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How to be at your best

August 3rd, 2014 No comments

How to be at your best

Seth Godin has published a great blog post about how our behaviour can make our bosses more conservative than they really are. Well-meaning people who try to please their bosses

…buff off the edges, dilute the goodness and quench their curiosity. They churn out another version of what’s already there, because they’re imagining the most risk-averse version of their boss is in the room with them.

I know that I sometimes do this (though in my case my ‘boss’ is a client instead). I want to be helpful, I want to give the client what they ask for, and I want to respect what the client already knows and believes. Sometimes I’m also afraid of angering the client by challenging them, and harming our relationship (and perhaps losing some paid work as a result). But if I fail to confront them and challenge them when I need to, I don’t serve their best interests.

On a good day, I can catch myself doing this. Even better, by being mindful about how I’m approaching a meeting with a client, I can notice in advance that I’m intending to please them. At times like this I use a really useful tool created by the business coach Michael Bungay-Stanier.

“I am this…not that”

Michael calls his tool an ‘I am this… not that’ list. It’s a list of 10 matched pairs of adjectives: one word describes him when he is at his best, and its matched pair describes him when he is at his worst. One of Michael’s matched pairs is ‘Provocative… not sycophantic’ (hence ‘This… not that’). I have something similar on my list.

My list of 10 pairs of words is a useful prompt for me – I carry it around with me wherever I go. It helps me to stay on track and reminds me what I can be like when I’m at my best. And it takes just seconds to scan the list, and re-connect with how I am when I am at my best.

If you’d like to find out more about how to create your own ‘I am this… not that’ list then do get in touch. And if you already have an idea what one of your matched pairs would be – a pair of words that describe you at your best and at your worst – let me know in the comments below.

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