Blog Categories: Communication
Posted on April 1, 2019
Managers who effectively harness their coaching skills reap multiple benefits. Their employees are more committed, willing to put in greater effort and are less likely to leave.
Most managers have had some training in coaching people for high performance. Ten years ago, 73% of managers received some form of training, according to BlessingWhite, a global leadership-development firm. But the firm’s 2015 report reveals that employees who receive regular feedback through coaching conversations are in the minority.
Why Don’t More Managers Coach?
Managers usually cite lack of time as the main excuse for failing to coach employees, but the real reasons may be different, note John H. Zenger and Kathleen Stinnett in The Extraordinary Coach: How the Best Leaders Help Others Grow (McGraw-Hill Education, 2010).
Three common barriers stand in the way:
- Misconceptions of what coaching is
- A desire to avoid difficult conversations
- No clear game plan for initiating and framing coaching conversations
Despite good intentions, the manager-fixer creates numerous problems:
- Quick fixes don’t teach people to think for themselves.
- When work is challenging, employees will look to their managers for an easy fix.
- Managers who fix problems encourage dependency, thereby creating additional work for themselves.
Let’s address the reasons why managers fail to coach.
- Misconceptions of What Coaching Is
Coaching isn’t instructing, mentoring, counseling, cheerleading, therapy or directing, although there are some similarities. Coaching skills include:
- Clarifying an interaction’s outcome and agreeing to a conversation’s goal
- Listening to what is—and isn’t—said
- Asking non-leading questions to expand awareness
- Exploring possibilities, consequences, actions and decisions
- Eliciting a desired future state
- Establishing goals and expectations, including stretch goals
- Providing support
- Following up on progress
- Setting accountability agreements
- A Desire to Avoid Difficult Conversations
Coaching conversations require time and energy, but they’re the only way to gain trust, honesty and transparency. If you’re unwilling to invest the required time and effort, coaching will inevitably fail.
- No Game Plan for Coaching Conversations
Many coaching models exist, but the best are short, simple and easy to employ. With a solid framework, you can achieve results in as little as 10 minutes.
One of the original coaching frameworks is the GROW model, created by Graham Alexander, Alan Fine and Sir John Whitmore:
|G||Goal||The Goal is where the client wants to be. It must be clearly defined so people know when they’ve achieved it.|
|R||Reality||The Current Reality is where the client is now. What are the issues and challenges? How far away is Goal achievement?|
|O||Obstacles||What Obstacles are stopping the client from reaching the Goal?|
|Options||Once Obstacles are identified, the client finds Options to deal with them and make progress.|
|W||Way Forward||The Options are converted into the Way Forward—action steps that map the way to reach the Goal.|
FUEL Coaching Conversations
Zenger and Stinnett suggest using the FUEL model in The Extraordinary Coach:
- F = Frame the Conversation. Set the context by agreeing on the discussion’s purpose, process and desired outcomes.
- U = Understand the Current State. Explore the current state from the coachee’s point of view. Expand the coachee’s awareness of the situation to determine the real coaching issue.
- E = Explore the Desired State. Articulate your vision of success in this scenario. Explore multiple alternative paths before prioritizing methods of achieving this vision.
- L = Lay Out a Success Plan. Identify the specific, time-bounded action steps to be taken to achieve the desired results. Determine milestones for follow-up and accountability.
Face the Coaching FACTS
While people enjoy receiving their managers’ support, they also want to be challenged, note John Blakey and Ian Day in Challenging Coaching: Going Beyond Traditional Coaching to Face the FACTS (Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2012).
Blakey and Day developed the FACTS coaching model from frontline observations:
- F = Feedback: How can coaches provide challenging feedback that informs and inspires? How can we ensure that praise and recognition are balanced with honest feedback on mistakes?
- A = Accountability: How does a coach hold people accountable for commitments without blame or shame? How can accountability be extended from personal commitments to alignment with the values, strategy and ethos of the wider organization?
- C = Courageous Goals: How does a coach move beyond incremental goal-setting models to those that engage the right-brain attributes of courage, excitement, inspiration and transformation?
- T = Tension: When is tension constructive? How can coaches practice creating and holding tension without risking burnout in key performers? How can the tension in a conversation be calibrated and dynamically adjusted to ensure peak performance? When does tension go too far and damage the underlying relationships?
- S = Systems Thinking: How can a coach stay sensitive to “big-picture” issues like ethics, diversity and the environment without losing focus on bottom-line results? What can be learned from the world of systems thinking that enables the coach to be a positive agent of change for the wider organization?
Managers who avoid coaching often struggle with starting a coaching conversation. In the absence of deep, hour-long coaching sessions, you can use key questions to realize change and growth.
Michael Bungay Stanier shares seven core questions to open coaching conversations in The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever (Box of Crayons Press, 2016):
- What’s on your mind?
- What else?
- What’s the real challenge here for you?
- What do you want?
- How can I help?
- If you’re saying “yes” to this, to what are you saying “no”?
- What was most useful for you?
Posted on February 11, 2019
If ideas are the currency of twenty-first century business professionals, then their presentations must persuade action. Unfortunately, many fall short.
Presentations are critical, yet we too often focus on how slides look or where to stand on stage. Worse, we are prone to pack them with data, charts and graphics for fear of leaving information out. The result is often audience fatigue, information overload, and little chance of inspiring anyone to take action.
Communication experts know that shorter presentations are more effective, pointing to the revolutionary success of 18-minute TED Talks as evidence. TED Talks have redefined the elements of a successful presentation and become the gold standard for public speaking.
“TED presentations change the way people see the world and they are springboards to launch movements in the areas of art, design, business, education, health, science, technology, and global issues.” Carmine Gallo, Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds, St. Martin’s Griffin, 2015
Even if you don’t aspire to be invited to give a TED talk, you can benefit from learning to sell yourself and your ideas persuasively. As author and communication expert Daniel Pink notes in To Sell Is Human, “Like it or not, we’re all in sales now.”
Presentations matter because they are a major way we sell products and services, find investors, establish trust and credibility, and gain support for new ideas. But ideas are only as good as the actions that follow the communication of those ideas.
What Makes Presentation Persuasive?
Although visuals and delivery matter, the ability to present novel content that makes an emotional connection is at the heart of whether a presentation inspires action or not. Leave out one of these three elements – emotional, novel, memorable – and you won’t persuade anybody to do anything and you won’t get the results you want.
- 1. Emotional
Most professionals tend to focus on the “what” and “how” of their information. But effective presentations appeal to both the head and the heart. Masterful speakers show their true passions. They use stories to help listeners emotionally attach to the topic. They show “why” this information matters.
Research from neuroscience reveals that stories sync minds and create connections with people. These connections are enhanced when a speaker has congruent body language and nonverbal behaviors that are conversational. Instead of delivering a speech, great speakers converse with their listeners.
Of course, a lot of practice is required for anyone who strives for a more comfortable and natural impact. Masterful speakers may rehearse up to 200 times in preparation.
- 2. Novel
Presenting information in a unique way captures a person’s attention. Neuroscience reveals that novelty is required in order for a listener to recall the speech later on.
The brain can’t ignore unusual information. Speakers must find a way to grab the audience’s attention with “jaw-dropping” or “wow” moments. The skillful use of visuals, video, and genuine humor can help.
- 3. Memorable
If the audience can’t remember what you said, your ideas don’t matter. You can present truly game-changing information but unless it is delivered in a way that is emotional and novel, your audience won’t pay attention and won’t remember it.
Scientists have known for a long time that what gets remembered are events that happen during significantly emotional times. We remember what we were doing at the time of the 9/11 attacks. It’s hard to create emotional events during a business presentation, but you can connect the audience to multisensory experiences that deliver dry data in meaningful ways such as graphics and analogies that relate to everyday experiences.
Why Shorter is Better
In the last ten years we’ve learned more about the brain and how it processes information than ever before. There is a reason why 18-minutes is the ideal length of time to get your point across.
The brain works hard to process information and in doing so uses up reserves of glucose. Brain cells need twice as much energy as other cells in the body. If you don’t make a powerful argument and attract people’s attention in under 18 minutes, you risk losing them to fatigue. Too much information prevents the successful transmission of ideas.
Cognitive processing – thinking, speaking, and listening – are physically demanding activities. As the brain takes in new information, millions of neurons are firing at once, burning energy, causing fatigue. There’s not much left to transfer information from working memory to short-term memory, and none left to share it with others and transfer to long-term memory.
If people don’t talk about your ideas afterwards, don’t expect them to remember or act on them either.
3 Steps to Craft a Message Map
According to author Carmine Gallo, a message map is the visual display of your idea on one page. Building a message map can help you pitch anything in as little as 15 seconds.
Step 1: Create a Twitter-friendly headline. The headline is the overarching message you want your audience to know. Ask yourself, “What is the single most important thing I want my listener to know?” Make sure your headline fits in a Twitter post – no more than 140 characters.
Step 2: Support the headline with three key benefits. The mind can only process about three pieces of information in short-term memory. Outline the three or, at most, four benefits of your product or idea.
Step 3: Reinforce the three benefits with stories, statistics, and examples. Add bullet points to each of the three supporting messages. You don’t have to write out the entire story. Instead, write a few words that will prompt you to deliver the story.
A message map can help distill your idea into a presentation that is emotional, novel, memorable and most importantly, persuasive.
Benjamin Franklin built his character around 13 virtues — and following his weekly plan could change your life
Posted on January 19, 2018
When I start to work with a client, I ask them to define what their values/virtues and strengths are — taking the VIA strengths survey helps to determine them. Then I ask them to rate their top 6 values each day on a scale of 1 -10. This exercise was also practiced by one of our founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin. Read this article on how esteemed Mr. Franklin defined his values and then contemplated each day how he used them. How many years later and we are still talking about Ben? I would say his method of defining his virtues and living them out served him well … and us.
Posted on August 3, 2017
We all know negative thinking when we hear it, the challenge is managing our own negative thoughts even in the face of hearing the “half empty glass” dialogue of others. This article by NYT health editor Jane Brody describes the compelling research of current social scientists whose data suggests that developing positive emotions in oneself promotes healthy bodies, minds and more life satisfaction.
Posted on June 12, 2017
The Stoics were those Roman and Greek philosophers who flourished in and around the 3rd Century. The Stoic philosophers promtoed ways to manage one’s minds to have a better understanding of the natural world, to be open to a broader view of life beyond pleasure and pain and, to treat others in a fair and just way.
Sounds like a great formula for team work? Yes, and we can also learn a lot from the Stoics about choosing the right actions and priorities which can aid our productive habits. Read on about tips regarding how we think about our time and effort can lead to being more productive, ultimately leading to contributing your talents most effectively.
Posted on May 11, 2017
Organizations waste vast amounts of time, effort and money each year by failing to recognize or correct dysfunctional teams.
A PricewaterhouseCoopers study of 200 global companies across various sectors―involving more than 10,000 projects―found less than 3% successfully completed their plans. Similar research reveals 60%–70% project failure rates. In the United States alone, IT project failures cause estimated losses of up to $150 billion per year.
Dysfunctional teams cannot be blamed for all business failures, but they play a major role in unsuccessful projects and missed goals. In his acclaimed bestseller, organizational consultant Patrick Lencioni identifies The Five Dysfunctions of a Team:
1. Absence of trust
2. Fear of conflict
3. Lack of commitment
4. No accountability
5. Lack of attention to results
1. Absence of Trust
Lack of trust is the core dysfunction, the one that leads to all other problems.
Several group behaviors demonstrate distrust. Team members may have low confidence in others. They may fear that any sign of personal weakness could be used against them. Consequently, people are unwilling to be vulnerable, transparent or open when exchanging ideas or expressing their feelings.
A lack of trust creates defensiveness in team members, notes leadership consultant Roger M. Schwarz in Smart Leaders, Smarter Teams (Jossey-Bass, 2013). Defensive team members feel the need to protect themselves.
Leaders who want to rebuild trust can try the following strategies:
• Vulnerability: Create an environment in which team members can safely feel vulnerable. Draw out people’s personal experiences by sharing your own stories, thereby setting the proper tone and lowering barriers.
• Honest Feedback: Team members must learn how to provide feedback. Acknowledging and affirming others with constructive feedback set the stage for positive reinforcement and encouragement.
• Authenticity: Practice humility to tear down walls. If you and your team can admit that you don’t know everything, the experience will be freeing.
• Integrity: Model integrity in group dynamics. Everything you do is magnified and often copied. When you “walk the talk,” others will follow your example.
2. Fear of Conflict
Lack of trust within a team easily leads to fear of conflict, confrontation, criticism and/or reprisal. When teammates and leaders are seen as potential threats, people adopt avoidance tactics. This sets up an artificial harmony that has no productive value. There is no true consensus, just a risk-preventing sentiment of “yes” feedback. True critique is avoided. Genuine solutions are not explored, and the team functions poorly.
This dynamic allows a domineering team member to take over, with a unilateral-control mentality. Dominant personalities believe they’re always correct, and anyone who disagrees is wrong and disloyal. Independent ideas are stifled. Negative feedback creates discomfort. People’s spirits and self-esteem eventually plummet, crippling group performance.
Conflict-resolution training can help you encourage productive debate without hurting feelings or wounding character.
3. Lack of commitment
When teams lack trust and fear conflict, they’re likely to avoid commitment. We focus on self-preservation and maintaining amicable relationships. As we attempt to avoid confrontation, we stop listening to others’ concerns. Discussions become superficially polite.
Most people can sense when someone isn’t listening to their ideas or questions. This single dynamic―often subtle―will shut down team engagement and commitment, and tension continues to grow.
Teammates who are cut off or ignored feel left out. They’re less committed to team effort, so they’re unlikely to “get with the program.” It becomes difficult for a team to move forward amid stalled decisions or incomplete assignments. Enthusiasm for projects takes a nosedive, and confrontations become commonplace. Some members even stop caring about whether the team succeeds.
Lack of commitment also becomes a problem when you fail to convey clear goals or direction. People are left to wonder what they’re supposed to do, and the team’s success is no longer their top priority. They mentally check out and just start going through the motions.
You can reestablish commitment by prompting team members to ask questions. When you invite dialogue, teammates learn more about each other. They’ll see others’ intentions, attitudes, motives and mindsets more clearly, eliminating the need to guess or assume.
4. No Accountability
If you fail to reverse a lack of commitment, dysfunctions will intensify. Team members will lose their sense of accountability. If there’s little buy-in, there’s no desire to meet obligations, follow directions or help others. This is most common in environments where progress isn’t adequately assessed and definitive project schedules don’t exist.
Work toward establishing clear directions, standards and expectations. All team members need to work with the same information set at all times. Realistic, understandable schedules help drive activities and allow work flow to meet interconnected goals.
Activity tracking methods should clearly report which tasks are on time and which are late. Corrective action plans should make the necessary adjustments and redirect activities accordingly.
5. Inattention to Results
Without team accountability, the focus of group success is lost in the shuffle. Self-preservation and self-interest trump results in a climate of distrust and fear. Your inability to track results leaves you with no way to judge ongoing success or failure, progress or pitfalls. No one is praised for good results, and no one is corrected for the lack thereof.
Effective project management methods must track progress toward intermediate and final goals. Affirm team members (and their interdependence) through their accomplishments and struggles. This draws them together and lets them know they’re valuable to the organization, team and, ultimately, themselves.
Posted on January 17, 2017
By knowing what our strengths are, we can consciously think of using them when confronted with everyday stress. This simple article offer a free strengths test that was developed by Drs. Martin Seligman and Chris Peterson- serious, respected social scientists who researched all major cultures to find out what strengths were key to being successful in that culture. Take the test and focus on ways to use these strengths everyday in the New Year to manage the challenges you may face.
Posted on January 10, 2017
A Coaching Conversation Checklist for Smart Managers
In spite of wide-spread coach training, many managers aren’t using coaching skills to grow and develop their people. Instead, they see themselves as problem solvers, cutting short conversations with employees by providing solutions, advice, and answers.
Yet managers who coach find that their employees are more committed, willing to put forth greater effort, and less likely to leave.
“Clearly, the benefits of building a coaching culture and increasing the effectiveness of coaching are great. There are both tangible benefits (increased employee engagement and productivity) and intangible benefits (improved culture and finding meaning and purpose in work).” ~ John H. Zenger and Kathleen Stinnett, The Extraordinary Coach: How the Best Leaders Help Others Grow, McGraw-Hill, 2010
The authors suggest using the FUEL model outlined in their book to help create a coaching checklist:
- F = Frame the Conversation. Set the context by agreeing on the discussion’s purpose, process, and desired outcome.
- U = Understand the Current State from the coachee’s point of view, and expand his awareness of the situation.
- E = Explore the Desired State. Help the coachee to articulate a vision of success in this scenario.
- L = Lay Out a Success Plan. Identify specific, time-bound action steps to be taken to achieve the desired results with milestones for follow-up and accountability.
Step 1: Frame the Coaching Conversation
Conversations with employees often turn into project task updates instead of furthering growth and development. A checklist helps set up a coaching dialogue. According to Zenger and Stinnett The Extraordinary Coach, there are three steps that work well for initiating a developmental dialogue.
- Identify the behavior or issue to discuss.
- Determine the purpose or outcomes of the conversation.
- Agree on the process for the conversation.
This sounds almost too simple to bother with, but without it employees aren’t clear about what the issues are and how they can use them to grow and develop.
Step 2: Understanding Leads to Insights
The next step in a coaching conversation is to address the “meat” of the issue. This part can be tricky because of our natural tendency to assume we understand what the issues are. We fill in the blanks and automatically judge—usually prematurely.
Instead, a manager needs to listen well and encourage the coachee to talk. Explore what the real challenge is for her.
- Ask open-ended, non-leading questions
- Act as a mirror, observe, and repeat what you hear and see
- Encourage the coachee to explore what the real issue or challenge is
- Discuss consequences in the event things don’t change
- Assume anything
- Judge, criticize, or categorize
- Ask for too many details or focus on other people
- Offer your perspective or advice right away
- Find an answer for the person
People won’t change until they experience a need to, and if a manager is too helpful, the coachee won’t feel enough motivation.
Step 3: Explore Desired Outcomes
Typically, managers are excellent problem-fixers and advice-givers. They want to jump in at Step 3 and often skip over Steps 1 and 2.
But that is a big trap. Instead of pouncing on the first viable solution, it’s worthwhile to explore alternatives by helping people think things through. Let the coachee do most of the talking to find out what matters most to her. By suggesting at least three alternatives, she will end up with a more effective solution. As the manager, you can negotiate and influence what the measures of success must include.
Step 4: Lay Out a Success Plan
This is the home stretch in a coaching conversation and should not be rushed or skimmed over. Your role now is that of a guide. Together you will develop and agree on an action plan with timelines, enlist support from others, and set milestones for follow-up and accountability.
Why Bother with Coaching Conversations?
Without going into all the statistical ROI studies, let’s look at the benefits of coaching as a managerial style.
- Coaching gives new meaning to work. When people feel that they are engaged in a useful cause and not merely performing menial tasks, they will go beyond minimal requirements.
- Coaching leads to more engaged and committed employees.
- Coaching increases productivity.
- Coaching refocuses people on the most important objectives.
- Coaching leads to a stronger culture, which has a tremendous impact on performance and productivity.
- Coaching strengthens the relationship between supervisor and employee.
- Coaching promotes heightened self-esteem and confidence among employees.
- Coaching encourages resilience and creative problem-solving ability.
- Coaching helps people take responsibility and ownership of both problems and solutions.
Posted on November 20, 2016
An important adult skill to develop: Understanding your own emotions and how they contribute to your thinking. Our best thinking leads to our best actions, producing the connections with others that we desire. This article gives compelling research on how simple acts like smiles, touch and laughter can add great dividends to leading a good life.
Posted on April 11, 2016
This tweet from internet Hippo offers a sad but true insight: we are often tougher on ourselves than others are on us. Kristen Neff is a professor at the University of Texas at Austin and has written a book on Self-Compassion or, learning how to treat oneself with kindness. By this she means the same kindness and care we would give to a good friend. This article reviews Dr. Neff’s research on self-compassion. Why self-compassion for leaders in business? The volatile, complex and uncertain global business environment of the 21st century requires wise leaders who can lead with their heart and mind. After all a leader has to develop high quality connections with employees to actively engage teams and develop thriving cultures.