A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled on a treasure; buried within a doomed project that I was cut from halfway through when we realised that it wasn’t the job for me. I say we, the divorce directive came from the client but the feeling of relief on my part signalled a mutual desire to part ways.
On the day before, however, I’d been sending drafts, pleas, requests for more information on the brief and was feeling pretty dismal. Each round of comments indicated they weren’t happy, it was missing this or missing that without articulating what was required. Damn, why did I allow such a thin brief to get through my quality team?
I guess because my entire executive team is just me and I need the money. We freelancers, we work with love in our hearts, but we need to pay the bills too.
Back to the project, with each comment came the distinct feeling that I was failing to please the client. I needed some support, but the only other internal team member I have right now brings no such joy. Quick, what are my options before I realise that this freelancing venture was too much for me, and I should stick with what I know?
Doubt is rising; doubt that didn’t exist this time yesterday. Enter the inner critic. Do you have one? She’s loud, and she bites. Is she what I need? No, not right now.
I need an executive coach; I need her NOW, and if I could afford to pay for one, I never would have taken on this job in the first place. Not without a good look at that brief and the information I needed to make a success of it.
What would a leader think? I switch my mindset and view the incident from the perspective of a coach. If I were an executive coach (and why not? It is my imagination after all) how would I guide my journey forward without losing the will to freelance and live?
Firstly, I fired that critic. Do I need another negative voice shouting at my senses? No thanks, I can turn on BBC question time if I want to be cruel to myself. Let the amateurs worry about pleasing the critic and those of us who mean business find our inner coach.
I rolled out Coach Thomas and applied a few principles I’d picked up along the way.
I came across this piece of thought leadership while on the duff project. The concept belongs to Kim Scott, and you can watch her talking through the entire thing above.
Scott, who has worked in ops teams for Google, Apple etc. provides a framework for leadership behaviour. It veers away from traditional thinking by suggesting that things that used to be considered inappropriate in corporate environments can be used, showing emotion and the ability for the team to give negative feedback.
For a team to operate with Radical candour, they must intersect on the positive side of two parameters; caring personally about your team/project and being willing to be challenged directly. When both conditions are in play in your team, then you have achieved RC; when they’re not, you get a variety of imperfect results.
If we then think of our single selves as a team; a leader (or executive coach) and worker, then how can we apply the same methodology to get peak performance and ideation? Or looking at it in another way, what are the damaging outcomes that occur when we don’t operate with radical candour?
There are two components on the axis; caring personally and challenging directly fit in well with self-analyses. Especially as a creative; do you care personally about what you’re doing? Does it make you emotional?
And can you challenge your ideas directly? Can you step back and look objectively at what you’re doing? Do you remember your end-user? Your raison d’etre for whatever you are making. The answer to your big question to the universe. Isn’t that what we’re all doing here?
Coach Thomas ensures a balance between trying new and unknown ventures and adapting to failure without losing the will to try again. Without the risk of failure, you’re not venturing much; emotionally or creatively.
By drawing out the lessons of your negative experiences, you’ll keep a mindset of courage.
Timidity is a death sentence to an ambitious freelancer. Nothing is sitting still; technology shapes our behaviour and structures that used to guide us are becoming redundant. Our universe, now, favours the brave.
FINDING YOUR EXECUTIVE TRIBE
Coach Thomas also advises that I surround myself with people with similar if not higher ambitions. Imagine all of the work you put into beating procrastination only to be surrounded by people who embody the art of it.
I’m not saying that you can’t have slacker friends. In some respects, I’ll be a slacker friend. Identify your learning zones and don’t pick up bad advice that goes against everything your coach has built into your universe.
The best collaborations will elevate your thinking and action; just by osmosis.
Behaviour / neuroscience