Dear leader, use positive assertiveness at all times. When necessary, use ‘no’.

When I was 13 years old, I went on a retreat. At the start of the retreat, we were put into the same group and had to remain in that same group throughout. In our final group exercise, we had to come together with our group leaders. One person would be asked to leave the room so that the rest of the group could pick an animal that he or she could be compared with, and to explain why. Believe it or not, I still use this as a team-building exercise for already existing teams if I deem the individuals in the team to be mature enough to see the analogousness of it, because I appreciated what it did for my confidence and for my trust in my little group. It’s surprisingly effective! When it came time for me to be compared with an animal, I was not expecting the comparison I received! I was compared to a nightingale. The group listed many reasons for the comparison, but the one word that really stood out for me was ‘optimistic’. In some mystical way, that word has shaped my life; my beliefs, my attitudes, my behaviour. Until I first entered the corporate world, I was as liberated in my ‘yes-ness’ and optimism as I was in my creativity. And then… I learned all about risk.

About positive assertive communication and the ‘NO’

What has this story got to do with positive assertiveness or saying ‘no’? Let us first establish what they are. Assertive Communication is a style of communication in which a person stands up for and respects their own needs and wants, whilst also taking into consideration the needs and wants of others, without behaving passively or aggressively. Positive Assertive Communication is about framing your thinking in a way that inspires a movement of love in your heart – so that your ‘no’ doesn’t close you off, but opens and frees you up to something (or someone) else! When you look at all the definitions on the web for the word NO, you’ll find the key word that stands out is negative (e.g. a negative vote or decision; an act or instance of refusing or denying… etc). These acts essentially block and close up – not just the other person, but yourself as well. As a natural ‘yes’ person, I have had to learn how and more importantly when to say ‘no’. We find ‘no’ more so in the corporate sector than in the charity sector, where there is naturally more generosity and spirit to serve within the organisational culture, and desire to make a difference.

Positive assertiveness is now something that more and more people are looking to assimilate into their personal and working lives. That’s why I am launching my first positive assertiveness & boundary setting workshop on Saturday 27th June 2020 at 3pm on Zoom. It will be an interactive opportunity to explore practical ways of positive assertiveness, as well as the ‘why’ for it all. The purpose of this blog is to speak a little more about the ‘no’ in relation to leadership, and when it is necessary to use it. This is where I say: Dear leader, use positive assertiveness at all times. When necessary, use ‘no’.

When is it appropriate to use ‘no’, then?

The leadership styles (I won’t go into leadership or management styles in this blog post) in which we would most frequently see ‘no’ is in the authoritative and bureaucratic styles of leadership. The best leaders in the world know how to use all 5 styles of leadership to suit the situation and the people, and have nailed their communication styles in order to implement the best courses of action in their team. Of course, this isn’t a step-by-step formula that leaders learn. They learned this through experience and decent self-knowledge! In management training, managers identify the two most common ‘no’ styles of management in the ‘tell’ or ‘sell’ management styles. Again, the best managers in the world master all 5 styles of management to suit the situation and the stakeholders involved. So when ought the ‘no’ come into ones leadership or management? Here are 3 key moments when the invitation of positive assertiveness needs to be put aside and a ‘no’ steps up:

  1. When there is a high risk of danger or severe hurt to yourself or to others. So many people knock health and safety. But guys, it’s a no-brainer. This shouldn’t be classed as a ‘duty of care’ exercise at all. It should be built into our intrinsic nature to care for and protect each other from danger or hurt for the due reason that we are human beings. When I’m driving on the road, I seriously appreciate ‘no’ signage – because it’s a prevention and deterrent to me putting myself in danger. This ‘no’ is a crisis prevention or crisis management measure. If a leader/manager sees a catastrophe or a crisis impending (i.e. it will happen, and it’s not speculative), they will rightly start putting on the breaks. What’s important here is that the good leader/manager will brief their team, ensuring that the team are fully communicated with and feel a part of the crisis prevention.
  2. When positive assertiveness has been exhausted. I get it. Sometimes, there is only so much positive assertiveness that can be applied until a ‘no’ must kick in. Someone who has set a boundary and now needs to make sure the other person understands and respects that boundary must do so by communicating that with them. My workshop explores how to do that positively in more detail. But what happens if the recipient isn’t responding as you would like to the positive assertiveness? There are two further courses of action. The first course could be to use a slightly more aggressive assertiveness. At no stage should the assertiveness be passive. One ought always to be aware of and sensitised to their impact on the other person. To be passive assertive is to allow oneself to be indifferent to their impact on the other. This is neither caring nor emotionally intelligent! Slightly aggressive assertiveness pushes on the firmest edge of ‘firm’ and the most uncomfortable end of ‘comfort’. The second course could be to put in the strict ‘no’. Just remember two main things if this option is the last recourse to action: a) The ‘no’ must come from a place of goodwill for others and the main people involved, not from an abuse of manipulation, control and/or power, and; b) it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. It’s worth thinking how the other person would best respond before jumping into this last resort.
  3. Compliance. We touched on this briefly with health and safety in point 1. When it comes to compliance, there is no airy-fairy way of ensuring legislation is complied with, unless there is clarity on the boundary. These sets of rules are not optional. Most people will see the benefit of the rules quite naturally, but some people do like to consider themselves as ‘rule-breakers’, and get a kick out of pushing their limits. At some point, the ‘no’ kicks in here. If you are a parent, this balance is one you will already be familiar with. The only difference is that you’re not parenting a toddler, but managing/leading grown ups. Having said that, some of the best leaders and managers in the world are looked up to as ‘father-figures’ and ‘mother-figures’, and there is something very beautiful and life-giving about that.

Risk management plays a big part in the ‘no’ word or action. Good leaders and managers have superhero risk mitigation and management skills – either learned through study, experience or naturally developed whilst growing up. It is for this reason that ‘no’ can and should be used, when necessary.

What if I’m the person used to being told ‘no’, and it really gets to me?

Flip the other side of the coin… if you are the recipient of the ‘no’, then the method I use to give the other person the benefit of the doubt as to whether his/her ‘no’ was personal (on either side) or not, is to think about all the risks that the ‘no’ was preventing. Undertaking this small analysis tells you much more about the priorities of the leader and any underlying issues than most outward communication from the leader would. That is, unless your leader or manager is very open and very honest (I appreciate these leaders very much!). The reason why I brought up the ‘no’ as a personal affront or defence, is because in some cases, a manager might feel threatened in some way by their direct report, and so they develop a habit of saying ‘no’ to their direct report; even if the direct report’s suggestion or action is actually good for the team and the organisational mission. This is personal. On the other extreme, the direct report is constantly being told ‘no’ without any clear business justification. This is likely to be personal. A key example of this latter one would be racism or any other form of discrimination in a team. If any of these are you, then I recommend coaching to address those issues and to help you make the right decisions for yourself moving forward.

 


I’m Claz, a Professional Career Coach based in West London, accredited in the UK. I am also a Life & Wellbeing Coach, working with individuals as well as organisations. You can contact me through my website www.touchofclarity.com. Sign up to my first positive assertiveness & boundary-setting workshop on Saturday 27th June 2020 at 15:00 on Zoom to learn more about the fundamentals alluded to in this post.

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5 things you need to know when exploring career options & development

Exploring career options often brings up the question ‘Where do I begin?’. It can be quite a challenging practical reality for many people under normal circumstances, but in these times, the pressure might be felt more.

It’s tough out there right now. I know. Don’t lose heart, and make sure you have your bases and foundations with which to build on firmly established.

If you’re someone exploring your career options, these 5 things are going to really help you get started. Together they form something called your CAREER PERSONALITY, and is pretty much just your ‘Career-oriented Self-Awareness‘.

 

Why do you need to know these 5 things?

Well, your career personality is essentially the picture of yourself that will not only guide your decision-making, but is also a major part of the ‘package’ (that is you as the unique and wonderful human being that you are) that your prospective employers, colleagues, co-workers will be receiving into their workplace and work lives. It is a holistic picture, that only you can paint, since it is borne out of your own self-awareness and self-knowledge.

 

1. Your Career Interests

Knowing your Career Interests can serve multiple functions. It can help you to:

  • Know which industries and/or sectors would be best suited to you
  • Get a feel for which occupations you might be a good fit for
  • Prioritise where and how you focus your job search
  • Differentiate you from potential competition
  • Explore out-of-the-box ideas
  • Foster hope and happiness in you

There are various ways that this can be explored. My clients receive my Career Discovery workbook. There are also a few career interests inventories out there – the Strong Interests inventory being one of the most powerful. One of the most fun inventories that I have found is the free app Game of Choices. I can’t really vouch for its accuracy, but some of my clients have enjoyed the fun of it, which can reduce the intensity of career exploration.

2. Your Career Personality Traits

It’s fairly common knowledge that in the workplace, we can adapt to behaving completely differently from how we normally do outside of work. Various factors influence this – particularly if you are in management & leadership positions. Knowing understanding, and embracing your core personality is fundamental as it allows you to manage your attitude and behaviour so as not to stray too far from your core. If you are in management or leadership, then the more you can align your management/leadership personality with your core personality, the more fulfilled you are going to be in these roles. For anyone not in these positions, it will be vital for your sense of wellbeing to turn up for work the best version of yourself.

If a recruiter has recruited WELL, then they will want you to flourish in the organisation and in the role itself, enabling you to be yourself and to reach a point of self-actualisation. There is really more to say on this point about recruitment, which I believe is sadly focused more on tasks than it is on people. A huge amount of cultural change is needed here, in my opinion.

There are several ways you can get to know your personality traits. The first is by really observing yourself in an objective manner, and learning about yourself from others’ honest and non-biased observations (really tricky, that one!). There are then psychometric testing that could reveal to you your traits. Professionally, I use the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, but there are many others out there and there are other blogs that specialise in this information. I like to use Schein’s Career Orientiations Inventory with my clients, as it reveals to me certain career personality traits together with intentional direction – great meat to chew on with my clients in our coaching sessions!

3. Your Career Values

Firstly I need to tell you that Career Values are not the same as your Personal Core Values. These two are of different levels of importance. Core Values are of secondary importance whereas Career Values are of tertiary importance. This hierarchy of importance is where a lot of people go wrong.

Your worth and dignity is beyond any value – it is infinite. It is constant and never changes. Nothing material (such as money) can ever ransom or exchange your intrinsic and human worth. Please, please remember this for the rest of your life!! Whatever salary you are paid does not equal your immeasurable worth… ok??

Secondly, let’s establish the hierarchy of values. Your Personal Core Values are fundamental interior lights that find an expression for your unique worth. They are both borne out of, and feed back into, your beliefs, attitude and behaviours, your tendencies, attractions and then the faculty of your will. Personal Core Values are of secondary importance in understanding oneself. The tertiary importance of Career Values is simply based on the fact that they ought to be borne out of personal core values, and not the other way around.

When someone places their sense of worth on their career, or what they can do, they strip themselves of their inherent dignity and value. This is level III-I (three to one) disorder. Level III-II (three to two) disorder can be found when, in a similar manner, someone’s personal values are uprooted, and re-rooted in the third hierarchy – that of the career. In other words, someone’s core values are aligned with career values, rather than the other way around. This is, in my opinion, disorder, pure and simple. Is it any wonder why people climb career ladders, achieving all their career goals, and yet experience this emptiness or dissatisfaction in life!?

When I’m career coaching, I use a variety of methods to identify clients’ career values, but I stress the distinction between these values and core values. One of the most fundamental pieces I work on with life coaching clients is personal core values identification. Sometimes, I work on both – but it depends on the client. There’s a myriad of content out there about values, and on this one, I encourage you to do some research (taking into account all I’ve just said) 🙂

4. Your Skills and Competencies

This is usually the most obvious approach someone takes when beginning their career exploration or development. I think this is because when it comes down to recruitment, one of the major shortlisting factors is skills and competencies.

There’s a multitude of ways you can determine or get clarity on your skills and competencies. One task I might give my clients is a workbook based on the European Skills, Competences, Qualifications and Occupations classifications, which I call the Skills to Occupations Inventory. I might also give my clients a personal SWOT style analysis. As mentioned, there are a myriad of options out there. This skills matcher is a helpful one, I have found.

5. Your Differentiator

Finally, knowing what makes you different will give you that added boost of confidence at both application and interview stage. This is really an amalgamation of the previous 4 steps, plus your own conviction and character.

During this time, we’re going to see huge organisational changes, and the way we work is also going to change. The Covid-19 / Coronavirus pandemic is going to loosen tightened hearts. Soft-skills like empathy, compassion, understanding are skills that will be very much needed – skills, that we aren’t often needed or appreciated in the majority of corporate roles. Resilience and adversity – where does that sit with you? Where do you sit with them in yourself?

The power of career coaching really shines through when it comes to differentiation work. Here, working with a coach will nail down the clarity on what makes you different from the rest, and how to really bring that message into your application and interviews. This is because your career coach will be looking for the absolute best in you as well as the blind spots in you too.  Your answers to their requests for information (whether the method is application, testing or interview), if holistic yet honest will make you really stand out.

 

Taking this further

You could, of course, work through the above on your own. That would be fantastic, and a lot cheaper for you! However, if assistance in developing your career personality is needed then, of course, I’m going to recommend that you get yourself a career coach.

A good career coach wants you to know as much about yourself as possible, wants you to be convinced by the worth of who you are and the added value of what you can offer the world, and wants you to succeed for your very own sake, and not for what they would benefit from being your coach. As great as that sounds, however, it will require you to do your homework. This sort of stuff doesn’t always appear in a dream 😉 If you are furloughed at the moment, this might be a good time to do this work.

Self-Knowledge / Self-Awareness in career work is often known as Career Personality. Whilst a career coach can help you with the other parts of the process of getting a job and also continued professional development, for me personally, the starting point must be your self-knowledge. It is absolutely fundamental to your preparations for your next move. Your development or progress may be misdirected if you ultimately don’t know the end goal for yourself, and your decision-making may not be truly aligned with your core values otherwise. No coach would ever want you to make decisions that will lead to unhappiness.

Your journey of self-discovery will be a beautiful one, I promise. And oh, how excited I am for you if you’re about to embark on it!


Life Coach, Change Agent Management, Holistic Massage Therapy, Wellbeing, London, West,

I’m Claz, a Professional Career Coach based in West London, accredited in the UK. I am also a Life & Wellbeing Coach, working with individuals as well as organisations.  You can contact me through my website www.touchofclarity.com.