Posts by team connections

Why Promises Matter

We often think about our language as representational; words represent things. When we say things like I paid, I ate, we signed, we went, and so on, we are depending on the words we say to convey the actions that we took. However, there is another way that we use language that is probably even more important.

In some cases, we use our words to convey intentions rather than actions. And in fact, when we actually get around to doing, the words themselves don’t really matter very much. Language usage like that is the most important kind to us as coaches.

What I am talking about are “speech acts” which are a way of using of language in which the saying is the doing. When we say certain things, we are convey an intention of future behavior.  For example, when I say, “I promise to meet you at 3:00” those words convey a commitment that only exists until something happens. At 3:00, the meaning of those words change. Whether I met with you doesn’t matter. What becomes important is whether I fulfilled my intention.  Did I keep my promise or not?  When the deadline is reached, the act of promising is more important than the promise itself.  My promise becomes a direct insight into my integrity and trustworthiness.

When we fulfill our pledges, then our credibility rises.  So as coaches, we have a real opportunity to do what we ask our clients to do.  When I tell a client that “I will send you an article,” my speech act is an important reminder that I need to keep my promise if I expect my client to keep his commitments.

How else are speech acts important as a coach?  Feel free to comment and share your thoughts.

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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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Why We Need More Direct Selling Coaches

Coaches supportPart of the great joy of training coaches is to see what happens to a client.  Recently I asked some clients to think about what they get out of coaching.  When you read their thoughts, it just might inspire to you to become a professional coach.  I am so glad I did.

COACHING SERVES THE WHOLE PERSON: Barb Braden, Legacy Executive Director. I have had a personal coach for the past 6 years.  While the original intent of getting a coach was for my Tupperware business and to help me be a better “Leader of Leaders”, the coaching experience has helped me in all aspects of my life.  Having a coach that is truly interested in my success not only as a business owner/leader but as a person gives me permission to explore all areas in my life.  This then leads me to a better understanding of how I work physically, mentally and emotionally allowing me to be much more proactive in my thinking and doing.  My coach keeps me honest with myself.

COACHING HELPS KEEP THE MAIN THING THE MAIN THINGDiane Nozik, Senior Executive Director.  Coaching has not only transformed both my personal business but also my organization with some fantastic spillover into even my personal relationships. This year, I promoted more leaders then I ever had before, closed more shows and submitted higher sales. Beyond that, it helped me focus on the truly important areas of my business and I learned how to let go of so many of the distractions that seemed to pop up and keep me from being truly productive. Working with my coach helps me address some of the uncomfortable parts of being a top producing direct seller so I’m more confident and can help my team be more confident. Plus, I’m now working more efficiently in my business and that has spilled over into more quality time with my family plus I have more to give to my team. The work I do with her is really the most important part of my work week.

COACHING BRINGS ACCOUNTABILITY: Sally Michael, Senior Executive Managing Partner.  Coaching has been an enormous step for me in my business. I have never run a large organization and coaching has helped keep me stay on track and keeps my business moving forward. I am a person who has a lot of energy and drive but can get sidetracked so much of the time. Coaching in three areas has been life changing for me:

  • calendar blocking or time management
  • accountability with my team and personal goals
  • processing decisions and sticking with them

Because I have accountability, I tend to not procrastinate as much and I am always looking at the steps I need to take to make my goals happen. I have realized through coaching that I can work smarter and not harder. I need to plan my work and not let my work plan me. I have more balance in life, my business and in my head because of my investment in myself.

How can we encourage more people to consider becoming a coach?

Please.  Take a moment and comment.  How has coaching helped you?

 

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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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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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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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4-H’s to Start Coaching

4-hI grew up on an Iowa farm.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  A part of my life for eight years was the local 4-H club.  While I learned a lot of agriculture, I also learned that life has more to it than a day-to-day existence.  Every time the 4-H club met, we said the pledge.  As I reflect back on it, if offers a great beginning point for mindfulness.  The four H’s are head, heart, hands, and health.

Start with your HEAD.

  • What do you know?
  • What don’t you know?
  • What are your key skills?
  • What has brought you to this point?

Focus on Your HEART.

  • What makes you happy?
  • What would make you happier?
  • What’s the disquiet you are feeling right now?
  • What are you excited to talk about?

Move to Your HANDS.

  • What are your tools?
  • What do others ask you to do?
  • What do want to be able to do better?
  • What activities come naturally to you?

Finish on Your HEALTH (your whole commitment).

  • What would you do, even if you weren’t paid?
  • What’s the passion that you can’t contain?
  • What deserves your full attention?
  • What do you want to be know for?

Are you considering hiring a coach?  Think about these four H’s first.

Are you a coach working with a new client?  Start with the four H’s.

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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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Are you hearing or listening?

businesswoman with big earsI was talking with a coaching client today and I had one of those DUH moments.  You know, one of those times when you remembered something you knew all along.  Here it is:  Most of what occurs during a conversation is in your head.

As I was sitting here listening to a client talk about her January business, I realized how many questions I wanted to ask.  That’s when the DUH hit.

Hearing is a physical phenomenon.  Your ears are designed to recognize sound waves.  Then comes the meaning. The meaning that goes with the sound is purely in your head.

You bring an attitude towards the conversation.  You evaluate the worth of what you am hearing so that you can focus on what your mind designates as important.

You bring beliefs towards the conversation.  What is the world like and how does your client fit in?

As coaches, we sometimes talk about what we aren’t hearing.  What we really mean is that our mental expectation for the conversation is not matching up to what we think it should be.

Here’s the point:  If you are more mindful of your mental state when you enter into a coaching conversation, then what is being said will have a different meaning.  You have the opportunity to turn those sound waves into early judgments or you can turn them into coaching moments.  We can become very passive listeners or we can be very active.  I’m guessing that as coaches, active listening is probably the better side to be on.

What will you do to improve your listening?

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