Cheryl offers: Have you ever had one of those experiences where you complete something and think “Well, that was OK, but it didn’t quite hit the mark; and I’m not sure why I feel this way?” Well, it happened to me with the blog a few days ago by the same title, only it was part 1 and I didn’t realize it at the time. Something kept bothering me about that blog. I felt like I was missing a point, something really important. Then it hit me out of the blue while I was not really thinking about it at all. What was missing is this. The phrase “Help me understand” is about having the person asking the question understands or learn more. Or as is often the case, it is about them having an idea of what the answer should be and seeing if by talking about it more, you can figure out what they think you should know. The focus of the conversation is on the person stating the phrase. In a true coaching relationship, it’s the opposite! The coach does ask questions, but not for their own education on the topic. In fact, when we train leaders to be coaches, we direct them to avoid the topic and keep the conversation focused on the coachee. True coaching questions are designed to facilitate the learning for the person being asked. This is the direct opposite of the phrase “Help me understand” intent when the learning is asker centered. This is what was tickling me from my unconscious. In a true coaching relationship, the focus of the listening, the questions, and the energy is all on the person being coached. So, when a person says they want to have a coaching conversation and then ask to be educated, just know this is NOT a coaching conversation. Maybe this is why many people are insulted or put off by the phrase.
And you know how that came to me out of the blue? I bet everyone reading this has had this experience. Annie McKee discusses this in Resonant Leadership. Our brains need to rest so they can be truly creative. When we rush about working frantically, then try to think clearly, most of us find it difficult to easily select that best answer. When we allow ourselves down time and rest, our brains have the energy and space for creativity. Rest is essential to great leadership.
From Sara: Open letter to Jerry Jones: “Jerry, I heard you interviewed on TV last night and you were asked about the chemistry of the Cowboys football team. You basically told the reporters that good chemistry would happen when the team wins. You went on to explain that bad chemistry is to be expected when the team loses…in fact, I think your conclusion was that “chemistry” isn’t important in your locker room. I am not surprised the enormous talents of these athletes don’t translate into a winning team. Do you hear your own message, Jerry? You are devaluing the very element that your game is missing – being a team. You can’t just pay people and expect them to be a team. There are so many directions to take the conversation from here! I could point you towards building teamwork by reading Good to Great by Jim Collins; or talk about the responsibility the leader has to results as described in Primal Leadership by Goleman, Boyatzis, McKee. (BTW, those are both relevant topics for the Cowboy organization.) In my role as executive coach, I would ask you “How are you regarding the players?” You seem to view them as objects; you pay them so they should do what you want. Martin Buber the 20th century philosopher calls that an “I-It” relationship. That’s where you treat people as commodities, not as people. There is better way. It is to see and treat people like people. Want to win the Super Bowl? Read Leadership and Self Deception by the Arbinger Institute and give me a call.
Cheryl Adds: Most people might tell you that it wasn’t the words you spoke last night in that interview that they recall, it was the emotions you displayed. There was arrogance and blame plain as day. It was the underlying tone saying, in other words “It’s not my fault; blame someone else.” And what great justification you have for feeling that way; after all, you pay all the money so it must be someone else’s fault. What’s missing is the acknowledgement that emotions are contagious as pointed out in Resonant Leadership by Annie McKee and Richard Boyatzis. This translates into an emotional viral infection of the team where every member of the Cowboys now has permission to say and worse, feel the same way. Any time a group is saying to themselves, “It’s someone else’s fault for this result”, in your case losing, then the culture created is one of blame and no trust. How can team members work together effectively with no trust? And who is working on taking responsibility and thus working on a solution to this problem if they are busy pointing fingers towards their team mates? There will never be accountability if the leader is not accountable, visibly and emotionally. As McKee, Boyatzis, and Goleman point out in Primal Leadership, “The glue that holds people together in a team, and that commits people to an organization, is the emotions they feel.” Still think chemistry isn’t important in the locker room, Big J?
Cheryl and Sara provide a woman’s perspective on business books.
Sara offers: As we work in the unique environment that is 2009, I am intrigued by which leaders are thriving and which ones, merely surviving. Tim is in sales and struggles because the market is depressed, people aren’t spending money and he finds himself working more and more hours and feeling frazzled all the time. The lack of time he has with his family adds guilt to his frustration. Fran is in the same business – sales. She is energized by the market and sees it as a place of business development and possibilities. She leads her team into the future by investing well in the present. Fran works hard and plays hard. When she leaves work, she gives herself time to renew and refresh. The primary difference between these two is one of the key ideas in Resonant Leadership by Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee. Leaders have a responsibility to renew themselves to remain good leaders. The book examines how the human brain needs cycles – times of high activity followed by periods of rest and renewal. The problem with life today is that with all the ways to stay in touch…Blackberries, iPhones, etc. We can live lives of non-stop desperation (with apologies Henry David Thoreau) where frazzled becomes a way of life.
Cheryl offers: Political preferences (truly) aside, when I first heard Barack Obama’s theme of “Hope, Yes We Can”, I couldn’t help but think of what I learned reading Resonant Leadership. I also believed if he could deliver this message in a way that connected to a wide audience, he would become the next president, largely on what the message Hope offers. As things turned out, he was able to do just that.
So what is it about hope that is so powerful? Hope helps us feel excited about a future that’s possible. Hope is one of those positive emotions that “impact our openness and cognitive flexibility, problem-solving abilities, empathy, willingness to seek variety, and persistence.” It has also been shown to “lead to other positive emotions (think fun, exciting), more positive thoughts (the ability to reset and rekindle passion), superior coping abilities (because it engages a different part of the brain), and less depression – even in people with serious physical conditions such as spinal cord injuries.” Anyone remember how hopeful and inspiring Christopher Reeves lived his life after the horse riding accident? Hope helps us visualize a future with clarity and ignites energy to move forward. “We can all apply visualization techniques to cultivate hope in our lives. Besides triggering mindfulness and a sense of renewal (which Sara refers to above), such exercises can help guide our decisions and future actions.” It can be the difference between being labeled a pessimist and an optimist. So, if hope triggers renewal and Fran has figured out how important that is to a leader’s effectiveness, who wants to bet Fran also recognizes the value of hope, for herself and her team?