A thought for July

It is July. Wimbledon transfixes us and strawberries and cream are everywhere. Schools are breaking up and excited children are looking forward to a long, hot summer. Everyone is mesmerised by holidays and sunshine. Part of this is displacement activity as the UK is going through a really hard time recovering from terrorist attacks, the shocking fire at Grenfell Tower and its aftermath, and an unstable government trying to deal with Brexit. It really is time to say Keep Calm and Carry On. Let’s love the life we have.

Sand,spade and bucket

At the moment, I am seeing several clients who have come to me because they are overwhelmed by advice. They are at crossroads and need to make decisions which will set their course for the next few years. It is a stressful and frightening time as well as one full of excitement. They are looking for help and reaching out to everyone around them for input. Often in doing this they do not have the full facts or do not share the full facts because they might be embarrassed or they are too personal, or they are just so close to the various elements of decision they forget to share them.

As human beings, we like nothing more – it is so flattering to be asked for our views. And so, people around my future clients are full of good advice (or so they think) and not backward about sharing it whether it is really sought. This means it comes at full throttle and the recipient has no armour on so it can hit some soft spots.

Having delivered their contribution to the debate these friends then move on, back into their own lives. They leave the wreckage they have created and often the person is in a much worse place than when they started. Heaven forfend but if any of the friends were malicious there could even be an unexploded bomb planted for later. The poor person is on information overload.

Our nearest and dearest can be great advisers because they want the best for us and they want to keep us safe. However just a couple of words of warning. Ask yourself:

  • Are they objective or do they have their own agenda for you – ensuring you remain the family bread winner or main care giver for example.
  • Do they have the same attitude to risk that you have? Are they more adventurous or more cautious?
  • Do they really understand the issues and how you feel about them?
  • Are they realistic about your skills and interests? Do they know the things that you find hard to do?
  • What happens if you do not take their advice?
  • What happens if you take their advice and it goes wrong?

They might be the right people to guide you but if not look elsewhere.

There are lots of other places to get advice:

  • The Web – just make sure you know what the question is
  • Through personal or management training courses – choose the provider carefully and make sure they have the breadth and depth of skills and experience you need
  • Through taking professional qualifications and participating in support groups
  • Reading the right books – again make sure the authors you choose are the go to experts in their fields
  • Various types of coaches – just check them out and be sure that you select someone who can demonstrate they know their stuff and they are objective.
  • Mentors – genuine mentors will share what they got wrong as well as the things they got right and save you the pain!

If you want advice do go looking for a range of views and do it in such a way that you can question the source. Make sure that it is an adult to adult relationship. A classic example is if your Dad tells you what to do is the relationship on an adult basis? Could you walk away?

So, some thoughts about evaluating advice from where ever it comes:

  • Are you crystal clear about your crossroads and the choices available to you.
  • Does the source understand your context: your financial situation, your timescale etc.
  • Have you put all the realities and the constraints of the situation on to the table to form part of the picture?
  • Have you opened yourself up to questioning – especially the awkward ones.

Looking at it from the other side my job is to be and stay objective no matter what. I need to move at the right pace for the person; not too fast, pushing them hard and not too slow, holding them back. A critical friend draws from the person all the facts which affect the decision and then helps them weigh those until the right option for them emerges. After that we move on to crafting a solution that will get them where they want to be in a way that suits their skills and beliefs.

None of this is original.  This stuff is very specific to you. How you make decisions is very personal but when they are important do not let the onlookers dominate you with their views and then leave you to pick up the pieces. You dictate the timing and you decide whose judgement is worth combining with your own. Be confident with the decision before you put it into action. Good luck.

If this has been interesting, please share it. If you are thinking of working with a mentor, please chat with me about what you are hoping to achieve. I might be the right person for you or I can help you find someone who is. In the meantime, life is good; let’s live it to the full and be the best we can be.

If you are about to go on holiday have a great break.

Elizabeth Toogood

About Elizabeth Toogood

Elizabeth is a mixture of mentor, coach and non-executive director. She meets face to face with individuals and gives each of them total focus; there are no matrices or models into which they need to fit. The ethos of Elizabeth Toogood is to offer a high level of support and serious intellectual challenge.
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