How Coaching Enters an Organization

This week I delivered a talk to leaders regarding Coach Culture- and the three modalities of coaching and introduced them to the simplest coaching model I know T-GROW.  Next week I’ll talk about T-GROW because I know all of you can implement this structure in your conversations immediately.

But this week I want to share how coaching often gets introduced to organizations.  These are the three major players:

HR- Tasked with bringing innovations in human capital to the organization.  When introducing coaching to their organization they may be trying to solve a problem or keeping up with trends and case studies in the marketplace. They more than most understand the millennial generation’s driver to develop via relationships.  (I believe our traditional experiential learning pyramid of 70/20/10 mix of on the job training, relationships and classroom training- will shift dramatically in the next 10 years to a 40/40/20 mix due to the millennial influence) HR often acts as the gatekeeper to the relationship with external coaches or talent management brokers of coaching. 

Executives- Always on the lookout for what is happening in the marketplace around them, peer conferences and development share coaching as a must.  Most executives are coached by external coaches for the benefits of mastery and experience of the external coach, many are former executives themselves, and the extra layer of confidentiality that allows them to speak freely regarding business changes that may affect an internal coach.  These executives are swift to see the benefit that coaching may bring to the organization particularly in the areas of retaining high potential talent, retaining newly recruited employees, or helping those new to a level acclimate to the stepped-up challenges of the new role.   Executives are the most likely to desire Key Performance Indicator (KPI) measures and Return on Investment (ROI) or Return on Expectation (ROE).  Some of the major accounting firms around the world use coaching- and ROE is good enough for them.  

Internal Coach- This may be a trained coach that is already an employee of the company who wants to share their skill set and value add with the organization.  Alternatively, this may be a person who has experienced the benefits of coaching and believes it should be added to the organization and wishes the organization to fund training to become a coach.   These coaches make proposals of internal pilots to grow the portion of their role that uses coaching, and attempts to make this a formal part of the organization to solve business challenges.  These employees should be evaluated as possible coaches looking at credibility, high emotional intelligence.  Often being part of the business as opposed to HR may gain greater respect for delivering actual business results, from business skeptics who may associate coaching with ‘feel good’ activities. 

The introduction of coaching by an executive or HR may be a bit smoother rather than trying to push for approvals at lower levels, but in any case, the project management must be strong.  The expectations for the program must be well-defined, and key performance indicator’s baselines well established.  If you are trying to improve retention or sales performance- you must understand where you are today to realize if you have arrived at where you want to be. 

The interesting challenge of these three perspectives in introducing coaching, is that they don’t often have full understanding of one another’s challenges and desires around coaching.   The internal coach doesn’t have full understanding of the executive’s numbers and headcount controls.  The HR partner doesn’t always understand surrendering a resource to coach, means there is one less project manager or engineer to execute on projects.   To gain a full understanding all the parties need to be involved in planning. 

Next week I’ll talk about integrating the TGROW conversation in your leadership toolkit.

Have a great week – Happy Leading!

Integrating Coaching in your Everyday Conversations

The advantages of coaching culture our numerous.  Coaching outperforms every other leadership style.  It brings the full strengths and gifts of the entire workforce into play with less work and strain on the managers and leaders. 

The data shows that organizations with a strong coaching culture outperform their peers financially and enjoy greater employee engagement. 

One of the simplest ways to introduce coaching culture into your organization is to train your leaders on coaching skills.   This is often a 1-2-day workshop introducing the skills of coaching like building rapport, active listening, reading body language, and powerful questioning.  And then giving the leaders a formula to work with.  My favorite ‘formula’ is the simplest model I know- called TGROW.

Here it is:

TOPIC: When an employee (or peer) begins a conversation with you – determine the topic (just as you would in a meeting- what’s the topic?)

GOAL: Narrow that topic to a goal (the objective of the meeting) is it to: get something off their chest?  to make a decision?  list pros and cons of the alternatives? etc.   Sometimes the goal isn’t always clear, but keep asking questions- because if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there!  In some of my coaching sessions this can take up to 15 minutes, but then the rest of the conversations is smooth sailing and goes very quickly.

REALITY: After determining the topic, AND the goal- establish the baseline.  Where are they today?  Have they already debriefed this before with someone else, and just want another opinion? Have they mostly made up their minds on this decision but want to confirm? Or they are just collecting data?  Have they started the list of pros and cons? 

OPTIONS: Once you’ve decided the goal, and you know where they are now- then you can brainstorm options.  Careful here- as you’re brainstorming, be sure they know you are not attached to any of your offers of ideas, this is their plan.  You can even just offer to take notes on all their ideas.    You may also want to review the potential obstacles to each of these options to make sure you have enough viable ideas.

WAY FORWARD: Of all the options you reviewed, which sounds the most fun, easy, least costly etc. what’s the final decision? And in SMART fashion – include that timely element of ‘by when’ or ‘how often’.  

You’ll find this is “fun” work- you as the leader don’t have to come up with ideas, or be the expert, in fact- you can know NOTHING about this person’s challenge and still be extremely helpful by asking questions.

Does it take longer than barking out what to do?  Sure, the first few times, but you’ll find your employees take greater ownership and pride of their own ideas, and you’re building their innovation and problem solving muscles while freeing up your own time, and reducing the stress in your own body.  You’ll even find you’re working fewer hours in the long run to accomplish even more work as a team.

Want to learn more?  For in-depth training on the TGROW model and the coaching skills for your leaders – email

Learn even more about how coaching can help your company in my soon-to-be released book (early May 2017) Coach Culture.    Pre-sales available at my website

Have a great week – Happy Leading!

The Pain of Management by Objective (MBO)

It’s not an entirely bad idea.  Pick the one thing (it’s actually never ONE) and rally all the troupes around this cause to leapfrog your company ahead in the marketplace.  Focus is a great thing.  (I’m currently reading The ONE Thing by Jay Papasan & Gary Keller) Those who focus excel.  The problem is this is what MOB ends up looking like in real life.

The alarm goes off, and with dread I realize another day has come.  Another day where I feel stress upon the moment I wake – knowing deadlines surround me, and risk taking is appreciated, unless there is an opportunity to fail- which there is, and then it’s not.  My commute builds the cortisol in my body- anticipating the reactions and challenges of the day.  I cringe at entering the building and what might be facing me in my increasingly smaller cubicle, in my inbox, and at today’s meetings.   I’ve tried to enter the office earlier and earlier to have a moment’s peace to prepare for the day, but everyone else is doing it too, and so now all we do is work longer hours.   Today – like every other day there will be challenges to my authority, my leadership and for my territory.  I must monitor my staff’s actions, positioning and even presentations to be sure we look like we know what we are doing at all times.  I can’t even trust them to make good judgments in their projects.  I have to oversee everything and insert my experience at every turn.  I don’t know how much longer I can keep this up.  I can’t say anything to my boss- she’ll think I’m incompetent if I say I need help, and I can’t look bad.  If we don’t make our numbers this quarter one of the managers is gone – and it can’t be me.  I’ve got a kid going to college next year, and another in two more years.  It won’t be long before my mom’s cute forgetfulness becomes a memory care problem.  I’m just going to keep my head down and put in the hours- they can’t let me go if I keep meeting my objectives.  It’s just a high cost to pay…

If you can relate to any of this you realize that you’ve been immersed in a culture that is skeptical at best, and resisting at worst.  You’re in protection mode, feeling a sense of combat fatigue- seeing valued peers let go- and wondering if you’re next.  In this state, we rely on our primitive brain- and can’t see opportunity or even collaborate because trust isn’t present.  It’s not necessarily MOB’s fault, but when all the decisions are made for you – the what and the how- there isn’t much room for conversations that create connection and open possibility.

Consider experiments- figure out safe situations to create trust.  Be willing to be curious and see what that opens for you.  Curiosity is the opposite of Judgment.  Our professional careers are based on applying judgment all day long.  We must remove ourselves from a position of having to be right- and consider everything else.  I challenge you to try it just once this week. 

Have a Great Week -Happy Leading!

The Authentic Leader

It’s a big trend- one I’m thrilled about- the idea of the Authentic Leader.  What does it mean?

First I’ll start with what it isn’t.  It is not someone who is looking out for number one (themselves) at the exclusion of others.  It isn’t someone who follows trends while abandoning their own principles.  It isn’t a people pleaser.  It isn’t someone who withholds information for power, or is afraid to be vulnerable. 

Being authentic means that you know you are capable and worthy and therefore are willing to be seen.  You have great self-awareness, and you know your values and operate within them.  (see my post on Integrity) So why capable and worthy?  When we are less than competent or capable, we waste a great deal of energy trying to ‘look’ the part or learn the part.  It’s fine to know you can handle this, but may need help, or you can manage this and have skills to learn- those make you capable.  Worthy means you know you belong.  If you’re fighting the ‘belong’ feeling, you’re wasting time and energy on proving yourself.   We often refer to this as the imposter syndrome.   For the purposes of this blog, let’s assume that your superiors knew what they were doing when they placed you – and you are capable and worthy of the task.

So being authentic means that you allow your manager, peers and subordinates to see you.  This means what you do know, what you don’t know, and what you are unsure of.  It means you are willing to show emotion, when you are struggling, and ask for help.  It also means you steward your post.  You delegate and trust as appropriate.  A former leader I enjoyed shared “I’ll tell you what I do know, what I don’t know, and I’ll tell you if I know something, but I can’t share it yet” How refreshing!

Too many leaders play ‘tough guy’ (this includes you too ladies!) and pretend they know all, never make mistakes and don’t have feelings, because that would make them weak.  All that it shows is that you’re either a sociopath, arrogant, or clueless.   (Last I checked, none of those were a great leader attribute) 

So how do we get there? It takes some self-knowledge, testing, and planning- and knowing what is appropriate.  When I lead workshops, I prep my leaders for introductions.   I let them know I am going to call on them first, as all others will take their cues from them.  I want them to be real, and comfortable but go a bit beyond all business.  People grow from connection and having something in common.  So, what can they provide that will allow others to relate to them?  Maybe it’s sharing a hobby, or their favorite vacation spot or binge television program.  Then people see a bit of the real you- the Authentic Leader.

Stay tuned for more information on Authentic Leaders- and consider enrolling in my upcoming Authentic Leadership Bootcamp beginning March 1.  My colleague, Dave Walker and I will be running our inclusive group through a step-by-step process to reveal their own leadership traits, strengths, values and how that plays into their toolkit as an Authentic Leader.  Email me for more information or check out the PDF flyer here.

Tired of Managers telling you HOW to do your job?

It’s one of the most frustrating and infuriating experiences.  Here you are- trained, ready, willing and IT’S YOUR JOB to figure out how to do things, and yet someone who doesn’t have your training or experience, but concerned with controlling everything, is telling you HOW to do it.  It’s enough to create a few interesting movie plots.

The research shows that a coaching culture produces more highly engaged employees, and better financially performing companies compared with their peers.  Apparently, this isn't enough to begin a coaching culture.

Companies cite reasons for not beginning a coaching program with too little time (but you have time to tell your employees how to do their jobs?) and too little data for ROI. 

I’m here to tell you it doesn’t take much time at all- and it is a TOOL like any other tool- training, equipment etc.  And if you have a measure – any measure you are targeting- like retention, women in leadership roles, onboarding new employees, acclimation to a new job or level. You can improve it with coaching. 

What kind of coaching? It depends.  There are three main modalities: External – typically reserved for execs – and one of the more expensive options.  Internal – directors and below, and leaders with coaching skills.  This could be mentors, managers, supervisors etc.  (This is usually the cheapest, but often people go too cheap on this and don’t train their leaders with enough hours, or provide them with feedback and supervision on their skills.) 

I have a ten-step program I lead people through to implement coaching or to build a coaching culture.  The return is huge, as leaders get their lives back from not having to do all their subordinates’ jobs (by telling them how to do everything) and the workforce grows their problem solving and innovation skills with confidence. 

Want to learn more?  Follow this blog for more about this process – or contact me to learn about coaching or consulting for your company to build a coaching culture.                                

Have a Great Week -Happy Leading! 

Integrity is Not a Moral Compass

Integrity: the state of being whole and undivided. "upholding territorial integrity and national sovereignty"

synonyms:  unityunificationcoherencecohesiontogethernesssolidarity

"the integrity of the federation"

In other words: intact. 

I approve of the other definition as well, but it’s too subject to rationalization and justification.  I like the coaching use of the word better as what matters is how you feel.  We all want to feel whole.  Anytime you feel pulled apart by opposing factions, you are out of integrity.  The way I describe it to my clients? Anytime you are behaving in a way that is contrary to your values.  This might be company values, which is why culture fit is so important, (and poorly considered in hiring (inho)) or personal values.

A big challenge I find with my clients is that they love to have things fully completed before moving on to the next challenge.  Check the boxes, cross the t’s etc.  Unfortunately, with the pace that high-tech and other industries move, the company rarely values ‘completing’ work fully.  The analogy I use is ‘they’d rather have you do three projects at 80% than, one or two at 100%’ Believe me, this is not a popular reality.  Because this conflicts with their values – this situation puts them out of integrity.  They have two options:  one, get comfortable with a workplace that values volume over completeness and seek the completeness in their personal lives, two-(which isn’t realistic for most people) is to move to a position or company that shares the same value of completeness. 

If you find yourself in a situation of not being ‘intact’ or out of integrity, you may not notice it right away (as opposed to boundaries where most people feel quite a pinch!)  I see it manifested as headaches, fatigue, stomachaches etc.  It is not until people have analyzed their environment that they recognize the disconnect.  

What to do?  First, get clear about your own values.  Most people tick off family, friends, etc. but to understand them in a weighted sense, I have two go-to questions:

1.      What absolutely drives you crazy?

This can be anything like poor drivers, rude people, bad fashion choices, you name it.  The likelihood is the opposite is a strong value.

2.      If you found yourself with a surprise bundle of cash, or a free day on your calendar (say you found money in a winter coat you hadn’t worn for a while, or you showed up to work and the power was out- so they sent you home) what would you do with that time or money? 

The answer might be different on a different day, but generally the pattern would be the same.  Self-care, gifts, hobbies, catching up on responsibilities etc.  Those all reflect your personal values. 

Try honoring these values with special intent in the coming week.  Note ways where your lifestyle or workplace is out of integrity for you.  Make a list- are there requests you can make in the workplace?  A great way might be a volunteer day (many companies fund up to four hours a week giving back to your community) or through matching donations.  What about team culture?  Implement a new tradition that honors team member’s values. Or rotate the team member’s value each month that you’ll exemplify.  There is a lot of room to incorporate your values in your workplace as well as honoring the company’s published values.   The more they overlap, the less opportunity for you to be out of integrity.

Have a great week- Happy Leading!

Tolerations FAQ

LINK TO: Tolerations Post

Q:  What is a Toleration?

A: A toleration is anything that:

  • You are ‘Putting up with’
  • Drains your energy

Q: How will zapping my tolerations improve my life?

A:  Any personal commitment you make and complete improves your self-esteem.  Both consciously and unconsciously you acknowledge to yourself ‘I did that.’  So, whether you have a courageous conversation with someone who isn’t respecting your space, you update the color of your front door, or get rid of that broken can opener, you have more energy each time you face that situation.  It also gives you more confidence that you can tackle other or more difficult things.

Q: How do you recommend I start?

A: Personally, I like to contain it to a room or space to begin with.  It could even be a drawer.  What isn’t ideal?  Perhaps your stapler only ‘staples’ half the time on the first try?  Time to replace it.  Maybe your desk chair has an uncomfortable lump- replace the cushion, the chair or shift the padding.  Your reading glasses are never where you need them?  Go to the dollar store and buy a pair for every place you sit and read.   I also recommend you recruit the family to join in the fun.  (yes, it will be fun!)  Once everyone gets the hang of it, you find yourself challenging one another to not settle for good- when you could have great J

Q: How long will this take?

A: What kind of person are you?  Some of my clients lock themselves in their homes and tackle it nonstop with plenty of snacks, a good playlist and some friends for help for an entire weekend.   Some like a ‘slow steady burn’ and pick one task a week- like buying new houseplants and pots.  The following week they take the flat sheets to the dry cleaner to be pressed.   Both can work, it depends on your desire for instant progress and energy. 

Q: How can a coach help?

A: A coach can help you prioritize, get clear about the method you want to use, and even offer ideas on what other clients have done.  They will also hold you accountable for what you are setting out to do- they might even suggest that you set up some rewards and consequences if it seems a good fit for you and your style.   

What are you Tolerating?

Link To: Tolerations FAQ

Welcome back to the New Year everyone! I’m sure you have your own version of resolutions that you’re aiming for this year.  I love failing forward.  Don’t be hard on yourself at your first sign of non-performance.  Just get back on that wagon- and be better than you were yesterday!

I’m eager to share with you all a concept in coaching we call Tolerations.  A toleration is anything that gets you down, drains your energy or is something you’re simply putting up with. 

This can be anything big or small – a co-worker who steals credit for your ideas, or that your front door isn’t inviting. 

Side note: A big one for a lot of people is a lack of money.  In fact, it’s often so big that it’s something we call a pivotal toleration- meaning if you solve this challenge it solves a whole bunch of other challenges- like a string of dominos. If you have this challenge, I’m going to be starting blog series called, $100/day - so be sure to follow.

When I run into clients who are ‘stuck’ – not making progress, don’t have energy, have a lack of momentum in their lives- this is the homework I assign.  (my clients always get to say ‘yes, no, or let me negotiate…)

Let’s get started in solving some of your own tolerations.   Pick a defined space- say your office cubicle or your bedroom at home.   If you had time, money, space etc.  What would you change about that space?   Some areas that frequently come up in the office:

  • No living plants
  • Poor lighting
  • Buzzing of machines
  • Co-workers with annoying habits (smelly food, gossiping, looking over your shoulder)
  • Everything is urgent
  • Air/Heat is opposite of what I need
  • No windows
  • Noise & Distractions
  • People imposing on your space
  • Impossible deadlines
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Encroaching hours
  • Commuting an hour, a day, to talk on the phone!

Feel free to add your own.   Consider this list and those you’ve added.  What would it do for your environment to improve just a few of these items?  It might mean asking for help, purchasing a plant, buying some noise canceling headphones, or asking people to eat in the breakroom.  (or buying a bottle of febreeze) 

Pick one item to tackle this week- hypothesize on what this improvement will do for you- measure the result.  Did it support you as you had hoped? If so, choose another.  If not, why not?  Is it perhaps your complaint is not the true source of this drain?  Dig deeper. 

In one of my classes I teach- we go through a list of 200+ possible tolerations- I encourage my students to edit these lists so that they truly reflect them and then we go on a “Zapping” mission.   Students share their wins and it creates even more energy and momentum to pursue more.  

What was a toleration from 2016 you are willing to Zap?  Have fun with this- recruit others to join you on the challenge. 

Have a great week- Happy Leading!

The Bucket List

I hope you’ve all heard of the bucket list, and seen the great movie of the same name. 

The idea being that we all have a list of experiences or accomplishments we’d like to have completed before we “kick the bucket.”

That bucket list needs a regular reviewing so you can ‘pull’ some of those items into each year intentionally rather than just ‘wishing’ they might happen.   If you don’t have a bucket list- start one.  Be sure it’s from your own heart, rather than things you think you ‘should’ do.   It’s okay to have some material things on the list.  If you want a fancy car, or to stay in some amazing hotel, that’s great.  Think about who you get to be when you do those things.  Is it important? Rich? Glamorous? Unburdened by the details of making a living?  See if you can embrace that ‘calling to be’ in other ways in your life too.

Most of my bucket list items have do with travel, but also some wonderful meals, experiences and just “being.”  Review that bucket list, see what you can rein into this year.  Don’t forget to include some learning experiences and being experiences.

With that- I wish you all a wonderful holiday season- for whatever holidays you may be observing, and for those celebrating- A Very Merry Christmas!

Have a great week- Happy Leading!

What do I want more of? What do I want less of? In 2017

This is one of the fundamental questions I ask all my vision board workshop participants each year when we go through this exercise. 

After listing values, and gathering their bucket lists, and the ‘7 areas for goals’ radar chart, I ask them to reflect.  What went well this year?  What didn’t?  What do I want more of?  What do I want less of?

The answers have been rather consistent over the years.  The number one thing people want more of is travel.  Less of?  Stress. 

We test these answers with their ‘why?’  Why do they want more travel?  Answers include education, experiences, memories, getting away, fun, adventure and getting back in touch with themselves.   Why do they want less stress?  It impedes their enjoyment of the very things they are striving for, increases their health risks and just isn’t fun.

So, think back over your 2016 year.  What went well?  What were your favorite memories? What did you spend the most time on?  Money on?  Who did you do these things with? 

Common answers include things that people planned-in-advance.  Not only did they have the enjoyment of investigating, booking, planning etc. but they also enjoyed the actual event itself and then the memories of the event afterwards.  The resilience work of ‘action for happiness’ a non-profit out of the UK includes ‘things to look forward to’ as part of their GREAT DREAM action plan. 

What can you plan?  This year some of my favorite memories come from planning an away running race with a best girlfriend.   It became a girls-weekend and every time I ran prior to the event, I recognized what I was preparing for.   I also went to golf-school with my sweetheart in an unbelievably gorgeous setting in St. George, Utah.  I tacked on a visit to Zion National Park, marking off another in my virtual passport of parks.   And Yes! I want more of that.

Now for the stress piece- most of this came from the workplace.  Usually too high of a stretch goal, with unreasonable expectations causing leaders to compromise personal goals and standards- for the company.   With coaching I could help you determine if this was the right decision, but in the meantime, keep up with all the health support you can- meditation, exercise, proper nutrition, water intake, social support.  Plan your day to include these activities- it won’t eliminate the stress but it will help dispel how you are affected by this stress, and make you more pleasant to be around.  

I’m eager to hear what you want more of and less of in 2017!

Have a great week- Happy Leading!

An Intentional Holiday Season

You’ve all heard about the power of intention.  There is a lot of misconception about this process.  People tend to burden it with ‘being free of attachments, an ever-peaceful state and meditation.’  Not that those are bad things! But it can be just as useful in our adrenalin filled workplaces, being choked with stress and having grand ambitions. 

Intention is as simple as it sounds.  What is the desired outcome of the action you are taking?  Whether it is walking into a meeting, having a potential emotional discussion with a partner or ushering in the holiday season.   There is a lot of pressure to enjoy the holidays.  Allow yourself to step back and determine for yourself just what kind of holiday you’d like to enjoy.

There are a lot of components to the holidays – regardless of how you are observing them.  So, give yourself permission to take some time to yourself and jot some ideas on the back of a napkin about what you want to enter 2017 with in terms of 2016 holiday memories.  This won’t take but 15 minutes max- so order up that Grande one-pump mocha, with whipped cream, and relax :)

For the purposes of illustration – I’m going to list some opposites, but recognize there are many points across this continuum that you can choose.

  • Schedule density:  few commitments - packed to the gills
  • Festivities:  quiet introspection – bustling boisterous boondoggles (I had to put that in for alliteration’s sake)
  • Social interactions: lots of groups of friends – one on one time
  • Giving: white elephant (soon to be in the trash) – select specific created memories
  • Decorating:  Glitter is my favorite color – natural greens and few candles
  • Free time: pack in every outdoor adventure possible – quiet time reading and baking
  • Observance: see friends and family to celebrate – reflect on origins of the season
  • Rest and recovery:  Sleep in on the weekends – Take extra time for self-care each day
  • Workplace: steady as she goes – take advantage of people out and plow through

I’m sure there are rewarding traditions for each of you that require a time investment that are worthy, but I invite you to review all you have planned and ask yourself- ‘am I really looking forward to this? Or is it just habit and expectation fueling this plan?’

After naming your desires in each of the bulleted areas and a few more- what do you find looking back at you?  Name this intention.  For myself- I’m looking forward to quality time in whatever form it presents itself and getting out in nature.   I love the pink aluminum trees (really!) and my Oregon Noble Firs, but this year it all seems a bit much and I’m ready for smaller gatherings, specialized meals and quiet time.  

All this reflection adds up into what I’ll talk about next time:  What do I want more of? What do I want less of? In 2017

Have a great week- Happy Leading!

Acknowledgment & Appreciation

‘Tis the season of Thanksgiving.  Giving thanks in all capacities for all that we enjoy.  I’ve worked with many clients over the years and they all shared the desire for acknowledgment and appreciation.  In a lot of corporate evaluation systems, there is a ranking process that determines pay and rewards.  Often budgets are limited.  These clients, and my employees over the years often felt the appreciation and ranking were more important than the financial rewards.  Perhaps that is because they had already reached the level of adequate compensation.  (If you haven’t seen Dan Pink’s RSA TED Talk DRIVE – be sure to check out what that means…) and they were ready for autonomy, purpose and mastery. Perhaps that rating meant they were acknowledged for mastery, but I think it was looking for acknowledgment and appreciation.

I read recently that Oprah said in 30+ years of interviewing people and hosting them on the show that they were all looking for some level of validation- to be heard, and I think acknowledged. 

The Five Love Languages – by Gary Chapman outlines one of the five primary languages as ‘words of affirmation’ – again that acknowledging and appreciation.  It’s everywhere!  Even Jesus cites a prophet being welcomed everywhere but their hometown.  We all want it. 

This week I encourage you to develop your own signature system to acknowledge and appreciate people.  Your employees, your peers, your superiors (they have a tough job too!) your servers and especially your family.  There are a multitude of people that make our lives better.  Every true-life purpose has an element of helping others- so let’s make it enjoyable and fund the energy to keep serving one another. 

Be specific in your praise and find a way to sincerely thank those around you.   If you don’t have already have a favorite, pick from one of the following to try out.  Share some of your own favorites in the comments.

  1. Send flowers
  2. Take over their duty for a day
  3. Tell them you appreciate their attention and quality work
  4. Look them in the eye and say thank you
  5. Send a snail mail card
  6. Note what you loved in the meal
  7. Tell the server that your food was great
  8. Ask the chef to come out so you can appreciate them

I am especially grateful to all those who protect and serve and make our country the free place that it is.   This weekend when I am at our ‘civil war’ football game, as I do at every game, I will thank every officer and security staff for keeping the game enjoyable and the stadium safe.

I am also thankful for the courage of our first pilgrims who sought religious freedom and came to America to practice it, and the first peoples who graciously hosted them.

May you have had a blessed Thanksgiving.

Have a great week- Happy Leading!

More is in Your Control than You Think

Last week I talked about imposed change (Link to article) and I got a lot of feedback on this so I thought I’d continue on the topic.

The task last week was to basically inventory from the point of the imposed change, “what was” and then “is now”.  Our job was to list everything we knew and then come up with a list of what we wanted to know, or needed to verify.  Once that task was completed it was to inventory of all of those things how many were in our immediate control.

Clients are always surprised when I point out that their own environment can improve greatly with a concept called 10 daily habits. The point of these habits isn’t to become a discipline hero on all of the things you think you SHOULD be doing, but to really lean into and embrace the rituals that feed you and promote your well-being.  I will readily admit that some of my habits are not jump up and down for joy in doing them, but I greatly enjoy the benefits of those habits, so indeed they do feed me. 

You get to control 100% of these habits that feed you.   Let me repeat – you get to control 100% of these habits that feed you, so let’s start drafting.   When I say feed, I mean bring you joy, energy, momentum, peace etc.   Throw out anything that is to please others, or something you “should” do.   In coaching, we talk about a ‘should’ as someone else’s idea that is from a point of compliance. 

Some ideas: 

  1. Time to yourself – just to think
  2. Listening to YOUR favorite music
  3. Getting outside
  4. Meditating
  5. Prayer
  6. Surrounding yourself with your favorite smells- cooking, flowers, perfume, bath soap – etc.
  7. Singing (no one can sing and be unhappy- imho)
  8. Watching nature- a sunrise, the supermoon, crazy squirrel movements, leaves fall
  9. Sleeping in fresh sheets after a shower (and a shave)
  10. Snuggling 5 more minutes
  11. Moving your body – a walk, a dance, a class, running – pick the one YOU love
  12. Flossing (one of mine, I like no decay J)
  13. Taking your vitamins
  14. Juicing instead of (or in addition to) coffee
  15. Sleeping one extra hour
  16. 5 minutes of funny (insert favorite animal) videos after a stressful meeting

The goal is to find a way to fill your day with these items that are rewarding and fuel you. 

The point being, no matter what is happening around you – the changes being imposed – you can control many of the items in your environment and find your peace.

Draft 20 things you could do daily, and then narrow it to ten.  Try them for a week.  Some will stick, and some won’t.  That’s ok, don’t judge, you’re probably just not ready for them.  Try a few different ones as replacements.  Note how you feel.  I bet you’ll feel more optimistic, energized and peaceful. 

Get your friends and colleagues to join you on this journey- create a happier workplace!

Have a great week- Happy Leading!

Accepting an Imposed Change

I’m taking a slight detour this week as I know, come Wednesday morning, half of the American population will be bitterly upset. Since this often happens in the workplace, I thought I’d tackle the topic.

One of the best things one can do when faced with an imposed change is to take a self-assessment. This is as simple as taking a blank sheet of paper and dividing into two halves and labeling them ‘what was’ (i.e. Obama as president, Current CEO, current job title etc.) and ‘is now’ (i.e.  new president, new ceo, new job title) Be sure not to mix several imposed changes but just one at a time- have another imposed change? Start a new sheet…

What Was....                                      Is Now....


Below the ‘what was’ header, list all of the perceived benefits and detriments of that situation.  Below the ‘is now’ list all of the perceived benefits and detriments that go with that situation.  Review the two lists. Star any of great importance like pay, freedom, ‘winning’ etc. Doesn’t matter if they are petty or not, this is your list J Then we want to ask ourselves, “is this really true?” sometimes our perceived detriments of a new situation are pure speculation. Make a list of what to investigate further. Then go further, of all your ‘is now’ situation, ask yourself “is there anything I can do to improve this?” Situation beyond your control? Then consider, is there anyone you can ask for help, approval or even patience? What do you need to improve the situation?

Finally, change is stressful, it is easier to accept what is beyond our control and focus our efforts on what we can control- which is our immediate environment. Our immediate environment includes what in coaching we call hygiene: sleep, water intake, limiting caffeine and other stimulants/depressants, nutrition, and including things that feed you in your day- that might be turning off the TV, avoiding the paper or Facebook, and getting outside- hugging your spouse/kids/pets, etc. Find beauty. Do something nice for someone even when you don’t feel like it.  This is our world; you get to decide how you play in it J

Have a great week- Happy Leading!

Performance Management vs. Coaching

Times have changed.  No longer can we enjoy the beauty of a manager’s only responsibilities to be managing her people.  With lean times, the manager is expected to be not only the person that manages all the work from their superior, and delegates it out, but also be the ‘project manager’ of their own work that also contributes to the end result.  Unfortunately, humans don’t like to let others down, so they focus on the project rather than the people.

This week I have some tips for the manager, whom I feel great empathy for- it isn’t easy.

  • Don’t confuse coaching with performance management
    • Coaching is open ended, without an agenda.  If you have feedback to share with the employee, it isn’t a ‘coaching moment’.  This is a bit confusing as many organizations have adopted the vernacular of “you need to coach them on that” (I’ve corrected that only about 1,000 times) coaching is not an admonition. 
    • When there is feedback from yourself or others, it should be shared not as gospel- there are always two sides- but as an opportunity.  Can they agree with the feedback?  What is the expectation?  Share the feedback, set the expectation of what you want to see and set a deadline, then follow up. FOLLOW UP.  This is the easiest piece to miss, but the most important.  They need to know they are being held accountable.    Don’t let two minutes of being uncomfortable drive you into hours of dread later- probably in a performance review!   Keep these notes (and all meeting notes with the employee) in your employee’s folder for reference when it comes time to write the performance evaluation. 
  • You can shift the conversation to coaching after delivering the feedback, expectation and deadline
    • When it comes to how they will conform to the expectation of performance, ask if they would like to brainstorm ways to achieve that plan, what seems like the best option, and how will they know they are achieving that target.  This is a great time to coach, because the employee is much more likely to take ownership of the solution and make it a long-term fix, rather than a submission under duress, or threat of ‘warning’.
  • When you see improvement, acknowledge- early and often
    • It’s not easy to change, so when you see the employee making changes to improve upon the feedback delivered be sure to say so.  Give them confidence to keep striving and improving.

In short, when you have to deliver a message, give feedback, be directive- that’s the time to wear the manager hat and ‘manage’.  When the options are flexible, there is room for innovation and creativity and you want the employee to own the solution – try coaching.

Have a great week- Happy Leading!

Aspects of a Coaching Culture

As a faculty member of an ICF accredited coaching program, and when teaching workshops in corporate, I’m always trying to paint a picture of what it “feels like” to be surrounded in a positive, forward moving culture. 

To do this, I ask my students to create a “coaching culture” list.  During the class or workshop I mention anecdotes that illustrate this culture.   There are some very positive attributes to a coaching culture that I like to joke give it cult status. 

These coaching culture attributes also make a company or team a pretty good place to work!

Here are some of the observations:

  1. We are always in the mode of personal development. This looks like:
    • A stack of books from development or self-help
    • Constant enrollment in workshops, webinars or retreats
    • Comfortable with feedback – often responding with “yes, tell me more”
  2. We strive for curiosity in all settings, even when we have a visceral reaction to something, our job is to ask “what is making me feel this way?”  We deliberately examine our biases and attempt to look at things from the micro and macro lenses.
  3. We design a life we love, from geography, to lifestyle, to schedule – and when we see something we don’t like we seek to change it- proactively and permanently
  4. We meet people where they are, and discover with them, where they want to be
  5. We paint a vision for possibility and fulfillment of potential

So what does these coaching culture elements look like in the workplace? 

  1. High investment in people and recognize ‘transferrable skills’ to move people to areas of growth- including honest and frequent feedback, not just at HR required intervals
  2. All viewpoints are welcome in a setting, and a variety of backgrounds and contexts may just solve the problem at hand
  3. Instead of always being in ‘fix-it’ mode, seek design from a preferred process, a natural flow and using strengths-based platforms, “celebrating” who we are as a company
  4. Development of talent through multiple modalities (training, coaching, mentoring, classroom, on-the-job etc.)
  5. Expressing confidence in the employee and their capabilities by using their strengths to meet the business needs

It’s not a bad place to be. If you think these elements are desirable in your company or team- let’s chat, I’d love to partner with you to help you get there.  

Great Leader Question Attributes - To Bring out the Best in Your Employees

Last time I talked about the Yellow Flags – and the Leader asking good questions.  So what makes a Good question?

 My top ten attributes of a good question – especially from a Leader

  1. It doesn’t have a “right” answer in mind- be free of an agenda

  2. It’s open-ended- avoid asking the yes/no question

  3. It’s mired in possibility- “What would happen if…, How could we…etc.”

  4. It doesn’t use the word ‘why’  - Why puts people immediately on the defensive- and suggests they need to ‘explain their behavior’ (a variation of this is “What were you thinking? – That’s a ‘why’ disguised)

  5. It explores the employee’s perspective “Tell me more… Help me understand…etc.”

  6. Keep it simple

  7. Use the employee’s vocabulary – Don’t try to make them translate your jargon

  8. When exploring a difficult topic- try using an analogy or a story to break them from their construct – even something as simple as “What would you advise me/your best friend/the president to do in this situation?”  We’ve all seen the WWJD bracelets- because they work!

  9. It assumes positive intent- we’ve all read the email with the snarky voice in our head- and it doesn’t turn out well – turn it around- we’re all doing the best we can, so ask the question with that perspective

  10. It moves the situation forward- ‘Post-mortems’ and ‘Lessons Learned’ are for after-the-fact analysis, which is great, but doesn’t help us in the here and now- so ask about the next step forward.

So, why ask questions?  Collect the brilliance of your talent, develop them to take on more responsibility, put someone in charge so you can really take a vacation!  Collect kudos when they get promoted.  Life is a lot easier Leading with a Coach Approach, less work, less stress, happier and more engaged employees.

Great leaders are patient, listen well, and ask questions- truly wanting to hear the answer.  They are not waiting for their turn to talk, jumping to conclusions, or making snap judgments.  If you want to do that, you don’t need your employees, you’ve got it all under your control- command and control- the old, outdated model of leadership.

Let me know your Leader challenges- I’m happy to cover them under this blog.  Leading with a Coach Approach- Happy Leading!


Yellow flags and the Leader’s Role

Last time I talked about the Leader using Coaching skills to develop their team members, so they could give up telling employees ‘how’ to do the work, and let them innovate.

One of the real keys for Leaders to give up ‘command and control’ is to create agreements with their team members on the criteria for success and what constitutes a ‘yellow flag’- something that would be a trigger for a manager to step in and offer assistance.  Notice, I did not say take over- what learning would come from that?

So what does an agreement look like? And what’s a yellow flag look like?  Here’s a very simple example:

Project “keystone” requires Mary to:

  • Interview 7 Potential vendors by May 1
  • Summarize the vendors’ capabilities in table form with all the same criteria by May 7
  • Interview the references provided by May 14

Here’s where a manager MIGHT be overstepping the bounds and getting into the “Hows” to get this done:

  • Interview these specific 7 vendors, with these specific questions, and these particular criteria
  • Use this provided template, font, etc. to present your findings and post to this SharePoint
  • Conduct all reference checks via phone with these people present by conference call


  • The employee should be the one to determine the vendors, while brainstorming OR collecting required criteria with stakeholders
  • The employee should determine the best way to present the data and even their recommendations
  • The employee should determine the best way to meet the May 14th deadline and collect all the references

So here is where the Yellow Flags concept can be helpful.

When sharing the “What needs to be done” with the employee and avoiding the “how to get it done” you should make some agreements – for example:

  • Every Friday you’ll send me a brief memo with the status of the project indicating:

o   Decisions made, i.e. We included these 7 vendors, and left off Acme due to pending litigation

o   Help needed – and by when, i.e. talk to procurement about minority business owners by April 1

o   Probability of meeting the agreed upon deadline, i.e. At this point I’m 75% confident we will have completed the 7 interviews by May 1, to make it 100% I’d need to travel to Ohio

  • If it becomes immediately apparent the timeline is in jeopardy, you’ll let me know right away and schedule time on my calendar

The Yellow Flags that go with this agreement would likely be:

  • Friday comes and goes with no memo from Mary
  • The memo conflicts with conversations you overheard at the watercooler
  • What you perceive to be a threat to the timeline, due to the Friday memo contents isn’t caught by Mary

If you perceive a yellow flag, it’s time to call Mary to discuss the project and ask more questions.  If in the conversation you believe Mary to be overly optimistic or inexperienced, again – ask questions or share your OWN experience.  “Mary, it’s my experience that when an update is missed or late, it’s because the owner is waiting on someone.  Is your team being responsive enough?” 

When team members feel like they have control, but still have a safety net, and a supportive manager they are more likely to share potential threats to a project’s success.  They appreciate a partner in solving problems and addressing needs.  They grow and develop in thinking for themselves and not having the answer handed to them.   Resist advising and enjoy the diversity of approach and thought that comes with asking what your employees think. 

Next time I’ll share some great questions managers can ask to illicit employees’ ingenuity.

Want Your Team to Innovate More?

It’s difficult to be a Leader.  Your job is to set direction, strategy and “what” is going to get done.  Your job is to inspire and compel the team to fulfill a vision. But this is where your job stops- sort of.  The difference between a Leader and a manager is that a Leader then assumes their job is to serve the followers to fulfill the vision.  This means removing obstacles, providing air cover, acquiring funding, resources and the like.  The manager thinks it’s their job- as first among equals- to also tell the followers ‘how’ to do the job.

The problem with this approach is that the manager is only working with one brain and 10-12 bodies.  The ideas and ownership stop with the manager.  No wonder they feel so overworked and fatigued and that no one is engaged.

The Leader knows to engage the followers that she will use the follower’s gifts and talents and ideas to fulfill the vision.  Every employee will take more ownership and risk with a Leader’s support and clear vision.

So, how do we move from manager to Leader?  Using a coach approach.  Remember a Coach is not a subject matter expert, and doesn’t give advice. They don’t have a dog in the race- meaning having their own idea chosen as the path forward isn’t their agenda.  (How many times have we worked for a manager who pretended to be open minded about proposals but there was only really one right answer- the one in their head!) They ask good questions, they listen, they uncover options, help choose a path forward and partner for decisions and next steps.  They demonstrate trust. 

Why trust? The employee or follower needs to be confident in submitting ideas and proposals.  They need to feel like it is ok to take a risk, or even fail.  Not ok with failing? Well- news alert- no one is, so agree on some “yellow flags” that make it ok for the manager to start participating more actively – and let the employee be the one to suggest them!

Here’s what a good Leader-coach conversation sounds like with an employee.

Leader:  We’ve agreed to be number one in this market- we have to hit 60% market share by January 1.   We are at 50% today.  What are some ideas on how to approach this?

Employees: We could do x or y and maybe even z.

Leader: Say more

Employees:  Well if we had 3 more people we could do x, if we had an extra $10K we could do y and if we had both, we could do Z.

Leader: I’m intrigued; how will we know the best approach? 

And so on…

The Leader asks questions that help the employees determine the right “how”, and the next steps.  They find out when tasks start and how we know the desired affect is happening.  They follow up with how they can provide support, when to check in, and when to approach the team because one of the agreed upon yellow flags is waving its ugly head.

Stay tuned to learn more about agreeing on yellow flags and the Leader’s role.