Posts Tagged 'work'

My First Client

It’s official. Okay, it’s almost official. I haven’t yet finished the coaching course – I have to finish the book and pass the test. I’ve done all of the other requirements. But those 2 requirements are dependent solely on me – I don’t need anyone else to get them done. Today I finished the last requirement that needed other people participating. The course had 10 online group sessions. We’ve a large group – nearly 40 people meeting online (we’ve lost a few since the first class). As I mentioned in an earlier post, we get sent into breakout rooms – 3 or 4 of us together. Someone must coach, someone must be the coachee, and the other observes. I’ve been an observer for the first 8 sessions. I WAS about to volunteer to coach once, but I got elbowed aside quite strongly (virtually, mind you) by someone else who felt he absolutely needed to coach. *grin*

Last session I was the coachee. I’ve been fairly snarky about being a coachee. My feeling was that there was nothing one of my classmates could do for me that I couldn’t do already with my “Howard-in-my-head“. After all, I KNEW what the problem was, I KNEW I had to find a non-confrontational way to discuss it with the person in question, I KNEW that what was holding me up was what words I would use to speak to her directly. It was obviously just a matter of me thinking about the wording, trying out sentences and seeing which felt ‘right’. But I had to be a coachee and B had to be a coach. I even started my session with him being snarky (at least I felt it was condescending and snarky, I’m not sure if B felt that way) – explaining that I *KNEW* what had to be done. B did not let that bother him. He had me state my issue and what I wanted to accomplish today: I have a coworker who speaks very very very softly on all of our team calls, and I can’t hear her, and I get frustrated and embarrassed having to ask her to repeat everything, and even then I don’t always hear her. I’ve asked coworkers to move the microphone near her, I’ve instant messaged them to find out what she said, suggested to our manager that he have EVERYONE use the video and not just audio (maybe I’d be better at reading lips). *laughing* Even TYPING this the frustration returns.

Well, we only get about 15 minutes for these triad coaching sessions. We were almost to the end when B asked me what ended up being the pivotal question: What can you do NOW to address this? I started to answer him by saying “nothing, I can’t do anything until I see her in person”. And WHAM!!! It hit me. Right in mid-sentence. I did NOT have to wait to see her in person. I could EMAIL her!! Or I could IM her right before the next meeting (due later that day). This did NOT have to be done in person. You’re reading this and saying – well, could it be any more obvious???? The answer is no, it really isn’t obvious when it is YOUR issue. One thing that I have learned for sure from this coaching course is how grateful we all are for the space of time where we can think, reflect, take time. We spend a lot of effort getting things done and not as much time exploring all the aspects. I’ve learned that when I coach, the thing my coachees seem to appreciate most is the space to think and then speak.

Sharing a situation, describing a problem to another, always seems to let more light on something even when we’ve been sure there are no shadows left. Certainly I’ve experienced it over and over when I was still writing code. I’d hit a bug, be stuck. I’d start to talk to my coworker explaining the issue and as I articulated the details to her, I could see the problem clear as day. Or maybe you’ve had a conversation with a friend where you were talking about some problem or complaint, and the friend mentions some simple solution that you had never even considered. It’s the old you can’t see the forest for the trees – if you are too close, you can’t see the whole.

I was THRILLED with my coaching session with B. I will tell you that I utilized the solution that *I* came up with just this week. I sent an email shortly before the team call to the other 2 women on the call, explaining that I had a hard time hearing, and women’s voices were the most difficult for me, and could they please make sure that the microphones were well distributed around the table and could they please be sure to sit near one. OMG. They wrote back, said they would, they did, and I heard everything. I didn’t feel uncomfortable or demanding or as if I was insulting the person I can’t hear, because by doing it in a common email, I felt I diffused any sort of implication of personal attack. It was great.

Today was FINALLY my turn to be a coach in the triad. *Laughing* It’s very hard to be the coachee at times, and come up with a problem you want to discuss with someone listening, and also knowing you have only 10 minutes to talk. I’ve found, therefore, that I need to give the coachee sufficient time to tell enough of the story so I could hear what was the core of the issue. Then there is the whole aspect of trust and embarrassment – will the person listening judge me or betray me? I felt I was handling the conversation well, although there were several sentences I wanted to rephrase (and did) as soon as I said them. I felt I did manage to keep quiet and give her space to respond, and that I asked open questions that would make her think. I tried to follow the model we were given. I wasn’t sure we were going to come up with an action plan, but just as we got the 1 minute warning to return to the group, she came up with a solution she felt she could implement right away.

We returned to the group and our facilitator was asking for feedback. One of the best parts of blogging is that I can “brag”. My blog, my words, no one makes you read it. *grin* In many other aspects of my life I do try to avoid singing my own praises. (And honestly, there ARE so many things to praise when you are as wonderful as I am. *grin*) But here’s what the rest of my triad had to say in the open group chat:

From ‘Observer’ to Everyone:
It was good experience as an observer. Our Coach was so calm and asking very good question.
From Coachee to Everyone:
Ahuva was my coach, and made me feel very comfortable. Thank you so much Ahuva!
From Observer to Everyone:
I totally agree. She was excellent.

*blush* But oh yeah, you know I am feeling good about that. The facilitator read it and called it out, too. Even more exciting – my coachee IM’d me to tell me she had already acted on her solution and thanked me again. 
I praised her and told her she was very welcome, and offered to continue coaching with her if she wished (an offer I did make to my 2 test coachees as well). She was immediately enthusiastic and said she would love to have me coach her and she sent a meeting invitation for us to continue.

So I may not have my course badge yet, but I have a coachee. 🙂

Words to Live By

There has been a lot happening in my life. Some good, some not as good. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking on what I learned in all those years of behavioral therapy. 🙂 Yes, yes, how to behave. 🙂 Although I doubt I’ll win any blue ribbons for best in show. *grin*

I just finished reading an article that came up in my Twitter feed: The key to loving your job in the age of burnout by Cassie Werber. I don’t usually read these articles. I’m not burned out (yet) and I rather like my job and my work. I clicked through on this one because the associated image was interesting. It looked like footprints on water, but had to be mud or sand, but there was someone on the dock next to the footprints. 🙂 It was the picture – I thought if I could see it more clearly I’d be sure of the substance. I’m still not 100% sure of the photo and I’m not sure I am completely comfortable with some of the observations in the article about the nature of work, the gig economy, part-time versus full-time employment, and bespoke careers. That may be because of my age and experience. But I do know that there are several key observations that I consider “truths” to a happier life.

“More and more, our sense of self is connected to the kind of person we believe ourselves to be—a combination of profession and meaning—and not to our place of work. In this, we’re reverting to an earlier mode: before we had companies and careers, we had professions (for example, stone mason) and tasks (build a bridge.)”

Yes, absolutely yes. My corollary to this is that we need to appreciate ourselves and value ourselves in order to be confident and content. To phrase that differently: other people cannot ‘fix’ us. Happiness (contentment) begins within. The foundation is internal, not external. Yes, other people and external factors can make us unhappy, sad, stressed and other negative and bad things. But if we can see that as OUTSIDE of our core, we have the strength and belief to keep going and not despair. Or so it is for me.

“Despair, and railing against the unfairness of the system, are both reasonable. Many people, globally, do not have the freedom to choose. Some work situations—losing your job through no fault of your own, being bullied, suffering discrimination—are certainly unfair. But the narrative of entitlement to a fulfilling job obscures the fact that it’s not our job’s job to be meaningful. It’s our job to find meaning in what we do. Some of us have the option of changing our work situation if that becomes absolutely imperative. But we can also change the narrative we choose to explain our work to the world and to ourselves—and in so doing, change our experience.” (Boldface my addition to highlight the text.)

WORDS! The words we choose to express ourselves and describe our situation make so much difference. I used to say such things as: “I can’t STAND IT ANYMORE”, “This is killing me”, “I HATE him”. It’s very hard to feel as if I can make a change when I use such absolutes. I’ve learned to dial the emotion back a notch: “It is so frustrating when this happens”, “This is so uncomfortable”, “That behavior is not enjoyable”. The latter group of phrases gives me room to maneuver. Did anything about the external situation change? No. But how I perceived it did. I can handle frustration and discomfort. Those are normal experiences.

“… the difference between finding a situation bearable—possibly, indeed, happy—and unbearable is about whether we experience ourselves as performing a willing sacrifice, or simply as suffering. When working hard tips over into working too hard, or with too little reward, sacrifice has slipped into suffering. … “Sacrifice might be hurtful and exhausting, but it is a conscious choice,” he writes. “Suffering is the result of feeling that we cannot slow down or else we will be shamed and lose control. Sacrifice makes us who we are. Suffering keeps us captive.””

You need to read all of the article to understand the “because” part of sacrifice. We sacrifice for a goal. We tell ourselves a narrative to put the sacrifice in context, to make us feel that the ‘suffering’ is bearable and acceptable because of the end goal. We have choices. There are at least 2 choices in this sacrifice/suffering discussion. The first choice is that we choose the language to describe it, we CHOOSE whether we make it a sacrifice or suffering. The 2nd choice is the harder one. We can choose to change the situation (leave the job, leave the relationship, not fix the roof). I used to argue this one over and over and over and over. “It’s NOT a choice” I’d scream, “I HAVE to fix the roof if it leaks!!!” And Howard would say, “No you don’t. You can let it leak.” And I’d point out that the wood would rot, the house fall down and on and on. And he’d reply that it was a choice I was making – to NOT let the wood rot. There are obviously practicalities involved. But there is also a choice, when you stop, breathe and look at it. Once you frame it as a choice, it’s easier to confront. If you can confront it, you may also see how you might bring about an actual change, not only an emotional perspective change.

One of my former co-workers, Jim De Piante, had fantastic presentations about managers and project management. I have always remembered something he said (and my apologies to Jim for any mistakes in the quoting): “Think of your management as your client.” That change in wording shifts the perspective radically. It goes back to the point that words matter. It goes to the point we have a choice. The difference in connotation between ‘client’ and ‘boss’ is HUGE. When we have clients, we are in the driver’s seat, helping to make our clients successful. When we have a boss, we are powerless with no buy-in to the outcome. I think of this approach whenever I have the endless tracking and administrative work that comes with being part of a huge corporation.

“Unreasonable conditions and real misery need to be met with concrete changes. But other conditions, Petriglieri says, can be radically changed by reframing what we expect from ourselves—and how we see what we do with our days in the context of our lives as a whole. “There’s some pain that needs a solution, and some pain that needs a story,” Petriglieri says.”

Tell yourself a story, and choose your words with care. 🙂

Resistance Was Silly

I really, really hate being told “Do This”. Foolish reaction, I know, but the moment someone tells me that I must do something, I want to protest and resist – You’re not the boss of me!!!! There are many situations that bring on my ‘dragging feet’ reaction: visits to relatives with whom I’m not especially close, dealing with my taxes, filling out personal data forms for work, and many other “you must do this” requirements. I say it’s a foolish reaction because typically doing the action is NEVER as horrible as I anticipate. The visit with the relatives is fun, the taxes take less time and energy than expected and to date I have always survived the experience. So when my manager informed us (his team) that he urged us all very strongly to enroll in a certain program at work, I immediately went into “you can’t tell me what to do” mode.

The irony is that the program he was promoting was the kind of learning I usually take all on my own: learning how to coach people to solve work issues that they face. Over the years I have taken courses in Applied Creative Thinking, been trained as a meeting facilitator, served as a mentor, led training courses, and spent a lot of time in behavioral therapy myself and then trying to teach what I had learned to others. So you’d think that learning to be a more effective coach would be right up my alley. You’d think that, and I recognized that idea, but I was annoyed and resistant. I made sure to wait until beyond the last minute so that I was closed out of all the possible teams. But then to prove I was a “team player” I wrote to the program coordinator apologizing for being late and asking if there was a way to join a team or if I should (oh PLEASE say YES) wait until the next time the program was offered. She put me onto one of her teams. Sigh.

I was EXTREMELY busy at work after that (I believe I have mentioned that *grin*) and so I did none of the prep work. I went to the first session and sat there with my virtual arms crossed and a pout on my virtual face. On camera of course I smiled and put on a “very interested face”. I hope. 🙂 I hated the first session all the way up to the very last 10 minutes. We “wasted” 45 minutes or so for 50 people to introduce themselves and say why they were taking the course. I was the last but one to speak. (Feel the resistance?) Then the facilitator did something technically I’d never seen before – she broke us all into small sub-meetings. Wow – isn’t technology COOL????? I had not known that capability existed and thought it was a fantastic innovation for video conferencing. I was in a room with one other woman. We could see each other’s physical surroundings and we broke the ice talking about sports teams, then started on the assignment. We were summoned back (forcibly) before we had the chance to switch roles. I found that my whole attitude had undergone a change simply from interacting with a real person one on one in a non-threatening environment. I liked her (unlike my reaction to many of the other people introducing themselves – wow you can really tell a lot about a person from the words they use, how long they talk, and their focus *grin*).

I resolved to do more preparation before the next class. My big project had launched, I had more time to work on other matters. Part of my annoyance was the requirement to buy a book in which I had no interest, but I finally downloaded the book to my iPad. The part of the course that was still causing me major stress and concern was the requirement to coach 2 people. I couldn’t think who I might coach. I had an idea that it should be someone younger than I, someone still early in their career. I didn’t really want to reach out to people with whom I work because if I failed or was very bad at this coaching stuff, I didn’t want them to know it and have my good reputation ‘tarnished’. I didn’t know anyone else who’d fit the “young, early in career” stage because my office mates are mostly senior folks who are looking towards retirement, or they are transient employees in for the day to use office facilities. I also thought that it isn’t just the coachee/client who is vulnerable in a session – the coach is also vulnerable. At least I felt *I* would be vulnerable – what if I failed? Who to coach and how was I going to avoid/fulfill this requirement?

I had a meeting with a coworker who is also a friend. We were chatting about business matters and about work and I mentioned this course, and whined about not having anyone to coach and not knowing where to find someone. I was absolutely astounded when he said “You can coach me.” Full Stop. It never occurred to me to reach out to someone like this: senior, well-established, a friend. It took him a few minutes to convince me he was serious and me a few minutes to adjust to the idea of trying to coach a friend. We agreed to give it a try. He recommended a young person we both knew as my second ‘client’ but I was still a bit resistant to coaching someone on my team. But his willingness to be coached made me rethink the people I know at work. I actually know many, many people with whom I have a good relationship and who might agree to 3 one-hour sessions to let me practice coaching. I reached out to one of them, a woman with whom I used to work regularly before she moved to another role. She agreed!!! She was extremely interested and enthusiastic about the idea. I began to be very excited as well. We set our first session for later that week.

I began to catch up on all the assignments. I began reading the book (I was correct – I don’t like it, it doesn’t speak to me, but there are one or two points that I found worth noting). I started watching the videos, which infuriated me no end. They were recorded several years ago. This means there has been PLENTY of time for someone to go in and edit those videos and crop out the leading 10 minutes of people chatting about so and so retiring and “can you hear me now?” and “please put your phones on mute”, and “please call back on another line”. Seriously – I feel that not cropping that kind of nonsense out of the videos but making the videos required viewing is disrespectful to course participants. I really hate the videos until they reach the point where the practice coaching begins. I admire the people who have volunteered to be the coach and the coachee. I’ll tell you right now – it’s SCARY to try to coach when you have NEVER done it before and don’t know what questions to ask or what works. The fact that one woman volunteered to do that and to do it IN FRONT OF OTHERS was impressive. She wasn’t very good at it but she was game and she kept going. The other videos I’ve watched (really listened – there is no video recording during the coaching) were much the same – a lot of stuff that should have been cropped, repetition from prior videos, new material and then a practice coaching session, then someone’s observations and feedback from both coach and coachee. The coaching sessions are incredibly interesting and valuable. I have been taking copious notes.

I did my first coaching session yesterday. I did a LOT of preparation. I printed out course materials, wrote notes on them, highlighted things I wanted to remember, spread them out about my laptop where I could see them without needing to look away from the client. I worried about how we’d switch from friend mode to coach/client mode, and reviewed what I’d heard in the practice sessions. I was as ready as I thought I could be. I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to maintain a coach role. I have a strong tendency to jump in when someone is explaining a work situation and share my similar experience, or to offer an opinion in support, or to propose solutions to the problems. None of that is suitable for a coach. I was aware through the entire hour of keeping my eyes focused on the client’s face (I moved my screen shot so that her face was right above my camera so as I looked at her face, I was staring right into the camera), to not interrupting (keep your mouth shut and LISTEN), to hear what words she used and where she took the conversation. I was writing notes out of view of the camera (they are probably illegible since my writing is horrible to start and I wasn’t LOOKING as I wrote) but I didn’t really need them. I relied on the course notes, and what I’d heard other coaches say/do and tried to follow those examples. It was GREAT. I loved it.

At the end of the hour, I felt we had done very well. To be fair, I suspect one of the reasons it went so well was because I had a great client. She wanted to be there, she could articulate her issues, she had ideas and she responded well to the open-ended questions. The client had actions she planned to implement, we talked about a time frame, we agreed to meet again to discuss the other issues she’d mentioned. When she said to me “you’re a great listener” I felt extremely rewarded. I learned a lot about myself, and about helping others. This IS the kind of work I like to do. Not only did I enjoy this experience but I’m now wondering if this is something I can do as a next role. Helping people resolve their road blocks might be every bit as rewarding as playing with kittens all day. *smile*

Resistance was silly.

Office Reflections

winter skyline

distant mountains.

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Although I still miss the lake and the trees at my previous location, this office can enchant. Whether it’s when I walk in on Monday morning and am greeted by the distant mountains at the end of the hall, or when the sun breaks through after a rainy day, casting late-day shadows on cubicle walls, I’m grateful to have glimpses of nature.

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schflera shadowI do prefer lots of long days of sunshine, but there is pleasure to be had walking out of the office at sunset on a winter’s day. The sky is filled with color, and the windows capture the flames.

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office windows at sunset

OOTD20150529

I take a lot of pride in my work. I know when I’ve done something that is really top quality and well done. If someone compliments me effusively on work that I think is “meh”, the compliment leaves me indifferent for the most part. I don’t NEED someone to tell me when I’ve done superior work – I know it and it makes me feel satisfied and proud. But…. When I HAVE done something that I know took a lot of work, a lot of thought, a lot of crafting, then when the person for whom it was done takes the time to recognize that, praise it, and thank me – that takes the good feeling to an even higher level. You need to work for yourself and recognize your own worth, but it’s very very nice to be appreciated by people whom you respect. 🙂


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