Category: Blog

Gritty Conversations

We  feel overwhelmed when we need to have a potentially gritty conversation with a friend, colleague, boss, partner or family member. This is a theme which often pops up in my coaching practice. Usually we have gone over and over our thoughts of anxiety, resentment, anger or sadness – often imprisoned by a repetition of the same scenario as a hamster wheel in our minds, as we think of someone in a tricky scenario.

The way forward or out of this misery is to have a Gritty Conversation to clear misunderstandings, appreciate the other, express our needs and find a constructive way forward. The hamburger metaphor for gritty conversations is not new. However, my client, a dynamic market research team, and I have created a gourmet burger of conversation. This recipe is also pertinent as the basis for those dreaded performance appraisals which HR demand of us.

My friends will smile at my boldness in sharing recipes – as I am not known for my culinary skills – but this is a recipe of the mind and heart – and not the stomach! May it lead you to having conversations which clear your mind for happier thoughts and improved and richer relationships in your life.

Recipe for making a wholesome hamburger of feedback – a gritty conversation

  1. Preparing the ingredients: Be clear on your intentions for the conversation. What is your best intention? What message do you wish to convey? What will be a win/win outcome for this conversation? How should your mood be to best have the conversation – calm, centered and clear. How will you manage the tone if the other person becomes defended/emotional? When is the best time and place to have the conversation?
  2. Top bun: This is the appreciation ingredient. Affirm the other person in a genuine manner for something specific that they have done in their work, your relationship or as a team member.
  3. Patty – either a yummy lentil patty or quality mince – good protein. Present the facts of what you observed or what occurred without embellished stories or exaggerated emotions. State clearly why this might have been unacceptable to you and what your expectations were.
  4. Tasty garnishing – pickles, tomatoes, cheese, onions and crispy lettuce. Asking incisive questions is the deliciousness of any conversation. Ask the person for their version of events. What was their intention? What got in the way? How did they feel about the results? Listen with an open mind and heart. Do not interrupt. Acknowledge their feelings even if different to yours.
  5. Bottom bun: Summarise the conversation. Confirm both your understanding. Your version may well have shifted. Agree on actions going forward. Affirm the person for the way they showed up during your conversation.
  6. Serve on a plate with a serviette. This is the closure – pop the person a mail or text with a short summary of your agreement going forward. Keep the tone of the mail positive and again affirm the person.

There may well be people who are not willing to even taste your delicious burger – accept them in their hunger state as not being able or willing to shift their perspective by even having a conversation with you. We do not know what burdens people carry which leads to them shutting others out – but it is not for us to take this personally as it is not our business. Rather celebrate the people who are in your life and are willing to share a meal of human connection.

Here’s wishing you many great gritty conversations, which when held in a skilled, heartfelt and mindful way, will lead to feelings of calm, clarity, improved relationships and actions leading to great outcomes.


Transitions – kissing ourselves over the edge

As coaches we often need to guide our clients from one life boulder to the next boulder – like the leap of faith we make when hiking in the mountains and feeling the anxiety of maybe not being sure footed when we jump from the edge of one boulder to the safety and excitement of being on the next boulder ready for new vistas, sauntering along on our hiking trail.

I will share some newfound life lessons on making a big career leap of faith from one boulder to the next in the autumn of my life. Mine was a voluntary jump and yet there have been many times when I wished I could turn back the clock and land back onto my safe boulder of how things were before.

The change was precipitated by contributing to the requirement for my previous organisation to bring about transformation in my position as the HR executive – a position I had happily held for 13 years. This could be called the ‘push’ factor. The ‘pull’ factor was my curiosity and yearning to be my own boss and focus on the aspects of human resources which I truly enjoy. I am still blessed with energy and health, the desire to share what I have learned in my long and exciting corporate career and the plan is to leave my pension savings intact for as long as possible.

A job title can falsely define our identity – losing one’s job title is a big adjustment. People who before treated me with respect suddenly became dismissive. This was a humbling lesson in how to earn authentic respect from others without the armor of a job title.

However, I realized again how important it is to cultivate relationships built on trust with those in our present work circumstances. My anchor client has evolved from executives whom I had worked with previously and who gave me the opportunity to focus on my core passion of people development – mentoring, coaching and facilitating leadership programs.

The first year of leaving a fulltime job is not the time to have a gap year. The network of relationships which you require to establish yourself, need to be explored while you are still fresh in the minds of others. This meant that I have worked harder than before and the flexible time off to go hiking or traveling has not yet materialized.

Life also does not co-operate in the way we would wish it to when we need a smooth transition with no added stresses. My three children all presented with their own life challenges during this year of boulder leaping and I have had to flex my reliance muscle in being there for them while pursuing my own goals.

Despite all these hurdles I now feel as if I am doing the work which has gifted me with the most meaning – at times I am so fulfilled that I can truly call my work my passion.

I have learned that we need to be accountable to ourselves in being kissed over the boulder edge, and that the leap from secure permanent employment to earning your own agency can be made smoother by remembering the following:

  • Self-care – make time for that beach walk, eat healthily, laugh heartily and enjoy a glass of Merlot or whatever softens the sometimes-hard edges of life (in moderation!)
  • Friends – choose to spend time with friends who lift your spirits, believe in you and encourage your change of life choices. Avoid negativity from people who project their own lack of self-esteem
  • Family – be there for them but also be clear in making requests for their support
  • Build your network. Connect with the people where you have previously enjoyed a positive work exchange. Be clear on your distinctive talents and offerings and articulate how you can exceed expectations – and then deliver
  • Remind yourself every day of why you chose to make the leap to your new boulder and celebrate the moments of joy and progress as you explore the new vistas
  • Take time off – be flexible with your clients in saying ‘yes, but not now’ in meeting their needs and still fulfilling your own work life balance
  • Don’t take refusals personally – not everyone will see the value in your offering or have the capacity to contract you according to your expectations. A spirit of abundancy means there is enough work for everyone. I am often amazed how assignments come my way with exquisite timing in challenging my own development
  • Stay current – the world of work is changing rapidly and your own learning needs to stay ahead in remaining relevant and innovative for your clients
  • Gratitude – acknowledging both the small and big delights in life mean that we cannot hold resentful thoughts. It is not possible to be resentful or anxious while we are in a state of gratitude
  • Celebrate every leap your clients make and use the learning to further build your coaching skills for the next client

This experience has given me the grit and opportunity for exploring possibilities with my clients in their quests for exploring uncharted territories. I look forward to sharing more adventures with you.

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