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Use the Whole Brain for Goal Achievement, Part Two

Use your brain to visualize goalsAs you come to the end of another year, no doubt your thoughts are turning to 2014 and what you want the year to be. A great way for you to start your thinking about 2014 is by using your whole brain to visualize it. 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 part two is about visualizing success. To review the game so far, you should take a look at part one. There are three basic types of visualizations.

Words.  The first type of visualization is word visualizations. To produce a word visualization think of a single target word about who you are, what you want and write it on a 3 x 5 card. What makes your business successful?  Write down the one word. You might say loyalty, smiles, positivity, helpfulness, or proactive. Find the word that describes your approach. Secondly, put yourself into a relaxed state, preferably just before you go to bed, and hold that card about a foot to two feet from your eyes. Focus your eyes on the word and concentrate your attention; watch that card for 10 to 20 to even 30 minutes. The third step is for you to do this exercise nightly for at least two weeks. As you continue you’ll find yourself taking that word and spinning out pictures of what’s going to happen of how important it is to you. As you continue, you’re burning your image of that “goal word” into your mind and it will be in your thoughts as you proceed in your everyday life.

Pictures. The second type of visualization involves images, or pictures. The process is very similar in that you are going to create or find an image of a person or a thing that embodies your goal. If you’re just starting in the business and you want to see yourself having a brand new car then get yourself a picture of some car keys. Think beyond the income and find a picture of what that income will do for you. Think of a snapshot of what you want. The second step is to take that image and concentrate on it just like you did with the word. Get yourself into a relaxed state and look at that picture or imagine you’re reaching your goal. Do this for 20 minutes a night for at least a month. Many people who use this visualization technique copy the picture and tape it in places where they see it as they go about your normal day. They have pictures on the back of the front door, the refrigerator, the mirror in the bathroom, inside their day planner and their car. The point is to put those pictures where you’re going to see them time and time again. This will continue to keep your images in place until you’ve accomplished that goal. It works because you find yourself believing it’s possible to achieve and this self-motivation is the most important step on your journey.

Movies. The third type of visualizations are movies. Once you have that goal in mind for yourself, then close your eyes and daydream a full color movie in your mind of what your life would be like if you achieved that goal. This movie won’t be a big screen epic.  It will be more like the “previews of coming attractions.”

  • See yourself earning a living from sales and not that crummy job;
  • Picture yourself getting up in the morning, sending your kids off to school and then getting on the phone to talk to those potential team members, your new excited consultants, or your leaders.
  • Picture yourself getting those big checks.
  • Picture yourself having a whole row of people at your sales meeting and you get to encourage all of them because you brought them all into the business.
  • Picture yourself conducting meetings with thousands in the audience. Run a full color movie in your mind of what you’ll be like when you achieve that goal.
  • If your goal is to be number one at national convention, then as you see that person walk down the aisle, put your face on that body, put your body up on that stage, shut your eyes and listen to that applause, smell that crowd.

Whatever your goal, capture that movie vividly and you’ll make it happen. The unimportant will drift away. The important things for your goal will stay and you’ll find yourself spending time focusing on the right things and not just doing things right. You’ll spend your time not getting discouraged by those little day-to-day things that go wrong. Every time you run that “movie” in your head, you will think and do those things that lead you closer to your goal.

Up next: Part Three is on using affirmations.

How do you support your clients in goal setting?

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Use the Whole Brain for Goal Achievement, Part One

Coach the Whole BrainIf nothing else, we are a goal-oriented species.  We think about the future and act in ways to shape it.  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 first of a three part series on using the whole brain for goal achievement.  Part one (which you are reading) explores the differences between left and right brain thinkers.  Part two is about visualizing success.  Part three is about using affirmations.

Some of you are oriented toward the right-brain.  You are creative, spatial thinkers, intuitive and spontaneous.  You often think in pictures, colors, or feelings.  You can be great starters who are often haphazard finishers. You see the goal and yet struggle to articulate how you will achieve what you see so clearly in your mind.

Others are oriented towards the left brain.  The left brain is very language oriented.  Language is very rational and business-like.  Left brain people are oriented toward logical, problem-solving paradigms: they are very linear in their thinking. Left brain thinkers go from point A to point B to point C.  They find a problem; they solve it.  Then they find another problem and solve it and pretty soon they’re so engaged in the process that they’ve become problem solvers rather than goal-reachers.

To use your whole brain you have to think in both terms of language and pictures.  Pictures lead you to use visualizations.  Language leads you to use affirmations.  Pictures are right brain; language is left brain.  Visualizations are right brain; affirmations are left brain.  When you use both sides of our brain to focus on our goals, you send a message to our subconscious that leads you to the accomplishment of our goals.

Visualizations are powerful in the attainment of a goal.  In their book, Seeing with the Mind’s Eye, Mike and Nancy Samuels describe a simple experiment using some high school kids and visualization.

A random sample of high school boys are broken into three groups. All of the boys spend time shooting basketballs to see what percentage of free throws they make. Like any experiment they go out and shoot baskets the first day, twenty days later they go out and shoot baskets again and the difference between the scores shows how much they’ve grown in the process.

The first group practices everyday and then they shoot baskets at the end.  They show 24% improvement.  The second group shoots baskets on the first day, they don’t do anything in-between, and on the last day they shoot baskets again.  They’ve shown no improvement.  Interestingly, the third group shoots baskets on the first day and then go through a process of visualization: they practice seeing themselves shooting those baskets for the next twenty days and improving in their mind’s eye.  In the end, when they shoot the baskets, they show a 23% improvement.

Think about it:  24% improvement by practice:  23% by visualization.  Visualization is powerful when it comes to achieving your goals.

Part two is about using visualizations.  How do you support your clients in goal setting?

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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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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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Being the Change Agent for Coaching

Like it or not, you are the one who will be changing the culture in your business.  What you want done differently is not going to happen without your attention. The more you act, the more you will encounter resistance.

We have to get product our the door; let’s worry about this later.

It’s not working fast enough.

It’s interfering with other processes.

Did you really want no one to notice that you are changing their world?  Did you think they were going to like everything?  And deep, deep, down: would you prefer to be ignored? 

Free Prize InsideThe painful part is there is no straight path to success.  The simple news, however, is that the more you do, the more success you will have.  Good ideas always win.  Seth Godin is a prolific and insightful writer.  Here are a couple of his earlier ideas on how to be an innovator.  This is your opportunity to find some motivation and tactics to keep you moving forward.

WebThink SOFT INNOVATION.  Soft innovations are those clever, insightful, useful small ideas that just about anyone can think up.  Do enough of them and you and create a culture shift. A few years ago, Seth Godin wrote a book call, Free Prize Inside.  While it sounds like a new Cracker Jack slogan, it is much, much more.  If you want to offer a free prize to your customers, you have to get company support first.  And companies resist change.  So, become a soft innovator.  Buy the book and read “Section 2, Selling the Idea.”  These sixty pages will help you understand what is going on in the company and the role you can play.  Godin introduces a conceptual tool, The Fulcrum of Innovation, which is the same across almost all organizations and helps you create a strategy of soft innovation.  There are also 17 tactics to help you along the way. Seventeen is a lot of tactics.  This is your manual of success.

linchpinResists your Resistance.  When pushed, your tendency is to hide.  It’s okay.  We all do it.  There is a neurological reason for it happening.  Right on top of your spinal cord is your basil ganglia, most commonly known as your lizard brain. Scientists estimate that it takes .07 seconds for our lizard brain to react when threatened.  Unfortunately, the rest of our brain—the cognitive portion, takes longer to react. One of Seth Godin’s more recent books, Linchpin, looks at the lizard brain and how it controls our reactions.  You became a change agent for a reason.  Read the chapter in Linchpin about the resistance.  You will understand why you want to crumble in the face of resistance; how you can easily undermine yourself; and what you can do to hold off those fears long enough for your rational brain to take over.

No one said change was easy.  You are the champion for an idea that needs action.  You don’t need to be a lone voice in the wilderness. Use resources like these from Seth Godin to unlock the coach inside you.

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Six Ways to Create a Coaching Culture

coaching culture

We usually think of culture creation as a haphazard process that just happens.  That doesn’t have to be the case.  While you can’t order people to absorb the team’s culture, you can do things to push it along.  Soren Kaplan recently wrote an article on Six Ways to Create a Culture of Innovation for Fast Company.  The article is a great blueprint for creating cultural change in a big sense.  What if you were to apply his six ideas to creating a culture of coaching?  Here are the six ideas (in bold) and how they fit a coaching culture:

1. Be intentional with your innovation intent.  The goal is to frame the world in the terms you want to see. 

  • Why would you want to support coaching?
  • What does it give you that nothing can or will?
  • How does it affect your team and your customers?

One client of mine is working to develop a team of leaders building leaders.  She knows that’s more than having a coaching element.  She also knows that it won’t happen without coaching.

2. Create a structure for unstructured time.  Think of this as an incubation time.  Eggs don’t hatch as soon as they are laid.  The baby bird has to develop in a protected atmosphere for a while. 

  • How will you take away rigidity in your work expectations?
  • How will you let them explore their ideas about coaching and what it can mean for their life?
  • What will you do to guarantee your team time to incubate and grow under your protection but without your direction?

3.  Step in, then step back.  One company I work with regularly has “lunch and learn” sessions designed to provide a structure that allows exploration.  The participants decide how best to use that time. Within a company, you can find ways to put people together.  For entrepreneurs the task is a little different but still doable. For example, a mastermind group gives you a structure to play around with your ideas.

4.  Measure what’s meaningful.  How will you know you are successful? Finding your return-on-investment is sometimes a difficult if not impossible task.  However, you can measure satisfaction levels.  Ask your people “How is this making a difference for you?”  The answers will be enlightening. Retention is often an important measure of coaching effectiveness.

5.  Give “worthless” rewards.  Find ways to celebrate every day.  Who doesn’t like to get recognition for who they are and what they do?  Just imagine encouraging peer coaching for personal growth opportunities.  What’s stopping you from buying lunch as a way of recognizing people who are exploring new horizons through coaching? You should check out the article from Sean Blaze on 35 ways to do this cheaply.

6.  Get symbolic.  You know when you have entered a church, police station, government office, or YMCA.  You see their symbols everywhere.  What are your symbols that say “we coach here?” Your mission and vision statements, stories, key phrases are all part of the culture.  When you figure those pieces out, your culture become even more obvious.

What do you think?  Which piece strikes you as the one for your focus?

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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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You need a Coaching Champion

Portrait of smiling business people with thumbs up against whiteEvery cause needs a champion; the person who leads the charge forward.  Coaching initiatives are no different.  Whether you are trying to build coaching into a sales team or a company environment, you need someone to support you.  As a coach, you are passionate about what you do.  However, you can’t be your own champion. You need someone on your side.  What should you look for in your champion?

A Champion is your evangelist.

This person wants to champion the cause.  They are the visionary; the advocate who sees a productive role of coaching in lots of places.  Often your champion is the one who started it all for you.  They see a role for coaching in their team and are the first one with a coach.  While your evangelist loves you, they love coaching even more.  Their passion about coaching is what will shift the culture.

A Champion feeds you.

Coaching is not a one size fits all proposition.  You need insights into prospective coaching clients. You want to know what these clients want even before you talk with them. Do they want facts and results?  Maybe they want someone to talk with weekly so they can measure their progress.  Maybe they need someone to celebrate for them. As you get to know your prospects, you will start to understand how coaching can make a difference for them.  This all starts with your champion.  Your champion feeds you information.  Your champion provides honest feedback about what’s working and what’s not.  Your champion is your trusted adviser about the people around them.

A Champion builds your community.

In his or her own way, your champion is your banner carrier.  I’ve identified four ways to celebrate coaching. Each of these methods needs a champion to spread the word. The champion creates a place that others want to join.

Who will be your champion?  Identify and support the champion of your cause, and they will support you in ways that you can barely imagine.

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