Its a catastrophe – the reality check approach

I have been exploring some ways to help people and teams tackle major challenges, impediments and catastrophes.

But my final approach is one I learned from my parents when I was young.  Its not in any of the agile coaching approaches, but I have found I use it often.

I also find this is the approach that my mentors and family have used to help me when I am worrying about something.

It’s called “a reality check,” or a “kick in the pants.

So how does it work?

Well let’s say I have hit a major problem at work.  For me that might be that a training course was a train wreck or that the team I am working with just got restructured and all the hard work we have been doing together is about to come apart.

When this happens, I often over-analyse things and worry about things I can’t change.  But then I also start talking it over in my head and sometimes it starts to loom larger and larger.

So I talk to my loving family or peers and they give me a quick kick in the pants to help me reset and refocus.

I guess it is important to know that I am Australian and when I grew up a lot of the coaching I received was along the lines of “get over it, a lot of people have it worse off than you, so put it behind you and move forward.”

In case you are not familiar with what this sounds like then here are some examples

  • I will give you one beer to worry about it.  When this beer is finished we will move on to something more interesting
  • Really, that is the issue?  Maybe if you want something to really worry about you should go without food for 2 days.  Then see if it is still an issue.
  • So you could spend time fixing that.  Let’s say it takes an hour to worry, an hour to do something and then an hour to wonder if you did the right thing.  Is there anything else you think you could do with 3 hours that might be more worth while?

Strangely though, when I began coaching others and I started to bluntly tell people to “get over it” or to “suck it up princess”, they seemed to miss my good intentions and sometimes even seemed to get upset.

My powerful EQ and my well honed coaching skills meant that I eventually realised that that people were not entirely grateful for my constructive feedback.

I guess if I really did have powerful EQ then I would have realised a lot earlier.  So I learned to adjust my approach a little.

I still believe that sometimes I should just get over things and move forward.  I also think there are times to tell others to do the same.

But when I learned coaching I did find out that there are more constructive ways to put things in perspective and help people move forward.

Here is what  I learned recently in a MOOC on coaching.  It is about resilience and positive psychology and it is presented by Karen Reivich Phd.

It is part of a series and well worth the time if you are interested.  But here is my take on something from one of the videos in a much quicker lesson.

When someone is getting too concerned and seems to be worrying too much … if you can’t stop yourself giving them some advice then try one of these 3 deliberate approaches:

  1. Use an evidence based approach to counter their concerns directly:
    1. That is not true – you say you stuffed it up but actually this is what you achieved.  (Insert your take on things)
    2. That is not true – you say you never get it right but what about this time .. and this
  2. Re-frame (look at things in a more productive way):
    1. That is one way to look at it.  But its not the only way.  Here is my perspective (give a different perspective or take on the situation)
    2. For example – You say you suck at this – you find this hard.  The way I look at it, you are on a learning curve so there will be quite a few areas that you will struggle with – at the moment.  But that is why we are here to back you up – so you can struggle, find the challenge and get help learning to master this stuff.
    3. You can word this as “a better way to look at that is to …”
  3. Use a plan based approach (ie focus on what they can do if things do go wrong):
    1. OK, that might happen.  If “X” does happen, maybe you could try “Y.”
    2. OK, “X” might happen.  Let’s assume it does for a moment, what can we come up with now, that you could do in that situation?

Then you move back into coaching, maybe along the lines of these other approaches.

Each approach still leaves the person to cope, but rather than just telling them to “get over it,” these approaches attempt to help the person look at things in a way that gives them the confidence to cope and move forward successfully.

The idea is that you can say what you think, but that in doing so you should leave the person with the ability to see a next step, or to stop worrying and start speculating.


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