Coaching Tips

Sharpening the Saw

sharpening of saw bladesWhen I coach high performers, one of the hardest things for them to do is relax.  They are so tied up in performing that they can’t turn it off.  The result, after a while, is a loss of emotional balance and a weakened  work performance. When we talk about it in their coaching call, they start to identify the issue (“I need some time off”).

In Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, the very last one is called the “Principles of Balanced Self-Renewal.”  More commonly, it is known as Sharpen the Saw.  The metaphor he uses to explain this is straightforward.  If you were cutting down a tree, it would be much easier with a sharp saw.

What we don’t often think about is the four dimensions of self-renewal.  On a holiday weekend, there is a perfect opportunity to experience a little of all four.

1. Spiritual Renewal.

In the U.S., we have an opportunity to reflect on gratitude.  What was your part of remembering gratitude on Memorial weekend?  What are you grateful for and how will you show it?  Can you spend a little extra time this week contemplating all that has gone right in your life so far this  year?  Who will listen as you share those perfect feelings?

2. Physical Renewal.

Food is a part of your holiday weekend.  Holidays are also some of the highest alcohol consumption days.  While the consumption binge is briefly satisfying, we also get an opportunity to catch a little extra sleep, relaxation time, and (for the food guilty) even some exercise.

3. Social/Emotional Renewal.

With time away from work, you have an opportunity to spend more time with our family and friends; you can renew familial bonds and friendships.  Sharing a meal is more than breaking bread.  You also share the bonds made and strengthened over the table.

4.  Mental Renewal.

When you take the time to slow down, you can spend a little time letting your minds wander in some new directions.  You catch up on the news, daydream, plan without pressure, and maybe even catch-up on some list making and office cleaning.

While these four areas all seem unique, they share a common trait:  you can only engage in renewal by being proactive.   When you are driven by the urgent, renewal doesn’t happen.

Ask yourself a simple question:  Do I really need a holiday to sharpen my saw?  Obviously, you don’t have to have a holiday.  You can establish a habit by building time in your schedule for renewal.  This doesn’t mean just thinking about it.  Unless you build the time in your schedule, you won’t set the time to break your old habits.  Ironically, the one that most people don’t take seriously is mental renewal.  We schedule time off; we have vacations.  What most people don’t do is schedule time for mental development.

  • When is that last time you took a class to improve your job performance?
  • What are you scheduling on a regular basis to develop new skills and attributes?
  • How often do you talk with outside business acquaintances without trying to sell them something?

With a three day weekend just finishing, you’ve found time to do a little sharpening.  I know I did. But don’t stop there.  What are you doing to sharpen your saw this week?  Month? Summer?

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Gratitude Matters

iStock_000007716756SmallI have a lot to say about coaching, but sometimes it’s better to shut my mouth and let others do the talking.  Many knowledgeable people write about leadership, psychology, and coaching.  Here are some of their thoughts about gratitude.

I am thankful for my life.  In just the last two weeks, I’ve gotten to train a dozen new coaches at Ultimate Coach University, to train 35 new and exciting leaders at J. Hilburn, meet 10 new clients and start two Master Mind groups. I’m exhausted, and very grateful for all of these opportunities.  One of life’s little puzzles is how often we read about what we are feeling. You have to wonder about a grand plan wherein you start to feel grateful and then see articles about it.

Sometimes you don’t feel very grateful. You want to “do down” for a day or two.  The Change Blog has a list of seven ways to pull yourself out of it.   Read Why Gratitude Will Save Your Life (& 7 Ways to Increase It Starting Today).

While “gratitude” is an important topic when it comes to leadership by example, there is more to it than that.  As a leader, creating and maintaining an environment of gratitude is a good work practice.  Christine Riordan write in the Harvard Business Review Blog Network about why and how to Foster a Culture of Gratitude.

If this all sounds a bit heavy for you, chuck the attitude.  Leonie Dawson wants you to smile a lot and her blog shows it.  Read what she has to say about WANT TO GET HAPPY? ADOPT AN ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE!

I know, some of you are saying to yourself, “Gratitude has nothing to do with it. I’m just a realist.”  Maybe you are.  Read Tim Brownson’s article about What Is A Self Limiting Belief?  Maybe you will discover that gratitude is a whole new way of looking at things.

Thank you for your time.  I’d be very thankful if you would leave a comment about gratitude.  I’d also love to hear from you about this type of post.  Is it useful?

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You need a Coaching Champion

Portrait of smiling business people with thumbs up against whiteEvery cause needs a champion; the person who leads the charge forward.  Coaching initiatives are no different.  Whether you are trying to build coaching into a sales team or a company environment, you need someone to support you.  As a coach, you are passionate about what you do.  However, you can’t be your own champion. You need someone on your side.  What should you look for in your champion?

A Champion is your evangelist.

This person wants to champion the cause.  They are the visionary; the advocate who sees a productive role of coaching in lots of places.  Often your champion is the one who started it all for you.  They see a role for coaching in their team and are the first one with a coach.  While your evangelist loves you, they love coaching even more.  Their passion about coaching is what will shift the culture.

A Champion feeds you.

Coaching is not a one size fits all proposition.  You need insights into prospective coaching clients. You want to know what these clients want even before you talk with them. Do they want facts and results?  Maybe they want someone to talk with weekly so they can measure their progress.  Maybe they need someone to celebrate for them. As you get to know your prospects, you will start to understand how coaching can make a difference for them.  This all starts with your champion.  Your champion feeds you information.  Your champion provides honest feedback about what’s working and what’s not.  Your champion is your trusted adviser about the people around them.

A Champion builds your community.

In his or her own way, your champion is your banner carrier.  I’ve identified four ways to celebrate coaching. Each of these methods needs a champion to spread the word. The champion creates a place that others want to join.

Who will be your champion?  Identify and support the champion of your cause, and they will support you in ways that you can barely imagine.

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Who Are You Kidding?

iStock_000001754493SmallI have a coach to support me in my weight loss process.  Part of my commitment is to be more active.  When I started last December I set a goal to increase my number of steps by 500 per day every week.  I moved from 3,000 to 8,000 steps a day which was pretty great for me.  Today I hit 10,000 steps every single day.  The new habit required change.

Looking back, I remember the week where I was upping my steps, didn’t make it and almost wrote down the number I had committed to achieving.  I stopped and said to myself, “Who are you kidding?”

Who wants to lose weight?  Me.

Who committed to the changes?  Me.

Who benefits from the steps?  Me.

Who am I kidding?

Of course my coach wouldn’t know. But I would know.  I stopped and marveled at my own conniving. Who am I kidding?

As I coach many top sales people, I hear, “I made a TON of calls,”  “I worked sooo hard!”  and lots of other statements.  Who are you kidding?

When I coach direct sellers, I often remind them that I want to not only hold their dreams, but hold them to the activities that will lead to their dreams.  When you make a commitment, there is a temptation to want to appear to be doing things “right” for your coach.  Stop and ask yourself, “Who am I kidding?”

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When Your Client Misses the Mark

iStock_000002066688XSmallI was talking to another coach recently and she told me about a client who wanted to stop meeting with her because she felt like she wasn’t living up to the agreements she made.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this happens to all coaches occasionally.  I have clients who discontinue coaching because they are unwilling to keep the commitments they make.  Some use the excuse that they want to “try it on their own.”  Others sheepishly confess that they were ashamed and just didn’t want to continue.

I have a weight loss coach. When I first started using this coach, I wasn’t reaching my walking goal on most days.  I thought about not showing up and decided out of respect for the coach, I needed to face the music.  She noticed my disappointment and we worked through the real issue.

Here are three possible steps if you sense your client is missing the mark.

  1. Don’t ignore it.  The ICF is clear about the role of the coach, “The coach trusts the client to be accountable to themselves and lovingly calls the client to account or discussion if agreed upon forward movement does not occur.”
  2. Look for progress.  Ask, “What did go well?”
  3. Look for over-committing.  If a client is missing the mark consistently, you may want to check in and explore the motivation and/or reason for not meeting the actions designed.

The ICF core competencies outline the value of exploration, “The coach’s invitation to exploration precedes and is significantly greater than invitation to solution.”

I always see my time with my coach as important in the process. I know the value of someone holding me accountable. As a coach, I want to lovingly hold my client’s behavior in their mirror.

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Want Your Employees to Stick Around? Try Coaching

Coaching benefit: employee retentionWhen you invest in a coach, you want to know that coaching is going to matter.  You make a choice to spend invest in your future.  You could take classes at a community college; you could hire a consultant to tell you what to do; you could just keep doing what you’ve always been doing.  Instead, you are investing in a coach.  While no coach can give you a concrete guarantee of the results of coaching, there are some good indications that it’s worth your investment.

You get your money’s worth. On the Ultimate Coach University website, we provided some of the benefits found in the studies of the return on investment in coaching. The numbers are astounding.  The International Coach Federation documents a return on investment from some companies of 50 to 1.

One of the benefits to having a coaching culture that isn’t always recognized is retention.

Coaching improves retention.  When you ask people how coaching changes their outlook, you will hear them say things like:

  • I felt heard
  • I felt more in control
  • I figured out how to get along with my director.

People who experience feelings like that are more likely to stay around.  They don’t feel oppressed by their surroundings. Interestingly, employees who work with the coaching client also are more likely to stay.  I’ve coached many executives in direct selling companies.  When I talk with their direct reports, I commonly hear them talk about how their boss is easier to work with and more pleasant to be around.  They will also add that they are feeling more productive.

One of the more famous studies on ROI is from MetrixGlobal, which found a return of 5 to 1 for every dollar invested. They found that ROI was boosted even higher when you include the financial benefits of retention.  Retention boosts the ROI of coaching by an addition 2.5 to 1.

Numbers like these make coaching sound too good. I wouldn’t believe them either if I weren’t a coach and have the opportunity to talk with companies that have a coaching culture.  They think it’s worth every penny.

I love coaching.  I love hearing people reach a new awareness of the future they can create.  I may never get to see the results of the coaching, and I’m okay with that because I know that it’s making a difference in their life.

 

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Coaching Through Fear

Coaching through fearWhether it is you or a client, fear can be an obstacle to any achievement.

  • I am afraid of failing
  • I am afraid of what people will think
  • I am afraid of ….

Many people will say ACTION is the only tool to overcome fear.  I have found another one that has served clients well: reframing often works.

When you reframe the thinking about a fearful situation you can overcome the power it holds on you.  Try to “trace it and erase it.”  If you trace where the fear came from you can often erase its ability to control you.

Now I’m not talking about erasing the fact that something bad happened to you because you can never go back and undo that, but by realizing that many of our fears came from a single isolated event, we can learn to erase the automatic response we can reframe our thinking.  I remember when I was a little kid we traveled over the Mississippi river over a toll bridge.  High above the churning Mississippi we’d ride with my daddy in stop and go traffic.  The tollbooth was at the apex of the bridge and, for a 6-year-old, that was a long way down.  My dad probably never knew the incredible fear of bridges that he fueled in me when he teased.  “Dana, did you feel that?  I think it’s moving.  Don’t sit too close to that car door; you don’t want to fall off.”  He probably never figured out that he was fueling in me an incredible fear because for a long, long time I really had an unhealthy fear of bridges.  Now I’d be lying if I told you that I love crossing bridges.  I will tell you this: once I traced this fear to an incident, the kind of fear that paralyzes is gone.   If you can trace it, you can erase it.

Have you overcome a fear?  Please share how you did it!

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Before You Coach: Reframe

Reframe before coachingWe have heard this from top leaders in party plan, network marketing, and direct selling.

“My team isn’t selling.”
“My team isn’t recruiting.”
“My team doesn’t get it.”

Many years ago, I was given some great advice.  Simple as it might seem, it has served me well as a leader.      She told me to always speak in the positive when I spoke about my team as a whole. 

Why?

First, she would question the paradigm behind the statement. “Everyone?” she would ask. “You can’t find one person who isn’t…”

Second, she had a wonderful way of reminding me that I was the one who brought most of them into the business.  It was not my responsibility to make them sell or recruit, but it was my responsibility to create and environment where they would want to succeed.

Then she would help me look at my own attitude.  She said every time I spoke of my team in the negative, I was tearing them down in my own mind.  She assured me that even if I never said those words to my team, they could sense my frustration.

Moreover, I was placing my intentions about my team as a whole in the wrong direction.  She taught me how to place my intentions about my team by reframing the way I saw them. 

Finally, she would remind me that I was the leader.  It was up to me to bring new, fresh, excited people to the team to keep things fresh. 

Think and speak of your team in the most positive way you can.  If there is someone who needs feedback, do it in private.  If there are challenges with performance, look first to your own personal business, then look to the individuals you may be able to influence.

While my mentor wasn’t coaching, I try to remember her advice when I am coaching sales leaders.  When we can support sales leaders to take off their self-made blinders, they have a completely new set of opportunities that weren’t available before.

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Four Ways to Celebrate Coaching

Celebrate CoachingPrior to the 90’s, most coaching was remedial.  Coaching’s purpose was to correct problems and it was often the last resort before firing. In the 90’s, coaching shifted to a positive; it gets the best out of people and creates a strong community at the same time. If you want to build coaching into your culture, you have to find ways to make it public and to celebrate it as a part of your team’s atmosphere.  Unless you find ways to celebrate coaching, it won’t grow. Here are four ways to celebrate coaching that are sure to get your team excited about the opportunity that coaching brings to their life.

Let them talk.  As a coach, part of your commitment is to maintain the confidentiality of your clients.  On the other hand, your clients don’t have to maintain confidentiality.  In fact, you should be excited when they want to tell others about it.  That’s “Word of Mouth” marketing at its best.  Your team members want to let others know about the great things happening, their struggles, and you.  This is a great way to build team support for coaching.  An additional side benefit is that the results are often more dramatic. Just think about it this way: If you were to start a diet and never tell anyone, you wouldn’t last very long. However, if you start a diet and make it public, your commitment level jumps and you increase the likelihood of your success.

Wouldn’t you want people to talk about being coached when it increases their chances of success?

Make Coaching Public Knowledge. You and the people who you coach are not secret agents. You don’t have to hide your behavior, only meeting in secret places after dark.  Before you start coaching, talk with your client about casual public communication about coaching that you will be having.  You want your client comfortable with letting people know she is being coached.  You won’t talk about what happens during the coaching but will make public the fact that coaching is occurring.  You now have permission to say things in public like:

  • How about we go to Starbucks for our coaching today?
  • I have to cut this short so I can make my appointment to coach Beth.
  • I am so excited about today.  I have lots of coaching calls scheduled.

Statements like these are an invitation to converse.  And you can talk about the role coaching is having in building your business and your team.

Solicit Testimonials.  Ask your clients to send you something in writing.  They will say nicer and more powerful things about coaching than you ever could.  Want to read some?  Dana Phillips asked several people to send her a brief note about what coaching has meant for them.  The results are powerful testimonials.  Sometimes you can even videotape quick statements and put them together.

Brag about Your Clients.  When you focus on the Four Guidelines for Building a Culture, you will start to see a lot of traction.  Let the culture speak for itself.  You can talk about the successes in the culture and those accomplishments will solidify the future of coaching as part of your team’s DNA. A great example of this is the way that Lyn Christian shares the successes of her salon coaching in the Paul Mitchell School and with the Progressions Salon.

You will know that you are on the right course with your celebrations when people start requesting coaching.

Thank you for reading about ways to celebrate coaching and extend it into your culture.

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The Secret to Coaching through the “I Don’t Know” Answer.

Coaching "I Don't Know"One of the hardest statements that a client hands to a coach is the one that starts “I don’t” and ends with “know.”  What should a coach say in order to continue moving the client forward? Your client has just told you that they don’t have an answer. What does that really mean?

I once heard a trainer tell me to ask, “If you did know, how would you answer?”  That’s clever, but blatantly calls your client a liar. How will you get your client to the point of answering without taking such a condescending approach?

I’ve had the honor recently of working with some excellent student coaches at Ultimate Coach University.  As they are finishing their training program, we take apart real coaching calls that they’ve had. With their client’s permission, the session is recorded and then the student coach and I discuss that session using a framework of the International Coaching Federation core competencies.

The “I don’t know” shows up at least once in every coaching call. Here are some approaches that I’ve heard used to great effectiveness:

Don’t Say anything.  Shut up.  The coach’s tendency is to rush in to fill the silence; to ask a new question or a rephrased one.  Sometimes when the client says “I don’t know” what it really means is that they haven’t asked or answered that question before.  When the coach rushes in, they are interrupting the client’s thoughts and the answer that is being formulated.  Deepak Chopra once observed that the space between thoughts is the place where insight can make itself known. When the coach hold a little bit of silence, wonderful thoughts start to appear.

Take smaller coaching bites.  Karen Bejjani from J. Hilburn has a great question that I’ve heard her use in classes and while coaching.  Her question is “Would you like to unpack what’s in that statement?” Her question treats the client as capable of answering.

“Talk to me” Questions. These questions just ask the client to talk and see what pops up.  It’s common for clients to discover their answer while they are talking.

When a client says that scary phrase, “I don’t know.” It seldom means that.

  • They may just have not put it into a sentence before.
  • They may have many thoughts and haven’t decided where to begin.
  • They may have a fear of saying their answer.

Your coaching task is to hold a space where the client is comfortable in providing an answer.

Thank you for reading about coaching clients through a tough answer.  If you like this, feel free to share it.  We’d love to have you comment with your thoughts.

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