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Three Steps to Taking Control

iStock_000014723798SmallReinhold Niebuhr wrote a prayer that, among other things, became adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous as well as other recovery programs.  It goes like this:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

When calm enough, we all realize the wisdom in the quotation.  In the heat of the moment, however, we often don’t.  We get frustrated over what we cannot control and hope that our anger will get us more leverage over the situation.  We know it doesn’t work, but when our emotions are ranging out of control we lack the foresight to do anything else.  The basic truth of the situation for most of us is that we cannot change what we cannot control.  Here are three steps to gaining control:

1. Recognize Your Early Warning Signs of Losing It.  What do you do or think just before you go ballistic?  I have a client who recognizes her symptoms by her wish list: “I wish they’d understand…” or “Why can’t they get it straight?” or “I wish I could just get them to ….” Get the picture?  She is starting to blame, shame and justify all of those things that are out of her control.  The next stage becomes anger.  What is your early warning sign?

2. Take Control of the Fundamentals.  Once you start to find yourself looking outside of your control, ask some questions about how you got there.  These are questions like:

  • What is making me feel so frustrated?
  • What do I really want?
  • What really matters?
  • What can I do besides get angry?

Another option is to follow the advice that Marshall Goldsmith gives about letting go of guilt.

No one gets angry without energy.  And the angrier we get, the more energy we are using.  The truth is that the power behind that anger is available WITHOUT the anger part.  Asking questions of ourselves in a calm fashion allows us to see things through different eyes.

3. Take Your Baby Steps.  Accept the imperfection around you.  Maybe it is your faults that you have to accept.  You will never be king or queen of the universe, so figure out how to do what you can with what you have available at that moment.  What’s the first little step to move you in the direction away from losing it?

These are three steps that others have found effective.  What works for you?

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Finding Balance by Creating Margins

Most of us grew up using margins when we write.  Remember the red line on the left of the paper?  When we use margins, a note is easier to read.  When you write “margin-less”, like the note below, it is difficult to read.


As coaches, we listen for what is said and what is not said.  Often I find my clients are pushing their margins to the edge in their business and life.

What are the signs of a margin-less life? There are different clues for individuals.  One sign for me was when I overslept, was hurrying to get the kids to middle school, ran out of gas, coasted down the hill to the gas station, had the sixth grader drive so I could push the van to the pump and that was a ”normal” day.

Other signs include:  a client has a beautiful home, big screen TV, several cars and yet yearns for time to take a walk.

The client may be headed toward “margin-less” when she finds herself  apologizing for being late for a conference call or appointments that she set up because she was running behind.

In spite of running a successful direct selling business, the client is living from check to check.

The person you are coaching has more than $5000 in credit card debt.

Your client recognizes his impatience with his spouse or children growing more frequently.

In his book, Margin, Richard Swenson, M.D. points to four kinds of margins we must create for less stress, better health, and greater productivity:  he addresses financial, health, social and emotion margins.

A client may find real value in exploring and applying these margins to her life.  As a coach, you can ask powerful, open ended questions to allow her to create personalized action plans to set and keep margins in each or any of these areas.

What are some questions you might ask to support your clients?

What are some of the things you can do to create and keep safe margins for yourself?

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Why We Need More Direct Selling Coaches

Coaches supportPart of the great joy of training coaches is to see what happens to a client.  Recently I asked some clients to think about what they get out of coaching.  When you read their thoughts, it just might inspire to you to become a professional coach.  I am so glad I did.

COACHING SERVES THE WHOLE PERSON: Barb Braden, Legacy Executive Director. I have had a personal coach for the past 6 years.  While the original intent of getting a coach was for my Tupperware business and to help me be a better “Leader of Leaders”, the coaching experience has helped me in all aspects of my life.  Having a coach that is truly interested in my success not only as a business owner/leader but as a person gives me permission to explore all areas in my life.  This then leads me to a better understanding of how I work physically, mentally and emotionally allowing me to be much more proactive in my thinking and doing.  My coach keeps me honest with myself.

COACHING HELPS KEEP THE MAIN THING THE MAIN THINGDiane Nozik, Senior Executive Director.  Coaching has not only transformed both my personal business but also my organization with some fantastic spillover into even my personal relationships. This year, I promoted more leaders then I ever had before, closed more shows and submitted higher sales. Beyond that, it helped me focus on the truly important areas of my business and I learned how to let go of so many of the distractions that seemed to pop up and keep me from being truly productive. Working with my coach helps me address some of the uncomfortable parts of being a top producing direct seller so I’m more confident and can help my team be more confident. Plus, I’m now working more efficiently in my business and that has spilled over into more quality time with my family plus I have more to give to my team. The work I do with her is really the most important part of my work week.

COACHING BRINGS ACCOUNTABILITY: Sally Michael, Senior Executive Managing Partner.  Coaching has been an enormous step for me in my business. I have never run a large organization and coaching has helped keep me stay on track and keeps my business moving forward. I am a person who has a lot of energy and drive but can get sidetracked so much of the time. Coaching in three areas has been life changing for me:

  • calendar blocking or time management
  • accountability with my team and personal goals
  • processing decisions and sticking with them

Because I have accountability, I tend to not procrastinate as much and I am always looking at the steps I need to take to make my goals happen. I have realized through coaching that I can work smarter and not harder. I need to plan my work and not let my work plan me. I have more balance in life, my business and in my head because of my investment in myself.

How can we encourage more people to consider becoming a coach?

Please.  Take a moment and comment.  How has coaching helped you?

 

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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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Use the Whole Brain for Goal Achievement, Part One

Coach the Whole BrainIf nothing else, we are a goal-oriented species.  We think about the future and act in ways to shape it.  There is a large body of evidence to suggest that using your whole brain to accomplish your goals will make you more likely to achieve them.

This is the first of a three part series on using the whole brain for goal achievement.  Part one (which you are reading) explores the differences between left and right brain thinkers.  Part two is about visualizing success.  Part three is about using affirmations.

Some of you are oriented toward the right-brain.  You are creative, spatial thinkers, intuitive and spontaneous.  You often think in pictures, colors, or feelings.  You can be great starters who are often haphazard finishers. You see the goal and yet struggle to articulate how you will achieve what you see so clearly in your mind.

Others are oriented towards the left brain.  The left brain is very language oriented.  Language is very rational and business-like.  Left brain people are oriented toward logical, problem-solving paradigms: they are very linear in their thinking. Left brain thinkers go from point A to point B to point C.  They find a problem; they solve it.  Then they find another problem and solve it and pretty soon they’re so engaged in the process that they’ve become problem solvers rather than goal-reachers.

To use your whole brain you have to think in both terms of language and pictures.  Pictures lead you to use visualizations.  Language leads you to use affirmations.  Pictures are right brain; language is left brain.  Visualizations are right brain; affirmations are left brain.  When you use both sides of our brain to focus on our goals, you send a message to our subconscious that leads you to the accomplishment of our goals.

Visualizations are powerful in the attainment of a goal.  In their book, Seeing with the Mind’s Eye, Mike and Nancy Samuels describe a simple experiment using some high school kids and visualization.

A random sample of high school boys are broken into three groups. All of the boys spend time shooting basketballs to see what percentage of free throws they make. Like any experiment they go out and shoot baskets the first day, twenty days later they go out and shoot baskets again and the difference between the scores shows how much they’ve grown in the process.

The first group practices everyday and then they shoot baskets at the end.  They show 24% improvement.  The second group shoots baskets on the first day, they don’t do anything in-between, and on the last day they shoot baskets again.  They’ve shown no improvement.  Interestingly, the third group shoots baskets on the first day and then go through a process of visualization: they practice seeing themselves shooting those baskets for the next twenty days and improving in their mind’s eye.  In the end, when they shoot the baskets, they show a 23% improvement.

Think about it:  24% improvement by practice:  23% by visualization.  Visualization is powerful when it comes to achieving your goals.

Part two is about using visualizations.  How do you support your clients in goal setting?

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How to Explore Alternative Views on Leading a Team

Coaching creates productive teamworkA client approached our coaching session last week with what he felt was a crucial confrontation that was just about to blow-up in his team. Here’s a little background and a new coaching perspective that we developed to deal with the issue.

He was directing a highly successful team and the more success they were having, the more the team was growing.  The team’s size (and responsibilities have doubled in the past year and were scheduled to do the same in the coming year.

The difficulty was that Robert, one of the team members, was constantly dragging his feet on highly urgent matters that range from new hires to team goals and individual responsibilities. Robert is a systematic thinker and is not going to be unnecessarily hurried through important topics.  Robert is a lone voice.  The other team members are all shoot-from-the-hip type of people who are getting more and more frustrated as the backlog of decisions keeps getting longer.

My client explained this background to me and then asked if we could use our coaching time to figure out what he should do.  Here’s how things went from my side.

First, I asked questions of make sure I understood what it was my client wanted.  Basically, he wanted to use our time to think aloud about this issue and to decide on a course of action.

Second, I asked permission to try something new. “Could we try something new?  I’d like to give you three different reactions to what you’ve told me and then, after each one, give you the opportunity to decide what you would do.  How does that sound?”

Third, I offered a perspective in a very excited voice. “Wow, this is great that you’ve got somebody who’s willing to offer a different opinion.  How are you going to support Robert?” We then talked through that viewpoint.

Fourth, I offered a perspective in a depressed voice. “This is a tough situation.  What will you do to get Robert in line with everyone else?”  We then talked through this viewpoint.

Fifth, I blamed my client. “Sounds like this is all your fault for letting it get this far.  What would you like to do now?”  My client laughed.  Awareness is raised. I again asked, “What do you want to do now?”  His answers were brilliant!

What other questions would you ask to support your client in situations like this?

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Four Easy Guidelines When Advising Like a Coach

Advising like a coachMuch as coaches try to avoid giving advice, clients sometimes are very good at pulling out of us.  Just when the client seems to be rolling along quite nicely, they will throw in a “I don’t know, what do you think?”  You, as the coach, are caught off guard and before you can help yourself, you have turned into a mentor and a font of wisdom.  Here are four easy guidelines to follow when in this situation.

Always ask permission.  When advice is permission based, you will keep ownership of the strategy with the client.  You will often have the opportunity to ask permission several times.  Think about using questions like:

  • Are you asking for my advice? (This is your real-time opportunity to confirm what you heard.)
  • My advice is offered from outside your activities, so feel free to reject it or tweak it to fit better.

The other key benefit of asking permission is that you prevent resistance. Unsolicited advice immediately generates a backlash.

Start with what they’ve done.  Want to appear foolish?  Blurt out your advice and then listen to your client say, “I tried that and it didn’t work.” Discover what your client has done before giving advice.  You will save time and ego.  Ask the simple and straightforward question, “What have you tried?”

Be clear on what is requested.  Sometimes clients will ask for advice and, while it may be clear in their mind, it may not be in yours.  Ask questions like:

  • Is your question about your goal or your strategy?
  • Are you concerned about your process or your point of view?
  • What’s the advice you would like me to give? [This sounds like a weird question, but you will discover what they want.]

Avoid being Directive.  The phrase “you should” is usually an invitation to trouble.  Alternatively, try phrases like:

  • Other clients have found that. . . .  You are the expert on this situation.  How does this fit you?
  • Here’s another option. . . .
  • What I’ve found helpful is . . . .

These four guidelines keep you thinking and acting like a coach while providing an opportunity to partner with your client.  What have you found useful?

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Educating Others about Coaching is Worth It

Direct Selling Association ConventionIn early June,  Neil Phillips and I had the opportunity to represent Ultimate Coach University at the Direct Selling Association national conference.  Over 1,000 corporate executives and supplier members were in attendance and it was a great time to discover the best practices in the direct selling industry.

I was privileged to present a workshop on coaching as part of leadership development for company employees and independent contractors.  My assumption that people don’t really understand coaching was spot on.  After the session, people came up to us with comments such as these:

“I think we haven’t been coaching at all.

I didn’t realize companies like PepsiCo, ATT, Xerox, and IBM have coaching programs for internal leadership.

Our company has been calling one-on-one training ‘coaching’.

We are ready to look at coaching as part of our overall leadership development strategy.

The big aha for me was that coaching bridges the gap from what I know to what I don’t do.”

As coaches, we know coaching works!  We know that coaching raises awareness.  We understand the distinctions between coaching and training.  We have a tremendous opportunity to share everyday about the benefit of coaching for self-discovery, personal and professional productivity, and permanent change.

My challenge to coaches today: create a short and engaging answer when people ask, “What is coaching?” and be ready to share.

What is your answer when people ask?

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Leadership Coaching

crowdsourcing leadership trainingI need your help.  Badly.  I want to develop some teaching tools on to help train leadership coaches in direct sales.  Direct sales leadership is not about sales and recruiting; it’s about growing others to become leaders in their own way.

It’s hard to train people in leadership coaching without being formulaic.  Don’t get me wrong: I coach people through corporate transitions as they move higher up the ladder. I know how to create and hold a coaching space for my clients.  I ask them questions like:

  • What does a leader do?
  • What do you do when you are wearing your “leader” title?
  • What separates your leadership from what you used to do?
  • How are you a leader at home?
  • What are the characteristics of a great leader you have?

I love asking questions like these and giving people a chance to think aloud about their answers.  And the coolest part is that every answer is right!

My problem is that I want to develop some training tools for leadership coaches.  To make it fun, I want to crowdsource some tools to teach leadership coaching.  You can help develop some teaching tools to help train leadership coaches in direct sales. Please hit reply and leave a comment.  Here are some things I want your insights on:

  • What would you like to know about training sales leaders?
  • What makes sales leaders different from other types of leaders?
  • Are there core values of a direct sales leader?
  • What are the best tools you have?
  • How do you know you are successfully training leadership?
  • Curious random thoughts about leadership that you would like answered.

As you can tell, I am wide open to hear your thoughts.  If you share, I’ll respond in kind.  As I develop some tools, I’ll be happy to share them with you.  For example, one common tool for values clarification is to sort through a list of terms and narrow it down to three or less core values.  Would a tool like that be useful to explore the core concepts of a leader? When it’s ready, you can try it out first and have full access to it.

Worth a comment?  Please leave one.

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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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