Old fashioned values in a modern world

Mark Ellis has always worn a shirt and tie for work

During my coaching career, I have always worn a shirt and tie to work. Every day. Every session. With no exceptions.

Over time, this attire has become part of my ‘coaching identity’. Some of the leaders I have supported have even thanked me for ‘making the effort’. For going against the grain and wearing more formal clothing during our sessions.

We have all seen a seismic shift towards hybrid and remote working in recent years. Accelerated by the worldwide pandemic. We all remember those memes on social media, with people working from home in their pyjamas.

There is nothing wrong with this!

Everybody has their own sense of style and personal values.

Do you need to wear a shirt and tie, like me, to perform as a great coach or leader in business?

Of course not.

We all come from a diverse range of backgrounds, and each of us is individual in our style and the way we approach work.

For example, Steven Bartlett, the Diary of a CEO podcast host, refused to wear a suit when he joined BBC’s Dragons Den. At the time, Steven commented that he wanted to ‘stay true’ to his own identity. Based on what had worked for him in the businesses he had built. The clothes that made him feel comfortable. The style that helped him to become the best version of himself.

The shirt and tie work for me. It is something I have come to identify with. I sometimes wonder whether I’m ‘old fashioned’, or even ‘old school’. I pose the question not for a definitive answer, but to help us all consider and explore who we are as individuals.

Old fashioned values are important to me

For me, old fashioned values still have a place in the modern world.

I value good manners, punctuality, and always being conscientious. I’m a huge believer in listening to all the leaders I work with. Understanding their problems and supporting them in our sessions together.

Support underpins everything I do in my sessions. This got me thinking. What is it that we look for when we seek support or care from others?

I have always based the support I provide on what I would like to receive from my own line manager or tutor. As the famous saying goes: ‘treat others how you want to be treated’.

My career has influenced how I deliver support to aspiring leaders of the future. This includes positive and negative episodes from throughout my professional life. The lessons learned from those negative experiences ensure that my sessions are always based on a foundation of respect, trust, and dignity.

For me, feedback has always been critical too. I have always valued the time leaders have taken to share this with me. Positive and negative. Feedback has allowed me to process my journey to date. To fine tune areas I can improve on where necessary.

Again, it could be my ‘old fashioned’ values approach, but the little details are so important. I always prioritise people first. The leaders I work with are always at the forefront of my mind. Those calls, text messages and emails can always wait until later.

In my sessions, individuals have my undivided attention.

What is professionalism?

Professionalism is such a fascinating topic. What do people view as professional characteristics or behaviours?

I refer to it as a level of excellence that I strive for. Always aiming high. Ensuring each person, I coach, recognises that I care about them. That they will have an honest and supportive time with me.

Excellence is also about promoting a safe environment. Free of judgement. Enabling leaders to move in the direction that they want to take. A good coaching relationship is never one-way traffic. Success is not a one-way street either. It’s a partnership built on trust, openness, and mutual respect.

I often have leaders who I talk to online who may not be giving me their full attention. I notice they become distracted as another task or message comes in. Those recognisable chimes going off from Microsoft Teams or Zoom.

Behaviour leads behaviour. I always try to set the right tone. To lead by example, based on my ‘old fashioned’ values. Arriving on time, while paying attention to my appearance. Wearing my trademark shirt and tie. Putting any gadgets on silent mode and removing them from my desk.

On those rare occasions a leader isn’t giving me their full attention, I often pose them a question. A question that gets them to consider what matters to them. What significance my coaching sessions play in their career development. That has always helped the leaders I have supported to refocus. To give me their undivided attention.

Time is so precious

I’m a parent. Having children has helped me to recognise more than ever that time is precious. That focus is important. The seasons change so fast. Years seem to go by in no time at all. It is so important to be in the moment. To be present in mind, body, and soul.

But we don’t all need to be parents to understand this lesson. Your career will start and finish before you know it. Being present when somebody is trying to support you is something we can all strive for.

I am not speaking on my high horse of judgement. These are my shared experiences in an ever-changing world.

People may perceive me as being old fashioned. You know what? I’m comfortable with that. I have my own ways of approaching life, as does everybody else. As long as I stay true to my own values and beliefs then that is what matters most to me.

Am I perfect? Of course not. We are all human. But I have recognised that old fashioned values work well for me.

What approach works well for you?

By Mark Ellis, Leadership and Coaching Success Manager, Accipio

Mark Ellis

Mark Ellis specialises in coaching and leadership. He has Masters degrees in both areas, plus, a Level 8 CMI certification in Strategic Leadership. Mark has worked in the education, business, charity, and training sectors for over 25 years.

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