Case Study: The Case of the White Knight

Peter loved to help.

He was always volunteering to help out, taking on projects and working hard to try to achieve a successful outcome.  Unfortunately, his desire to help so many people and work on so many projects meant that he was often overloaded with work and had an actions list (at least he was organised) that ran to several pages.

And people still approached him to take more on.  When he engaged a coach to help him increase his productivity, he was on the edge of being overwhelmed by the work he had agreed to complete.

A profiling interview led to some interesting observations.  Peter was a mix of a Triangle, Square and Circle.  He wanted to make things happen, take charge and lead his team.  He  was also very process orientated but was very keen to engage with people.

A wider analysis of his metaprogrammes led to the a clearer picture of how Peter was actually behaving and a personal history gave clues as to the reasons.  Peter was trying to be a White Knight, helping everyone, feeling driven by duty to add value to everything and needing to conquer chaos and underachievement, not least in himself where, despite his success, he still felt as though he still needed to achieve more.

Peter wanted to be liked.  Although in his own mind and heart he knew what ‘a good job looked like’, he was driven by being seen as meeting the needs of others.  His feeling of achievement was externally driven.  He needed to help and be seen to help.  His strong sense of duty and natural leadership meant he was constantly taking charge of projects and driving them forward but was trying ensure that everyone was happy with the outcome.  He was also so busy that, as a coping mechanism, he developed processes that made much of his activity procedural and very efficient.

This all pointed to a person that was attempting to balance internal conflicts as well a tremendous external workload.  He was struggling to meet his commitments and he was suffering both physically and emotionally.  And he was actually struggling to please anyone, including himself.

Peter’s coach sat him down and gave him some authentic and direct feedback on his behaviour and performance.

A session looking at a ‘Cause and Effect’ diagram of the results of Peter’s behaviour left them both in no doubt that Peter’s personal vision was noble and worthy of pursuit (note the language here is almost chivalrous in nature, aligning to Peter’s self image), but was not achieving the outcome Peter wanted.  Indeed he was failing to impress a number of the people he was supporting and was being seen as part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

Peter and his coach then looked at a his perception of himself.  His coach presented Peter with several truisms, drawn mostly from quotations and the wisdom of others to illustrate, in metaphor, the issues that Peter was generating for himself.

Peter soon came to understand that it is not possible to help all of the people all of the time.  People have different view points and these often differ.  Additionally, although Peter wanted to be liked and thought of in a positive manner,  he needed to realise that people are rarely thinking of much other than themselves.

Peter slowly began to understand that his perception of how other people saw him and the reality was so different.  He came to understand that:

  • 25% of people he met would like him
  • 25% of people he met will dislike him
  • and 50% of people will not give a damn either way.

In fact it is vanity to assume of people thinking of you much at all.  They just don’t!

Peter also worked with his coach to identify what he was best at, what his strengths  were,  rather than fighting to match his extensive abilities to every situation.

With this more strategic view of his life, Peter worked with his coach to build a set of manageable and achievable goals that aligned to his vision.

Firstly,  Peter resolved to play to his strengths.  He would only volunteer for tasks that aligned to his talents and he would manipulate his workload so that he could again play to his strengths.

Peter and his coach worked on some phrases and techniques that would allow him to say no in an ‘elegant and friction free’ manner.  This approach would serve to keep Peter in the good graces of those who had come to rely upon him while allowing him to turn away additional work so that he could focus on delivering quality output on those things he had agreed to do.

Phrases such as:

  • I don’t think I can give it the attention it deserves
  • No, thank you.  I want to concentrate on giving more time to my current projects.
  • I prefer not to overcommit my time an that would be just too much for me to support.
  • I cannot support that project and do it the justice it deserves, perhaps…could help you.

By focusing on what he did best and saying ‘no’ to those tasks that didn’t exploit his talents, Peter soon began to thrive.
He still added value and lived up to his personal duty as he saw it, but he was also perceived to be adding value.

He began to be recognised as person who would advise and help on his 3 key areas.  He became somewhat of a guru in these areas and a thought leader in his domain.

By committing to what he could do well and politely refusing that which didn’t he achieved so much more than he had ever done when every task was added to his to do list.

Play to your strengths and you will thrive.

Dare to Aspire

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