Stewart had been pushing himself for years – achieving great results, but at a price. He’d got used to being stressed, but now something very strange was happening. He felt like he’d gone into a vague cloudy world in which nothing really mattered. He’d completely lost his edge.
Then he came for coaching – just in time!
Within two months he was back on form – sharp, focused and really clear. Even though his business was facing huge challenges from declining markets, he was realistic about those challenges, and quietly confident about his own performance and that of all his staff.
What made the difference? He put it down to learning the “Approach Mode.”
What is the “Approach Mode”?
If we keep avoiding difficulty, it often gets worse. That’s “avoidance mode.” But if we turn towards the difficulty, with interest and curiosity, it’s often a lot easier than we think. That’s the “approach mode.”
So how did Stewart put this into practice?
Planning for Satisfaction
As an Area Manager, Stewart’s job involves a lot of travel – which he really likes. He enjoys getting out and about, and thrives on meeting lots of people.
But his weakness is with admin work, and that was his first big source of stress. He would let the paperwork build up, and then have a big mountain of it to deal with on his days in his home office. Unsurprisingly, he found it hard to get started on it, and had never been very effective at getting through it. So it had been building up, becoming a constant source of background stress. That was having a big impact on his overall performance, in other areas too. His “avoidance mode” strategy wasn’t working.
In order to shift into “Approach Mode”, we came up with a couple of little changes he could make, to the way he managed his admin days:
- Realistic To-Do lists. The first change was to begin each admin day by creating a do-able list for the day. He estimated how long each task would take, and only put a task on the list if there was enough time to fit it in. This helped him make sure he was giving his attention to the most important work. It also helped with those tough decisions about what to leave – he was making them consciously, and at the start of the day when his mind was fresh.
- Appreciative Reviewing. Towards the end of each admin day, he took a few minutes to appreciate the progress he’d made. This left him with a pleasing sense of satisfaction.
The result was that he was able to get through more admin with much less stress. Instead of fretting all through the day, he could just get on with each task. That gave him more energy and made him more effective. He also realised that scheduling in an extra admin day to catch up would take a lot of the strain away – and was amazed to realise that that was now an attractive prospect!
Having transformed his admin days, and caught up with the backlog, he found that he had more energy and enthusiasm for the rest of his job too. It was such a relief to know that his admin was – finally! – under control.
Stewart found something similar with people management. He’d been in the habit of avoiding conversations about under-performance and other difficulties. The result, of course, was that the difficulties kept piling up.
As he learnt about the approach-mode, he started turning towards these difficult areas with curiosity and interest. He found that his fears of conflict were quite out of proportion – which helped him to relax and pluck up the courage to broach the challenging subjects.
Then he found the conversations weren’t so difficult after all – he was surprised how well people responded. Stewart’s fear and discomfort was largely replaced with quiet confidence. Once again, the approach mode brought him a considerable sense of relief, and a significant increase in performance.