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Clueless

iStock_000000515657We are always off the mark when it comes to describing our strengths and weaknesses.  Our built-in-bias makes us overemphasize our good points and minimize our bad ones.  For example, 90% of us think we will go to heaven when we die.  Yet at the same time, we think that only about a third of our neighbors will make that journey.  Our halo also keeps us from seeing ourselves as others see us.

That halo also prevents us from being as effective as we could.  In our mind, we see ourselves creating the positive results and blaming others for the negative ones.

True self-understanding can’t happen in a vacuum.  Without outside touch points, nothing keeps our bias in check.  Our blind spots stay blind.

Whom do you have to keep you honest?  To keep you accountable?  Here are three quick guidelines to get started with one.

First, don’t pick the person because they make you feel good.  Pick your partner because they will help you see yourself as others see you.

Second, pick the person who will ask questions and let you talk.  When you ask, “What do you think?” you want them to say back, “you first.”

Third, pick someone who is available.  You want to talk with this person every week or two.  You want to discuss

  • what’s gone right
  • what’s gone wrong
  • your role in it all
  • what you want to do about it moving forward.

Stepping away from your halo is not difficult, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.  We have to learn honesty about ourselves.

What will you do this week to find some clues?

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Creating Your Summer Game Plan

Coaching summer plansIs it too early to be thinking about summer plans on tax day?  I had a coaching call this week with an entrepreneur and that’s what she wanted to discuss. For her, June was a major month for convention, travel, vacation, and kid-out-of-school-time and she wanted to be prepared.   I had my AHA before the call was done:  If you are an entrepreneur, it’s not too soon!  While we usually think about an intensive work time before and after a summer break, the entrepreneur has more to do than just the immediate tasks.

Whether you are in direct sales or some other business, as an entrepreneur your planning needs to go beyond a two-or three week period.  Think about direct selling, for example.  The people who join your team now will really be hitting their sales stride around late June.  The work you do in the summer will set the stage for your fall selling season.  Since you are in business for yourself, you need to constantly engage in high level planning.

During our coaching call, six core questions absorbed most of our time.  I wanted to share them with you as you start thinking about your summer.

  1. How up to date is your calendar? She was like most of us.  Her schedule was very complete for April, mainly complete for May and June, and then sketchy after that.  While June was her key month, she came to the realization she needed to be thinking about work for post-June.
  2. What business goals do you want to accomplish this summer? She had a clear vision.  Many of her summer goals center on building business relationships through follow-up from the conventions.
  3. What are the most important things you need to do now to prepare for June? This turned out to be a very important question. As she talked through the answer, her accomplishments in the next two weeks will make a lot of difference.
  4. What do your stakeholders need to know? While she thought a lot about his business, she hadn’t gotten to thinking about what her clients expectations are going from now to the end of June.  This will be the topic of several conversations between her and her clients before the summer.
  5. What do your contractors need to know? Like the previous question, she hadn’t talked with her support team and needed to bring them into the loop on her plans and work requirements for the next few months.
  6. What do you need to do to fill your fall pipeline? She realized that with a time lag of 90-120 days from starting the sales process to her first payment, her October-November business depends on starting in July. This is a new awareness and shifts her July business focus a bit.

How about you?  Are you thinking at a high level about your summer and fall business?  If you were, how will things change?

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Monday Morning Focus

Monday morning mindsetHow does Monday morning start differently from every other morning for you?

Are you already up to a full run? Contemplating the week? Moaning about all you have to get done before you get to the satisfying work?

Your answers say a lot about you and what’s really going to happen.  You have created your week.

Is it what you want?  The great news is that you get a do-over every Monday.  In fact, you get a new start whenever you want.

When Monday is in your head, you get to own every piece of it.  Everyday.

Friends, lovers, accountability partners and coaches are all people who can support you in remembering this.  Who will you turn to?

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Your Business Culture

business cultureWe often don’t focus ON the business because we are so busy working IN the business.  Don’t feel bad if this has happened to you.  It happens to all of entrepreneurs at one time or another.  You get those extra orders, a vendor creates problems, marketing isn’t working and on and on and on.  Eventually you are so busy putting out fires you aren’t thinking about anything other than fighting fires.

That’s precisely when you should call a TIME OUT to decide if this is the business you want to build.  What’s your business culture saying about your business?  Culture is the soul of your community.  Your culture is what lets you say, “we’re similar” to the people around you and “we’re different” from other cultures.  Culture is how you and your business are known.  Here are three important steps in focusing on your culture so that you are happy with your reputation.

First, notice what’s happening around you.  This is a good time to work with a coach.  A coach will support you in noticing how your actions affect those around you.  Write your observations so you don’t lose them.  Ask some key questions like:

  • What changed? Do you like it?
  • How is productivity affected?
  • What’s missing?
  • What still needs to go?

Second, cast your vision.  How can you best spread the word about your values, both internal and external, with your business?  A coach can help you clarify what’s important to you and how you can show that to other people.  Until you talk about your vision, people can only guess what’s important to you.  As you talk to your team (again and again), your vision will start to catch.  And while you can’t control those above you in the business, you can be assured they will notice what’s happening.

Third, repeat steps one and two.  You have created a focused approach.  Now go with it.  You are at the “aim, fire, re-aim, fire, re-aim, fire” stages.  A coach can support you in staying true to your vision and keep you accountable to the things that will help it stick.

Here’s your challenge:  take 30 minutes this week to step back and look AT your business.  Do you like what you see?  Does it stand for what you want it to represent?  Are you ready to get started?

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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?

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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.

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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

 

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The Medium Changes the Coaching Message

DeathtoStock_SlowDown3The medium (vocal, visual, textual) that you use for coaching affects what can occur during the coaching and after.  Nearly five decades ago, Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase. “The medium is the message.”  While it seemed somewhat revolutionary at the time, we’ve all come to recognize the importance of the medium as an influence on the shape of the message.  Any user of Twitter, Instagram or Facebook could hardly disagree.  What we don’t often realize is that the statement is equally true about the medium in which we coach.

Most of my coaching is done on the telephone.  Thoughts can sometimes wander through the exchange and the client who is working very creatively may be very difficult to follow.  I can tell when the client and I are feeling the same way when I ask a question like, “So where are you going with this?” and the client responds by saying that “That’s a good question.”

Recently, I challenged a client to use a different medium and the clarity was astounding.  Elizabeth, my client, was sorting out her thoughts on work, values, and what she really wanted in five years.  We’ve talked about this before and while Elizabeth was moving forward, I challenged her to go away to write answers to four questions:

  • What do I really, really want?
  • Is what I’m doing getting it for me?
  • What do I need to stop doing?
  • What do I need to start doing?

For Elizabeth, writing rather than talking about these topics made an enormous difference.

Thoughts that were swirling in her head had to be made into sentence. Thoughts are seldom complete and very seldom in sentence form. As thoughts became sentences, Elizabeth’s thinking clarified.

Spoken justifications may sound reasonable–until put on paper.   Elizabeth was more willing to throw a foul flag when she saw some of her thinking in writing. In hindsight, she called saw some of her excuses “lame or half-formulated.”

Progress is still at a very measured pace.  However, Elizabeth is clear on the direction she wants to go and is very steadily moving to her goal.

How can you switch medium with your client?

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Are you hearing or listening?

businesswoman with big earsI was talking with a coaching client today and I had one of those DUH moments.  You know, one of those times when you remembered something you knew all along.  Here it is:  Most of what occurs during a conversation is in your head.

As I was sitting here listening to a client talk about her January business, I realized how many questions I wanted to ask.  That’s when the DUH hit.

Hearing is a physical phenomenon.  Your ears are designed to recognize sound waves.  Then comes the meaning. The meaning that goes with the sound is purely in your head.

You bring an attitude towards the conversation.  You evaluate the worth of what you am hearing so that you can focus on what your mind designates as important.

You bring beliefs towards the conversation.  What is the world like and how does your client fit in?

As coaches, we sometimes talk about what we aren’t hearing.  What we really mean is that our mental expectation for the conversation is not matching up to what we think it should be.

Here’s the point:  If you are more mindful of your mental state when you enter into a coaching conversation, then what is being said will have a different meaning.  You have the opportunity to turn those sound waves into early judgments or you can turn them into coaching moments.  We can become very passive listeners or we can be very active.  I’m guessing that as coaches, active listening is probably the better side to be on.

What will you do to improve your listening?

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Why coaches say: It depends

The client owns the coaching agendaWhen I first started as a coaching student, we went through a mind-opening exercise in one class.  We were paired with other students, coached them for five minutes, and couldn’t tell them what to do.  We couldn’t give advice, offer suggestions, and were even supposed to avoid answering questions.  After a while, I started to realize that my challenge wasn’t to solve the other student’s problem.  It was to control myself.  Once I understood what my problem was, I could figure out what to do.

There is an old saying, “Who owns the problem, owns the solution.”  Good coaches try to keep that in mind.

You, as the coach, are undermining the possibility of your client’s success if you don’t allow them to own their own problem and the solution.  Coaches in the direct selling profession are especially good at this.  As a leader, you recognize the issues that your team struggles with every day.  You’ve been there and done that. So when:

  • Susan, your downline leader, says, “I need to have $100,000 in sales by June.” You say, “How’s your recruiting?”  Susan thinks the problem is sales.  You don’t.  As a coach, you’ve stolen her problem and she is dependent on you for the solution.
  • Jane says, “I don’t know, what do you think?” You feel trapped.  Jane want’s your opinion so you give it.  You now own the solution.
  • Your company just announced a new incentive trip. You open your coaching call with Chris by saying, “Isn’t the trip something else!  What do you need to do to go?”  You have become a one-to-one trainer.

The problem is that when things start to go wrong (even if it’s just a little thing), the coach starts to get the blame.  Your downline leader starts to say things like:

  • I’m not you.
  • This is what she’d do, not what I’d do.
  • She’s not in my shoes. If she were here, she’d know this wouldn’t work.

As a coach, you’ve made things tougher for everyone.  Your downline client is losing faith in you, in coaching, and in her potential for success.

To fully enter the coaching moment and to put the power of ownership in your client’s hands, you have to avoid being the coach with an opinion. One of the easiest ways to do that is to ask another question.  You can say:

  • “It depends. What did you do want to do?”
  • “It depends. What’s the first thing that comes to mind?”
  • “It depends. What worked last time you wanted to reach like this?”
  • “It depends. What possible ideas are you getting from other leaders?”

As a coach, you don’t have to be a subject matter expert.  You have to be a coach.  Your problem is to be the coach.  Let your client own her problem and its solution.

I’m open to ideas.  How do you, as a coach, make sure that your client owns the agenda?

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