I’m rubbish at that – and I’ll prove it!

Looking for evidence?
Looking for evidence?

For regular readers of this blog this headline will come as a bit of a surprise as my writing has a tendency towards the positive.

But I am feeling a bit frustrated today and so I thought I would go for provocative and negative all rolled into one.

Earlier this week I met a new group of students who are about to start the Effective Manager programme at Edinburgh Napier University. I have led this programme now for 5 years and it has been fascinating to be part of something where people are learning so much about themselves on an ongoing basis for several months – myself included.

There are 9 workshops over 9 months each covering an aspect of management. The students are then asked to plan to put something they learned in each workshop into practice and then write a report of what happened when the did. They find it challenging for many reasons but one is that it really needs them to tell us what they did well. The default position is usually to look for what didn’t work but they don’t get off that easily!

Another aspect of this is that we ask that any claim made is backed by evidence ie something that shows that they have improved,developed or practised something. I give the example that if they had to stand up and defend themselves in court on that claim  to give some thought to who would they call to give a testimonial or what paperwork could they produce.

It’s good practice to get into for all sorts of reasons but one that comes up regularly with my clients is when they are writing their CV or putting an application together for a job. They will probably say something about being a team player but don’t give an example of when they were. They might say that they are a good communicator but fail to explain how and what the impact is. They might “prove” that they have worked in the area of expertise for 5 years but not highlight how that informs their talents and skills.

But to be mischievous here – it works the other way too. It is oh so easy for someone to tell me that they are not good at something. Proving it is just as hard!

In my communication skills workshops I spend a bit of time welcoming participants with a bit of a chat, helping them to relax ( as soon as presentation skills are mentioned it is amazing how blood pressure rises for so many people) and finding out what they want to take away from the workshop specifically.

Somebody will always tell me that they are “rubbish” or “hopeless” at speaking up in public. Then as we practice together it becomes clear that there is no evidence of that! In a recent group a young man came to speak to me about Toastmasters International the global public speaking organisation that has clubs where people can go to practise together. ( I am a member…my club is  inclusive, encouraging, friendly  and fun!) as – in his words ” I am really bad at public speaking” . Yet he had already made two short presentations and had fully engaged the audience with his story telling skills and personality so I challenged him to tell me what aspect he was “really bad” at. He struggled with that.

Whether you are making a claim to good or bad performance you should really think about the evidence to back that up. When I have said this before I get comments that it is much easier to prove the bad stuff – but I know that is not the case.

And you do too – if you are honest – don’t you?

So when you are tempted to lay out your shortcomings or frailties take a moment to make sure that you can back them up! And when you discover you can’t – think about why you said it in the first place.

That will be the topic of the next post!

There is a regular newsletter for the Effective Manager programme . I you would like to receive a copy just contact my colleague Nikki Duke on  n.duke@napier.ac.uk and she will add you to the mailing list.