Wednesday, November 18, 2015

How to Prepare High School Students for Life

Even though it’s been more than 40 years ago, I can still clearly remember the day my parents dropped me off to start my college career. I had no idea what to expect. They had brought all six of us kids up with a strong moral compass, but I know I wasn’t prepared for all the challenges and choices I’d face in that first year and throughout my college life.

I had to feel my way through the process, and I made a lot of mistakes along the way. A lot. 

If only I’d had a manual…

Dennis Trittin’s book, What I Wish I Knew at 18, IS that manual. It’s the perfect book to prepare young adults for life after high school.

The idea for writing it was inspired by Dennis’ experience when it came time to send his own son off to college. He realized there were many things he wanted his son to know, and he made a detailed list, which evolved into the expanded text that became this book. You can feel his heart and hard-earned wisdom on every page.

Dennis takes a holistic approach, covering all aspects of life—developing yourself into a person of character, dedicating yourself to learning in both school and work, building strong interpersonal skills so you’re effective with everyone important to you, and investing time to the spiritual dimension.

This is the kind of book you’ll want to give as a gift to high school students and graduates alike because it’s filled with a powerful combination of principles and practical applications. There’s excellent advice on choosing a satisfying career, whether it’s right out of high school or after a two- or four-year degree.

Dennis includes specific steps and tips for college students on their own for the first time, such as developing positive study habits and preparing for tests and exams. And there’s not a job-seeker in the world who couldn’t benefit from Dennis’ advice on setting yourself apart during an interview and establishing yourself as a star employee who gets rave performance reviews. These chapters in the book are pure gold!

Dennis understands his audience, recognizing the need for short reflection activities. He’s built in “Take Five” exercises, which help readers think about how they can apply the key points at the end of each section.

And throughout, he makes the concepts both memorable and useful through personal stories. This is a book that can positively impact young people’s lives…for the rest of their lives.

And if you’re an adult who works with groups of high school students – such as a teacher or guidance counselor - check out the Study Guide for What I Wish I Knew at 18 that Dennis wrote with Arlyn Lawrence. It’s an excellent companion to the book, with exercises and supplementary material that help students internalize the lessons from the book.

Friday, November 6, 2015

How to Achieve True Collaboration at Work

"Everyone carries with them at least one piece to someone else's puzzle." 
- Lawrence Kushner, American author (1943- )

Unfortunately, “collaboration” is not visible in many workplaces. Instead, there’s competition and jockeying for position. In places I’ve worked – either as an employee or as a consultant with clients – I faced politics and bureaucracy that undermined efforts to create a collaborative environment. And yet, this ideal IS possible to achieve.

In The Collaboration Breakthrough, authors Amy Pearl, Stephanie Phibbs and Diane Roesch provide a practical structure with detailed steps for establishing exactly this kind of culture.

I enjoyed the fable told in first person, with diverse characters I recognized from my own work experience. The authors stress the importance of approaching people differently, according to their style – so communication is easier. I liked that a balanced perspective was presented, focusing on what each manager’s strengths (and overuse of the strengths) look like in action and the best ways to speak to someone based on what’s important to them.

The model for achieving a collaboration breakthrough consists of 5 C’s:

CONFIDENCE – This is not about self-confidence but more about the trust and confidence you need to have in others.

CONVERSATIONS – Three types of conversations are described, with realistic sample scripts provided for each. I liked these examples because they helped me see what this sounds like when interacting in specific situations.

COMMITMENT – These 5 questions a powerful means for unlocking creativity, stimulating dialogue and coming up with solutions that everyone can support.

CLARITY – Clear, simple directions for writing a one-page Playbook (love the brevity!) that states the desired outcomes and what’s needed to reach them.

COURAGE – Ask a fundamental question, “What have I got to lose?” and then commit to action.

This framework is illustrated through the fable and then summarized by the authors in the last section of the book. The writing style is conversational and engaging to read. When I read a book like this, I’m looking for specific ideas I can apply to improve my business AND myself. I found both here.

I highly recommend this book if you’re looking for ways to have people work together more effectively to achieve the important goals of your organization.

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” 
- Henry Ford, American business leader (1863-1947)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Dramatically Improves Sales Productivity through Systematic Coaching

Many managers fail to engage in one activity that could make a huge difference in the performance of their team members: COACHING

I had the opportunity to discuss WHY this happens and HOW to become an effective coach in a recent interview with Andy Paul on his excellent podcast, Accelerate!

Andy’s show covers topics like sales, leadership, management, training and coaching. Andy’s own work is focused on sales managers and salespeople, and he's written two excellent books that should be on the shelves of anyone in sales: Zero Time Selling and Amp Up Your Sales.

The topics we covered in our time together apply to any leaders and individuals interested in their own development.

I invite you to listen to this interview and learn:

  • The difference between MANAGING and COACHING
  • Why some managers avoid the coaching role
  • How managers can become more effective coaches
  • 5 questions a manager can ask when an employee makes a mistake or a salesperson loses a sale
  • Why an attitude of SERVICE beats sales tactics in building a relationship
  • How to use listening to stand out

Friday, October 9, 2015

Create a Coaching Culture and Reinforce Training with Support Coaches

After people have attended an outstanding training program, there’s often an afterglow of good feelings for the instruction they received. They’re eager and motivated to use what they learned. The assumption is that if the training is excellent, and the learners buy into the content, they’ll apply the skills back on the job.

But this isn’t what really happens. 

All too often people revert back to what they’ve always done. After years of doing things the old way, their brains are literally wired for that behavior, while the new skills haven’t yet had a chance to do that. So even though learners agreed with the new way, in the busy workplace they failed to make a conscious, consistent effort to apply it and the old work habits kicked in. The skills they learned about didn’t “stick.” This is why so many people get discouraged and give up trying, and the money invested in learning and development doesn’t transfer to improved performance on the job.

A recent conversation I had with an executive at a fast-growing start-up reveals why this happens. He told me that in his 34 years as a manager with a Fortune 500 company, there had never once been follow-up after the training programs he attended. He said that most of the training didn’t stick…with him or anyone else.

It takes lots of repetition to rewire the brain for a new skill, and a long-term reinforcement process is needed for people to accomplish this. Training is the essential first step, but it can only be the beginning. For quite a while afterwards, people will need reminders, encouragement, feedback and accountability so they continue to apply what they learned. In other words, they need COACHING.

Think about professional athletes in individual sports like golf and tennis. They continuously invest in coaches who show them ways to take their game to the next level. Then they apply what they learn over and over, getting feedback during practice and analyzing how to improve the next time. This ongoing process takes time, but with coaching it results in improved performance.

Coaching is also a key reason why 12-step programs and Weight Watchers have been so successful for decades. To achieve their goals, participants need to make changes to ingrained lifestyle habits. The support of a sponsor and other caring individuals helps them stay on track as they adopt new behavior patterns.

If it’s such a critical component in the formation of lasting, positive habits, why don’t more organizations make coaching an integral part of the learning experience?

Some companies do bring in external coaches for their executives, but it’s just not economically feasible to supply professional coaches for every person who attends training.

And it’s not necessary. What’s needed are a few people who care about the success of the learner and are willing to offer support coaching: reminding, giving feedback, encouraging, holding accountable. These are commonsense helping behaviors you’d want employees to use with each other anyway.

Who could play this kind of support coaching role? Coworkers. Colleagues. Other participants in feedback and learning programs. Course instructors. The person’s manager.

To make your training programs “stick,” consider how you could enlist support coaches for participants in your learning and development programs, so they get the follow-up they need to ingrain the new skills and improve their performance.

CLICK HERE to access 9 Support Coaching videos and an ebook as my gift to you. Learn how you can empower managers and employees alike to be support coaches and create a coaching culture in your organization.

Monday, September 21, 2015


Today I’m featuring a guest post from Henry Kimsey-House, co-author of a new, must-read book for every leader, Co-Active Leadership.

A few years ago, Karen and I went to a workshop down in Silicon Valley called “Slideology” put on by Duarte Creative Design. They have a simple and wonderful process for putting together a keynote presentation, or any other kind of presentation for that matter; it’s a compact “analog” system using sticky notes and story boards and it works pretty well at capturing and synthesizing your main ideas and mapping out your points and the emotional impacts you want to have.

I remember happily putting my post-its down in the boxes and building my story board up when it was time to break for lunch. Karen and I claimed a spot in the lunch area and settled down to our sandwich and chips when a guy came up to join us. He had hopped around Silicon Valley from tech giant to starting his own biz to tech giant to tech giant.

He asked us what we do and we told him we were into coaching, he asked “what like sports coaching?” and we steered him to the kind of coaching we do. We asked him what he does and he said he was a “strategist” for the company that he works in and that he was here to beef up his presentations and to make them more interesting and, dare I say it, entertaining. The more we talked the more interested he became in coaching and leadership and the more I began to muse on “Strategist”.

I started to realize that strategists and strategies fit into the same category that economists and economies fit into and that often things like budgets and plans fit into. They are all Fiction. I started to giggle a bit inside as I really started to realize that these folks who do these very “serious and real” things are really working from the same imagination that I work from when I create a design for a workshop or write a story or act in a play. They are imagining the future and putting it into graphs and charts and spreadsheets that look like they are real and that can create hope or despair, risk or safety, excitement or boredom depending on the strategy.

So if I am creating a strategy, which I am going to do later today, I must consider the following:

  • Who am I taking care of and what do I want people to think and feel now and when I reach the endgame? 
  • Do I try to do a “realistic” strategy or do I work on a “jump off the cliff” strategy? 
  • Do I go for a “simple” strategy or a “complex” one? 
  • What are the emotional elements that I am seeking when I create a strategy? 
  • Am I looking for elements that please me or others in the present or are they ones that I think will work in the future? Or somehow both? 
  • Am I looking for the strategy that will be “the easiest” for everyone concerned or am I looking for a strategy that my creative artist thinks is most likely to produce the desired impact and damn the costs and complexities? 

So many possibilities, all fiction, all completely made up and imagined.

We need to keep writing the story. We need to keep creating our universe AND we need to know that while we are busy making things up, making plans, creating strategies, developing budgets and economies, that the universe has its own story that it is making up too and that is going to guarantee many surprises to the story we are writing.

There will be many interesting twists and turns in the road that we made up being straight. We have to dance down that twisty road writing the new story as we dance and jump.

Henry Kimsey-House is the co-author of Co-Active Leadership and Co-Active Coaching. He is the co-founder of the Coaches Training Institute (CTI) where he currently serves as Lead Designer. Learn more about Henry's work or connect with him on Twitter: @henrykh

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Money: Do You Take It Too Seriously?

Steve Chandler’s Wealth Warrior has had a more profound impact on my attitude about money than anything else I’ve ever read.

I’ve now studied 7 of Steve’s books. They’re quick, easy reads because he uses a conversational style, and the chapters are short. But don’t be deceived by this simplicity. The points he makes are profound and potentially life-changing.

Steve tells stories about his own life that we can all relate to. He describes his flaws and perceived limitations so we can more easily recognize our own. He encourages us to challenge beliefs we cling to that have not served us – in fact, they’ve held us back.

His goal is to boldly serve those who follow his work. That means Steve’s not afraid to speak the truth, to rattle some cages. He wants to wake us up to what’s real, not our perception of what’s real. For example…

“A serious person is a wealth repellent.”

Wait, how can this be? Money is a very serious matter, right? If you don’t have enough of it, you can’t pay your bills. How can he possibly make this claim?

The incident he shared around this statement had a jarring effect on me. It opened my eyes for the first time in my life to the role that fun and playfulness can have when thinking about money.

Steve was about to enter a salary negotiation with his then-boss because he felt he was being paid far less than the value he was contributing to the company. He dreaded having the conversation because he was convinced the man was “an insecure, vicious miser” who would balk at his request. In his own mind, Steve felt justifiably worried about the man’s potential reaction.

Fortunately, he knew someone who understood the importance of having fun, a coach who did not see seriousness as a productive use of time or energy when it comes to producing wealth. Together they role-played exercises to prepare Steve for the meeting with his boss, and they were both laughing at the end of their time together. In fact, Steve reports that it was “one of the most fun encounters” in his life.

His dreaded meeting turned into a positive, friendly conversation where he received a very fair salary.

Steve felt the difference in his body and mind between having a serious attitude versus a playful attitude about money.

What about you? Is money a very somber subject for you?

Wealth Warrior is about so much more than getting past the fear and anxiety many of us have around money. Study and apply Steve Chandler’s insights, and you’ll be astounded at the transformations you experience in your thoughts and in your life.

“Most of us imagine that money and love come from outside of us. But they absolutely do NOT. They come from inner wisdom and strength. Getting this wrong can cost us an entire life of happiness.” – Steve Chandler

Monday, July 13, 2015

Is Your Heart at Peace or at War with Others?

Do you have  an ongoing conflict with someone in your professional or personal life?

If the tension and differences have been going on for a while, you’ve probably made a substantial list of things about that person you’d like to change. Maybe it’s their attitude or their approach, or certain words and actions they use. If they would just start doing X or stop doing Y, then your life would be so much happier.

What if there were something YOU could do that would dramatically improve the situation?

A profound book, The Anatomy of Peace by The Arbinger Institute, has the potential for that kind of positive impact, if you’re willing to look within, recognize your role in the conflict and change your mindset.

This statement from the book summarizes one of the core concepts:
“No conflict can be solved so long as all parties are convinced they are right. Solution is possible only when at least one party begins to consider how he might be wrong…The deepest way in which we are right or wrong is in our way of being toward others.

Unlike many books about conflict that take a more academic, didactic approach, this one reads like an engaging novel, using fictitious characters in realistic situations to convey the key points and lessons. In this case, two facilitators at a treatment center lead a two-day workshop with parents whose teenage children have just been admitted.

Very likely, you’ll find it impossible to read this book without thinking about ways that you’ve contributed to difficult relationships you’ve had in your life - even if, up to this moment, you’ve held the firm belief that the other person was at fault.

You’ll learn about four common styles of justification—different types of “boxes” you can put yourself in when dealing with conflict. Within a given box, you have a particular set of feelings and a distinct way that you view Yourself, Others and the World.

For example, in the “Better-Than” box, you can feel impatient and disdainful as you view yourself as superior and virtuous while seeing others as inferior and irrelevant.

Each of the other boxes – I-Deserve, Need-to-Be-Seen-As, and Worse-Than – contain their own unique elements that prevent us from seeing the other as a person, where we care enough about them to want to help them succeed. Instead, we view them more as an object.

One of the facilitators relays a story about dropping some lettuce on the kitchen floor as he was making a sandwich. Instead of reaching down and picking it up, he kicked it under the counter with his toe. He later acknowledges that from his “Better-Than” box, he conveyed to his wife that he saw her “as just unimportant enough that she should be the one to have to worry about that kind of thing.”

He followed up with a question that all of us can consider when we commit our own version of this offense: “How would it be to live with someone who thought of you like that?”

Some of our behaviors are so ingrained – we are so firmly entrenched in our box – that we are blind to the impact that we have on others. The authors refer to this a having “a heart at war” where we feel the need to blame others (whether silently or verbally) while justifying our own attitudes and behaviors:
“When our hearts are at war, we tend to exaggerate others’ faults, that’s what we call horribilizing. We tend to exaggerate the differences between ourselves and those we are blaming…We also exaggerate the importance of anything that will justify us.”

The goal is to create a heart at peace, where we put a stop to violating our own sensibilities toward another person.

One of the best ways to make this shift and get outside the box is to invest time in answering a series of questions designed to help you relate differently to a specific person.

  • What are this person’s challenges, burdens and pains?
  • How am I adding to these?
  • In what other ways have I neglected or mistreated this person?
  • What could I do to HELP?

Answering these questions helps to break you free from your justifications and blame because you being to see the other as a person again.

And once you recognize what you need to do, then you have to take actions that build the relationship. It can take time to re-establish trust and respect. The effort will be worth it.

These same questions can be used to solve conflicts in larger groups – across families, communities and even nations.

If you’re interested in building the strongest relationships possible with the people who matter to you, read and apply the powerful wisdom of this book.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Situational Leadership for Dummies

Today I'm featuring a guest post by Henna Inam, a colleague whose outstanding new book, Wired for Authenticity, is a must-read for leaders.

This past Sunday I got to spend a few hours as a “dumb blonde." It taught me some great lessons about authentic leadership. As an executive coach, I often work with clients to expand their leadership behaviors. As leaders we often get stuck within a narrow range of leadership behaviors. This can derail us because different situations call for different leadership behaviors.

You are naturally decisive and move fast but a business challenge you face requires you to slow down and build alignment. Or you are naturally good at collaborating with others but a business situation requires you to take a hard, unpopular stand. The most authentic leaders have access to a wide range of leadership behaviors because they have embraced all of who they are.  

Here’s what embracing my inner “dumb blonde” taught me about situational leadership and being more authentic as a leader.

The Dumb Blonde Experiment

This experiment was for a class I was taking to deepen my executive coaching skills. Each member of the class got assigned the task to play the opposite of their usual persona (how we show up in front of others). My classmates identified my persona as smart, driven, focused, efficient, and articulate. So I got assigned the task of being a “dumb blonde” (no offense intended for any blondes reading this).

Now, you’d think that for someone who had a 4.0 GPA in college and spent Saturday nights at the library with my “Principles of Corporate Finance” book, playing dumb blonde would be really tough. Not so. Being a dumb blonde significantly improved my ability to be a better executive coach.

Here’s how it worked. In the role-play, being a dumb blonde as a coach meant that:
  • I didn’t have to have all the answers. It created a great space for my clients to step up and have the answers.
  • I asked simple questions: “Wow, I don’t understand. Can you like say more?” This allowed for introspection from the client.
  • I gave up my own focus on getting the coaching objectives met and let the client drive according to their agenda. It created stronger accountability from the client.
  • I had more fun (I guess it’s true what they say about blondes having more fun!). I didn’t have to be so responsible. There was more laughing and relaxing and that is when creativity emerged. The client had more fun. Really!

The Big Surprise

The big surprise for me was that I didn’t have to take a class, read a book, or practice hours of new behaviors. I just had to step into my own inner dumb blonde.

You see, we have all kinds of skills and behaviors in our arsenal. We mostly don’t access them because we have a fixed identity (or persona) for ourselves in our mind. We are capable of so much more when we give ourselves permission to be someone different – perhaps a part of ourselves that we have written off or disliked for a long time. The right behaviors just emerge.

Three Steps to Practice This

So how do we as leaders access more of the parts of ourselves that we need to develop?

Step 1: Identify a specific work situation where you are stuck or not being as effective as you would like. Our natural instincts when we are faced with something that’s not working is to do more of what we’re already doing – instead of stepping back to do something different.

Step 2: Step back and evaluate your behaviors. Pick the behaviors you need to practice more of. For example:
  • If you need to be more assertive, find your inner Donald Trump.
  • If you need to be more compassionate, find your inner Mother Theresa.
  • If you need to be more daring, embrace your inner James Bond 007.
  • If you want to learn to put yourself first, find your inner “Diva”.
  • If you need to be more flexible, find your inner “beach bum”.
  • If you need to be more of a rebel, find your inner twerking Miley Cyrus.

Step 3: Practice a role play with a friend. Have fun with it.

It’s amazing what we learn about ourselves when we give ourselves permission to be a different character. For one, I discovered that the world didn’t end when I wasn’t in control. Imagine that! The exercise expanded the range of how I coach. It doesn’t mean that I am any less smart, committed and responsible. It just means that I don’t have to be that. I am more at choice.

Practicing behaviors we need “more of” help them be more accessible to us in business situations. As we embrace the parts of ourselves we have written off, we discover our true authenticity and inner power.

Henna Inam is the CEO of Transformational Leadership Inc., and author of Wired for Authenticity - now available on Amazon. Learn more about her work at or connect with her on Twitter @hennainam.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Are You a Time Warrior?

 “The best futures get created in the present moment.”
– Steve Chandler in Time Warrior

I just finished reading the last “time management” book I’ll ever need.

Actually, referring to Time Warrior by Steve Chandler as that kind of book is a misnomer. Because it’s so much more.

Chandler nails the culprits that prevent us from getting the most from each day, such as:

  • A need to please and be liked by others 
  • Self-doubts about our ability to get organized or accomplish our goals
  • Wrong-headed belief that procrastination is a permanent character defect
  • Lack of a strong purpose or mission
  • Failure to simply get started on the first step of a project

The solutions Chandler outlines are simple yet brilliant, and they’re EASY to implement. A few examples…


Chandler challenges the reader to consider that poor time management is always a problem of belief.  What thought are you believing about a specific task or project that makes you unwilling to even start?

If you’re not open to challenging the assumptions and beliefs you carry around, you’re more likely to continue suffering from procrastination. Unexamined self-doubt and fears can paralyze your mind and body.


We know it’s important to give our full attention to the task at hand, without interruptions or distractions. But I tend to think I need to move fast or speed up to get more done. Chandler advises relaxing and slowing down.

He illustrates with a powerful story of a coaching client who booked a $3,000 speech with a company and then started rushing around looking for new business in other organizations. Steve encouraged him to slow down and think about this one company, to consider other ways he could be of service. The man set up meetings with other executives in the organization and asked questions that uncovered additional needs. As a result of these interactions, he expanded his work to a full year with twenty times the original income. Just by slowing down and taking time to focus on this one client.

Also, achieving focus in your work requires boldness. You have to be willing to say “no” to anything that interferes with the objectives you've identified.


Chandler stresses that action is always the answer. And he makes it easy to get started by encouraging you to devote just three minutes to your task. This prevents you from finding reasons to put it off.

The more things you complete, the more energy you have. Procrastination drains your energy – you’re preoccupied with thinking instead of doing. You’re worrying and experiencing negative feelings related to the thing you don’t want to do. If you just jump in and finish one piece, your energy shifts.

Keep it creative and simple by asking, whenever you feel stuck: What needs to be done now in these three minutes?


You only have NOW. Fear comes from living in the future in your mind.

Steve Chandler has often found that his clients’ greatest opportunities are right in front of them…in the very next conversation they’re about to have. But they will miss seeing it, much less take advantage of it, if they’re preoccupied pursuing their “better future.”

You can start fresh every day, creating the future you want now and commit to living it today.

Eliminate overwhelm by thinking about just the one thing you are working on at this moment.

“A time warrior is a peaceful warrior still. Peacefully taking a sword to all those negative, frightening, depressing thoughts that are automatically believed…so that a great, timeless active day can be created.” 
– Steve Chandler

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Are You Leading with GRIT?

No, I’m not talking about the determination and resolve you need when taking on a challenging project or trying to tough it out through a difficult time. That kind of grit is certainly required for anyone to succeed in life.

I’m referring to the acronym that Laurie Sudbrink created in her terrific book, Leading with GRIT. In this context, GRIT® stands for the four elements leading the way to success…Generosity, Respect, Integrity and Truth.

Laurie’s consulting work with clients has been influenced by Don Miguel Ruiz, author of The Four Agreements, which I summarized in an earlier post. In her book, she masterfully incorporates his teachings into her message, infusing them with her own style and adding her unique insights and applications.

As I read each chapter, I found myself nodding in agreement with the points Laurie made. Her style is conversational and engaging, so I was drawn in. I thought about how each of the four elements applied to me. For example, the chapter on Integrity helped me recognize ways that I get out of integrity with myself, when my actions are not aligned with my stated values or goals.

I love gaining a deeper understanding of my motivations, attitudes and beliefs. Laurie helped me do that through her stories, questions and models.

Laurie’s models were depicted with easy-to-understand diagrams. She reinforced them throughout the book, showing how to apply them in specific situations. This was very effective and prevented them from being vague concepts or principles.

For example…

The Accountability Ladder makes it easy to see if your attitudes and behavior fall into the bottom rungs of a “reactive, victim, powerless” mode or the top rungs where you are “proactive, responsible, and powerful.”

Also, at the end of each chapter, readers are asked: “What SHIFT will you make?” 
S – Scan the chapter for topics you resonate with.
H – Hone in on just one or two with the greatest potential for impact.
I – Imagine the positive impact.
F – Figure out your plan for staying on track.
T – Take action NOW.

Answering these questions is a valuable exercise for any book, article, video or podcast you’re consuming. How will you actually apply the ideas you’re acquiring? Knowledge alone is just the first step.

This book is not just for people in official leadership positions. It’s a great read for anyone who’s willing to take an honest look within and learn more effective ways to identify and align with your truth so you can act with integrity, show respect to others and adopt an attitude of generosity with everyone you encounter in life or at work.

“When we align to our truth, we are more confident in ourselves, our decisions, and the results. We have clarity and direction. We are more efficient in the things we do. We decide and act, without wasting time wondering or even regretting after we’ve made the decision.” – Laurie Sudbrink

Thursday, April 2, 2015

How to Help Everyone in an Organization Become a Coach

When I got my first job as a supervisor, I was given no training on how to be an effective leader. I made a lot of mistakes. And I had absolutely no idea how to coach my direct reports on to improve their performance.

Unfortunately, what I experienced is not uncommon.

Companies often invest huge amounts of money and time training managers on the technical aspects of their job yet don’t make a similar investment teaching them how to lead and coach others.

As I read Thomas G. Crane’s excellent book, The Heart of Coaching, I got to thinking about how many folks (including me back then) could benefit from having a solid process to follow.

Tom Crane has written a comprehensive guide that has the potential to transform any company into one with a widespread “coaching culture,” where everyone in the organization is empowered with the skills and tools to provide coaching to each other.

Sound too good to be true?

It’s not, if you follow Tom’s simple three-phase model:

Phase 1 – The Foundation, where you establish a strong, positive relationship that serves as the basis for coaching.

Phase 2 – Feedback Loop, where you learn how to share behavior-based feedback and engage in a genuine dialogue.

Phase 3 - Forwarding-the-Action, where you create positive momentum and a sustained commitment to change.

One of the things I value most about the way Tom covers each of these phases is the clear picture he paints about HOW to perform the various coaching skills. He emphasizes many that I've come to realize are critical to building trust and establishing a positive coaching relationship, such as:

Listening, giving the person your full attention and demonstrating that you’re actually “getting” the message.

Asking open-ended questions, to avoid telling or giving advice and to learn more about the situation and the person’s current thinking.

Engaging in dialogue, to understand a person’s perspective in an effort to appreciate what’s important to that individual.

Giving constructive feedback, making sure it’s balanced, fair, respectful and behavior-based.

This book is an important read for internal coaches and coaches alike, so both groups understand what to expect and how to make the most of the coaching relationship. In addition to the model, Tom provides a wealth of tips and insights that ensure smooth implementation.

If you study and follow the profound wisdom of this model, you can help your company experience the kind of coaching culture where everyone engages in respectful coaching conversations that lead to better relationships, improved performance, and a place where people actually look forward to coming to work.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Tim Duncan and The Importance of Servant Leadership

Today I'm featuring a guest blog post by Quinn McDowell, a colleague whose passion for developing strong leaders, parents and young people matches my own.

Tim Duncan will go down as one of the 10 greatest NBA players of all time. He was a three-time NCAA Collegiate All American and Naismith Player of the Year at Wake Forest and then went on to become the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft. Over the course of his 17-year NBA career, he has been selected to the All-Defensive Team 14 times and the All-NBA Team 14 times. Three times, he was awarded the NBA Finals MVP and twice the NBA Regular Season MVP.

Yet, for all his accomplishments, the lasting mark of his incredible 17-year NBA career will be his unique approach to leadership. Duncan’s decision to approach his leadership role with a servant’s mindset has played a huge role in the Spurs’ extended run of success. There are several key characteristics of servant leaders that raise the level of our teams and organizations.

Servant Leaders Are Flexible

Flexibility in a team context means that one person (player, coach, or parent) does not hold the organization hostage to their personal demands. Duncan could have easily vetoed trades for more talented players or demanded the Spurs play a certain style that was tailored to his preferences.

Instead, flexible leaders are able to objectively assess a situation and determine what is best for the entire group, not just their own well-being. Practically speaking, this could mean having to give up scoring a ton of points, sharing the spotlight with other talented players or being willing to admit that someone else might be able to provide a benefit for the team that you’re incapable of.

Servant Leaders Are Not Threatened by Others

To go back to the example of Tim Duncan and the Spurs, Duncan could have felt threatened by the arrival of Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli. He could have given into the urge to hold onto his power and declare that the Spurs were “his team” and no one else’s (and by all accounts he had every right to feel that way).

Instead, he gave away his power, which allowed Parker and Ginobli to realize their potential on the court. This is one huge reason why the Spurs have been difficult to beat for the last decade. The team is stronger than any individual, and even the great Michael Jordan didn’t win any championships until he figured this out.

Success on the basketball floor is dependent on a team of individuals learning to become a cohesive unit. This cohesion is only possible when everyone feels support from their teammates. If Manu and Parker never felt that Duncan wanted them to become great, their growth as players would have been stunted.

Servant Leaders Understand Their Value

From an outside perspective it might seem that by taking this approach servant leaders are working against themselves by lessening their influence or power within a team.

In reality, just the opposite is happening. The more leaders can empower others, the more invaluable they become. Your value as a leader is directly tied to how well you can help others raise their level of performance. The truly indispensable leaders on any team are the ones that give away their power, influence, and personal prestige for the good of the team. Those kinds of leaders are rare, but those kinds of leaders make a difference, and those kind of leaders become truly irreplaceable.

Quinn McDowell is a writer, trainer and professional athlete. He has played in the NBA D-League, Australia and Spain, following his four-year career at the College of William and Mary. He is the founder of and desires to see coaches and players succeed with excellence. He currently resides in Palencia, Spain, with his wife Lindsey.