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Coaching Leadership

Flywheel of Change

Flywheels store up mechanical energy, and let you use it in a different way. They are big and heavy, and hard to get going. Once up and spinning, they’ll keep going with only small and regular top-ups.

If you are attempting to drive change, either personal, organisational or societal, then much like a flywheel, starting will be the hardest thing.

A great and tumultuous effort might just be enough to nudge the wheel forwards a tiny bit, but if left there it will quickly settle down to stillness once more.

One large effort is not enough. Nor will sporadic and unplanned pushes, too much will go into getting the turning started, rather then speeding it up.

The large push will be exhausting, but sometimes that’s worth doing to get going. To then drive the change to completion, use a strategy that builds momentum.

Find the repeatable efforts that you can maintain over the long run. Engage daily or weekly, make it a routine part of your schedule. Get to the point where it’s something you miss if you don’t do it. Setup some larger efforts, with time to plan before and recover after.

Change is hard, so be smart about building up that energy, and use it for good!

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Coaching

Wave a Magic Wand

The Magic Wand is a powerful technique that opens you up to the full range of possibilities. It clears everything out of the way that can slow you down or prevent your progress, and empowers you to take that first step.

When you wave your Magic Wand, you imagine what the fulfilment of your dreams will look like, the great outcomes of achieving your goals. You jump over anything on the path to get there, so you see and feel what success is like.

Once you’ve done that, then you can return to where you are now, recognise the steps you might take and the opportunities you have available. You can take all of these, smash down any barriers and start your journey.

To take the first step, sometimes you need to see where the finishing line is. Wave your wand to get started, and let that magic help you make the first move.

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Coaching

What do you value?

When we look at our reality, stopping to think about where we are now, then understanding our core values is a key stepping stone towards making lasting positive change.

There is no point chasing goals that will leave us unfulfilled. There’s no reason for you to do something that will not make you happy in the long run.

Value mapping is a powerful exercise to help you understand what is truly important. Is it friendship, family or companionship. Do you seek comfort or relish a challenge. Is security important to you, and is that wealth or health. Do you seek recognition in your field, or to make quiet yet significant impact?

It’s easy to say all these things are important, so we must seek to prioritise. First take ten minutes to write out all the things that come to mind as an important value to you. If that’s hard, don’t worry. There are lots of lists online to start from, scan a couple and pick some terms that resonate.

The initial goal is to get everything onto paper. Look for concepts that resonate, and be brutally honest with yourself when you are choosing what matters to you. Go with an open mind, seek what is right rather than what you hope would look good to an external observer.

By now, you might have a lengthy list. That’s especially likely if you’ve not really done this exercise before. Many core values will have positive associations, so your short list can be quite long!

The next stage is to whittle it down. Aim for a top 5, and certainly no more than a top 10. This might be hard, particularly when cutting down to the final few. Trade off pairs, removing the one that speaks to you less. If you need to, build a bracket and cut out a swathe at a time.

This list of five values might be enough. It’ll give you a strong view of what’s important to you, what will drive your thinking and what will be a great success in the future.

If you are ready, you can also rank this final list, sorting the values to find out what is truly most important to you.

Now you know what matters, you are ready for the next step in your transformation. You can rework your goals to align with your values and look forwards to powerful and long lasting positive growth.

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Coaching

The End Goal

There’s more than one type of goal. There’s two types in particular that are especially useful to differentiate between. These are Performance Goals and End Goals.

The End Goal is the outcome that you desire to achieve. It’s a big significant change in your life, and it’s likely to be something outside of your full control. It may be gaining a promotion at work, it might be making a large sale or it may be winning a competition or award.

These types of End Goal are a form of recognition or measure of success that it bestowed from the outside. As this achievement is outside of your control, then there is often little benefit to focusing on achieving them directly. You limit your potential because you are handing off your measure of success to a third party, you are losing agency.

Performance Goals are thing that are within your control. These are areas you measure against yourself, that you can recognise when you have achieved them and that you can control the progress towards that achievement.

Setting great Performance Goals will help you to reach your End Goal. If your aim is to win an Olympic medal, then your Performance Goal might be to consistently improve on your personal best. This takes something that’s out of your control, and ties the achievement to something in your control.

Set your outcomes up in this linked way. You don’t control getting the promotion, but you can control your performance, focusing on and improving the skills that will put you in a great place to be the easy choice for the next job that opens up.

Confusing an End Goal for a Performance Goal will set you up to fail. Setting great supporting Performance Goals will start you on a powerful journey of change, and give you the best possible chance of reaching your End Goal.

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Coaching Leadership

Technology is a Creative Endeavour

I work with a large number of technologists, I build a lead teams working at significant global scale, solving problems with technology.

If you are outside of this world, it’s easy to get lost. Why is it so hard? What’s going on? Why does it take so long?

The exciting thing about technologists, and about software, is that they are constantly involved in a creative endeavour. It’s a cross between science and art, with a whole load of emotional and personal considerations thrown into the mix.

Think about how hard it can be to build a house. A dozen trades, maybe more. They follow a plan, but flex from it when difficulties arise. It’s creating something from nothing, but you’re probably following a pretty standard path. You know houses, you can see them. They’ll be used by a well known number of people, in a standard way. It’s pretty predictable, but there are still difficulties, overruns and variations from the plan.

When we’re building software, we have some of that certainty, but not the majority. We may not be sure what the problem is we’re solving. Will it be used by ten people or ten million? Who’s going to try and break it, and what if we get half-way done and decide to do something else?

If you are leading a tech team for the first team, part of a digital transformation or an agile experiment, it can be bewildering. Engineers, computers and logic suggest predictability, certainty and rigid planning.

Instead, stop and reflect. If it’s worth creating a new technologic solution, then it’s novel, unique and new. You can’t plan to the day, but you must let the creative process occur. Set goals, go after outcomes. Figure out ways to launch early to learn, then course correct.

Don’t look for perfect. No art is perfect. It’s done, and it’s out in the world, changing people and bringing joy.

Set expectations like this, and you’ll be an exceptional technical leader. You’ll empower people, bring real change to the world and never waste time search for misplaced certainty.

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Coaching Leadership

It’s Never Just Business

What you do defines who you are. The actions you take and the options you choose are the things that define your shape in the world.

If you are ever in a situation where you are considering saying “It’s Just Business”, then take a moment and think about why you are about to do this.

When you remove yourself from the discussion in this way, then you are often attempting to shift responsibility for something away from yourself. You are suggesting that this third party, the impartial arbiter, this other, “business” is responsible, where you are not.

This is probably an emotional or difficult moment, so you may not be able to course correct in the flow the first time you notice it. If not, you can pick-up after the conversation and reflect later.

There is an emotional, personal connection in all relationships, no matter how professional they may be. If you can recognise this then you can empathise with the other person in the conversation and build a more meaningful relationship, even if the news you are delivering is hard to hear or likely to disappoint them.

Don’t let it be Just Business, own your actions and you’ll be a better leader, and a better person.

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Coaching

Knowing your worth

It’s very easy to undersell your particular skills, abilities and experience. It’s something that any of us can struggle with, as we lose perspective on our unique potential to contribute.

This is something that you can recognise, and combat with practice. Consider this really simple exercise. Think about something that you find easy to do. Ideally, find something that other people are impressed by, a skill that you gain recognition from. Maybe it’s something like baking, or something from the corporate world, like chairing a great meeting.

Now think about this easy thing. Reflect on how long you’ve been doing it. Times it’s gone well, experiences from the past that were less successful than you are now. Think back on your journey in this area.

How much effort has it taken to build this skill up so it’s easy to you? If you’ve been honest with yourself, then it’s likely to have taken a significant amount of learning to reach this point and probably some mis-steps along the way.

When you recognise all of this, then you’ll see why this easy skill is anything but easy. You’ll start to understand why people recognise you for your ability and you’ll be able to fairly value your experience.

If you want to explore your own unique skills and know your true worth, then book a conversation now to gain this understanding.

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Coaching

Imagine your bio

Thirty words, fifty if you are lucky, that’s what you get to highlight your achievements and to share your expertise.

What is yours going to look like?

It’s a great exercise to write the bio for your future self. It lets you formulate your goals in a fresh way, condensing them into a tight and succinct set of highlights.

You can share your most important values, the changes you are most committed to making or the impact that’s your major success.

The limits are important. By paring back to the core, you must focus on what is truly most significant, the change you want to see.

This can be done in less than an hour, so take the time on a quiet afternoon and imagine your bio.

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Coaching

Just try it

For those of us who are safe and secure enough to be able to reflect on the future, now is a time where you have the freedom to try things in a different way to how you might usually approach them.

It’s important to act compassionately and with empathy. Don’t get fully caught up in the place you are coming from, be considerate of who else you are working with and their current situation.

In these times, a lot of your old rules of thumb may not hold true. Contacts may be more amenable or open to opportunities. Others may be closed down and unable to act. A digital solution might now be feasible when it wasn’t before. It might be the right time to offer something for free, or to charge quite differently to how you may have done so in the past.

With this uncertainty, it’s difficult to predict an outcome. The best thing to do is to find something to try, and to learn from. If you want to achieve, then try the simplest possible thing. You’ll discover something that takes you a step closer to success, you’ll have learnt something valuable and you’ll have started on your path towards lasting change.

If you want to figure out the simplest possible thing for you to do, then get in contact and we’ll discover it together.

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Coaching Leadership

Coaching Spectrum

The spectrum of coaching approaches is presented by Miles Downey, and is an excellent way to recognise when we are being more or less directive in our approach as coaches. It is a powerful way to recognise how your interactions will shape the outcomes and determine your future effectiveness.

Non-Directive / Following Interest
Listening to Understand
Reflecting
Paraphrasing
Summarising
Asking questions that raise awareness
Making Suggestions
Giving Feedback
Offering Guidance
Giving Advice
Instructing
Telling
Directive

As coaches, we are pushing towards the top of the spectrum, the further up we are then the more likely we are helping a coachee find their own solutions.

As a leader, you will flex up and down the spectrum as appropriate for the situation. If something is on fire, you might ‘tell’ or ‘instruct’. It’s a situation that requires the directive approach. Afterwards, you might give feedback on how the situation was handled, and then return to a coaching posture by letting your direct report consider ways to prevent the fire happening again, while you summarise or reflect to cement their understanding and commitment to the solution.

We aim to move up the spectrum as high levels build stronger commitment and ownership of solutions from a coachee, and empowers them to solve future similar problems with their own resources.

Each step up you can take will make your coaching more effective in the long term, so look out for opportunities to jump up to the higher levels wherever you are able.