Posts Taged gain-from-coaching

What Will You Say in Your Commencement Address?

iStock_000015553717I spent most of this past week in San Antonio at the Direct Selling Association Convention seeing what different companies were doing for coaching and leadership development (but that’s a post for a different day).  At one luncheon, someone at the table was explaining how he were going to have to leave early so he could get to their high school to be the commencement speaker.  Everyone I could see gave a heart-felt OH.

Who among you cannot (without lying) say you never dreamt of giving a commencement address?  Yeah, it may have been a fleeting thought, but I am willing to bet that you at least had an image of yourself standing on a stage saying wise things to all of those students about to embark on adulthood.

So let’s play Back to the Future!

You have the chance to go back to your high school and give the commencement address at your graduation ceremony.

What would you tell the younger you?

How could you make the younger you listen?

I can’t begin to answer those questions for you.  Next time you have a break, jot down some key points on a notepad.  What do you think your work mates would say to these questions?

Now let’s play Back to the Future, Part 2!

You have a chance to go 20 years into the future and meet your older self.

What would you ask?

What would s/he tell you to do or not do?

The real bottom line is very simple:  Do what you would tell your other self to do.

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Creating Your Company’s Future

Coaching for successionNearly every hard-driving leader I’ve ever met has picked a singular goal for themselves.  You want to get product out the door; you want to have a smooth production system; you want to create a business that stands the model on its head. You want to make your mark.

What if you picked the wrong goal?  Making your mark is not what you do during your lifetime or even your business career.  What happens to your drive if you say:

My job is to build bench strength.  I need more people ready to step up and fill leadership roles.  This is what Jack Welch and G.E. did for leadership in the 80’s.  Google is arguably doing the same with their business model.

My job is to find my successor.  When your work is to create the possibilities for the next generation, what you are doing for the business on any given day takes a back seat.  Your job isn’t about product; it’s about people.  It isn’t about today; it’s about tomorrow.

My job is coaching tomorrow’s leader.  You can’t tell your future leaders what to do.  You can only prepare them.  You can coach and mentor as a way to support them is seeing their capacity.

Which goal do you prefer: today’s or tomorrow’s?

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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.

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Coach Advice: Breathe out 2012

Breathe out the old before breathing in the new.

Breathe out the old before breathing in the new.

As you get ready for 2013, you are preparing to breathe in your future.  The fresh air will bring you a boost of oxygen and along with it, a feeling of energy and sharpness to your thoughts.

However, there is one thing that has to happen first.  You have to empty your lungs before you can breathe in.

Breathing is a two-step process. To breathe in you need to breathe out first.  Before you breathe in 2013, you need to breathe out the old year.  How do you do that?

Release your feelings.  What happened is a fact.  Everything else in in your thoughts.  Let go of the regrets, the doubts and the misgivings. They are those bits of old air stuck in your lungs.  Bring one of those bits into active thought and then breathe it out.  Those feelings are only there for you.  They cease to exist when you breather them out.

Before you can set new goals and intentions, you need to create a space for them. Empty a space so that you can fill it with sharp, clean, crisp positivity.

Just about everybody involving in a birthing event understands the process of taking a cleansing breath.  Cleansing breaths are also a technique to stimulate your mind and body. That’s what you are going to do with 2012.

I read recently that over 90% of the New Year resolutions are broken within the first month.  I suspect that part of the cause is a failure to breathe out.  Does it really matter if you gave up regular exercise in 2012?  No.  Does it really matter if never got around to starting that savings account?  No.  Breathe out those regrets.  They’re gone.

What are you breathing out today?

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Why Leaders Need a Coach

Not every leader feels that they need or want a coach.  If they are feeling good about their abilities, team, and business direction, then they may not want to mess with success.  Who can argue with that?

Even in the circumstances where things seem to be going right, there are some good reasons to have a coach.  Here are three of them:

  1. Powerful leaders distrust advice.
  2. Powerful leaders seldom get useful feedback.
  3. Powerful leaders have power stress.

There are other reasons, but these three have something in common—the leader can’t get past them without coaching.  They are negative leadership attributes that won’t go away without the external support of a coach.

Powerful leaders distrust advice.  Kelly See, Elizabeth Wolfe, Morrison, Naomi Rothman and Jack Soll recently publish a an article on The Detrimental Effects of Power on Confidence, Advice Taking, and Accuracy in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision processes.  The results of their study make a lot of sense.  One characteristic of powerful leaders is self-confidence.  Unfortunately, the higher the self-confidence, the less likely they are to take advice.  One conclusion of their study is that by “directly addressing the inflated confidence levels of powerful individuals, organizations may be able to help people with power take (and/or seek) advice when it is valuable to do so.”  A coach, working with a top leader, can support that her in looking at alternatives, seeking advice, and evaluating ideas.

Powerful leaders seldom get useful feedback.  If a leader is not willing to seek or follow advice, what do you think the likelihood is that they will listen to feedback?  Subordinates eventually decide that feedback is not worth the effort and quit trying.  In addition, feedback situations are fear producing ones.  If the boss doesn’t like what you have to say, there may be repercussions.  Coaching is a way to support the leader is finding productive sources of feedback and encouraging them.

Powerful leaders have power stress. Leaders are under a steady flow of stress over their exercise of power and its responsibility.  In addition to the mental anxiety, stress creates real physical symptoms of ill-health.  Richard Boyatzis and his colleagues make a very strong case for training leaders in compassionate coaching. (They use the phrase “compassionate coaching” as a way to describe coaching for personal development rather than performance.)  Compassionate coaching focuses the leaders on the people under them and relieves the stress associated with the exercise of power. In a real sense, up-and-coming leaders experience compassionate coaching along with their mentoring.

Feel free to react.  These three possibilities are all ones that require coaching AND the powerful leader doesn’t often recognize that need.

What other possibilities come to mind of unseen and unfelt need for coaching for powerful leaders?


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Coach Approach: Embracing the Tension in Planning

Contemplating Planning TensionsSeveral of the International Coach Federation’s Core Competencies are about designing actions, planning and goal setting.  As a coach, you can increase your productivity with your clients by embracing the tension inherent in the client’s planning process. Be curious about that tension.  Since the client is planning his future, the possible course of action is not certain:  new facts are discovered; attitudes change; and new options are uncovered. By being curious, you can support the client in exploring, designing, and executing well.

Tension and uncertainty are often desirable during the planning phase.  The uncertainty creates a little bit of fear and adrenalin and that lets the client operate at a higher energy level.  While that sounds a little counterproductive, it’s not.  If you really don’t care which options you choose or what happens, you won’t plan well.  It’s only when the outcome matters that you try.

There are four types of tension that I think are important to recognize:

Tension exists between action and inaction. Your natural tendency is to “stay the course” rather than change.  When the client says “I want to become more productive” there is an assumption that there is a better course of action.  This is a perfect opportunity to explore the thoughts and feelings of the client that something isn’t right.  While the client may want to push ahead, I’ve also had clients say at this point, “It’s really not that bad” or “there’s no sense upsetting the routine to do this.”

Tension exists between profitability and growth.  While you think of these as business terms, they can be applied in lots of different setting.  Is it time to cash out or invest? Is it better to rest and re-energize or go all out?

Tension exists between the short-term and the long-term.  Several of my clients are in direct sales.  A common choice that they have is between building systems for slow and steady growth or instituting a campaign mentality.  Do you want to march forward or leapfrog?

Tension exists between the whole and the parts.  Let’s say you are working with a client who wants a more balanced life.  As you work to discover balance, a natural trade-off appears between the different pieces.  Some need to be snipped and others expanded. Which changes will produce balance?

Finding the tension and digging into it often helps the client clarify their intentions and actions.  When the actions start to happen, the course is often a better one.

What about you?  What tensions are you finding in your clients to explore?

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All Feedback Is Valuable

Feedback is the lifeblood of adaptation.  You don’t know how well you are doing without feedback.  You also don’t know if you are really blowing it without feedback.  Last week, the article on Three Types of Coaching Feedback was about the value of feedback to coaches.  The value of feedback goes beyond the items in that article.  A broader life value to feedback is also worth recognizing.

Generally, we grow up thinking about feedback as being either positive or negative.  Positive feedback reinforces; we like positive reinforcement and want to do the same things again.  Negative feedback tries to extinguish activities.  Who likes negative feedback?  What happens is that we start to avoid feedback because we might hear some really negative stuff.  Our mental category for negative feedback makes us want to run away from it all.

Another alternative is to think of feedback as either positive or constructive. I was having a conversation last week with another coach about feedback.  She liked those categories because they either lead us to keep on going or to change our activities to a more positive vein.  In my mind, constructive is just another word for negative.

The most helpful classification of feedback is to call it either off-course or on-course.  Here’s two reasons why:

  • On-course or off-course distinctions remove the positive and negative connotations entirely. It objectifies the feedback rather than making it emotional laden.
  • On-course and off-course distinctions both set a path for your future.  Think of it this way.  You are driving in a strange city and think you are lost.  So you pull over and ask pedestrian for directions.  You don’t care if he says you need to go straight for two blocks or whether he says to take the next right and go two blocks.  You are getting directions in either case.

When you start to think about all feedback as a way to chart your course, then the feedback becomes a welcome part of your life.  The challenge to you is simple:  the next time someone offers you feedback, frame it as directions rather than positive or negative.  I guarantee that you will pay more attention.

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Coaching a Client on Building a Success Team

A Success TeamAs I coach solo entrepreneurs in their business, one common topic that comes up is the one of assistants and virtual assistants.  Coaching clients on this topic usually revolves around five key areas.

1. What can you do and what is it worth? If the most you can earn from doing the most lucrative things in your business is $50 an hour, then you can’t hire anyone for more than that for anything.  You’d lose money. For example, ABC Widgets will pay you $50 an hour as a creative designer.  There is nothing in your skill set that will let you earn a higher wage.  If you pay Susan Doe $50 an hour to answer the phone and do office work while you are out designing, then you don’t make any money.

2. What can you hire someone to do?  Frankly, you can pay someone to do just about anything.  You just have to decide what it is you don’t want to do.

3. What criteria will you use to determine the roles that you need filled?  Just because you can hire somebody doesn’t mean you should.  Some tasks may be eliminated or saved for your down time.  You may also be able to find hidden talents with people who you already know.  Once, for example, I had an office manager who was very competent at her job.  And then I discovered she could also take dictation at meetings.  The dictation could be added into her description much cheaper than it could be outsourced.

4. How will you earn while your employees are costing you money?  Usually you want to hire someone to do the jobs that you don’t want to do.  However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you get a vacation. Make sure that you can work enough extra to cover the cost of your new hires.

5. Who will you get to improve your game?  Your success team is more than the people you can hire to do the current jobs.  One key member of your success team is a mentor or a coach that is going to support you in improving your business.  While I’ve left it for last in this list, you might want to consider finding this person first.  They will support you in answering the other questions better than you can do on your own.

What other topics pop up on your agenda for building a success team?

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Three Steps to Taking Control

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Finding Balance by Creating Margins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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