The Road to Self-Sufficiency Begins With Taking the First Step in Your Course of Action Towards Reaching What You Want to Achieve
Matt’s Story: His Journey To and his Discovery Of his Ability to Self-Coach, Direct and Lead
Matt loved the autonomy of his WorkLife. He had worked in accounting at an advertising agency for fifteen years. He was quite a loner, he enjoyed working alone and he loved the solitude of his role. On many occasions he found himself to be invisible, and he was actually OK with that. He had a sense he was on the outside looking in, and he quite liked that: it allowed him to be an observer without being observed.
However, he was required to deliver monthly presentations on how the company was doing financially. This was a challenge for Matt and took him out of his comfort zone in different ways:
1. Talking for fifteen minutes was a very big challenge, as he actually never spoke very much. Matt was a man of few words.
2. While he loved numbers, he knew that when he talked about them he did not do it in an interesting way. He would see people’s eyes quickly glaze over, followed by them making the earliest possible exit.
3. The monthly presentations were preceded by a networking breakfast. He really hated small- talk, and found the experience both contrived and banal.
He did, however, want to continue to learn, grow and develop. There were various workplace coaching, training and mentoring programmes that Matt could have tapped into to facilitate this, but he resisted all of them, simply because his participation would require him spending more time with people than he wanted.
He knew he had to take ownership of doing what he needed to do. He was OK with that because the other side of being a loner was that he was extremely self-sufficient. So he figured he could help himself achieve what he wanted and needed. His thinking was that he could model what the coaching, training and mentoring programmes were offering, and adopt a self-coaching, directing and leadership approach.
Being an accountant, he was quite a logical thinker, and so he thought through the three challenges he was facing:
1. The fact that he spoke so little.
He knew he needed to have the words, so as to have the thoughts to develop his presentations. He knew that of course people think in words, and so if he did not have the vocabulary to describe the things he wanted to talk about, he literally could not give the presentations or have the conversations that came from the Q&A at the end of each presentation.
He needed to find a way to overcome this. He needed to invest in himself and his learning. He needed to find a passion around this learning.
Although Matt was a man of few words, he did actually have a love of words. He read and listened to audio recordings extensively. That was his thing — what he was doing when he lost himself, and when he whiled away the hours.
So, he began by setting out to be more intentional in his reading and listening to learn how writers drew in their audiences. Being analytical allowed him to recognise patterns, which he noted in a spreadsheet.
His focus on how he could learn what he needed led him to discover an online writing course by one of his favourite authors. This really appealed to Matt because it was something he could do on his own, in his own time, at this own pace, and so he signed up.
His focus on being intentional about his reading and listening helped him to build the vocabulary he needed, and the course helped him with his second challenge:
2. To talk about numbers in an interesting way.
To do that he needed to build a story around the numbers. Matt began to think about what it was about numbers that he loved so much, that he could develop into a story.
He knew he enjoyed finding solutions. He was curious and asked himself a lot of questions, particularly around the status quo of things. Questions that usually began with: “why”, “how”, “what if”.
He got a lot of satisfaction from knowing he had dealt with a problem and had made things better. He actually had quite a creative mindset that was driven by possibility, because his solutions emphasised what was possible. His creative mindset inspired his curiosity and passion, which lead to the action needed.
He needed to talk about these solutions, and the course gave him a framework to develop these into stories.
Focusing on overcoming challenges 1 and 2, allowed him to know what he needed to do to overcome his third challenge:
3. The networking breakfast — making small talk that didn’t feel contrived or banal.
The answer lay in the questions he loved asking of himself. He just needed to make a shift to asking questions of other people. Questions that would elicit more about who people were, what excited them and what they cared about. This would make for much more interesting conversations.
He thought about the questions he wished people would ask him. He started with a question that really got people to open up:
“What’s a passion project you’re working on at the moment?”
Then he moved onto questions that were a little more daring (well for Matt anyway!), and that also had an element of fun:
“Which part of your job would you like to kill or eliminate?”
“If we could hire five more people, what unconventional skills would they have and why?”
Throughout the process, Matt found that he was developing his ability to self-coach, direct and lead quite naturally. In fact, he recognised that because of his self-sufficiency this is something he had been doing all along.
For self-coaching the questions he posed to himself included: What’s standing in my way?
What will happen if I take this step? / What will happen if I don’t? What does success look like?
What do I want?
Feeling like an outsider looking in observing what was going on around him allowed him to do the same for himself. His power of observation was so finely tuned that he was able to observe and direct himself in the moment.
During his presentations, the Q&A, the networking, his ability to be observant allowed him to be fully present and in the moment, which in turn meant he was fully attuned to his audience, resulting in him being able to self-direct and react on the spot in real time. It actually felt quite surreal. At times Matt felt he was both performing and watching his own performance.
For self-leadership Matt asked himself questions that included: Is this the best way to do this? Is there a different/simpler way? What do I need to stop/start doing?
Will my approach be successful?
What do I need from myself in order to help me reach my full potential?
How can I help people? Through my presentations, the answers I give at the Q&A sessions, the conversations I have over networking.
A few presentations later Matt realised he was no longer invisible. People would come up to him and tell him how much they enjoyed his stories, and how he made it really easy to under- stand the financial side of things — something they admitted to not having much of an interest in before.
He was able to manage this interaction and still maintain a good level of solitude, which was important to him. If at any stage he found himself thinking “I Have to do this”, he shifted his thinking by telling himself, “I Get to do this.”
This story is one of the stories featured in my book: How To Self-Coach, Direct And Lead Effectively, from The School Of WorkLife Book Series.
Click on the above title for an inside view of the book, where you will see the stories and assignments. Tap the link below to see the other books in the series.
The stories I write are based on real WorkLife challenges, obstacles and successes. In some stories I share my own experiences, and with permission stories of people I’ve worked with, whose names have been changed to protect their anonymity. Other persons and companies portrayed in the stories are not based on real people or entities.