Self-Awareness Matters

Organizations gain a lot more from leaders who take responsibility for what they know they don't know than from leaders who pretend to know everything.

Self Awareness Dog MirrorWhat recently occurred to me in an "aha" moment is this: self-awareness is one of the most valuable leadership competencies, yet it is one of the least discussed. In an effort to appear task-focused and "business-like," organizational feedback often gravitates toward hard skills and competencies that are more easily measurable. 

Have You Thought About This?

People who don't know their strengths and weaknesses actually tend to overestimate themselves. Research literature and my own coaching experiences have shown that poor self-awareness leads to poor performance and, frequently, termination. 

We live in a highly competitive culture. I've watched more than a few leaders and leader wannabes try to appear as if they know everything all the time. They believe that if they don't, people will question and even challenge their capability, undermining their leadership effectiveness. In fact, the opposite is true. Whether you acknowledge your weaknesses or not, those around you still see them. The result: trying to hide a weakness actually magnifies it, leading to a perceived lack of integrity and, ultimately, trust. 

Knowing yourself helps you use your strengths better, develop where you can, and avoid or compensate for areas where you are unskilled or just plain unsuited. 

The simple truth: People who know themselves better do better.

 

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Are You Coachable?

This topic emerged while I was preparing for a corporate client webinar for sales managers with the simple title,  "How To Coach with Confidence". A lot of good research plus personal experiences show that most managers want to coach--they just aren't sure of the most effective ways to do it. Or, what people are really expecting.

They also wonder about this:

Who Is Coachable?

The fact is, everyone isn't. Those who are uncoachable often think they have no performance issues and if there is one, believe everyone "out there" is the cause. In these cases, coaching isn't a very good option to produce positive results. It's kind of like one spouse dragging another to marriage counseling in the hope that the counselor can "fix" the partner. (Ever see how well that works?). The sticking point here is a mindset that doesn't allow someone to reflect on one's own behavior, create a desire to change it, or see their personal responsibility in a relationship. So, forcing someone into a coaching relationship isn't the best organizational solution for certain issues and individuals.

CoachingFive Characteristics Of Coachability

If you are considering coaching someone else or being coached, here are five attributes I've observed in people who successfully "own" their part of the coaching process. You might want to use this as a quick diagnostic tool.

1. Committed to Change. Individuals who don't think they're perfect, want to improve, exhibit responsibility for their lives, and are willing to step outside of their comfort zones are good candidates for a successful coaching relationship.

2. Open to information about themselves. Be willing and able to listen and hear constructive criticism without being defensive; then, synthesize their coach's suggestions with their own personal reflections on the issue.

3. Open about themselves. Willing to engage in topics that may be uncomfortable but are getting in the way of their professional development; talks about "what's really going on" so the coach can have a complete and honest picture of the total situation.

4. Appreciate New Perspectives. People who get excited about hearing someone else's take on a situation and figure out how to learn from it can really benefit from coaching.

5. Awareness about one's self and others. Coachable people already have at least a fair amount of awareness about themselves. Equally important, they use it to reflect on their behavior and how it impacts other people in the range of situations that come their way.

You may have some others that you use to gauge coachability. Take a moment to add your tips with a comment below.

 __________________________________

Important Update About Comments at All Things Workplace

I just invited comments in the post above and do hope that our readers--many with a lot of managerial experience--take time to weigh in. 

That said, I want to share some information regarding my own ability to engage in the give and take of commenting.

Since May my dear wife, Barb, has spent most of the time either hospitalized or receiving physical therapy at a rehab facility. She has Parkinson's Disease as well as other related neurological challenges. Obviously, my first priority is ensuring that Barb is safe and continually receiving the care and attention she needs, not the least of which is our relationship.

I still read all of the comments submitted. All Things Workplace has been a place, since 2006, where people can create conversations and interactive learning without my presence because of their own interest, experience, and enthusiasm about growth and development in organizational life. 

I'll continue posting regularly; please keep using the site as a place to exchange ideas, tips, and research. I will certainly add my two cents when I can and look forward to learning from everyone who graciously takes time to add to the topic at hand.

Warmest regards,

Steve

 

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Get The Most From Assessments

How is your organization using professional assessments?

Self-assessments, 360 degree feedback, assessment centers, and other similar tools are widely used in the workplace. What's your experience with them?

A lot of information is generated during the assessment process. I was reviewing some feedback that was coming in for a client and realized that there are lots of good uses for it. And we may not always be taking the best advantage of the information and the potential process. So. . .

Would Some of These Help You and Your Organization?

Online-assessmentAssessment feedback, by definition, is given to the subject of the assessment. That person is often asked to reflect  and decide what, if anything, to do with it. That's fine. Making changes is a choice. But here are some other ways to get the most from the data. You may be doing some are all of them now. If not, here are some thoughts that I hope you will find helpful:

1. In the case of 360 feedback, encourage the recipient (I'll use the word "Manager") to get together with the group that generated the data. It's an opportunity, at minimum, to acknowledge the time and energy they put into the activity.

Suggest that the Manager share the themes and take-aways from the data. 360 activities have some of the same dynamics as surveys. Participants want to know what happened with their input--and what will change as a result. This is a chance to do just that. And, if the Manager has misinterpreted something, the group can add clarity.

Yes, I know that the feedback is anonymous, blah blah. However, the act of inviting the respondents to come together also invites a deeper level of candor. And the fact of the matter is: These are people with whom the Manager has to work. Sooner or later it will be time to increase the honesty of conversations. This is an ideal framework in which to do that.

2. A Good Reason For A Good Conversation with "The Boss."

If you're the Manager, make an appointment with your boss. Tell what you think you want to do differently. Ask if the boss sees the data and your intended changes in the same way. Or differently. Here's the principle: Giving straight feedback is difficult for a lot, if not most, people. Including the boss. If you provide the data and ask for suggestions, you've done the work that your boss my find tough. It may be the most meaningful conversation the two of you have ever had.

3. A Good Reason For a Good Conversation with Your Reports.

If it's a 360, some or all of those folks provided feedback. I wouldn't call a departmental meeting and declare "Let's share." I would do one of these two:

  • Make it a point to informally share what you learned and are working on with each person. Do it in the course of normal conversation.
  • If you have a full group meeting coming up soon, take 10 minutes to talk about the assessment, the process, what you learned, what you are working on, and what kind of support you need to do those things. The payoff? You get help. You set the model that getting feedback and doing assessments is a valuable activity.

4. Self Assessments. Any or all of the above will be helpful to validate your self perception. We have ways of deceiving ourselves on both scales: positive and negative. Have the conversations that will give you an accurate picture.

Let's assume that you--or whoever is being assessed--will use the info for development. Here's the payoff you don't want to miss: the data provide an "objective" reason to have a "subjective" conversation. When you rally around the information, you are in an arena that's focused on performance factors and not necessarily you as a person. (That may be a result. Why not find out while you still have time to make changes?).

Most of all: an assessment offers  a legitimate reason to have the kind of conversation you've been missing.

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Coaching Leaders: Success Is In The Agreement

There is frequently an equal amount of fuzziness when it comes to Leadership Development and Leadership Coaching. As a result, the coaching issue can get blurred. So here are some suggestions after a lot of years wrestling with the issue.

Pay Attention to These


When it comes to coaching--or any kind of consulting activity--90% of the success or failure lies in the contracting phase. So:

1. Get clear about who initiated the coaching request. If it was a boss, be sure to understand what that person is looking for and why. Which means also asking, "Who really set this process in motion?" (Your boss may be the messenger).  Measure  

2. What are the specific results desired from the coaching engagement? While Leadership is a sexy, catch-all phrase, maybe the real issue is managing team performance, running better meetings, or initiating conversations with colleagues in other corporate locations. (All three have emerged after probing underneath the Leadership umbrella during contracting).

3. Is coaching the best way to get at the desired growth? The fact of the matter is that some things are skills than can be learned in other ways. And if you ask yourself how you best learned Leadership, the thoughtful answer will probably be "from leading." Be prepared to suggest expanded responsibility. People grow by being lifted up, then stepping up.

(Effective coaches know when it's time to simply hold the ladder).

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Coaching Builds Commitment

Did you know that the majority of employees today expect their managers to coach them? At the same time, managers are concerned that they won't have all the answers.

That's understandable, given the human condition's need for a sense of control and, in a manager's case, the appearance of expertise.

Coaching Commitment
The good news: Employees don't want advice. They want to be stretched and asked questions that allow them to sort things out and learn as a result.

Here's What It Takes

A productive manager-employee coaching relationship includes these elements:

  • Self-Direction. The employee initiates areas for learning and relies on the manager for support when necessary.

  • Self-Responsibility. The coaching manager encourages employees to make decisions through reflective questions.

  • Focus on Learning. Employee develops new skills with the support of the coaching manager, then sets new goals and standards.

Three To-Dos for Managers Who Coach

1. Set clear expectations for results and let your people find their own best way to get the job done. (You hired them for their unique attributes).

2. Give people as much responsibility as they can handle, then support them. People grow from being stretched.

3. Develop the habit of asking "How can we. . .?" instead of "Why did you. . ?"  Think about the distinction.

 

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Tips to Pinpoint Real Issues At Work

Often, when people tell us about something that's worrying them, they talk "around" the topic. Counselors call it the "presenting issue." It can be difficult for them to get right to the heart of the issue; or, they may not be clear and able to articulate what they are thinking and feeling. If you feel that concerns aren't getting out into the open, use these questions that will help bring important clues to the surface. 

Questionmark

Four Good Questions to Get You There

1. What do you consider the fundamental thing that we should be trying to achieve?

2. If you had the sole choice, what would you most like to see happen now?

3. Can you think of three specific areas that concern you about this issue?

4. What else is causing you to worry about this?

Questions help people clarify what may be fuzzy or difficult to discuss. Asking--then listening--will help you become a trusted colleague and interpersonal leader.

Note: Thank you for continuing to subscribe to All Things Workplace as we continue to try creating actionable ideas that you can apply immediately on-the-job. Keep an eye out for our upcoming book designed to help managers quickly reference the "how to's" of daily professional leadership.

 

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Some Advice on Advice at Work

Be careful when you give advice--somebody might take it." Anonymous.

Most of us enjoy giving advice. If you're a manager, it may even make you feel a lot more managerial. And let's be honest, advice is a lot more fun than criticism.

What Kind of Advice Is Desired?

Advice1 Counselors know that when someone arrives for a first visit, the story that unfolds is usually the "presenting" problem. It's not necessarily a matter of deception. We may not feel comfortable "putting it all out there" quite yet. Or, we may not even be clear about what the real issue is, which is why we want to talk it through in the first place.

Advice & The Workplace

If you can't tell what your employee or boss wants by how a subject is introduced, ask a few questions. Does the person want:

  • To hear critical information and facts?
  • To know your opinion on an issue?
  • To get help with generating alternatives to a situation?
  • To know how you went about doing something?
  • To check out his or her reasoning on a decision?

It's easy to fall into the instant response trap; we all want to be helpful. Sometimes that kind of help isn't helpful at all.

Ask specifically what the other person wants. It will save you both a lot of time and lead to more satisfying results.

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Managers: Coach and Build Commitment

Did you know that the majority of employees today expect their managers to coach them? At the same time, managers are concerned that they won't have all the answers.

That's understandable, given the human condition's need for a sense of control and, in a manager's case, the appearance of expertise. This very issue came up while teaching one of my online classes at Rutgers University last week. If you think this is a "Western" thing, all of the participants were experienced managers in India, Bangladesh, and Malaysia. The concerns were probably being voiced at the same time by managers somewhere in Texas, Frankfurt, or Sao Paolo. 

                                       Coaching Commitment


The good news: Employees don't want advice. They want to be stretched and asked questions that allow them to sort things out and learn as a result.

Here's What It Takes

A productive manager-employee coaching relationship includes these elements:

  • Self-Direction. The employee initiates areas for learning and relies on the manager for support when necessary.

  • Self-Responsibility. The coaching manager encourages employees to make decisions through reflective questions.

  • Focus on Learning. Employee develops new skills with the support of the coaching manager, then sets new goals and standards.

Three To-Dos for Managers Who Coach

1. Set clear expectations for results and let your people find their own best way to get the job done. (You hired them for their unique attributes).

2. Give people as much responsibility as they can handle, then support them. People grow from being stretched.

3. Develop the habit of asking "How can we. . .?" instead of "Why did you. . ?"  Think about the distinction.

 

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Seven Tips For Better Coaching

The response to the Coaching For Managers eGuide (available to you in the right sidebar) has been brisk. So,we're figuring that this is a topic that's genuinely helpful.

I'm in the midst of finishing the wording for a contract with a new coaching client. Since my mind wanders a bit when hunkering down with details, here are some coaching thoughts that emerged during the periodical mental breaks. In my experience, these hold true for both internal and external coaches:

Einstein
 

Seven Coaching Tips To Consider

1. Take time to accurately diagnose the situation. Begin coaching conversation using open-ended questions, then sit back and let the client hear what (s)he is saying in response. Clients often become  start to recognize behavioral patterns through their own answers to good questions.

2. Ask the unexpected question. How often have you experienced that feeling of being stuck with no apparent options to escape a situation? This bumps up the stress level. The secret here is for the coach to create brainstorming questions that will generate alternatives to the current situation.

3. Get really, really clear about goals. We've all experienced goal-setting of some sort. However, for a goal to be really useful it needs to be meaningful to the individual. Dedicate significant time to working with clients to refine their goals and sign off on them. (I have them physically sign a document. It increases a sense of accountability). 

4. Initiate options. New coaches sometimes rush through this and quickly offer advice. (Hey, it's a lot easier to say, "Do this." Of course, the coach has just taken ownership of the solution).

Effective coaches take time to ask questions that allow the client/employee to come up with some new options that will lead to action and new behavior. Only when options come from the client will you get real commitment to change. The loudest statement a coach can make is by quietly asking a question, then remaining silent.

5. Help evaluate options. Work with the client/employee to develop a set of criteria to evaluate the different options. What investment (energy, money, time,) is needed to put a specific option into practice?

6. Design an action plan. Gee, how mundane, eh? Spending time identifying how a goal will be reached will pay off big time if any glitches are experienced. All you have to do is backtrack and see where things went off track. Also: The plan needs to have a "Here's how you'll know you're successful" element. Coaches help people celebrate; make sure you know when to hold the party.

7. Encourage momentum. Sometime cheerleader, sometime nag; we all need someone to keep us on track. Use phone calls, emails, water cooler conversations, whatever it takes. Remember, it's about moving toward a goal or some kind of change. And you'll enjoy being part of the celebration."

What are you doing that is being helpful to your clients or employees?

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Advice? Find Out What They Really Want

Be careful when you give advice--somebody might take it." Anonymous.

Most of us enjoy giving advice. If you're a manager, it may even make you feel a lot more managerial. And let's be honest, advice is a lot more fun than criticism.

AdviceWhat Kind of Advice Is Desired?

Counselors know that when someone arrives for a first visit, the story that unfolds is usually the "presenting" problem. It's not necessarily a matter of deception. We may not feel comfortable "putting it all out there" quite yet. Or, we may not even be clear about what the real issue is, which is why we want to talk it through in the first place.

Advice & The Workplace

If you can't tell what your employee or boss wants by how a subject is introduced, ask a few questions. Does the person want:

  • To hear critical information and facts?
  • To know your opinion on an issue?
  • To get help with generating alternatives to a situation?
  • To know how you went about doing something?
  • To check out his or her reasoning on a decision?

It's easy to fall into the instant response trap; we all want to be helpful. Sometimes that kind of help isn't helpful at all.

Ask specifically what the other person wants. It will save you both a lot of time and lead to more satisfying results.

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Six Tips To Help You Coach

Employees want--even expect--to be coached by their managers. The good news: even in the absence of a corporate initiative or full blown training program, managers can certainly coach effectively.

I was thinking about this while in a series of coaching sessions, and began to pay attention to the essence of what was really happening.

If you'd like to get started, here are a half dozen things you can do. Try one or two at a time until you've built a coaching element into your management repertoire. Your team will appreciate it and you'll find you have more time for those bigger-picture issues that your own boss has been asking you about. The first one is actually something you don't have to do!

 

Questionbox

 Six Steps to Coaching

1. Stop fixing everyone's stuff.

OK, the next time someone brings you a problem, stop. Do nothing. Then. . .

2. Ask them for more information using open-ended questions.

You already know how to ask questions. (And you may already know the answer to the question. But no one will learn much if they don't learn to think through issues on their own). The trick for "coaching managers" is to click a mental switch that triggers a question instead of an answer. An easy way to to develop the questioning habit is to think of yourself as a journalist and start your responses with:

  • Who. . .?
  • What. . .?
  • When. . .?
  • Where. . .?
  • How. . .?

3. Use the bonus question that will automatically buy some time and gather more information: "Tell me more about that?"

4. Listen. (That means "Shut up, don't speak.")

You'll be surprised at how much you'll learn by listening. Once the other person stops talking, give them  space to say more. Count silently to 10 if you have to. You'll discover that this block of information will reveal more than the first and often gives them the self-revealing "Aha!" needed. In which case, you'll be a hero.

5. Ask More.

OK, so they didn't get to the heart of the matter in #4. When your person's responses and energy start to fade, that's your cue to ask another open-ended question. Ask it about something they've just told you. Ask anything that will help continue the exploration of the issue. You can't really ask a "wrong" question.

Note. The reason you can't ask a wrong question is this: Your role is to alternate between helping them explore (questions) and being silent (just listen). The act of listening after a question is a gift that few people get. Listening shows respect. When it comes from "the boss" it's an indication of trust in one's ability to problem-solve. 

6. Support giving "it" a try. You'll find that the Q&A process will have generated ideas and actions in your person's mind. This is where you help them stretch by suggesting, "Do you want to give that a try and let me know how it's going?" 

So, What Just Happened?

You've helped someone develop more confidence in themselves, built trust in your mutual relationship, and created a little more time for your own strategic thinking while they're working on the agreed-upon action.

If you are spending more of your managerial life answering than asking, you may be working way too hard. You may also be making yourself indispensable in your current job. That may work well if this is where you want to spend the rest of your career--and, if the job doesn't go away.

 

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360 Feedback: It's About the Conversation

Finding out "how we're doing" is an important part of life, on and off the job.

360 degree feedback tools can be especially helpful when you want to know how you are doing in relation to your boss, your direct reports, and peers in the organization. I like 360's because they:

Feedback_icon

 


1. Let you see how others believe you are doing in specific areas that are important to on-the-job success

2. Provide a quick look at how each of your constituencies is experiencing you.

For example, your direct reports may be getting everything they need, while your peer group may tell you that they need something other than what they are getting now. So you know where to keep doing what you are doing now, and where to make some changes. That helps you prioritize things.

3. Offer the opportunity for a structured conversation.

When you want to talk about your performance it can be difficult to know just where to begin. The 360 process allows you to get specific feedback in specific categories. When you see the results, you can sit down and ask questions that address meaningful areas of work life. And, you are dealing with information already acknowledged as important by the different groups of respondents. It can be a lot easier discussing things that have already been generated--and therefore owned--by the people who are important to your success. You have a place to start--and isn't that sometimes the toughest part?

360: It's the Conversation That Matters

Raw data are just that. What's important is the "why" behind "what" was said. Without finding out the answers, you really don't have an accurate picture. Why not?

Always remember that feedback is more indicative of the sender than the recipient. Feedback says, "Here's what I think based on my expectations of you in these specific areas. The real payoff can come from discovering where you need to clarify or re-visit what's really expected and honestly discussing what's really possible. And, when people of goodwill have those kinds of discussions, it can lead to a quick boost in trust as well as new energy to move ahead.

Are you or your organization using 360 feedback? Then make sure there are conversations that follow. Without them, no one knows the real meaning of the data. With conversations, you stand to get an exponential payoff in understanding, trust, learning, and improved performance.

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5 Ways To Be Coachable

Who Is Coachable?

The fact is, everyone isn't. Those who are uncoachable often think they have no performance issues and if there is one, believe everyone "out there" is the cause. In these cases, coaching isn't a very good option to produce positive results. It's kind of like one spouse dragging another to marriage counseling in the hope that the counselor can "fix" the partner. (Ever see how well that works?). The sticking point here is a mindset that doesn't allow someone to reflect on their own behavior, a desire to change it, and their personal responsibility for the relationship. So, forcing someone into a coaching relationship isn't the best organizational solution for certain issues and individuals.

Advice_catsFive Characteristics Of Coachability

If you are considering coaching someone else or being coached, here are five attributes I've observed in people who successfully "own" their part of the coaching process. You might want to use this as a quick diagnostic tool.

1. Committed to Change. Individuals who don't think they're perfect, want to improve, exhibit responsibility for their lives, and are willing to step outside of their comfort zones are good candidates for a successful coaching relationship.

2. Open to information about themselves. Be willing and able to listen and hear constructive criticism without being defensive; then, synthesize their coach's suggestions with their own personal reflections on the issue.

3. Open about themselves. Willing to engage in topics that may be uncomfortable but are getting in the way of their professional development; talks about "what's really going on" so the coach can have a complete and honest picture of the total situation.

4. Appreciate New Perspectives. People who get excited about hearing someone else's take on a situation and figure out how to learn from it can really benefit from coaching.

5. Awareness about one's self and others. Coachable people already have at least a fair amount of awareness about themselves. Equally important, they use it to reflect on their behavior and how it impacts other people in the range of situations that come their way.

You may have some others that you use to gauge coachability. If so, take a moment to add your tips with a comment below.

 

 

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Want Results? Ask For Help

Employee engagement, management engagement, leadership, passion in the workplace. . .

These rallying cries fill books, blogs, and backroom banter. The real issue: "How can we get done what needs to get done and create a sense of "we're in this together" at the same time?

It's actually quite simple:

To Get Something Done, Ask for Help

There is nothing that sparks the human spirit--and thus adds meaning to a task--than the satisfaction of providing help to someone who needs it.

Help-sign
Yet my experience--at least in many western cultures--is that it is somehow viewed as  "weak" to ask for help. After all, if I'm a guy who gets things done, I don't want people to think that I can't get things done.

I know you already see the fallacy in this. Most textbook definitions of management include some version of: "Management--getting things done through others."

Hmm. As a manager that means, by definition, I need your help.

What Actually Happens Vs. The Simplicity of Help

See if this isn't a little closer to the norm:

Manager: "Andrew, our sales goals are up by 8%. You supervise the customer service reps. You need to be able to support that. Make it happen."

Now, that 's not too bad a directive at all in the grand scheme of things. (For those who only respond to warm and fuzzy, it's probably not). It's fairly specific, understandable, and has an action attached. However, we've got an entire generation of management research that everyone has been exposed to through workshops and reading. The essence of that research is that people want to be respected,involved in solutions, and have a sense of meaning in what they do.

So, I suggest:

Manager: Andrew, our sales goals are up by 8%. I need help. (Shut up).

Note to managers: Really, you do need help. You're getting paid to make the 8% happen--through other people.

Andrew: How can I help?

Honestly, if the manager & Andrew have a decent relationship, "helping" is about as meaningful as life can get at that moment.

Manager: You supervise the customer service reps. We need to be able to support that 8% bump. How would you go about doing that with your people?

  • Statement one: Places next level of responsibility where it belongs.
  • Statement two: Specifies the  issue.
  • Statement  three:  Involvement and  more meaning. (In the event that Andrew struggles a bit, this is the "teachable moment" for coaching).

What will you do?

What someone does for a living is part of the working agreement. How they do it is why they--as individuals--were (hopefully) hired in the first place. When you allow someone to exercise the personalhow, you have created the intersection of individual meaning and engagement .

Are you strong enough to ask for help today?


 

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Get The Most From Professional Assessments

How is your organization using professional assessments?

Self-assessments, 360 degree feedback, assessment centers, and other similar tools are widely used in the workplace. What's your experience with them?

AssessA lot of information is generated during the assessment process. I was reviewing some feedback that was coming in for a client and realized that there are lots of good uses for it. And we may not always be taking the best advantage of the information and the potential process. So. . .

Would Some of These Help You and Your Organization?

Assessment feedback, by definition, is given to the subject of the assessment. That person is often asked to reflect  and decide what, if anything, to do with it. That's fine. Making changes is a choice. But here are some other ways to get the most from the data. You may be doing some are all of them now. If not, here are some thoughts that I hope you will find helpful:

1. In the case of 360 feedback, encourage the recipient (I'll use the word "Manager") to get together with the group that generated the data. It's an opportunity, at minimum, to acknowledge the time and energy they put into the activity.

Suggest that the Manager share the themes and take-aways from the data. 360 activities have some of the same dynamics as surveys. Participants want to know what happened with their input--and what will change as a result. This is a chance to do just that. And, if the Manager has misinterpreted something, the group can add clarity.

Yes, I know that the feedback is anonymous, blah blah. However, the act of inviting the respondents to come together also invites a deeper level of candor. And the fact of the matter is: These are people with whom the Manager has to work. Sooner or later it will be time to increase the honesty of conversations. This is an ideal framework in which to do that.

2. A Good Reason For A Good Conversation with "The Boss."

If you're the Manager, make an appointment with your boss. Tell what you think you want to do differently. Ask if the boss sees the data and your intended changes in the same way. Or differently. Here's the principle: Giving straight feedback is difficult for a lot, if not most, people. Including the boss. If you provide the data and ask for suggestions, you've done the work that your boss my find tough. It may be the most meaningful conversation you've had with that person.

3. A Good Reason For a Good Conversation with Your Reports.

If it's a 360, some or all of those folks provided feedback. I wouldn't call a departmental meeting and declare "Let's share." I would do one of these two:

  • Make it a point to informally share what you learned and are working on with each person. Do it in the course of normal conversation.
  • If you have a full group meeting coming up soon, take 10 minutes to talk about the assessment, the process, what you learned, what you are working on, and what kind of support you need to do those things. The payoff? You get help. You set the model that getting feedback and doing assessments is a valuable activity.

4. Self Assessments. Any or all of the above will be helpful to validate your self perception. We have ways of deceiving ourselves on both scales: positive and negative. Have the conversations that will give you an accurate picture.

Let's assume that you--or whoever is being assessed--will use the info for development. Here's the payoff you don't want to miss: the data provide an "objective" reason to have a "subjective" conversation. When you rally around the information, you are in an arena that's focused on performance factors and not necessarily you as a person. (That may be a result. Why not find out while you still have time to make changes?).

Most of all: an assessment offers  a legitimate reason to have the kind of conversation you've been missing.

Go for it!

And...a warm thank you to Ellen Weber at Brain-Based Business for making me one of this week's MITA Millionaire Bloggers . As I mentioned in my "thank you" comment to Ellen, I wish my  Mom were still alive to see "Steve Roesler" and the word "Brain" on the same page.

I know she'd have a comment, too!

 

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Beware of Feedback In Disguise

Faux Feedback Disguised as 360 Assessment

About 8 months ago I was asked to provide coaching for a middle manager. During the exploratory meeting, I asked his boss how he (the middle manager) responded to the performance feedback that led to the coaching solution. The boss responded in a very generic way and shuffled papers nervously. Then, he said it: "I guess I should sit down with him again. But I think using some kind of 360 feedback tool would really be helpful."

Three weeks ago...yep, it happened again. Along with the "360 might be helpful..."

These are three different companies in three different industries with three different cultures.

Hippies_use_back_door My intuitive take: 360 Tools are seen by some as a way to satisfy the desired and useful need for feedback but to avoid having to provide it directly. So, they decide to enter through the back door.

If the object of feedback were only to provide raw data, maybe that wouldn't matter. However:

Employees at all levels want feedback and direction first and foremost from their boss. That's the relationship workers at all levels rely upon when making decisions about what to do and how to do it (If that is a new notion to you, start with a look into Wally Bock's archives, especially a solid post about Managers and Developing Talent).

Deal With Back-Door Feedback Through Front-Door Coaching

If you're a coach, then I will assume you adhere to this principle: You don't give feedback to a coaching client that he or she hasn't received from their boss. Period.

What to do?

I explained to each boss that I couldn't continue until their person had gotten all of the "what" and "why" feedback from them; otherwise, the the coaching would be (rightly) viewed as sneaky and unethical. And, that without the boss's direct contribution, it probably wouldn't have any real meaning.

The result? Each one actually agreed. This wasn't about an evil empire. It was about people who needed some help themselves.

So the first coaching session was with the boss to identify the specific feedback and practice giving it. And yes, we still did the 360 feedback because it really was desired by the people being coached.

What to take away: Be on the lookout for back door feedback requests and, regardless of your role, point people toward the front door before proceeding.

 

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How Do You Really Help People Develop?

Start by seeing clearly who they really are

  • How many people at work know who you really are?
  • How many people do you see clearly for who they are?

I was thinking about the things an executive coach really does--or should be doing. One of the most important is this: Seeing people for who they are, realizing what they can be, and helping to take them there.

Person growing If that doesn't sound very "business-like," it may not be in the traditional sense of "business-like."

And therein lies the issue. Organizations of all kinds hire the best people they can find. Those folks look at the "people are our most important asset" blurbs in the corporate recruiting brochures. Then, they sign on with high hopes.

What happens later on that causes discontent, retention issues, and the need to search for "talent?" Weren't they talented when they were hired?

Here's what I see

I see highly motivated people getting performance appraisals that are designed to force rankings on a curve so they never accurately portray an individual's contribution and worth. I see employees at all levels  getting feedback on the gaps in their performance--and then receiving direction to "close the gaps." I see the same people then coming to workshops and seminars, hearing theoretical--but good--teaching, only to go back to work and say "what do I actually do with that?"

In nearly 30 years of managing, consulting, and coaching, I can count on one hand the number of people I've seen fired for technical incompetence. They get released for issues of character,  the inability to relate well with other people, or not being able to "close the gap."

Here are my thoughts as a result:

1. The character issue
 can be discerned during the hiring process. Discernment should be a highly valued talent possessed by those interviewing.  If not, get a coach to help with that element. Someone who sees others clearly and quickly for who they are.

2. Relating well with other people. You can send people to class to learn some skills. My question is this: does the day-to-day interaction at work model, support, and reward good relationships? A coach can impact that issue--or help the individual see that another role--maybe even in another organization--would be a better match. It's the coach's job to see those things clearly and to help the other person gain the same clarity.

3. Workshops and Education. Two things I enjoy with a passion. None has ever changed my own behavior very much. But I have learned a lot that has helped me think differently and more clearly. When do they work? When a manager or coach shows someone how to actually do what was taught--in the context of the organization's strategies and culture.

Manager As Coach

Before you get the idea that this is a treatise on why you should hire me, let me propose this: Managers can coach if they choose to see their people clearly by building relationships that let them know who their folks really are. If they don't have the time or inclination, then get some help to build the talent that seems, at times, to be hiding. It's probably not hiding. It might just be invisible to the naked eye.

And that brings us back to the opening:

If you want your talent to be valued, you've got to let people around you know who you really are. Make it impossible for them not to see you clearly.

If you are a manager, start thinking about intentionally "seeing clearly." And if it's tough, then get some help.

You and I wouldn't build a house in the dark. We need light to see in order to build. And unless your a truffle, you need a lot of light in order to grow and use your talent to perform.

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How You Can Be The Coach

We all have colleagues, employees, and friends with similar goals and values. You can play a coaching role by leading the other person through an insightful self-analysis and critique, resulting in some "aha!" moments. 

Try some variations of these questions:

Questioning-terrier "Do you see a problem or difficulty?

"What makes the problem worse?"

"Are you getting the results you want?" 

"What factors help the situation?"

"What needs to change, improve, or happen differently?"

"What kind of action do you need to take to make things better?"

"What kind of action do you plan to take?" "When will you start?"

"What kind of help do you need from me?"

Think about this: Making a statement keeps your mind active. Asking a question brings your listener's mind to life. 

Add value--ask the right questions.

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Is Everyone Coachable?

I touched on this issue some time ago but, when it comes to leadership and professional development, the question doesn't go away. I continue to be approached by executives and entrepreneurs who insist they want to be coached. The reasons vary, but usually boil down to wanting to be more effective at building their business--or their piece of it. 

There was a time when I took such people at their word.

That doesn't always work out. Real coaching--the kind that focuses on agreed-upon results--requires collaboration as well as  certain accountabilities being met by each party. There are plenty of people who want me to invest my time, wave a magic wand, and make everything "better." I now suggest that they might be better served by a week at DisneyWorld and a souvenir packet of pixie dust from Tinkerbell.  

Who Is Coachable?

Not everyone. Those who are uncoachable often think they have no performance issues and if there is one, believe everyone "out there" is the cause. In these cases, coaching isn't a very good option to produce positive results. It's kind of like one spouse dragging another to marriage counseling in the hope that the counselor can "fix" the partner. (Ever see how well that works?). The sticking point here is a mindset that doesn't allow someone to reflect on their own behavior, a desire to change it, and their personal responsibility for the relationship. So, forcing someone into a coaching relationship isn't the best organizational solution for certain issues and individuals.

JFK

Five Characteristics Of Coachability

If you are considering coaching someone else or being coached, here are five attributes I've observed in people who successfully "own" their part of the coaching process. You might want to use this as a quick diagnostic tool.

1. Committed to Change. Individuals who don't think they're perfect, want to improve, exhibit responsibility for their lives, and are willing to step outside of their comfort zones are good candidates for a successful coaching relationship.

2. Open to information about themselves. Be willing and able to listen and hear constructive criticism without being defensive; then, synthesize their coach's suggestions with their own personal reflections on the issue.

3. Open about themselves. Willing to engage in topics that may be uncomfortable but are getting in the way of their professional development; talks about "what's really going on" so the coach can have a complete and honest picture of the total situation.

4. Appreciate New Perspectives. People who get excited about hearing someone else's take on a situation and figure out how to learn from it can really benefit from coaching.

5. Awareness about one's self and others. Coachable people already have at least a fair amount of awareness about themselves. Equally important, they use it to reflect on their behavior and how it impacts other people in the range of situations that come their way.

For you: If you are on a quest to learn even more about effective coaching, here is a read I believe you will find helpful: The Four Essentials

 

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Is Everyone Coachable?

I touched on this issue some time ago but, when it comes to leadership and professional development, the question doesn't go away. I continue to be approached by executives and entrepreneurs who insist they want to be coached. The reasons vary, but usually boil down to wanting to be more effective at building their business--or their piece of it. 

There was a time when I took such people at their word.

That doesn't always work out. Real coaching--the kind that focuses on agreed-upon results--requires collaboration as well as  certain accountabilities being met by each party. There are plenty of people who want me to invest my time, wave a magic wand, and make everything "better." I now suggest that they might be better served by a week at DisneyWorld and a souvenir packet of pixie dust from Tinkerbell.  

Who Is Coachable?

Not everyone. Those who are uncoachable often think they have no performance issues and if there is one, believe everyone "out there" is the cause. In these cases, coaching isn't a very good option to produce positive results. It's kind of like one spouse dragging another to marriage counseling in the hope that the counselor can "fix" the partner. (Ever see how well that works?). The sticking point here is a mindset that doesn't allow someone to reflect on their own behavior, a desire to change it, and their personal responsibility for the relationship. So, forcing someone into a coaching relationship isn't the best organizational solution for certain issues and individuals.

JFK

Five Characteristics Of Coachability

If you are considering coaching someone else or being coached, here are five attributes I've observed in people who successfully "own" their part of the coaching process. You might want to use this as a quick diagnostic tool.

1. Committed to Change. Individuals who don't think they're perfect, want to improve, exhibit responsibility for their lives, and are willing to step outside of their comfort zones are good candidates for a successful coaching relationship.

2. Open to information about themselves. Be willing and able to listen and hear constructive criticism without being defensive; then, synthesize their coach's suggestions with their own personal reflections on the issue.

3. Open about themselves. Willing to engage in topics that may be uncomfortable but are getting in the way of their professional development; talks about "what's really going on" so the coach can have a complete and honest picture of the total situation.

4. Appreciate New Perspectives. People who get excited about hearing someone else's take on a situation and figure out how to learn from it can really benefit from coaching.

5. Awareness about one's self and others. Coachable people already have at least a fair amount of awareness about themselves. Equally important, they use it to reflect on their behavior and how it impacts other people in the range of situations that come their way.

 

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Learning How To Develop Others

"Developing Others" ranks dead last on just about every organizational skill level survey with which I've been involved or have read. 

It's not because people lack awareness of its importance; quite the contrary. It's because development takes time. It involves getting to know people and their capabilities at more than a surface level. To develop people, you have to follow a few fundamental steps.

Growth-1-300x227 Here's How To Begin

1. Start with an accurate picture of the person's strengths and weaknesses. They can't grow if they don't have good information about themselves. And managers can't help them develop without the same kind of clarity.

2. Get ongoing feedback from multiple sources. The key words here are ongoing and multiple

Ongoing: Performance improves with information that is provided as close to an event as possible. That way, the situation is still fresh and the details clear. If I get feedback in November about something that happened in February, what am I really supposed to do about it? And I have to ask myself: "If it's so important, why did you wait this long to tell me?"

Multiple sources: We all have bosses and peers; if we're managing, we also have direct reports. When I do 360s for clients, I always insist on feedback from people outside of the person's direct chain of command, even external customers if there is a lot of customer interaction. When someone is working across boundaries on a project, there's a wealth of information available about the ability to build relationships and influence outside of the "power" sphere. 

3. Give first-time tasks that progressively stretch people. In a series of leadership conferences we conducted between 2006-2009, participants told us that the single most valuable contributor to their leadership growth was a series of stretch assignments. No one grows from doing the same thing more and more. '

4. Build a learner mentality. Encourage your people to think of themselves as professional learners as well as (job title). In meetings and one-on-on one, ask:

  • What are you learning that's new or different?
  • Where have you seen yourself improve most in the past year?
  • What have you learned in one situation that you can now use in others?

5. Use coaching, mentoring, classroom, online, books, coursework, and stretch assignments to promote and reinforce learning and development.

One of the byproducts of developing your people: you gain satisfaction and stature as a result of their success. 

Who will you help today?

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The Value of Self-Awareness

Organizations gain a lot more from leaders who take responsibility for what they know they don't know than from leaders who pretend to know everything.

Dog-mirror1 What recently occurred to me in an "aha" moment is this: self-awareness is one of the most valuable leadership competencies, yet it is one of the least discussed. In an effort to appear task-focused and "business-like," organizational feedback often gravitates toward hard skills and competencies that are more easily measurable. 

Have You Thought About This?

People who don't know their strengths and weaknesses actually tend to overestimate themselves. Research literature and my own coaching experiences have shown that poor self-awareness leads to poor performance and, frequently, termination. 

We live in a highly competitive culture. I've watched more than a few leaders and leader wannabes try to appear as if they know everything all the time. They believe that if they don't, people will question and even challenge their capability, undermining their leadership effectiveness. In fact, the opposite is true. Whether you acknowledge your weaknesses or not, those around you still see them. The result: trying to hide a weakness actually magnifies it, leading to a perceived lack of integrity and, ultimately, trust. 

Knowing yourself helps you use your strengths better, develop where you can, and avoid or compensate for areas where you are unskilled or just plain unsuited. 

The simple truth: People who know themselves better do better.

Helpful resource: Chris Musselwhite was ruminating over similar issues back in 2007, and wrote a terrific article on Self Awareness in Inc. Check it out: http://tinyurl.com/yj2st6x

____________________________________________________________

A quick note on comments: Due to a heavy travel and speaking scheduling, plus the holidays, I've been remiss in responding to comments in a timely way. My apologies to all who have taken time to weigh in and add to the conversation. All Things Workplace has always been a forum for discussion. I'll be getting caught up this week and we'll get the conversation rolling again. Thanks to everyone who has added their expertise and thoughts in the comment section. 


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Coaching, Autonomy, and 5 Good Questions

Managers tell me they sometimes shy away from coaching because they're concerned about not having "all the answers." Be honest: we all like to feel "in control" to some degree when we're the boss.

The good news: employees say they don't want answers. They want probing questions that make them explore solutions on their own and probe more deeply into situations facing them.

Coaching_animalpair A solid coaching relationship flows from the right combination of autonomy, shared responsibility, and building new skills. Here are some quick tips for managers who coach (and I hope there are many out there):

Autonomy: Let the employee decide on the best options in a situation, then be there for coaching support when it's needed.

Responsibility: Encourage your employee to make decisions by using a give-and-take dialogue that includes questions, personal experiences, and an "I believe you can do this" approach.

Nurture Learning: Coaching conversations highlight areas for skill-building. Identify what those are, help find the best way to develop the skills, and set new standards once they are learned.

Ask Yourself These 5 Questions

1. If I'm honest with myself, is fear stopping me from delegating more?

2. Does each of my people have a project from which they can learn something new?

3. Do I support the ambitions of each of my people?

4. Who is ready, now, to move up to a new level?

5. Is there a project that I really could be handing over to one of the team?

Coaching is a key part of treating employees as partners. It fosters commitment rather than compliance. And, it reflects a trust in the potential of each employee for bigger things. 

___________________________

Winning Workplaces

Chances are, if your organization has a coaching and collaborative approach to business, you also have a "Winning Workplace." 

My friend Mark Harbeke at Winning Workplaces has an opportunity for small companies to be recognized in a big way. Here goes:

Apply Now to be Recognized as a 2011 Top Small Company Workplace in Inc. Magazine

Winning Workplaces is collaborating with Inc. to recognize "Top Small Company Workplaces" that have built corporate cultures that foster a productive work environment and satisfied employees. The winners will be featured in the June 2011 issue of Inc. Magazine, the premier publication for entrepreneurs and business owners. In addition winners will be featured on Inc.'s and Winning Workplaces' websites and will gain additional exposure through a nationally distributed press release.

To see if your company qualifies for the award please visit: https://tsw.winningworkplaces.org/

 

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Managing & Coaching: It's About Support

If you are a manager, a coach, or a manager who (hopefully) coaches, the biggest help you can provide is offering support without undermining your employee or client's sense of self -responsibility. 

It's easy to see "support" as jumping in and bailing out someone who is struggling with a situation. Instead, create an up-front agreement telling when you'll be available as a sounding board to sort out ideas or explore solutions to problems. That way, you serve as an energizer: enabling learning versus directing it.

There will be times when your seniority or position power will be needed to influence others in the organization. When that happens, provide your support. In organizational life, managers can often be most helpful by removing barriers for their people.

Roadblock

Successful On-The-Job Coaching: 3 Things To Do

1. Ask your employee to pinpoint issues and tasks where support is needed.

2. Let her know when when you're available to provide the needed support.

I just came across the next one as a result of a team diagnostic. The team leader thought there was some conflict within the team. He was right.

3. Make sure others on the team are working toward the same goal. Really. 

My leader client had, unwittingly and without malice, laid out a plan of action that forced a few team members to focus on cost-cutting while others were focused on growth (it was a sales team). He resolved it quickly by pulling everyone together and re-visiting the larger goal (profitability) while facilitating a discussion with the account reps to identify how they could best support each other while hitting the individual and group targets. He offered about 30% of the solutions based on deep experience; the team members worked out the other 70% themselves.

What to take away: The combination of support and self-responsibility is the key to growing people. Make sure both are abundant.

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Managers Who Coach Build Commitment

Did you know that the majority of employees today expect their managers to coach them? At the same time, managers are concerned that they won't have all the answers.

That's understandable, given the human condition's need for a sense of control and, in a manager's case, the appearance of expertise.

Coaching Commitment
The good news: Employees don't want advice. They want to be stretched and asked questions that allow them to sort things out and learn as a result.

Here's What It Takes

A productive manager-employee coaching relationship includes these elements:

  • Self-Direction. The employee initiates areas for learning and relies on the manager for support when necessary.

  • Self-Responsibility. The coaching manager encourages employees to make decisions through reflective questions.

  • Focus on Learning. Employee develops new skills with the support of the coaching manager, then sets new goals and standards.

Three To-Dos for Managers Who Coach

1. Set clear expectations for results and let your people find their own best way to get the job done. (You hired them for their unique attributes).

2. Give people as much responsibility as they can handle, then support them. People grow from being stretched.

3. Develop the habit of asking "How can we. . .?" instead of "Why did you. . ?"  Think about the distinction.

 

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Leadership Coaching: Success Is In The Agreement

There is often an equal amount of fuzziness when it comes to Leadership Development and Leadership Coaching. As a result, the coaching issue can get blurred. So here are some suggestions after a lot of years wrestling with the issue.

Pay Attention to These


When it comes to coaching--or any kind of consulting activity--90% of the success or failure lies in the contracting phase. So:

1. Get clear about who initiated the coaching request. If it was a boss, be sure to understand what that person is looking for and why. Which means also asking, "Who really set this process in motion?" (Your boss may be the messenger).  Measure  

2. What are the specific results desired from the coaching engagement? While Leadership is a sexy, catch-all phrase, maybe the real issue is managing team performance, running better meetings, or initiating conversations with colleagues in other corporate locations. (All three have emerged after probing underneath the Leadership umbrella during contracting).

3. Is coaching the best way to get at the desired growth? The fact of the matter is that some things are skills than can be learned in other ways. And if you ask yourself how you best learned Leadership, the thoughtful answer will probably be "from leading." Be prepared to suggest expanded responsibility. People grow by being lifted up, then stepping up.

(Effective coaches know when it's time to simply hold the ladder).

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Performance Feedback Through The Back Door

Are you getting any real feedback on your performance at work?

Faux Feedback Disguised as 360 Assessment

1. I was asked late last year to provide coaching for a middle manager. During the exploratory meeting, I asked his boss how he (the middle manager) responded to the performance feedback that led to the coaching solution. The boss responded in a very general way, shuffled a bit, and said, "I guess I should sit down with him again. But I think using some kind of 360 feedback tool would really be helpful."

2. January brought about another coaching request at the executive level. Similar initial conversation, similar response, same "360 feedback tool" suggestion.

3. Three weeks ago...yep, it happened again. Along with the "360 might be helpful..."

FrontDoor_BackDoor  These are three different companies in three different industries with three different cultures.

My intuitive take: 360 Tools are seen by some as a way to satisfy the known need for feedback but to avoid having to provide it directly.

If the object of feedback were only to provide raw data, maybe that wouldn't matter. However:

Employees at all levels want feedback and direction first and foremost from their boss. That's the relationship that employees look to when making decisions about what to do, how to do it, and how well it's going. (

Dealing With Back-Door Feedback Through Front-Door Coaching

If you're a coach, then I will assume you adhere to this principle: You don't give feedback to a coaching client that he or she hasn't received from their boss. Period.

What to do?

I explained to each boss that I couldn't continue until their person had gotten all of the "what" and "why" feedback from them. That the coaching would be viewed as sneaky and unethical. And, that without the boss's direct contribution, it probably wouldn't have any real meaning.

The result? Each one agreed. This wasn't about an evil empire. It was about people who needed some help themselves.

So the first coaching session was with the boss to create the specific feedback and practice giving it.

And yes, we still did the 360 feedback because it really was desired by the people being coached.

What to take away: Be on the lookout for back door feedback requests and, regardless of your role, point people toward the front door before proceeding.

Photo Source: www.spareroom.co.nz

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Influence: Help Competent People Grow Through Questions

Leaders do have to tell people exactly what to do when a person isn't yet competent--and confident--about the task or assignment. (The whole "leader" thing isn't just about high-concept and vision).

But how do you develop managers who are knowledgeable and committed?

You can build increased confidence and deeper understanding by asking questions designed to help them make their own discoveries and decisions. Here are seven questions to get you started as  a "coaching" leader:

Influence_7 Questions.001 

As you become more comfortable with probing questions, you'll develop your own. In fact, what are some of your favorites now?

_________________________________

Fistful of Talent names All Things Workplace in Top 25 Talent Management Power Rankings. We're buzzed! The FOT folks are all top-notch themselves and use some serious criteria vs. "popularity" to create the rankings. There are some new blogs at the top of the charts that are good additions to your RSS feed.

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How To Gauge Other People's Concerns

Employees at all levels are giving high priority to the issue of respect in the workplace. As a result, "emotional intelligence" and empathy at work have catapulted to importance in the management/leadership realm. And, for good reason: mis-reading or totally missing someone else's "stuff" can create sticky situations and bad blood. On the other hand, the ability to pick up on cues and accurately follow through is a hallmark of relation-building and something that we all value from managers and co-workers. For sales people, it can mean the difference between no client or a huge bonus.

Empathy: Get Some

Look, I know that empathy is one of those "soft skill" things. Fine. But absent any degree of it, you'll spend your life being an individual contributor with yourself as the only customer. That's just not a good income-generating plan.

What is empathy?

Empathy is the ability to read or sense someone else's responses by imagining yourself in his or her place.

Some folks are born with a predisposition toward, and a sensitivity to, the feelings of other people. They often develop their intuition in this area as they mature. Even so, they also learn to ask questions along the way to clarify issues and confirm (or disaffirm) their intuition. 

Note: Part of being empathetic is not telling someone else exactly how they are feeling without checking it out first.

Learntolisten

How to Boost Your Empathy Quotient

When you're watching or listening to someone:

  • Use your imagination and similar past situations to give you clues about what the other person is feeling and experiencing.
  • Imagine that you are the other person. What might your needs be?

When people talk with you about what's on their minds it's common to hear them talk around the topic instead of getting to the heart of the matter. (Often, they don't know the heart of the matter; they just know how they are feeling).

So, here are Four Questions that will make you genuinely helpful:

  1. "Can you explain three things that really concern you about this issue?"
  2. "If you had the choice, what would you most like to have happen now?
  3. "What do you think is the single thing that would help you most?"
  4. "What are some other aspects of this that are also worrying you?"

Once you've picked up some solid information, summarize what you think you've understood. Then, pause and ask: "What do you think would be most useful to do next?"

Most people actually do think of a next step.

Remember this: Employees and colleagues aren't looking for you to know answers. They're looking for someone to ask good questions and listen in ways that help clarify the situation and alternatives.

That's the kind of respect that leads to solid relationships and professional growth.

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It's Not The Feedback, It's What Follows


Feedback_iconFinding out "how we're doing" is an important part of life, on and off the job.

360 degree feedback tools can be especially helpful when you want to know how you are doing in relation to your boss, your direct reports, and peers in the organization. I like 360's because they:

1. Let you see how others believe you are doing in specific areas that are important to on-the-job success

2. Provide a quick look at how each of your constituencies is experiencing you.

For example, your direct reports may be getting everything they need, while your peer group may tell you that they need something other than what they are getting now. So you know where to keep doing what you are doing now, and where to make some changes. That helps you prioritize things.

3. Offer the opportunity for a structured conversation.

When you want to talk about your performance it can be difficult to know just where to begin. The 360 process allows you to get specific feedback in specific categories. When you see the results, you can sit down and ask questions that address meaningful areas of work life. And, you are dealing with information already acknowledged as important by the different groups of respondents. It can be a lot easier discussing things that have already been generated--and therefore owned--by the people who are important to your success. You have a place to start--and isn't that sometimes the toughest part?

360: It's the Conversation That Matters

Raw data are just that. What's important is the "why" behind "what" was said. Without finding out the answers, you really don't have an accurate picture. Why not?

Always remember that feedback is more indicative of the sender than the recipient. Feedback says, "Here's what I think based on my expectations of you in these specific areas. The real payoff can come from discovering where you need to clarify or re-visit what's really expected and honestly discussing what's really possible. And, when people of goodwill have those kinds of discussions, it can lead to a quick boost in trust as well as new energy to move ahead.

Are you or your organization using 360 feedback? Then make sure there are conversations that follow. Without them, no one knows the real meaning of the data. With conversations, you stand to get an exponential payoff in understanding, trust, learning, and improved performance.


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The Mark of Leadership

Chesty Puller, considered by many to be "Mr. Marine Corps," said once that the corps needed men who could lead, not command. Commanders tell people what to do; a leader shows people what to do by personal example.

Who would have thought that Mr. Marine was all about servant leadership?

One of the hardest parts of sitting in the proverbial "corner office" is remembering that leading requires action. Without action, no one has an example of how to "be" in the organization.

We all like to be acknowledged and fawned over--especially when we've reached a perceived pinnacle of career success. Truth be told, few of us like to roll up our sleeves and wait on others. Yet this is exactly how people are drawn into the service of our vision. Few things are as magnetic as seeing an individual help someone else. 

When was the last time you quietly helped a hassled co-worker or direct report put the finishing touches on a project? Or maybe something as simple as pouring coffee for the participants gathered around a meeting table?

Help Here's an example of The Mark of Leadership that I can't get out of my mind:

During an executive gathering in a mahogany filled suite on the top floor of a corporate building in Philadelphia a few years ago, a glance out the window revealed that a blizzard was sweeping in. The CEO--coincidentally a former naval commander--noticed as well. This man had been brought in to make some difficult, long-term changes and had done so quite successfully. But what he was about to do is why I remember him.

There was too much food for the participants in the meeting. Everyone invited couldn't get there. At the end of the brief luncheon meeting he said: "There are people within 3 blocks of here who are homeless and probably huddled under the walkways. Let's gather up these sandwiches and chips, find those people and feed them."

Really.

The Mark of Leadership.

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What About Self-Deception At Work?

You know about this.

You're at work and Jerry in Marketing is a pain in the butt. Jerry got 87 pieces of 360 feedback that told him he is a pain in the butt. What does Jerry say?

"I am committed to my belief system."

In Jerry's case, that appears to be some secret code phrase for "Regardless of what you show me, I will ignore your evidence and bless you with my unbending wonderfulness."

When asked about the 87 pieces of consistent feedback, Jerry laments that he is misunderstood. By 87 people. All the time.

Self-deception The Truth About Self-Deception

Thankfully, WE aren't like Jerry. Or are we?

The folks at one of my faves, PsyBlog, tell us:

". . .it's not hard to spot the tell-tale symptoms of self-deception in other people. So perhaps we are also deceiving ourselves in ways we can't clearly perceive? But is that really possible and would we really believe the lies that we 'told' ourselves anyway? That's what Quattrone & Tversky (1984) explored in a classic social psychology experiment published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology."

If you want to understand more about the ease of self-deception, read The Truth About Self-Deception.

The conclusion:

"This experiment is neat because it shows the different gradations of self-deception, all the way up to its purest form, in which people manage to trick themselves hook, line and sinker. At this level people think and act as though their incorrect belief is completely true, totally disregarding any incoming hints from reality."

Now, send the link to Jerry in Marketing. (I kept one for myself, too).
__________________________________

Suggestion from Dr. Peter Vajda at SpiritHeart:

"Some folks might also want to read the Arbinger Institute's book, Leadership and Self Deception. For folks who think, "How can I be (part of) the problem - at work, a home, at play and in relationship - this is an eye-opening, tug-on-the-sleeve journey to self awareness.

The real problem with self deception is that, being "blind" to the truth, none of the solutions we bring to the table ever work. How could they?

When we blame, we blame because of ourselves, not because of others - the crux of self-deception - a harsh reality to explore for many. If we stare into that mirror long enough, we'll see its true reflection."

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Seven Elements of Effective Coaching

There's been a much larger-than-anticipated response to the Coaching For Managers eGuide (available to you in the right sidebar). So, we're figuring that this is a topic that's genuinely helpful.

I'm in the midst of finishing the wording for a contract with a new coaching client. Since my mind wanders a bit when hunkering down with details, here are some coaching thoughts that emerged during the periodical mental breaks. In my experience, these hold true for both internal and external coaches:

Seven Coaching Tips To Consider

1. Take time to accurately diagnose the situation. Begin coaching conversation using open-ended questions, then sit back and let the client hear what (s)he is saying in response. Clients often become  start to recognize behavioral patterns through their own answers to good questions.

Questioning_800x600 2. Ask the unexpected question. How often have you experienced that feeling of being stuck with no apparent options to escape a situation? This bumps up the stress level. The secret here is for the coach to create brainstorming questions that will generate alternatives to the current situation.

3. Get really, really clear about goals. We've all experienced goal-setting of some sort. However, for a goal to be really useful it needs to be meaningful to the individual. Dedicate significant time to working with clients to refine their goals and sign off on them. (I have them physically sign a document. It increases a sense of accountability).

4. Initiate options. New coaches sometimes rush through this and quickly offer advice. (Hey, it's a lot easier to say, "Do this." Of course, the coach has just taken ownership of the solution).

Effective coaches take time to ask questions that allow the client/employee to come up with some new options that will lead to action and new behavior. Only when options come from the client will you get real commitment to change. The loudest statement a coach can make is by quietly asking a question, then remaining silent.

5. Help evaluate options. Work with the client/employee to develop a set of criteria to evaluate the different options. What investment (energy, money, time,) is needed to put a specific option into practice?

6. Design an action plan. Gee, how mundane, eh? Spending time identifying how a goal will be reached will pay off big time if any glitches are experienced. All you have to do is backtrack and see where things went off track. Also: The plan needs to have a "Here's how you'll know you're successful" element. Coaches help people celebrate; make sure you know when to hold the party.

7. Encourage momentum. Sometime cheerleader, sometime nag; we all need someone to keep us on track. Use phone calls, emails, water cooler conversations, whatever it takes. Remember, it's about moving toward a goal or some kind of change. And you'll enjoy being part of the celebration."

What are you doing that's helping your clients or employees?

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Coaching? Three Choices To Consider

If you're in a corporate setting there are three types of coaching to consider.

This brain blip occurred as I was exchanging emails about probing questions, a discussion that's been ongoing here as well as in a section of the Coaching For Managers eGuide.

NumeralThree

It's important to understand the distinctions between the three in order to have a basis for a good diagnosis and, as a result, the right prescription.

Skills Coaching: Is the issue about specific skills such as selling, presenting, dealing with customers, handling media inquiries etc.? If so, the solution will have a training element involved. The coach will need content expertise to train in skill-building while coaching to ensure the agreed level of proficiency. This isn't a situation where a series of reflective questions are helpful. After all, the person being coached doesn't know what (s)he doesn't know.

Performance Coaching: This is what we usually see when it's time to help improve someone's performance in a current organizational role. Often, the desired improvement comes as a result of a 360-degree feedback process or a team building session. Performance Coaching is normally equated with acquiring or sharpening specific behaviors or eliminating others that are inhibiting effectiveness. Questioning is an integral part of the process and may be supplemented with suggestions such as, "Here are two or three ways you could approach this."

Developmental Coaching: Reflective learning is the order of the day here. The objective is to enable the client/executive to gain increased self-perspective and awareness, especially when it comes to leadership activities in the organization. Developmental coaching may, quite literally, consist only of questions. It's the responsibility of the one being coached to connect the heart and mind; then, examine themselves in the context of the organizational systems and their relationships to and with them.

For managers and professionals involved in development, it's a good idea to have a quick way to determine the level--and kind--of coaching support that will be most effective.

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Do These And You'll Be Coaching

This week has been busy and kind of professionally eclectic, with projects ranging from editing video for a client's marketing kick-off to facilitating the merger of two professional firms to launching the Coaching Managers to Coach eGuide (see the sidebar). I hope you'll find the free download helpful and use as many tips as possible for yourself or with your organization.

The good question that briefly delayed the eGuide launch got me thinking about how we often wait for a corporate directive to do what we already know is right. I think Coaching falls into that category.

Managers can certainly coach and in the absence of a corporate initiative or full-blown, formal training program.


If you'd like to get started, here are a half dozen things you can do. Try one or two at a time until you've built a coaching element into your management repertoire. Your team will appreciate it and you'll find you have more time for those bigger-picture issues that your own boss has been asking you about. The first one is actually something you don't have to do!

Questionbox

Six Steps to Coaching

1. Stop fixing everyone's stuff.

OK, the next time someone brings you a problem, stop. Do nothing. Then. . .

2. Ask them for more information using open-ended questions.

You already know how to ask questions. (And you may already know the answer to the question. But no one will learn much if they don't learn to think through issues on their own). The trick for "coaching managers" is to click a mental switch that triggers a question instead of an answer. An easy way to to develop the questioning habit is to think of yourself as a journalist and start your responses with:

  • Who. . .?
  • What. . .?
  • When. . .?
  • Where. . .?
  • How. . .?

3. Use the bonus question that will automatically buy some time and gather more information: "Tell me more about that?"

4. Listen. (That means "Shut up, don't speak.")

You'll be surprised at how much you'll learn by listening. Once the other person stops talking, give them  space to say more. Count silently to 10 if you have to. You'll discover that this block of information will reveal more than the first and often gives them the self-revealing "Aha!" needed. In which case, you'll be a hero.

5. Ask More.

OK, so they didn't get to the heart of the matter in #4. When your person's responses and energy start to fade, that's your cue to ask another open-ended question. Ask it about something they've just told you. Ask anything that will help continue the exploration of the issue. You can't really ask a "wrong" question.

Note. The reason you can't ask a wrong question is this: Your role is to alternate between helping them explore (questions) and being silent (just listen). The act of listening after a question is a gift that few people get. Listening shows respect. When it comes from "the boss" it's an indication of trust in one's ability to problem-solve. 

6. Support giving "it" a try. You'll find that the Q&A process will have generated ideas and actions in your person's mind. This is where you help them stretch by suggesting, "Do you want to give that a try and let me know how it's going?" 

So, What Just Happened?

You've helped someone develop more confidence in themselves, built trust in your mutual relationship, and created a little more time for your own strategic thinking while they're working on the agreed-upon action.

If you are spending more of your managerial life answering than asking, you may be working way too hard. You may also be making yourself indispensable in your current job. That may work well if this is where you want to spend the rest of your career--and, if the job doesn't go away.

________________________________________

What I'm Reading

Managing Leadership's Jim Stroup has a good post, Reconciliation, that's related to this one in a way. Jim asks what happens when we step back to see what the other people around us at work really need.

Sound advice on Assuring Sustainable Learning from MaryJo Asmus.

Brett Simmons on a favorite topic of mine: The Courage to Take Moral Action.

Wally Bock's review of The Pursuit of Something Better.

The energetic article from Fistful of Talent's Jessica Lee on Social Network Recruiting = Discriminatory Hiring Practices .  Looks like the lawyers are at it again.

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Coaching eBook: Good Question Delays Launch 1 day

So I'm minding my own business getting ready to shoot the final product off to CoderGeekBoy for uploading when, in the midst of a sense of publication relief, the phone rings.

CoachingeBook3D

Right. Not an email or a tweet, but an actual old-school phone call. It was from an HR person who wanted to know if the eBook includes these:

1. How do you gain sponsorship and support from top management?

2. If you can't, can you still have a "managers who coach" initiative and culture?

3. If the answer to #2 is "Yes", then how do you make that happen? And how can it happen without top management support. 

I thought about the deadline and being perceived as a weenie if I missed it. Then, I thought about the universality and usefulness of her questions. 

The result: I'm adding a section to respond to those questions. Rather than incur the late-night wrath of  CoderGeekBoy, we'll launch this puppy in the morning.

Note: I'm not sure that it took Cecil B. DeMille quite this long to direct The Ten Commandments. And Moses didn't have to format those tablets and covert them into good-looking .pdfs.

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Coaching for Managers eBook: Coming Today

It started with Management: The Coaching Way, a follow-up to our HR.Com webcast where I discussed how to help managers become more comfortable--and skilled--as coaches.

Then Great Leadership's Dan McCarthy asked one of his dead-on questions that led to Managers Who Coach Ask Questions That Enlighten.

CoachingCover_3D

This generated  suggested "questions that enlighten" from managers and coaches who we're fortunate to count as part of the All Things Workplace community.


So, when our highly-valued in-house digital guru Coder Geek Boy throws the binary switch, you'll be able to download--courtesy of All Things Workplace and steveroesler.com--"Coaching Managers Who Coach".

If you are an executive who wants to build a cadre of internal coaches; an HR pro who is looking for ways to add even more value to your internal clients; or a manager ready to coach, you'll find context, tips, and resources that work.

You'll also have the benefit of some tried and true coaching questions from these professional practitioners:

Rodney Johnson, author of Without Warning: Breakthrough Strategies for Solving the Silent Problems Taking Aim at Your Organization

Learning executive Angie Chaplin

HR pro and coaching authority Joan Schramm

Dan Erwin, Performance Improvement expert and writer

Coaching expert in career alternatives, Camille Macchio, and. . .

Francis Lewis weighing in from the UK 

Thanks to everyone who contributed.

What time is the launch? As soon as Coder Geek Boy gives the thumbs up, we'll Tweet the word via http://twitter.com/steveroesler


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Coaching Is All About Change

We business types seem to have a need to put things in nice, neat boxes with a different label for each. (This is, in part, one of those "Analysis vs. Synthesis" things). Leadership--Coaching--Talent Management--Performance Management--Communication. . .

ChangingPlaces All of this is really about change. If we aren't doing something to improve the current situation (that is, "change" it), then why are we doing anything at all?

Management coaching is simply about helping to bring about behavioral change (what and how people say and do things).  I think if we looked at ourselves as "changers"--and left the rest of the fluff alone--it might help us stay more easily focused on what we're really charged with doing. Yes, I know we don't change other people--they opt to make changes or not. But the idea kind of rings true with me because I find focus in simplicity.

Managers usually accept that "managing change" is inherent in their title. I wonder if managers would "coach" more if it were suggested that they spend individual time with each of their people on "changes".

That's my stream-of-consciousness today. Any thoughts from your experiences?

Note: To those who have contributed questions to the Coaching eBook, we are refining the layout and design and are shooting for a 9/18 launch.

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Coach This: Systemic Thinking

Take a look at job descriptions and "help wanted" ads for managers. You'll see some form of "able to analyze____" in almost every one.

Analysis is both important and useful. Here's the potential problem: a strong tendency to focus only on breaking down issues in order to analyze their parts can lead to missing insights into improvements and opportunities. Instead, these come from looking at the situation or system as a whole.

Systemic Thinking.001 Conventionally taught "thinking techniques" are most often analytical. Systemic thinking is different – it combines analytical thinking with synthesis: seeing how things work together.

Synthesis is more than putting things back together again after you’ve taken them apart: It’s understanding how things work together. (Wordle is a fun example of a tool that offers a visual result of synthesis).

Analytical thinking enables us to understand the parts of the situation. Synthesis enables us to understand how they work together.

Managers who coach have an opportunity to develop systemic thinking in their groups. A few good questions:

1. "If we broke this down into its smallest parts, what would they be?"

2. "Now that we can see them, how do they work together?"

3. "How could we do something differently to make 'it' work even better?"

We have opportunities every day to use real-life situations to help our employees, colleagues, and kids learn to analyze and synthesize. Use some variation of those three questions regularly--people will get it.

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Managers Who Coach: Overcome Dependency

Whenever you try something new it's worthwhile to consider what you've been doing and how that might get in the way.

This really holds true for managers who have been used to giving answers and now want to do more coaching. Or, maybe you've been promoted and inherited a group from the kind of manager that has made the members consistently look to you to solve their problems.

Psychological-Dependency Diagnosing Dependency

You may have encountered more indicators but here are four that come to mind:

  • Lack of Initiative: Your people rely on you to get things rolling rather than risk making a mistake or failing.
  • Lack of Confidence: You notice that people tend to ask you to do things for them instead of making decisions and taking action.
  • Lack of Thoughtfulness: When there is an issue or a problem, people come to you for an answer vs. working through things and offering a possible solution.
  • Lack of "Future Thinking": Both problems and opportunities slip through the cracks as a result of an inability to see the big picture or how things will play out, given certain circumstances.


What to Do?

1. Start by getting really clear with your team about who you are, how you want to operate, and what your expectations are.

2. Agree on the kinds of issues you're prepared to discuss and how you like them to be presented.

3. Over time, ask the group members to sketch out their own solutions and discuss them. During your time together, ask what other thoughts they have about the situation at hand.

What else have you found effective in your management or coaching practice?


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Coaching: What Kind of Team Do You Have?

Today's guest Wally Bock is probably familiar to most readers here. An avid blogger and sought-after authority on real-life application of management theory, Wally can be found at Three Star Leadership when he's not out helping clients build their management expertise. ___________________________________________

Coaching is not just about helping individuals reach their potential. It's also about helping the team win. But different kinds of teams require different kinds of coaching. What kind of team do you have?

Sports Is your team a baseball team? Sometimes a baseball team is just a collection of individuals that share the same space. When teamwork is needed, it only involves a few players at a time while others move to backup positions and watch for any sudden changes. Players use their own initiative, fairly independently of what other players do.

Is your team a football team? Football coaches determine where players will play and what they will do and when. Plays are short, intense, periods of hopefully scripted activity. Football players do what they are told and only exercise individual initiative within a limited range.

Or is your team a basketball or soccer team? In those sports players coordinate themselves on the fly. The game moves too fast for specific direction.

In every sport, players need coaching in individual skills. In every sport, chemistry is important. But when the game is being played baseball, football, and basketball teams need to be coached differently.

What kind of team do you coach? What are your challenges?

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Speak Into Someone's Life

Today's guest writer is Erik Rebstock, a successful business entrepreneur/business owner who is now Pastor of Men's Ministries at Fellowship Alliance Chapel in NJ. Erik works daily with men on issues of leadership and character and how to live those out in the workplace.

Mt-rushmore-10 Do You Know Gutzon Borglum?

George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln. Great men, great legacies. Their faces were hewn into the granite peaks of Mt. Rushmore by sculptor Gutzon Borglum and 400 other men over the span of nearly 14 years. These four men made an indelible impact on the lives of all Americans and perhaps the entire world.

According to author Chip Ingram, we all have a personal Mt. Rushmore. Think of the people who've spoken into your life. The one’s who trained you, taught you, molded you. These are the men and women who literally shaped your very existence. They are your Mt. Rushmore.

Imagine what your life would be like now if they never bothered to speak into it then.

Consider the opportunity you have to end up on the Rushmore of someone else’s life. The world is full of young men and women who are waiting, hoping, praying for someone to have an impact on them. Hoping for someone to take a risk and build a legacy in their life. Praying for someone to train them, teach them, disciple them, mold them.

Just like someone did for you.

Imagine what their life will be like if you speak into it.

Now: imagine what it will be like if you don’t.

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Effective Coaching Questions: An Offer

OK, the responses to Managers Who Coach Ask Questions That Enlighten started generating some good questions being used by the pros in the business.

What's the offer?

It's this. I'm finishing up the Coaching for Managers eBook that grew out of the recent HR.Com webcast in which I participated as a speaker. One of the elements of the eBook is a list of good questions that would be helpful for managers and those helping them become more effective coaches. When I saw the suggestions to the "Managers Who Coach. . ." post, I thought: Why not generate an even bigger list from the folks who are doing it every day.

Ebook So, here's my pitch: If you are a coach (or have been coached and certain helpful questions have stuck in your mind), I invite you to:

a. Send in your best, along with the situation in which you use them (Getting Started, Clarity, Re-focus, etc. You can describe the situation in your own terms and I'll plug it into the appropriate place).

b. You'll be listed as a contributor along with your web address and/or blog address. I'll also find a way to identify who contributed the question.

c. I'll send you a .pdf copy so that you can offer it on your blog, site, or in hard copy to clients. The only stipulations are that it be free and that no alterations may be made to the document.

d. You may submit your questions by commenting here or mailing them to me at [email protected]

e. By submitting in either arena you are giving permission for your questions and name to be used in the eBook.

f. The deadline for submissions will be end of business day on Tuesday, September 8. It will take about another week after that to add the info and reformat the eBook a bit. Then, I'll send it out to you and announce it on the blog; you can do the same, if that matches your style.

I think that's it.

We can help a lot of managers and other coaches bump up their game as well as provide a professional resource with which your name/firm will be highlighted.

So, as they say on TV (well, they used to): Keep those cards and letters coming in!

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Managers Who Coach Ask Questions That Enlighten

Leadership Exec and writer Dan McCarthy prompted today's post.

Dan added to the conversation on Management: The Coaching Way  with this:

"It seems the best coaches may have a toolkit of great open-ended questions. . .Do you have a list of favorites that always seem to produce those "aha" moments, or is it always situational?"

Well, for sure it's situational. At the same time, there are some useful questions to have in your toolkit because each situation has predictable elements.

We're going to post a list as a free resource at steveroesler.com shortly. In the meantime, I hope these will provide some guidance for managers who may feel "stumped" at times.

Note: It's important to take some of the pressure off by remembering that coaching is really about effective conversations; questions are the foundation for bringing about the "Aha!" And, they help focus the responsibility for learning in the right place.

Face-To-Face Situations and Questions

Getting Started

  • What’s happened since our last meeting ?
  • Tell me a little of what’s going on right now.
  • What's important for you to focus on today?

Exploring Issues

  • How is that related to your key goals?
  • What does ______really mean to you?
  • Tell me a little more?
  • What do you think explains that?
  • What is your gut feeling about this?
Identifying What Is Most Important
  • What is most significant for you in all of this?
  • Exactly why is this a problem?
  • Could that (issue) be a symptom rather than a cause?
When You Need to Re-Focus
  • Why is that important?
  • Is this where you want to invest your energy?
  • May I offer an observation?
When You Sense the Readiness for Action
  • What, specifically, do you want to have happen?
  • How can I help?
  • How will you know you've been successful?

There are more situations and more questions, but this will hopefully help managers see the pattern within the questioning nature of coaching. It really can feel genuinely uncomfortable at the outset. After all, managers are lauded for their direction and decisiveness. In this case, your role changes so your behavior will change as well. 

We'll work to get the expanded set of questions up on the site this week. In the meantime, I know we have a number of experienced coaches who take time to add to the discussion here. Check into the comment section; I'm sure you'll see some terrific suggestions.

Thanks again to Dan McCarthy for the nudge.

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Management: The Coaching Way

Ever since last week's webcast on HR.Com we've been talking regularly about the payoff to everyone involved when managers coach.

Coaching is really a style of management. Maybe it's even more helpful to view it as an over-arching approach to life. That doesn't mean it's totally inherent and can't be learned. It can, because it's a choice. At first it may feel uncomfortable but, like anything new (think "shoes"), there will come a time when you won't want to shop for another style or fit.

Here are ten tips to use a coaching style as part--or all-of your management toolkit. Some of you may have more to add and I hope you'll weigh in with a comment for readers. In the meantime, I hope you find these useful.

Helping-hands Manage With (Coaching) Style

  1.  Develop and adhere to the belief that your employees probably have the answers to many situations within them and that your job is to enable their insights to emerge.

  2. Give all of your conversations a clear purpose and clear outcome: "What's the issue and how will you know that you've made progress? 

  3. Forget about being right and having the best, or only, legitimate point of view. Even if you have more experience than the person you are coaching ( you probably will), that person has a set of experiences that can add to or refine the issue.

  4. Quiet your mind and then listen without judgment and without the filter of your own beliefs, values, opinions and ideas. This is difficult; you'll also learn a lot and hear things you never heard before.

  5. Give it your full attention; no distractions and no interruptions. It's a big help if you simply move away from the computer monitor on your desk.

  6. Silence is really good. Listen with all your senses including--especially-- your intuition.  Create space and silence for insights to emerge from the time to think.

  7. Ask open-ended questions that expand the though process: what, how, who, when, where, what kind? Some will say "avoid 'why' ?" because it can be "accusatory or threatening. Yep, it can. It can also force a person to examine whether or not the issue has a real purpose.

  8. Play back what is being said using their words, not yours.

  9. Notice body language, tone of voice and what is not being said.

  10. Ensure that there is a clear, timed action with accountability to move things ahead;offer further support if needed.

OK, your turn. . .

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Managers Who Coach: Think About Your Best Teacher

OK, so I'm trying every way possible to convince managers that coaching will help their own performance (nothing better than learning by teaching), their careers, their group's productivity, and their own sense of satisfaction.

Today's unabashed approach: Channel Your Best Teacher

Note: If it was Shirley MacLaine, you can stop reading this now and go here where Shirley would love to hear stories about your UFO sightings as well as Fur People. 

What Did Those Darned Good Teachers Do?

I'll bet that each of your best teachers somehow found a way to connect with your needs and interests. And they weren't all alike, with different styles and idiosyncrasies.

Doris-day-teacher's-pet3 But they all had one big thing in common:

The ability to reach you. And we all want to be reached.

What did they really do? The best teachers helped you discover, then celebrate it with you. That's a lot different than telling people to sit still, listen, take notes, memorize, then regurgitate it all on a test.

Your best teachers were coaches.

What's the Secret?

By its very nature, coaching is personal and tailored to the uniqueness of each student (employee); a prescription, if you will, for  healthy growth.

Coaches are teachers (managers) who know their material well and their employees even better. How do they do that? They understand an employee's grasp of a task or issue because they've watched, asked questions, and listened.

And employees will actually make it easy for you.

How do I know?

Two reasons:

1. I coach a lot. It's about diagnosis, clarity of goals, asking the probing questions and listening in order to understand. Once you finally understand something, that kind of clarity produces possibilities that seem to jump up and down yelling, "Choose me, choose me!"

2. Research. The folks at Blessing-White did an in-depth, global study on coaching that showed:

  • When managers think about coaching they worry about "having all the answers".
  • When employees think about being coached, they don't want advice. They want to be stretched and want help sorting through problems. Their most important criterion? It's simply a trusting, supporting relationship.

Every recent study of job-seekers shows that candidates and new hires want to learn and expect to be developed. If you want to make your organization or team a better, more desirable, more positive, and more productive place to work, start by becoming the teacher (coach) who helped you be where you are today.

Your management legacy will be the result of your coaching commitment.

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Is Internal Coaching Still A 'Sell' For You?

Some of the questions at the webcast that I did last week for HR.Com & Halogen Software taught me this:

There are managers and HR professionals who still have to fight the good fight to convince their companies that coaching is an investment with a significant return. I was talking about how to help managers themselves get more involved. You can go here and sign in as a guest to hear the webcast and see the accompanying slides. 

We're just about finished with a related eBook that will be available in the next 48 hours and will have access info here and on Twitter. In the meantime, if you find yourself across the table from someone who is a bit negative and perhaps unfamiliar with the real payoffs of effective internal coaching, here's a graphic that I hope will start you off on solid ground.

Coaching Graphic.001

What are the arguments that you hear and the selling points you make in your organization or practice?

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How To Be Coachable

This topic emerged while I was preparing for today's webcast "How Talent Management Tools Help Your Managers Coach with Confidence" on HR.COM at 1 p.m. ET and sponsored by Halogen Software. You can join us--it's totally free--by signing up here.

Who Is Coachable?

The fact is, everyone isn't. Those who are uncoachable often think they have no performance issues and if there is one, believe everyone "out there" is the cause. In these cases, coaching isn't a very good option to produce positive results. It's kind of like one spouse dragging another to marriage counseling in the hope that the counselor can "fix" the partner. (Ever see how well that works?). The sticking point here is a mindset that doesn't allow someone to reflect on their own behavior, a desire to change it, and their personal responsibility for the relationship. So, forcing someone into a coaching relationship isn't the best organizational solution for certain issues and individuals.

JFK Five Characteristics Of Coachability

If you are considering coaching someone else or being coached, here are five attributes I've observed in people who successfully "own" their part of the coaching process. You might want to use this as a quick diagnostic tool.

1. Committed to Change. Individuals who don't think they're perfect, want to improve, exhibit responsibility for their lives, and are willing to step outside of their comfort zones are good candidates for a successful coaching relationship.

2. Open to information about themselves. Be willing and able to listen and hear constructive criticism without being defensive; then, synthesize their coach's suggestions with their own personal reflections on the issue.

3. Open about themselves. Willing to engage in topics that may be uncomfortable but are getting in the way of their professional development; talks about "what's really going on" so the coach can have a complete and honest picture of the total situation.

4. Appreciate New Perspectives. People who get excited about hearing someone else's take on a situation and figure out how to learn from it can really benefit from coaching.

5. Awareness about one's self and others. Coachable people already have at least a fair amount of awareness about themselves. Equally important, they use it to reflect on their behavior and how it impacts other people in the range of situations that come their way.

You may have some others that you use to gauge coachability. Take a moment to add your tips with a comment below.

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What Happens When Managers Coach?

You may already have the right people to enable your company to "win"--however you define the word.

A couple of years ago I was involved in designing a leadership program to develop the top talent in a global company. We created a model that used the senior management team as coaches for the structured learning activities. First we coached the coaches on how to coach; then we turned them loose. It's been the most effective learning we've experienced in nearly 30 years of leadership development and design.

Coaching2

What's happening that works?

  • The top leadership learns a lot about their own abilities.
  • They learn about their people while developing closer relationships with them.
  • The high potential participants receive coaching and company insight from the leaders who know it best.
  • The participants also "step up" their game. How often do you see the top leadership in a company totally dedicate two full days to the talent beneath them?

You Can Do It, Too

Managers are the natural lighting rods for developing talent. Coaching isn't another job--it is their job.

Companies are always looking for ways to develop people economically but effectively. Every research study on the planet shows that employees are most influenced--pro or con--by their immediate boss. That's exactly why managers at every level have the ability to make the most difference when it comes to grooming people for the future.

The mission: Give them the capability.

Three things managers can start now:

Appreciate: Focus on identifying the very best in others.

Encounter:  Seek the truth, wherever that path will lead.

Improve: Insist upon personal responsibility for performance growth.

When managers coach, we get "two personal bests" for the price of one.

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Is It Really Just About Strengths?

Have you ever noticed people making excuses for poor performance or ugly behavior by invoking the "It's just who I am" defense?

Research (and common sense) show that focusing on peoples' strengths can have a positive affect on engagement and results.

But any approach or new , misunderstood, can actually cause negative side-affects.

 Have you seen any of these?

- Using  "strengths" research as an excuse for managers to avoid uncomfortable performance discussions with employees. ("Everyone knows that James is difficult to work with and shirks his responsibilities. No one wants to work with him and clients complain about him...but he's a really good analyst. Let's not rock the boat.")

- Hiding behind strengths as an excuse for bad behavior. For example, "I'm sorry that I snapped at you and called you a bumbling idiot. I have a short fuse. That's just how I am. Sensitivity is not my strength. You'll just have to accept that."

Tug-o-war- Dumping mundane tasks (like paperwork, administration) on others because "it's not my strength." (For example, "Anne, you're so good at making the office coffee, cleaning out the pot and using the fax machine. Would you mind? I'm not good at that kind of stuff.") All jobs require doing some things we don't like, or aren't particularly good at...and most companies can't afford to give all of their employees an assistant to dump work on. Sometimes we just have to suck it up and do something, even though it's not our strength.

 All of that said, I'm still a huge believer in understanding one's strengths. I just get alarmed when I see a good concept spin out of control and become destructive.

What's Happening With The Strengths/Weaknesses Thing?

There are probably a number of reasons why, but I think there is a phenomenon that gets played out--at least in American business circles--whenever the latest and greatest thing hits the scene. And it's this:

What is actually a Principle is adopted as a Rule.

Instead of really taking time to understand all that lies underneath a principle, people run with the catch phrase and treat it as "the way." A book title becomes a buzzword that is then tossed around in meetings. It becomes problematic when the word doesn't have a shared meaning among the users. And that happens a lot. So it is with Strengths.

It's a lot easier to say "It's all about Strengths" than it is to live a life identifying and acknowledging our strengths; figuring out where we need to become at least adequate in some of our weaknesses; and respecting the people around us enough to behave unselfishly even when we "feel" like doing our own thing our own way.

When managers avoid uncomfortable performance discussions, they are showing disrespect for their employee. How can the person improve without hearing the truth, exploring ways to change, and growing as a result?

When we hide behind Strengths as an excuse for bad behavior, we're really saying "I don't respect you enough to bother to honor you with good behavior."

And when mundane tasks are dumped on someone else because "I'm not good at it," then I better ask myself just how I'm using my position power. Is one of my less attractive "strengths" the inclination to take advantage of others' weakness?

What I find ironic as I write this is: we're talking about Strength, yet the insidious culprit is Laziness.

What to do?

1. Take time to learn the "why?" behind the "what." When you can explain a concept accurately using everyday language, you've got it. If you or colleagues around you are still discussing things using buzzwords, stop and ask for an explanation of the meaning. That discussion could lead to shared meaning and deeper understanding.

2. When you hear a "performance excuse" disguised as a reason, follow up by asking: "What are you going to do about that? It's impacting other people and that's not acceptable." It's amazing how we'll make changes once we are called on our behavior and not allowed to explain it away.

3.  Make really bad coffee and jam the fax machine.

Related bonus post: From Lynn Mattoon: Millenials In The Workforce

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Steve Roesler, Principal & Founder
The Steve Roesler Group
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Mobile: 856.275.4002

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