How Our Customers Help Us Grow

Today I started working with a new client that reminded me of some fantastic basic lessons in how much there is to keep learning from our customers.

The coaching program I designed, and is supported by the client’s boss, includes a 360 degree leadership assessment.  “No big deal” I am thinking.  “Let’s just see how you and others perceive you as a leader”, I say. “And from there, we can set some development goals that make sense for your situation.”  Typically, the clients I use 360 assessments with see them as a positive, enriching and strategic component to supporting leadership development.  But to this client, it was a HUGE big deal.  She was freaking out about having to do a 360 assessment, and her boss and I were clueless until we opened up the conversation about it.

We were reminded that there are bosses and HR professionals who don’t use 360 assessments constructively – specifically her past bosses.   They called in the Executive Coach to bring their 360 feedback assessments to sort out problem people and try to fix them. Most of the time, these situations turned out in terminations.  Yikes!! The problem is, what is broken is not usually the person.  It’s the way the company manages performance, or the way the boss handles developing their people.  In those cases, 360 degree feedback gets a bad rap.

So we pulled back today and decided not to send the leader into the fray where she would have to prove to those she asked to participate that she isn’t in hot water or one foot out the door.

The bummer is, she will have to wait a lot longer to get some really rich feedback about what she does really well and should keep doing – something she could use a good dose of right now after having weathered a tough company acquisition.

That’s OK and we will figure out other ways to support her growth.  But………..what a great wake up call for me about a few things that I think apply to many situations.

1. Never assume you understand the reality someone else is living.  Take the time to ask good questions early in a relationship and often as you go.  Things change fast, and history has a lot of force.

2. Be prepared to change direction from your “ideal” solution to one that makes the most sense for those you are serving

3. Be patient and creative.  There are many ways to get to the same outcome.

I’m sure there are more, but was told once that 3 is a good number to start with. Things don’t always turn out how you think they will.  Glad today we were all open to doing things differently.  Here’s to learning from our customers!

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Can I Coach Myself?

Sure!

It can happen all the time if you work on it, and it’s actually a great skill to learn.  Here is a simple technique to try the next time you want to do or say something to get the best outcome .

In the simplest terms, we have what the personality experts refer to as 3 Centers of Intelligence.  (Refer to my Enneagram  page for my favorite personality tool that provides more detail about this!)

Our Centers of Intelligence can be thought of as our central operating system – how we process information.  The three centers are the head center or intellectual center, the heart center or the emotional center and the body center or the physical center.  Most of us operate with one Center of Intelligence more dominantly and then the others follow in priority to some degree of intensity, or in some cases, are considered very little.

Think of yourself like a tripod.  If we prefer to use our head or thoughts to solve a problem, then that is the longest leg on our tripod.  We think our way through a situation first and foremost.  That leaves the other two legs shorter and typically one is the shortest.  What happens when your tripod has differing length of legs?  Not such a secure place for our camera!

For example, someone operating foremost from their Head Center, can collect so much information from so many perspectives that they become confused as to which information is the most relevant or important. Someone operating foremost from their Heart Center, can be over-empathic with people or with themselves so they lost objectivity about the situation. Someone operating foremost from their  Body Center, can become overly stubborn when they perceive another as trying to control them or extremely quick to act without thinking through the implications of their actions.

This may sound frightfully simplistic.  The take away is this.  If you were to give consideration to all 3 Centers of Intelligence when trying to perform at your best, what would that do for the outcome you are trying to create?  Most personality experts agree, that to be centered and balanced, we need to access all 3 Centers of Intelligence in a productive way if we want to operate to our full potential.

So next time you are trying to solve a problem ask yourself:  What do I think?  How do I feel ?  What do I do?  See if your solution reflects the best version of yourself and let me know!

Aside

Today, while practicing yoga, I was thinking what a great world of business we would create if the top executives of every company practiced yoga.

Current estimates suggest there are up to 20 million Yoga practitioners in the United States, yet in my travels, I haven’t come across too many top executives who admit to practicing yoga.  Yoga has been rated as a highly beneficial practice on multiple levels of body, mind and spirit.  I have been practicing yoga for the past five years, and given the many benefits I have experienced,  I am convinced we could use more executive yogi’s in the business world.

Here is my vision of what yoga-practicing executives would inspire in their employees and businesses:

  1. Discipline to work at being our best selves and companies
  2. Positive intent and commitment to unlocking our full human and business potential
  3. Union with ourselves and each other; no silos; together we support each other’s evolution in a balanced way
  4. Rigor to work and grow; to find our optimum performance edge that working towards can be uncomfortable, but won’t hurt us or be more than we can handle and leads us to exceed our expectations of what is possible
  5. Individuality in self expression of the flow, that is also guided by a shared framework and goal within a community
  6. A “mindful state” where one recognizes distractions and attachments, acknowledges them and then returns to being fully present in the moment.  Yogi’s turn off cell phones, lap tops, and thoughts about past and future and focus on RIGHT NOW and doing the best you can at that very task
  7. Calmness of mind that inspires confidence in times of change
  8. Clarity of mind and enables us to see things more clearly to inspire creative and strategic solutions to complex problems
  9. Emotional and physical strength to face difficult situations and people
  10. Stress management techniques for facing outdated habits, new challenges and other stressed out people or customers

Wow, just listing these benefits makes me want to get to the yoga studio.  The funny thing is, yoga can be as simple as taking time to sit with your eyes closed and breathe deeply for 5-10 minutes.  Clearly, if we are all breathing, we can all practice yoga no matter how busy – even executives.

What do you say?

Companies Led By Yogi’s – Wouldn’t that be cool?

Secrets to Maximizing Your Investment in a Executive Coach

I have the honor to coach some pretty sharp people in the corporate world.  It is a special role to serve as their guide on the side on their journey toward leadership excellence in the name of getting great business results.  I get paid to push them out of their comfort zone so that they can grow.  I am successful if they have some self realizations that motivate them to try new things.  I am effective when I can show them new ways to work toward their goals.  I am rewarded when my clients are energized to discover more potential in themselves than they knew before and contribute that to make a difference.

I am always very mindful in my work of the investment a company is making in the clients I work with.  Today,  time is an even more precious resource than the dollars being spent.  Time spent in coaching better be worth it!

Yet too often, I am of the belief, value is left on the table.  I reflect on this when I have had a great session with a client where both me and the client are feeling really challenged, energized and connected.  Why don’t I feel this with ALL my clients?  I want to be soaked for all I am worth – all I have to offer.  This is what I sign up for when I work with a client.  Most clients start off saying they want that from me too.  Yet sometimes, I see that behavior peter out.  The client THINKS they are working hard, but from my seat, they could be doing so much more to maximize the value I can offer.

So I would like to give anyone working with or thinking of working with an executive coach some suggestions for how to make this investment in leadership coaching really worth your while – at least if you work with me anyway.

  1. Know the WHAT: Have some specific, measurable results you can measure your coaching experience to.  We should both be aware of the intended impact you desire to create and keep our sites set on that in every interaction.  If you aren’t getting the results you want – challenge the coach.  Aim for results that are direct and indirect – not just one or the other.
  2. Know the HOW: get focused on a few very specific behaviors that you want to grow and that support your goals.  We can’t change your personality, but we can help you change a behavior if you really want to.
  3. Push the learning envelope: Challenge your coach to fill you with ideas to the extent that you can handle, for how to enhance the behaviors you are working on.  We have a plethera of resources.  Challenge your coach to dig into our resources and find the best – the best book, the best chapter, the best article, the best role model to study,  until you can’t handle the input you get.
  4. Practice: Engage your coach practice new behaviors with you – more than once.  Role playing is one of our best tools for preparing you for a real situation in advance.  It works. Invite the coach to watch you do new skills in real life.  We can give you so much better feedback when we see you in action than just talking about what to do.
  5. Show up: Even if you aren’t prepared for your coaching session, keep the appointment.  There is always a conversation to have that will make a difference.  Of course you are busy and things come up to get you off course.  But the rigor in the coaching schedule that you agreed to upfront was designed to help you stay focused on your goals.  Missing coaching sessions prolongs your route to success.
  6. Be laser focused:  Get to the heart of what is important to you as soon as you can in the coaching session.  An average session is only an hour.  Tell it to the coach like you see it as efficiently as you can.  General updates are helpful, but keep it quick.  We want to get to the meat of the session as soon as you are ready, but we set the pace by your readiness.
  7. Monitor progress: Don’t wait longer than 3 months before you do a review of how the coaching process has benefited you.  Seek feedback from people who interact with you frequently about how they percieve your progress.  Review the results of the What and the How.  If you aren’t seeing a positive trend within 3 months, ideally in both, that you can validate with some objective data, you should change direction, or maybe the coach.
  8. Be courageous: Try new things and sometimes, try some REALLY new things.  There is no better time than when working with a coach to test your limits.  Life is short and our habits run deep.  You and your coach will find it exhillerating to hit a home run in addition to some base hits.

I could come up with more, but these are top of mind when I feel like a client is using me up.  Put some serious rigor in your coaching relationship and get some huge ROI for your investment.