Monday 30 November 2009

Eat That Frog......

As a Professional Coach, I do a lot of work in the area of 'Personal Effectiveness'. This is better known as Time Management, prioritisation and getting thing done. This is very close to my own heart so will post a few similar posts in succession.

Personally, I consider myself as someone who's recovered from 'urgency addiction'! This sadly is also often referred to as the busy fool syndrome. Most of us don't start out being addicted to anything, but our work patterns take over and if we're not aware of this or they go unchecked they can actually work against us. Things like burn out, stress and not coping with work and life can result.

My own dawning came from realising that many people whose energy levels were much lower than mine actually achieved for more, far faster than I did. After I left that place called 'denial' and presumed they were just lucky I did something smart. I approached one of these people and asked for help. This is one of the first things I learned. Here's a video clip that explains what Eat That Frog means....

Procrastination is a habit, and like all habits it can be changed. This requires discipline. Doing the thing you dislike most first sets up your day for success. It usually also was never that bad. We tend to put things off due to either fear (uncertain outcome, unsure of what to do) or boredom (the task is repetitious or dull). Give this a try as the video clip suggests for 30 days and see the difference. I will follow this up with a few more practical tools and some gems by way of advice I've come across..

Let me know how it goes.!

Monday 23 November 2009

The link between Coaching and Leadership Development

Many people forget that the primary reason for Coaching in a Business context is to improve Performance. In my opinion, Coaching should also be seen as improving people's Leadership capability. Coaching is a key process that allows this to happen. Once people grow into a new version of themselves, they BECOME better, bigger Leaders through the experience. This upward spiral of growth allows us see people blossom before our very eyes.

Stephen Covey says "Leadership is essentially a CHOICE, not a position". This makes so much sense to me. This is what we mean when we say Leaders 'emerge'. They don't ask for permission, they see what needs to be done and either do it or see it gets done.
Coaching becomes the vehicle that CLARIFIES what needs to be done and how it should be done. Once this is in place, Leadership then happens as a result of such clarity. So the inference is if people were clearer about things in their own minds they would Lead more often. Seems sensible but why is this not the case? My own belief is this is linked to the following reasons;
  1. Not enough high quality role models for people to study, work with or learn from.

  2. Limiting beliefs; too many capable people discount their own abilities or lack confidence.

  3. Deferring to hierarchy. We still live in a society where permission is sought far too often.

Coaching has a saying, we help people "get out of their own way". When this happens, people are energised and move positively and rapidly towards their goals, with a new spring in their step and no small amount of creativity. For a resourceful Country like Ireland we're not very tolerant of people making mistakes! This seems like a contradiction. Making mistakes is seen as a sign of weakness. Often times capable people don't act just to avoid looking foolish. The sad reality is making mistakes is an essential part of learning. True Leaders allow this to happen in a safe and smart way.

There's an old Chinese proverb that reminds us "the fish always rots from the head". This is because capable people can be shackled by a false perception of their role. They become slaves to conformity and all too often lack the moral courage to speak out, even on issues they're expert in. Leadership is also about having the confidence to speak your mind. If you don't do this why be in the room at all? We mainly regret things we don't do, rather than the things we actually do.

Much of the work of a Coach is simply helping people re-frame what's in front of them so they begin to evaluate options that hitherto were suppressed or just plain new! These 'aha' moments are truly powerful. This is why people don't need to be told what to do! It's so much more powerful when they discover things for themselves. They stand taller, take on a new air of confidence and a new purpose. They OWN that which they've just detected. The really smart ones then learn how to do this with their own people. Whenever you spend time with another person and help them figure out something for themselves, you build a deep bond with that person. This builds up tremendous loyalty. That up-front time is repaid to you many times over. That person is also likely to repeat this process with their own people and credit you with their learning. You get a reputation internally as 'a great Coach'. The ultimate accolade!

Future leaders and High Potential individuals do however need more than just a Mentor. They also need a Coach to help them decipher their own behaviour and accurately interpret what's going on around them. This helps them unpack and unpick complex issues. This allows the Coachee access "the simplicity on the far side of complexity" as Oliver Wendell Holmes famously said. This is simple but rarely easy! A good coach will relish being in this space with you.

In a nutshell, Coaching is the enabler, People Development is the output and Leadership over time will leave a fine legacy.

Your comments as ever are very welcome.

Monday 16 November 2009

The Role of Profiles in Coaching...'Your postcode is NOT your home address'

As a Coach you're 'expected ' to have access to profiling tools as part of your diagnostic work. If you don't know what these are they're simply tools to help people understand themselves better. We each have a preferred way of working and a style. (DiSC, Insights, Myres-Briggs etc)
Have you ever noticed some people just get their heads down and are TASK and DOING people? Others are PEOPLE and RELATIONSHIP types. Others again are STEADY and AMIABLE and yet another group are ANALYTICAL and DETAIL oriented. Which 'type' are you?! There are typically 4 styles and we're all a mix of the 4 but some traits are more pronounced and developed than others. There are no good and bad types only DIFFERENCES! If you learn to accept that you'll save yourself a LOT of grief!

The benefit of knowing our 'type' is it helps us understand our own strengths and soft spots. Once we know this we can do something about it! It can also demystify the 'world of others'. Perhaps they're not quite the tyrants we labelled them. In fact in most cases they're just busy being themselves. There's a great saying in Coaching; "Everyone's behaviour makes sense to them". Another way of looking at this is to accept that they're doing the best they can right now. Perhaps it could improve, but most people are not busy being difficult. They're like you, they're busy being misunderstood! It's one of our deepest needs to feel understood. Next time you come across behaviour you don't understand try saying to yourself..."How very interesting, I wonder what they MEANT by that"? This is a great question and has saved me from jumping to many a wrong conclusion.
Abraham Lincoln once said, where possible, we should grant people the benefit of the doubt. I'm inclined to agree with him. Let me give you a painful personal example!

I asked our then 15 year old daughter to check the DART timetable to see when she wanted to be dropped off at the local station. I went out and when I came back she was on the computer. I ASSUMED she was doing something else. I let her know how unimpressed I was. She explained, the DART timetable I gave her was out of date and she went on line to get the correct information. We're Stephen Covey fans (7 Habits of Highly Effective People). She quoted Habit 5..."Seek first to understand dad"... Plonker Dad!!

When we look to understand the behaviour of others and grant them the benefit of the doubt I find their INTENTIONS are usually honourable. They may make poor decisions and mistakes but work would be less miserable if how we TREATED people at work was more respectful. Many times we fail our people and their mistakes are actually our mistakes (gaps in training or coaching). Relationships would be more ADULT to ADULT. Making mistakes is part of improving. My own line is "it's ok to make mistakes, it''s not ok NOT to learn"

Profiles help by increasing SELF-AWARENESS and EMPATHY. This is the entry point to increasing your own Emotional Intelligence (called E.I.). If you do undertake such a profile do so in context. See it as your postcode, rather than your home address!! Take what's useful and use that to improve. Then use what you're learned to get on with the rest of your day!

What's your feedback on this topic or on any profiles you have completed?

Monday 9 November 2009

Why "Change Management" is an Oxymoron........

I'm a big fan of William Bridges. Many people think the likes of John Cotter and Spencer Johnson are the gurus where 'Change' is concerned. Much as I rate and value their work, Bridges messages are more pertinent and fundamental. Let me tell you why. Bridges demystifies Change BECAUSE he looks at it from the point of view of the least powerful people in any Change situation. This is the group upon which the entire Change effort depends. Who are these people? They are the silent majority. The people who do the work. The people on whom we rely on most to change, yet invest in the least. We're missing a trick and we don't even know it.

He makes 2 great points. They are linked, but separate.

Don't confuse CHANGE with TRANSITION.......The man's a genius! So what does he mean?

Change is what's demanded by external factors. The economy, competition, credit crunch, internal reorganisation etc. The reason why Change needs to take place. 90% of all change efforts are directed here...WRONG CHOICE!!!!

Transition is about the individual change journey people undergo........Aha. No wonder people resits change so much, it's being done to them and they're being managed through it. Yet one of the fundamental principles of Change is that when people are involved in decisions they're not only co-operative, but often go beyond the call of duty to support the change effort..........

This begs the question then why don't we spend 90% of our time, effort and resources supporting the journey of the silent majority?.... I believe it's because we foolishly think 1 of 2 things;

1. They're too stupid to understand so we'll tell them what to do (get them on board, wink, wink)
2. This way will be quicker...........(how painful the other way will be. We'll keep one step ahead)

Even as I write this the stupidity of it registers with me. No wonder so many change initiatives fail...They're loaded with design faults!! Bridges refers to most programmes as being "change heavy and transition light"

In my own time as a Consultant, one of the things that struck me was I thought we were delivering change. In fact I finally realised we were getting through programmes of work through the medium of compliance. It was also really hard work and not very gratifying!

Whether we like it or not this principle is true for most people; "fast is slow and slow is fast". Speeding through change makes about as much sense as trying to reduce the pregnancy cycle from 9 months to 6 or accelerating through the grieving process. Just because it's work doesn't make it any less personal. In fact it may take longer depending on the person and the situation.
Change is often associated with loss (losing offices, losing staff, losing customers, losing status, downsizing, doing more with less, losing routine etc). Cattle prods don't really work in this space. What does work is, 1 to 1's, asking questions, seeking to understand, displaying empathy. Da Vinci famously said that everything links to everything else, that's what you need to do with people here (join up the dots!). The key skill is not to assume you know how to do this (what's best for others, how they'll react etc). Show some humility and respect to ask some questions, listen, and process the answers you get back. Then act on what you're told, mainly by doing what you say you'll do! This is how Trust is built....Why else should people believe that the new world will be better, safer than the old?

I liken this to my own reflections on how many times I've extended Trust to others and how many times I've been "turned over"...Overall it's less than 10%. When we extend trust and genuinely get people on board Change is more like water over stones than rolling huge boulders up big hills.

When you apply the 80/20 rule to Transitions instead of just to Change, you start off on the right foot. Change will still be challenging, but you are at least working on the right things instead of scoring own goals and fighting a rearguard action..........Go on share your own war stories!

Monday 2 November 2009

Emotional Intelligence (E.I.)....'Cracking' The Glass Ceiling

Having recently done an Emotional Intelligence (E.I. ) profile, it got me to appreciate more why E.I. has finally come of age. Interestingly, the book Obama took to the White House to guide his Presidency also has this as a central theme. This book's called "Team of Rivals" (It's based on the life and political genius of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln's now recognised as having had extraordinary E.I.) This I found telling and it actually offers us an interesting insight into the psyche of Obama.

It also got me thinking. ALL the really great Leaders, past and present are/were blessed with extraordinary E.I.-Look at our best examples from recent history; Kennedy, Gandhi, Covey and now Obama. This is not a panacea in itself but it takes your Leadership to a different level. It's also no accident!

My own view is this is what Jim Collins means by the difference between "good and great". Greatness is a factor of who you are as a Leader multiplied by what you can deliver.
Such Leaders happens to be nice guys who stand for something. They get things done and you just know they're going places. They don't make much noise, neither will they be pushed around. They get results and respect by who they are and how they handle themselves instead of any formal reliance on power or position.

We all know interpersonal skills are vital to get on in the world today. Why then do so few people excel in this area? I believe the problem is 2 fold (1) Lack of understanding of the significance of this survival skill and (2) Limiting beliefs-(The Glass Ceiling- i.e. it is what it is and can't be improved.) The real attraction of E.I. (unlike I.Q.) is it can be improved and honed with practice. Get yourself a great Coach to work with you on this. It's unlikely you can do this on your own.

So what is this much vaunted E.I. anyway? In a nutshell it's about 2 things;
- Self-Awareness (Tuning into you;- your moods, your reaction to things, your feelings etc)
- Empathy- (Awareness of others, the ability to see things from other people's perspective)

It's been said that in terms of overall success in life, the breakdown is as follows;
  • I.Q.- 30%
  • E.I.- 20%

I had a lengthy and pretty senior Corporate career and I vividly recall 2 thing;

  1. Capable people were removed from Succession planning lists because they lacked E.I.

  2. The Perception of someone's 'promotability' was always linked to their people skills. (i.e. can they bring their people with them?)
Where Corporate fails is it does not intervene in a constructive way to address the challenges. The sub-text is invariably Darwinian- "If they're smart enough, they'll figure it out". This is not how this works....Why...? People can't figure this one out on their own...You need help to see yourself and others in a fresh light. This is the gateway to progress and real change.

If this skill can be acquired, then it's a training, commitment and resource issue. The barrier then is mainly time and a little finance. I know if I had a top class Coach when I hit my own Corporate wall I could have extended my own career and contributed more. The problems at that level are invariably interpersonal. What's this costing Business in terms of productivity, creativity and overall employee engagement?

The reality is Business does not know how to deal with this problem. This is mainly because it does not see it. You can't develop talent if you don't have a high E.I and the requisite skills. Yet so many people are not prepared to pay the price to increase their understanding of themselves and the people they interact with. Really enlightened people make time for this and are smart enough to know it's important.

2 Questions you should consider;
- If your own career has hit the "corporate wall", what are you doing about it yourself?
- If you have people around you who suffer with poor interpersonal skills and low self-awareness, what are YOU doing to help them?

Both are Leadership responsibilities and both are often "Important, but not Urgent"...The problem is if you leave them long enough they become critical issues and then remedial action is often too late.
As Yogi Berra once famously said; "You can learn a lot just by looking". Try using your 2 ears and 1 mouth in that ratio and listen more than you speak. This is a great discipline. Try this for 1 week and keep a log of what you learn...I bet you'll not only be surprised but amazed and shocked in equal measure!

Good luck, let me know what you learn!