Hands up. As the calendar ticked over into September, and our workplaces filled up again (along with tales of holiday highs and lows and dubious ‘gifts’ brought back), how many of you felt the familiar feeling settling down around you? The ‘back to work’ blues?
Although we celebrate ‘the New Year’ as December rolls into January, for many of us, September feels like a new beginning. Maybe we’re all somehow programmed from childhood and the start of the new school year in September, or maybe it’s simply that the lull over the summer period gives us cause to reflect, to take stock and evaluate. Whatever the reason, September is often seen as a time for a fresh start – but also a time when frustrations and dissatisfaction can raise their heads.
For some, September means being invigorated, and full of new ideas and resolution, followed by malaise as the energy quickly dissipates and comes to nothing without the clarity and direction to take them forward. For others, it’s a feeling of returning to a rut, often a very stressful one, and a desire to change this but no opportunity or clear idea of how to go about achieving this. Whatever the cause of your ‘back to work’ blues, coaching can help.
The Back to Work Blues
Our attitude to work can be formed from a complicated cocktail of feelings and emotions. Unhappiness and workplace stress, low motivation levels, boredom and acceptance of mediocrity, or feelings that there’s just no way to move forwards are just some of the negative traits that typify the ‘back to work’ blues. We often feel we have no choice about the situation we find ourselves in – which can often be compounded by feelings of low self-worth and a lack of motivation.
In these circumstances, the confidential one to one dialogue between you and your coach which will result in you being more empowered, and recognising that you have choices. Coaching can also improve self-esteem and confidence in your own abilities, and provide fresh motivation to take forward ideas for change in a structured and measurable way. By offering an impartial sounding board to explore your options, you will find your motivation levels increasing as you develop your strategy for change.
Structured space and reflection time
In a hectic and pressurised world, where work and home life compete ever more for time and attention, coaching offers the opportunity for space and reflection time to help you identify the issue (or issues) causing your frustrations and holding you back. Of course, you need to recognise that taking the time out to attend a series of coaching sessions is a valid use of your time. For many people, this can be a huge step, but the fact is that things will never change unless you make the opportunity to understand the root causes of the frustrations or dissatisfaction you are feeling, and to work out a plan to address them.
While a course of coaching sessions will be structured around the issues you are facing, a fundamental aim of most sessions will be to raise your awareness – both your self-awareness and awareness of how other people and situations trigger certain reactions within you. This raised awareness, combined with the insights your coach has observed during the coaching sessions, will offer you an enhanced perspective on your situation. This new perspective will then allow you to see things more clearly, to identify where change is necessary. You will also find that coaching will increase your feelings of responsibility; your innate understanding that only you can change things, and it is your responsibility to do so if your situation is to improve.
You may feel uncomfortable with the idea of sharing your feelings, fears and frustrations with someone who is essentially a stranger. Coaches are not here to cast judgment on you or your situation, but to create an environment in which you feel comfortable exploring the things that are troubling you. Your coach will feed back observations and insights she has gathered during the course of your dialogues and from the answers you’ll give to insightful questions, but she will not be judging you. Your coach is neither friend, colleague or manager and is only concerned to support you to reach the outcomes you need. It is key to the coaching relationship that you choose a coach with whom you feel comfortable at the outset. Take time to speak to a few coaches, look at their websites, ask if there is anyone you can speak to who will talk to you about their own coaching experience with a particular coach. Your need for resolution may be pressing, but it’s worth taking some time to decide which coach is right for you.
As your relationship with your coach develops, and levels of trust will increase you will appreciate the opportunity to strategise and work through a plan without fear of being judged or seen as unable to cope. Once you’ve identified the root of your back to work blues, your coach will help you recognise where you want to go, to probe out your goals and then help you develop structure through which you’ll be able to piece together a new road map for your professional life.
Ongoing support for greater fulfilment
Taking the step to embark on the coaching road to greater satisfaction in your working life, a road that will result in you feeling more motivated, more connected, happier to be at work is a sure-fire way to beat those back to work blues. Not only that, the coaching relationship isn’t just a temporary solution. Your coach can continue to support along the way, to help you work through challenges – both anticipated an unexpected – that may crop up on the way, and keep you focussed on your plan for greater fulfilment. No longer will you dread the post-holiday return to work!
Every discipline has its own mysteries, its own conventions, its own language, known only to those who choose to immerse themselves within: doctors, nutritionists, builders, coaches. While language can serve to allow practitioners in any given field to communicate with each other, it can also bring an air of exclusivity and put others off exploring the possibilities that these specialists can offer: we fear that our lack of understanding will make us look somehow inadequate as we try and engage. Here, then, and in future blogs, we will aim to demystify the language of coaching, and what it all means.
Coaching raises your levels of awareness and responsibility
What is ‘coaching’? We see it as a conversation; a dialogue between ‘the Coach’ and their client, otherwise known as the ‘Coachee’. The aim of coaching is to raise your levels of awareness – awareness about yourself, your strengths and limitations, awareness of others and their feelings, and your levels of responsibility. The conversation that leads to this must be structured and process-driven, built around measurable goals and objectives to achieve positive results. With these improved levels of awareness and responsibility, you will perform better both in the workplace and in your personal life
Private, 1:1 discussions lead to improved awareness
Trust and confidence is at the heart of coaching. To achieve better results in your business or personal life, you need to be prepared to talk frankly with your coach in order to get to the root of what could be holding you back. This may not be what you think it is, and only by talking openly with your coach will the real issues come to the fore. A coach – and coaching – offers you the opportunity to talk in a structured and confidential environment to achieve the improved levels of awareness that are so important for successful relationships – the backbone of your business.
Take the example of a situation where you have to hold a difficult conversation with a colleague. Perhaps they have let you down on a project, or you have to deal with more complex performance issues. Time spent in advance thinking about how your colleague might be feeling, their perception of the situation and therefore how they might react to this discussion will almost certainly allow you to hold the discussion in a way that will lead to the most constructive outcome for both you and your colleague.
This enhanced awareness and understanding of other people and their reactions is one of the most common outcomes of successful coaching, and can result in significantly improved workplace relationships, yet it comes from gaining a greater understanding of your own behaviour and reactions, your skills and personal attributes and your abilities and assumptions.
The benefits of improved awareness
A positive coaching relationship which enhances awareness in this way grows your self-belief and confidence. Raised awareness can be aligned to improved emotional intelligence; you become more aware of their own behaviour and actions and the impact you have on others, which results in more considered interactions with colleagues, customers, friends and family.
Just as improving awareness of your own behaviours and attitudes can bring dramatic change, so does ‘taking responsibility’. In a coaching context, this means truly accepting and taking ownership of your thoughts and actions. It is no one else’s ‘fault’ or ‘responsibility’ – it is yours. And the greater your ownership and responsibility, the greater your commitment to the task or objective will be and the better your performance.
More often than not, individuals take true responsibility when they are given a choice to arrive at their own solutions. Telling someone to be responsible for something doesn’t make them feel responsible for it. Think of a time when you were given a choice as to how you completed a task or project. What impact did having that choice have on your level of ownership and commitment towards completing that task to your best ability?
Achieving awareness and responsibility in this manner is best achieved through a non-directive coaching style.
Non-Directive Coaching to raise awareness and responsibility
Non Directive coaching is the ‘pull’ rather than the ‘push’ style of coaching. Instead of telling you what to do, giving advice, or even making suggestions, the Coach acts like a facilitator to guide your thinking and help you resolve your own challenges. During confidential coaching sessions, your coach will ask you thought provoking questions – questions you will never have thought to ask yourself, or questions you may have avoided answering – and use finely tuned and intuitive listening skills to really get to know you – sometimes better than you know yourself. A skilled coach will then reflect back to you what she hears, sees and feels about you and your situation, in a compassionate, non-judgmental manner, and always with your best interests at heart. Your Coach might sometimes, offer guidance, but only with your permission. The best solutions are always the ones that you arrive at yourself and they are the solutions that you are more likely to put into practice than if someone has told you what to do.
Bringing it all together
This, in a nutshell, is coaching. A confidential dialogue, a structured process through which you come to know yourself better, to take ownership of the situations you find yourself in – be they business or personal – and to reach the solutions that will lead to improved relationships and greater success where you need it. It’s about being the best you can be – and we can help you achieve that!
Get to the heart of the matter with Equine Assisted Coaching
Whether traditional coaching approaches aren’t delivering the results you need, or you’re looking for something a bit different to inspire as well as deliver, the emerging field of Equine Assisted Coaching could be what you are looking for.
Equine assisted coaching isn’t about riding or horsemanship. It’s about creating a space in which structured contact with horses acts as a powerful stimulus for feedback and coaching leading to actions which can be immediately implemented back in the workplace.
If you haven’t come across equine assisted coaching before (and the chances are you may well not have done) it can be hard to understand how a horse can help you deal with the challenges you, your business, your team are facing. The reality is that it’s actually a far more immediate and effective way of drilling down to the heart of the matter than more conventional coaching techniques.
The key is the way horses work as individuals and as pack animals. They react to what they sense without that sense being clouded by social niceties, without fear of ‘upsetting’ someone. If you try to make a horse follow you somewhere you don’t want to go, the horse will sense this and no amount of cajoling will persuade him otherwise. Using this intuition is the key to equine assisted coaching, and it achieves some startling results. Time and again, we see horses pick up on the ‘real’ issue – regardless of attempts to conceal it. Equally startlingly, because this feedback is delivered without judgment, we see those being coached respond and embrace the feedback far more readily than in more conventional coaching scenarios.
Horses provide instant feedback – there’s no pussyfooting around an issue. As coaches working with the horses and with teams or individuals – business leaders, entrepreneurs – we are trained to understand and interpret the reactions the horses display in any situation, which in turn facilitates open discussion. Results that might take a number of sessions using conventional coaching and paper-based assessments can often be delivered from one, tailored, equine assisted coaching session.
Crucially, equine assisted coaching the way we deliver it is structured and tailored to the challenges you are facing. We discuss your issues and objectives and plan your session accordingly. Our human coaches, and our horses, are flexible and professional and can reshape the session in real time if the answers that are coming out highlight that a different issue needs to be addressed.
You can find out more about equine assisted coaching from our governing body the International Association for Horse Assisted Education http://www.eahae.org/, and we’d be delighted to answer your questions about equine assisted coaching and benefits for your business.
Whatever your political views, whether you voted Remain or Leave in the EU Referendum, there is something we will probably all agree on. Immigration, economic stability and collaboration with Europe aside, there is a more fundamental issue here. Trust.
Distrust in the system, the establishment, the politicians, the EU. Whatever you want to call it, the problem remains the same; the challenges we are facing now have largely been brought about by a lack of trust.
Trust is the foundation of any relationship. It takes time to build yet can be destroyed in a heart beat.
Trust in who is leading us – whether that be our country leaders, the CEO or MD of the business we work for, the person leading our team – and of course, trusting each other.
In business, the performance of many teams is eroded because of a lack of trust between team members and/or their leader. Repairing trust takes time and if your team has significant trust issues, it is likely that you will need outside help to repair the damage before moving on.
But how do you know if your team do have a good level of trust?
· Well, first of all, open and honest communication amongst the team exists. This is paramount. People need to feel they can air their views without fear of reprisal, blame or ridicule.
· When the going gets tough, people back each other up. They may disagree with a decision but they will still support it. This is called ‘cabinet responsibility’.
· It’s not only each other they get along with, it’s other departments and stakeholders too; team members who trust each other will work well with other teams and are seen as co-operative.
Once this base level of trust has been achieved, it becomes a platform upon which to build mutual responsibility and accountability and to take your team to the heady heights of being a high performing team.
How Equine Facilitated Learning can help you find a way forward, no matter who you are.
Many people ask us whether we train the horses to do what they do here at Horse Sense.Like all our other colleagues in the Equine Facilitated Learning Industry, the only ‘training’ the horses have is familiarization to the props we use. We train our horses to get used to coloured flags, poles, traffic cones and other equipment that we use on our programmes, but that’s it. There’s no other training involved at all; our horses are your normal, everyday horses and ponies that spend their days grazing in the fields, just like any others.
The other question we get asked is whether you need to be a horse person to do this. In other words, do you have to know your way around horses, feel comfortable around them or even be able to ride them. Again, the answer is an emphatic ‘no!’. It really doesn’t matter whether you have experience of horses or not. The horses don’t respond to any secret equestrian ‘know how’, they just do what they do best; they be themselves and they react totally in the ‘moment’ to what they feel.
A few years ago, I went to visit a guy who was held in high esteem in the world of equine facilitated learning. An accomplished horseman and follower of natural horsemanship, I had read his book on leadership using horses and was curious to learn more about his own work in this fascinating field.
Upon arriving at his yard I was amazed when he whistled and from far across the fields, two horses came galloping over. The connection this guy had with his horses was incredible. They would follow him anywhere.
Later on in the day, he asked me (a fellow NLP Coach) to take him through some of the exercises I might use with my own clients. He talked to me about a decision that he had made regarding a future goal. I decided to do some Timeline work. Based on Timeline Therapy®, the fundamental principle is to replicate your client’s past, present and future in a line – and we use the outdoor space in the arena to do this. So, we set too, creating a pathway in the arena which represented the future journey that he needed to make to achieve this goal. I then asked him to walk up the path towards this goal and ask his horses to follow him (no lead ropes attached). Now, I had no idea what was going to happen and, to be honest, I really thought that, given the relationship he had with his beloved animals, they would walk straight on down after him. But no. They refused to follow. I was, for want of a better expression, quite literally gobsmacked – and so was he. We spent some time next discussing this future goal and, importantly, his level of commitment to it. Clearly the horses had picked up that he wasn’t completely confident in the path he was taking and their intuitive ability and survival instinct had kicked in; they most certainly weren’t going to follow anyone down a road they weren’t confident with, no matter how much they adored him. After a short time, it transpired that there were family issues surrounding this goal; it was right for him, but not for his wife and deep down he knew that. We talked about other options and eventually he found a solution that was right for both of them. I asked him again to make the journey towards his goal, this time with the new insight and learning. This time, the horses followed.
Apart from being one of those ‘wow!’ moments, and a rather emotional experience for all (as these sessions often are) that session taught me a few things too.
Using the arena to represent a client’s timeline is incredibly powerful. The horses, no matter what their previous training will always do their own thing and default back to their natural instincts. And, it really doesn’t matter whether you are a Grand Prix Dressage Rider, Cowboy Extraordinaire, or have never touched a horse in your life before, the horses will always detect and mirror your underlying thoughts and feelings that so often hold us back in life without us even realizing it.
Karen Fleming is an experienced International Coach, Master Practitioner of NLP, Master Practitioner of Timeline Therapy® and accredited Equine Guided Leadership Development Facilitator.
For more information about how you can use horses in our CPD Accredited Coaching Programmes to work through personal or business issues, please contact:
Brandy is and always has been our Horse Sense leader. His bold attitude and loving nature has always made him a favourite with our clients. So it rocked us to our core when, following lameness tests, he was diagnosed with soft tissue arthritic changes.
The following months rushed by ……How could we retire a 14-year-old with so much life in him? Would he ever be able to be used again? What options did we have?
The team at Severn Edge Vets has been on hand to guide us through every step of the process, and we had to endure weeks of endless X-rays and re-assessments. We can now as a team say that we are old hat/ professionals at getting a horse to stand correctly for X-rays. The X-ray safety apron was sadly becoming a regular part of my wardrobe and did absolutely nothing for my figure. Forget the gym membership, our fitness regime now involved running up and down the road with Brandy while the Vet assessed his lameness. What an experience.
After one wet and windy visit from our Vet, Kate she suggested a course of Cartrofen injections. She took the time to explain how Cartrofen works.
It is important to emphasise that Cartrophen is only licensed for use in dogs but has been widely injected into horses with encouraging results. It is what is known as a chondro-protective agent – that is that it helps to protect the cartilage on the ends of the bone within joints. It improves the quality of the joint oil, making it thicker and thereby enhancing its lubricant characteristics. It also has a mild anti-inflammatory effect. Because it is injected into the muscle it travels to all joints in the body and sometimes has a marked rejuvenating effect on older, arthritic horses and ponies.
We decided that we had nothing to lose and everything to gain. We embarked on a 4 week course initially. We first noticed a marked change in Brandy’s attitude; retirement was really not suiting him and he had no problem letting everyone know this was the case. He was looking happier and the improvements just kept coming. Brandy’s lameness had clearly been significantly reduced. Kate came to review him just after Christmas 2015 and suggested we carry on with a further course of Cartrofen. It was the easiest decision we have made.
So fast forward to March 2016 and we have our Horse Sense Leader back and although we are taking it very slowly, in addition to resuming his role as an Equine Assisted Coaching Horse, he is now back being ridden in our arena and loving life again.
For more information about our Horse Sense offering or to keep up with Brandy’s story check out our web site or find us on FB.
Telephone: 01584 890 636
I recently took advantage of the glorious late summer sun to give one of my horses his annual bath. Lily, the lovely little 12 year old who helps out around the stables, was very excited at the prospect of bath time for her horsey friend. Now, Brandy is a big boy and likes to throw his weight around. He’s the youngest and most definitely the boss of our herd of horses. A very autocratic leader, he bullies the others to get his own way. Whilst he has more respect around humans and does understand the concept of leadership, barging and bolting are just a couple of the tricks he has up his sleeve to avoid doing anything he doesn’t want to. So, you’re probably getting the picture here. Half a tonne of big, bargy Brandy with attitude. Not a horse for the faint-hearted.
So, whilst she is a very sensible young girl who is used to being around our four legged friends, you can understand the slight anxiety that I was feeling as I tentatively handed over the bucket of soapy water to young Lily. I hovered close by, ready to intervene pronto if Brandy decided a bath was not on his agenda.
I needn’t have worried. That big burly horse let little Lily cover him from head to tail with soapy water, fuss around him, hose him down and then plait his mane in cute little pigtails. She chatted away to him, talking him through bath time and telling him what a good boy he was whilst he rested his head on the fence and snoozed in the summer sun. Now let me tell you, if that had been anyone else bathing that horse it would have been an entirely different story – mostly involving kicked over buckets, sopping wet people and a dry horse with a glint in his eye.
So what is it about a 12 year old girl that this big bold horse takes notice of? And, importantly, what on earth has this got to do with leadership?
Horses need and want strong leadership. It’s how they operate in the wild and it’s what they look for when interacting with people on the ground; and Brandy demands strong leadership from his human handlers.
The adults down at the stables would have approached Brandy’s bath time quite differently to Lily. With great trepidation, anticipating an uncooperative horse and a stressful experience, our beliefs about his attitude would have surely got in the way. And horses, being highly intuitive animals, can pick up on the slightest doubt, hesitation or lack of conviction and will react accordingly. Usually with objection.
Lily however approached that horse and the task in hand with great delight, with positive intention, and utter belief in the goodness of that horse.
As leaders, we need to believe in the people that work hard for us. Even if sometimes they challenge us with their behaviour and attitudes. We need to come back to a place of positive intention and have faith. We need to invest time and energy into understanding and learning to trust the more ‘difficult’ employees in our teams. Changing how we approach challenging individuals will most certainly evoke a different, and quite possibly more positive, response from them. Is it worth it? Why not give it a go and see the results for yourself.
“Work for someone who believes in you, because when they believe in you, they’ll invest in you.”
Marissa Mayer, CEO at Yahoo!