Author: necoaching

Guiding Principles

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If you are new to an organization and somebody shares with you their Guiding Principles, what immediately comes to mind? Typically, if you are honest, you might be inclined to think along the same vein as Mission Statements and Values, and cynically reflect on the old adage of “Do what I say, not what I do”.Success

Part of the reason for this is because Mission Statements and Values are often viewed as being somewhat aspirational. In other words they are not actually real in the present moment. However Guiding Principles form the link between where you are today and what needs to be done to achieve the Mission and Values. In addition, if scripted correctly, they are easy to understand and translate into every day actions.

Although most organizations have their own nuances, there are enough common characteristics when thinking about what might be appropriate. At a minimum, the following should be seriously considered.

  • Communicate: although it comes in many forms, the essence of communication is about inclusion. People by being appropriately informed will identify with the organization, be far more engaged and more likely to proactively contribute to its success.
  • Collaborate: Team work is essential in every organization and is how human systems operate most effectively. However, one needs to be cognizant of the many differences that exist because of culture, discipline, experience, knowledge, etc.
  • Plan: there is a saying that planning doesn’t guarantee success but, without it, you will most likely fail. The key to successful planning is effective execution.
  • Embrace Change: by seeing this as the opportunity to be better, it will allow your organization to remain energized, competitive and ultimately successful.
  • Perform: Every member of an organization needs to clearly understand performance expectations and that a process is in place where adherence to these standards is clearly communicated.

In conclusion, Guiding Principles are designed to provide direction and clarity within an organization as well as the behavioral expectations we have for each other. They actually go a long way in defining how things get done, aka the culture.

Why Mistakes are Good

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James Joyce once wrote, “A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery”; he was speaking about William Shakespeare. Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”. What does all this mean? Are mistakes simply an essential part of how we develop, both personally and professionally? In fact, one could argue that most mistakes are positive! Mistakes try again

As human beings, despite our best intentions, we make “mistakes” all the time. As Peter Buffet in his book “Life Is What You Make Of It”, he points that we makes mistakes when impatient and indecisive, with foolish acts and foolish failures to act, when overly ambitious and not ambitious enough. There is no prescription for this and each situation is unique to every individual. Yes, we can learn from others, but you will never know exactly what works for you unless you try it.

Obviously, a certain amount of caution can be exercised, but doing nothing can also be considered a mistake; a Catch 22 if you will! This applies to every single aspect of your life whether it has to do with family, career, health, business, money, relationships, etc. So what might be some options to better manage these potential “mistakes”?

1. Do some analysis – assess the “pros and cons” to gain a deeper insight of what might be involved.
2. Speak to others – identify those you know, like or trust who might have some experience and are prepared to offer their advice.
3. Hire a coach – seek out an objective, professional confidante who will challenge, but also support you along the way.
4. Be courageous and just do it – maybe walk before your run and you can always adjust your setting along the way.

All of this revolves around being an proactive player in your life and being less concerned about the judgments of others. Perhaps there are no mistakes!

The New Year and No Regrets

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I was recently asked by my own coach to identify my 100 Desires; anything I would like to do, to be, to taste, to go, to have or to experience. Whatever came to mind was written down with little or no judgment. Interestingly, the exercise turned out to be much more difficult than I thought it would be. The first 30 or so were easy, but then it got steadily more difficult and by 45, I was done. I put it aside for a few days and came back to it and added another 5. The more I reflected on this exercise, the more I thought there was a catch or perhaps I was missing something.
happy team
So, I decided to view this from the perspective of what would the people who I care most about say. I thought of my wife, my kids, my coach and some of my closest friends and before I know it the ideas were flowing again; it felt so good. Interestingly I found that this is pretty much a reflection of our personal and professional lives. Initially getting things done is easy, and then progressively becomes more difficult, until eventually we often give up. However, if you think of other people, you very often find a new lease of life and the creative process kicks in and you advance. Then finally your effort pays off and great things happen.

So, as we embrace the beckoning of a New Year, give this exercise a try. It may not be easy, but bear in mind that everything we set our minds to do is possible but perhaps takes time, money, creativity, and above all perseverance. Some might say where there’s a will, there’s a way and, by also considering what others might hope for you, it can be just the added impetus you needed. Start to live a life of “no regrets”, that’s filled with a sense of purpose and service, and you’d be pleasantly surprised how fulfilled and happier you can be.

Receiving Feedback

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Recieving FeedbackFor many the thoughts of receiving feedback can be daunting, yet for others it’s seen as a wonderful opportunity. Many perhaps reading this piece, would most likely put themselves in the former category because, after all, it is very judgmental and can point to shortcomings. In response to that, yes this is true but the key to feedback (and its effectiveness) is to have the receiver take control of the process and use the information to their benefit. After all, if you choose to feel judged or insecure about feedback, you are probably feeling the same way about other things in your life.

So how can we reframe this so that the recipients of feedback actually take charge. The key is to hone in on its potential benefits and Stone and Heen, in their HBS article “Thanks for the Feedback”, point to three key positives.

  • Take charge of your Life Long Learning – see this feedback as a blessing and a real opportunity for you to acquire new skills and information, that ultimately allow you to grow.
  • Improve Your relationships – if you can take feedback positively, people will see you as being open and what somebody says actually matters. This can only serve to improve how you interact with everybody.
  • Reduce Stress and Anxiety – sometimes feedback can be tough, but if you can build up the resilience to accept as just that, and not personal, it can make you feel a lot more composed and relaxed.

In general, getting feedback can be very helpful. What is important to optimizing this is to ensure that both the provider and receiver seize the opportunity for what it is truly intended. So notwithstanding what was presented above, there is also an obligation to the feedback provider to do so in an appropriate manner. Some of the keys to this are:

Honesty – be candid in your feedback
Timing – don’t wait for something to go wrong to speak up
Frequency – do it often and let it become normal
De-personalize – be strong on the issue and kind with the person

When all is said and done, “true feedback” is an opportunity for somebody to improve. If that can be instilled as the pure purpose both for the provider and receiver, and become a seamless process that just happens as a natural course of events. However, if you are one of those who struggles with being that recipient, remember this is very much about how you choose to view it, so take control and get the benefit!

Handling a Difficult Boss

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Quite often, when dealing with a difficult boss, the tendency is to blame him or her. However, in any relationship there are at least two people involved and therefore with that comes an equal responsibility. But, how you might ask, can you influence the behavior when he/she are in control? Yes, they may be able to pull rank on you in terms of decisions, but there are things within your control that you can do about it.Boss Giving Direction

  • Walk in their shoes – this is often regarded as empathy and when we take time and truly look at people’s behavior from their perspective, it might help to understand better why they show up as they do. It may not be excusable, but if it goes somewhere toward providing a justification, that can be a major first step in terms of how you process what is actually happening. For example, if you feel you are being ignored, but then realize that your boss is under extreme pressures (that could be work based or even personal), then you are more inclined to understand and help explain what might be happening as a result.
  • It’s not always about you – bosses have multiple agendas and are dealing with complex issues all the time. They can be easily distracted or side tracked which can mean less time for you. But you are not the problem (though you might perceive it that way); it’s all these other things they are dealing with and therefore try to avoid taking things personally.
  • Seek Advice from Others – perhaps what you are doing might be pressing your boss’s buttons (i.e. his personal dislikes). For example, if he/she values somebody who is direct and to the point and you have a habit of being long winded in your responses, he/she might avoid you unless it’s something critical. Your peers might be able to provide a ‘heads up” in terms of how best to interact with your boss, that you could work on adapting to.
  • Speak with your boss – at the appropriate moment discuss with your boss how you might make some improvements, as distinct from fixing shortcomings. This could happen in a casual setting (e.g. while traveling) or you could ask for some time to formally sit down. The key is to avoid any defensiveness and make it about positives and opportunities.

So, if you are feeling a little like this and somewhat helpless, take control and do something about it. Most bosses and even the most difficult ones, are inherently good people. They are human as well and have their own challenges, so that if you can find a way to make their lives that bit easier, it’s pretty well guaranteed that this will be reciprocated. In the end of the day, you always reserve the final option, and that is to find another job. Either way, you are the person in control.

Vulnerable and Teamwork

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Recently, while part of an Executive Coaching assignment at HBS (Harvard Business School), I was struck by how a team of leaders when, once given the space to be vulnerable with each other, the commitment and productivity of the group soared.productivity One of my tasks in working with this group of 8 diverse senior global business leaders was ensuring they work as a cohesive team. Though we focused on understanding cultural differences, agreeing the rules engagement, expectations, etc., it was the exercise where people opened up and were vulnerable, that had the most profound impact on gelling the group together.

This is supported by the work of Patrick Lencioni in the Five Dysfunctions of a Team where he suggests that vulnerability will greatly enhance a trusting environment, which he defines as “the confidence among team members that their peer intentions are good”.   As a result, this team over the course of 8 weeks demonstrated tremendous commitment to each other (not let anyone down mentality), great work ethic, really smart collaborative ideas and, ultimately an environment where they learned so much from each other. Why did this happen?

Firstly, as the old adage goes “you are most likely to tell your darkest secrets to total strangers” plays out because there is minimal risk that of any perceived or otherwise consequence; therefore, it is easy to be vulnerable. Most human beings really do care and when somebody shows some degree of vulnerability, people naturally want to support and help. But surely this can work to some degree with work colleagues also who, for the most part, have no personal affiliation.

Secondly, it puts everybody on a very even keel. Being vulnerable is a great equalizer, it shows you are human and what is really going on beneath that exterior. When people feel that they are among equals, they are more likely to open up and support each other.

Finally, what was clearly apparent with all the leaders at HBS was an individual strength and confidence, which worked perfectly in alignment with vulnerability. Perhaps it was this unique blend of strength and vulnerability (similar to Collins’ resolve and humility) that provided the basis for optimal teamwork based on dependability/reliability (outward strength) as well as trust/believability (inward vulnerability).

It is important to mention that being vulnerable is not about exposing weaknesses, but rather being truthful about who you are – what’s your real story??

Timing of Training

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Billions of dollars are spent annually on a variety of professional development and training initiatives. In an attempt to improve business performance, there is an understandable belief that if you want people to step up, one must provide the necessary skills and capabilities to do so. However, research by Beer, Finnstrom and Schrader provide caution as to the timing and context of the training. In essence what they are saying is, that unless the training fits into where the organization is at in its evolution, money spent on training could be money down the drain.

So in expanding this further, the consideration is to ensure there is a state of readiness for change as Edmondson and Wooley so eloquently put it that “organizations need “fertile soil” in place before the “seeds” of training interventions can grow”. 38617226 - watering can watering young plants in pile of soil A simple example of this would be where a group of people are sent on a training program and, though their manager might have authorized it, he or she pays little attention to it and has little concern about how they might integrate the learning upon their return. In fact, if anything, the pressure is piled on to make sure they catch up on the time they spent away from their daily responsibilities. Consequently, no changes, so why bother in the first place?

Beer, Finnstrom and Schrader have suggested that a context, or the right environment, needs to happen first through clarity around the values and strategic direction of the organization. This then feeds into defining roles and responsibilities which in turn helps to identify any barriers that might exist. Specific coaching is then suggested around finalizing the required context and then and only then, the training necessary to execute effectively. Consequently, everybody will fully appreciate the reason for the training and will be bought into the necessity of providing the space for the integration of the learning.

Therefore, don’t conduct training to keep people happy, because HR suggest it or, to stop some high potential from leaving. All of these reasons, and it does happen, are a waste of time and money. Instead, as a leader, ensure that the environment is created to receive the training and allow it to bloom. And if it’s not, put the training on hold and take a step back to evaluate the actual direction the business is taking first.

Positive Power

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When people get promoted, it is a wonderful thing. It often comes with prestige, more money, exciting challenges and just the general recognition that is associated with it. It also comes with more responsibility and sometimes the added concern that what got you to this position may not necessarily allow you do it. Think of the best sales person becoming sales manager. So how do you bridge that gap? Some might argue that with greater responsibility comes greater power. In simple terms it means that you can exert greater influence on somebody in order to get a task complete. And with most things in life there is a right way and wrong way of doing that.
34482001 - executive businessman accuses one of his employees

Let’s briefly discuss the wrong way, which sadly for some might come very natural. This is where you force your opinion, demand results, berate people in public and, for the most part, the minimum gets done. There is a short term-ism to this approach and results will only be forthcoming if you keep re-enforcing this behavior. However, eventually people will get tired of it and fight back or they will leave. There are countless studies to support the fact that people typically tend to leave their jobs because of the abuse of “power” by a supervisor or manager.

Thankfully there is an alternative use of power bearing in mind that, when you rise to a new position, what you say or do can be viewed very differently. In his study of power and how to use it in a positive way, Dacher Keltner proposes that “practicing empathy, generosity and gratitude” are a much more effective way of getting things done. There’s a novel thought; be a decent person. Sadly, these virtues often do not come easy to people and its requires hard work, or does it really? Interestingly, going back to the sales person who became sales manager, empathy, generosity and gratitude were probably very common with customers, so what not just do the same with your reports? These virtues (or skills) exists within the vast majority of us, therefore all we simply need to is recognize their value and utility within leadership.

This does not pre-suppose either that this type of leader is soft or not willing to hold people accountability. If anything, they can be quite demanding and challenging, but its more about how they go about it, and the appropriate behaviors they demonstrate. They exhibit strong emotional intelligence and, in so doing, not alone possess self-awareness, but also great awareness of others. They see their success as being predicated on the success of others and therefore channel their power in that direction.

Why Making “Mistakes” is OK

by necoaching necoaching No Comments

mistakes-2James Joyce once wrote, “A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery”; he was speaking about William Shakespeare. Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”. What does all this mean? Are mistakes simply an essential part of how we develop, both personally and professionally? If so, one could say that most mistakes are in fact positive!

As human beings, despite our best intentions, we make “mistakes” all the time. As Peter Buffet in his book “Life Is What You Make Of It”, he points that “we make mistakes when impatient and indecisive, with foolish acts and foolish failures to act, when overly ambitious and not ambitious enough”. There is no prescription for this and each situation is unique to every individual. Yes we can learn from others but you will never know exactly what works for you unless you try it.

Obviously, a certain amount of caution can be exercised but doing nothing can also be considered a mistake; a Catch 22 if you will! This applies to every single aspect of your life whether it has to do with family, career, health, money, relationships, etc. So what might be some options to mange these “essential mistakes”?

  • Do some analysis – assess the “pros and cons” to gain a deeper insight of what might be involved
  • Speak to others – identify those you know, like or trust who might have some experience and are prepared to offer their advice
  • Hire a coach – seek out an objective, professional confidante who will challenge but also support you along the way
  • Be courageous and just do it – maybe walk before your run and you can always adjust your setting along the way.

All of this revolves around being an proactive player in your life and being less concerned about the judgments of others. Perhaps there are no mistakes!

Category: Professional Development
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Global Leadership – The Culture Affect

by necoaching necoaching No Comments

Based on some work I have been doing as an Executive Coach at Harvard Business Schools, I have had the opportunity to meet and interact with business leaders from all over the world. One of the significant observations of this international diversity has been a better understanding of culture. Culture can be defined very simply “how things work around here” and no matter what way you cut it, there are always going to be differences.

 When one considers the fundamentals of human nature, the realities of how humans are supposed to communicate becomes apparent. First and foremost there has to be a relationship that is somehow grounded in familiarity. Interestingly when one assesses culture, under whatever categoriglobales might be appropriate, you find that people have typically more in common than differences. Once you understand this and people become familiar with each other, it actually becomes quite easy to build on the similarities and respect the differences.

However cultural differences are not just about people from different parts of the world; it can also exist within organizations and often between the various hierarchical levels. How does the culture that is espoused by senior leadership compare to what actually exists on the ground. In this instance, “micro” cultures are created where various leaders can shape the behaviors, the respect (or lack of), the biases, etc so that sometimes it feels like you are walking into “another world”. Anybody who has worked with different organizations can attest to this.

So as we think about global culture, be mindful of how both personal and organizational cultures can actually shape behaviors. And to ensure that it functions in a positive way for all involved, ensure familiarity to build positive relationships, which in turn will generate respect.

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