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Coaching Powerful People

Coaching powerful peopleI’ve had the opportunity recently to start coaching some new clients I would call very strong and outgoing people.  Despite their dissimilar backgrounds, diverse occupations, and geographic distance, they were a lot alike.  Old school sales leaders would call them FIREBALLS or “natural born leaders.”  Organizational psychologists would call them “Type A” personalities.  Organizational behavioralists would call them Alpha’s.

No matter how you classify them, they are not people to be ignored.  My new clients are:

  • public decision makers (“I announced what we were doing.”)
  • unshakable in their confidence (“This is the best way to proceed.  Anything else is flawed.”)
  • domineering over their opposition (“They need to get with it or get out.”)
  • as demanding with others as they are with themselves (“It’s worth doing better than right.”)

In short, they are not people who want to have casual conversations about coaching.  Their time is more valuable than that.

My new clients are prototypical leaders.  Unfortunately, their confidence in their decision making can become the source of their problems.  One way to describe this is by saying that their habits of success have created their blind spots.  They are successful, they are the cause of their success, and their future depends on them doing the same things over and over again.  Because they are strong-willed and confident people, they don’t want to hear that they are wrong.  It’s at this point, when their life and business is trouble filled, everyone knows it, and they have an epiphany that things are not working right.  Of course, a coach should be able to help them.  While I’m sure you have some thoughts on what this can mean, let me suggest three possibilities.

Problems start to show up in their personal lives that aren’t apparent at business.  In their business life, they can roll over problems.  Confusion is your fault; not theirs.  It’s not their job to understand their direct reports; it’s the underlings’ job to understand them.  The job of their personal assistant is to help you understand what they meant.  At home, however, the story is often different.  The alpha is willing to complain about not being understood, laments that “my spouse has changed,” or is having escalating fights with the children.  Interestingly, alpha’s have difficulty seeing themselves as the cause of their problem.  Equally interesting, their typical control methods don’t work.

These alpha personalities will seek a coach to help them understand what’s going on.  The client feels that if they have understanding of “a” particular situation then “all” situations will be open to new understanding.  The client is asking the coach to help them shift their paradigm while being fundamentally blind to the paradigm.  When the alpha finally discovers that understanding is not of an external situation but of their internal psyche, then their world will hold no ceilings.

Somebody stronger comes along.  That somebody may be a new CEO or member on the Board of Directors.  It may be somebody in a different company who has a parallel position and does things completely different from the alpha.  It may be a new hire who seems to be operating at peak efficiency but not like the alpha.  In any case, the strong leader has an indisputable conclusion that something needs to change—even if she is not sure what.

These alpha personalities often think they want a coach to help them plan different strategies.  In most of these situations, the success of the coaching encounter is often transitory.  The alpha is like the gunslinger in the old west—likely to die with their boots on.  They don’t get new understanding or enlightenment.  They get to create a nuance of what they have always done and long term success is illusory.

The job gets too big.  As any successful entrepreneur will tell you, if you are doing it right, eventually you will have to do it differently.  An unwillingness to change will make you into an historic artifact.  These alpha personalities want to discover their role in what they have created.

Often these leaders can find the future role by having the opportunity to explain to a naive third party (the coach) where they are and how they got there.  By the way, this is probably the most common situation for coaches.  Increasingly, companies are hiring coaches to help their new executives find the right role to play.

Whatever the scenario, it is important for the coach to hold alpha’s as whole; capable of getting past the thoughts, actions, and habits that no longer serve them.  Coaching an alpha requires powerful questions that relate to the outcome and desired results.  Questions that lead to more introspection are helpful in the discovery of what the alpha can do.  Questions that lead the alpha to examine the consequences of her behaviors are often a source of revelation for this type of client.

Powerful people want to be effective. Don’t be afraid of coaching the powerful person; be their advocate in discovering how to work from their strengths to create the results they desire.

As I finish writing this, I realize it’s seldom this simple and straightforward. There are other reasons and ways to work with powerful clients. Part of the reason I love working with Ultimate Coach University is the constant reminder that other opportunities and approaches are out there.  Let me know your thoughts and reactions.  I love to have you share your ideas with me.

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What Makes a Coach Authentic?

Authentic coachingWhat does it take to be an authentic coach?  The real deal?

I really want your help answering this question.

If someone claims to be a coach, does that make them one?

Does education and credentials make a coach?

What’s the attitude of an authentic coach?

How does an authentic coach act?

For the curious minded, here’s what prompted this question.  I came across the name of a coach that I didn’t know and wanted to know more about him.   I googled his name. I was surprised to see that one of the articles was from a marketing company talking about how they were marketing his persona as a coach.  What?  This is not to say he wasn’t a coach. I just think that it takes more to be a coach than having your marketing company call you one.

I do have some ideas of how I’d answer these questions, but I’d rather hear from you. You can leave a comment here.  If it’s easier, just leave a comment on the Facebook page.  What makes a coach authentic?

 

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Use the Whole Brain for Goal Achievement, Part Three

Left brain affirmationsAs you think about your 2014 and beyond, you are starting to explore your goals; you are creating your future.  There is a large body of evidence to suggest that using your whole brain to accomplish your goals will make you more likely to achieve them.

This is the final part of a three part series on using the whole brain for goal achievement.  Part one explores the differences between left and right brain thinkers.  Part two is about visualizing success.  Part three is about using affirmations.

Visualizations use the right brain to send a message to your mind and subconscious to achieve your goals.  Visualizations are mental pictures of your goal achievements.  Affirmations are helpful in using your left brain to talk to yourself in order to reach those bigger goals.  Affirmations are simply sentences–full statements about where you want things to go.  There are really five simple characteristics of a good affirmation.  It is important to include these characteristics in every affirmation.

Affirmations are personal: it’s not a “you,” it’s an “I.”  That’s important to show that you’re taking responsibility for the direction you want to go.

Affirmations use a present tense verb: I am, I can, I intend to, I will.  A phrase that you probably want to avoid is “I am trying” because when you say “I am trying” it indicates that you’re putting in the effort but you don’t really expect to succeed.

Affirmations are positive.  Use verbs like do, act, earn, recruit, and choose.  These are verbs that involve an action.

Affirmations involve some senses.  You’re going to talk about seeing, hearing, touching.

Affirmations hold a power emotional element.  That is a heart-felt goal that you’re fully committed to having.

Like the images you’ve taped up in different places (see Part two), you can tape up affirmations as on the mirror, on the closet door, on the front door, on the refrigerator, or by your telephone.  Put your affirmations where you can see them and say them.  Say them out loud for more impact.

Using this process, you have put your left brain and your right brain, your language and your pictures into your future goals.  Using both sides of your brain will guide you in your daily activities.  When your brain is working on seeing, feeling, and hearing the language of your success there is no time or space to worry about minor distractions, overwhelm, lack of time.  Instead, your entire brain focusses on the achievement of your goals.

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Use the Whole Brain for Goal Achievement, Part Two

Use your brain to visualize goalsAs you come to the end of another year, no doubt your thoughts are turning to 2014 and what you want the year to be. A great way for you to start your thinking about 2014 is by using your whole brain to visualize it. There is a large body of evidence to suggest that using your whole brain to accomplish your goals will make you more likely to achieve them. This is part two is about visualizing success. To review the game so far, you should take a look at part one. There are three basic types of visualizations.

Words.  The first type of visualization is word visualizations. To produce a word visualization think of a single target word about who you are, what you want and write it on a 3 x 5 card. What makes your business successful?  Write down the one word. You might say loyalty, smiles, positivity, helpfulness, or proactive. Find the word that describes your approach. Secondly, put yourself into a relaxed state, preferably just before you go to bed, and hold that card about a foot to two feet from your eyes. Focus your eyes on the word and concentrate your attention; watch that card for 10 to 20 to even 30 minutes. The third step is for you to do this exercise nightly for at least two weeks. As you continue you’ll find yourself taking that word and spinning out pictures of what’s going to happen of how important it is to you. As you continue, you’re burning your image of that “goal word” into your mind and it will be in your thoughts as you proceed in your everyday life.

Pictures. The second type of visualization involves images, or pictures. The process is very similar in that you are going to create or find an image of a person or a thing that embodies your goal. If you’re just starting in the business and you want to see yourself having a brand new car then get yourself a picture of some car keys. Think beyond the income and find a picture of what that income will do for you. Think of a snapshot of what you want. The second step is to take that image and concentrate on it just like you did with the word. Get yourself into a relaxed state and look at that picture or imagine you’re reaching your goal. Do this for 20 minutes a night for at least a month. Many people who use this visualization technique copy the picture and tape it in places where they see it as they go about your normal day. They have pictures on the back of the front door, the refrigerator, the mirror in the bathroom, inside their day planner and their car. The point is to put those pictures where you’re going to see them time and time again. This will continue to keep your images in place until you’ve accomplished that goal. It works because you find yourself believing it’s possible to achieve and this self-motivation is the most important step on your journey.

Movies. The third type of visualizations are movies. Once you have that goal in mind for yourself, then close your eyes and daydream a full color movie in your mind of what your life would be like if you achieved that goal. This movie won’t be a big screen epic.  It will be more like the “previews of coming attractions.”

  • See yourself earning a living from sales and not that crummy job;
  • Picture yourself getting up in the morning, sending your kids off to school and then getting on the phone to talk to those potential team members, your new excited consultants, or your leaders.
  • Picture yourself getting those big checks.
  • Picture yourself having a whole row of people at your sales meeting and you get to encourage all of them because you brought them all into the business.
  • Picture yourself conducting meetings with thousands in the audience. Run a full color movie in your mind of what you’ll be like when you achieve that goal.
  • If your goal is to be number one at national convention, then as you see that person walk down the aisle, put your face on that body, put your body up on that stage, shut your eyes and listen to that applause, smell that crowd.

Whatever your goal, capture that movie vividly and you’ll make it happen. The unimportant will drift away. The important things for your goal will stay and you’ll find yourself spending time focusing on the right things and not just doing things right. You’ll spend your time not getting discouraged by those little day-to-day things that go wrong. Every time you run that “movie” in your head, you will think and do those things that lead you closer to your goal.

Up next: Part Three is on using affirmations.

How do you support your clients in goal setting?

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Use the Whole Brain for Goal Achievement, Part One

Coach the Whole BrainIf nothing else, we are a goal-oriented species.  We think about the future and act in ways to shape it.  There is a large body of evidence to suggest that using your whole brain to accomplish your goals will make you more likely to achieve them.

This is the first of a three part series on using the whole brain for goal achievement.  Part one (which you are reading) explores the differences between left and right brain thinkers.  Part two is about visualizing success.  Part three is about using affirmations.

Some of you are oriented toward the right-brain.  You are creative, spatial thinkers, intuitive and spontaneous.  You often think in pictures, colors, or feelings.  You can be great starters who are often haphazard finishers. You see the goal and yet struggle to articulate how you will achieve what you see so clearly in your mind.

Others are oriented towards the left brain.  The left brain is very language oriented.  Language is very rational and business-like.  Left brain people are oriented toward logical, problem-solving paradigms: they are very linear in their thinking. Left brain thinkers go from point A to point B to point C.  They find a problem; they solve it.  Then they find another problem and solve it and pretty soon they’re so engaged in the process that they’ve become problem solvers rather than goal-reachers.

To use your whole brain you have to think in both terms of language and pictures.  Pictures lead you to use visualizations.  Language leads you to use affirmations.  Pictures are right brain; language is left brain.  Visualizations are right brain; affirmations are left brain.  When you use both sides of our brain to focus on our goals, you send a message to our subconscious that leads you to the accomplishment of our goals.

Visualizations are powerful in the attainment of a goal.  In their book, Seeing with the Mind’s Eye, Mike and Nancy Samuels describe a simple experiment using some high school kids and visualization.

A random sample of high school boys are broken into three groups. All of the boys spend time shooting basketballs to see what percentage of free throws they make. Like any experiment they go out and shoot baskets the first day, twenty days later they go out and shoot baskets again and the difference between the scores shows how much they’ve grown in the process.

The first group practices everyday and then they shoot baskets at the end.  They show 24% improvement.  The second group shoots baskets on the first day, they don’t do anything in-between, and on the last day they shoot baskets again.  They’ve shown no improvement.  Interestingly, the third group shoots baskets on the first day and then go through a process of visualization: they practice seeing themselves shooting those baskets for the next twenty days and improving in their mind’s eye.  In the end, when they shoot the baskets, they show a 23% improvement.

Think about it:  24% improvement by practice:  23% by visualization.  Visualization is powerful when it comes to achieving your goals.

Part two is about using visualizations.  How do you support your clients in goal setting?

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How to Explore Alternative Views on Leading a Team

Coaching creates productive teamworkA client approached our coaching session last week with what he felt was a crucial confrontation that was just about to blow-up in his team. Here’s a little background and a new coaching perspective that we developed to deal with the issue.

He was directing a highly successful team and the more success they were having, the more the team was growing.  The team’s size (and responsibilities have doubled in the past year and were scheduled to do the same in the coming year.

The difficulty was that Robert, one of the team members, was constantly dragging his feet on highly urgent matters that range from new hires to team goals and individual responsibilities. Robert is a systematic thinker and is not going to be unnecessarily hurried through important topics.  Robert is a lone voice.  The other team members are all shoot-from-the-hip type of people who are getting more and more frustrated as the backlog of decisions keeps getting longer.

My client explained this background to me and then asked if we could use our coaching time to figure out what he should do.  Here’s how things went from my side.

First, I asked questions of make sure I understood what it was my client wanted.  Basically, he wanted to use our time to think aloud about this issue and to decide on a course of action.

Second, I asked permission to try something new. “Could we try something new?  I’d like to give you three different reactions to what you’ve told me and then, after each one, give you the opportunity to decide what you would do.  How does that sound?”

Third, I offered a perspective in a very excited voice. “Wow, this is great that you’ve got somebody who’s willing to offer a different opinion.  How are you going to support Robert?” We then talked through that viewpoint.

Fourth, I offered a perspective in a depressed voice. “This is a tough situation.  What will you do to get Robert in line with everyone else?”  We then talked through this viewpoint.

Fifth, I blamed my client. “Sounds like this is all your fault for letting it get this far.  What would you like to do now?”  My client laughed.  Awareness is raised. I again asked, “What do you want to do now?”  His answers were brilliant!

What other questions would you ask to support your client in situations like this?

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Coaching Leaders to Maximize Their Impact

Give up control to get itDo you get more power by grabbing it or giving it away? As I coach leaders, I often try to get them to confront this question.  While this seems to be a question for the corporate executive, it fits almost every leader from the top of a direct sales organization to company directors.  The obvious answers often doesn’t work.

The usual answer is along the lines of “I need to tighten the reins of control.”  That means clearer organizational charts, roles, responsibilities, and micro-managing.  For most of the people I coach, this is a recipe for disaster.  They will alienate their teams, undercut their development, and create an environment in which people are content to meet the minimums rather than energized to provide maximums.

The real answer is “I need to equip and empower my team.”  Giving away control raises your leadership capacity.  Here are a baker’s dozen questions that might prove useful as you coach leaders on this issue.

  • What roles do you currently play (and get very detailed)?
  • What skills does it take to fill your roles?
  • What would make you better equipped to fill these roles?
  • How do the people you work with make you feel? What do they do to create those feelings?
  • How do you make the people around you feel? What are you doing to create these? Give examples.
  • What personal goals do you have?
  • What aspirations do your people have?
  • What would shift your enthusiasm up?
  • What limits your ability to influence at work?
  • What would enhance it?
  • How much control do you feel you have in your area (scale of 1 to 10)
  • How much control do you feel you need?
  • If you were to report to the you-boss, how do you feel about you-boss on an average day?

What questions would you like to add?  Remove?

 

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Four Easy Guidelines When Advising Like a Coach

Advising like a coachMuch as coaches try to avoid giving advice, clients sometimes are very good at pulling out of us.  Just when the client seems to be rolling along quite nicely, they will throw in a “I don’t know, what do you think?”  You, as the coach, are caught off guard and before you can help yourself, you have turned into a mentor and a font of wisdom.  Here are four easy guidelines to follow when in this situation.

Always ask permission.  When advice is permission based, you will keep ownership of the strategy with the client.  You will often have the opportunity to ask permission several times.  Think about using questions like:

  • Are you asking for my advice? (This is your real-time opportunity to confirm what you heard.)
  • My advice is offered from outside your activities, so feel free to reject it or tweak it to fit better.

The other key benefit of asking permission is that you prevent resistance. Unsolicited advice immediately generates a backlash.

Start with what they’ve done.  Want to appear foolish?  Blurt out your advice and then listen to your client say, “I tried that and it didn’t work.” Discover what your client has done before giving advice.  You will save time and ego.  Ask the simple and straightforward question, “What have you tried?”

Be clear on what is requested.  Sometimes clients will ask for advice and, while it may be clear in their mind, it may not be in yours.  Ask questions like:

  • Is your question about your goal or your strategy?
  • Are you concerned about your process or your point of view?
  • What’s the advice you would like me to give? [This sounds like a weird question, but you will discover what they want.]

Avoid being Directive.  The phrase “you should” is usually an invitation to trouble.  Alternatively, try phrases like:

  • Other clients have found that. . . .  You are the expert on this situation.  How does this fit you?
  • Here’s another option. . . .
  • What I’ve found helpful is . . . .

These four guidelines keep you thinking and acting like a coach while providing an opportunity to partner with your client.  What have you found useful?

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Should Your Client Quit or Not?

Iditarod Red LanternWe respect those who finish. A recent Seth Godin blog reminded me of this.  Seth wrote about The Red Lantern, which is the Iditarod reward that goes to the last person to finish the race.  The lantern is the reward for those who push through to the end. The Iditarod has found a way to recognize the value of hanging in to the finish.

As a coach, I’ve always struggled with finding the right balance for my clients between finishing what they start and moving on to a different goal.  Here are 19 key questions to sort through what is often a mixed motive situation:

  1. On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is it to you to hit this goal?
  2. Are you being driven by your courage or bravado?
  3. How do the costs and benefits look to you at this point?
  4. How do you feel about cutting your losses?
  5. What’s the win if you redirect your goal now?
  6. What’s the loss?
  7. How will you regain your sunk costs?
  8. What will you do to forgive yourself for stopping?
  9. How will you reward yourself for finishing?
  10. What’s changed?
  11. What hasn’t changed?
  12. Are you being internally or externally motivated right now?
  13. How would you feel if it was just you?
  14. How would you feel if you influenced others to do the same thing?
  15. What would _____________ tell you to do?  [Superman? Batman? Your mother?]
  16. What’s your gut reaction right now?
  17. What would happen if you put off deciding for 24 hours?
  18. How would you decide right now?
  19. If you couldn’t fail, what would you do?

The race is not always to the swift.  For Aesop, slow and steady wins the race. As coaches, we cannot decide on the right course of action for our clients.  Even more fundamentally, we need to do our best to avoid influencing their decision.

Think of a recent situation where you were coaching in a mixed motive situation.  What’s the question you would add to this list?

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Three Key Insights on Language and Coaching

Language and reality for coachesThree umpires are arguing about their role in a baseball game.  The most intense argument is about their role in calling balls and strikes. 

The first umpire says (matter-of-factly), “The pitcher pitches.  If he throws a strike, I call it a strike.  If he throws a ball, I call it a ball.”

Throwing fuel on the argument’s fire, the second umpire says, “I just call them as I see them.  If it looks like a strike, that’s what I call it.  If it looks like a ball, then I call it a ball.”

The third umpire puffs up his chest and ends it all. “It ain’t nothing until I call it.”

How do your clients express their view of the world in their language?

Is their world out there and their job is to reflect reality?

Maybe they realize that their mental state plays a role and their role is to select the reality.

OR, maybe your client wants to hide the reality that others see and play a role to deflect it through their language.

What is your role as a coach in working with your client’s reality as it shows up in their language?

As coaches, we often see our role as supporting our clients in seeing alternatives.  How will you do that if your client wants to hide from the reality you want them to see?

When we treat our words as simple vehicles to describe what’s what, we give up on the richness of our surroundings.  And in that richness are the grounds for the best coaching.

How will you coach your client on their use of language to reflect, select, or deflect reality?

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