Author: necoaching

Mastermind Groups

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mastermindOver that last number of years the concept of Executive Peer or Mastermind Groups has become much more apparent. The concept of the Mastermind Group was formally introduced by Napoleon Hill in the early 1900’s. In his timeless classic, “Think And Grow Rich” he wrote about the Mastermind principle as: “The coordination of knowledge and effort of two or more people, who work toward a definite purpose, in the spirit of harmony.” Its popularity is certainly gaining traction whether formally through organizations such as Linkage or TAB (The Alternative Board) or less so through Chambers of Commerce or individual coaches / consultants bringing together a group of their clients.

For those of you not familiar with these groups, essentially they are an opportunity to bring together non competing business owners and executives in a setting that is developmental, insightful and supportive. It works off the premise that very often this particular constituent is somewhat isolated within their own work environment relative to certain challenges and having an objective peer group provides the forum to address these types of issues.

For some they see the gathering as being akin to having an Advisory Board where challenges can be discussed and advice offered. For others it’s an opportunity to learn new ideas or share experiences. And finally it creates a sense of community and camaraderie (very often non existent within business) with like minded individuals in a trusting environment where real impactful issues can addressed.

This is not a remedial solution for dealing with a problem executive. On the contrary it is a very effective developmental forum through which business owners and executives can truly learn new ideas, become much more enlightened and motivated, and ultimately lead themselves and / or their businesses to greater success.

The Changing Landscape of Work

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workWith the advent of technology and globalization the manner in which business is conducted has dramatically changed over the last 20 years. Dan Pink, in A Whole New Mind refers to the transition from Agricultural to Industrial to Information and now to what he describes as the Innovative or Creative Revolution. The advent of technology and globalization has very much driven this changing landscape, particularly here in the US, and this can be somewhat illustrated by considering the following shifts:

From Repetitive to Creative

Whether its automation or outsourcing, the traditional blue collar work is in decline. In a recent USA Today article it was reported that 80% of new jobs in the US are now created in white collar positions. Even within this work category the traditional financial and analytical jobs are also leaving our shores. What’s left is a melting pot for innovation and having an ability to be continuously improving and looking for the next generation product. We have truly transitioned from the physical (repetitive) to the intellectual (creative).

From Directive to Autonomous

Primarily driven by this “new” type of work, leadership styles and how business operates from a people perspective has had to change. A repetitive, mass production environment might be more conducive to a directive style of management but when you are trying to motivate and manage creativity it just does not work like that. The new approach is based on supporting the autonomy of the individual in executing the task but ensuring that they are still accountable for results.

From Tactical to Strategic

Work is also becoming ever more complex. To support the creative mind and autonomous worker there is also a greater need to understand the bigger picture. Even though individuality is valued it must be in the context of a greater purpose; one that connects with the strategic intent of the business. Organizations need to provide appropriate training, develop open communications and engage employees like never before in order to optimize performance and retain their key people.

Quite apart from the social implications of all this what does it mean for the employee of today? Certainly they have to be more adaptable and flexible in their working arrangements. Interestingly what can be quite a challenge for the boomers is an expectation of the Gen X people. The later are growing up in this “changing” landscape and will clearly ensure its continuity and sustainability.

Emotional Intelligent Selling

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Research conducted by Emotional Intelligent (EI) thought leaders Genos suggests that sales people who demonstrate emotionally intelligent behavior have an edge. In this study it was shown that a group of 40 sales people out performed a comparable controlled group by 12% following their developmental experience with EI (Jennings and Palmer, 2007). So how does a salesperson demonstrating emotionally intelligent behavior show up?

1. Self Awareness
How you show up and present yourself (look, demeanor, attitude, communication style, etc) to a client forms a huge part of how they perceive (and feel about) you. Know what this is as their perception of you is their reality and first impressions can be lasting.

2. Awareness of Others
Sincerely help the client get what they want to buy, rather than what you want to sell. Consequently, you will listen better, be more informed, and establish a better rapport and more likely close the deal; be genuinely empathetic.

3. Emotional Decision Making
We justify based on facts but make decisions on emotions. In most sales both are in play and often we over emphasize the facts and forget about the emotions. Take time to consider how those impacted by what you have to offer really feel about it and you might be surprised with the answer you get.

4. Self Management
Inevitably in sales you are going to meet with disappointment. Don’t let this show in front of potential clients. You can manage these emotions and maintain a positive disposition at all times; remain resilient.

Emotionally intelligent behavior can be summed up as doing the appropriate thing with the appropriate person at the appropriate time. In fact some would suggest that EI might be a better predictor of sales success than experience, knowledge or personality. This is not to say that these are not important but more that Emotional Intelligence should not be overlooked.

Success and Happiness – which comes first?

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Harvard researcher Shaun Achor has demonstrated through his various studies that happiness does not necessarily come from success. In fact, he goes as far to suggest that it’s the other way around. He contends it is only by being happy that you can achieve true success. So if this is the case, how does one become happy in the first place?

super heroAn interesting study conducted by Michael Norton from Harvard Business School proposed one possible solution. His hypothesis was that money can in fact buy happiness. However the caveat to this very much surrounds what you actually do with the money. Over the course of his research, they gave $50 to a variety of different people and one group were told to buy something for themselves and the other had to be spend it on somebody else. Post this activity through a variety of questions used to assess a relative degree of happiness, an interesting finding emerged. On a consistent basis those who spent money helping people they knew or even total strangers derived a far greater sense of happiness from this versus spending it on themselves.

This has also been validated in research on lottery winners who very often, through their self indulgence with their winnings, lose all their friends and family and very often end up extremely unhappy.

So what can we extrapolate from this that might be pertinent to the world of work and business? Money is one way we can give of ourselves but there are also many other ways such as supporting colleagues, praising others, helping out with challenging situations or volunteering your time. It is the actual process of giving that is so gratifying from which comes a sense of happiness.

In fact there is also a positive knock on or reciprocal effect to all of this; one that builds positive relationships, teamwork, alignment and the pursuit of a common goal. So rather than think how you might achieve success, how about unconditionally giving first, realizing the happiness it gives you and then seeing where it leads you?

The Coaching Pricing Model

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costMany people new to the profession of coaching often find themselves, from the outset, unprepared for the challenge of how much to charge clients. This is largely due to the intangible nature of the service and whether one should use the traditional “Cost Plus” or the “Value Added” model of pricing. Let’s explore both.

Cost Plus

This is very much the model that is used based on the costs incurred by the provider, in this case the coach. Traditionally the legal, consulting and accounting profession, calculate an hourly rate based on the direct costs of labor consumed in addition to some calculated overhead allocation. The trouble is within the coaching profession you could hear anything from $50 to $500 per hour. With such a disparity it is small wonder that new coaches are very unsure what to charge because there really is no benchmark. In addition this can be very limiting relative to what a client might actually be willing to pay; aka leaving money on the table. The client might feel they got a good deal but leaves a bitter taste in the mouth of the coach which is never good in the long term.

Value Added

A more favorable model that is emerging is using pricing based on the potential value to the client. This of course begs the question as to how one might determine value. The answer lies in putting considerably more effort in up front to determining what the client wants or what success might look like. In pursuit of this information, one’s coaching abilities will be clearly demonstrated, affordability of client will be better understood and relationships get developed thus aiding the overall selling process. All of this leads to being able to make a better assessment of how the individual / organization could truly benefit from the coaching service. The consequence of this approach is that, more often than not, a price is arrived at that very adequately compensates the coach while at the same time providing the client with a clearer sense of value for money.

So the next time you, as a coach, are faced with a quandary of how much to charge, spend more time upfront coaching them, better understanding the need, building the relationship, demonstrating your abilities and ultimately closing the deal.

Coaching: How difficult can it be to sell?

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sellDan Pink in his uniquely literary style, “To Sell Is Human” challenges us to accept the fact that although you may not be in “Sales”, we are in fact selling most of the time. The Webster dictionary defines selling as “to give up to another for something of value”. Implicit in this definition is the idea that some form of mutual exchange is actually taking place which we normally consider relative to a product or service in exchange for money.

When you broaden this definition of selling, you are getting into the realm of influencing, cajoling, asking and indeed coaching. Dan Pink argues that selling is all about moving people, and so too is coaching. The term “coaching” was supposedly borrowed from the old stage coach that physically transported (moved) people from one place to another.

What makes this concept even interesting is that when you truly coach somebody, it’s as though the client is making a deal (selling) with themselves – doing something in exchange for a desired outcome. Some examples might be:

  • Actively looking for a new job so that you will be happier with your career
  • Exercising and dieting so you can lose weight
  • Learning and practicing new skills so that you can be a better leader

The intent here is to demystify the idea for coaches that selling is difficult or that some coaches argue that they are not comfortable “selling”. How about you think of coaching as a most effective form of selling? After all it’s about helping the potential client see what they want and the “movement” required to getting there. So just coach and without knowing it, you might be closing the deal or convincing that boss of a necessary change.

What a Good Coaching Program Teaches You

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studentMany individuals seeking to become professional coaches think that it’s a matter of learning new skills and tools and then applying them effectively with clients. There are countless programs out there that will prepare you for this and indeed there are no shortages of books written on the subject as well. However what most people overlook is that becoming a coach is more than just acquiring new skills and tools; it’s also about how YOU adapt to becoming a great coach.

What does this mean? Before you can become a great coach you need to embrace your own inner client. Very often, students of coaching programs enter training seeking a fine tuning process. They are looking for some additional tools and skills but it’s not until they experience the impact on themselves does the real learning take place. Coaching is not about the theory but about the emotions, the experiences and actions that come from it.

Let’s draw a clear distinction. Having this experience of the impact of coaching is very different to being experienced as a coach. To be a great coach you must go through this transformation for yourself and from this you will notice certain paradigm shifts that are specific to you. For example to be truly non judgmental you need to be non judgmental of yourself. Armed with this confidence and clarity you can much better handle all coaching situations and be at your best for clients.

So whatever you do, ensure that the program you select affords you the opportunity to apply the skills and tools to yourself. Feel, do and act what you learn and with this shift you will be on the road to becoming a great coach.

Questions to Control the Conversation

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Lawyers and Journalist pride themselves on the ability to be able to ask the right questions; whether it is the testimony of somebody in the courtroom or the next breaking story. However within both of these situations it’s not always about the truth or doing what’s right for the person being questioned. In fact the person “in the firing line” is often but a mere pawn in a bigger game in the primary pursuit of somebody else’s agenda. So who is supposed to be the real beneficiary of questioning?

When we think about questioning in the context of business or leadership there is often much skepticism as to what’s really going on. There are also many different ways that questions can be asked that feeds this skepticism. Let’s consider a few different ways leadership abilities can be enhanced by the simple yet very effective use of appropriate questioning. There are three different levels.

conversationLevel 1 – Closed Ended
This is the question that does not solicit much discussion and often can be met with some defensiveness due to its sometimes judgmental interpretation. It is typically a yes / no answer, which although sometimes perhaps necessary, can be limiting in terms of information and understanding.

Example: Will you meet the month end deadline?

Level 2 – Open Ended
This is much more effective than Level 1, engages the person, gets them talking and with appropriate listening can very effectively help people move to where they need to go. It also provides context for an answer, helps create a better understanding of what the challenges are. However it has a tendency to be problem focused.

Example: How are you coming along for the month end deadline?

Level 3 – Empowering
These are questions that are asked in an open ended fashion but are set in the context of helping the individual evaluate and identify the opportunities, be motivating and focused on the solution. This is the optimum level where the focus is on supporting and enabling the person being questioned to achieve a desired outcome.

Example: What are your priorities for ensuring you meet the month end deadline?

From a leadership perspective, many forget that the person asking the empowering questions actually controls the conversation. In fact very often in groups or teams they establish credibility because their questions benefit everybody present and that is their sincere motivation.


Great Teams Form Community

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community 2As 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.

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.


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energy 2Motivation can take on many forms from physical rewards and incentives (Extrinsic) to the more subtleties of recognition, fulfillment and general emotional satisfaction (Intrinsic). As human beings we don’t function or perform solely on motivation; we also need energy. But what do we mean by energy and how does it manifest itself in the workplace?

In this context energy is primarily sourced from our thoughts, beliefs and behaviors; essentially how we, as human beings, show up. Bruce Schneider of iPEC Coaching has done quite considerable research into this arena and he points to two major types of energy that are at opposite ends of a continuum.

  • Anabolic – this is positive energy and is characterized by constructive mindset intent on building relationships. This positivity is promoted through congruence with values and beliefs, and with a connection to personal purpose. Possibility is apparent and people in this space are active participants and want to achieve results. There is a contagion affect and people are attracted to those with this energetic state. At the highest level they have won the game before it starts; they know what they want and act appropriately and accordingly.
  • Catabolic – this type of energy is destructive and harmful to individuals and organizations. Apathy and anger are very apparent and there is a propensity for conflict and people being in the victim mode. This negativity causes people to disengage and, at best, passive which in turn fosters more catabolic energy. The attitude is defiance and total unwillingness to contribute as they feel they have no power, no choice and consequently no chance of success.

However, by virtue of these being driven by thoughts, beliefs and behaviors, they can be changed. Establishing self awareness around where you are at predominantly along this continuum is a great starting point. Even though we might have a predominant state, depending on circumstances, we also oscillate back and forth (good days and bad days!). However once this is better understood you can begin the process of moving to a place of choice and create action towards your desired state.