8Dec/140

Coaching and the Attention Challenge by Melinda Sinclair

Posted by WABC

Attention matters

“A primary task of leadership is to direct attention. Leaders tell us where to focus our energies. But leaders need, too, to manage their own attention. Leaders who do this effectively can soar, those who do not will stumble. The reason is simple. “Your focus,” Yoda reminds us, “is your reality.” Daniel Goleman

What is our most valuable resource – the key resource that allows us to be an effective leader, to succeed in business, and to enjoy life?

Some would make the case that it is time. Others would say energy or expertise and experience, or our network of relationships.

There is no doubt that all of these are very important. Yet they all require that we’ve mastered the deployment of a fundamental mental resource: Our attention.

The ability to direct and manage our attention is at the root of everything we achieve. It determines the quality of the decisions we make, the quality of our relationships, our level of performance and enjoyment in life.

Our effectiveness as a leader also depends crucially on how well we’ve mastered the art of focusing and directing attention. Leaders need to know when and where to direct their attention, why and for how long, and how intensely. As Daniel Goleman argues in his new book Focus. The hidden driver of excellence (2013), the difference between soaring and stumbling as a leader lies in lies in effective attention management.

Quite simply: Mastering the art of directing our attention is the key to success in leadership, in business, and in life.

 

The attention challenge

"At the psychological level, the most basic resource involved is attention. Attention is the brain's capacity to process information, and to direct action. It is a limited resource, because we cannot process more than a few bits of information at any single moment, and thus we can only be aware of a tiny fraction of what is going on inside us or around us."    Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

And this is where we run into a challenge. Attention is a psychic resource - and for that reason limited. At any given time there are far more things that we could potentially pay attention to than we are able to. Hence, we are constantly noticing and knowing some aspects of our reality while being oblivious of others.

And we are all attention challenged in multiple ways. There is the distraction of being pulled in multiple directions by multiple, competing demands. There is the problem of focusing appropriately in the midst of vast streams of information coming at us at high speed. There is the spiraling down effect when our attention gets caught by bad news. There is the challenge of knowing when to focus in tightly and maybe risk missing important information – or when to focus wider and maybe risk getting lost in too much information and too much complexity.

Our attention challenges are exacerbated by the information rich, complex and fast changing world we live in. We’ve become “attention poor” amidst our information riches, to quote Herbert Simon.

In our world of constant change the heuristics from the past may not work at all, and it becomes extra important to have a valid current assessment of 'what is true now'. So we need to continually process new information in order to stay updated and grounded in our ever shifting reality. Add to this the complexity of the information and of the challenges we face, and it is no wonder that we often feel overwhelmed.

We can say that how we pay attention is "fateful" - for us as individuals and as organizations.
The problem is that very few of us - as individuals or organizations - are masters at the art of directing our attention.

 

Coaching as an attention structure

This brings us then to coaching. Coaching is often described as providing an accountability structure – a structure that supports clients to follow through on their commitments to themselves. It may be even more powerful to conceive of coaching as providing an attention structure – a structure to support clients in the mammoth task of effectively monitoring and managing the deployment of their attention.

The increasing focus on mindfulness practices is one expression of the awareness that attention mastery is key. However, in additional to classic mindfulness practices, there are several other ways that coaching could support leaders in dealing with their attention challenge. Here are just three related ideas.

  • Creating self-awareness of leaders is seen as an integral part of coaching. But shifting to the idea of coaching as providing attention support would mean focusing coaching not only on helping leaders become more of aware of the unique, personal content of their minds. It would also involve helping them develop a good basic understanding of key features of attention and how it works - for them and for those around them. This implies, of course, that we as coaches have a solid understanding of the relevant key features of attention.
  • Each client will have their own specific attention challenges and demands. A significant contribution of coaching is to help each client enhance their capability to monitor and manage their attention in ways that best serve their aspirations and their context. This goes beyond ensuring that clients understand the basics of attention. This involves actively collaborating with the client to help them develop customized attention monitoring and attention managing capability. Again, this requires us as coaches to engage in this mastery process ourselves.
  • As we swim in turbulent sea of information, we need to develop filters to help us sort, stream and process information. This is another concrete domain where coaches can support leaders to deal with the attention challenge. We can explore with leaders what filters and frames they are currently using and help them assess how well they are working. We can challenge them to either narrow or expand their filters. We can bring forward additional and frames for consideration, and work with our clients as they experiment with new filters and frames. And we can stay alert, along with them, when something totally new is emerging which requires new and fresh attention beyond the existing set of filters.

Every coaching conversation can be seen as essentially a mutual focusing of attention in ways that best serve the client. And we can conceive the process of coaching as supporting our clients to become more masterful at monitoring and managing their attention – their most vital mental resource. In our “attention challenged” world, this may be one of the best ways we can serve our clients.

 

Melinda Sinclair of PeopleDynamics Learning Group is a Chartered Business Coach™ practicing in Toronto, ON. Her work with leaders and teams focus on enhancing the conditions and skills required for high quality collaboration. In addition to her executive coaching and leadership development practice, she is also one of the lead faculty for the WABC Level 1 Accredited Business Coaching Advantage Program™.

www.peopledynamicslearning.com;

www.businesscoachingadvantage.com

 

 

 

 

 

If you wish to reproduce this article in any material form, you must first contact WABC for permission.
28Nov/140

Why You Should Get a Handle on Your Identity by Marshall Goldsmith

Posted by WABC

Marshall Goldsmith

Who do you think you are?

Take your time. This is not a test with one correct answer. And it is very important because how you define yourself will impact how successful you are at your job, how good a friend, partner, or parent you are, and even how happy you will be in life. Answering this question, becoming aware of your identity, who you think you are and how it coincides (or doesn’t coincide) with who you want to be, could be the beginning of a behavioral change that could alter your life in unimaginably wonderful ways!

Identity is a complicated subject. You may be inclined to look back to the past for signal events, memorable triumphs, or painful disasters to answer the question. You may rely on the testimony of others, a boss or teacher’s positive review, a parent’s approval of your energy and prowess in certain areas. Or you may project into the future defining yourself based on who you want to be or who others have told you that you will be rather than who you actually are. All of these are important, because they make up the essence of who you are.

How do we know who we are? Our identities are remembered, reflected, programmed, and created. These four sources of our identity can be defined like so,

1) Remembered Identity: How do you know who you are? Because you remember events in your life that helped form your sense of self. It’s not so important that these are sometimes inglorious moments or events you’d rather erase; you can’t forget these touchstones, good or bad. For better or worse, they’ve left an impact—and when you write a profile of yourself, these moments inevitably get reported.

2) Reflected Identity: What do people tell you that they remember about you? Other people remember events in your past and they remind you of them, sometimes constantly. It’s one thing for the executive to admit to poor follow-up. But if her boss or partner or customers tell her the same thing, it reinforces the picture that she already has of herself. You might know this as feedback. Feedback from others is how we shape our reflected identity.

3) Programmed Identity: What message do people give you about who you are today or who you will become in the future? Your programmed identity has many sources. It can be influenced by the profession you enter, or the culture you grew up in, or the company you work for, or the entire industry you work in, or the people you select as your trusted friends. Each of these can shape your opinion of yourself, some more vividly than you may realize.

4) Created Identity: Who do you want to be? Our created identity is the identity that we decide to create for ourselves. It is the part of our identity that is not controlled by our past or by other people. The most truly successful people I have met have created identities to become the human beings that they chose to be—without being slaves to the past or other people.

Now that you have a basic understanding of identity, my suggestion to you is simple. Review the various components of your current identity. Where did they originate? How do they impact how you see yourself today, and, who you would like to become in the future? If your present identity is fine with you, just work on becoming an even better version of who you are. If you want to make a change in your identity, be open to the fact that you may be able to change more than you originally believed you could. Assuming you do not have “unchangeable” limitations, then you, can create a new identity for your future without sacrificing your past.

So, I’ll ask you again. Give it some thought. Who do you think you are?

Watch the video here:

 

 

If you wish to reproduce this article in any material form, you must first contact WABC for permission.
25Nov/140

Coaching leaders: Experiential learning for client and team by Dr Sunny Stout-Rostron

Posted by WABC

Learning from experience and client stories

Learning, and particularly learning from experience, seems to be one of the major components of the coaching conversation. Learning from experience implies an understanding of the language and content of the client’s story, with the coach helping the client to reconstruct their own reality by searching for meaning through dialogue.

There is so much power in the client’s language and the content of their stories. The significance of the client’s story comes from both the structure of their telling it, as well as the interpretation and significance given. In some cultures, for example in Latin America, Africa and India, oral history and storytelling remain very important methods of passing on ritual, tradition and customs. The coaching conversation can literally be seen as an extension of “telling one’s story” and looking for meaning and significance in the telling.

With this as a precedent, we can look at the “coaching conversation” not just as experiential learning, but as experiential education: learning from one’s own life experiences. These definitions suggest that learning is the key. This indicates that helping your clients grow, develop and become who they want to be, requires asking for their best thinking, rather than sharing yours. The four levels of coaching intervention with which we are working as coaches are interconnected:

  • Doing: What tasks and goals need to be accomplished?
  • Learning: How will you develop the competences needed?
  • Way of Being: Who are you as you grow and develop; how do you do you? (Weiss, 2004).
  • Transforming Self: Who are you stepping into becoming as you grow and develop? (Stout-Rostron, 2013).

Measuring results

In working with an individual client, there is no point in simply developing a leadership plan in isolation from the rest of the business and team processes. If the coaching intervention is to be successful, it is critical to develop a systemic, fully integrated coaching strategy that is in alignment with both the business and the talent strategies for the organization. Two key factors will be to identify the efficacy of internal and external coaching interventions at an individual level, and the use of group or team coaching to develop key leadership competences that are aligned with organizational strategy. Team coaching can also be a way to develop talent at subordinate levels.

Once you begin to work with an individual executive, their team often comes to the fore within a few months. Gaps are identified in terms of decision making, communication skills and facilitating meetings. Team coaching is becoming more affordable than individual executive coaching, and ensures that the team is working together in alignment with organizational values and goals.

Team coaching can help new leaders and their teams manage all aspects of transition, transformation and change. There is a strong link between business results and emotional intelligence or EQ (defined as self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and social skill). Team coaching will need to ensure that both the leader and members of the team improve their emotional intelligence skills, which will lead to better organizational performance. This will move the team to balance the needs of the individuals, the team and the organization. If the team members have grown in terms of self-awareness, the organization will want to see this “demonstrated” at work – in relationships, management competence, leadership behaviors and EQ.

But, in order to do so, the coach needs to have an in-depth understanding of organizational systems – seeing the coaching intervention from a systems perspective, and understanding the need for “structure” in the interaction between coach, individual client, team, and the organizational system. A danger of not understanding the “system” in which the client operates is that the coach risks becoming another part of that system.

Behavior change

As a business coach, whether working with individuals or teams, you are helping your clients to learn from and interpret their own experiences, and to understand the complexity of the environment in which they work. Team coaching is essentially about the results experienced through the relationship between the coach, the individuals in the team, and the resulting team dynamic.

Until we have reliable research from a wide variety of organizations, no one can guarantee that behavior change is truly sustainable as a result of coaching. However, based on research currently available, there are certainly guidelines for coaching which can help ensure that behavior change is indeed sustainable.

References

Stout-Rostron, S. (2014). Leadership Coaching for Results: Cutting-edge practices for coach and client, Randburg, South Africa: Knowres.

Weiss, P. (2004). The Three Levels of Coaching. San Francisco, CA: An Appropriate Response.

 

 Sunny Stout-Rostron, DProf, MA

Sunny’s interest in the WABC is based on its dedication to the development of business coaches. Like the WABC, she believes business coaching to be a developing profession in its own right. Business coaches can feel isolated, and the WABC enables them to connect in terms of practice, standards and ethics. Sunny has been coaching internationally for over 25 years, working with executive leaders and their teams. As a qualified Coach Supervisor, and Founding President of Coaches and Mentors of South Africa (COMENSA), she is passionate about developing the knowledge base for coaching through teaching, research and practice. This has meant helping to create several Masters programs for business coaching in South Africa. Sunny regularly works with coaches and clients in the UK, Europe, USA, South Africa and Australia. She is the author of six books, including the recently published Leadership Coaching for Results: Cutting-edge practices for coach and client (Knowres, 2014).Sunny Stout Rouston

If you wish to reproduce this article in any material form, you must first contact WABC for permission.
20Nov/140

2 Life-Changing Lessons No One Ever Taught You by Marshall Goldsmith

Posted by WABC

Marshall Goldsmith

Lesson #1: It’s easier to see our problems (let’s call them behavioral challenges) in others than to see them in ourselves. For instance, often when I become self-righteous or angry about some perceived injustice, I realize that the deeper issue is often not with “it”, but in me.

Lesson #2: Although we may deny our behavioral challenges to ourselves, they may be very obvious to the people who observe us. There is often a great discrepancy between the self we think we are and the self the rest of the world sees in us. If we can listen and think about what others see in us, we can compare the self we want to be with the self that we are presenting. Then and only then can we begin to make the real changes that we need to make to align our stated values with our actual behavior.

Let me give you a personal example:

As a Ph.D. student at UCLA in the 70s, I had a self-image of being ‘hip.’ I believed I was involved in discovering deeper human understanding, self-actualization, and profound wisdom. One of my teachers, Dr. Bob Tannenbaum, had invented ‘sensitivity training’, published a popular article in the Harvard Business Review, and was a full professor. I was impressed!

In Bob’s class, we could discuss anything we wanted. So, for three weeks, I did a monologue about how ‘screwed up’ people in Los Angeles were. “They wear sequined blue jeans; they drive gold Rolls Royces; they are plastic and materialistic; all they care about is impressing others; they don’t understand what is important in life.” I ranted. (I’m not sure how growing up in a small town Kentucky had made an expert on LA people, but evidently it had.)

After listening to me babble for three weeks, Bob looked at me quizzically and asked, “Who are you talking to?”

“I’m speaking to the group,” I said.

“Who in the group are you talking to?”

“I’m talking to everybody,” I said, not knowing the treacherous path of self-discovery down which I was being led!

“When you speak, you look at only one person and address your comments toward only one person. You seem interested in the opinion of only one person. Who is that person?”

“That is interesting,’” I replied. After careful consideration, I asked, “You?”

“That’s right, me. There are 12 other people in this room. Why aren’t you interested in any of them?” he asked.

At this point, I decided that digging my hole deeper was better than admitting defeat, so I said, “Well, Dr. Tannenbaum, you understand the significance of what I am saying. You know how ‘screwed-up’ it is to try to run around and impress people all the time. You have a deeper understanding of what is really important in life.”

“Marshall, is there any chance that for the last three weeks all you’ve tried to do is impress me?” Bob asked.

I was amazed at Bob’s lack of insight! “Not at all!” I declared. “You haven’t understood one thing I’ve said! I’ve told you how screwed up it is to try to impress other people. You’ve missed my point, and I’m disappointed in your lack of understanding!”

He scratched his beard and concluded, “No. I think I understand.” I looked at the group and could see them nod and agree.

For six months, I disliked Dr. Tannenbaum. I devoted a lot of energy into trying to understand why he was so confused. Then one day, it clicked! The person with the issue about impressing other people was me. I was the one who had been trying to impress Dr. Tannenbaum. That day, I looked in the mirror and said, “Dr. Tannenbaum was right.”

So, let me ask you: Can you see in yourself what others see in you, or do you see in others what you don’t see in yourself? What are you going to do about it?

Watch the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0LBoiTu-C-U

If you wish to reproduce this article in any material form, you must first contact WABC for permission.