This post is also available in: Deutsch (German)
I assume that you would like to turn time forward or backward just as much as is possible in many science fiction films. The situation in which the hero currently finds himself seems highly improvable, so one possible option is to jump through time and space to change the plot line so that it all fits again for everyone in the end.
I would therefore like to take you on a little journey through the last two years, in which I was allowed to learn a lot of new things about myself, my environment and new working methods. In several individual articles, I will tell you about the many valuable experiences and “aha” moments that I was able to experience in coaching, and what changes I was able to initiate with them.
2019: The good old days
It’s the middle of 2019 and I’m working as a database developer and project manager in a medium-sized company in Switzerland. Everything is fine – I am self-organised, have a lot of freedom of action from my superiors and I feel that something exciting happens in every day. My deadlines are under control, the working environment and my colleagues are in a good mood, and the family situation is great, too.
The company is currently preparing for an internal reorganisation, which I am very much looking forward to because, unlike many other companies, our reorganisation is all about “finding passions”. Each of us has individual strengths and preferences, and if we are able to find the space for them to develop their full potential, than it’s going to be a big success.
After the various ideas and constellations had been discussed, the time had finally come – I would become “Head of Development”. A great honour, I found – after all, I am a career changer and have never really seen myself in the leader role. The opportunity to set new standards, to put together a well-working and efficient team was my motivation.
At that time I had, you get it, many other commitments, or areas of responsibility:
- Project manager for two major clients
- Database Developer
- Interested in how to improve internal processes
- Family man
- Sportsman (in a club and runner)
This list of responsibilities is one that each of us has. Mine don’t have to match yours and sometimes the weighting is different, but each of us wants to dedicate ourselves to certain topics and develop in them.
I found myself in a very good balance between the work topics and my personal fields and so I looked forward optimistically (or perhaps a little naively) to 2020, when the restructuring was supposed to start.
The good old days or Big Bang?
2020 started as planned and just three months later I was longing for the good old days. Nothing unexpected came up, yet I noticed how my productivity system, that in 2019 (and earlier), had still worked flawlessly, increasingly failed with the new situation. I quickly found the explanation – I went from being a (more or less) generalist to a coordinator of several employees. But, my system was primarily designed for one individual, me, and not for a team. I started by modifying my system, which was not to complicated as it is simple and flexible in design.
When I started as a team leader, I took on new tasks and competences, but I felt that I could do my active tasks I still had, on the side. After all, several of my colleagues told me that I was very productive. Therefore, I would only have to analyse and optimise a few of my processes, then it would not be a problem.
You guessed it – it became a problem.
My first approach was to divide my professional “Areas of Responsibility” according to certain days. On Monday, projects were on the agenda, on Tuesdays I dealt with the software core of our application. Wednesdays were for team issues, Thursdays were blocked for general alignment and Fridays were available for flexible tasks and planning the next week.
All the while, I kept confusing myself by noticing how my productivity system, which had worked excellently for years, was crumbling more and more and I was asking myself why I couldn’t keep to the recommendations I give everyone of you. Something was going wrong.
COVID-19 and my lost productivity
Then in March 2020 came the unexpected news that the Corona virus was rampant and all staff would have to relocate to the home office. Wow, I thought – we can work remotely! A model that I personally favour and would now become truth, albeit somewhat foreign-driven.
Basically, I would say that it doesn’t really matter to me where my notebook is located. The only important thing is a power connection and internet access. I was already familiar with home office, but what I didn’t consider was that many of my colleagues preferred the classic model, the physical presence in the office. And for them, the total change of work environment was no walk in the park. Nevertheless, I can say that it worked amazingly well and everyone contributed their best and we did a good job in this crisis.
Leading and assembling a team that includes new colleagues is an art in itself. For the old hands, this is certainly not a doctoral thesis – for me, who was at the beginning of a leadership career and who, due to the COVID-19 lockdown, could not attend the planned leadership workshops, it was a painful experience. Not only did I not have the tools I needed, I had to use them from a decentralised position.
I was getting worse and my wife, who was taking additional care of our daughter almost exclusively during working hours, took over. Although she was often on the edge, I still admire her today for the ease (or so it seemed to me) with which she managed things and gave me the freedom to concentrate on my work.
Another dilemma came along – I write in every one of my articles about how important it is to establish a healthy work-life balance. Seeing my wife having to organise and do everything while I (in my new situation as team leader) was getting more and more covered with tasks was wearing me down. Due to the restructuring, many processes had already been established internally, but the decentralised work resulted in many unanswered questions, which in turn landed on my desk. I took responsibility for a lot of things. I thought that if I didn’t do it, sooner or later it would become a problem, so I worked even harder. After all, not only do the processes have to be developed and revised, but the client is also waiting for his projects. But the new team members are not yet ready for me to have a noticeable relief.
But my point of view doesn’t necessarily have to coincide with that of those around me. Probably everyone would still have been very happy if I had only done half of it and would have been more relaxed all in all.
It was the time for a change. Since I cannot change my environment, and perhaps there was no reason to do so, the change had to come from me. The decisive hint finally came, who guessed it, from my wife, who had contact with a very good coach in the context of a professional reorientation. Patricia, the coach, who promptly found an appointment for me, invited me and we had an initial conversation about very general things: What I like, what I don’t like so much, where I see myself in a few years and what really annoys me at the moment.
We were able to quickly analyse that I need help – if the following five signs sound familiar to you, then perhaps you could also benefit from a coach:
- You often doubt yourself
Everyone doubts themselves from time to time. However, if your own questions and decisions are constantly being questioned and this becomes your status quo, then a coach can help you regain your self-confidence and self-assurance
- You have lost sight of your goal
If you get to a point where you don’t know what goal you should be pursuing, it’s often hard to get back on track by yourself. You remember the roles and functions I had: project manager, supporter, implementer, database programmer, team leader, process designer, knowledge broker, etc.
Working with a coach can help to bring your own goals (and the issues that really matter to a team leader) back into focus and develop the necessary motivation to realise them.
- You want to change something (self-development)
Changes could us feel insecure and often we don’t know where to start and what the changes might trigger in our own environment. Therefore, the saying “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” would be sympathetic, but deep down we realise that something needs to be different and we want to change that uncomfortable state we are in. A coach helps you on the one hand to overcome your own fears and on the other hand to develop a plan with you to realise these goals. This is the first step towards acquiring change competence.
- You keep putting things off
In one of my earlier articles I wrote about “procrastination”.
In brief, this means that people keep putting off their own goals and tasks and give higher priority to other (sometimes less important) issues. Wishes, ideas and dreams are thus repeatedly put on the back burner because one does not dare to give them the necessary priority.
A coach can help you challenge the bad habits of “procrastination” and develop the right mentality to tackle things directly so that more and more unfinished tasks do not pile up until the overview is completely lost.
- You have to overcome a difficult situation
Drastic experiences can often be difficult to deal with and not everyone can handle such a situation well. While you can talk about it with family or friends, they can’t always provide the help it takes.
A coach can’t make the grief go away, but helps you to deal with your own emotions in the right way, so that you can come to terms with what has happened and emerge stronger. (This is called resilience)
For me, the first three topics were particularly relevant. Since I was never lacking motivation, but rather the many exciting topics, all of which I would have liked to implement, but lacked the time, the coaching, in conjunction with the imparting of knowledge for managers, was able to offer me the following assistance:
- What are my core issues as a leader? What is my view of things when I take two steps back and slip into a different role and look at things from a different perspective?
- Stimulation for personal development
- Where do I stand, where do I want to go, what do I want and what do I no longer want to do?
- Support with questions and problems
- What (and sometimes who) is important to tackle the problems?
- Support in the development of solutions
- Often I felt that I couldn’t make the change because it would be unfair to my team or it wouldn’t be up to the standard of our company philosophy. But since the ideas were always there, my coach gave me the mental support to pursue them. Many points that were problematic in my eyes were only critical in my mind.
- Asking thought-provoking questions
- “Imagine you would do this not as you always do, but as you wish – do you think the world would stop turning? Or what would be the worst case scenario?” The answer was quite sober – it wouldn’t be that bad.
I think it is always good to talk to an independent, third person and clarify which “construction sites” you currently have and where your journey should go in the medium and long term.
In coaching, various methods are used that help you to assess yourself better. During my DISC evaluation, which I would like to write about in the next article, I had one of these “wow”, or perhaps “oh no” effects.
Why don’t you accompany me further on this journey?