Powerful Questions

10 Yogi Berra-isms for Coaches

yogiberraYogi Berra, one of the greatest baseball players of all time, passed away in September.  His feats as a baseball player and coach are legendary.  He still holds some records in major league baseball as a player and a coach.  He was even the inspiration for a long running cartoon character, Yogi Bear (although Hanna-Barbera denied the association for a long time).

He was also well-known for his ability to coin a phrase.  Many of his sayings have become long running punch lines.  Here are ten that offer good advice for coaches.

On the importance of deciding and acting:  When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

On driving to the end:  It ain’t over till it’s over.

On framing and reframing:  Slump? I ain’t in no slump… I just ain’t hitting.

On having goals:  You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there.

On being totally committed:  Baseball is 90% mental and the other half is physical.

On action orientation:  How can you think and hit at the same time?

On listening:  It was impossible to get a conversation going, everybody was talking too much.

On coaching silence:  You can observe a lot by just watching.

On owning the results:  I never blame myself when I’m not hitting. I just blame the bat and if it keeps up, I change bats. After all, if I know it isn’t my fault that I’m not hitting, how can I get mad at myself?

On being in the flow:  You don’t have to swing hard to hit a home run. If you got the timing, it’ll go.

Bonus:  (It fits every occasion)  If the world were perfect, it wouldn’t be.

May he long be remembered.

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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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Free Will

Viktor Frankl, Free Will

A human being is not one thing among others; things determine each other, but man is ultimately self-determining.  What he becomes—within the limits of endowment and environment—he has made out of himself.

~Viktor Frankl

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

~Viktor Frankl

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

~Viktor Frankl

Viktor Frankl was not an American.  He was a survivor of the holocaust.  His book, Man’s Search for Meaning, is considered by the Library of Congress as one of the ten most influential books in America.  He understood independence and freedom.

When we talk about “unalienable rights” we are speaking of our right to choose.

Whether high born or low we have this right.

Regardless of color or sex or creed, we have this right.

We may not be able to choose our circumstances, but we can choose how we will react to them.

Happy Independence Day!

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What Will You Say in Your Commencement Address?

iStock_000015553717I spent most of this past week in San Antonio at the Direct Selling Association Convention seeing what different companies were doing for coaching and leadership development (but that’s a post for a different day).  At one luncheon, someone at the table was explaining how he were going to have to leave early so he could get to their high school to be the commencement speaker.  Everyone I could see gave a heart-felt OH.

Who among you cannot (without lying) say you never dreamt of giving a commencement address?  Yeah, it may have been a fleeting thought, but I am willing to bet that you at least had an image of yourself standing on a stage saying wise things to all of those students about to embark on adulthood.

So let’s play Back to the Future!

You have the chance to go back to your high school and give the commencement address at your graduation ceremony.

What would you tell the younger you?

How could you make the younger you listen?

I can’t begin to answer those questions for you.  Next time you have a break, jot down some key points on a notepad.  What do you think your work mates would say to these questions?

Now let’s play Back to the Future, Part 2!

You have a chance to go 20 years into the future and meet your older self.

What would you ask?

What would s/he tell you to do or not do?

The real bottom line is very simple:  Do what you would tell your other self to do.

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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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Monday Morning Focus

Monday morning mindsetHow does Monday morning start differently from every other morning for you?

Are you already up to a full run? Contemplating the week? Moaning about all you have to get done before you get to the satisfying work?

Your answers say a lot about you and what’s really going to happen.  You have created your week.

Is it what you want?  The great news is that you get a do-over every Monday.  In fact, you get a new start whenever you want.

When Monday is in your head, you get to own every piece of it.  Everyday.

Friends, lovers, accountability partners and coaches are all people who can support you in remembering this.  Who will you turn to?

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Your Business Culture

business cultureWe often don’t focus ON the business because we are so busy working IN the business.  Don’t feel bad if this has happened to you.  It happens to all of entrepreneurs at one time or another.  You get those extra orders, a vendor creates problems, marketing isn’t working and on and on and on.  Eventually you are so busy putting out fires you aren’t thinking about anything other than fighting fires.

That’s precisely when you should call a TIME OUT to decide if this is the business you want to build.  What’s your business culture saying about your business?  Culture is the soul of your community.  Your culture is what lets you say, “we’re similar” to the people around you and “we’re different” from other cultures.  Culture is how you and your business are known.  Here are three important steps in focusing on your culture so that you are happy with your reputation.

First, notice what’s happening around you.  This is a good time to work with a coach.  A coach will support you in noticing how your actions affect those around you.  Write your observations so you don’t lose them.  Ask some key questions like:

  • What changed? Do you like it?
  • How is productivity affected?
  • What’s missing?
  • What still needs to go?

Second, cast your vision.  How can you best spread the word about your values, both internal and external, with your business?  A coach can help you clarify what’s important to you and how you can show that to other people.  Until you talk about your vision, people can only guess what’s important to you.  As you talk to your team (again and again), your vision will start to catch.  And while you can’t control those above you in the business, you can be assured they will notice what’s happening.

Third, repeat steps one and two.  You have created a focused approach.  Now go with it.  You are at the “aim, fire, re-aim, fire, re-aim, fire” stages.  A coach can support you in staying true to your vision and keep you accountable to the things that will help it stick.

Here’s your challenge:  take 30 minutes this week to step back and look AT your business.  Do you like what you see?  Does it stand for what you want it to represent?  Are you ready to get started?

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Find the greatest research about Leadership and how become one of Them.

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