Posts Taged coaching-tools

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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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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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?

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Sharpening the Saw

sharpening of saw bladesWhen I coach high performers, one of the hardest things for them to do is relax.  They are so tied up in performing that they can’t turn it off.  The result, after a while, is a loss of emotional balance and a weakened  work performance. When we talk about it in their coaching call, they start to identify the issue (“I need some time off”).

In Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, the very last one is called the “Principles of Balanced Self-Renewal.”  More commonly, it is known as Sharpen the Saw.  The metaphor he uses to explain this is straightforward.  If you were cutting down a tree, it would be much easier with a sharp saw.

What we don’t often think about is the four dimensions of self-renewal.  On a holiday weekend, there is a perfect opportunity to experience a little of all four.

1. Spiritual Renewal.

In the U.S., we have an opportunity to reflect on gratitude.  What was your part of remembering gratitude on Memorial weekend?  What are you grateful for and how will you show it?  Can you spend a little extra time this week contemplating all that has gone right in your life so far this  year?  Who will listen as you share those perfect feelings?

2. Physical Renewal.

Food is a part of your holiday weekend.  Holidays are also some of the highest alcohol consumption days.  While the consumption binge is briefly satisfying, we also get an opportunity to catch a little extra sleep, relaxation time, and (for the food guilty) even some exercise.

3. Social/Emotional Renewal.

With time away from work, you have an opportunity to spend more time with our family and friends; you can renew familial bonds and friendships.  Sharing a meal is more than breaking bread.  You also share the bonds made and strengthened over the table.

4.  Mental Renewal.

When you take the time to slow down, you can spend a little time letting your minds wander in some new directions.  You catch up on the news, daydream, plan without pressure, and maybe even catch-up on some list making and office cleaning.

While these four areas all seem unique, they share a common trait:  you can only engage in renewal by being proactive.   When you are driven by the urgent, renewal doesn’t happen.

Ask yourself a simple question:  Do I really need a holiday to sharpen my saw?  Obviously, you don’t have to have a holiday.  You can establish a habit by building time in your schedule for renewal.  This doesn’t mean just thinking about it.  Unless you build the time in your schedule, you won’t set the time to break your old habits.  Ironically, the one that most people don’t take seriously is mental renewal.  We schedule time off; we have vacations.  What most people don’t do is schedule time for mental development.

  • When is that last time you took a class to improve your job performance?
  • What are you scheduling on a regular basis to develop new skills and attributes?
  • How often do you talk with outside business acquaintances without trying to sell them something?

With a three day weekend just finishing, you’ve found time to do a little sharpening.  I know I did. But don’t stop there.  What are you doing to sharpen your saw this week?  Month? Summer?

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Get a Coach: The First Key to Starting Your Coaching Culture

First steps to a coaching cultureFor a decade or more, coaching has almost been seen as a perk of the executive position in large corporations.  In the past few years, interesting is growing in developing coaching as a method of interaction and development at virtually all company levels in all sizes of companies.  More and more, businesses are working to build coaching into the DNA of their culture.  The initial steps don’t have to cost you an arm and a leg, but you do have to make a commitment.  While most philosophers will tell you that the first step is the most important one, the step you choose need to be the right one.  Here is one informed suggestion.

Get a Coach.  When I say, “get a coach,” I mean get a credentialed coach or one who received their coach training through an accredited program.  You want someone who has the knowledge to interact well with you in a coaching encounter.  You want a coach who has been trained by professionals.   At a recent leadership training program, Betty (the name is to protect the innocent) approached me to have a conversation around coaching.  She said, “I tried coaching once, and it didn’t
work.”  As we continued the discussion, it became very apparent to both of us what went wrong.  Betty’s friend persuaded her to start coaching with a friend of a friend who was just beginning their coaching business.  This coach had no professional training other than “he had been to several weekend retreats where they taught coaching.”  Furthermore, he started his coaching career because a lot of “people at his old job told him that he would be good at it.”  While a step of this kind can be successful, it is more often the wrong one.

As with any buying decision, don’t take it lightly.

  • Google a phrase like “find a coach” or “hire a coach.”  Then research it like you would buying a car.
  • Go to a website of a professional organization like the International Coach Federation.  Most of them will let you search for coaches with credentials.
  • Talk to the coach before you hire.  Go with your gut.  How does this coach make you feel?

Start your coaching culture by working with a coach.  You’ll learn from the inside of the experience how it works; what you feel, think and do.  By experiencing coaching, you know how to grow the culture that fits your company.

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Ten Questions to See How Your Coaching Culture is Doing

Your Coaching CultureWith the explosive boom in self-development over the last decade, the growth of the coaching business is pretty predictable.  While executives have used coaches for decades, only recently has it also become a part of corporate culture at other levels.  When companies hire external coaches, they have some certainty that what is called “coaching” really is.  High percentages of external coaches are trained as coaches and bring that professional training with them.  Internal coaching is a developing field.  Internal coaches are seeking training, developing internal coach training program, and approaching coaching as a proactive (rather than a reactive) strategy for development.

Whether the coaches are internal or external, HR departments are very positive in their reactions.  The biggest change found in the 2013 Sherpa Executive Coaching Survey is the response of the HR professionals.  As that report summarizes, “Human resources and training professionals report a double-digit increase in their confidence in the value of coaching. The number of contributors from HR and training who now see the value of executive coaching as ‘very high’ jumped from 63% to 75%.”

If you are responsible for developing a coaching culture, here are 10 key questions that will help you shape the program to get what you want:

1. How often are formal coaching conversations being initiated?

2. Is coaching viewed as helpful and proactive or remedial and threatening?

3.  Are coaching conversations used for personal development, performance improvement, or both?

4.  Are the executives verbally supporting a coaching culture?  Are they being coached?

5.  How is coaching being celebrated?

6. How often do leaders in the company initiate impromptu coaching conversations?

7. What resources are available to improve listening, feedback, and questioning skills?

8. Are peer engaging in sideways coaching?

9. What feedback are coaches receiving about their activities?

10. What external evaluations of the coaching process are being undertaken?

Coaching is not effective when it is offered as an “if you build it they will come” program.  Like other company initiatives, your goals, resources, and emotional commitment are primary determinants of the results.

At Ultimate Coach University, we’d welcome the chance to support you in building your coaching culture.

I’m curious.  What questions would you ask to shape a coaching culture?

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Powerful Coaching Questions? Depends on the Listener

Crumpled question marks heapI’ve gotten a great reminder lately that powerful questions are really in the mind of the listener.  As a coach, you don’t know if a question is powerful until after it hits the listener.  Here’s what reminded me.

I’ve recently joined several LinkedIn Coaching groups, one of which is the ICF Coach’s Forum.  One participant posted a discussion question, “What would you ask clients if they had to answer honestly? For some background information, I’m currently working on creating feedback forms for clients who call into my site and speak with coaches at random. What would you ask clients that could help you as a coach and entrepreneur? Is there anything you think you could/should improve as a coach?”

The answers are all over the board.  Here’s a sample (note the breadth of content covered by the questions):

  • What is your best coaching take away that happily stuck to you like super glue?
  • What worked well?
  • What’s not quite right?
  • Would you recommend this website? [I like this one.  One purpose of this is to get feedback on a website!]
  • Who are the top four individuals you invite into your circle of trust?
  • What three things keep you awake at night?
  • What is the single most important thing you will do tomorrow?
  • ¡Qué puedes sacar de todo esto? [What conclusion can be drawn from all this?]

All of these questions have potential.  They are not like the powerful questions that we ask in a coaching session. These questions seek to improve a broader process and, as a result, stretch beyond the client’s needs.

One of the International Coaching Federation’s Core Competencies is asking powerful questions.  At Ultimate Coaching University, the class on Powerful Questions is one of the first ones we teach at the Three Day Launch Session.  Almost 100% of the student would like to have a list of the best questions to ask. While we do provide some examples of good questions, our goal is to focus the student on the client.  Until you step into the coaching circle with a client and design questions for his needs, all that you have are words.

Think about coaching situations that you have been involved in.  We’d love to hear your best question (even if we never know the client and the situation).

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How Coaching Creates the AHA! Moments

We really don’t “know” how the brain works.  We just have theories.  One of the newest theories explains the AHA! process very well.  To understand it, however, we need to go back a few years.

The brain theory we know the best goes back to Roger Sperry’s theory of a two-sided brain.  He won a Nobel Prize in 1981 for his idea that the right side brain is creative and intuitive while the left side brain is analytical and rational. We understand the theory and can visualize the distinction.  So if we want to get creative and brainstorm, we let lose the whole brain and think we are getting ideas to bounce around inside our skull.

The big year for a model change was 1998 and the theory of intelligent memory.  Eric Kandel won a Nobel Prize for his theory in which analysis and intuition work together.  The theory is about learning and recall in various combinations throughout the brain.

Barry Gordon explains the newer model for the nonscientists in his book, Intelligent Memory: Improve the Memory that Makes You Smarter.  Basically, human memory is like an inventory system.  You take in thoughts, break them down, and put the components on the shelves.  When new experience arrive, your brain searches through the shelves to find how the new fits with the old.

  • When your mind matches things up, the result is a thought.
  • When your mind breaks things down and stores them, this is analysis.
  • As your brain searches and combines data with links, stories, images, and so on, this is intuition.

When different pieces come together, you get the famous AHA! moment. That’s why we can say things like, “I knew that” because we have these components that we have just put together into a new conclusion.

Coaching creates these AHA moments by asking the intuitive questions; by allowing the clients to pick and choose among all of the pieces on the memory shelves and combine them in ways to match new scenarios.  Cool, heh?

Like prior theories, this is a theory and it will probably be replaced someday.  Until then, you might want to buy Barry Gordon’s book and figure out how to help your clients find more of these unique growth points.

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Do You Want a Coach or a Mentor?

DistinctionsAs students work their way through the Ultimate Coach University Launch Workshop, one activity that we do is to create distinctions between the mental images of “coach” and “mentor.” While they are not completely distinct, the differences are telling.  Here are a few of the characterizations of mentors:

  • A mentor kicks your ass to do better.
  • Mentors want you to understand what they know.
  • Mentors push you until you fail.
  • You want your mentor’s approval.
  • Mentor’s want a mini-me.
  • Mentors have their own agenda. It’s the reason you hooked up with them.

In contrast, coaches create a different type of relationship.

  • Coaches want you to succeed in your own way on the way to your chosen goal.
  • Coaches support you without judgment.
  • Coaches stick to your agenda.
  • Coaches don’t want you to fail.
  • Coaches hold you accountable.
  • Coaches give you honest feedback.

So what are you looking for: a coach or a mentor?

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Three Types of Coaching Feedback

Positive FeedbackCoaches, especially new coaches, view feedback as a mixed blessing. They know it’s a key element for improvement but they fear being crushed by what clients have to say. Here are three ways to solicit feedback that are easier to take.

External feedback around the client informs you. When the client reports that people around him are noticing a difference, that’s telling you something as well. Performance reports, 360 surveys, and requests for coaching from your client’s colleagues all provide insights. Admittedly, these types of feedback are indirect indicators.  While they may not be directed towards your improvement, they have a high degree of credibility and truth.

External feedback from the client is invaluable.  The hardest part for new coaches is sitting in fearful anticipation about what will be given as feedback.  The problem is not the feedback; it’s the anticipation of feedback.  One thing that Ultimate Coach University student coaches have found is that written feedback carries less fear.  You are not hearing from the lips of your client; it’s not a knee jerk reaction. Instead, written feedback is designed to be more tactful and that makes it easier to take. Develop a quick one page email form that can be sent to your clients a few times during the coaching.  You’ll be glad for the insights it provides.

Internal feedback to you is integral to improvement. Unless you’ve stopped growing as a coach, you need to ask yourself some important questions.  Ask yourself questions like:

  • Did my client fully understand what he/she needs to change, improve, or continue doing?
  • Did my client understand why he/she needs to change, improve, or continue what he/she is doing?
  • Does my client have a sense of ownership for the plan and results?
  • Did I listen effectively?
  • Do I have a plan for reinforcing or following up on the coaching?

While you can talk harshly to yourself, you are more likely to find valuable answers to these questions that you will implement immediately.

Nothing can remove all of the fear surrounding feedback.  Once you start to become comfortable with your process, then the fear starts to dissipate.

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