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Mentors Exercise for Dealing with Challenges

Three amazing people you can have on your side whenever you’re facing challenge, uncertainty or fear

Serious question – Can you imagine what it would be like if there were three absolutely brilliant people, with different but complementary abilities, who you could call on for advice at any time and who’d know just what you needed to hear?

What difference could that make…


This is part of an exercise I use with people when they might be facing something challenging, unknown or scary. And they need to recapture or uncover some of their innate resourcefulness to deal with it.


Take a look at the diagram above;

and then follow these easy steps:

  1. Identify the challenging, scary or unknown thing
  2. On a scale of 1-10, where 10 is high, just how challenging or scary is this thing at the moment?
  3. Place it on the floor in front of you, like in the diagram. Don’t get so close to it, that you feel uncomfortable; back-up if necessary
  4. Think of a person who is really, really Effective, just great at getting things done.
    It can be a real person you know, somebody you have heard about or know of but haven’t met in real life, or a character from a film, a book, a game or a TV programme
  5. Get your (imaginary) Effective Mentor to stand in their spot, as per the diagram, so that they are behind you and slightly to your left. In your mind’s eye, get a good sense of what they look like and how they stand.
  6. When you’re ready, move onto your Effective Mentor’s spot, and pretend that you are actually stepping into their body
  7. Do what you need to do, to get a real sense of what it’s like, to be this person who is so effective, so good at getting things done
  8. When you have that sense, look over at the You spot and imagine a version of yourself still standing there, facing this challenging/scary/unknown thing
  9. From inside your Effective Mentor, you’ll notice that you have some advice or support that you’d like to offer to that version of yourself. Go ahead and say that, out loud if you can.
  10. Step back onto the You spot and take a moment to hear that advice

  11. Now think of a person who always seems really, really Fulfilled. Someone who is happy with themselves. Again, it can be a real person, someone you know or know of, or a fictional character of some kind
  12. Get your (imaginary) Fulfilled Mentor to stand in their spot, as per the diagram, so that they are directly behind you. In your mind’s eye, get a good sense of what they look like and how they stand.
  13. When you’re ready, move onto your Fulfilled Mentor’s spot, and pretend that you are actually stepping into their body
  14. Do what you need to do, to get a real sense of what it’s like, to be this person who is so fulfilled, so happy with who they are
  15. When you have that sense, look over at the You spot and again imagine a version of yourself still standing there, facing this challenging/scary/unknown thing
  16. From inside your Fulfilled Mentor, you’ll notice that you have some advice or support that you’d like to offer to that version of yourself. Go ahead and say that, out loud if you can.
  17. Step back onto the You spot and take a moment to hear that advice

  18. Now think of a person who always seems really, really Empowered. Someone who lets nothing stop them and doesn’t wait for permission. Again, it can be a real person, someone you know or know of, or a fictional character of some kind
  19. Get your (imaginary) Empowered Mentor to stand in their spot, as per the diagram, so that they are behind you and slightly to you right. In your mind’s eye, get a good sense of what they look like and how they stand.
  20. When you’re ready, move onto your Empowered Mentor’s spot, and pretend that you are actually stepping into their body
  21. Do what you need to do, to get a real sense of what it’s like, to be this person who is so empowered, who doesn’t let anything stop them and who doesn’t need to wait for permission
  22. When you have that sense, look over at the You spot and again imagine a version of yourself still standing there, facing this challenging/scary/unknown thing
  23. From inside your Empowered Mentor, you’ll notice that you have some advice or support that you’d like to offer to that version of yourself. Go ahead and say that, out loud if you can.
  24. Step back onto the You spot and take a moment to hear that advice.

  25. Now imagine that all three of your mentors are lined-up behind you. Perhaps you’d like them to reach out and place a supportive hand on your shoulders and back.

Remember the advice that each of your mentors had for you and know that you can access this inner resourcefulness of yours whenever you want to.

On that same scale of 1-10, how challenging or scary does that thing seem now?

Choice Not Control

Whether you feel in or out of control, it’s probably an illusion. What you choose is what really counts

 

Good to Talk

The Zen of a great space for thinking out loud about ideas, concerns and ambitions

One of the best aspects of my work is how much people value the chance to just talk about stuff.

There are several things you have to do before, during and afterwards to make it work well, but, the most important message I’d like leaders and managers to take from this post is really simple:

having a good-quality opportunity to talk and think out loud about the things that excite, concern and drive us is a fundamental requirement for operating well and feeling good about things at work

If you’ve set this up well, people will arrive ready and raring to go, with lists, narrative notes or a thought-cloud of things they want to share.

As a coach, it’s sometimes surprising how little I actually have to do on the outside – the important part for clients is for me to ‘witness’ whatever it is they are sharing. And I’m often consciously working at not doing anything else other than witness during these times. I’m also working at not letting my opinions and my own concerns and ambitions crowd-out my attention.

Things that seem to make it a good quality opportunity for people include:

1. Environment
The actual physical space you’re in, which needs to feel fairly protected or perhaps isolated I think. Although you can do a lot towards that just by the way you interact and negotiate together about what’s to be said and how they want you to be during the saying of it

2. The Coach or Leader’s Attitude
Holding an attitude in mind where (as the coach) you can connect really well with whatever it is that you find genuinely interesting, magnificent or even puzzling about this person. This I think is the key to good, deep listening and should be what drives your body language and verbal ‘tics’ (the uh-hu’s and hmm’s etc)

3. Offering People the Chance to Just Talk
On a conscious level, people don’t always seem to know that they want the chance to just talk. So it needs to be part of the negotiations about what they want from you as their coach and I think you may sometimes need to offer it explicitly: “You know, people sometimes just want me to listen to what’s been going around in their head and in their experiences. Would that be useful for you either now or sometime?”

4. Confidentiality and Managing the Agenda
There are also the real basics, like your commitments to confidentiality and how it works if you’re this person’s boss and therefore also have to juggle your own and the organisation’s agenda as well as listening to them. Make sure you talk about these right upfront, preferably before offering an ear to someone. But do it not in an idealistic way, but in a way that includes and is explicit about the reality – what are the limits to the confidentiality you can offer this person? What are the potential conflicts with your own agenda for what you want them to achieve and what the organisation wants?

For me, being able to give someone the chance to talk about (and hear for themselves) their ideas, concerns and ambitions is an incredibly privileged and humbling experience. Instinctively (and I have more learning to do about this), my sense is that the experience of talking about these things should be really ‘zen-like’ – unadorned and aspiring to true insight.