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Archive for February, 2011

Strategic Deceit

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

Re-occurring coaching themes often present themselves in many of my coaching clients at the same time. Sometimes the very themes my coaching clients battle with are uncomfortably close to home in my own life. It’s scary.

Tackling these themes with one client often creates shifts so much more easily in my other clients. But when I really tackle the shift with myself, that’s when the shifts that happen with my clients are much more significant and noticeable.

One recent theme that has been very present is the challenge of not committing to finding that extra hour in the day that belongs to nobody else but you. Coaching clients find their days sucked up by emails, meetings, deadlines, want it now demands and toxic people ranting on about nothing important – they can drain the very little life force you are left with!

Most of my clients complain about not having enough time to get it all done and believing that staring at a computer or Blackberry screen really is their lot.

In many of the colleges I go into as an Executive coach or trainer, the over arching message I pick up from the ground is give us speed training or coaching that offers fast tools delivered with the expectation that there is little participation or engagement in the practice.

On one training job, I was engaged to train a group of middle and senior managers who wanted to be given a coaching model but who resisted having to practice the model with each other. They just wanted to go away and use it. Slowing down, thinking, reflecting are almost dirty words in many corporate environments.

One tool or trick I like to share with coaching clients is the tool of Strategic Deceit which I first came across in a book for writers by Heather Sellers called Chapter by Chapter. I borrowed the concept and put it to work not just with myself but also in my work with writers and coaches who struggled with finding time to really engage with the projects and goals that really mattered.

Strategic Deceit can be described as a ‘colourful lie’. It’s a slight variation on the truth.

Sellers suggests dalliance in a bit of creative story telling, shaping the truth in order to both protect and in many cases create space for your daily writing habit, or as in the case of many of my corporate clients time and space to think, plan and strategise. And if they’re lucky, time to invest in getting creative. Shaping or in many cases bending the truth may be the only way many individuals have of creating the time and space to make any of the above happen.

I bet you’ve probably applied Strategic Deceit before with a friend or family member. In our family the offending member is my youngest sibling Mary. With a habit of being chronically late for just about every event, Mary has been known to have been given as much as two hours ahead of the real time of when we were expected to meet just so she would get there in time.

Sometimes we just have to help ourselves by any means necessary. So in other words, can’t find the time to sit and plan and reflect? Then creatively make up a meeting you have to go to. Call it the Strategy Visioning group. In the corporate world that title should keep the nosey parkers off your back. Attending a group somewhere seems to legitimise your attendance more than if your next appointment sounds anything like a meeting for one.

The key thing is to get your creative spin of a meeting scheduled into your diary. Next book a room in your office building. If there’s no space available, think creatively about somewhere you might be able to hang out for half an hour or more without being found. Be fair, there are hundreds of distractions to your day. So, having or creating time to think may require a ‘colourful lie’ to buy your way into that space. What you want is an easy, pressure free way of slipping away from the demands of the day even if for a mere thirty minutes.

What things have gotten you free space in the past? What do you know you can say that would buy you time?

Make a list of three Strategic Deceits or phrases you could use that won’t have guilt written all over your face.

Mine look something like this

1. “I’m delivering all day today and won’t be back till late.”

2. “I’m already booked up at that time what other ways could we connect on these issues?”

3. “I can’t do Thursday at 3pm or next week.”

Have fun!

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When and Where I Write

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

Moleskin Notebook

I have learnt to lend myself to pen and paper just about anywhere. I can hear the music blaring out from the iPod of the woman sitting ten seats behind me whose music I have not consented to share, especially so early on this crisp winter’s morning.

The loud non-stop banter of the two women on the lower deck is yet another distraction, way too bubbly for such wee hours of the day. None of it matters though. I have slipped into my private space with pen and notebook and soon I am scrawling fast, across the blank pages of my yellow Moleskin notebook on the front seat of the upper deck of a 37 bus. I have trained my mind to be focused and write with ease. I can navigate my way skillfully across the page between the jolts and bumps as the bus heads South towards Brixton from my home in East Dulwich.

What matters most is writing my Morning Pages – a kind of writer’s ritual that affords one the space to undo yourself on the page. I write Morning Pages for many reasons. Today one reason is paramount, I write so I can enter my day with less angst, less worry and more head and soul space to give myself more fully and present to the awakening day.

Over the years I have written in many places. I’ve written at the feet of various trees in many of London’s gorgeous parks and under the shade of trees as far away as New Mexico and upstate New York. Every month, I write regularly on local and intercity trains out of London and Kings Cross mainline stations. I prefer the quiet coaches on trains where away from the noise and din of mobile phones I have a noise free zone for writing.

I’ve also written on packed buses and commuter trains, in cafes and restaurants around the world and dare I say it, many bars. Once, during a lunch time meal with a friend in a posh restaurant in St Christopher’s Place in central London, I excused myself hurriedly from her incessant chatter and headed down to the bathroom where I sat on the toilet seat and scribbled notes on the back of a napkin. Although it wasn’t quite Victor Frankl’s experience of writing on toilet paper in the concentration camp, Frankl’s experience certainly had inspired me to getting scribbling on my double ply luxury napkin.

Nowhere escapes being transformed into a temporary writing station for me. One thing I am sure of is that my Muse cannot afford the luxury of a favourite place or ideal space to write. This writing business is daily business. It’s an everyday task like brushing your teeth and taking a shower. I cannot afford to do one and not the other. If I am to embrace being a writer then the one thing I need to do more than anything is to find places and spaces in my day to write.

I know you’re probably thinking it’s all right for me to sound so gleeful. But trust me, I honestly haven’t always been this way. With years of procrastination, fear and doubt under my belt I’ve been my own worst enemy when it comes to this writing lark. But honestly, I cannot predict better times for me in my life than those times when I commit to writing, do the darn thing and write. The gains to be had from writing have become obvious now. For whatever life throws my way, if I am writing and doing it regularly then somehow I get through it differently. In fact much better actually than if I’m not writing at all.

Right now I’m in the café at Friends Meeting House in central London. I am transcribing my notes from the pages of my yellow Moleskin, in and amongst occasional glances out the window at the traffic thudding past along the Euston Road. In a few minutes I will be sitting on the top deck of a number 68 bus. I will write again. Maybe a few texts, maybe more notes or maybe add some notes to my To Do List.

Where do you prefer to write? Where have you trained yourself to write? Where would you be willing to try out writing? Where are you right now? Can you stop what you are doing right now and write for just 5 minutes?

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