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2023-12-29Last Updated on 2024/01/05 Dear Friends, Happy New Year! May 2024 be a wonderful year for you. Each year we facilitate several Effective Everyday Coaching training programs. There is also a “coaching lite” version called Developmental Dialogue. Most of the participants are leaders or project managers who want to learn to use coaching techniques to boost performance, enable development, and empower others to do their best work. Coaching Gets Results, But… The benefits of coaching are well established. Coaching dialogue stimulates thinking. It unleashes potential. It builds trust and leads to higher levels of satisfaction and engagement. But…learning to coach effectively can be challenging for many leaders. A few common issues that come up: How can I take the time to coach when I need them to produce results now? Why coach someone to find their own best answer when I can just tell them what works best? I ask questions and my team members don’t know how to answer them. They expect me to tell them what to do. Am I a manager, or am I a coach? I can’t be both. These are good questions. If you would like to know how I answer them, read on. *This is the first in a series of three editions of True Insights devoted to Coaching at Work. Why are We Coaching? The first thing to clarify is the purpose of coaching. Do we coach to improve performance or to support learning and development? The answer is both. If you coach only around performance, you will miss opportunities to support another person’s learning. This is often as simple as remembering to ask, “What has been the most valuable thing you learned this week?” in a one-on-one conversation. If you only coach for development, you are ignoring the practical need to solve problems, develop better solutions, and reach or exceed targets. If you coach well, you will experience a number of benefits. People will be less dependent on you or others for solutions. They will be able to do their work more efficiently and at a higher quality standard. You will help others build confidence in their capabilities. It will stimulate creativity and critical thinking. Motivation to do great work will increase. You will help people understand their potential and perform at their best. Who is Coaching For? The answer to this question is crucial to your effectiveness as a coach. If you are coaching to make your life easier, you will fail to coach well. Am I suggesting that you should coach for purely altruistic reasons? No, but I am suggesting that if you coach for any reason other than to support the success and growth of the person you are coaching, you will use an approach to coaching called “coaching for compliance.” You will expect certain answers to your questions. You will judge the quality of the other person’s thinking. You will ask leading questions. The person you coach will feel pressured to please you. All of which will result in failed coaching. If you don’t believe me, Google Dr. Richard Boyatzis’s work on Coaching for Compassion versus Coaching for Compliance. Coaching must be done as part of an effort to help someone succeed, learn, and be the very best they can be. It doesn’t mean we don’t challenge the way people think. The best coaching will challenge people’s thinking, but not because we want people to think the way we think. We challenge thinking in the people we coach because we want to help them think in a way that is most helpful to them. The ironic thing is, if you coach someone you work for their benefit, you will benefit as much as they do from your coaching. When to Coach and When to Teach Coaching is not always the best way to communicate with team members. Let’s say someone just joined your team and on their first day, asks you where the restroom is. Would you coach this person? “What is your goal?” “What options do you see?” “What is getting in your way?” Your new team member would have serious doubts about your sanity. Experience is the barometer that tells us when someone would benefit from coaching, and when they need us to teach them or share our experience with them, aka, mentoring. Some weeks ago, I had a conversation with a bright student at my graduate school (Thunderbird in Phoenix, Arizona). He wanted to discuss how he could network with others in a way that felt more natural to him than the typical approach to networking he’d observed. He’d obviously thought about the subject for a while, so I started with coaching. I asked him what he hoped to accomplish with his networking activities. I asked him what felt unnatural about the way he sees others networking. Then I asked him what kind of relationships he likes to build with people, and how he goes about building those relationships. Asking him these questions helped him think more clearly about how to network in a way that feels good to him. He was less puzzled. Then he asked me if I felt that a lot of networking seems to be about building shallow relationships in which two people use each other for mutual gain. It would not be helpful to him for me to ask him a question in response, so I shared my experience with him. I told him there is no need to build shallow relationships, that he would be better off following his heart, and that this would lead to building relationships that would be meaningful and helpful to him and others. In other words, by sharing my experience, I taught him something he might not have known before. The best conversations you will have with your team members will be similar. A mix of telling or teaching, mentoring, and coaching. All of them have their use, depending on the situation. Next Time: The Coaching “Dance” We’ve begun to address some of the questions managers ask when they are learning to coach. In the next edition, I will explain how to be a “manager who coaches.” Someone who drives great performance without needing to use the command-and-control style of management that is of very limited value in today’s workplace. Yours in learning,   True P.S. See True Talk #17 for my Top Three Tips on how to optimize the effectiveness of your coaching.   [...] Read more...
2023-07-21Last Updated on 2023/08/24 “We become hopeful when someone tells the truth.” –Margaret Wheatley      Dear Friends, How often do you observe counterproductive behavior, think to yourself “I should say something,” but end up saying nothing because you don’t want to create conflict?   The Dual Nature of Truth Conflict can be costly. Candid feedback can cause hurt. Completely objective feedback does not exist; whatever we say will be colored by our values, preferences, and communication style. These are legitimate concerns. The other side of the coin is the fact that telling the truth provides an opportunity for someone to grow. If your behavior was causing you and others problems and frustration, wouldn’t you want to know so that you could decide whether to make adjustments? When no one speaks up, the opportunity to grow and develop as individuals or as teams goes away.   Work Truth Imagine a scenario at work where a colleague constantly interrupts others during meetings. It’s really getting to be a problem. A serious conflict may soon erupt. If the other members of the team avoid the discomfort of addressing this behavior, the interrupting colleague remains unaware of the impact of the behavior. However, by mustering the courage to provide honest feedback on the observed behavior and suggesting alternative approaches, we give the colleague an opportunity to reflect and change the way they behave. By embracing the truth, the team enables growth and enhances team effectiveness. The best teams will always develop a culture of open and honest feedback.   Coaching Truth As an executive coach, I often give my clients candid and sometimes uncomfortable feedback on their mindset and behavior. I have no wish to harm anyone, especially someone I am coaching, but I know from experience that if I don’t give them feedback on self-limiting beliefs and potentially harmful behaviors, I am not doing my job as a coach. The more senior the client, the less likely it is that anyone is telling them the truth about their behavior. Clients always appreciate this, even if it is painful to hear. They understand that hearing the truth is necessary in order to grow. If you are a leader, you know that you must provide candid feedback, both positive and negative, to help your team members become their best selves. If you’re a great leader, you don’t hold back. And if you want to grow as a leader, you ask your peers, your boss, and your team members for feedback on your behavior and impact.   Truth an Act of Respect and Care If we genuinely care about someone, telling them the truth is an act of compassion and respect, even if we know that truth is always somewhat subjective. The recipient of our truth is allowed to respond, express disagreement, or feel that it is biased, but this does not diminish the value of honesty. By expressing our truth, we show that we genuinely care and are willing to engage in open and sometimes painful conversations.   Tips for Giving Honest Feedback Check your intention. If you are telling the truth primarily to make yourself feel better, I doubt your message will be well-received. Focus on how your message might help the other person before you decide to deliver it. Ask for permission. Tell the other person you would like to give them some honest feedback that you feel will be helpful. Ask them if they would like to hear it now—they may be in a rush or very tired. Give them the chance to tell you when and how they want to hear the feedback, if at all. If you are giving feedback to a subordinate, you don’t have to ask for permission, but you should help them prepare by first telling them you want to give feedback you feel they need to hear. Allow space to digest. Don’t expect an immediate response. Depending on the style of the person, they might need time to reflect on what they heard. If you suspect the person needs that time, ask them if they would like to think about what you said, and book a follow up conversation in the near future—the next day is ideal. This gives them a chance to come back with questions and maximizes the opportunity to learn from the feedback. If the person prefers to just listen and not have a follow up chat, that is also fine. Ask for feedback yourself. If you like to give feedback but don’t like to hear it, after a time nobody will welcome your feedback. Feedback is a two-way street, as they say. We all need to hear it, and we all should be willing to give it. Address the behavior and the impact. Do not give feedback on mindset unless you know the person very well. Focus on the behavior and the impact of the behavior. Discuss the future. It isn’t enough to tell the truth and then leave the person alone to figure out what to do. If your feedback was given with good intentions, and focuses on behavior and impact, allow space to talk about a better way forward. If I interrupt you a lot, tell me what I’m doing and the problems is causes, and then suggest that going forward, I might want to let people finish before I speak. Let me respond to what you say. Help me get better. If you’re already a capable, bold truth-teller, I applaud you. I’m sure I could learn some tips from you. If you need to increase your truth-telling moments, go for it. Do it because you care. Yours in learning, True P.S. To hear more on this subject, check out the latest True Talk here:   2023.8.22 Update: For more about how to give your BOSS feedback, check these out: [...] Read more...
2023-06-15Last Updated on 2023/07/27 Dear Friends, As a team or project leader, how do you win the trust and loyalty of your team members? Start by learning to see the good in everyone so that the people on the team feel accepted for who they are.   Accept People as They Are? Isn’t it part of the job of the leader to develop people? That means we get people to change, doesn’t it? It IS, but you cannot support the development of anyone who feels like you think of them as a flawed person who needs to be fixed. They will resist all your attempts to develop them until they feel that you accept and like them as they are. It’s ironic, isn’t it? You have to accept a person as she is before you can influence her to change in any way. This is not the same thing as accepting everything she says and does.   What Leaders Get Wrong Most of the leaders I meet do not understand this. When we talk about improving performance or developing the team’s capabilities, the first thing they think of is the things that are wrong. “I have a team member who is very experienced. He is quite good at his job, but he is not open to feedback. Every time I give him a suggestion, he argues with me, whereas I have team members who are less skilled who are very open to feedback.” My question to someone who says this: “Do you like and respect this person? Does he know it?” I ask because if he doesn’t feel your respect and acknowledgment, why would he take direction or feedback from you without being forced to? Would YOU want to listen to a boss who doesn’t recognize your value if you had a choice?   With Feedback, Intention is Everything This all has a big impact on the way you give feedback, the way you train people, the way you mentor or coach them. If the intent of the feedback is to say, “You aren’t very good, and now you’ve done something wrong again,” I suspect your feedback will fail. Why not change this to “You’re good. That’s why I think you need to hear this feedback from me, and why I want to talk with you about a better way to handle these situations.”? If your intent is to serve, people will feel it and will work with you. If your intent is to correct someone who you don’t really acknowledge to begin with, good luck. Accept people as they are, then try to influence them to become the best they can be. Reverse that process (try to change them so that you can accept them), and you’ll waste a lot of time and cause a lot of needless heartache. If you’re interested in the evidence behind what I write, check out this video from one of the most well-respected leadership researchers in the field: https://www.coursera.org/lecture/emotional-intelligence-leadership/watch-the-positive-pea-and-negative-nea-emotional-attractors-4GRcY. Yours in learning, True [...] Read more...
2023-04-11Last Updated on 2023/07/27 One of the most common challenges people bring up in leadership training is the difficulty of convincing upper management to listen to concerns, accept ideas, or change their thinking on a decision they’ve made. How do you boost your ability to convince people in your organization who have more power than you do? Part of being a good follower is challenging the boss when the boss is blind to a real problem, or wrong and doesn’t realize it (or doesn’t want to admit it). How do you do this? A Look at the Options You can follow without question, even though you know it’s wrong. You will stay safe in the short term. The problem is that this is the kind of thinking that leads to mass resignations, product flops, lost opportunities, and other costly disasters. If the boss was driving a bus full of people toward a collapsed bridge, you’d say something, right? You can also go the opposite direction. You can boldly and bluntly tell the boss she is wrong. A courageous choice, but risky. The reality is that many people with power do not like to be directly told they are wrong. Doing so too often can damage your career. You can also try getting someone else to deliver your message. The message may indeed get delivered, but it’s your message and it may lose clarity in the process of third-party delivery. You’ll also miss the chance to build trust with the boss by delivering an important message yourself. Each of these options has clear drawbacks. Are there any other choices? How about this one? Object without appearing to object. This, my friends, is the domain of great followers.   Objecting with Finesse If you want to convince the boss to change his mind or to listen to your ideas, I invite you to focus on two goals as you communicate: Goal #1 Increase trust between you and the boss. Goal #2 Get your message across clearly. Most bosses prize loyalty in their followers, but that doesn’t mean they want blind followers who never speak up. Before you begin to think about what you want to say and how you want to say it, first decide if the issue is serious enough to speak up. We all have to choose our battles. A follower who automatically objects to everything is not a valuable follower. If you decide the issue is important, then then make sure you have enough evidence to back up your objection and a solid alternative proposal. Then choose a time where the boss can talk privately without too much stress. When you get your chance, say something like this: “Boss, about that plan you announced this morning. There are a few issues that may make it difficult to get the results you want, but if we make a few adjustments, I think we can make it happen. Whatever you decide, I will support, but you might want to consider (evidence to support your alternative proposal). I think a better/faster/safer/more efficient way of making the project a success would be (your alternative proposal).” Don’t expect an immediate positive response. The boss may want to think about it. In the end, you may get rejected, but I predict that if you use this method, more often than not you will succeed. The boss may also come back with objections or counterarguments. Be prepared for this. Sometimes it takes a few rounds to convince a strong-willed, capable leader.   We Never Have the Full Picture We all live and work in situations that are not completely understood by others. It is virtually impossible for people we work with, even our family members, to understand everything that is going on in our world. The same thing is true for the boss. You will only ever have partial visibility into what’s going on in the boss’ life at the moment. Pressures the boss may be under. Situations the boss is dealing with. If boss doesn’t’ get back to your request for a meeting or a written proposal or reacts badly at first, remember that you don’t really know what’s going on in the boss’ world. Be patient. Give gentle reminders. Try to understand the boss’ perspective and act accordingly. I hope after reading this you feel more empowered to convince the boss, and I hope you go forth and object when you should object. Let me know how it goes! Yours in learning, True [...] Read more...
2022-07-05Last Updated on 2023/07/27 Dear Friends, When friends in career development consulting interviewed me in LinkedIn Live event last year, they asked me how to use learning as career fuel. LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/video/event/urn:li:ugcPost:6836760026649116672/) YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gVFH0iFDbT8 If you are a proactive learner, you deserve praise for that, and my guess is your efforts bring you many benefits in your career and life. If you are what is known as a “passive learner,” someone who lacks a clear learning plan, who waits for HR to arrange a training before they will take learning seriously, who seldom takes in new information through books or courses, etc., as a person who cares I ask: What are you waiting for? Being passive about learning and expecting your career to progress healthily is a lot like not exercising and hoping to get physically stronger. It simply will not happen. You will fail to fully develop your talents and you will have difficulty advancing your career. If you are among those who choose to invest in your learning and development, the field of adult education has some valuable suggestions on how to optimize your efforts that I have summarized as four tactics. Tactic #1 Learn in Context We learn best if we can contextualize the learning. What problems do you want to solve? What would you like to get better at? What is missing in your knowledge or skill set that you rely on to do your work? These are good questions to start from and then, as you learn, try to think about how what you are learning relates to your experience, your current environment and challenges. Tactic #2 Discuss what You Learn with Others Humans do not learn well in isolation. We are social learners. That means we need to interact with others in order to optimize our efforts. I love to sit in my office, classical music on in the background, and read or work through an online course. This is useful, but I learn much better if I can discuss what I’ve learned alone with smart, curious friends who are interested in the topic, or if I can integrate what I’m learning into a conversation in a meaningful way. Tactic #3 Apply a Little Pressure We learn best when we feel safe AND there is pressure. Not low pressure. Not high pressure. Moderate pressure. People learn job skills effectively when they have to do so on a deadline, but most people are unable to fully focus if they have too much time. They are also not able to learn effectively if they are under too much time pressure. The same thing applies to complex learning challenges, such as learning to be a good leader. If you have no pressure, you won’t learn much. If you have huge pressure, you will learn ineffectively because you won’t have time to reflect or practice. Moderate pressure and a general sense of safety are key. Tactic #4 Learn from Caring, Professional People Did you have a good math teacher in high school? I’m guessing that teacher made learning algebra, geometry, or calculus much more interesting for you. If you had a bad math teacher, I’m guessing it made you dislike math. That’s because we learn best when we feel a connection with the person who facilitates our learning. We can learn from people with annoying or abrasive styles, but not as much as we learn from people who inspire us and care for us. Choose your teachers, trainers, writers, and mentors wisely and if they don’t resonate with you, switch. The research in this field is vast. If you are interested in learning more about adult education, especially in an organizational context, let me know and I’ll send you some additional resources.   Yours in learning, True True Talk #15 How to Optimize Your Learning (ENG)   [...] Read more...

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