Empowering Conflict Assessment Debriefings

The International Coach FederationThanks to Cinne Noble and Janie Neff, chairs of the International Coach Federation’s Conflict Management Coaching Community of Practice, for allowing me to present “Using the ICF Coaching Competencies to Empower Conflict Assessment Debriefings” as their monthly program, today.

Not only did the certified coaches in attendance earn a Continuing Coach Education Unit (CCEU) credit toward their re-certification – we need 40 of those puppies each time we get re-certified  –, they taught me a few things about conflict management, as well.

As I said on the call, “It really does take an actively engaged audience, as well as a presenter, to make truly meaningful session.”

So thank you all who attended. I hope you learned a thing or two from me, as well.


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How to Fire Your Coach Without Being A Jerk

One of the coolest parts of coaching is the interpersonal relationship that develops between coach and client. Yet clients often continue to work with a particular coach long after the power of their coaching relationship has ebbed. So it’s always a good idea to regularly assess where you are with your coach and consider what might make the relationship even more beneficial for you. Maybe all that’s needed is a little tweaking here or there.

But it may also be that it’s getting to be time for you to make a change.

Telltale Signs That It May Be Time For A Change

So how can you tell? Well to be sure, you’ll need just the right mix of intuition, mood and consideration. To help, though, here are some telltale signs you may want to look for:

  • The reasons for hiring your coach to begin with are no longer as relevant as they once were
  • You’re wanting to work with more of a specialist
  • The energy you get from your coaching session isn’t lasting as long as it used to
  • You’re not pushing yourself as much as you used to – and you miss that
  • It’s been a while since you’ve had a major developmental leap or gained new insight or understanding about yourself
  • You’re thinking that you’d rather be your coach’s friend than client
  • The program you’re enrolled in is nearing conclusion

If a few of these items hit home for you, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s time to quit working with your coach. And if you’ve got mixed feelings about making such a move, clearly you ought to talk with your coach about what you’ve realized. But say you now realize that it really IS time to make a change. What’s next?

Taking the Next Step

  • Make the decision on your own. Although your coach (and colleagues) can certainly help you work through the question, it is something that you ultimately have to decide for yourself
  • Don’t try and find a new coach before informing your current one. It’s about you being ready for a change, not about comparing one coach to another, so go one step at a time
  • Let your coach know. If you’re ready for a change, just say so. After all, your relationship is built on trust and honest disclosure and all coaches know that this conversation is an inevitable part of working together
  • As a show of respect, tell your coach about the value you’ve received from working together and help him/her see why it’s now time to move on
  • Agree to spend a month (or whatever) finishing up your work together. Maybe there’s something you want to circle back on; maybe your coach has a ‘completion’ process s/he’d like you to go through. Finish up with a smile and head held high
  • Get over any residual guilt feelings you may have. While, yes, your decision does affect your coach, it’s more about what’s best for you – after all, you’re the one paying. And your coach already knows that sometimes what’s best IS change. So celebrate your growth and readiness to take some bigger strides. Own the personal growth that this implies.

If your coach is cool, you’ll feel validated in having made a difficult – but appropriate – decision.

Next up: finding a new coach to work with.

Finding Your Next Coach

  • First, get clear on what you want your next set of goals and objectives to be. Think through the makings of that next big challenge of yours and what type of support would serve you best
  • Then, ask friends and colleagues what they like about their coaches. Not so much to see if their coaches would be a good match for you – which they might, by the way – but more so to reacquaint yourself with some of the language you can use in making your own assessments
  • Check out coach referral sites. The International Coach Federation has one and so do all the major coaching schools
  • Talk with several coaches before making a selection. Take advantage of any offer for a complementary sample session. They’re a great way to experience how a coach coaches
  • Consider your choices: How aligned are your personalities? Who had the biggest impact on you? Who made/helped you think the most? What emotional energy did you get from talking with each of them? Whose style of coaching and support feels best?
  • Make your selection and don’t look back – not for a while, anyway.

Now it may be time for you to change coaches. But then again, maybe it’s not. The important thing is that you make that determination by choice and not just by default.

I originally wrote this article in 2002. It was originally carried by the Association of Coaching & Consulting Professionals, The Coaching Zone, and the Online Consultancy Network – none of which, sadly, seem to be around anymore. I decided to republish it here as a tie-in to a LinkedIn comment I recently posted.

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Dig Deeper When Asking “When?”

escavation-921233_640When bosses ask their direct reports for some type of deliverable, most employees respond by asking, “When do you need it by?” Grammar aside, it’s an important question, to be sure. But is it really the best question to ask? I’m not so sure.

Case-in-Point: I remember once asking one of my direct reports to update a PowerPoint deck for me. “When do you need it by?” she dutifully asked. By 2pm, I replied. Unfortunately (for me), she missed the deadline. Not by much (her email’s timestamp read 2:17pm) but what she didn’t know – and I take full responsibility for not telling her – was that I wanted the slides refreshed for a boardroom presentation I was scheduled to start at 2:15 pm, sharp. (And yes, I was asked why my data was as stale as it was.)

What I learned from that experience was that I needed to improve my delegation skills. Staff merely knowing WHEN something was due (by) – ☺ – was not enough. I wanted them to know WHY I was asking for it and HOW I intended to use it. That would not only improve the quality and timeliness of the information coming back to me, I felt, but would greatly simplify any back-end accountability discussions we might have later, be they developmental or congratulatory in nature.

The results were consistently strong – wonderfully so. So much so, that I starting asking, “How will you be using what I give you?” whenever my bosses gave me a new assignment. It became my automatic go-to question. The reasons were fourfold:

  1. To uncover the underlying ‘so that’ Every task every boss assigns has an implicit ‘so that’ in it. Please run the latest sales figures (so that I can prepare to discuss them with my own boss). Please run the latest sales figures (so that I can prepare to discuss them with my direct reports). Please run the latest sales figures (so that I can decide how much time I can spend at my beach house this summer). Same assignment, but decidedly different ‘so that’s.’Knowing the underlying ‘so that’ makes it so much easier to be that much more relevant and helpful. With respect to the sales figures request, knowing HOW the information will be used might encourage you to:
    • Include current quarter to prior quarter ratios (because you now know that your boss’ boss will be asking about them), or
    • Calculate the percent of total team sales that each salesperson’s results represents (because you now know your boss wants everyone to see their level of contribution), or
    • Highlight the region’s current pipeline estimates (because you now know that if the boss is going to take an extended vacation, this summer, he’ll want to make sure everyone is actively prospecting, beforehand).
  2. To uncover the level of detail needed – The CFO called and wanted my budget projections for the next 5 years…in 2 hours. It was a seemingly impossible task – I’d need more time just to revise my current year projections. My options seemed limited: Provide a sufficiently detailed estimate, late; or provide unjustifiable soft numbers, on time. I asked the CFO which he preferred. He reiterated that he wanted my numbers on time, which was no surprise, but what was a surprise was that, based on how he was going to use the information, he said if it helped, I could round my numbers to the nearest $10million. Indeed. My seeming awkward question turned an impossible assignment into a reasonable and doable one.
  3. To uncover the forum in which the information will be used – Simply stated, what an update for ‘internal use only’ should look like is materially different from one for a major presentation, or, as in the CFO’s case, one for a preliminary strategic planning session. It’s an essential bit of context that delegators often fail to disclose, unless asked.
  4. To uncover the assignment’s actual deadline – More often than not, a boss builds slack time into a delegated assignment’s due date. How much may vary, so understanding the broader timeline can be very helpful – especially if you need to negotiate a deadline. For example, if your boss wants something turned in first thing Thursday morning, but acknowledges that he won’t actually have time to look at it until Thursday afternoon, you’ve just potentially gained yourself an additional half-day. Similarly, if your boss says something is due by end-of-day Friday, so she’ll have it for a 730am meeting on Monday, you might be able to gain an extra two days, if you don’t mind working on it over the weekend. Know that there may not be any, or only limited, flexibility in a deadline, though. (She may want to use the weekend to study the materials you provide, although might be okay waiting until Saturday noon to start, if that helps any.) The point is, you’ll never know unless you ask. So ask; don’t assume.

That’s why, whenever you’re given a new assignment, I recommend you dig a little bit deeper. Don’t just ask when it’s due, ask, “How will you be using what I give you?”

P.S. What other questions have you found helpful to ask when your boss delegates something to you?


(Originally published as a LinkedIn post of mine on 5/21/2015 that was included in LinkedIn’s Pulse.)

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Beyond Authenticity

Linked-In-icon[1]Wendy recently asked LinkedIn’s Fortune100 Coaches Network (F1CN) Group: Challenging thinking about authenticity. What’s your view?

Here’s how I answered:

My view: The buzz of ‘authenticity’ is well-meaning — too many decent people simply aren’t mustering (or demonstrating) the courageousness needed, on a regular enough basis, to be (or seen as) truly authentic leaders. So if all the ‘authenticity’ talk is nudging them in the right direction, then bravo.

Yet my view extends to the belief that ‘authenticity’ not the end-all/be-all that it’s so often posited to be.

I’ll put it this way: If I’m a total jerk, then “being true to myself; maintaining strict coherence between what I feel and what I say or do; and maintaining values-based choices,” as the article suggests I do, then I’m not becoming a better leader — I’m becoming even more of a jerk! And with all respect to the kind, decent people out there, there are an awful lot of flat-out jerks in leadership positions these days. Hey, under the right set of circumstances, even the best-of-the-best can be a total jerks, you know.

So I coach my clients to go beyond ‘authenticity.’ I coach them to be their better selves when leading others — to be their best selves. Does that, sometimes, challenge their courageousness? Yup. But I offer one of my ‘leadership haiku’ to address the concern:

why does the FIRST step
always seem more difficult

What Next?

If this post helped you learn something about yourself, then great! Be sure to share your insight with others as a way of 'locking in' your learning. While you're at it, I'd also appreciate you telling them about the other self-study resources available from LeadershipTraction including:Thanks.

- bz

P.S. If you have a question or comment about this post, just let me know. I'll do my best to get back to you, straightaway.

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Authority and Accountability

LinkedInJim recently asked LinkedIn’s Chief Information Officer (CIO) Network Group: With the failure rate of IT projects so high, what should the CEO do about it?

Here’s how I answered:

Complications go hand-in-hand with complex projects. So, THAT a project runs into problems isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it’s often just an indicator of the project’s inherent complexity. Assuming the ‘hiccup’ is brought Read more

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