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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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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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Why Sales People Can Become Great Coaches

Today’s top sales people possess different skills than the top ones from a decade ago.  The internet changed everything, including sales skills.

A decade ago, the sales person was in information control.  That’s why you hated sales people.  They knew more than you know and didn’t ever appear to tell everything.  They present the features and benefits of a product in a way that worked to their advantage. Now flash forward.  The best contemporary sales people operate in conversational mode.  You don’t need them for information anymore. The sales person is responsible for helping you sort through all of your information so that you can make a good decision. Market needs have shifted the core skills of the sales person.

Daniel Pink in his book, To Sell is Human, focuses on three core sales skills:  attunement, buoyancy, and clarity. The International Coach Federation stresses similar core competencies for coaches.

Attunement is at the heart of understanding the other person.  It is empathy on steroids. You give up some control in order to step into the other person’s world more fully.  You listen with your head and heart so that you understand the other person in their world, and not so you can sell them on your idea. The ICF stresses co-creating a relationship based on trust and intimacy.  Active listening and awareness are also part of core coaching skills.

Buoyancy is the skill of staying positive in a world filled with “no’s.”  Sales people get this. Top people in sales tell themselves, “I’m just one more ask away from a YES.” By its very nature, coaching requires positivity.  The coach has a goal to create and raise awareness that leads to positive action. If the client isn’t progressing, the coach is charged to “positively confront” the situation.

Clarity is finding the right problems to act on and the right solutions for the situation. For the sales person, it’s finding the right frame for the circumstances.  Coaches do exactly the same thing. Coaches create awareness around an issue and support the client in designing actions that fit the situation.

In short, the same skills that a good sales person has are the same competencies that a coach has.  This is NOT to say that people good in sales are good coaches. That’s like saying a good quarterback will be a good football coach or a great business executive will make a wonderful executive coach.  The potential has to be developed.

Sales and coaching are profoundly different activities.  Just because you are good at one doesn’t automatically make you good at the other.  How do you see the difference?

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Why Sales People Can Become Great Coaches

Today’s top sales people possess different skills than the top ones from a decade ago.  The internet changed everything, including sales skills.

A decade ago, the sales person was in information control.  That’s why you hated sales people.  They knew more than you know and didn’t ever appear to tell everything.  They present the features and benefits of a product in a way that worked to their advantage. Now flash forward.  The best contemporary sales people operate in conversational mode.  You don’t need them for information anymore. The sales person is responsible for helping you sort through all of your information so that you can make a good decision. Market needs have shifted the core skills of the sales person.

Daniel Pink in his book, To Sell is Human, focuses on three core sales skills:  attunement, buoyancy, and clarity. The International Coach Federation stresses similar core competencies for coaches.

Attunement is at the heart of understanding the other person.  It is empathy on steroids. You give up some control in order to step into the other person’s world more fully.  You listen with your head and heart so that you understand the other person in their world, and not so you can sell them on your idea. The ICF stresses co-creating a relationship based on trust and intimacy.  Active listening and awareness are also part of core coaching skills.

Buoyancy is the skill of staying positive in a world filled with “no’s.”  Sales people get this. Top people in sales tell themselves, “I’m just one more ask away from a YES.” By its very nature, coaching requires positivity.  The coach has a goal to create and raise awareness that leads to positive action. If the client isn’t progressing, the coach is charged to “positively confront” the situation.

Clarity is finding the right problems to act on and the right solutions for the situation. For the sales person, it’s finding the right frame for the circumstances.  Coaches do exactly the same thing. Coaches create awareness around an issue and support the client in designing actions that fit the situation.

In short, the same skills that a good sales person has are the same competencies that a coach has.  This is NOT to say that people good in sales are good coaches. That’s like saying a good quarterback will be a good football coach or a great business executive will make a wonderful executive coach.  The potential has to be developed.

Sales and coaching are profoundly different activities.  Just because you are good at one doesn’t automatically make you good at the other.  How do you see the difference?

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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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What Makes a Coach Authentic?

Authentic coachingWhat does it take to be an authentic coach?  The real deal?

I really want your help answering this question.

If someone claims to be a coach, does that make them one?

Does education and credentials make a coach?

What’s the attitude of an authentic coach?

How does an authentic coach act?

For the curious minded, here’s what prompted this question.  I came across the name of a coach that I didn’t know and wanted to know more about him.   I googled his name. I was surprised to see that one of the articles was from a marketing company talking about how they were marketing his persona as a coach.  What?  This is not to say he wasn’t a coach. I just think that it takes more to be a coach than having your marketing company call you one.

I do have some ideas of how I’d answer these questions, but I’d rather hear from you. You can leave a comment here.  If it’s easier, just leave a comment on the Facebook page.  What makes a coach authentic?

 

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Use the Whole Brain for Goal Achievement, Part Three

Left brain affirmationsAs you think about your 2014 and beyond, you are starting to explore your goals; you are creating your future.  There is a large body of evidence to suggest that using your whole brain to accomplish your goals will make you more likely to achieve them.

This is the final part of a three part series on using the whole brain for goal achievement.  Part one explores the differences between left and right brain thinkers.  Part two is about visualizing success.  Part three is about using affirmations.

Visualizations use the right brain to send a message to your mind and subconscious to achieve your goals.  Visualizations are mental pictures of your goal achievements.  Affirmations are helpful in using your left brain to talk to yourself in order to reach those bigger goals.  Affirmations are simply sentences–full statements about where you want things to go.  There are really five simple characteristics of a good affirmation.  It is important to include these characteristics in every affirmation.

Affirmations are personal: it’s not a “you,” it’s an “I.”  That’s important to show that you’re taking responsibility for the direction you want to go.

Affirmations use a present tense verb: I am, I can, I intend to, I will.  A phrase that you probably want to avoid is “I am trying” because when you say “I am trying” it indicates that you’re putting in the effort but you don’t really expect to succeed.

Affirmations are positive.  Use verbs like do, act, earn, recruit, and choose.  These are verbs that involve an action.

Affirmations involve some senses.  You’re going to talk about seeing, hearing, touching.

Affirmations hold a power emotional element.  That is a heart-felt goal that you’re fully committed to having.

Like the images you’ve taped up in different places (see Part two), you can tape up affirmations as on the mirror, on the closet door, on the front door, on the refrigerator, or by your telephone.  Put your affirmations where you can see them and say them.  Say them out loud for more impact.

Using this process, you have put your left brain and your right brain, your language and your pictures into your future goals.  Using both sides of your brain will guide you in your daily activities.  When your brain is working on seeing, feeling, and hearing the language of your success there is no time or space to worry about minor distractions, overwhelm, lack of time.  Instead, your entire brain focusses on the achievement of your goals.

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