BY LUCILLE MADDALENA
As an engaged member of a group, or as a parent or colleague, you value your network and seek connections to build bridges and to give and share information. Dynamic workforce leaders also recognize the importance of connectivity to effective planning and decision making.
In any environment, there are some who self-impose restrictions on their behavior with others, possibly through fear of exposure or perceived hierar-chal boundaries. In his article, “What to Ask the Person in the Mirror,” Harvard University Professor Robert Kaplan writes about a senior com-pany executive who is having trouble achieving consensus among his lead-ership team. The exec was asked if he had considered getting feedback from his direct reports. He responded: “Of course not; they’re the subordinates—it would be awkward for me to ask them for coaching. I’m the coach!”
One of the most difficult soft skills for many leaders to embrace is al-lowing themselves to be vulnerable. Edgar Papke wrote in True Align-ment: Linking Company Culture With Customer Needs for Extraordinary Results that feedback itself is the rea-son some people avoid coaching, because the idea of being reviewed by others—especially those in lower levels—causes consternation as much as the aspect of being singled out as someone who needs coaching. In fact, anyone who has been through coach-ing knows the reverse often is true: A thorough 360 review will highlight the individual’s strengths and identify her successes.
Of course, in any environment, we will make a mistake or react without thought, speaking inappropriately. Owning up to our actions has a grati-fying and often unexpected result: We gain self-respect and, in many cases, the respect of others. It takes strength to face ridicule. Acknowledging a lapse in judgment is a humbling, honest experience. Revealing vulnerability also reveals humility. There is no place for arrogance, judgment, or blame because those emotions are an empty means of self-protection and mere time-wasting distractions to the task of moving forward.
One of my clients offers an example of how to create an environment that encourages feedback and collabora-tion. Max received a promotion to his first management role, into a depart-ment formerly led by a self-described micromanager. The department had a reputation for poor performance, of-ten missing deadlines and failing to attend company-wide events. Max was confident he could elicit team-work and turn the department around.
Max spent his first few days at-tempting to talk individually with staff members, sharing his friendly, outgo-ing personality as he did so. His efforts were cordially accepted with limited response. When entering an employee’s workspace, he often noted signs of anx-iousness and discomfort. Silos persisted. Although cubicles were in close proxim-ity and work relied on the others’ task completion, each seemed isolated and unaware of what others were doing.
While failing to engage anyone in useful dialogue, Max nevertheless re-mained optimistic. He sought advice from his new peers. His initial impres-sion was confirmed: The staff did not consider themselves a team. The style of the former manager was described as “intense and to the point.” Data were shared formally through reports and in meetings.
Max realized that there was little per-sonal communication among the department. He resolved that he would inspire change by increasing social in-teraction. His goal was to foster a sense of teamwork necessary to build the working relationships to improve over-all department performance. To do so, he asked members of his team for help.
Because the staff were accustomed to exchanging information through documents, Max chose to create a feedback questionnaire to learn how his new staff evaluated his perfor-mance. The questionnaire included 10 questions that invited staff to rate his performance on a 1-5 scale, with a blank line for comments.
At the next department meeting, Max informed his staff that for him to succeed in his new role, he had to know what he was doing right and what he could do differently. He then explained that he created a two-page list of questions he would like them to answer, and all responses would be held in confidence and could be sub-mitted anonymously.
The first response to the question-naire from his staff of 27 resulted in five completed forms. All the questions posed were ranked, no comments were offered, and all were submitted anonymously.
One month later, Max shared the results of the questionnaire, describing his commitment to helping the team succeed. He informed the group that in a few months he would once again ask for each person’s help to improve his performance in any way possible.
Six months after the first ques-tionnaire distribution, Max repeated the process. This time he received 14 completed forms, three of which were signed. At the next monthly meeting, Max again shared the feedback and described how he was going to apply the insight to improve his manage-ment style by adopting new behaviors.
Establish a connection
After another six months passed—a full year since he started—Max distributed the form again. This time the results were surprising. Of the 27 on the team, he received 24 completed forms. Even more telling was that six individuals requested to meet with Max privately.
Several brought uncompleted and unsigned forms with them, sat confi-dently in Max’s office, established eye contact, and told him directly what they were observing. Max was thrilled and felt he had succeeded at his goal.
At the next meeting, Max discussed the comments he received without mentioning names. Another surprise occurred when a few contributors took ownership of their feedback by engaging in the conversation. The en-suing discussion encouraged others to share their ideas and feedback. With the enthusiastic support of staff, Max created quarterly staff roundtables, inviting all members to share a story of a recent event that best expressed their work experience.
With his staff taking the lead from Max, the work environment had changed: Everyone was more positive and open. There was greater sharing of current projects and, grad-ually, innovative ideas to streamline work emerged.
Today, Max is in a C-level position, continuing to encourage feedback pro-cesses throughout the organization.
True success is in the process, in making the effort. Accept the risk by seeking to connect honestly to others. Develop trust by being consistent in process—we don’t know everyone and everything. Maintain trust by being flexible in implementation—life moves too fast and people change.
Choosing optimism is choosing vul-nerability and humility, anticipating a future that will bring pleasant and unpleasant unanticipated events. It is the systematic approach to a goal that offers you the opportunity for your personal development, and to inspire the development of others.
Lucille Maddalena is an executive coach and leadership development consultant;
Originally published in TD magazine, the monthly publication of the Association for Talent Development
I recently witnessed the retirement of a Fortune 100 Senior Executive. In his farewell speech, he described the wealth of life experiences he gained during his years with the company. The next day when he gathered his final things from this office it was a sad day for those of us who witnessed his departure. As we watched him through the corporate lobby for the last time, his broad shoulders seemed to slump a bit with every step. It is not where he is going that we should be considering; where are we going without him?
What he worriedly confided during a brief meeting to prepare for his retirement dinner is his concern that the many efforts he championed were now in jeopardy. Who would pick up the baton, view issues with a broad and experienced vision to provide continuity as the business culture continues on its evolutionary path?
As Susan Scott states in her book FIERCE CONVERSATIONS1 “When you leave a room, your image remains…”
Have you thought about what you leave behind when you end a phone call, leave a meeting, or retire after investing your life in your company? No doubt that your actions contributed to the current company culture, the traditions, and the foundation on which the future will be built. How wise it would be for you to take the time to consider what you will leave behind when you are ready to retire.
A popular television show has the villain cutting open the heads of those with skills he admires to draw their essence and assume their knowledge. How can we effectively “pick the brains” of today’s business leaders short of medically cloning our senior managers? How do we tap, retain, and deploy the accumulated knowledge and wisdom of those who currently lead our organization?
There are two ways to share your wisdom. One is to look forward by planning, teaching and engaging others: contribute to the development of staff on all levels. Another way to continue to impact the future of the company is to look back: preserve the history and traditions as a reliable and ethical foundation upon which agile change and new achievements can be made.
Delegate & Involve
The opportunity for a leader to share knowledge begins by delegating: training and mentoring younger staff. Of course, delegating does not remove the responsibility from you as those in the learning stages are bound to make mistakes you will have to correct. Inherent in this process is a remarkable learning opportunity to model how to handle frustration, possibly anger, the pressure of deadlines and the difficulty of moving past mishaps.
A leader is a role model. The way you respond, plan, and act is observed by those below you, and often quickly emulated. Much as parents influence their children—just as you most likely have shocked yourself by saying something using the words and inflection you witnessed one of your parents using—you will hear others repeat your statements. Because you are aware that your actions influence how current young employees will act when they are in your role, you have the opportunity to consciously choose how you respond, to model a professional and ethical approach to the situation. This might mean dropping a few old habits you picked up on the way into a leadership position and maintaining an awareness of your impact on others.
You can maximize the learning process by providing opportunities for the less experienced to observe you. Take them along with you to meetings with clients as well as others in your field. Give them some small role in the meeting, a short contribution to the discussion as they watch you to see firsthand how you work through complex business situations.
Tell Your Story
Stories and analogies can create a deep understanding of a situation or event, just as a picture tells a full story on one page. Whether it is a story told about you or a repeat of a story your shared with your team, stories live beyond the moment of telling.
One of my favorite clients is a constant story teller. When we first met it was because there were complaints from his staff that his stories often meandered, taking up unnecessary time and often lacking relevance to the topic he was attempting to address. Stories and analogies, like all good habits that get abused form overuse, can become a derailer for you. Be certain you have something short and to the point to offer by using these tips:
- Ask for feedback. Be open and vulnerable by seeking comments from those you work with. Try to get their view of how often you hit the mark with a story or analogy.
- Monitor yourself. Set a time limit for how long it takes you to tell a story or offer an analogy. If you are not confident that you can express your concept quickly and be understood immediately, don’t do it. You do not need to continually provide information with the flourish of a story or analogy.
As we worked on my client’s story telling abilities, he developed three guidelines to stay on track as he endeavored to connect with his staff and effectively explain his purpose:
- State why you want to offer the story or analogy –its relevant goal
- Present the story/analogy in two minutes or less –just the facts without sidebars
- Sum-up the story – restate the learning moment in a short sentence
Or as my acting friends say: Tell them what you are going to do; Do it; Tell them what you did. The key is to be certain you are connected with those you are speaking with by telling them a story they want to hear because it has value to them.
If you are not confident in your story telling abilities, or wonder when an analogy would be more effective than attempting to explain a complex concept, there are several excellent experts in the field you can turn to for help.
Story telling will enable you to connect with others, preserve tradition and maintain the fluid culture of your organization.
The DNA of the Human Psyche
The tales of merger, acquisition, conquest, or convergence are timeless case studies for those seeking advancement, knowledge, success. Of course, not every senior leader is an orator, writer, or scholar. Peter Drucker and Jack Welch, for example, were not described as ‘polished’ speakers.
Whether you are drawing from natural talent or skill developed by necessity and passion, you must be ready to articulate your personal sense of values and life wisdom. Expressing your sense, your perspective, identifies your harmony with the latest business, social and cultural trends, guiding those who observe you to develop deeper respect and trust.
One of today’s leading researchers on storytelling, David Thornburg, Ph.D, states:
A key aspect of archetypal learning environments can be found in a tale….
One day someone sat at a computer keyboard and entered the following question: “Do you suppose that computers will one day think like humans?” After processing this request for some time, the computer displayed the following response: “That reminds me of a story…,”
…with the possible exception of certain marine mammals, we may be the only storytelling species in existence. This capacity of humans is so important that Jean Houston referred to myth as the DNA of the human psyche.
The roots of storytelling are in our elemental being, providing an essential channel to connect with others. How do you recognize events worthy to be preserved?
2 Two often referenced sources: Susan Scott. FIERCE LEADERSHIP, Berkeley Publishers, 2011 and Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler CRUCIAL CONVERSATIONS, McGraw Hill, 2011.
Examples of Campfire Tales
Whether the newer members of your company are quoting Machiavelli or the former CFO, what is important is that they have they are making a connection between an event and an outcome, between someone’s thoughts and their present: connecting now and then. According to Thornburg:
“The often tangential nature of storytelling, its use of metaphor, its indirect attack on a topic all combine to make storytelling an effective way to address topics that might be too confrontational to address head on. Story crafts its own helix around a topic. As Robert Frost said, “We sit in the circle and suppose, while the truth sits in the center and knows.”
Just as we are attracted to the campfire, we intuitively recognize the truth of a tale shared in that golden circle. Stories that resonate with your personal experiences cast new light on previous encounters and as the tale emerges, we empathize with either the speaker or the story characters.
Thornburg describes ‘campfire’ storytelling as an information-based tale relayed by the expert to the novice.
…the wisdom of elders passed to the next generation. Good stories have always embodied a blend of the cognitive and affective domains – in fact, in story, there is no separation between the two.
This quality of nuance and multiple interpretations is common to storytelling. It is one reason that adults and children can enjoy the same story together – each age takes from the story the elements that are appropriate.
The power of storytelling is so great that even in more recent times (c. 250 BC,) we find Socrates responding to his students on occasion with the Greek equivalent of “That reminds me of a story.”
It is critical for all leaders to accept their role and impact in the organization. Kris Finnin states:
“Your legacy will be defined by the passion and impact of the people you influence.
What do you want your legacy to be?”
To achieve your legacy a leader must invest in the development and growth of individuals on all levels. Share your power and passion to develop their skills, understand their role in the organization and prepare a talented bench of future leaders to call upon.
Stories can bridge gaps and form bonds – even between people who never meet or speak face-to-face – as well as between those of different levels in a corporation.
Larry Prusak of IBM’s Institute of Knowledge Management, identified ten categories of stories in organizations and offered the following perspective:
I’d say the most important thing you can do is to deal with the issue of connectivity….
If you can improve sense-making in any organization, by one percent, you’ve earned your salary for life. Sense-making is really more than information-seeking. It’s more than knowledge-seeking. It’s helping people make sense of their own organization for action.
Preserving the Legacy
Preserving the stories of your business’ founders and leaders is developing a warehouse of knowledge. You will be capturing the wisdom and insight of those whose decisions forged the environment you now occupy: Each story saved is one more connection between past and present, contributing to future decisions by sustaining awareness of the foundation for today’s beliefs, motivations, and commitments.
As you consider potential contributors to your new stock-pile of corporate stories, keep your goal clearly in mind. Your task is to gather and share existing wisdom: truth and experience serving as a catalyst to future action.
References and Additional Reading
- Betof, Edward Betof. T&D Magazine. “Teachable Points of View for Leadership”. March 2007 ’Becton, Dickinson and Company’s Advanced Leadership Development Program acknowledges the role of story telling in leadership training.
- Finnin, Kris. “Live Forever? How Ethical Leadership and A Legacy Definition Makes You Timeless. https://www.intelivate.com/team-strategy/define-leadership-legacy. 2017
- Mount, Ian. “America’s 25 Most Fascinating Entrepreneurs” Inc. Magazine , 2004.
- Prusak, Larry. Executive Director, IBM Institute of Knowledge Management. Presentation at the Smithsonian, 2001.
- Thornburg, David, Ph.D, “Campfires in Cyberspace: Primordial Metaphor’s for Learning in the 21st Century” in the October 2004 issue of Instruction Technology & Distance Learning.
Anxious to get through a meeting, complete negotiations, or deliver bad news? Connecting subjects too quickly can create a threatening situation that will delay or prevent decision making. Learn which 3-letter words can derail any meeting.
Sometimes it is the small things that make the big difference: a pause in the conversation, a reassuring smile, the turn of a phrase. In this article we will look at how three-letter words cast big shadows, often preventing the effective exchange of ideas, hindering decision making and possibly creating adversarial relationships.
Corporate leaders often find themselves in stressful adversarial situations from contract negotiations to selling situations. Two common discussions that require an immense investment of time are PERFORMANCE REVIEWS and IDEA GENERATION. Often described as constructive guidance and brainstorming, these activities are embedded in our management development processes. What can be done to reduce the angst created and maximize the value of the time invested in these conversations? Perhaps applying a meditative approach will enable us to develop communication skills that convey the mindfulness and agility necessary for leadership and thus team success.
Michael Carroll, in his article MEDITATING YOUR WAY TO MORE EFFECTIVE LEADERSHIP addresses the power of mindfulness:
For example, lawyers who practice mindfulness meditation speak to an ability to more readily drop adversarial mindsets, better comprehend the intent of a challenge, and self-regulate emotions during conflict. As Professor Leonard Riskin observes in his seminal study of practicing attorneys:
“Mindfulness can play a role in helping the lawyers… observe — without attachment — the thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations that typically make up and support (contrasting) mindsets. Consequently, the lawyer can adopt an attitude of curiosity, consider other options and make a discerning decision. Mindfulness can help the lawyer simply notice the manifestations of the feelings of being threatened…and decide to let them go and maybe learn from them.”
This lawyerly agility that Professor Riskin is observing here free from fixed mindsets is the very same agileness that thousands of business leaders are discovering through mindfulness awareness meditation: a poised yet flexible confidence that is ready to learn, reassess, and adapt in the face of novel problems, dissonant voices, and unforeseen opportunities.
Riskin’s point to “adopt an attitude of curiosity, consider other options, and make a discerning decision” contains a wealth of advice for us. When faced with a difficult conversation, we may attempt conflicting actions: reaching out to present the topic from our perspective, while at the same time installing conversational barriers to protect us from assault. We want to quickly move through the difficult part, make our statement and move on. Ignoring or minimizing the thoughts of others at this juncture blocks our ability to build a connection with the listener.
I have learned silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and
kindness from the unkind; yet, strange, I am ungrateful to those teachers. Khalil Gibran
Maintaining a one-way discourse, not giving the other person time to reply and speaking without regard for a shared perspective does give you the airtime to express your thoughts. The question is: are you being heard and will you achieve your goal during the time invested? Most often, ‘talking at’ someone only delays the full discussion to a future event when the listener becomes the speaker.
In any powerful interaction with one person or a as part of a group, you will benefit by being mindful of your use of the most common three-letter conjunctions, “and” and “but”….
(1) Connecting unrelated subjects with an ‘and’. You may not have all the facts or the information you have could be biased or outdated. A one-sided dialogue is stilted and lacks engagement. It is likely that you will be asked to revisit topics to hear opposite views or defend opinions, extending the amount of time before reaching a conclusion.
(2) The acknowledging/challenging “yes, but” statement. Agreeing to something someone said then offering a counterpoint minimizes the first point to emphasize the second. This discounting of what is deemed important results in the “manifestations of the feelings of being threatened” or assuming an adversarial position — as in “I acknowledge that you have that fact, now listen to how I interpret it”.
(3) Dramatically stating a positive to be overcome by a negative using ‘but’ or ‘and’. This well-abused technique briefly refers to a positive action before focusing in-depth on a negative event.
Mislabeled as ‘feedback’, listeners quickly learn to become alert when hearing false or weak praise and will tense for the expected punch. The commonly-used example is “Your work has been good, but it does not meet the required standards”. The speaker has created a threatening situation devoid of trust or mutual respect.
These three-letter words, and other conjunctions of various length, may seem to be a quick way to get the message out. As with any skill, abuse of the process can have a negative effect. You may have created a communication bad habit that distracts and adds irrelevant words that circle the issue rather than convey a message. When you combine disparate thoughts into one sentence, particularly both a positive and a negative message, you will derail your focus and confuse the listener.
Let’s apply Riskin’s approach to ‘mindfulness’ to the way you express yourself and your ideas. Start by envisioning a trail in the wilderness. You are confidently walking along the path, speaking your advice as you lead the listener to safety by dropping a trail of bread crumbs.
The spacing between the crumbs becomes important – too far apart and the listener may turn away, too close together and the listener may become confused by which to examine first. Seeking to move more quickly you connect two thoughts with an ‘and’ or ‘but’, creating a small pile of bread crumbs. The listener must now decide how to proceed: should the top layer be digested first or go to the bottom to examine the initial concept now buried in the pile?
You and the listener are not communicating until you both address the same topic. For the listener, too much content in one sentence is a pile of bread crumbs. Everyone’s mind is busy and distracted. Typically body language becomes stiff as the listener becomes defensive, guarded, uncertain of where you are leading, and what options are open to them.
You do not know which element of your message was received until you obtain feedback. As you fill the air with your thoughts and perspective, the receiver’s mind is absorbing, refuting or ignoring the messages delivered both verbally and nonverbally. Each phrase and gesture is evaluated for content, then assorted for relevance before being discarded, filed away for later attention, or selected as a subject for immediate response. Most often the ‘short cut’ of connecting subjects by inserting a small three-letter conjunction evolves into a multi-stage repartee lengthening the time required to achieve resolution or consensus.
To build rapport, take a moment to empathize by reflecting on how the information could be interpreted by the listener. Contemplate your motivations as well as the possible outcomes of the conversation.
As a leader and role model, continue to challenge yourself by asking yourself and the listener(s):
- What is the purpose and value of the discussion?
- What are my intentions in this moment?
- What outcome do I seek for the long-term?
Grant yourself the freedom to be agile, to respond honestly and with good will as you seek to create an environment of trust for an open exchange of information.
AN ATTITUDE OF CURIOSITY
Trained negotiators understand the importance of creating ‘dead air’: a pause in the conversation for the listener to absorb the message and evaluate alternatives. You can apply this technique by replacing a comma and inserting a period at the end of each phrase. The pause created in the conversation allows the listener time to think about the specific subject and possibly respond with information of value to the speaker.
Whatever was said before the ‘and’ or ‘but’ is ignored: the listener is focused on the action statement that follows. Take a moment to test this approach, to give power to each concept, and to maximize the impact of each thought by following these three steps:
a) Recall a sentence incorporating a ‘but’ and write it down.
b) Edit the sentence by deleting the ‘but’. Replace the comma with a period after the first phrase. Capitalize the first word of the second phrase, forming two sentences.
c) After each sentence insert a probing question that is relevant and significant to the individual. You have now expanded the initial concepts into separate paragraphs.
PERFORMANCE REVIEWS. You can use this technique when you in a performance review by introducing your perception of positive and negative actions in two separate paragraphs. First, state successful actions that should continue, then invite the listener to become the speaker and share additional noteworthy actions. At the close of that discussion, provide a summation. Pause for a moment before informing the listener that you will change tracks by moving the conversation to a discussion of issues that require improvement. Begin the second discussion by clearly stating each issue that requires change separately, providing and asking for examples to each. Invite comment and identify action steps before moving to a different issue or closing the discussion. During an open exchange you will gain relevant information to make a better decision. The interaction creates a supportive coaching opportunity to offer effective guidance.
IDEA GENERATION. Share in-the-moment reactions to a new idea while remaining open to other speakers. Removing distractions gives your message impact: eliminating unnecessary placating phrases before the ‘and’ or ‘but’ emphasizes the content of your message. Use the time you have to speak to provide greater descriptive depth of your concept. Evaluate the reaction you have inspired to identify and employ selected concepts, terminology, and approaches of others into your presentation. Your ability to be both mindful and agile in your response will enhance your communication effectiveness.
A CONTEMPLATIVE CONVERSATION
When you ask questions in the role of listener, you are displaying curiosity to learn the origins of the other person’s response. Exchanging roles of speaker and listener during the interaction creates a connection, a collaboration, as each person learns what is important to the other. You are developing trust, building rapport and showing empathy.
Being mindful and agile by listening and engaging will enable you to connect with others, to initiate collaborative discussion, to seek a mutually beneficial conclusion. Consider how you can guide potentially stressful adversarial situations to become productive sharing and learning experiences that conclude in a compatible outcome.
Listeners quickly learn to become alert when hearing false or weak praise and will tense for the expected punch. The commonly-used example is “Your work has been good, but it does not meet the required standards”. The speaker has created a threatening situation devoid of trust or mutual respect.
Pedagogy for Grownups
By Lucille Maddalena, Ed.D.
If you have not heard of the term andragogy, you are in good company.
The term andragogy was coined in the 1800s by Alexander Knapp, a German educator, to refer to “methods or techniques used to teach adults” and was popularized in the 1960s by Malcolm Knowles, an American educator. Andragogy is often compared to Pedagogy, the term used to describe teaching techniques for children.
The misnomer of pedagogy as encompassing all learning was acknowledged by Knowles in 1970: “…somewhere in history the ‘children’ part of the definition of pedagogy got lost. In many people’s minds—and ev
n in the dictionary “Pedagogy” is defined as the art and science of teaching. Period. Even in books on adult education you can find references to “the Pedagogy of adult education,” without any apparent discomfort over the contradiction in terms. Indeed, in my estimation, the main reason why adult education has not achieve the impact of our civilizations of which it is capable is that most teachers of adults have only known how to teach adults as if they were children.”
The purpose for this paper is to highlight andragogy as an approach to learning that is a critical element of all learning. As I have Coached executives for 25 years I will focus on its application in the engagement of coaching. Knowles’ work and other leaders in the field present a theory or set of assumptions about learning that when applied to coaching will guide our exploration of innovative approaches to encourage self-development. Andragogy describes the unique adult learning experience that can be captured in a coaching relationship.
A Coach manages or guides the process itself rather than lecturing ‘content’ as in traditional pedagogy, employing an andragogical approach to achieve an effective intervention or successfully completed engagement. Across all disciplines applied in the coaching process, an evaluation of the initiatives to inspire learning will reveal the existence of an andragogical approach. As we seek new levels of involvement through our carefully organized multi-disciplinary events we are employing andragogy to unite social media, training, management development, coaching as well as organizational and academic research. Awareness is the key to understanding: naming a concept and applying a definition enable us to better embrace and apply all facets of the approach.
A COACHING EXAMPLE
I will use my work as an Executive Coach to illustrate how andragogy is a consistent element in an effective coaching event. My clients are top level corporate executives, successful people who may be experiencing some type of transition, promotion or organization change.
A useful example occurred recently with a talented Senior Vice President (SVP) at a global Corporation responsible for approximately 2,000 employees in his region. We worked together for about a year to seek ways for him to better engage with his new and larger regional team while creating a position of greater respect among his peers. To accomplish this I elected to initiate and facilitate a Team Strategy Session with his newly assigned Regional Team Leaders. The regional HR staff member co-facilitated to allow the SVP to exhibit the new skills he mastered during our time together. The event was extremely successful on several levels:
- The organization benefited with the implementation of the strategy the regional team developed in support of the corporate mission.
- The SVP benefited as he was able to present his mission in an inspiring manner, revealing his genuine commitment to the strategy his team would develop and dedication to the success of every member of his team. He also benefited by receiving immediate feedback from his team and he reestablished himself as a leader by confirming that he had followers — essential to the role of a leader.
- The Regional Team Leaders benefited by organizing into smaller teams required to interact to achieve stated goals, thus forming new avenues for communication and interaction within the region.
- Team staff benefited on multiple lower levels as mission and task were clearly presented and supported with opportunity for growth and increased recognition.
Note that I listed the value to the organization first: without the organization support we would not be able to fulfill our calling as coaches. As a result of this event, the region created a model for developing strategy and effectively implementing their plan that has been shared globally.
The best part of the story is that it is not over. As we debriefed this event and reviewed our coaching discussions, the SVP gained the confidence to delve deeper into his reflections, perceptions, risks and fears. During our discussions of feelings, judgments, relationships and personal as well as organizational goals, I guided the SVP to express his feelings about the tasks and people he worked with.
This endeavor culminated in further success for the SVP. When required to make a presentation to peers and the corporate leaders about a LEAN project, the SVP sought my help to prepare his speech. Rather than the traditional approach we choose to not use power points, graphs and statistics, instead we decided to speak from the heart. We worked on a description of the process, the people, and how it felt to be involved in a continuous improvement program. We identified words that reflected the corporate culture, the commitment, and the pride as well as job satisfaction that best reflected how employees talked about their work.
This description of ‘feelings’ about the project won the SVP a second round of kudos from all levels in the company. He realized the extent of his success when the day after his presentation the global President used the same words and phrases we chose to describe his vision for the entire organization, explaining that to truly appreciate your involvement you must feel the value of your efforts.
The entire coaching event was deemed a success. But was this coaching? What else took place that dominated the agenda and brought the SVP to a new place in his career? The answer is Andragogy.
ANDRAGOGY: ADULT LEARNING
Andragogy appears to have enjoyed a much more rapid acceptance and growth in Europe than in the U.S. In the US, the developing fields of management and organizational development as well as psychotherapy and social psychology have inspired new interest. Addressing interpersonal as well as intrapersonal aspects of an individual’s level of understanding requires our awareness of how adults learn as individuals and as contributing members of a community or organization.
It is useful for today’s coach to review the six crucial assumptions Knowles developed to base his premise describing characteristics of adult learners and possibly the same qualifiers we apply when considering an individual to coach:
- The Need to Know: Adults need to know why they need to learn something before undertaking to learn it. The decision to be coached is a choice of the individual; a self-driven initiative.
- Self-concept:As a person matures his/her self-concept moves from one of being a dependent personality toward one of being a self-directed human being. Coaching seeks self-awareness and acceptance.
- Experience:As a person matures s/he accumulates a growing reservoir of experience that becomes an increasing resource for learning. Coaching provides the opportunity to evaluate what we have learned, what we should retain or change, and what we could learn.
- Readiness to learn.As a person matures his/her readiness to learn becomes oriented increasingly to the developmental tasks of his social roles. Coaching inspires the development of new skills and recognition of a full range of options.
- Orientation to learning.As a person matures his/her time perspective changes from one of postponed application of knowledge to immediacy of application, and accordingly his/her orientation toward learning shifts from one of subject-centeredness to one of problem centeredness. Coaching encourages a world-view, embracing new opportunities for continuous growth.
- Motivation to learn:As a person matures the motivation to learn is internal. Coaching embraces life-long learning and self-coaching.
These six assumptions are with us today, applied by coaching practitioners representing all of the contributing disciplines, employing an andragogical approach using new mediums as we seek to inspire leadership and self-direction.
Concurrently within business and industry programs such as LEAN promote continuous learning for quality production, academics pursue research and study to expand our field and technology is in a never-ending evolution of research, learning and exploration that provides a means to share our knowledge.
THE ANDRAGOGICAL PROCESS
Early in my career I created and offered a training program titled TRANSITION TO MANAGEMENT, and later TRANSITION TO LEADERSHIP for higher level employees that applied the principles of andragogy. The series of seminars were offered at sites in North and South America for a global pharmaceutical firm during twenty consecutive years as well as at other client companies during the same period, reaching about 6,000 executives. Part of the series required selected high potential employees to participate in a group coaching program and some were targeted for individual coaching. This interaction helped the potential new leaders to identify their strengths and develop individual career paths for future success.
Every Coach understands the need to recognize the learner’s capacity, interest and present level of knowledge before beginning an event, utilizing an assessment or psychological evaluation instrument before beginning to coach. The key components of today’s Coaching events as well as business training and development compose the foundation to the andragogical process.
Knowles refers to as the technology of andragogical learning as a continuous circular application in the development, organization and administration of a program which can easily be applied to the development of a coaching event:
- Setting a climate for learning
- Establishing a structure of mutual planning
- Assessing interests, needs and values
- Formulating objectives
- Designing learning activities
- Implementing learning activities
- Evaluating results (reassessing needs, interests and values
The organization itself provides the foundation for andragogy:
- A climate for Learning
- A structure for mutual planning
This environment for continuous learning from personal experience recognizes the impact of the organization’s culture, the importance of evolving organization development and the agility of the organization to respond to the changing environment:
- In small learning groups (teams) as a process to redirect risk and conflict issues through interpersonal activity
- Self-directed learning to encourage continuous re-assessment of our own evolving needs as they emerge from the demands of the changing situation.
It is interesting to consider Knowles’ comparison of assumptions between pedagogy and andragogy. Below I have inserted the term ‘DIRECTIVE/CLASSROOM’ in our consideration of pedagogical learning and ‘SELF-DIRECTIVE/EXPERIENTIAL’ for andragogical learning.
||Dependent. Teacher directs what, when, how a subject is learned and tests that it has been learned outside of actual situations.
||Moves towards independence. Facilitator encourages and nurtures sharing and involvement as situations unfold.
|The learner’s experience
||Personal experience is not referenced. Teaching methods are didactic
||Stories and illustrations are shared as a rich resource for learning. Teaching methods include discussion, problem-solving etc.
|Readiness to learn
||People learn what society expects them to. The curriculum is standardized.
||People learn what they need to know, so that learning programs organized around life application.
|Orientation to learning
||Acquisition of subject matter. Curriculum organized by subjects.
||Learning experiences should be based around experiences, since people are performance centered in their learning
It may be of interest to some to note that in the U.S., the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) offers certification in levels of Human Resource Management, accordingly a directive field of study of organization and employee laws and regulations. The Association for Talent Development (ATD, formerly ASTD), offers certification in self-directive skills such as facilitation, coaching, team building and of course training for employee learning.
COACHING AS LEARNING
A well-known quote credited to Confucius describes living itself as a learning experience:
“I hear and I forget,
I see and I remember
I do and I understand.”
Learning can effectively occur in a classroom, on a manufacturing floor, in a coaching session, or while walking down a hall way. It is the individual’s capacity and receptivity to an idea or concept that when internalized becomes thought for possible future action. Whatever medium is chosen to disseminate information, the critical factor is first knowing the audience.
Again, allow me to share my personal experience. While a graduate student, and before I created the TRANSITION leadership series, I was chosen as the only outside consultant called in to work with a team of manufacturing executives who were in conflict. The drug they produced had been tampered with while on the store shelf, resulting in several deaths. The situation devastated members of the manufacturing group that produced the drug; a few became despondent, questioning themselves as to what else they could have done to prevent any type of product tampering.
This event was a learning experience for the organization, for the individuals, and for me. The feelings, thoughts, reactions of those executives were acknowledged and served as a learning tool to plan the company’s future as well as their personal futures. During this coaching event the executives were able to express their pain privately and learn to balance emotions with action. When together they learned how to use their strength to develop and share plans and processes to prevent future attempts at tampering.
Learning cannot be ‘siloed’ to one person or one event, we are all connected and there is not one correct answer or response to a complex situation. Conducting individual as well as group sessions with the team brings a collaborate focus to understand what had transpired and how to move forward. Team building and conflict resolution workshops are as valuable to the development of today’s leaders and organizations as is private coaching. We must ask ourselves how much more effective each interaction could be if we consistently applied an andragogical approach by establishing a relationship between the learning events.
When we agree to coach corporate leaders we must acknowledge the complexity of the task. Our work must be aligned with the corporate vision and mission, become a collaborative effort to support the individual’s goals and respect the existing corporate culture. The following is my ode to a leader using the yin-yang philosophy, which can be easily applied as a useful definition of a coach:
“A successful leader must be consistent and flexible:
consistent in process, flexible in implementation.”
Kurt Lewin in the 1940’s offered a prescription for resolving social conflict through what he described as ‘reeducation’. The term and its application comes very close to how we define Coaching today as it is extremely useful in the structured environment of a corporate workforce.
Consider that Lewin demonstrated that the processes for acquisition of normal and abnormal social behaviors are fundamentally alike, thus our perception of reality may at any time be correct or incorrect. Acknowledging this duality reinforces the importance of current non-directive coaching practices. By questioning norms and challenging assumptions for self-direction the learner becomes the teacher; the coach is the guide to inspire self-development.
Further, applying Lewin’s concept in a learning environment leads us to understand that perceptions of reality that steer or direct our actions requires changes in cognitive structure (facts, concepts, beliefs, expectations) as well as changes in values (attractions, aversions, feelings of acceptance and status). To survive and succeed, a leader must be able to transition from old values and ideas to new ones by internalizing new behaviors that reinforce the new values.
My preferred evaluative instrument is the Hogan Leadership Assessment because it provides a useful exploration of the individual’s values. From this data we are able to open the door for deep discussion into anger, reactions, judgments and especially risk. Along with values and needs, an individual’s perception of risk is critical to the way s/he conducts meetings, make decisions and manage a team.
“Every meeting must have an equal amount of dissension and humor”
WHAT DOES ANDRAGOGY MEAN TO COACHING TODAY?
Coaching has brought a new dimension to learning. What can we, as coaches, learn from these theories of education that will enable us to support the learning experience of those we coach? How do we contribute to the individual’s life-long, evolutionary process of gaining new concepts, challenging existing assumptions and seeking innovation?
When we consider that coaching is about learning and self-development, we recognize that as coaches we embrace existing proven processes embodied in our disciplines to benefit those we coach. Whether we are deep in confidential discussion with our clients, conducting a group coaching session with key staff members, or facilitating an exploratory session with the leader’s team, we must respect our role as guide. We enable those we coach to examine all that is new as well as all that is old by reminding them of options and sharing our experience as well as interdisciplinary learnings.
Thus, coaching has earned its place as a learning tool in today’s corporations by engaging the individual to examine personal assumptions, historical preferences, and existing habits that may help or hinder future advancement. Perhaps what early advocates of andragogy were seeking was to reinstate the Socratic approach to learning, allowing the learner to direct exploration of the topic by responding to questions and uncovering truths implicitly known by all rational beings.
In the 1960’s, theorists began to recognize that the emphasis on growth through the tutor/mentor relationships as places too great a focus on cognitive development to explain what learning is really about. Knowles writes: “[R. M.] Jones (1968) objects to [Jerome] Bruner’s under-emphasis on emotional skills, his exclusive attention to extra psychic stimuli, the equating of symbolism with verbalism and his preoccupation with the processes of concept attainment to the seeming exclusion of the processes of concept formation or invention.” 
Knowles further notes that Bruner “is moving away from the perception of learning as a process of controlling, changing or shaping behavior and putting it more in the contest of competency development.” Knowles further describes “the most dynamic and prolific developments in the field of psychology, humanist psychology, has exploded on the scene…and carried his trend of thought much further,” referring to Carl Rogers’ five elements of humanistic psychology (1968).
Similar descriptions of learning during this period include: 
- 1961 Harris and Schwahn: “Learning is essentially change due to experience”
- 1963 Cronbach: “Learning is shown by a change in behavior as a result of experience”
- 1965 Gagne: “Learning is a change in human disposition or capability, which can be retained, and which is not simply ascribable to the process of growth.”
- 1966 Hilgard and Bower: “Learning is the process by which an activity originates or is changed through reacting to an encountered situation, provided that the characteristics of the change in activity cannot be explained on the basis of native response tendencies, maturation or temporary state of the organism.”
- 1970 Maslow: The goal of learning is self-actualization. “The full use of talents, capacities, potentialities, etc.”
The common theme in these statements acknowledges the impact of change on human behavior.
NEW FREEDOM AND JOY
By sharing my examples of applied andragogy, my intention is to make it clear that among my passions for my field of study I advocate continuous learning, the sharing of emotions, the exploration of feelings, and the awareness that life is evolving; in the work environment change is a constant often impacted by the dominating organization culture. For those we coach to be able to learn, function, and succeed in these sometimes clashing environments is a challenge.
Our skills as coaches can support even the most successful to continue to grow, achieve a new life goal or gain greater satisfaction from their career.
Storytelling has long been accepted as a tool for learning. I often refer to my years working with unions, serving as an elected government official, or participating in the sport of dog sledding to offer analogies of risk when opening the door for this many-faceted discussion. Whether we discuss the physical challenge of sports or the mental challenge of politics, the core subject is a means to open the door to a deep discussion of faith, confidence, privacy, leadership, negotiations, etc. My sharing inevitably establishes a bond and increases the rapport allowing the client to offer personal experiences and explore deeper relationships and feelings, including work and life decisions that contributed to the current situation.
This self-exploration, one of the first steps in andragogy allows my clients to shed pre-conceived notions, historically repeated behaviors and assumptions that enabled them to be successful in previous situations. As a result of this decluttering, many of my clients describe an unexpected and highly appreciated found freedom. They state they now have the confidence to move ahead in their careers by granting themselves the freedom to be themselves.
Personal discovery and release of behaviors formerly assumed necessary to achieve goals is a cathartic experience. Many recognize that former behaviors often did not express their attitudes and approaches –and in some situations caused the individual to act contrary to their nature resulting in mental stress and physical illness.
Those who have successfully completed a coaching engagement have learned how to grant themselves the right to choose to act and respond according to their personal values, perceptions and needs. Hearing a client express new excitement for their work and future with the self-commitment and confidence to be who they are, brings joy and satisfaction to my life.
A successful coaching event ends when the individual being coached is ready to continue the process through self-coaching. One of my favorite statements to share is my definition of Self-Coaching:
“The process of self-coaching is addressing evolving transitions and change, where innovation, imagination, and creativity are born.
This source of self-confidence is exposed in spontaneity, laughter and, ultimately joy.
As a person changes a life pattern, they evolve, changing life perspectives and expanding their acceptance to embrace greater wisdom and understanding.”
 The term andragogy (or andragogology) is a combination of the classical Green noun agage, which is the activity of leading, and andr, the word for adult. Knowles, M.S., Holton III, E.F., & Swanson, R.A. (2005). The Adult Learner, 6, 15.
 [W]hat we describe as adult learning is not a different kind or order from child learning. Indeed our main point is that man must be seen as a whole, in his lifelong development. Principles of learning will apply, in ways that we shall suggest to all stages in life. The reason why we specify adults throughout is obvious. This is the field that has been neglected, not that of childhood. (Kidd 1978: 17) http://infed.org/mobi/andragogy-what-is-it-and-does-it-help-thinking-about-adult-learning/.
 The expanding field of heutrology may also have applications for coaching that should continue to be studied. “Heutagogy is the study of self-determined learning … It is also an attempt to challenge some ideas about teaching and learning that still prevail in teacher centred learning and the need for, as Bill Ford (1997) eloquently puts it ‘knowledge sharing’ rather than ‘knowledge hoarding’. In this respect heutagogy looks to the future in which knowing how to learn will be a fundamental skill given the pace of innovation and the changing structure of communities and workplaces. https://heutagogycop.wordpress.com/history-of-heutagogy/
Lean manufacturing is a business model and collection of tactical methods that emphasize eliminating non-value added activities (waste) while delivering quality products on time at least cost with greater efficiency. See http://www.epa.gov/lean/environment/
 Knowles, M.S., Holton III, E.F., & Swanson, R.A. (2005). The Adult Learner, P. 57-58
 See http://mtmcoach.com/leadership-development/team-development/
 Knowles, M.S. (1970). Modern Practice of Adult Education.
Knowles, M.S., Holton III, E.F., & Swanson, R.A. (2005). The Adult Learner, 6, 57-58.
 Lewin, K. (1997). Resolving social conflicts and field theory in social science. American Psychology Association.
 Knowles, M.S., Holton III, E.F., & Swanson, R.A. (2005). The Adult Learner, 14
Have you ever watched people simply stand and stare at the sea for hours? Mesmerized with the rolling waves, warmed by the sun and cooled by the soft breeze, the sounds and smells create a meditative environment.
W e ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop. —Mother Theresa of Calcutta
When you are at a transition point in your life, do you seek the familiarity of your current surroundings? How do you sort through the turmoil that accompanies change to discover your own revelations?
Smooth seas do not skillful sailors make. –African proverb
Recalling the first coaching session conducted at the ocean, I wasn’t certain when the useful dialogue began. The one thing I insisted on was that we walk. We didn’t have to walk on the sand or to the water’s edge: staying on the boardwalk or heading to a seaside restaurant was fine. As we walk, we talk: our pace moves us through time as we near the ocean.
On the first block we peer down the path to glimpse where the ocean meets the sky and hear a gentle rhythm. The conversation is light as we discuss our surroundings and living situations, exchanging private revelations that strengthen and bond our association.
On the second block the waves come into view and the volume of the breakers begins to increase. There is a slight tenseness to the conversation as petty annoyances rise to the surface then dispel. Each step is deliberate, expressing our earnest intent to address issues of burden.
By the third block, the graceful boardwalk beckons while partially blocking our view of the sand and sea. Our pace quickens. Sentences are left unfinished with short, terse expressions of verbal release; speech patterns become fast and reactive.
Now we‘re on the boardwalk overlooking the full display of sand, sea, sky. The impact of the stunning view silences us. It is impossible to talk or even breathe for that first moment, as we step up to the majesty before us. The breeze fills our lungs: magically, all trivial complaints are gone.
Wide sea that one continuous murmur breeds along the pebbled shore of memory! – John Keats
I feel my own stress leave as I inhale the salt air, and we comfortably assume our roles of coach and client. We continue our path allowing the first flow of stressors to emerge. Each item is presented, contemplated and marked for future action.
For my guest, it is the time to reveal the innocence, the vulnerable individual carefully preserved by layers of training, education, experience, loss and success. We talk about those vague, soft topics that are too difficult or embarrassing to grasp in public situations: values, ethics, passion, creativity, commitment, and dedication. We slowly work our way to issues of seeming importance: expectations, professionalism, goals, obstacles and priorities as we seek balance.
The close to our conversation always comes down to choices. This is our conversation as we dine by the sea. The task begins with all due gravity and seriousness; soon the natural flow beams with the joy of spontaneous creativity. Decision paths, options and outcomes are laid as we resort to writing our designs and plans on napkins to preserve the treasure of unrestricted ideas.
Our environment is still in control as we select our path home. Some guests prefer to walk barefoot to the water‘s edge unconcerned that we will return with seawater in our clothing and windblown hair. Others choose to stand or sit on the boardwalk to look at the ocean, allowing private thoughts to pass in silence. It is with a feeling of freedom and peace that we retrace our steps.
Your reason and your passion are the rudder and the sails of your seafaring soul, if either your sails or your rudder be broken, you can but toss and drift, or else be held at a standstill in mid-seas. – Kahlil Gibran
‘After the Storm” photo by Lucille Maddalena www.mtmcoach.com
FIND YOUR TRAIL MARKERS –
By Dr. Lucille Maddalena
How do you decide what next step is the right one for you? You may have invested years in one company, building a reputation as a hard worker capable of managing teams and making things happen. Or perhaps you’re right out of graduate school starting a first job, ready to gain new skills and the credentials to form your career.
Whether you are a senior leader or just starting your career, you have a myriad of decisions to make that can make or break your future. As a Senior Leader you may be challenged to work with a new group of high potential employees from a different generation and with different motivations. As a new employee you will benefit from choosing a mentor or taking on a high-risk project.
Let’s think about this a bit to try to uncover what makes the difference between a good or bad decision. To do this we will examine the source of our wisdom to discover how we can put our own experiences to best use to enhance our career.
WHAT WON’T GET YOU THERE?
Marshall Goldsmith’s book WHAT GOT YOU HERE WON’T GET YOU THERE is a mainstay in the list of referral publications I recommend to those I coach. He offers a humorous view of typical habits built during past successes that influences our future, falling into the trap of assuming that all we need do is what we did before. Goldsmith helps us identify the habits we formed, why we tend to keep our habits, and how those habits may be derailers of our future careers.
As we progress in our career, particularly when climbing a corporate ladder, we develop our own path toward our goal. Immersed in the daily routine, making decisions, building alliances and staying focused on the goal, we may not clearly see what is before us and easily miss a rung. Once useful habits no longer bring us through a rough situation. It’s time to take a step back and revisit a time before you got here – to an earlier you, perhaps less aware of the mountains before you, when your responses were new, unburdened by past success.
WHAT GOT YOU HERE?
Have you shared a memory or attempted to describe an event that you consider important to your success – only to find the ‘listener’ impatiently stopped listening to your story as they waited to tell their story? Your tale so inspired them to think of their own experience they jumped into their memory, completely missing the unique insight you were willing to share.
Recalling their adventure was no doubt pleasant for them, and if relevant, perhaps for you. If no one is listening to the story, the telling is merely relating an interesting event. The speakers did not absorb the message and missed the opportunity to consider how similar situations would evoke different responses today.
We all have our stories, they are cached in our memories. Stories become both sanctuaries we go to in times of stress and brilliant learning points called to mind when we think about the situation that inspired a personal revelation. To use this goldmine of learned experiences, stop repeating what happened and instead use the event to think about what we would do in a similar situation today.
“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.”― Dr. Seuss
In my journey toward a career as an Executive Coach I was fortunate to have the opportunity to explore and experience a wide range of learning situations. The following tale occurred during a key event in my life when I raced sled dogs in competition. The experience was an immersion into a different world of nature, excitement, risk and love. It has impacted my life and is a significant part of who I am.
When on the trail humans look for trail markers to indicate turns; dogs sniff the air for the scents.
When with my team on a ridge overlooking a trail I recall seeing one driver off his sled at a crossroads, his team impatiently waiting to continue, tails wagging, pulling on the lines. The driver walked several steps along the left trail, pointed to the route then returned to the juncture to bend over his lead dog. Speaking to the dog he gestured to the left trail, the direction he obviously wanted to go. I could not hear what the driver said. I did see the how the lead dog continued to sit quietly during this tirade. When the driver stopped speaking to the dog, he walked along the trail to the right. Gesturing in a spurning movement of his arms, he returned to the lead dog and once again spoke while waving his arms to the left trail. The dog continued sitting alert, calmly watching every movement. This seemed to further frustrate the driver who once again walked to the left, pointed adamantly and even seemed to bounce a bit, grabbing his hat and pulling it more tightly down. He then stopped, turned toward the team and purposefully walked to his position at the back of the sled. I clearly heard him call “gee” – the signal to take a right turn and watched as the team smoothly executed the turn, eventually disappearing from my sight down the long tree-lined trail.
What is most interesting about the tale of the dog driver and lead dog at a critical juncture along their trail is that the dog driver taught the lead dog the ‘rules of the trail’. The driver identified a dog that exhibited natural leadership traits and invested the time to provide the training required to lead a team. He also knew that while lead dogs are trained to follow human commands, they are bred from a lineage that has survived in this environment. The driver chose to rely on experience and instinct.
You may not have a lead dog to help you step back, reconsider your decisions and decide which path to take. You can look at who stands with you, who that you can turn to for advice: a direct report, colleague or manager who can fill the role.
TRUST YOUR DECISIONS
During the process the driver and dog discovered one key element in all relationships: trust. As you consider how you make decisions, you are also considering the value of the decision. How do you know you can you trust your decisions — or the decisions of others? There is rarely a ‘right or wrong’ decision. Working at the pace of change typical in business today, decisions usually come down to ‘better or best’ alternative as factors. When it comes to your career, it is worth the investment of time to develop your own decision tree, with options available as the environment, culture and influencing factors evolve.
To identify your trail markers – to make the best decisions possible, employ a bit of self-coaching.
Consider how you make decisions. Self-coaching suggests that you Practice Self-Coaching employing private contemplation. In every decision-making situation, explore the answers to these three questions:
. On By: Taking the Risk available for download on www.mtmcoach.com
Three critical self-coaching questions to consider past experiences in similar situations:
- What did I do well? Acknowledge the elements of each decision that worked for you. Be aware of when you may have formed habits that you may continue to employ in a different, changing environment.
- What could I do differently? Consider all the options available to you; explore new approaches with others evaluating the impact of alternative methods and results
- Where can I go to learn more? Who can you talk to, what reference material is available to you? Seek the experience of others.
To track your development and decision making success, maintain a private Coaching Journal. Track your decisions by recording events to provide the opportunity for self-reflection as well as recognition of your successes. Depending on your needs, you may choose to make daily entries of your progress and/or record specific events (date/time/location) such as a team meeting or interaction with a colleague.
Monitor your personal development to help you:
- Plan the process you believe will be most effective at an upcoming specific interaction with an individual or group
- Implement the process you have selected to engage and inform others of your intent/purpose/perspective during the meeting
- Record the results of your approach after the meeting by objectively noting how you achieved your goal and how others responded to your ideas/contributions
Evaluate your effectiveness following an interaction by:
- Consider the pro’s and con’s of the processes you chose to employ in your interaction.
- Pro’s are positive and effective approaches or processes you will repeat
- Con’s are the concerns you have regarding:
- the usefulness or effectiveness of the approach to gain the response you seek
- your skill at employing the selected process
- Review the perceived effectiveness of the interaction toward your goals before developing next steps to alter or continue the interaction with the individual or team involved.
REVIEW YOUR DECISIONS
It’s your turn to challenge yourself. Take the time now to consider what events, life situations, or learning opportunities were a personal awakening, that ah-ha moment, your personal tipping-point.
I’ll share a few to help you get started:
RESPONSIBILITY. Personal life events such as getting married, having children, losing a friend or family member, bring new responsibilities. Career life events such as promotion, demotion, relocation all add further responsibilities and complexities to our lives.
What did you gain from taking on new responsibilities? For many it is the ability to be flexible, to accept that we don’t have all the answers, that sometimes by just being there and trying is enough. For example, most parents will agree that until you have children, you do not know what it is to be humble.
ADVENTURE. Our journey need not be a lavish vacation, participating in extreme sports or even regular golf games with our friends. Life adventure occurs when you accept a new challenge, are willing to take a risk, expose your vulnerable side by exploring a very different situation.
How did the act of accepting a new challenge influence your personal development? After the adrenaline rush, once you are back in a familiar routine, the memories you bring from the event that inspired new insight or understanding will prepare you for future startling events.
CONNECTIONS. Every relationship you build connects you to everyone else. We all need mentors, coaches, advisors to best review our options and sort through the information necessary to make decisions. You have a network to keep you connected: as they succeed, you succeed. When the road you’re on becomes lonely, crowded or unsatisfying, try a new path and let yourself get lost.
What new person or group of people have you brought into your life recently? Joining new organizations, scheduling lunches with friends you haven’t seen in a while, exploring your own network on Linked-in will inspire you to see some things you never saw before -and discover the passion from doing what you know is right for you.
Each step in our journey adds to our personal evolution, merging with every observation, intention and awakening we hold. I have learned to tell my story in short because as a result of my sharing, a trust is formed and I learn from others
Seek your trail markers, allow the wind, rain and others to move the snow enough to catch a glimpse of the sign or look for the indicators around you in nature, animals, and events. The signs are there, each a portent for new learning and greater joy.
. On By: Taking the Risk available for download on www.mtmcoach.com