There are things that I put off doing; and just like everyone else, these are the things I imagine I don’t like doing. Networking is one of them. This is what happened towards the end of last year – I was simply so busy that I didn’t have time to do anything more than prepare for the next coaching meeting or facilitation, and then go and deliver. So I stopped thinking about making any new contacts and looking for new opportunities. I imagined that what I’d need to do would be to ring up lots of people I didn’t know and ask them to meet me, and so of course, as someone with a preference for introversion (see the previous blog entry), I didn’t do it. That task had three things I dislike in it – phone, unknown people, and asking.
So – come the new year, and I realise that I need to get back to this. But by then, the thought that networking was something that involved three of my ‘dislikes’ was firmly embedded in my head, so I put it off until I really felt I had to do something.
And here’s the surprise – I really like networking. I still don’t like ringing up lots of new people and asking them to meet me. But for me, networking is not that – it’s contacting a few people I already know and asking them to put me in touch with one or two people I don’t know, who I might have something in common with. That’s great – I get to meet people who want to meet me, I do it through making contact with people I already know and like, and it’s bite-sized. The fact that I enjoy it makes me much more relaxed about meeting new people in general, and so I’ve started to network better at larger meetings as well – because the pressure’s off.
Moral: if there are things you avoid doing, find ways of doing them that make them more approachable and friendly to you. Don’t try and do them the way that seems natural to others. Take the pressure off. Do them your way.
‘Oh, that’s what I’m like!’
I was sitting in a dark railway carriage a few months ago, and I looked across the aisle. I saw a reasonably smartly dressed man, with receding hair and glasses. It was the end of the day – he looked tired. Oddly, he was staring at me as if he knew me.
That unexpected reflection has stuck with me: I can still see the image in my mind’s eye. Because it’s hard to see ourselves with any sort of objectivity. It’s both scary (I was older and tireder than I thought) and affirming (I was slightly better-looking than I thought – though that’s not making huge claim!). Anything that helps us get a better view of who we are and how we appear is exciting.
That’s one reason I love using the Myers Briggs psychometric in my work. This isn’t an advert – it’s just the truth! Well used and understood, it’s a fantastic way of seeing ourselves without negative judgement or false pride; a way of recognising ourselves for who we are and beginning to understand how to work better with that. Any week when I have a few feedback meetings using this tool is a good one for me – because I love to hear people say, with excitement, ‘Oh, that’s what I’m like.’
So I’m sitting doing Maths revision with my son, and he’s struggling with SIN and COS and areas of triangles. It all comes over me in waves – the way I just scraped my GCE Maths all those years ago, how I felt like I was drowning in a sea of ignorance, slowly sinking beneath the waves, never to be seen again…
But then I remembered how I felt when he taught me to swim. Years ago, he was having lessons, and picking it up really well. I had never been much of a swimmer, and I thought – why not? If he can do it, so can I. Let him teach me – it’ll be good for both of us. And it was. He grew in confidence, and I learned better from him than I had from the guy who’d chucked me in the deep end and shouted at me when I was six years old.
The same was true just now – I shared my ignorance with him, and we worked on things together. I gave up – and he was in the position of having to ‘rescue’ me. The power shifted – and he’s working away now on his own while I come to write this.
It’s not enough to know the answer and be confident. Coaching is about really, truly not knowing, and trusting the client and the dynamic of the relationship to come up with the answer. For coaches, it’s all too tempting to feel we should ‘know the answer'; for buyers of coaching, it’s all too tempting to go for a coach who has wide experience in the business that the client is involved with. But ignorance really is bliss in coaching – scary, challenging, sometimes threatening… but the only place to start if you actually want to help someone learn something.