work-life balance, but a more holistic and psychologically fullfilling balance. However, it is possible to have too many roles.

Stretching yourself thin and trying to meet the needs of around 10 or more roles can also be a challenge. Imagine trying to fulfill a dozen roles and the allocation of time required? To be fair, I have seen this done. However, the strong relationships and capability to manage this time and roles effectively is rare.

Perspective and resilience are very important traits, particularly in today’s world. Taking control of your time and various roles and consciously adjusting your ‘levers’ as required, can make a significant difference to how resilient you are and in seeing life more clearly. One of the many insights I have learned when coaching and mentoring hundreds of clients over the last decade continues to resonate. Those who struggle with life generally, often do not have enough levers and/or feel they have little choice in what is happening in their life. They see things as happening ‘to’ them, not ‘with’ them. Being in control is not about being controlling. Control is about you – this is good. Being controlling is more about you and others – this is often misplaced and damaging.

Understand your own levers. Reflect on your many roles.

 

What roles do you have? Where are you spending most time?

Where could you spend more or less time that would suit you better?

Do you feel happiness and satisfaction with this mix? What can you do to find a better and more rewarding balance across all of your roles?

What will you do to feel you are in control and on most days feel happy with what you give and what you receive?

For the most part, you have the same choices, time and ability to influence your life as other people do theirs. Thinking about what you are compromising and what gives you the most joy will lead to change and greater satisfaction. Taking action as appropriate to adjust your levers adds value and lets you meet your core values.

Your life, your choice!

 

 

Listening effectively is a key cog in effective leadership and building trusted relationships. We have all been exposed to those people and managers who do not listen well. In each case this distracted, disrespectful moment of poor communication is frustrating and does little to develop trust, respect and a willingness to open up and share your real thoughts.

However, many of us believe we are better at communicating well than we are. It is worth checking yourself and reviewing how others may see you and your communication capability in reality.

 


The ability to ask questions to discover and engage, when combined with effective listening skills are two of the most integral facets of effective communication. In a blog I wrote previously along similar themes, titled Communicate Effectively to Influence and Lead, I introduced the concept of different levels of communication. Both blogs highlight the opportunities and risks of good communication, explaining key stages and actions you can take to become an improved communicator. Interestingly, a Harvard Business Review (1) article I read recently highlights the various levels in a different context, relating to listening in particular.

Chances are you think you’re a good listener.  People’s appraisal of their listening ability is much like their assessment of their driving skills, in that the great bulk of adults think they’re above average. In our experience, most people think good listening comes down to doing three things:

  • Not talking when others are speaking
  • Letting others know you’re listening through facial expressions and verbal sounds (“Mmm-hmm”)
  • Being able to repeat what others have said, practically word-for-word

In fact, much management advice on listening suggests doing these very things – encouraging listeners to remain quiet, nod and “mm-hmm” encouragingly, and then repeat back to the talker something like, “So, let me make sure I understand. What you’re saying is…” However, recent research that we conducted suggests that these behaviors fall far short of describing good listening skills.

We analyzed data describing the behavior of 3,492 participants in a development program designed to help managers become better coaches. As part of this program, their coaching skills were assessed by others in 360-degree assessments. We identified those who were perceived as being the most effective listeners (the top 5%). We then compared the best listeners to the average of all other people in the data set and identified the 20 items showing the largest significant difference.  With those results in hand we identified the differences between great and average listeners and analyzed the data to determine what characteristics their colleagues identified as the behaviors that made them outstanding listeners.

We found some surprising conclusions, along with some qualities we expected to hear. We grouped them into four main findings:

  • Good listening is much more than being silent while the other person talks. To the contrary, people perceive the best listeners to be those who periodically ask questions that promote discovery and insight. These questions gently challenge old assumptions, but do so in a constructive way. Sitting there silently nodding does not provide sure evidence that a person is listening, but asking a good question tells the speaker the listener has not only heard what was said, but that they comprehended it well enough to  want additional information. Good listening was consistently seen as a two-way dialog, rather than a one-way “speaker versus hearer” interaction. The best conversations were active.
  • Good listening included interactions that build a person’s self-esteem. The best listeners made the conversation a positive experience for the other party, which doesn’t happen when the listener is passive (or, for that matter, critical!). Good listeners made the other person feel supported and conveyed confidence in them. Good listening was characterized by the creation of a safe environment in which issues and differences could be discussed openly.
  • Good listening was seen as a cooperative conversation. In these interactions, feedback flowed smoothly in both directions with neither party becoming defensive about comments the other made. By contrast, poor listeners were seen as competitive — as listening only to identify errors in reasoning or logic, using their silence as a chance to prepare their next response. That might make you an excellent debater, but it doesn’t make you a good listener. Good listeners may challenge assumptions and disagree, but the person being listened to feels the listener is trying to help, not wanting to win an argument.
  • Good listeners tended to make suggestions. Good listening invariably included some feedback provided in a way others would accept and that opened up alternative paths to consider. This finding somewhat surprised us, since it’s not uncommon to hear complaints that “So-and-so didn’t listen, he just jumped in and tried to solve the problem.” Perhaps what the data is telling us is that making suggestions is not itself the problem; it may be the skill with which those suggestions are made. Another possibility is that we’re more likely to accept suggestions from people we already think are good listeners. (Someone who is silent for the whole conversation and then jumps in with a suggestion may not be seen as credible. Someone who seems combative or critical and then tries to give advice may not be seen as trustworthy.)

While many of us have thought of being a good listener being like a sponge that accurately absorbs what the other person is saying, instead, what these findings show is that good listeners are like trampolines. They are someone you can bounce ideas off of — and rather than absorbing your ideas and energy, they amplify, energize, and clarify your thinking. They make you feel better not merely passively absorbing, but by actively supporting. This lets you gain energy and height, just like someone jumping on a trampoline.

Of course, there are different levels of listening. Not every conversation requires the highest levels of listening, but many conversations would benefit from greater focus and listening skill. Consider which level of listening you’d like to aim for:

Level 1: The listener creates a safe environment in which difficult, complex, or emotional issues can be discussed.

Level 2: The listener clears away distractions like phones and laptops, focusing attention on the other person and making appropriate eye-contact.  (This  behavior not only affects how you are perceived as the listener; it immediately influences the listener’s own attitudes and inner feelings.  Acting the part changes how you feel inside. This in turn makes you a better listener.)

Level 3: The listener seeks to understand the substance of what the other person is saying.  They capture ideas, ask questions, and restate issues to confirm that their understanding is correct.

Level 4: The listener observes nonbverbal cues, such as facial expressions, perspiration, respiration rates, gestures, posture, and numerous other subtle body language signals.  It is estimated that 80% of what we communicate comes from these signals. It sounds strange to some, but you listen with your eyes as well as your ears.

Level 5: The listener increasingly understands the other person’s emotions and feelings about the topic at hand, and identifies and acknowledges them. The listener empathizes with and validates those feelings in a supportive, nonjudgmental way.

Level 6: The listener asks questions that clarify assumptions the other person holds and helps the other person to see the issue in a new light.  This could include the listener injecting some thoughts and ideas about the topic that could be useful to the other person.  However, good listeners never highjack the conversation so that they or their issues become the subject of the discussion.

Each of the levels builds on the others; thus, if you’ve been criticized (for example) for offering solutions rather than listening, it may mean you need to attend to some of the other levels (such as clearing away distractions or empathizing) before your proffered suggestions can be appreciated.

We suspect that in being a good listener, most of us are more likely to stop short rather than go too far. Our hope is that this research will help by providing a new perspective on listening.  We hope those who labor under an illusion of superiority about their listening skills will see where they really stand. We also hope the common perception that good listening is mainly about acting like an absorbent sponge will wane.  Finally, we hope all will see that the highest and best form of listening comes in playing the same role for the other person that a trampoline plays for a child. It gives energy, acceleration, height and amplification. These are the hallmarks of great listening.


Resources/References:

(1) What Great Listeners Actually Do: HBR, Zenger and Folkman

 

Self-esteem can be a challenge for many. These difficulties have been heightened over the last year or so as we deal with the impacts and effects of Covid-19 and related restrictions. It has challenged how many of us see ourselves. However, it is possible to manage and build your self-esteem and subsequently, genuine confidence.

The term self-esteem is used to describe a person’s overall sense of self-worth or personal value. In other words, how much you appreciate and like yourself. It involves a variety of beliefs about yourself, such as the appraisal of your own appearance, beliefs, emotions, and behaviors. It can play a significant role in your motivation and success throughout your life.

Low self-esteem may hold you back from succeeding at school or work because you don’t believe yourself to be capable of success.
CoachStation: Self-Esteem

By contrast, having a healthy self-esteem can help you achieve because you navigate life with a positive, assertive attitude and believe you can accomplish your goals. (1) It is normal to have doubts on occasion. How often and to what degree these doubts surface is the issue and can have a negative affect on how you view yourself.

Self-esteem begins to form in early childhood – factors of influence include:

  • Your thoughts and perceptions
  • How other people react to you
  • Experiences at home, school, work and in the community
  • Illness, disability or injury
  • Age
  • Role and status in society
  • Media messages (4)
In summary, low self-esteem is having a generally negative overall opinion of oneself, judging or evaluating oneself negatively, and placing a general negative value on oneself as a person.

People with low self-esteem usually have deep-seated, basic, negative beliefs about themselves and the kind of person they are. These beliefs are often taken as facts or truths about their identity, rather than being recognised as opinions they hold about themselves.

  • Self-esteem is your opinion of yourself.
  • Everyone lacks confidence occasionally but people with low self-esteem are unhappy or unsatisfied with themselves most of the time.
  • It takes attention and daily practice to improve how you see you and feel about yourself. (3)
It is important to know that low self-esteem is a common problem for many people in our society – so you are not alone.

Low self-esteem can occur as part of a current problem (such as depression), or as a result of other problems (such as chronic illness, relationship problems) or it can be a problem in itself. Either way, the good news is that you can take steps towards developing more healthy self-esteem. (2)

How we handle situations, good or bad, and what we learn from them are important factors. More and more of my clients are confusing mistakes for failure. The following real-life example may provide additional context.

Some years ago one of my coaching clients contacted me with a problem in his life. We had stopped formally working together the previous year, however he turned to me for help in response to a situation he was trying to manage.

Long story, short, my client had found himself several thousand dollars in debt based on multiple payments made on an online game, somewhat knowingly but also, naively. He was embarrassed and overwhelmed.

CoachStation: Self-Esteem and Leadership

This outcome had really shaken his confidence and self-worth. He didn’t know how to overcome the negative feelings about himself. Although initially disappointed, thankfully his wife was very supportive.

The relevant point in this story is that my client was feeling ashamed. In fact, he used the word shame, which was a trigger for our discussion. Although there was much more to our conversation, I helped him see that his actions were a mistake or error, not a point of failure.

Mistakes and failure are not the same thing. Mistakes are part of being human. They are common and genuine opportunities to reflect and learn how to avoid making the same mistakes over and over. In reality, failure is the act of repeating the same mistake, not the single error itself.

I pointed out to my client that doing something ‘wrong’ can be defined as a mistake. It does not make you a bad person and is nothing to be ashamed about. Shame is the feeling that you are inherently bad, rather than a sense of having made an error. Maintaining the right perspective is key.

In this instance, my client was able to take action and rectify his debts and situation once he gained a more valid perspective of the issue and options. As a result, ultimately his self-esteem improved through taking ownership of the situation and resolving the issue. Each of us is confronted with challenges and opportunities every day which could or do provide the platform for developing self-esteem.

 

If he had not identified and applied actions, the situation would have likely spiraled out of control and continued to damage his self-esteem. How we view these moments in life and our self-talk has a significant bearing on how we feel about ourselves overall.

When we take action and own situations, we feel good about our contributions and the outcomes. When we acknowledge this, it feels good and has a positive impact on how we view ourselves.

Interestingly, our self-esteem is either gradually built or diminished through our perspective and actions.

Alternatively, when there is a lack of ownership, accountability and reflection about how to improve ourselves and the situations, there is a tendency to be self-critical. When this avoidance is consistent, our self-esteem declines.

These increases and declines in self-esteem and self-worth occur gradually. I often describe it as .01% impact in each situation, either negative or positive. Clearly then, it takes many, many opportunities and actions to affect our overall self-esteem one way or the other.

Relationships with those close to you — parents, siblings, peers, teachers and other important contacts — are important to your self-esteem. Many beliefs you hold about yourself today reflect messages you’ve received from these people over time.

Yet, without consistent and conscious reflection, acknowledgment and action our tendency is to see the perceived risk and failure rather than the real risk and benefits. Innately, many people are more half-glass empty than full. But, this attitude and thought-process can be changed.

If you receive mostly negative feedback and are often criticized, teased or devalued by others, you’re more likely to struggle with poor self-esteem. But past experiences and relationships don’t have to be your destiny. Your own thoughts have perhaps the biggest impact — and these thoughts are within your control.

If you tend to focus on your weaknesses or flaws, working on changing that can help you develop a more balanced, accurate view of yourself. (4)

If your relationships are strong and you receive generally positive feedback, you’re more likely to see yourself as worthwhile and have healthier self-esteem. Oddly perhaps, this includes your relationship with yourself!

There are some simple ways to tell if you have healthy self-esteem:

  • Avoid dwelling on past, negative experiences
  • Express your needs
  • Feel confident
  • Have a positive outlook on life
  • Say “no” when you want to
  • See overall strengths and weaknesses and accept them.

You may need to work on how you perceive yourself if you tend to experience these common problems:

  • A belief that others are better than you
  • You find it difficult expressing your needs
  • Too much focus on your weaknesses
  • Frequently experience feelings such as shame, depression, or anxiety
  • A negative outlook on life
  • An intense fear of failure
  • Trouble accepting positive feedback
  • Trouble saying “no”
  • Regularly put other people’s needs before your own
  • You struggle with confidence. (1)

The Centre for Clinical Interventions offers an excellent model that may assist in assessing your current state and potential areas of focus and action. (2)

Click on the image below to open a worksheet containing additional, related information.

CCI: Model of Healthy Self Esteem

Self-esteem affects virtually every facet of your life. Maintaining a healthy, realistic view of yourself isn’t about blowing your own horn. It’s about learning to like and respect yourself — faults and all. (4)

Seeking help from relevant professionals is recommended, if required. However, for most of us it is possible to take action to change how you perceive yourself and to gradually build a positive self-esteem. Acknowledgment and honesty are the first steps, followed closely by regular reflection and action. These are steps we can all take…what have you got to lose and consider what you might gain?

 

Resources and References:

(1) Signs of Healthy and Low Self-Esteem – Very Well Mind

(2) Self-Esteem – Centre for Clinical Interventions

(3) Self-Esteem – Victorian Government

(4) Self-Esteem Check: Too Low or Just Right – Mayo Clinic