Appreciative Leadership

ai vs prob

The problem with becoming known as a good “problem solver” is that you get really good at looking at situations as, well, problems!   Your focus is on what has failed.   Your goal is to correct, save, or restore a broken system to a state where it will again provide acceptable results.  You get a reputation as the “fixer,” and are dispatched again and again to solve different problems.  Where is the fun in that?

There is a better way to contribute to organizations.

David Cooperrider invented Appreciative Inquiry when he was a graduate student studying Organizational Development at Case Western Reserve University in the late 1980’s.  You can read all about him, and the AI Movement, at http://appreciativeinquiry.case.edu/.  (The work he began with Professor Suresh Srivastva transformed me and my leadership research.  I cited their initial work in my 1990 dissertation when I posited that having dialogue rather than debate can help groups work together to come to better decisions.)

I have continued to follow AI in the ensuing 25 years, and unabashedly say the reason coaching works is because the inquiry of the coach uncovers the wisdom in the leader.  Appreciative Inquiry is the underpinning of Positive Psychology, a theoretical foundation in the Coaching Profession, and is essential in understanding the impact of language in the field of Neuroscience.

Here is why Appreciative Inquiry matters for leaders:

  • Appreciative Inquiry has a positive core:  it focuses on the strengths and peak experiences in an organization.  AI focuses on the best of what is, and then stretches further to imagine the ideal future state.
  • Appreciative Inquiry is co-creative:  Rather than one “Mr. Fixit,” with AI everyone can be involved in the discovery, the dream, the design, and the destiny of the ideal state of the organization.
  • Appreciative Inquiry is generative:  with a focus on “what works,” a leader is aligned towards new possibilities for the organization.

You don’t have to wait for an AI intervention in your organization to benefit from this approach.  Simply shifting your focus from seeking problems to seeking what works well has an immediate, positive, and generative effect:  on you, on your group, and on your effectiveness.  Have at it!

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!

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

 

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?

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.

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!

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.
Learnings:
• 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!