Coach Approach

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.

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The Language of Time

iStock_000069185021Kenneth Burke once said about humans that “Man is the symbol-using (symbol-making, symbol-misusing) animal.”  His statement is probably the most accurate when we talk about time and how we use it.  Here are three examples.

The opposite of life is not work.  It’s easy to get upset about a lack of work-life balance.  Unfortunately, the opposite of life is not work.  It’s death.  The opposite of work is non-work.  Really, isn’t the choice among work, recreation, spiritual, community, personal wellbeing, etc.?

Balance is not a static state.  We think about have work-life balance as if it were a set of weights and measures.  Take some time from this side of the scale and put it on the other and then you’ve got balance.  Unfortunately, time does not stand still.  After all, time keeps moving on.  The minute after you think you’ve achieved a state of balance, you lose it.

We don’t control time.  Time continues to do what it does despite our best efforts to manage it.  When we give up the futile effort to manage time and switch our focus to managing what we do with our time, then powerful shifts happen.

If we are really listening to Kenneth Burke, when we change our language we change our possibilities.  For example:

  • Pay attention to what you are doing. You can be so into the flow that time concerns go away.
  • Think about time as flowing. What does balance mean to you now?
  • Take a long-term perspective. How’s your balance over the course of a month?  A year?

Changing our language is not an easy task.  We’ve spent a lifetime creating these images and relationships in our heads.  How will you start to be less concerned with balance?

 

 

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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.

 

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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.

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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?

 

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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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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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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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