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March 2017

Coaching in the pocket: Episode 5 – PRAISE

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The best way to praise somebody is to recognize his/her effort and to communicate respect and understanding.

Many people think that praise consolidates trust. Yet, this can lead to tension and inappropriate behaviors.

Sometimes, when we do not really integrate the praise, we are tempted, without being aware, to prove who we really are. Parents often say that, immediately after children are praised, these behave strangely as if they want to show the contrary. It is also common for a child praised for his/her cleverness and talent to avoid more difficult tasks lest he/she should risk his image.

It is embarrassing for someone to be told what a gifted, generous, hard worker and modest could be.

Often the person is immediately obligated to deny publically or even for herself/himself. He/she cannot, honestly, sustain all these things.

It also could happen that the praise can generate hidden thoughts about the praise giver: if he says this, he might be telling lies / having an interest / be a little stupid … or it could lead to he/she feels superior to me if he is padding on my shoulder with such things.

The praise has two parts: what we are telling the people and what they are saying to themselves.

Usually we praise our children because we want them to have a better image about themselves. How does it happen that when we are telling our daughter “How pretty you are!” she denies this and when we are telling our boy “How clever you can be!” he seems embarrassed and steps back?

Most of the people do not react at praising words focused on their personality, physical or mental attributes. Generally, people do not like to be assessed.

The best praise consists in recognizing the effort and communication of respect and understanding. It should refer to efforts and achievements; it should never hint character and personality.

Being wrongly praised leads children to dependency and fragility, while praising them correctly could make them stronger.

Exactly the same way, adults, if they are given the proper feedback, can become more responsible wanting to be engaged in more and more difficult tasks.  What is the proper feedback in job?

Today most of the managers reward genial ideas, special performance and are in a hurry to assess their employees as talents. Specialists recommend praising our people more for “showing their pro-active spirit, for ending up a difficult task, because they strive and learn new things, because they have not gone down when they have failed or they have shown openness and have taken measures to criticism. And even more, praise them because they do not pretend to be praised every day.” – Carol Dweck, “Mindset. The New Psychology of Success”

I don’t know how often you have heard such praises in your companies; I must admit that I have seldom heard them.

How important it could be for us to understand that only by supporting our people growing mindset and mental development we can assure the leaders we like to speak about.

All To Know recommends the following workshops on this topic:

  • How to Grow People
  • Coaching for Performance
  • Mindset & Grit
  • How to Lead Effective Assessment Meetings
  • How to Give Proper Feedback

Coaching in the pocket: Episode 4 – Who is to be blamed?

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One of the most important challenges is to find the best balance between “blaming culture” and the one “it works anyway”. If you focus on finding the guilty persons it will lead to making people close themselves, if you are too relaxed it could lead to carelessness.

A manager who takes his time to understand the information and to look for different perspectives has an important advantage. She/he will both understand what has happened in each of the cases and also sends a trusting message to his team: if you make a mistake unintentionally, you will not be sanctioned.

The real question is neither “Who is to be blamed”, nor “Where is the dividing line between justified blaming and unintentional mistake?”, but “Do people in your organization really trust the ones in charge to set this line?

People will be open and engaged only when they trust the ones judging them.

Blaming without having done a detailed analysis is one of the most dangerous things in a company; it is based on a wrong assumption that being firm and being open are in conflict.

The fault undermines essential information for adaptation, letting us believe that we understand the environment, when in fact we should learn from it.

An organizational culture that really allows accepting and reporting mistakes securely can live together with, or even create, high performance standards” – Matthew Syed “Black Box Thinking”

Coaching in the pocket: Episode 3 – MEMORY

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Our memory is permanent subject to change. Each moment we remember, review and integrate new different images.

We try, without realizing this, that our memory fits to what we feel today more than what we really lived.

Recent researches suggest that this characteristic of our memory brings benefits for our imagination. Matthew Syed gives an example of how we can imagine that we have a coffee with David Beckham. Simply, we take a memory from our latest going out for a coffee, we stick it to Beckham’s image and here we are having coffee together.

I hope it is easier now to explain why some of us live so passionately events that have never happened!!!!

Are you somebody or nobody?

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We permanently strive, at home and at the job, hoping to be recognized and become different from the others. We really want to persuade people that we are special.

We are taught that if we gain (money, prizes, and authority) we can become somebody. We see the same examples around us every day. As kids, we learn Esop’s fable telling us the story of the reckless, yet gifted rabbit and the turtle, hardly walking, still constantly going forward. We understand the moral, but, anyway, who has ever wanted to be the turtle? (Carol Dweck)

We run after success and we always show our extraordinary invincibility, sometimes even in battles that we just imagine.

Having learnt the lesson, we get scared of failure. We have no power to speak about our failures and we hide them as deep as we can at all our life interviews. We only talk about our performances, we know that others put high expectations on us and we do not want to let them down. We know that only success makes us somebody.

Our high self esteem encourages our desire of being special. In fact, what we really want is to be „Super Somebody” increasing our authority and giving us rights upon the others.

The question is: if when we have success we are somebody, when we don’t, who are we?

When we lose our results, our prizes, our authority, do we automatically become nobody, as we are tempted to believe? Is there anything between being somebody and nobody?

We try hard to prove our talents in victories and results, yet efforts are seldom appreciated, trainings often ignored. What does it matter if you learn how to play very well, as long as you do not score at the match?

Today we want to win, not to play well. Trainings are far less important for us, than being celebrated for victory.

The issue in Esop’s fable is that we only have an either-or perspective. Either you are gifted – the rabbit, or you make effort – the turtle. Endeavour is, in this case, just for the ones not really gifted. As society, M. Gladwell says, we generally appreciate the achievement obtained without effort, we let apart endless hours of work and failures that actually build our success. We want success to appear easy, owing to our natural abilities.

Yet the truth is that only by effort you can win the race. How important could it be to succeed in protecting less our ego and being able to appreciate effort as much as success?

How well could it be to fill in the space between somebody and nobody with people like us, who can afford to be in between, without struggling to become somebody no matter what? How harmonious could our relationships be if being somebody would not really mean being better than others?

More than this, how happy could we be if we can become somebody for the others without becoming anybody for ourselves?