Posts by Neil Phillips

Why Promises Matter

We often think about our language as representational; words represent things. When we say things like I paid, I ate, we signed, we went, and so on, we are depending on the words we say to convey the actions that we took. However, there is another way that we use language that is probably even more important.

In some cases, we use our words to convey intentions rather than actions. And in fact, when we actually get around to doing, the words themselves don’t really matter very much. Language usage like that is the most important kind to us as coaches.

What I am talking about are “speech acts” which are a way of using of language in which the saying is the doing. When we say certain things, we are convey an intention of future behavior.  For example, when I say, “I promise to meet you at 3:00” those words convey a commitment that only exists until something happens. At 3:00, the meaning of those words change. Whether I met with you doesn’t matter. What becomes important is whether I fulfilled my intention.  Did I keep my promise or not?  When the deadline is reached, the act of promising is more important than the promise itself.  My promise becomes a direct insight into my integrity and trustworthiness.

When we fulfill our pledges, then our credibility rises.  So as coaches, we have a real opportunity to do what we ask our clients to do.  When I tell a client that “I will send you an article,” my speech act is an important reminder that I need to keep my promise if I expect my client to keep his commitments.

How else are speech acts important as a coach?  Feel free to comment and share your thoughts.

Read More

What Defines Importance for You?

your authentic self

If a stranger were to watch you for a week, how would they know what is important in your life?

We all carry around a picture in our head of what’s important.  And if we talk about our values, materials wants and needs, beliefs and “why’s”, we can find a way to share that picture with someone.

My question is a little different.  If someone were to shadow you, what would they say?  How do you act towards what is important in your life?

One way they could probably tell is by the amount of time you spend on certain activities.  The assumption is that if it’s important, you spend more time doing it.  You know that doesn’t tell the whole story.

Your soul and spiritual life is important but as a percentage of time…not so much.

You spend most of your life at work.  Does that make it most important?

Can “quality time” replace “quantity of time” as a way to determine importance?  Does your passion matter?

I obviously don’t have the answers to these questions and yet I think they are worth pondering.  How will you SHOW people what’s important in your life?  When you find your answer, then your true self is obvious to everyone.

Read More

The Art of Coaching

What is happiness questionHow do you explain passion?  How do you know with every core of your being that something is perfect or impossible?  The answer lies in what Michael Polanyi calls “The Tacit Dimension.”  Tacit knowledge is what we know that we would struggle to say.

Think about young Tim, a teenager just coming to grip with the concept of “love.” I can picture this 13-year-old boy coming to his father and saying, “I really love Betty.”  Dad, after calming down, would ask “What makes you think you’re in love?”  Tim has some ideas, but can’t come close to telling the whole story.

Tim’s problem is the one we all have.  We know more than we can say.  This is why we can recognize a face but not describe it.  It’s those hunches that gamblers play.  It’s those brass rings that let us say things we don’t even remember knowing but they fit the conversation perfectly.

Coaches get a lot of business because of this fundamental human characteristic.  Good coaches ask question to let you say what you know.  Great coaches ask questions to support you in digging deeper into what you know but haven’t said.

Michael Polyani, a scientific theorist, refers to this aspect of human knowledge as “the tacit dimension.”  We know more than we can tell.  And the more we tell, the more we know exists behind those statements.

Interestingly, we can’t get at our tacit knowledge by being told.  We only recognize that deeper knowledge when asked about it.

That’s why coaches matter.  They can ask the questions.  They are curious.  They take what you say and ask for what’s behind it.  Coaches have great metaphors to describe this:

  • Peeling back the layers
  • Unpacking this box
  • Digging deeper

The ability to do this well is not an easy skill.  It takes thought and training.  Learning the science of coaching helps, but understanding the right question at the right time is really about the art of coaching.  (And even great coaches can’t tell you everything about how they do it.)  How can you learn:

Engage with a mentor coach.  Your mentor can help you take apart a coaching sequence so you push your understanding deeper.

Practice mindfulness.  Think more about your second question than your first.  Take time to ask a question that pushes into the tacit dimension.

Get training.  Coach training gives you the opportunity to appreciate the art of coaching.  Investigate possible coach training programs and find one that seems to resonate with you.  Your tacit knowledge will help you find the right one if you listen to it.

 

Read More

Free Will

Viktor Frankl, Free Will

A human being is not one thing among others; things determine each other, but man is ultimately self-determining.  What he becomes—within the limits of endowment and environment—he has made out of himself.

~Viktor Frankl

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

~Viktor Frankl

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

~Viktor Frankl

Viktor Frankl was not an American.  He was a survivor of the holocaust.  His book, Man’s Search for Meaning, is considered by the Library of Congress as one of the ten most influential books in America.  He understood independence and freedom.

When we talk about “unalienable rights” we are speaking of our right to choose.

Whether high born or low we have this right.

Regardless of color or sex or creed, we have this right.

We may not be able to choose our circumstances, but we can choose how we will react to them.

Happy Independence Day!

Read More

Learning Coaching from a 3-Year Old

fully present

As a coach, I consciously work to stay “present” when meeting with my clients.  After all, they want my time and attention and I want to make sure that I am fully there and stay there. Like most adults, I think I am a work in progress on this.  I think there is too much going on in my life to fully commit to one person at any given time.

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to see my 3-year old grandson in action.  He is the living definition of “being present.”  Several family members and I attended a wedding in western Illinois.  My grandson was all-in on everything.

  • At a lake? Want to go swimming?
  • My uncle brought his girlfriend. Will you read to me?
  • Flight cancelled? Do we get to stay in a hotel?
  • Chicago? Let’s have deep dish pizza (He didn’t say this, but he whole-heartedly approved).

The point is that he was not concerned with being right or leaving the correct impression.  He wasn’t bothered by delayed flights or lost opportunities.  He was participating full-out.

One of the International Coaching Federation core competencies is “Coaching Presence—Ability to be fully conscious and create spontaneous relationship with the client, employing a style that is open, flexible and confident.”  They go on to describe this with phrases like dancing in the moment, going from your gut, and choosing in the moment.  That is my grandson in action.  This is also a central piece of what coaches strive to accomplish.

I think we do this when we want to have a completely open and honest dialogue with another person.  Carl Rogers describes this by saying “To be with another in this way means that for the time being you lay aside the views and values you hold for yourself in order to enter another’s world without prejudice.”

So the next time you start to get caught in your stuff, think of my grandson, the people you are with, and go dancing in the moment.

Read More

What Will You Say in Your Commencement Address?

iStock_000015553717I spent most of this past week in San Antonio at the Direct Selling Association Convention seeing what different companies were doing for coaching and leadership development (but that’s a post for a different day).  At one luncheon, someone at the table was explaining how he were going to have to leave early so he could get to their high school to be the commencement speaker.  Everyone I could see gave a heart-felt OH.

Who among you cannot (without lying) say you never dreamt of giving a commencement address?  Yeah, it may have been a fleeting thought, but I am willing to bet that you at least had an image of yourself standing on a stage saying wise things to all of those students about to embark on adulthood.

So let’s play Back to the Future!

You have the chance to go back to your high school and give the commencement address at your graduation ceremony.

What would you tell the younger you?

How could you make the younger you listen?

I can’t begin to answer those questions for you.  Next time you have a break, jot down some key points on a notepad.  What do you think your work mates would say to these questions?

Now let’s play Back to the Future, Part 2!

You have a chance to go 20 years into the future and meet your older self.

What would you ask?

What would s/he tell you to do or not do?

The real bottom line is very simple:  Do what you would tell your other self to do.

Read More

Five Pitfalls to Avoid When Coaching for Change

Superhero Business Woman with computer

I used to think that that my resistance to change was a personal problem.  As soon as someone said to me, “You have to . . .” my first inclination was to do exactly the opposite.  I now feel great sympathy for my leader who patiently let me rant and provided all of the details I needed to reach “my decision.”

Change management has not gotten any easier for contemporary sales leaders.  The top people in direct sales are stuck between a company trying to move things forward and a downline with an attitude worse than mine.  I recently offered 30 Questions for Coaching Leaders through Major Change about the curious places I would come from as a coach.  If you are a direct sales leader, the question you are most concerned about is a different one:  How do I help my team move forward?

A leader-as-coach role is one of the best for supporting a team through change.  However, it’s not without its pitfalls.  As a leader, you have a stake in the outcome of coaching your downline.  You are walking a very thin line between protecting the company’s interests, your interests, and your team member’s interests.  Here are some pitfalls you can work to avoid.

Ask more than you tell.  Answers to your questions will tell you lots more than nods to your statements.

Listen more than you talk.  Let them talk.  You’ll find out what is really bothering your team member.  If they are feeling oppositional, then your talk (no matter what you say) will only make them feel more righteous in their anger.  Think back to the last time you were spitting mad.  How would you feel if someone said, “Will you stop and be reasonable?”

Don’t oversell.  Stop and think; would you be having this conversation if your downline loved the change?  The more you try to explain how good things are going to be, the more you sound like you are selling junk cars.

Every change has an upside and a downside. Your job as a leader is to help others find them both. You are in the best position when you can listen, ask questions, and let your team member decide how the changes will affect their business.

Focus on the basics.  Direct selling is always about three things:  selling, recruiting, and teaching others to do the same.  Keep your team focused on their business activities.  The rest is just stuff.

If you are a direct selling leader who has been in this situation, what advice would you give about possible pitfalls?

 

Read More

When Will You Cross Your Rubicon?

cross your rubiconIn 49 B.C., Julius Caesar made an irrevocable choice.  The Roman Senate ordered Caesar to either terminate his military command and return to Rome or to continue in command and give up his political aspirations.  The decision occurred on the banks of the Rubicon River:  the Senate warned Caesar that crossing the river with his army would be seen as a declaration of war.

History records Julius Caesar’s decision to cross the Rubicon and change history.  Once he made his decision and started the march to Rome, there was no going back.  He took away all of his choices.  Once he crossed the Rubicon, taking the army to Rome was his only choice.  And while he only lived five more years, his mark on history is written in indelible ink.

What would happen to your life if you decided to cross your personal Rubicon?  When you make a decision that you can’t take back, your life changes.

  • You have passion where you wavered before.
  • Your path forward become really, really clear.
  • You can articulate your purpose without hesitation or equivocation.

Your unflappable commitment is not to an action.  It’s to your vision.  When I say that I love my wife, it doesn’t mean that we won’t argue.  It means that I am committed to going beyond a squabble every single time.

My business commitment is to growing leaders and unlocking coaching moments.  That’s my course even if I don’t get it right 100% of the time.

You must do four things to cross your Rubicon.

Tell the most important people in your life.  Speak your commitment to your spouse, children, and close friends.  You don’t make irreversible decisions and then not tell people.  Make it impossible to back down.

Move forward.  You no longer can stand still or go in reverse.  You have to move forward.  Every day, what will you do to move forward?

Dig deeper.  We’re not talking about a hobby or something that would be nice in your spare time.  Commitment is a long-term game.  It’s about finding, refining, and fulfilling the deeper meaning in your life.  To find this type of commitment, you are becoming a lifelong learner.  You are going to grow beyond your imagination.

Surrender all doubt.  Doubt becomes a useless thought when you can’t uncommit.  Why waste the energy?

Your life changes when you cross your river.  You’ll have to find a strategy and tactics to continue moving ahead.  You’ll need to build a success team of supporters, mentors, and a coach.

When will you cross your Rubicon?

Read More

4-H’s to Start Coaching

4-hI grew up on an Iowa farm.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  A part of my life for eight years was the local 4-H club.  While I learned a lot of agriculture, I also learned that life has more to it than a day-to-day existence.  Every time the 4-H club met, we said the pledge.  As I reflect back on it, if offers a great beginning point for mindfulness.  The four H’s are head, heart, hands, and health.

Start with your HEAD.

  • What do you know?
  • What don’t you know?
  • What are your key skills?
  • What has brought you to this point?

Focus on Your HEART.

  • What makes you happy?
  • What would make you happier?
  • What’s the disquiet you are feeling right now?
  • What are you excited to talk about?

Move to Your HANDS.

  • What are your tools?
  • What do others ask you to do?
  • What do want to be able to do better?
  • What activities come naturally to you?

Finish on Your HEALTH (your whole commitment).

  • What would you do, even if you weren’t paid?
  • What’s the passion that you can’t contain?
  • What deserves your full attention?
  • What do you want to be know for?

Are you considering hiring a coach?  Think about these four H’s first.

Are you a coach working with a new client?  Start with the four H’s.

Read More

Pay Attention to Your Words

Seen but not heardOccasionally we hear about studies that give unbelievable “facts” and expect us to believe them.  Unfortunately, these are often myths passed down by trainers rather than actual results.  Take for example the “fact” that nonverbal communication overwhelms other channels that we have.

The speaker will tell us that studies show that 93% of communication is nonverbal so we need to pay attention to how something is said.  It’s one of those myths.

In this case, there is such a study, but its conclusions have been stretched beyond reasonable bounds.  Albert Mehrabian studies the relative importance of various channels of communication in the late 1960’s.  His results are often reported as concluding that in all communication:

  • 7% happens in spoken words.
  • 38% happens through voice tone.
  • 55% happens via general body language.

That’s not what his study concluded.  He looked at situations between partners (husband-wife, boyfriend-girlfriend, etc.) in order to study the communication of feelings.  Within that type of situation, his formula is:

Total Liking = 7% Verbal Liking + 38% Vocal Liking + 55% Facial Liking

His conclusions don’t apply to all types of communication.  As Mehrabian states on his website: “Please note that this and other equations regarding relative importance of verbal and nonverbal messages were derived from experiments dealing with communications of feelings and attitudes (i.e., like-dislike). Unless a communicator is talking about their feelings or attitudes, these equations are not applicable.”

His studies do point to some important concepts:

  • Meaning from a situation doesn’t come from something simple.  It’s a combination of a variety of factors.
  • Emails, where tone can’t be heard, are fraught with the possibility of misinterpretation.
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of language in communicating.  Words matter.

If you want to read more for yourself, go to:

Business Balls

Changing Minds

Albert Mehrabian’s website

 

Read More