Monday 29 March 2010

Coach as 'Strategic Thinking Partner'

While I was training to be a Coach our Lead Coach Trainer a great guy and brilliant Coach called Philip Brew himself a Master Certified Coach used a term that perfectly described the role of a Coach at the most Senior levels of the organisation........

That role is a "Strategic Thinking Partner".
What great clarity and a superb positioning statement!
To operate effectively and add Value at that level the following things are essential. They come from Carl Rogers, who's globally respected as an authority figure on 'Change'. He pointed to 3 things that when they exist in a Coaching/Change environment a positive relationship is not just possible, but in fact inevitable.

Once the Relationship is in place and that vital 'connection' has been made, being a Strategic Thinking Partnership happens quite naturally and quickly in my experience. Both parties loosen up and enter into a positive flow. These are the key enablers:
  1. Authenticity- How you 'show-up' and how credible you are are vital in building a relationship. Is what you say and do consistently the same...?
  2. Congruence- This is the ability to be 'you' in any given situation irrespective of rank, role. To me, it really means can you be authentic under pressure!

  3. Unconditional Human Regard- This means you suspend judgement and listen to what is being said without interference from your own agenda or the agenda of a 3rd party. You accept what is said and your sole intention is to understand and objectify what you hear.

I try very hard to adhere to these core principles and find when I do the quality of my work is highly effective. I attribute this to the quality of relationship that's possible when you BECOME that type of person. You attract your client into this space. You accomplish several things simultaneously when this happens:

  • You build a profound and meaningfully healthy relationship with another human being who trusts you and themselves in this space.

  • You role model what's possible to another person and as Dale Carnegie once said you give them 'a fine reputation to live up to'.

  • Finally you offer hope. This is important. Sometimes you may be the only ray of hope and sunshine in that person's life. Hope offers light and with enough light things just crystallise.

I came across a great saying in a book recently about how individual and yet how powerful all are. It is relevant here and shows why the Client should lead and what's possible when they do:

"People are like dynamite.

The action is all on the inside.

Yet nothing happens until the fuse is lit.

This can happen routinely when you give people space in which to operate, enough support to explore issues and when you trust and honour the process. This in my experience is the gateway to sustained change. What's your experience...?

Monday 22 March 2010

The Payoff of Mastery-The 10,000 Hour Rule

A Coaching colleague of mine referred me to Malcolm Gladwell's book called 'Outliers'. Here's a link to it on Amazon;
One of the Chapters talks about the price of Mastery. It was put at 10,000 Hours. It seems to be the same for anything. Music, sport, profession. There are various examples, Bill Gates, Bill Joy (Sun Microsystems) the Beatles in Hamburg. The reality is it took approx 10,000 hours to achieve Mastery. This is also the equivalent of 10 years. Some commitment and special kinds of people. Some may call them nerds I call them great. Why...? Because they have enough clarity of purpose and ambition to dedicate their lives to excelling at ONE THING...........

Here's a cut down version of a book by Steve Siebold The secrets of the World Class' (How to turn Mediocrity into Greatness) Here's a link to a section of the book. It takes 3 minutes to view. In the end this is all a CHOICE and great people are not interested in doing things on the grounds of ego. They have a cause and a burning desire to excel. Not to be better than other more subtly to become the best they can be. Such a welcome relief after all the mediocrity that seems to be required today. Many people say the recession has killed the Market. I say it has MADE the Market. Why...? It has forced more and more of us to become Masters of what we do. Most of us are not that brilliant at what we do. Yet we have great abilities which we choose to neglect. I believe this is a necessary wake-up call to simply become better and start to operate at the level we could if we bothered. Once you get on this track you enjoy a sense of exhilaration that any junkie would envy. All because it's sustained and real!

So, ask yourself what could YOU excel at and instead of leaving yourself to rue the time past and future to get there. Just take the next step to engage in what Tim Freke calls 'Lucid Living' or living on purpose. Once you begin this journey life becomes calmer and you do become much more free.

My own view is when we take the time and effort to locate and detest our best talents and deepest passions we do NOT compete with anyone...Why? We tap into our own uniqueness and we don't trip over others on the way to work. In fact we are more disposed to collaboration and abundance. In this space there is always plenty. You must make the time to create the space to allow you turn it into something. That's the stuff of legacy.

Monday 15 March 2010

Ernest Shackleton's 10 Leadership Strategies

Ever wondered why some people just seem to 'get' what Leadership is about and others don't...? Earnest Shackleton was certainly one who did. Like many iconic figures he was a complex, controversial and to many inconsistent in his behaviour. One thing for certain if you were stranded in the South Pole, you'd rather have him as your Leader than most others. He had 10 Leadership Strategies which have been adopted my many leading companies in the past few years to help 'navigate' these uncertain times. Lean more here:

I attended a seminar last year where Microsoft looked to his 10 Strategies as a means of 'navigating' these uncertain times. This was a very smart move. It was fresh, innovative and morover it was supremely relevant.
Here are the 10 Strategies Shackleton used as his Guiding Principles
  1. Never lose sight of the ultimate goal and focus on the short term objectives

  2. Set a personal example with visible memorable, symbols of behaviour

  3. Instill optimism and Self-confidence but remain grounded in reality

  4. Take care of yourself. Maintain your stamina and let go of guilt

  5. Reinforce the team message consistently- 'We are one, we live or die together'

  6. Minimise staff differences. Insist on courtesy and mutual respect

  7. Master conflicts, engage dissidents and avoid needless power struggles

  8. Find something to celebrate and something to laugh about

  9. Be willing to take the big risk

  10. Never give up, there's always another move
These are simply stunning and breathtakingly relevant. If we were to take ANY of these and put them into practice we'd be better people let alone Leaders. Working on ALL of these over time would simply take us to another level... That's effectively what Shackleton did and why his iconic status endures. He's earned it!

Your feedback on this most extraordinary and extravagant of men is most welcome.

Monday 8 March 2010

Great Places to Work Survey-2010

The annual Great Places To Work (GPTW) survey was published recently. You can view a link to the report here: This is a TRUST based survey that is completed anonymously by the employees and feedback to the organisation. It rolls up into a total TRUST score across approx 5 dimensions. Annually the Top 20 are recognised. This year they published the Top 20 above 250 employees and below 250 which allows a wider range of entrants. I'm a great fan of this type of 'climate survey'. There are many reasons for this:

  1. It shows real intent by Leaders to have their own work critiqued by their own staff
  2. It displays real Courage to be able to take Feedback without knowing what it may entail
  3. History shows that businesses that engage with GPTW outperform the stock market significantly (so it's an enlightened and smart thing to do)

The most 'current' author on Trust is Stephen M.R. Covey (son of Stephen R. Covey of '7 Habits of Highly Effective People' fame). What this survey reveals for Leaders running companies is embodied in what Covey Jnr talks about in his work 'The Speed of Trust'. He says when Trust goes up, a business enjoys a 'dividend', the payoff is more speed and greater engagement and productivity. When Trust is low what you get is a 'tax', low speed and greater cost. The number 1 trait that comes out of all the surveys when people are asked about Leaders is 'Integrity and Trust'....When you score well in these surveys it shows your people believe in what you're doing and that your actions are in line with your words. This gives Leadership Credibility and real authority...Moral authority. Check out a link to Covey's website. It's worth the visit...he's very much a chip off the old block...!

Did YOUR Leadership Team engage in this survey....? If not ask them why not. If they're real Leaders they will be able to answer that question both quickly and authentically.

Your comments as always are very welcome.

Monday 1 March 2010

Powerful Questions.......

I'm currently Coaching in an organisation where they're learning how to Coach and Mentor their Sales Teams. This is a great piece of work. We just started to work with the magic of 'Powerful Questions'. This is a key Coaching competency and I thought I'd share a context and a few examples with you. This is a life skill and one that's essential if you want to increase your Influence and powers of Persuasion both inside and outside of work!

There are many models available if you want to learn how to Coach. You can Google them; GROW/ CLEAR etc. Coaching is an excellent way of channelling a conversation from the broad and vague to the narrow and specific. This helps you understand the cause of an issue. It becomes CLEAR allowing you explore some new options. Finally there should be a commitment to actions.....Powerful questions can happen at any stage during a Coaching session, often times at the early stages of the discussion. The role of powerful questions is really 2 fold:
  1. To raise new awareness in the Coachee around something (Aha moment, insight etc)

  2. To cause the Coachee to stop in their tracks and be reflective about the question.

The 'power' of the question raises awareness and is a gateway to a 'shift' for the person being Coached. The Coachee usually goes quiet and is often thinking and being deeply impacted by something that's deeply meaningful to them. They see the issue differently, often more clearly. There is both beauty and magic in these moments. This helps people 'access that which they already know' or their own latent wisdom. It proves what we claim in Coaching...the Coachee has all the answers. A good Coach therefore MUST excel at powerful questions........If not, they are probably Consulting or Mentoring or giving advice....Without questions, it's very difficult to 'Ask', you're more likely to 'Tell'............Coaching is about asking!

So I hear you ask, give us some examples of 'Powerful Questions'........Take for example a father, worried about his son's approach to a major exam.

- "I'm really worried about my son, he doesn't seem to be taking his exams seriously"........

"Is that real or imaginary.......?" Is a Powerful Question. It invites the person being Coached to reflect on this situation. It may be that at their age, this is how they behaved and are worried for their son. Their son may have a different work pattern and be doing fine...also they may not. So it helps objectify if the concern is genuine.....If it is..........

Here's another question............"How do you address this with your son....?" The key then is to WAIT (allow space). A range of answers can be; (a) I suffer silently, (b) we argue (c) I get some articles on doing well in school and leave them in his room etc.......A follow-on Powerful Question could be; "Knowing your son as you do, what could or should you do...?" What tends to happen a lot is people say "What I'm beginning to realise is............ " then their own wisdom is revealed. The energy unleashed from this is where Coaching's real benefit lies. This fresh insight often removes a 'blockage/barrier' and the simplicity of the next required action provides a momentum all of it's own.........CHANGE has ALREADY taken place. A good Coach will then check for Accountability, Follow-Up and clarity of action and purpose............Viola, excellent Coaching! The Coach has never met the son and all that's happened is Coaching has provided the channel for this work to take place. Powerful Questions are enablers that allow this to take place with the person who came in with the problem doing most of the work!

It is possible to use other approaches to help people, silence, reflecting back, summarising etc. A properly framed question often brings an issue into sharp focus. CLARITY follows and very quickly so too does ACTION.........I'm amazed at how much can be achieved even in 15 minutes when Coach and Coachee meet in an uncluttered space.

Where to start...? How about next time you feel like telling it like it is or giving people the benefit of your own wisdom, take a step back, think about a suitable question that allows them take ownership of their own problem...? That will help them even more. What in fact you're doing at a more subtle level is honouring and investing in this relationship. By respecting the person enough to allow them feel they know what to do themselves if properly supported and given a safe space to explore an issue, this builds a level of trust that's rooted in pure love. That builds a special bond. Think about what that could do for your key relationships at home and at work....?Anyway enough philosophising for now!

This vital life skill can be honed very effectively over time to great effect.

Let me know how you get on............Slings, arrows and successes all very welcome!