Category Archives: Leadership

Why I Need a Coach (and you probably do too)

A few years ago, I began a coaching relationship. It wasn’t a simple decision. There were issues that held me back.

Fear held me back. I knew if I launched out and actually discussed goals, dreams and plans that I’d actually have to do something about my goals, dreams and plans! And of course, like most people, I so often prefer the comfort of “what I know” (even though it’s not very comfortable) to the discomfort of decision-making…choices which mean change…and communicating my goals to others. In all of it, I of course, also feared failure. But I began to realize that the road I was on was a slow track to a more ultimate failure: the failure to actually be what I knew I could be!

The idea of accountability held me back. Like a lot of people, I was hiding under the radar of glib statements like: “I’m busy” or “I’m doing the best I can with the (time/money/resources/relationships) I’ve got. But then I realized, accountability isn’t about just exposing excuses, it is about ownership and intentionality – things which move me forward – past excuses, out of my comfort and into the kind of effective and fruitful life about which I had only dreamt!

So what’s coaching done for me?

Just given me an honest environment where I can speak freely, dream greatly and choose repeatedly to do what I know I really want! It offers me a confidential “sounding board” environment. My coach provides absolute confidentiality. We can discuss and analyze fear and hesitations. I can talk through dreams – even the ones I’ve never spoken aloud to myself before. Coaching also provides me support and encouragement like I’ve had in just a couple of other relationships. And my coach’s encouragement isn’t the “pat on the back”/“you can do it” kind. He challenges me relentlessly; questions me progressively; gives me the freedom to admit it when I’m making excuses. And the best part: he reminds me of the astounding value and purpose that are part of how I’m created!

His encouragement literally consists of “pouring courage into me” when my human nature would rather excuse, be lazy or fall back to my lack of confidence.

So, if you’re in need of challenge, clarity, insight…and support, encouragement and accountability, I urge you to get in touch! It’s the first in a long series of good choices you’ll make!

Are you listening to me?

Jim Collins records some profound advice he took to heart, offered by the legendary John Gardner. He told Collins, “It occurs to me, Jim, that you spend too much time trying to be interesting. Why don’t you invest more time being interested?” 

In life, business and relationships, a common temptation of goal-centered individuals is to forget the power of listening, a crucial element in expressing interest. Listening as much as any other skill communicates, “I care.”

Good listening requries that I:

Be quiet. Mark Twain wrote, “If we were supposed to talk more than we listen, we would have two tongues and one ear.” Yes, as employer, parent or even spouse, maybe you know more or have more information. But, when the other person is talking, just listen. Don’t think about your response, don’t interrupt, talk over them or finish a sentence. When the person is finished ask questions which clarify, say, “tell me more about…” Don’t respond if you don’t hear accurately what’s been said.

Ask questions. Questions which center on, even repeat terms or phrases the speaker has used demonstrate good listening without my own agenda becoming the focus. Ask good questions, and then again, be still!

Put the speaker at ease. Give them full freedom to speak. Focus like a laser on their concerns and issues. Respond with nods, gestures or terms which encourage them to continue. Maintain appropriate eye contact. Actively jettison distractions (close the door, turn off your cell phone). Avoid any indication that says to them: “I’m in a hurry” or “I’ve got more important things to do.” If needed, talk about how much time is available in advance, not during the other person’s communication.

Empathize. Actively look at things from their perspective. Don’t “own” the opposite view or immediately hear them from the idea that your leadership or ideas are being threatened. If you hear something you disagree with, wait to discuss it until you’ve heard the whole of what they’re trying to say. Assume that you don’t know best!

Listen for more than words. Volume, tone, key words and emotion convey the real message as much as the initial few sentences. Ideas get buried with verbosity if a person feels ill at ease or has a hard time talking to you. Realize they may feel the need to cover their message with “acceptable” terms. Observe gestures, facial expressions, and eye-movement that says more than what is expressed.

Who in your sphere needs you to express interest?