Posts Taged coaching-tools

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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Unconscious Communication as a Basis for Coaching

Have you ever watched a leader walk into a room and see the interpersonal dynamics change around them?  The flow of the chatter changes.  The topics change.  And people start to look to the leader for approval.  The conversation may even shift to the point that the leader becomes responsible for determining turn taking and who gets to talk next.  The charismatic behaviors of the leader subtly influence their surroundings.  It’s not something the leader tries to do; it just happens.  There is an unconscious shift in the communication patterns.

Alex Pentland from MIT refers to these patterns as honest signals in his book, Honest Signals: How They Shape Our World. They are the nonverbal cues that are so deeply embedded that we have extreme difficulty faking them.  He and his associates spent years studying these signals and developed the technology to measure them.  As coaches, an awareness of our client’s unconscious communication can be fruitful coaching territority.

First, as coaches, we can pay more attention to honest signals.  We can’t really cheat with our nonverbal signals.  In fact, Pentland conducted a number of experiments where people tried to change and they were generally failures.  Think of it this way.  You are walking with a friend and having a very interesting conversation.  Suddenly, your friend starts skipping while talking.  It looks like fun to you so you try skipping and talking, too.  Doesn’t work.  You are thinking so hard about skipping that that you can’t talk straight.  As coaches, we have the opportunity to become conscious of the honest signals from our clients.  Start noticing when there is an extra-long pause or maybe a sigh just before they say, “It’s been an adventurous week.”

Second, we can support our clients as they improve their self-monitoring.  Much of my coaching with executives centers on their awareness of how they appear to others.  I ask them to think about the honest signals that they are providing to others.  As that awareness grows, the clients also grow in their ability to adapt their activities.

Third, we can support our clients as they learn new honest signals.  Have you ever noticed how sales people always are nodding?  It’s an honest signal.  And it’s learned.  Alex Pentland says that we can learn new honest signals by role playing.  In one sense, we do that a lot as coaches.  We ask our clients to try on new behaviors and do different things.  I use the DiSC profile with most of my clients.  Imagine the conversation where I am coaching a “D” style who likes to address issues quickly, directly, and decisively and I ask him how he might approach the situation as an “S” who wants everyone comfortable with their surroundings and changing policies.  Once we understand the role, we can honestly play it.

If you have an opportunity to read Pentland’s book, I recommend it.  Most treatments of nonverbal communication treat it as something that can be easily dissected and manipulated.  David Pentland recognizes the subtleties of our unconscious behaviors and the resultant honesty in our communication.  As coaches, we also have an opportunity to work on our honest signals.

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Coaching the What and Why and the $75,000 Question

Life evaluation and emotional wellbeingMy guess is that it would be a rare life or personal coach that does not have their client try to dig into personal motivations. As coaches, we call them goals, mission, values, passion, why’s, etc. Our assumption as coaches is that as our clients grow in self-knowledge, their path to the future becomes clearer. It also puts a tool in our coaching hands. When a client seems to stall out, we make some mental leaps to their passion and try to get them moving forward on their program.

One place we often have difficulty is separating the material reasons from the mental ones. New coaches often go to the material corner. Talking about things is less threatening or invasive than talking about values and passions. Experienced coaches often go the other way; we ignore the material wants because they aren’t as personally exciting as digging into a client’s mental pathways.

Recent research points to the need to make sure that people are meeting both their material and their emotional needs.  Angus Deaton, Ph.D., a renowned economist, and Daniel Kahneman, Ph.D., a Nobel prize-winning psychologist put their heads and work together on an amazing research project.  They wanted to discover the numbers behind happiness. They analyzed nearly a half million responses to the Gallup Healthways Well-Being Index (GHWBI), a battery of survey questions about happiness.

The two concepts that we refer to as the “material what” and the “emotional why” are called “life evaluation” and “emotional wellbeing.” While the two dimensions overlap, they have distinct measures.

  • Life evaluation is based on a view of our achievements. We look at things like goal accomplishment, financial security, education, marriage, and job satisfaction.
  • Emotional wellbeing is social and reflects our day-to-day emotional quality and satisfaction.

Without getting into too many more details, there are two research findings that I found interesting from a coaching perspective.

First, achieving your goals is important for both dimensions. We evaluate our lives poorly when we fail (the “I just suck” syndrome) and it negatively affects our emotional wellbeing.  As Dr. Kahneman explains, “Having goals that you can meet is essential to life satisfaction. Setting goals that you’re not going to meet sets you up for failure.”

Second, there is a dollar figure for happiness. In the United States, $75,000 is the threshold for happiness.  In other words, when you earn $75,000, you’ve hit the magic number.  More money doesn’t make you happier.  People who earn more may have more a higher life evaluation (“I love my life!”) but they are any happier about it.  Their emotional wellbeing has hit the top.

As a coach, I am intrigued by what these research results mean to my profession.  Besides making sure my clients are aware of and working on both pieces, I have some cultural insights into where they might want to go.

Honestly, I can’t make this stuff up. I encourage you to read more of the research results as The Gallup Management Journal reports them.

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