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Coaching Leadership

Find your Cheerleaders

When you are identifying your options to achieve your goals, it’s really powerful to understand who is going to cheerlead your success.

Who is going to support you, run ahead of you and broadcast your wins?

The initial effort to get the fly-wheel of change spinning by yourself can be overwhelming. If there are other people to push along with you, then it’ll start moving more quickly. You’ll be able to top-up that energy faster and build impetus at pace.

So, identify people that will supportive of the change you are attempting to bring about. How does the work align to your manager’s needs and desires? Are you solving a pain point that will benefit your peers, or other team members?

Maybe you are pushing forwards an initiative that’s stalled. Find the sponsor, figure out what help they need to get moving again at weave those actions into the next steps you are going to take.

If it’s a real and positive change, you will have supporters. Find them, enlist them in your cause and get them out there shouting about your success.

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Coaching Leadership

Coaching for Performance

This is a long overdue look at one of the fundamental texts of the coaching and leadership field, Coaching for Performance. It’s the book that introduces you to the GROW model, and builds the basic theory of coaching around this tool.

It takes you through a journey of understanding, starting with defining coaching and how taking a coaching approach will help create high performing teams and organisations.

Part two builds lays out the principles of coaching, taking you through Emotional Intelligence, coaching as a leader and how coaching builds partnership and collaboration.

Part three moves into the practices. It covers the vital skills of active listening and questioning. Then we dive deeply into GROW, with chapters dedicated to each step of the model. In part four, we look at specific applications, covering 1 to 1, team and other specific coaching areas.

Finally, we cover the potential of coaching, including measuring the return on investment, leadership qualities and effecting cultural change.

The appendices are great additional tools, a comprehensive glossary gives a short overview of every core coaching term covered in the book. The question toolkit give a wide range of powerful options and approaches to apply in many different stages of the coaching conversation.

This is a key read for anyone who wants to improve their coaching and step up to the next level. It’s approachable and well grounded, with each short chapter presenting powerful and actionable lessons. You can read it through from start to finish and then dip back in to specific sections to refresh and brush up on specifics.

It’s a book that should be read by everyone who calls themselves a coach or a leader.

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Coaching

Got Goals?

I’ve written a number of times about setting powerful goals. Going through a process of understanding where you want to get to, how you’ll recognise you’ve made it there and creating statements of accountability helps to shape your focus and purpose.

Once you’ve done this? What next?

Understand your options. Come up with some approaches that might help you achieve your goals. Think about what will be hard, visualise the steps you can take to remove barriers. Lay out a range of choices.

Then pick one, and do something that will move you closer to achieving your goals. Take that first step and start to build momentum. Keep on taking steps. There are no quick fixes, so you’ll have to keep going and going. Once you’ve started it will get easier, if you keep on putting in the work.

A sufficiently transformative goal will not be achieved in a single burst of effort, so build in a plan to review your progress. Some steps are easy, so might need reflection on a weekly basis. Some take longer to show progress, so you may look back monthly. Whatever you do, setup a regular cadence. Learn from what you’ve done and correct early, and you will progress more quickly.

Goals are great once you have them. Now you need to go and achieve them!

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Coaching

Make Reviews For You

The annual review process has long been recognised as far from the most effective model for measuring performance. However, it’s still likely that you’ll be involved in some sort of review process, and at the moment you might just be somewhere in your end of half review cycle.

If you are required to be in the cycle, then use this current point in time to your advantage, and set yourself up for a great future. Now is a great chance to make the process as good as it can be. There’s certainly immense benefit in stopping to reflect, and deadlines can help sharpen the mind. However, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of the cycle, and only bring this reflection to bear in the days leading up to your review deadlines.

The ideal outcome is to make the formal process as painless as possible, by switching yourself to a constant rolling cycle of learning and growth.

First up, record what’s gone well and what was less good? Really work on this and don’t fall for recency bias. Try and find something from each month, then look for patterns. You can use email, instant messenger and direct feedback as sources for this reflection. Once you’ve built it up, think about how hard that was. If you track as you go then the reflection will come more easily in the future, and will certainly be quicker to pull together.

Take those patterns. Good things are your strengths, less good areas might be places to develop.

What do you want to focus on, think about where you want to grow. Set some strong forwards looking goals, and don’t be vague! Give them different time horizons. Think about three months, six months and other durations. Do this to set even stronger accountability, and use the variation to start to break out of your performance cycle.

Now you can review these goals with your manager. They may be able to provide more insight, or wider organisational context. If you are being reviewed annually, then this might also be a chance to discuss what an outstanding end of year review would look like. Agree this with your manager, and write it down. Documenting agreements like this will make all parties accountable in creating successful outcomes.

Agree to regular reviews and check-ins in weekly one-to-ones. If you don’t have them, now’s a great time to organise them. It’s all about making sure you have the support to achieve great things, whilst showing your progress and course correcting quickly if things are going less well.

This approach will let you get the most out of a fixed review cycle. You’re able to take it, turn it into a rolling process and then use the formal cycle as a point in time check-in.

It’s a great way to go from the theatre and heavy workload of annual reviews to a powerful shared model of constant development.

Own your future, and make reviews work for you.

Categories
Coaching

Down With Vague

If you set a vague goal, you’ll get a vague outcome.

It’s easy to restate yourself as succeeding if you don’t define what success looks like.

When your goals are well formed, you bring accountability to your desire to grow. You’ll know what will help you achieve your desired outcome, and you’ll have a great view on the things that will be less likely to contribute to that success.

Examples often help, so let’s consider the vague goal of “Get better at public speaking”.

We’ll strengthen this up, and make it a real tool to empower your growth. You can follow the same process whenever you discover a vague goal.

First off, you need to understand why you are setting this goal. What change do you want to bring about? Is this about speaking to small groups or giving keynote speeches? Do you want to improve in ad-hoc situations, or in more structured settings. Is the aim to share information better or to inspire your listeners. Is this about presenting to people who report to you, or to those you report to?

Running this process lets you shape that vague goal towards meaningful change.

Imagine we’ve refined to “Improve how I present to senior stakeholders to build confidence in my ideas and secure funding for significant programmes of work”. This is already significantly more powerful. It narrows the scope to something meaningful that you’ll be able to make progress on. For your own goals, you can refine further or be even more specific to really give it a defined shape.

Next up, add “by” to your goal, and how you’ll go about taking the smaller steps towards success.

This is your accountability power move. It’ll let you check-in and measure progress as you move towards a great outcome.

For our example, we say “by creating short evidence based presentations that focus on the problem, the value of the solution and how this programme will address it. By practising at least three times ahead of the stakeholder presentation with members of my group to tighten the proposition and build confidence in the structure. By recording my practice and reviewing it at least twice to find weaknesses and eliminate them”.

Again, you’ll know your own context and situation, so you’ll be able to be even more powerfully specific in your approach.

We’ve taken the vague and made it real.

“Get better at public speaking”

Vague and uninspiring

“Improve how I present to senior stakeholders to build confidence in my ideas and secure funding for significant programmes of work by creating short evidence based presentations that focus on the problem, the value of the solution and how this programme will address it. By practising at least three times ahead of the stakeholder presentation with members of my group to tighten the proposition and build confidence in the structure. By recording my practice and reviewing it at least twice to find weaknesses and eliminate them.”

Powerful statement driving lasting change

Make your commitments count, Down with Vague!

Categories
Coaching

Dancing Through Life

Those who don’t try, never look foolish.

This piece of wisdom is certainly true, but will never enable you to achieve your potential.

If you coast through life you’ll live forever in your comfort zone. You won’t take the steps that you need to move into a space of learning and you won’t grow and develop.

When it’s easy, it might feel great. You are able to succeed at things you set your mind to without any effort because they are within your capabilities.

To grow, you must stretch yourself. You need to find moves that are beyond your current capabilities. Dance through them. Celebrate the successes and review your missteps.

If it’s perfect the first time, it wasn’t really a stretch. Don’t let easy get in the way of great, and make the mistakes you need to reach your full potential.

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Coaching

PURE Goals

Now that you are making sure your goals are stated in a SMART way, you should also check that they are PURE.

  • Positively Stated – Make an inspiring and forward looking statement of achievement. Switch or invert negative terminology and find a restatement based on growth or improvement. Drop out “not”, “won’t” and other limiting phrasings.
  • Understood – There’s a easily explained “why”, you know what the goal means and you have a plan to achieve it.
  • Relevant – It’s aligned to your current situation, or the situation you are moving towards. It will help you reach your End Goal and achieve your dreams.
  • Ethical – It aligns with your values. It’s not just positively stated but it’s also going to have a positive impact on the world. If you achieve this goal, then something will have gotten better for a range of people.

Sometimes, it’s hard to write SMART goals, but we get better at creating them and holding ourselves accountable by doing, reviewing and refining. It’s the same with PURE. Your first statement might not match the criteria and that’s totally fine. Look at what you’ve written, restate it and keep going.

If you want to grow and change in a positive way, then have ethical goals, relevant to your wider desires, that are well understood and that are positively stated will give you the best opportunity to have the impact you want to have on the world.

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Coaching

Personal Mental Training

Coaching is personal training for the mind.

If you are exercising alone then you might be doing a great job or you might be working at 50% effectiveness. Some days you’ll just think about doing something, and you might even feel good about the thinking, without getting to the doing.

Getting some one on one time with a trainer will quickly set you up for success. You’ll find improvements in technique, you’ll be motivated to show up and you’ll be accountable for your actions while you are with them.

Once you’ve finished a set of sessions, you’ll be able to be more confident in your abilities, you’ll have learnt enough to improve at your own pace and you’ll have massively accelerated your journey.

Coaching is the mental equivalent of the personal trainer. A Coach will help you formulate your thinking. They’ll hold you accountable and make you work at 100%, to always be your best. You will find the right framework to describe your goals, to make your commitments and to succeed now and in the future.

If you are ready to take that next step, then reach out, and start achieving your goals now.

Categories
Coaching Leadership

Appeal to Rationality

In a difficult conversation, it’s easy to fall into the trap of appealing to rationality. When emotions are running high, especially on one side of the conversation., then you may try for a “let’s just be rational about this”.

It’s a very similar position to asking someone to “calm down”, and likely to have about the same effect. That’s ranging from nothing, to a full and final breakdown in communication.

We fall into this trap when we are less immediately impacted by the conversation. Maybe it’s one where you’ve had time to digest the contents, whereas the other party is hearing tough news for the first time.

Quite often it’ll be when the topic is incredibly important to the other party, but is less impactful to you. It’s extremely common when you confuse a lighthearted topic with one that’s truly important to the other person. That’s a difficult conversation which you didn’t realise would be difficult, which is just about the hardest kind.

Appealing to rationality, or attempting to be logical, will not work in an emotional situation (and all situations are somewhat emotional). There’s no independent arbiter doling out correct answers. No impartial judges validating your feelings over another’s. When you move to “rationality”, this external justification is exactly what you are seeking, to the detriment of the overall conversation.

When you are reaching for this conversational gambit, you may really be attempting to slow down the conversation, bringing it back to a shared pool of understanding.

If that’s the case, just go for it. Recognise the emotion, and ask to take a moment. “Can I take a second to gather my thoughts?”, “I can see that this is a really important topic for you, what else would you like to share right now?”. “I’m keen to understand more, I’m sorry I’m not there yet”.

All these are approaches to bring you towards a productive exchange of meaning, which you won’t get with a suddenly appeal to faceless authority.

Don’t waste time being rational, when you can build a lasting an powerful human connection instead.

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Coaching Leadership

Space to Fail

When you are learning a new skill, or mastering a new endeavour, you must give yourself space to fail.

If a change is going to be meaningful, there will be risk of failure. However, you can reduce your overall chance of failure by giving yourself the opportunity to make small mistakes, and learn from them.

If you don’t embrace this, then you’ll turn the situation into a binary all-or-nothing. Success / Fail. Yes / No. Put in such stark terms, you may well just choose to do nothing, which is a painful way to miss out on reaching your true potential.

Rather than letting this risk become a big thing, make it small. Embrace an amount of failure as you learn. If it’s perfect first time, then you didn’t find enough to challenge yourself.

In the Build – Measure – Learn model of the Lean Startup, you find an approach that celebrates giving this space. It pushes you to iterate quickly thorough ideas, learn what works and what doesn’t, and to then refine the outcome.

You can apply this model to your own goals and the options you consider when attempting to reach them. Don’t phrase something as all or nothing. Think about the iterative steps you’ll use. How you’ll learn from things that didn’t go so well so you’ll improve the next time.

Once you’ve started, you can correct your course. Doing it little and often means that no one experience is catastrophic. You start of failing and learning, then you start to succeed and finally you are achieving at a high level.

Give yourself space to fail, and you’ll get to success far sooner.