By Sue Stockdale.
Recently I took my dog for a walk in the forest and enjoyed watching her race through the undergrowth following scents and chasing whatever she could. As a German Pointer, her breed characteristics come to the fore in that environment, where she used her excellent sense of smell to chase anything she could find. Then at the end of the trail, she would race back to me, panting and exhilarated by the experience.
Then a few weeks later, she became lame, and off we went to the vet to discover what the problem was. The vet told us that the muscle strain she had suffered was likely to get worse in the longer term if she continued to run and therefore she was better to be put on the lead in future to walk sedately by my side. I couldn’t help but think that whilst this was going to be safer, would it be as enjoyable for her?
Every day I see similar situations in the workplace. Where employees play it safe, or to do just enough to get the job done, even though they have the potential to come up with new ideas, or to be creative in how a task is achieved. So, what causes us as human beings to live life on the lead, and how could it be different?
Motive for action
To motivate oneself, we need to think about the word motivation which breaks down to “motive for action”. Find your motive, and then action can follow. One coaching client I worked with wanted to develop her career but believed that to do that she needed to get better at networking. She said to me “although I have worked here for over ten years, all those who get promoted are always known around the business, and I don’t like networking, so I’m not going to be promoted’. So, I thought how am I going to motivate her to try some networking, if she believes she is not good at it? I need to help her find her motive for action. At the start of the next coaching session over a cup of coffee we were talking about what we had spent our weekends doing. My client had been involved in a street party. She had lived in her town for many years and knew everyone, and therefore at the street party she was the person who connected one neighbour to another. It reminded me of our conversation about networking. Wasn’t this just networking of another kind? So, I asked her, could you describe what you were doing at the party as networking? After a long pause, she agreed with me, and realized that she could network after all, but had never made the connection between that skill that she used outside of work, to what she wanted to do at work. She has put a limitation on herself without realising it.
So, I worked with her to help imagine what it would be like if she applied these skills in a similar context at work. How could she become the connector? This gave her the motive for action. She created a plan to put her skills to use at work, and really enjoyed being able to connect one colleague to another. She had just never looked at networking in that way before. Six months later she applied for a promotion and was successful.
We are all capable of so much more than we realise, yet often the only person stopping you….is you. Working with a coach can help employees to fully utilise all of their potential, rather than unwittingly limit themselves.