by Chris Johnson
We have noticed an interesting trend with our coaching clients over the last 3-4 months. Whether individual, or corporate, there has been a consistent theme – people do not want things to return to ‘normal’. As our global situation gradually changes our coachees and the leaders we work with tell us they want something a little bit different (a ‘new normal’).
Spending extended time at home has allowed many people to consider what is important in their lives without extended work hours, reacting to constant distractions and generally being ‘too busy’. There is some science behind this. In a busy go-go-go work environment, we normally experience gamma brainwaves (32-100 Hz) and beta brainwaves (13-32 Hz). Imagine something similar to a frequent, spikey heartbeat on a monitor. These states are particularly good for getting things done, rapid problem solving and being alert to what is going on around us.
Creativity, insight and connecting the dots are all more likely when we experience theta brainwaves (4-8 Hz). Picture longer, more fluid waves if there were on a heart rate monitor. I often ask teams and leadership groups I work with ‘where they are when they get their best ideas?’ Answers generally include – the shower, brushing my teeth, walking the dog, running and driving to and from work. Do you notice what people did NOT say? People generally do not have thoughtful, creative ideas at work. It takes real focus and discipline to consciously embrace the state that is most useful to you. We actively work with people to improve this, helping them switch between the different brainwave states particularly in busy, reactive environments. With reduced travel times, less interruption and more reflection time, people are experiencing the impact of theta brainwaves more often. As a result they are catching clearer glimpses of what REALLY matters to them.
In terms of home life people are enjoying longer meals with the family, actively catching up with friends, playing more with their kids, indulging in passions and past times and simply recharging the batteries. As for some of those gardens, they are looking spectacular. There is less commuting to work, more time to consider, plan, talk to colleagues, develop individuals and teams, and get on with the tasks you’ve always wanted to but haven’t had time. Many people are asking, ‘how can I retain these things as normality returns?’ ‘How can I maximise my enjoyment of my work?’ Or even ‘is this really the job for me? These are glimpses into our values, and honouring our values helps create fulfilment.
“Being able to tune in to your values is akin to having an early-warning radar system so you can course correct.”
One of the first things we often do during coaching is to help you to get more familiar with your values. Identifying and describing values allows you to bring them to life and put them front and centre; they become a mirror to hold up to your decision making. Should you take the new job? If the job honours your values, you are probably making a reasonable decision. If you have a personal value around ’empowerment’ and your new boss appears highly controlling then you may decide to think things through a little longer, do more due diligence or simply turn down the offer. When we ignore our values, particularly over longer periods, anxiety or tension tends to build, normally showing up in the body first. Being able to tune in to your values is akin to having an early-warning radar system so you can course correct.
Values can feel intensely private, a window into your soul and I encourage you to share them. Reading an interview with Tom Hanks about being a young actor; he described turning down roles as an opportunity. He believed this was his moment to tell people what he was passionate about and what he was looking for. A chance to share his values. This has 2 impacts. Firstly, it allows other people to actively filter and offer Tom opportunities against the criteria he has shared. Secondly, it increases the chance of him finding work that is fulfilling. I feel it is fair to say he’s done ok for himself.
I love hearing about people sharing their values in similar situations e.g. job interviews. I have always believed this is a 2-way process and that you are selecting the employer as much as the employer is selecting you. Putting your values front and centre and NOT being chosen by a company could be very positive; you have avoided a culture, manager or both that does not resonate with you. Conversely, finding an employer who does ‘get you’, your values and beliefs, is likely to see you playing at your full strength and enjoying your work.
So how do you start discovering your values? You could choose to work with a coach (which would be awesome) and if you’re looking for an exercise right now, grab a pen and paper, and consider the questions below:
You don’t have to use all 3 questions, you could simply use one, keep asking it and see what continually comes up. For the question you choose, notice your answer. Now ask yourself ‘why?’ Keep asking ‘why?’ for each consequent answer you get. Eventually you’ll reach an answer that feels like a ‘big truth’. An answer you can’t get underneath. This will very likely be one of your values. Let’s look at an example.
As you can see I don’t find ‘traffic jams’ fun. Freedom is a big chunky value of mine. When I ask myself ‘why does lack of freedom frustrate me?’ I simply come back to freedom again. It is a stone I cannot turn over. At its best freedom affords me choice of work, the space to be myself with my amazing fiancée and the opportunity to be creative and explore. Most people I coach have between 6-8 values, with the personality of each value described in a way that resonates with them. One person’s version of freedom may be very different to my version of freedom.
Stepping back is the key. The current global situation has allowed many of us to step out of our normal grooves and consider and reflect on what really matters. Having a regular personal practice, the ability to pause when it matters most and experience a few more theta waves can dramatically improve our personal well-being.
I passionately believe personal, and leadership coaching, is a positive way to help people take that step back. As the learning and development industry puts more and more face-to-face experiences online, remote and virtual coaching remains as effective and transformational as ever. It provides partnership, exploration and accountability to help inspire people to engage with their personal and work life in new and profound ways.
Happy value exploring. Let us know how you got on, we would love to hear from you.
Chris is an international trainer, facilitator, consultant and accredited professional coach (PCC). He owns Caboo Learning and is co-founder of 20 Rock. His passion is helping leaders and teams maximise their natural strengths, fulfil their potential and actively engage in their work. He believes in creating experiential learning that takes you one step out of your comfort zone and actively promotes building the eco-system to support learning transfer in the workplace. For over 18 years he has designed and delivered projects for SMEs and blue-chip corporations, working with 10,000+ participants in 30+ countries (Europe, North & South America, Middle East, Asia).