Lifting the mask

This morning, deciding I need a change from my workout playlists I’m listening to Steven Bartletts Steven Bartlett - Entrepreneur, Speaker, Investor, BBC Dragon Podcast series, The Diary of a CEO which has been on my “listen to” list for weeks. As I listen to the first episode, I realise how much his descriptions and the dialogue he has with his guest remind me of my profession as a coach and the conversations I have with my clients.

For those of you who don’t know him, Steven is 29, at 21 having dropped out of university he founded the now listed, social media marketing agency @SocialChain, currently valued at over $600m. He has also recently become the newest dragon on the UK Dragon’s Den (the UK's version of Shark Tank for those of you reading this elsewhere in the world) a show I am without shame hooked on.

In Bartletts own words “in each episode, I sit down with some of the world’s most influential people, experts and thinkers and embark on a curiosity-driven journey to discover untold truths, unlearned lessons and important insights that will make me, and the audience’s lives more enjoyable, more successful and more fulfilled “.

It’s the focus of the conversation and the descriptions he uses that resonate with me, they show up as a parallel with the work we coaches do with our clients. In that one sentence, Steven has encapsulated what and why coaches do what they do.

Clients show up at our door with a host of goals, aspirations, challenges, and unanswered questions. Often, they’ve tried everything to advance their cause or answer their questions but failed. The promotion passes them by, sales continue to slip through their fingers, they remain paralyzed by fear every time they’re required to speak publicly, and confidence continues to allude them.

When clients contract with a coach, they extend to us an invitation to “lift the mask”—subtly, skilfully and in a safe and unjudgmental space. We help our clients understand why they are the way they are and why they behave the way they do. The journey to this understanding confronts their internal dialogues and the restricting narratives that control every aspect of their lives; the long-time written stories that hold them back. We challenge them to write a new narrative; one that creates a platform for sustained personal growth and learning. Ultimately, this new narrative,sets them on a course for “more enjoyable, more successful and more fulfilled lives”.

I’m acutely aware of how Bartlett and his guests are “lifting their masks” as I listen this morning. Theirs is a journey of joint discovery as they peel back the layers of their professional and personal experiences and explore the insights they unearth. It’s a powerful mix of personal acknowledgement and inspiration to anyone listening.

It is always true that a coach can only lead a client on a parallel journey of discovery if they have already availed themselves of the work they propose to their clients. As I listen in the gym this morning, I’m keenly aware again of my mask, of those limiting narratives that creep back into my consciousness, diluting my focus and dampening my potential. Leaving the gym and stepping out into the bright light of the winter morning, I am challenged again to create my narrative for the day, one that ushers in possibilities and action.

So now I turn my gaze to you. As you read this, I challenge you to stop for a moment, to listen again to your internal narrative. What's it telling you?

Is it forward-looking, inspiring, and propelling you towards your goals? Or is it focused on the past, limiting your growth, diluting your focus, and dampening your potential?

If that’s your story, perhaps it is time to consider lifting your mask.

So Glad you Asked…

So what is a great inquiry? It’s the ability to ask questions that fully focus on learning new information. Too often, we simply don’t ask questions and assume our truth is the only truth. But even when we do ask questions, we often do so with an expectation of how others will respond. When we do this, we’re not truly demonstrating interest in new information and alternative perspectives.

It’s simple to advise a manager to “just ask open questions” (i.e., questions starting with ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘how’ or ‘why’ rather than closed questions starting with ‘do you, don’t you, shouldn’t you, isn’t that) and while that’s a good start, it’s not enough to shift your mindset.

When asking an open question, you must enter the discussion fully prepared to receive information that may be contrary to what you believe (or hope to be true). You must be open to receiving the information you hear, and incorporating new learnings into your pool of data. Then you must be willing to re-evaluate your decisions or beliefs with that new information now available. 

This means avoiding the trap of #confirmation bias that occurs when you willingly disregard information that contradicts your existing beliefs.  Truly using new information to see new perspectives means a readiness to let go of a firmly held belief and getting comfortable with being ‘wrong’.  The purpose of questions is to learn. The purpose of learning is to improve. The only way that happens is by admitting what you don’t know, acknowledging your mistakes and being passionate about seeking new information that may change your perspectives, opinions and approaches.

This requires humility, openness, and a constant desire for growth. It means allowing yourself to be corrected (especially by those who may be subordinate to you), a willingness to apologize and the strength of identity to always admit that no matter how experienced you are and how much you know, someone will always have information or a perspective that you don’t. That is the mindset that keeps on a lifelong path of leadership and professional growth.

I’m always looking for great reads and highly recommend checking out HBR’s recap of management tips of the year. In it, the author highlights John Hagel III book “Good Leadership Is About Asking Good Questions” reminding leaders to lead with questions, not with answers.

Kevin DeNoia joins Hatwell Group

Kevin has over 15 years of experience designing and delivering learning solutions within financial services. He has held multiple leadership roles in talent and learning, most recently as the Global Head of Leadership Development for Credit Suisse where he was responsible for driving the overall leadership and executive development strategy for the bank. 

In that role he led a global team of learning professionals to deliver best in class leadership development for over 10,000 managers around the world. In addition, Kevin was responsible for driving key talent initiatives at Credit Suisse having launched numerous high potential programs for key talents across the bank.

He has also managed global human capital processes including the global Managing Director Promotion process at Credit Suisse and has a deep understanding of talent management in organizations.

Before Kevin’s career in leadership development, he spent 3 years in the United States Army serving at Fort Bragg with the 82nd Airborne. Upon leaving the military, Kevin continued his education earning a bachelor’s degree in both Psychology and Music and a master’s degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from New York University.

In addition to his passion for leadership development, as an avid marathon runner, Kevin will be helping keep us all fit and healthy in 2022. Welcome to Hatwell Kevin.

New London office now open

New London office now open

As part of our continued growth and commitment to delivering a first-class service to our clients, we are delighted to announce the launch of our new London office.
Heading our new European business headquartered in London is Gareth Lewis. Gareth has been a trainer and coach for the past 8 years following a 20 year career in equity sales and private banking, latterly for Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Our London office will not only allow us to work with clients old and new in London and the UK but also across Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.
Jason Blackwell, one of Hatwell Groups Founders said "Opening our new London office represents a significant development in the continued organic growth of the practice, an ongoing commitment to our existing clients and to the exciting new opportunities that lie ahead as we grow across the globe."

Contact our London office now.

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