Looking someone in the eye and being able to say “I trust you” – and to mean it – is one of the most important and fundamental building blocks in all our relationships. The ability to trust someone lies at the root of all successful business partnerships, thriving teams, happy marriages, life-long friendships, and open parent-child relationships.
It is with people that we trust that we can start to be vulnerable, to open up a little more, and to ask for and invite more in. We are able to show who we are and what we need and, in so doing, are able to develop a better understanding of ourselves in the process. As we offer more of ourselves, we unconsciously give the other person the courage to do the same. The result is an opening up of opportunities, creativity and freedom.
When most people are asked about what they value most in another person, or in a relationship, trust will come up as an answer. It is simply the glue that holds all relationships together. And yet it sometimes seems so elusive. Each of us can think of relationships, past and current, that are filled with trust, and many that aren’t – or haven’t been.
So why is trust so hard to find in our relationships?
One of the answers I’m playing with at the moment stems out of a great quote by Mark Sanborn: “the self-mastery index (is) the ratio between promises made and promises kept – both to oneself and to others.” This is profound. Self-mastery involves self-awareness, accountability and ownership. And promises are inextricably linked to trust. When they’re kept, trust remains. When they’re broken, it is eroded.
But what really got me thinking with this quote was the reference to being able to keep promises to ourselves. And reflecting on how much we actually trust ourselves. It takes great courage to look and see the instances where we don’t - and I’m realising that the more I don’t trust myself, the more impossible it is for others to trust me. All the times I tell myself that tomorrow I will work on the report I’ve been procrastinating over; go for a run; go painting with my daughter; phone a friend back…and then fail to do that thing – I’m revealing to myself that I can’t depend on myself, I can’t trust myself. And I unconsciously convey that to others.
Trust is an intricate dance between trusting and being trustworthy. They are two sides to the same coin. When we are truly able to stand honestly in our own promises – clearly stating needs and expectations – and stop trying to be everything to everyone (including ourselves!) we just might be able to step into and invite more of the kind of relationships that are built on trust.
And it’s worth remembering the following: “We’re never so vulnerable than when we trust someone – but paradoxically, if we cannot trust, neither can we find love or joy.” – Walter Anderson, political scientist and author.
Small business owners, entrepreneurs and consultants are not always the first people to spend their money on business coaching. This may be because coaching often seems like a luxury, a ‘nice-to-have’ if you need to spend some budget on training or personal development. It is certainly not often seen as a critical string in your bow. People from this group often view coaching as something for bigger, multi-staffed organisations and certainly not something they can fit into a business life that is already consuming them with the multitude of focus areas that leaders of small businesses must tend to.
That crazy story – you have a major deadline due for a new client that you really want to retain, but you web-design consultant urgently needs your copy in order to change something on your website that a press release is going to drive people to - today. And your printer has just run out of ink… When it is you alone wearing all of these hats and needing to solve all of these issues, there just does not seem to be time to fit in monthly business coaching sessions.
But business coaching could be precisely what is needed because you are mainly working on your own. People who spend their money on a business coach are able to counter the effects of their isolation and use the powerful coaching relationship to take their business forwards and, most importantly, closer towards the business life they have always dreamed of creating.
So what are the benefits of business coaching to a small or solo enterprise?
A coach is able to ensure that you remain on target toward your goals – and can assist in the process of setting them, or revisiting them when necessary. The busy-ness of running a business often results in us just getting through what needs to be done today, but we are often caught jumping from one thing to another with no real planning, or even taking on projects that are sabotaging our chance at real success. The role of a coach is fundamental in keeping us on track and moving forward.
The feeling of overwhelm that many people feel at the start of – or even well into – running their business can lead to a tendency to act with little forethought or reflection. As a result lessons are not learnt from perceived failures and unhealthy processes and habits are unclear to the business owner. Coaching is a great tool to see clearly what is happening in the business and what role you are playing in assisting or hindering positive growth.
The reality of being a sole owner of a business is that you have no-one to answer to except yourself. While this is the dream many people chase when going solo, anyone who has tried it will be able to tell you that it is also the most difficult aspect of forging your own path. You may be well aware that setting up an efficient accounting system is crucial to your business, or that you need to develop a sales and marketing strategy, but it is incredibly difficult to get yourself to focus on these things when they really are not what you enjoy. Having a coach can assist you to understand better why you are actually avoiding these activities, assist you in developing a plan to tackle them – and, importantly, hold you accountable when no-one else is there to do so.
One of the loneliest things about working for yourself, or being a part of a really small business, is that you are often plagued by doubts and are unable to see the fantastic things you have already achieved. When your focus becomes too negative and narrow, it is vital that you are able to feel encouraged and supported in order to gain a realistic perspective and develop the courage and confidence to keep going.
The coaching relationship is so incredibly powerful because of its ability to assist you to live according to what is truly important to, and for, you. You will be able to focus deeply on your own goals, fears, talents and opportunities and will have the chance to create a business life that is truly your own. Making sure that you are living out of your own truth, and in your own unique way, is critical to your enjoyment, fulfilment and success. And – importantly - to the creation of your own unique brand.
A business coach is able to ensure that you are focusing on the big picture, as well as the little details that your day-to-day business requires. By taking the time to reflect with your coach, you will be able to see how all parts of your business hang together, or don’t, and how they can be better aligned. Coaches will also be able to assist you in goal-setting and planning, ensuring that your strategy is worked out and not forgotten.
The relationship between coach and coachee can be something that truly sets a small business owner a part. Being able to factor in your strategic planning and reflection time, you will find the time with your coach a rich opportunity to engage in crucial decision making processes with your coach as a thinking partner.
So I encourage you – take the leap and go and find your coach! The power, and enjoyment, of having someone to think with can never be over-estimated…
As many in our country take some time today to march against President Zuma, I find myself thinking ‘For or Against’?
There seems so often to be a state of fighting against something and I wonder what would happen if we started fighting ‘for’ something instead – or as well.
When South Africa was an Apartheid state, the battle lines were drawn and it was clearly a case of fighting for, or against, Apartheid. When the laws were changed, we largely stopped fighting (other than some who kept fighting for it to return). We stopped fighting for anything, in essence, and sat back and waited for things to change. It felt like there was nothing left to fight (Apartheid was over)and so we stopped fighting at all. Which is awesome. And a great loss too…
Because we didn’t fight for our ‘Rainbow Nation’, we didn’t fight for unity, we didn’t fight for equality, and we didn’t fight for healing. (I’m aware as I write this that I speak from my privileged, white perspective. Perhaps it was just my group that didn’t fight anymore?)
But I wonder what would have happened if we had continued to fight, with as much energy and passion, for what we truly needed to have in order to create our Rainbow Nation – the ghost of which is slowly slipping away…
What would have happened if we had fought to listen to each other? To ask forgiveness? To forgive? To understand? What would have happened if we had come together to envision what our country could be? What we could have created together? What would have happened if we had moved from ‘fighting against’ to ‘fighting for’ when the time called for it?
The two are always together. If you’re fighting against something, you’re fighting for something else. We just seem to put so much emphasis on the former.
Now we come together to fight again. And I wonder what we could create this time? Can we learn from our past? Can we start getting it right? Can we start figuring out together what ‘getting it right’ might mean?
Can we start fighting for this country we love with all the passion we have; to create a country where all belong; all are worthy; all are whole, healed, and heard? Can we start painting the colours of our ‘Rainbow Nation’ again? Brand new colours that we can only imagine together…
And my last thought on this day? While we consider if we are ‘For or Against’, let us think carefully about our enemy. Perhaps it is not the corruption, greed, entitlement and destruction of President Zuma? Perhaps he is just an archetype and a scapegoat?
I wonder if the battle is actually against these characteristics within us - and not just in him. So what would happen if we worked with passion to change ourselves, and not another man? And what would we fight ‘for’ ourselves to become…?
One of the fundamental roles of a parent is to lead their children, guiding and influencing their path.
We do this in a variety of ways – telling (the ‘do as I say’ mentality), outsourcing (our choice of schools and extracurricular activities reflects this); stimulating (the toys, books, games we allow them to engage in); and in showing (role-modelling what we would like to see from them)
It is this final method of leading that I would like to explore here because it is the one most often neglected or falsely developed. It is also the most difficult – because it doesn’t only involve our children, but mainly has to do with ourselves. Inherent in the act of role-modelling are two things: an awareness – and choice – of what you would like your children to be; an embodying of this within yourself (which in itself requires deep commitment to this ideal).
An example of what I mean… The first element of role-modelling - awareness of what we would like our children to be like - should be around a character trait that we feel will set them up well in life and make a difference to the way they operate in their world. It could be something like compassionate, courageous, committed, honest, hardworking, curious, loyalty, generosity, responsibility….
What these desires to see in our children actually end up being if we are truthful, are our own values – those things that are important to us above everything else. This is important to remember. Ultimately our children are their own people and so these values of ours which we are wanting to see in our children can only ever be gifts we offer them, which will assist them in their own journey.
The second element of leading our children involves the embodiment of these characteristics which is the act of being them ourselves. Mahatma Ghandi’s powerful quote resonates this: “Be the change you wish to see in the world” (emphasis mine).
Both of these elements require something from us as parents more than anything from our children – they require us to be conscious and aware of ourselves, of what is true for us and of what has value and meaning for us. And they require us to do the hard work of trying to be better and more integrous human beings who attempt to practise these characteristics within ourselves. More than anything a child is ever exposed to, it is the behaviour of a parent or caregiver that illustrates to them what is important and how they should try to be. And yet we are so often unconscious to what truly matters to us and instead pursue that which external influences, the systems in which we operate, tell us are important and valuable.
Truly, the best way to lead our children is to share the gift of our own values and the importance of being true to these. This will give our children the freedom to seek what is important to them and the awareness of making conscious decisions without being swayed by others. By being true to ourselves, working on reflecting what we truly and deeply believe and honour, we will express ourselves to our children in and authentic and purposeful way – which will give them the encouragement to do the same.
Parenting with purpose and awareness of ourselves will allow us to offer a healthy, whole, compassionate role-model to our children. We will lead them to be the best of themselves, as we seek to be the best of ourselves.
Contact me to find out more about the Parenting on Purpose workshops:
Conduct a search on the internet for the link between ‘leadership’ and ‘questions’, and reams of articles will surface which detail the top questions to ask of leaders – as well as their all important answers!
But I don’t believe this adequately scratches the surface of what true leadership can bring to the table. To understand that, I believe we need to turn this ‘questioning the leader’ paradigm on its head, and find the leaders who ask the questions themselves.
Because, to me, that is where true leadership lies. Individuals who have the courage, confidence, insight and persistence to continually ask questions, even if – or maybe especially if – they don’t know the answers, may be the most effective leaders of our time.
Why is this?
Well, to answer that, we need to look at what questions are capable of doing…
A well crafted, open-ended question has the power to:
But rather “What questions are our leaders asking?”…
A confrontation with the unexpected is a gift. Whether it creates a laugh or a wince, a gasp or a giggle; the noticing of the unusual has the potential to make us think.
And the space to think is a gift.
I was recently treated to the surprising sight of a couple of homeless gentlemen in a nearby neighbourhood who were sitting beside a busy road twisting the top half of a large 1970’s glitter ball in their hands. It certainly made me smile! Where on earth did they get that from? And what were they going to do with it? It looked so incongruous that the sight definitely deserved a laugh.
And then my thinking began…
First the awareness of belonging. To whom did the glitter ball belong? Where did these men themselves belong? (Homelessness always creates thoughts of belonging – or a lack of belonging). Why did it surprise me that an item of frivolity and sparkle should belong with people who struggle to find a meal and a dry space to sleep each day?
Why is it that we are so quick to attribute certain things, certain skills, certain opportunities only to particular people, and not others – sometimes not even to ourselves.
It is this closed and small-minded thinking that continually trips us up and renders us continually correcting and begrudging, instead of delighting and celebrating. Why shouldn’t these men own, and play with, a ‘70’s disco ball?
Why shouldn’t an unexpected colleague be given a project at work? Why should we be surprised when a manager reveals a penchant for water-colour painting? If certain thoughts or ways of being only belong with particular people or in particular situations, we will continually be short-changed in the many surprises and welcome creativity that can come with noticing – and inviting in – the unexpected. Imagine if our worldview allowed everything, every person to belong? Imagine the gifts we might reap…
Then to the awareness of seeing. I’ll admit that this is my constant challenge. Noticing and seeing what is happening around me is not my forte! So it was an unexpected gift that afternoon. It made me think, too, about how we often see that which we want – or expect – to see, instead of what is actually there.
Again it is closed and rigid thinking that can close us off to much of our awareness whenever things don’t fit with our paradigms. How many gloriously unexpected moments do we miss each day because we only look for that which we’ve told ourselves to see. How many wonderful pieces of work from our employees, uncomfortable comments from clients, or even crucial interpretations of our data are missed? What would happen if we allowed ourselves to see very differently and actually look for what is there? For that which we might say doesn’t really belong…
Perhaps we’d find that it is the expected, the usual, that doesn’t belong anymore - and the unexpected that we should entertain instead. Maybe we should dance with the ‘different’ and ‘unusual’ and see what changes in our work. What would really happen if we put a glitter ball in the boardroom…?
Imagine a book. A cover richly embroidered with a tapestry of colour and texture. Intricate patterns entwining to create a kaleidoscope of movement. Open the book. Place it on a table. Let the wind direct the pages and open it at will. Can the wind find the pattern of its progress? Is there form to the writing in the Book? Is there a consistent handwriting or a variety of unflowing attempts in many different hands? Can you see elaborate sketches and pictures that conjure the imagination… or simply half started and unfinished sentences? Does a story come alive in your heart as you read…?
Whose book – who’s story – is it? Is it yours? Do you see yourself in the author’s script? Is that your favourite colour in the ink from the pen? Did you choose to put your name on the cover?
There is nothing more powerful than a story. Our whole lives are a story. Each day involves the opportunity to participate in the writing of it. Being intentional and conscious to our emotions, reactions and behaviours fuels the words and phrases we scribe on our pages. Knowing our values and the core essence of who we are, and what we bring to this world, are the style we bring to our handwriting. They are ours alone. Our unique offering to lead something new and leave an impression on the page.
Each day also brings the opportunity for someone else to do the writing on our page…
Being the writer of our own story requires personal mastery and leadership. It asks us to reflect on - and know - ourselves. It requires an attitude of humility and curiosity; and the practices of reflection and openness. Most importantly, it requires courage. Picking up the pen to actively write the flow of your own story – your own life – is difficult. There will be chapters written by other people and circumstances – those times when ‘life happens’. But ultimately, when choosing to write your own story, the way you react and the direction you choose to move from that, is up to you.
Our books are finite. But we don’t know when they are coming to the end.
So pick up the pen. Start doing your own writing. Start living on purpose… and watch a richness and fulfilment transcend each word on the pages in your book.
I’ve been recently reminded of the significance of space. In our quest to fill everything with stuff, doing and moving somewhere, we miss the point. We miss the meaning that space gives us.
The reminder came through a small plant with a delicate flower that had struggled its way through some tiles on a pathway. Not unusual or remarkable in itself, but it drew my awareness to something profound. What I noticed and took joy in was the plant. The accidental result of the creation of a space in between the tiles. It was unscripted, unexpected and left an impression on me. What I noticed was what came out of the space… but I didn’t think twice about the tiles – the planned, formulated result of our human desire to control and conquer. I don’t even remember what they looked like.
Space literally provides room to grow. For plants – and for humans too. When we invite spaciousness into our way of being, we allow thought, awareness, understanding and wisdom to surface. Gifts that are often stifled by our ego’s need to seem important through busy-ness, or successful through the acquisition of stuff.
When we stop and create space – stillness, noticing and listening – we can access the knowing and being that transform who we are and how we show up in the world far more profoundly and importantly than the clutter of blindly paving our life.
Perhaps if we allowed more space, more moments of calmness and stillness, more room to breathe, we would see more plants explore our pathway - more unexpected, memorable, beautiful moments of joy and pleasure not planned or foreseen. More moments of grace and blessing.
On a personal note...
I am curious, creative, determined, committed and (a bit too much of) a perfectionist.