Observations


I have always had an interest in the first day of summer, aka, “The Summer Solstice.” You see, I was born on June 20th, the last day of spring and what turns out to be the second longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. I still recall being a kid and looking at my grandparents’ calendar from the hardware store, the one detailing the times for sunrise and sunset for each day.  The longer the days, the closer we got to my birthday.

I love summer because that’s when things grow.  Long summer days bring enough of the sun’s energy to earth to make crops flourish and turn water and nutrients into good food, green trees, and lush lawns. It’s the time of year of when the earth produces enough for the rest of the year.

What’s all this have to do with coaching?  Well, this is really just a chance for me to recount my love for summer, but I suppose there are also some things about summer that are analogous to the coaching relationship.  I don’t think coaches are “the sun,” but I do think coaches can serve an important role in the lives of folks who are experiencing a summertime season.  What I mean is that we all go through cycles of flourishing and floundering, and that as coaches we can be one of the ways God helps others flourish during times of growth and change.  Here are some other thoughts on how coaches serve during these summertime spells:

  • Light and Heat.  These are the signs of energy, and sometimes a clients needs one, or the other, or both.  Light is awareness and coaches facilitate the creation of new awareness for the client through our inquiry and our observations.  It is with new awareness that  perspectives shift, possibilities pop up, and new actions emerge.  Heat is challenge.  As coaches, it is oftentimes our role to challenge a client to push forward and reach beyond what she thought possible.  Challenge is a positive stretch forward, upward, and beyond so that what was out of reach becomes the new normal.
  • Work to be Done.  I don’t know who started the myth of lazy summer days, but I do know from growing up in a farming community that summer = work (and lots of it!).  When a client emerges from a winter season and is energized by a fresh vision, excited by a new project, or stimulated by a new relationship, it’s a sign that there is work to be done.  I know some clients who get so giddy about the initial wave of growth (the seedling stage) that they fail to cultivate the new growth so that it can bear fruit later on.  As coaches, it’s out role to consistently push for action because actions produce results.  I think one of the best things we can do for a client is to give him space to dream about what could be, time to marvel at the new realities emerging around him, and to then ask, “Now, what actions are required of you?”
  • Take a Break. The flip side of work is taking a break.  Smart farmers, gardeners and other summer seasonal workers know that working in the early and late parts of the day (while taking a siesta during the hottest and most dangerous part of the day) is smart and efficient.  Each summer day is long and so is the season itself, so it’s important to pace oneself.  Sometimes a client is so enthusiastic about a new endeavor that he loses sense of his own capacity and works too hard for too long.  Coaches often need to remind clients of the need for pacing and the value of breaks so the client doesn’t burn out, stroke out, or pass out.  We need to ask questions of the client about how he knows a break is needed, what a break needs to look like for him, and when he’ll know it’s time to get back to work.

Enough about serving our coaching clients, so what about you?  What’s growing in your garden this summer?  What new thing is emerging and needs your attention?  Are you now in a season of growth and change, or are you still staring at the calendar longing for those long summer days?  What do you need most during this season in your life?  Where could you find it and who could help you?

Blessings on you this summer!

Chad Hall, PCC, is a seasoned coach and big fan of summer.  He’s also Director of Coaching for Western Seminary, a Principal with Coach Approach Ministries, and a Partner with iNTERNAL iMPACT.

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Not long ago I had a conversation with a frustrated leader. He was having difficulty with employees not performing well because of struggles with assignments that fell outside of their strengths. He wondered how he could help his employees deal with their struggles and realign their efforts.

The simple answer would have been to tell them to learn to work within their strengths and let go of the tasks that fall outside of that base. However, I have discovered that in the real world this answer is not always an immediate possibility. There are always those tasks, responsibilities, and assignments that “come with the territory” and fall outside of our strengths.

Maybe these “outside assignments” were inherited from an old job description. Maybe they were handed to you after being on the job for a while. Maybe you gained the responsibility or task after downsizing of the organization. Whatever the origin, the reality is that you have this task, and even though it is outside of your strengths, passions, and desires, you have to complete it.

Most of us face this predicament at some point in our career. Even a Strengths Finder guru such as I am knows it to be true! So when the inevitable happens, what do you do? Good question, right?

Back to the frustrated leader … during our conversation I asked him how he had dealt with this issue in the past. Who could he think of who had done well in a similar setting? And he immediately thought of a great example.

This person was the best he had ever seen at taking a task, no matter how important or menial it appeared, getting it done, and moving on to accomplish great things as he continued to work out of his strengths. Sounded great so I asked my friend what he had learned from this person?

First he learned to minimize the tasks that drained him. He did this in several different ways: by delegating the task to others, by pulling people around him who could help with the task, by prioritizing the task–doing whatever he could to finish it and get it out of his way, or by getting rid of the task completely.

Second he learned to discipline himself to get the job done and move on. Remember there are those tasks that are outside of our strengths but absolutely must be done. This man’s motto was “just do it.” Sometimes, if we are not careful, we can let those unpleasant tasks pile up and become a serious logjam to our productivity. What is not important to you may be very important to others and could cause some real issues if you don’t get the job done. It probably won’t just go away so the best solution may be “Just do it!”

Third he learned if the task went undone, it could damage his integrity. If you accept the job, you accept all that goes along with it. In order to hold up your end of the deal, you need to do it to the best of your ability.

Not bad! Minimize outside tasks. Discipline yourself to get the job done. Guard your Integrity by doing good work. Pretty good steps to making it through those real work struggles that we all face from time to time.

What do you think?

The Joy of the Journey…

 When it comes to traveling I always have two tensions with which to deal. There is the tension of enjoying traveling, meeting new people, and going new places and then there is the tension of enjoying staying home and enjoying the comfort of the familiar.

 Through coaching and being coached, I have discovered that these two tensions also exist as we try to find movement in our work and lives. I like to blaze new trails, do new things, and start things. I also like to sink back into the familiar at times and pull the safe comfortable things of life and work around me.

 At times these two tensions pull at me and cause what I am trying to accomplish to get out of focus or become foggy. I get stuck! Coaching has helped me and those I coach to find focus and clarity. It helps to balance the two tensions.

 I find real joy through the process of coaching. I call it the joy of the journey. It is exciting and refreshing to gain focus, watch the fog lift, and see the clear or clearer route of the journey begin to form as the coaching process does its work.

 The powerful questions that a coach asks help to bring this focus and movement. Question such as:  Where are you headed? How will you know when you get there? Who can help you get there? Who needs to take this journey with you? How can you prepare to take the journey? What are the road blocks to your journey? And more…

 The listening and encouraging skills of a coach make the journey even more pleasant. To be heard and genuinely encouraged allows the PBC to express openly and clears the way to a better view of the journey. This new clarity aids the PBC to take a more decided and focused journey.

 As the coach partners with the PBC, he or she makes observations and maybe even delivers a concise message or two that helps to create additional movement.  Sort of a virtual “bon voyage” party for the PBC.

 For the coach, the joy of the journey comes from the discoveries the PBC makes that reduce the tensions of either staying put or moving forward. For the PBC, the joy of the journey comes from the clarity, focus, and movement they can celebrate as they arrive at their destinations.

 The joy of the journey…how does that happen for you as you coach or as you are being coached? I would love to read your response.

 

I come from a long line of hardworking German immigrants with a little splash of Irish independence thrown into the mix for good measure, so it was really no surprise while on vacation in an unfamiliar town that I refused to stop and ask for directions when I couldn’t find a particular restaurant.  My friend who was riding shot-gun said, “There’s a great place to get some help” and sadly watched out the window as I drove right past.  Several miles and about twenty minutes later, my hungry daughter who was in the back seat and knows me well decided to take matters into her own hands and texted her Daddy to get the right directions.  A little miffed, I said, “I knew that’s where it was!”  And we turned around and drove right there.  I admit it now–I needed some help.  But we’d probably still be driving if I hadn’t had some friends to help me get on the right track.

I arrived at coaching in a similar way.  It was becoming pretty obvious to those who love me that I was feeling terribly frustrated by a lack of direction.  I felt like the cow pond out in the middle of our pasture—green, stagnant, and more than a little stinky!  Lots was going into me, but not much was coming out.  But, I could handle it myself, thank you very much.  What did I need with some New Age, Oprah-esque experience called coaching?  Thankfully, a friend showed me that coaching wasn’t what I thought, and after more than a little bit of grief (for my poor coach as well as myself), I began to experience the flow of genuine movement as I rediscovered my long forgotten interest in writing.  Whew!  And what a huge relief it was.

A couple of years later, I am seeing that familiar resistance to asking for help in others.  Acquaintances casually ask me, “So … what is this coaching stuff all about?”  Or mention a “friend” of theirs who they think might benefit from coaching.  I do my best to explain the process.  That it is driven by the person being coached.  That it is nonjudgmental.  That it is a safe place.  But it’s a tough sell for some folks.  Here are some of the issues I see as standing in their way:

  • A fear of being too transparent
  • A belief that asking for help shows weakness
  • An unclear understanding of what coaching is
  • A presumption that a Christian who has enough faith can handle it all on his own

The list could probably go on and on.  And I am new to the role of coach.  (Don’t be shocked. But, yes, I admit that I could use some help here.)  What are the oppositions to coaching that you have had to help your potential clients overcome?  How have you dealt with some of the items I have listed or others that I have failed to list?  As a fledgling coach, what can you tell me that will help me to help others see that it’s not a weakness to ask for help?  To borrow from a familiar hymn, how can I help others see that it’s okay to “Come just as you are”—even if that is as a stagnant, stinky, manure-filled (but very stubborn) cow pond?  Help!

I have always loved our family dinners. When our girls were younger, we had dinner together almost every night.  I hope that our dinners created positive memories for our daughters as we imprinted our values, attitude and beliefs during dinner conversations, and as each of us shared what was going on in our lives.

family dinner photoWhen I joined The Ken Blanchard Companies in 2000, I remember talking with Scott Blanchard one day.

He shared his perspective on family dinners. He said that leaders have a tremendous impact on dinner conversations because the way that they lead influences the stories their people tell at the dinner table. People with leaders who are encouraging and positive tend to have encouraging and positive dinner conversations. People who work for negative or punitive leaders share very different stories at the table. This makes me wonder what kind of dinner conversations I’m inspiring….

Lord, help me to be open to Your voice so that the stories people share about my role in their lives leave a positive social imprint.

cakeI recently heard a story about Gandhi and a mom who brought her little boy to see him. The boy was overweight, and his mother hoped that Gandhi would tell her son to stop eating sugar. During the first meeting, Gandhi asked the mother to bring her son back in 3 weeks.

Three weeks later, the mother and son returned to Gandhi. Gandhi looked at the little boy and said, “If you want to be healthy, you need to stop eating sugar.” The little boy nodded and walked off.

As soon as the boy walked away, the frustrated mother turned to Gandhi and asked him why they had been turned away the first time, why they had to wait 3 weeks before Gandhi would speak to the boy. Gandhi replied, “Because 3 weeks ago, I was eating sugar.”

The story hit me hard. I had an instant realization that there are areas where I say one thing and do something else. It made me realize that if I want better communication with my husband, I need to be a better communicator.  If I don’t want to be judged, I need to stop judging others. If I want people to be open to change, I need to be open to change first.

This really brings the Scripture in focus about getting the log out of my own eye before trying to remove the speck from the other person’s eye. Lord, help me to listen to Your voice, to be honest with myself and with You, and to make the changes so that I “walk the talk.”

magic

I experienced a new awareness this week. It was a huge surprise and I thought I’d bring it up here to see if anyone else has experienced something similar. After a terrific coaching appointment this morning, I drove away super excited, inspired and fulfilled. I like feeling that way and it is the spice of my coaching life. I quickly contrasted that with various other coaching conversations that seem to tax my coaching abilities to the limit. This client and I were so in sync that I exerted very little effort and felt the greatest freedom to create a “playground” for us both to ask “what if”. We played well together and it was the perfect representation of the kind of coaching partnerships I’d love to experience all of the time.

Reality check.

I guess in coaching, like in all of life, mountaintop experiences are notable because they are so infrequent—and we appreciate them all the more because of that. But my new awareness is not that great coaching moments can sometimes be rare. My awareness came as I took a closer look at my precious client. What she brought to the table of herself was a gift—to both of us. Her willingness to be vulnerable, to sound silly, to think out loud without editing her words, to hope like a little girl in the body of a grown woman, made ALL the difference. As I drove back to my office I thought, “THAT is what ‘coachable’ looks like.” Frankly it’s a relief to realize that while sometimes it is my need for improvement, insight, humility or experience that is called for, other times, a coachable client is simply . . . magic!

Coachability. I like it. I want more clients who possess it. And I want to learn all I can to encourage and inspire it in those I work with.

So I’ll ask you two questions:

1. How responsible are we as coaches to foster coachability in our clients?

2. What can we do to educate them, encourage them, coach them toward coachability?

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