Listening is a key coaching skill. It’s a basic element in how coaching works. It’s also a skill that managers, parents, teachers, counselors, even police detectives use. But what are they listening for?
I am convinced that my parents always listened for evidence that they were right. My teachers listened for what I didn’t understand, so they could explain some concept or fact. And while I’ve never met a police detective, popular entertainment suggests that they listen for evidence of guilt.
So how is listening different when a coach does it?
Bernard Ferrari, author of Power Listening: Mastering the Most Critical Business Skill of All comments that “Good listeners seek to understand—and challenge—the assumptions that lie below the surface of every conversation.”
A great coach does this in service to his or her client. We listen to learn more about what makes the client tick. We listen for subtext. We listen for what excites our client, or scares them, or bores them. We listen for what is spoken and what is unspoken. We listen for themes and trends. We listen for values and beliefs.
We listen so that we may help our clients achieve their goals and their dreams.
Here are five ways to listen more intently.
- Quiet your mind.
- Let go of your solutions, great ideas and thoughts, and trust your client to come up with these.
- Listen to more than the spoken word – tone, pitch, and speed are just as important (and maybe MORE important) than words.
- Practice, practice, practice.
- Stop multitasking.
Everyone makes mistakes. A few days ago I was coaching someone who made a pretty serious mistake at work. The mistake might cost the company thousands of dollars. She was upset and worried. As we began to work together, she began to shift her perspective. She quickly moved toward looking for a way to find some sort of value in the experience. By the end of our coaching session, she was actively planning on ways to address the mistake and leverage learning for herself and her organization.
Here are three things one might learn from making a mistake:
1. Who am I? Do you hide it? Blame others? Vow to never make another mistake again? Or perhaps you keep quiet, but learn from it. Maybe you use it as a lesson when helping others. How you handle mistakes says a lot about who you are as a person.
2. What is important to others? Yep. Evidence about what others think, feel and value is evident by how they respond to you when you make a mistake. By the way, great leaders use mistakes as a learning opportunity, and a chance to improve systems and processes.
3. It’s all a matter of perspective. A mistake may be the best thing to ever happen to you or your organization. Really. Potato chips, velcro, silly putty and Viagra were all mistakes, unintentional discoveries, and just plain goofs.
It may not feel good to make a mistake. In fact it can be downright painful. Like every other life experience, it can also serve a purpose. How do you respond to mistakes? How will you leverage the next mistake into your version of the Post It note?
My husband doesn’t make resolutions. When I asked him why, he said that he doesn’t need a special day to remind him to do something he really wants to do – he just does it. Not all of us are such great self starters. When I polled friends and family about New Year’s resolutions, they offered these six gems of wisdom:
1. Tell someone else – Making a commitment to a friend or loved one is a sure fire way to stay on track.
2. Keep it small – Losing 100 or 60, or even 20 pounds is a great goal, but can be overwhelming. Start with the first five, and then keep it going.
3. Find your motivation – what really makes it worth it to achieve the goal? What is your inner, burning need to change? Tap into that, and you’ll be more likely to reach the finish line.
4. Don’t make it a big deal – the more we build things up in our mind, the bigger roadblocks we create.
5. Start something on a Thursday – the best advice I ever got was from my sister, who starts all of her New Year’s resolutions on December 15th. January first, or the first day of the week or month may not be the best day to start. Start working towards your goal today
6. Reward yourself – positive reinforcement works. Really.
So what does this have to do with coaching? Well this is exactly what we help our clients do. We help them break down barriers; find the short term win to motivate ongoing change; and we hold them accountable.
Okay, I’m done. I’m off to ride my bike, eat a carrot, catch up on my reading, and kiss my husband.
For the latest on Optimal Motivation visit http://www.kenblanchard.com/optimalmotivation
Organizations spend thousands of dollars on helping leaders identify opportunities for development and growth, often grounded on comptency based models.
Listening is one of those skills that can be leveraged across many competencies to manage how others perceive us. Here are three competencies that organizations typically want leaders to excel in – and where listening makes a big difference:
Building better/proficient/effective/productive teams: The more you listen to your team, individually and together, the more information you have about where they need support, guidance and resources. You’ll find out what may stop them from working well together, or what may get in the way of achieving goals.
Executive “presence” – the confidence to listen, instead of speak will, well, honestly, make you seem wise, caring, and “in touch” with your people. Part of any great executive “tool kit” is the ability to ask a simple question and then listen deeply beyond what is said.
Building and maintaining effective relationships: How do you know what others want and need from you? Simply encourage others to talk to you by listening to what they have to say.
Listening is a skill that takes practice. And what you listen FOR is an important element of listening.
Check back to our blog in the coming weeks for more on listening skills.
The Oxford dictionary defines partnership as “noun: the state of being a partner or partners; an association of two or more people as partners.” We are surrounded by examples of partnerships every day. Our spouses are our partners. We partner with teachers, colleagues, financial advisors, and our doctors in ways that influence our lives. As coaches we are often highly influential as partners to our clients. But what do our clients get out of partnering with a coach? Executives often say unequivocally “my coaching experience was fantastic” – and yet they might not be able to say HOW the partnership with their coach met expectations or the value related to the investment in time and dollars.
Here are three ROI’s that Blanchard clients have correlated to coaching partnerships:
1) Retention and promotion of talent: High potential leaders being coached in a Japanese owned automotive company directly correlate coaching to retention and promotions. Although the company does not specifically track these numbers, anecdotal information suggests that the coaching partnership has a direct influence on both. Since implementation of the coaching, more high potential leaders are promoted and overall retention within the organizations where leaders are coached has gone up.
2) Motivation: Executives in a multinational company producing products for the home comment that coaching has had a dramatic affect on their engagement level, and motivation at work. They are more dedicated, loyal, and happy at work, resulting in an increase in overall motivation. Partnering with their coach leads them to examine how to optimize their personal motivation, focusing on what keeps them engaged in their work.
3) Leadership and sustainability in learning: Leaders in a U.S. Federal Agency report that they are more likely to apply what they learn about Situational Frontline Leadership™ in the classroom to their daily work lives through partnerships with a coach. Post coaching evaluation shows that more than 85% of leaders being coached are applying what they learn about leadership to their daily work, with a direct effect on their ability to apply new skills. Sponsors of the program, and participants believe that an increase in employee satisfaction survey results is directly correlated to the leadership training and coaching.
Everyone has a bad day now and again, me included. My coach wasn’t handy, and I really wanted to change how my day was going. So, I did a little bit of self coaching. Here are the five questions I asked myself, to turn my day around.
What is making my day “bad”? Well, email overwhelm, demands on my time, falling behind on deadlines, and in general, living the corporate life that so many of our clients live every day.
What would a great day look like? Oh, easy. Being on top of my work. Getting the top 5 things on my “to do” list done. Taking the time to smell the roses.
What needs to be done first? Okay, now I’m unstuck. The first thing I needed to do was the thing I had been putting off. A little progress there, and voila – I’m back on track.
What else makes your day “great”? Now this is fun to ponder! For me, that means doing something kind for someone. A visit with my new 92 year old friend. $6.00 worth of flowers and 30 minutes of time has given me a week of smiles and good cheer. Those random acts of kindness really do work.
What keeps your days great? Harder to answer this one, because I can get caught in that vicious email cycle all too easily. My personal answer is to do at least 2 things on my “to do” list BEFORE I read my email and to do one thing every day that makes me smile; an hour in the bookstore, a hug from my daughter, checking off another item on my to do list.
So the next time you are having a “bad” day – how would you “self coach” to a great day?
Every coach knows when coaching is really working, after all clients keep coming back for more; they say it’s valuable and they change in fundamental ways. The challenge is in how to measure the value of coaching. In one on one relationships this may be less important than when a corporate organization is picking up the tab. The purpose of a corporation is to increase value to the shareholder – to make a profit. Everything that goes on in corporations is aimed at that one simple goal. So if we are coaching people in corporate organizations at some point we are going to be expected to show the value of coaching. How is it contributing to the bottom line? The good news is that there ARE ways to do so.’
1. Link client objectives to corporate strategies
2. Set SMART goals and focus on how the goals will change the organization (as well as your client)
3. Identify internal observers who know what the goals are – and can comment on gains
4. Conduct a pre and post measurement – use scaling such as a likert scale to measure change
5. Put a dollar value on change
How do you measure the value of coaching?
William James once said “My first act of free will is to believe in free will.” Freedom and free will are top of mind for me, given the upcoming American Independence Day. Coaching often supports one of freedom’s basic elements, that of choice. In a society that values freedom above all else it is sometimes shocking to me that as individuals we forget that we have choices. We have a choice about how we respond to the jerk that cuts us off in traffic, the boss who offers us constructive criticism, or the teammate whose work affects ours. We can choose to beat ourselves up, or embrace the learning that comes from failure. We can choose to ignore opportunity, or grasp it with both hands. We exert our free will when we make these choices Okay, so how does this relate to coaching? When we get stuck a great coach can remind us that we make those choices and then help us make them with intention. Coaching helps us clearly see where we can adjust, adapt, flex, and simply choose how we will feel, how we will respond, and who we will be.
So I wonder, what choices are you making?
That’s what we say, right? To convey to others that the thing we are thinking about, or doing is not as complicated as boosting several tons of metal and a few human beings off the plant. And yet, the human brain makes more than a million billon connections between neurons,. That is more than the number of breaths you might take in a lifetime! As a coach it is our role to help change how and when those neurons fire. We ask clients to imagine the future. We ask them to change behavior. We work with them to shift thinking. In essence we are asking people to re-wire their brains, and to make some of those million billion connections work differently. We are remaping the connectome. No. It isn’t rocket science. I suspect it is something FAR more complicated. When people ask me about what I do, I tell them it isn’t rocket science –and then I smile.
For a great article on the brain check out Carl Zimmer’s article in Discover – April 2012 (p. 22-23)
There is a movement afoot in the world. It’s all about being happy. Happy you ask? How silly, really, to think about being happy as if we have some actual, internal control over our own happiness. After all, isn’t being happy something that just happens to us? Turns out, it’s not!
In fact, as a coach you may find yourself working with clients who want just a little bit more happiness in their life. Some focus on the next big promotion, some on giving back to their community. Still others in finding balance between the excessive email inbox, and the completely unplugged vacation in the Bahamas. Really, though, happiness is all around us. Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project suggests that with planned and thoughtful intention one can increase feelings of happiness. So I tried it. For one week I asked myself “What makes me happy?” and then I made sure to do at least one thing every day that put a smile on my face. I discovered that not only was I happier, but everyone around me was happier too! How fantastic. My husband was smiling more. My daughter was humming in the shower. Okay, now to apply it to my profession. I began asking clients “what makes you happy?” The answers were often different and always fascinating. Every person I asked took control in some way for noticing, and then acting upon their own happiness. Early results show that as they became happier so did everyone around THEM!
Yep, it’s a movement all right. One well worth expanding on. So it’s your turn now.
What makes YOU happy?