Breaking down trust barriers


If someone were to ask what was the single most common topic what I hear my clients and former colleagues discuss, I’d say the “How to trust people you don’t like” episode by Adam Grant in his Work-Life podcast, hit the nail on the head. Working with multi-cultural organizations that recruit globally and locally, functional teams are often diverse if not divisive to say the least. Demanding workloads, challenging environments, commitment (sometimes over-commitment) to the cause, and at times unequal pay for different types of staff create a myriad of difficulties around building trust between colleagues.

Adam Grant identifies two factors that are key to building trust: similarity and vulnerability.  He accurately points out that we “often rely on those colleagues we like more… regardless of competence” and that we “trust those who appear similar to one another”. Think about how office dynamics often break down into cliques of like-minded, like-acting individuals as they once did in our youth. In multi-national/cultural organization this often translates into colleagues consulting mostly with those in their immediate surroundings from similar cultural and educational backgrounds.

Luckily with a bit of focus and effort we can move past the potential for group-think or disconnect. Grant refers to performance expert Coyle when discussing how groups build trust. “Stress forces people to be vulnerable together”. During normal day-to-day interactions at work, we are status oriented and we “don’t want to portray a lack of confidence and competence…being vulnerable thus brings trust and closeness.”

This explains how my experience as an election monitor built trust between colleagues who otherwise may have been unable to overcome the boundaries of hierarchy, geographic location, and cultural differences. Similarly, one UN agency’s staff described a flood response operation as the only time when they felt as a ‘real team’. Everyone was in it together, side by side working under the stress of the situation and cooperating to ensure operational success.

So how can we build trust in absence of an organization-wide common mission or emergency response? Grant cautions not to ‘create’ stressful situation as it would only be ‘fake vulnerability’. However, through a bit of creativity you can find how to break down the trust barriers in a multi-national organization. What’s the shared experience that will allow individuals of all levels on your team to be vulnerable to each other? Which experience will allow your team to feel the pressure to deliver, while observing each other’s strengths in the process. How can you find common ground that goes beyond culture? Work with us around building your team building event! For more information, look here.

Adam Grant’s Work-Life episode “How to trust people you don’t like”. from March 28 2018.

An olympic heart of gold

A moment of reflection during the Rio Olympic buzz…

As an American former competitive athlete and a professional career coach, I think we can all learn a lot from watching the Olympics. I watch the athletes who dominate their events and achieve unimaginable performances to reach the gold… and focus on something else.

It is what my former university track coach, Bill Hodge, once referred to one day while I was frustrated with my inability to perform better than my much more talented team mates. “I’d rather have a team full of athletes who have heart like yours, than a team with only natural born talent”. Conditioned by an environment that valued results, medals and records, this was anything but a compliment to me as an 18-year old hoping to beat others in the 400-metre hurdles. 17 years later and watching the athletes in Rio, I realise that Coach Hodge had spoken words that would come to define my future successes in life.

From someone who once was excited how many medals the US would take home in my favourite races on the track, I now celebrate the journeys of the athletes that have drawn on their inner-strength to overcome and persevere; who have found a way to stay focused and determine in a chaotic environment; and who value the Olympics as experience that will help shape their future. I know now, as a professional career coach, that this is the journey that will help the Olympians draw on their inner-strength or “heart” to find success in life.

Because few of us will be awarded the gold for the records that we’ve broken and the competitors whom we’ve beaten, but like many of the athletes competing in Rio, its about finding our “heart” to competing in our marathon called life.

10 ways that coaching will help you get ahead in life


woman in gray crew neck shirt running on brown soil during daytime

When you invest in your personal or professional development the same way you invest in formal education you gain an experience arguably worth even more than any degree or certificate: you’ll learn what it takes to become happier and more successful in life.

A coach can supports your personal and professional development by helping you to learn the methods that are best suited to your life. If you are committed to your development by devoting time and energy to your progress and are open to trying new approaches, the benefits will far exceed the costs that you put in. With coaching, you’ll learn how to create your best self and overcome life’s obstacles. Coaching will help you with the following:

  1. Widen your career options – Do you need to define your next career move or develop a longer-term career path? Coaching will help you identify your job preferences and strengths to target your dream job. Through coaching you will fine-tune your communication and interpersonal skills by examining past actions to learn what worked and what can be improved in terms of applications, interviews and other job-related experiences.

  2. Get a better education – Are you overwhelmed with the choice of universities and programs that you must chose from for your education? Coaching will help you to determine which education is right for you for the career that you want. You will master the art of application writing and how to make a great first impression in motivation letter, while being mindful of the qualification criteria needed for scholarships and other funding.

  3. Take a decision that you wont regret- Has a decision left you at a cross-roads in life? Coaching will help you weigh your options in line with your priorities and values to make decision-making less painful and regret-free.

  4. Go through a change more smoothly – Are you facing an upcoming change in work or life that leaves you blocked with fear? Are you so overwhelmed that you don’t know how to begin to address the issue? Everyone deals with change differently. Coaching works to support sustainable change that takes into consideration your unique needs and fears and help you widen your safety net to accept the change and move forward.

  5. Increase your confidence in life and work – Do you have any doubts about your skills? Do you wonder how others are able to go for what they want without any hesitation? Through coaching your self-confidence will be strengthened by helping you to look at your past achievements, strengths and realize you inner-beauty.

  6. Make you more happy – Are you where you want to be in life, yet somehow not fully satisfied? Are you feeling that something is missing in your life? Coaching will working with you to identify the factors that satisfy you and recognize when you have taken steps towards them. Discover what motivates you and you’ll find the ways to your happiness.

  7. Build healthy relationships – Do you really know what you want and need in a relationship? How does your communication style impact your close relationships? Coaching will help you gain self-awareness about your inter-personal relationships and support you in making them more healthy and happy.

  8. Improve your health and wellbeing – Do you know you should make a change in your lifestyle to improve your health or energy, but struggle to stay motivated? Coaching will support you in finding the approach that best suits you to exercising, losing weight, eating healthy, removing habits that you are trying to stop. Coaching will help you discover what motivates you in order so that you can stick to your health and wellbeing goals.

  9. Increase your positivity and optimism – Have you lost that lust for life? Forgotten your rose-colored glasses somewhere? Coaching helps you to draw out your strengths, enhance your confidence and have a positive mental attitude. You can train yourself to have a more positive outlook on life and become more of an optimist!

  10. Learn to make your dream a reality! -Whatever your dream may be, coaching will help you to begin with the end in mind and identify manageable steps that you can take to achieving your dream. Coaching will help you overcome your obstacles and fears by drawing on your strengths and resources in your life and keep you on track to reaching your dream by learning how to stay motivated.

We each have inner strengths and talents. Life situations sometimes fog our perspectives, confidence and stop us from achieving our full potential. Coaching will help to clear those clouds to recognize the strength we all have within and to properly use it to find a way to deal with the challenges that life presents us. At PerforMetrics Coaching, we believe that each person has what it takes to achieve their goals. We are committed to each and every person’s development based on their specific needs.

Coaching is a process through dialogue and questioning that can help you by giving clarity and direction to your goals. It will help you to identify steps you need to take, while helping you to take the fear out of change and overcome obstacles to achieve your full potential. Coaching, unlike advising, believes that you are the expert in your situation, but gives you support to being your best self.

Coaches don’t tell clients what to do, blame or judge. They use skills in listening, observing, questioning and giving feedback to create a conversation rich with insight and learning. Clients are supported to resolve issues and overcome barriers to their progression.

A coaching relationship is based on trust and the belief that each client has within them the desire for change and the capacity to achieve this. The coach commits to maintaining the client’s privacy and the client, in return, agrees to think deeply, to share all information that is relevant to the conversation and to take the actions to which they commit.

There is always a choice


When I first came to Kosovo in January 2007, I was impressed with what I had learned about the society in Kosovo: the push in the 1970s for recognition as a Republic, which led to status as an autonomous province with representation in the rotating presidency; the student protests in 1981 in which the poor conditions for students were challenged. I admired the strength and courage of the people at the time who made a choice to challenge status quo for better conditions.

But as I continued to work in Kosovo I was surprised by something else, a type of apathy amongst people over an array of issues. “Oh, ku ku bre, whats the point, what to do?” These phrases surprised me considering the strength of the people. There was mention of corruption and nepotism. Things were ‘fixed’. I wondered what had happened to the fight within the people? How could such cynicism be present in a populous that had fought for the right to self-determination? How could the youth have inherited this outlook when they had their whole lives ahead of themselves?

While reading Greg McKeown’s Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, I came across the concept of learned helplessness. Psychologists Martin Seligman and Steve Maier coined this term while conducting experiments on German shepherds. In psychology animals such as dogs are commonly used as models for the human mind and behavior because “the study of animal behavior is a cornerstone of experimental psychology, shedding light on complex human emotions.”

In the experiment, the dogs were divided into groups, some subject to shocks with levers to make the shock stop, some of which worked, some not exposed at all. The psychologists discovered that dogs subjected to the shock with functioning levers or those not subject to any shock quickly learned to physically adjust to a place where the shock would not be felt. The dogs whose levers didn’t function didn’t adapt or adjust and did nothing to try to avoid getting shocked, because they didn’t know they had any choice other than to take the shocks, leading to their discovery of the theory of learned helplessness.

Although humans are more complex beings than dogs, learned helplessness is evident in all societies. In the United States, voter turnout is typically amongst the lowest in the democratic world. Registered voters are often heard stating, “My vote won’t make a difference anyway, so why should I bother” inciting political parties to increase voter-turn out in hopes of an electoral win. In Kosovo, I have seen this apathy at public meetings with low participation or heard the typical complaint “why should we attend when the decisions have been made already? I have seen this passivity amongst skilled professionals that refrain from applying to jobs citing, “Why should I bother, its probably fixed anyways”. While their reasons behind their decision to not participate are sometimes true at times, they show evidence of the learned helplessness discovered by Seligman and Maier.

While at times we do not have the energy or will to challenge what some may perceive as inevitable, my concern with this behavior is that over a longer period of time what becomes a decision to relent turns into a habit or worse, influences one’s character. McKeown argues in his concept of essentialism that the ability to chose can be quickly forgotten, resulting in learned helplessness. “When we surrender our right to choose, we give others not just the power but also the explicit permission to choose for us.” He believes that one may not have control over their options, but one always has control over how to chose among them.

So next time you find yourself in that situation where you feel like your efforts are futile think carefully about how that will impact your behavior in the future. Are you slowly forgetting your free will, that core ability to choose? Maybe there is something that you could learn from this experience? Maybe there are others that could support you in making a positive impact during this situation. What do you risk losing by not engaging? Remember, you may be giving others the power to choose for you.