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What is Enough ‘Positivity’?

As we go through our personal and professional lives, we come across people with a variety of emotions; some can be very negative and some very positive and the rest are anywhere in between. But what is right blend? People who are overly negative can be “drainers”, sucking the life out of you; and then those that are all “sunshine and roses” are simply out of touch with reality.positive

In his book, “To Sell is Human”, Dan Pink quotes research conducted by Barbara Frederickson of The University of North Carolina as to what is the right balance between positivity and negativity is in order to be most effective. The results suggest, for optimum performance, there should be a 3:1 ratio of positive to negative emotions. You can do the test yourself at http://www.positivityratio.com/. This is essentially saying that one needs to be positive most of the time but that some degree of negativity is appropriate. It might be akin to bringing positivity to what you do, but in a grounded way (e.g. challenge appropriately). This has tremendous implications to teachers, parents, leaders and indeed coaches.

In coaching, the objective is to facilitate a process that leads a client ultimately to where they want to be – a better place or outcome. Most coaches feel that by being positive there is a contagion associated with this that is good for the client; this is true and who’d want to be coached by Debbie Downer? Additionally, by having this appropriate blend of positivity, it can help create engagement, motivation and creativity in the process. It also builds confidence and likeability, on the part of the client, in the coach’s abilities. At the same time, there is accountability, which is challenging and sometime uncomfortable for a client; but its helps to get things done. These are key ingredients for success.

Most good coaches already have this, its part of their DNA and, most likely it’s why they became coaches in the first place. But for those who might struggle in this department, take the test and consciously begin to look more at the opportunities to succeed rather than all the challenges impeding you. Is your glass half full or half empty?

Managing Division

If we go back to the beginning of time, survival was key to existence.  A significant contributor to this was safety in numbers and so people watched out for each other, thereby creating an additional blanket of security.  When we fast forward to today there is still a hugely significant group mentality that can, in truth, perpetuate both good and evil.Division

We all understand the importance of groups and their potential value which Aristotle describes as “the whole being greater than the sum of its parts”.  But a bigger question might be, what makes certain groups join forces and then equally do battle against others?  This is playing out at all levels from the playground, to the workplace and, without doubt, to national politics.  Seemingly this is what human beings do.

George Halvorson in a Harvard Business Review article contended that, “21st century leadership is a matter of endowing groups of individuals with a satisfying sense of us and channeling their collective energy toward noble ends.” The challenge with creating an “us” is that it naturally gives rise to the existence of a “them” which to Halvorson claims “can lead to wonderful or terrible effects”. The question therefore is how does one amplify the positive (US) and minimize the negative (THEM)?

Perhaps the answer lies, if one was to consider a business, in having high level mission, values and goals that creates an over-arching “US”.  Then within this there will be multiple groups (US and THEM) that will inevitably pursue a local agenda that might create some divisiveness.  However, if it is still consistent with the agenda of over-arching “US”, a healthy US and THEM will exist.  This is actually a good situation to have as it perpetuates innovation (creativity), understanding (empathy) and accountability (results).

US and THEM certainly has a negative connotation but if it can be very effective if channeled in an appropriate manner.  The key is encouraging a healthy local “US” and “THEM” among those who are already part of the more broad and united “US”.

Emotional Intelligence and the Bachelor

Ok, so I am going to make a radical admission – I have been watching this season’s Bachelor on TV and let’s just say it’s quality time spent with my wife. So, when to my pleasant surprise, I heard how Corinne was being accused of lacking in Emotional Intelligence (EI) by fellow competitor the bachelorTaylor, I thought some might be interested in truly understanding what this form of intelligence is really all about.

According to Genos International, Emotional Intelligence involves a set of skills that define how effectively you perceive, understand, reason with, and manage your own and others’ emotions. Some of the keys skills are:

1. Self Awareness

How you show up in terms of your emotions / behavior forms a huge part of how other people perceive (and feel about) you. The perception of you by others is their reality and first impressions can be lasting. You may not care and that’s ok. But if you do care, such as with family, friends and co-workers, then being tuned into your behavior and its effect on others, can serve you very well.

2. Awareness of Others

In parallel with the above, being equally mindful and sensitive to the emotions of other people can really help you connect with them. By listening better and being able to tap into their emotional cues, you can build a better rapport and be genuinely empathetic; consequently, people will be drawn to you.

3. Emotional Decision Making

Many might argue that we justify based on facts, but make decisions on emotions; think of buying a car. By taking the time to consider, not only the data/facts, but how those (including yourself) might be impacted emotionally by a decision you make, could ultimately lead to making better choices.

4. Self Management

This is the classic where something is upsetting, and do you react impulsively (typically followed by regret), or do you respond in a controlled manner and achieve the desired outcome? Taking time to consider (looking before you leap) is about taking control of the choices you make, in reasonable and responsible manner.

Emotionally intelligent behavior can be summed up as doing/saying the appropriate thing, with the appropriate person, at the appropriate time. In the case of Corrine and Taylor, this just never happened and consequently resulted in what was plain to be seen right up to the end; they couldn’t even look at each other. Everybody thought it was funny (and let’s not forget it was reality TV) but based on what we saw, who would want to spend time with either person?

Coaching “Intrapreneur”

Professional Coaching is growing at an exponential rate as the public awareness of its effectiveness grows and more suitably qualified individuals enter this relatively new entrepreneurial endeavor. New coaches see the opportunity to truly leverage their existing skills, experience and wisdom to be the catalyst in people’s lives and truly provide tangible value to clients.

What is also fast emerging is the “intrapreneurial” variation of coaching. This is where people are consciously taking the methodologies and affecting real meaningful change within organizations by creating an internal coaching capability. 41144838 - coaching word cloud, business conceptThough primarily viewed as a skill set that could enhance the human resource function, it is also emerging as a most effective way for supervisors, managers and executives to interact most productively with their reports.

Like most disciplines within an organization, Human Resources have had to adapt. Traditionally viewed as the department that problematic employees were sent to be “sorted out”, they also had the reputation for not being in touch with business realities. Progressive human resource functions have had to step up to the plate, become much more strategic in their thinking, earn their place at the table and establish much greater credibility in terms of their contribution to the overall organization.

Acquiring the skills of coaching has been a huge enabler in this regard. Front line supervisors and managers are now being confidently and effectively coached by their HR Partners on how best to handle difficult employees. This in turn provides the freedom to be much more influential throughout the organization which helps to enhance credibility. Indeed it is ultimately allowing HR to develop innovative support structures to ensure fully trained, motivated and engaged employees show up all the time.

In addition for the business, having this internal capability reduces the costs associated with expensive external coaches but, more importantly, is making coaching more accessible to existing and emerging leaders. One clear sign of the prevalence of coaching today is that organizations are now advertising for HR professionals that have a formal Coaching Certification.

International Communications

InternationalSo many more organizations today have to deal with, not alone work colleagues at other locations throughout the United States, but also throughout the world. This is obviously not a new phenomenon but is becoming more prevalent and many would try to argue it is easier because of advances in technology. However if would be a mistake to think that technological advances can somehow circumvent many of the communication challenges that often exist between different locations. If fact they can add to the angst.

When one considers the fundamentals of human nature, the realities of how human are supposed to communicate becomes apparent. First and foremost there has to be a relationship that is somehow grounded on familiarity. Unquestionably advances in video conferencing are far more effective than telephone or e-mail, but it still does not create a human connection. Site visits remain critical because the face to face social interaction is what establishes relationships.

The other component of this international divide is obviously culture. No matter what way you cut it, or despite best efforts, there are always going to be differences. One way to minimize this as an obstacle is to recognize the one common denominator in all cultures; respect. Many would argue that this is something you earn but how about looking at it from the perspective of it being something that you can lose? Start off by building respectful relationships by meeting people half way or, if taking the initiative, work hard at a relationship even if it does not appear as reciprocating.

The final piece is the dog and tail syndrome. Who are calling the shots and what level of autonomy truly exists? This is driven primarily as a function of senior leadership and whether the influential strength lies locally or at corporate. This can be a perilous situation which is great during good times, but extremely delicate when things are not going according to plan. Corporate cannot be ignored, so often the best policy is to maintain a respectful disposition that is based on open communication and appropriate involvement.

Building Community is Key

As human beings we have a basic need for being part of a system. In the context of Maslow’s hierarchy, given that the physiological and safety needs are being met, love and belonging provides the basis of the next level need. From the moment of our birth we are part of a family and then this evolves into neighborhoods, friends, school mates, church affiliations, sports teams, etc. All of these directly or indirectly provide a feeling that others care and that we are part of something bigger than just ourselves. It’s called community.51004157 - wow place to work

Some of the characteristics that emanate from this sense of community are commitment, trust, motivation, teamwork, being valued and the list goes on. This sounds very familiar with the aspirations of many workplace organizations but to describe them as communities and refer to it as love and belonging might seem a strange vernacular.

One of the fundamental differences between the types of communities mentioned initially and the workplace is that in the latter people are financially “compensated”. The word compensation is described in the Webster Dictionary as “something given or received as an equivalent for services, debt, loss, injury”. So implicit in this is that you are sacrificing something, perhaps your time, skills, talent, etc in exchange for money or some tangible reward. But this doesn’t build community in the workplace; it’s just the price of entry.

So here comes the rub. Going back to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, compensation is part of the basic fundamental physiological need; it’s what allows us to survive: it helps to provide shelter as well as feed and cloth our families. However, much more can be achieved by also addressing the next level need – creating a highly engaged environment aka, a community. That’s what Zappos and Google do; they have transformed their organizations into their own unique communities where employees feel a sense of love and belonging, even though these words are perhaps not used. As a result turnover is low, productivity is high, innovation is outstanding, customer service is king and profits continue to soar.

Human Resources for the Future

When most non-Human Resources (HR) people think about this function, it’s typically not with a feeling of endearment. If you go back a number of years when it was more commonly known as the Personnel Department, the perception was even worse. However, in successful organizations today, the Human Resources function is redefining its role and, in many cases, being greeted with open arms and sought after. What has happened to cause this shift?human-resources-pic

In truth, the modern HR function is adopting a much more “proactive developmental” role, versus the traditional “reactive remedial”. The latter was very much associated with problem employees, policing the rules and administering policies that really didn’t add any value. However, today HR is truly stepping up and is gaining a place at the table purely on the merits of providing value added systems and support to the organization.

A key contributor is that the HR function is now the facilitator of performance growth or Organizational Development (OD). The emphasis is on assessing the individual relative to the job requirement and ensuring they have the skills / knowledge and, most importantly, the support to bring about significant performance improvements. There is ongoing monitoring of this rather than the traditional Annual Review that everybody hated and, quite frankly, did very little to improve performance.

The modern HR professional also has a new set of knowledge and skills. They are now utilizing the methodologies of Coaching and this is building credibility and sustainability into the professional development mentioned above. It is also modeling a set of behaviors that are essential to leadership. This is about being able to have the impactful conversations that get to the root causes in an empowering way and that ultimately leads to positive motivation and sustainable results.

Many organizations claim their greatest asset is their people but are not quite sure how to go about this. The reality is that people drive an enterprise; they are both the engine and the fuel. We are also dealing with a new more challenging type of people through the influences of technology and generational issues. A progressive and fully functioning HR function is now essential to serve the organization’s evolving needs.

Guiding Principles

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

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

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.

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