Manager, Coach Thyself

physicianA very old proverb, “Physician heal thyself“, reminds us to attend to our own affairs rather than criticizing the affairs of others. It popped into my head recently when I was telling someone about the “self talk” going on in my head during a challenging meeting I had.

First, let me explain that “self talk” is more than just muttering to yourself now and again. It’s actually a conversation that you have with your subconscious and is considered a subset of thinking. Experts agree that the way in which we “talk to ourselves,” whether out loud or in our heads, has an enormous impact on our performance, our confidence, and our mood. (There’s a great article from The Wall Street Journal here.)

You may remember the SNL skit where Stuart Smalley talks to himself in the mirror. That’s a bit more over-the top than what I’m talking about, but it does illustrate the idea. Stuart Smalley’s Famous Self Talk

Coaching Yourself

We may coach others every day as part of our jobs. We help people understand how they could have done better in a challenging situation and/or what they did right and should do more of. But have we ever thought about the advantages of coaching ourselves, right in the moment?

Remember that coaching is all about asking the right questions, helping people come to their own self-realizations and truths that will resonate and take hold more than you just “telling” them what to do. Self talk can be the same. Research shows that we should actually talk to ourselves by using our names or saying “you” instead of I.

I would add, talk to yourself in a coaching style, asking yourself questions. It’s much more likely to stick and change your behaviour in the moment.

So back to my challenging meeting.

I had a networking session with someone in a similar line of business. I knew this person to be a tad passive aggressive, and I admit that one of the reasons I sought out the meeting was to bridge this awkwardness I felt every time we had an interaction. So, we sat down over coffee, and I started out as all good networkers do, by asking more about their work, how they fell into it, etc. (Read our blog on networking here.)

45 minutes into it, I realized not one question was directed my way. Not one. I started getting annoyed, and fortunately had enough self awareness to realize that this was likely showing up on my face. (I am cursed with a very expressive face. Many years ago a boss told me, “Ruth not only do we realize when you don’t like an idea, we can tell when you think someone is stupid.” OUCH!)

I began to coach myself using self talk, starting with Kindness & Curiosity (“Ruth, what kind of life is this person having, that they are so entirely focused on themselves?”) This person has A LOT of trials and tribulations going on. Does that make the self-centredness ok? No, but it makes it easier to react with kindness. Then I moved on to thinking about what I could actually learn, instead of being ticked off that it was a one-sided conversation. (“OK, so it’s annoying. Remember Ruth, there are things you can actually pick up and apply to your own business if you’d just listen. Stop wrinkling your forehead.)

I came away from the conversation much more relaxed than I might have. The self-talk helped me apply my own principles to my situation, and I picked up a few good pointers along the way.

What To Remember

  • You may coach others every day as part of your job. You also should coach yourself. Be aware of those situations in which you might over react or response from a place of frustration.
  • Always think of Kindness & Curiosity first. It helps you calm down and take personal responsibility out of the equation.
  • Use the questioning style of self-talk to remember your own coaching techniques.

It doesn’t really turn an annoying situation into a great one, but it does help you react with professionalism and grace. And that’s never a bad thing.

Until next time,