Great Inc. Article about the Value of Coaching

http://www.inc.com/clate-mask/why-every-entrepreneur-needs-a-coach.html

Just Do It!

OK, he’s maybe a little……intense? But he’s right. What are you waiting for?! I love this video. It sums up the entire idea of coaching in about a minute.

How NOT to be a B**** at Work

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I work with a lot of women in high-powered positions. A common theme that comes out in our coaching sessions is that they’re afraid of coming off as a bitch in the workplace.

It’s an unfortunate reality. Women that are intelligent, driven and have high expectations are often seen as bossy or bitchy in the workplace. It’s amazing that similar individuals that happen to have a Y-chromosome are seen as a powerhouse. I’ve found this to be particularly acute in the high-tech industry where female leaders are rare and the front-line male employees tend to be somewhat socially uncomfortable in their relationships with women. These are broad generalizations but they’ve proven themselves out over the course of time.

Working with these female leaders, I’ve come to respect their dedication and empathize with their frustration. What keeps them from being treated like their male counterparts?

Through the successful outcomes my female execs have reached, I think I may have discovered the key. The secret to not being the bitch at work is to stop THINKING of yourself as a bitch.

This is going to sound over-simplified, but it seems to actually work. Once my clients change their frame of reference from “I’m afraid of being a bitch” (you project what you think) to “I’m a confident, capable and driven individual, just like any of my male counterparts,” magical things start to happen. I don’t know if there’s some actual re-wiring that takes place in their brain but their outward demeanor changes. Instead of being seen as searching for approval or demanding respect for their authority, they simply take charge and get the job done. Their subordinates seem to notice the difference and respond accordingly. I’ve seen really desperate situations get turned around almost overnight with a change in perspective by the female leader.

If you’re a woman responsible for leading unresponsive males, how have you handled the situation? How have you taken the lead without being seen as a “bitch?”

Photo credit: le temple du chemisier / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Time for a Change

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It’s the end of the year and my phone is ringing off the hook. It’s peak season for coaches because, as we end the year, many are looking back and realizing they didn’t make the best use of the past year and want help moving forward. Many feel it’s time for a change.

Before you make that jump, here’s one important question to ask yourself. Am I making a change for myself or someone else?

Coaches turn down a lot of potential clients because of their answer to this last question. You might be completely satisfied with your life but feel outside pressure from parents, a spouse or work colleagues to “do more” but if the desire isn’t genuinely yours then coaching isn’t going to help you one bit. In fact, the coaching experience would just be an exercise in frustration for both you and the coach.

To find out if you’re ready for a change, ask yourself these three questions:

  • If I knew today was my last day, could I say I’m satisfied with what I’ve done?
  • Am I doing all I could with my life right now?
  • Can I afford to wait another year to “do more?”

If you answered No to any of the above questions, then it might be time for a change.

So, where do you want to go now? Here’s an exercise I use with a lot of my clients. While you won’t have the benefit of interacting with a coach, it might help you gain some clarity.

Relax in a quiet room with your eyes closed. Take a few deep breathes. Now, imagine your “perfect” (and authentic, what’s going to make you happy) life. Think about all aspects; your career, health, finances, personal relationships and even your spirituality. Think about everything in as much detail as possible.

Once you have that well planted in your mind, imagine someone just asked you this question: “You are so happy these days. You have the perfect life. How did you get where you are today?”

Now, answer the question. Out loud.

A lot of people are surprised by what comes out of their mouth. Often, this is the first time they’ve said out loud something they’ve always wanted for themselves. Or, they knew something was just “off” and this exercise helps them find the words they’ve been missing.

Now, go make everything you just said a reality!

Have a healthy, happy and successful 2015!

Photo credit: SomeDriftwood / iWoman / CC BY-NC

How Well do you Listen Between the Words?

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How well do you listen to those that report to you? I’m not talking about stopping and giving them uninterrupted time to say what they have to say. I mean, can you key into subtleties in their voice and non-verbal cues to hear what they’re really saying?

During a feedback session, an employee makes the statement that they need more money. They could honestly feel that they’re underpaid for the service they render but could it also be that they need to feel valued? Income is the most readily visible sign of value in the workplace. Your employee just might not be able to completely articulate their feelings.

An otherwise stellar employee goes through a patch of rocky performance. Their reply when coached is they have too much to do. The issue may be resources and you could start thinking about how to offload work or you can think they’re slacking. But what if you, as their manager, haven’t given them clear priorities and direction in their work?

Finally, you have an employee that simply throws up their hands and says “That’s it, I quit.” You can get indignant and take the stance of “Fine, you’re free to leave any time you want.” (Yes, there are companies like that out there.) or you can hear the cry for help in their voice. What can you do to mentor, coach and lead this person back to being a positive contributor?

Words have meaning but facial expressions and those sighs and tears in the corner of the eye mean a whole lot more!

I think we’re at a point in our society where talking about feelings and emotions in the workplace is no longer taboo. Emotional Intelligence training is popular now and that shows that soft skills are just as important in management and leadership as critical thinking and decision making. If you have a difficult time connecting with your employees’ emotions, look inward to see what might be blocking you. You might be harboring feelings about your own work that you’re afraid to face. You might also have the belief that work is no place for emotions. Whatever your roadblock, opening up to your employees will help you be a better leader.

The same is true for your significant other, family and friends. Learn to listen between the words. Open yourself up to what they’re feeling and you’ll have an easier time relating to their current state of mind and you will likely communicate in a more supportive manner.

Photo credit: DailyPic / Foter / CC BY-NC 2.0

One Word You Should Never use with an Employee or Colleague

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When I’m coaching a first-time manager, we spend a lot of time talking about communication. They often come to understand over time that their words have power over others. They can build and motivate or they can cause distrust or harm the work relationship.

The one word I advise managers (or leaders at any level really) to strike from their vocabulary is “Why?” Think of the emotions that one word embodies. You’re immediately calling to question the root of the other person’s position. This places them on the defensive and it will be difficult to have an open exchange of ideas when one person is simply trying to protect their ego and self-worth.

I can hear all of my analytical friends screaming “But I need information! I need to know why something is happening or why a decision was made.” I’m not saying you can’t dig deeper into a situation or look for cause and effect. What I am saying is that there’s a much better way to engage subordinates and colleagues without placing them on the defensive.

Here’s where you get to pull out a coaching competency from your leadership tool belt and use a little appreciative inquiry. Rephrasing your Why? question into one coming from a position of strength and collaboration will always lead to a more productive discussion. You want to look for the best of the situation and create an environment where you envision possibilities and collectively decide the path forward.

Here’s an example: “Why did the shipment go out late today?!”
might become: “We’ve had a really good record of getting shipments out in the past. What factors lead to that success? It appears we were late this month, what changed?”
You’re working to discover a cause and solution together. You still get your question answered but the bonus is that you’ll likely also have a solution to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Every question you ask causes a series of thoughts to run through the mind of the one being questioned. We know our thoughts create our reality so if your questions cause doubt, insecurity and defensiveness in the minds of your colleagues, that’s the mindset you’ll be fostering. If you can approach others in a way that creates vision, possibilities, and collaboration then that’s the type of team you’ll be building. Which group might be more productive and creative when problem solving?

Over the next few weeks, try dropping the “Why?” questions and note the impact it has on others. (This works in personal relationships as well as those at work.)

Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net