A week in hell… and coaching in the middle of the night

The last days of the year are good moments to reflect on the past year. One of my reflections was that – while the majority of my work consists of consulting and giving workshops on intercultural cooperation – I do a fair amount of coaching sessions each year as well. And I enjoy these very much. At the same time I was reading a book called ‘Helweek’, written by the Norwegian mental coach Erik Bertrand Larssen. I enjoyed the book. Combining the dots, I realized many of the concepts Larssen talks about are exactly the topics that all my coaching sessions are about. Time for me to further investigate the parallels.

Hellweek 1

Every coaching question is unique. Often, people do not know their question very specifically when we meet for the first time. But we’ll find out what they would like to see different in their (work) life, and start implementing that. The barriers people meet are universal: although the initial coaching questions are all different, the underlying themes are the same. Most of my coaching sessions deal with

  • limited self-confidence (where in most cases this is based on a distorted view on one’s own capabilities)
  • difficulty to be tough on others (although it is clear what needs to be done, it does not get done for fear of the potentially negative reactions of others)
  • not knowing your goals (just going through the motions of the day and responding to external triggers like e-mails, forgetting to pursue your own agenda, provided you even have one)
  • difficulty to deal with high pressure (when the pressure is on and people are tested to the limit, all ability to focus and prioritize seems to disappear; we ‘follow’ rather than ‘lead’)

Hellweek 2Many of these themes are central in Larssen’s book, which contains a recipe for personal improvement. Based on elite units of the army who make soldiers go through hellweek (discomfort, extreme fatigue, survival and disorientation to test people for their capabilities to stay focused and alert when they have to perform at their very best), Larssen proposes all of us to experience ‘a week like no others’. The recipe is to get up every morning at 5, going to bed at 22 hrs, not sleeping for one full night, undivided attention for the things you decide to focus on, healthy eating, every day sports of which 2 times pushing yourself to the limits, etc. The result is that you experience that everybody is capable of so much more than they think, and to create a unique experience (your own hellweek) that you will remember and refer to often.

I like the concept. I’ve done a ‘Helweek’ myself, and plan to do another one soon. And although I don’t necessarily support everything Larssen writes, I recommend everyone to try and create this experience for yourself.

Back to coaching: when I realized all themes I deal with in coaching come down to a few themes, I spent the rest of the holiday to try to make sense of this. I created a 90-item questionnaire that probes your ‘mental toughness’ and ‘personal leadership’ capabilities, creating a score on 12 items that together constitute personal leadership. It provides insight in your unique strengths, as well as development opportunities. It deals with all the topics that come up in my coaching sessions.

The questionnaire is not a scientific instrument, nor is it a personality test or a measurement of performance. But it is a tool developed based on years of study on what it takes for managers in companies to be successful in what they do. The application area has later been expanded to success in sports and success in personal life, as the personal drivers that lead to success – independent of the area in which applied – are the same.

I will start using this instrument in all coaching I do, especially as it brings you quickly and accurately to the underlying theme of the coaching. And LEAN coaching is something I strive for: maximum and valuable results in the shortest possible time. Sharp, to-the-point and actionable. My next step is to professionalize the instrument and make it ready for large-scale application. If you’re interested to give the questionnaire a try and receive a free personal report on ‘personal leadership’, let me know.

So what do I offer?

A free coaching-session during “National Helweek” using this new questionnaire and instrument. National Helweek in the Netherlands is in the week of January 19 to 23: thousands of people are going to experience the unique challenge “Helweek” provides. Companies offer activities that support them during this experience. I have volunteered to support this event, and offer free coaching sessions in the night of January 22 (yes, the night, it’s the night during Helweek you will stay up all night!), and the day of January 23.

How does it work?

Read more about Helweek at http://helweek.nl/nationale-helweek-activiteiten/. Then drop me a one-line message here stating “I’m interested! Schedule me a free coaching session!”. I will assign time slots during the night of January 22 and the day of January 23 (random selection of 10 applications I receive), and I’ll let you know if, when and where we meet.

Maybe see you in the night of January 22nd!

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