Getting to aha moments with your staff

Tired man

There is nothing more magical than observing a client harnessing his creativity and inner resources to generate that ‘aha’ moment.

Oscar, one of my clients entered the room, appearing to be carrying the world on his shoulders which are hunched, a look of weariness on his face and fatigue in his body.

He had been seconded to a new strategic role on a part time basis and I was working with him to tackle some of the challenges and issues that he faced.  These included:

  • Be part of a new and evolving environment. Whilst he is used to working with complexity he is less comfortable with uncertainty and an ever shifting landscape. His role is not defined, he is unsure of what is expected of him and  if he is doing the right thing
  • As he is only there 2 days a week, he feels that he only knows what is going on superficially
  • He spend a lot of his own time reading and preparing for meetings and is struggling to manage his time and priorities
  • There isn’t enough time or opportunity to build connections and relationships
  • He feels like he has moved from a big fish in a small pond to a little fish in a big pond and sometimes feel out of his depth and lacking in confidence

We explored and worked on identifying and aligning actions and behaviour to core values, using strengths, identifying priorities, being clear on career direction, making use of time management strategies, obtaining feedback from stakeholders and identifying areas for development…

Set outcomes were being achieved, feedback from stakeholders was excellent, feeling of less stress, happier, more authentic and self aware were expressed earlier. So it was a surprise to see him looking so deflated.

His worries were to do with his long standing role. He was starting to notice areas of inefficiencies – of engrained ways which were unproductive, where staff were not holding each other to account, of not working collaboratively, of poor relationships and leadership, of feeling that he was the only one that was noticing this and wanting to be proactive about it. As he talked, he injected little sighs which made his shoulders sag even more.

We started to work through those complexities, untangling them and breaking them down into more manageable areas.

The whole thing was too messy, too much at stake, too many people involved and seem insurmountable to Oscar. For every way forward, there were 2 steps backwards, for every possible solution; there were an obstacle in the way. We were not getting anywhere, just going round in circles.

It was time for a break, some quietness and a change of scenery.

Heading outside for a drink, we took a brief stroll to take in the winter sun and admire the changing colours of the landscape.

Aha caption 4

On our return, I asked Oscar to reflect and feedback on the dialogue so far. As he began to do this, there was a sudden shift in his being. His posture changed, he sat upright, there was energy in the room which wasn’t there before.  His expression shifted to one of clarity, of insight and new perspective. There was a dawning on his face.  It was the realisation that he saw his future in his seconded role and that to do this he needed to tackle the issues in his own organisation.

Aha moments are those blink of an eye moment of clarity when there is significant new insight which moves an issue from something which was seen as insurmountable to finding a way forward.

Techniques that you can use with your staff to help generate insight

 1. Get into the habit of asking powerful questions. Powerful questions are often followed by silence as the answer is not known. The individual has to pause and reflect deeply thus provoking thinking, feeling and reacting differently about the issue in hand. This helps to promote new ideas and visions about possibilities

 2. As Nancy Kline says, we need ‘time to think’. Create and leave plenty of space for self reflection and time for the individual to ponder. Make room for silences and be comfortable with and saviour them

 3. An uncluttered mind helps with creativity and generating new ideas. Consider engaging in dialogue when the individual is most energised and least stressed. Use simple meditation, mindfulness and breathing methods to induce a state of calm, quiet and relaxation

4. Hold conversations in a peaceful and relaxing environment  Just as an uncluttered mind can aid the flow of creativity so can the environment.

5. If you are stuck, take some time out, do something different before revisiting the issue or problem

6. Try looking at the issue from a different angle or an alternative perspective

 And to  foster your own ‘aha’ moments  

  • Take up regular exercise as it helps to quiet the mind
  • Set aside some quiet undisturbed day dreaming time at least once a week and let your mind wander freely
  • Practice mindfulness or meditation
  • Be open and keep your mind curious

Powerful insights emerge in moments of quiet. Indulge in silence.



About verawoodhead

I'm an executive coach, leadership facilitator and learning & development consultant working with managers and leaders to develop the skills and behaviours to inspire performance and drive results; achieve promotion ; make successful career changes, be resilient and thrive at work. Within organisations, I help to facilitate better conversations, design learning interventions which deliver practical and lasting solutions aligned to business strategy and goals. Connect with me on Twitter @verawoodhead
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3 Responses to Getting to aha moments with your staff

  1. Jamie says:

    Great post, Vera! I know my clairty emerges on my walks and have also found it a great coaching tool.

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