You and an Optimistic Start to the New Year

January 5, 2023

By Allison Iantosca, ACC

Coaching can be a bit like a fresh start. It seems no better time of year then, to explore the opportunity. Which got me to thinking, I wonder what it is like to be the month of January.

December seems a particularly hard act to follow with its days packed to the gills, a bit of year-end Mardi Gras. An excusable nod to excess, for having held it together for the eleven months prior. Spilling over with food and decoration and consumption. Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve, no matter what you actually celebrate, the gearing up is inescapable. And then the year is over and the reset begins.

In my imaginings, January is regal. Proud. Uncompromising. Austere. It’s thirty-one days giving you enough time to sort yourself out and get it together: February will go by quick and if you aren’t ready, you won’t have the fortitude to deal with March– especially if you live anywhere North.

New Year’s Resolutions. Fresh Start. Clean Slate.

But here’s the thing:  Who you are on December 31st is as much who you are on January 1st. The same thoughts on the same loop. The same patterns and habits quietly reinforcing their defense, protecting any vulnerability or fear.

December may have given you the opportunity to loosen your expectations, but January demands their reinstatement with enhanced execution and urgency. A bit of a predicament right out of the gate: how to manage what “is” while executing the new plan for all that you want to become.

Be patient. And assume you are doing the best you can with what you have.

In our coaching, this is what we call an “Optimistic Stance.” And it is something we hold for you throughout the entirety of our engagement. On your behalf.  Until you can, maybe even, hold it for yourself. A belief system that acknowledges behavioral tendencies as in-service to something that you think you need. A way to re-characterize what you do as potentially positive.

Here’s what I mean: I have a client who repeatedly slowed every decision-making process down with a series of rapid-fire questions to his team.  He told me that he shouldn’t do this. He thought it made him look like less of a leader, less secure, more micromanaging. Perhaps.

But, regardless of his continued internal admonishment he wouldn’t stop his interrogation-like style of management… even though he really wanted to.

Ok.  So, would he consider that this style is helping him in some way? I asked him to turn his attention to his questioning-self to see what he might discover. Is it supporting some part of him?  What would it be like if it went away?  What would he miss?  What if he accepts the questioning as a good and helpful part of himself?

Turns out he likes data. It makes him feel safe. It is how he manages responsibility. He is, in fact, actually, quite willing to take on more responsibility than most and his questions mitigate the risk of his authority. This new possibility felt good. He began to release himself from personal punishment about his style for the first time in a long time.  

With this new perspective, with his renewed appreciation for his way of being, we played around with percentages and gaps. How much does he really need to know?  50% still in question is a no-go.  80% and he might be able to stop the inquiry.  95% and he now knows he’s just seeking elusive perfection.

This awareness also gave him a way to speak to his team: educate them on his management style.  Remind them that he in fact values them because of their ability to answer his questions, inviting them to push back when they think he’s unnecessarily asking too much.  He offered them a new respect for their value, co-creating a win-win.

This January, I invite you to use these thirty-one days to wonder what it is that your “old behavior” is doing for you. And before you start off yet another year on the down note of all you should better in yourself, maybe ask about the good and the value of what you are doing. And if you need a coach to help you out, that’s what we’re here for.

Happy New Year.

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Allison Iantosca is a Gestalt International Study Center (GISC) trained coach certified by ICF with extensive leadership and management experience. She is an Executive Coach and is the Owner and President of Boston based FH Perry Builder.

*Photo Credit: Glen Carrie, Unsplash

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