Uncovering the real reason behind coachee behaviour…how critical is it?

Only when you understand what drives a person’s behaviour can you truly coach them effectively.  Sometimes the results might astound you…

images (5)Mrs. W. is a delightful 80 year old woman who sees me dutifully every month for blood pressure monitoring. Every consultation has followed the same pattern: her readings are a bit high; I give health education on the benefits of lowering her blood pressure; she responds about the side effects she has experienced with the various antihypertensives we’ve tried; we hope that this new one will not cause any unwanted side effects and she leaves with a green prescription.

On this occasion though, the consultation goes differently. Mrs. W. returns informing me that she had stopped amlodipine after a week because she “just didn’t feel right” on it. This is a pattern for her. This time I decide to try a different line of questioning using some health coaching techniques and ask her to rate on a scale of 1-10 how important controlling her blood pressure is to her. After a pause she replies   “Well, zero doctor, but I know it is important to you and I like coming so…” By using a different approach Mrs. W.’s own opinion is finally revealed.

We discuss the risks of not taking antihypertensives; a potential stroke sooner in life or a heart attack. Despite this Mrs. W. says that she is in her eighties, has had a great life, and would rather not take them due to side effects. I believe she has capacity to make this decision, and we agree to stop them. I feel QOF points slipping away but reflect that the savings in the pharmacy budget will in all likelihood make up for this when looking at the bigger picture. We arrange a review in a month to see how things are going. She leaves without a green piece of paper whilst I have a better understanding of her real opinion.

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As a coach how do you show genuine appreciation?

If you use the sandwich approach to give feedback, the receiver recognizes the technique after a point. Genuine appreciation from the heart is the biggest boost you can give anyone. The challenge lies therein: all of us recognize the difference between mere lip service and genuine appreciation.

images (2)In the early 1930s, Mischa Borodkin was already an established symphony violinist when he decided to study conducting under the foremost teacher of conducting in the world, Felix Weingartner. Screwing up his courage, he journeyed to Switzerland during the symphonic off-season and presented himself to Maestro Weingartner.

“Maestro, I’m not sure I belong here. Everyone else seems to have studied conducting already. I have not.”

Weingartner looked at this student who, at age thirty, had already played in the New York Philharmonic for twelve years. “Very well, you will conduct first. Prepare a piece for tomorrow, and we’ll see if you belong here.”

Late into the night, Mischa prepared his first work to conduct.

The next morning, as the last note of Beethoven’s Coriolanus Overture dies out, Mischa looked anxiously at the conductor. Weingartner spoke the single most important word a teacher can say: “Stay!”

At the end of the summer course, Weingartner bid goodbye to Mischa with a memorable sentence of encouragement: “Write to me of your success in America!”

Weingartner did not say, “You are a great conductor,” nor even, “You have made great progress.” He did not evaluate Mischa at all. His gift of a single sentence was much greater, because this appreciation told Mischa that Weingartner believed in him.

Of all his stories from his nearly fifty-year musical career, Mischa told this one with the greatest sense of pride.

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Advance business communication: a success story

This month we completed a pilot program on Advanced Business Communication for a global investment bank. The target audience was the AVP and VP population. It was a 6 session intervention spread over 3 months. Based on the feedback that was received for the program, we are set to roll this out as an organization wide initiative for all the executives that fall into band. Some of the verbatim feedback received post the intervention is:

“Whenever I face an escalation the de-escalation matrix that we covered during training starts playing in my head and I’m able to tackle the situation much better”

“This training has helped me tackle performance appraisal conversations much better now. I’m able to structure my conversations properly and get the other person to see my point of view”

“I did not realize that I was coming across strongly during team member conversations. I discovered this through the feedback I received during the role plays. It was a eureka moment for me”

As a coach, do you look at the negative or the positive?

Most of us tend to look at what needs to be fixed, ostensibly that’s what we are there for. When you look at how great things are, it really adds another dimension to life, living and learning. The best argument for this philosophy is: when you look at the brighter side, you are looking into the light as opposed to into the darkness.

downloadWhen I was a student at John Hopkin’s University, I wanted to join a poetry writing course taught by Professor Elliot Coleman. To be accepted into the course, first I had to show Coleman a sample of my poetry. Fearing criticism, I procrastinated.

When at last I braved an appointment with him and let him read my poems, I was astonished at his response: he told me what he liked about them. I left his office buoyed and inspired. That very week I wrote a poem that broke new ground for me.

When my poems were discussed in class, I often felt that Coleman understood my purposes better than I did. I always left class inspired and able to improve what I had written.

One week, I lingered in Professor Coleman’s classroom after the class session had ended. All had left the room except two other students, on whom I was eavesdropping.

One of the students was attacking a poem that the other had written. At bay, the author of the poem defended himself: “Well, Elliot Coleman likes this poem!”

The other, arching for the kill, hissed, “So? Elliot Coleman likes everything!”

In that moment I understood two things. Of course, I understood what the attacker meant: if I like everything equally, my judgement is meaningless.

But I also understood what the attacker did not. Elliot Coleman did not praise indiscriminately. On the contrary, his great gift was his ability to find what there was to like in every poem he read.

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Are you brave enough to empower your team and run the risk of failure?

Leadership development programs, the world over will focus on the theme of empowerment. The question we have to ask ourselves is: are we brave enough to take the risk?

picWhen I arrived as a CEO at software AG three years ago, there was a young man responsible for PR (Press Relations) and IR (Investor Relations). He was supposed to have been fired by my predecessor three or four times, but somehow he survived.

I realized he was full of passion, but unfortunately PR and IR require distinct skills. IR requires a conservative, modest way of communication. PR is more aggressive. The sum of both created an average performance for both PR and IR. I advised him to focus, on IR- his more natural talent.

I hired a PR manager and focused him on PR. The IR manager was disappointed. I began to empower him: full trust, full responsibility, stretched targets, full support and appreciation of his work … This year we won two key IR awards, one being the No 1 IR department in the German stock index TecDAX. It was the result of… empowerment, focus and trust, my principles of coaching.

(by Karl-Heinz Streibich CEO, Software AG)

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Are you applying the principles of coaching for developing leadership talent?

Coaching is applied leadership…and this is a brass tacks example of how it can actually be done.

picThe situation. We as a company did not feel we were being treated with any professional respect by our customers: we were being blamed for everything, we were always treated as lesser beings and now we were about to not be paid.

My second in command, Buddy, wanted to resolve this, but did not know if he was brave enough.

I could so easily have stepped in and made a decision, but that would be undermining. My decision would have been to threaten to up and leave the project (In Norway) and fly back to the States…

So I asked Buddy a series of business coaching questions like: ‘What is the most important thing you need to get over this crises and put the project back on a proper course?’ and: ‘What is the worst thing that can happen?’ and finally: ‘How can you catch their attention in a way that will push home the point on how serious we are about what needs to be done?’

To the last question, buddy replied: ‘We could threaten to send everyone home,’ and his face went sheet-white. I replied: ‘Great Idea! This shows leadership and guts. I will back you to the hilt and take responsibility.’

We did this, they came to the table, the project was successful, and they admired us, and paid us!

Everyone on the project grew a little that day. Because of Buddy, not because of me.

(By John Maitz VP FS EMEA -Computer Sciences Corporation)

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Do you believe that focus can work miracles?

For those of us who believe in the age old Indian principles of the power of the mind and the miracles it can bring, this is a mundane story. For the rest of us, especially in the business leadership and coaching spheres…possibly a reinforcement. A must have to accomplish any serious goals.

picWe automatically move in the direction of our most dominant thoughts.

What we think about, we are. Our minds automatically move in the direction of our most dominant thoughts. What we think about, we become.

To see this work, ask someone to hold the thumb and first finger of each hand very close together- with a gap of about 2mm, or 1/10 of an inch. Go up to them and, with your hand and, without hurting them, open the gap by pulling their thumb and finger apart. You will be able to do this easily.

Now look the person in the eyes and ask them if they like butterflies. If they say ‘yes’, great. If they say ’No’, say: Don’t be ridiculous. Everyone likes butterflies!’ Next, ask them to imagine what you are saying is true, and to go along with everything you say. Check this is OK and that they will do this.

Ask them to repeat the bringing close together of their thumb and finger. However, this time, they are holding an injured butterfly. Ask them to look at the butterfly closely. The butterfly’s life is in their hands. If they can carry it to the other side of their garden, it has a good chance of living. If they let go of it, it will die for certain. Make sure they are looking at the butterfly all the time and keep repeating the messages of them saving the butterfly’s life.

Now tell them that no power on earth will stop them on their mission- and therefore nothing can separate their thumb and finger, because if this were to happen the butterfly would die. Emphasize this until you are sure they have the message- you will be able to tell by their focus; is it absolutely on the ‘butterfly’?

If so, and while repeating your message, again try to separate their thumb and finger. You will find it almost impossible.

This is not to prove the power we have in our fingers; rather the power we have in our focus.

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When you Coach, do you start from what still needs to be done or what already has been done?

Just so applicable to all of us who are coaching for leadership development. An absolutely invaluable lesson: appeal to the side that dreams.

picI was on a radio phone-in. A man phoned in and said: “Hi David. I’ve been sat here listening to you going on and on about success. Well let me tell you this. I have never achieved anything in my life. I can’t read or write. I’m one of the forgotten few. What do you say to me then?”

On live radio-cue heartbeat and perspiration!

I talked about choices being available to us all, how it is never too late to run to read or write and even if he did not do this, because interpersonal skills are more important these days, there were still plenty of dreams he could make happen. He was having none of it.

“What you don’t realize, David, is that it’s all very well for you sitting in your comfy studio, spouting off about this and that-what about people like me who have no hope, none?”

Part of me wanted to share my personal struggles and times of hardship. I didn’t; I changed tack.

“Ok, tell me, what would you like to achieve in your life? I know you don’t think you ever will, but please, tell me just one thing you would like to do’. After a pause, he softened and said, ‘I’d love to be a car mechanic.”

“Great”, I said.

I spoke too soon … because he then said: “And I don’t know anything about cars.”

Then I said the word. I don’t know where it came from, that I didn’t matter. I leaned slightly closer towards the microphone and simply said “Yet”.

He said: “What?”

And I repeated it, saying: “You don’t know anything about cars, yet”.

To which he simply said: “Thank you”, and rang off.

That was a year ago. Just a few days before I wrote this, I received a card in the post. It was a single business card. Nothing was written on the card- there was no need for that. Because the card was a business card for this man, who is now a successful car mechanic.

I called him straight away to say well done. He apologized for not writing anything in the card, saying to me: “I know a lot about cars, and they know a lot about me. And I couldn’t put anything on the card, because I haven’t learned to read or write. Yet.”

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Is learning really that complicated?

As we become older and more “mature”; as the complexities of the tasks we do increase, we often look for complex solutions…the answer is actually quite simple. Here’s a short anecdote for anyone coaching team members and especially for those in the leadership development space.

picAt a recent Parents’ Evening for my eight-year old-daughter, her Form Teacher was telling my wife and me that our daughter was making good progress although she had been reluctant to tackle some of the arithmetic tasks set recently. When tackled about this, my daughter told her teacher that she couldn’t find the answer to the problem-although it seemed to be more about getting started with the task than the fact that there was a problem.

Her teacher thought about this for a while and then said to my daughter, ‘Why not forget about the problem and think about it as a puzzle?’ – which my daughter did and promptly completed the task. By reframing what the issue is, and thinking about it in another way, it obviously allowed my daughter to tackle the task confidently.

In management there are seldom many clear-cut situations- just shades of grey with different choices. Considering issues as puzzles, rather than problems, can lead to individuals and teams generating lots of different potential solutions- all of which may be valid.

(By Rob Ferrari)

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Why invest in training?

For those of us that ever doubted the return on investment on training or had a difficult time convincing others about it….here’s a great story that underlines the importance of training, coaching and mentoring our teams

Picture1A new hotel employee was asked to clean the elevators and report back to the supervisor when the task was completed.

When the employee failed to appear at the end of the day the supervisor assumed that like many others he had simply not liked the job and left.

However, after four days the supervisor bumped into the new employee. He was cleaning in one of the elevators.”You surely haven’t been cleaning these elevators for four days, have you?” asked the supervisor, accusingly.”Yes sir,” said the employee, “This is a big job and I’ve not finished yet – do you realise there are over forty of them, two on each floor, and sometimes they are not even there..”

Which style of Coaching will work?

Coaching can’t be a one style fits all. You often have to try different approaches to see which one will work….this approach will definitely work. Read on…

picA farmer once caught a young eagle. Back home he put it with his chicken and fed it chicken food. Five years later a naturalist visited him. While walking through the garden the latter said, “This bird is an eagle, not a chicken.”

“Yes,” the owner said, “but I made a chicken out of it. Now it is not an eagle any longer.”

“Yet it is an eagle,” the nature lover said, “and I’ll show you.”

The naturalist picked up the eagle, held it high and said emphatically, “Eagle, you are an eagle, you belong in the sky and not on earth, spread your wings and fly!”

However, when the eagle saw the chicken pecking at their food, it hopped down.

The owner said, “I told you it is a chicken.”

“No,” said the naturalist, “it is an eagle and I’ll prove it.”

The next morning he took the eagle to the roof of the house and said, “Eagle, your are an eagle, spread your wings and fly.”

Again the eagle jumped down when it saw the chicken pecking their food and joined them eating.

The owner said, “I told you it is a chicken.”

“No, it is an eagle and it still has the heart of an eagle. Give it one more chance.”

The next morning he took the eagle to a high mountain. There he lifted the eagle and said to it, “Eagle, you are an eagle, you belong in the sky, spread your wings and fly!”

All of a sudden the eagle spread its wings and with a scream rose higher and higher and did not return.

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