Why we fall into the trap of people pleasing

Photo by Anna Dziubinska on Unsplash

t’s nice to be liked – We want our family, peers and friends to like us. But what if we are spending so much time on wanting to be liked that we’re not listening to what we truly want?

People pleasing is ingrained in us. From a young age, we want to please our parents, who ultimately decide what we are allowed to do and not allowed to do. They feed, bathe and care for us. At school, we want to be in the ‘good books’ of teachers. As we get a little older, this then gets replaced by wanting to fit in with our peers. All of this is looking to please others.

Our behaviour becomes focused around how we can make other people like us. This is to the detriment of what we believe, or want to do. Nearly everyone has some experience around wanting to make friends at school. The idea of being solitary was labelled as being a ‘loser’, and the idea of sitting alone at the lunch table was filled with inconceivable dread.

So what do we do? We scan the crowd. We see what expectations people have. We do our best to fit in and follow the mould. This is what people pleasing looks like. Our own individuality suffers.

The issue is that we carry this behaviour into our working lives. As employees, we place great importance on being liked, so that we can be seen to be ‘one of the team’. The relationship between employee and boss ends up mimicking that of parent and child, or teacher and student. We do as we are instructed, and our aim is to make the other person happy.

This leads to some odd behavioural phenomena. Instead of saying what we think, we say what we think the other person wants to hear. Even say when we are absolutely miserable because of the amount of work we are being given, we spend most of our time worrying about how if we raised our voice we would cause a fuss for our manager. This means we end up not even speaking up until we hit breaking point. The idea of speaking up moreover creates great social anxiety.

The issue of people pleasing is that it takes away our own agency. We no longer follow what we believe and feel, but instead work based upon our estimation of what others believe and feel. For us as individuals, it’s no wonder why many of us can feel like we are not listened to. It is also an issue where an employee can fall into the trap of focusing more about what will be most comfortable for themselves and their team, rather than what is right for the collective whole. It’s why we see so many companies take easy decisions on complicated subjects.

A common example is managerial feedback. Pretty much every survey says that managers do not give enough feedback to their staff. And when they do, it tends to be flimsy, and not particularly substantiated. Managers do not feel comfortable giving honest, rounded feedback. It’s uncomfortable to sit in front of someone and highlight areas where they can improve. This means that many managers simply avoid doing it. The funny thing about this example is that the manager is actually the one in power. Yet even then, the experience of telling someone something they might not want to hear is one we avoid.

The biggest issue with people pleasing is that it reduces our power as human beings. Since we are no longer following our own internal compass. We start to mistrust what we think, and rely on the opinion of others to guide us. It’s why we ask others for constant advice on life decisions, rather than figuring out what we really want.

We also become less effective – rather than doing what is right, we do what is easy. We stay in a job we hate because we don’t want to really listen to the voice inside of ourselves telling us we are unhappy. After all, it is too much effort and emotional baggage to raise these issues with our work colleagues (and even our spouse!).

But what if we could get away from people pleasing? In other words, truly following what we want to do rather than what would make other people happy. This would be different because we would be truly comfortable in saying what we think, without fear of repercussions of being made an outcast. It would allow us to do all the fun, creative things that we’ve always wanted to try, or take the big leap in what we really wanted to do in life.

Without people pleasing, we can become who we truly want to be.

Now the road towards listening to ourselves is not a quick one. If we’ve spent years ignoring what we truly believe, it will take time and effort to re-find our voice. But if we can break the connection between our insatiable desire to be liked and how we feel as an individual, we can be truly free.

From a state of freedom, we can do whatever we want to in our lives.

How important is it for you to be liked?

Going through a period of brain fog

I’ve been feeling quite bogged down in the last few days. I even had a day sick off work. Part of this has been combating what I’d describe as ‘brain fog’. I’m not doing terribly, but I’m also noticing my brain is not working as quickly as it usually does.

Now, I’m sure we all go through periods of not being fully in control of our brains. For me, I’m finding my mind feeling quite cloudy, and not fully being able to concentrate. The things that we usually find easy feel a lot more burdensome. We can’t seem to activate our brains as quickly as we usually do.

I’m fortunate that I haven’t been hit by COVID, but I know people who have, and the lasting effect of tiredness has been negatively affecting their ability to think. This has a knock-on effect through their work.

I think the particularly scary part of it is the fear of somehow losing our ability. When I’m not as quick at reading a report, I feel like I’ve somehow lost my skill, and so my worth has decreased. I worry that a part of me is gone because I’m not quite as good at doing the

things as I used to be.

Now, this is usually just a panicked reaction. Particularly when for me it’s been a case of needing some rest. For me, after some time I feel back in control. And ironically, the point at which I am not worrying about losing my ability is the point where I don’t seem to have a problem. I’m growing in the belief that it’s as much worrying about losing my ability that is the issue than any fatigue. The stress and anxiety is actually the issue.

I’m aware that some people have been sick for quite some time. It feels demoralising to no longer do the activities that they used to be able to do. Long COVID has hit people who no longer can be active as per their past life. My hope is that these symptoms will go away over time, and people can return to their own state. But even if not, we’re not defined by how quickly we can read an article or answer a question in a meeting. Periods of illness give us time to reflect on what is really important in life.

So whenever you are next ill, or not feeling as sharp as you usually are, remember that this is probably a passing phase. And even if it’s something that is longer lasting (or even chronic), this is not the end of you. The fact we are alive and healthy is a gift. Particularly so in these difficult times of a pandemic and war.

Have you experienced brain fog?

Finding peace in a time of war

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

This blog is around personal development and looking at the beauty of diversity. I’m glad that many people read this; it shows we are fortunate to have moments to reflect on how we can improve ourselves and make things better around us.

Unfortunately, these are not things all of us are able to do. The invasion of Ukraine will affect thousands of innocent people. These are human beings, living their lives just like you and I do. They have little say in the geopolitical battles taking place around them. And yet they will be the ones that suffer the most. It is hard not to feel desolate around the fact war can happen in the blink of an eye, when it will bring much suffering.

Where does that leave those of us who are not directly affected? Well, I think it’s legitimate to feel troubled by the news. It is acceptable to feel sadness, anger or any other emotion. We are human beings, and our experience is shaped by emotions. However, with such a large event outside of our control, what can follow is a sense of helplessness – we are not the direct contributors to the powerplays of west vs east, and it is hard to find direct actions which will change the situation.

Is the answer to simply say we cannot do anything? Perhaps we ought not to concern ourselves with the issues of others that do not affect our lives. Indeed, I believe this is the answer for many things. There are many thoughts and worries which make us unhappy. These things can be let go of, and we can live happier and healthier. However, when searching my own feelings, such a solution feels wrong here. A crisis is happening, and by ignoring it we only legitimise the actions of aggression.

Attention is a form of currency, and if we pay little attention to what is happening, we make the struggles of others invisible. Furthermore, we all have roles to play to see our own leaders take action to stop an injustice. If people do not speak about the invasion of Ukraine, few will know it is even happening. Politicians will move on, and articles will be relegated to the back pages. The concern for the suffering of others will be pushed down in our subconscious.

With these raging emotions, how do we find peace? I cannot promise you an easy answer. In fact, an emotional reaction is proof that we really are human. Nonetheless, I find comfort in reframing how I view the world and the life I live.

Many things are outside of our control – indeed it could be us who is caught up in a war a week from now. However, there are many things we can control. This includes how we feel, think and react to the situations we face in life.

Do we push away negativity, or do we accept it as part of the human experience? Do we focus on the fear of the fragility of life, or do we celebrate that we are alive, whole and healthy today?

After all, in life, bad things happen. They make us upset, and it is right that we mourn them. But there is also an opportunity for us to reassess what it means to live. Only then can we appreciate the gift that life gives us.

The choice is yours.

Bringing Diversity and Inclusion into Coaching Practices

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Coaches want to help others. So it’s no wonder that there is growing interest in diversity and inclusion.

It’s important to state that coaches are not infallible to the same issues many other sectors face. Namely a denial that any issue exists, a lack of taking responsibility of the issues faced or a general reluctance to act. Fortunately, greater understanding is being built (albeit slowly).

If you’re a coach, you may be feeling overwhelmed with the subject. After all, how can a mere individual do much in the face of large systemic issues? Here are some practical ideas which will help.

what is diversity and inclusion?

Let’s start with some definitions. Diversity is about difference. In this context, it is about understanding that people come from all walks of life, and will have different experiences, physical characteristics and upbringings (to name a few). Diversity is about recognising that people are shaped by a number of different characteristics, for example, gender, class, race, sexuality, disability and many others. In the UK, there is a legal obligation against discrimination for those covered as a ‘protected characteristic‘ under the Equality Act.

Inclusion is about actively bringing people into the conversation. It is not enough just to have people who look and sound different, but it is also important to allow them to have their voices heard. Inclusion is by no means a given, and without inclusion, diversity is actually disruptive rather than a benefit.

What are the issues of diversity within the Coaching industry?

recent report conducted by Charmaine Roche and Jonathon Passmore highlights that like many other industries, coaching suffers issues of systemic racism. Although this report hones in on race, many of the conclusions I believe will be representative of issues typically faced from other protected characteristics (though with notable differences depending on the group).

Issues highlighted include suffering ‘race-based trauma’, including the idea that we are not able to talk about race, meaning many people feel silenced over a key part of their identity. This is particularly important where issues of race are active barriers to success – for example when looking for corporate coaching, black women have difficulty accessing the marketplace. There is also a gross underrepresentation of ethnic minority coaches in the public space, with many known coaches white, male.

There is no doubt more to be uncovered of where the industry needs to be improved, though the research is ongoing.

What are the challenges for coaches?

The coaches I know are conscientious individuals who are trying to make the world a better place. They are also juggling the difficulties of making a viable coaching practice through a sustainable business model.

To add diversity and inclusion into the mix can feel overwhelming. After all, it is a large, systemic issue which can feel difficult to change. Furthermore, many coaches face the same issues people in society feel around this subject. In many western countries, we feel uncomfortable asking about people’s background, or even broaching topics such as race, disabilities or sexuality. Coaches therefore have a space for learning in becoming more comfortable in dealing with these topics, whilst also learning more about them along the way.

What are the solutions?

I would like to highlight a number of different ways coaches can address diversity and inclusion. Different coaches are at different stages of their career, as such advice varies depending on what stage each coach is at.

For those that have established coaching practices, they can follow many of the points I mention in an article I wrote for small businesses on diversity and inclusion.

Small steps include looking at how your marketing is currently being used. Are you inadvertently using exclusionary language, and could this be replaced by gender neutral language? Solutions include looking at different ways to advertise, for example in local ethnic-group newspapers, or through different social media platforms to deliberately find different audiences.

You can also look at building additional programmes and/or subsidised rates for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. This can help address the gap between those who have the means to pay for coaching, and those who do not. Naturally care will need to be made on how this is presented to avoid a sense of tokenism, however well-run schemes can work well to bring more diverse groups into existing programmes.

If you wanted to take a further step, you could also look at creating a new programme particularly focused around supporting under-represented groups. This can avoid the discomfort minorities can feel when being the ‘only one in the room’. Care needs to be taken here though that a different approach is taken. Some schemes which are created with noble intentions can end up tone deaf due to the lack of knowledge from the trainer. From my experience, I have gone to training led by white women that had little understanding about the issues that people of colour had faced, despite being to a group of ethnic minorities. This led to a real sense of frustration as the information given was not really addressing the real issues.

I believe there is also an opportunity for a wider re-think of how we want to work as coaches. Niching is a hotly debated topic. From a diversity perspective, niching is actively targeting one group over another. I know this works for many coaches, so I do not want to suggest that niching is an inherently bad thing. I also think that niching is a more targeted way towards fast-tracking a successful business.

Nonetheless, I believe that there is a more holistic way to present ourselves as a coach which embraces a diversity-friendly approach. The term ‘psychographics’ talks about marketing based upon traits that are more metaphysical. For example, these relate to people’s beliefs, opinions, interests and values, rather than their particular physical characteristics or demographics.

Many larger organisations hold wider values which bring a diverse organisation together. Whilst often supplemented by diversity-positive statements, this means that it does not focus about people’s individual characteristics, rather it looks at how people can be brought together based upon what they believe.

I believe that coaching practices can embrace this idea by moving away from specific niching, and instead bringing people based upon their personal values. This will open up a much richer space of people being attracted.

What do you think? Are there other ways coaches can approach the topic of diversity and inclusion?

How to overcome our human limits – the answer is not ‘do more’​.

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The respite of December has come and gone. February has rolled in. The sluggish start to the New Year has officially ended.

Time for business. work. meetings. Important Stuff.

I was fortunate to have a few weeks break in December. Unfortunately that feeling didn’t last particularly long. I’ve noticed recently that my work week no longer has the basic ebbs and flows it once did. Before, Fridays were quieter, and Mondays were about preparing the week. January was quiet, as was August. Now it’s all guns blazing throughout the year. With physical location no longer being a requirement, the pace of work has increased.

They say people once believed we would work only a few hours a day with the exponential growth of computing power. In fact, the opposite is true – humans are the weak link in the juggernaut of faster, better connected technology.

Now, I believe we can get better at what we do. I compare myself to only a few years ago, and my ability to process information and work efficiently has grown greatly. Yet for all the different project management skills, mental shortcuts or changes I’ve made, at some point we hit a limit where the human mind simply cannot do more.

Our brain has a finite amount of attention. We can try and cram more in, and perhaps we might succeed to some extent. But there is far too much information to cram, and at some point overwhelm hits. For me, I used to get as much done as I could in a working day. Some bizarre badge of pride. Look how great I am, because I managed to cram lots of meetings and reports written in a day. It was no wonder I went home each evening totally drained.

I am convinced that people who constantly go beyond their limits are miserable. Despite the amount they are doing, they feel guilty of not being able to do more. It doesn’t help them mentally that their focus is not on what they’ve achieved, rather it is on all the things that were not able to accomplish. They then spend their time focusing on how to find new ways to do more. When in reality they should be asking why they are doing these tasks in the first place.

Often we think that the human limit is time. After all, we only have 24 hours of the day. Time is a measured limit, and a universal concept too. Everyone knows time. We’re even programmed to use it as a reason too – ‘Oh I’d love to, but I just don’t have the time!’. Yet for most people, time isn’t really the issue. If time was really the only thing stopping me from writing a book (which I aimed to do!), I would not have wracked a couple of hundred hours between watching Youtube videos and my Playstation over the last year.

Instead, I think it is more helpful to look at this as how much energy we have. Imagine a well. It starts the day full. As we complete the tasks we have to do, the well slowly depletes. Our energy levels drop, until it is empty. Once this happens, little further activity can happen until it replenishes.

I like this metaphor because it can help us factor in different things. For example, if we have slept badly, our well has not fully replenished. Likewise, if we are doing lots of tasks we really hate, the well will deplete extremely rapidly. Most importantly though, there are tasks that actually give you energy. I’m not just talking about things like taking a nap or resting. Doing the activity we love can actually give us more energy than when we started. It’s for this reason we can hit ‘flow’ state, where we just keep on working on the task whilst the hours fly by.

So revisit your time. Look at what tasks are draining you. Do less of them. Find more tasks that give you energy. Focus on doing the things you enjoy. If you get it right, you’ll end up feeling limitless.

What activity can you do without limit?

Small deeds maketh the man

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Yesterday, an opportunity presented itself. I was buying lunch. I saw one rice bowl with a wrong sticker printed on it, meaning it was accidentally marked one third of the price.

This was in a supermarket. So I knew I could go to the self-scan. Nobody would have noticed.

I definitely flirted with the idea, I even thought that I could have also bought something else as a treat from my ‘savings’.

Would this have been morally wrong? Well technically it was someone else’s mistake. This was not outright stealing, which I think we could definitely label immoral. But it wouldn’t exactly be something I would wear with pride either.

I then thought about my own situation. I’m not some starving student like I was in the past. I knew I could afford to pay for this. I did not desperately need to save money either. There was no moral reasoning that could justify me doing it other than for my own convenience.

Most importantly though, I thought about what it would say about my own beliefs. Now I try and be a morally upstanding guy. I write these articles talking about personal development, and look to make myself a better person. If I don’t do what I talk about, I am just another hypocrite after all.

What would it say about me if I ignored my values for the sake of saving six euros?

It was this last point that was particularly powerful. The idea that I was not following my own personal values hit. Instead, I tried to do the right thing by mentioning this error to a member of staff so that they could correct it. Leaving me instead feeling like I had done a ‘good’ deed rather than a bad one.

I do not share this in some sort of attempt of moral smugness. I’d like to think I did something good. Yet I’m sure there are many times where I have not. For example, I endeavour to give change to homeless people, but I often don’t. I am no saint, just a human dealing with ethical decisions in my everyday life.

Instead, I share this as an example of the everyday small actions we make. Individually they are small, but accumulatively these actions shape us as people. Most importantly, it highlights how in congruence we are with our own personal values and beliefs.

I am a strong believer in having one single identity. By that, I mean avoiding this idea that we can somehow split ourselves into a personality at work and personality at home. The idea that we can be an intense, difficult person in the workplace then go home to be a loving spouse doesn’t really work in practice. Yet I have seen people use this to excuse their behaviour.

The greatest thing I’ve learnt to do is build a clearer, single identity. If I want to be a ‘good’ person, it cannot simply be good when I am working, or when I am at home. It needs to be throughout my life. Otherwise I am simply picking and choosing when I want to follow my own belief system, which rather defeats the purpose of one in the first place! This is the reason we often see such a difference when people describe their values as one thing, then act completely different.

There is good news. Although these small deeds may be the thing that tests us, they are also the solution. For example, If you want to be someone who is more giving, you can simply start donating to charity regularly. If you want to be more sociable, spend an extra five minutes saying hello to people in the mornings. If you want to be better at listening, try speaking a bit less in your next conversation.

With any habit, small actions are the best way for us to make change. So if we are brushing off these opportunities as small things, we are missing out on a massive change to improve ourselves. I cannot say whether I am truly a good person or not. What I can say is that I am a better person for doing the right thing in that situation than if I had not.

What positive small deed have you done recently?

Maintaining healthy relationships as an adult

Photo by Andrew Moca on Unsplash

Since the new year, I’ve been reflecting on my relationships with others. I have a habit of losing touch with people I know. I then feel like I don’t actually have friends. Does this sound familiar?

The pandemic has broken a lot of our social norms. People we used to meet on a day-to-day basis are no longer conveniently in front of us. At first we tried regularly video calls, but these seemingly fell away after a while (at least they did for me, anyway). We’re now finding it harder to build back social lives outside of those who we have been in lockdown with. If you’re like me, you may have forgotten that there’s a world out there!

That said, this is an issue which affected me pre-pandemic. Working in a large city, my routine would usually be waking up groggy, dragging myself to work, going through a rollercoaster day, then going home sapped of energy. Any chance of meaningful engagement with friends or family was lost as I was too tired to commit to anything.

Like many people, my younger years tended to be my more social. Whilst in university it was far easier to meet like-minded people. However, going into adulthood put me in the mix of the big wide world of people with different priorities, as well as tasking me with adult responsibilities. It’s no wonder that I struggled. In the past, it was easy just to make friends without trying. In the adult world, you have to put much more effort in.

Energy is important. When I did actually get around to seeing friends, perhaps after work, it would usually be talking about work, moaning about the things on my mind and noting how I’m tired or stressed. The other person would also reciprocate for a while, after which we would pack our bags and go home. Hardly a meaningful conversation(!).

In the days of being subsumed by work, everything else tends to suffer. It is hard to be present with others when all we are doing is reliving work related issues in our head.

I used to go through a cycle of feeling very antisocial, prompting me to suddenly reach out to people. This was obviously quite sporadic, and in hindsight was not surprising that I found awkward; re-connecting with people takes more effort the longer you haven’t spoken. So if you want to have good, long-lasting relationships, you cannot disappear off the face of the earth for six months – something I’m certainly guilty of!

Self-narrative plays a huge part. I see-saw from believing I am an antisocial person, to someone who is extremely interested in people. Often this can change within the space of a day. I actually recently explored this subject with my coach. I have built up this narrative that I was unable to speak with people because I was poor at making friendships. I built this based upon the fact that I did not have many friends when I was at school. Things such as people mentioning ‘best friends’ or talking about all their ‘friends’ tended to leave me uncomfortable. I don’t easily define my relationships in such a way.

The bit that I forgot was that I can also be extremely sociable. When I was at university I got to know lots of people, a mix from my course, social activities and bumping into them in our little accommodation village. It turns out I did like spending time with others, certainly so when I had the time and energy for it. I was also quite good at having meaningful conversations too. My tendency was to get to know lots of different people, and find interest in that difference.

For me, I’ve learnt that the line between ‘best friend’, ‘friend’ or even ‘acquaintance’ can be blurred. The best thing I did was to stop worrying about how I labelled my relationships, as the moment I put someone in the box of ‘friends’ I thought there was some particular set of actions I had to follow. In reality, relationships can be whatever they need to be, and that is liberating.

For a truly meaningful relationship with anyone, whether that be friend, client, customer or even foe, there is a surprising commonality. Bringing your full attention to that person and without a pre-conceived agenda makes for a greater, more honest relationship. None of us like to be rung by that ‘mate’ who always needs something from you. So don’t be that person when with others.

This is an area that I’m working on myself. I endeavour to build better relationships with the people around me. So if I reach out to you, know that I am coming with an attempt to build better relationships rather than needing anything from you in particular!

As an adult, how have you found maintaining relationships with others?

How’s that New Years Resolution going? I failed mine already

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I’m extremely disappointed in myself. Despite all my hard work, I managed to fail my New Years Resolution.

I did all the hard yards, planning and preparation. Yet four days in, my ambitions for 2022 are in tatters.

Perhaps I’m being hard on myself. After all, my New Years Resolution was to win the lottery and all I did was buy a ticket at the Post Office (well, I also did check if I won). At least I can say I completed those action correctly. Perhaps I can try again next year.

If you couldn’t tell, I write this tongue-in-cheek. If you’ve seen me speaking about it recently, I am not a fan of New Years Resolutions. Whilst I think having a moment to reflect on the year gone by is helpful as we come up to end of December, it’s also quite arbitrary. Let’s not forget that we’re being prompted by a date on the calendar.

It strikes me as even weirder that we use this calendar-prompt as a reason to decide what we are going to do for the next year. After all, I don’t know what I’m going to be doing in a week, let alone in six months. I would guess we do this as a mix of societal pressure and weird personal aspiration. Yet I think we all know that neither of these are particularly conducive to successful personal change. It’s no wonder why most people fail with their New Years Resolution (or if you’re like me, forget I even made one). This then leaves people feeling guilty and actually less likely to commit to change.

I am a big believer in personal development. People can change. People can make themselves better. Yet to do so takes a lot of work. Having motivation, making a plan and working with a coach makes it more likely. Inspiration for change also come at any point. I suddenly decided to start my podcast in December, since I was feeling motivated. So I went ahead and did it.

So what if you do genuinely want to change? Here are some thoughts to prompt you:

  • Find a sustainable motivation for wanting it – if your goal is to lose weight, is there something more profound than simply ‘because you probably should’? How about wanting to feel healthier and reconnect with hobbies you’ve lost touch with.
  • Make it achievable – in the height of new years eve drama, we can all be guilty of building monumental expectations of what we want to do over the next 365 days. Yet we greatly underestimate how long things take. Jeff Bezos would use the example that people think it would take two weeks to learn how to do a good handstand. In reality it takes around six months of daily practice.
  • Create a plan – Planning will help give an idea of how you want to reach your goal. They don’t have to be overly detailed – after all, plans go awry and life happens. This will at least give you an idea of how to start, and you can always adapt it later. If you find you’ve misjudged your plan, you can learn from that experience and be better at planning for the next time.
  • Start when you’re ready; stop when you need to – Change is an emotionally tiring, yet rewarding process. It’s important to be mentally prepared, and start when you are actually ready. So start when you say so, rather than when someone else tells you. Likewise, life can get in the way, so it’s okay to slow down if you need to. Although a goal can be a good prompt for change, you may need to readjust depending on the circumstances.
  • Find external support – It’s hard to do things alone. So find ways you can get support for the changes you want to make. Whether that be from family and friends, or finding a supportive group. I worked with a coach throughout the biggest changes in my life, which enabled me to work through the mental barriers. These included feeling fear, confusion and lack of direction. This experience prompted me to help others with their changes by becoming a coach.

Are there any changes you would like to make? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

the tale of: the presentation on clear messaging

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I’ve been inspired to try satirical writing. So as a bonus second article this week, here’s a short tale for you. It is different different to my usual posts, so I would love to hear if you enjoy it. For what it’s worth, I enjoyed writing it.

***

The clock strikes 13:07. Senior Assistant Director Robert Roberts of Growth Impact Synergies Corporation Inc. clears his throat to usher attention. The crowd quietens with anticipation. Well, this is a virtual meeting so there isn’t any noise, and the anticipation is wanting this to be over with as soon as possible.

‘I am delighted to welcome you to our second growth synergisation information session, otherwise known as our Learn and/or Lunch series’ said Robert. ‘Last week we had an extremely interesting session on wellbeing and taking breaks. I personally learnt a lot, and it was a shame we had to cut it short so people could go to their meetings at 2. Still, the great thing about this format is being able to multitask eating with learning so no loss there.’

‘This week, I am delighted to welcome Angela from our Media Communications Information Intelligence Team, who will be talking to us about clear messaging.’

‘It’s great to be here’ said Angela. ‘We want this to be an extremely interactive session. As such we’ve made this a 35 minute session, although we’ve already lost seven of those because the Director meeting overran. Nonetheless, I will try and get through my presentation as quickly as possible.’

Angela starts sharing her short presentation of 47 slides. John from HR, one of the attendees, wondered whether there would be enough time to get through it all. However, he was unable to say anything as there was no time for input.

‘In order to have clear messaging, or as we like to call it, dynamic information extrapolation and dissemination, or DIED for short, it is important to explain what we mean at each step’, said Angela, without explaining dynamic information extrapolation and dissemination meant. Angela set out how important it was to be clear internally on what each other was doing. It was for this reason the Media Communications Information Intelligence Team held two hour meetings every morning where they each gave a short 15 minute update. For the rest of the business, it was now clear why their team never responded to emails before 12pm.

Angela spoke for another 30 minutes until it became apparent there was no time left. Senior Assistant Director Roberts who had been checking his emails, realised Angela had stopped talking. He quickly turned his microphone back on. ‘Errr, thanks Angela for that…fascinating presentation. I took a lot away from it, such as, well, you know, I think it spoke for itself. I know we are out of time, but I wondered whether there are any questions?’. Junior Assistant Director Mo Gates puts up his electronic hand. The audience groan (which would have got them in trouble if it weren’t for their muted microphones).

‘Hi, thanks so much for a great presentation, and a special thank you to Robert for organising.’ said Mo, who happened to be managed by Robert. ‘I was wondering whether the Growth Impact Synergies Corporation would benefit from greater synergising across teams to ensure enhanced cooperation’.

‘Yes excellent point Mo, I think we could all benefit from greater synergising across teams’ said Angela.

‘You took the words right out of my mouth Angela’ Robert added, ‘synergising is our greatest strength and we only great stronger through it. I hope in the future we can find new ways of cross-team synergisation through clear messaging. Well, great I have to go as I’m already 10 minutes late to a session with my mentee. That was an excellent session, and sorry once again that we have overrun by 20 minutes as I know some of you have to present to our biggest client now. But as we learnt from last week, it’s important to have a break, so remember – take time away from your laptops and go for a walk.

Before ending the meeting, Robert said: ‘Next, we have a Learn and/or Lunch on efficient ways of working. I think we’ll need to postpone that till next month though since our Director meeting will run over, and the week after is a holiday. Anyway, I’m sure we’ll get to it some point. Thank you all for listening’.

Making Sense of 2021

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

Building a narrative over a full year is usually tough. I often forget most of what I did towards the beginning of the year.

This year is particularly troublesome, as post-March 2020 and 2021 melded together as one relentless monotony. Pre-pandemic life feels a distant memory, with our changes to lifestyle and work now feeling like no other alternative ever existed.

Although this piece is around reflection towards the end of 2021, I wonder how beneficial it is to reflect purely based upon the end of a 365-day cycle. Much like New Years Eve, it feels an arbitrary date which has little relation to how our lives really play out. Is the end of a year really an end?

Still, I find benefit in having a yearly cue. Without it, I would simply forget to do so, and put my attention in the next banal task after another. Heaven knows we don’t take enough time to understand ourselves. So if it helps prompt introspection, this yearly tradition serves its purpose.

2021 was an odd year. I achieved many of my goals, yet did not feel particularly happy. I find myself confronting a myth I have created for myself – that if I achieved all my goals – this would lead me to fulfillment. As far as my checklist goes, I completed numerous qualifications, moved country, changed jobs and built this newsletter. I also recently started a podcast. No doubt many other things too.

If I marked my year in terms of achievement it would be pretty high. I ticked many boxes and have lots of nice pieces of paper saying I was more qualified than I was 2020. Why then am I not delighted with this year?

Well, a worldwide pandemic does not help. Basic actions have an undercurrent of self-doubt on whether the risk was worth it. Stressful activities like moving house became even more so with a few quarantine periods thrown in too.

But even without a worldwide pandemic, I think this would have been a year of change for me. Change is rarely comfortable. Dust needs to settle, and sometimes that takes longer than a calendar year.

At the end of 2019 I was unhappy and wanted things to change. My life was centred around work, and I found little other purpose in my existence. As it evolved, 2020 became a year where I started to open my mind. This came through developing myself, and finding new pursuits such as yoga. 2021 was putting many seismic changes in place. Changing location and job also meant a change in identity. I am no longer a Londoner, nor working in Government. Instead, I am a foreigner working on sustainability issues. Roots of a tree need time to grow.

I leave 2021 with a sense of hope. I hope that making changes this year will benefit my future. Looking into 2022, I am optimistic I can find that greater fulfillment I’m looking for.