The Stillwater Blog

You’d better believe it!
December 18th, 2012 by

Lunch with my ex-boss the other day brought back memories of an old colleague with whom I could never really see eye to eye despite my best efforts. I thought she was extremely aggressive and overly sensitive. I remember every time I had to deal with her I would start anticipating her (violent in my imagination) response and that didn’t really help matters.

We only interacted once in a while but in coaching, there an interesting idea that by expecting someone to behave in a certain way, you cause them to behave in that way. So then…did I cause this colleague’s behaviour? Perhaps. But this whole thought thread got me thinking of other situations where I could definitely see how I contributed to a situation I didn’t want in the first place.

This was a few years back when I was managing a team for the first time. I expected high quality work from my team every time because one, I held myself up to high standards and two, I wanted to prove that my function was really great (read indispensible). But the thing is I didn’t trust my team, especially one member who was the same age as me, to deliver quality work! I wanted her to take charge, take the initiative, think outside the box…but really I did not believe that she actually would or even that she actually could!!

The result was that I would hesitate to delegate important work to her, and so she would feel mistrusted by me and bored with the mundane work that was assigned to her, which then resulted in her not putting in the best to that work, resulting in poorer quality of work than she was capable of, all of which further confirming my fears that she cannot deliver quality and cannot be trusted with important work!

The frustrating thing (now that I analyze it) is that I didn’t see the signs. She would keep asking me to give her more interesting and challenging things to do…she even kept hinting she would quit. But I kept justifying my actions by showing her poor performance, further demoralizing her. I know now that the results could have been incredibly different had I just recognized my beliefs about her.

I’m doing more of that now – and I realize it’s an ongoing process – recognizing where things are not working for me and exploring which of my beliefs are becoming self fulfilling prophecies.

To be(lieve) or not to be(lieve)
December 5th, 2012 by

One of the beliefs that was ingrained into me as a child was that ‘the middle path is always the best path’. And it has served me really well. I think I’ve become a well balanced, head on the shoulders, practical person because of that. Whenever I’ve got stuck in a situation or had to make decisions, I’ve followed this and it has almost always seen me through safely.

The funny thing about beliefs though is that they become our reality. We forget that it’s just a ‘psychological state in which we hold a certain proposition to be true’. And so more often than not our beliefs hold us rather than us holding them and our life mirrors these beliefs.

So, if you had to draw a graph of my life, it would be a straight road rather that of hills and valleys. I never digressed. I always played it safe (follow the middle path) and therefore have never really had major ups and downs in my life…it’s been a plateau all along. Which is fine.

Except that it’s boring! I realized it when I made a life pie for myself, rated all the important areas of my life on a scale of 1-10 and found myself in the middle on most of them! I was cruising along and definitely not unhappy but I wasn’t living a full life…on any of the most important parameters to me!! I had to start deviating from the middle path…start taking some risks!

And I did. Tiny steps. Small risks. And then more and more. Funny thing is they’ve never backfired. I quit my job as a corporate lawyer and risked working in a non profit, took up completely different careers as a teacher and hr manager, and then quit all that to become an executive coach and a partner in my own business! Each step was scary and at each step I had doubts, but I had fun all the way and I love what I do now…so I would say it’s been worth it.

I’m still far from leading the utmost life that I can but I know I’m moving towards it (photography is my latest passion, violin is next). Thing is…if I hadn’t recognized the belief that I held as my reality I would have always stayed at the plateau and never known the joys of the highs and lows.