Thursday, May 26, 2016

How I Recently Overcame the Need for Perfection

In his LinkedIn Riches course (which I highly recommend), John Nemo suggests you create a head-shot “About Me” video introducing yourself and place it at the bottom of your LinkedIn Summary section. It’s a terrific way for people to get to know you better because they can watch you describe the type of work you do, the audience you serve and what you offer.

When I heard about this idea, I thought it would be fairly straightforward. Boy, was I wrong!

I wholeheartedly agreed with his recommendation but kept putting it off. I had all kinds of excuses…It would be a hassle to set up the lighting, microphone and camera…I wasn’t sure what kind of message would resonate with my current and potential connections…I was concerned about how I’d come across.

All that thinking boils down to fear that the video (and therefore, I) would fall short of the ideal. Of course, this “ideal” was something that I had conjured up in my head and did not exist in reality.

My procrastination was a form of PERFECTIONISM.

For me perfectionism means having ridiculously high standards and being afraid to take action due to a fear of failure or criticism from others.

I realized that I was holding myself to standards that I would never think to impose on anyone else.

I finally took the plunge and made the commitment to get the video done immediately.

I like planning and structure, so I drafted a script that would serve as my guide. Unfortunately, I did not USE it as a guide. I actually tried to memorize the whole thing and practiced it numerous times to get the words and tone right. Not a good idea!


I enlisted my husband Lee to set up the lighting and use his camera to record the video. He is a mechanical genius, so that was smart teamwork.

When I did earlier headshot videos a few years ago, I recorded them by myself. I didn’t anticipate how self-conscious I’d feel with Lee standing behind the camera. I got distracted by thoughts of him evaluating me as I spoke (totally unfounded since I know how much he loves me) and forgot what I wanted to say next, so I had to stop and restart several times.

Another reason I stumbled over my lines was due to trying to recall and repeat the script verbatim instead of speaking from the heart.

Then we ran into technical challenges with the camera. No problem. Lee has a second one. Ha! We had issues with that one, too. That meant stopping so he could investigate the problems.

By the time he was ready, we were both mentally tired and decided to postpone the shoot until the next day.

Day 2 – SUCCESS!

The next morning I got up early so I could process the events of the previous day and figure out how to ensure a smooth recording this time.

Thinking and reflecting worked.

I had 3 insights that gave me just what I needed.

1. I realized I was taking this project WAY too seriously!

That was a huge ah-ha. When we’re in the middle of something we’ve deemed important, we tend to take ourselves very seriously – and expect the same from others.

I committed to having FUN so I could enjoy the preparation and recording process.

Big thanks to Jason Goldberg and Steve Chandler for their inspiration to take a more playful approach to everything in life with their writings and The-Not-So-Serious Life Web TV show!

2. I took a few minutes to visualize myself being relaxed and confident in my delivery.

I knew what I wanted to communicate. I just needed to calm down and remember that I was connecting with one person at a time, just like in a 1-1 conversation.

3. I gave up memorizing the script and simply outlined the key points I wanted to make.

This approach allowed me to focus on the natural flow of my words and allowed me to speak more smoothly.

I’m happy to report that I was able to record the video in the FIRST take that morning.

It’s now in my Summary section, and I’ve included it below in case you’d like to see how it turned out (3:19 minutes).

Leave a comment and let me know if you’ve ever had a project that you took too seriously and what you did to get past your fears to complete it.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

3 Ways to Keep Clients for DECADES

Success in business depends on getting new customers. That’s obvious. But what’s not so obvious is what it takes to create relationships that are so strong your clients want to continue working with you for years

What if you delivered such profound service to your clients that one of them said something like this?

I received this testimonial from one of our resellers more than 10 years ago, and I cherish it to this day. In fact, we still work with Bud, and he continues to sing our praises to others.

We’re not perfect, of course. Even though I have emails, cards and messages from other clients who’ve worked with us for 20+ years, we don’t get it right 100% of the time.

But there are a few things we’ve done very well.

At the core…These actions are more about your way of BEING with people, not implementing a set of tactics. The common theme is SERVICE.

1. Make your initial conversations about the other person.

Whether it’s a phone call, Skype call or in-person meeting, prepare by asking yourself this question:

When you’re centered on that question, you’ll be able to feel relaxed and calm during the conversation. You won’t be waiting for your turn to speak so you can launch into the benefits of your product or service.

There won’t be any pressure on you to perform a certain way…or on the other person to buy something.

The purpose is NOT: How can I make a positive IMPRESSION?

Instead, it’s:
What can I CONTRIBUTE that would have a positive IMPACT?
How can I help them achieve a real BREAKTHROUGH in their thinking or their results?

After that initial conversation, find reasons to stay in touch and continue serving them. As one of my favorite authors, Steve Chandler likes to say, look for ways to ASTONISH them.

  • Recommend a book or podcast that helps them solve a problem. 
  • Introduce them to someone who can help them reach their goals. 
  • Send unexpected gifts or hand-written notes and cards. 

Take this approach and you will stand out. You’ll be memorable.

2. After they buy, make them feel valued – THANK and ASK.

Even though this happened several years ago, I’ll never forget the day I decided to invest in Ari Galper’s Unlock the Game sales course. Within 10 minutes of my clicking the Buy button on his website, my phone rang. It was Ari, calling to thank me for purchasing his course and assure me that I’d made a wise investment.

I’ve followed Ari’s model with our own clients, with great results. When people buy software, they’re often concerned that they’ll have challenges learning to use the product or will have trouble reaching a knowledgeable, responsive person when they need technical support.

Right after someone orders our software, I call and thank them for choosing us. And I promise them that we’re here to make sure they have a FANTASTIC experience using our program and working with us. That sets a positive tone right from the start.

As they use your product or service, be sure to ASK for their feedback and ideas – in a phone call or survey - to find out how you’re doing and get the information you need to make positive changes.

Here are 3 simple questions:

  1. What do you like best about doing business with us?
  2. What do you NOT like about doing business with us? 
  3. What ONE THING could we do differently that would improve your experience with us?

You’ll be amazed what you learn that can help you deliver better service to all your clients.

3. Be clear about your core values, and live them.

Your values are the principles or beliefs that drive everything.

Ask yourself.
What do we stand for?
What guides our decisions and behavior?
What do we want to be known for?

An even more powerful question that goes to the heart of relationship-building:

“How will our customers feel about themselves because of the way we treat them?”

Here are some of the principles that have guided our decisions and our actions for more than 30 years. These are also words our clients use when they send us unsolicited feedback.

Trust – Tell the truth about what is/is not possible with our software.

Integrity – Do what we say we’ll do and we follow through on commitments.

Fairness – Make decisions with the long-term view in mind, looking at what’s best for all involved. If in doubt, err on the side of making the client delighted with the outcome.

Responsive – Respond to phone calls and emails promptly. Resolve issues quickly.

Responsible – Readily acknowledge when we make mistakes, apologize and do everything we can to make it right. No excuses.

Flexible – Make exceptions or try something new to meet the needs of a specific client. We’re not bound by rigid rules or a bureaucracy.

Think of the clarity you’ll have when you create your own list of the values you want everyone in your company to adopt and live by.

Want more ideas?

Listen to this replay of my interview with Denise Griffitts on her radio show, “Your Partner In Success,” where she and I had discussed this same topic for a full hour!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Are You Disengaged at Work? Ruth Ross Has Answers

Every now and then, I read a book that’s so potent I’d like to get it in the hands of everyone in the workplace. Coming Alive: The Journey to Reengage Your Life and Career by Ruth Ross is such a book.

Her message is so valuable to executives, managers and employees alike that I wish all three groups would be required to read it and discuss how they’ll implement the ideas presented.

As a senior Human Resources Executive in several Fortune 500 companies during her career, Ruth Ross witnessed the entire continuum from extreme disengagement to total engagement in the people she served. She also experienced both ends of the spectrum first-hand, as she often felt invisible and trapped, even though she held influential positions.

In 2011 Ruth left the corporate world to devote all her energies into being an “Engagement Evangelist” - speaking to organizations about the ideas presented in Coming Alive.

I wish I’d had this book in my years as an employee, when I experienced disengagement but didn’t realize what it was or how to work through the negative thoughts and feelings I experienced.

And I sure could have used it in my early days of managing other people. I did some things right, but I’d have been much more effective as a leader if I’d understood and implemented the kinds of actions Ruth recommends for keeping people committed and excited about their work.

What I value most about Ruth’s approach to engagement is its clarity and the ease with which anyone could start implementing her ideas, no matter what their position. First, she paints a clear picture of the distinctions between being engaged and disengaged – what each looks and feels like.

Readers can readily identify where they fall on the continuum by taking the Invisibility Index Tool included in the book (one for managers to assess engagement level of employees and the other for a person to self-assess).

She devotes separate chapters for managers and employees to identify steps they can take to re-engage. Her 5-step ALIVE Treatment Plan is brilliant in its simplicity. It resonated with me because I’m a firm believer in the importance of communication between leaders and those they serve.

Her chapter for employees also details specific actions they can take to re-engage at work AND at home. Throughout, her stories and examples of real people and companies bring to life the concepts and inspired me to ask, “How I can do THAT in my own company (or my own life)?”

If you’re experiencing disengagement on the job or know someone who is, I highly recommend getting this book, studying it, and applying the ideas. If you’re in a leadership position, buy a copy for yourself and everyone on your team. It could change your world.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Art of Asking Questions

Today I’m featuring a guest post from Guy Parsons and Allan Milham, co-authors of Out of the Question: How Curious Leaders Win, an important book for leaders who want to take their skills to a higher level. This article is an excerpt from Chapter 3.

We all know that communication is made up of the words we use, our tonality, and our body language. A big part of asking artful questions is to consider what is beyond the words.


As the saying goes, “It isn’t what you say, but how you say it.” This difference can make or break a conversation. The tone you want to strike is one that makes your audience feel you’re coming at the conversation from the same side of the desk. It’s a we orientation versus a me and a you. It’s a solution-based system versus a problem-based process. It’s inviting and non-threatening. People, particularly millennials, are listening for the invitation to be a part of the conversation. When you’re stressed, the right words might come out, but the invitation should be, for example, “What do you think we can do to get from here to there?” You should avoid, “What are you young to do to get this done?”


Years ago, Allan worked for TMI North American, an international consulting firm focused on creating compelling service cultures. One of the examples in their service program described how a shift of inflection or an emphasis on one word in a sentence can totally change the context. Often, the quality of the inflection in our tone of voice has a significant impact on the listener.

Body Language

What your body is saying may or may not be in line with your words. Staying calm and keeping eye contact will help you invite people into the conversation. Otherwise, people sense a disconnection. This is elementary to the human condition. When someone looks at you the wrong way, you think, “Gosh, what did I do?”
Obviously, fists on tables indicate declarations even if there are questions being asked. But turned-up and outstretched palms – either one or both – invite people into the discussion. An arm waved in a soft, open arc indicates, “I’m with you and we’re exploring.” Arms that are held in, or even worse, folded, indicate the speaker is closed. Some people are born frowners; others are natural smilers. We all need to take responsibility for how we posture when we’re in this kind of situation.


The context is about what’s happening right here and now; it’s also about putting yourself in other people’s shoes and understanding how they’re affecting by what’s happening. You can ask a question, and it will mean one thing in an environment where things are going well, and something else entirely if things have gone poorly. This difference has to do with your audience’s frame of mind. Are your listeners in a positive mode or a worried mode? Obviously, asking, “How are things going?’ to a group of people who just experienced a 20% layoff is quite different from presenting the same question to a group who just exceeded its sales goals for the quarter.

This arena is where empathy, trust, and intent become important. If a leader can be empathetic, that will come across positively. On the other hand, if the person you’re talking to doesn’t trust you, it’s very hard to get the conversation going in the right direction. Many professional coaches suggest starting off a conversation by assuming positive intent. If you come in with positive intentions, the conversation will move ahead very differently and much more rapidly than if you assume negative intent.

Do you naturally assume positive or negative intent when you approach a situation?

Guy Parsons is the Founder and Managing Principal of Value Stream Solutions (VSS).  

Allan Milham’s work as a professional leadership and performance coach over the past 16 years has centered on using powerful questions. For Guy, 20+ years of delights and frustrations consulting with firms attempting to make operational and cultural transformations sparked an evolution in his relationship with his professional coach, Allan, and was the inspiration for Out of the Question: How Curious Leaders Win. Their book has sparked a new mindset and a practical approach to thriving in the competitive and evolving landscape that today’s leaders face.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Two Things the Most Effective Leaders Do

Have you ever had a boss who asked you such a profound question that it stopped you in your tracks and caused you to think differently about who you are and what you’re doing?

I have.

But unfortunately, there are very few leaders who have this kind of impact. Most are eager to dispense advice and offer solutions instead of ask questions that cause others to think through a problem and come up with their own answer.

In their outstanding book, Out of the Question, authors Guy Parsons and Allan Milham make the distinction between KNOWER leaders and LEARNER leaders.

I love those terms because they accurately describe two very different styles of leadership.

Leaders who come from a Knower position feel the need to have all the answers and be perceived as the expert. Their egos are front and center because they’re concerned about being right. As a result, they’re often closed to new ideas and feel threatened by alternative explanations or solutions.

In contrast, Learner leaders don’t pretend to have all the answers. They recognize that others have important insights and experiences to contribute, so these leaders ask questions from a place of humility that encourage openness and sharing. They have genuine curiosity and are eager to solicit input that builds a solution much greater than just one person’s thinking.

This seems like common sense, but if you were to follow around managers in a lot of workplaces, you’re likely to observe a lot more controlled, closed discussions than those that invite opinions and ideas.

QUESTIONS are the first key!

Questions can encourage others to participate or shut them down.

Questions can build engagement, commitment and momentum or deflate the most enthusiastic employee.

And it’s not just the words you say, it’s how you say them that elicits a positive or negative reaction from those you’re interacting with.

Whether you’re at work or at home, the questions you ask as a LEARNER communicate to others that you really want to hear what they have to say. The positive result is that they feel valued and appreciated. They’re more likely to feel safe in being honest, especially when they disagree with you or want to express concerns.

PAUSING is the second key!  

After someone approaches you…or after they’ve responded to a question…don’t be in a hurry to jump in. Be comfortable with giving them time and space to THINK.

They may need to process information they’ve just heard. And not everyone is quick to articulate their ideas. Their brains may be busy evaluating alternatives and pondering consequences.

Also, apply the PAUSE to your own response to a situation. Reacting instantly does not always lead to a positive result. Thinking about how you can create instead of react leads to a better, more thoughtful response.

Observe people interacting, and you’ll see that most people seem to have a low tolerance for silence. If there’s a slight pause in the conversation, they jump in to fill the space. And yet, these silences can be powerful for both parties.

If you’re interested in taking your leadership skills to a higher level, read this thought-provoking book and commit to being a LEARNER leader who makes excellent use of QUESTIONS and PAUSES.

“Ask yourself how often, when things don’t go according to plan, you pause to reflect and learn before charging forward.” - Guy Parsons and Allan Milham in Out of the Question

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

What It Takes to Create a 25-Year Business Partnership

Sometimes it’s hard for me to believe that I’ve had the same business partners - Denny Coates and Paula Schlauch - for more than 25 years.

But it’s true.

Meredith, Denny, Paula
Back in 1990, Denny and I started collaborating on consulting projects got clients around the topics of leadership development and teambuilding. As we worked together, we realized we had compatible values and goals. Paula joined us as VP of business operations, and we’ve been a tight team ever since.

But it didn’t just happen.

In fact, it seems that the kind of relationship we’ve built over the years is quite rare.

Recently I was talking with a friend who’d been burned by a new business partner. They’d started their company together, but just as positive momentum was building, the other guy decided to leave. No advance warning. No consideration for the impact his actions would have on my friend.

It got me to thinking how fortunate I am. The trust, mutual respect and love that Denny, Paula and I have developed over the years may not be unique, but it’s certainly not typical of business partnerships.

We’re each quite different, so we bring our own set of gifts and talents to the table. Over the years, we’ve come to appreciate and value these individual strengths. But for many, differences in style, approach and personality become sources of irritation…or worse.

It’s very easy to get annoyed, frustrated or even angry when the other person not only has a different point of view but openly opposes one of your ideas.

The three of us don’t always agree. In fact, we’ve had some very strong disagreements over the years.

But a key reason we’ve grown stronger as a team is because we’ve developed the communication skills to talk through those challenging moments.

Sometimes we have to remind each other to use the skills, but that’s OK. It’s part of the open, honest, direct approach to interacting that’s necessary to build relationships that last.

Which communication skills matter most for business partnerships to work?

These five are among the key skills we’ve applied on a regular basis with each other (as well as with other team members, our clients and our vendors). Denny and I used to teach these skills when we conducted training programs for our clients. We’ve spent a quarter of a century mastering them!

This is at the core of all other communication skills. Yet so few of us do it well. We’re eager to tell our own story, share our opinion or repeat a point we’ve already made.

Effective listening requires us to focus on what the other person is saying or not saying, pay attention to body language and other non-verbals, and make a concerted effort to “get” the message. It’s not easy, but it goes a long way towards building trust, commitment and mutual respect.

Are you willing to keep an open mind so you can understand the other person’s perspective? That’s what dialogue requires. We want to find out not just what they think about a topic or situation, but why they hold that opinion. And when both parties feel the freedom to do this, we learn from each other and often expand our own thinking.

It’s not always easy to be direct with someone about behaviors that are causing you problems. But if you come from a position of caring, open-mindedness, and respect, you’re more likely to convey the facts in a non-judgmental manner that opens a conversation.

And it’s natural to get defensive when you hear that you’re the one who’s created issues for others. Remember, it took courage for them to talk to you about your behavior. A calm, open attitude - where you invite them to tell you more - encourages a frank discussion about what’s happened and what you can do differently going forward.

When you and another person want opposing things – whether at home or at work – a serious conflict can arise. Now is the time to engage listening and creative thinking. Explore what each party wants or needs. Then brainstorm ways you can achieve those needs. Be willing to consider what would represent a “win” for everyone.

Now, these five skills don’t appear overnight. Just like a professional athlete, we have to PRACTICE often and have a COACH to encourage us and help us make corrections so we perform the skill better next time.

That’s what Denny, Paula and I have done with each other. And it’s worked for 25 years. Like a good marriage, we’ve gotten better with time.

Want to strengthen the important relationships in your business or personal life? And at the same time, support others who want to work on their own communication skills?

Check out this free series of 9 videos and an ebook that show you how

If you'll apply what you learn in these resources, I can promise that you'll have a better experience when you interact with others.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Just Hit Send – A Call to Action and Transformation

I have never read a book like Jody Vehr's before.

Just Hit Send has a riveting story line and reads like one of those novels you can’t put down.

But it’s so much more.

Jody's writing style immediately captured my mind, heart and spirit…and held me captive throughout the entire book. This is the true story of a woman who faced incredible challenges and prevailed despite her raging inner critic and ongoing self-doubts.

It’s also a beautiful love story, showing how strong and emotionally healthy a union can be when both people work on their own growth in advance of meeting each other.

I loved Jody’s willingness to be vulnerable with the reader. She doesn’t hesitate to describe her dismay, shock, and angst as she reveals the details of her life’s journey. I could identify with many of her limiting thoughts and false beliefs. I believe they are universal, but I’d never before experienced anyone capturing them in such an emotionally compelling way.

I’m a huge fan of Steve Hardison’s work (his 2-hour video on is profound) and Steve Chandler’s books (including the one she references in her book, Time Warrior), so it was an unexpected bonus to discover the ways each of these coaches contributed to her transformation. In fact, Jody’s retelling of her phone conversations with Steve Hardison is worth the price of the book alone because he demonstrates love and service in action.

This is a wonderfully written book that has deeply touched my life and forever changed how I see myself and the world. If you’re seeking a spiritual transformation in your own life, I highly recommend you grab a copy of this book, absorb the wisdom in its pages and start living anew.

This sentence from the book describes what happened for me:

“Whatever we find beautiful, inspiring and magnificent in another human being is simply our own soul saying hello to itself.”

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