The best mistake of: Cees Juffermans
“I remember thinking: “what am I supposed to do now?” This was my dream. This was what I had been dreaming about as a young boy. And that one chance was gone because of my own stupid mistake.”
Sometimes we are too afraid of making mistakes, that out of fear for the possible consequences, we don’t take any action. Afraid to fail, afraid about what our environment thinks about it, afraid that it doesn’t fit in our “Instagrammable perfect life”…
Which is such a shame, because making mistakes is THE way to learn and develop yourself. That is why we at Doors Open celebrate making mistakes! Every month we interview entrepreneurs, leaders, professional athletes… People who, just like you, have gotten to where they are by failing and standing up again.They have told us about their best mistake: a mistake which has taught them a lot and has helped them greatly in their development.
In this edition:
Profession: former olympic athlete, Chief Marketing Officer at the Invictus Games 2020.
On 12 February 2006 Cees Juffermans has the chance to write history in Dutch sports during the Olympic games in Turin. He was in the semi-finals of the 1500 meters short track. The final in sight, chance of winning a medal, never before has a Dutch shottracker gotten so far. Although in that moment the sport was relatively unknown in the Netherlands, on this sunday all of a sudden Cees became known worldwide. But not the way he was hoping he would…
Before the lenses of hundreds of cameras, thousands of spectators in the stadium and millions of viewers on TV, the Stompwijker was taken down by another skater in the last curve. In short track this means an automatic free pass to the next round. The finals. But it only counts if you complete the full round. And that is what Cees doesn’t do. Just a few meters before the finish he steps off the ice. In sports, this is counted as resignation, as a “did not finish”. Gone was his spot in the final, the chance of winning a medal. This mistake makes Cees fall back to 18th place in the final ranking and shatters his childhood dream.
What did you do when you realized what had happened?
“I only realized what has happened when I was in the changing room. I know the rules. Even worse: during my training the rules where always emphasized. Whatever happens, always make sure you cross the finish line. I have no clue why I stepped off the ice early. I must have had a complete black-out.”
As a top athlete you are certainly not alone, you have a whole team around you. Even so Cees does not blame anyone else but himself. “Of course I can think “why did nobody warn me that I had to finish the race in that moment?” But in the end the responsibility lies on my shoulders. Therefore, shortly after my mistake I walked up to the media and made this clear.”
What did you learn from this incident?
“A lot. I still make mistakes, every day. We all do. But this is one of those mistakes you won’t ever forget. It sounds crazy, but it has done a lot for me. It made me realize that so often we are focused on the end result, even though the process to get there might be way more important than the goal itself. If you have dreams, chase them. Don’t let anyone stop you. And yes, at one point you will fall flat on your face. In my case literally. So what? You get up again. The world is not going to end.”
“Mistakes only make you stronger. Suddenly I was standing in the spotlight, everyone had an opinion. I chose to put the negative critics aside.”
It made me realize that people close to you, do not judge you for the mistakes you make. The negative reactions were primarily from people that were not as close to me. Not only when I made this mistake by the way. Being a professional athlete can be pretty lonesome. When others my age met at the bar during the weekends, I was training extremely hard. Of course people had their own thoughts on this, but I chose not to listen to them. That is also what I really want to advise others: don’t let what others might think or say about you influence you. It is YOUR dream, and they are YOUR choices. Do what you love and remember what you are doing it for. What is the reason you get up every day? Even if you make mistakes, don’t give up and try to do it a little bit better than yesterday.”
What did you change after this mistake?
“I started looking at my athletic career differently, as a whole, instead of that one goal alone. I might not have won an Olympic medal, but I still feel like I got everything I could have out of my dream. And I am still benefiting from the experiences I had and the network I built in those years. I have also changed my perspective about what is really important to me. What do I want to “leave behind”? How can I make a change in society? The misstep in Turin really made me think. How terrible would it be if you look back on your career and you realize that you’ve only done things that others expected you to do, instead of chasing your own dreams?”
Do you want to share your best mistake? Share it to firstname.lastname@example.org! Maybe you are the next feature on our blog!
Doors Open en Doors Open Female Hub zoeken stagiair(e)s. We hebben plek voor maar liefst twee stagiair(e)s. Startdatum in overleg. Je kunt zowel een praktijkstage als een afstudeerstage bij ons komen lopen.
- Onderdeel zijn van de leukste co-working & co-learning locatie in Nederland?
- Alles leren over coaching, talent management, leiderschapsontwikkeling en teambuilding? En/of over content voor de website, social media en nieuwsbrieven, deze bewerken en klaarzetten voor publicatie?
- Zij aan zij werken met en leren van Suzanne Mau-Asam, oprichtster en eigenaresse van twee succesvolle bedrijven?
- Jezelf optimaal ontwikkelen en het meesten uit jezelf halen door met de beste coaches en trainers te werken?
- Je steentje bijdragen aan de ontwikkeling van Doors Open en Doors Open Female Hub?
- Masterclasses en trainingen bijwonen, om zo je eigen kennis te ontwikkelen én alles te leren over Learning & Development?
- Marketingmaterialen zoals flyers, posters en goodiebags voor tijdens evenementen ontwikkelen?
- Ruimte krijgen om aan je eigen scriptie en/of afstudeeronderzoek te werken, indien je aan het afstuderen bent?
En ben jij:
- Tweede, derde- of vierdejaars HBO/WO student in de richting Human Resource Management, Psychologie, Hospitality Management, Commerciële Economie, Ondernemerschap, Event Management, Marketing & Communicatie of een soortgelijke opleiding?
- Niet vies van hard werken? Dit is geen stage waarbij je alleen maar koffie haalt (hoewel wij wel hele lekkere koffie hebben…) of achter je laptop onderzoek zit te doen.
- Niet bang voor een uitdaging? We leggen de lat hoog en je zult pittige opdrachten krijgen.
- Digitaal handig? We werken bij Doors Open en Doors Open Female Hub veel online, dus je zult snel diverse programma’s onder de knie moeten krijgen.
- Stressbestendig en nauwkeurig?
- Vloeiend in zowel de Nederlandse als Engelse taal?
- Woonachtig in de regio Den Haag?
- Beschikbaar voor een fulltime stage van ongeveer 5 maanden?
Dan zijn wij op zoek naar jou! We hebben (startdatum in overleg) plek voor twee stagiair(e)s:
1. Learning & Development
Als Learning & Development stagiair krijg je de kans om alle ins en outs te leren over hoe je mensen het beste uit zichzelf kunt laten halen. Je ondersteunt Suzanne bij het ontwikkelen en voorbereiden van trainingen, masterclasses en coaching trajecten die zowel bij Doors Open in de Javastraat als bij bedrijven op locatie verzorgd kunnen worden. Natuurlijk kun je veel van de trainingen en masterclasses ook zelf bijwonen. Je denkt mee over de inhoud van programma’s, maakt werkboeken voor deelnemers en zorgt ervoor dat alle praktische zaken rondom Doors Open en Doors Open Female Hub tot in de puntjes geregeld zijn. Denk hierbij aan het organiseren van proefdagen, netwerkborrels en het ontvangen van potentiële “Hubbers” die Doors Open Female Hub bezoeken.
Tijdens je stage wordt je begeleidt door Suzanne Mau-Asam zelf. Jullie stellen aan het begin van de stage gezamenlijk leerdoelen op. Je ontvangt o.a. een persoonlijkheidsprofiel en elke twee weken een 1-op-1 coachingsgesprek op basis van je persoonlijk ontwikkelplan.
Als Marketing stagiair zorg je er voor dat iedereen straks weet waarom je bij Doors Open en Doors Open Female Hub moet zijn als je het beste uit jezelf wilt halen. Je ontwikkelt content voor de website, social media en nieuwsbrief en zet deze klaar voor publicatie. Je verzamelt en registreert leads en onderhoudt het CRM systeem. Je denkt mee over de marketingstrategie, ondersteunt bij het ontwikkelen van marketingmaterialen zoals flyers, posters en goodiebags voor tijdens evenementen. Samen met Suzanne en de Learning & Development stagiair(e) zorg je er tijdens evenementen uiteraard voor dat alles op rolletjes loopt.
Tijdens je stage wordt je begeleidt door Suzanne Mau-Asam zelf. Jullie stellen gezamenlijk leerdoelen op bij de aanvang van je stage. Je ontvangt o.a. een persoonlijkheidsprofiel en elke twee weken een 1-op-1 coachingsgesprek op basis van je persoonlijk ontwikkelplan.
Heb je interesse in één van bovenstaande stagefuncties? Stuur dan je CV en motivatie naar email@example.com o.v.v. “Sollicitatie stage”.
The best mistake of: Suzanne Mau-Asam
“My gut feeling said: don’t do this. I ignored it. Afterwards it turned out that my feeling was right.”
Sometimes we are too afraid of making mistakes, that out of fear for the possible consequences, we don’t take any action. Afraid to fail, afraid about what our environment thinks about it, afraid that it doesn’t fit in our “Instagrammable perfect life”…
Which is such a shame, because making mistakes is THE way to learn and develop yourself. That is why we at Doors Open celebrate making mistakes! Every month we interview entrepreneurs, leaders, professional athletes… People who, just like you, have gotten to where they are by failing and standing up again. They share their best mistake: a mistake which has taught them a lot and has helped them greatly in their development.
In this edition
Residence: The Hague
Profession: Founder and owner of Doors Open (Learning & Development company) and Doors Open Female Hub (coworking & co-learning for female entrepreneurs)
What is your best mistake?
“In January 2018, next to Doors Open, I opened the Female Hub. That was quite some work: I had to search for a suitable location, this needed to be renovated and marketing needed to start running. And all this in 3 months time and ‘in between all the companies’, as I also continued with Doors Open giving leadership trainings, Learning & Development advices and team building sessions. As I also work a lot on my own development, my plan was to travel to California for a training to become a somatic coach at the Strozzi Institute. But this collided with the date of the opening and the first weeks of the Female Hub. Hence I needed operational support. Someone who could run the place while I was gone. Via a friend of mine I got a tip for someone that was ‘was really good’.”
“I lost revenue and additional costs incurred because of this. I ended the cooperation, but obviously was not able to catch up for the lost weeks.”
“So I had an interview with this freelancer. My gut feeling said ‘Suzanne, you should not do this. You are not on the same page. I am sure she cannot deliver what you need’. I ignored the feeling, tried to rationalize it. Certainly I can trust my friend’s opinion, right? And even more importantly: I needed someone, and didn’t have enough time to find an alternative.
The uncomfortable feeling stayed. When I handed over the keys of the Female Hub I was still not 100% convinced that this was the right decision. Still, I got on the plane. Again I tried to let my reasoning prevail. ‘You can call from the US, Skype, e-mail and keep control of what is going on in the Hub’.
When I got back from the US however, it turned out that I should have listened to my gut feeling. Tasks were not done according to the instructions and the quality level was far from what I and my partners would have expected. I lost revenue and additional costs incurred because of this. I ended the cooperation, but obviously was not able to catch up for the lost weeks that I was absent.”
“It is scientifically proven that the front part of your brain works less well when you are under pressure.”
What did you learn from this?
“Three important lessons. Firstly, the fact that someone is you friend does not necessarily mean that he or she has the same vision in business matters. Business relations are very different from friendships. It is important to be aware of this and to keep things separate. That does not mean that you can never work together with friends. But you do have to make sure that you are on the same page when it comes to entrepreneurship and doing business. I think that is one of the reasons why I enjoy working with people who have, like me, studied at Hotelschool. I feel like they have the same way of thinking and working. You really don’t always have to agree on everything, but you have to be on the same page regarding the most important topics. Within these topics your opinions and insights can still differ.
Secondly, thanks to this situation I was once more confronted with the fact that it is so important to listen to your gut feeling. Sure, big data, analysis of statistics, technology, it’s all important to companies. I also set targets for my business, I analyse the “hard” facts, but in the end I think that ‘doing things by feeling’ is just as important. That feeling is there for a reason. This regularly goes unnoticed in our society, which is a shame.
Finally this mistake made me realise how important it is to take a short break, when you are stressed. It is scientifically proven that the front part of your brain works less well when you are under pressure. This leads to a higher chance of making the wrong decisions. It can really help to “sleep on it” for a night to see things from an new perspective.”
Was there an alternative which could have prevented you from making this mistake?
“My alternative was, to postpone the opening of the Female Hub. This would have allowed me to take a calm decision and I could have chosen for a different partner. I did however really want to let the opening go on. Looking back, I don’t think I would have done it differently.”
What have you been doing differently after this mistake?
“I am handling my feelings more consciously. At work I increasingly use somatics techniques. In contrast to more traditional methods, where the IQ (intelligence) and EQ (emotions) are seen as separate, this theory assumes that humans do not consist of separate parts, but that body, brain and soul are one.
Somatics techniques help you to rely on your feelings more consciously, which can be very valuable both for your private and professional life. It teaches you to reflect continuously: what do I feel and why do I feel this? It also helps you to not always make choices à la minute. There is no need to do so. Unless it is a matter of life and death, for example if there is a house on fire.
I cannot really say I am happy that I have made this mistake, but I have learned a lot from it. And that’s what is going to help me in my further development!
Do you want to share your best mistake? Share it to firstname.lastname@example.org! Maybe you are the next feature on our blog!
The growth of virtual teams (also known as distributed or remote teams) is remarkable. It is no longer uncommon to work with colleagues who are located on the other side of the world. From quick-growing start-ups and a network of digital nomads to great multinationals, more and more teams are geographically spread over the whole world. And that brings challenges when it comes to building a team.
In February, Doors Open visited Norway, where Suzanne mentored a newly created project team consisting of 10 different nationalities, coming from 6 different organizations and spread over 4 countries, for the start of a new project.
A team like this comes with challenges. Although teams that are geographically located in the same place are also not always easy to manage either, virtual teams differ on 3 aspects:
1 – Complexity
Virtual teams are more complex in creation in comparison to teams that work in the same location. Language barriers, cultural differences, other backgrounds, different working times and irregular access to technology and communication platforms, make working as a virtual team a big(ger) challenge
2 – Invisibility
“Yes, we agreed on this at the coffee corner” or “We brainstormed a new project during the after-work drinks”. Physical proximity makes working together easier in many ways. There are even researches which show that if you are more than 30 metres apart from the other, the collaboration becomes more difficult.
3 – Broken and complicated communication
A great deal of our communication has nothing to do with what we say.
Moreover, when it comes to face-to-face communication, 93% of what we communicate is non-verbal.
Without the face-to-face contact, many virtual teams are completely reliant on verbal communication. We don’t have anything other than words. Even in audio-conferences 50% of what is said, is lost. This leads to a higher risk of misunderstandings and incomprehension. Especially if the different cultures and language barriers are added to this.
How do you make sure , with all these additional challenges, that a team which is spread all over the world still functions well? These are our 10 tips:
1 – Ensure that there is a shared vision
In every team, virtual or not, a shared vision is crucial. Why are we working on this project every single day? What is our goal? Therefore, it is no surprise that the lack of common interest is 1 of 5 of the most important reasons why teams – distribuive or not – fail.
2 – Create trust
In virtual teams, trust is even more important than in physical teams. A very important prerequisite for trust is acquaintance. Make sure that the team members get to know each other and the team. If possible, start off face-to-face and then move towards becoming a virtual team. Make sure that you create a feedback-culture (see point 6 on this list) and that promises are being fulfilled. Often it works well if you first let your team members fulfil small and clear tasks. This will help build trust gradually.
3 – Create a “Way we work” document together
Many virtual teams fail because the “Way we work” is not carried out by everyone. When the virtual team starts, let the team members contribute and create a “Way we work” document, that is based on 3 pillars: trust, shared understanding and communication.
Capture important agreements in this document, such as: When are we available? Do we prefer to communicate by e-mail or via Skype? Which platform do we choose as most important way to communicate? How and what do we communicate during a meeting, and what outside of the meeting? In which language do we communicate? Let the team members express their preferences and take this to build on a way of collaboration that works for and is carried out by everyone.
4 – Don’t underestimate (cultural) differences!
“Non-native” speakers might tend to hold their opinions back during meetings, because they might feel uncomfortable. Are you in charge of facilitating a virtual meeting? If so, try to facilitate participation as much as possible. More importantly, do not go with the “silence shows consent” principle and be aware that different cultures express themselves differently. Ask for confirmation, if something that is (not) said really is meant that way in reality. That way you reduce the risk of misunderstandings like the one below:
5 – Create routine
Keep communicating with all team members frequently. For example, after weekly video calls.
6 – Ask for feedback – and explain what you are doing
Due to the lack of face-to-face communication, the chance of misunderstandings and miscommunication is much bigger. That is why asking for feedback is even more important in a virtual team than in a non-virtual team. Don’t make assumptions but ask for a concrete response. During our session in Norway, the team members had to do an exercise where they had to work together without seeing each other. It is surprising how quickly you work past each other. Feedback and clear communication are essential for virtual teams.
Are you curious how you can create an effective and efficient feedback culture? Contact us, we are happy to tell you everything about it!
7 – Use the right tools for important information
Working virtually creates a great risk that important information gets spread over the (whether or not it’s private) computers of team members. Make sure this information is accessible for every member in a secured and centralized way. This way you can avoid wasting time.
8 – Minimize the use of e-mails
This sounds contrasting, because how are you supposed to communicate with a team if you only have digital contact? The problem is, that many virtual teams tend to send every e-mail to everyone, which leads to an overload of information. Only send the e-mail to those colleagues who are directly concerned with the question. Do you need a quick response? In that case you can choose a chat program where you can directly answer questions.
9 – Shared responsibility is no responsibility
Clearly define and communicate who is responsible for which tasks in the team. As the leader, arrange frequent feedback sessions and remind people of their responsibilities.
10 – Celebrate successes and milestones
Just like in teams where the members are geographically situated in the same location, celebrating successes is equally important to virtual teams. This keeps the motivation up.
Do you have tips that you use with your virtual team? Let us know in the comments below. Would you like to work with Doors Open to build a successful virtual team? Contact us, we are happy to have a cup of coffee with you. Via Skype, or on location.
Monday morning. The delicious aroma of your first cup of coffee greets you. You open your laptop. Then you hear a soft knock on your open door. You look up and there he is. Your best team member. Your superstar. You hired him 5 months ago. “Do you have a minute?” he asks with a serious look on his face. Half an hour later, completely in shock, you take a sip of your now cold coffee. You don’t understand. How did you not see this coming?
Every manager has had to deal with it: employees that quit. It’s part of the job. It’s actually good for a company when people leave. It makes room for new people. Fresh ideas, innovation, and different points of view. But what if your top employees leave one after the other? Or if employees that started 6 months ago already leave? That’s a different story.
Why do employees quit?
There are very few employees who just up and leave from one day to the next. Days, weeks, months, and sometimes even years precede. This means that your company also has days, weeks, months and sometimes even years to prevent this. So why is it that retaining good employees is so difficult?
More than 10 years of experience within small and large organisations has shown that there are a lot of different reasons:
“People don’t leave a bad job. They leave bad leaders.” We hear this frequently. And it’s true. Good leaders are able to make their people grow, to help them bring out the best in themselves. Poor leaders, on the other hand, manage to turn motivated, hardworking employees into pale, uninspired robots that count down the minutes until they can go home and that use their lunch breaks to scroll through vacancies for a better alternative.
Research done by LinkedIn showed that 41% of people named poor management as a reason voor accepting another job.
Management is not about being there for a couple of important moments. You just aren’t going to cut it with a performance interview, an appraisal interview and an end-of-year bonus. Employees aren’t machines. Invest time in them. Get to know them. Know what motivates them. Good leadership can make or break the retention of valuable employees.
There is no challenge
Do you know what keeps your employees inspired? What challenges them? This is definitely not the same for everyone. As surprising as it may sound, not every team member is looking for a promotion. Not everyone dreams of being in a leadership role themselves. And that’s ok. It’s important that every employee gets the chance to develop in his/her own way. Whether that’s through a promotion or a new challenge within the current position. A good Learning & Development programma is essential for this.
There is not a good onboarding programme
Did you know that 20% of employees leave the company within 45 days? And that no less than 1 out of 3 people leaves within the first year?
A high turnover rate is incredibly expensive. Replacing an employee costs 50-150% of an annual salary. Additionally, the constant change of employees causes demotivation among the remaining team members. Because how do you form a good team if there’s constantly new faces?
A programme for new employees (also called an onboarding programme) makes the difference. And no, this isn’t about “you can get your coffee here and here’s the printer.” An onboarding programme ensures that a successful candidate turns into a successful employee within 90 days by showing them the culture of the organisation and by offering them a future perspective. By setting goals, clarifying expectations and creating a personal development plan.
Investing in a good onboarding programme reduces staff turnover by as much as 54%.
What do you think? Shall we have a cup of coffee together to talk about your staff retention? I promise you your coffee won’t get cold!
I spoke to an old classmate last Friday during a New Year’s drink. The same classmate I spoke to last year whilst enjoying a glass of Chardonnay.
A year ago she told me: “I’m going to do things completely different this year! I have decided to finally start my own business.” She couldn’t wait to get started and with a twinkle in her eye, she told me about her ideas of starting her own web shop for children’s clothing. At the time I had just taken a leap of faith and become a fulltime entrepreneur with Doors Open, and I had just opened the doors of Doors Open Female Hub. So I completely understood her enthusiasm.
When I asked her this year how her web shop was going – by the way, with a glass of water due to this year’s resolution of no alcohol in January – she told me that she hadn’t gotten round to it. But this year I’m really planning to get it up and running!”
My old classmate is a telling example. Because even though Instagram is full of successful, laughing goal getters, the reality is that goals more often than not end up in the trash.
Why does this happen? And more importantly, what can you do about it? I notice during my coaching sessions and when setting my own goals for the year that there are 4 questions that are essential to answer if you want to achieve your goals successfully.
#1 What is my “why”?
When setting goals, we often stay on the surface too much. We only look at the outcome, at the action and not at the underlying motivation.
“I want to go to the gym more often this year” is a popular example. The gym is not a goal in itself. The goal is to feel fitter and healthier and we think that we can achieve this by going to the gym.
A turnover of € 10,000 per month is not an objective in itself. The goal is to create financial security and we think we can achieve this by a turnover of € 10,000 per month.
We often make the mistake of seeing the steps we need to take as the ultimate goal rather than looking at the underlying motivation. Why do you want to go to the gym more often? Why do you want that turnover of € 10,000 per month? Why do you want to start your own business?
I fill in this free workbook every year to find out what motivates me and which direction I want to go.
#2 How do I make it concrete?
From your “why” you will have to take concrete steps. Motvation alone is not enough. Amongst other things, I wanted to have freedom and be able to make choices. That was my underlying motivation to become a full-time entrepreneur with Doors Open and Doors Open Female Hub. But how do I make that concrete? I want to feel fitter and healthier, that is my underlying motivation. But how do I make that concrete?
In this article they cite a study in which people who want to feel fitter and healthier (motivation) and therefore go to the gym (action) increase their chances of successfully achieving this goal by one simple trick:
- They write down where and when they start exercising.
Non-commitment is a pitfall, which is why so many goals end up in the trash. By making it really concrete, making a plan of action, you will see that the chances of success increase significantly. When I had the idea of Doors Open Female Hub, I made a concrete plan of action, including a timeline. I go to the gym twice a week at an agreed time. There’s a reason that personal trainers are so popular. You can’t stay in bed if you know that someone is waiting for you on Tuesday morning at 08.00.
#3 What stops me?
In the ten years that I have been working as Learning & Development expert and coach, I regularly meet people who exactly know what their underlying motivation is. They know exactly what they want. They also know in detail how to get there, what steps are needed. And yet they do not succeed in actually taking action.
This often has to do with fears. We are afraid that we do not see the desired result, we’re afraid we can’t actually do it. We see worst-case scenarios in which everything goes completely wrong. And these fears lead to a certain type of behaviour that prevents us from achieving our goals.
Tim Ferriss argues in his TedTalk that you should define your fears instead of your goals.
I also dedicate time to fear in my coaching sessions and in my masterclass “From Dreams to Actions.” By holding up a mirror and analysing which fears stop you and which behaviour you exhibit, you will also learn what you can do to overcome your fears.
#4 I’ve achieved my goal. How do I feel?
Especially in January we tend to look ahead. What do I want to achieve this year? But it’s just as important to look back and reflect. If we do not reach our goal, reflecting helps us in finding out why it did not work. But even if you do achieve your goal, it is important to reflect. I always try to celebrate goals, no matter how small they are. I also take a moment to think: “I have achieved my goal. What am I feeling now?” Suppose you have achieved your target of € 10,000 per month, but the feeling of certainty (the underlying motivation) is not there. Then you know that money isn’t what offers you security.
Reflection is essential to prevent us from pursuing the wrong goals and, in spite of achieving the goals, not feeling the way we wanted to feel. So take the time to reflect regularly, before you proceed to the next action.
I hope that I will speak to my old classmate again next year and that she has managed to launch her web shop. And I am very curious about how she will feel.
What goals have you set and how are they going?
“That’s just the way I am.” Is there anyone in your surroundings that has never said this before? I still need to meet that unique person that hasn’t. Even “that is so typical of Nicole” is said by everyone I know every once in a while.
We often respond in the same way in specific situations. In the case of a setback, one person reacts with anger, the other cries and the third person will withdraw from the situation and will ignore the world around them. The way you react is usually not a conscious choice and also not always how you would hope you would react. Afterwards you think, “if only I had..” But then right after that you also also think, “but that is who I am, and I can’t change anything about it.” Right? No, that is not completely true. In this article I will explain why.
Your reaction is perhaps subconscious and automatic, but it wasn’t always like that. Your response has become automatic over time. In order to understand how this happens, I will use a little bit of neuroscience. Oh and highways and dirt roads.
What do highways and dirt roads have to do with the brain?
The formation of a habit or automatic response in the brain, works by strengthening a connection between neurons. Neurons are brain cells that are all connected with each other, but some connections are stronger than others. You can compare this to highways and dirt roads.
In the beginning villages were connected with each other through small, uneven dirt roads that went through the fields. The road that is taken most often, keeps getting wider and easier to travel on. Slowly this small road changes into a highway. When a highway is created, the dirt roads between the villages are taken less frequently. Because even though the distance might be greater, you’ll get there faster by taking the highway.
The development of automatic behaviour is comparable. The reaction that is shown most often in a certain situation makes this connection between neurons stronger. For example, if you have often experienced that the smell of fresh croissants goes hand in hand with a relaxed and pleasant Sunday morning, a smile will naturally appear on your face when you smell croissants. If you have experienced several times that you can get things done by raising your voice, you will continue to do this more often. After a while you don’t even think about it anymore, you do it automatically.
“This time I will really do it differently”
Great, you now have a bit of a better understanding of how automatic behaviour arises. That the smell of croissants makes you smile is not a problem of course, but other automatic behaviour can stand in the way of yourself and/or others. And that is exactly the type of behaviour that is not easy to change. Have a think about it. How often have you heard yourself say: “this time I will really do it differently.” You start full of good intentions. You keep it up for 1 or 2 weeks, maybe even a few months. But eventually you fall back into your old behaviour. Especially when the pressure is high.
That is when somatic coaching can come into play. Traditional coaching is almost always aimed towards IQ (intelligence) and EQ (emotion), and are seen as separate parts. You can definitely achieve good results with this, but it is by far not always enough.
Somatic coaching looks at it differently. The word somatics comes from the Greek word soma, which means ‘the living organism as a whole’. This theory assumes that as a person you do not consist of separate parts, but rather that your body, brain and soul make up one.
One of the characteristics of somatic coaching is that the body is the starting point for a sustainable change in behavior. Take a musician as an example. A pianist can not play well if he is not relaxed. He can know all notes (IQ) and love playing the piano (EQ), but without the third crucial element (SQ) he will not be able to give a fantastic concert.
Connections in your whole body
Somatic coaching assumes that the neuron connections which cause the automatic behaviour, are not only present in the brain but throughout the whole body. Think back to a situation in which you were under a lot of pressure. An important presentation, an appraisal interview or a business deal that almost went south. How did your body feel? Were your shoulders upright or slouching, did you feel your breath quicken, did you have the tendency to cross your arms?
The goal of somatic coaching is to show different behaviour and enabling yourself to show that behaviour even when you’re under pressure or stressed. In a more traditional way of coaching, you brain often understands how to use new or different behaviour but the rest of your nervous system (this visible in your body) does not. Therefore you only tackle one element and that is not sufficient. Moreover, there is more risk of falling back into old behaviour.
This is where somatic coaching comes in. Of course gaining knowledge and insights by talking – just like with traditional coaching – remains important. But this is supported by exercises where you literally have to stand or move, so that you really feel how different behaviour feels. This way you don’t only understand (IQ) the new skill but you also create a different response in your body (SQ).
The construction of new highways
If you look at the metaphor of highways versus dirt roads and you know that neuron connections are not only present in your brain but also in your body, you can see the importance of practicing new behaviour. You are creating a new highway (connection/automatic behaviour).
The first step in somatic coaching is becoming aware of your current posture, movement and response patterns. Which response patterns do you show? You learn to be more in touch with your body. That might sound a bit airy-fairy, but it really isn’t! There are different exercises with which you experience your body’s different reactions. And what that brings up in terms of feeling and emotions. You become aware of the patterns that you have created.
Fake it till you make it?
The importance of how your body and posture can be used to show others that you are, for example, full of confidence – even if you aren’t – is what Amy Cuddy explains in her popular Ted Talk.
An interesting term in somatic coaching and also in this talk by Amy, in my opinion, is power posing: even if you aren’t confidence, in the moment that you do stand or move your body in a confident manner, you automatically also feel more confident. Try it! This is a concrete example of how changing your body also eventually leads to a change in feeling and behaviour.
Who is somatic coaching for?
Somatic coaching is extremely valuable for both your personal as well as professional development. If you answer YES to one or more of the following questions, then somatic coaching is interesting for you.
- Do you have the feeling that you don’t know which choices to make in your personal or professional life?
- Do you have lots of dreams or ideas, but do you not take action to execute them or make them a reality?
- Do you want more self-confidence?
- Do you want to be more assertive?
- Do you experience (too much) stress and do you want to know how to decrease that?
- Do you want to show better leadership within your company?
- Do you want your team to improve performance or collaborate better?
Want to know more?
Do you want to know more about somatic coaching? Contact us! For more information about coaching by Doors Open, have a look at our page about coaching.
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