pleasant chatCouple of years back, my most profitable client announced that due to the recession they would stop using external consultancy. I understood why totally, and considered it great fortune to have worked for them for 17 years. But the news left the slate this end worryingly empty.

Deciding to say ‘yes’ to every work offer that came my way, I travelled to remote parts to coach people on schemes where this was part of a deal. Some of them were neither interested or motivated, but I chose to take the Liz Murray line of ignoring emotion unhelpful to this particular situation. The inconvenient distance, poor financial reward and sometime rudeness got overlooked. I would be entitled to nothing and just offer service as well as I could.

Okay, okay… this is not a pitch for elevation to Saint Motivator. To begin with I went through the motions of offering good service, wrestling with ‘this is below me’ ‘how could I end up here?’ and ‘this person is a complete and utter berk’. But then I surrendered and just focussed on offering my best.

And you know what? Work became fascinating and gripping, an exercise in pure progress. Clients started to return effort and emotional engagement in bucketloads. I remembered why I chose this work to begin with, to be with people growing, learning and taking initiative. The buzz came back.

Mirror neurons in our brains, a recent discovery, may explain this: as cells which respond when we react in a certain way, they also respond when we see others reacting similarly. ( and may explain empathy). And while novelists often portray emotions coming first in the dark murky recesses of a mind, with action following, some psychologists reckon that emotion and the expression of it are simultaneous.

Behaviour breed Behaviour

Based on a ‘behaviour breeds behaviour’ rule, cognitive behavioural psychology suggests if we’re not feeling, say, confident, then acting ‘ as if’ we feel bold can help. We will get reaction and feedback from others, that cons our psyche and encourages us to actually feel confident.

So I don’t think it matters some of the time if our good service is genuine or not. There are very few jobs where ‘emotional labour’, portraying role-required emotions, is not an aspect. But if we very rarely and truly feel these emotions, then we’ll get stressed. And it helps to remember:

  • Good service is just about consideration, interest and collaborative problem solving. It’s about professional boundaries – not the giver demeaning themselves
  • All sorts of problems and confusion can be avoided when trust and respect are established early on
  • To give good service externally, there needs to be established good service internally: sufficient numbers of people using helpful behaviour to create peer group pressure.
  • Positive feedback and a sense of progress created by good service are the best general motivators for performance.

There’s no mystique or spiritual shenanigins about this ‘saying yes’ philosophy. It’s just that when we take away tunnel walls that say‘ this is who I am, how I work and where I’m at’ vistas of possibility can open up.

It’s Spring : time for those of us with molelike tendencies to emerge, blinking, into the hope.

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