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What’s in a nugget?

For me, a nugget is a brief distillation of something valuable. As far as I’m concerned, it’s something I’ve come across that illuminates the process of coaching  – or even what it means to be human…

Here are some recent ‘finds’ and reflections.

Management paradoxes

1) Whose problem is it? Often we think that the responsibility for addressing a problem ‘belongs’ to the person who ‘caused‘ it. In fact, it’s more helpful to see it as the property of the person who experiences it! First, because the only person who can initiate changes is the person experiencing something (in this case you not ‘them’). Secondly, because a substantial part of the problem may be your reaction to it. It is human to be irritated, upset or disappointed in the first place – but continuing to feel any of these things can not only maintain but actively enhance the problem. Take action! Reflect on your feelings and learn from what they tell you. Speak to the other person about the situation – tell them how you feel. Respond differently and see what happens… 

2) It’s better to make use of and support a strength than try to fix a weakness. A good place to find out more about this is the stimulating and well researched book First, Break All the Rules, by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Goffman. Fixing weaknesses saps energy and has only limited chances of success. Placing strengths where they can be most useful and taking pressure off weaknesses (yours or other people’s) pays much higher dividends!

3) Seek to do the least not the most.  This is a version of ‘less is more’ – look for the smallest intervention that will change a situation, derail a pattern that isn’t working, create a different atmosphere… Small interventions can often be the most telling as well as demanding  less energy and force. It’s the principle of leverage at work (in its mechanical sense): Archimedes said ‘give me a lever and a place to stand and I can move the world’. It doesn’t take  strength – the right leverage in the right place is all you need to look out for!

‘Bring forward”

I always wondered why I was confused about what someone meant when they said that an arrangement needed to be ‘brought forward’. My coping strategy was to ask for specific dates – ‘you mean that meeting we had fixed for the 23rd is now going to be on…?’

Sudden insight was sparked by exactly this kind of discussion with my husband Leo the other night: I realised that since I am primarily in-time the words ‘bring forward’ to me mean ‘make closer’ – i.e. advance from the date originally set (e.g. from 23rd to 21st). For those who naturally process their experience in-time, ‘bring forward’ means exactly the opposite – i.e. advance the arrangement further into the future – e.g. 25th or even later.

I’m not surprised I need to check! I wonder how many other people experience a similar confusion, and whether it may be a result of in-time/through-time differences for them too?

Bob Woodward (New Statesman interview 1/11/10)

Q How do you persuade all these high-level people in government to talk to you?

A It’s not a trick. I believe in the importance of neutral inquiry. Also, you have to take people as seriously as they take themselves. A common ingredient of people in government is that they believe in what they are doing. If you are informed and make it clear that you want to know where they are coming from, you’ll end up with the co-operation of nearly everyone.

A character (Nadia) in Donna Leon’s book The Girl of His Dreams says:

I’m always nervous when people don’t use concrete nouns when they speak.


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