Author: necoaching

Translating Professional Development into Organizational Impact

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41402270 - businesswoman presenting to colleagues at a meetingWith billions of dollars spend every year on professional development and training, how much really sticks? We have all heard the comments “the training was awesome” and then very little changes. Or how many have attended programs where half the participants didn’t want to be there and the other half didn’t know why they were? Part of the challenge is with the way many training programs are delivered. And even if the content is rich, if nothing changes as a result, what’s the point?

Added to this is the fact that more and more training is being conducted online with cost and time being the major drivers behind this. This makes sense up to a point but cheap and quick are not necessarily the best ways to learn. In some respects many might think it’s almost the opposite of the college system; too expensive and too long. So where does the answer lie? Inevitably, as with most situations, the answer lies somewhere in between. Here are the 5 Key Tips for ensuring an optimum learning experience.

Varied Learning
Blended learning has become somewhat of a buzz word recently and is certainly a positive move in terms of utilizing traditional classroom with online / technology. But varied learning extends beyond this in terms of the importance of striking the balance with lecture, discussion, role play, activities, visuals, one on one coaching, all of which should be designed to ensure maximum engagement.

Competent Teaching
The teachers are the voice of the program and are still the anchors of any developmental experience. They must be knowledgeable, possess the effective communications skills and be able to flex to meet the needs of various learning styles. People are auditory, visual or kinesthetic and good trainers have the ability to mix up how they communicate to ensure all needs are met.

It is critically important that a new skill be followed by practice. This is as applicable with professional development as it is with sports. This could be some form of classroom activity, a peer work outside the class or a project. Make it something that ensures the applicability of what has been learned is being transferred back into their real world situation. Learning + Practice = Doing (and perfecting).

Accountability / Integration
Unless somebody holds us accountable to getting tasks completed, in most instances, it does not get done and the integration of the learning never happens. Having people submit logs of completion, doing exams or presenting projects are needed to ensure people realize the importance of what they are learning and that tasks get completed. Consequently the learning becomes imbedded and the ease of application becomes more doable. Then and only then does the impact become realized and the return on investment achieved.

Turning “Weaknesses” into “Strengths”

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strengthWhile reading the latest Malcolm Gladwell book, David & Goliath, I couldn’t help but think about how many of the concepts presented also applied to business. The most interesting lesson that emerged for me was that strengths and weakness are all relative. In other words, when viewing through the same lenses, most will agree as to what are the strengths and what are the weaknesses. However, when assessing from differing perspectives a variety of outcomes can emerge. This is why having a diversity of opinion in problem solving and planning is so important.

This was most profoundly demonstrated in the book when Gladwell recounted his understanding of the famous David & Goliath story from biblical times. Goliath was supposedly this larger than life warrior, with a massive sword and shield while David was a mere shepherd boy with a sling shot. When looking at it relative to typical warfare for those times, David didn’t stand a chance. However as Gladwell describes, it was really Goliath who didn’t stand the chance. David was nimble and fast, remaining at a distance, while Goliath could hardly move; weighed down by the heavy protective armor he was wearing. As for weapons of choice, supposedly the slight shot in the hands of an expert could dispense a rock with a similar velocity as a modern day gun. So who really had the advantage?

Similarly within our organizations, it’s also critically important that we assess the needs relative to the people you have and whether their skills and abilities are being truly optimized. In a previous blog I spoke about how people have a tendency of viewing their own training needs in terms of technical skills but, for somebody else, it’s often thought of in terms of so called “soft” skills.

And so when we look at our teams and assess what might be their strengths and weaknesses, be careful of what you are comparing to. More importantly, be mindful of popular business “myths” and don’t be afraid to challenge them; just because it was a weakness in the past could make it the strength for the future, when viewed through different lenses.

Tips to Conquering the Fear of Public Speaking

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speakingWe have all heard the old adage that many would prefer death over speaking in public. Why is it that we naturally and instinctively can converse, yet when formalized, many of us freeze or cringe at the thought? Much has been written and businesses thrive to help address this long standing and restricting challenge. So what really works? The following generally accepted strategies are typically employed and perhaps one might be for you.

There are numerous public speaking schools which along with the likes of Toastmasters advocate readiness in terms on Preparation, Practice and Repetition. With these you build a level of confidence that minimizes the fear.

Another approach is associated with what you do immediately prior to the event. There are numerous breathing exercises or you can bounce on a yoga ball to help to relax and get you grounded. For more information visit Cheryl Dolan and check out her “Top 5 tools for Platinum Presence”.

You can also get prescribed anxiety medications that slow down the heart rate and allow you breathe in a more relaxed manner. Be sure to consult with your doctor about the appropriateness of this for you.

Finally, there are also approaches that focus on understanding the beliefs that are creating the fears in the first place. This can often relate to a previous experience; it happened before and therefore our wiring to the brain suggests that it will happen again. Check out the Lefkoe Institute who offers a unique coaching experience in their attempt to remedy this challenge.

For so many, life would be so much more pleasant if this could be conquered. Their voice would be heard and they would have the opportunity to make more valuable contributions. So rather than simply accept and continue to feel this huge discomfort, do something about it. Now is as good a time to start!!

Training Needs – Hard Skills v Soft Skills

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What skills would most benefit an organization? Based on research coming from Stanford University, most people view the answer to this question quite differently when considering their own needs versus the needs of say their peers. More specifically, when asked what they would benefit most from themselves, it tends to be things like time management, finance, strategy, computer skills, etc. These are normally characterized as left brain or technical skills. Interestingly when it comes to identifying what others need, the tendency is to advise more towards communication, interpersonal, conflict resolution, negotiation skills, etc all of which typically fall under right brain or “soft” skills categorization.

So why is there such an anomaly? The answer to this lies in the fact that technical skills are generally perceived as developmental, something that will make you better. On the other hand soft skills are often seen as remedial; fixing something that is wrong. This in turn creates a psychological barrier which forces people to avoid anything that might be perceived as wrong and therefore a weakness.

The reality is that most of the deficiencies that exist in organizations are soft skills related. This starts when people are hired during which the focus is typically on technical abilities. The people doing the hiring are often not equipped to have the “soft” skills types of discussions and therefore avoid it. This in turn creates a situation where the wrong person is hired and the problem just continues to perpetuate itself.

One solution to this lies in facing head on that most organizations have a greater need for “soft” skills development than they think. It should form the part of every employee’s professional development. Needs analysis should focus on what the organization needs rather than what you think for yourself. Otherwise you may end up spending a lot of money fulfilling the perceived needs of the individual but with little value to the organization.

Why Coaching Works – Happiness

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happiness 2Shaun Achor was one of the first researchers to purport that more happiness can be gained in service of others rather than helping yourself. Now more recent research by Michael Norton has viewed this from a slightly different perspective in that more happiness can be gained from having an experience rather than acquiring a product. So it might be fair to say that “Absolute Happiness” comes from providing a great experience to somebody else. What has this got to do with coaching, you might ask?

On the one hand you have a coach who is in service of somebody else. Because of this they are typically very happy with the work they are doing. In many respects this is the draw for why many people enter the profession in the first place; “I’m really happy and satisfied when I am helping others”, is the rhetoric you often hear from aspiring as well as experienced coaches.

On the other hand for clients, their actual experience of coaching is typically very positive and something they look forward to. Clients have the opportunity to engage in real meaningful experiences for themselves to advance whatever is important to them. This is not to suggest that these activities are easy, but the growth and the insights that emerge are very often great sources of satisfaction and happiness.

Recent research coming out of Harvard (Beer, Finnstrom and Schrader) also points to the importance of coaching. Their argument that training is a total waste unless there a leadership buy in as well as business context, and also suggests that good coaching helps create a vehicle for learning integration and therefore meaningful change; one where everybody is happy.

In summary, as coaches the role is to facilitate positive, forward moving experiences for clients. This in turn leads to a sense of happiness which becomes both the fuel, for continued growth, and the reward, for real change.

Lean Coaching

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coaching 3Lean Manufacturing has been an attribute of progressive production systems for many years. It was initiated as part of Toyota’s manufacturing process to eliminate waste and ultimately boost productivity and reduce costs. In a recent edition of the Harvard Business Journal, contributor Steve Blank, discussed the use of lean techniques in entrepreneurial start ups. Again within this context of lean, the argument is made that there are quicker more efficient ways of navigating the start up process that can lead to better outputs and ultimately speedier success.

To use the term “Lean Coaching” might almost sound like heresy to some coaches. There might be fears of expediting the process, being insensitive to people’s needs and just being more concerned about a result rather than the process and people involved. However these thoughts stem from a lack of understanding as to what the concept of lean truly means and for that matter, coaching.

Lean Coaching considers all aspects of the coaching engagement. It’s not just the sessions where coach and client converse; it’s also about the activities in between that emerge from these sessions. But more importantly it has to do with the agreement between coach and client as to how best to affect a solution. Coaching is often driven by the supposed “tried and tested” processes of so many sessions over a period of time. Lean Coaching is solution driven and involves helping the client achieve a solution in an efficient manner, with consideration to both costs and time.

In order to be effective in this method, coaches need to be the following:

  • Solution Oriented – start with the end in mind and get to challenge quickly
  • Skills Mastery – become masterly proficient at using coaching skills and tools
  • Multi Facet Communication – utilize all forms of communicate (text, e-mail, phone, etc) to build and maintain momentum
  • Measure Success – be able to demonstrate achievement

This may appear mechanical but don’t forget this is about the client who is at the core of what coaching is all about. It offers an effective way of helping clients realize solutions in an efficient manner; what client’s wouldn’t want this?

What has happened to Civility?

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When you look at the current political rhetoric, it can be quite difficult to listen to. Quite apart from the element of fear that politicians are attempting to induce, there is also something painfully lacking that could be characterized as common decency. Rather than positively promote what you can do, the tendency is to discredit your opponent by whatever means, which to many boils down to a sheer lack of civility.

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, authors Porath and Pearson suggested that the price of incivility (rudeness or lack of respect) is hurting morale and ultimately the bottom line (and indeed our country’s reputation). They go as far as to suggest that “leaders at work (and in politics) can counter rudeness by monitoring their own action and fostering civility in others.” Common sense and life experiences would suggest a general nodding agreement with this sentiment.

There are a variety of strategies that can be employed consciously to ensure civility.

1. Respect – everybody deserve this no matter who the other person is and irrespective of where they fall in the diversity spectrum.

2. Self Awareness – watch yourself and solicit feedback to make sure that how you show up is consistent with your intentions.

3. Vulnerability – put yourself out there and do not fear moving outside your comfort zone or making mistakes.

4. Optimism – see the good first, seek the opportunities and make choices accordingly. Where you focus (optimism) is where you typically tend to go.

5. Compromise – make agreement the main focus; by understanding differing points of view it will help move towards a decision that is for the larger good.

All of these behaviors also lead to reciprocity. In politics, though current experiences would tend you to think differently, that might be a decision to vote for you. You will find the more civil you are, the more civil others will be with you.

Take Control of Work Life Balance

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Jack Welch, former CEO of GE once remarked “There’s no such thing as work / life balance. There are work / life choices; you make them and they have consequences”

Whatever the theory and whether you are running your own business or working for somebody else, all too often it does feel overwhelming and consuming. The push for financial success and personal sacrifice has become standard. If you are burning the candle at both ends and unhappy, what can be done?

Step 1 – Awareness
The first place to start is to recognize that you have a challenge and wish to do something about it. Awareness precedes change and is truly half the battle. Once you begin to embrace the idea that there is a better way, your mind becomes open to the possibility and opportunities will present themselves.

Step 2 – Choice
When you recognize that something needs to change you must accept that priorities need to be established, decisions need to be made and the implications of your actions understood. With each action comes a reaction and therefore establishing some boundaries to the choices you will make are important.

Step 3 – Action
It is now time to step up to the plate and do something. Action speaks louder than words and these challenges can only be met head on with taking control and committing to doing something about it.

Do any of these resonate with you? The only one that is stopping you achieving balance is you; make a choice and take control!


The Meaning of Purpose

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balance-174328_150What is a life purpose and why is it important? Isn’t life intended to be simple and why not just live in the moment? I read a great little book a few years ago called The Present by Spenser Johnson. The essence of his message is that you should, Learn from the Past, Live in the Present and Plan for the Future. Wow, how profound, yet so simple?

Our purpose maybe found in our past and present but for most of us it is much more critical as it pertains to our future. Why is that? The answer is that most of us haven’t and don’t currently live with a sense of purpose. Kevin McCarthy in his book The On Purpose Person suggests that there are ways in which we can proactively “discover and accomplish” what is most important – this is purpose.

Have you ever tried the exercise of writing your own obituary? I know it sounds morbid but it is quite an amazing exercise. This helps you to consider what you wish to be remembered for. Upon venturing into such an exercise you very quickly forget all the things that you currently worry about – appearance, money, job, etc. and these become relegated very quickly. Instead family, relationships, values, adventure come to the forefront; and this is where one’s purpose truly resides.

One of the greatest ways to live your purpose is to write it down and then tell people. Often times it’s not easy and this provides a form of accountability to do what you said you would do and stick to it. Mine is “to be always there for my family, build / maintain a successful business, have lots of fun and give to others in a meaningful way” – what’s yours?

ROI for Internal Coaching

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Internal Coaches are being developed in organization as a means of making coaching methodology and capability available to more staff. The C-Suite typically has access to external Executive Coaches, but it is cost prohibitive to provide this type of coaching to others below this level. The solution – create your own cadre of coaches. But how would one calculate the ROI on such an initiative? Let’s look at this in qualitative and quantitative terms.


  • Skills – Undoubtedly there would be an addition of skills that would allow both the new coaches and those being coached to see and experience the effectiveness of such an approach. This would lead to higher levels of confidence both in terms of helping themselves and others.
  • Behavior – The essence of the coaching approach provides for a behavioral mindset based on helping and developing other people. This in turn fosters far greater teamwork, sharing of ideas and higher levels of performance all of which that can be observed in how people show up and interact with each other.
  • Commitment – New coaches, and those impacted by it, would also feel a greater connection with the company for making the investment in their development and promoting a much more collaborative approach to problem solving and managing the business.


  • Retention – Employees who are supported by coaching will have an opportunity to address their concerns (caring) and development (improving) which in turn will enhance their confidence and commitment to the organization.
  • Engagement – By working in a more positive environment which is supported by direst coaching, people will feel more aligned with the organization and motivated to getting the job done.
  • Productivity – Coaching can very effectively support cost reduction and innovation initiatives by providing the structure, support and accountability necessary to realize positive results.