21 Chapters
Medium 9781605090009

Take Actions to Encourage the Hero in You

Blumenthal, Noah Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Sometimes, despite our best intentions, we get caught up in the moment and forget or find ourselves unable to make the changes we desire. Often people believe their failure is caused by lack of willpower: they just didn’t have enough determination to do the right thing. I don’t believe willpower is the key.

Rather, I believe we change by practicing new behaviors in a disciplined way. Regular practice will build your strength and make telling your new stories easier and more natural, even when you face a challenge. You can find many ways to practice the new pattern you want to establish. Try the following five suggestions or let them spark your own ideas for specific actions to guide you to new behaviors.

Take five minutes each day to write down the stories you tell in a small notebook. Record the victim stories that came to you, and then add the hero stories you told to replace the victim stories. If you didn’t think of a hero story when your victim story arose, create one for your journal. You may be too late to change the situation that formed the victim story, but creating the hero story will help you build the skill for the future.

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Medium 9781576754276

Step 7: Prepare Yourself

Blumenthal, Noah Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Questions to get you started:

What is the new skill you are trying to master?

How do you prepare yourself for important moments in life?

There is a scene that actors and actresses play out in movies that I am confident you have seen, regardless of your taste in film. They have done it in action movies, comedies, dramas, horror, you name it. It is a scene where the hero is about to do something important and out of the ordinary. Sometimes he needs to have a very important conversation with another character. Sometimes he has to prepare for a big event. What he does in his scene is practice what he is about to perform. Actors who have done this include:

In all of these cases these actors were trying to take unnatural actions and make them natural. They practiced speeches, fighting, posture, and manners. Regardless of the skill, these actors repeated their new behaviors over and over. As they practiced, we, as the audience, saw their nervousness grow at first, then eventually dissipate as they neared the triumphant moment.

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Medium 9781576754276

Step 9: Assess Your Progress

Blumenthal, Noah Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Questions to get you started:

How are you doing on your commitments?

What has facilitated or inhibited your efforts?

What is your next commitment?

I always ask my clients to make commitments. At the beginning of our work together we outline major goals for the next several months. At the end of each session, we work together to determine specific actions they will take before their next session. I had one client who was adamant at the beginning of almost every session that she had so much to discuss, so much ground to cover with me, that there was no time to go over what she had or hadn’t done relative to her commitments. It was early in my career, and not knowing any better at the time, I followed her lead.

So each time we talked, we would discuss new developments in her work. To be fair, she did always come prepared with very 134 interesting new challenges to discuss. Sometimes these related to her central goals for the coaching, but more often than not, these conversations would lead in completely new directions. The discussions were fast paced and varied, and at the end of our work together she described the coaching as generally helpful to her. However, both she and her manager were disappointed that the coaching had failed to help her achieve her original goals.

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Medium 9781605090009

Situation Stories

Blumenthal, Noah Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

It was cool outside, but the fresh air felt good. Martin led Jeff out of the building and a couple of blocks away to a nearby park. Jeff wondered why he didn’t do this more often. He could feel his head clearing. Just this short walk, the fresh air, the trees in the park were relieving some of his tension.

They stopped at a railing that bordered a pond. Martin leaned against the railing and stared out at the water. Jeff could see him taking long deep breaths. It was almost hypnotic.

They stood in silence for a while until Jeff’s impatience got the better of him. “So what is the next story?”

“First, tell me what you see.”

“You mean here in the park?”

Martin nodded.

“I see a pond, trees, building tops beyond the trees. There are lots of birds, mostly pigeons, a few ducks.”

“That’s good. How about the people?”

Jeff looked around. “Well, a young couple is sitting on the bench over there. Some old men are playing bocce. A handful of people are scattered around — I assume from the way they are dressed that they are businesspeople.”

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Medium 9781576754276

Step 2: Realize the Consequences

Blumenthal, Noah Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Questions to get you started:

How well do you know yourself?

Who knows you better than you know yourself?

“I don’t have the foggiest idea,” my client said to me. He had just finished telling me about a fabulously kindhearted and helpful thing he had done for one of his employees. I then asked him, “How do your actions look to her?” I asked this because his wonderful action was met by his employee with anger and resentment. When he told me he didn’t “have the foggiest idea,” it was clear that he saw his actions only through the lens of his own intentions.

All he had done was ask one of his star associates for progress reports on work that she was doing for one of their clients. He knew it was an important client. He wanted to offer input. He wanted to make his broad experience available to improve the quality of the service to the client. He wanted to be helpful. He didn’t want to be a burden, stifle creativity, question anyone’s capability, or micro-manage. He saw his action only in the best possible light.

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