Commencement

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May is a great month.  Here in New England, winter’s grip is finally loosened and spring bursts forth.  The earth is resplendent with trees budding and flowers blooming.  Bears emerge from hibernation, and songbirds return.  Adding to these natural festivities (at least in this college town) are college commencements.  Graduations are achieved after the sheer determination and hard work of 8 or more semesters.

When I was younger, I always thought “commencement” was such an odd word.  My sense was we were celebrating what has (finally) been completed!  Commencement, of course, means to begin.  This focus on moving forward is essential.  No successful person is “done learning” when she or he graduates.  Understanding that learning is a life-long commitment is a powerful differentiator among people.  To value learning is to cultivate it at every opportunity.  To value learning means your life is enriched, and you enrich the lives of others, too.

One person who holds learning as one of his core values is Ken Blanchard.  Today, we celebrate Ken’s 75th birthday.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY KEN!  Thank you for your example of life-long learning.  Your curiosity, coupled with your interest in sharing your learnings, has truly unleashed “the greater good” in hundreds of thousands of leaders all over the world.

It is a happy concurrence to have Ken’s birthday during “commencement season.”  We can pause to recall our past opportunities for learning, and be grateful for all of them.  Moreover, we can assess the ways in which we continue to learn.  Mostly, today we can commit to ways we can increase these learning opportunities:  for ourselves, and for others.

Happy Commencement!

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?

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.

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

 

You have all the answers

The reality about coaching is that the client does the work.   A great coach creates an environment that illuminates truth for the person being coached, and a really great coach “stays out of the way” by caring enough to state what is observed and by avoiding judgment.   The coach doesn’t create the solution.  The answer emerges from the client because it was there all along!

Have you ever yearned to find a blog that answers and affirms the quest you are on?  Let’s treat this blog post as just such.

Sincerely ask yourself the following questions, and give yourself the time to allow the answers to emerge:

  • What is the resolution you seek?
  • What change is required on your part?
  • What do you have to stop doing?
  • What must you begin doing, or do differently?
  • Who is involved?
  • Who can support you in this?
  • How will you know you’ve completely addressed this?
  • How will you honor the fact that you’ve completely handled this?

Congratulations on creating your own caring environment to get to the heart of what matters.

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Together, we are making a difference

by Linda Miller, MCC

Update after Asia Pacific Summit
I’ve spent the last week in Singapore culminating in our Asia Pacific Client Summit yesterday.  What a pleasure sitting with colleagues and leaders from around the world.  Several themes emerged as various people were speaking:Teamwork - Hands photo

From Ken Blanchard on leadership:  Organizations must change in order to keep up with the many changes that continue to take place.  In order for organizations to change, leaders have to keep stepping up and leading at a higher level.

From Margie Blanchard on multi-generations at work:  One of the many changes that are taking place is the change in the demographics of people in the workplace. With 4 generations working together, each of us needs to look for the contribution that other generations are making and flex to the needs of the different generations.

From two clients (a Telecommunications Company and a Multinational Software Provider) during a panel discussion – Development of talent is a current and ongoing focus in organizations.  Aligning leadership development with corporate strategy is critical and can start anywhere in the organization. A top-down approach isn’t always possible or best. Regardless of where development is focused, alignment is critical.

From Lael Good on developing a common leadership language – Programs aren’t enough to create lasting change. Having an integrated approach to leadership development is needed, including a common system, structure, framework and language for current and future leaders.

I also had the privilege of speaking about coaching during the Summit. We were able to do a brief coaching demonstration and allow people to practice coaching during the session.

Hearing about the impact of coaching in organizations was exciting and almost brought me to tears. We heard about managers and leaders who are integrating coaching into their leadership styles, and external coaches who are partnering with internal leaders to develop talent and reach their targeted goals. It amazes me how many people around the globe know about coaching and are aware of its impact.

Together, we are making a difference.

Left Behind

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People leave. In the past few weeks, I’ve said farewell to a wonderful family in our neighborhood who has moved across the country for a work opportunity. I’ve packed up and kissed goodbye my Collegian as she sets up in an apartment in the Hub. I came to work one day to learn a close colleague had left our company. And, I’ve been visiting as much as I can my beloved sister-in-law as she endures the final stage of her terminal illness.

Coaching is about “purposeful action.” However, I am feeling like things are happening to me, or in spite of me—not because I have chosen these departures. It is hard to be left behind!

The purpose of this blog is to examine that truth: it is hard to be left behind. There is sadness, there is hurt. There of course can be happiness, especially when someone is launching out in the fulfillment of their dreams, but the one “left behind” feels the departure differently. And when there is abrupt change, or imminent death, there is grief.

The coaching opportunity for the one left behind is to take care. I need to seek out and fortify my environment with caring others. I need to identify and respect my feelings in the wake of all these departures. I need to allow time to assist me–instead of me “squeezing” everything I can out of time!

A coach approach afforded me the realization that because it is this hard for me, it is likely hard for others who are left behind, too. Therefore, I need to be more gentle, and more attentive, to others too.  That is the purposeful action which is required when one is left behind:  care.