Sunday, July 25, 2010

Questions for Coaching

Virginia-based HR Consultant Linda Ferguson asked this question recently on LinkedIn:

~ "What is your favorite coaching question?"

Now that's a good question, in my opinion. Already, a slew of interesting replies have come in, comprising a compendium of coaching questions. I hope Linda has the time to compile the best responses into a resource for the many coaches out there.

The reason I like Linda's question so much is that I believe that questions are among a coach's most valuable tools. Effective coaches ask questions that stimulate meaningful goals and unleash imaginative solutions.

Questions in a coaching relationship keep the focus on the client, and help a coach to avoid slipping into "tell mode" where a coach starts giving information, telling stories, and offering advice. As useful as those things (information, stories, and advice) can be at the right moment, they put the coach in the spotlight rather than the client.

So an effective coach is loaded with good questions. Open-ended type questions that provide the client with the opportunity to speak and, in so doing, to discover their own meaning. As communication guru David Berlo once wisely said years ago, "How can I know what I mean until I see what I say?" A good coach creates such a space for the other person to discover who they are and what they want.

My initial response to Linda's question was:

~ "What would you like to improve?"

For me, this is the question at the heart of coaching. For the coach, it uncovers the desire of the client, the motive for change. For the client, it brings focus to the change(s) that would be most meaningful to him or her.

The question, What would you like to improve?, is inspired by coaching guru Marshall Goldsmith's feedforward concept.

Related questions include:
- How can I help you?
- What is keeping you up at night?
- What one thing could you change that would make a big difference to you?

What is your favorite coaching question?


Posted by Terrence Seamon on July 25, 2010. For more information on coaching, visit Terry's website and invite him into your organization.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

What Counts the Most?

Someone tweeted the other day, “What counts the most is results.” That mantra is certainly true for Corporate America. And I preach it when I am wearing my Training Manager hat.

But lately, I am finding that there are people who are wondering if that’s all there is. Two groups in particular, Leaders and Job Hunters, are on my mind.

Let’s start with Leaders. Clearly, they are measured against delivering results. In my executive coaching work with leaders, I am hearing a yearning for something more. Recently, several highly successful business leaders told me how dissatisfied they have felt, for years, with their jobs. Yes, they have made good money. Yes, they have accomplished a lot. But they have felt a hole, something missing. Work for them has been a spiritually draining experience, leaving them starved rather than nourished.

And Job Hunters. If you are still adrift in this recession, looking for work, and pondering career direction, you may be wondering, “What else counts? And what counts for Me?”

I am currently part of a team at my church that is planning a retreat for September that will be devoted to spirituality and work. The other night, we discussed why we work. There were many responses. Some obvious and generally accepted answers were “to make money; to earn a living; to support my family.”

But there were many other responses too, such as:
- to fulfill my purpose
- to make me a whole person
- to learn
- to be significant
- to help others
- to make an impact
- to make the world a better place

So what counts the most for You? Is it Results? Relationships? Making a lasting impact?

Aspirational coach Monica Diaz de Peralta says that the path to fulfillment is to recognize that we aspire to three deep needs in the human soul:
- transcendence
- wisdom
- happiness

I like that model. Those three aspirations really do count for me.

There is a saying attributed to Albert Einstein: “Many of the things you can count, don’t count. Many of the things you can’t count, really count.”

Einstein was more than a brilliant theoretical mathematician. He was a wise man.



This article, originally posted at HR.BlogNotions on July 21, 2010, was written by Terrence Seamon. For more on leadership, coaching, careers, goals, and wisdom, check out Terry’s website Facilitation Solutions.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Employee Engagement Top Ten E-Book

The countdown is over!

The Employee Engagement Top 10 Free E-Book, orchestrated by David Zinger, is now available as a download from the Employee Engagement Network on ning.

I've got ten points in there, along with a host of other great engagement thinkers including:

Jennifer Schulte: Ways to boldly improve engagement

Steve Roesler: Ways to ask engaging questions to engage others

Tim Wright: Ways to create a culture to engage

Kelley Eskridge: How to change the way people work together

Wally Bock: Ways to be a more effective boss

Mario Gastaldi: How to have conversations that engage

And so much more, including tips from Susan Stamm, Wayne Turmel, Lisa Forsyth, Scott Span, Jean Douglas, Michael Lee Stallard, Raven Young, and David Zinger.

With over thirty of the brightest and most passionate thinkers in the field of employee engagement, each giving ten nuggets of wisdom and action for improving the culture of your organization, this e-book is a treasure trove! It will help you and others to move the needle on engagement...and performance.



This post was written by Terrence Seamon on July 22, 2010. For more leadership, management, engagement, and coaching tips like this, check out Terry’s website Facilitation Solutions and invite him to speak at your organization.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Need a Coach? How about a Yogi?

Many people nowadays are hiring coaches to help them change and improve. It’s an age-old resource, probably dating back to the prehistoric sherpas that would guide the tribe over a treacherous mountain pass to a lush green valley beyond.

If you are in search of a coach, consider this alternate approach. Hire Yogi Berra.

Baseball great Lawrence “Yogi” Berra was not just a famous American baseball player. Because of his special way with the English language, he has become a legendary source of wisdom for life. Consider just three examples of classic Yogi Berra-isms, and how these one liners can stimulate the wisdom of your own “inner coach.”

~ “You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.” – Yogi knew that goals are important in life. Without goals, we are without direction. With goals, we are able to chart a course toward our desires.

~ “You can observe a lot by watching.” – Observing quietly, and listening attentively, are the most fundamental ways to learn. We did that when we were infants. We do that when we are newcomers in a strange place. We can do it anytime we choose to be highly effective listeners.

~ “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” – Yogi understood the importance of action. The forks in the road of life are times of choice. Times to choose a path and go for it.

In Sanskrit, the word yogi refers to a person who “knows that the entire cosmos is situated within his own body” and practices spiritual development techniques such as yoga. An interesting linguistic coincidence? I think not.

[This blog post dedicated to my dad, George J. Seamon (1924-2003), a great baseball catcher like Yogi Berra.]



This article was written by Terrence Seamon and originally published at HR.BlogNotions on July 16, 2010. For more leadership, management, engagement, and coaching tips like this, check out Terry’s website Facilitation Solutions and his blog Here We Are. Now What?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Listening Leaders

American writer Ernest Hemingway once said: "I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen."

If he's right, that most of us never listen, then that includes most leaders. And that's a scary thought.

Leaders are supposed to lead with our best interests in mind. But if they aren't listening to their people, then how do they know what we want and need?

Economist Bernard Baruch once said: "Most of the successful people I've known are the ones who do more listening than talking."

If he's right, that listening and success are connected, then leaders should spend much more time listening than speaking.

It seems to me that leaders need a listening system. A simple yet reliable way to ensure that listening happens on a regular basis.

Here are four components I'd suggest for a listening system. What what you add?

Make listening a priority - Are you a good listener? Or do you take listening for granted? If you elevate listening to a place of importance in your life, you won't overlook it and forget it so easily.

Listen daily - Is listening on your daily To Do list? To make it a habit, you must do it. You must schedule it. Set time aside in your plan for the day to make listening happen. You'll want to schedule time to:

- Listen to your team. They may need more direction, support, or attention. They may have ideas for you on how to solve problems, improve service, improve safety, or save cost.

- Listen to your customers. They may have gripes you need to hear about. They may have suggestions that could give you a competitive edge.

Listen for success - When you listen, are you all there? Or do you half-listen? What are you hearing? You have to process what you are hearing, and then translate the input into action plans.

Listen to the Self - Do you ever take time to listen to your own inner voice? We each have an inner guide, like a compass within us. But most of the time, the small voice is drowned out by the noise of life . . . and ignored. This voice is signaling all the time and it just takes some quiet attentiveness to tune in and pick up the message.

If you follow the news, it seems to be filled day in and day out with world leaders and local leaders who are failing to listen to their people. Maybe that's why there is so much suffering and conflict in the world?

Could listening be the answer?

The Dalai Lama once said: "Listening is like a torch that dispels the darkness of ignorance."

Reminds me of my mom Ramona who was fond of saying, "Listen and learn."


Posted by Terrence Seamon on July 12, 2010. If you would like more information on listening, communicating, and leadership, visit Terry's website and invite him in to your organization.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

How to Get and Keep Customers

Legendary Harvard Business School professor Theodore Levitt once said: “The purpose of every business is to create and keep a customer.”

How do you do that? How do you create and keep customers?

Let's take a page from soccer. Soccer, the most popular, most loved, game in the world (everywhere but the USA, that is), is currently in the midst of its World Cup games in South Africa. Have you watched any of it? The fans have been going gaga on a global scale!

In the stadium, the fans are blowing their vuvuzelas like maniacs. The sound is like a giant beehive. One woman reportedly blew out her throat (not life threatening, but painful nonetheless). This is fan-atacism like you can't believe!

Years ago, prolific management author Dr. Ken Blanchard, the co-developer of Situational Leadership and co-author of the One Minute Manager, co-wrote a book called Raving Fans. The question he addressed was, How do you turn your customers into raving fans? The simple yet powerful idea at the heart of his book is: Understand Your Customer and Deliver Beyond their Expectations.

Think about the times when you have been a customer. Focus on the times that were the best, most memorable customer service experiences of your life. Perhaps it was at a hotel when you were on vacation; or at a restaurant; or even an automobile service station.

What was it that made you a "raving fan?" Chances are, it was how the staff interacted with you, how the staff treated you, how the staff made you feel.

When you come right down to it, the "secret" to creating and keeping customers is your staff. Who are you hiring? How are you training them? How are you motivating them? How are you paying them? How well are you taking care of them?

Bill Marriott once famously said: "Take great care of your people, they'll take great care of your customers, and your customers will come back and back and back."

Marriott knew in his bones what we are now rediscovering in the field of Employee Engagement: Take good care of your employees and they will take good care of your customers...and your business.


This article was written by Terrence Seamon, originally published on HR.Blognotions on June 29, 2010. For more customer service, management, and employee engagement tips like this, check out Terry's website Facilitation Solutions and invite him to your organization.