Posts Tagged ‘self esteem’

Feelings are just a signal. It’s what you DO with them that counts.

April 2, 2012

I’ve re-learned a big life lesson this week – what it has done is shown me that although we think we know certain things … it’s all too easy to fall back into traps of habit, and into unproductive thoughts and practices that can hold us back.

The scenario? Well, it’s one that I’m sure many will be familiar with – feeling dissatisfied with a specific situation, and giving way to having a good old moan about it.

Here’s the thing. Those feelings of dissatisfaction are just the start: it’s how you think and what you do about them (and the situation) that makes the difference.


Emotions are the signal

Studies into human behaviour and emotional intelligence indicate quite clearly that people will respond to situations and other factors instinctively first, emotionally second … and logically only after that.

A few years ago, I had just finished delivering a training session at a shipyard in Glasgow one winter’s day, and, as I walked back to my car, a lad on the other side of the road threw a snowball at me. My initial reaction was instinctive – to put up my hands to protect my face from the incoming missile. Unfortunately, I wasn’t quite quick enough, and the snowball caught me squarely on the face. My second reaction was an emotional one – I shouted angrily and in none-too-flattering terms at the culprit across the road. It was only several minutes later that I thought rationally about the scenario – the lad had probably been dared by his friends to throw the snowball at me, and hadn’t expected to hit me at all, let alone right in the face. In the circumstances, it was actually a remarkably good shot.

So what does any of this mean in day-to-day life? To my mind, it’s this. Feelings and emotions (in this case, I’m considering negative feelings in particular, but the same is true of any) are merely a signal. They’re a little warning light that something isn’t quite right.

It’s too easy to get stuck in the ‘feelings’ of a situation, and not to move on – but this will lead to feelings of being a victim, feelings of hopelessness, feelings of blame and so on. Focusing entirely and solely on negative feelings themselves will lead to a downward spiral of moaning and self pity. That’s not useful to anyone. And I’m talking to myself here, as much as to anyone.


Think about it

At some point, it really does become necessary to get a grip and to try to think rationally about the situation.
I’m not talking about stifling your feelings or ignoring them – I’m taking about acknowledging them … which may mean admitting to yourself that you have the feelings at all … and then thinking through them.

Key questions to ask yourself might be:

  • When did this situation start?
  • When did I first notice it … and what did I do about it at that stage?
  • Why am I unhappy with it?
  • Have I contributed to the situation? Have I let this happen?
  • And crucially, whether or not I’ve contributed to the situation … WHAT AM I GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?


Do something

It’s just a casual observation, but I think an accurate one, that some people are happier grumbling about a given situation than actually taking steps to do anything about it.

I used to work in an organisation where almost everyone complained about the management culture … and yet no one was prepared to even stand up as a group do anything at all to challenge it. Perhaps people enjoyed blaming senior management and positioning themselves as the helpless victims – misery loves company, after all.

There’s almost always SOMETHING you can do to impact your situation. If you can’t change it, then you may need to move out of it altogether, or to develop coping strategies.


Whichever approach is best for you, look to develop a plan of action of some sort that will have you stepping up to address your own issues … rather than wallowing in negative emotions and dragging yourself and everyone around you down.

Whilst it can be a personal challenge, DO SOMETHING to bring about change. At the very least, you will feel empowered and in some control of your own destiny. At best, you’ll change your situation for the better, and develop yourself in the process.


Boost your self-worth by NOT saying these three things

February 20, 2012

Language is a powerful thing. Your choice of words – and what you say to yourself – can and does have a MASSIVE impact on your personal effectiveness and on your sense of self worth.

Here are three little self-worth destroyers that you might need to watch …


1) “No Problem”
“For goodness sake, what’s wrong with THIS?!” I hear you ask? We want to be seen as can-do people who like to just get on with it, don’t we?

Well (and I have my sister-in-law, Bryony, to thank for this observation) over-use of the phrase “no problem” undervalues what you do.

For example, suppose that a colleague asks you to do something for them and your response is, “no problem”. In essence what you’re saying is that what they’ve asked you to do will either take you no effort at all (which is very rarely the case) or that the effort you are going to take isn’t worth anything.

This can give a subtle but often entirely wrong message – for the most part if someone asks you to do something, it WILL take brain power or a bit of effort on your part. Why undervalue it?

Give the task – and yourself – some value by choosing a different form of words; “Consider it done”, for example, or simply, “Yes, I can do that”.


2) “Sorry”
My Uncle Bhailu in India used to say that the one word that the British over-use is “sorry”. And he’s right.

Of course, there are many times when it’s absolutely right to apologise, and I’m not suggesting that we follow Oscar Wilde’s maxim of “Never apologise and never explain”. That approach isn’t going to win you either friends or respect.

However, most of us often find ourselves apologising when we don’t need to … and over-apologising puts us down, psychologically.

Have you ever gone up to a colleague and said “sorry to bother you … sorry to interrupt … sorry to ask …”?? Why? If you need to speak to them, why put yourself down and position yourself as an inconvenience? Why not say something like, “Do you have a minute?” or, “May I quickly ask you something?”

I used to know someone who had quite a senior position within his organisation, but had got into a habit of beginning almost every utterance with the phrase, “Forgive me … ”

Whilst he might have thought that it lent him an air of humility, in fact, his over-use of the phrase made it seem that he was constantly grovelling. There was nothing to forgive … so why put himself down by starting with an apology?

I used to have the habit, if someone stood aside for me to pass or walk through a door, of scuttling through with my head lowered, muttering “Sorry”. Why?? Several years ago I told myself to look people in the eye and say “Thank you”, instead. So much better.


3) “No”
My young nephew Lukas is two. He’s not been well. His answer to absolutely every question at the moment is “No”. I put this to the test and offered him chocolate, but still got the same response.

Here’s the thing: He’d probably enjoy a little bit of chocolate, but he’s used to saying “No” as a habitual response to pretty much everything at the moment … and he’s missing out on some treats as a result.

How often do we find ourselves saying “no” to things and rationalising why we SHOULDN’T do something, when we could say “yes” and benefit from a new experience?

Stop saying “No” as a matter of habit, and start saying “Yes” to a few more things instead. See what happens.


Challenge yourself to consider some of the things that you say day in, day out, out of habit. Are they building you up, or little by little putting you down?

7 Leadership skills that EVERYONE should develop # 2: self awareness

June 18, 2011

To see ourselves as others see us – wouldn’t that be something? Genuine self awareness, and an ability to understand how others see us and the impact that our actions and behaviours have on others, is an important skill for the leader.

As with so many things, though, balance is the key: understanding how we are perceived by others needs to be balanced by our own confidence and sense of self.

Misalignment of that balance – in either direction – can spell trouble for the leader: whilst as individuals we’ll always judge ourselves on the basis of our intentions, we need to remember that others will be judging us on our behaviours.

Why is self awareness so important? Because it’s the beginning of Emotional Intelligence, and as author Daniel Goleman puts it in his bestseller, this “can matter more than IQ”.

In terms of Emotional Intelligence, self awareness is closely followed by four other factors:

·        Managing your emotions

·        Self motivation

·        Understanding the feelings of others

·        Managing relationships

So how, as a leader, can you become more self aware? Here are 5 top tips:

1) Try to objectively assess your impact

Being objective about our own behaviour is exceptionally difficult, because we’ll rationalise and make excuses for ourselves where things are going wrong.

If your INTENTION has been one thing, but the results are something different, take a close look at yourself and your behaviours to try to understand how you might be coming across.

I came across a stark example of this quite recently. A very senior executive in a global organisation had said his door was ‘always open’, but wondered how it was that few people ever seemed to cross the threshold, unless they were members of the senior management team.

A short while after this conversation, I relayed to him a concern that had come up in the training room, from a couple of participants who shared the same office. His response was to cut me off mid sentence with the response “what do these people want? They need to be empowered and learn to deal with these things!”

Hmm … let’s see, now. Might there be a possibility that staff are thinking, “He SAYS his door is open, but if you go in he’s likely to bite your head off”?

His intention might have been to encourage people to find their own solutions: his behaviour was very easy to interpret as that of someone whose door might be open, but his mind isn’t. The impact was that people DON’T come through his door – it might as well be closed.

2) Be aware of the little things

Self awareness isn’t just about the impact of overt or obvious behaviours – it’s about the little things too.

Imagine a Chief Executive who gives a stunning performance on the platform at the AGM about his optimistic outlook in the coming year. A couple of days later, he steps into a lift and a junior colleague is already there. The junior colleague asks him how things are going. He shakes his head and says “times are tough”.

What’s the understandable interpretation of this, in terms of the truth of the message AND the integrity of the speaker? What message do you think is going to be discussed in the canteen and around the water coolers of Head Office for the next month?!

Non verbal communications and behaviours that take place on an ongoing daily basis need to be considered in the light of self awareness. And actively managed.

3) Have some humility – listen to feedback

For some leaders, this can be a bit of a stumbling block –particularly if they work in (and perhaps perpetuate and enjoy) a culture where hierarchy is important, and where leaders are deemed to be infallible.

Sometimes, it’s necessary to have the humility to just accept feedback, even if you weren’t expecting it. On a recent training course,I offered some impromptu feedback on delegate presentations. One or two commented during the break that they’d not been expecting individual feedback. So?? Will you ignore it, then?

Norman Vincent Peale said that “Most of us would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism”. Given that feedback helps to build self awareness, it’s necessary to be open to it.

360 degree reports are another case in point: I’ve done a lot of coaching around 360 degree reports (feedback reports gathered from peers and direct reports as well as managers). Occasionally I’ll come across someone who rates their own abilities far higher than anyone else does – more often it’s the other way round.

If your colleagues are saying one thing and you’re saying another, it’s worth considering the possibility that they can’t ALL be wrong.

4) What if you’re right and they’re wrong?

I was delivering a workshop recently, and one of the participants said “I’ve really tried to understand my impact with this person,but the problem’s not with me, it’s with them”.

If you’ve been objective about really considering what’s going on, this is fair enough. As I say, there’s a balance to be struck between your own sense of self, and the other person’s perception. You could well be right and them wrong. They might even have another agenda and are deliberately misunderstanding you or the situation

If this IS the case, what next?

This is where we have to move on, in terms of Emotional Intelligence, because you still have to manage your relationship with that person – influence them or whatever – in as productive a way as possible. And this will mean remaining self aware and confident.

No one should stop being self aware because they think they’re the one in the right.

5) Don’t be paranoid – impostor syndrome

I’ve already said that balance is the key here, and this is just as valid for leaders who LACK confidence on certain issues.

I worked with a senior leader recently who, whilst acknowledging that her colleagues respected her, felt deeply self conscious about her humble ‘working class’ roots. The fact that she had a strong accent, she felt, was betraying to everyone that she was a local girl made good. She saw this as a weak point, as she worked with a number of people at this senior level who had had better educational opportunities than she’d had, and who spoke with what she perceived to be a more refined accent.

The issue about her accent had taken on far more significance than it deserved. She was starting to feel uncomfortable in her role and to doubt her abilities – feeling like an imposter.

It took a considerable amount of coaching for her to arrive at the conclusion that her accent and background might actually be a source of inspiration for those further down the corporate ladder, who’d had a similar start to her own. In this case, what she saw as a weakness could actually be turned into a considerable strength.

Self awareness is NOT about denting our confidence and bringing us down to the level of other people’s perceptions.  It IS about genuinely evaluating our behaviours, how we come across, and the impact that we have on others, and building on this to develop our own abilities, and our relationships with others.

The leader who is not self aware is sticking their head in the sand … leaving their backside dangerously exposed.

Watch out over the next couple of weeks for the 3rd leadership skill that EVERYONE should develop: personal accountability.

Old Habits…and New Trainers

July 7, 2010

My new trainers arrived earlier this week! Woohoo! Maybe they’ll help me run a bit faster!  Remarking on how bright they looked, I’d hardly noticed that my old trainers were really looking distinctly skanky.

It did take me several days before I actually went running in my new trainers. I kept them nicely wrapped in paper in their box, and looked at them when I walked past from time to time, just to make sure they were still there for when I needed them, and hadn’t been tidied away.  Why? Well, it was raining and I didn’t want to ruin the new ones right away. Also, there was the possibilty that the new shoes might hurt a bit, and I didn’t want to discover that 5 miles away from the house and have to limp all the way back.

After almost a week, on a  suitably sunny morning, I pulled on my  new trainers and headed out for a run. Guess what. They were really rather uncomfortable, and to be honest, didn’t feel as good as the old ones.

I have a choice. Do I get back into my old trainers and keep going until they fall apart….or  persevere with the new – and better quality  – ones until I get used to them?

So. Enough of my smelly trainers. The point is (as if I need spell it out)..

How comfortable are we with our old habits, whether or not they’re working for us?

What excuses do we find for NOT putting new habits and things we’ve learned into practice right away?

How useful are those new trainers if we’re not DOING anything with them?

Do you have new trainers still wrapped in paper in a cupboard somewhere that you’ve not even tried yet?  GET ‘EM OUT AND START RUNNING!

Who are you? (who-oo who-oo!)

June 27, 2010

I’ve always hated it when someone says to me ‘”tell me about yourself” – something which usually happens in an interview context when the interviewer hasn’t prepared properly, or has no idea how to conduct a thorough, behavioural interview. Tell you about myself in the context of what? Work? Personality? My life of travel, adventure and intrigue ??

Actually, it’s one of the most irrelevent questions there could possibly be. And here’s why.

You are not who you tell me you are, you are who you prove  yourself to be.

You’ve heard the maxim ‘actions speak louder than words’ and even the bible says “by their fruits shall you know them”.  It’s one of those age old rules…that many of us seem to forget.  

There are two sides of the coin here: if you feel the need to tell new aquaintances as much as you can about yourself in order to make a favourable impression, ask yourself  ‘why’. Are you really the person you are telling everyone about? Why do you feel the need to tell everyone…is it in case they don’t believe you??   I’ve met some lovely people who seem to strive to be liked in this way, little realising that there’s no need. Just being themselves is more than enough.

On the other side of the coin,  I’ve been majorly caught out by people who have professed to be one thing… and turned out to be quite the reverse. I have to take a share of the blame here: I was far too eager to listen to who they told me they were rather than looking at how they conducted themselves.  This approach has cost me a lot of money, time, and emotion.

So a word to the wise – look for actions not words:  if someone tells you they are a good listener, make sure they don’t keep interrupting everyone else. If someone tells you how generous they are – watch them give. If someone tells you all about their abilities – wait and see how they apply them. In this way, to paraphrase another ‘Who’ song, you’re less likely to get fooled again.

Personal development – 4 essential stages

June 22, 2010

Many corporate programmes focus on setting a goal, and making a plan to achieve it… little realising that if this is a rigid and joyless experience, it’s less likely to be fulfilled.

Many personal development programmes will tell you that you can set your goals and just believe, and somehow your attitude will ensure that magical things will happen to you.

Neither hits the mark completely….which is why we developed the Yara Method. Be prepared to ask yourself some tough questions along the way….

Your Goals: How concrete are they?  Do you really have any idea what your success will look like? Is your success a scene you can visualise…or more of a belief system and a way of life  (like “my goal is to change the world”). It needs to be the first, underpinned by the second.

Your Self Image: What is the voice in your head telling you? Whether it’s right or wrong…is it USEFUL? If not, self discipline yourself to STOP and think positively.

Your Abilities: you could list your known abilities very easily – it’s the unknown that could be the key issue. At what point do your strengths become a weakness, and your weaknesses become an opportunity for personal development or collaboration?

Your Momentum: what’s holding you back: what might trigger you to derail? Is it in your head? Is is something that someone else thinks? Is it an actual barrier?  The obstacle is less likely to trip you up if you are aware of it , can watch out for it, and be tuned in to your own emotions so that you can spot the early signs of demotivation. Be clear about what MOTIVATES you – friends and family, sports, music…whatever. And if you do stumble, don’t beat yourself up about it – get up and carry on. In the words of Churchill ” never never never give up”.

What kind of person are you??

May 10, 2010

 Don’t you just love those personality quizzes in magazines and on Facebook? Anyone and his dog can offer to tell you what kind of horse, film star, lover, cat, star wars persona etc etc etc you are?

Even kid’s magazines have them – are you a Gabriella or a Sharpay, a Troy or a Chad? What kind of best friend are you? Who’s your fashion icon?

We seem to just LOVE being told who we are, and like with the Facebook quizzes, when the result is not to flattering, we just don’t share it with our friends…I’ll even admit to going back and answering the questions again to try to come up with a more favourable result! What a cheat!

Here’s the serious point: how far do you let other people define you….and then proudly wear their definition like a badge?

I’ve even seen it done with some of the serious, well respected and well researched personality and trait  indicators that are widely used in the corporate sector – I’ve heard people anounce that they are an ABC or whatever as a reason (one might unfavourably say “an excuse” ) for their behaviour. It’s as if they’re saying ‘this is my type, this is what I am, so this is what you can expect from me”.  

I’m sure I hardly need say that these bona fide personailty tests were not devised for people to use them as an escape route!

It does raise an interesting point, though. Throughout our lives, we’re allow ourselves to be defined by things other than ourselves: our family, our friends, where we live, our qualifications (or lack of), our politcial affiliations. There is bound to come a time when these definitions will be limiting, and if we believe in them too strongly, they’ll hold us back.

Maybe it’s time to start defining and refining ourselves (honestly, not arrogantly) rather than allowing everyone else to do it for us.