Posts Taged coach-approach

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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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 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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Learning Coaching from a 3-Year Old

fully present

As a coach, I consciously work to stay “present” when meeting with my clients.  After all, they want my time and attention and I want to make sure that I am fully there and stay there. Like most adults, I think I am a work in progress on this.  I think there is too much going on in my life to fully commit to one person at any given time.

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to see my 3-year old grandson in action.  He is the living definition of “being present.”  Several family members and I attended a wedding in western Illinois.  My grandson was all-in on everything.

  • At a lake? Want to go swimming?
  • My uncle brought his girlfriend. Will you read to me?
  • Flight cancelled? Do we get to stay in a hotel?
  • Chicago? Let’s have deep dish pizza (He didn’t say this, but he whole-heartedly approved).

The point is that he was not concerned with being right or leaving the correct impression.  He wasn’t bothered by delayed flights or lost opportunities.  He was participating full-out.

One of the International Coaching Federation core competencies is “Coaching Presence—Ability to be fully conscious and create spontaneous relationship with the client, employing a style that is open, flexible and confident.”  They go on to describe this with phrases like dancing in the moment, going from your gut, and choosing in the moment.  That is my grandson in action.  This is also a central piece of what coaches strive to accomplish.

I think we do this when we want to have a completely open and honest dialogue with another person.  Carl Rogers describes this by saying “To be with another in this way means that for the time being you lay aside the views and values you hold for yourself in order to enter another’s world without prejudice.”

So the next time you start to get caught in your stuff, think of my grandson, the people you are with, and go dancing in the moment.

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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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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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Coach Like a Child.

After spending the weekend with my two-year-old grandson, I decided that coaches would be much better at their job if they could embrace their inner child. Here are four reasons that come to mind.

Children have no hidden agenda.  They don’t care if you are smarter or cleverer.  They don’t have to fix you.

Children are vulnerable.  How can you, as a coach, stand back and pretend to be unchanged by the powerful things happening in your client?  Children don’t.  They play just as hard as you.

Children ask the best questions.  When a young child asks, “why” it’s not done to belittle or force you to justify your decision.  A child’s “why” is a curious question. Come to think of it, every question is a curious question.

Children maintain a positive atmosphere.   They really don’t want anyone to feel bad. The world’s a funny place if we don’t take it so seriously.  This video below has nothing to do with coaching.  It’s a child laughing.  I dare you to watch it and not join in! Twenty million others have.  That’s the power of a child.

How will you coach more like a child?  

 

 

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Coaching Powerful People

Coaching powerful peopleI’ve had the opportunity recently to start coaching some new clients I would call very strong and outgoing people.  Despite their dissimilar backgrounds, diverse occupations, and geographic distance, they were a lot alike.  Old school sales leaders would call them FIREBALLS or “natural born leaders.”  Organizational psychologists would call them “Type A” personalities.  Organizational behavioralists would call them Alpha’s.

No matter how you classify them, they are not people to be ignored.  My new clients are:

  • public decision makers (“I announced what we were doing.”)
  • unshakable in their confidence (“This is the best way to proceed.  Anything else is flawed.”)
  • domineering over their opposition (“They need to get with it or get out.”)
  • as demanding with others as they are with themselves (“It’s worth doing better than right.”)

In short, they are not people who want to have casual conversations about coaching.  Their time is more valuable than that.

My new clients are prototypical leaders.  Unfortunately, their confidence in their decision making can become the source of their problems.  One way to describe this is by saying that their habits of success have created their blind spots.  They are successful, they are the cause of their success, and their future depends on them doing the same things over and over again.  Because they are strong-willed and confident people, they don’t want to hear that they are wrong.  It’s at this point, when their life and business is trouble filled, everyone knows it, and they have an epiphany that things are not working right.  Of course, a coach should be able to help them.  While I’m sure you have some thoughts on what this can mean, let me suggest three possibilities.

Problems start to show up in their personal lives that aren’t apparent at business.  In their business life, they can roll over problems.  Confusion is your fault; not theirs.  It’s not their job to understand their direct reports; it’s the underlings’ job to understand them.  The job of their personal assistant is to help you understand what they meant.  At home, however, the story is often different.  The alpha is willing to complain about not being understood, laments that “my spouse has changed,” or is having escalating fights with the children.  Interestingly, alpha’s have difficulty seeing themselves as the cause of their problem.  Equally interesting, their typical control methods don’t work.

These alpha personalities will seek a coach to help them understand what’s going on.  The client feels that if they have understanding of “a” particular situation then “all” situations will be open to new understanding.  The client is asking the coach to help them shift their paradigm while being fundamentally blind to the paradigm.  When the alpha finally discovers that understanding is not of an external situation but of their internal psyche, then their world will hold no ceilings.

Somebody stronger comes along.  That somebody may be a new CEO or member on the Board of Directors.  It may be somebody in a different company who has a parallel position and does things completely different from the alpha.  It may be a new hire who seems to be operating at peak efficiency but not like the alpha.  In any case, the strong leader has an indisputable conclusion that something needs to change—even if she is not sure what.

These alpha personalities often think they want a coach to help them plan different strategies.  In most of these situations, the success of the coaching encounter is often transitory.  The alpha is like the gunslinger in the old west—likely to die with their boots on.  They don’t get new understanding or enlightenment.  They get to create a nuance of what they have always done and long term success is illusory.

The job gets too big.  As any successful entrepreneur will tell you, if you are doing it right, eventually you will have to do it differently.  An unwillingness to change will make you into an historic artifact.  These alpha personalities want to discover their role in what they have created.

Often these leaders can find the future role by having the opportunity to explain to a naive third party (the coach) where they are and how they got there.  By the way, this is probably the most common situation for coaches.  Increasingly, companies are hiring coaches to help their new executives find the right role to play.

Whatever the scenario, it is important for the coach to hold alpha’s as whole; capable of getting past the thoughts, actions, and habits that no longer serve them.  Coaching an alpha requires powerful questions that relate to the outcome and desired results.  Questions that lead to more introspection are helpful in the discovery of what the alpha can do.  Questions that lead the alpha to examine the consequences of her behaviors are often a source of revelation for this type of client.

Powerful people want to be effective. Don’t be afraid of coaching the powerful person; be their advocate in discovering how to work from their strengths to create the results they desire.

As I finish writing this, I realize it’s seldom this simple and straightforward. There are other reasons and ways to work with powerful clients. Part of the reason I love working with Ultimate Coach University is the constant reminder that other opportunities and approaches are out there.  Let me know your thoughts and reactions.  I love to have you share your ideas with me.

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What Makes a Coach Authentic?

Authentic coachingWhat does it take to be an authentic coach?  The real deal?

I really want your help answering this question.

If someone claims to be a coach, does that make them one?

Does education and credentials make a coach?

What’s the attitude of an authentic coach?

How does an authentic coach act?

For the curious minded, here’s what prompted this question.  I came across the name of a coach that I didn’t know and wanted to know more about him.   I googled his name. I was surprised to see that one of the articles was from a marketing company talking about how they were marketing his persona as a coach.  What?  This is not to say he wasn’t a coach. I just think that it takes more to be a coach than having your marketing company call you one.

I do have some ideas of how I’d answer these questions, but I’d rather hear from you. You can leave a comment here.  If it’s easier, just leave a comment on the Facebook page.  What makes a coach authentic?

 

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