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Posts tagged ‘coaching’

12 tips to be a better coach

image by BernzillaI often hear people saying they are coaching others in an agile context. Coaching is often incorrectly used to mean: consulting, teaching, mentoring and a few other unexpected meanings.

Coaching is very useful to help people get from “point A to point B” and it can be used in various contexts, including coaching for Agile adoption or to help people managers modify their leadership style. Either way, to be powerful, coaching requires a few basic skills and a question from my friend Yves prompted me to describe 12 fundamental elements that I believe are required to be an effective coach. You are more than welcome to share your thoughts.

  1. Inner silence: To be truly effective at listening to what others are saying and how they are feeling, it is critical to block the voice inside your head – yes that’s right, that voice that rambles all the time saying things such as: I wonder what we’ll eat for dinner tonight?… Damn, I forgot to make reservation for dinner… I hope the kids did well on their math test today… I’m bored… I think I want a coffee right now. I heard the term monkey brain to describe this constant action of jumping around from one thought to the next. To be an effective coach, you will need your monkey brain to calm down so you can find inner peace.
  2. Stop all judgment: When you coach people, it is easy and unproductive to become judgmental. Comments such as: Wow, that’s a weird comment… I wonder why he’s saying this… There must be some secret meaning to that sentence… I don’t think I’l be able to help her on this topic… I feel insecure… This won’t help be effective at all. Simply listen to what is being said for what it is being said. Judgments will sidetrack your listening abilities and will make you a very poor coach.
  3. Stay focused: Now that you stopped all judgements and are able to keep the inner voice quiet, you need to remain focused for more than 6 seconds. Yes, just like meditation, this sounds like an impossible task at first but with practice, you will develop your focusing-muscle and the task will get easier with time allowing you to be more present to what the other person is expressing.
  4. Be present: Be in the moment – right there and then. Listen to what is being said, notice how the person is acting and give her your full attention and make the space secure for the conversation.
  5. Don’t aim for personal performance: Aiming for an academy award when you are coaching simply doesn’t work. You are not there to impress anyone. Ironically, the more you will try to impress the other person, the less effective you will be. She will will quickly notice that the focus is on you and not her which will make it pretty much impossible to actually support her development.
  6. Ask open ended questions and wait for the answers: Remember, you are not telling a story, you are there to listen. If you need clarification or want to encourage discussion, simply ask a short question. Trust yourself that the other person will understand your questions and if they don’t, they will quickly let you know. Once you have asked your question, wait for the answer.
  7. Trust your intuition: If you feel that you need to ask a certain question, then go ahead and ask it. If you believe it is better to wait, then wait. I believe what we call intuition is simply our brain and senses’ abilities to decipher subtle messages from the other person and give us clues as how to interact with them.
  8. Keep silent: After asking a question, never speak first. Maintain the silence until the other person breaks it. I am a very strong believer in keeping silent. Silence opens up a secure space for conversations and gives all the space to the other person.
  9. Pay attention to the non-verbal: Words are a great way to communicate but non-verbal clues are usually very useful to understand where the person stands – Are they at a rational level? Intuition level? Emotional level? This information will be very useful to adapt your coaching style.
  10. Dig deep: It is much easier to stay at the rational level in a discussion. It often leads to contextual information and detailed explanations. To make a real difference, you need to get to the underlying emotions – What are the person’s fears? Intentions? Motivations? Ask feeling-related questions, not logical or rational questions such as: “How do you feel about this event?” instead of “What do you think about this?”.
  11. Rephrasing: When rephrasing, use the same key words as the other person. The words are usually very meaningful to the other person and will open up relevant information for you.
  12. No context: Do not focus too much on the context. It is usually good to understand what triggered the actions or where the event took place, but the information usually has very little impact on the person you are coaching.

Are there other tips you would like to share?

Martin Proulx (Analytical-Mind) to celebrate International Coaching Week with free leadership coaching

In celebration of International Coaching Week, February 6–12, 2011, I am pleased to offer as I did last year, 10 hours of leadership coaching.

See what Louis had to say about his coaching experience:

I contacted Martin to help me transitioning to a senior role in the banking industry. He always used appropriate questions to bring my reflection to the right point, allowing me to accelerate thoughts I could possibly have but on a much longer period of time. Martin is smart, clear and articulate and efficiently interfere with a minimum number of words to help in the evolution of the reflection. Our coaching sessions helped me to improve my management skills, and I would definitively recommend him!

Coaching is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. Coaches work with clients in many areas, including business, career, finance, health and relationships.

Image by seier+seierIf you ever wondered if a coach can help you achieve better results faster, I invite you to send me an email (martin[at]analytical-mind[dot]com) with the following information:

  • Description of the professional objective you are hoping to achieve.
  • Why you think a leadership coach could help you achieve your objective?
  • Why YOU should be selected?

I am donating 10 x 1-hour sessions to one leader who wishes to achieve a specific goal. The sessions will take place over the phone (skype) at the rate of 1 session per week. You have until Wednesday, February 16th to submit your profile and I will select the coachee on February 19th. I am confident you will enjoy the experience.

International Coaching Week (ICW) is a weeklong global celebration of the coaching profession held each February since 1999. ICW is a designated time for coaches and clients to educate the general public about the value of working with a professional coach and to acknowledge the results and progress made through the coaching process. During this extended commemoration, coaches around the world offer a variety of activities and pro bono services in their local communities to share what coaching has the ability to do. For more information about ICW, visit www.coachingweek.org.

The International Coach Federation is the leading global organization for coaches, with more than 16,000 members in more than 90 countries, dedicated to advancing the coaching profession by setting high ethical standards, providing independent certification, and building a worldwide network of credentialed coaches. The ICF is the only organization that awards a global credential which is currently held by over 5,700 coaches worldwide. For more information about the ICF, please visit our Web site at www.coachfederation.org.

Which stance should I take? The 4 quadrants of Agile Managers

I completed my 360 degree year end performance evaluation last week but this post is not about performance reviews. This post is the mental model I developed following a comment I received during the 360 degree discussions.

Martin, we recognize you are a good coach but as the president of the organization, we still expect you to act as a manager and take a position or make decisions instead of simply asking us questions.

As any other coach out there ever received similar feedback from the team they work with? In my opinion, this is recurring question asked to coaches.

Since defining what my role should be as the leader of a self-organized team, I’ve adapted my leadership style from traditional to coaching, with apparently good impact. Unfortunately, I may have pushed the coaching stance a little too much and need to adjust in order to meet the expectation of a leader.

The above statement and questions that followed in my head, led me to develop a mental model to determine which stance I could take in a conversation. The model also aims to help others who wish to be agile managers, and determine the right stance to take in different circumstances.

Two perspectives and two dimensions

Below is my mental model which takes into considerations both participants’ perspective on a specific situation – the other person’s (to the left) and yours (at the bottom).

Each of the two people either has a complete and immediate answer or solution to the situation at hand or an incomplete and/or untimely answer (which means the person is likely to find the complete answer after thinking about it for a while but the time frame is shorter than the allowed time. These two dimensions offer four possibilities or four quadrants.

Debating

In this situation, the other person already has the answer (or solution) to a specific situation while your knowledge of the topic is incomplete (or absent). Consequently, the only way you can actually contribute to the discussion is by improving the solution and by challenging the other person’s answer in an attempt to improve the answer or the outcome.

Coaching

In a situation when neither of the two participants know the answer to a specific situation, you can take a coaching stance. As such, asking clear questions in an attempt to help the other person come up by themselves with the answer to the situation. This stance allows the development of the individual as opposed to the improvement of the solution.

Educating

In the situation where you already know the answer but the other person doesn’t, you share the answer to the situation and explain how you got to the solution. The objective is to develop the skills of the other person so they may come up with their answer next time they are faced with a similar challenge. As with the coaching stance, acting as the educator focuses on the development of the individual which will eventually take you to the exploring stance.

Exploring

In this situation both parties already clearly know the answer to the situation and as such, a discussion takes place to explore all perspectives in an attempt to make sure the best options have been properly covered. As with the debating stance, the exploration aims at improving the quality of the idea since the individual already came up with the solution.

Using these four quadrants makes it easier to determine up front which position I will be taking in the conversation and allows me to be fully coherent from one discussion to the next.

I don’t feel so good – I’m a people manager in an Agile organization

Image by Leonard John MatthewsAt the Agile 2010 Conference this week, out of the two hundred or so sessions presented, a number of them talked about the role of the manager in an Agile team. A few people believe managers are no longer necessary once the team has self-organized while others say people managers are still required. Either group failed to provide compelling arguments for their position.

The notion of self-organized teams keeps gaining visibility and acceptance. Those who have adopted the approach can’t stop talking about the benefits. At the same time, people realize that managers are unlikely to disappear from the organizational landscape anytime soon. In this context, it is with a mixed-feeling that Agilists talk about the role of the people manager in an agile organization – mostly as something not so useful but that the team needs to keep around in order to maintain their autonomy – something similar to the appendix.

The most common explanation for the appendix’s existence in humans is that it’s a vestigial structure which has lost its original function – source wikipedia

Then a few things happened.

First, I got to attend Michael Spayd‘s session called “Blueprint for an Agile Enterprise: Plans, Tools & Tech to Build a Human Enterprise”.

Want your whole organization to be more like an Agile team? Starting teams is well understood; expanding Agile to the organization is definitely not. Using 8 years experience applying organization development to Agile, we’ll unfold a 7 layer organizational architecture for building a human enterprise. Each level has an overall perspective, specific tools and key practices. Part tutorial, part demo, we’ll create a change plan for one participant’s organization, exploring culture, leadership, change, team performance, and management’s role. You’ll leave with a plan template and many ideas – source Agile 2010 Program

Then, I went to Damon Poole’s session called “Getting Managers and Agile Teams Out of Each Other’s Hair”.

One of the most talked about and least well understood concepts in Agile is the “self-managing” team. This session will provide a new perspective on self-management by examining the external roots of the practice and by taking a bottom-up look at what it is, the benefits, and how it works. We’ll see how twelve widely adopted Agile practices contribute to self-management by reducing and/or redistributing traditional management activities. These practices provide a framework for delegation, communication and coordination; and encourage team ownership, commitment and accountability – source Agile 2010 Program

Finally, I also attended Jim Highsmith session called “What do Agile Executives and Leaders Do?”

In some circles agile executives and leaders are admonished to buy pizza and get out of the way. In others they are asked to be supportive of self-organizing teams. But leading agile organizations requires more. There are specific activities that help build agile organizations that can weather business turbulence. This session will explore those activities that an agile leader or executive must “do,” including: revising performance measurements; facilitating self-organizing teams; developing strategies for operational, portfolio, and strategic agility; and assessing how agile to be source Agile 2010 Program

After the sessions, I sat in the lobby of the conference and read some of the blog feeds I subscribe to and came across these…

Obviously, something’s up!

The role of a traditional people manager

In many organizations and depending on their level, people managers are expected to plan, direct, organize and control (Deming‘s Plan-Do-Check-Act) – more specifically, the role of the manager is to:

  • Define the individual objectives
  • Assign work to team members
  • Determine priorities of the tasks
  • Monitor progress of the activities
  • Make decisions for the team
  • Get visibility into the work of the team
  • Mentor and train employees
  • Protect the team’s financial and human resources
  • Provide career development opportunities
  • Build relationships with other departments and teams
  • Motivate the team members
  • Communicate information

What self-organization removes from the equation

Once the concept of self-organized team is implemented, there are a few things that were traditionally the responsibility of the people manager that now fall on the team. The activities are:

  • Assigning work – team members now select their tasks instead of the manager
  • Determine priorities – team members now determine the order in which they should to complete their work
  • Monitor progress – team members track their own progress and make it visible and accessible to those who need to know
  • Make decision for the team – within the team, team members get to make their decisions
  • Get visibility into the work – team members track their own progress and make it visible and accessible to those who need to know
  • Mentor and train employees – when possible, team members may decide to implement a mentoring program within the team
  • Motivate – self-organized individuals are known to be more motivated than traditional teams, hence the reduced need for the people manager to retain this activity

So what is left for the people manager?

In order for the people managers to transform into Agile leaders and feel as part of the team, we already stated they need to modify their role. The agile manager will achieve higher level of performance and possibly increased personal job satisfaction by macro-managing – working with an increased perspective as opposed to getting into the details. As such, the activities the agile managers need to retain are to:

  • Define high level objectives for their team and department instead of focusing on the tasks
  • Determine priorities in the objectives of the team and department instead of the activities
  • Monitor progress toward achieving the objectives
  • Coach employees
  • Continue to protect the team’s resources
  • Support employees in their career development
  • Build relationships with other departments and teams

I realize that this type of transition is easier said than done but with the willingness to recapture an important role as part of the team and with some external help, the traditional managers don’t have to became extinct professionals.

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