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Thinking is more painful than electric shocks!

Why people often don’t get clear about their desired outcome or choose the best approach to take, before they act

It’s helpful for people to think about stuff more – particularly on why  they’re about to do something and on how  they’re about to do it. This is because:

1. Knowing why  we’re about to do something – the outcome we want to achieve – is much more important than the first few steps, the tactics, that we might take to get to it.

It’s easy to grasp this: if your desired outcome is clear but the first few steps you take towards it don’t work, you can simply try some other tactics. But if you start from the tactics themselves without really being clear about where you’re trying to get to, then early failures tend to derail all your efforts. (There are exceptions to this rule: notably if you’re stuck and don’t know what you want to achieve then just trying something – anything – can be sometimes be more empowering than staying stuck);

2. Actively choosing how  we’re going to do something – the strategy, route or approach we might take – is a key determiner of success.

Far too many people simply do everything the same way, or the same way that they did it before, regardless of whether or not this gets results. It’s where that old saying comes from, “If you’ve only got a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.” Actively choosing the way to go about doing things, dependent on the circumstances and the people involved, creates flexibility of approach. And flexibility of approach in our behaviour is what leads to win-win.

Why don’t people do this kind of thinking more?
Get clear about their desired outcome and choose the best approach to take, before they act?

One part of the answer is in an article I was delighted to discover recently, headlined “People Would Rather Experience An Electric Shock Than Be Alone With Their Thoughts”!

It turns out that a team of researchers have discovered that:

  • Left alone in a room with just their thoughts, more than half the participants described the experience as ‘not enjoyable’, most found it difficult to concentrate and reported their minds wandering. The negative aspects went up further in another group who were asked to repeat the task at home;
  • In one experiment people had the option of giving themselves an electric shock rather than complete the full thinking time. Even though they’d had that level of shock before and had said they’d pay $5 not to be shocked again, 67% of the men and 25% of the women involved chose to shock themselves rather than just sit and think!

You can see there article here: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2014/07/people-would-rather-be-electrically-shocked-left-alone-their-thoughts

My take on this is that human minds are evolved to deal with the real, physical world and with the web of social relationships that it takes to thrive. Disengaging from actual, concrete tasks and from real interactions with others long enough to do this kind of outcome/approach thinking is not something we’re naturally evolved to do. We have to learn it. And sticking with it long enough to get results ‘hurts’ and takes a lot of energy. Similarly, if you’re anything like me, there’s a whole load of failed adventures, thwarted ambitions and personal shortcoming that I’d really rather not think about at all, if only if wasn’t for the chance to improve things in future.

As my coaching practice evolves, I find that more and more people are saying things like: “I just need to hear myself think out loud”, or “I need some space to reflect on things and work them out, a kind of sounding board.” The hardest thing to do when I’m coaching in that kind of situation, is to do nothing but listen – but at least I don’t feel the need to give myself electric shocks!


Let me know if you’ve noticed any of this too please – or what you’re discovering about thinking, outcome-focus and behavioural choices yourself.

Please leave a comment below if they’re still open at the time of reading, or tweet me @nickrobcoach

Does it really hurt to think a bit more? Click To Tweet

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One Page Leadership

What should leaders actually *do*?
The whole of Leadership on one page, free download, no sign-ups.

Click the picture above and then right-click and select ‘Save as…’ to download your copy.

Inspired by some work a client organisation was doing this week, I wanted to get the whole of my mental leadership checklist to fit on one page.

These are the factors I’ll typically run through when I’m coaching someone in a leadership role and want to help make sure they’re covering all the bases that their role demands.

It’s useful for newly-appointed leaders and well-established leaders who want to keep their approach fresh.

This is not the only way of thinking about leadership, but if you include all of these aspects, you can’t go too far wrong.

(This simple structure can also be especially useful in situations where people don’t already think of themselves as “leaders”, even when they’re responsible for and reliant on the work of several other people.)

As usual, please leave me a comment if they’re still open below, or tweet me @NickRobCoach.

  • What aspects of your own leadership do you like to regularly check on
  • What advice would you give to other people who aren’t sure about their leadership?

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Leading from the Light Side

One change that makes all the difference to your leadership, management and personal fulfilment

Please click the image above and then right-click to download or save your copy.

One great way to really up your game, as a leader, a manager or personally, is to regularly check-out which side you’re coming from. Is your motivation coming from the Dark Side, or the Light Side? The Dark Side isn’t bad – it can be useful in the short-term and in some circumstances. But it rarely gets people what they really want. The trick is to become conscious of our Dark Side motivations and use them to initiate a change of approach. Then we can actively choose a Light Side motivation for something that we really want to achieve.


As usual, please add a comment below if they’re still open, or tweet me @nickrobcoach – how do you make sure you’re not leading from the Dark Side?


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Seven Essential Leadership Tools

If you’re a visual person, you’ll love this. My seven most essential leadership tools – but can you name all seven?

Each of the images in the set above represents one of my most essential leadership tools. But I haven’t named them. The challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to correctly identify each of the seven leadership tools using only the image and your own brilliant perception.


As usual, please add a comment below if they’re still open, or tweet me @nickrobcoach – how many of the seven essential leadership tools could you name; what would you add or change?


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The Supportive Boss

Leaders: 7 things your struggling employee needs to hear you say

What if you’ve got someone who works for you who is struggling? They’re maybe a little overwhelmed or out of their depth. Perhaps they’ve lost their mojo. Or they’re reacting badly and you know something is up, but not quite what it is. What is that person secretly waiting to hear from you, their leader?

Here’s seven options to start with:

“I’ve got your back. What support do you need from me?”

“I know you can come through this.”

“Your concerns are genuine and I hear them.
Can we look together at how to deal with them?”

“The reason we fall over is so we can learn to get back up.
What do you want to learn from this?”

“Here’s the bigger picture of why this is important now …”

“Stop struggling.
Take a break.
Come back to it later from this [different] angle.”

“I’ve struggled with lots of things in the past myself.
I reckon we all must do at times.
Who have you asked for help?”


I hope those help a little? Please add a comment below if they’re still open, or contact me here, or tweet me @NickRobCoach especially if you’d like to add something that a struggling employee needs to hear from their leader.


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Stepping into Fierceness

Can you change your emotional-state almost instantly – even to something that’s right out of your comfort zone?

One of my favourite bits of learning about shifting state and taking-on abilities was with the late, great Laura Whitworth of CTI about 15 years ago.

It took place in a coach-training session, in California. We were practising bringing more “Fierceness” to your coaching, so that we can absolutely, no-holds-barred, no-kidding around, demand that our clients fulfil their potential.

We’re on our feet in the group and one woman is struggling with the idea of a helpful, person-centred coach being ‘fierce’. Almost sobbing she says:

“I can’t do fierceness. It’s just in not me at all.”

Here’s how it went down…

Laura takes one look at this woman and asks: “You got kids?
W: “Yes, one.”
L: “How old?
W: “He’s nearly grown-up.”
L: “Remember when he was a baby?”
W: “Yes.”
L: “Remember holding him in your arms?”
W: (cradles her arms) “Yes.”
L: (becomes this twisted, menacing figure) “I’m coming to take your baby from you…
W: “NO YOU’RE NOT!!!”

It was absolutely incredible to see that transformation.
She found her fierceness alright, in an instant, and could still find it as easily and fast as that for the rest of the course.

It’s all there. Every emotion, every experience.
We have access to every human ability and state just like that, at the speed of thought.


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