Are you ready to accomplish something important? Are you ready to help others do the same? Either way, coaching is the key to making it happen.

Taming the Abrasive Manager

It’s said that people don’t leave their organizations.  They leave their bosses.  Managers who are abrasive—who psychologically harm their staff with everything from crude put-downs to totally inappropriate humor to retaliation and more—manage for motion, not motivation.  So says Laura Crawshaw, author of Taming the Abrasive Manager: How to End Unnecessary Roughness in the Workplace.  I’ve spoken with Laura and she’s shared with me some critical  information about these people who often think they are doing a great job while being blind to the emotional blood they’re leaving in their wake.

Gallup’s research tells us that poor supervisory behavior is the main reason people quit or are less productive on the job, so I highly recommend that you get her book.  (By the way, Laura calls herself The Boss Whisperer!)

Inspired by her work I have developed a coaching method for abrasives that includes several approaches.  First, these folks need to be told that if they do not change, there will be significant consequences that can be anything from a demotion to dismissal.  In other words, we need to get their attention and let them know they need to change or else.  Next, they need to understand their impact which they are often clueless about.  (“Hey, I’m making my numbers.  What’s the problem?”)  I’ve developed an approach that includes them in this process of discovery so they feel more a part of the process instead of them being at its mercy.  This feedback becomes the roadmap for what’s next: The coaching process and the changes that will affect the manager—and their people—for the better.

What Coaching is Not, #3. Coaching is not Managing

If any publication can lay out what managing is, it’s the Wall Street Journal, and according to the Journal, “The manager’s job is to plan, organize and coordinate.”  As for coaching, as I say in another post, a coach’s job is to be a partner who engages the client in creating results that matter to them.  Whereas the manager often supervises and tells his or her people what to do, the coach, in essence, walks alongside the client asking powerful questions about what the client wants, believes, sees as options and ultimately will commit to doing.

Both the manager and coach can also encourage the other person plus hold them accountable to getting things done.  But whereas the manager is pointing out where their people are going and how they’ll get there, the coach takes a more creative approach that allows the individual to chart and pursue their own course.

What’s cool is that managers can take on a coaching approach—it’s something I teach—and when they do, their real work becomes less about getting the job done and more about getting the job done while engaging their people in the process along the way.

What Coaching is NOT, #2. Coaching is not Training

Coaching is not training. As someone who does both for a living, it’s clear to me that while both aim at helping the coachee or trainee change for the better, coaching assists the person being coached to learn from their experiences during the coaching process while training is designed to help training participants be exposed to specific content and maybe work with it inside a training experience.

In both cases, learning is the result. Coaches support their coachees to look back at what they’ve been doing in their day-to-day lives and to inquire into those experiences to discover lessons learned.  Training is more predictable and is based on learning objectives.

What Coaching is NOT, #1. Personal Coaching is not Sports Coaching

Nowadays, coaching is a term used by a variety of professionals including consultants, trainers, managers, mentors and of course, professional personal coaches!  This is the first in a series of pieces exploring the differences between personal coaching and the other professions.

Coaching only began to crystallize as a real and unique approach in the late 1970s. A key player in the creation of non-sports coaching as a discipline, ironically, was a tennis coach.  In 1975, The Inner Game of Tennis, written by a former tennis champion and coach named Timothy Gallwey, showed the world a radical approach to helping people learn. Instead of barking orders or even making suggestions, like most coaches of his day, Gallwey based his method on the belief in the innate ability of people’s bodies to learn and to perform. He allowed his students to learn through their own experiences on the court. He saw the coach’s role as one of asking powerful questions that would help players to increase their awareness of how they played, and to adjust accordingly.

Gallwey believed that the game of tennis, like the game of life, was one of expressing our potential and being the source of our own answers. Many of those who came to learn the Inner Game were business people. They soon saw that this new message they were hearing on the court could be applied in their boardrooms, as well. It was obvious that this coaching style could help manager/leaders assist their people to take better control of their jobs and careers, and to get results that were rare in the command-and-control management culture of the day.

In time, Inner Game coaches found themselves literally going to work across America to spread the word. Meanwhile, a student of Gallwey’s named Sir John Whitmore was bringing the Inner Game to Europe. At the same time, well known sports coaches were being hired to speak to employees in many American companies, further helping to blend the concepts of coaching, management, and leadership.

By the start of the 1990’s other pioneers were taking steps to bring coaching to new levels of acceptance and professionalism and today, dozens of schools are devoted to training people to become professional coaches, some with an emphasis on executive coaching. In 1998 the Professional & Personal Coaches Association (PPCA) and The International Coach Federation (ICF) joined together to create the primary body representing and supporting professional coaches today. (The ICF name remains.) Soon thereafter the ICF took the next step in professional development by starting to offer certification to coaches who qualify.  Today, companies routinely hire coaches (or train their own) to assist managers with everything from professional and leadership development to personal growth. Some savvy organizations are even using coaching as a perk to attract and retain key players.  Meanwhile, individuals regularly hire coaches to help them with career, business and personal growth goals. If it hasn’t been clear for all these years, it certainly is now: Coaching is here to stay.

Resisting Resistance

Resistance is powerful and it’s why you and I aren’t exactly where we want to be.

See what you think of author Steven Pressfield’s assessment of the big R:  “Resistance will tell you anything to keep you from doing your work.  It will perjure, fabricate, falsify; seduce, bully, cajole.  Resistance is protean.  It will assume any form, if that is what it will take to deceive you. It will reason with you like a lawyer or jam a nine-millimeter in your face like a stickup man.  Resistance has no conscience.  It will pledge anything to get a deal, then double-cross you as soon as your back is turned.  If you take Resistance at its word, you deserve everything you get.  Resistance is always lying and always full of shit.”

So, there we are!  But what’s next?  How can we move through Resistance?  Let’s start by taking a closer look at it.  Science tells us that every time we have to make a choice we unconsciously tally all the pros and cons and then act based on how we feel in the moment.  Not what we think, but how we feel.  And if we don’t feel like pursuing that important goal right now then Resistance steps up and pushes us away from where we know we need to go and what we need to do.

But here is the key: We can’t control our feelings, but we can control what we do; how we act.  So, the next time you run up against what you know you should (or shouldn’t) do, don’t hesitate—Right away, remember your commitment and act on it.  Immediately.  It’s your simple and effective way to win and to put Resistance in its place.  For more on this essential topic, read The 5 Second Rule, by Mel Robbins or check out her many videos on YouTube.

What Is Coaching?

Coaching comes in many flavors.  There are life coaches, career coaches, executive and business coaches and more.  What’s at their core, of course, is coaching, but what is coaching, anyway?  Essentially, coaching is a partnership that engages people in creating results that matter to them in their personal and professional lives. It’s pretty simple, really, but not easy! The simple part is the fact that coaching rests on just a few concepts and skills. The challenge is in actually learning them, and it’s only a problem if you don’t take the time or allow yourself to grasp them through trial and error. A wise sage once said, “Sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn.” Practicing your coaching skills lets you do both.

Learning coaching is easier when you see its benefits. Here are just a few:

-Saves time for the person coaching by encouraging coachees to take more control and responsibility for what needs to be done.
-Increases productivity in the workplace and elsewhere by decreasing “have to” activity and increasing “want to” proactivity and performance.
-Improves relationships.
-Inspires motivation.

-Increases performance, learning and effectiveness.
-Facilitates self-awareness.
-Increases engagement in work and life.

-Is an excellent return on investment since it leverages training, career development and outplacement dollars.
-Improves attraction rates. More and more, coaching is being seen as something offered to valuable employees.
-Increases retention rates. Coaching keeps employees involved and focused on productive and satisfying activities.
-Supports the growth of “high potentials” as well as those challenged in their professional development.
-Maximizes employee engagement which leads to greater productivity and profitability for the organization, plus higher levels of customer loyalty.

Do you see how coaching offers value on several levels and can create results that really matter? To coach is to give time, talent and willingness to support someone else. To be coached is to take a significant step towards getting clear about what is important to you and then to actually do something about it. In coaching, two people learn to trust and be trusted and sometimes to do more than either thought possible. Coaching offers something of value from start to finish—for both of you.

Appreciative Inquiry. Instead of Problem-Solving, Try This.

There is a different and powerful way to approach getting things done in organizations today.  It’s called appreciative inquiry.  Now, it’s a pretty radical way of looking at what we do at work, so I hope you’re sitting down.

Instead of looking for problems and what’s wrong in a situation, with appreciative inquiry we look for what has and is working, and what’s possible.  Instead of concentrating on what not to be doing anymore, we focus on what we need to be doing more of.

So, for example, if your team meetings are usually ineffective, you could focus on the problems and try and fix them.  But the appreciative approach would have you all look at the parts of your meetings that do work, and encourage more of that behavior.

Again, focus on what works and do more of that.  Always ask questions like,

“What did we do really well on that project?”
“When our meeting was flowing smoothly today, why was it?
“While making that sale, how did I uncover the client’s needs so easily?
“What did you do to make that customer come back and buy some more?

Get the idea?

Now, appreciative inquiry doesn’t just have to deal with doing things.  It can focus on who people are.  For instance, you can ask, “What do we value most about our team, and how can we foster more of that?”

When you have an idea of what works, then explore how you can bring more of those activities and attitudes into what you do.

I encourage you to try appreciative inquiry for a while.  If you do, you may never go back to solving problems, again.


Cashing Your Emotional Paycheck

Do you know what has the greatest impact on your happiness at work? It’s not money.  It isn’t even what you do all day.  It’s your values.

Really.  Values are what energize and motivate you.  They’re things like: creativity, learning, independence, trust, honesty, humor.  They’re less about what you think and all about how you feel.  In fact, you might say that values are the emotional paycheck of the work we do.

So, how do you spot your values?  Here are three easy ways: The first technique is called Flip it.  Think of something that’s angered you recently, then ask why it makes you mad.  Flip the answer and you have some of your values.  For example, if waiting in a line for a long time recently upset you, you might think that whoever was responsible was inefficient and inconsiderate.  Okay, flip “inefficient” and “inconsiderate” to their opposites and you can see how efficiency and politeness may well be two of your values.

The second way is to look at your heroes.  Think of someone you admire.  What kind of person did that person have to be to accomplish what they did?  If someone comes to mind because he continually took risks in business, maybe risk is one of your values.

The final values-spotting trick is to yell “Fire!”  Imagine coming home one night to find that your house is ablaze.  The fire chief says your family and pets are safe, and that there’s time to rush in to save only one thing.  What would you rescue and why?  If you chose your photo album because the pictures inside reminded you of your family and friends, one value you have might be that of belonging or feeling connected.

Try these exercises several times and note your answers.  Then, keep them in mind as you look at your work.  For example, if you see that expression is a key value of yours, chances are you’ll enjoy yourself more in that sales job you’re thinking about instead of that other opening as a data analyst.

Values are part of who you are, so take on work that lets you express them.  If you do that, then you can discover how to bring more of who you are to what you do.  And once you do that, work will never be the same again.

Coaches and Mentors–Teammates for Your Success

Do you have a coach or a mentor?  If so, you’ve got a valuable ally for growing your career.  Nowadays a lot of managers and supervisors are calling themselves coaches and mentors, so for now, I want to use the terms a little more formally.

Technically speaking, a mentor is someone who either is doing or has done the kind of work that you want to do.  You and your mentor are usually in the same organization.  He or she basically offers you advice so that you can get to where you’re headed more efficiently and hopefully, with fewer mistakes along the way.

The job of a professional coach, on the other hand, is to help you in any part of your life.  But usually coaching focuses on your work.  Your coach’s job is to help you get clarity about what you want, and to assist you in getting it.

Whereas mentoring is usually about giving you good advice, a coach will more often ask you powerful questions to help you come up with your own answers.  Coaching also has an accountability component to help make sure you do what you need to do to get where you want to go.

If you’re looking for a mentor, find someone with a good reputation for working with people.  If you want to find a coach, check out the International Coach Federation’s website at

Whether you decide to work with a coach or a mentor, make sure you feel comfortable with the person.  Ask about their experience and what kind of people they ideally like working with.  If you come close to that description, you may have found yourself a great partner for your success.

Good luck!


The Upside of Failure

So, you blew it.  You missed an opportunity, or did something wrong, or said something wrong—and you blew it.  I get that and I also get that it doesn’t feel good.  It rarely does when our reputation is on the line.  And even if no one finds out about our goof, WE still know about it and that can be bad enough.

But here is the point: A mistake is exactly what you make of it, and you can make it good.  Really.  A wise man once said that sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn.  In other words, doing something in a way that doesn’t work can be a fast track to finding out how it IS supposed to be done. Leverage your missteps and see them for the lessons that they are.  If nothing else, your mistake taught you what NOT to do next time, right?  And this also showed you that you aren’t perfect and believe me, when you can accept that about yourself—and others, too, by the way—then you are going to start lightening up, big time.

So, the next time you slip-up try doing these four things: First, just notice your thoughts.  That’s all.  Just hear them rattling around and yelling or whimpering or whatever.  Then, ask yourself how you could react differently and in a way that serves you.  Then, look for the lesson for you in it all.  And finally, just see that the world is still on its axis and life is going on, and celebrate!

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