Posts Tagged ‘coaching’

Mindful Mondays: Look for the Space Between the Waves April 20 2015 one response

ocean-wavesOne of the great things about having old friends is that they can remind you of things that you said once but have since forgotten. That happened to me last week when I spent time with my dear friend, Rae Ringel, at a training program for faculty members of the Georgetown Leadership Coaching Program. In an early conversation last week, Rae told me that she still remembered what I had shared with her about “bardo” when she was a student in the program 9 or 10 years ago. The blank look on my face said it all. I had totally forgotten about bardo.

Since we live in an age where no question has to go unanswered, I got out my iPhone later in the morning and looked up the word. Bardo is a Tibetan word that translates into English as an intermediate state. In the Tibetan spiritual tradition, bardo is the state one is in between death and rebirth. Depending on one’s level of preparation, bardo can either be a great experience or a terrible one.

Once I refreshed my memory on the concept, I remembered that I first read about bardo in an article in which the author described it as the space between the waves. (I lost the article long ago and couldn’t find it online this morning. So, apparently some questions still do have to go unanswered!) Thinking back, it was the idea of being aware of the space between the waves in our lives that really appealed to me. It still does.

In an always-on world, it’s too easy to lose sight of the rhythm of the waves in our life. We’re often so busy applying the gas pedal to get more and more done that we don’t tap the brakes to slow down and appreciate what’s already been accomplished. We push through the next wave and then the next without pausing to process what we’ve learned, thank and recognize the people who are supporting our journey or just give ourselves enough of a break to simply rest and digest to be prepared for what’s next.

In his classic book, Managing Transitions, the late William Bridges made the point that before anything new can begin, something else has to end. There’s a space in between the ending and the beginning that he called the neutral zone. You could also call it bardo or the space between the waves.

Whatever you call it, why not look for it this week? Here’s a tip for you as you look: it’s not about finding balance, it’s about noticing the rhythm. There are moments in your day or hours in your week where, if you’re looking for them, offer space in the rhythm of the waves. When you find the space between the waves, take your foot off the gas for a little while and see what else you notice.

Ten Ways to Lead Bigger March 19 2015 4 responses

goldfishAs I wrote here a few months ago, the biggest development opportunity for many of the rising leaders I work with as an executive coach is to play a bigger game. Once a leader achieves a level of mastery in leading his or her functional team, the next step is to play a bigger leadership role (informal, formal or both) in the broader organization.

This dynamic has come up in a couple of coaching conversations I’ve had lately which prompts me to share these ten tips for how you or the rising leaders you work with can step up and lead bigger. The list that follows are based on ten of the 72 specific leadership behaviors in the 360 degree assessment that’s based on my book, The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success.

Which ones present the biggest opportunity for you? Which ones would you like to read more about on this blog? Leave a comment and let me know.

1. Take time to get to know your peers and their interests.
2. Work to understand what is important to other functions and how those priorities fit into the bigger picture for the organization.
3. Seek out the input of peers, subordinates and superiors in the organization.
4. Make offers in support of the agendas of peers and follow through on those commitments.
5. Work with peers to develop win-win solutions to cross-functional problems.
6. Choose effectiveness as a more outcome than “being right”.
7. Put the agenda of the broader organization ahead of your functional agenda.
8. Contribute or even sacrifice key resources for the good of the entire organization.
9. Scan the external environment for trends and ideas that could have an impact on the organization.
10. Collaborate with colleagues to push through ambiguity or tough times to move the organization forward.

Three Ways to Coach the Person, Not the Problem February 27 2015 5 responses

waterbottle2Back when we were co-teaching The Flow of Coaching module at the Georgetown Leadership Coaching Program, my good friend, hero and fellow Davidson College alum Frank Ball used to do a funny bit with a bottle of water. To make the point that coaches and leaders should coach people and not problems, Frank would put a bottle of water on the table in the front of the room and say, “This bottle of water represents the problem.” Then he would start coaching the bottle of water. Needless to say, he never got very far. The bottle just didn’t have that many insights on what to change or how to change it.

That’s the thing. People have insights, problems don’t. If you’re a leader who cares about growing and developing your people, you have to coach them, not their problems.

That’s counterintuitive for a lot of leaders and even a lot of professional coaches. The solution to the problem is so obvious (to you) that you just want to jump in there and solve it for them.  That’s not coaching; that’s providing the answer. There’s not much growth in that approach. In fact, you might set growth back by creating a dependency that locks both of you into doing what you’ve always done. And of course when you do that, you’re going to get what you’ve always gotten.

So, the next time you feel the urge to coach the problem, try one or more of these three ways to coach the person and not the problem.

How to Get Rid of the Things That Drain You January 7 2013 2 responses

Over the weekend I had a great reminder of how much things change over time. I received an email from a coach I worked with back in 2004. She had been cleaning out some files and found a document that she asked me to write for her when we were working together. It was a list of twenty nine things that were draining my energy back then. I was in a bit of a funk in that period and the list included worries about family, health, friends, business – the works really.

As I looked it over, I realized that there were only two things on the list that still bug me – a messy office and messy bookshelves. After nine years of those two, I think I’ve come to terms with the mess.

The rest of the things on the list have been resolved in one way or the other. Honestly, I’d forgotten about most of the things that were top of mind when I wrote it. Of the ones I would have remembered without the reminder, many were resolved because of actions I took. Others just kind of evaporated on their own.

Of course, I have a new (albeit shorter) list today. All of us have things that bug us or weigh on us at any given time. The question is what do we do about it?

By asking me to write down all of my energy drainers, my coach created the opportunity for me to see the patterns and the connections among the items. There were some relatively easy things to do that ended up making a pretty big difference.

While you’re fine tuning your resolutions for the new year, you may want to stop to write down what’s draining you. Keep writing until you run out of ideas. Then, look at the list. What patterns and connections do you see? What are one or two relatively easy things you can do that are likely to make a difference in getting rid of the things that drain you? Start with those and then move on to a couple of more items. If you keep repeating the process, you might just find the list some years from now and realize how much things have changed.

That’s a Good Question August 7 2012 4 responses

Last week, I had coffee at the San Francisco airport with a new friend of mine, Ed Batista. Ed is a leadership coach who does most of his work in the MBA program at Stanford. We met each other online (no, not through Match.com but through our mutual friend, leadership blogger Wally Bock ). When I found out I was going to be in the Bay Area, I got in touch with Ed to see if we could meet up face to face.

I’m really glad we did. Ed is an exceedingly good coach and just a fun guy to hang out with. One of the things we talked about was the questions we ask as coaches. Before our meeting, I did a little bit of homework on Ed by poking around on his website and blog. One of the things that really stood out for me was his “Introduction to Our Coaching Engagement” section that he asks his new clients to read before their first meeting with Ed. It’s full of excellent questions like:

  • How do you deal with disappointment or failure? How do you deal with success?
  • What one thing could you do immediately that would make the greatest difference in your current situation?
  • What would make your work so compelling that you would do it without compensation?

For me, and, I suspect, most coaches, one of the most rewarding parts of the job is when I ask a client a question and they pause and say, “That’s a good question.” It’s at those moments that I know I’m adding some value. Ed’s questions are like that. They add value because they make you stop and think.

The good questions are the ones that disrupt the flow of everyday thinking and cause someone to step back and really look at what’s going on or what they’d like to have going on. They’re the ones that, as Harvard’s Ron Heifetz might say, get you off the dance floor and onto the balcony.

The good news is that you don’t have to be a professional coach to ask good questions. If you’re interested in asking them, I can offer three ideas that can help:

1. Have a commitment to helping your colleagues get off the dance floor occasionally to stop, think and reflect on what’s going on.

2. Ask open ended, non-agenda driven questions that get them up on the balcony.

3. Be quiet and listen to their answers. Allow them to talk.

What about you? What difference has a good question made to you? What’s the best question you’ve ever been asked?

The Week in Tweets June 15 2012 no responses

Every week, I share a recap of some of the best things I’ve seen on Twitter. This week, I’m highlighting tweets and links on team building, coaching and leadership, among others.


How to Be a Really Useful Coach in 5 Minutes or Less October 20 2011 2 responses

One of the jokes I sometimes make when I’m leading a workshop or giving a presentation is that being a coach is one of the greatest gigs in the world because you don’t have to know anything. All you have to do is ask questions and let the other person talk. Like most jokes there’s some truth behind the joke. Here’s why.

If you have four basic questions ready to go, you can coach anyone in five minutes or less to think through and be better prepared for the most important thing they’re going to do this week. It requires no formal experience or training as a coach. All you have to do is ask the questions, listen and ask the other person to elaborate.

Here are the questions. (Potential follow up questions are in parentheses):

1.  What’s the most important meeting or event coming up on your calendar in the next week?

2.  If that meeting or event is a complete success, what happens at the end? (What do people know, think, do, feel or believe?)

3.  How do you need to show up to make that outcome likely? (What are you going to say and how are you going to say it? What kind of energy, body language, tone of voice and demeanor do you need to demonstrate?)

4.  (What else?) This is the all purpose coaching question because it draws out the extra ideas.

That’s it. You can have a very productive coaching conversation in five minutes or less if you use those questions. I know they work because hundreds of people I’ve had coach each other in workshops tell me they work. The cool thing is that you can easily teach others how to coach you by sharing the questions with them. If you don’t have anyone available, you can coach yourself using the questions.

I often say that one of the most important things I do for my coaching clients is giving them the space to listen to themselves think. With a simple coaching approach like this one, you can get a lot of thinking and preparation packed into a short amount of time.

Give it a five minute or less try with a colleague today and let me know through a comment or tweet how it works for you.