When I am working with people in management and leadership positions one of the key issues which the majority of my clients bring to their coaching sessions is the demanding matter of how to manage ‘challenging people’ and ‘challenging situations’.
This is a constant topic, no matter the level of seniority, and it really undermines people’s confidence in their ability to be an effective manager. However, whilst it is a fairly universal concern, the experience and the understanding of that experience, is unique to each individual.
There is of course no one easy answer to this complex concern. Nevertheless, people can learn tools and techniques and strategies which will improve their ‘performance’ in these types of situations. Most importantly though, they can learn to unpick what it is specifically about these types of people and situations which they personally find particularly difficult and challenging. Then they can learn to build new ways of thinking and feeling about these situations, and new ways of behaving which give them the confidence to deal with the challenges in a much more effective way.
My personal approach to coaching in these situations is to be quite eclectic and to use knowledge gained from a wide range of learning, including different coaching techniques, neuro-linguistic programming, development of communication skills and a very specific focus on the use of language. I also use the coaching sessions as an opportunity for people to practise the scenarios with me that have been causing them concern. Practise makes…..for a more effective, confident manager.
Learning how to develop the confidence to deal with ‘challenging people’ and ‘challenging situations’ is a process. It is about understanding the self-limiting beliefs that one brings to these situations, it is about analysing and using previous experiences and reflecting on what went well and what didn’t, it is about breaking things down into small detailed elements and appreciating how the links are made between our thoughts, our feelings and our behaviours. Then it is about a process of rebuilding and of practise. By taking these small elements, one by one,and working out what needs to change, we can rebuild ourselves as a more confident manager/leader. By developing new beliefs and new habits, and learning new thoughts, feelings and behaviours, we know that by changing these last three things, we will change how we present and then we will change the outcome we achieve. With the added opportunity to practise this new way of performing in a confidential, supportive and safe environment we can become the new, more confident manager that we aspire to be.
Using the above techniques combined with other tools, such as the basics of preparation and planning, how we can make ourselves feel at our best and how we can promote a confident, professional image, looking at the kind of language we use and how we communicate, through this comprehensive coaching process, my clients learn how to demonstrate leadership and how to be in control of the situation. Feeling in control is very important. Being confident and feeling in control totally changes the dynamics of the situation. It changes the mindset too, to a ‘can do’ mindset. It changes the self-belief to a belief which says ‘I can do this’. I can manage ‘challenging people’ and challenging situations.
You can, of course, probably learn all of the above in a training session but it really won’t be the same experience. Coaching is not about telling or showing people how to do things, it is about facilitating and enabling people to become more self-aware and to think differently. It is about supporting people to discover the answers for themselves. Clichéd as this may sound, it really works. It is because my clients develop these new ways of feeling, thinking and behaving for themselves, that the learning really sticks.
The skill of the coach, of course, is in asking the right questions and in providing the opportunities.
So, are you up to the challenge? Are you ready to challenge yourself to improve your own ability to manage ‘challenging people’ and ‘challenging situations’?