Veterans Need Coaching Too…!

Memorial Day is a holiday in which we honor our service men and women who have given ultimate sacrifice. This day is also a great time to honor those who continue to serve.  Memorial Day-american-soldier-saluting

As veterans transition from years of armed conflict, many of them are pursuing civilian careers. Coaching is one of the professional services provided to veterans during this transition period. Coaching services include specific focus areas such as financial, educational, family dynamics, career, and health. Professional coaches are assisting service members in their transition by helping them identify and achieve their personal and professional goals. Many coaches volunteer their time to support veterans through group and one-on-one coaching.

I was contacted earlier this year to coach veteran women on transitioning back into the civilian workforce. I am looking forward to donating my time to support women veterans in identifying their career and life goals as well as creating action plans that move them toward accomplishing their goals.

Military service men and women have paved the way for our freedom.

What ways can you support our service men and women?

I salute all veterans and active service members!

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?

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

 

Hard, Solid Thinking Pains

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated, “Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.”Martin Luther King

As I pondered Dr. King’s quote, I realized many of my clients have experienced a lack of hard, solid thinking.  I am also guilty of it.  Due to competing priorities and time constraints, some clients perceive they cannot take the necessary time to engage in hard, solid thinking and reflection.  They want quick solutions.  Some clients come up with “half-baked” solutions that do not solve their root issues.  For example, I worked with a client (client gave approval to share) who was not getting the direction and support she needed from her manager.  Her first solution was to ask others for help since her manager was so busy and frequently gave her positive feedback.  As we delved deeper into what she wanted and needed from her manager, she focused her thinking and reflected deeply.  She uncovered she needed to take more control of leading her meetings with her manager.  She created a strategy for her meetings to get what she needed to increase her effectiveness in her role.  As a result, she created a stronger partnership with her manager while taking control and changing her behaviors.  The client’s strategy surfaced over time as she became more intentional and gained clarity on her purpose.  Hard thinking involves a laser focus on an issue until a solid strategy or solution is uncovered.

A coach’s role is to encourage, challenge, and ask thought-provoking questions that lead the client into solid thinking, self-reflection, and awareness.  A coach does not serve her client by promoting the “easy” solution. Solid thinking is about understanding the true purpose, impact, and outcomes of the issue.  It is intentionally thinking through an issue over time.

Hard, solid thinking can be painful, time consuming, and definitely rewarding.  In order to achieve your goals and Dreams, take a step back and do some hard thinking.  Remember, Dr. Martin Luther King had a Dream…!!

Do You Want to Tango?

Tango dancing can be free flowing, energizing, and expressive.  And, downright fun!  There is a leader and a follower.  The follower decides how to respond to the leader in the moment.  It is a collaborative process, which encourages the development of sensitivity, clarity, trust and respect.Tango Picture

A coaching session is similar to a tango dance between a coach and client. A coach is skilled to follow the client in the moment and artfully take the lead.  The key for the coach is to be completely present. The coach’s full attention is on the client while silencing his/her background noise, thoughts, and opinions.  A coach is actively listening and naturally responding from his/her intuition or ‘gut’.  Based on the client’s responses and reactions, the coach will take the lead through asking thought-provoking questions and challenging perspectives.  The coach tangos with the client by carefully leading when appropriate and mostly following in order to create an exploratory, rejuvenating, and possibly, empowering discussion.

Do you tango in a business meeting?  Are you always the lead?  Can you follow?

In order to foster collaboration, trust and respect, it is important to know when to put your thoughts and opinions aside to truly understand and explore the other person’s message.  You consciously make the decision to follow the person in his/her thoughts and ask questions that delves deeper.  You are curious in your questions and responses.  This enhances and expands the two-way dialogue. The discussion becomes energizing!   As a result, there is a clear understanding of the message, an increased awareness, and, possibly, ideas and/or solutions are uncovered that may not have been considered.

Who is your next Tango partner?

Drive by Coaching

A single coaching session can result in a client gaining clarity and jump-starting into action.

Last week, I participated in a “Drive by Coaching” session” after a former client requested an impromptu MH900310158phone coaching session. Sue [name has been changed to honor confidentiality] had an idea of writing a book. She was excited about the idea and had doubts about who would acknowledge her book. She was unsure if she should move forward with the book idea or if she was just “dreaming”. I heard the passion in her voice and jumped right into coach mode to help Sue gain clarity.

During the 50 minute impromptu coaching session, Sue became clear on her purpose for writing a book, narrowed her focus, identified her target audience, clarified her expectations, and created an action plan. Sue was very excited and could visualize the book and individuals enjoying it. She had a realistic plan and was even more passionate! Whew…! I was impressed in what Sue accomplished in our “Drive by Coaching” session.

Once Sue and I ended the call, I reflected on what caused Sue to accomplish so much during one coaching session. Sue had a general vision of a goal for a book project. However, she was doubtful on if and how she should proceed, which is common among many clients. My role as a coach consisted of the following for the “Drive by Coaching” session:

  • A strong connection (existing relationship with a former client)
  • Actively listening – client does most the talking; recap and summarize what is stated
  • Ask questions related to the alignment of client’s values
  • Ask thought-provoking questions to uncover and increase awareness of the purpose and intention
  • Acknowledge the passion and energy (or lack of it)
  • Move to action quickly, which should come naturally from the client

All Sue needed was a “Drive by Coaching” session to move her forward!

Being Positive in Challenging Situations

Generally, every individual has experienced a professional or personal challenging situation that has sparked negativity or a stifling outlook.

I have experienced several challenging situations that has caused me to spiral downward into a negative, unproductive, and self-pity mentality. Not a pretty picture!!!

It is not fun being around someone who is negative. A negative perspective does not serve anyone. Time will continue to move on as one wallows in a perceived unfavorable situation.

So, what is the key to avoid spiraling downward into negativity? You have a choice! You can consciously choose to think positive about a situation by controlling your emotions, looking for the learning, and creating a productive action plan/strategy.

Depending on the situation, it may take a lot of soul searching, support from others, and aligning your values and passion to gain and maintain a positive outlook. It can be done!!

Below are 6 Questions to ask yourself as you move toward negativity.

1. What is the reality of the situation?
2. What are the facts?
3. What control do I have?
4. What is the learning for ME? (What is my role in the situation? What are the productive and unproductive behaviors?)
5. What would it take to move beyond the situation?
6. Based on the reality and facts of the situation, what is my productive plan of action moving forward?

How will you handle the next curve ball that comes your way?

It’s Not About You! – 5 Questions to ensure the focus is on the client.

The focus of coaching is to serve the client. Serving the client includes listening for understanding (active listening), asking thought-provoking and curious questions that lead to deeper awareness, and challenging current perspectives. It is important to understand the client’s current situation, needs, and goals. The role of a coach is to put aside what he or she thinks is best for the client and focus on coaching the client to identify the best solution.

Below are 5 questions for a coach to ensure the focus is on the client.

1) Are you eager to share a solution or a similar experience?
(A client’s experiences, perceptions, and realities may differ from the coach. Do not assume they are the same!)

2) Are you leading or listening?
(Are you offering suggestions or asking open-ended questions?)

3) Who feels better at the end of a coaching session?
(Are you providing solutions for your client or helping your client identify his or her own solutions?)

4) Are you allowing your client to work at his or her own pace or are you setting the pace?
(Are you tied to a process and prematurely pushing your client to action or allowing your client to reflect and explore in the present?)

5) Are you challenging your client based on his or her needs and vision or based on your vision for your client?
(Are you serving your client or yourself?)

There have been times during coaching sessions that I had to catch myself from eagerly giving advice or sharing my experiences. At this point, I realize I am focusing on me and not the client. Of course, I have good intentions and want to help my clients. As a coach, I know it is not about what I think. It is about zooming in on clients to support, listen, challenge, and encourage based on their goals.

The Ultimate Achievement…Can Become a Reality!

The ultimate achievement begins with a simple goal!

The Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl victory was an ultimate achievement!

John and Jim Harbaugh, head coaches for the Raven and 49ers respectively, began their season with simple goals: To field competitive teams and make it into the NFL Playoffs. These simple goals led to a chance to accomplish the ultimate goal for all professional football teams.

It is easy to set a goal.  The real challenge is the mindset and work it takes to accomplish the goal.

Below are a few questions to ask yourself before you commit to a goal.  Also, ask these questions again 1-2 months later to ensure the goal is right for you.

  • What is the benefit of achieving the goal?
  • What is the goal worth to me?
  • How determined am I to achieving the goal?
  • What am I willing to give up?
  • Is it the right time for this goal?
  • How will I keep myself on track to achieving the goal?

Accomplishing a goal is fulfilling and memorable (and work)!  Just ask the Baltimore Ravens!!

That’s One Perspective…

What’s another?

It is so common to see things through the lens of only one perspective based on personal experiences, backgrounds, and values. “Everyone should see things my way – Right?… Wrong!” I have stated several times, “There are always 3 sides to a story.” This can be translated to “There are at least 3 perspectives to a situation.” Once a person steps outside of his or her own mindset, the situation is broaden to include other possible viewpoints, reasons, solutions, etc.

I worked with a client who believed his manager only wanted to know when the project will be completed. The client experienced several challenges, which he tried to communicate to his manager. The manager nonchalantly acknowledged the challenges and focused on the project end date. The client’s communication was based only on his perspective and as a result was ineffective.

During the coaching session, I questioned my client on how might he communicate the challenges from his manager’s perspective? “How would you communicate from the president’s or another department team member’s perspective who is impacted by the project?” As a result, the client was able to broaden his thinking to create a communication that captured the challenges, the impact of the challenges across many departments, and the possible alternatives and solutions to complete the project by the deadline. The challenges were communicated from different viewpoints (a micro and macro level) to show the impact throughout the company.

Sometimes we get so stuck in our own perspectives that we are missing out on other possible alternatives and win-win solutions!!