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!