Make It A Habit

This post shared from Leadership Coaching faculty member Sue McLeod. See more from Sue on her blog at suemcleodcoaching.com.  

My friend and coaching buddy, Heidi Bellamente, and I have been working on our habits – We’re creating new ones, breaking old ones, and appreciating the ingrained habits that keeping us alive and on track. And we’ve learned a lot along the way.

Why focus on habits and what do they have to do with coaching?

My experiment in creating a new habit was my desire to be healthier and physically stronger. The beginning was simply saying “I need to start exercising!” Simple to say, yes, but not easy to manifest. In fact, it turned out to be pretty complex. How does that statement transform into a gym membership, four completed 5Ks, a backpack filled with the right clothes and shoes, and exercise being a part of my life, every day?

By intentionally creating a new habit, I learned my own success formula. Working with Heidi, I learned that she’s not the same as me, and has her own unique ways of creating habits.

What does this have to do with coaching?

When our clients say “I need to…” that is just the beginning of the journey. Sustained change, for individuals and groups, happens when the new behaviors become a habit. And we all have a unique success formula for creating habits.

What’s the coach’s role?

Here’s a hint – a couple of the PCC markers for the Designing Actions, Planning and Goal Setting, and Managing Progress and Accountability (D-P-M) competencies.

  • Coach assists the client to design what actions/thinking client will do after the session in order for the client to continue moving toward the client’s desired outcomes.

This seems simple enough on the face of it. But what if you knew that your client needed to put that action into the context of a big vision in order to be motivated? Or, that your client gets freaked out by the big vision, and prefers to just map out a few next steps? Would your approach change if you knew that your client will do this new thing because you’re expecting them to, or might rebel unless it’s completely their own idea?

  • Coach invites or allows client to consider her/his path forward, including, as appropriate, support mechanisms, resources and potential barriers.

This is a little more detailed than I would usually get. What needs to be considered in the “path forward?” Think of all the things that get in the way of your good intentions. If you’re like me, it can be a long list! How will your client face and conquer what will get in their way? Again, it’s personal. Do they need to schedule it, be reminded, get the right equipment, track and measure progress, get feedback, find a community of support, expect resistance and plan a way through it, or something else?

  • Coach assists the client to design the best methods of accountability for her/himself.

Ahh yes, accountability. When I was a beginner coach, my coaching move was to ask the client if I could hold them accountable. It runs out, that wasn’t a good idea. I have trouble being accountable for my own stuff, never mind my client’s stuff, too! So, the better move is to know what kind of accountability works best for them. Do they like to keep things private, share with only trusted individuals, create a group and get hurrahs when they succeed? And what happens when they get stuck? Will they hide or boldly declare a breakdown? Who, or what, will call them back to their commitment?

So you see, there’s lots to talk about with clients after they say “I need to…”

What have you noticed about what works for your clients?

Learn more from Sue McLeod on suemcleodcoaching.com >>

The Power of Y.E.S.

This post shared from leadership coaching faculty member Maria van Hekken’s blog at yes2yes.com.  See the full version of the post here!

Have you ever believed something so much that you didn’t realize it was totally not true?

It’s amazing how quickly you can start believing the false stories you frequently tell yourself.  I told myself all kinds of stories for many years that held me back. But along the way, I managed to sort through all those negative thoughts that prevented me from sharing my gifts.

Here are the “fake” stories I believed:
I’m not a talented writer. I worked at a publishing company for over a decade in a previous life. They had amazing writers. I certainly was not one of them. They studied writing, they were highly skilled, and they were oh, so imaginative. Nah, not me.
I need to write a book that everyone will want to read. What I wanted to write was too far out there. So I’d write a book that was safe. You know, vanilla. As you might imagine, since I am anything but vanilla, that didn’t work real well.
I am never ever going to actually finish my book. When I had been writing for about six years without actually completing anything, I decided it was taking me way too long. So I would just take the loss, admit defeat, and move on.

Here’s what happened next… 
I wrote. Over time, a ritual of writing every Friday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. took shape and a habit was born. Magically, week after week and month after month, I somehow became a proficient writer. Because I was actually writing with purpose.
I discovered my voice. I wrote my truth. Honestly? I felt naked, raw, and vulnerable. And often pretty foolish. And still, once in a while, the muse visited, and there was flow.
I persisted and finished. I found a coach (imagine that) who said, “what do you mean you’re not going to finish your book because it is taking too long. Plenty of people have taken way longer than this to write a book.” Not all at once, but chapter by chapter, the book became complete. Something in me did, too.

Here’s my new extraordinary story that emerged:
I am a writer. There, I said it. I am a writer at my core. Truth is, at the very center of my being, I absolutely, positively love words. I am passionate about inspiring people through language, generating beautiful possibilities, and creating extraordinary leadership stories for the sake of bringing a little more light into this world.

I am so proud of the way my book has taken shape. It demonstrates that anyone can be a more positive and successful leader in all aspects of their lives.

I can’t wait for you to read it. Once you start the book, you’ll learn step by step how to ditch your old stories to create your new story filled with the positive results you really want.

How to Create an Awesome Team from Average Workers

This post shared from entrepreneurship faculty member Kristi Hedges’s blog at thehedgescompany.com.  See the full version of the post here!

Some leaders are able to assemble teams with the absolute best talent in the market. They have large budgets, innovative brands, and the latitude to recruit whomever they wish for their organizations. They’re also rare.

The vast majority of leaders are forced to make do with some combination of the talent they can attract and the talent they’ve inherited.

Either group has the same objective: to get the best results. And while it may seem to be a major advantage to cherry pick your team members, there’s a lot more to team effectiveness than individual contributions.

No matter where they start, leaders can create teams that are far more than the sum of their parts. If you’ve ever been on a high-performing team, you understand. With the right leadership, even average workers can rise to the occasion and accomplish great things – even more than they may have thought possible.

The following are four considerations to build an A+ team, even if you have B (or even a few C) players:

1. Communicate your expectations from the start.

In an article in Harvard Business Review, corporate leadership expert Anne Grady posits that if you feel that your employees aren’t measuring up, you need to start by looking at your own role as the leader. She writes, “Many leaders believe that holding people accountable is the key to getting the results they want. There’s one problem with this, though: Sometimes we get frustrated with people for not meeting our expectations when we have never communicated what they were in the first place.”

Team culture is determined quickly and, once ingrained, is very hard to change. Spend the time up front to paint a picture of what success looks like for the team. Have a vision that’s clearly communicated.

Never assume everyone is on the same page. Be clear with your expectations and have non-negotiables spelled out. Team members determine the culture based on both what’s emphasized and what’s ignored.

2. Foster a team-first environment.

If you are working with a motley crew of talent, to create a successful team, you must envision—and make your employees feel—that they are each an essential part of a larger machine. Every person should be able to clearly state their contribution to the bigger group, and know how the team is jeopardized if they don’t perform.

As a leader, you can promote group cohesion by treating the team as a unit. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, the CEO of Hogan Assessment Systems, a Professor of Business Psychology at University College London, and a faculty member at Columbia University, says, “Leaders own the job of creating engagement. Although individual engagement is critical, team morale is the key. You might have a team of B players, but when they share common values, drivers, and motives, and care about each other much like friends, they will raise their performance for each other.”

Create a culture that thrives off of cooperation and mutual engagement. Encourage employees to brainstorm together, and celebrate team accomplishments openly. Focusing on the functions—and successes—of the group is key to creating a unified team of diverse players.

3. Establish 3-5 jointly agreed upon operating principles.

In an earlier post, I discussed my approach to assembling a high performing team in just 30 minutes. At the heart of this strategy is the creation of 3-5 operating principles that the members of the team develop and agree to. They are behavioral, tactical and provide specific direction for action, e.g., “Take risks.”

Once your team establishes their top principles of behavior, create an agreed upon system of accountability such as a monthly audit or discussion in one-on-ones.

Keep the principles visible. Tack them to a board in the conference room. Include them on the agenda. Have the team be responsible for upholding the principles and they will be more likely to stick.

4. Don’t expect that you need all A’s.

Not everyone is driven the same way that you might be as the leader. Some people are ambitious, hardworking, and aimed for the top. Others may be more focused on preserving a work-life balance or doing work they find rewarding—reserving some of their time and energies for their family, friends or passions.

While many leaders can empathize with the talent and drive of their A players, they have a tendency to neglect their B players, the team members who stay with a company for a longer period of time and do a solid job. And, as psychological studies confirm, we can even be harder on our B players because they are unlike us.

When it comes to mentoring and showing appreciation, don’t neglect the unique talents of your B players. After all, they provide “the ballast in bad economic times,” according to Harvard Business School Professor Thomas J. DeLong and Innosight Institute fellow Vineeta Vijayaraghavan. “When the boss says that things are going to be different around here on Monday morning, B performers are not only able to adapt, but they often also have the credibility with the rest of the organization to share important information and convey a sense of confidence. Even more important, B players have the inner resources to mentor less experienced people through the transition, stress, and even panic of change—a grossly underestimated talent.”

Your team is comprised of individuals with widely different strengths. By appreciating how employees can complement one another, rather than lamenting your lack of an all-star roster, you are on your way to assembling the type of extraordinary team that wins in the end.

Kristi Hedges is a leadership coach, speaker and author of The Inspiration Code and  The Power of Presence: Unlock Your Potential to Influence and Engage OthersRead more on her blog and @kristihedges.

How To Work For A Human Tornado

This post shared from Leadership Coaching faculty member Scott Eblin’s blog at eblingroup.com.  See the full version of the post here!

Chances are that, at some point in your career, you’re going to work for a human tornado. In my speeches and workshops, I often say that leaders control the weather. When I talk with my audiences about that, I’m assuming that it’s a room full of healthy, positive people who can make smart choices about the weather they’re creating as leaders. Unfortunately, though, many of us will at some point, work for a designated leader who creates all kinds of terrible weather. They’re the human tornados.

The experience of working for a human tornado can feel a lot like being on the plains in a summer storm. You know the conditions are ripe for destruction and devastation, you just don’t know exactly where the tornado is going to hit, which way it’s going to turn, what it’s going to sweep up in its path and destroy and what it’s going to leave standing. Waiting for the inevitable but unpredictable forces of a tornado and then dealing with the damage is a very high stress experience.

Working for a human tornado can create a similar but different phenomenon. At least with a real tornado, you can read the atmospheric conditions to get a sense of when you should take cover. With the human tornado, not so much, They can spin out of nowhere and lash out in ways that leave their staff to clean up the mess and living in fear of when the next storm is going to be unleashed.

So, if you find yourself working for a human tornado, what can you do to both minimize the damage and survive the storm? Here are five tips on how to do it:

Put on your own mask first: One of the biggest dangers of working for a human tornado is the immediate as well as lasting damage the experience can do to your physical and mental health. As I discuss in my book, Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative, the stress that human tornados create can leave you in a chronic state of fight or flight. That dramatically degrades your judgment and decision making abilities in the short run and can reduce your life expectancy in the long run. As they say in the pre-flight announcements, in the event of an emergency, put on your own mask first before attempting to assist others. Taking care of yourself is always important but perhaps never more so than when you’re working for a human tornado. Put on your own mask first. Mitigate your natural fight or flight response by activating your rest and digest response. Get up and move every hour. Take regular deep breaths from your belly. Stay connected with other (sane) people. Remember the things that are going right in your life.

Influence when and where you can: The best weather forecasters make solid predictions based on the experience they’ve had identifying patterns in the data available to them. If you’re going to be effective in working for a human tornado you have to do the same thing. If you step back and observe, you’ll start to see patterns in the tornado’s behavior that will allow you to influence when and where you can. For instance, based on your knowledge of the tornado’s hot buttons where are they most likely to strike? Look for and take advantage of opportunities to get ahead of the predictable patterns by sharing information early that will shape the tornado’s perceptions. A pro tip is to pay special attention to the triggers that are likely to make the tornado feel insecure. When you strip everything else away, most destructive leaders are inherently insecure about their place in the world. While it can be exhausting to do so, keep your radar turned on for situations that will trigger the tornado’s insecurity. Then do your best to avoid them or head them off at the pass to help things go more smoothly.

Form alliances: Managing a tornadic boss is not a job to do by yourself. You need to play zone defense, not man-to-man. Form alliances with trusted colleagues to help keep the boss calm and on track. Work with each other to develop shared agendas that move the organization forward. Coordinate with each other on the best ways to deploy the boss. Share information and insights on what’s working and what’s not. Commiserate with each other when things get crazy, but don’t live there. Nothing good comes from perpetual pity parties.

Be clear on your purpose: When you’re working for a human tornado, the pace of the daily crises can be so overwhelming that you can forget why you took the job in the first place. When you have a relatively calm hour or two, write down for yourself what you’re trying to accomplish in the bigger picture, why that matters and for whom it matters. That clarity of purpose can serve you in at least two important ways. First, it can serve as a reference point and guide when you’re trying to decide how to handle any given crisis your tornado boss stirs up. Second, it can serve as a source of motivation to keep going when the going gets tough.

Know when to say when: All of that said, when it comes to working for a human tornado, you have to know when to say when. Being in a constant state of waiting for damage or repairing the damage can get old fast. It’s hard on your mind, body and spirit. Circle some dates on the calendar – six months from now, 1 year from now and 2 years out. When you reach those dates, stop and ask yourself how it’s going and how you’re doing. Are you making progress, treading water or sinking fast? If the answer is treading water or sinking fast, consider if there’s anything else you can do or do differently that could make things better. If you’re coming up dry on those questions, then it’s probably time to move on. Life is short. You’ve done your best to make the best of a bad situation. Let someone else pick up the ball.

Learn more from Scott Eblin on eblingroup.com >>