Self-coaching will help regulate your emotional brain's inner voice. It can also help get the best from your habitual brain. The habitual brain is more discreet than your emotional brain. It doesn't trigger emotions for us to act upon. Instead, it triggers subconscious reflexes we act upon. The problem is, the emotional brain often triggers bad habits and knocks you off your better routines.
Like time - reflexes, habits and routines ("behaviors") are either productive or unproductive. We develop these behaviors over time and they become second nature (our habitual brain). Your inner coach can use best practices to wire a more productive habitual brain. Some best practices to consider -
- Acknowledge the spin cycle - the spin cycle is a competitive threat every company faces. Companies fight external competitors for market share. The spin cycle is an internal threat. It's not competing for market share, but it's competing for your valuable time, attention and energy. Companies that acknowledge, accept, plan for and deal with the spin cycle will keep it in check. Those that don't - won't.
- Schedule thinking breaks - you need time each day to slow down, reflect, and self coach. You have to routinely hit pause on the spin cycle or your emotional brain will keep it running. A thinking break allows you to get the best out of your emotional, rational and habitual brains. You should explore your feelings and gut instincts (emotional brain). Then distance yourself and focus on the facts, test your initial reactions, and adjust accordingly (rational brain). Do this enough, and your habitual brain will adapt to the sh*t that's inevitably hitting the fan. Your habits and reflexes will evolve with input from your rational brain, and not solely rely on your emotional brain.
- Use the spin cycle - stress test your goals, priorities and plans upfront. The spin cycle is a fact of life, so start using it to your advantage. We tend to set goals, priorities and plans optimistically. Even though we're using our rational brain, we tend forget the inevitable spin cycle yet to come. This is not to say we should be pessimistic planners, but we should be realistic planners. "If/then" plans should become a part of your normal business process.
- Share your belief system - the more you talk about the spin cycle the better. When you do, always promote your belief system. The belief system you use to cope with change, uncertainty, surprise, stress and breakage can be contagious. Leadership is a transferral of thought. By sharing your productive, useful beliefs you help others in your charge develop their habitual brains.
- Shorten your horizon - goals, priorities and plans tend to be longer term. The inevitable spin cycle occurs and everything changes. The former heavy weight champion Mike Tyson said, "Everyone has a plan till they get hit in the mouth!" Yes, long term goals, priorities and plans are important because they offer direction, but you get where you want to go long term though shorter term goals, priorities and plans. They're more achievable, easier to adjust and provide a sense of accomplishment - even while the spin cycle is churning around you.
- Set process goals - most business plans focus on "outcome goals". Outcome goals target the longer term results you'd like to achieve. When you're in the spin cycle - change, uncertainty and surprise often bring longer term, outcome goals into question. They can feel unrealistic and it's easy to lose confidence. A "process goal" focuses on the steps and milestones needed to achieve longer term outcomes. When change, uncertainty and surprise are swirling around you, process goals keep you focused. You can measure progress against process goals daily, and even in the spin cycle you can feel productive and a sense of accomplishment.
- Fewer and shorter meetings - less is more. In the spin cycle, the habitual mind kicks into meeting overdrive, but on average, one person leaves the meeting happy...the boss (Rogelberg, 2011). The emotional and habitual brains like meetings, but you need your rational brain to design and shorten meetings. Meetings are important, but the human mind is only wired to absorb information for 10-18 minutes (Medina, 2018). Unproductive meetings you're called to add to your spin. Unproductive meetings that you call your employees to add to their spin.
- Manage up - it's a balance. You don't want to add surprises or breakage to your boss's spin cycle, but you have to manage the goals and priorities they add to your spin cycle. You want to be flexible, open and responsive to your boss, but you also have to be honest about your capacity, competing priorities and bandwidth. Constant alignment on priorities, expectations and progress will help.
- Build bridges - change, uncertainty and surprise are often passed cross-functionally. Competing agendas and ulterior motives create organizational stress and breakage, and keeps everyone stuck in the spin cycle. The power dynamics used to run your team, function or silo don't work cross functionally. You have to earn influence by building bridges. When stuck in the spin cycle, executives tend to talk past each other. Influence becomes more coercive and less collaborative. When emotional brains are used to solve cross-functional problems, breakage occurs. You have to rise above, listen more than talk, and find the win/win solutions.
HOW TO START
One of the keys to leadership is knowing the right questions to ask. If you're going to self-coach, your inner-coach needs to cut through all the noise and B.S. spinning around you and focus on these questions -
- Are there signs that you're caught in the spin cycle? Your team?
- Where is your time and attention focused?
- What are your typical emotional thoughts?
- What thinking traps do you typically fall into?
- When it comes to the spin cycle, what are your current pre-programmed behaviors?
- Are your pre-programmed behaviors perpetuating the spin cycle? (micro-mgmt., death by meetings, analysis paralysis, mixed messages)
- How can your belief system improve?
- What "if/then" plans can you start with?
- What's the first thing you can do to help your team stop spinning?