The Art of Strengths Coaching

C is for Staying In The Calm Zone rather than The Chaotic Zone

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There are many models for doing fine work. One approach is for people to stay in the calm zone. They can behave in a way that is calm, clear and delivers the desired concrete results.

Sometimes a person can get knocked off track, however, and go into the chaotic zone. They may behave in a way that creates chaos and confusion. This can also lead to collateral damage, both for themselves and other people.

Many peak performers are constantly working under pressure. So how do they manage to stay calm and do superb work?

James Kerr describes one model in his book Legacy, which is about the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team. The players are expected to inspire the nation and win every match. Looking at the team’s history, however, this has sometimes led to the players having negative emotions and failing to deliver the goods.

James describes how the players learned to feel calm rather than frantic. They switched to a state they called Blue Head rather than Red Head. Here is an overview of the two states.

Daniel Coyle, author of The Talent Code, summarised this approach in one of his blogs. Below are excerpts from the piece that you can find via the following link.

http://thetalentcode.com/2014/09/25/a-mental-trick-from-the-worlds-best-team/

Quick background: a few years ago, the team was going through a period of uncharacteristic struggle. Some players were having trouble controlling their emotions in matches.

So, with the help of a former Rhodes Scholar named Ceri Evans, they devised a tool to fix that, built on a simple two-part frame that describes the mental state you want to avoid, and the one you want to be in. They call it Red Head/Blue Head.

Red Head is the negative state, when you are heated, overwhelmed, and tense (H.O.T., in the parlance). Your emotional engine is smoking, your perceptions are slow, the game feels too fast, and your decision making is rushed. 

Blue Head, on the other hand, is the precise opposite: the cool, controlled, pattern-seeing state, when you retain your awareness and your decision-making power, when you stay flexible and deliver top performance. The key is doing three things: 

1) Seek to stay in Blue Head as your default setting.

2) Sense cues when you are entering Red Head mode 

3) Use a physical or mental trigger to get yourself back into Blue Head. 

On the All Blacks, each player is encouraged to devise personal triggers to make the transition. One player stamps his feet into the grass, to ground himself. Another uses mental imagery, picturing himself from the highest seat in the stadium, to help put the moment in perspective.  

Whatever tool you use doesn’t matter – what matters is realizing you’re in the wrong emotional zone, and finding ways to cool yourself off and get back in a high-performing head space.

Looking back on your own life, when have you gone into the calm zone? You may have done this when performing a song, dealing with a medical issue, tackling a challenge or whatever.

What did you do then to be calm and clear? What did you do then to deliver the desired concrete results?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific situation in the past when you stayed in the calm zone and delivered concrete results.

Describe the specific things that happened as a result of taking these steps?

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Imagine that you are planning to do an activity in which you want to do superb work. You may be teaching a seminar, singing in a choir, playing a sport, tackling a challenge or whatever.

Looking at the task, you feel confident that you can do it. You believe your work will be even better, however, if you can also stay calm. Let’s explore the following steps towards performing superb work whilst in the calm zone.

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Calmness

Al Siebert, author of The Survivor Personality, studied people who survived traumatic experiences. Many dealt with unexpected events by staying calm, collecting information and clarifying what they could control.

How do you stay calm? Some people choose to breathe deeply in order to feel more centred. This enables them to slow down and make sense of what is happening.

Good crisis managers, for example, quickly collect information when faced by a challenge. They also focus on what they can control in the situation.

You will have your own way of making this happen. If appropriate, however, you can ask yourself some of the following questions when going through these stages.

Calmness

How can I stay calm in the situation? What is my preferred method for staying calm? When have I stayed calm in similar situations in the past?  What were the principles I followed then? How can I follow similar principles – plus maybe add other elements – to stay calm in the present situation?

Collecting Information

What information do I need to gather to make sense of the situation? How can I collect this information? If people are involved, what are they actually doing? How are they behaving? What are the consequences of people behaving in these ways?

Can I see any patterns in what is happening? What are the successful patterns? What are the unsuccessful patterns? How can I build on the successful patterns and minimise the effects of the unsuccessful ones?

Controlling The Controllables

What are the things I can control in the situation? What are the things I can’t control? How can I build on what I can control and manage what I can’t?

Clarity

Good decision makers buy time to gather information. They then clarify the real results to achieve and translate these into a clear picture of success.

Looking ahead, they consider the potential routes they can follow towards achieving the goals. They explore the potential choices and the consequences of each option. They then commit to their chosen ways forwards.

You will have your own way of making this happen. If appropriate, however, you can ask yourself some of the following questions when going through these stages.

Clarity

What are the real results I want to achieve? What is the picture of success? What are the specific things that will be happening that will show I have achieved the picture of success?

Choices and Consequences

What are the possible options for going forward? What are the consequences – the pluses and minuses – of each option? Are there any other possible creative options? 

Commitment

Looking at the possible options, which route – or combination of routes – do I want to pursue? What are the pluses and minuses of following this route? How can I build on the pluses and manage the consequences of the minuses? 

Concrete Results

Great workers consistently deliver high professional standards and find creative solutions to challenges. They then do whatever is necessary to produce the desired concrete results.

You will have your own way of making this happen. If appropriate, however, you can ask yourself some of the following questions when going through these stages.

Consistency

How can I consistently produce superb work? How can I keep doing the right things in the right way every day? How can I do the basics and, when appropriate, add the brilliance? 

Creativity

How can I continue to deliver consistency and, when appropriate, add the creativity? How can I find creative solutions to challenges? How can I continue to keep improving?

Concrete Results

How can I do my best to deliver the desired concrete results? How can I, when appropriate, add that extra touch of class? How can I learn from the experience and do even better work in the future? 

Different people develop different ways for doing fine work. One approach is to go into the calm zone.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific situation in the future when you may want to stay in the calm zone and achieve concrete results.

Describe the specific things you can do then to stay in the calm zone.

Describe the specific things that may happen as a result of taking these steps.

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