Sunday, June 23, 2013

The three questions coaches need to answer

I was at a coaches' training this weekend (taking the training, not leading it this time). The coaches involved had varying levels of coaching experience and confidence. They were all there to learn because like most people who dedicate their work to the study of human behaviour, they believe there is always more to learn.

We all face the same three questions as coaches:

1) How do our clients know what they want to change? We can't assume they are using the same criteria or even the same thinking processes that we are. Coaches take training because they never know enough about the processes that lead to the best choices.

2) How do we help people make change? We all want to intervene as little as possible because that seems like the most useful way to enable someone to change in a way that will work for them. But it's hard to know where to apply a useful nudge. Coaches take training because they are always looking for tools that will get better results with less interference.

3) What's the difference that makes a change stick? We all know that the answer probably involves will power, but most of us believe will power is something one has to develop for oneself. If you need your clients to maintain the changes they make in a session (say, for instance, you are working for a corporation and not for the individual you are coaching), or if you just want to do a great job for your client, you need to know that changes will stick. Coaches take training because they always wonder what will happen when the client walks out of the room.

Sometimes, even when we have good answers to all three questions, we will not be able to get the results we want from our coaching. That's the nature of work that depends on the contributions of other people. Sometimes you do your best work and it doesn't get your best result (sometimes you don't do your best work, and some winning combination does get you a great result). So it is really, really important for anyone in a coaching role to think about these three questions and improve their odds. And, of course, the outcomes their clients get.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

I Require Connection to Pursue my Passion

I suppose this heading might take your thoughts in lots of different directions. That's the way both connection and passion work.

The direction I intend you to remember is that this sentence is a mnemonic that will allow you to quickly recall 5 useful beliefs about human beings. These beliefs will help you feel better, connect better with others, and set goals that are worth your time, your energy and your enthusiasm.

I is for Integration. Believe that each human being (even you) is one unified being, that body and mind and unconscious processes all work together as just one integrated system.

R is for Resourcefulness. Believe that each human being (even you) has the strengths, characteristics and intelligence to live a more satisfying life.

C is for Connection. Believe that the mind/body system of each human being (even you) is exquisitely equipped for observing and connecting with other human beings.

P is for Predictable. Believe that each human being (even you) works in patterns and that when you accurately identify the pattern you can predict the responses and behaviours of that person.

P is for Purposeful. Believe that each human being (even you) behaves as though they had a purpose that drives their selection of patterns and behaviours, and that human beings are happiest when they are aware of their purpose.

These are not truths and you do not need to believe them as if they were true. Any reasonable person can come up with exceptions to most of these. What you are welcome to test is the possibility that acting as though these five qualities were characteristic of every human being will improve your ability to read people, identify and move on common ground, and make better decisions about your goals and relationships.

I Require Connection to Pursue my Passion.
Integrated. Resourceful. Connected. Predictable. Purposeful.

One sentence to remember 5 words that might change the results you get this week.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

The 4 Ps on the Path to Performance

Who has time for complicated theories? Even those of us who love rich complex thought, especially combined with clever wordplay, have only a little time for it. It's the square of exquisite dark chocolate in our diets, not the leafy greens that keep us healthy and moving.

This morning, I'm going to offer you a simple way to think about how you are getting the results you are getting. Most of us don't think about performance (except in phrases like performance review). We think about getting things done and satisfaction and relationships. But. . . . whatever you do in a day is a performance and you can decide where you would like to perform better (which is a more direct way to think about where you would like to get better results).

The four Ps of performance:

Pain:  I know. It's a terrible place to start. But pain is an indication that there's something that needs to change. And working through pain extends your endurance and ability.

Problem: All pain is a problem but not all problems create pain. Problems can also drive curiosity and exploration and the desire for bigger boxes or wider frames. They're often the key to innovation.

Purpose: It's hard to push through pain or even to solve problems if there's nothing you want at the other side. Purpose means knowing what you value and what you want to change. Sometimes it means setting goals and sometimes it means finding the one goal that is big enough to drive you for the whole of your life.

Persuasion: This is an out-of-favour word but it fits here and I like it better than influence. Persuasion owns the process: it says there is something specific I want you to believe, to think or to do and I am going to find a way to get you there.  Without persuasion, your performance is limited to the things you can do on your own. That just doesn't cut it for most of us: we need other people to participate in our success and that means persuasion is part of our performance.

There's nothing here about technique.  Technique is part of both problem and purpose: it's what you learn to do what you want to do. But you can master technique without changing your results enough. Performance suggests not just being capable of success: you want to do something with that capability.

NLP: Now Learn the Ps that drive Performance

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Permission to put the right label on what you feel

Did you ever have a feeling that was different from what people expected you to feel? There's an interesting motivation that comes from finding the right word for what you are feeling. It's as if the right word gives edges to the feeling. You might still feel it, but you are also able to begin to imagine that you might feel something else too.

This framing only happens when you are congruent with the word you choose. When other people give you other labels, the feeling leaks out around the edges. Because it is not contained, it colours all of your attention, even the part that is feeling out the label and working to understand what does or does not fit.The leak is every bit as messy as it sounds, and it keeps you stuck trying to figure out a feeling instead of free to move past it or through it.

When you are supporting someone else and you can tell they have found the right word, give them a few minutes (or hours or days) to adjust their perceptions around this word. It's not as satisfying as having them leap around shouting "I'm saved!" but it is something special to help someone find the word they need and then just sit with them while they take a good look at what that word is and what space might open up around it.

Think for a moment about the times you have been really stuck. Perhaps you were set free by a really big change outside yourself, but it's likely you got moving again because something changed inside of you. And those changes are almost never big: they are small enough to sit inside and guide our perceptions until the world seems bigger and the problem seems smaller.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Is coaching just another word for therapy?

I recently attended a workshop where the leader (an internationally acclaimed psychologist) often applied research on therapy to the practice of coaching. For instance, if it is true that therapy should be evaluated after 3 sessions and declines dramatically in effectiveness after 10 sessions, then that same metric will be true of coaching. The implication is that coaching, like therapy, is about returning people to a condition where they are capable of managing their lives without assistance.

Is that what coaching does?  It's certainly true that coaching is often about solving problems and good coaches often enjoy solving a problem quickly and effectively.  However, from another point of view, if coaches wanted to solve problems they should a) solve their own and b) stop hanging out with top performers who also like solving problems. It may be true that elite athletes, actors and musicians require coaching throughout their careers because they are somehow constitutionally incapable of solving their problems without a little outside help. Does that seem true to you?

Have you ever tried to give yourself a satisfying massage? Knots in your muscles is a pretty basic problem. How is working on yourself different from going to an RMT and allowing them to work on your muscles?

Coaching is like massage.  It has a rep for being soothing, relaxing, a little bit of a luxury.  When you really get value from it, however, it doesn't feel like that at all. When my back is in knots, massage hurts. It hurts while the RMT is working, and it sometimes hurts while all the muscles adjust to the restored blood flow.  When I need a coach, I can go into a session feeling great and come out feeling a little beat up, a little like my body is adjusting to restored blood flow.

I assume that there will never be a time when I will not want to improve, to find the edge of my competence and move it out, to grow towards the light. And that means that there will never be a time when I will not value the perspective and the push that comes from someone who knows how to observe my thinking, find the spots that are too tight, and loosen it up a little to let in new energy and resourcefulness. As long as I am serious about getting better, I will value a coach who is committed to knowing something I do not know about myself and using that perspective to move my edges.