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

 

 

 

 

 

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12Nov/140

It’s Showtime! One Key to Continual Motivation by Marshall Goldsmith

Posted by WABC

 

View the video here : Marshall Goldsmith: It's Showtime! index

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25Oct/1310

Change is Easy, by Dr. Laurence S. Lyons

Turn to the change section in any management textbook and it will be sure to tell you one thing—major change is horrendously hard. However arduous you might think it will be to re-organize operations, introduce a new business model, or beef up global customer service, accepted wisdom will tell you to think again. Estimate the effort needed to bring about the desired change. Treble it. Then add some. You will find that making change happen in the real world will be much, much harder than you'd ever imagined.

If you, or one of your clients, have ever instigated major change, you will wisely nod your head in agreement with all those textbooks. There are well over a million excellent reasons why change is so very difficult and always takes far longer than expected. People have a natural resistance to change. They cannot be rushed through the laborious emotional processes which major change unavoidably requires. The Senior Management Team—often the instigators of change—will be thinking one or two steps ahead of their announced plans, which skews their perception about the speed at which change can take place towards the madly-optimistic. Change is difficult, it looks difficult, and it takes a long time.

Yet this need not be the case. There is some good news; there is another way. While coaching may not eliminate the amount of client reflection that is required when change comes along, it does offer a better and more enduring return from the investment in its efforts. We of course know that coaching almost always encourages dialog, and that early warning is particularly important for reducing risk in change situations. So a coaching context is generally beneficial during change. But coaching can go beyond simply setting a culture conducive to lubricating the change initiative. By helping the client find her authentic voice, a coach may encourage a leader to take a less reactive and more robust stance. To achieve this, the leader may probe and test the organization's ambition in an effort to interpret its intention in a way which finds a desirable role for her in the emerging scheme.

A Question of Coaching

Traditionally, major organizational change is the practical answer to a set of three strategic questions:

  • Where is the organization today?
  • Where do we want the organization to be tomorrow?
  • How does the organization get there?

Organizational change methodologies built on these three questions have undoubtedly stood the test of time. These are good questions. They are the right questions. The top team's answers to these three questions—together with the quality of change implementation they bring—will deliver to any organization the future it deserves.

Yet, however beneficial this approach may seem to be for the business, the coach may feel stymied by it. Having a client respond without challenge to the organization's perceived demands may leave residual feelings of weakness or inadequacy. Additionally, it may be frustrating to find that the textbooks dictate that there is nothing important for the business beyond the realm of strategy. Where, then, can the coach find a space in which each client can be empowered?

I propose a coaching question, the fourth question of strategy:

  • Where do I (the client) fit in the picture?

The great thing I find about this additional question is that it is also strategic—but this time squarely in the interest of the client. To get to work on this new question, simply take the original three questions and change the word 'organization' to 'client.' Your discussions will produce an initial draft of a personal strategy. Importantly, it has now been made explicit. It will be almost impossible for the client to answer these questions without bringing to the surface a much deeper one: Who am I?

Asking this fourth question puts what could have been an important hidden issue right on the table. With all that done, it's now time to explore common futures. Ask this: Within the proposed organizational change, is there any gap between the client's career and the organization's ambition which needs further exploration?

Playing with Fire

Just in case you might have any qualms about asking this extra question in a live coaching session, remember that the ethical justification for doing so is compelling. At worst, it will quickly emerge that your client is the best person for meeting the new organizational challenges. In that case, your conversation only took a moment and you've squeezed out risk to both your client and the organization. Rest happy that your client is in exactly the right job, fired up with opportunity and enthusiasm, and that the organization is well resourced for its future. This represents a fine return on the investment of a few seconds' coaching time. Celebrate!

What if your client is uncertain about the method of change implementation, or even holds serious reservations about some of the assumptions in the change plan? Here is another great coaching opportunity! You encourage the client to go into research mode, which means setting up conversations with colleagues outside the coaching room. Perhaps it simply turns out that some detail or interpretation needs clarifying, and once that has been done all is then well. Great outcome. Or, maybe it emerges from business discussions that it is necessary to modify some part of the original change program. It could be that a major piece of the change plan eventually gets jettisoned or replaced. Having your client set this research in motion doesn't mean that all risks will evaporate, but it does mean that you and your client have done your level best in addressing all inherent, and foreseeable, risks. You did good work. In the real world, it often doesn't get better than this. Celebrate!

What if it should become clear that there is no fit for your client in the organization's future, and no hope of re-negotiating the change plan? It is difficult to see how you wouldn't want to celebrate even more than before! I expect to hear the champagne corks flying. You have just identified an extremely significant and dangerous risk, and are already on your way to avoiding a predictable disaster. Remember: If it ain't going to work, then it ain't going to work. Get started on the exit strategy today. Better to spot and avoid the dead end right here and now in the coaching room than to leave it festering unnoticed until it grows into the full-blown catastrophe of a failed implementation. Working the mismatch issue now will prevent serious organizational embarrassment and disruption in the future, and it may even save a career.

Principled coaching begets principled leadership. The principled way can at first seem frightening, but is often the best for both client and organization. Business coaches are often asked, "What is it that coaches actually do?" That question offers no quick and simple answer. But one element of coaching is crystal clear: Coaches encourage their clients to walk the talk by living their values and by being authentic. One route to that goal starts with a major change announcement and the fourth question of strategy.

I freely admit that the search for those core personal values can often involve the client in a long and tortuous inner struggle. Often a situation of impending major organizational change will be the only device able to prompt such consistent and deep reflection. Finding the limits of Self can be hard. But the reward for the client is enormous: Authenticity. Authenticity is the foundation of principled leadership. Because the principled leader knows herself, she has no cause to worry about change.

She is to be found anywhere in an organization, not only at its top and not only among the management elite. She feels no need to take a long and protracted journey to some unwanted organizational destination. She is self-secure. Organizational change may present her with a fantastic opportunity to grow her leadership skills and get closer to her personal ambition. If so, she and her organization will reap huge rewards, which multiply as each feeds on the success of the other. But if, after researching all possible alternatives, she still cannot find herself within the emerging picture, she will simply start work on the construction of another picture. It will be her picture, in which, for the time being at least, she can clearly see herself, and which she is prepared to share with the world. Organizations hold no monopoly on change.

Is it not the quest of business coaches to create such leaders? Leaders who are at home with themselves? Change is a gale which extinguishes the candle or spreads the bush fire; its effect depends entirely on the material it meets. Who said the flame must always die? Authentic leaders are prepared for change; for them, being true to self presents no difficulty at all. Change? What is change? Change is easy.

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (Spring Issue 2007, Volume 3, Issue 1). Copyright © 2012 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.

Laurence S. Lyons, PhD, founding director of The Metacorp Group, has extensive experience in coaching senior teams during major change. A member of the WABC International Advisory Committee, Larry is a scheduled panelist at the WABC 10th Anniversary International Conference. His most recently published book, co-edited with Marshall Goldsmith, is the second edition of Coaching for Leadership: The Practice of Leadership Coaching from the World's Greatest Coaches (Pfeiffer, 2005). Read more about Larry in the WABC Coach Directory. Larry can be reached by email at lslyons@lslyons.com.

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2Oct/130

Coaching for Results: Behavior Change or Strategy Realization? By Dave Ulrich

Posted by Dave Ulrich

Coaching has become one of those catch-all phrases like strategy, quality or process. Because of its popularity, coaching has sometimes been misused. Those who use coaches sometimes are more excited about the prospect of being coached than about changing. To overcome such generalities and misuses, coaching needs to move from platitudes to greater professionalism.

Making coaching more professional requires clear definition of the desired results of coaching. Coaching is not merely about a process of finding someone with whom to confer, but should have clear results that define the outcome of the engagement. There are two general coaching results: behavior change and strategy realization.

Behavior change means that the executive being coached has behavioral predispositions that get in the way of being an effective executive. When specific behaviors are identified, examined and modified, coaches help executives change.

Strategy realization means that the executive being coached needs guidance in clarifying and focusing the business strategy to help the business achieve financial, customer or organization goals.

Coaching for Behavior Change

Changing behavior is not easy. Research shows that about 50 percent of an individual's values, attitudes and behaviors come from DNA and heritage; the other 50 percent are learned over time.1 An implication of the 50/50 nature/nurture, born/bred debate is that while the past sets conditions on our behavior, our behavior is not preconditioned. Any leader can modify behavior through effective coaching. Below are some of the hints for doing coaching that produces behavioral results.2

Know Why. Until there is a need for change, change will not occur. Once clients understand why they should change they are more likely to accept what they should change.

Collect Data. Often single events or observations from single individuals are episodes, not patterns. Coaching should be about patterns. Generally, people can identify their strengths more than their weaknesses; collecting data from more objective others can help clients better face reality. For instance, leadership 360s provide a marvellous source of data.

Prioritize. Not everything worth changing can or should be changed. In behavior coaching, it is critical to identify the one or two key behaviors that most need to be changed and that will have the most impact.

Be Behavioral. Abstract goals will result in abstract changes; specific behavioral goals will result in specific changes. Sometimes the results of interviews are generic, e.g., "she is not a good people person." In these cases, it is important to go deeper and identify specific behaviors that result in that conclusion. Deeper probes generally focus on situations: "Can you think of a situation where she treated people poorly? What specifically did she do? What could or should she have done differently?"

Focus on the Future More than the Past. Coaching is not therapy. In cognitive or psychoanalytic therapy, the therapist works to identify underlying causes of a behavior. Coaches do not need to be therapists to focus on behavior change. Behavior coaching identifies what behaviors are causing dysfunctions, then focuses on the future and how to promote different behaviors.

Go Public. Commitment goes up when we go public and become personally transparent with our intentions and desires. When an executive has identified an area to improve, it is helpful to share this commitment with others.

Find Support. It is hard to clap with one hand and it is hard to change by oneself. Almost every executive I have seen who has made behavioral change has had enormous support from trusted advisors, including assistants, non-work friends, spouses and children.

Start Small, Keep Going. Most large change starts with small steps. Once executives have picked a behavior that they want to change, I have found four "threes" a helpful way to embed the behavioral change:

Three hours. In the next three hours, what can you do to exhibit the new behavior?

Three days. In the next three days, what can you do to demonstrate sustained commitment to the new behavior?

Three weeks. In the next three weeks, make sure that the new behavior change shows up in activities and relationships.

Three months. After about three months of working on the new behavior, if you continue with it, it begins to become part of your identity and others treat you accordingly.

Learn. Learning should be less an event and more a natural process. The best learners are inquisitive, self-reflective  and adaptive. They are constantly asking what works and what does not, then trying to put those insights into a future context. In time, coaches should be replaced by self-observation.

Follow-up. Finally, behavior coaching needs indicators of progress. Re-administering a 360, re-doing interviews, or debriefing the behavior change process enables an executive to monitor progress. If behavior change did not occur, the coach did not fulfill his or her assignment.

Coaching for behavior change changes behaviors. The end result is that the leader personalizes a new set of behaviors, and as learned behaviors become natural acts, leaders change their identities and reputations.

Coaching for Strategic Results

Strategic results coaching focuses more on helping the executive gain clarity about the results he or she hopes to accomplish and how to make them happen. It is less psychological and more organizational. It also builds on the philosophy of trust, relationship and collaboration, but focuses this philosophy on helping the executive clarify and reach goals.

In my strategy coaching, I have adapted the following steps depending on the situation:

Step 1: Clarify Your Business or Organization Strategy
Coaching in the context of strategy assures that the executive has a clear sense of what he or she is trying to accomplish and sets the criteria for being successful.  A strategy is a succinct statement of what the executive hopes to accomplish and how resources will be applied to that purpose.

Step 2: Describe Your Personal Style
Every executive has a style, or way of getting things done. This style is based on dozens of choices about how the executive makes decisions, processes information, treats people and prefers working. Each style may be modified by identifying and changing behaviors that lead to the style.

Questions to address managerial style:

  • What is your managerial identity? How are your known by others? How would you like to be known by others? What is your leadership brand?
  • What are you managerial strengths and weaknesses?
  • How do you generally treat others, make decisions, handle conflict, manage information?

Step 3: Define Stakeholders

Every executive gets work done through, with, and by others, termed stakeholders. These stakeholders may be identified by asking the executive who he or she must interact with to get the job done.

Questions to define stakeholders:

  • Who must you interact with to reach your strategy?
  • Who is affected by the work that you do?
  • Who would you turn to in order to define your managerial style?

Step 4: Specify Goals for Each Stakeholder

Stakeholders have an interest in and impact on an executive's success. To reach a business strategy, each stakeholder must provide something.

Questions to specify stakeholder goals:

  • In the next period of time (3, 6, 12, or 24 months), what do you want to accomplish with each stakeholder?
  • What does each stakeholder contribute to your reaching your strategy?

Step 5: Prioritize Each Stakeholder and Goal

Executives need to prioritize stakeholders based on how central they are to achieving business strategy. Also, strategies are time-bound and the key stakeholders for the next three months may be different than the stakeholders for the succeeding, or preceding, three months.

Questions to prioritize stakeholders and goals:

  • How important is each stakeholder for reaching your goal?
  • Rate each stakeholder 0 to 10 for the next period of time
  • Divide 100 points across the stakeholders to prioritize their impact on your strategies.
  • Rank the stakeholders (from high to low) in terms of impact on your strategies

Step 6: Allocate Time

Where executives spend time communicates what matters most and sends signals to others about what they should do. Coaches can help leaders spend time wisely by focusing on what executives can and should do with each stakeholder.

Questions to help leaders allocate time:

  • How much time in days do you think you should spend with each stakeholder given the priorities you have set?
  • What specific behaviors and actions can you take with each stakeholder to accomplish your goals?
  • How would these actions show up in your calendar? Remember that your calendar should probably be 30-40 percent unscheduled as events arise that merit attention, but the other 60-70 percent can be structured to ensure that you accomplish what matters most.
  • How will you track your return on time invested?

Step 7: Determine Success

The desire to succeed turns into success once it is measured. Coaches help determine measures of success that executives can then track on their own.

Questions to help determine successful measures:

  • How will you know you have succeeded in your overall strategy and in your goals with each stakeholder?
  • How will you monitor your progress?

Conclusion

Coaching for results can focus on either behavior or strategy. Knowing one's own approach enables the coach to better align with the client to make sure that coaching works. As a result of good coaching, leaders develop personal brands that distinguish them for all stakeholders-employees, customers, investors and communities.


1 A review of this work was presented at 21st Annual SIOP (Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology), Dallas, Texas, April 2006, in a paper by Richard D. Arvey, Maria Rotundo, Wendy Johnson, Zhen Zhang, & Matt McGue entitled "Genetic and Environmental Components of Leadership Role Occupancy." The nature/nurture debate is also dealt with in:
Bouchard, Thomas J. Jr., David T. Lykken, Matthew McGue, Nancy L. Segal, & Auke Tellegen. 1990. "Sources of Human Psychological Differences: The Minnesota Study of Twins Reared Apart." Science, Oct 12: 223-228.
Harris, Judith Rich. 1998. The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do. New York: The Free Press.
Harris, Judith Rich. 1995. "Where Is the Child's Environment? A Group Socialization Theory of Development." Psychological Review. 102 (3), July: 458-489.
McGue, M., T., J. Bouchard, Jr., W. G. Iacono, & D. T. Lykken.1993. "Behavioral Genetics of Cognitive Ability: A Life-span Perspective." In Nature, Nurture, and Psychology, edited by R. Plomin & G. E. McClearn. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association: 59-76.

2 The list of behavior coaching tips come from observing, listening to, and learning from great colleagues who have been my mentors and advisors, including Wayne Brockbank, Ralph Christensen, Bob Eichinger, Marshall Goldsmith, Francis Hesselbein, Steve Kerr, Dale Lake, Paul McKinnon, Bonner Ritchie, Norm Smallwood, Paul Thompson, Warren Wilhelm, and Jack Zenger. It is difficult to attribute any one idea to any one person, but I am indebted to each of these colleagues for these ideas.

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (February Issue 2009, Volume 5, Issue 1). Copyright  2011 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.

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