A certain amount of suspicion is certainly a healthy attitude when it comes to consultants. After all, it is the easiest thing in the world to know better when you’ve never had to roll up your sleeves and do the hard work yourself. And then there’s the indecipherable consultant’s jargon and the inevitable clichés: “…all you have to do is see it…”, “…the lines of communication must be more clearly defined and put on paper…”
Advice is generally not hugely helpful, except in the form of simple transfer of knowledge. When providing inspiration and coaching at a high level, I therefore prefer to refer to this process as ‘meetings’. I invite someone to reflect on what is going on from another perspective. Interest in the other person and the capacity to ‘look beneath the surface’ are key requirements for me in this. A coaching process should more than anything else be an inspirational exchange.
Organising such meetings has been a regular feature of my work for many years. I would often look up someone who inspired me, and ask whether I could “borrow his or her brains and intuition for a little while?” Being able to bounce your own ideas and doubts off of someone you respect, but who is not involved in the issue in question, sharpens up your own intuition. As well as giving you a chance to recognise your blind spots. Seeking out such meetings is therefore a sign of intelligence and realism, and by no means an admission of weakness.
What’s your story?
People are their stories. The most important belief underlying CEO’s way or working is that people not only have stories, but to a major extent are their stories. We constantly tell ourselves stories of success and failure: from the perspective of a winner or of a victim; stories that may only stand for just an hour, or for a day, or maybe for a whole lifetime. We have stories about our work, our family and relationships, our health; about what we want and what we can achieve. These stories determine to a large extent how others see us and yet – strangely enough – we often hardly even realise that we are telling these stories; we have insufficient insight into what these stories really mean, and the fact that we are capable of editing them, and thereby coming closer to achieving our goals.
The fact that we tell ourselves stories gives structure and direction to our lives, which are full of challenges and opportunities. We are mentally trained to sort events by cause-effect, beginning-middle-end. This helps us give meaning and priority to our goals and activities. Stories make sense of the chaos; they organise the many diverse experiences we have into a coherent structure that gives meaning; and in so doing, these stories shape our reality. Unfortunately, far too many of the stories we tell ourselves are dysfunctional, or even lies. We are highly skilled in the art of self-deception. And this applies especially to successful, talented, hyper-intelligent CEOs!
Get your story right
The most important story you will ever tell about yourself is the story you tell to yourself!
How can you find new stories, based on reality, that inspire you to achieve what you want to achieve in your work and in your life? Do you really dare look for the cracks in your current story, which are hindering your productivity, satisfaction, commitment, recognition and sense of meaning?
Why isn’t it working? We almost always blame external factors. We are the authors of our own stories, and yet we demote ourselves to supporting roles: parent, spouse; hours in a day, overtime, short nights, always being available, long journey times, colleague who won’t listen… the corporate culture… it is almost always someone else’s fault.
The story of Oedipus
I come from a theatre background, and for me the Greek tragedy of Oedipus (429 BC) is the metaphor for the human trait of placing responsibility outside of ourselves. This is his story:
Plague is sweeping through the city. Oedipus consults the Oracle: to save the city of Thebes, the murderer of the last king must be brought to justice. Like a detective, Oedipus goes to work, seeking the truth, tracking down the evil which he never for a moment considers could be inside himself. To his dismay, however, every step draws him closer to the realisation that he himself is the guilty party. It seems incredible, yet it is true: he himself is the cause of all the suffering. His desire for the truth, for knowledge, brings about his own downfall.
To me, the tragedy of Oedipus represents our desire to find answers to (the cause of) a crisis. And if these answers – which as a matter of course we look for outside of ourselves – increasingly point back towards us, then, like Oedipus, we will pass through a process of confusion, disbelief, agitation and finally dismay.
The essence of CEO Coaching is that, in the final analysis, you are the only one who can take responsibility for the direction your story takes.
Like to know more?
If you would like to know how I can help you, please do not hesitate to contact me. It could result in an interesting meeting.