Posts Taged coaching-process

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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Breaking the Coaching Mold

Have you ever coached a client who just couldn’t seem to move forward?  And she was stuck for week after week after week? I was recently working with a UCU student coach on one of her clients.  I have permission to share the following.

The UCU student coach wanted to spend her session talking about her client.  Her client was saying all of the right things and appeared to be doing all that she committed to do, but there was no progress.  Sales, recruiting, and promoting were all stagnated.  Coaching calls also seemed to have stagnated. Neither coach nor client could figure out a way forward.

As we talked our way into the scenario, the student coach had an amazing AHA moment. For a client to do something differently, she has to think differently.  The same is true for a coach.  You have to coach differently in order for your client to respond differently.  The rest of our call was taken up with possible alternatives to the “business as usual” coaching model. The student coach was going to ask the client to “experiment” with some different coaching techniques.  (Let me stress that without client permission, none of these would occur). Here are some of the alternatives that might be used:

  • The coach may ask the client to allow interruptions.
  • The coach may ask the client to describe her week like a movie script or fairy tale.
  • The coach was only going to ask “what” questions.
  • The coach would speed coach as if the session was only half as long.

Get the picture?  The student coach is committed to coaching differently to see what different results she may get.

At the end of her experimental coaching session, the student coach will ask her client for feedback and thank her for experimenting.

How could you experiment with a client?

 

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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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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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Coaching Leaders to Maximize Their Impact

Give up control to get itDo you get more power by grabbing it or giving it away? As I coach leaders, I often try to get them to confront this question.  While this seems to be a question for the corporate executive, it fits almost every leader from the top of a direct sales organization to company directors.  The obvious answers often doesn’t work.

The usual answer is along the lines of “I need to tighten the reins of control.”  That means clearer organizational charts, roles, responsibilities, and micro-managing.  For most of the people I coach, this is a recipe for disaster.  They will alienate their teams, undercut their development, and create an environment in which people are content to meet the minimums rather than energized to provide maximums.

The real answer is “I need to equip and empower my team.”  Giving away control raises your leadership capacity.  Here are a baker’s dozen questions that might prove useful as you coach leaders on this issue.

  • What roles do you currently play (and get very detailed)?
  • What skills does it take to fill your roles?
  • What would make you better equipped to fill these roles?
  • How do the people you work with make you feel? What do they do to create those feelings?
  • How do you make the people around you feel? What are you doing to create these? Give examples.
  • What personal goals do you have?
  • What aspirations do your people have?
  • What would shift your enthusiasm up?
  • What limits your ability to influence at work?
  • What would enhance it?
  • How much control do you feel you have in your area (scale of 1 to 10)
  • How much control do you feel you need?
  • If you were to report to the you-boss, how do you feel about you-boss on an average day?

What questions would you like to add?  Remove?

 

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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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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?

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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?

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