Over the past 9 months, we have had the pleasure of working with a global client who is training HR professionals to use a coaching approach with their internal clients. So far, we have trained over 100 HR professionals through 5 global trainings, 3 days each.
From the beginning, our sponsors within the company have been very forward thinking. As a way of starting the learning process, the company decided to give each participant a pre-training call, with the purpose being 3-fold:
- To get to know each other before the training
- To start understanding what coaching is moving forward within the company
- To listen for the participant’s natural coaching style and tendencies
What has happened as a result of these calls has been remarkable. We have indeed gotten acquainted on the calls, which has helped get started smoothly during the classroom training.
Regarding the second purpose, during the calls, we are discussing some key differences between coaching and a more traditional HR style. We’ve had great comments about what people take away from the calls, including:
- “This has been so valuable. Haven’t had a pre-training experience before, and it’s really made me think.”
- “I like learning to ask questions instead of telling others what to do.”
- “Your comment about going to past really helped me ‘look through the window’ to the solution. For the future, I don’t really have to know all the background.”
- “I need to let people think! I don’t need to tell everything to them. I will need to deal with my impatience.”
- “The main learning for me is to stand back and shut up, not impose my solutions. I’m going to need some duct tape!”
In addition, the third purpose for the calls is for the facilitator to listen to each person’s natural coaching style and tendencies in order to give specific feedback on the style. What has been interesting about this is to hear from participants about the impact of receiving feedback. Most people only get corrective feedback, and there are many others types of feedback that can be useful. Here are some comments from participants:
- “No one has given me feedback on my style before. It was very helpful. And, now I understand more about the training.”
- “The feedback really encourages me and motivates me to be better at coaching.”
- “Today’s feedback is making me think really hard.”
- “Your comments about my behavior and conversation style are very important. It’s magic for me.”
- “No one is giving me this kind of feedback. I am just told what is wrong.”
What are the learnings so far from the past 9 months? Two learnings that stand out are that a pre-training call can be helpful at a variety of levels, and that people really value feedback. Wouldn’t it be great if we could arrange for pre-training calls to start the learning process? They seem to be very helpful. And, we definitely can certainly give feedback more often, especially knowing that the feedback doesn’t have to be corrective in nature. People thrive on feedback, which is part of coaching.
About 3 weeks ago, within the span of 5 days, I heard from several “old” friends or people with whom I’ve worked. When the third person reached out that week and asked for a call, I had no idea what he wanted. What a shock to hear that he was thanking me for some work we’d done at least 4 years ago. He told me it had changed his life. What a blessing to hear his journey and the small part that I played.
As soon as we hung up the phone, I started thinking about what had happened that week and realized two things:
- We really don’t know the impact we’re having on people! Sometimes the impact is immediate. Sometimes, it hits its mark long after the conversation has ended.
- Reaching out and thanking people is something that we all could do more often. If it was such a gift to me, I could give that gift to others.
I’d like to say that I immediately thought of 50 people to thank. Nope, it didn’t happen. Two weeks passed. I was in a bookstore in Singapore when I saw a book written by an old friend. I took a picture of her book and emailed it to her, telling her that her book had made its way across the world. I also thanked her for making a connection for me 12 years ago that was a very significant one. I’m not sure I thanked her enough all those years ago, and it felt really good to take 90 seconds to write the note and send the picture.
I wonder what the world would be like if our gratitude was communicated to those who have assisted us on our journeys. I think the world would be a better place, and we’d all be blessed.
Recently I was on a panel with a client of mine. We had been coaching for about 12 months when we were invited to talk about our coaching relationship. She started the discussion by saying, “Linda was my second choice as a coach.” Everyone in the room laughed at this!
Then my client continued. “I had interviewed another coach prior to meeting Linda. I loved the other coach. There was great chemistry. During the interview with Linda, she made me very angry. It was on a Friday, and I was angry all weekend. I was stewing because I knew that the first coach would become a good friend, and that Linda would help me get where I wanted to go.”
This is not the first time this situation has occurred. I remember another interview several years ago. That gentleman was so angry that he said he didn’t even want referrals from me to other coaches. He’d find them himself! Several weeks later, he contacted me again and said, “I’ve interviewed 4 other coaches, and the voice I keep hearing in my head is yours. You told me the truth I didn’t want to hear.”
If you’re going to work with a coach, find one who
- Will tell you what you don’t want to hear
- Will say what no one else is saying
- Will not let you get away with….
- Holds you to the highest of standards
- Causes you to look at different perspectives
- Believes something bigger/better/more effective is possible
- Holds up the mirror again and again….and again
Work with a coach who will tell the truth that you need to hear, so you can be the person you know you can be.
Paying attention makes a much bigger difference in people’s lives than we realize. It makes a difference in decisions that people make in the workplace and in our personal lives.
One day a year ago, I paid attention to a young woman. We were having lunch together, and she shared about her family. To me, it was one simple lunch. I never expected to hear from her again. Wrong! 5 months later she called and asked if I remembered her. I did. She also asked if I knew that she was pregnant. I did not. Based on that one simple lunch, she let me know she wanted to place her unborn baby in our family, with our daughter and her husband. 3 weeks later, based on one simple lunch where I paid attention, we welcomed a new adopted grandson into the family.
Paying attention makes a huge difference in the workplace, too. Several years ago, during a meeting with my manager, she noticed some comments I was making that I didn’t even notice. Her insight shocked me and sent me in an entirely different direction as a result. I would not be where I am right now if it hadn’t been for her paying attention and making one significant comment.
Pay attention when you’re talking with people! You have no idea what the impact might be.
I recently worked with a global company. This is a company that has offices around the world. It’s not a company that has affiliates in other countries. It is truly a global company with all business departments represented around the world. Working with the company has required a shift in my mindset around language. It has challenged me at a deep level.
It all started when I was doing phone calls with each person before a 3 day meeting. I wanted to greet people on the phone with “good morning” – after all, the calls were between 4.00-8.00am my time! The first time I did it, my “good morning” was met with silence. Yikes! I had totally forgotten that it was mid afternoon where the other person was calling from!
Lesson One: Think in terms of what time it is for the person to whom I am talking, not where I am sitting. After completing the rest of the calls, several people commented that they really appreciated that I had noticed the time zone difference. Such a little thing, and so important in a global company.
Lesson Two: When we all convened, we had 11 countries and 11 languages in the room. For all except a few of us, English was not the primary language. If English isn’t the primary language, then many of the things we say in English don’t make any sense to others. For example, keeping someone posted may not have the same meaning as keeping someone informed. Or, people working in a global company try to use language and examples that can resonate with those from other countries.
With 11 languages in the room, pace is a factor. If everyone speaks the same language, you can talk fast and be ok. Not so in a global environment. Slowing down was a big shift, especially for a fast talking person like me. This showed up when I mentioned to a colleague that some people were not as participative as others. We all know that this is a common occurrence in every company and in every meeting. In a global company, pace is a major factor. My colleague commented that the pace was too fast for some of the participants. Even though all spoke English as a second language, some were better at English than others. In a global company, it’s critical to respect each person’s language ability and not to assume anything!
One brave woman from a European country (let’s call her Lydia) approached me during the second day and asked me to give her feedback on how she was coming across in the room. I commented that I thought her insights would be important to share with the room. She responded that the conversations were moving so quickly that she couldn’t translate internally fast enough to respond.
Lesson Three: Pace is critical, and slowing down is a must. Lydia and I agreed that I would slow down, and she would participate if and when she felt comfortable. There was a dramatic difference later that day, and it became a big learning for me. That mini conversation created a different level of connectedness with Lydia and a deep respect for her and every other person in the room.
I’ll be working again with that company, and when I do, I’ll approach it much differently. I want everyone to feel respected and to be able to participate. That means that I need to change my views and behaviours (notice the European and Canadian spelling!). I will need to remind myself that it’s different when working in the global environment.
I was talking with a colleague last week, and I made a comment about wanting to overcome sheer fear when giving feedback. Then I started laughing because in my mind, the word “sheer” was spelled “shear.”
“Shear fear” is NOT about hair cutting or counseling! It’s about the cutting away of indirect conversation in order to deliver what’s most needed. It’s about being willing to speak up, give direct feedback and say what needs to be said for the benefit of the person receiving it.
Thinking about this, a perfect (or maybe an imperfect) example comes to mind with someone I was coaching. Something didn’t seem right about our conversations, but I couldn’t figure out what. Usually I’m willing to mention what’s going on even if I can’t quite figure it out, but with this person, I hadn’t brought up the subject. I was being indirect. I had succumbed to “shear fear.”
Then one morning, while getting ready for the day (read: while in the shower!), I realized that I was NOT serving him and determined to talk with him about it. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. When we connected in the afternoon for our scheduled coaching call, he let me know he had been fired that morning.
Since that day, I’ve often wondered if I had spoken up sooner, if that would have helped him keep his job. Obviously, we’ll never know. But, I made a decision that day that has been a guiding principle. When I’m feeling fear, even shear fear, I intend to cut away the indirect communication and deliver what needs to be said.
How about you? What indirect conversations will you cut away, overcome your shear fear and be in service to those with whom you work?
Several years ago, I found myself walking on the Great Wall outside of Beijing. Beside me was a young man who was assigned to be my guide. It was a beautiful day beginning with a misty morning. I kept stopping and looking out over the wall. At one point as we stood and gazed over the misty mountains, I sensed that there was something much bigger happening, something much bigger that I was seeing. Indeed, there was.
As I gazed into the mist with my guide, I realized that coaching is a lot like standing with leaders or colleagues or direct reports as they look over the horizon. I couldn’t clearly see what was out there. Many times, neither can they. There’s often a mist that prevents us from seeing clearly. The “mist” may be the challenge of competing priorities, or the impact if an important decision is made, or the stories that people will make up once a difficult announcement occurs.
Standing there, looking into the mist, I was so glad to have my guide with me. He gave me information that helped us determine which fork of the Great Wall to take. He let me know how far we had come and what was ahead. At one point, he suggested that I slow down to avoid a particularly uneven section of the wall. Although I didn’t like that suggestion at all, I appreciated his honest feedback that my pace might need to change.
Throughout the day, we walked together, talking and discussing ideas and options. We covered a lot of ground. I learned about myself and about him and about the journey we were on.
At the end of the day, I realized it was a deeply satisfying journey, and the mist had cleared.
A few months ago I was walking through our house when my husband stopped me suddenly. He was pointing to a place I’d just walked past at least 5 times. In that place was a snake, curled into a tight circle. We live in Arizona. Snakes in the house are not a good thing. The fact that I’d stepped over it at several times was even more disturbing. It also made me wonder what else I step over all the time without noticing.
What DO we step over, without realizing it? Maybe it’s the impact of something we said, not realizing that it was unintentionally hurtful. Or, maybe it’s the part of our work that we really don’t like, not realizing that others notice when we don’t do it. Or, maybe it’s the insignificant meetings that we attend without paying attention, not realizing that our input is important for the business decisions that are being made.
OK, now I’m convicted! It’s time to pay attention to the things that I step over and start taking steps in a new direction. One step is to pay attention to the responses of others and to clean up messes. Another step is to take action on the things I don’t like to do, regularly. A third step is to be present (really present and focused) at meetings, and to contribute input when decisions are being made.
How about you? What steps can you take rather than stepping over something that could potentially bite you?
I think we’ve all heard about the TV show on hoarding. I haven’t seen it, but I have known a few people who are hoarders. What a mess, at so many levels. What challenges it causes, for so many people.
Recently, while facilitating a meeting, someone commented about a leader who seemed to be hoarding information. My ears perked up (not to imply that I hadn’t been listening before, of course). What a concept: hoarding information. What a mess, at so many levels. What challenges it causes, for so many people.
Then, I started to wonder if I hoard information. Yuck. I think I do.
- I definitely have information in my computer that people might be able to use. Yes, we have sites where we can share information, but how often do I upload to them?
- I definitely have information in my head that people might need. Yes, I’m willing to answer questions when asked, but am I proactive enough to be sharing in anticipation of what they’ll need?
- I definitely have resources that would be useful to others. Yes, I’m willing to share when approached, but am I thinking about resources my team members might need before they ask?
What causes this hoarding of information? I came up with a number of possibilities, none of which are attractive. One possibility is fear. If I share, then others will know what I know, and they might be better than me. Another possibility is insecurity. If my team members meet some of the people who have been useful to me, then the team member might be liked more than me. Another possibility is lack of confidence. If I develop my people by sharing useful information as a way of developing my team, they may excel and be promoted ahead of me.
Get my drift? Not a pretty picture. What a mess, at so many levels. What challenges it causes, for so many people. Slap, slap. It’s time to get over myself, deal with the fear or whatever it is, and do what leaders are supposed to do: motivate, inspire, develop others, and definitely not hoard information. That means sharing as much information as I can, keeping people informed, and thinking about what’s best for them, not just about what’s best for me.