Why Coaching Matters … And the Results I Achieve

Coaching-800x471Coaching actually does matter.

When I was younger (“When I were a lad”), I frequently thought I had to accomplish it all myself. I had to prove myself – even if it was only to me. Surely I was smart enough and competent enough? So when organisations talked about bringing in consultants and others to help us achieve more, I thought, “Why would you want to? We can do it on our own!” And I was good at getting others to come up with ideas and create new outcomes. Typically, the results were far superior to anything advocated by the consultants, change experts and teams of people brought in to improve conditions.

But I was missing something really important:

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Why You Need to Stop Searching for Just the Right Words

Words Words WordsRhetorimania or Motivomania – I’m not sure how I’m going to go with this, but I’m creating a new word to describe the undue obsession some people have with looking for inspiring words, rhetoric or ‘motivational’ speeches and literature to ‘move’ them to do something.

Many of my clients say that one of the things I do is to work with their leadership and their talents in a special way to help them become better leaders and better people. And frequently, part of that is developing them as leaders who authentically and enthusiastically communicate a persuasive and inspiring message.

Now, this may sound crazy, but as a communications expert, as a student of language, as a lover of literature, as an enthusiast for expression, as an ardent admirer of the art of the address, I have grown increasingly frustrated and dismissive over the years with people who are all about words.

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Why You Can’t Be Precious

Don't become a prisoner of 'the precious'

Don’t become a prisoner of ‘the precious’

You’ve seen it before: the boss invites feedback and an ‘open dialogue’ and as soon as someone shows individuality or is overly assertive or says they don’t like an idea, then that person is labelled ‘not a team player’, or a ‘problem’, and the boss retreats to her/his predetermined position on just about everything that she or he regards as important. ‘The Precious’ idea, feeling or attitude has taken over!

You can’t afford to be precious about your ideas, your leadership and your organisation or life. Continue reading

Microchips and Dogs – find that dog!

Our dog Edison escaped from our home Friday night.

Our family was out during the evening and with all the rain, when we returned home and settled in for the night, I thought it strange that Edison didn’t come in as he usually does, but attributed it to his desire to stay out of the rain in his shelter on the other side of the house. So Saturday morning, when my girls and I went searching for him to give him breakfast, we were horrified to see that he wasn’t anywhere to be found. And thus ensued the mad panic to find our dog anywhere in the neighbourhood.

Visions came flooding to my mind of the time when, as a little kid, my family and I found our pet dog run over outside the home after his own escape. Please let it not be so for Edison!

I searched on foot immediately around the area and called the city pound while I searched and my wife called the RSPCA. They pound was closed but would open soon, so I left a message. Finding nothing, I returned home and one of my daughters and I hopped in the car and drove towards some of our favoured spots for walking Edison, searching and calling out as we went. The pound called back just before their opening time and determined that they had Edison.

His name tag had fallen off, but what made it easy to identify him? It was a microchip embedded subcutaneously behind his ear when he was a pup. They had scanned promptly when they got a hold of him. It’s standard procedure to check for these electronic tags. Although our home number had changed, Edison’s name, my wife’s details and mobile phone number were on there. It turns out they actually called my wife’s phone and left a message the previous night, but she hadn’t checked!

That foresight – that risk assessment and remedy – of embedding the microchip had made it possible for relevant people to quickly identify our dog, his owner’s name and means of contact. It also saved us the worry and days of potential search.

It turns out I was right about where he would head – he had been found by a local resident near where my daughter and I were searching. That resident took the time to contact the city to take care of the little lad. It’s the kind of system set up by most local authorities and the resident followed through.

When Trouble Occurs…

When trouble occurs, it’s good to track back from where habits lead us and determine a course of action. We need to follow systems and guidelines that help us to deal with contingencies. And we also need to call on help from those who can assist us.

Have you ‘microchipped’ your assets in the event of possible risk – the people, processes and products that you create? the values, propositions and artefacts behind your work and life? the articulations, connections and locations that make things possible? – so that the right people can access the right information at the right time and make it possible for you recover or continue with what is precious to you?

And if you have a pet, make sure they’re tagged and your details are up to date.

Edison

© 2014 Peter J. McLean

Practise for Performance

One of the great secrets of improving performance is the concept of ‘deliberate practise’. It’s been popularised in a couple of recent business/self-help books, but originates more from the research of K. Anders Ericsson in describing the cognitive acquisition of expert performance. And that’s been around since at least the early 1990s.

In fact, the principle goes back much much further than that: from Aristotle through to the major global religions, to Mozart, to contemporary basketball superstars, they all advocate the value of practising on a repeated basis.

What most people miss in professional situations, however, is the ‘deliberate’ part. They say, “Well, I’ve been doing this profession for 20 years, I ought to be good at it by now.” But deliberate practise involves focusing on specific aspects and techniques of your work in order to become more skilled. It’s the kind of thing that often doesn’t happen in the myriad of demands placed on you during your work. Think of the violin prodigies practising their fingering, sets of scales and a couple of pieces for 5 hours a day for months and months – then years and years – before becoming those brilliant virtuosos.

The deliberate practise principle is one I’ve long built in to my work helping people to become better leaders, better at their work, better communicators and public speakers and more. Break down the skills. Build in opportunities to rehearse them. Use your natural gifts and talents to help build those skills.

What skills or results do you need to build that you are not deliberately practising? If you need to build them, but don’t know how, then it’s time to pull the performance apart and analyse how you can improve your performance.

How much improvement is worth the effort? Well, for a virtuoso violinist, a 1% improvement in performance is a world away from everyone else. And for them, that’s worth it.

“He’s Like a New Man!”

My client started off a conversation on Monday by addressing how things are going with one of his key people,

“Really good. Really good. He’s like a new man, to be honest!”

I’ve been coaching this key Project Manager in his overall leadership and project management, his innovation, his business sense, his client relationships, his presence, his communication, his attitude, his positivity and the respect, commitment and follow-through he generates from his team and those all around him. Additionally, it has been essential to foster a strong, productive relationship between him and his manager. The individual has been a productive Project Manager in the past, however there had been a number of problems with his recent projects, decreased profitability, evident issues with his leadership, and loss of potential follow-up work and variations with lucrative clients.

The Operations Manager and Human Resource Manager of this powerful resources firm didn’t want to abandon or dismiss this Project Manager, nor could they afford to turn a blind eye to an individual responsible for multi-million dollar projects. They knew that a workshop or other ‘educational’ solution would not produce results. Their best option was to hire me to help this man change for the better. They knew by recommendation that I would deliver.

The fundamental shifts in mindset came within the first couple of conversations. I work towards creating dramatic results wherever possible. Besides gathering information and profiling the coaching client, I observed him with his staff and clients on-site. We followed through with a number of principles and specific behaviours for him to address: everything from conceptualisation of the critical elements of leadership and project management, through to client interaction and his impact on the business. I helped him form a framework for how he thinks and communicates with others.

What I did was work to create a positive, forward-thinking, more business-savvy, strategic leader who learned better how to lead and manage a team that would be more concerted, more enthusiastic, more driven, more committed and pleased with their successes.

Amongst other things, the Senior Manager commented on the coaching client’s change from a previously pessimistic and negative attitude to a positive and more constructive one:

“You can see him pull himself up … it’s actually noticeable. It’s really good!”

Results such as the change that we have achieved are worth the investment of time and money. My coaching (and his efforts) has changed this man’s leadership, his professionalism and his life for the better and changed those of the people around him.

Coaching is future-focused. It’s about how you improve later today and tomorrow. So whether it’s taking the cream of the crop and helping them to be even better or remedying performance, there is always an element of change involved.

As one of my executive clients says when he eagerly records some points of insight during our discussions, “This is what it’s about … getting those refinements to my thinking and behaviour!”

I believe that creating dramatic change also requires creating lasting change. To do that, you need to address fundamental beliefs, assumptions and values – and that applies to both individuals and organisations. It also requires the presentation of evidence that can dramatically affect someone’s assumptions and influencing that individual or group through insightful communication. Surface agreement leads to surface ripples, but no underwater current.

Funnily, the senior Manager had asked the coaching client after our very first session, how it had affected him. The ‘coachee’ noted a number of thoughts and ideas he was excited about. The senior Manager laughed, “But that’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.” “Yeah, but Peter had a really good way of saying it!” How you communicate messages are critical to change and coaching discussions – and communicating these using multiple means of persuasion. (And I’m good at communicating those messages.)

Once initial changes are made, follow-through, accountability, managing the environment, while extrapolating implications, behaviours and further principles are all vital. It’s one of the reasons why I create unique technologies, IP and processes to maintain that growth.

Make the effort to create change for yourself and your organisation. It’s worth great investments to see that “new man”!

Whether you want private consulting and coaching, remote or face-to-face work, or team and organisational consulting, we can implement processes that will create dramatic improvement for you and your people. Contact me through theleadershiplamplight.com or www.lamplighter.com.au if you would like to discuss how you can improve your performance.

Copyright 2014 Peter J. McLean.

 

Meaning From Your Work

Much of my work centres on enhancing and leveraging the meaning that my clients derive from their work – both individually and organisationally.

It is too easy in the modern economy to focus on anaemic ‘value adding’ and ‘shareholder value’ without focusing on the meaningfulness of the work one actually performs.

One of my clients, CEO of a major publicly listed company with over $250 million annual revenue, found himself trapped in a situation where the board and shareholders were focused on maximising shareholder value. He confided to me that share prices had risen 10-fold since his appointment and that he was regarded therefore as a superstar, but that analytically it was a mystery to him why the share price had risen so high. It was equally a mystery why the share price had dropped so low before his tenure, excepting that market ‘confidence’ was the prime reason and that there were problems with the management of the company. I noted that it was equally market confidence in his ability that had led to the share price rise, but we agreed that this would be unsustainable.

One of the key problems was that the short-sighted ‘shareholder value’ view did not focus on the organisation’s central mission for its clients. And that meant that they weren’t doing what they needed to in their management, long-range planning and capacity-building to ensure that they were competitively placed in the market and ensuring growth. He knew there was so much that needed to be changed and he was the man to do it. Unfortunately, it was the board that suffered from a lack of strategic and operational courage and blocked him left, right and centre and reacted spontaneously with panic to market forces, undermining his role as the CEO.

To cut a long story short, I suspected that his frustration – and the board’s intransigence – might lead to his departure from the position. Sure enough, just a couple of months after we ceased working together on a major presentation, he decided while on vacation that he’d had enough of this game. It wasn’t what he wanted for himself, his family, or his career. Financially, he was wealthy enough to never ‘work’ another day in his life and still have a lot left over. He wasn’t in it for the money. Never had been. He was in the game to do something meaningful in an industry that he loved.

Therefore, he quit and a short while afterwards started a new company under his banner. Within a few months, many in the industry he served flocked to his company because they knew that his name meant high value, quality product and service. They trusted him, because he sought the intrinsic meaning and value from his work, as did those who came to work with him.

A couple of years later, his new company continues to do well. He puts in the effort where he wants and has a team of people delivering great value for their clients. And they have an outstanding, high value enterprise that benefits everyone with ‘value’. It’s just not listed on the speculative, mystery-laden, confidence-swindling, hedge-funding stock exchange dominated by ‘numbers men’ who don’t understand the inherent value of the enterprise.

The public company for which he was CEO never did revert to building the right management and quality and has become a sad byword in the industry as it slowly dwindles away. It currently has revenue less than a third of that from just a few short years ago and is engaged in a protracted asset sell-off as it loses more and more capability and more and more contracts due to poor execution. Its share price has to be measured in decimal points – a mere fraction of the value it once held.

Steve Jobs famously demonstrated time and again that ‘maximising shareholder value’ was not his focus – it was creating great tech that people loved. And he and his team at Apple built a fabulous global company that certainly has delivered tremendous shareholder value.

Too many CEOs don’t take that approach and wonder why their lives and the execs around them are shallow and deprived of meaning. It is through their external lives – not their companies – that they find meaning, if at all.

It’s past time for those CEOs to look to find the inherent meaning and value in their work. Focus on the customer. Focus on your people. Focus on a great industry with exciting product and innovations, the joy of creation and the delight of winning at your work. Focus on using your gifts & talents and those of your people to achieve something worthwhile – and profitable. But don’t focus on the $$ above all else. Down that path lies moral and spiritual destitution, depression and despair.

Whilst it is difficult for CEOs and Boards, particularly those publicly listed, to focus on the meaning of what they are doing, it is essential. It requires courage. But it has never been denied that great leadership does not want for courage.

You can find the meaning in your work, but you need to take the time, the effort and the counsel to do so. I’ve made it a speciality to do so in all my work, as have many people I have worked alongside throughout differing careers. I’ve had the pleasure of helping and coaching people in finding theirs. It is not only feasible, it is entirely possible and practical to do so. The result is exhilarating and liberating.

Whether you are a CEO, a chief executive, a business owner, or a poor ‘shmuck’ on the bottom of the totem pole, you can find meaning. Give it a try.

How have you found meaning in your work? What value has that added to you, those you serve and your organisation? LEAVE A COMMENT.

If you would like to become the best leader, team or organisation you can be, Get in Touch for our world class consulting, coaching, development and speaking services. You can also subscribe to one of our online video series at www.lamplighter.com.au/viewStory/Video+Seminars or avail yourself of our other resources to help you grow and succeed.

Copyright 2013 Peter J. McLean. http://www.lamplighter.com.au, http://www.authenticspeaking.com.au and http://theleadershiplamplight.com

The Perils and Pain of Perfectionism

I admit it: My name is Peter, and I am a recovering perfectionist.

Though often used as the self-congratulatory response of job applicants (Interviewer: “What’s your most significant weakness?” Interviewee: “Oh, I’m a perfectionist. Everything has to be to an extremely high standard for me. I want my work to always be my best!!”), perfectionism can be a dastardly and debilitating habit. Procrastination, never-ending ‘near completion’ and unrealistic expectations of self and others can create toxic work environments.

This interesting news article (“Pressure to be perfect hurting musicians”), points to the physical pain, depression and performance anxiety suffered by classical musicians. This significant Australian study (see the original abstract here), demonstrates a significant relationship between depression and anxiety, perfectionism and physical pain in classical musicians, with 84% suffering performance pain at some stage and 50% reporting current pain. ‘Suffering for your art’ is the truth! It’s what most reasonable people have always thought is the by-product of all those tiger mums and sports dads.

One very interesting comment from Professor Kenny (who has created an inventory and scale for Musical Performance Anxiety) was that gifted young people had ‘had their identities foreclosed on them.’ That is, at a young age, everyone else decided who these young people should be – brilliant musicians – and they have followed that identity ever since. They never got the chance to be something else of their own choosing.

People and organisations get this wrong all the time – they seek after perfection and foreclose on their identities and productivity. Creativity, productivity and just plain life are messy and fluid. Although it can be really really great, you will never create the perfect system or the perfect result. Live with that. Accept it. Your neuroses will decrease exponentially, as will your pain – both psychological and physical. And if you find harsh, perfectionist task-masters in your organisations, have it out with them – results, not perfection, are what matter in organisations. Results that everyone can be proud of.

Perfectionism so often leads to nothing getting accomplished, because the law of ever diminishing returns means that once you pass the 80/85% mark, you’re spending ever-increasing amounts of time getting the last little bits just right. And that final .00005% is so horribly ducking and weaving from your ability to pin down. It prevents products from being launched and then refined (instead of being beaten to the punch by a lesser competing product), it prevents people from going for a job, it prevents people from being proud of their team, heck it even prevents people finding someone to love because nobody else is their version of ‘perfect.’

We don’t need everything to be absolutely ‘perfect’ for us to enjoy and thrive and for others to benefit. In fact, it would be pretty boring to be perfect, as human concepts of perfection require the elimination of deviation and variability. It has to be ‘just so’. That’s plain crazy.

The reality is that perfectionism is driven by fear. Fear of failure. Fear of loss. Fear of disapproval. Fear of being less.

Like me, become a recovering perfectionist. It’s a long time since I had the overwhelming desire to be perfectionist. I was the subject of psychological profile a number of years ago that said I could be more than 99%+ certain of something, but still not say it or commit to it, because I wasn’t 100% sure. Like Mr. Spock, my guesses were far better than most people’s deductions. Confronted with that on a psych profile (I mean, really, that’s sad when it comes out in a short assessment), I resolved to overcome that, and I have in many respects. But I do have to remind myself: get it out there. That’s more important.

Just get it done. You’ll be much happier and more successful and it will be less painful for everyone.

Stretch

A lot of the strengths-based literature and programs stops at: “utilise your strengths and don’t concentrate on weaknesses”. This leaves people with the impression that all you have to do is work solely with ‘what you’re good at.’  Unfortunately, as far as most of that literature is concerned, many in management and many in personal development, people actually take this advice seriously and end up with narrow parameters of individual and organisational capability. To put it another way, people and organisations are actively discouraged from growing.

One of our clients has said to us that when she took the “Strengths Finder” she found it depressing, because of the constrictions it seemed to place on her, the way it was phrased and the fact that, according to the strengths finder, she couldn’t do the kinds of work she had been doing very well for a long time and should not aspire towards the further growth she was aiming for. (By contrast, she felt very positive and encouraged when taking our Harrison Assessments work preferences profiling – which is strengths oriented, but doesn’t straightjacket people – and found it extremely productive and targeted for her workforce.)

In life, work and leadership we should aim to STRETCH: Stretch our abilities, our knowledge, our understanding, our compassion, our leadership, our connection with others and our ability to perform at our highest levels in our chosen endeavours. We can do this organisationally as well – endeavouring to further the capabilities, reach and impact of our teams and organisations.

To stretch, instead of merely identifying your ‘operational’ strengths, seek to understand the nature of your underlying gifts, talents and resources and what you need to bring to bear to reach a higher level. These may be internal or external resources. On a personal level they may be physical, intellectual, emotional, social or spiritual. On an organisational level, they may involve your people, processes and organisational resources – again, both internal and external. Find your reason, your purpose and then stretch towards achieving that purpose.

And don’t forget ‘serendipity’ in this process. Sometimes the opportunities will come because you have been stretching – without seeing what is up ahead and above – but once the opportunity comes, then you see how your new talents and skills can meet the opportunity.

In education, it has been well established that one of the primary enablers of high achievement is learner expectation – that is, what a learner expects to be able to accomplish and being pushed beyond that by a capable teacher, trainer, coach or mentor builds ever-increasing levels of expectation of achievement. One’s intrinsic motivation is critical to one’s achievement. If you expect to exceed your abilities and are pushed to, then you will achieve higher levels. If you expect to achieve little, then guess what: you will achieve little.

This is where leadership – your self-leadership and your leadership of others – is so important. As a leader, you can help people to create a success loop of achievement beyond normal expectations that can build to increasingly higher levels of performance and achievement.

I was fortunate to have a boss who was also a mentor to me when I was a young man at University in the US. When asking him about some opportunities that I had and was applying for, I sought his advice on what I should do. Should I stick with what I knew more, or challenge myself and try something that was far more scary? His response was simple, “Which one will help you grow more?” The answer was equally simple. Although I wasn’t accepted into the opportunity I was applying for, I kept aiming for what would help me to grow and have borne his question in mind throughout the years. By doing so, I have very personally been able to help thousands of people to also grow and achieve, have served and led in numerous industries, have had experiences that the vast majority of people only ever dream about and have shouldered the enormous challenge of leading and caring for my family through our trials with our disabled daughter. It wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t stretched myself over many years.

You can do it for yourself. Don’t accept that ‘this is where you will always be’, but challenge yourself – STRETCH – grow and achieve.

Free Sample Videos

Free sample videos of the Authentic Speaking® Video Series and the Gifted Leadership™ videos have been added to my blog and websites. View them here at www.lamplighter.com.au/viewStory/Video+Seminars or here on the blog. Even if you don’t subscribe, you can still benefit from a few tips in these samples!