Rediscovering my Mojo in Work and Life
So here we are sitting at the end of nearly 6 months together and Matt reminds me that I said 7 times in our first meeting that I am paying you to tell me what I already know...I also told him that eating ice-cream (usually every day) was my one weakness and that I could never give that up and that meditation was for new age flakey people...well I can report now that none of my bold statements of "fact" turned out to be true!!
My presenting problem to Matt was that I had lost my mojo at 57 years old. After 6 years in the GCC and never having had a job I really enjoyed ( I really don't like the corporate culture here), deciding to leave my most recent role with nothing new to go to, a nagging feeling that I was having yet another mid-life crisis and being the most out of shape I had been in a decade I needed something (or someone) to snap me out of my lethargy and to be honest negative thinking...enter Matt and N3
Matt is a great listener...he let me unload it all without judgement, we did the "brain" diagnosis (a very useful tool), we talked, he suggested and cajoled me into some subtle habit changes - red wine for white wine, dark chocolate for white chocolate, I started meditating (and even became quite good at it!), I started playing brain games etc - all in the category of minor changes - but more importantly it became a mindset that I was going to "do stuff" that made me change.
He kept telling me I will make better decisions for myself when all the other aspects of my physical, mental and emotional wellbeing were under control. He didn't say it...but it was (rightly) implied that in my current state I was no use to anyone anyway!! I guess I knew that as well...and on reflection I am pleased that Matt kept pushing me to focus on getting myself back to the place where I had the mental clarity to make the right choices.
I am pleased to report after nearly 8 weeks of dieting (including ice-cream only 3 times in 8 weeks!!), 4 weeks of personal training, nearly 8kg less and a renewed level of fitness that the mental and physical impact of the journey has seen me coping with an inherently stressful time in my life much better than I could ever have done without the impetus, encouragement and support Matt has provided. I am very happy to recommend Matt's coaching services. You may think you know all the stuff he talks about - but firstly his wellbeing model is holistic and well worth understanding and secondly feeling accountable to someone else for what in the end are very personal actions helps!!
PB - Global HR Director
Getting my work life balance, family and career back on track.
My journey started when my wife told me I should go and see someone as since moving to Dubai my life had changed in several negative ways. I had put on weight, stopped exercising, started to drink more and was showing signs of stress in that I was having trouble sleeping. Something I am sure all us C Suite executives can relate to when work pressures start to dominate our life and family life gets sidelined.
Right from the very first session with Matt which was basically a good chat between two blokes at the golf club I came away feeling invigorated to make a change in my life. Matt had described the N3 tools and methodology that would give me a healthier lifestyle and centre myself but only if I was committed. Of course, I was, show me the dotted line to sign up. That decision was easy, the hard part followed over the coming weeks. Becoming accountable to Matt for my bedtime to improve sleep, getting the fitbit to track my vital statistics, waking at 6am to do exercise and starting to meditate. Slowly but surely the pieces of the puzzle started to click into place and I started to lose weight and feel I could cope with my work stress.
During our one on one sessions I would unload my issues with the changes I was experiencing or what was causing me stress at work. Through his extensive experience Matt would then deliver in a thought provoking but subtle manner a coping strategy to move forward. My path was not always straight and upwards taking many turns to the point where I lost my job near the end of our sessions however Matt with his tailored discussions had given me strategies to cope and take it in my stride. We had discussed vision boards, goal setting and future careers all the things you always think “I should do that” but you never get around to because you get distracted with work, football or brunch.
Now I had the focus to achieve my goals and behold two months later I have my own consultancy company with the first contract lined up and a drive to sustain a happier, healthier lifestyle. Thank you Matt and N3 for giving me and my family, my life back". MH - Global COO
A long hard look in the mirror.
A couple of years ago I moved into a villa on a compound which has a tennis court. This inspired me to do something that I had thought about doing for many years but never got round to; I began taking lessons to learn how to play the game. There has been a good deal of learning over the last couple of years to the point that I can say that I now have a fair amount in common with Roger Federer. This is a matter I will return to later.
I would like to continue by explaining that I found this piece difficult to pen. Firstly, there is the question of being somewhat open about what are deep personal matters. Secondly, the challenge is less about finding something to say, but more about keeping this piece focussed so it does not morph into a self-indulgent passage-of-rights ramble. For this reason, I will aim to give some background as to why I turned to executive coaching, explain a little about my experience, and I will ponder a question that I hope will encourage others to think about this process. The emotional and professional stress facing a driven individual now approaching (ok, alright in) his late forties will be widely appreciated. Children are no longer children, pulling an all-nighter brings forth a manifestation of the walking-dead for about a week, waking up one morning to the stark realisation that the Vision has not been fully realised and that one has not been anointed emperor of the known universe is truly troubling; these are just a few of the many issues that need to be grappled with at around this time.
In my case, add to this emotional mixing pot several cups of professional frustration and a liberal dosing of “so what now granules”, and we have all the necessary ingredients to bake a nice plump self-destruction pudding. For me, “Plump and pudding” are not just metaphorical but very real physical materialisations of my somewhat stressed state: to this add the usual accompaniments of drinking too much; being even less pleasant to be around than usual (both in and outside work); lowering self-esteem; and, so on.
I would like to explain that as a fantastically self-aware and well-grounded individual, recognising these damaging characteristics set me off to immediately reach out for assistance; regrettably, that would be a lie. The truth of the matter is that a colleague and friend, sat me down and explained that I had so much more value to give to the organisation, but I needed help in getting my message across and a modified approach would also greatly reduce my personal frustration levels. My colleague recommended that I reach out to N3’s Matthew Lewis, he had known him and of his work over a period of many years; essentially, that I give executive coaching a try.
Being an engineer, sceptic and generally difficult individual, I firmly pulled up the shutters and immediately effected a defensive strategy to avoid doing this at all costs. However, I had a recalcitrance-Achilles-Heel; having previously graduated Cranfield’s excellent General Management Development Programme, I had experienced sufficient personal development exposure to appreciate that the issues that my colleague was highlighting were bang on the money. So, kicking and screaming all the way, eventually I had a conversation with Matt to understand more about the N3 approach. My initial conversations with him intrigued me and were sufficiently positive that I decided to invest in a programme; I was interested to see where the journey would take me.
N3’s approach is a holistic one which focuses on the individual and not ‘how best to address issues at work’. This initially was a little frustrating, ‘work’ was why I was making the financial and time investment in the programme- or so I thought. As we progressed, it became apparent that this was not about ‘work’ and ‘communicating more effectively with people who ‘could not see it’; it really was time for me to appraise my life at a fundamental level and take an appropriate course.
The N3 approach focuses on the pillars that found well-being, the strategy boils down to forming a more balanced and healthier individual who will consequentially perform to a higher level in all endeavours, including those within the workplace. There is a structured exploration of the ‘Pillars’ of: exercise, nutrition, sleep, silencing the mind, social, work, learning, family, friends and community. This process is supported by a neuroscientific approach which complements the programme by exploring how our physiological workings of the brain contribute to our responses and state.
To illustrate this approach, imagine a dashboard with a dial for each of the Pillars listed above (0-10 in ascending value); the concept is that small individual improvements to a number of the dials are self-reinforcing and when combined they will have a material effect on general well-being and consequentially performance. However, in going through this process, there is a fundamental review of all aspects of being and the consequences of this can stretch well beyond a simple improvement executive performance.
Some of the Pillars were immediately obvious to me in terms of their potential positive effect on executive function, but others less so. For me a good example of this was the Pillar of “community”. The question was asked, “to what level is your contribution to the community”, the answer was honestly “zero”; and appallingly, this was also the honest answer to “and what would you ideally like to dial this up to”. My mental self-defence mechanisms immediately kicked-in, and I quickly in my head suffixed this with “at this stage in my life and of course would like to do more in the future. Unfortunately, at this time we are focusing on work……”
It did not take long working with Matt to understand exactly how community contribution can help in terms of one’s executive performance. With a little encouragement, I recalled when I had spent time living in the US where I had gained my private pilot’s licence. I was asked by a member of the aero club to take up some youths from difficult backgrounds who he was working with as part of a skills training support group, to give them the experience of flying in a light aircraft. I vividly remember doing that. I recalled the joy on the face of those boys, it is indelibly etched in my memory, and to be able to bring pleasure like that to people is amazingly self-rewarding. This was a completely altruistic act and it bought me enormous reward.
There are a whole myriad of chemicals that are released in the brain that governs this process, which I will resist the temptation of trying to ham-fistedly describe (speak to N3 if you want to know more); but it is very much a physical mechanism which gives us this experience and this is an experience many of us desire and search for. For example, don’t we just love those meetings where the Chairman calls the meeting to order and halt so that the collective team can be given the opportunity to marvel at, give praise and celebrate the shear genius of the strategy that we have just laid before them. Although those meetings may be a reasonably frequent event within the realms of imagination (they are in mine), regrettably they occur at a far lower frequency in the real world. Having said this, there is some good news here for us needy ones who crave positive validation; the brain is in this regard a simple monkey-see, monkey-do machine. It doesn’t understand nor care if the Dopamine release is caused by the owner or
Chairman of the Company dropping to his knees to proclaim the arrival of the true business messiah; or, if it is caused by the incredibly wide grin of a poor working-class lad sitting in 50-year-old Piper Cherokee flying over the corn fields of Southern Indiana.
So how does this relate to executive performance? Trying to seek all of one’s fullfilment from the employment environment is likely to be frustrating for the individual and people around them. We would do well to understand what our needs are, what can genuinely be gained from the work environment and what cannot. If we cannot gain a need from work, then fulfill the need from elsewhere. Yes, volunteering and giving back to the community can make us a more effective executive! Similarly, small improvements in all the well-being Pillar areas will individually improve performance and collectively more so. Exercise and nutrition are matters well known to me, but several years of falling off the wagon needed to be addressed. Silencing the mind was something completely new to me, but had a profound effect. In accordance with my preamble, I will not add further detail of my journey for fear of slipping into rambling self-indulgence!Following a solid examination of the well-being Pillars we were in a better position to focus on work and this led to a fundamental review. The more solid personal-base allowed for a clear identification of approach divergence areas between the organisation in which I worked and myself. To my shock and disappointment, N3 were not going to provide me with a magic exec-coach Jedi mind trick toolbox that would change this.
The output from my work under the N3 programme has been significant, all health indicators are heading strongly in the right direction. After sharing nearly 6 years of tremendous expansion and business building success with my employer, following my establishment of a Gulf based consulting company, our relationship has developed to that of client and consultant.
And so returning to my similarities with Roger Federer. Well, aside from the fact that we are both male, bipedal and can hold a tennis racquet; there regrettably endeth any tennis comparisons. What we do have in common, is that in spite of his incredible record which stands at 30 Grand Slam titles as I type; Roger is under no illusion that he needs support and he needs coaching to function to his maximum potential. Unlike Roger, I am nowhere near the top of the business world, but that said, there is no doubt I have achieved a reasonable level of success. In addition to this success, due to the recent journey I have undertaken, I also fully understand the value of coaching. There we are, like I said, Roger and I have a lot in common, we both think a coach is a good idea.
I maintain regular contact with Matt from N3 and he did ask if I would be willing to make some referrals, I said I would be happy to do so and also write this piece to outline my experience of the N3 journey. I did, however, air some concern in terms of the referrals as I saw a prima facie catch 22 in that, “the people closest to me who I would identify as potentially benefiting most from working with you............. are likely to not be interested........... because their limitations mean they could really benefit from working with you!”.
This leads me on to the question I would leave the reader with, “why do so many people shy away from executive or life coaching?” World class athletes, who excel to the highest level, let’s be frank they are at the top of the world, have no qualms about the need for coaching. So why should we do people in the business world feel embarrassed by the prospect or not understand the potential value? Is some minor (or major for that matter) success in climbing the corporate ladder sufficient to ensure maximum performance? Surely if it is good enough for Roger…… LS - Group CCO