Coaching Tips

Powerful Coaching Questions? Depends on the Listener

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Coaching Happiness

martinseligmanNo matter what else, one of the roles of a coach is to support a client’s happiness.  Happiness is one of those fundamental human needs.  What’s the one thing you want for your children, your spouse and your friends?  And you want it for your coaching clients as well.  If you produce nothing else in a coaching engagement, if your client goes away happier, it’s successful.

At the same time, happiness is an elusive concept.  You are not quite sure what happiness is to your client.  Interestingly, there has been some recent research that is very fruitful for coaches.

Martin Seligman gave a TED talk a few years ago about positive psychology.  His general framework was about the changes in psychology from a field that looked at sickness and healing to one that has a growing focus on building better lives for healthy people. One of his central topics was about the differences between happy people and the rest of the world.  There are really three aspects to happiness.

The first type of happiness is the pleasant life.  Good food, good friends and all of the activities that make you smile. Interestingly, this is the least powerful type of happiness.  We tired of “the pleasant life” after a while.

The second type of happiness is the good life.  This is the type of life where time seems to stop.  Where you are so engaged that you don’t even notice the passage of life around you.  We often talk about this as living your strengths and your passions.

The third type of happiness is the meaningful life. This is not only knowing your strengths, but also using them in service to a higher cause.

For more details, take a few minutes and listen to Martin Seligman explain.

As a coach, you have an opportunity to really tune into your client, discover their strengths and passions, and then support them as they put those attributes to use.  That’s the happiness that will really matter.

What do you think?  How will you support your client’s happiness?

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The Secret of Mastermind Groups

MastermindWho wouldn’t want to be in a mastermind group? And what coach wouldn’t want to work with one?  The name says it all:  MASTERMIND; complete understanding; supreme oneness with anything that matters; peace with the universe.  I’ve wanted to coach a mastermind group for several years but couldn’t get past the planning stage.  I was going to have to describe to possible participants the characteristics of a mastermind group and the reasons to be in one.  What makes a mastermind group unique and why is it better than regular group coaching?  I couldn’t figure it out.  Then the light bulb moment hit.  I was over-thinking it all.  (Isn’t there something ironic about making that decision after 14 months?)  Here is the difference:  The core distinction between group coaching and mastermind group coaching is a single word, “mastermind.”  This word creates three differences.

Mastermind groups are synergistic.  As the group participants come together in a mastermind group, they create a power greater than that which can be explained as simple group dynamics.  They create a mastermind.  Napoleon Hill describes it best, “You may catch a significant suggestion from this statement: No two minds ever come together without, thereby, creating a third, invisible, intangible force which may be likened to a third mind.” For Hill, this is a spiritual energy that “becomes available to every individual brain in a group.”

Mastermind groups are cooperatively competitive. While that sounds like a contradiction in terms, it’s not.  Every participant in a mastermind group plays full-out and in doing so, pushes everyone else to do the same.  The best competitors in the world will tell you that the competition is really within them.  It’s not a matter of beating the other person; you have to beat yourself.  When you join a mastermind group, you agree to do that: to not hold back; to push everyone else so that they will push you; to cooperatively drive everyone to their best level.  Ginger Cockerham refers to this concept in her book, Group Coaching: A Comprehensive Blueprint.   She writes, “As the group evolves from an unformed group of individuals seeking personal achievement and becomes a formed group of interactive and interdependent members, participants understand that they have a vested interest in supporting and encouraging other members to achieve the outcomes they want.”

Mastermind groups are highly creative. Regular coaching depends primarily on the creativity of one person—the one being coached.  Most group coaching does the same thing.  A mastermind group is different.  When you participate in a mastermind, you have the opportunity to offer alternatives, weigh ideas from the other participants. Napoleon Hill talks about Andrew Carnegie, who surrounded himself with about 50 men in his mastermind so that he had plenty of people to weigh in with their ideas.

Once I developed a clear mindset of the mastermind, I began to understand how my role as a coach shifts.  Here’s how:

  • My job is to build the mastermind.  When I grow the mastermind, everyone in the group benefits.
  • My job is to coach less and facilitate more.  My role is to allow others to coach, challenge, and innovate.
  • My mindset requires me to stay coach-like without behaving like a coach.

Please react.  I’ve you’ve been in a mastermind, what made it different for you?

 

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Raising Your IQ? Possible?

 

For most of us, the inner workings of our brain are like the insides of a black box.  We know there is something going on there but don’t really understand it.  With the advent of modern research techniques and some new theories of physiology, the brain is not completely a black box to everyone.

Eric Kandel received the Nobel Prize in 2000 for his work his research on the physiological basis of memory storage.  The more we come to understand how the brain works, the more the possibilities grow that we can learn, relearn, and grow our IQ.

Kandel is now in his 80’s and just published a book titled, The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain, from Vienna 1900 to the Present.

While I’m not sure I will ever understand much of what he writes, his interviews are a patient and incredibly clear explanation of some core concepts in his mind.  As a coach, insights like those of Eric Kandel let us raise the standard of what we do even higher.  Take a few minutes and consider the possibility of becoming smarter and what the implication for this are for your business and your life.

If you are unable to view the video, click here to go to the website. http://bigthink.com/big-think-tv/the-human-brain-in-the-age-of-insight-eric-kandel-live-on-big-think

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How Coaching Creates the AHA! Moments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Do You Want a Coach or a Mentor?

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

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

In contrast, coaches create a different type of relationship.

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

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

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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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Why Coaching Works

You know how to do everything that you want to do.  If you have any doubts, you google a few things, read a few things, and fill in all of the details of what you need to know.  By the time you are an adult, the gap between what you know and what you don’t know is pretty small and you can close it on just about any subject with a little effort.

What you haven’t figured out is how to make yourself do it.   That’s why coaching matters.  Here are three key ideas to explore this more.

Coaching asks the hard questions. Training may ask about what do you want and what you are willing to do to get there.  When was the last time that a trainer asked questions like:

  • What has prevented you from doing this before?
  • What will prevent your old habits from slipping back in?
  • What happened the last time you tried that?
  • What’s going to be different this time?

In other words, a coach supports you in putting your focus on your mental state before you start to take action.

Coaching supports your perseverance. To truly change, you must build new habits and that requires consistent and persistent change.  The changes that you make don’t have to be giant steps; they just have to move you in the direction of your new habit.  Now imagine the scene where week after week you are paying your coach to listen to you say, “I didn’t do what I said that I would.”  One of the biggest reasons people hire a coach is to have an accountability partner.  Trainers don’t do that.

Coaching values success.  The pain of saying you failed is worse than the risk of failure; the reward for telling your coach you succeeded is higher than the reward for doing nothing.  The value of success is higher than the comfort of doing nothing and failing.  You are in it for the One on One coachinglong-term gain. When you work with a coach, you are in a low judgment zone.  Your coach wants you to succeed on your terms and will support you on your journey.

There is a place for training.  A combination of training and coaching are often the most successful approach within a company.  The error is in not recognizing the differences between the two which results in not getting the best of either.

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Coaching insight: The map is not the territory

iStock_000019326792SmallIn 1931, Alfred Korzybski, a Polish-American philosopher and scientist, used the phrase, “the map is not the territory” to draw a key distinction between reality and our thoughts about reality.  It’s a very rich metaphor because there are so many ways to think about it and extend it.  You tend to create problems when you lose the distinction.

When you look at a map, you know it represents the territory.

What about your thoughts?  Your map may say that all Democrats are spenders and all Republicans are tightwads.  And think about your life.  The destination says “winner” but the route seems a little fuzzy at times.  In one sense, coaches operate within that metaphor as they coach.   Here are a few possibilities:

Clients want to reroute their map.  I have a client who joined a company ten years ago.  He was in the right spot at the right time and quickly moved from the production floor to management and is still going.  He’s added three children and life got very settled and busy.  Now he thinks he’s gone as far as he will with this company and it’s not what he wants for the rest of his life.  His dream of being the “thought hub” had turned into a comfortable existence.  The dream hasn’t changed, but he’s now in the process of finding a new route.

Clients think their map is real.  Whenever a client says, “That’s just the way I am” they are thinking that their map is real.  Fascinating comparisons show up when they compare their map to those around them.

Clients want to enjoy the scenic route.  Ever had a client think the express lane was going to burn out their engine?  If the journey no longer is fun, then the client wants to slow down and enjoy the moment.

What about you?  How well does your map match the territory?

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Will Roger’s Advice on Coaching

cowboy_will_rogersI was emptying some files the other day and came across a few quotable moments from Will Rogers that I saved.  I’ve always admired Will Rogers.  Who can’t admire a man that jokes about his epitaph? Rogers said, “When I die, my epitaph, or whatever you call those signs on gravestones, is going to read: ‘I joked about every prominent man of my time, but I never met a man I didn’t like.’ I am so proud of that, I can hardly wait to die so it can be carved.”

As I was reading through my collection, I began wondering what a man like Will Rogers would be telling contemporary coaches.  Here are a few thoughts that I found.

Why coaches should not offer advice:

WR: “Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.”

 

Why coaches should not feel slighted by a client’s attitude:

WR: “If you get to thinkin’ you’re a person of some influence, try orderin’ someone else’s dog around.”

 

Why the capacity to celebrate is important to a coach:

WR: “When you give a lesson in meanness to a critter or a person, don’t be surprised if they learn their lesson.”

 

Why goal setting is important.

WR: “Live your life so that whenever you lose, you are ahead.”

WR: “Live in such a way that you would not be ashamed to sell your parrot to the town gossip.”

 

Will-RogersClients have different learning styles.

WR: “There are three kinds of men.  The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation.  The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.

 

Feel free to share witticisms that you’ve found.

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