Yesterday, after a long and tiring day at work I was really in the mood for just flopping on the sofa and watching some mindless tv with glass of wine in hand. Instead, I attended an online networking event for coaches, with three sessions of ‘speed networking’ followed by a speaker.
The speaker was William Buist, and he came to talk to us about mastering your craft (in this case your coaching skills) and the importance of never stopping learning. For me, this was in part preaching to the converted, as I am one of the most passionate advocates of lifelong learning and personal development that I know! But I also lack self-belief when it comes to my skills and my value to others as a coach (this is based on absolutely nothing, of course), so I was interested to listen to his thoughts on how to move from novice to expert to mastery.
There was one particular anecdote that William shared that I found especially thought-provoking. He was talking about how, when we reflect on our performance in whatever field that might be, it is naturally with the aim of making things better next time. We look to ‘eliminate the wrongness’, he suggested… and I would agree. Therefore, the tendency in assessing ourselves is to ask ‘what did I do wrong?’
I can even hear myself asking that. After flute exams / performances, after interviews for jobs I didn’t get, after a conversation with a colleague / friend / family member that didn’t turn out as expected, after my Victoria sponge didn’t rise as well as my daughter’s! ‘What did I do wrong?’ William’s suggestion was to dispense with that question, and instead to ask ‘What did I do?’
A real lightbulb moment for me, right there. Because focussing on the ‘wrong’ does not always allow us to find all of the potential learning from a situation. In seeking to eliminate the wrongness, we miss the opportunity to pinpoint the ‘rightness’! To look at what went well, what did work, what got the ‘right’ reaction or outcome… and to develop and capitalise on that. It makes so much sense, I wonder why I didn’t think of it before!!
So, I wonder whether you an I might try… sometime when things don’t turn out exactly as we had hoped or planned… to stop focusing on the bad and beating ourselves up by asking what we did wrong, and instead ask simply ‘What did I do?’