Have You Experienced Peer Coaching?

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Some of my most meaningful learning has come from groups of peers who provide real feedback and support. I have had the fortune of being in such groups and facilitating peer learning groups throughout my career.  For example, I have facilitated groups of CEOs of companies, people responsible for changing organization cultures, change agents, various professionals, managers, students and coaches.

Peer coaching allows participants to receive support on a strategic challenge, opportunity or learning goal they are facing in a positive environment. Participants gain valuable input in an efficient, effective and enjoyable way. The impact goes beyond the individual to be a positive force for an organization or community.

While there are many formats for peer learning groups, a central theme is creating a safe space for reflection, learning and sharing perspectives. It is valuable to hear multiple views, receive real-time feedback and to explore how to be effective with peers. We realize that we are all learning and “we don’t know what we don’t know.” Participants receive “ just in time” challenge and support. In addition to creating awareness, the peer group provides a sense of accountability that supports taking action and results.

I actually started peer coaching in my high school many years ago. I saw that students were more open to learning from peers and gained the benefit of being a part of a community. I believe that peer coaching supports progress on various content issues as well as strengthens emotional, social and collective intelligence. Peers gain a deeper appreciation for what others are facing and enhance their communication and coaching skills.

I am using peer coaching in companies to enable managers and others to practice conversation skills and adopting an open mindset. Participants learn coaching principles. It is a way of changing an organization’s culture and supporting people in building habits and extends the benefit of training. Engagement is enhanced and it supports creating the desired organizational culture. Participants value the relationships formed and it supports them in being more productive. Given our increasingly volatile environment, peer coaching creates the space for innovative collaboration.

I recall one peer coaching group that was comprised of directors of various functions of a major organization. One particular leader was aggressive and difficult for peers. He perceived that he knew more than others and had a reputation of being uncooperative.  He received support and feedback and dramatically shifted his way of communicating. He became more open and supportive. He said that the experience changed how he interacted with staff and others in his personal life. The bonds formed supported the leaders and allowed the company to make significant changes that did not seem possible beforehand. The company became dramatically more profitable.

I recently participated in a peer coaching summit and more organizations and coaches are creating peer coaching experiences. Peer coaching is being used in leadership and management development programs, for problem solving, to support culture change, for embedding and integrating learning, to support transitions, for achieving goals and networking and for professional and personal development.

Research shows emotions are contagious and we are influenced greatly by those we interact with. Creating a positive, growth-oriented experience with other peers may be what we all need these days when faced with multiple challenges and fewer resources and less time. Many participants say that peer coaching is one of their best learning experiences and that many of the relationships formed last a long time. The best way to evaluate the power of peer coaching is to experience it.

Of course, there is still a need for executive and other coaching. Peer coaching is one way to expand some of the clear benefits of coaching including listening with curiosity, creating awareness and determining action and accountability to a wider group.

What kind of peer coaching experiences are you a part of and what has been their impact? Contact us at any time.

Should You Send an Email or Call?

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“The two words ‘information’ and ‘communication’ are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things.  Information is giving out; communication is getting through.” —Sydney J. Harris

An executive I work with shared with me the frustration he was experiencing over a colleague. He learned that she was criticizing him and telling people that he was “out to get her”. He was frustrated and angry during our discussion. He had been working on being collaborative and this accusation of hers which she broadcasted to others seemed to come out of nowhere.  

As we worked to understand the circumstances, he reviewed the details. The last email he sent to his colleague was meant to give her a “heads up” that an issue falling under her responsibility was going to be addressed at an upcoming Executive Leadership Team (ELT) meeting. He had written in his email, “I want to make perfectly clear that I am trying to let you know what I heard…”  He thought he was being a good citizen to let her know. When she received the email, she reacted in a way he didn’t expect. She was defensive about what her team had accomplished, blamed my client, and copied many people. Then he started hearing from people that she believed he was out to get her. She did not want the issue that he identified to be addressed at the next ELT meeting. She didn’t feel ready to do so and assumed my client put it on the agenda (which he did not). So where did my client go wrong?  

Well, we found a few places. The week before, he had learned that the budget he had anticipated had not been approved. And what’s more, he felt that his colleague’s team should give up some of her budget or a person from her team to compensate for a new role he needed filled that would benefit both of them. So he complained about the situation to her boss and to his own boss. She heard about the complaint (of course!) and she was angry and felt, “He is trying to throw me under the bus.” My client heard that she was upset, and so he chose to send the troublesome email assuming he was helping her. From her end, when she received his email, she read it with the perception that he was against her, even though it was not the case.

What to do?  My client needed to vent his disappointment and anger about losing resources. He then needed to speak with his colleague. Instead, they were conveying messages to each other through others rather than talking directly to one another.  Once he calmed down, he was able to speak with her, give her empathy and recognize that it was not her fault that he did not receive the budget he wanted. He explained that he was actually trying to let her know that an issue important to her was going to be addressed at the ELT meeting and that he had not proposed the agenda item. They were able to communicate effectively and resume their positive relationship. As it turned out, they each were focused on different issues and had different views of their team’s responsibilities. As a result of their conversation, they were able to clarify and reconnect. They also came up with a solution to the budget and staff issue.

When you know there is some disruption in a relationship, consider calling or talking in-person (when possible) before sending an email. It is so easy to read the tone of emails differently depending on our mood. It is useful to recognize our own mistakes, too. It may seem efficient to send an email and document. However, many issues have been cleared up with an open-minded conversation. In addition, relationships can be strengthened.

Where would a call or a visit serve you today rather than sending an email? What lessons have you learned about communicating via email?

Contact us at any time at www.Potentials.com.

Look for Humor Amidst Polarization

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“I think the next best thing to solving a problem is finding some humor in it.”— Frank A. Clark

A client told me how angry he was with his long-time business partner. “How can he be so stupid?”  The partners were disagreeing again about something they heard in the news. One assured the other that President Obama did not wire-tap the Trump Tower in New York. The other partner as vehemently stated that it was true. Neither actually knew the truth at the time. Both felt agitated by the news and were confident that they were “right.”  

The challenge for these long-time business partners is that because they began to assert their view and consider the other wrong and unintelligent, they began to experience their trust disintegrating.  My client was stressed and talked to me and others about his incredulity. Their disagreement drained their energy. What’s more, they also began to see division in their organization, as staff members began to take sides. A lot of energy was wasted around this simple disagreement.  

What could they do?  I empathized with my client and supported him in cooling down. He did not want the political divide and polarization taking place in Washington to hurt his business and his stress level and health. While he felt that he was “right” on this issue and many related issues, he practiced breathing and recalling that his partner did indeed have many positive characteristics.  Even more important, he valued their relationship. He appreciated our discussion about how our background experiences color our perception and have each person paying attention to different data. As a result, everyone comes to a slightly different (or vastly different) conclusion.  My client wanted to remain open to his partner. He remembered to “assume positive intent.” We concluded that using humor would be a viable option. He agreed that he wanted “success” with his partner more than being “right”.

So my client began to look at the humor of the situation. Here they were arguing over things that were out of their circle of influence.  Isn’t it amazing how people can see things so differently? My client was able to perceive future differences with a lighter attitude and was not so committed to being “right”. He imagined a dog letting go of a coveted bone. He joked about how his old problem of being “right” was emerging, like his old knee injury from high-school sports. Most importantly, my client laughed at himself for becoming so committed to being right when it really didn’t matter that much to him.

I also encouraged my client to recall what he liked about his business partner and longtime colleague.  He was able to identify many strengths including his ability to attract clients and manage staff and he was fun to be with (most of the time).

Look for ways you can be open-minded when you face a colleague with a different view. See the humor in your polarization and laugh first at yourself for your desire to be “right” and the costs associated.  It is useful to look at the bigger picture and the common ground. In this case, my client and his partner both wanted their business to succeed as well as their friendship.

Let me know how it goes for you. Contact us at www.Potentials.com.

Guard Trust By Engaging in Open-Minded Conversations

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“When people honor each other, there is a trust established that leads to synergy, interdependence, and deep respect. Both parties make decisions and choices based on what is right, what is best, what is valued most highly.”—Blaine Lee

We cannot underestimate the value of trust. Research consistently shows that we are naturally seeking safety. In the “Aristotle Study”, Google found that the key differentiator between teams that were high performing and those that were less so (with all factors of intelligence, education, commitment etc. being equal) was that greater safety and trust was established in the high-performing ones.  

Trust is easily broken and difficult to repair. A client of mine lost trust when one of her key team members shifted to working in another part of their organization. Why was her trust lost? He hadn’t discussed the opportunity with her until he had already accepted the other position. As a result, my client felt betrayed and that he did not honor their relationship or appreciate all she had done for him. From her perspective, he had failed to consider his mentor and broke their relationship.

Most likely, he was nervous about changing positions and may have been uncomfortable broaching the topic with her. However, they both failed to discuss the impact of the situation. While they were polite on the surface, my client’s demeanor became cold and distrusting. To make things worse, she was also angry at her colleague who hired him without first discussing it with her. Ultimately, the bad blood created hurt my client. They did not rebuild their trust, and he began to speak negatively about her. It took a lot of effort to rebuild the relationship and for my client to improve her reputation. This situation resulted in a lack of an open-minded conversation. It’s regrettable that the lack of trust took a lot of energy. Yet it is not uncommon.

Often there are systemic issues that contribute to a lack of trust. For example, there are different assumptions and expectations regarding roles and responsibilities.  The sales group is expecting more support from product development and speaks negatively about the group. Again a conversation is needed about roles and expectations and norms. We so easily make assumptions and believe our view is correct.

Notice when you begin to lose trust with a colleague, neighbor or family member and give empathy to yourself and the other and work to repair the relationship with an open-minded conversation.

With whom would you like to repair distrust and rebuild a relationship?

Contact us to let us know.

We All Want to be Respected

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“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.”—Bryant H. McGill

We each assume we know what respect is, based on our personal experiences. Caregivers and teachers spend a lot of time emphasizing signs of respect. I often encourage my young daughter to say “Good morning!” and “Please” and “Thank you.” I remind her about holding doors open for others, letting others help themselves first at a meal or get on the elevator first, telling people what she appreciates about them, and writing thank-you notes. Others reinforce my teachings by praising my daughter for her polite and respectful behavior. She experiences the benefit of being respectful. I’m confident that she will continue such behavior as she becomes an adult. She may also teach her children similar acts of respect.

However, not every child learns the same behaviors. Different actions are emphasized in different households and neighborhoods, depending on what seems most important—time and energy permitting. We need to appreciate that different forms of respect are emphasized in different families, communities, and cultures. For example, Nisha, who is from India, always brings a gift when visiting.

The golden rule has been taught in our schools and churches: “Treat others how you want to be treated.” Actually, we need to “treat others how they want to be treated.” I remember when a friend was very excited about the gift he had bought his wife for a holiday. He told me it was a set of car tires! That, by the way, was the very thing he had said he would love to receive. Reports were that she was not as excited about the tires as he was.

To respect another person, first have the intent to be respectful. We need to make an effort to see the person as a unique individual. Then we need to consider what is most important and what would best meet the other’s needs. We can gather this information from observation or asking that person or others close to him or her. After taking action, we need to pay attention and observe whether the person receives it as a sign of respect, as we intended. If not, we can have an open-minded conversation to learn more and determine what to do next.

Contact us at www.Potentials.com to tell us what respect means for you.

Build rapport to meaningfully connect with others

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Have the intention of connecting with people by building rapport and finding common ground with them. Build rapport before launching into giving feedback or stating a need. People who are socially adept find this process easy and natural. Others say that they don’t find what they may call “small talk” easy.

Building rapport helps the person you are talking with to feel at ease and open to you and the conversation. By smiling and showing some interest, you help others feel safe and understand that you are not likely to hurt them. Inquire about or share information about something you have in common. Topics could be the weather, the commute, sports, children, vacations, something happening in the news, a company development, or health.

In workshops, I ask people to share something about themselves with the group. As we share about ourselves, we are a bit vulnerable. Invariably, in these brief conversations, participants begin to build rapport and feel connected. We often feel alone or feel that others don’t connect with what we do. When we build rapport, we feel less alone and more connected with others. It is human nature to feel connected when we have shared a similar experience.

One participant felt connected with someone who went to his high school, even though they had never met and went at different times. They felt they shared similar experiences. We want to be understood. Even on small issues, having some shared experiences helps us feel understood and see another as more of a friend than a foe.

We look for these connections naturally. When we first meet someone, we look for common ground. For instance, when we learn we both have young children, we relax a bit since we feel more understood by this stranger. Strangers can easily talk about the weather since both are experiencing it. Even a brief comment about how nice it is finally to see the arrival of spring creates a sense of connection in an elevator conversation.

Find something you have in common with others. The following conversation openers will help:

  • Do you come from a large family?
  • Do you like action movies?
  • Did you see the television show last night; can you believe the news?
  • How about that player and sports team?
  • I understand from Joe that you love photography, too.
  • It sounds like your children have the same musical interest as mine.
  • I see from the bag you’re carrying that you also go shopping at….
  • Do you like my shoes?

You don’t always have to build rapport immediately before an OASIS Conversation. If you make the effort to talk with a person and connect with her regularly, then when it is time for your conversation, the other person will already know you are friendly. If a power differential exists between you—you are the person’s manager, for example—remember to show interest in the other person. You will appear more human and show respect for the other person. People notice managers who show no interest in them and only see staff members as tools for getting work done; then they have less energy for supporting the manager.

How do you determine how much small talk is useful? Pay attention to the other person’s behavior. Some people only like a little small talk before they will start to squirm or switch the subject to work matters. Follow their cue. Others will not seem relaxed and need more conversation to build rapport. Notice when a shift in energy occurs; then it is okay to shift subjects. This skill can be learned by carefully observing others.

This excerpt was taken from my book OASIS Conversations.

Questions on the OASIS process and on building rapport? Contact us at www.Potentials.com

Are You Creating a Coaching Culture in Your Team or Organization?

pablo (18)“What’s really driving the boom in coaching is this: as we move from 30 miles an hour to 70 to 120 to 180…as we go driving straight down the road to making right turns and left turns to abandoning cars and getting motorcycles… the whole game changes and a lot of people are trying to keep up, learn how not to fail.”—John Kotter, Harvard Business School

A recent study by the Conference Board revealed that top organizations are now exploring how to create coaching cultures. A survey by the International Coach Federation of over 500 of the largest companies in the United States found that companies with strong coaching cultures tended to have higher engagement and greater revenue growth in relation to industry peers. Such a culture does not diminish the need for performance and results but works on creating an environment where there is more dialogue and openness and encourages team members to explore new solutions to achieve greater results.

How would things be different if your team members worked on being open to one another and had strong connecting skills of listening and asking questions and establishing clear agreements? We all live in times of rapid change and uncertainty. We need to be resilient and innovative to stay in the game. Yet, people continue to be drained by the challenges of communicating with and inspiring their colleagues.

As an executive and team coach, I hear about the stress leaders experience when there is miscommunication, misalignment and mistrust. What’s required are open-minded conversations where people assume positive intent, seek understanding and can find common ground and shared purpose. Leaders and other professionals need the mindset and skills of coaches to create positive environments that enhance motivation and productivity.

I have supported cultural change in organizations for several decades. You need to equip team members with the mindset and skills to be effective. In addition, you need to address the systems and organizational norms to create an environment that fosters innovation. We have all experienced the difference in being in an environment that is open versus one that is closed. Working in a coaching, or what I call an open mindset culture, is the difference between feeling excited and supported for realizing results versus feeling constrained and drained.

People are quick to adapt an open mindset and coaching skills because they see their effectiveness and experience developing personally and professionally.

Feel free to contact to discuss further. www.Potentials.com

Find Your Oasis Amidst Disruption

We are in the midst of change in our country, world and in our lives. We have learned that change is a constant and we have successfully adapted to many changes with technology, political shifts, family changes and aging. Even so, change is not easy.

Changing is particularly hard when we feel uncertain and ungrounded. It is easy to imagine the worst and to feel afraid. A part of us wants to hold onto what we have and resists change. When we are stressed we experience contraction and we literally don’t have access to the part of our brain that experiences possibilities. Continue reading

Be Aware of Polarization

Different Points of View

No doubt about it. Many have been shocked by the election results.  While there was a call for change, many are uncertain about what will evolve.  Whether you are happy with the election choice or not, we know that disruption also breeds possibilities. When there is disruption—whether an acquisition, a change in the marketplace, a change in health or another challenge—there is an opening for doing things differently.  Amidst the fear and concern with change, people are more willing to take risks and do things differently, especially when they experience the disruption as real.  Strong leaders see the opening and make significant changes during difficult times. Continue reading

Check Your Blind Spot

I don’t know what I don’t know

The election has heightened our awareness that we are seeing the world differently. Many have expressed their shock at how they were blind sighted by the number of people with different views.

Just as we can’t see cars that are in our blind spot when driving, we always have a blind spot in our interactions with others.  We each have different life experiences that influence how we view the world and make interpretations. Continue reading