A few years ago I was on holiday in Canada with my partner enjoying a wonderful cruise through the network of small islands along the Inside Passage from Vancouver Island to Alaska. During the journey the cruise company organised fascinating talks by wildlife experts several times a day. We spotted bald eagles soaring high above us, white Kermode bears fishing for salmon in the rivers and watched in amazement as the huge tail fins of humpback whales breached the surface of the water with a huge splash. The staff were very helpful and friendly which made our experience even more enjoyable.
At the end of the cruise I wanted to let the staff know how much we had appreciated the trip. When I asked a crew member for a feedback form a look of concern replaced the warm smile as she said: “I’m so sorry you have had problems during your cruise! What can I do to help?” When I looked at the feedback form I noticed all the questions were about problems customers had experienced. There was no space for positive feedback.
My experience in Canada is mirrored so often in the business world where appraisal conversations centre on ‘weaknesses’, ‘areas for development’ or objectives not met. No wonder many of the coaching conversations I have with clients about the challenges they are facing at work are focussed on lack of confidence and self-belief.
When this happens I share this personal story about the revelations I experienced after completing an assignment during my coaching training 10 years ago. The task was to contact five to eight people who knew me well and ask them to describe my ‘unique abilities’. Things that I was particularly good at or special qualities that the person saw in me. I had never done anything like this before so it felt a bit awkward at first. How many times has someone given you a compliment and you respond with an embarrassed “Oh, it’s really nothing!”? You can’t seem to find the self-confidence or self-belief to reply with a simple “Thank you”. Those familiar gremlins appear on your shoulder telling you that talking to people about what you do well is “blowing your own trumpet” or “arrogant”! If you choose to listen to them it’s easy to shrink back into your shell instead of confidently brushing them off your shoulder.
Returning to my assignment, thankfully, my natural curiosity and passion for self-development gave me the courage to contact eight people in my personal and professional lives to ask about my ‘unique abilities’. I was delighted and surprised to receive eight replies within a few days. I remember the wave of emotions that surged through me as I read the many heartfelt, positive messages about the special qualities those eight generous people recognised in me. One of the most insightful responses was from one of my sisters. Her message touched on qualities she had seen in me from a teenager which was a revelation.
It’s amazing how much you can learn about yourself from other people if you ask the right questions. As a result of that simple and insightful exercise ten years ago I created my unique abilities ‘angel’. I conjure up a mental image of her sitting on my shoulder to counteract the gremlins who appear from time to time. Whenever I come up against a challenge or simply want to remind myself about the qualities that other people see in me I call upon my ‘angel’ to give me a boost of self-confidence.
I invite you to contact eight people you know well to discover your ‘unique abilities’ and look forward to hearing about any experiences you would like to share.
If you would like help discovering your unique abilities to boost your self-confidence please get in touch to find out how I can help you. Christine Griffin, Executive Coach – firstname.lastname@example.org – +44 (0)7796 147127 – www.griffinity.co.uk.