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

 

Get Your Needs Met

What is the benefit in the need to pretend that one has no needs? Huh? The energy spent in pretending we have no needs is astonishing. But, sadly, it can be seen every day at work and at home. Let’s just cut to the core of the matter:

  • All humans have needs (ask Abraham Maslow if you don’t believe me)
  • The idea of being called “needy” is terrifying to most adults
  •  Many of us were raised to be embarrassed by our needs, so therefore we may deny their very existence
  •  Even if we have denied the needs, our unconscious will drive our behavior to get them met…and this wreaks havoc—on us, and those around us
  •  Guess what? Everyone else can see our needs anyway!
  •  It’s “cleaner” to identify each need and get it met appropriately, than to deny it

Since we were little, all of us have had encounters with rude, whiny, and demanding people. Our parents and teachers have pronounced that these folks are SELFISH. The lesson? “I don’t want to ever be talked about like that.” So, we proceed through life, ignoring, denying and dismissing our needs.
The punch line, though, is the needs do not go away. Psychologist Linda Berens notes that when needs are not met, an “individual is drained of energy and suffers dissatisfaction or stress.”  Taking the responsibility to get one’s own needs identified and then satisfied is the opposite of being needy!  It will renew your energy and remove your stress.

Here’s just such an example:
I coached a vice president of sales who had been enjoying great success in attaining her sales goals, but found herself feeling increasingly fussy and uninspired. Her frustrations were spilling out in work meetings and around her kitchen table, too. In questioning her about her activities, I learned that she is a master gardener. However, over the years, she had pruned back her time in the garden because of the demands from work. A-ha! In our coaching work, we were able to identify her unmet needs: to create beauty, order, and to be a master. She realized that returning to the garden would meet those needs in a more satisfactory way than expecting her sales force or children to meet them for her. Within weeks, her team noted that she was less prickly and more developmental in her leadership.
Returning to the garden suitably met a number of her needs…but she deserved to have ALL of her needs met. I asked her to consider where else her need for order could be satisfied. So, she decided to institute a family calendar in the kitchen, and the children chose their own color for the markers which would signify their disparate activities. She also concluded that the need to be a master is more graciously attained in the garden than in her book club.

How about you?
Think about a recent time when you found yourself behaving in a way you really can’t explain or disregard. Now, grab your pencil and start answering the following questions:

  • What was your behavior?
  • What need was not getting met?
  • What did it cost you in the eyes of others?
  • If this need were met, how would you conduct yourself?
  • Who can help you to get this need met?

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…!!

Gotcha!

ImageI cancelled my cable service a few weeks ago—I just don’t watch much TV and it was silly to continue this monthly expense. 

I was asked “Why?” when I called the cable provider to cancel.  I was asked “Why?” when I drove to the service center to return my cable box.  I was asked “Why?” again via a customer service automated phone survey two days after my trip to the service center.

Today, I was phoned by a real person employed by a survey company hired by my former cable provider to again answer the question “Why?” did I cancel my cable.  Now, in every instance I was asked additional questions beyond the initial “Why?”  While in my first encounter I was asked only about five questions, by today the interview script had swelled to at least 20 questions.  Although the repetitiveness of the “Why?” question remained, it ceased to be the predominant reason for the surveys.  Instead, “what was your experience with the [most recent] service representative?” had become the real focus.    

Now, of course it is a pretense to be asked about my (non)use of a service as a guise to collect feedback on a customer service representative interaction.  But this was getting silly—every time they engaged me, they had to re-engage me to inquire about my most recent experience with them!

So, all you customer service folks who value the collection of feedback for your representatives, PLEASE consider what it does to the customers whom you’ve ensnared in a Mobius loop!

But that is just an aside…the purpose of this blog is to tell you what happened after I talked to the person today.  She was actually amazed that I had taken the call (between bites of my lunch, but she didn’t know that).  After the twentieth question, she summed up with:  “Would you mind responding to one more call?  My supervisor may call you to be sure that I actually had conducted this interview.”

Wow.  Ken Blanchard has built his company espousing the value of catching people doing things right.  This was exactly the opposite!

So here are some questions I offer for your consideration:

  • In your communications, are you treating the other person as a data mine? 
  • How would it differ if you treated her or him as a real person? 
  • Are you clear in what you are seeking?
  • Are you focused on what is working well? 
  • Are you building trust, or playing “gothcha!” with your questions? 
  • Are you truly sharing feedback, or are you manipulating one circumstance to justify questions for another circumstance? 
  • Do you mean it when you say “thank you” to the other?

And trust me, I won’t have your supervisor follow up on whether you answered the above questions or not!

How to Be Grateful

Coaching isn’t all about achieving happiness, but it certainly is almost always focused on the pursuit of what the client believes will make him happy.  You may have heard already that the happiest people are happy because they are grateful rather than grateful because they are happy.  It is not a chicken/egg proposition.  It is in the research – The Happiness Advantage, The How of Happiness.  Consciously choosing to constantly scan the environment for what you are grateful for, and keeping lists of the same, changes the brain and literally makes you happier.  So if want to be happier, there is one super simple easy thing you can do right now.  Today: this minute.  Be more grateful.  Not just once a year on Thanksgiving, not just when you get a promotion or good news.  All the time.  But how you might ask: how do I be more grateful?  Well, David Steindl-Rast explains it perfectly in his TED talk – you can take 14 minutes and watch it or you go with my Cliff Notes.  Here they are:

 Stop. Look. Listen.

That’s it. 

 Stop. Look. Listen.

 Notice what is going on that you are grateful for – the sun, the rain, running water, indoor plumbing, shoes that fit, electricity, your adorable dog/cat/child, your funny colleague, your car started! Your new desk chair you had to lobby five years to get. Functioning internet. So much.  An endless list.

 When?  As often as possible.  Here are some ideas to get into the habit:

  •  Any time you start obsessing about your To Do list, stop and think of things you are grateful for instead.
  • Anytime you start second guessing what you should have said in your last meeting, stop and…
  • Set a timer on your phone to do it every 15 minutes. 
  • Every time an email/text/tweet comes in.
  • Every time you hear a beep of any kind (I do this; you would be amazed how much beeping goes on.  It makes it much easier not to be annoyed at the sound of trucks backing up!).
  • When waiting at a stop light.
  • When brushing your teeth (Oh the possibilities, unlimited clean water, hot water! toothpaste, dental care!).
  • Every time you sit down at your desk. 
  • Every time you get up from your desk.
  • When you get into bed.

Other ideas? Try it, and see what happens.