A Coaching Power Tool Created by Olga Shkut
(Career Coach, Leadership Coach, GERMANY)
What’s the Story?
Recent changes in our lives made most of us stay at home. Christine, a small business owner, wasn’t an exception. After several days of being a mom, a wife, a friend, a neighbor, a student, and an entrepreneur all in one for 24 hours a day she found herself overwhelmed, frustrated, and stuck. She realized that suddenly she had plenty of things to do without ordinary and habitual routines, and the list of these to do things was seemed to have no end.
She was exploring her situation together with me during our coaching session while trying to cope with some strong emotions. Suddenly an idea blew up into my mind. What will happen if you think not about doing the things, but about managing them instead? Christine took a pause and there was this unpredictable Aha! moment. “I don’t need to spend hours doing boring exercises with my daughter while she is homeschooling”, – she replied at once. “I’d better organize help for her and spend our time together playing or watching interesting movies instead”.
This way of thinking changed her viewing the situation immediately. Cooking, food delivery, household duties were successfully divided between family members. She easily prioritized her work and studying tasks, and organized a couple of things to be accomplished. She felt relieved, she even managed to find some hours for enjoyable things. But the most incredible thing was that she felt more energetic and excited. She could better support her family and business, and deal with the overall uncertain situation.
Christine called me the other day and said that every time she was overloaded with the tasks, she repeated herself managing, not doing. In the end, that helped her to deal with the situation in the most effective way.
Are you Doing or Managing?
I noticed that many people became stuck with DOING things. Professionals who keep doing their regular tasks despite the promotion to the managerial positions look like the most obvious example. However, not only they. Uncertainty, total overload with the information, lack of time, and our habits keep us from looking at the situation at a different angle.
Due to the Macmillan dictionary, DOING is defined as performing an action, while MANAGING – succeeding in doing something, organizing, and controlling the tasks.
But what if the thing is not only in this perspective? What if there are some underlying beliefs regarding managing? What if the word doing hides something else, not only empowering actions (the inner desire to make everything self, seeking for perfection, the fear to ask for help)?
The research conducted by Office Team found that 76% of employees did not want their boss’s job. The Google search shows first “is it okay not to want to be a manager” when you simply ask to be a manager or not. Most of the articles blink with the warning signals: are you sure you are ready to be a manager? And finally, who didn’t say at least once that people quit the manager, not the job.
Besides, Gallup has found that companies choose the wrong manager 82% of the time. Often people are promoted as managers because of their strengths as an individual contributor — but those strengths don’t necessarily translate to their role as a manager. Managing needs different skills, proclivities and the mindset to be called for. It’s no wonder in this case why people refuse to look at their ordinary tasks from the managing perspective. The managing itself brings not that pleasant attitude.
Unlikely to managing, doing has quite a different connotation. It’s a powerful word that we link with actions, achievements, and success. Doing vs trying, doing vs delaying are very powerful coaching tools. We as coaches often shift the clients’ perspective towards the doing mode. Popular slogans like “Just do it”, “Don’t try, Do!” give us an idea that simply doing is enough to go forward to our goals. Finally, even saying I’m doing nothing gives us a more positive sense than saying I’m procrastinating, for example, or I’m being lazy. There is nothing wrong with doing. We all know that even some baby steps, that a person can do, would change his state and a situation dramatically.
However, the desire of doing everything by oneself might hide perfectionism, the unwillingness to ask for help, and potentially would cause overload, overwhelm, and frustration.
Let’s take Alice. She had a dream of starting her own small business. She loved dogs, and as soon as she received a certificate in Animal Psychology she wanted to share her wisdom of dealing with dogs to a broad range of people. Besides, the dream of becoming a business owner and having her freedom was her long-lasting passion. She did everything properly: created a business plan, invited investors and partners, built a team, and established the services. She had to be responsible for the business growth, finance, team, and not to forget about doing what she always adored, interacting with dogs and their owners. She was the one who is called a Doer, a person who seldom delays, a highly motivated achiever. In a couple of months, she was burnt out. As she explained herself she was neither a perfectionist, nor she faced any difficulties, and the business itself was based on her passion. However, she was burnt out. She didn’t ask for help, preferring doing everything by herself, ignoring tiresome and high speed. She was a manager, but managing a business she didn’t think about managing herself.
Garret Keiser in his book “Help: The Original Human Dilemma” says that many people are facing difficulties with asking for help. Either because they have fear of being seen weak, rejected, or having the fear of losing their control. That’s why the majority may prefer doing everything themselves and being stuck in the end with endless tasks, prefer not managing the situation. “You’ve asked for help getting across a stream and they are building a boat” -another good explanation why sometimes it’s better doing everything self.
While it’s good to assume that acting or doing will help our clients to move forward towards their goals, it might be also useful to challenge them more on the action planning stage.
I’ve noticed that many clients are musing answering the question – who would you refer for help. Or what help do you need to accomplish this task? If we notice this pause, we could share our observation and explore more with a client, whether there is something deeper:
- How are you feeling when asking somebody for help?
- What experience did you have with asking for help in the past? How does it serve you now?
- What keeps you from asking for help ____?
- What happens if you ask________for help now?
When faced with clients who are having some difficulties with asking for help, it is important to understand what they are trying to protect themselves from: being rejected, loose control, being seen weak or simply they don’t know how to ask properly. Asking for help could mean managing the situation and oneself.
Sometimes a client knows nothing else than the need to be perfect, that’s why while doing something he needs to get the ideal result, that we know doesn’t exist. Such a person has difficulties with delegating; he thinks no one in the world can do the task better than he. With such clients, it could be difficult to shift the perspective from doing to managing immediately. Instead, we could try to talk about their feelings and emotions. Speaking from personal experience, the belief that everything I do has to be perfect makes me feel disempowered and drained. It takes much time and slows down my effectiveness. Therefore, talking on how the client can apply the structure managing vs. doing could show him a way of moving forward. Some helpful questions could be:
- How do you feel when you believe that only you can do things well?
- How these emotions serve you right now?
- What will you be without these beliefs and thoughts?
- What if you imagine yourself as a manager of your situation? What will happen?
- What could you do differently in the situation you are?
If we face the client who is dealing with lots of things on his plate, and who has a wish to be less overwhelmed and less overloaded, then the shifting his perspective towards the managing things instead of doing them could help greatly. Like in the case with Christine at the beginning, that shift helped her accomplishing twice as much as she did before without being overloaded.
- What if you think not of doing the things, but of managing them?
- What would you do differently?
- How managing things instead of doing the things could help you?
- If I’m the person who is dealing with the same issues as you, what would you say to me?
So if I can use Peter Drucker’s famous quote and paraphrase it; then instead of thinking of how to do the things right, think of how to do the right things.
- What are some of your underlying beliefs regarding managing?
- What is your perspective on doing?
- Do you mostly manage or do things?
- What can be different when you apply the perspective of managing vs. doing to your current to-do list?
- Can you find examples in your real life, where this perspective can apply?
ICA Modules on Power Tools.
Macmillan Dictionary (2009-2020).
Garret Keizer. Help: The Original Human Dilemma, Harper One, 2005.
Peter F. Drucker. The Practice of Management, Harper Business, 2006.
Anne Kreamer. What if you don’t want to be a manager, Harvard Business Review, 2012.
Duncan Brodie. Managing versus Doing: Getting the balance right, Goals and Achievement, 2017.
AlinaTugend. Why is asking for help so difficult, New Your Times, 2007?