Be Big!

I took on the challenge to complete my first Half Marathon. The other day during my training as I struggled to run the next mile, the words that came to mind were “Be Big…BeFemale Runner Big!” I thought what caused me to think of these words? What does it mean to “Be Big?” In other words, what is it going to take for me to accomplish this goal? I was now focused on this question as I continued running. I came up with the following:

  • Envisioning the journey and destination: Running with ease and crossing over the finish line.
  • Being Honest and Clear about my Motivation: Competitiveness (I want to say I ran a “Half Marathon!”), proving to myself I have what it takes to accomplish the goal, knowing it will build my confidence and discipline that will transition into other professional and personal goals.
  • Maintaining Positivity: Being positive about training even on tough days that I fall short of my training goal.
  • Being Confident: Believing in my abilities and strength even if I do not see it right away.
  • Being Discipline: Sticking to the training plan even when I don’t feel like working out; pushing myself.
  • Acknowledging What I Need: Rest-no late nights; diet-specific foods that work for me not against me; the time of day to get the most from my workout.

As a result, I gained clarity and ran the furthest and longest since I began training!! Realizing what it means to “Be Big” are key factors for me to successfully accomplish goals. Of course, it is not always easy! I believe it begins with envisioning and being honest and clear on what will keep me motivated.

What does it mean for you to “Be Big?” What do you need to “Be Big” professionally and personally? What do you envision? What are your motivators?

Listening, with the Intent to Learn

Back in February, I wrote about the topic of smiling and my grocery shopping experiment, which resulted in many positive reactions from others, including myself.  I’m reading a few books right now around the topics of Social Intelligence and Human Connectedness.  As a result of reading these books and the positive outcomes of my smiling experiment, I decided to test what I’ve learned so far, by conducting another social experiment during a party I attended a few weeks ago.Dog Listening

The party I attended was the 40th birthday party of one of my wife’s friends.  I didn’t know anyone at this party, except for the birthday girl.  In addition to celebrating the event with the guest of honor, I also made it a priority to learn as much as I could from as many people as I could that were in attendance.  I started by always having a smile on my face, being approachable with an open body position, introducing myself (and my wife), while asking a simple, yet non-threatening question about how they know the birthday girl.  Throughout our conversation, I did my best to ask lots of questions with the intention of learning as much as I could about each person. At the end of the night, my introverted self was exhausted.  I won’t go into detail about the interesting facts that  people shared with me about themselves, but I believe my social experiment was a success, due to how much fun I had, how much I learned about others (and how much they were willing to share), how many people I spoke with and how much positive reaction I received from those I interacted with.

In reflection, I used many of the coaching techniques that we typically use with our clients, when we are trying to learn about them or a situation they may have. 

I paid conscious attention to all that was being communicated to me.  I provided a receptive environment, listened with the intent of being influenced, and was present.

I listened for: significant content, the heart of the matter, the communication style and preferences of the other person, and what the person already knows.

In addition, I practiced my nonverbal and active listening skills.

For those familiar with the Blanchard’s Coaching Essentials® for Leaders program, what I described above is the “Listen to Learn” portion of the L.I.T.E. model.

What I learned from my little social experiment is that these coaching techniques really work and made for a more entertaining and fulfilling night than if I decided not to use them with the intention to learn about others.

In the comments section below, please share your experiences in using these coaching techniques and the reactions you received from others.  Thanks!

Managerial Courage

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What does it take to be able to say what needs to be said, when it needs to be said, and to whom it must be said? Managerial Courage. This leadership competency is an essential topic for leadership development programs, and is a central focus for many executive coaching initiatives.

I’ve recently been coaching two leaders who’ve been identified as possessing “high potential” for advancement in their organization. In assessing which leadership competencies they must develop, each leader, along with their respective bosses, has aligned on the topic Managerial Courage. But that is where the similarities end! When asked, each leader defines the stuff of managerial courage differently. And each of their bosses do, too.

Listening to each, I hear assorted aspects of what is to be achieved through our coaching:

  • To respond more swiftly in real time (because they are over-thinking and staying silent)
  • To trust they will be listened to when speaking (because they are accustomed to NOT talking)
  • To believe their contributions are “legitimate” (because they over-value others, and under-value their own contributions)
  • To learn to be uncomfortable, and more visible (because they have become too comfortable in familiar spaces)
  • To behave more authentically (because they hide behind their positions and titles)

Discomfort abounds when a leader has to “get out of a comfort zone,” and that’s ok. However, anxieties increase when leaders fear “managerial courage” means they have to change their essence. I assure them they do NOT have to trade their stripes for spots! Their essence is who they are—and our coaching is to have them increase their own knowledge of who they are, what matters to them, why, and why that should matter to the people in their workplace. Courage begets courage—and the etymology of the word says it all—it comes from the heart.

The first step to increase managerial courage isn’t to “just do” the things I’ve bulleted above.  The first step to increase managerial courage calls on the leader to examine his or her heart, and see what really matters. The second step is to share it.  Heart speaks to heart.

The Power of Observational Feedback

By Linda Miller, MCC

When you think about giving feedback, what’s your first response?  Mine is, “Do I HAVE to??”  Making observational feedback can help. Observational feedback is information that’s shared without a request for change. It’s just an observation. For example, “You seemed quieter than usual in the meeting this morning. Hope everything is ok.”  Or, “Your energy level is different, and it looks like you’re enjoying the new project.”Monkeys

Observational feedback gives information that may not be otherwise recognized by the person receiving it.  It can confirm something that’s going on or point out something new. The best observational feedback is non-judgmental and timely. It’s a data point.  Our hypothesis is that if we increase the positive and observational feedback, it will decrease the need for feedback asking for a behavior request or change.

Last week, I had the privilege of working with some very talented managers.  During one of the sessions, we asked the managers to give each other observational feedback. Here’s a response from one of the participants: “When we were giving observational feedback to each other, someone gave me some feedback that I always knew but finally heard.  I can’t wait to start applying everything that I have learned.”  That’s the power of observational feedback.  Try it. Notice what happens.

Coaching is Not…

Many clients are unclear of what to expect from coaching.  Some of my clients come to their first coaching sessions expecting me to tell them what to do, focus on their past behaviors, or fix them.  I explain coaching focuses on the present, goal setting, and forward movement.  As a coach, I view my clients as naturally, creative, resourceful and whole.  They have the solution.  They may not realize it, but they do!  It is my job to help them uncover the solution and to create action.

A colleague from the local ICF Chapter created the below distinctions between Coaching and other service professions.

What other distinctions stand out for you?

Therapist:  Can deal with past patterns that don’t work and with intense emotions; Analyzes problems to find out “why?”; Often focuses on non-functional behaviors; Model: something is wrong that needs fixing

Coach:  Focuses on present and future; Questions rather than analyzes; Approaches client as a whole healthy human being; Model: curiosity drives questions to help the client discover his/her own strengths and greatness

Mentor: Has a stake in the outcome; Is viewed as the expert; Typically has a student-teacher duality; Focused on career successes and progress; Gives advice and shows how to do

Coach:  Detached from outcome; Partners with client in learning; Finds out what is important to the client in the journey; Emphasis on contribution to the whole person

Manager:  Primary objective is the company’s mission; Focused on the career area and achievement; Has a large stake in the outcome; Provides solutions, direction and advice; Transmits information from one level of the organization to another

Coach:  Primary objective is the client’s well-being and success; Helps client understand the link between personal mission and company mission; Focuses on the entire person, all life areas; Is detached from the outcome; Does not problem solve, provide solutions or advice; Keeps information confidential

Consultant:  Has specific area of expertise; Shares expertise with the client; Gives advice and/or solutions; Consultant does the work

Coach:  Facilitates the process of creating awareness and responsibility; Helps the client learn how to find solutions; Client does the work

 

3 classic basics of coaching – proven to get results

I have the privilege and honor to coach many different types of people. In fact, as a coach I often coach informally with colleagues, friends, and family members. People seem to call me when they need support, when they are upset, when they need to be talked down off a metaphorical ledge.
Yesterday I answered the phone thinking I was going to have one conversation, and ended up having a completely different one. A colleague was extremely upset about a particular situation where she felt powerless. She knew things might not go her way and she recognized that she needed to shift her perspective, but was really stuck in the hurt. Last week a colleague called me needing a sounding board. She was super angry and knew that any actions she might take “in the moment” could be a mistake.
Last night my teen-aged daughter came home shaking with anger at the unjust treatment one of her friends faced from a teacher. In every instance three basic coaching skills came into play with incredible results.
1. Listen. It is astounding and continually amazing to me how the simple act of giving someone your full and undivided attention – listening at the cellular level – can have such a profound effect. It seems like we are all starved to be “seen” and “heard” by other humans. Never underestimate the power and value of listening.
2. Acknowledgement – yes, people need and want to be heard but they also want to know that someone “gets” why they feel the way they feel. This isn’t’ about agreement or complicity in the feelings being felt. It’s about “yes I see/hear/feel that you are happy/sad/angry”. An acknowledgement is an affirmation that you, the coach, recognize and understand another’s worldview, if even for those moments that you are coaching.
3. Belief – Ah, the beauty of believing with your client in the possibilities. Perhaps the possibility of calmness and rational thought. Maybe the belief that things WILL get better. Or the belief that your client has tremendous value in the world. Belief is the real and honest conviction that the goal CAN be achieved, the shift CAN be made, the outcome WILL be the desired one. Belief is a powerful thing and it’s a gift we give our clients every time we coach them.
Coaching is amazing. With these simple and elegant (but not always easy!) tools, we make a different in people lives. How great is that???!!!

Smile!

I have often received feedback that I need to smile more.  This is not to say I’m not generally a happy person or that I’m angry all the time.  Rather, I am probably more serious of a person than I need to be which most of the time doesn’t allow me the opportunity to smile more.
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On a weekend grocery shopping trip with my wife, I decided to see what it would be like to be constantly smiling as I pushed the cart through the aisles and checkout line.  I noticed a few things about myself and reactions from others.  By smiling more, I didn’t get as frustrated as I normally do with crowds or people who leave their carts in the middle of the aisle to go sample food.  Also, I found it took an incredible amount of concentration and energy to keep smiling throughout my grocery buying experience.

What I noticed from others is that they smiled back, were more polite and wanted to engage me in conversation.  My wife was also enjoying my little experiment.  She couldn’t stop smiling herself and laughing at the positive reactions I was getting from others.

What I realized from my experiment is the amount of energy and concentration it required to be fully present and focused on a task that felt unnatural to me.  However, the positive reaction I got from others far outweighed the effort on my part.

Whether coaching a client through this type of experience or encouraging yourself to try something that feels unnatural or awkward, I encourage you to go for it!  As a suggestion, during your next meal, try holding your fork in your opposite hand and see what reactions come up for you and others.

Please share your experiences and the reactions of others with us in the comment section below.  Thanks!