I was recently invited by Fran Moisa, head-hunter and talent advisor, on her broadcast - SCIO Series. During this episode, Fran asked me a few questions on the topic of coaching and my coaching experience, after which we had a live coaching conversation focusing on ‘Achieving Your Goals’. View the broadcast or read this transcribed version.
In this coaching conversation, I use a tool from my coaching ‘toolbox’ -‘Achieve Your Big Goals’ – you can download this self-coaching tool here
Fran: Good morning everyone I am Fran Moisa, head-hunter and talent advisor and you are watching SCIO… if you haven't watched this before this is a broadcasting channel focused on personal and professional development topics where I will be interviewing various guests... This is the first live broadcast for 2021 …. the topic today is going to be focused on helping you achieve your goals … we are all motivated …like kids going to a candy store … for a better year. We want to achieve great and big things but sometimes we don't know where to start, I’m so very grateful that Karl Grech who has been a previous guest on SCIO has agreed to join me.
Karl Grech is a professional coach and leadership trainer focused on emotional intelligence and today we're going to do a role-play of a coaching session where we will pick a goal. The goal that we will be exploring today is ‘saying no’ to people and probably a lot of us struggle with that. You are invited to pick any goal that works for you for the purpose of this ‘mock’ session. Be aware of your goal how to achieve it and be aware of any limitations that are in your way… So without any further ado, I’d like to welcome Karl, Good morning,
Karl: Good morning Fran and thanks for having me it's always a pleasure to be with you,
Fran: Likewise, thank you for taking the time to be with us … here today. … A lot of us have never been through the process of professional coaching, can you tell us a little bit what coaching is?
Karl: Sure, so what happens during coaching is that I partner with my client and we go through what is called a thought-provoking and creative process, so it's a so to say, question and answer type conversation where I pose most of the questions and I help the client to find out more for themselves. I believe that we have lots of potential, each-and-every one of us, has lots of potential and sometimes we don't even realize the potential we have. It's just like we keep ourselves back on something,… when we get down to doing it and we say ‘ah it wasn't as hard as I thought it was’, so I support my clients and keep them accountable to achieve results. So for example, if we were to engage a personal trainer to help us in training, or achieving the fitness goals, the personal trainer is not there to teach us how to do push-ups. We probably all know how to do push-ups, but the personal trainer is there to keep us accountable, so what I do is I support the individual by keeping them accountable to their goals, helping them to decide what goals, what action they're going to take on a particular area, and then ensuring that they do this. So just like a personal trainer ensuring that you show up, you're constantly there. What is very supportive of coaching is that you are accountable to someone, you feel that someone is there. You feel you need to do it, you know we were speaking about our children earlier, and you promised your daughter something, if you don't do it then you might have to suffer the consequences so likewise, it's doing what you said you're going to do.
Fran: Throughout your career Karl you have worked with both junior professionals that are trying to find their way through the working world, but you have also coached senior-level executives. In your experience when working across this different spectrum, what has been the ingredient that helped your coachees achieve their goal? What was the key ingredient that they need to have?
Karl: ...it helps to have a sounding board, so as a coach like me can be a sounding board. Sometimes leadership can be very lonely and not being able to share your ideas, your thoughts, and confide in someone you can trust in full confidence. So coaching helps the individual to open up in a private confidential conversation, a very comfortable space so to say, where the person can really speak about anything specific that is going to help them, or something they want to achieve, or want to resolve perhaps. What I do in coaching which is maybe unlike mentoring or unlike therapy, I look at the future and I support the individual with what they want to do. I will not give advice, I will not tell them ‘do this’ or ‘do that’, my role there is to support them and help them to identify what is going on around them and what is the best action they should take in the particular circumstance.
Fran: Perfect so a little bit like the therapist, their own therapist, you're guiding them to find their answers and their way of doing things and achieving whatever it is in a way!
Karl: The difference in therapy is, that therapy looks back in the past, what has happened, how does/has that affected you etc. Coaching is more forward-looking, so what are we going to do about it? How are we going to do this? How are we going to support this area? How we're going to achieve…
Fran: We are going to start the role play and mimic a coaching session, in this session we will go through a worksheet – you can download it here
Lets jump into it, Karl guide me through ‘Achieving my goal’ that of ‘saying no’
Disclaimer - this was a live broadcasted coaching conversation aimed to support a live audience, and answer any questions along the way however we tried to keep this as true and real to an actual coaching conversation.
Karl: We're going to start with identifying your smart goals so before we start the role-play, let me explain what a SMART goal is? SMART is an acronym starting from first of all, Specific knowing what you want to achieve, what are you focusing on? In this case, we're focusing on being able to ‘say no’. Measurable, it is important that we can measure our results, how do we know that you are ‘saying no’ more often? For example in this case, what is going to be the way you're going to measure it? Is it something, in particular, you have in mind? Is it specific projects, maybe you want to refuse particular projects so you can spend time in other work? Or maybe ‘saying no’ to work that comes after a certain time, it could be ‘saying no’ to our devices perhaps, and putting them aside, or closing them off, so we can spend some quality time with the family. It needs to be Action-oriented, something we have control over, something we can do about of course. Action-oriented meaning that you know we're not going to say ‘I’m going to win the lottery’ this is not something action-oriented that I have control over, we're not going to say ‘I want every day to be sunny’ because I have no control over the weather but we can say ‘I’m going to carry my own weather’ so irrelevant of the weather ‘I'm going to have a great mood’. Realistic so that we know we can achieve it and the goal you've selected Fran ‘saying no’ is not an easy task, we cannot say come tomorrow I’m going to ‘say no’ to everything… you might need to work you're ‘saying no’ starting with a process from starting by the easier places to ‘say no’ then work up our way to the bigger ‘no’s’. Time-bound by when do you want to achieve this? Putting some sort of timeframe, we can phrase it as follows ‘from x to y by when?’. Currently, we say from always saying yes to being able to say ‘no’ or maybe saying yes on your terms by a certain time frame. So Fran, what would your SMART goal be?
Fran: My specific is to be comfortable in ‘saying no’ to things I don't want to do, or that have no value for me, measurable so you know when you have achieved it - probably when I can breathe easily for not saying ‘yes’ too many times, … for me the measure is I would know I would have achieved that goal of being selective with my time and my involvement when I will gain more time in doing the things that I enjoy or working on projects that I want to do. Action-oriented … you've mentioned that this has to be within your control, yes, I think having the ability to ‘say no’ it's something that we can all control so actions that we take is to identify where perhaps I have been involved or I am about to be involved whether it's aligned with what I want to do achieve and what I value and whether it is a true opportunity for me to say yes or no. And time-bound has a deadline like you said I think sometimes certain goals, especially like this one that we've chosen today, having thorough implications throughout various areas of our lives and it's important to be realistic about that and to work your way through certain levels of comfort until you reach that desired level so the time-bound perhaps would be in my case to start small and develop my confidence throughout.
Karl: Great, what we'll do then is I would encourage you to write this in one sentence, a one-liner. What is important when we do this … is think as if it happened, so to say writing it in the present and also use positive language. So, you would want to keep this as positive as can be, …. Fran …. let's fast forward in the future and you're ‘saying no’ more often and you're happy with the way you're saying no what would it feel like? What would it be like, to be that kind of Fran?
Fran: Liberating in the sense that I feel that I would have more time to dedicate to things that bring me joy and are in alignment with my values and what I want to do, I am empowered, I would feel empowered because I feel like I have a real opportunity to express myself and to choose what is going to work for me.
Karl: … in that sentence, you are saying that you're feeling freer, … you're feeling more in control of your life, you're happier and you're able to say ‘no’, or we could say you are managing the requests that come to you, better.
Fran: Yes, more or less of course…
Karl: So, let's move on to the next stage then and that is our motivation. In assessing our motivation Fran, we would see, why do we want to achieve this? …I would like to ask you, why do you want to ‘say no’ more often Fran?
Fran: So, I would have more time for the things that I enjoy, for example, so in my case have more time for my family and on a professional level to dedicate more time to my professional development as well.
Karl: Great, what could be the pain Fran, of not achieving this goal?
Fran: Well it's probably the reverse, that is having less time to spend with my family, and having less time to work on myself because then my energy would be directed on working in situations that are not aligned with what it is that I want to do.
Karl: So from our conversation so far, what is becoming clearer to you?
Fran: The pain or the downside of not achieving this goal, just as you said at the beginning that coaching looks at the future, now I see it. I understood it when you said it, however, now I can actually understand it at a higher level in terms of implications that it has and the impact it has on my personal and professional life. What is also becoming apparent for me is the cost of not doing this.
Karl: That's a great point, so what we're seeing is the value of you achieving your goal, how are you going to benefit, … you are also seeing the downside, if you don't achieve this then, this is going to happen. You're going to be overwhelmed, you're going to be stressed, and maybe this is going to reflect on family and the people you love around you etc. So how about we move on to the next step, what are the obstacles here. …What is going to keep you from achieving this goal? What are your stumbling blocks (and sometimes it could also be yourself)? Are you keeping yourself from success in this area?
Fran: I think that's a good point you know sometimes we are our own worst enemies. …In my case what would be stopping me is that desire that I have always had throughout my life - when someone asks me for my help it's almost impossible for me to ‘say no.’ I will usually bend over backward, most of the time to my detriment, whilst over time it has gotten better I still feel I have room for improvement. So my comfort level I think would be one of my obstacles, and secondly and perhaps this is not necessarily my personal experience, but throughout my life, I found people especially in a business situation the obstacle in ‘saying no’ perhaps to your boss or to clients or suppliers you know or whatever business interaction one person may have. It's the fear of losing that person or that client or that employee. So I think that is a real fear and even from the employee perspective if someone you know, perhaps your boss gives you or tells you, ‘Karl you need to do this…’ it can be very hard to say ‘no’ because of the repercussions. So this is another obstacle, we need to evaluate and assess the situation, to identify the risks, the positives and negatives, and the perception that the recipient would have upon me saying ‘no’.
Karl: That's a great point Fran and this is true as human beings we always want to help and we want to support each other and that is a very important aspect. Let us keep in mind that if you say ‘yes’ to everything and everybody, you are saying ‘no’ to something else (family, or personal time or anything else) what is the downside? How is that affecting you?
Fran: Emotionally it takes a lot of mental space to be there for everyone and perhaps you don't have that capacity from a mental perspective. The time constraints as well if you're running from one point to the other, from one task to the other, or from one person to the other, you tend to overstretch yourself you spread yourself … and then you can experience … lots of anxiety and also a feeling of not absorbing what's going on around me. Sometimes I feel like I’m in a movie and things pass by me and I can't make sense of them. Sometimes I find it very hard.
Karl: Can I just stop you there a minute Fran, because I’d like to ask you - how does all this affect your work?
Fran: …I’ve gotten better over time as I’ve mentioned so not so much anymore but to some extent, I can try to give in to all of the demands rather than sometimes perhaps question some of the demands and I want to make sure that the other person is being listened to feeling happy and valued, that I forget about me.
Karl: I think this now brings us to the element of assertiveness because what you're saying here is that you're giving everybody the attention they need but you're not focusing on yourself. That can reflect badly on you in the sense that it has these repercussions as you said maybe you mentioned specifically that it hasn't affected your work, but it can affect you on a personal level and so definitely it affects the relationships around us because if we are feeling stressed, if we are anxious and it is likely that it is going to rub off on anybody we interact with whether family or friends because we are social beings, we feel.
Fran: I think you've hit the nail on the head there Karl, especially in my situation it tends to sort of overflow into personal interactions. I can find myself being less patient more on the edge and you know the smallest thing can trigger me because there is a build-up of frustration and then so what is the effect of these triggers.
Karl: So what happens how do these triggers come out?
Fran: … I never probably looked at them very closely, …on the top of my head, it can be something very simple as snapping at people. I will give you an example that happened yesterday I was really busy yesterday there was a lot of things going through my mind and my daughter asked me something and my reply was like ‘not now’ which I felt really bad about that I could have phrased it most certainly in a very different way. So that's one of the ways that it manifests itself, other times it can manifest itself as putting a lot of pressure on myself to deliver across the board which gives me very little time to sleep or to relax.
Karl: We're picking several aspects and in our typical coaching session I would ask you specifically ‘so what would you like to focus on now’ you mentioned this anxiety aspect, the relationship aspect, but for the context of today's (broadcast) session I’m going to keep it within the ‘saying no’ context… Looking back on the situation of yesterday where your daughter asked you for something and you told her ‘not now’ what could you have done differently? or how could you have said differently? You said you felt you could have worded it differently?
Fran: If I could go back in time, what I would have said to her it would be ‘…., can you give mummy five minutes, I need to finish this and let me come back to you and we're gonna have a chat’ and then I would put aside the time that I’ve promised her and listen to her
Karl: So telling her ‘you know you're really important to me and I’d really like to spend time with you at this time I need to finish this piece of work but I will dedicate the time to spend with you.’ We could use this with pretty much anyone around us and I think this is very meaningful. People realise how sincere you are, and that you want to dedicate the time with them, after all, you know and I’m sure we've all been through the situation where someone has just attempted to listen to us but we know that deep down their mind is elsewhere, and the feeling and thought that this experience leaves on us, should I go and speak to this person again? I know that he's going to be busy he's not going to have time for me? etcetera. Shall we jump into the next part of the section? Here we're speaking about setting our goal level. …This could vary from the aspect of time, quality, quantity. It's setting a minimum target perhaps a target what we'd really like to achieve and then the extraordinary so what would be the best situation. Here you would think of the needing to ‘say no’ aspect - What would be the minimum you would expect from yourself to say no in this area for you to be happy with.
Fran: … I think what comes to mind in my case - the minimum goal level is to be able to immediately say no to things that are completely out of my interest and value system. An example… of this is today after this broadcast I have something planned with my daughter we're gonna do something together I’m gonna do crafts, and someone asked me to help them with something on a professional level, immediately my instinct was to say ‘yes’ and then I remember I'm doing this broadcast with you and while I would love to help but I managed to say not today… I am available on another date and I gave them that option. This has made me feel good. …Unfortunately, some abuse, just like you said Karl ‘when we don't set our boundaries…’ that is a helpful tip for us and this is what you gave me now and you made me realize. You know …now I see it you know it's like it's empowering, I can see it, perhaps like you said it was always there but it was never uncovered, …when interacting with people we need to know what we are comfortable with and our level of comfort and to share that with them. …Obviously, the way that we share that is very important so that's another goal level for me is to how to communicate better without being abrasive, without … creating a defensive reaction in the other person so how to communicate in a healthy way, so the quality of my communication…
Karl: Great what I’m going to do Fran is linking what you're saying, I’m going to move to the next part of this... I like what you've had, this what I like to call ‘aha’ moment that is what happens in coaching, you identified your learning. As I said earlier, we have the answers we have lots of potential, all I do as a coach is supporting the individual to help to get out those answers. …A way forward here would be first of all start by what are the values - why do I need to say ‘no’? what do I want to say ‘no’ to? …nobody wants to hear the word ‘no’ so it could be you're saying ‘yes’ but you're saying yes on your own terms. … I think this is quite impactful what you mentioned so you mentioned an example where you haven't said ‘no’ to this person you've said ‘yes’ but on your own terms and that has made you feel happier, it made you feel more in control, it made you feel more empowered and of course indirectly you feel more assertive and so you can sleep at night as well. …Because you don't have all those things on your head that you know you still have to do. So this brings us to this part and saying how do I want to be different… How do you need to be different? and here you could think as well of - what do you need to start doing Fran to be able to say ‘no’ or to say ‘yes’ but on your terms? what do you need to stop doing? or …how are you going to be the person you want to be? So what do you need to be doing differently?
Fran: So I think the first step would be to take the time to consider whatever request is there in front of me and I’ve noticed this for the past two weeks or so because of social media you know we get messages and a little photo thumbnail appears when you've read the message or is delivered which is you know absolute pressure on someone it gives me like massive anxiety. It triggers me and it's like … I’ve seen your message but I feel compelled to reply immediately because the sender knows I’ve seen their message, even though I don't want to reply immediately, perhaps I need some time to think. So that's a lot of pressure and I think for me the first thing that I would need to stop doing is to feel the need to respond immediately. …I think we could all do with realizing the habits that social media has created in ourselves you know to engage and interact immediately which limits our ability, … in my case … that it has limited my ability to process whatever it is in front of me because of the immediate expectation to react. …I need to stop reacting immediately and give them give myself that time to process … the question at hand and I need to accept the fact that people have to respect that ...
Karl: …the reptile part of our brain works in that way … fight or flight mode ‘so I’m going to do this and you do it right away’ …the thinking brain makes us more aware of this situation - being more aware of the fact that you are responding to social message …. and not doing it right away is creating anxiety ... identifying this is already a start. …the first step would be being aware of it, the second would be pausing and allowing your thinking brain to trigger – ‘okay, what am I going to do about it?’ this could be simply ‘I’m going to put this aside and then I will respond at a specific time’ in that way you're taking control becoming comfortable to deal with the situation.
Fran: It's true this social media, emails, etc that's what is triggering us … and a higher level of self-belief, … realizing that people are necessarily expecting an answer right away.
Karl: Correct, so putting it aside and saying I’m going to tackle it when I feel comfortable to do it is taking control of all these aspects. …Now what resources do you need? or perhaps ... is there anyone around who can help you? and I'm saying this as well because when we have a goal and we … share it with someone …it is likely that we become … more accountable. …it could be someone special to you, someone close to you, it could also be a colleague you know. You would say specifically I’m going to focus on this and I'd need your help to do this… What would be the resources you need Fran to be able to achieve? … or be able to say ‘no’?
Fran: Well, you, number one, a coach, and I think number two rather than a resource, perhaps it is a personal resource if that makes sense because when someone tells me the word ‘resource’ I think of something very tangible but perhaps this is a mental resource that I will need to achieve this goal, so I would need to identify what my priorities, … be honest about those priorities that are important to me...
Karl: …Fran what would you like to commit to for yourself?
Fran: … I would like to commit to self-honesty number one, so what are my values what's important to me what works for me what doesn't; two I would like to commit to taking the time to evaluate what's in front of me so not to respond or react immediately but to give myself the time to run it through my priorities filter and see whether this is something that can be worked out or not; and number three the commitment would be to freely express myself with whoever I’m interacting with.
Karl: …already some actions, so … think what would be the easiest steps that you can commit to next week from the ones you mentioned?
Fran: So, evaluate what it is on my plate at the moment and see like I said what works with my priorities, the ones that don't work to identify them and to see ways that I can improve the situation I got myself into …and to work on understanding again my priorities better.
Karl: … if I were to ask you on a scale of one to ten, ten being you're confident you're going to achieve these goals and one maybe I’ve said them but I’m not convinced I’m going to achieve them. What would your score be?
Fran: Well, it's going to be quite a high number because I’ve been working through this for quite some time myself and as the repercussions, it had upon my life had been quite impactful so I had to take action. So, I would say that I’m feeling fairly confident I will put it at an eight, probably because I think that there is always room to improve
Karl: … what I’m doing here Fran, is I’m gaining your commitment, is there anything that we could do to ensure we get closer to a ten from an eight? … I don't want to be misunderstood eight is a very high number and it's excellent to have an eight and we can be happy with that, but what I want to find out is ….is there anything we could do within this conversation to ensure we get closer to a 10.
Fran: Yes, and I think we would be going slightly off tangent and it's a topic that we've covered in a previous broadcast … communication.
Karl: …. I’m going to go back to your actions … you mentioned specifically that you want to see what's on your plate was main aspects to be able to analyze and see if you can take more or not, what is the context with communication so how are these two linked is there a link between them?
Fran: I think so, yes, …not all situations not so straightforward … as an employee you are asked to do something you know by your manager/ team leader … you already have a lot on your plate but you're scared to say ‘no’ because you may be fearful of the person that is asking you to to do whatever it is they are asking you to do, or perhaps you don't want to seem like someone who is not willing to help, and I think that's a bit of a trickier situation, so how would one communicate that by safeguarding their position as well?
Karl: This is a great point and possibly even a topic for another broadcast, but if I were to attempt to give a short answer here … as you said is very important to go … back to the example that you related about your daughter, …when she came to distract you, she needed something from you and you told her‘… listen I really want to spend time with you but I need to finish this before, give me five minutes and I’ll be with you in five minutes’ possibly you could use something similar … let's say your boss … asks you to do something… and you reply by telling your boss … ‘this is what I’m doing working on… this is a very important task that you have come up with…’ ‘…which one is the most important one? Which one should we focus on first? What is our priority?’ …that would help you to realign your priorities, so I’m not saying ‘say no’ to your boss … but … communicate… and finding a balance. …it could … that your boss is not aware what you're working on perhaps s/he has not realized … that you have … other work you still working on …. … honesty is the best policy and being more open with one another is going to help us to achieve more just like you did with your daughter.
Fran: This is … very true because oftentimes I assume, … that the other person is a ‘mind reader’ so I think you've put a very interesting perspective there it's to make our voice heard and have an open conversation about it.
Karl: It's about expressing ourselves … what our situation is like, … inform them … this … touches on the aspect of emotional intelligence and how we ‘show up’, how we come across to others, because how we come across is going to affect how they react with us, so if we bottle things in ourselves and as you said ‘it's your secret’ and they don't know …your reactions are showing differently they're showing maybe that negative behaviour. Going back to your actions section of this activity, what would be your actions for the next month?
Fran: Perhaps for the next month I … will put into practice … the areas I’ve identified through the exercise …identifying priorities how I communicate and making people aware of the situation, so the following month it would be … align my priorities and have … a firm ‘no’ … to practice communication … and to improve my interaction with people because I think what you've mentioned earlier Karl about how you ‘show up’ … from an emotional intelligence perspective ... dictates a lot of the interactions that we have with those around us … see how other people are showing up … what are their priorities as well.
Karl: Great so if we are to recap and maybe close the coaching … conversation, what is your learning? what are your take-home moments from today?
Fran: From today … the first and this has stuck with me throughout this session is the pain of not achieving that … goal … this has been … a very big aha moment for me … this is the first time that this has been painfully made aware to me in the best possible way … the other takeaway I think it has to do with limitations as you were running me through this coaching session I realized that a lot of the limitations were mental blocks I set for myself … being aware of my own perceptions and limitations that are perhaps keeping me back from what I want to achieve and the third thing which became apparent to me right now at the end … the actions that I am going to take this next week and this month is accountability and discipline … I think motivation is great but I think discipline is what gets us over the line so these would be my main takeaways.
Karl: Great Fran it's really great to have you sharing this.
The broadcast continues with audience Q&A…