Random occurrence or grist for the mill?

When I’m working with clients, either one on one or in groups, I pay a lot of attention to what’s happening in the general space. And I’m not just talking about the obvious stuff – who’s talking, who’s not talking, what's spoken, what’s implied etc. I’m talking about things that occur just outside our collective awareness. Things that may in fact seem irrelevant, unimportant or random. Over the years I have learnt to pay attention to these occurrences as they often provide clues to a broader, deeper message and offer insights that would be otherwise unavailable to us.

Our regular coaching session was different right from the beginning. I turned up and *Matthew was in the foyer finishing a coffee meeting. So rather than meet in his office, he called me over to his table. We chatted briefly with his friend then went up stairs to the office to begin formal coaching. There were no meeting rooms available for booking, so we selected an empty room and coached until we got kicked out. Then we went downstairs into the private foyer again and continued coaching. Three separate and unusual interruptions to our normal coaching flow.

So far this story doesn't sound mind blowing, I grant you, but let me share the topic we were talking about and how the odd structure of our disjointed coaching session became grist for the mill.

Matthew wanted to talk about how to better manage his energy. He was experiencing intense periods of work requiring high adrenaline and an intense focus, followed by the inevitable slumps in energy as he tried to recover from these intense periods. He was looking for ways to better understand and manage the ups and downs.

Cue the staccato coaching conversation. On the way down in the lift to our final coaching spot, I pointed out that our session today had in fact been periods of intense conversation, interspersed with periods of idle chit chat (high energy, low energy) and asked Matthew how this related to the topic at hand.  And that’s where the insight came, from the intersection of the seemingly irrelevant events around us with his coaching topic at hand.

His insights? In the ‘idle’ moments of our conversation (low energy output, travelling from one spot to another) he was able to make deeper connections to his thoughts; process what we’d discussed;  come up with new insights and feel a sense of renewed energy.

How did this relate to managing his energy at work?  It was exactly what he needed to experience in order to really understand the value of a short break. 

And on top of all that, we discussed that breaks were not only important for managing energy but ‘brain wave down time’ was vital for creativity, insights and new ideas. It’s in the brains’ downtime that it also makes its best connections. An even bigger bang for your ‘take a break’ buck!

So was the dislocated coaching conversation a random event or grist for the mill? I guess we all make our own choices about what these random events mean, but for me the answer is clear. If you notice it, go with it, you never know where it might lead you.

Coaching tips:

  • Next time you are trying to solve a problem or explore an issue, ask yourself the following questions:
  • What’s happening in the environment around me?
  • What could easily slip under my radar?
  • Zoom out of the situation and take a big picture perspective. What does the bigger view reveal?
  • Is there anything unusual about this situation?

*Matthew is a real coaching client. His name has been changed.