Seriously, How Are You Doing?

“How are you doing?”

What a loaded and complicated question. Even though I hear it on a daily basis, and know it’s coming, it always catches me off guard.

It can be incredibly difficult to tell if the person posing the question really wants an honest answer. More often than not, they’re using it as a simple greeting. Like when you pass someone in the hall and, without skipping a stride, have this simple exchange:

“Hey, how are you doing?”

“Good, you?”

“Good, thanks.”

Continue reading

9 Questions to Prepare You for Coaching

You’ve made the decision to hire a coach…now what?

If you want to hit the ground running, you need to help your coach understand who you are and what you hope to accomplish. The following questions can assist you in being better prepared to begin your coaching journey. Share your answers with your coach so that your coach is able to adjust her approach to one that is best suited to your style and needs. Your answers to these questions will allow your coach to better help you in gaining further clarity on your goals and to help you achieve them faster.

  • What do you want from your coaching experience?
  • If you could achieve something spectacular out of the coaching what would it be?
  • What causes you to perform at your best?
  • What would you like to tell your coach about you and how you make changes?
  • How have people successfully given you feedback about potential blind spots?
  • What could get in the way of a successful coaching experience?
  • What advice do you have for your coach about how to interact with you to make the relationship powerful and productive?
  • How will you know that the coaching process is working for you?
  • What is the first step you could take that would make the greatest difference in your current situation?

Coaches, what questions would you add to this list?

Follow me on Twitter: @adammorris21 | Add me on Google+: gplus.to/AdamMorris21

To Beat Defeat is Really Neat

The last couple of days I’ve been doing some redesign work on our department intranet site. Things were moving along pretty well until I encountered a problem. I knew what I wanted to do and felt confident I knew how to make it happen but, for whatever reason, it just wasn’t working.

I was puzzled and slightly frustrated since everything appeared to be done correctly. I had reviewed and analyzed all the little details of my work to see if I missed something. I couldn’t find anything. So I started experimenting with different settings that might have contributed to my problem. That didn’t work either. At this point, slight frustration turned into genuine frustration.

I picked the brain of my colleague in the office next door as he’s worked on a similar project. He couldn’t find anything out of place either and suggested I call our expert up in the I.T. department. But by this point, I was committed to figuring this one out. I refused to admit defeat!

After attempting every possible minor adjustment without success, I discarded ALL my work and decided to start over again from scratch. As far as I know, I did everything the same the second time around only this time, it worked! I threw my hands up in victory and danced around my office while laughing uncontrollably. (OK, so I may have exaggerated that a bit but I was obviously pretty pleased with myself.) Even though I can’t tell you exactly why it worked the second time but not the first, I did learn some new techniques and approaches throughout the problem-solving process.

The takeaway here is that there is a huge learning opportunity and an enormous level of satisfaction to be gained from solving a problem. And in order to solve a problem, you need to allow for the extra time involved. In this instance, I spent an extra two or three hours that I hadn’t originally planned for but the emotional return far outweighed the time investment. Had I escalated the issue to our I.T. department, the problem may have been solved a little quicker, though no guarantees, but I wouldn’t have the same emotional attachment to the outcome that I am currently experiencing. I’m still smiling!

What emotions do you experience when you solve a difficult problem? Do you learn best by doing? If not, what type of learner are you? And finally, leaders, are you allowing room for your people to problem solve?

Follow me on Twitter: @adammorris21 | Add me on Google+: gplus.to/AdamMorris21

Who Is My Audience?

I recently saw a well-known company’s new ad campaign for the first time. And while I thought it was creative and well-executed, I couldn’t help but think that it likely wouldn’t resonate with 75% of their target audience. And while that in itself is a big problem, a bigger problem came to mind…not only would the campaign likely not resonate with that large and substantial majority of their audience, but it might actually offend or push some of them away altogether.

Obviously, I doubt pushing existing or potential clients away is that company’s intent. However, it reminds us of a very important question we all need to ask at times…
“who is my audience?”

Whether you’re an organization unleashing a new ad campaign or a leader trying to influence a call to action, it’s important to know and understand your audience. You might have the greatest idea in the world but if you aren’t able to pitch it in a way that appeals to your audience, then it becomes a wasted effort.

Leadership is about influence. And in order to influence, you must be able to connect with your audience. Once you’ve identified your audience, consider their demographic profile to make sure you’re connecting on a relatable level. Try to identify potential problems with your approach up front so that you can correct ahead of time. If you think your message could possibly alienate or offend a portion of your audience, stop and adjust.

The next time you find your leadership influence isn’t influencing, stop and ask yourself, “who is my audience?”

Can you think of a time where your message wasn’t effective, or you got into trouble, because you weren’t in tune with your audience?

Follow me on Twitter: @adammorris21 | Add me on Google+: gplus.to/AdamMorris21

The Truth About Coaching

Casting a Critical Eye on Coaching must-read article on executive coaching in Chief Learning Officer magazine. This strongly supports everything we know to be true about coaching in organizations and thus our methodology and approach.

Their short story: There are proven benefits to coaching as a leadership development tool if engagements are structured, transparent and their effectiveness measured.

Our short story:

  • The coach is only as good as the players’ readiness, willingness and ability to shift and grow.  Coaching is best used to help good people be great, not to stabilize the “problem people.”
  • The goals for coaching must be crystal clear for coach, client and organization to know if it has been successful.
  • Coaching is an extremely broad and multi-purpose tool – like a Swiss army knife – and the task at hand must be clearly defined so the right tool can be deployed. And as great as a Swiss Army Knife is, sometimes you need a wrench, meaning: coaching is not right for everyone all of the time.
  • There are ways for the correct people in the organization to get good information about the coaching without betraying confidentiality.  It takes a little work and a lot of finesse – for more information on this go to Ace Coaching Alliances

We have devoted our lives to coaching and we are thrilled that the information about how to best leverage it in organizations is becoming more and more clear!

Be Your Own Coach By Becoming A Journalist

In their book, Coaching in Organizations: Best Coaching Practices from The Ken Blanchard Companies, Madeleine Homan and Linda Miller define coaching as follows:

“Coaching is a deliberate process using focused conversations to create an environment for individual growth, purposeful action, and sustained improvement.”

To help initiate and guide these conversations, coaches use a series of targeted, thought-provoking questions. These questions are intended to assist the coaching client down a path of self-discovery and self-improvement. Therefore, one can conclude that great coaches ask great questions.

Even if you are already working with a coach, there will inevitably be moments in time (be it work or personal) where you will want or need to coach yourself. You may face an issue that requires immediate action and can’t wait for your next appointment with your coach. Or, perhaps you’re dealing with some smaller issues that you feel aren’t a good use of your time with your coach. Of course, those smaller issues that cause feelings of overwhelment have a way of quickly becoming larger issues if you let them fester over time.

If you are not a trained coach, just the thought of coaching yourself might cause you feelings of overwhelment. So, if you’re not a great coach who is trained to ask great questions, you need a simple framework to get you started. The one that I use was introduced to me while in journalism classes back in my grade school days.

The primary responsibility of a journalist is to capture and report the complete story. To make sure they achieve this, they rely on a basic concept most commonly referred to as The Five Ws (and one H). By adopting and implementing this simple concept you can set the context to begin coaching yourself through practically any situation.

  • Who? Who are the stakeholders? Who’s involvement is required? Who can I go to for help?
  • What?What problem am I attempting to solve? What else do I need to consider? What help do I need?
  • Where?Where is the issue unfolding? Where do I, and/or other stakeholders, need to be? Where can I go for help?
  • When?When does action need to take place? When do stakeholders need to be notified? When should I ask for help?
  • Why?Why is this an issue? Why are certain individuals involved? Why do I need help?
  • How?How did this issue arise? How will the issue be resolved? How will I reach out for help?

It is important to note that these are questions that cannot be answered with a “yes” or “no” response. This leads to deeper reflection and furthering the conversation. With this framework in place, you should be well positioned to coach yourself through your issue and/or better prepared to discuss the issue in further detail with your coach.

What other tips or tricks do you use to coach yourself when the need arises?

Follow me on Twitter: @adammorris21 | Add me to your Circles on Google+: gplus.to/AdamMorris21

Meet Your Brain

For my final post in the series on the books that have made the biggest impact on my coaching practice, I choose Your Brain at Work by David Rock.  It outlines the implications of all the recent research in neuroscience to the way we function at work – as employees, as bosses.  There are several terrific takeaways from it, notably, that the pre-frontal cortex – the front of the brain where complex calculations take place, decisions get made and self regulation gets handled – is easily exhausted.  It needs a great deal of rest and glucose.  Our ability to think clearly, make good decisions and manage ourselves erodes steadily over the course of the work day. 

David Rock also shares his model expressing what people need for their brain to be at its best, known as the SCARF Model:

Status – a clear sense of our own self worth and the acknowledgement of this perception in our environment is critical to our brains feeling good.

Certainty – we crave certainty the way we crave sugar or any other reward.  We will avoid uncertainty at all costs.

Autonomy – it is critical that we feel as much control over our environment as we are capable of managing; loss of control is interpreted by the brain as a serious threat.

Relatedness – we will naturally find what we have in common to increase relatedness, we will move toward people with whom we can relate believing them to be like ourselves, and away from those to whom we cannot relate making them “other”.

Fairness – is as rewarding as food or sex, and when things are perceived as “unfair” it causes us to feel an intense sense of threat. 

 For more on The SCARF Model check out some of David’s YouTube videos.  The book is also a really fun read, and there is a lot more that what I can share here!