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Look Back

“Where are my pants?” It’s a cry, usually directed to a ‘grown up’ in the house, when someone can’t find their favourite underwear that they know went in the wash basket, but can’t now find them clean from the magic cleaning fairy. It normally takes only a few seconds to find them right in front of the eyes of the one who had called out for help. “How did you find them? They weren’t there when I looked.”

My wife affectionately calls it a ‘blokes look’ when my son and I can’t find something that she finds immediately. We know what she means and she is right – that quick glance and not looking properly.

Taking a proper look at things is a key part of my coaching role in supporting leaders. All too often we rush from item to item and we can fail to take a full look at things to gain a full perspective. This month we will look at four ‘looks’ that can help us to review and plan effectively as we lead others when we face something new or tricky that we need to action.

  • Look back

  • Look ahead

  • Look right

  • Look up

Look back - experience

Imagine that you are stranded on a desert island, similar to the brilliant film Castaway starring Tom Hanks. After the realisation that you are there for a while and your survival is down to you, you look around for things to help you survive and form a plan. Tom Hanks did this well, repurposing things he found that had washed up and repurposed them to help his survival. What you decide to do on the island will be based on all of your experience. If it were me, I would draw upon den building as a child, making fires at cubs, camping trips, physics lessons and design technology lessons on triangulation for strength. I would draw upon my experience and expertise of the past. It would be better if I was also marooned with others of course to share the load and the expertise. It would be good to have Billy and Enzo join me. These are the boyfriends of one of my nieces and one of my daughters. Both of them keen fishermen and they could draw on their experience of fishing to help us find food.

Here in lies the power of our first ‘look’ at any challenge that we face as a leader (not just being stranded on a desert island). When we look back, we can see the experience we have that we can use to help us. What have I experienced or developed that I can use here? What have I learnt about working with people and about problem solving that can be applied here?

Look back – learn from the past

I was working with a group of school leaders at the start of this week and we were exploring how we grow self-confidence and lead ourselves. As part of this we explored Bandura’s theory that the four elements that help are

  • Performance – master by experience

  • Experiences – watching others

  • Verbal persuasion – encouraged by others

  • Physiological – manage our body & feelings.

Therefore, the first one of ‘performance and mastering by experience’ means looking back at when we have had a similar experience and reflecting on what we did then that was helpful and applying it in this new context. This can be a great calmer of nerves too. Our emotional centre of the brain will be worrying about the situation, as uncertainty can feel like a threat to safety. When we review what we have done like this before, the new issue seems more familiar and less scary.

Look back – collectively

In my imaginary desert island scenario above, I was keen to have Billy & Enzo join me. Their expertise of fishing would be very handy. I feel I could build something to provide shelter but it would be hunting and fishing I would be weaker. Looking at what we could collectively bring would be important for us to survive and thrive. It stands the same for us in the areas that we lead in. Looking back at what each of us has experience of and what each of us has skills in can make a big difference. We can’t be masters of everything.

Look back – Don’t look back in anger

‘Don’t look back in anger’ is the famous song and line from Oasis which highlights not living with regret. It is all too easy in our modern world of social media to see failure as a binary pass-fail moment and therefore to regret a ‘‘failure’’. However, if we generate a journey mindset and see each experience we have as something to learn from, then we look back it is not with anger or regret but with learning in mind. It becomes something of use to help in this and future moments.

It is all too easy to look ahead and rush into things. If we fail to look back, we miss valuable lessons and insight form the past. We fail to recognise the skills and strengths we have in place to help us. And, just like failing to look properly for the pants, we move forward somewhat underprepared and vulnerable!

Can we help you?

We hope this blog has been helpful and if you would like some more targeted support to explore how you to look more fully at a situation to gain better insight then Everyday Leader is here to help you. Our clients find their coaching empowering, as we help them gain a full perspective and find a way forward. If you have a challenge and you would like our support, then do get in contact with us. Give us a call on 01449 710438 or email if you would like us to help you explore this and empower you.


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