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!

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!

Habits Make All the Difference

The promise was books that rocked my coaching practice that are off the beaten path. OK, so maybe this one isn’t that original, and I must have stumbled on  The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People  by Steven Covey in Barnes and Noble because I can’t remember who recommended it.   But I have to say that from the day I read this book, I changed some habits that utterly altered the trajectory of my life.  I don’t think it is a coincidence that when I started doing what  Covey said (and let’s be clear, not everything, just a few things made a huge difference) my business took off, my household became more orderly and calm and my quality of life shot up.  I developed a reputation for being freakishly productive.  I feel that almost every other “self-help” book that came after this one simply fleshed out some of the good ideas that were here in the first place.  

In the section called Put First Things First, the 4 box quadrant probably made the biggest impact on me.  The idea is that we all can put every single thing we do into one of the four quadrants. 

  Urgent Not Urgent
Important QUADRANT I
crises, pressing problems, deadline-driven projects
QUADRANT II
prevention, Principle Centered  activities, relationship building, recognizing and leveraging new opportunities, planning the future, recreation
Not important QUADRANT III
interruptions, some calls, some mail, some reports, some meetings, popular activities
QUADRANT IV
trivia, busy work, some mail, some  phone calls time wasters, pleasant activities

The ones who spend the bulk of their time doing things in the “important” quadrants are simply going to have a much higher life satisfaction quotient.   This very concrete model gave me the courage to say no to things that did not fall into the Quadrants I or II.  Today, I let people assume I am extremely busy (everybody does) and if pressed I will admit that I am no busier than anyone else, just extremely focused on what is most important to me and ferociously choosy about what I focus on.  Don’t tell anyone.

The Ethics Check

Given what is going on in politics, on (and off) Wall Street, and certainly at a once-revered college campus, I thought right now was a good time to pull out the Ethics Check. When Ken Blanchard and Norman Vincent Peale wrote The Power of Ethical Management in 1988, they eloquently stated that “the most difficult aspect of being ethical is doing what is right, not deciding what is right.”

Their model incorporates three questions:

  1. Is it legal?
    Will I be violating either civil law or company policy?
  2. Is it balanced?
    Is it fair to all concerned in the short-term as well as the long-term?
    Does it promote win-win relationships?
  3. How will I feel about myself?
    Will it make me proud?   Would I feel good if my decision was published in the newspaper? Would I feel good if my family knew about it?

Easy steps to follow, right? Unfortunately, I have observed that a preoccupation on a short-term “solution” is regularly what drives a leader’s decision. IF the issue is “tricky,” legal considerations might also be applied, for self-protection, of course. But sadly, a thorough consideration of the ethical behavior necessary from the responsible leader is often truncated from the decision process.

Ken and his co-authors are renowned for taking difficult topics and simplifying them. However “simple” the Ethics Check may seem, each of the three steps outlined above is necessary to follow. There are no short cuts in ethical behavior!