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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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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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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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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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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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