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May 1, 2023
Good career coaching helps you navigate your career path and achieve your goals. Sylvana explains how to get the most out of UX coaching.
Sylvana Rochet is the Founder and Principal Coach at Elan Vital, a leadership coaching and personal development company that helps founders and executives tap into their full potential and achieve their goals. Before founding Elan Vital, she worked as a Partner and Executive Coach at Evolution, a leading coaching, consulting, and investment firm that specializes in working with high-growth companies.
Sylvana - 00:00:01: The number one issue that I see with leadership is that people get promoted and get asked to be in positions of leadership because of their technical skills. "Technical" doesn't just mean in tech. You could be a business person, you could be a marketing person, what have you. People don't get promoted to leadership roles because they know how to lead humans.
Erin - 00:00:24: This is Erin May.
JH - 00:00:26: I'm John-Henry Forster. And this is Awkward Silences.
Erin - 00:00:39: Silences. Hello everybody, and welcome back to Awkward Silences. We’re really excited to have our special guest here today, Sylvana Rochet. She’s an executive coach and the founder of Elan Vital Coaching. And today, we’re really excited to talk about executive coaching in the context of UX and what maybe some of you might be looking for, not knowing what you’re looking for in terms of finding a coach. So thanks so much for joining us today!
Sylvana - 00:01:04: You are so welcome. And I’m super pumped to do this.
Erin - 00:01:09: Awesome. We got JH here too.
JH - 00:01:10: Yeah. I was mentioning in the warm-up that I’ve actually been trying to find a coach for myself. So I feel like this conversation is going to provide some useful tidbits about how to do that well, so I’m excited for it.
Sylvana - 00:01:19: Yes.
Erin - 00:01:19: Always nice when they’re a little self-serving.
JH - 00:01:22: Totally.
Erin - 00:01:22: So it’s always nice to kind of start at the beginning. What is coaching and how did you end up becoming a coach?
Sylvana - 00:01:29: Yeah, coaching, I define it as a partnership. It’s an exploration, it’s a series of conversations, and different people will give you different definitions, right. But I think those are good places to start. Coaching is not crystal balling. It’s not where this expert, the coach, shows up and directs you to what to do. It’s different from mentoring in that way where a mentor has walked in your shoes. They’re maybe 5-10 years ahead of you, and they’re going to say, "do this, don’t do that, focus on this, don’t waste your time on that," right. It’s very much from their own experience, and it can be very directive, which is very useful in the mentoring context. But coaching is, I call it an exploration because it’s a series of conversations where you two are going to look at the situations that are happening, the reality that is unfolding, and you’re going to explore together, "well, what is going on? Why do the things look the way they look right now? What is your part in having created this reality?" Right? So it’s like you go together on this journey with this person, your coach, who’s going to point things out to you that you haven’t thought about before, maybe questions you haven’t asked yourself. But they’re looking at it with very fresh eyes and with a deep, deep presence of listening, right. And so they’re going to explore with you to try to figure out what’s going on, why are things the way they are, and how do we get to where you want to get? How do we make your reality different or better or whatever you want your reality to be? How do we get from here to there, but in a much deeper way than just saying, "do this, don’t do that".
JH - 00:03:14: Nice. I think, Erin, you also were touching on how do you find yourself becoming a coach? It feels like the benefit of it seems really clear, but it feels like an interesting thing to get into, right? "I’m going to go help people do the work you just described." It feels like it probably takes a little bit of a leap of faith on your part. How did you find yourself in that world?
Sylvana - 00:03:32: Yeah, thanks for the reminder. I forgot about the second part of the question. I like to say that coaching found me. It’s, you know, it’s interesting. I was listening to somebody on another podcast the other day. They were a psychotherapist, and they were telling a story about how they first started studying to become a psychotherapist. They went to, like, their first class, you know, like Psychology 101 or something like that. And the professor said to the room, "Okay, you’re all here to train to be psychotherapists. This is your first intro class. Raise your hand if you are the kind of person that everybody comes to ask for advice." And this psychotherapist who was speaking says, "I raised my hand." And a handful of others in the class raised their hand. And the professor said, "Those of you who didn’t raise your hand, we’re going to teach you some things here. But if you’re not already the kind of person that people seek out when they’re in trouble, the next four years aren’t going to make much of a difference." And I like to think of coaching in that way also. I’ve been the kind of person since I could remember that people like to come and talk to, and people would tell me their deep secrets and their fears and their insecurities and ask for my thoughts on things since I was a teenager. So it’s always been in my life. And I went after university, I went to have a career in international development. I’m a trained political scientist. So I worked in poor countries of Africa and Latin America and did a lot of work with organizations there, helping communities that don’t have access to, you know, certain types of healthcare, etc. And in that work, traveling all over the world, I learned very quickly that poor leadership is endemic. It is everywhere. And that was the seed that was planted for me, that I wanted to do something about this poor leadership epidemic, because we have people in charge of really big, major things, I mean, sometimes countries who don’t know how to lead humans. And so I wanted to be a better leader for my teams, the people that I was working with at the time. So I put money, time, and energy because no job, no company was paying for me to get trained to be a leader to these people. So I basically spent my own resources to become a better leader. And little by little people started coming to me and saying, "Oh, I saw how you handled that tough situation with a business partner back there earlier. Can you teach me how to do that? Because that’s not how I would handle it, right?" So people started coming to me and again wanting my advice, how would I deal with a tough situation like that? "Oh, can I send you my cousin? Oh, can I have you talk to my boss?" Right? So this started happening until one day, about ten years ago, a friend and former boss sat me down and said, "You are seeing the writing on the wall, aren’t you? I think this is what you need to do full time." And so I made a decision very quickly. It was very clear to me at that point, made a decision very quickly, this is what I want to do, this is my gift, this is my zone of genius. And I want to be able to do this all the time. Like if there’s the best way that I have to make a contribution to others and let me do that. And I went back to school and did my coaching certification over a year and started my coaching practice shortly after that.
Erin - 00:06:47: You see a spin diagram a lot with career advice that, you know, take the thing you’re good at and passionate about, and the thing there’s a market need for, and just go do that thing. It sounds like that’s what you did. I’m curious if we could talk a little bit more about the sort of leadership issues you’ve seen endemically kind of all over the world. What are some of those issues you see a lot that you get the opportunity to work with people on?
Sylvana - 00:07:14: The number one issue that I see with leadership is that people get promoted, get asked to be in positions of leadership because of their technical skill. Technical doesn’t just mean in tech, right? You could be a business person, you could be a marketing person, what have you. People don’t get promoted to leadership roles because they know how to lead humans. So somebody shines at their technical skill, they climb the ladder, so to speak, and one day they’re in a really big position of leadership where their success as a leader no longer has to do with being the best programmer in the room or the best whatever in the room. It has to do with how you’re able to support the people working on your team to give their best. So it’s a completely different skill. So I would say that’s probably the number one thing that I see with people not being equipped to be leaders when they get to a leadership role. Sometimes people get there and they realize, oh, my job is now to learn how to communicate, to learn how to be clear, to learn how to help people feel engaged in their role, to learn how to set up an environment for people to thrive. But many people don’t get that memo, and it’s not entirely their fault, right? Like nobody told them when they promoted them, this is going to be your role now. So there’s this big moment of, oh shoot, okay, so now my role is what? And having to basically go to learn from scratch something that you haven’t focused on at all up until this point, probably.
Erin - 00:08:42: And is that coachable?
Sylvana - 00:08:44: Absolutely. As long as the person is open and coachable themselves. And that’s really key. Not everyone is. But most people, at least most people that I’ve encountered, when they arrive in my inbox, when they arrive on a phone call with me, they have a sense of, I don’t know what I need to do. But I do know that it has to do with me learning some new skills that I do not currently have. So it is scary. There’s a big learning curve at the beginning, but it’s totally learnable. And especially with the people that I work with, the founders and CEOs, mostly in the tech sector, start-up people, right? They’re scrappy, they’re ready to learn. They’re ready, just help me, I’m going to learn. I will do the work, I will do the homework, I will try new things. So with that ability and that willingness to be ready to be uncomfortable and learn new things. Yeah, totally coachable.
JH - 00:09:38: You know, we kind of frame this as you being a leadership coach. I’m curious, when I think of a mentor, I’d imagine you want somebody who, as you were kind of saying, has done it before and is a couple of years ahead of you and probably has more domain expertise overlap. Right? If I'm a technical leader, I want my mentor to be a technical leader. That seems like less of a requirement on the coaching side. Right? If I’m stepping into a leadership role and need to figure out how to do it, it’s new to me. You don’t necessarily need a coach who’s worked in user research or user experience, but you do need somebody who’s a leadership coach instead of, maybe like a transitional coach or some other kind of specialist. Is that the way to think about it? Or how do you find a coach?
Sylvana - 00:10:14: Yeah, that’s a really great point, JH. I like to tell my clients, you need to have the trinity that’s going to help you. And the trinity is get yourself a coach, get yourself a mentor, and get yourself a therapist. And I’ll tell you why. The mentor, like you said, is very much someone who’s done what you’ve done. Right? When I mentor these founders or CEOs or leaders in the tech startup space, I’ve never been a founder of a startup myself. I don’t need to do that to be a good coach. The skills to be a good coach are show up fully, listen intently, be curious, ask the questions that are going to get the person to the next step. Help them help themselves, help them work on their mindset. A lot of the work that I do is mindset, basically. But a mentor is different. You want a mentor who’s done what you’ve done because a mentor is going to give you sort of a playbook of things that you can try at the ready. Do this, don’t do that. Right? What I was saying earlier, and then your therapist, even if you don’t have some big traumatic thing that you’re working through, a therapist is a great person to have to talk to on a regular basis just to do sort of the inner landscape maintenance so that you don’t bring that into your coaching sessions. So your coaching sessions won’t become a venting session and your mentor sessions won’t become a useless time where you’re not really taking in the advice that’s going to be given to you, but really having that space from a therapeutic point of view just to deal with the ups and downs of building something and living and working in a very fast-paced environment.
Erin - 00:11:55: I don’t know if it’s just me, but I’m hearing there’s something in the air with coaching recently. I feel like, where obviously you’ve been around for a long time, very popular, following the pandemic that’s very in-demand. Mentors have been popular for a long time; they’re very popular in the UX space. I’m just seeing and hearing a ton about coaching recently. Is it growing in popularity or is that just kind of something I’ve started to notice more?
Sylvana - 00:12:22: Yeah, your spidey sense is right. It’s definitely been growing in the recent past. I mean, I know when I first did my coaching program ten years ago, I still had to explain often to people what a coach does. And nowadays, whenever I talk to someone for the first time, they’re like, "Oh, my friend has a coach, and my wife has a coach, and everybody I know has a coach, so I have to talk to you." So it’s definitely something that is becoming more popular in the recent past, which I personally think is great. I think we need more coaches in the world. Where I think we need to be careful is there are a lot of people just hanging up their shingle to say, "I’m a coach" without any proper training or really knowing what they’re getting into. So it’s great that there’s a lot more coaches, and we want to make sure that if we’re going to engage with the coach, they are qualified and they have some experience and training that is relevant.
JH - 00:13:15: Cool. Yeah, how do you vet that? So it’s best to get referrals to coaches so you know that this person has helped somebody you trust? Is it in those initial conversations, asking them about their training and background, and just being really explicit about it? What would you sort of recommend to people on that front?
Sylvana - 00:13:31: Totally. I love the idea of asking your network. I also think that when you are shopping for, looking for a coach, that you have some questions ready - questions for things that matter to you, number one. But also, you want to know, and yes, you can ask them about their training for sure, but you want to ask them also something that goes beyond perhaps the training. How would you help somebody like me? Or what does a typical engagement look like? What can I expect? - is a great kind of broad, open-ended question when you are talking with a coach. What can I expect when I’m being coach by you? And let them tell you about it, and you have to see if this aligns with how you like to be coached, with something that you think would work. So definitely have those questions ready beyond their training and how much experience do you have, how many people have you coached, etc. Questions that I don’t think are useful, and I still get them all the time, but I explain to people why they’re not, are: Have you coached somebody like me, somebody who’s 35, has two dogs, is in this position, like, have you coached somebody exactly like myself? That’s not so important in coaching. It’s more about their methodology. You want to learn about the coach’s methodology. You want to hear them talk about how they would work in an engagement with you in a more sort of open-ended way. And then you see if that sounds like something that you’re game for. But don’t be too concerned if they haven’t coached somebody that’s exactly like you. Because the coaching process, if it’s a solid coach, you can put a good coach. You can put me in any situation. I can coach anybody on anything. Doesn’t matter.
Erin - 00:15:17: Well, to that point, I’m hearing you say coaches are really good listeners. They’re present, they’re helping you find your own way. Are most coaches focused more on professional or personal or kind of 360, all of it? Or how does that work when you think about finding a coach or you’re looking for someone to help in a particular area or that focuses on a particular area, or is it all sort of the same thing? It’s all coaching.
Sylvana - 00:15:42: That’s a great thing about coaching being a profession that is growing very rapidly. There’s so many coaches now. There is a coach for every personality and every flavor. There is a coach for everything, right? You have health coaches. You have postpartum wellness coaches. You have, of course, executive coaches, life coaches, relationship coaches, right? Coaches of all stripes and types. This is my personal take. I personally think that even if you are hiring, let’s say a leadership coach, right? An executive coach who is going to help you become a better leader at work for your team. You still want them to be trained as a life coach. You still want them to have an interest in an ear for your personal life. Because guess what? If you’re engaging with somebody for 3, 6, 12 months, your personal life and what is going on outside of nine to five, nine to nine is definitely going to impact how you show up at work. So I would say, I would almost say beware if you’re hiring an executive coach who doesn’t ask you any questions about your personal life because it’s going to be kind of in a vacuum.
Erin - 00:16:51: Right. So you might be focused on work related outcomes, but having a little bit of that holistic view into your life is going to help you get there.
Sylvana - 00:16:57: For sure. When I’m coaching somebody, yes, I’m coaching people who are leaders and I’m coaching them on leadership skills. But I want to know, do you work out? Do you eat lunch? How is your relationship with your kids if you have them? Right? All of that is important context. I’m not going to coach them on those things, but it is context that is important for me to have in order to better coach them on the topics we’re talking about.
JH - 00:17:24: All right, a quick awkward interruption here. It’s fun to talk about user research, but you know what’s really fun is doing user research. And we want to help you with that.
Erin - 00:17:32: We want to help you so much that we have created a special place, it’s called userinterviews.com/awkward for you to get your first three participants free.
JH - 00:17:44: We all know we should be talking to users more, so we’ve went ahead and removed as many barriers as possible. It’s going to be easy, it’s going to be quick. You’re going to love it. So get over there and check it out.
Erin - 00:17:52: And then when you’re done with that, go on over it to your favorite podcasting app and leave us a review, please.
JH - 00:18:01: So I’d imagine most people in most situations could benefit from coaching, right? Like, if you just had access to it and it was available to you and you had a good coach, it’s a good fit for your needs, presumably it’s better than not having it, but there is a financial component to it. Some people are going to be able to be able to get it covered through work. Other people are going to pay out of pocket. What are maybe some signals that it’s like an acute moment where you would really benefit from it, of I was in an IC role, now I’m in a leadership or management role, is like an example you pointed to. Are there other things or signs or feelings that if people are listening to this, are like, oh, maybe I am in a moment where I do need some help? More than usual, if that makes sense.
Sylvana - 00:18:36: Yeah, absolutely. There are thorn on my side moments, not for me, but if somebody is having this experience where it’s like every day just kind of feels really tough at work because I don’t seem to be making progress. If you’re feeling stuck, either because nothing’s moving or stuck because you keep encountering the same kind of situation but with a different face, it’s probably a good time for coaching. I would also say this is not going to be shared by everyone, but I would say get ahead of the painful moment. Like if you have a transition coming up and you haven’t yet gotten to the transition and you haven’t yet gotten to the challenges, I would say start looking for a coach now. So you don’t want to call a coach, a bad time to call a coach is like when things are really, truly falling apart because it’s like there’s going to be so much damage control that you have to do that it’s going to be more time, more money, more energy to just fix what went wrong. So I would say try to get ahead if you see that transition coming. But yeah, if you’re in a situation where things are not moving forward, you’re not progressing as much as you’d like to, you’re stuck. There’s perhaps some funky energy between you and someone or between you and a group of people, it’s also a good time to call someone before it gets really obviously bad.
Erin - 00:19:54: And do you typically engage with people sort of indefinitely for years and years, or is it usually more of a kind of finite or acute engagement? Just depends?
Sylvana - 00:20:03: It’s finite, and I think most good coaches would prefer to make sure of that from the beginning. We understand we’re going to engage for six months. At six months, we will reassess. People will hire me again. Like, I have clients who have worked with me for almost eight years, but it’s because they change roles or they went and started another company, right? So it’s like they take breaks and then they’ll come back and say, “I have this new challenge coming up,” and we’ll say, “let’s work together for three to six months, do a tune up,” and then they’ll go and do their thing and come back a couple of years later. So it is much better when it’s finite. I don’t think coaching should be something that is going on for years and years and years. Then maybe you can transition to an advising relationship, which is what I’ve done with some of my clients, and I’m staying on as an advisor to them and to their founding team. And that can be a longer relationship. But coaching should have a finite duration. When you start in a finite set of goals, intentions that you want for that time period to be effective, to keep everybody accountable, does that help?
Erin - 00:21:04: Yeah, for sure. The language I hear a lot is that you talked about this before. You’re trying to unblock in a lot of cases, right? And so if I identify some blocks, clear them out, we’re good for now.
Sylvana - 00:21:18: Yeah, there can be some major breakthroughs in those initial months of coaching. And I was saying I have clients who come back. The work that we do at that point is not as transformational, right. It’s more like they need a tune up. But it’s those initial months where the coach, who is brand new to you, the client, the coach is going to come in with fresh eyes and ask some questions that are just going to blow your mind, that are just going to make you realize what are the patterns that you are unknowingly doing in your life that are creating this reality that you’re less-than-happy with.
JH - 00:21:53: And doesn’t matter at all if it’s like a relationship that the individual is like initiating and paying for and stuff versus maybe something that’s being a little bit more facilitated through their employer. So they got promoted and their employer is suggesting, hey, let’s get you a coach. Does that change the dynamic at all? Should people think about that or doesn’t really matter a ton.
Sylvana - 00:22:11: Let me think on this. That is such a great question because it is important. I think at the end of the day, it depends on the person, right. If you are the kind of person who is truly committed and you truly want to make a change and you truly want to get the best use of this coaching partnership, you’re going to show up fully. But I have found in general, in general terms, when it’s the person themselves hiring me, and even if it’s a founder or co-founder, you know, the company is still paying for it, but it feels closer to home for them where this money is coming from. I feel like there’s a bit more skin in the game when the person themselves is the one paying for it.
JH - 00:22:52: Yeah. Got you. In terms of the follow through and the motivation to get the most out of the engagement and the relationship, there’s just maybe a little bit of a shift there that comes out of that.
Sylvana - 00:23:01: Yeah, I would say in general terms that seems to be the trend.
Erin - 00:23:05: But look, if your work is fun, you pay for it.
Sylvana - 00:23:06: Don’t say no and just show up and fully show up and really take it like this is a gift and this is such an opportunity and I’m going to max it out for my growth and my evolution.
JH - 00:23:17: And like ask about it. Think a lot of employers maybe don’t. Maybe it’s not a common thing or it’s not like listed as a benefit, but I bet if you go to your manager, you go to the HR people team, it might be something that they can support or work with you on. Even if you weren’t aware of it. So definitely a good thing to explore if it’s not like a standard policy.
Sylvana - 00:23:34: Totally. And if they can’t pay for it in full, they may be able to provide you with a stipend where it pays for most of it and then you’re putting a little bit of your own money into it, which then gets you to have this extra skin in the game. And the other thing to know also is there are coaches for all budgets, right? Like a coach who is fresh out of coaching school a year or two is not going to have the same rates as somebody who is a decade into coaching. And guess what? Like we were talking earlier about people who have you either have a natural gift for it or you don’t. And there’s not much that extra training or schooling can do for I mean, if you’re not someone who’s curious and cares about other people, right? I’ve met some coaches who were just freshly minted, who were amazing because they had the bones of a good coach. But you’re not paying as much for that coaching because they’re brand new and they’re trying to build their practice. So definitely do your research, get recommendations from people. You can go to a website like newme.com, but I know there’s tons more now that are like these directories where you can find coaches. You can put what your budget is because coaches will also put on there what they’re charging. So do your research and don’t be discouraged just because someone doesn’t have that much experience. You might just come upon someone who’s really gifted and is going to be amazing for you for not the price tag of someone more experienced.
Erin - 00:24:59: Or who you click with, which is so important.
Sylvana - 00:25:02: Yeah, and that’s such a good point, Erin. I have seen sometimes it makes me think of my own experience in university. I had a teacher, a professor at university who was this like mega radio personality. He was a political science teacher, super well known, had authored like three books, like mentored a bunch of companies, was a horrible professor, just could not teach college students for the life of him. And we all hated being in his class. It was so boring. And so the point here being is like, you might be looking at two coaches. One is like all these accolades and all this blah, blah, blah. You know, they’ve had so many articles written about them, and then you meet one that’s not as well known, but it’s totally the right person for you. And they are passionate about what they’re doing. And you’re going to have such great energy. And whatever they share with you, whatever questions they have for you, are going to land for you. That’s the one you go with. Don’t go for flashy. Go for the one that you click with and you feel is really making you think deeply about things.
Erin - 00:26:02: I know you worked with a lot of folks in the kind of UX research product space. So our listeners, for folks who aren’t in the market necessarily for a coach right now, I wonder if we can give them maybe some free advice or tips. So I’m curious, are there some common themes you come across when working with folks in these kinds of fields that come up over and over again and that you’re able to help people move through blocks or overcome challenges?
Sylvana - 00:26:30: Totally. The common ones are, this is not going to be surprising to you too. The common ones are around communication, right? And often people will show up and say, oh, between our teams, I’m trying to communicate clearly with our product team, but it’s like not landing. So clarity around communication is a big challenge for everyone in this sort of space. The accountability piece, like who does what by when. I find that one of the common challenges is we have all these workplaces where it’s like really encouraged to be nice and be ultra empathic. But it’s getting to a point sometimes I feel like people take that message of, oh, then that means I can’t be direct and I can’t be clear and I can’t make direct requests of people. So I find that that gets in the way in wanting to create a nice workplace where we don’t allow bullying and that’s great, but I feel like sometimes that can be taken to the extreme in these spaces where it’s like not enough clarity, not enough accountability is being provided for. What are we agreeing to from the beginning? Right? That sort of conversation. And also this will be something that speaks to your listeners, but it’s like empathy, empathy, empathy, empathy. Always have that top of mind when you’re creating something, when you are, whether it’s for your users or for your internal customers or for somebody on another team. Just really bringing that empathy piece of how can I make this more useful for this other person? And I find that that is difficult too, because these are spaces where people are working really quickly. They’re having to pivot sometimes the idea we have to make a tweak to the product very quickly and it has to happen next week, and so we forget to bring clarity, communicating clearly on accountability, those things, and also just like taking a moment to just bring the empathy to the table before we make this change, this tweak.
JH - 00:28:27: Those do resonate. Those seem like big categories. You mentioned... All right, this person is going to help me get unblocked, kind of find my way and figure out how to navigate some things. I’m going to maybe do it for a three or six month engagement for the specific challenge that I’m wrestling with right now. What does it then look like within that engagement? I’m sure there’s not one template, but is it like you’re meeting all the time? Is it less frequent you’re doing stuff in between and coming back with some of those reflections or is there any sort of standard thing that somebody could expect of what their coaching engagement might be?
Sylvana - 00:28:59: Yeah, I would say most coaches I know will meet with our clients twice a month, let’s say over a duration of six months. Sometimes you can start with three months, but if you really want to see because again, we’re going to be working on mindset and changing some of the mental models you may have around something or changing some of the beliefs or the ways that you’re seeing things right, like your thought patterns. So that takes a little time for that old programming to be removed and to bring in some new programming so you can expect twice a month. Six months is sort of a standard engagement for you to see some results and start having some of the new new mindsets and new beliefs and new ways of thinking really anchor in. And there is, I like to say, the magic happens between coaching sessions. Like you’re going to meet with your coach, you’re going to come prepared, saying, this is what I want to focus on today, here’s the challenge or here’s the next thing that I’m working towards. So you have something specific that you bring to the session and then you’re going to have some sort of little mini breakthrough in the session, right? There’s going to be an insight, there’s going to be something that gets unlocked and then the magic happens when the client goes out into their life and starts applying that thing. Right, so we were talking about things like bringing clarity, bringing empathy, just communicating better. So what you want to do is in between sessions is really use what you got in the coaching session. You want to have your notes, you want to have your action items ready and you’re testing out these new things, right? And a lot of it, by the way, this is like the free coaching bit here, but I think this applies to everybody. A lot of the work you’re going to do when you are looking at how your mindsets and your ways of being are getting in your way, a lot of the work that you’re doing after the coaching session is going into your life and being self-aware in the moment. You’re in a meeting and you notice you get triggered. Be aware of what caused that trigger. What words was it that this person said or was it the tone? Or was it because you actually got fearful because you didn’t deliver on something, right? So notice where the trigger was, notice what your reaction is, and then have the awareness to know that you’re in that triggered state. And go, right now, I need to take a deep breath, plant my feet on the floor, throw my shoulders back, and open up my body and take some deep breaths. Like, just create some distance between the trigger and the reaction that you’re about to have or that you may be feeling. Right? It may not be outward, but just bring your body back to a state of calm. When you do that, if you’re starting to take some deep breaths and opening up your body, you’re actually oxygenating your brain, right? Because what happens when we get triggered is we contract, we shrink. Blood flow is not going to the brain as it should and that’s why we don’t think straight in those moments when we get triggered. So you really want to open everything up, get that deep breath going in, oxygenating your brain and then you can think clearly. So you’re creating that little pause there so that you can then respond and not react. Sometimes it’s in the moment, sometimes it’s next day that you need to get back to it, right? So that is the magic, right? Like you’re going to learn about these little things in the coaching session, that you want to go out into your life and practice these practices essentially that you are learning about, that are new to you, that feel unnatural. You’re going to get uncomfortable and do it in the moment when these everyday situations are happening.
Erin - 00:32:19: You mentioned communication being a big challenge for a lot of people, which I’ve said more than once is the hardest thing in the world, right? We’re communicating with humans. We’re all very different. But are there certain pieces of advice you find are broadly applicable or places people get tripped up when they’re trying to communicate in a professional context?
Sylvana - 00:32:40: For sure. Thanks for asking that because it is the biggest thing, right? Everyone you ask what’s the problem you’re having? It’s communication but what is it about communication? Right? So going a little bit deeper into that and understanding what piece of the communication is breaking down. But I would say one piece of advice that is universal is when you think about communication, the way that we have been taught to think about communication is that it’s one-way communication. Communication is about me saying something to you and hopefully you understand it in the way that I meant it because obviously I was being very clear, right? And so you’re just going to be the passive receiver and hopefully you receive it the way you’re supposed to, which is the way that I think you should. And that’s okay because the way we have been socialized is very hierarchical. It’s very top down. Going to school, there’s somebody talking at us. You don’t go to university to dialogue and engage with your professor, right? It’s like one way communication our whole lives and then we get to work and we’re like, position of authority. It’s going to be one-way communication. So I say number one thing is start to think of communication with your people, your teammates, as a two-way street and it’s less about you telling them what they need to hear and what you want them to know and what you want them to do. And it’s more about a conversation. So come ready with less directions, come ready with more questions. If people show up to a conversation, instead of thinking, this is one, two, three, are my bullet points that I want to make sure to get across, and if we instead thought my bullet points are one, two, three, I want to understand this. I want to discover that, and I want to have a better empathy for this situation over here, then it changes the conversation. So in communication, I would say ask more questions, show up with curiosity, and show up ready to understand with a goal for something you want to understand, something you want to discover, as opposed to the unilateral communication you’re going to do.
JH - 00:34:41: I like that. In the very beginning, you mentioned kind of the trinity of in a perfect world, you’d have a therapist, a coach and a mentor and probably engaging them at different times in different ways. If someone’s feeling stuck, I’m not happy with where I’m at and stuff, and maybe you’re trying to pull in a resource for help, but they don’t have that kind of network yet. How do you know where to start? Is this a situation that’s better to take my therapist? Is this a situation I need to coach? Is this something I should bring to a mentor? Obviously, they’re very different in what they’re going to help you with, but how do you know that map of this is an issue I should try to find this type of support on?
Sylvana - 00:35:14: Such a great question. I would say when it’s something that feels like it’s old stuff, if it’s stuff that came from your childhood, basically, and it’s really getting in your way every day, it’s souring your relationships. There’s a lot of insecurity and fear and you’re almost being paralyzed by it. That is therapy. I would say clear it out, try to understand it, try to get a handle on it with the help of therapy. And then when you feel like it’s not crippling you or not stopping you anymore, it’s still there. By the way, these things never go away, right? But what we learn with therapy or with a coach is better ways of coping with it. So when that imposter syndrome shows up, which it will continue to, I now have tools that I can use. So that imposter syndrome doesn’t stop me anymore and it doesn’t send me into a loop, right? So I would say if it’s getting in the way of you functioning the way that you want to function, it’s getting in the way of your emotional health, therapist. If you’ve got that handled and now you want to know how to move past it and you’re thinking about the future, how do we get to the next level? I want to build from here. I want to go from good to awesome. That’s coaching.
JH - 00:36:33: Nice. And then if it’s, like, a very specific problem of I’m trying to figure out how to get my team to organize their backlog better or something that’s maybe more of like a mentor type thing. Like, this is probably a solved thing, that somebody has done this before, could just tell me how to solve it type of thing. Is that like a fair?
Sylvana - 00:36:47: Yeah. The mentor will have a great playbook that you can at least start with and then tweak according to your needs. But mentors are invaluable in that way.
JH - 00:36:58: Yeah. I bet somebody’s, like, figured this out before. Like, maybe just could go ask them how they figured it out type of thing.
Sylvana - 00:37:03: Totally. Don’t waste your time trying to reinvent the wheel. And I see way too many people doing that.
JH - 00:37:08: Nice. Cool.
Erin - 00:37:10: Thanks for listening to Awkward Silences, brought to you by User Interviews.
JH - 00:37:15: Theme music by Fragile Gang.
Left brained, right brained. Customer and user advocate. Writer and editor. Lifelong learner. Strong opinions, weakly held.