Something to optimise for

Calm.

Too often we focus on efficiencies, productivity tools and hacks in order to squeeze more into our days.

More to-do’s, more emails, more meetings, more social media posts and ultimately, more self inflicted stress.

This frantic energy to get more done is vastly overrated.

What if instead, we optimised for calm?

What if we did away with questions like: will this save us more money, resources or time? and instead asked: will this create more calm?

Hat tip to one of my favourite books of 2020: It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work.

Three rules for asking great coaching questions

  1. Avoid framing them in a way that can be answered as ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Binary question tend not to be conducive to uncovering possibility.
  2. As much as possible, start your questions with ‘what’ or ‘how’. ‘What if…‘, ‘How might…’ and ‘what would it look like if…’ are solid examples.
  3. Most important of all: Follow your curiosity. Ask the question you want to ask based on what the other person has said. Seek to understand what it is they’re really saying.

That’s it.

Simple on paper, harder to execute. Hence, practice.

The best way to ask better questions is to practice asking better questions.

When is the last time you…

  • Asked for help?
  • Admitted you didn’t know the answer?
  • Closed your email?
  • Had a day without meetings?
  • Took a week off?
  • Asked someone “how can I support?”
  • Felt like an imposter?
  • Declined a meeting because it didn’t have a clear purpose?
  • Defined what success looks like?
  • Got clear on the hard part?
  • Went for a 60min walk?

These are all choices that can make us better leaders. Which one will you take on in the next week?

A reminder on imposter syndrome

If you’re sharing creative work, starting a new role, working with a new client or leading a new project, chances are you’ll feel like an imposter.

That’s because you’re doing something you’ve never done before and so, by definition, you are an imposter.

This means that everyone we’ve ever admired is also an imposter.

The reminder, then, is to actively choose to dance with our imposter by:

  1. noticing this feeling and giving it a voice
  2. showing up anyway and giving ourselves a voice.

I call this dance the imposter two-step.

Surprises

Surprises change our reality.

The good kind, like a surprise birthday can take us from “I’m having a quiet dinner with one friend” to “looks like I’m having a party with 30 of my friends”.

The not so good kind, like a big client deciding they no longer need our services can take us from “there are plenty of projects for us next quarter” to “coolcoolcool, we need to step up our business development.”

In both cases, in order to navigate what’s happened and move forward we must accept the circumstances of our new reality.

Consider how odd it would be to ignore the 30 friends throwing us a surprise birthday party and pretend we were still having a quiet dinner with one.

When faced with a surprise, then, a good question to ponder is: what’s my new reality?

Making it up as we go

That’s what we’re all doing.

Whether it’s your boss, the CEO, a mentor, the person you admire, your best friend or a complete stranger.

Sure, we might notice patterns or rhymes based on our past experiences, but it’s worth remembering we’ve never experienced this moment, these people, this context or this year before.

The sooner we accept this, the sooner we can let go and bring joy, purpose and humanity to our work.

Case and point: