Hello, everybody, welcome to this series of blogs and videos called 'The Coaching Conversation' presented by me, Graham Whiley. I've been coaching business leaders for the last two decades and in this series, we're going to explore some of the things I've seen and learned in that two decades, that will hopefully help you see how you can become more focused, more effective, and happier in your life.
So, it's now time to sit back, relax and enjoy The Coaching Conversation.
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GRAHAM: For this edition of The Coaching Conversation, I am really pleased to be joined by coaches Tina Orlando and Mat Hayes to talk about one of the most common subjects that we meet as coaches with our clients and that is stress. Before we get underway, I’d like to ask Tina and Mat to introduce themselves.
TINA: Thank you. My name's Tina Orlando. I coach under the brand of Tina Orlando Coaching. I've been coaching for five years. I did my training and certification in the USA and prior to that, I spent 15 years in large global organisations. I then went on to co-found a business communications agency and I now work with leaders, executives, CEOs, and founders working with them to be the best that they can be in any situation.
MAT: Hi. I’m Mat Hayes and I'm an executive coach, and also an enterprise agile coach at Humble Associates. I work in lots of organisations doing real change, I help leaders get unblocked, but also create the right culture for the right things to happen. I've got experience as a developer. I've been a CTO in the past, but now I focus on developing leaders.
GRAHAM: I mentioned that today's subject is about stress and as coaches, we often find that many of our coaching clients are suffering from stress. In your own experience, starting with you Matt, what have you found around clients and stress?
MAT: I find in organisations it's like a pressure cooker of constant change. People see the cycles of getting promoted then maybe redundancy or a new organisational change. Often with the things that they're aiming for, the rug gets pulled out, and then it's changing again. Then they’re trying to keep up with that, and trying to keep up with more and more things constantly.
Firstly, it damages relationships because no one knows what they're doing; they don't feel rewarded for it. Secondly, the work-life balance would start to be affected and you're not just showing up only at work, you can be struggling at home too. That's how I find it.
TINA: I often observed that few people will come and say ‘I need to work on stress’ because I think in the culture that we work in, particularly in corporate cultures, stress is almost something that you thrive on; how often have we heard people say ‘well, I need a deadline because it's going to help me finish this piece of work?’.
I think we're programmed to expect that people can work effectively under a certain level of stress. And indeed, it can be really good, but it often comes up as a manifestation of other symptoms or other issues. I think one of the biggest things is acknowledging that stress is present and that stress is having an impact, and that it's physiological and not just a kind of cerebral state of affairs.
GRAHAM: When you’re helping clients, you start with perhaps unpacking some other symptom, and then that reveals that there's a stress driver somewhere. What techniques have you seen that have worked, or what have some of your coaching clients done that have been particularly successful for them?
MAT: I'm a ‘time to think’ coach and a lot of the theory behind that is giving people space to listen, to be listened to, and to have the space for their own thinking. So, helping leaders firstly understand what's going on in their head and to let that out to start with, and then following up with helping them understand how to do that for the people. It's key that people feel listened to, especially if they're not feeling very valued. There are some very simple techniques such as not interrupting them - people just need to get out the things that they need to think about first and just the small amount of time each morning for that with some people is more than enough to reduce the stress.
TINA: How I experienced it is often a multi-step journey. First of all, acknowledging the stress and understanding that it's real -its cortisol and adrenaline - and what that happens to you then - what are the causes of the stresses?
What are the things that are causing these effects?? Then make a list of them to triage. What are the things within your control? What can you influence? What can you change? By attacking that list is one way and then what are the other things that are systemic or endemic to your operating – are they environmental, your culture, or the things that you can't change?
Then look at how you respond to that and how you interpret those responses - What have been the stresses? Can you recast them? Can you retrain yourself to respond to them in a slightly different way? And then, once you've understood that, it can be a pretty complex picture. Sometimes it takes a while to understand what those things are.
Then look at the very kind of practical, tactical things that you can do to start dealing with the stress in your day-to-day life, whether that's looking at things that bring you joy and an oxytocin release, whether it's micro-breaks, whether it's deep breathing and all the things that those techniques can do for your body to help you either in the moment or long-term as you're going through your role and the stressful situation.
GRAHAM: As we bring this edition to a close if there is anybody who's coming to you with a stressful concern, how would you make suggestions to them as to what they could do to tackle that?
MAT: The stress I get asked about most often is about feeling overwhelmed or overloaded. I think something very simple that you can do is that when you have a long list of things to do, actually make each day a success. So, if you've got a ton of stuff to do, choose some of the things on the list and have the mindset of ‘if that’s all I get done at least I've succeeded somehow, and if I do some extra ones, that's brilliant’. This also helps balance the work and helps to achieve a work-life balance because you're not constantly ‘doing’ and you'll notice that you're actually finishing something - the gift of finishing something gives you that little boost that helps you feel like you're getting through some of the stress.
TINA: I think also some other things I've seen work are putting in some boundaries - being really clear about boundaries, what's reasonable, what's not reasonable, what you're prepared to do and what you're not prepared to do. I think since the pandemic, a lot of people are working from home so the work-home balance just isn't there, and the distinction between the two isn't there. Be really clear about being in work mode and at what times are you in work mode. Also, build very purposeful things into your day that allow you to take micro-breaks and to get a fresh perspective. Reset yourself. Do easy techniques like deep breathing or do small things that bring you joy, so that your perspective isn’t all about work and around that situation. Get a sense of a balance, see a broader life and broader values that are important to protect yourself.
GRAHAM: Well, thanks for much for your time and for joining us today on The Coaching Conversation and I look forward to seeing you for the next one.
So, there you have it, the latest edition of The Coaching Conversation. I hope you found it interesting. I hope you found it useful. You can find out more about our coaching programmes at theexecutivemindset.co.uk
If you want to reach out you can send us an email at email@example.com you can book a free 30-minute coaching session at theexecutivemindset.co.uk which will give you a really good feel for how coaching can help you.
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