Are You Too Comfortable?

Man Relaxing In Easy Chair - Retro Clipart IllustrationUnder the category of “Everything I Need to Know, I Learn from My Clients”: one of them said a remarkable thing last week. We were talking about a new, high pressure, high visibility job he is settling into and the fact that his To Do list far exceeds the realities of the time/space continuum. As we brainstormed what he could let go, reprioritize, or delegate, he kept balking. Then—complete silence.
He took a deep breath in and said, “I was talking to a good friend who recently became CEO of his company. He told me he was struggling with the fact that regardless of what he was ‘supposed’ to be doing, the things he does naturally are the things he loves doing and is comfortable doing. I think that’s exactly what’s going on with me.”
Well, he certainly made my job easy.
When you step into a senior leadership role, the task list is never, ever done. The only way to keep from drowning is to stay focused only on the things that really matter. And the things that matter most are often things that are new to you and, therefore, uncomfortable. You will automatically engage in the behaviors and activities that are easy and relaxing unless you stop, breathe, pay very close attention, and choose to do the stuff that really needs doing—and that isn’t going to be easy or relaxing.
So what happened with the client, you might be wondering. He continued to self coach. He decided that his homework would be to look at everything he was supposed to be doing, delegate the things someone else could do, and focus on the things only he could do.
Feeling overwhelmed? Too much to do? Ask yourself: Am I defaulting to doing the easy stuff that can wait (or be delegated) instead of staying focused on what really matters, even if it is harder.

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

 

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…!!

The Qualities of Great Leadership

As Nelson Mandela was laid to rest on Sunday, among the hills of his ancestral homeland, it made me think about what made Mandela the great leader that people spoke of.
Nelson Mandela
The people of South Africa said the following about their former leader:
“I’ve always seen Mandela as a father figure.”
“I’ve always admired his humanity, openness and forgiveness.”
“He taught us to love one another.”

I think the quotes above and my own belief is that a great leader isn’t just about what a person does, but also who they are as a person.

For me personally, some qualities of a great leader include: being of service to others, trustworthiness, dependability, compassion and love. 

I think many of these leadership qualities are also true of a great coach.

In conclusion, one of my favorite leadership quotes is by Nelson Mandela who says, “It is better to lead from behind and put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur.  You take the front line when there is danger.  Then, your people will appreciate your leadership.”

I am curious about your thoughts on Mandela or what you feel are qualities of a great coach or leader.  Please share your comments below so others may benefit from your wisdom.  Thanks!

Leadership and Learning

by Linda Miller, MCC

It’s hard to believe that JFK died 50 ago.  Because of the 50-year mark, there’s been lots of talk about him and his death recently.  He left quite a legacy, as we’re all aware.  Lead & Learn Pic

In preparing to lead a class on coaching around managing and leading, I found an interesting quote:

Leadership and learning are indispensible to one another. 
John F. Kennedy

How very true that is!  As leaders and managers, we need to remember that we learn, too. Learning is not just for the people we lead.  Reading the quote made me think about what I’ve learned, or re-learned, recently:

  1. We’re all leaders in one way or another – at home, in the workplace, in places of faith, in communities, with ourselves. Embracing ourselves as leaders is important.
  2. Leadership is about character and values and living out our values consistently. This builds trust and creates a safe environment for others to do and be their best.
  3. People watch everything that we do.  When our actions and words are aligned, we model congruency and inspire others to do the same.
  4. Each day is a day to be grateful – grateful for what we have, for those who around us, and for the gifts we’ve been given externally and internally.

The words of JFK have made me reflective and thankful, especially at this season, and ready for more learning….how about you?