Powerful Questions

When Will You Cross Your Rubicon?

cross your rubiconIn 49 B.C., Julius Caesar made an irrevocable choice.  The Roman Senate ordered Caesar to either terminate his military command and return to Rome or to continue in command and give up his political aspirations.  The decision occurred on the banks of the Rubicon River:  the Senate warned Caesar that crossing the river with his army would be seen as a declaration of war.

History records Julius Caesar’s decision to cross the Rubicon and change history.  Once he made his decision and started the march to Rome, there was no going back.  He took away all of his choices.  Once he crossed the Rubicon, taking the army to Rome was his only choice.  And while he only lived five more years, his mark on history is written in indelible ink.

What would happen to your life if you decided to cross your personal Rubicon?  When you make a decision that you can’t take back, your life changes.

  • You have passion where you wavered before.
  • Your path forward become really, really clear.
  • You can articulate your purpose without hesitation or equivocation.

Your unflappable commitment is not to an action.  It’s to your vision.  When I say that I love my wife, it doesn’t mean that we won’t argue.  It means that I am committed to going beyond a squabble every single time.

My business commitment is to growing leaders and unlocking coaching moments.  That’s my course even if I don’t get it right 100% of the time.

You must do four things to cross your Rubicon.

Tell the most important people in your life.  Speak your commitment to your spouse, children, and close friends.  You don’t make irreversible decisions and then not tell people.  Make it impossible to back down.

Move forward.  You no longer can stand still or go in reverse.  You have to move forward.  Every day, what will you do to move forward?

Dig deeper.  We’re not talking about a hobby or something that would be nice in your spare time.  Commitment is a long-term game.  It’s about finding, refining, and fulfilling the deeper meaning in your life.  To find this type of commitment, you are becoming a lifelong learner.  You are going to grow beyond your imagination.

Surrender all doubt.  Doubt becomes a useless thought when you can’t uncommit.  Why waste the energy?

Your life changes when you cross your river.  You’ll have to find a strategy and tactics to continue moving ahead.  You’ll need to build a success team of supporters, mentors, and a coach.

When will you cross your Rubicon?

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Pay Attention to Your Words

Seen but not heardOccasionally we hear about studies that give unbelievable “facts” and expect us to believe them.  Unfortunately, these are often myths passed down by trainers rather than actual results.  Take for example the “fact” that nonverbal communication overwhelms other channels that we have.

The speaker will tell us that studies show that 93% of communication is nonverbal so we need to pay attention to how something is said.  It’s one of those myths.

In this case, there is such a study, but its conclusions have been stretched beyond reasonable bounds.  Albert Mehrabian studies the relative importance of various channels of communication in the late 1960’s.  His results are often reported as concluding that in all communication:

  • 7% happens in spoken words.
  • 38% happens through voice tone.
  • 55% happens via general body language.

That’s not what his study concluded.  He looked at situations between partners (husband-wife, boyfriend-girlfriend, etc.) in order to study the communication of feelings.  Within that type of situation, his formula is:

Total Liking = 7% Verbal Liking + 38% Vocal Liking + 55% Facial Liking

His conclusions don’t apply to all types of communication.  As Mehrabian states on his website: “Please note that this and other equations regarding relative importance of verbal and nonverbal messages were derived from experiments dealing with communications of feelings and attitudes (i.e., like-dislike). Unless a communicator is talking about their feelings or attitudes, these equations are not applicable.”

His studies do point to some important concepts:

  • Meaning from a situation doesn’t come from something simple.  It’s a combination of a variety of factors.
  • Emails, where tone can’t be heard, are fraught with the possibility of misinterpretation.
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of language in communicating.  Words matter.

If you want to read more for yourself, go to:

Business Balls

Changing Minds

Albert Mehrabian’s website

 

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The Medium Changes the Coaching Message

DeathtoStock_SlowDown3The medium (vocal, visual, textual) that you use for coaching affects what can occur during the coaching and after.  Nearly five decades ago, Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase. “The medium is the message.”  While it seemed somewhat revolutionary at the time, we’ve all come to recognize the importance of the medium as an influence on the shape of the message.  Any user of Twitter, Instagram or Facebook could hardly disagree.  What we don’t often realize is that the statement is equally true about the medium in which we coach.

Most of my coaching is done on the telephone.  Thoughts can sometimes wander through the exchange and the client who is working very creatively may be very difficult to follow.  I can tell when the client and I are feeling the same way when I ask a question like, “So where are you going with this?” and the client responds by saying that “That’s a good question.”

Recently, I challenged a client to use a different medium and the clarity was astounding.  Elizabeth, my client, was sorting out her thoughts on work, values, and what she really wanted in five years.  We’ve talked about this before and while Elizabeth was moving forward, I challenged her to go away to write answers to four questions:

  • What do I really, really want?
  • Is what I’m doing getting it for me?
  • What do I need to stop doing?
  • What do I need to start doing?

For Elizabeth, writing rather than talking about these topics made an enormous difference.

Thoughts that were swirling in her head had to be made into sentence. Thoughts are seldom complete and very seldom in sentence form. As thoughts became sentences, Elizabeth’s thinking clarified.

Spoken justifications may sound reasonable–until put on paper.   Elizabeth was more willing to throw a foul flag when she saw some of her thinking in writing. In hindsight, she called saw some of her excuses “lame or half-formulated.”

Progress is still at a very measured pace.  However, Elizabeth is clear on the direction she wants to go and is very steadily moving to her goal.

How can you switch medium with your client?

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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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