Author: necoaching

What Makes a Team Click?

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In some group work I am currently involved with, I am facilitating a session of business leaders who are from all around the world, therefore multi-cultural and quite high achievers.  One of the things we do at the beginning is called The Leadership Journey, which involves sharing the experiences and the people who have essentially shaped the person and type of leader they have become.  This has proven to be an extremely effective means of team bonding, for the following reasons.

  • Past experiences can shape future decisions.  So perhaps the more you know about somebody’s past, the better you might understand the position they take or decision made, and how you might possibly influence it.
  • Sharing is caring and vice versa – when demonstrating interest in people’s backgrounds and what matters to them, connections become stronger that can create a sense of genuine collegiality.
  • Vulnerability builds trust – when everybody shares their past in an honest, open way, you see each other for who they truly are; this creates a unique and trusting bond.
  • Happiness leads to effectiveness – when people enjoy their work and the people they work with in an authentic way, there is a genuine sense of collaboration and happiness, that are enablers of success.

Interestingly, in most work situations, we never really take the time to understand who the person is; it’s perhaps regarded as none of our business, or might be seen as prying into their personal lives.  In reality, personal and professional are not mutually exclusive.  Whether you like it or not, you bring your work stuff home with you, and your home baggage goes to work with you.  So why not simply embrace and understand it, and be open to the possibility that it might in fact create a very supportive work environment, that facilitates much higher levels of engagement and productivity?  If that is the case, you might also be a lot happier going home and so the cycle becomes much more positive.

“Paid for” Volunteer Motivation

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Are you involved with volunteer work along with your regular “paid for” career?  If so, you will know that there are similarities, but also differences, when operating in these two environments.  The general consensus is that because volunteer work is done without financial reward, there is a greater sense of purpose associated with it.  However, there is a significant factor that plays a key and sometimes varying role, and that is motivation.  How this actually plays out might surprise some.

Within career work, one could very quickly point to the obvious motivators such as payment, career progression, status, etc.  Closer consideration might offer a positive work environment, the challenge and job satisfaction.  However you look at these extrinsic and intrinsic drivers, there is also a consequence to not delivering.  Leadership also creates accountability leading to high-levels of contributions.

With volunteer work, people do this for varying reasons and, whatever the motivation, it leads to different levels of commitment.  Additionally, in conflict with this is the constant that everybody is doing it for free, which then becomes a source of frustration because of the disparity of contributions.  Because leadership has minimal leverage in this instance there can be a lot of complaints and this can give rise to low levels of contribution.

The solution lies in avoiding comparisons.  Simply accept that volunteers align their commitment / contribution to their own motivation and then make the necessary choices.  For some this will be a lot of work and for others not so much.  However, rather than viewing this as an anomaly or unfair, simply view it from the perspective that people are making conscious decisions to contribute at their own level, and that’s ok.

Leading in a Changing Workplace

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Much has been written with regards to the changing face of the workplace.  With the replacement of Boomers (born before 1964) by Millennials (1977 – 1995), new challenges are being presented as to how best manage and lead this seemingly more complex collective.  Part of the challenge is the fact that many of the leaders and managers are in fact Boomers and those reporting to them are Millennials, so there is an obvious disconnect between “old and new”.  To better understand this, it might be helpful to trace back a little into the past and assess these characteristics chronologically, under these changing circumstances.

1940 – 1970

This was an era characterized by motivation through money and/or fear (carrot and stick), and because it was primarily during the industrial age, when any advancement in productivity was king, it worked pretty well.  It also fed off the basis that you left your brain at the door, as it was more about a physical contribution.

1970 – 2000

As the landscape of business began to shift from industrial to informational so too did the need to move from physical to intellectual labor.  People were now expected to use their brain as the need for more educated workers emerged.  With that the old carrot and stick became much less effective, and leadership had to adapt to a system of involvement, support and truly understanding what motivated people.

2000 – Today

Most recently, a newer workforce has emerged, that not alone is intellectually based (better educated overall), but is also influenced by technology and a very different world view.  These employees want engagement and challenge within a creative process and consequently leadership has had to redefine itself once again.  Leaders have had to become coaches and have the ability to skillfully guide people and help facilitate an outcome.

So, if you are a leader, you are most likely dealing with different workforce generations.  Rather than feel exasperated and helpless that “these people” just don’t get it, embrace it and adapt accordingly, which will allow you to get the best from everybody.

What is Enough ‘Positivity’?

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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 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

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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

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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”

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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

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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

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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

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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.