Coach Approach

30 Questions for Coaching Leaders through Major Change

coaching through change

How, as a coach, do you prepare a leader to lead change?  Leaders are change agents and one of the most important roles for a coach is to mentally prepare the leader for their role.

This question came to the forefront for me this past week.  I had many opportunities this past week to think about this question in two very different contexts.  One was a church preparing to radically alter their approach on everything from mission and vision to service opportunities.  The other was a direct sales company who were in the process of revising their compensation and incentive plans.

Here are some of the questions that went through my mind this past week.  As you prepare to coach leaders to lead change, be curious about the possibilities that you’ll hear.

  1. How does the change strengthen your core values?
  2. How does the change enhance your mission and vision?
  3. What’s going to stay the same?
  4. How will you keep everyone focused on the most important things?
  5. How is your “why” affected?
  6. How do the changes affect the individual “whys” of people on the team?
  7. How do you want to be seen?
  8. What role are you most comfortable playing?
  9. Five years from now, how do you want to remember this time?
  10. Five years from now, how do you want to be remembered?
  11. What is your team expecting from you?
  12. How can you make your team comfortable with the changes?
  13. Who will embrace them?
  14. Who will hold back?
  15. Who will want to make stronger implementation plans?
  16. Who will know the pulse of the team?
  17. Who do you want to know the changes before you announce them?
  18. Who do you want to talk with right after the announcement?
  19. What resources do you need to prepare for the transition?
  20. How will you know your transition is successful?
  21. When will you know the transition is successful?
  22. How will you keep your team focused on important matters?
  23. How will you minimize the tyranny of the trivial?
  24. Who has to vent?
  25. How will you stay strong?
  26. How will you resist tweaking?
  27. How will you evaluate things as they progress?
  28. Twenty years from now, how important will this seem?
  29. Who in your life only cares about how you are doing during this change?
  30. What have you done in the past to prepare for this moment?

While I never got a chance to ask most of these questions, they were a great preparation tool for me. My preparation allowed me to stay centered as emotions got high and intellects went down.

How will you prepare to coach a client through major changes?

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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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The Mysterious Question

Coaches ask questionsDescribing the difference between truly asking a question and really making a statement is a difficult task.

Grammatically, it is a punctuation mark.

Vocally, our voice rises at the end of a question and lowers at the end of a statement.

The words don’t even have to be different.  “What now?” has the same words as “Now what!” but isn’t close on meaning.

Mentally, the differences are bigger than Texas.

  • A question comes from curiosity. A statement says, “I know.”
  • A question is an invitation to dance. A statement is a command performance.
  • You never know what the answer will be when you truly ask a question. There are no unknowns with a statement.
  • Questions provoke thinking. Statements may not even produce a reply. You’ll never hear an A-HA moment if you only tell.
  • The more open the question, the more thought is generated. Think about “What do you want this month?” versus “How will you hit your sales quota?”

Coaches ask questions.  They want to hear your truth.  Mentors ask questions with a twist.  They want you to learn the subtle answer they know.  Trainers ask questions to help you pass the test.

Think about leading your team.  Now think about difference among these:

  • What do you expect in your business this month?
  • What’s your goal this month?
  • How many recruits will you have this month?
  • How much of our team goal will you produce?

Leaders ask coaching, mentoring, and training questions.  The hardest part for a leader is not the question, but the framework the leader brings to the question.  If you can’t find the differences, then maybe you want to ask yourself some questions.

  • What type of a leader am I now?
  • Am I the leader I want to be for this person?
  • How do I change my role?

We often fall into our answers through experience.

  • What if you decided to be deliberate rather than letting your past control your question?
  • What do you need to know you don’t know now?
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Weekend Love, April Eighteenth

In your headHere are some of the great nuggets that I’ve found on the web recently.  This handful of links takes you  to tools or great content.  Occasionally I’ll include one from my “save” file that hits my mood.

I saw an old bumper sticker the other day that said, “I just do what the voices in my head tell me.”  Peter Bregman thinks we need to manage those conversations more when he writes about Managing the Critical Voices Inside Your Head.

Stephen Covey referred to the last of the seven habits as “sharpening the saw.” Dan Rockwell has some great ideas along the same vein that he writes about in 12 Refueling Strategies That Work Today.

Pope Francis addressed the leaders of the Catholic Church before the holidays last year about the diseases of leadership.  Gary Hamel translates this into English business-speak.  We all need a check-up against The 15 Diseases of Leadership, According to Pope Francis.

From the archives:  What is it about 4:00 am?  Poet Rives shares his thoughts.  His 10 minute TED talk will give you some thoughts for your next visit to that time.

Click here if the video isn’t showing in your browser:



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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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Waking Up Your Good Life

Wake Up Your Good LifeAt the point in my life when I was leaving direct sales and starting my career as a coach and trainer, my partner and I made the decision that we needed to step up our name recognition and hit the trail to do local training workshops.  During one period, we were doing two a day (in different locations) and in one stretch did 18 workshops in 14 days.  I don’t recommend this as a way to get recognized in your business but I learned a valuable lesson.  Somewhere in the middle of that phase, I had very little joy in my life.

I was so caught up in the JOB and the urgency of getting to the next place that I lost track of the little day-to-day things that I do to keep life satisfying.  I had dropped all of those pieces out.  I was settling for what I was getting that day.  I swear that if I had to keep the road trip up for much longer I would have quit.  I could only keep going because I could count down the days until it was over.  That’s when I developed my list of 100 Things I Love To Do. You can click on the link or download a blank copy here.

This is not a bucket list!  A bucket list is a wish list of things you want to do once before you kick the bucket.  This is a list of things you want to do again and again.  They don’t have to cost money.  They do demand your time.  For example:

  • Taking time to do the Sudoku with your first coffee of the day.
  • Reading a pulp magazine with lunch.
  • Luncheon date with your significant other.
  • Looking at real estate listings.
  • Clearing your mind, sitting with your eyes shut and counting to twenty without letting your thoughts drift.
  • Turning on a ballgame to play in the background as white noise.
  • Meandering around your block.
  • Updating my 100 Things I Love To Do

The items on your list don’t have to cost money.  They don’t even have to take a lot of time.  Your list is an opportunity to take control of a few minutes of your life and do something that is just for you.  You are taking the time to realize you have a choice in every single moment.

When I’ve challenged my coaching clients to create their list, the results are often interesting.  No two lists are ever alike.  And one person’s pleasure can easily be another’s “yuck.”   Most can get 15-20 items without any difficulty.  Very few ever get the assignment done in less than two weeks.

Are you up for the challenge?  When is the last time you made a list like this?

FREE OFFER:  If you complete your list and send it to me, I will give you two free 30 minute coaching sessions to Wake Up Your Good Life.  Simply download the form, complete it, and email it back (my contact information is on the form).  I’ll be in touch.

What will you do today to Wake Up Your Good Life?

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Weekend Love, April Fourth

camoflage hugHere are some of the great nuggets that I’ve found on the web recently.  Most will be a handful of links to tools or great content.  Occasionally I’ll include one from my “save” file that hits my mood.

Four questions to make you go “hmmn.”  The title of Karyn Greenstreet’s article says it all: How Will You Know That You’re Successful, When You Don’t Know What It Looks Like?

At its simplest, coaching is about questions and answers.  Questions that make us think and answers that lead us forward.  Racheal Govender explains Why Coaching works.

Have anything in self-storage?  How about a piece of you?  David Emerald and Donna Zajonc, MCC write about Coming Out of Self Storage.

Best quotation of the week comes from Mark Sisson, “At its best, self-control doesn’t revolve around deprivation, denial or chastising but clarity, intention, and attunement.”  This powerful idea is explored in Self-Control: The Ultimate Exercise in Freedom.

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Why Wait for Feedback? Entrepreneur Version

FeedbackAs a direct seller, solopreneur, or entrepreneur, you probably don’t see yourself as having many opportunities to seek feedback.  After all, you don’t have any (or at least not many) employees.   First, the bad news:  when most of us ask for feedback we get an image of giving someone a loaded gun, pointing at our face, and helping them point the trigger.  Now for the good news:  It’s all in your head.  The way you treat the feedback is up to you.

Part 1 of Why Wait for Feedback? is all about the title.  Why wait?  If you ask for feedback you’ll improve your odds of getting useful feedback rather than worrying about it.  Part 2, Why Wait for Feedback: Company Version, provides some insights into ways that you can ask for and use feedback if you are in a company setting.

But what if you are an entrepreneur?  Feedback for an entrepreneur involves three groups of people.

Getting customer feedback makes you awesome.  I almost cringed when I included this one.  How many surveys have you gotten this week?  You probably can’t even log in to your bank account without them wanting to know “How did we do?”  In your case, however, you are reaching out differently.  You are not going to give a multiple-choice test designed to solicit 4’s or 5’s.  You are going to act like a coach and ask open-ended questions.  Your questions might include ones like:

  • How does our service compare to your favorite store?
  • What needs of yours aren’t we meeting?
  • What would you tell people about us?
  • What is one thing you’d like us to do better?

Ask whatever questions you need to clarify, thank them (don’t argue or commit to changing), and then ask somebody else.  When you discover the pattern in the answers, you’ll know what you want to do.

Getting Team Feedback Makes You a Leader.  Seriously.  You should see this as a no brainer item.  Find out how people want to be lead than then lead them in that manner. Then they will follow rather than leave. Some great questions to ask include:

  • Do you want em to push you, pull you, or get out of the way?
  • What do you want from me?
  • How can I support you in getting to the next stage?
  • What is one thing I can do to be a better upline (or leader)?

Again, ask whatever questions you need to ask in order to clarify, thank them (don’t argue or commit to changing), and then ask somebody else.  When you discover the pattern in the answers, make the changes to improve your leadership.

Getting vendor feedback gets you better service.  You probably think you are a great customer. They may see you as an arrogant jerk who is hard to please.  Don’t assume they love you just because they keep coming back to you for orders.  Ask your vendors.  Ask things like:

  • What can I do to make your job easier?
  • What do I need to do to improve our business relationship?
  • What do you tell people about us?
  • How can I be a better customer?

These questions are sometimes harder.  You probably don’t like to see yourself as a “servant consumer” when you think it is your right to command customer service.  Interestingly, when you become a better consumer you’ll get perks that you didn’t before.  Your vendors will give you early notice about sales.  They’ll send you free samples.  They’ll find ways to keep you as a customer.

So ask your vendors.  Find out what they tell you.  And when you understand how the people in their world see you, change accordingly.

If you want something different, you have to do something differently.  So take that first step to actively get feedback and you’ll be on the path to improving your business relationships.

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Weekend Love, March Fourteenth

Link loveHere are some of the great nuggets that I’ve found on the web recently.  Most will be a handful of links to tools or great content.  Occasionally I’ll include one from my “save” file that hits my mood.

Teams and groups have been studied for decades.  Ed Batista lists nine symptoms of group strength and growth.  They provide great insights into how you want to develop your team.

I wish I could write like Jeff Goins.  He tells a story and somewhere in the middle it becomes a life lesson.  Sweet.

Want to stop yourself from those knee-jerk reactions? Dana Lightman, Ph.D. is a counselor and a coach with some great insights into not letting your lizard brain take over.  Part one explains what happens and part two gives you some alternatives.  (Both are relatively short).

Black bottomed oatmeal pie.  Because it’s pi day (get it? get it?) and we should all salivate just a little over something like this.

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Weekend Love, March Seventh

Link loveHere are some of the great nuggets that I’ve found on the web recently.  Most will be a handful of links to tools or great content.  Occasionally I’ll include one from my “save” file that hits my mood.

Coaches try to avoid giving advice, and sometimes that leaves you and your client feeling stalemated or helpless.  Here are Ten Little Tips to Boost Your Coaching Prowess.

Five Ways to become more Self Aware.  The title says it all.

Trust is one of the key pieces in building coaching and business relationships.  What do you do after you’ve messed it up?  Randy Conly offers 6 Steps to Rebuild Broken Trust.

What would your do-over look like?  Here’s what Joel Peterson says about what he’d do differently.

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