Coach Approach

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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Change Your Habits in 2015

chocolate barsIf you are like most of us, you made a resolution or two to start the New Year.  If you were like me, you probably made a wish and then gave a thought or two of planning an action step crossed your mind.  The sad news is that there is very little likelihood that anything worthwhile will come from your resolution.  One researcher found that by the end of January, 30 percent of us would have failed and by the end of June, over half would have gone by the wayside.  Michael Hyatt says that between 150 and 200 million Americans make resolutions and the research shows around 8% succeed with them.

Now about wiping your slate clean and trying something different?  Most of us fail at our resolutions because we plop this idea down in the midst of a lifetime of habits.  So instead of a resolution, think about changing a habit and see if you can be more successful.  Here are five questions to ask yourself.  Your answers will be the pathway to a successful change in 2015.  By the way, whether the habit is having sweet deserts, Facebook, or interrupting people, the process works the same when it comes to changing a habit.  We’re going to talk about sweets, since that is my annual resolution and has been for several years.

  1. What’s the habit I want to change? The more specifically that you identify the habit, the better you will be able to change it. The answer to this question may take some time.  Habits are routines, and most pieces are performed subconsciously.  Take some time to think about your trigger.  In my case, the difficulty is stopping at a meal.  I wanted to go back for second helpings until I developed a habit of having something sweet as a signal to my system that the meal was over.  Now I have a new habit of having desert. (I’m not sure which is worse.)
  2. What’s the replacement for the habit? We can’t create a vacuum in our behaviors or thoughts. We have to find a substitute.  In my case, I decided a healthy sweet would be the way to go.  So what I want to do is have coffee with a sweetener or maybe some dried cranberries.
  3. How do I begin strongly? You can’t just ease into a new habit.  If you ease your way in, you’ll soon find yourself easing your way back out.  Draw a line in the sand.  Say or do things like:

–Announce it to people (more on this later).

–Write it down.

–Set a starting day and time.

–Have a clear new routine. My question used to be, “What’s for dessert?”  Now, it’s “Ready for some coffee?”

  1. How do I stay strong? There is no better way to say it that the old cliché: DO NOT DEVIATE DESPITE TEMPTATION. What will you do when tempted? How will you avoid temptations?
  2. Who will I ask to hold me accountable? If you are a softy, you might want to call this, “Who do I ask for help?” For either question, you are making your behavior change public.  Moreover, once you announce it, you make it hard to retreat.  If you are making a giant change or an unpleasant one, then think about a support team.  There is no limit on the number of supporters you can have.  You might even want to work with a coach if you are talking about a deep-seated habit.  There is some pretty clear research that making public support does very powerful things to your efforts. id

How will you know when your habit is changed?  The answer is that you will know when it feels wrong to not engage in the replacement behavior.  Since I’ve given up on desserts, I feel guilt reaching for one when it’s offered.  That’s a good sign.  Since I’m still tempted, I know I don’t have the new habit in place.

What’s your new habit going to be?

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Why Sales People Can Become Great Coaches

Today’s top sales people possess different skills than the top ones from a decade ago.  The internet changed everything, including sales skills.

A decade ago, the sales person was in information control.  That’s why you hated sales people.  They knew more than you know and didn’t ever appear to tell everything.  They present the features and benefits of a product in a way that worked to their advantage. Now flash forward.  The best contemporary sales people operate in conversational mode.  You don’t need them for information anymore. The sales person is responsible for helping you sort through all of your information so that you can make a good decision. Market needs have shifted the core skills of the sales person.

Daniel Pink in his book, To Sell is Human, focuses on three core sales skills:  attunement, buoyancy, and clarity. The International Coach Federation stresses similar core competencies for coaches.

Attunement is at the heart of understanding the other person.  It is empathy on steroids. You give up some control in order to step into the other person’s world more fully.  You listen with your head and heart so that you understand the other person in their world, and not so you can sell them on your idea. The ICF stresses co-creating a relationship based on trust and intimacy.  Active listening and awareness are also part of core coaching skills.

Buoyancy is the skill of staying positive in a world filled with “no’s.”  Sales people get this. Top people in sales tell themselves, “I’m just one more ask away from a YES.” By its very nature, coaching requires positivity.  The coach has a goal to create and raise awareness that leads to positive action. If the client isn’t progressing, the coach is charged to “positively confront” the situation.

Clarity is finding the right problems to act on and the right solutions for the situation. For the sales person, it’s finding the right frame for the circumstances.  Coaches do exactly the same thing. Coaches create awareness around an issue and support the client in designing actions that fit the situation.

In short, the same skills that a good sales person has are the same competencies that a coach has.  This is NOT to say that people good in sales are good coaches. That’s like saying a good quarterback will be a good football coach or a great business executive will make a wonderful executive coach.  The potential has to be developed.

Sales and coaching are profoundly different activities.  Just because you are good at one doesn’t automatically make you good at the other.  How do you see the difference?

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