Jeremiah, the senior vice president of engineering at a mid-stage, mid-size software-as-a-service startup, was talking with Rose, his coach.
“Over our last few sessions, we identified my replenishing resources,” Jeremiah recapped. He counted them off on his fingers. “Physical challenge; play with people important to me; new perspectives; and someone being present in the moment as they focus on touching me with care and empathy. And, today, we’ll identify the signals that tell me those resources are getting low, plus the mitigations I can use when I can’t immediately replenish them.”
“Have you identified your signals and mitigations for those resources?” Rose inquired.
“I tried,” Jeremiah replied. “But I didn’t get very far. As in nowhere. I made up a list of potential signals and another of potential mitigations. When I checked the validity of those items, however, I discovered they didn’t hold. So, I hope you have some other ideas,” he finished with a frustrated grimace.
“I certainly do,” Rose said.
1) What tells you a resource is low?
“First, recall a situation where you hadn’t had nearly enough physical challenge for a while. For days. Do you have one?”
Jeremiah thought for a moment, then said, “Okay, yes. A leadership offsite had been going for four days straight. Practically round the clock. That whole week I didn’t do much of anything except sit in a chair all day long. I was going crazy by the end.”
“That sounds horrible,” Rose sympathized. “And, it’s perfect. What specifically do you mean by ‘going crazy?’”
“I was so antsy. I couldn’t sit still. As soon as we finished, I grabbed my things and practically ran to my climbing gym. I didn’t stop climbing until my hands started cramping.”
“Antsiness is one of your signals that your easeful environment is off,” Rose remembered. “Was this antsiness pointing out that?”
“No,” Jeremiah replied instantaneously. “That antsiness feels different than this did. If the two feelings were words, the environment-is-off one would be saying, ‘I want to hide,’ while this one would have been saying, ‘My muscles need challenging now.’”
“Okay,” Rose said. “This sounds like a clear signal, then. Do you want to use a different word for it than ‘antsy’ to distinguish the two?”
2) What is at the root of the signal?
“Now that you mention it,” Jeremiah started, “this was more irritation than antsy. The antsiness was a result of not recognizing and acknowledging the irritation.”
“That’s a great insight,” Rose declared. “Were there any other feelings underneath the irritation?”
Jeremiah considered Rose’s question. “No.”
“Any other feelings alongside the irritation? Or other signals?”
“Was physical challenge the only resource in need of replenishment?”
“Let me remember back. Some of the exercises we did throughout offsite were fun and lighthearted. Those kept my play resource fairly full. Quality touch I kept topped off by a massage each morning. So, yes, physical challenge was the only resource needing replenishment.”
“So, irritation is your signal that your physical challenge resource needs replenishing?”
“Yes?” Jeremiah said uncertainly. “Let me check in with my Council of Counsel.”
He settled into his seat and turned his focus inward. Then, a bit later, he returned his focus to Rose.
“Nothing else,” he reported.
“Terrific,” Rose declared. “Now, we have a choice. We can continue this course and identify your signals for your other replenishing resources. Or, we can switch over to finding your mitigations for physical challenge. Which would you prefer?”
“Let’s work on mitigations,” Jeremiah decided.
3) When have you felt drained and thrived anyway?
“Mitigations it is,” Rose confirmed. “In this situation, you replenished your physical challenge resource by engaging in physical challenge. Remember back to a time when you were low on physical challenge, you couldn’t replenish it, and you managed to thrive anyway. How did you do that?”
“I’m not sure I’ve ever pulled that off,” Jeremiah said ruefully. “Maybe my Council remembers me doing that.”
He sat back in his chair, took a deep breath, and turned inward. A bit later, Rose heard him murmur, “Oh, right. Thanks” Then he returned his focus to her.
“Got an example?” she queried.
“Indeed,” Jeremiah confirmed. “My body reminded me how I handle long flights. My mitigation there is to walk around. While that’s not a physical challenge, it is at least movement. That would have made a big difference at the offsite.”
“Would you have felt comfortable getting up and moving around in that situation?” Rose inquired.
“Yes,” Jeremiah asserted. “I’d be fine getting up to refill my water glass, drop a piece of lint in the trash, and so on.”
“Great,” Rose said. “How do you imagine that would have worked for your colleagues?”
“I think it would have been fine?” Jeremiah said hesitantly. “I could have asked them.”
“How do you feel about this? Is this one mitigation all that you need?” Rose asked.
“It is,” Jeremiah responded. “I don’t sense anything missing.”
“Wonderful,” Rose said.
You can thrive even when you can’t replenish
“So, we’ve found that irritation is your signal that your physical challenge resource needs replenishing. We’ve also found that, when you can’t replenish that resource, you can mitigate the situation by getting up and walking around,” Rose summarized. “What was most useful today?”
“Your suggestion to find times when I thrived despite a less-than-ideal situation. That reminds me I can always improve my situation.”
“We can always make things a little better,” Rose agreed.
“I know we’re just about out of time today,” Jeremiah said. “I believe I can find my signals and mitigations for my other replenishing resources now. Okay if I try that on my own this week?”
“Of course,” Rose said.
“Fantastic,” Jeremiah said. “If I can get those nailed down this week, we can finally get to that mysterious third factor next time.”
“Indeed we can,” Rose agreed with a chuckle.
This is part four of a series: