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.

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?

Why Is Your Tummy So Big? (4 Factors for a Powerful Question)

(Editor's Note: This is not the author's tummy.)

(Editor’s Note: This is not the author’s tummy.)

I’ve always battled with my weight. This last year has been especially tough as I’ve had to take a break from my other career (as a prolific goal scorer in adult recreational soccer leagues) due to nagging injuries that have turned into chronic injuries. I started playing almost 30 years ago and haven’t had any significant periods away from the game until now. The wear and tear has caught up with my knees and ankles.

When you’ve got chronic pain in your knees and ankles, getting regular aerobic exercise is a challenge. It hurts to walk, let alone to go for a jog or a run. Exercise for me has always been specific to the sport I’m playing. Take away the sport and I don’t get enough exercise. Take away the exercise and my clothes fit tighter than they should be.

I’ve been telling myself that I need to do something. Yeah, tomorrow I’ll do something. Of course, tomorrow soon turns into yesterday, then last week, then last month, and here I am still sitting in my recliner. So one night while I’m sitting there with my 5-year-old son, he turns to me and asks, “Dada, why is your tummy so big?”

As soon as the words left his lips, my wife chuckled and then got embarrassed for me. I initially had a similar reaction. Kids say the darndest things…often when you least expected or are prepared for them. During my pause to think about how to respond, I realized he’d asked an incredibly powerful question. For his purposes, I used it as a teaching moment and answered it with a simple statement about the importance of a healthy diet and exercise, and that I needed to get better at both.

The answer I gave him was good enough for him, but it wasn’t good enough for me. Like most Dads, I want to be a superhero in my son’s eyes. And, I don’t want my alter-ego to be “Flabby Man.” So his question got me off the recliner and moved me into action. I did some research on local gyms and will be signing up for one this week…let the journey begin.

Upon further reflection, here are four factors that made his question so powerful:

  1. The Person Delivering the Question. There’s built in credibility. He looks up to me and I don’t want to disappoint. Most importantly, there’s an established positive relationship.
  2. It Lacked Judgement. Consider the alternative that most of us are used to hearing…“have you lost weight?” Which is roughly the equivalent of saying, “you were fat and I can’t tell if you’re any less fat than you used to be.” The best questions are those that aren’t judgmental, accusatory, or have hidden agendas. I honestly don’t know if my son loves my big tummy or is disgusted by it, he just wanted to know why it is the way it is. But…
  3. It Caused Me To Think. I was pushed to examine the factors behind the issue in question. And…
  4. It Motivated Me Into Action. After voicing the factors that led to the issue, I was motivated to consider the solutions and to act on them.

Good coaching sometimes comes when you least expect it and from those you least expect it to come from. Out of the mouths of babes.

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

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

The Corporate Ladder: To Climb or Not To Climb

Last week I read a great post by Ted Coine over at the Switch And Shift blog that really resonated with me. The title of the post was, “You and Your People: Very Different Motivations.” In his post, Ted challenges the common leadership assumption that all employees want and need to continue their ascent up the corporate ladder.

“One of the worst problems we have is that we put ourselves in the shoes of others, rather than trying to understand what the world looks like to them from their shoes.”

In his post, Ted shares the story of a friend who is currently in an uncomfortable place of contentment in her current role. As she or anyone who has found themselves in this situation can attest, it is uncomfortable because you don’t want your being content to be misinterpreted as being unmotivated or disengaged. To avoid these dreaded labels, here are some tips to consider when explaining to your supervisor that, “All I really want is to do my job even better than I do now…”

  • Know Your Role, Grow Your Role. Understand and be able to explain how your role adds value to the organization. Additionally, continually look for ways to enhance and improve your role and be prepared to share those ideas.
  • Share How Your Vision and Values Align With Those of the Organization. Even if you’re not 100% totally aligned, sharing the commonalities can go a long ways toward helping your supervisor understand that you’re still on board with the program.
  • Request More Frequent Reviews/Check-Ins. Never say never…6 months or 6 years from now, you’re liable to change your mind and want to start climbing the ladder again. Whether that’s the case or not, requesting more frequent feedback helps demonstrate that you’re serious about continuing to excel in your current role, while also providing a forum to discuss future opportunities should they arise.
  • Help Them Get To Know You Better. Odds are your feelings of contentment are influenced heavily by what’s going on in your personal life. Allowing your supervisor to have some insight into that should help them understand why you feel the way you do.

Do you have any other tips? Have you ever had this conversation, either as employee or as manager? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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!