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English author and philosopher Francis Bacon, an advocate of inductive reasoning in science, wrote, “Knowledge is power” in 1597.  This phrase has come up with many of my clients recently in a new form: self-knowledge is power.

Increase Your Awareness

One of the first steps in coaching is creating awareness of strengths, motivators and stress behaviors, typically through a personality assessment and confidential feedback from colleagues.  The challenge then becomes what to do with that information.  I often tell my clients, “You don’t have to agree with all of the feedback but you can choose what to do with it.”

Knowing

  • your strengths gives you the power to resist buying into destructive comments from an undermining co-worker.
  • what motivates you gives you the power to pursue a role that makes you look forward to work every day.
  • what triggers your stress behaviors gives you the power to stay calm and in control when your brain wants you to do the opposite.

What do you need to know in order to be your most powerful self?

I love this quote : “You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading your last one”  from Michael McMillan, author of The Power of Teamwork.  He explains that, “Growing from our past is productive… attempting to live there isn’t.” 

Many of my clients are high achievers with very high expectations who tend to beat themselves up over their mistakes.  If this sounds familiar, you probably already know that you function best in an environment that provides challenges and opportunities for personal accomplishment.

Here are some suggestions for getting to the next chapter:

  • If you find yourself ruminating over something in the past, write down what you learned and how you will apply it in the future.
  • If things become too routine, seek out some new challenges.
  • Rather than automatically blaming yourself when things go wrong, identify what you can control and address that.

What will you learn from the last chapter of your life that will help you begin the next one?

 

Holding Onto the Seat

Do you remember learning to ride a bike?  Someone probably held onto the back of the seat and ran alongside you a few times.  Then they encouraged you to try it on your own.  You wobbled a little before falling and skinning your knee.  Depending on their approach, you either kept trying or you gave up until they pushed you back outside and made you do it again.

But Not Too Long

In my coaching practice, I see a lot of leaders who are discouraging their teams by holding onto the bicycle seat too long and micromanaging.  Understandably, they don’t want anyone to fail but they don’t realize the importance of encouraging people to learn from falling down.  In these situations, I work with my clients to become effective leaders who equip people with the tools and support they need and then let them do their jobs.

Micromanagement or Motivation?

In the book What Leaders Really Do, John Kotter points out that, “Motivation and inspiration energize people, not by pushing them in the right direction as control mechanisms do but by satisfying basic human needs for achievement, a sense of belonging, recognition, self-esteem, a feeling of control over one’s life, and the ability to live up to one’s ideals.”

I invite you to envision what you and your team could achieve if you trade micromanagement for motivation.

If you are a country music fan you might know Jennifer Nettles’ song, “Stuck Like Glue” that goes, “Some days I don’t feel like trying.  Some days you know I wanna just give up.”   That song has been stuck in my head since a conversation with a close friend who is also a coach.

Let Me Count the Ways

My friend was describing all the areas in her life where she is stuck:  doing work she has do instead of work she wants to do; trying to decide on the status of a relationship; being frustrated with adult children who don’t have time for their mom; arranging care for aging parents.

 How Do I Get Unstuck?

Of course, I had to ask her a coaching question: if you’re feeling stuck in all those areas, where do you need to let go? (Sometimes even we coaches need help seeing the obvious.) It was the jolt she needed to realize that she was trying too hard to control and manage everything and everybody around her.  I can empathize with that.

Just Give Up

So when you’re feeling stuck like glue to a situation that is causing frustration or anxiety, just give up and stop trying to control everything.

While recovering from foot surgery, I had a lot of time to think about how hard it is to give up control – of my schedule, my mobility, my environment.  As I began meeting with clients again, this issue of control came up in different ways.  I heard things like:

  • How do I keep people from interrupting and distracting me?
  • Why won’t my boss be honest with me about my promotion potential?
  • How do I deal with the uncertainty of constant organizational change?

Sound familiar?  If so, consider that you have also given up control, although not because of a physical limitation.  You are limiting yourself by believing that you aren’t in control – of how you respond.

Here are some suggestions for taking control of your responses to:

  • Dealing with interruptions – I can’t talk right now but let’s get together at 3:00 this afternoon
  • Getting feedback – I’m going to schedule a meeting to ask my boss what I need to do in order to be considered promotable
  • Dealing with change – I accept that change is inevitable and will focus on what I can influence

I invite you to challenge yourself to take control and change how you respond to one thing this week.  If it works for you, keep doing it.  If not, try something else until you feel like you are in control.