Anatomy of a Coaching Conversation

What is coaching?  How do you know if you need a coach?  What’s the difference between a coach and a counselor or mentor?  What should I expect from a coach?  How does the process work?  These are all legitimate questions about an area that covers everything from supervisor feedback to help with your golf game to finding your life purpose.  Whatever the nature of the coaching conversation, it should always include three distinct components:  an agenda, exploration, and defining actions.

It’s up to the person who wants to improve to define the agenda.  Whether it’s your career, your performance, your leadership impact or your life, there must be an objective.  Generally, there is an overall objective that leads you to seek help but there also has to be an objective for the conversation.  Ask yourself, what do I want to get out of this discussion?  What would make this a good use of my time?  If you engage a coach to help improve your overall performance, you might have a conversation to understand the common themes in your feedback or to develop a plan for addressing specific feedback.  If you engage a coach to help with planning for life after retirement, you might use a session to clarify your goals.  The coach will help with your little agenda while keeping in mind the bigger agenda that you want to achieve.

When I’m mentoring, I draw from my experience in an effort to teach someone how to do something I know.  Likewise, counseling or consulting draws on the past and a specific area of expertise.  Coaching, on the other hand, pushes the client to draw from his or her own knowledge and experience.  It focuses on exploration and thoughtful consideration of what might be done differently to get better results.  A coach will ask thought-provoking questions or simply listen while you consider what the problems might be.  Typical probing questions include:

  • If you could achieve your goal in six months, what would it look like?
  • What else could you do?
  • What else occurs to you?
  • What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
  • Who else is affected in this situation?

The coach walks alongside you on the journey to improve.  They might share observations or provide tools to facilitate the discovery process, but a coach believes in the wisdom of the client to move from where they are to where they want to be.

All coaching conversations should lead to developing an action plan.  It doesn’t have to be formal, but you should walk away with something to do that will move you closer to your goals.  The work of coaching involves aligning the client’s passions, skills, and values with their daily actions.  The coach should leave their clients with more confidence, direction, and a greater sense of fulfillment than he or she otherwise would have.  This requires putting in the work between sessions to act on the learning and increased self-awareness.

A coaching conversation can be informal or you can pay for professional coaching services.  The advantages of coaching will be directly proportional to the effort and commitment that you make.  I strongly recommend professional coaching for anyone who wants to fulfill God’s vision for their lives and who understands the benefit of having someone walk alongside as you learn to live accordingly.

 

Masterful is…

M is for Mastery.  It’s not enough to be smart or talented.  You have to actually be good at something.  The extent of your ability is based on the amount of effort you put into honing your skills and knowledge in an area.  Being good will often get you in the door, but staying on top requires continuous learning and improvement.  So don’t give up.  Don’t give in.  Don’t stop striving to be the best at what you do well.

A is for Authenticity.  I love the Barney song “You are special.  You’re the only one like you.”  It reminds me how important it is to be real and transparent.  There will always be people who don’t understand or appreciate you but that doesn’t mean you should shrink so that they shine.  There is enough darkness in the world for us all to shine brightly.  So be your amazing self and show up when invited.  Show up in meetings.  Show up at events.  Show up at home.  The world needs to see the real you not an imitation.  Self-love begins with knowing and appreciating who you are at the core; then others can too.

S is for Service.  There is no higher return than what you get from living in service to others.  Doing for others gives your life purpose and meaning.  When setting a goal or making a plan, always ask “for the sake of what?” and the answer will define the value of your actions.  Service gives you a reason to get up every morning.  Service is what defines that dash between the date your were born and the date you die. Ultimately our goal should be to improve the world around us socially, culturally, morally and/or intellectually.

T is for Thankfulness.  There are lots of blogs and books written about the benefits of gratitude including feelings of abundance, less stress, more happiness, and better sleep.  I’m a big believer in this principle and even the habit of keeping a gratitude journal like Oprah.  However, being thankful is also about taking the time to speak or write to an actual person for doing something that benefits you.  It’s a common courtesy that can go a long way to improving relationships and making you feel good too.  Manners are important.

E is for Empowerment.  Power in its very nature is imposing.  So being comfortable with and understanding your own personal power is key to building confidence.  It affects your presence and gives you an edge over anyone who is uncomfortable with their own ability to influence others.  When you are comfortable with power it’s also easy to empower others because you don’t feel threatened or insecure.  Power has much less to do with position than it does with an ability to make things happen.

R is for Relationships.  In business school we were taught the importance of networking and if you can learn to do it strategically, that’s a great skill to have.  Whether you are an extrovert or introvert, the importance of building and maintaining relationships cannot be downplayed.  Who you know matters but not as much as who knows you.  What people know about you affects everything from your performance rating at work to your ability to get clients or even a date.    It’s always been said that there are only six degrees of separation and with the world getting smaller as a result of technology and globalization, it may be down to three.  So nurture your network and remember that to have good relationships you have to be relatable.

F is for Faith.  Yes, spirituality is important.  A belief in something greater than yourself keeps you grounded and provides hope when the world all around you seems to be crumbling.  It’s what we turn to when we don’t have answers to life’s big questions in our search for meaning.  And if you haven’t had a reason to call on your own God, then you haven’t lived long enough yet.    Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen according to my beliefs and it has given me the strength I needed to carry on.

U is for Unity.  There are so many walls and forces that would like to keep people from getting along, however, I’ve found that people are basically the same in their needs and motivations.  Instead of jumping on the band wagon of judgement and divisiveness, being the person who looks for commonality and builds bridges will make you a true champion.  Looking for ways to collaborate on a good idea will make it great.  Helping people connect the dots in largest complex organizations and systems will win you favor.  Referring people to businesses and services that you have found with satisfaction will provide multiple dividends.  Celebrate diversity but strive for unity to make the world a better place to live and work.

L is for Leadership.     The world needs more leaders.  Not more managers or people who think they know everything but people who can see something better than what we have right now.  People who know how to think strategically about how we get from here to there and what resources we will need along the way.  People who can inspire others and motivate them to act on a vision.  People who can make things happen.  Leaders believe in themselves, believe in a better future, and believe in others.  The world needs you to be a champion of good leadership in our homes, our communities, and our businesses.

So strive for mastery, authenticity, uplifting service, thankfulness, true empowerment, rewarding relationships,  unwavering faith, unity and excellent leadership.  Being MASTERFUL is all of these things and more.  I believe in a more Masterful You!

Leadership Speak

On the road to being a more masterful you, effective communication is critical. They teach parts of speech in school but I think they should teach acts of speech as well. Speech acts are powerful ways to have more positive relationships.

First, when we talk about the past we tend to make assessments and then assertions. We all judge and develop opinions about a person or a situation whether informed or not, whether spoken or not and these assessments become our truth. Perceptions are reality right. We are human and this ability to make assessments often protects us from hurt, harm, and danger. They inform our decisions and guide our actions. The challenge is when you actually make an assertion or a statement of judgment or opinion (informed or not) you engage others and open yourself up to be challenged. We should all expect this given that opinions and judgements are like noses and everyone has them. As leaders, when making an assessment, anticipate questions and apposing points of view, be ready to explain your logic and/or even the emotion that led to your position. Don’t get frustrated when others don’t see or share your perspective, just respectfully agree to disagree. It would be nice to say no harm/ no foul because we all have opinions, but as leaders recognize that your assessments often do impact people and sometimes it impacts their livelihood. So try to stay informed. See to understand different perspectives. Try to remain open to alternative points of view so that you limit any potential harm.
Next let me share a few tips on negotiations. I know that’s an unusual term to use but a lot of conversations are really negotiations. When you make requests, offer to do something, or agree with someone you are demonstrating negotiation skills.  When thinking about your conversation in those terms its important to be clear, so let’s talk about them. A good request includes details of what, when, how much, and why. The same is true of an offer you make to someone. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to get requests from people where I have to go back and clarify any one of those details. The worst is when a leader is not sure what they want. Take the time to think through exactly what you are asking of others and remember that resentment comes when someone fails to answer a request that was never made. Unspoken requests are not legitimate because people cannot read your mind. When making a request or an offer, realize that the response can be yes, no, or a negotiation of what and/or when. An agreement or a commitment should be very clear as well and start with something like “I heard you” or “I understand” or “I will” or simply “I agree.” If you don’t get a response to a request or an offer, then you can ask for an agreement. These simple rules or acts of speech if practiced can reduce friction and conflict on every level and with any relationship. 

Lastly, its important how we as leaders talk about the future. A declaration is a statement you make that describes and creates a future possibility. A leader can share someone else’s vision but at some point you have to be able to describe the future state to others.  Write the vision, make it plain, then declare it! We need leaders in our homes, at work, in our communities, and within our government to speak life to a future that is inclusive, innovative, and inspirational. 

There was a point in my life where I had accomplished all that I’d wanted when I was younger and I stopped dreaming. It was a watershed moment when I realized this and started allowing myself to dream again. I learned how to dream in color! I learned to describe what I wanted for my family, for myself, for my community. I realized that as a leader I had the power to make my dreams a reality only when I spoke them out loud for others to support me, encourage me, help me, and hold me accountable.

Your acts of speech are powerful leadership skills, so hone them now. Practice effective communication in all areas of your life.


#masterfulyou