We know we should be "proactive", "manage our time effectively" and "begin with the end in mind", to name just three of the more common behaviours that we are told we should be adopting. The trouble is that it can be difficult to put all these sensible words into practice.
Simon Smith is a director of Mentoring Limited. He comes from a background in the financial and investment world, where he spent 20 years. In the early 1990s he trained in psychosynthesis psychotherapy, which then took him into change management. He has learned how to help people bridge the gap between what they read, understand and want to achieve and what they actually do about it, helping business leaders and managers discover and realise their own leadership potential.
"It is our human nature to think as we always think and respond to similar business situations with known solutions, often without realising that this is what we do," he says. "We may see similarities between situations and miss the differences and this can be a problem."
Mr Smith calls his form of coaching "Self-Leadership Mentoring". The process moves through three stages.
"First we tackle the area of self-awareness, which serves to reveal where our knowledge and experience are a real strength and where we are limited by them," he explains.
Then the process moves on to self-reflection. While you may be inclined to see yourself as a single, unified human being, you fulfil a number of roles: partner, parent, friend, colleague, manager, he explains. The tough entrepreneur committed to profit at whatever human cost can also be the indulgent parent committed to family values.
"You may be reluctant to give up seeing yourself as this unified human being, but as you do so you begin to acknowledge the richness and diversity which exists within yourself. Through that acknowledgement you give yourself the choice of where to act from in any situation," he explains. "In effect, you clear the lens through which you see the world."
Finally, you proceed to actualising. The Self-Leadership Mentor teaches you to respond from a broader base, making available parts of yourself that you would normally leave outside the workplace.
"If you adopt this approach, employees and customers are more likely to respond to you as a whole person, capable of courage and compassion, tenacity and vulnerability, vision and realism," he says.
Mr Smith and his co-director, David England, are watching their innovative solution to business problems bear fruit.
One of their clients, "John", took on a mentor because his colleges told him that he acted aggressively and immaturely when under pressure. John did not know he was doing this and recognised he needed help.
Drawing upon his psychotherapy skills, Mr Smith was able to uncover the trigger that caused these reactions. Low self-esteem and the feeling of being threatened were to blame. Once conscious of the problem, John was able to set about making changes to his behaviour.
"Chris" is 60 years old and highly respected at work, though he is becoming uncomfortable as his colleagues seem to get younger. He found himself working 70 hours a week in a desperate attempt to stay one step ahead of them and was unable to break this self-destructive cycle. During mentoring, Chris discovered that an overdemanding father had led to his behaviour.
Once the root cause of the problem was uncovered, the mentor was able to shift gear and advise on the best way forward. Chris had to consider whether he still really needed to act in this way. He chose to learn to delegate more effectively, which required him to trust others, and to lighten his workload by concentrating on the most important tasks.
Mentoring Limited offers a style of support that goes deeper than more traditional forms. Messrs Smith and England have read more than 50 self- help books and listened to all the audio- tapes, but are adamant that their service is different.
"Lots of books have been written about self-leadership, but none of them goes as far as to tell you exactly how to dig out your own inner motives and principles and how to turn your unique personality into that leader," Mr Smith says. "They tell you about the habits you need. We can show you how to acquire them."
Simon Smith can be contacted on 0181-987 0135. David England can be contacted on 0181-995 5445.Reuse content