Your Strengths are a Powerful Ally

As some may know, May 4th is considered an unofficial holiday by Star Wars fans, who celebrate the classic movie franchise, books and culture.  The date was chosen for the easy pun to the well-known movie phrase “May the Force be with you” – “May the fourth be with you.”  As a fan myself, I pay tribute, by following the wise advise of Jedi Master Yoda, who said to his young apprentice, Luke Skywalker, “Always pass on what you have learned.”

Superhero opening suit

I recently completed a strengths-based assessment, and although the results of my top five strengths weren’t overly surprising, I did still learn a few things about my strengths, the strengths of my team and how I can leverage my strengths and my team’s strengths in order to help me achieve my goals.

  • Those who know me are aware that I’m not the most social person by nature.  However, developing my sociable skills could help me connect better with those I work with or want to influence.  When discussing our strengths amongst our team, I learned that at least one of our team members has four out of their top five strengths in the relationship area.
    Tip: Find your Jedi Master.  Find someone who excels in the strength areas that you want to develop for yourself and become their apprentice.  Observe their behavior, ask them questions and for honest feedback.
  • Some of my own personal strengths include such areas as achiever, consistency and discipline.  These strengths help me to be successful in my current role.  However, I realized these strengths don’t have to define me and I can chose to develop other strengths in order to support other areas of interest.
    Tip: Find opportunities to practice the ways of the Force in an environment where it is safe to fail.  Practicing a non-strength of yours will seem unnatural at first.  I shared recent examples of this in my two previous blogs. In an effort to try something completely outside my introverted comfort level, I decided to smile throughout an entire grocery buying experience as a way to be more approachable, while noticing the feelings within myself and the reactions that I was getting from other people.  The other experiment I performed was at a party, where I arrived with the intention of learning as much as I could, from as many people as I could, just by asking lots of questions and listening.  Again, I did this to practice being more sociable in order to develop those skills that aren’t natural strength areas of mine.  I performed both of these experiments in a relatively safe environment, where any consequences were either minimal or non-existent.

While these are just a few of the things I learned after evaluating the results of my strengths-based assessment, I conclude this blog with my last thought, conveyed through another wise quote from Jedi Master Yoda, “Much to learn I still have.” … “This is just the beginning!”

 

 

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?

Listening, with the Intent to Learn

Back in February, I wrote about the topic of smiling and my grocery shopping experiment, which resulted in many positive reactions from others, including myself.  I’m reading a few books right now around the topics of Social Intelligence and Human Connectedness.  As a result of reading these books and the positive outcomes of my smiling experiment, I decided to test what I’ve learned so far, by conducting another social experiment during a party I attended a few weeks ago.Dog Listening

The party I attended was the 40th birthday party of one of my wife’s friends.  I didn’t know anyone at this party, except for the birthday girl.  In addition to celebrating the event with the guest of honor, I also made it a priority to learn as much as I could from as many people as I could that were in attendance.  I started by always having a smile on my face, being approachable with an open body position, introducing myself (and my wife), while asking a simple, yet non-threatening question about how they know the birthday girl.  Throughout our conversation, I did my best to ask lots of questions with the intention of learning as much as I could about each person. At the end of the night, my introverted self was exhausted.  I won’t go into detail about the interesting facts that  people shared with me about themselves, but I believe my social experiment was a success, due to how much fun I had, how much I learned about others (and how much they were willing to share), how many people I spoke with and how much positive reaction I received from those I interacted with.

In reflection, I used many of the coaching techniques that we typically use with our clients, when we are trying to learn about them or a situation they may have. 

I paid conscious attention to all that was being communicated to me.  I provided a receptive environment, listened with the intent of being influenced, and was present.

I listened for: significant content, the heart of the matter, the communication style and preferences of the other person, and what the person already knows.

In addition, I practiced my nonverbal and active listening skills.

For those familiar with the Blanchard’s Coaching Essentials® for Leaders program, what I described above is the “Listen to Learn” portion of the L.I.T.E. model.

What I learned from my little social experiment is that these coaching techniques really work and made for a more entertaining and fulfilling night than if I decided not to use them with the intention to learn about others.

In the comments section below, please share your experiences in using these coaching techniques and the reactions you received from others.  Thanks!

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.

The Power of Observational Feedback

By Linda Miller, MCC

When you think about giving feedback, what’s your first response?  Mine is, “Do I HAVE to??”  Making observational feedback can help. Observational feedback is information that’s shared without a request for change. It’s just an observation. For example, “You seemed quieter than usual in the meeting this morning. Hope everything is ok.”  Or, “Your energy level is different, and it looks like you’re enjoying the new project.”Monkeys

Observational feedback gives information that may not be otherwise recognized by the person receiving it.  It can confirm something that’s going on or point out something new. The best observational feedback is non-judgmental and timely. It’s a data point.  Our hypothesis is that if we increase the positive and observational feedback, it will decrease the need for feedback asking for a behavior request or change.

Last week, I had the privilege of working with some very talented managers.  During one of the sessions, we asked the managers to give each other observational feedback. Here’s a response from one of the participants: “When we were giving observational feedback to each other, someone gave me some feedback that I always knew but finally heard.  I can’t wait to start applying everything that I have learned.”  That’s the power of observational feedback.  Try it. Notice what happens.

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

 

Make Your Thinking Visible

By Linda Miller, MCC

While teaching a coaching class this past week, a participant said, “This is what I’d like to say to my coaching partner, ‘I have feedback for you, and my intent is for your development, not to hurt you.’ But, how should I say it?”  My response was simple: I encouraged her to say it exactly like that!Lightbulb

When we put our intent into the statement, we make our thinking visible. In this case, it means sharing our motive.  Making our thinking visible is a powerful way of communicating.  I first learned of this concept many years ago from Kepner-Tregoe  where it is included in the 4 characteristics of world class organizations.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if others made their thinking visible to us? How many times do we try to guess what is meant or what the motive is?  How much miscommunication might be avoided if we make our thinking visible?

Here’s the challenge for all of us, me included:  Let’s be intentional to make our thinking visible for 24 hours and notice what happens!  I’ll accept that challenge, starting immediately.  How about you?