I spent the last six months or so of 2016 coaching and developing frontline Social Care Practitioners around the concept of Strengths-Based Practice. On my last day one of the coachees posed an interesting question, which led to a fascinating debate on the day and has left me reflecting on it ever since. What did she say….
"I must say that you are one of the most positive individuals that I have ever met. Positivity is your strength. You are so lucky to have had the training that you have had to enable you to have this mindset consistently."
Now, I'll leave the full debate about nature versus nurture for another post in the future, and I would love to hear your personal experiences in the meantime. I'm sure that there will be the whole spectrum of responses. There certainly was on the day: obviously this lady was in the 100% trained positivity camp, whereas the guy sitting next to her was of the 100% opinion that it was an innate skill and that I was born with a positive mindset. As a professional Coach, I imagine the answer is somewhere in-between. I know oodles of strategies for developing, nurturing and sustaining a positive mindset; perhaps the 'nature' part makes it easier for some than others depending on their baseline. Anyway I digress - this is not the nuts and bolts of my personal reflection.. Please don't get the wrong idea about me either.....I'm not the skipping down the corridors, beaming from ear to ear, irritating type of positive (well I hope not anyway)!! I prefer 'understated and effortless' positivity. I have my bad days like everyone else. I have my strategies for resolving negativities quickly; and above all I endeavour to never show that side in front of my clients or training attendees.
They deserve to see the best version of me, and only ever that version.
I would be a terrible trainer, facilitator, Coach if I took 'baggage' into the session with me, yet I am sure we have all experienced it first hand. You probably only need to think back to a conversation with a partner who's not listening to you properly or is obviously distracted following a tough day at work. Their mind is elsewhere but you need them to be truly present. And what happens next? Feelings of resentment, annoyance, irritation, guilt perhaps. You feel like you have been short changed somehow. I've always been quite a natural 'compartmentaliser' and my journey to become a Personal Performance Coach through The Coaching Academy really did harness the skill (so my attendee was right in a way, although I really am adverse to the word 'lucky'). There are a lot of techniques out there to support oneself in de-baggaging, or as an ex-Cabin Crew friend recently said: "Emptying your Capacity Bucket." There's relaxation, visualisation and mindfulness techniques. There's stories of individuals who write their frustrations on a piece of paper and then lock them in a box, ready to be picked up later. You may have also heard the story of the The Trouble Tree: " The Carpenter I hired to help me restore and old farmhouse had just finished a rough first day on the job. A flat tire made him lose an hour of work, his electric saw quit, and now his ancient pickup truck refused to start. While I drove him home, he sat in stony silence." "On arriving, he invited me in to meet his family. As we walked toward the front door, he paused briefly at a small tree, touching the tips of the branches with both hands. When opening the door, he underwent an amazing transformation. His tanned face wreathed in smiles and he hugged his two small children and gave his wife a kiss." "Afterward he walked me to the car. We passed the tree and my curiosity got the better of me. I asked him about what I had seen him do earlier." "Oh, that's my trouble tree", he replied. "I know I can't help having troubles on the job, but one thing for sure, troubles don't belong in the house with my wife and the children. So I just hang them on the tree every night when I come home. Then in the morning I pick them up again." "Funny thing is", he smiled, "when I come out in the morning to pick 'em up, there ain't nearly as many as I remember hanging up the night before." What I actually think the lady in my session was commenting on was my ability to behave in a consistent manner. The positivity thing might actually be a bit of a red-herring. This got me thinking about consistency (not necessarily positivity) as an essential leadership skill. So what did I do? I googled it of course!! There are so many great quotes to chose from; my favourite has to be “we become what we want to be by consistently being what we want to become each day.” I have had some great and inspirational managers in my career; and reflecting back I think their consistency might have been their greatest attribute. If they were consistently positive all the better! In fact I have met some seriously miserable managers - and when done consistently it weirdly sort of works. At least their staff knew exactly what they were going to get and were respectful of that. It becomes trickier for employees when faced with an inconsistent manager - up one minute, down the next. As leaders don't our staff deserve the best version of us, consistently? And why stop at leadership or business; aren't we all looking for a little bit of consistency in all aspects of our lives? I'm not a parent and I am certainly not going to start dishing out parenting advice. But I was a child once, and I know that one of the kindest things my parents did was to apply boundaries and rules consistently. And what about our other personal relationships too - how do they benefit from a consistent approach (of course allowing room for spontaneity and surprise)? I've consistently become a little bit obsessed with the word 'consistent' as a result of this experience and now writing this article.....so I'll sign off here. I will leave you with one final thought though......How could you become more consistent? It might just be the kindest thing you do!