Archive for the ‘ Coaching ’ Category

You Are Always Hypothesizing

One simple statement really stood out to me from a conversation this week: “remember that you are always hypothesizing.” During an executive coaching class, my colleagues and I were role-playing coaching scenarios around dealing with perceived resistance from a client. Note the key word, “perceived.” The group discussion and activity were meant to illustrate the fact that in coaching relationships, what we perceive as resistance might actually be indicative of something else. If we can acknowledge that our perceptions are just our interpretations of what we are experiencing as we interact with another person, then we open ourselves to the possibility that our interpretations might not be accurate. It’s easy to misinterpret because we are, in fact, always hypothesizing.

According to Merriam-Webster, a hypothesis may be defined as:

  • “An idea or theory that is not proven but that leads to further study or discussion”
  • “An assumption or concession made for the sake of argument”
  • “A tentative assumption made in order to draw out and test the logical or empirical consequences”

Notice that a commonality across these definitions is the element of making an assertion for the purpose of verifying or validating it. A hypothesis is ground for further action; it is an antecedent and not an end result. Miscommunication is often attributable to misinterpretation, but we can avoid this fundamental error by noticing our assumptions and investigating them with a sense of openness and curiosity. The challenge in any interaction—whether your role is a coach, manager, advisor, teacher, peer, or friend—is to become truly curious about the other person’s experience so that testing our assumptions is an act of gaining clarity about that individual’s experience from their perspective rather than from our own.

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Contrary to common belief, hypothesis testing is not a function of proving our theory, but rather it is a function of trying to uncover whatever truth exists. Yes, in scientific pursuits, we hope to furnish evidence in support of our hypothesis, but this is not the case in pursuits of human relations. True communication and connection with others requires humility and acceptance of the fact that our assertions and conclusions may be incorrect. If we are always hypothesizing then we must also be ever curious and open to alternatives, asking, “What else might explain this? What might I not be aware of?”

Thich Nhat Hanh (pronounced Tick-Naught-Han), is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, author, teacher, Zen Master, and Nobel Peace Prize nominee for his activism and advocacy of nonviolent solutions to conflict. You do not need to endorse Buddhist philosophy in order to appreciate Thich Nhat Hanh’s approachable writing style and germane messaging. In one of his seminal books, Being Peace, Thich Nhat Hanh uses the quote above to explain what is needed in order to achieve true understanding in communication. If we only seek to validate our own preconceived notions without acknowledging that our way of thinking might be flawed, then we will not be able to truly understand whatever we are facing.

ansel_adams_quote

Each interaction, each conversation, each moment of life is associated with some image in our minds. We create a story about that image, and Ansel Adams reminds us that we are not the only ones looking at our pictures. Others are involved in those interactions, conversations, and moments.  Two photographers can stand aside one another taking in the same landscape, but the images they see and capture through their lenses will be different depending on what and where they choose to focus. Two viewers may look upon the same photograph and see or describe it in very different ways depending upon their interpretation and the meaning they assign to what they see. It’s all about how you make sense of what you observe.

ansel adams_fuzzy concept_quote

In the art of communication, the skilled performer is ever conscious that the image seen may not reflect the one captured, and the story created by the viewer may not match the one being projected by the sender. If you truly seek to understand another person’s point of view, you must be willing to see the world through their lens. Like photography and all fine arts, perspective-taking is a skill which is developed over time through diligent practice, keen observation, acute trial and error, and endless wonder about the natural world. You are always creating images and painting pictures from your own pallet of interpretation. How might someone else see it differently? What would it be like to view the world through another lens? What is the potential benefit and beauty of considering another point of view? What else might be present? What else could sharpen your image? What are you not seeing? In what other ways could this situation being conceptualized or understood?

Remember that you are always hypothesizing, so ask yourself, “what am I not yet aware of?”

ansel_adams_awareness_quote

About the Author: Sarah is a Professional Services Intern at The Ken Blanchard Companies. She is pursuing a Ph.D. in Consulting Psychology, and her research is based on mindfulness. Contact: sarah.maxwell@kenblanchard.com.

Image Credit: 1, 2, 3, 4

Flow to Success!

Have you ever become so engrossed in a fun task that you lost track of time? Then you’ve experienced the concept of flow. Developed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, it describes the state of mind when you reach the perfect combination of task challenge and personal skill:

Flow_Senia_Maymin

Click the image below for a simple demonstration of flow (use the mouse to move and remember to return when you’re finished):

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The creator of this simple game used Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of flow to develop the game elements. Since you can decide when to move further, you are always in control of both the level of challenge and skill, meaning you can always keep yourself in a state of flow.

Now think about your direct reports and their tasks. Are they in a state of flow? If not, is it due to the task being too difficult, or the direct reports not having high enough skills? Or perhaps the challenge isn’t increasing proportionately with their skills? And think about your own tasks. Are you in a state of flow? Why or why not? What can you do to improve your workplace and encourage more flow?

It’s clear that employees can become more engaged and productive, while constantly developing and growing, by applying this simple model to the workplace. So the next time you’re at work, try adjusting the level of challenge to match the level of skill. You might be surprised to find how much fun you can have while in flow!

Image Credit: 1

The “L” Word—Is It On Your Mind?

In his closing remarks at yesterday’s company meeting, Ken Blanchard shared Covey’s four basic needs which underlie human fulfillment: to live, to love, to learn, to leave a legacy.

 “The need to live is our physical need for such things as food, clothing, shelter, economical well-being, health. The need to love is our social need to relate to other people, to belong, to love and to be loved. The need to learn is our mental need to develop and to grow. And the need to leave a legacy is our spiritual need to have a sense of meaning, purpose, personal congruence, and contribution.”
Stephen R. Covey

The “L” word—the BIG one—is legacy, the story of you and your imprint upon the world. It’s been a repeated topic of conversation in my spheres lately, as it should be in yours. Visioning is central to the success of organizations, teams, leaders, and individual contributors because it creates a dialogue around the meaning and value behind the work that we do. Your legacy extends far beyond your career into your personal and professional relationships; your family or community involvement and recreational activities; and in your moment-to-moment everyday experiences. What kind of legacy are you building, and where do you even begin? Covey reminds us that life is short, so ask yourself:

  • What makes life worth living? What’s missing?
  • What do I need to learn? To unlearn?
  • How will I be remembered?
  • What do I dream of?

These are big questions—Give yourself time to develop honest and deeply rooted answers.  It can be tempting to dismiss dreams as unattainable or impractical, but dreams stem from a place within each of us that British philosopher, Alan Watts, calls “the deep, down, basic, whatever there is.” In this inspirational video, Watts talks about the human need to feel significant and connected to something greater than ourselves:


There is nothing trivial about finding and giving voice to your purpose in life and however you frame the concept of legacy, the story is yours to write. In another moving video, The Real You, Watts talks about the idea of waking up and finding out who you are. An individual’s sense of self is a complex, idiosyncratic, and exquisite answer to the venerable question: Who AM I?

Before you can build a meaningful legacy, you first need to have a clear picture of who you are and what gives value and purpose to your life. Because your identity defines how you see yourself belonging in the world and relating to others, it is fundamental to creating your vision, living your dreams, and leading others to do the same. In Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the peak is self-actualization—the human need for self-fulfillment and striving to achieve one’s highest potential. This is a process of continual learning so you can always seek new ways of infusing energy and creativity into your everyday events.

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Self-development is profound work but it doesn’t need to be intense. A variation of Covey’s four basic needs overlays learning with laughter because we can’t be serious all the time. That’s also why one of the founding principles of The Ken Blanchard Companies is to have fun! On your journey of life, never forget the gift of child-like wonder—not in the sense of immaturity or naivety, but rather of being curious and light-hearted along the way. As you think about who you are and most importantly the unique story you are leading, remember that life is short. Keep the “L” word always in mind.

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About the Author:

Sarah is a Professional Services Intern at The Ken Blanchard Companies. She is also pursuing a Ph.D. in Consulting Psychology and her research is based on mindfulness. You can reach her at sarah.maxwell@kenblanchard.com.

The Smile Test and the Positive Leader


Did you feel happier? Now try this experiment again with a group of friends in the same room. Look at one another as you smile. Does anything change?

From what I’ve experienced, being around a group enhances the effects of the smile test. Why? Because happiness is contagious. And by smiling, you encourage better moods in the people around you, which can even circle back around and improve your own mood further.

So share your smile and laughter with those around you as much as you can every day. You’ll be regarded as a more positive leader, someone who uplifts and inspires anyone and everyone. You may even find, as Brent did in his experiment, that your day becomes a lot brighter!

beautiful young girl smiling

Smiling Girl

Peer Coaching- A truly secret tool for success

In a quick, non-scientific poll I conducted, a large majority of working professionals I spoke with had never heard of Peer Coaching. And if they had, they had never used it, or knew how it was implemented. Although I would like to say it’s the new, latest trend, peer coaching isn’t new at all. In fact, it was in the early 80’s that peer coaching was introduced as a tool for personal and professional development.

Collaboration

A collaborative approach

So what is it exactly? Peer coaching is a feedback-based collaborative learning process that aims at positive interdependence. Coaching in its many forms (executive, life, etc.) has been proven to be an effective tool to help people along life’s many challenges. Peer coaching is analogous in that aspect since it aims to achieve that same goal, but also helps build stronger relationships with your peers in the process. The peer coaching process is meant to be reciprocal. Both parties have a dual responsibility in being a coach and a coachee.

Practical application of this would be to set up a time/schedule (e.g., once a week for 1 hour) to discuss the issues, goals, or tasks that you may currently have. The following week, the coach/coachee role would switch and participants would then work on the other’s developmental needs. Remember that this is a non-judgmental, non-evasive approach at goal setting and professional development. Trust, accountability, and confidentiality are three main factors that will make your peer coaching relationship flourish. This may be the secret recipe to your future success.

Here’s why your organization (or yourself) should REALLY take a look at implementing peer coaching:

  • It’s effective. Real, true behavioral change has been proven in organizations that utilize peer coaching. There are no gimmicks with this approach; if implemented correctly and sustained, it is a great tool for development.
  • It’s free. Although executive coaching has its place, not many of us can afford coaches and most organizations won’t have the resources to supply everyone with a coach. Peer coaching is a free coaching experience that is results-based and is grounded in the interaction with people you know and trust.
  • It’s an easy process to implement. Set up a recurring time and place within your organization to meet and discuss your current goals. This might be a perfect place to discuss your performance management goals or individual development plan (IDP) that your manager has set for you. If your organization isn’t ready for you to use working hours to implement this, than a 1 hour lunch break will work perfectly. It will probably be the most effective lunch hour you will have that week!

Gus is a Learning and Performance Professional at the Ken Blanchard Companies and is currently finishing his PhD in I/O Psychology. He can be reached at gus.jaramillo@kenblanchard.com

Leadership Failure

Not too long ago I was put in charge of a couple sections of soldiers who were working on some military intelligence products for an upcoming mission. Since the teams were working on separate products, I assigned myself to one team and had a Lieutenant take charge of another team. The LT had been in the army for a few years, so I had no qualms about giving the team to him. I spoke with him privately and told him that he had “full autonomy” over his team and gave him full discourse over what his team did and how they finished their products. The next morning I come into work at 7:30 fully expecting everyone to be there for unit physical training. They weren’t. When I asked the LT where his team was, he said that he told them that they could do physical training on their own and that they didn’t need to show up until 9:30am. “What? Why did you do that? We always show up at 7:30.”Leadership

So, of course, they decided to sleep in and didn’t do any physical training for the day.

And of course my team was upset that they didn’t get to sleep in and come to work at 9:30. The last thing I wanted to create was resentment across the two teams. I thought that maybe a “team building” exercise was in order, but I didn’t carry it out because I felt I would probably screw that up too.  I was upset about the whole situation, but mainly I was irritated at myself.

After looking back on the incident, here’s what I learned:

  • I never really gave him full autonomy

Here’s what I really said: You can have full autonomy unless you do something I don’t want you to do or something that I disagree with you on. What I told him he could do and what I wanted him to do were two separate things.

  • I shouldn’t have given him full autonomy

Giving full autonomy over everything is not really leadership at all. I thought I was doing the right thing by giving him autonomy, but what I should have done in that situation was to give him more direction as to what is expected and necessary. Autonomy has its place and limitations; using it correctly is when it’s the most impactful.

  • My communication was not aligned with my expectations

I was never clear on my expectations. What was standard and status quo for me was not necessarily the same for him. Talking through each other’s expectations would have been helpful for minimizing conflict and building trust.

For any further information or questions contact me at gus.jaramillo@kenblanchard.com

3 Essential Pieces to the Puzzle of a Successful Team

Every high performing team is made up of a mix of people that fulfill specific needs. They are all pieces of a puzzle that could not be completed if one piece was lost or exchanged for another shape. It is crucial that when building this team everyone knows their role and sticks to their responsibilities without stepping over boundary lines. Team members need to understand where those boundary lines are by becoming a jack of all trades but they still need to be an expert at one. Below are three essential components to a successful team.

  1. A Leader: The person who plays the leader, captain, or coach should be a great communicator and role model. They may not be the highest performing member of the team; however they have the best people skills to keep the team moving in the right direction. They need to have empathy for people when they are struggling but also an ability to push someone when they are feeling they have hit a wall. Teams do not succeed without someone leading them toward their end goal.
  2. Role Players: Although these team members are often over looked they are the most important in completing the simple tasks that lead to the overall success of the team. Role players are able to make a team’s project look appealing, function properly, or maintain a certain level of operation. It is important for the leader to establish that these people are role players on the team but also that they have individual roles assigned to them which contribute to the overall success of the team
  3. A Star Performer: Every best team has its role player or leader who also turns out to be its star. The star is the person who excels at everything at a level that is higher than the rest. It is the one person who has the skills that the others strive towards. This person develops the best ideas but also has the clearest plans to execute them. The star performer is not always the leader because they may not know how to communicate how they do what they do, but they embody what a high performer looks like.

There are very high functioning teams which do not have all three of these pieces yet produce great results. However, to be the best team possible you need to have members who take on each of these positions and then work together. The leader has the greatest influence on the cohesion of the team.

The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual.
– Vince Lombardi

Brian Alexander is the Marketing Project Specialist with The Ken Blanchard Companies. To learn more about The Ken Blanchard Companies please visit www.kenblanchard.com

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