Coaching Attitudes in Real Life

It’s always a tense moment, when the creative meets the clients, they all sit down, and the clients see for the first time what they are paying for. This morning, N and I for once were the clients.

The creative was Tamlyn Hall from Top Left Design who presented an idea we immediately liked. Top Left are in a new office, and credit has to go to Tamlyn for steering away from the psychedelia the paint fumes were inducing in me by the time we left.

This positive first impression didn’t stop us spending nearly two hours going through the home page, tweaking a colour here, a button there. Website copy is not something I’m normally comfortable with: it takes hours to come up with a sentence that captures the attention of the reader. A website is only the top of a huge pyramid of time, money, and stretched nerves.

If a website doesn’t work, it’s a huge waste of resources. If it does work, it’s a brilliant tool, so it’s worth getting right. In my experience, as soon as you start piling on the pressure, the creativity flies out of the window. When we design a website – or anything else – we shouldn’t worry about failure during the process. ‘Rehearsals,’ I was always told, ‘are where you get it wrong.’ This is such a reversal on most thinking. We are always told to get it 100% correct, right first time, failure is not an option. To quote Peter Cook: ‘I have learned from my mistakes and can repeat them exactly.’

Nobody in business, or indeed life, who you admire, is likely to have found their way into your affection by means of a straight, uninterrupted road signposted with achievements.

So as we batted ideas about, I did what I felt comfortable doing: throwing in the occasional idea, some good, some not, and keeping the mood of the meeting playful. The website went from a promising first draft to a marvellous finished product via an embarrassment of bad ideas, some of which I’m proud to have created between my very own two ears. But bad ideas often trigger good ones, and we got there in the end.

I once coached a speaker who was doing everything wrong – and his colleagues let him know it. I took the attitude that a positive instruction will always be more powerful than a negative one. ‘Stop shuffling your feet,’ said one unhelpful colleague (thus focussing the speaker’s attention on his busy legs). ‘Relax and take a firm stance,’ I said, an hour later, to considerably greater effect.

When we think about what we positively want to do, we give ourselves half a chance of achieving it. When we focus on what we don’t want to do, we may avoid the pitfalls we see, but that doesn’t make a good speaker, or website, or [your project here]. If you do everything right, you should be too busy to manage doing much wrong.

Now I have to write some copy for this website. I look forward to coming up with a first draft bereft of any merit whatsoever. You won’t see it.



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