Posts Taged coach-approach

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?

Read More

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?

Read More

Should Your Client Quit or Not?

Iditarod Red LanternWe respect those who finish. A recent Seth Godin blog reminded me of this.  Seth wrote about The Red Lantern, which is the Iditarod reward that goes to the last person to finish the race.  The lantern is the reward for those who push through to the end. The Iditarod has found a way to recognize the value of hanging in to the finish.

As a coach, I’ve always struggled with finding the right balance for my clients between finishing what they start and moving on to a different goal.  Here are 19 key questions to sort through what is often a mixed motive situation:

  1. On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is it to you to hit this goal?
  2. Are you being driven by your courage or bravado?
  3. How do the costs and benefits look to you at this point?
  4. How do you feel about cutting your losses?
  5. What’s the win if you redirect your goal now?
  6. What’s the loss?
  7. How will you regain your sunk costs?
  8. What will you do to forgive yourself for stopping?
  9. How will you reward yourself for finishing?
  10. What’s changed?
  11. What hasn’t changed?
  12. Are you being internally or externally motivated right now?
  13. How would you feel if it was just you?
  14. How would you feel if you influenced others to do the same thing?
  15. What would _____________ tell you to do?  [Superman? Batman? Your mother?]
  16. What’s your gut reaction right now?
  17. What would happen if you put off deciding for 24 hours?
  18. How would you decide right now?
  19. If you couldn’t fail, what would you do?

The race is not always to the swift.  For Aesop, slow and steady wins the race. As coaches, we cannot decide on the right course of action for our clients.  Even more fundamentally, we need to do our best to avoid influencing their decision.

Think of a recent situation where you were coaching in a mixed motive situation.  What’s the question you would add to this list?

Read More

Three Key Insights on Language and Coaching

Language and reality for coachesThree umpires are arguing about their role in a baseball game.  The most intense argument is about their role in calling balls and strikes. 

The first umpire says (matter-of-factly), “The pitcher pitches.  If he throws a strike, I call it a strike.  If he throws a ball, I call it a ball.”

Throwing fuel on the argument’s fire, the second umpire says, “I just call them as I see them.  If it looks like a strike, that’s what I call it.  If it looks like a ball, then I call it a ball.”

The third umpire puffs up his chest and ends it all. “It ain’t nothing until I call it.”

How do your clients express their view of the world in their language?

Is their world out there and their job is to reflect reality?

Maybe they realize that their mental state plays a role and their role is to select the reality.

OR, maybe your client wants to hide the reality that others see and play a role to deflect it through their language.

What is your role as a coach in working with your client’s reality as it shows up in their language?

As coaches, we often see our role as supporting our clients in seeing alternatives.  How will you do that if your client wants to hide from the reality you want them to see?

When we treat our words as simple vehicles to describe what’s what, we give up on the richness of our surroundings.  And in that richness are the grounds for the best coaching.

How will you coach your client on their use of language to reflect, select, or deflect reality?

Read More

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?

Read More

Six Ways to Create a Coaching Culture

coaching culture

We usually think of culture creation as a haphazard process that just happens.  That doesn’t have to be the case.  While you can’t order people to absorb the team’s culture, you can do things to push it along.  Soren Kaplan recently wrote an article on Six Ways to Create a Culture of Innovation for Fast Company.  The article is a great blueprint for creating cultural change in a big sense.  What if you were to apply his six ideas to creating a culture of coaching?  Here are the six ideas (in bold) and how they fit a coaching culture:

1. Be intentional with your innovation intent.  The goal is to frame the world in the terms you want to see. 

  • Why would you want to support coaching?
  • What does it give you that nothing can or will?
  • How does it affect your team and your customers?

One client of mine is working to develop a team of leaders building leaders.  She knows that’s more than having a coaching element.  She also knows that it won’t happen without coaching.

2. Create a structure for unstructured time.  Think of this as an incubation time.  Eggs don’t hatch as soon as they are laid.  The baby bird has to develop in a protected atmosphere for a while. 

  • How will you take away rigidity in your work expectations?
  • How will you let them explore their ideas about coaching and what it can mean for their life?
  • What will you do to guarantee your team time to incubate and grow under your protection but without your direction?

3.  Step in, then step back.  One company I work with regularly has “lunch and learn” sessions designed to provide a structure that allows exploration.  The participants decide how best to use that time. Within a company, you can find ways to put people together.  For entrepreneurs the task is a little different but still doable. For example, a mastermind group gives you a structure to play around with your ideas.

4.  Measure what’s meaningful.  How will you know you are successful? Finding your return-on-investment is sometimes a difficult if not impossible task.  However, you can measure satisfaction levels.  Ask your people “How is this making a difference for you?”  The answers will be enlightening. Retention is often an important measure of coaching effectiveness.

5.  Give “worthless” rewards.  Find ways to celebrate every day.  Who doesn’t like to get recognition for who they are and what they do?  Just imagine encouraging peer coaching for personal growth opportunities.  What’s stopping you from buying lunch as a way of recognizing people who are exploring new horizons through coaching? You should check out the article from Sean Blaze on 35 ways to do this cheaply.

6.  Get symbolic.  You know when you have entered a church, police station, government office, or YMCA.  You see their symbols everywhere.  What are your symbols that say “we coach here?” Your mission and vision statements, stories, key phrases are all part of the culture.  When you figure those pieces out, your culture become even more obvious.

What do you think?  Which piece strikes you as the one for your focus?

Read More

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.

Read More

Early Signs of a Coaching Culture

Early warning signsLanguage often foreshadows the development of a coaching culture.  Imagine yourself in the midst of a major transition.  You want your top leaders to show their independence.  In short, you want them to lead.  You decide that coaching is the way to make this happen.  And so you begin.  You set appointments; you support your team as they make goals and set plans.  You struggle to be as coach-like as possible.  How will you know it is working before you see results?  The answer is to listen to what your team is saying.

Coaching phrases will start to pop up in conversations. Unless you are listening for them, the language changes will be so soft that they are noticeable.  If you are listening, you’ll start to hear things like:

  • Wow!  I just had an AHA!
  • What do you want to do with it? (You’ll also start to hear more questions and fewer declarations.)

I’m familiar with one coach at a company who is fond of saying, “Would you like to unpack that idea” in her coaching calls.  At a recent meeting, I heard three different people use that phrase.

Accountability becomes a natural part of conversations. One key part of coaching is the management of progress and accountability. Think of the answers to questions like:

  • What do you want?
  • What will you do to get it?
  • When will you have it done?

In a simple sense, people who engage in coaching start to think in goal setting and goal making language.  Phrases around goal setting will show up regularly in everyday conversations.

Behaviors trickle out from your beginning.  Once you start coaching your team leaders, you will see them start to replicate the behavior with their direct reports.  A sure sign of a coaching culture is when the willingness to coach and to be coached become important expectations.  You may not be seeing tangible results from the coaching, but they are coming.

As you work to develop coaching as an important part of your team’s culture, you want to make sure and stay the course.  Coaching is not a quick fix.  I like the way Daniel Goleman describes it, “Our research found that the coaching style is used least often.  Many leaders told us they don’t have the time in this high-pressure economy for the slow and tedious work of teaching people and helping them grow. . . Leaders who ignore this style are passing up a powerful tool: its impact on climate and performance are markedly positive.”

Language clues may let you smile while you are waiting for results.  What do you think?  What other clues can you point to as an indication that coaching is taking hold?

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

 

Read More