The power of connection

My typical Friday includes going to the bank. I’m old school. I go in, and I talk to the tellers. I ask after them and their families. I get an update on a teller who was in a serious car accident, but mending well. They know my name. They greet me, even if I’m going to another window. Now, they know my daughter by name too. I have noticed over time, that , as I leave, I find myself smiling and feeling good. Why? Because I made a human connection. They remember that I recently went on college tours with my daughter. They know she’s saving up for a computer. They know I work from home. So, why did that make me smile? Because making those connections feels GOOD. The first element of Blanchard’s coaching model is all about connection. Creating connection is the ability to demonstrate that you care about and are interested in the person you are speaking with. As a coach, you must remain fully present. Ignoring or mitigating the mental distractions, and listening deeply to what the client says. Like so many coaching skills, connecting is applicable in every area of our lives. Making connections can happen anywhere. Smiling at the person behind you at the grocery store. Picking up the phone instead of sending yet another email to a colleague, looking your spouse in the eyes and really listening when you ask “how was your day”?, Staying up for a midnight chat with your teenager, and of course, the brilliant connections we make with clients. Every single one puts a smile on my face.

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???!!!

If it is important to my client, it is important to me.

There was once a school of thought that said a coach didn’t’ really need to understand the business the client was in, in order to coach well.  Some have even opined that we don’t’ need to have anything in common with our clients at all. We are the invisible guide, the mirror, and the one who draws forth all that comes from the client – nothing comes from the coach.  Well imagine my surprise when I spent 10 minutes of a coaching call today talking sports with a client. We talked about the 49’ers, A-Rod and the steroids scandal and Messi coming off the injured list to score 2 goals for Barcelona. 

Am I an aficionado of sports? Not really. But I can talk cars, sports, cigars, and good scotch when I need to.  How does this help me as a coach? Well it’s all about connecting with others.

If I am coaching a neurosurgeon, you can bet I’m going to learn a little bit about the brain. If I’m coaching a vice president of pharmaceutical sales, well, I’d best read up on the industry, FDA approvals and the challenges of meeting quotas.  

Connecting with clients can happen lots of ways. We listen deeply, we believe fully, we mourn and celebrate with our clients, and we have to know them and what’s important to them in order to do so.

Here are three ways to get to know your client

  • Listen for clues – do they use sports analogies? Brush up on your basketball, football or hockey!
  • Take time for small talk – what’s in the details tells you a LOT about your client. Do they talk about family, art, the latest best seller? Brush up on their interests.
  • Google them /their company – yep the internet is a great way to do a bit of research. 10 minutes of research can yield a deeper and more meaningful connection with your client

I don’t really know if Kaepernick can pull it off next Sunday, but I DO know that what’s important to my clients is important to me.

7 Considerations when developing an organizational coaching strategy

Coaching has hit the mainstream. It’s showing up in sitcoms, Fast magazine, and well, blogs like this one. Increasingly, organizations are figuring out how to develop a strategy to provide coaching as a service offering to employees. No longer is the debate whether to offer coaching at all, rather it is a debate on when to use an external coaching provider versus internal practitioners. In this blog, I offer three reasons why an organization should consider using internal coaches and four reasons an organization should consider using external coaches.

The case for internal coaching

Financial constraints – Coaching can be expensive. A typical coaching relationship can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000 or more Having an internal staff of coaches can increase access to coaching for everyone in the organization.

Organizational integration – Understanding the internal culture and the political landscape can be critical. The Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychology suggests that internal coaches have faster access to information about the strengths and values of an organization.

Consistency in process and methodology – As a profession, we’ve made great strides, however there is no guarantee of competence. Anyone can add “coach” to their business card. Although one methodology monitoring coaches from many companies can be more challenging.

Three reasons to use external coaches

Confidentiality and the client’s agenda – Successful coaching is grounded in these concepts. A slip up in one of these areas can tank a coaching program. Even when it is absolutely, never, ever going to happen, the perception of the possibility reduces the ability of the person being coached to be honest and open.

Overcoming cultural blindness – An external coach, by definition, is not part of the organization. Social psychology theory shows that people who work or live together are influenced by each other towards conformity. An external coach sees things through a different lens, not a lens of conformity.

Avoiding accountability and role clarification Issues – Role clarification and boundaries around information management become more challenging with internal coaching. Since the external coach has one role, that of supporting and guiding the person being coached, accountability and role clarification are not at issue.

Executive needs – How realistic is it to expect an executive to bare his soul, admit to imperfection, acknowledge the desire to continue developing or expose his deepest feelings to someone who is part of his organization? Can it be done? With an external coach this is never an issue.

Regardless of the decision an organization makes regarding internal or external coaching, or both, the method works. People are fundamentally changed by engaging in meaningful conversations with a coach who creates an environment of trust and learning.

Distracted and Misperceived

By Linda Miller

Early last week, I did one of the worst jobs of coaching that I’ve ever done. That was my humble assessment. I was distracted by a dog who needed to go out, by my early morning need for a cup of tea, by other morning happenings in the house, and the list goes on. Basically, I didn’t feel present on the call. What’s worse, I intended to write a note of apology immediately after we hung up, but I was distracted and didn’t get it done. Until 4 full days later.
On Friday, I was fed up with myself. I couldn’t believe 4 days had passed and I hadn’t sent an apology. I couldn’t believe that distractions had interfered yet again. So, I sat myself down and wrote the needed email. It was short. Here’s how it went:
“You have been on my mind hundreds of times since our call earlier this week, and I am sorry not to have emailed sooner. I want to apologize for the distractions and the quality of the last call. I take full responsibility for it. I am also very chagrined at having several days pass before emailing. Please forgive me for both offenses.”
I definitely felt better having written it, until I started wondering how she would respond. I trembled. I prayed. I tried to think of gifts that would make everything right. And then, late on Friday, I received the following response:
“Oh my goodness, perception is really something else. That was the best call ever! That call sprung me to action, and I attacked everything on the list of things we discussed, with gusto. I was on a roll after that call! Your distractions were not even noticeable to me. You got me on the missions I needed to get on. THANK YOU!!!”
What a tremendous and humbling surprise. My perception of the call was totally different than her experience.
• Even if I haven’t done the terrible thing I think I’ve done, clean it up if something seems off. There may be a huge gift in the cleaning up process.
• Be careful with judgments, of others….and of ourselves. How often do we judge ourselves better than or more harshly than what’s perceived by others?
• Pay attention to the still, small voice that may have a purpose different than expected. In this situation, the email exchange cleared things up and made a much more lasting bond than if I’d ignored that still, small voice.
• Beware of distractions!

3 ways being a champion for others can change the world

One of the key skills of coaching is to be a champion for your client. Knowing in your bones that the client CAN succeed at that crazy stretch goal can make the difference between wild success and abject failure. Here are three ways to be a champion for your clients
1. Think BIG picture. Help the client focus on the end game, pie in the sky, full tilt outcome. Keep the lens there, rather than on the “why not” or “how to.”
2. Listen through the fear. There are a million reasons why someone can fail and a million more things we are afraid of. It all boils down to letting folks express their fear and then coaching them beyond and in spite of it. Refer back to item one.
3. Trust them. Clients are brilliant. They will figure out a way to achieve their goals. When you trust them, deeply and completely, they know it and it inspires them to keep going in spite of themselves.

Think back to the last time someone helped you to do these things. How did that influence YOUR outcomes?
Yep, let’s have more of THAT in the world.

A coaching story –3 questions that changed my life.

I confess. I love my “to do” list. I feel super accomplished when I get to check things off the list. It feels good to see , right there in black and white, that I did actually get something done. The truth is that my to do list also keeps me focused on what is most important. How did I discover this beautiful and effective system,  that really works for me? I had a great coach.

She listened deeply and discovered that I have a driving need to get to results.  But there were big obstacles in my way. The nature of my work, and that of many people  is not task specific. Not everything gets done every day. Shifting priorities also impact what I do. Sound familiar?

My coach followed up with three really brilliant questions to ensure that creating a daily to do list was the right structure to help me get to my objective.   She asked:

What is the optimal number of items per day for your list? This is a simple but profound question. It gets to the heart of what’s important to me AND made me take a serious look at getting out of my own way.
How can you take the big stuff and break it down into smaller increments? Another simple and maybe even obvious question – this one made me move out of “overwhelm” and into a place of choice. I could feed my need to accomplish something, but not freak out over the fact that the humongous, hairy project wasn’t done, and probably never would be!

What will make it okay to have an incomplete list?Okay this was a tough one.  I will stay up until 3:00am just to check one more thing off my list and my coach knows it.   Realistically that makes me more tired, less effective, and more prone to making poor decisions.  So we explored a bit and hit on a number that works for me.

It isn’t enough to just find the tool or resource that works. Coaching goes beyond the obvious, even when exploring the obvious. It goes deeper that what’s visible. It is a progression over time that can have long term, profound effects on the person being coached.  I say go big, or go home.